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Inspiring Reading Resources (and the Ireland Challenge)

March 6, 2010

Where do y’all find out about books you want to read, other than blogs? Recently, I discovered two new sources, and I thought I’d share them with you.

The last time I was at my library, I noticed a stack of newsletters on the reference librarian’s desk and grabbed one! Have y’all seen Book Page before? I hadn’t, but now I’ll definitely be looking out for it. It’s a monthly publication, and it’s seriously chock full of information about a ton of neat-sounding new releases and contemporary authors (though I will point out, they’re mainly American, UK, and Northern European authors). A feature this month was Joe Hill”s* new book Horns, which made me happy that I put a hold in for it the moment I heard about it, and my mom picked it up for me from library this afternoon!

Reading through it, a ton of books caught my eye, so I thought I’d list them here for future reference. And, you know, in case some of my readers really, really need to add more books their TBR lists. ;)

  • The Devil and Sherlock Holmes by David Grann: a nonfiction book that sounds like an essay collection focusing on various odd cases and their solutions.
  • The Infinities by John Banville: I enjoyed the other Banville I read (Birchwood), and thsi one sounds just my style: it’s set in a country house and the Olympian fods come to visit! I think it’d be even more fun if it was teh Celtic gods, but sitll something worth checking out.
  • The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee: Lee emigrated from Korea to the US as a child, and this novel opens in Korea right after the armistice. It sounds like a multigenerational saga, and it also moves from Korea to the US to Italy. It sounds a bit sad, especially with that cover but fascinating all the same.
  • Starter Vegetable Gardens by Barbara Pleasant: my mom and I really want to grow some veggies this year! And this one, which includes a garden you just make in a bag of topsoil, sounds like it fits my gardening skills*. Later, when I’ve gotten more talented, Alan Buckingham’s The Kitchen Garden sounds great.
  • The Man From Beijing by Henning Manell: I’ve heard so many great things about Nordic crime novels on various blogs, but none of them have ever sounded my style. This one, though, jumps back and forth in time, and between Sweden and China!
  • The Long Way Home by David Laskin: this is nonfiction about 12 immigrant men who fought for the US during WWI. As a military brat, I’ve met more than a few people who achieved their US citizenship by serving in the military, and I find the idea rather fascinating. Also, I think WWI is much more interesting than WWII, and doesn’t get nearly as much focus, so this sounds right up my alley.
  • The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum: Remember how I adored Ghost Hunters and wanted everyone to go read it? Well, Blum has a new book out! It’s about how forensic science emerged in the 1920s and also about various poisons. I can’t wait to read this one!
  • A Few Good Women by Evelyn M. Monahan and Rosemary Niedel-Greenlee: this is about British women who served in the military during WWII.
  • The Madame Curie Complex by Julie des Jardins: this is a collection of biographies about various women scientists and the struggles they faced trying to get established in their fields.
  • Mrs. Adams in Winter by Michael O’Brien: this is a biography of Louisa Catherine Adams, wife to John Quincy Adams, and it’s shaped around her experience living in St. Petersburg when John was a diplomat there. Y’all know ow much I love St. Pete!
  • The Edge of Physics by Anil Ananthaswamy: Ananthaswamy travels around the world, visiting 10 labs where scientists are on the leading edge of physics today. Doesn’t that sound interesting?
  • Mirror Kingdoms by Peter Beagle: Beagle has a new short story collection out! Of course, I still need to read most of his backlist. But still. Exciting!

Whew! Are you as exhausted as me?! I flipped through the issue over a whole week, so as not to go into book review overload. But look at what a ridiculously long list of new books I discovered just from that one month!

For my other new resource, I’m indebted to Becker and Melanie. On my post about developing a booklist, they both asked if my library had the NoveList database, and if I used it. Well, I’d never heard of it, so I popped over to my library’s site, and soon I was in reader heaven! I highly, highly encourage you all to check and see if your own library has a subscription for patrons as well. There are booklists on a wide variety of topics, lots of awards, articles, etc. to make every reader’s heart beat faster. My favourite section is the “Author Read-a-Likes,” wherein I can look up, for example, Isabel Allende and discover five authors similar to her, along with the ways that they’re similar. I’d heard of most of the authors before (although Sandra Benitez is new to me), and that just confirmed that the authors of these articles know what they’re talking about! ;) So yeah, new favourite toy!

Finally, I’m joining the Ireland Reading Challenge. Carrie convinced me on twitter to join, since I’m already reading Franky Delaney’s Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show for review.* I’m just going for the Shamrock Level, which requires me to read two books Irish-related by November 30th. For my second book, I’ll probably read one of Colm Toibin’s novels, since I really enjoyed The Master, and I’m all about exploring more of authors I’ve already read this year! But I’m also tempted by James Joyce’s Dubliners, since I very much enjoyed his story “The Dead.” Sebastian Barry sounds like an author I’d love too, so who knows what I’ll end up choosing for my second book! Also, if you have any women Irish authors to recommend (other than Tana French), that’d be great!

