Category Archives: favorites

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When worlds collide

Inspired by a recent posting on Buzzfeed compiling a great list of some of the most mouthwatering foods in literature (with recipes, thank goodness), I started thinking about food and meals in books. Again. Because, if we’re being honest, I think about food a lot anyway, so it wasn’t much of a stretch.

More than that—because sure, I could list even more foods from books that are great and that we should all eat all the time when reading about them and just whenever we feel like it—I’m thinking about the thrill I (and obviously most readers out there) get when a book references a real place, phenomenon or some other specific and actual thing that I can picture in my head through personal experience. There are so-so books that take place in New York that are elevated in my perception in quality because I can envision the exact locales a character may be wandering around. I’ve bought books that take place in the particular region of South Jersey where I grew up (okay, there was just the one, but it was SO local) solely because of their setting and for no other reason.

As a child, I cajoled my family into taking not one, but two trips to Colonial Williamsburg, not because I was super into the culture, but because I could go to the Governor’s Palace and the same sweet shop that Felicity did in the American Girl books.

Even more recently, I was finishing up Rules of Civility by Amor Towles the other week (sidenote: highly recommend) and coincidentally had to run an errand on the Upper West Side. Coming out of the subway station, I was faced directly with an awning on a residential building that predominately stated “The Beresford.” I stopped, stared, considered and then looked at the actual address of the building (211 Central Park West) and concluded that yes, this was the exact building that one of the main characters in the book I had currently in my bag resided. I had had no idea that it was a real building and it delighted me to no end to be faced with its reality so blatantly. I’ve since told several others about that moment and they were more unimpressed than I’d have liked, but maybe because they hadn’t read the book…

I don’t necessarily fall to pieces when books reference popular songs or television shows, but for some reason, very stable things like food, location and iconography really get me and it’s true that I remember the book more distinctly—and generally more fondly—for that fact. There’s a reason people flock to King’s Cross Station to try and see if they can spot Platform 9 ¾ and why all of a sudden The Frick was flooded with book lovers who wanted to get a glimpse of Fabritius’ The Goldfinch.

Planting these notions and references in literature allows sense memory to take over, whether it’s a smell, taste, sound or sight. The story becomes that much realer, the characters that much more relatable to the point where you can’t forget about it. Intentional or not, it’s a truly fascinating combination of literary artistry and the science of brain synapses firing off and making connections that makes at least certain passages of a book memorable.

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Long ago favorites

Inspired by this Buzzfeed post from earlier in the week, I thought back on my favorite illustrated books as a kid. They were mostly fairy tales (or close to), as are the illustrations in that post. I know the trends in children’s book illustrations change drastically from generation to generation—even year to year—so when I went hunting, it was no real surprise to me, that it took some more serious digging to find examples of the types of books—both in story and design—that I loved the most.

It wasn’t hard, however, to remember the titles of my top favorites, since they still hold a place on my bookshelf (albeit in my childhood home, but they did withstand all the teenage and college year purges).

I remember reading Melisande by E. Nesbit and illustrated by P.J. Lynch (Harcourt 1989) over and over and over as a girl, fascinated as I was by the artwork (and envious of her lustrous hair) and drawn in by the recognizable elements of both Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty in a story that was an original unto itself.

 

Another favorite about another plucky, independent girl was Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully (Puffin 1992). Mirette has a very French Toulouse-Lautrec poster advertisement look about it and I remember thinking that I would have given anything for her outfits, hair and bravery. Similarly, I loved the Madeleine books as well, but I don’t think I need to post a reference picture for those!

 

In addition to these and the usual Berenstein Bears and Mr. Men picture books that crowded our shelves, I realized I had an odd penchant for inherently sad stories as well. Some of my favorites (when I was in the mood—otherwise I would make my parents skip them when reading to me) were stories like The Velveteen Rabbit, Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant and original versions of Grimm’s fairy tales—most notably The Little Mermaid wherein the Mermaid must kill herself with a dagger in the end. I don’t know what attracted me to these books, but I loved them.

