Category Archives: lists


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?



In the middle of this blistering heat, the only thing I can think of is getting out and far away, to somewhere that doesn’t result in immediate sweat the second you step out of doors or require smushing against fifty other people in a subway car or busy city block.

I can only ogle the crisp, breezy looking photographs in my Groupon Getaways emails for so long before realizing I have no need for an all-inclusive family vacation to a four star hotel in Mexico (also, definitely hot there), yet still feel the need to at least fantasize about a realistic escape.

At my wit’s end, I stumbled across Flavorwire’s “50 Places Ever Literary Fan Should Visit” and, as is my compulsion with every list of things to read, listen to, watch, visit or do whatever else you are supposed to have done, check off everything I’ve already got in the bag. Sadly, I can only lay claim to three of the fifty—and not even any of the ones in New York! To be honest, I had no idea so many literary landmarks were in such a small radius of my home.

Of course, the impetus here is to leave the heat behind, so I won’t feel so bad about it yet. Though there are a million more exotic, more prodigious and more exciting venues and monuments on the list, the one that struck me with the biggest pang was Green Gables on Prince Edward Island. A rabid L.M. Montgomery fan as a girl, my dream vacation growing up was a trip to Prince Edward Island (P.E. Island to those of us in the know). To see it on this list brought me back to all the times I begged and begged to go there—I think I had an idea that it was kind of like Colonial Williamsburg, which was another favorite of mine and the destination of not one, but two family vacations at my request.

I also couldn’t help but smile at the James Joyce’s Dublin entry on the list. As a personal project of mine (and okay, for a grade), I mapped out Leopold Bloom’s famed traipse around the city and its surrounding areas, complete with photos, quotes and analyses. It was a long day of walking and trains, which I guess it a lot of energy to expend on just checking off 1/50th of a list. Good going, Rachel.

Flipping through the slideshow was a good mental escape, trip down memory lane and bucket list facilitator for me. I know there are far more than fifty great literary destinations in the world and I’d love to know what ones you have visited or can introduce to me.


Adult authors writing for kids

I think it’s pretty safe to say that most adult writers have contemplated writing a children’s book at some point in their careers. In fact, Buzzfeed has this nifty list of famous authors who put out a kids’ book at some point.  But while it seems like Buzzfeed is mostly going for the “who knew?” angle here, I think the list is pretty instructive in both the potential and peril in writing for a younger audience.

For one, how many of these books have you actually heard of? There were several that were completely unknown to me, and looking at the cover images it seems like a number must be from small publishers or out of print. Given the big names here, I think it’s cautionary that if you’re writing for a younger audience, there’s a good chance you won’t find as big an audience as for your adult work.

And second, you can sense that some of the authors here were not taking these books as seriously as their adult work. Note how many had co-authors and that several weren’t even planned for publication—which again is reflected by both the print status and the fact that several works are posthumous.

On the other hand, for those who truly committed to the genre, like John Updike and Ian Flemming, the rest have stood the test of time. Interestingly, two of the most successful books here are the most recent—HOOT and SUMMERLAND, which makes sense, given the elevation of kids’ novels post-HARRY POTTER. So if you’re going to go the kid’s route, it certainly behooves you to go whole hog and not treat it as a sideline, experiment, or something meant to be private.

A final point on the publishing side: in my experience, kids’ book editors generally dislike receiving submissions from adult authors, often because they’re passed along by adult editors—and I’m sure you get the office politics there. Fortunately, from my POV as an agent, a book is a book, and I’m happy to try and sell it—and in turn, I think kids’ editors are much more open to adult authors coming via agents. But I will say again, if you’re an adult author thinking about writing younger, please keep in mind that the commitment and quality has to be there first—otherwise, you may find yourself on a “who knew?” list like this, too.


Yet another holiday list…

There’s little else besides holiday parties and lists on my mind these days, so when I saw this funny and insightful piece on Flavorwire today about the 10 books your relatives know of that you don’t, I knew I had to blog about it. We all know that books have the amazing ability to connect perfect strangers in ways unmatched by any other media, but this piece works to help us connect to those we already know. And to piggyback a bit on Miriam’s last blog, it’s a nice tip sheet for those of us whose family and friends assume you’ve read everything just because you work in publishing.

Take a look. And who knows—you may even have a book or two in common!


A writer’s life

So, it’s December, which means it’s list season—in other words, the blog posts write themselves (I wish)!

Well, rather than look at the best-of-2012 lists (which would end up showcasing how few of the best-of-2102 I’ve actually read), I thought I’d share this little piece from Jason Pinter on the Huffington Post on the great and not-so-great aspects of being a writer. It’s all good fun, though I do find it a little disturbing that so many of the “great” things involve validation from other people—and that so many of the “not-so-great” are external as well. Do you find that to be the case, too? Are there any great/not-so-great things you would add to the list? I’d imagine writer’s block would fit in somewhere…

And for more good fun, DEFINITELY check out the bad book covers link he mentions!