I realise I’m posting this ridiculously late, and on a Saturday night, so I probably won’t get too many recommendations. lol But maybe I’ll leave it for awhile Sunday morning. :)

Footnote One: They included a picture, and he seriously looks JUST LIKE his dad. I showed the picture to my mom, who had no idea who his father was, and she immediately guessed Stephen King.

Footnote Two: I have a brown thumb & worry whenever I have to water the houseplants that somehow I’ll kill them with my mere presence. I am better outdoors but only mildly!

Footnote Three: Delaney’s publicist contacted me, asking if I’d like a copy. I adore his novel Ireland; I have the audiobook, in which he’s the narrator, and it’s one of my very favourites ever. I can’t recommend it highly enough! Now, I’ve found out that there’s also a book tour for the novel. *sigh* I’m not a fan of book tours, and I don’t like when one book floods the blogosphere. So sorry about that guys! But I’m reviewing it independently. And I do love Delaney, so I’m still exited about the novel! :)

54 Comments leave one →
  1. March 6, 2010 8:04 pm

    I’m so glad you’re joining us! Let’s see – women Irish authors: Edna O’Brien, Maeve Binchy, and Siobhan Dowd (Bog Child is amazing).

    • March 7, 2010 11:52 am

      Thanks for the recs! And for getting me to join. :)

  2. March 6, 2010 8:59 pm

    There’s also Kate O’Brien. I loved The Land of Spices – not dissimilar to Frost in May, but in an Irish convent setting.

    • March 7, 2010 11:52 am

      That sounds so interesting, and I love the title!

  3. March 6, 2010 9:11 pm

    That is some list, Eva–you were busy! Thanks for the tip about the new Banville. Irish women? How about Anne Enright (won Booker for The Gathering. I haven’t read it yet) or Eavan Boland,if you feel like poetry.

    • March 7, 2010 11:52 am

      I have The Gathering on my shelves somewhere-completely forgot about it!

  4. March 6, 2010 10:17 pm

    I will definitely be checking out BookPage. Sadly, my library doesn’t have access to NoveList. However, I still have active library cards for two other libraries (my hometown and my old university town) so hopefully I can log on through one of them…

    Very intrigued by A Few Good Women and Mrs. Adams in Winter, neither of which I’d heard of before. Thanks for pointing them out!

    • March 7, 2010 11:53 am

      Aww-I hope one of your other libraries has NoveList. I SO want to read Mrs. Adams in Winter, it’s not even funny! I might put it on hold despite the ridiculous number of books I already have out from the library.

  5. March 6, 2010 10:27 pm

    I’m eager to read The Surrendered. I noticed in Native Speaker that Chang-Rae Lee is miles better, way brilliant when he sticks to Korean culture.

    For Irish writers, you can’t beat Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy.

    • March 7, 2010 11:54 am

      I haven’t read him before…it’s good to know he’s better at Korean stuff. :)

  6. March 7, 2010 3:27 am

    Oh, how I wish you were participating further than the shamrock level, Eva; I LOVE Irish literature.

    I’ll second the recommendation of Bog Child, which is outstanding.

    I also suggest Eilean Ni Chuilleanain for poetry; second Anne Enright for fiction (her short stories, The Portable Virgin, are good); Marina Carr for drama. I adore Marina Carr’s plays and think you may too (absurdist use of myth).

    Male novelists: Keith Ridgway (especially the novella Lamb), Bernard MacLaverty (especially Lamb and Cal), The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe, Roddy Doyle, JG Farrell, Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.

    Male dramatists: Martin McDonagh (The Pillowman is a MUST), Brian Friel (Translations for you, I think, or Dancing at Lughnasa), Conor McPherson, Beckett, Frank McGuinness (Carthaginians). I cannot rave about the richness of Irish drama enough; I highly recommend it and then do some cartwheels on top. If you don’t read drama then read these ones (and Carr) anyway.

    Non-fiction literary text: Inventing Ireland by Declan Kiberd

    • March 7, 2010 3:41 am

      P.S. Also heard good things about John McGahern.

      EEK – how could I forget Maeve Brennan?! I loved The Visitor (novella).

      Elizabeth Bowen is also Irish and she evokes WWII very well in The Heat of the Day. (set in London during Blitz).

      Did you know that Emma Donoghue was Irish? I always thought she was American.

