Category Archives: lists

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When it’s good, I’m really good, and when it’s bad, I go to pieces

My musical hero and idol David Bowie died on Sunday at the age of 69, and it felt to me like a light had gone out in the world. He was, along with Jim Henson and Stanley Kubrick, one of the three great artistic influences on my life. (That combination should explain me and my taste pretty perfectly.) I wanted to join in the celebrating and singing like they were doing in Brixton, but I kept bursting into tears. (Am I the only one who cries about ten times more easily as I get older?)

I really don’t remember there being a before-Bowie time in my life. He was there in my childhood, on MTV looking all sweaty in Australia in the “Let’s Dance” video. There he was in Labyrinth, which I remember watching at my friend Paul’s house (Paul knew all the cool movies), laughing hysterically and rewinding over and over to watch him step from the bottom of a platform to the top, in what at the time seemed like mind-blowing special effects. Then there was my obsession with the “changesbowie” album, which got me really hooked on his music. From there, my love only accelerated.

I was lucky to see Bowie live several times 2002-2003, including at an amazingly intimate show at Jimmy’s Bronx Cafe during his New York Marathon tour. The man couldn’t have been more than 25 feet away, playing songs from the brilliant Heathen, but also favorites like “Starman,” “Be My Wife,” and even “Ziggy Stardust.” I might have smiled for days afterwards. When he had a heart attack on stage in 2004, I had a feeling we weren’t going to see him play live again. And he disappeared, for the most part, for so many years. (Though this cameo on Extras in 2006 cracks me up every time I watch it.)

When Bowie released The Next Day last year on his birthday, I was hopeful that we’d entered a new era of music. And I was thrilled when it was announced that yet another album, Blackstar, was coming on his birthday this year. It’s clear now that this period of creativity was a goodbye, and what a way to go. The man’s been dealing with mortality and dying since the beginning, but relistening to this new album through the lens of his dying…damn.

So, while this post was mainly a way for me to deal with my own grief, it also has to do with books! Because, as I’m sure you’ve heard many times over, Bowie was quite the reader. And boy was his taste varied, as evidenced by this list of his 100 must-read books. If you’ve been following along with him at all, many of the books aren’t much of a surprise, and also not surprising is where our reading overlaps: The Gnostic Gospels, A Clockwork Orange, 1984, The Great Gatsby, The Iliad. Those works influenced some of my favorite Bowie albums, like Diamond Dogs, Station to Station, and Scary Monsters and Super Creeps, and it’s fun to try to make other connections between the books and his own work.

Looking at this list and thinking about his lyrics, I can’t help but wonder what a Bowie novel would have read like. It would have been weird and likely esoteric, and I likely would have spent ages trying to decipher it. And I would have loved every minute of it.

Saying goodbye to friends is hard. I miss knowing that David Bowie is another person in our world, making things brighter, shinier and weirder. But I will continue to celebrate his music and spirit, and I’m going to try my damnedest to grab life and knowledge by the throat the way he did.

“Should’ve took a picture

Something I could keep

Buy a little frame, something cheap

For you

Everyone says hi”

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Reading Goals

I’m the kind of person who loves a good To Do List.  (As I’ve probably mentioned before, since I’m also the kind of person who talks too much about the kind of person I am.) In fact I keep several kinds of lists, varied in form, content, technology, and location. I used to keep a To Read list on my phone, but then I found that I wasn’t actually ever reading anything from it except by accident, so now I keep my To Read list in the form of stacks of books. I’m far more likely to read a book if it just happens to be in my apartment when I finish reading another one. (Now is the time some of you will be tempted to tell me that this is where e-books come in handy, but I don’t read digitally except for submissions and manuscripts. The strict divide between work reading and pleasure reading does me a world of good psychologically and makes me better at turning my editor brain on and off as befits my reading purpose, so I’m sticking with it.) I even keep a high-priority To Read list in pile form (things I’m super excited about, plus DGLM galleys, plus books for my office and personal book clubs) right next to my TV, to shame me into not neglecting them in favor of rewatching The West Wing for the 83rd time.

