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ande
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#1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

[ Edited ]
The Book Explorers Just Read It List

The book-award lists have been rolling in all fall and now here’s the avalanche of holiday-buying lists and best-of-2007 lists. We’re buried in lists, drowning in them. Is it just me or do a lot of them look alike? The longest lists have 100 favorites, but most have far, far fewer. Congrats –- and no offense -- to the authors who have made it to the top of the heap, but, really, there have to be more than a couple dozen books out there that are worth recommending.

I lean toward less-tidy, more-eccentric compilations and I especially like not having to squeeze my choices into some pre-determined size or time frame. What’s wrong with books that have been around awhile? There are new readers for those books all the time and those books deserve better than a trip to literary ice-floe oblivion.

So you’re getting one more list. Call it The Book Explorers Just Read It List. Some of these books were published last year; others, I really can’t tell you when they were. All are books that I and a few Literary Ventures Fund colleagues and friends* think you ought to read if you haven’t. And if you like one of them, too, put it in someone’s hand and say, “Just read it.”

Really, all recent news about how we all aren’t reading or how young people aren’t reading or how we all would read more if only we could read on a portable screen is crazy. It makes for a great discussion -- jump right in if you have thoughts on this –- but that’s not my experience at all. Is it yours?

Everyone I come across – barely out of diapers, teenagers, Generations A-Z, Baby Boomers, tall, short, rich, broke, working, retired, ancient -– is looking for a good book. A youngish colleague (and not one who’s easily impressed) just read To Kill a Mockingbird and can’t believe she hadn’t until now. I just introduced a teenager –- allegedly a non-reading demographic -- to Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines and Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky and an entire world, literally and figuratively, opened up to her.

A few questions before we get to the Just Read It List:
Will you name a book to add to the list (don’t overthink it)?
Will you send your own list?
Do you hate lists? Love them?

In no particular order, of course:

Those Who Save Us, by Jenna Blum
One Hundred Years of Solitude, By Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Don’t I Know You, by Karen Shepard
The Last Novel, by David Markson
Tree of Smoke, by Denis Johnson
Like You’d Understand, Anyway, by Jim Shepard
Varieties of Disturbance, by Lydia Davis
The Gallery, by John Horne Burns
Away, by Amy Bloom
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
The Bird Artist, Howard Norman
An Infinity of Little Hours, Nancy Klein Maguire
Firmin, by Sam Savage
The Places In Between, by Rory Stewart
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle
The Clerk's Tale, Spencer Reece,
Wideawake Field by Eliza Griswald
An Army of Ex-Lovers, by Amy Hoffman
The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
Finn, by Jon Clinch
Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
There and Then: The Travel Writing of James Salter
The Known World, by Edward P. Jones
Senior Year, by Dan Shaugnessy
For books supported by the Literary Venture Fund go to: http://www.literaryventuresfund.org/books/


Thanks to LVF colleagues and friends: Constance Sayre; Carol Frederick; Harold Augenbraum; Sara Nelson; Tobias Wolff; Anita Diamant; Kate Travers; Marcella Smith; George Gendron, Julia Glass; Susan Minot; Stephen Kramer; Patricia Nelson, Nicole Dewey.

Message Edited by ande on 12-04-2007 12:23 PM
Message Edited by ande on 10-06-2008 12:35 PM
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debbaker
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

Just Read

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Deb
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gnowestgrl
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

I'd add Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer to your list. I was drawn initially to the color of the book on a table in the bookstore. It's a bright sapphire blue small hardcover. I was hooked on the story after reading only a few pages. It's a debut novel and it sets itself apart from other stories of the Middle East with authenticity. See the reviews of the book on the BN website, you'll see the excitement about this book.
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Well_Red
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving immediately springs to mind. For years friends told me to just read it. When I finally did, I wondered what took me so long. Now I too sing it's praises and have joined the just read it chorus.
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IBIS
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

[ Edited ]
I love lists, and one of my favorite books is THE BOOK OF LISTS.

Your list is interesting, but if I know absolutely nothing about the title, or even the author, I have no clue whether I would be remotely interested in reading it.

What I love even more are brief, succinct descriptions and the reason why someone cared enough to list it...at a minimum what genre category the book fits in... even if its a cross-genre, hybrid, fusion...whatever. And maybe, perhaps a very brief plot description. Without spoilers, of course.

At least that gives us a hook which may or may not attract our interest.

IBIS

Message Edited by IBIS on 12-10-2007 02:17 PM
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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arts-letters
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

I recently finished "A Good and Happy Child" by Justin Evans. Usually a non-fiction reader, I decided I needed something a little different. While browsing in the bookstore, a brightly colored cover illustration caught my eye. The first page drew me in immediately, and the book kept me reading well into the night. Suspensefully told by this first time novelist, this story invites the reader to ask the question: Does truth need to be seen and touched, or is truth a leap of faith? With a child's health and future at stake, the author takes the reader on a journey through a child's eyes, a view of the world yet to be tainted by conventional beliefs.
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Raabe
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

"Memories of an Eastern Sky" by Andy Zhang - just read it!
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IBIS
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

THE PLACES IN BETWEEN by Rory Stewart

That is an amazing adventure, non-fiction book. Someone once wrote that books can be grouped into two themes: the Star Trek theme, where you leave home and go on an adventure; or the Gilligan's Island theme, where you stay home, and people come to visit.