      Of the Virago Modern Classics writers: Molly Keane (MJ Farrell pen-name), Kate O’Brien, Mary Lavin, all come highly recommended in some quarters (especially O’Brien).

    • March 7, 2010 11:54 am

      With all of your enthusiasm, you’ve convinced me to upgrade! I love Bowen, but I couldn’t decide whether she counted since she’s ‘Anglo-Irish.’ I knew Donoghue wasn’t American, but I thought she was British! lol

  7. March 7, 2010 4:37 am

    Book Page sounds wonderful. Since I work at a library, I read Library Journal. They have assorted new book sections divided by subjects and a huge pre-publication section. Reading list certainly grow from reading Library Journal!

    • March 7, 2010 11:55 am

      That sounds like it’d kill my TBR list! lol Still, I might see if there are any copies out from patrons next time I go to the library. :)

  8. March 7, 2010 6:03 am

    I usually rely on my local indies to give me the heads up but I’m definitely checking out Book Page. It looks amazing! As for the Irish challenge, I think Dubliners is a great choice. I might try to join, myself and I’ll keep an eye out for your list of female writers. Happy reading!

    • March 7, 2010 12:04 pm

      I’ll just be reading all the awesome Irish women my wonderful commentators have suggested. :D

  9. March 7, 2010 6:04 am

    Book Page also has an electronic version to which you can subscribe. The print version has more to it but it’s nice to get an e-mail as well in case you’re traveling or can’t get your paws on the print version for some reason. I also like Bookmarks magazine for suggestions (and a comprehensive collection of pertinent reviews).

    Hadn’t thought about the Frank Delaney book for the Ireland challenge (must still get around to signing up) but that would work, wouldn’t it? I have my copy through LibraryThing Early Reviewers so there was yet a third way to acquire the book recently. Ah well! Just because it’s everywhere in the blogosphere doesn’t mean the quality is any less, right? :-)

    • March 7, 2010 12:05 pm

      I knew they had a website but didn’t know about the e-mail. I’m bad at actually reading e-mail subscriptions I signu pfor though! I wish I had a subscription to Bookmarks-sometimes I flip through it when I’m at Borders, but it overhwlems me!

  10. March 7, 2010 7:12 am

    Thanks for promoting NoveList, Eva! Great to get the word out to more readers about resources beyond the internet! The Irish writer that came to mind for me was already mentioned, novelist Emma Donoghue.

  11. March 7, 2010 7:23 am

    Thanks for the new resources for finding books! I also listen to two “bookish podcasts” – the NYT Book Review (weekly) and BBC’s World Book Club (these books aren’t always “new”) but the discussion is great and generally includes an author interview/reading.

    Irish women writers – Anne Enright is a favorite of mine. I will have a review of her collection of short stories “Yesterday’s Weather” on my blog later this week. I haven’t read her Booker award winning “The Gathering” yet but hear great things about the novel.

    • March 7, 2010 12:06 pm

      Those podcasts sound neat! Especially the BBC one; I love that not everything focuses on brand new books. :) I have The Gathering on my shelf somewhere-sounds like I need to get it down!

  12. March 7, 2010 7:23 am

    Female Irish writers? You cannot go past Jennifer Johnston — the most underrated living Irish writer, IMHO.

    John McGahern is my all time favourite writer. The most accessible of his novels is definitely The Barracks, about a woman who marries a much older widower and settles into Irish rural life only to find she has breast cancer, which she doesn’t tell anyone about. It’s set in the 1950s and is a really beautiful, profoundly moving novel.

    I can also recommend John Banville, Roddy Doyle (the early Barrytown novels are his best), Sebastian Barry (especially A Long, Long Way), Colm Toibin (The Blackwater Lightship is my fave), Nuala O’Faolain, Claire Kilroy (esp. Tenderwire), Molly Keane, JP Donleavy (hilarious, but hard work), Niall Williams… I could go on. Or just check out this page on my blog:

    And my list of Top 10 Irish novels:

    • March 7, 2010 12:07 pm

      Thanks for the links and suggestions! :)

  13. justbookreading permalink
    March 7, 2010 8:53 am

    The Devil and Sherlock Holmes is on my TBR. I’ve picked up Book Page at my local bookstore a few times and love it. I usually end up adding several books to my list after reading it. I need to check and see if my library has the NoveList database too. Thanks for mentioning it.

    • March 7, 2010 12:07 pm

      No problem-I hope your library has it! :)

  14. March 7, 2010 9:14 am

    Although younger people are usually not as enamored of her as I was when I was younger, I recommend Edna O’Brien for your Ireland reading — especially her Country Girl series.