So naturally I love when other people make lists of books I should read, so I can mine them for new reading goals. I was pleased to see that Esquire enlisted eight “female literary powerhouses” to help them make a list of books everyone should read. You see, the last time they did that, it was kind of a disaster. The fantastic Rebecca Solnit (go read her collection Men Explain Things to Me) rightly called them out for their myopia, so they called in some reinforcements to give it another go.  It’s a pretty fantastic list—and not just because it features DGLM’s own Tayari Jones and her excellent Silver Sparrow.

Hey, credit card, looks like we need to stop by the bookstore on our way home from work.

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Book Lists

I’ve never experienced the holiday season in NYC and it’s been one of the things I’ve been looking forward to ever since moving downstate. Despite the temperatures remaining unseasonably warm, it seems that holiday cheer is in full swing. There’s nothing I love more than walking out of work and through the Christmas market in Union Square to get to the subway—all glow and promise. Christmas trees are being sold, signs are aglitter advertising gifts, and a street I walk down fairly regularly has wreathed their trees in holiday lights.

This time of year also always heralds the “Best Books of 2015” in all their varying forms and can provide a great holiday reading list for those quiet moments you can snatch away! (And for those of us who still have time to read copiously, it’s always very satisfying to go down a list and check off the ones we’ve read.)

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The New York Times released their list—“The 10 Best Books of 2015” yesterday. GoodReads, The Washington Post, and The Huffington Post among others, have released their choices as well. (Congratulations to Mary Doria Russell, whose EPITAPH made The Washington Post list and to Colleen Hoover, whose CONFESS was the best in the GoodReads Romance genre!)

However, “Best ___ of 2015”  can sometimes turn into a rabbit hole of fiction, non-fiction, young adult, and other genre specific lists. Which lists do you always look at? Do you pull some of your holiday reading from these lists?

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You’re the best

A propos of Michael’s very handy breakdown of the latest changes to the New York Times bestseller list, I’ve been thinking about just how many lists the Times graces us with these days: 23 on the 8/30 list, in various combinations of format, category, genre, and demographic.

Sports and Fitness. Food and Diet. Education. Relationships. Travel.  Business. Manga.  In August, there were bestseller lists for each of these specific things at least once, separate from the other lists they might fit under.

the-new-york-times-logoAs an agent, I’m thrilled for my and my colleagues’ clients to have the greatest possible number of chances for their books (and careers, frankly) to be tagged with that New York Times bestseller status, and there’s no denying that breaking out into narrower lists gives books that would never make the main lists a fighting chance.  With an Education list, you don’t necessarily have to compete with Felicia Day, Aziz Ansari, Ronda Rousey, Holly Madison, Jimmy Carter, Judd Apatow, and Amy Poehler, all on the main hardcover nonfiction list this week, to get a spot.

If we’re heading toward a day when there are more distinct New York Times bestseller lists then there are spots on the longest of those lists, I’d love to see them drill down further in fiction, too.  Literary Fiction by Women, maybe? (Or just Literary Fiction at all, for that matter.)  And what about one for Diverse Books? (If that’s the first time you’re seeing that phrase, here’s some context.) Or Debut Fiction!  People Who Aren’t on Twitter.  Authors Who’ve Never Been on TV. Authors Who Always Seem About to Break Out but Somehow Never Do. Books by Authors with More Starred Reviews Per Book than Zeroes in Their Advances.

Sure, it’s a little more subjective than Sports and Fitness, but if they need the help I’m happy to curate.  Which lists would you put in your fantasy New York Times?

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Get Linked!

Per a suggestion from one of you wonderful commenters, we’ve done a little housekeeping on the What We’re Reading list of links found over to the right. And now that the out-of-date and “ghost town” blogs are gone, we have some space to add new ones!

Our list already includes many important industry resources. Like Publishers Marketplace, where you can research agents and editors, and GalleyCat, where you can find the hottest breaking news on digital and print publishing. We keep links there to big thinkers and sassy reviewers, to breaking news and conversation starters. You’ll even find our other agencies over there, because everyone’s better off when we’re all sharing what we know.

What are we missing? We want you to help us find the newest and most exciting literary sites on the web. So let me know in the comments below – where do you go for the most up-to-date book news? (BESIDES the fantastic DGLM blog, RIGHT?!)  Where do you find new books to read or catch up on the latest industry gossip? What sites offer the best fun for a bookish lifestyle?