Read what you like

One thing I’m almost embarrassed to admit is that it’s only in the past five years or so that I’ve managed to finally reach the realization that reading isn’t a contest. Not that I ever actively pursued a book or number of books with the conscious thought towards winning or understanding or reading more than anyone else, but I also won’t deny the certain pleasure I used to get when I’d already read a book we were reading in school or when people were impressed with either the books I chose to read or how quickly I read them.

I have a list somewhere I made in a notebook a few years ago while sitting in Borders (R.I.P.) going through the entirety of one of those 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die compendiums, making note of every single one that I had read—occasionally scoffing at some of the books that were included, whether or not I had read them. I don’t remember how many books I ended up having on that list, but it was definitely less than 100. Obviously I declared the list unrepresentative and inaccurate.

Similar lists like the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels and the sort still present themselves as obstacles to me to this day. While I no longer care that much about whether or not I’ve read the Top 10 Most Difficult Books, I still find all of these lists incredibly fascinating. Of course, as it’s literature, it can only be subjective. Yes, there are the “great books” that everyone is meant to have some understanding of, and there are those that are widely regarded as the epitomes of modern literature, but there’s always going to be someone to disagree.

What are the criteria for these lists? What makes a book great? What makes a books difficult? There’s really no answer to those questions that are universal, and the lists themselves are there only so people like me can get some kind of perverse pride out of having read some of them. But it really doesn’t matter, does it? As long as you read what you like, what you like is good. The only opinion that matters is your own, and simply because you haven’t read Finnegan’s Wake,* known throughout the land as virtually impossible to get through, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy the books you do choose to read.

We’re not in school anymore, though, and you don’t have to read anything if you don’t want to! So while it’s incredibly entertaining to tick off a list or check them out for inspiration (I’m of the belief that lists in any shape or form are just fun), they don’t have to be the be all end all. If the books you like to read aren’t revered by a great intellectual community, or you just don’t get what the big deal is with Catcher in the Rye or Pride and Prejudice, then you shouldn’t feel any pressure to try and slog through them.

Reading, at its core, is about exploring your own interests, losing yourself in the words, the story and the characters. It’s not about peeking over your book to see who can see what important work you’ve chosen or comparing yourself with others.


*(Which, I will say, is the only book I have ever actually thrown across a room, and yes, I did try and read it when I as sixteen because we were going to be reading Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man the next year in school and yes, I thought it would be better if I had read something else of Joyce’s beforehand and yes, I remember flushing with pride when my English teacher was impressed that I had tried to read it at all, and no, I did not make it past page 20.)


Raising geeks

Back in the stone ages (okay, the 1980s) when I was a kid, “geek” was a pretty harsh name to call someone—maybe not as soul-crushing as “nerd,” but certainly up there with “dweeb” or “spaz.” But thanks to Bill Gates and other titans of the information age, the geek stigma has been turned on its head—today we’re proud to call ourselves computer geeks, book geeks, music geeks, etc.

And now that the geeks (I would include myself, but really, I was always more of a nerd) are of parenting age, they’re raising a new generation of geeks, no doubt with the belief that their spawn will rule the world in 20 years. Hence, we have blogs like Wired’s GeekDad, which posted a list of 67 Books Every Geek Should Read to Their Kids Before Age 10 in an attempt to identify “what books are essential to the Geek experience.”

It’s a great list of books, and certainly just about every title is essential—but essential for geekiness? True, there might be a few more fantasy and sci-fi titles than you might see on a regular “best books for kids” list, and the lack of any sports titles does seem to favor geekdom. But Curious George? Frog and Toad? Charlotte’s Web? In the Night Kitchen?

I have to say, I’m a little hard pressed to see how these classics would help geek parents create a specifically geeky kid–as opposed to a generally intelligent well-rounded member of society. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive here (admittedly, a geeky move on my part), but it does bother me when the great books for kids are used to promote an outside agenda—would these parents approve if their kids asked for Matt Christopher’s or Dan Gutman’s classic sports stories?

Far be it for me to defend the jocks, but maybe a better title for the list would be “67 Books Every PARENT Should Read to Their Kids Before Age 10”, and let the kids figure out on their own whether The Lord of the Rings leads down the road to geekdom or not. After all, isn’t self-discovery the point of reading in the first place?

