Dear book-loving reader,
One of my favorite things about working at Fireside Books is the sneak peek I get at books. Publishers send us advance reader copies to help us decide which books to carry in the store. This means I’m often reading books that won’t come out for months.
To my surprise, being a soon-to-be-published author has increased my access to great books. In preparation for a dinner in New York City, I was given several early galleys of books by the other authors attending the event.
Consequently, I’ve got a couple of books I want to recommend to you:
* The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach just came out this week. It’s a novel so firmly rooted in baseball and written with such insightful tenderness that it is about way more than baseball. As I was reading it I flashed on a quote I remember seeing on the cover of a copy of Nabokov’s Lolita, calling it the greatest love story ever written. I liked Lolita. It is phenomenally written. But it is not a love story. The Art of Fielding, however, is one of the greatest, most surprising love stories I’ve ever read. It explores love in its many forms — love of the sport, camaraderie and devotion among the team members, complex and rocky young love, forbidden love.This is one of those rare books I’d recommend to all of my favorite customers at Fireside Books.
* Vanity Fair’s How a Book is Born by Keith Gessen. This is a sort of weird hybrid. Not quite a book. A little more than a magazine article. But for those who are interested in a behind-the-scenes look at publishing, it is fascinating. It’s an article that Chad Harbach’s friend Keith Gessen wrote for Vanity Fair. It will appear next month in the magazine, but this is an extended version that is available online in digital form for $1.99. It describes how Harbach worked on The Art of Fielding for 10 years, struggled to find an agent who was interested in representing it, and then ended up getting a $665,000 advance from Little, Brown & Co. It’s a bit like insider gossip, and I have to admit that’s what I found kind of enthralling about it, but it also sheds light on how book deals happen and how publishing is changing. This one isn’t for everyone, but writers, book sellers, and bibliophiles will enjoy it.
* On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry also came out this week. This is the first I’ve read of Barry. The owner of Fireside Books passed the ARC on to me and likened it to The Green Age of Asher Witherow, one of our favorite books. And I agree — it is lyrical and heartbreaking, atmospheric and in ways difficult to read. It is the story of 17 days in the life of Lily Bere, an elderly Irish-American woman who is mourning the death of her grandson. In typical Irish fashion, this sounds like a real downer. But it is the kind of book I adore, one that delves deep into the heart and looks suffering and hardship dead on, but still finds unsentimental beauty, hope, and love. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. It is not a page turner. At times, it is grim. But for people who love great writing, it is definitely one to pick up.
I’m also part way through an advance reader copy of a novel by a fellow Alaskan author, and so far I’m finding it fast-paced, intriguing, funny, and totally absorbing. But I’m just going to tease you with it right now and write more once I’m finished. This one doesn’t come out until February, the same as The Snow Child, so we’ve got some time.