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Your turn.

We have a lot of fun with our blog posts around here. Whether we’re drooling over the latest book swag or marveling at the latest technology that’s changing our industry, this blog serves as a great place to share what we’re thinking.

But it’s not ALL about us, you know. And we love it when you get involved in the conversation, like the important discussion sparked by Jim’s post yesterday.

So I’m turning the spotlight on you for a minute. Let us know what YOU want to read about. Do you want more or less…

Or hankering after something else altogether that we’ve never thought to post about?!

Leave a comment below and maybe, just maybe, your DGLM blog wish will come true.

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Little House in the Big City

Polar vortex, snowmaggedon, bombogenesis…whatever you call it, this has been one cold, snowy winter. Even the DGLM office closed early due to blizzard conditions last week! Well I, and anyone else who grew up reading the Little House on the Prairie series, am undaunted by this harsh winter. Thanks to Laura Ingalls and her family, I am more than ready to twist hay into braids to be burnt in the stove, and fill my pockets with baked potatoes for warmth.

Okay, so some of these measures might be unnecessary – there aren’t a lot of clotheslines to be found between my apartment and the subway line, unfortunately. But I was pleased to discover that one Little House winter delight is still alive and well: Molasses Snow Candy! You can read the recipe there on the official Little House website, and if you’re still skeptical, check out this blog post from a mom who tried it out for herself with her kids.

I can’t wait for the next big snowstorm so that I can try this out for myself! (Maybe Laura Ingalls would be brave enough to eat week-old NYC snow, but not I!) In the meantime, I’m taking this quiz to find out what Little House girl I would be, and visiting the Union Square farmer’s market to look for molasses.

Anyone else secretly wishing they could spend the winter in a log cabin? What are your favorite winter survival tips from books?

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Ready for a little test of your literary instincts?

Don’t cheat and skip ahead to the pictures!

The following is the final paragraph of the galley letter for WHAT very popular book:

“I predict you’ll also face another quandary: whether to share this with a friend, or to keep it for yourself, knowing how much this Reader’s Edition of __________’s first book will be worth in years to come.”

Any guesses?

Here’s another clue. The galley letter is signed by Arthur Levine…

Written for a debut novel that his eponymous imprint at Scholastic purchased for $100,000…

And this galley mailing happened in the summer of 1998…

Being brilliant and super knowledgeable about publishing lore (as all regular readers of the DGLM blog are), I’m sure you’ve guessed that this mystery title is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

 

  I learned all this delightful trivia from The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter, an exhibit at the New York Public Library’s historic Bryant Park branch (yes, the one with the lions out front). The Harry Potter area caught my eye, as I am currently in the middle of a delightful re-read of the series, which I only read for the first time a few years ago. (I know, I know, hush!)

Sound philosophy, even for muggles

Now it’s no secret that I’m a sucker for children’s books. And the exhibit area was full of artifacts from other children’s literature. You can stop by and see the original Winnie-the-Pooh plushies that inspired A.A. Milne or Frances Hodgson Burnett’s handwritten manuscript for The Secret Garden. One display discusses classic NYC-themed children’s lit (hooray for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler!), and there’s even a Goodnight Moon reading nook with battered library copies of all your favorite picture books. Quite a few families were curled up on the rainy Sunday afternoon that I visited, and I was tempted to grab a Wild Thing and join them.

Not all attendees were as riveted as I was.

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Keeping up with old favorites

I have a not-so-great confession to make: I am TERRIBLE about keeping up with my favorite authors.

Case in point: various sources are reporting that Jim Crace’s HARVEST is the favorite for this year’s Man Booker Prize. Now, I first came across Crace back in 2000 when his novel BEING DEAD came out. I guess something about the review in the Times struck a chord with my more macabre impulses, and I remember getting it out of the NYPL, devouring it, and then loudly proclaiming that he was my new favorite contemporary novelist.