A new year, a new wish list

Happy 2012, everyone! I trust you all enjoyed the holidays and had memorable New Years Eves—and if you can’t remember them, so much the better…

Well, now it’s back to work. As promised in my last blog post, here’s my wish list for 2012. Dedicated readers of the DGLM blog might recall I posted similar lists at the end of 2010, but now with a full year of agenting under my belt I’ve tweaked the list a bit to reflect the areas I’ve found myself focusing on, as well as the areas where I’ve had the most success:

ADULT NARRATIVE NON-FICTION: This is definitely the most exciting category to me right now. If there’s an amazing book-length true story out there, I want to hear it. History, memoir, sports, music, immersion journalism, popular science, health, animals—whatever the subject, if you’ve got the credentials to write about it, send it my way.

ADULT MEN’S FICTION: I’m certainly still in the market for good, original thrillers and mysteries. However, after falling in love with THE ART OF FIELDING and enviously witnessing its success, I’d love to expand a bit into more literary territory. I’d love to find a Tom Perrotta, a Nick Hornby, a Chuck Palaniuk, a Don Winslow—in other words, a great storyteller with writing chops. And if it’s genuinely funny, so much the better.

MIDDLE-GRADE FICTION: I’m still looking for that great middle-grade adventure to take the place of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson—who’s going to step up in 2012 and deliver?

REALISTIC YOUNG ADULT FICTION: Looking at the YA clients I’ve signed this year, I’m realizing that while I certainly enjoy a well-done YA fantasy, more often I’ve been drawn to realistic teen fiction. Now, that doesn’t mean they can’t be high-concept or have a fantasy/sci-fi element—think Pete Hautman, Libba Bray, David Klass, M.T. Anderson—and historical fiction is certainly viable if the era hasn’t already been done to death. Basically, what I’m really looking for are those teen characters, perspectives, and issues that feel true to an actual teen’s experience, as opposed to the more escapist words of paranormal/dystopian fiction.

PICTURE BOOKS: Nothing really has changed here: I’m still pretty much only interested in professional illustrators who can write. It’s about time someone created the next great children’s book character or a high-concept project like Bob Staake’s LOOK! A BOOK! One new thought: if anyone’s got a good nonfiction project, I’d love to see it, too.

Being that it’s the first day back in the office, preceded by two nights of staying up late to watch the Giants and Rangers (bless you, DVR!), I’m still a little foggy and probably forgetting some key areas. But hopefully that’s enough to open up the floodgates, and I’ll probably revisit as the year goes on. After all, to me that’s one of the most enjoyable things about agenting—as the market shifts, so can your areas of interest.

Best wishes for 2012, and let’s see what you’ve got!


Farewell 2011

As the annual proliferation of best-of  lists and year-in-review stories would indicate, it’s impossible to resist the desire to cast back over the past year. And by any reckoning, 2011 has been a momentous one. From the revolutions in the Arab world in January to the withdrawal of the final American troops from Iraq just weeks ago, from the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant to the near collapse of the Euro, the world stage has been crowded with dramatic events, both awe-inspiring and harrowing.  Perhaps 2012 will bring the books that can help sort them out, provide us with the stories both real and imagined that transform distant and massive happenings into material more immediate and emotionally comprehensible. Indeed, one very selfish wish for the new year is that a few such projects will land in my inbox. So keep the submissions coming. I’m actively looking for both novels and nonfiction, books that explain and interpret the business of being human. Many thanks to all of you who query me and share your materials.  I know yours is a tough path, and I–and all my colleagues here at DGLM–respect the often superhuman degree of effort, persistence, and emotional investment inherent in writing.   May 2012 bring joy, peace and inspiration.


Happy holidays—and watch out for that caterpillar!

Well, folks, this is it for me in 2011. Early Friday morning, I’m packing the kids into the car and off we go on the long drive up to Maine for the week. Every year since I first met my bride-to-be, we’ve headed north to the little coastal town of Damariscotta for a classic New England Christmas. I mean, we’re talking blankets of snow, lights in windows, caroling, ugly sweaters, the works.  And as a born-and-bred New Yorker (who spent more than one Christmas dinner at Joe’s Shanghai in Chinatown), I gotta tell you—I love it!

But wait, you might ask—a week in small-town Maine with the in-laws? Well, yes, as much as I love my in-laws dearly, it can feel a bit claustrophobic after all the wrapping paper has been cleaned up, especially when a post X-mas blizzard shows up like last year. But this time around, when cabin fever rears its ugly head, I’m going to revisit the Huffington Post’s list of 10 literary figures they’d hate to have over for Christmas dinner and count myself lucky. Unless, of course, my boy throws a Veruca Salt… and Grandpa counters with a Begbie!

Have a great holiday, everyone—and to start off 2012 properly, look for my “wish list” after the New Year.