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Reading in a Winter Wonderland

snowy water towersEarlier this week, as I watched snow fluttering by my office window, I took a moment to daydream about curling up by a fireplace with some hot cocoa or wine or hot whiskey, reading an appropriately wintery book.  Naturally I then had to think about exactly which books might fit the bill, and the first that came to mind was Little Women, with its general vibe of New England Christmas.   Though on reflection I don’t think it’s true, in my mind every key scene in the book happens in front of a fireplace (where Amy does burn Jo’s manuscript) or frolicking about in the snow.

On the bleaker side of things, I also thought about the Jack London short story “To Build a Fire,” which is definitely not how I’d like my winter to go.

When I polled the office, Sharon reminded me of how much winter plays in to the Laura Ingalls Wilder books:  “I am fully prepared to navigate blizzards with a clothesline or twist hay into braids for the fire among other traumatizing winter survival skills.”  Now I know if we ever set up an apocalypse emergency system here at the office, I should pick Sharon as my buddy.  And bonus points for the venerable LIW, one of them is even called The Long Winter.

Jane voted for our very own David Morrell’s The Spy Who Came for Christmas.  Miriam picked The Cider House Rules and Snow Falling on Cedars, plus Holidays on Ice, while Michael thought of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (which Intern Elie also cited).  Jessica came up with The Corrections and James Joyce’s “The Dead.”  John’s vote was for Russell Banks’s Affliction.  Jim chose The Shipping News, which Stacey seconded, and Frankenstein.  And Intern Jordan made a strong case for Rachel Conn & David Levithan’s Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares that made me want to run to the store after work and pick it up.

There were two votes for Snow—but for two different books by that name.  Jessica went with Orhan Pamuk, while Jim picked Maxence Fermine.  And there were two for Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale, including Sharon and Intern Francis, who is reading it right now.  Plus three for the Harry Potter books, from Interns Tatiana, Amy, and Elie.

A few people came up with books that might not be quite winter books, but have a winter feel to them nonetheless, including Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (Miriam), Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (Mike), The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Into Thin Air by Jon Kraukauer (both Stacey).  On a similar note, Intern May Zhee reads a lot of Russian novels that feel wintery even if they’re not, like Anna Karenina and Doctor Zhivago.

So now that I have such a long list of wintery reading options, all I need is some snow days to curl up and give them a go.   What are your favorite winter reads?

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Listing

Our office book club is a lovely thing, in theory.  We each pick a different book from a predetermined category and we report on it to the group.  We write a pitch letter, as if we were sending the project out on submission, and then tell our colleagues what we really think of the title in question.  It’s both fun and sobering to see how adept we all are at false praise and how mean spirited we can be when an author disappoints us.

Given that book club is an extracurricular activity for all of us and that, ironically, none of us has a lot of free time for reading, our picks are a hotly debated (sometimes hostilely so) subject.  If you’ve been following this blog for a while, it won’t surprise you that the most vituperative battles usually erupt between Jim McCarthy and myself.  I like to think that’s because we are the most passionate about book club.  Our co-workers think it’s because we’re the most immature.

But I digress.

It’s time to select our next round of titles and we decided (as we usually do at this time of year) to choose from the “best of the year” lists.  Jim forwarded a link to the New York Times Notable Books of the Year and I perused it with a gimlet eye.  Like the Academy Awards, the paper of record seldom goes for fun over (heavy) substance when it crowns its winners.  Its year-end list is always full of unimpeachably good-for-you books, and if you’re looking for the literary equivalent of junk food, you’re out of luck.  So, I went hunting and found the Goodreads list (via Buzzfeed), a more, shall we say, democratic round-up of the year’s best.  After looking at the offerings there—Rainbow Rowell! Stephen King! Anne Rice!—I ended up choosing from the Times list after all.  The Goodreads titles are must-reads by excellent authors, sure, but the Sarah Waters novel on the Times list looks like it’s going to be both healthy and delightful in a Downton Abbey sort of way.

What list are you choosing your holiday reading from?  Or are you going to ignore both the cognoscenti and the rabble and go your own way, picking your next book from a clever flap copy or an arresting cover?