So when Crace followed up with THE DEVIL’S LARDER, I actually went out and bought a copy on pub. And then… I totally lost track of him. Granted, it took a while for his next book to come out, but even so, he’s been basically off my radar until this week. And it’s not just Crace that I’ve lost track of, or other comparably literary authors. I’ve bailed on Michael Lewis for long stretches, David Sedaris, Walter Mosley, even John Green–one of these days I’ll get to THE FAULT IN OUR STARS!

The funny thing is, in other media I’m much more loyal—I’ll immediately download the latest releases from favorite bands, cheesy action movie sequels regularly appear in my Netflix queue, and I’m still watching TOP CHEF. But when it comes to books, for whatever reason—too many choices, too many submissions, too many faves, too little time—semper fi I ain’t.

So, the question: am I alone in this? Or do you often lose track of your one-time favorite authors? If it’s just me, then I’ve clearly got some reading to do.. starting with HARVEST!

 

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Less is more

I judge books by their covers. Literally. And so does everyone else.

Lately, I’ve handed down some pretty harsh judgments. Not many covers have really called to me in recent months. In fact, the covers that catch my eye tend to be the least obnoxious, the ones with the simplest designs and quietest colors.

For instance, check out Boris Kachka’s HOTHOUSE.

 

 

I mean, c’mon. That’s a pretty cool cover. Nice color contrast and some fancy text. This book has absolutely everything going for it. Check out Jane’s post, and you’ll see what I mean.

 

What about this one?

 

 

Chad Harbach’s THE ART OF FIELDING has a pretty similar style to Kachka’s HOTHOUSE, and again, I love it. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong designing a book cover with some nice colors, and flowing script.

 

Once again, less is more:

 

 

One of my all-time favorite reads, too. But I’ll get to that in another blog.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: this guy just doesn’t like book covers with pictures. Wrong!

 

 

One chair leaning against another chair: that’s some real stuff. Simple yet beautiful.

And the minimalist cover to end all minimalist covers:

 

In case you missed it:

 

Who wouldn’t want to pick this book up and see what it’s about? ONE RED PAPERCLIP by Kyle MacDonald may just have the best cover of them all.

So I guess I’m a minimalist. (What would my parents think?) How about you guys? What are some of your favorite book covers?

If You Had to Choose

Very recently, I had to play that desert island game—you know the one where you’re stranded on a desert island and have to choose what to bring? It’s all pretend, of course. Just a quick little skip through Imagination Town, a vacation in make believe. Except I was forced to make my desert island choices for real. I’ll explain.

No, I wasn’t stranded on a desert island. Quite the opposite actually: I moved to Manhattan. Granted, moving into a tiny apartment in Manhattan isn’t on the same level, hardship-wise, but coming from a spacious place in the suburbs certainly made things difficult, especially when it came to choosing what books to bring.

Smaller room = less shelf space = the fewer books I can bring. It’s that simple; yet, you find yourself considering some difficult choices. Do you bring that book you’ve read dozens of times with the hundreds of dog-eared pages and even greater number of coffee stains? Or do you bring leave those behind, as painful as that is, to make room for those new books you recently acquired (say at BEA, maybe) and haven’t had the chance to read yet?

In the end, I cheated. One conference call with my soon-to-be roommates, and we worked out a way to put together a respectable library. John brings the Hemingway, while Ryan is in charge of all non-fiction. We managed to make room for everything, from the favorites like Infinite Jest right down to your political thrillers, such as a couple of Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp books. Oh yeah, and we have Kindles too…

What would you bring?

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Old, but not forgotten.

There’ve been a whole lot of nostalgic lists and posts floating around the internet lately, particularly geared towards those that grew up in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. It’s gotten almost ridiculous—there are only so many times you can get excited reminiscing about Gushers, Legends of the Hidden Temple, super soakers, Dunkaroos and Jonathan Taylor Thomas.