Rory Stewart's book is about an amazing adventure, where he leaves home and goes on an adventure. He walked, alone, with only a walking stick and a good pair of walking boots, through Asia. In THE PLACES IN BETWEEN he visits the remote villages of Afghanistan, from Herat in the West all the way East to Kabul.

He meets village chieftains and local citizenry. Some are kind and welcome him, others shut the door in his face. He relies on their kindness to feed him and give him shelter. He walks through harsh winter storms with 6-foot high snow drifts; he walks through deserts with only a bottle of tepid water and English cookies.

This is a book on the Just Read It list that's definitely a "you really must just read it."

IBIS
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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kmcryan0809
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia by Carmen Bin Ladin

this book was written by Osama bin laden's former sister-in-law. it talks a little about the bin ladin family and the culture of saudi arabia. i thought it was amazing.
-Kay

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ande
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List/Welcome new Explorers!

Welcome all you new Book Explorers! And thanks for adding to the Just Read It list. I have not read many of your recommendations and with winter settling in here in the Northeast -- and with more storms on the way -- I welcome them. Nothing like a good book on a cold night. I reread The Sheltering Sky (Paul Bowles) every winter and all that desert terrain warms me up. Do any of you have similar reading rituals?

Ande
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fictionhound
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

i love book lists. i have read several really good books this year.
The Book Thief by Zusak, Markus
Fahrenheit 451: A Novel by Bradbury, Ray
Eragon / Eldest (Inheritance, Books 1 & 2) by Paolini, Christopher
J.R.R. Tolkien Boxed Set (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings)
Garden Spells by Allen, Sarah Addison
Pierced By A Sword by Jr., Bud MacFarlane

read aloud to the kids the following:
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Baum, L. Frank
Alice in Wonderland by Carroll, Lewis
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CanTri
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

I love book lists. Especially when I'm in a lull between books or know that I am going to have some extra time to read (such as a few days at Christmas time) and want some new ideas of what to read that I may not have thought of.

Two books that I read this fall and am telling everyone they should read are: Plenty and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I think everyone should know what's going on in the food industry and make wise and safer choices.
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fictionhound
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List/Welcome new Explorers!

you asked about rituals: my husband rereads the lord of the rings trilogy almost every fall. he says the fall weather is the perfect setting to get him into the feel of the book. i read it for the first time (all the way through the hobbit & trilogy) this fall & i see what he means about setting the mood. i have gotten back into my jane austen ritual, but this go around i have branched out & i'm reading books that continue where her tales left off. i have been pleased with most of the ones i've read & i find it so much more relaxing to read these after a tough day than to watch tv. so lately my ritual has been to make a pot of coffee, curl up in my big chair w/blanket on lap & read till all hours.
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Jessica
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

I'll jump in with a short "Just Read It" list...

One book I always recommend is Katherine Dunne's Geek Love. It's her only novel, but man, what an absurd ride. I laughed the whole way through.

A few more:

A People's History of the United States. Learn the history you didn't get in school.

There Is No Me Without You. Very sad, very inspiring story of a woman who, with nothing, runs an orphanage in Ethiopia.

Salt. Learn about the tiny grain that started wars and changed our life.

The Sound & the Fury. A bleak, psychological, and expertly told story of one family's drama.

Leaves of Grass. A sensual, rambling portrait of America and Americans during the Civil War.
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IBIS
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

Jessica, thank you for your list. With the one-line descriptor, it was very helpful for me to zero in on SALT having possible interest for me.

The title alone would have left me clueless... a cookbook? a thousand uses for salt in your bathwater... an autobiography of a sailor during the 18th century English naval empire... the technology of dehydrating seawater.

A brief descriptor of a recommended book is amazingly helpful.

IBIS
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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Jessica
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

Hi IBIS,
Salt is amazing. I've owned and loaned out at least 4 copies now. Hope you enjoy it!
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luciadelabyss
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

Hello! I generally stick to science fiction and fantasy, but occasionally something totally different will jump out at me. Lian Hearn has written a wonderful series based on ancient Japanese culture. The first book is "Beyond The Nightingale Floor". She received a fellowship to Japan to learn of the history and culture. While the story is not based on real royal families, the story is solid with great characters. Her details of the countryside are so vivid that you can easily visualize the landscape as the people walk thru it. There are several plots woven thru the story, but they all tie together. There is tragedy and romance and battles...never was I bored!
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ande
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

Thanks for your input. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is on my ever-expanding list and my ever-expanding list of her books. Have you read other books by Barbara Kingsolver -- especially some of the early ones?
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ande
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List/Welcome new Explorers/Reading rituals

Mmmm. That sounds quite wonderful and cozy. Here, where I am in the Northeast, the snow has turned to freezing rain we're staying put. Anyone else want to share their reading rituals?
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FrankieD
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Re: #1: The Book Explorers Just Read It List

I just finished reading Loving Frank by Nancy Horan...it was given to me by my mother-in-law due to the title...but, as a teacher of Construction Technology I have always been a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright...so the book was a good read for me.
" The longer I live...the more beautiful life becomes."
- Frank Lloyd Wright