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Art imitating…other art

I’m pretty in love with this list on BuzzFeed that gives book recommendations based on favorite movies. This could have been really simplistic, pairing books up with movies whose plots were super similar or were even based on one another. However, the compiler of this list really thought about it, basing the recommendations much more on sentiment, overarching theme or general takeaway more than anything else. Some of them are more plot-based, but there’s clearly real thought going on here.

Though I’ll admit there are only three pairings here where I’ve both read the book and seen the movie (Pulp Fiction and The Sisters Brothers, Amelie and The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and finally, Midnight in Paris and The Paris Wife) I’ve really enjoyed all six of those things so I’m going to go ahead and assume that the rest of the thirty matchups are equally helpful. And I’ve definitely got some books and movies on my to read/to watch list now.

I’m really curious about Q by Evan Mandery—not only is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind a great film, but Q’s cover is just really lovely. I’ve picked up The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson in bookstores more times than I can even remember but for some reason, have never purchased it, even though I’ve said time and time again that I specifically love books about quirky, offbeat families. I’ll have to give it a real shot next time!

I love the Amelie/The Elegance of the Hedgehog matchup. Yes, there’s the obvious Parisian connection, but though both have whimsical covers and conceits, there is a truly dark undertone to both pieces that gives each an unforgettable quality.

I’m a sucker for book recommendation lists, so this was the perfect Friday afternoon treat. If you could pair a movie with a book, what would it be?

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Books near and far

With a three-day weekend fast approaching* and deliciously devoid of any plans whatsoever, I’m imagining what sort of cozy fall activities (e.g. reading in a sweater and eating pie in a sweater) I can get up to and where. My mind immediately jumps to a rotation of coffee shops and a selection of books. Only I need some new books to read, so I’ll likely stop by my local bookshop as well.

And it’s a bit serendipitous and a bit cruel punishment that they’re so far out of reach, but I just scrolled through this list of 19 Magical Bookshops Every Book Lover Must Visit and spent the next couple minutes just staring at the sofa that accompanies the listing for Hatchard’s in London, imagining reading in the window on that particular seat. While it’s pretty lovely for the Brits that this list doesn’t just focus on London or even, it seems, large cities in general, that doesn’t really help me over here on this side of the pond—though how cool is the Honesty Bookshop?!?

I know there are lists everywhere for super great New York City bookstores, and I feel lucky to live in a place where independent bookstores can and do thrive if done correctly. That’s of course not always totally the case outside of any metro area. What I’d love is to hear about or see photos of small time bookstores across the country. If I collect enough of them, then there I’ve got my idea for the cross-country road trip I’ve always wanted to take…

 

*Thank you, Christopher Columbus! I mean. Um, I know you were meant to be a terrible person, horrible, really, so maybe. Hm. Well. Yes, yes, I mean I’ll still take the day off.

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My Fall/Winter Reading List

I’m really excited for pretty much every upcoming fall/winter book, but I know I won’t have a chance to read everything I want to. I don’t have enough time. So I have narrowed my blog today down to the following selections that will take precedence on what looks to be a very ambitious reading list these next few months.

A debut novel from a talented writer about a young woman growing up in a poor Irish family with a stream of consciousness narrative. Definitely worth a look.

Howley’s year-long immersion following two MMA fighters sounds fascinating. A captivating narrative that analyzes the philosophy behind MMA fighting is sure to raise some eyebrows.

I love NPH. He’s extremely talented, not to mention the clever structure of this book. I expect great things, but then again, I never expect anything less from NPH.

Yes please, I’ll have a copy. She’s funnier than Tina Fey–don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Parks and Recreation is hilarious.

Because how could I not read Louis Zamperini’s autobiography after Hillenbrand’s Unbroken?

A unique World War II story about the brutal murder of a Japanese family and those investigating it. Ellroy’s latest is receiving a lot of buzz. Color me intrigued.

Honorable mentions:

LACY EYE by Jessica Treadway

I’ve already read this book, but wanted to include it hear because I strongly recommend it. A suspenseful, haunting read.

TO RISE AGAIN AT A DECENT HOUR by Joshua Ferris

Published this summer so not technically a fall/winter book, but Ferris’s novel has been on my list for a long time and was recently shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2014.

What are you most excited for this fall?