That’s not to say the lists aren’t fun—they are—but they can get a little tired and repetitive after a while. I remember in college, if you ever were at a loss of what to talk about with a group of people you didn’t really know (that happens a lot in college), the go-to was just to bring up old Nickelodeon TV shows. The conversation was ever and always the same, but for some reason, it got everyone interested and vying to put in their two cents about Clarissa Explains it All and Are You Afraid of the Dark?

I always pretended to contribute to these conversations, but the truth is, I wasn’t allowed to watch any television growing up outside of PBS. I was one of “those kids.” I’m sure it helped a little to shape me into who I am today, but I’m not here to wax poetic about the values of a childhood not in front of screens, nor about the evils of too much TV* (‘cause I sure did get my fill of Arthur, The Magic School Bus and Zoom until my eyes near fell out). What I’m getting at here, is that the best “remember that” conversations I ever had always had to do with books.

As with television shows, there’s a commonality in the books we all read growing up. As kids and young adults, there were only so many options. Talking about favorite snacks, toys, games and television shows can only get you so far. The experiences with each of those had to have been fairly similar. With books though, as ever, there’s a real individuality for every reader. I re-read books so much more as a kid than I do now, and my connection with my favorite protagonists was fervently strong. Because it’s a subject talked about less frequently, it’s much more exciting when someone casually mentions a favorite book or character from their childhood and there’s a sudden explosive “YOU READ THAT, TOO?!?!” that comes from whomever is in earshot. The conversation, then, can be different and valuable every time.

The other weekend, a friend and I took the trip down to South Jersey, where I grew up, to spend the weekend (not exactly beach weather, but nice nonetheless). She was staying in the guest room where many of my books have been relegated over the years. As a child of an Irish mother, we spent a lot of time overseas in the summer, and it was a special treat for me to bring home books every August that I couldn’t buy in the States. Additionally, my dad would order me Irish-published books from a catalogue one or two times a year (I thought this very cool). Though many of these books became favorites as well, they’re never part of the conversation when reminiscing about old literary friends, as no one had even heard of most of the authors, let alone individual titles.

I had completely forgotten about all of this until my friend, who I should mention now is from Ireland as well, started gushing over my bookshelf. It seems that there was a commonality in the books Irish children read amongst themselves, too! “Your shelf almost exactly matches mine at home!” My friend has been in America for several years now and has surely not had anyone to talk about her favorite characters with for some time. It was a fun trip down memory lane for the both of us, and I couldn’t believe how long it had been since I’d thought of some of those titles.

While I’m sure the readers of this blog have all grown up in different eras, I’d love to know what some of your favorites were as a kid—what characters you wanted to befriend and what stories you read over and over. Unlike Froot by the Foot and Don’t Wake Daddy, I bet there’s a lot more to talk about here.

*That was definitely a Berenstein Bears book, though.

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Lincoln Love

I can’t say that I’m much of a history buff, but there was an interesting article that caught my eye in the Wall Street Journal last week about the overwhelming amount of books there are in the market about President Lincoln. Of course it’s clear that books about Honest Abe sell nicely—just take a look at Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s Killing Lincoln or Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. And according to the article, a minimum of 20 more books about Lincoln are set to be published in the next year!

But what I hadn’t thought about before that the article explained so well is how one subject—or one person, really—can reach such a wide audience. Besides for the obvious fascinating and fatal historical events, Lincoln as a man was beyond extraordinary. For one, he’s the perfect example of someone who achieved the American Dream, all while experiencing personal tragedies. But, part of what makes him so interesting is that, as the article points out, he is still mysterious: “Scholars continue to debate how and when he came to the decision to end slavery.”

But, if you’re already sick of him, the buzzed about Lincoln movie with Spielberg directing and starring the masterful Daniel Day Lewis is sure to rekindle the flame!

What about you all? Are you a Lincoln buff or is there someone else in history that you prefer to read about?