    • March 7, 2010 12:08 pm

      Thanks for the rec! I’ve never heard of her. :)

  15. March 7, 2010 11:25 am

    Eva, so funny to read this post, because I actually intern at BookPage and write reviews for them! So obviously I am biased, but I’m so glad to hear that you found the March issue so rewarding and inspiring! I was actually talking to some of the editors last night over drinks and was talking about expanding the scope of the books on an international scale, so we’ll see what happens in upcoming months!

    As for female authors of the Irish persuasion, I would definitely recommend Maggie O’Farrell who is a contemporary Irish novelist and who is wonderful. Her writing is lyrical and lovely and feels very “Irish” to me. Also, I always think of Iris Murdoch as Irish, but others may not feel the same since she lived most of her life in London. But still! She was born in Ireland!

    • March 7, 2010 12:09 pm

      So which reviews did you write in March? Hmm? ;) It’d be great to see more international authors included. Murdoch for me falls into the same ambiguous category as Bowen! I haven’t heard of Maggie O-Farrell: where would you recommend I start?

      • March 7, 2010 12:57 pm

        I wrote the review near the back of the issue for The Heights by Peter Hedges. Also, the reason I know about O’Farrell is that I read her new book for the April issue (The Hand That First Held Mine), and I thought it was gorgeous. But as that doesn’t come out until the middle of this month and so might be hard to get through your library, I would probably try The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. Fully admit I haven’t read it, but it’s the one I want to tackle next!

      • March 10, 2010 4:15 am

        I went to look for your review, and my mom had already recycled it! lol I’ll look for your review in April. :) For some reason, I thought Esme Lennox was written by an American!

  16. She permalink
    March 7, 2010 11:43 am

    I’m going to recommend Maeve Binchy. I loved Circle of Friends, Light a Penny Candle and Echos. I have read a couple others and I want to basically read them all some day. The three books I mentioned all pretty much start out when they are young and they live in small towns.

    • March 7, 2010 12:09 pm

      Thanks for the rec! I know I read a Binchy back in high school, but it’s been a logn time. :)

    • March 7, 2010 1:17 pm

      Second that – Circle of Friends in particular is fabulous. Also there’s Tara Road which is partly set in Ireland, partly in the US.

  17. March 7, 2010 3:36 pm

    Thanks for including that lovely list, Eva! I went and looked up The Madame Curie Complex because it just sounded so darn good…and YES, I will definitely be buying it. The description mentioned Rosalind Franklin…that’s all it took to sell me!!!

    • March 8, 2010 1:50 am

      I SO thought of you when I saw that one! :D And speaking of thinking of you and Rich, I’m reading Microcosm by Carl Zimmer right now. It’s SO good and all about biology!

  18. March 7, 2010 4:48 pm

    Oh, how exciting–I just checked and my local library does indeed have NoveList, which I’d never heard of but am now giddy about. Thanks so much for the tip!

    • March 8, 2010 1:52 am

      Wonderful! I hope you find it as inspiring as I have. :D

  19. March 7, 2010 6:33 pm

    Thanks for talking about Bookpage! I’m always happy to hear about more book publications. As for where I get my ideas for books to read (aside from blogs), I usually follow a bunch of people’s ‘what I’m reading now’ type threads on LibraryThing (although lately I’ve really fallen behind on that, as well as on reading blogs; it’s really frustrating!), I read Bookmarks magazine at my local library, and I also really love – I imagine you already know about it since you’re so gung ho on book research, but on the off chance you don’t, it’s an online literary magazine concentrating on women authors around the world, and I find it’s a great place to find authors that are not American or European.

    • March 8, 2010 1:52 am

      I haven’t heard of Belletrista-thanks for giving me a link! :)

  20. March 7, 2010 7:52 pm

    AWww! I miss BookPage! My old library offered it, but my new one does not (that I’ve found). That’s an oddity since the old library was tiny and the new one is sprawling and has much more cash flow. lol

    • March 8, 2010 1:52 am

      That is weird! My copy says I should thank my Friends of the Library organisation for it. :)

  21. March 7, 2010 10:45 pm

    I’m reading an Irish novel right now — The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey. It’s a new one out by Hachette and is by a first time author. It’s a historical fiction set in Northern Ireland which is great for me because I don’t think I have read anything set in the North before.

    • March 8, 2010 1:53 am

      Cool! I read a nonfiction book about Belfast last year, but I’m not sure I’ve read any fiction in Northern Ireland.

  22. March 7, 2010 10:51 pm

    I would second your idea to read Dubliners or another Toibin book. If you’re looking for other short stories by an Irish writer, you could check out Claire Keegan. I’ve reviewed some of her stories on my blog, but she just had a really excellent one in The New Yorker, if you want to get a taste:

    You could also do some Elizabeth Bowen. I saw you have reviews of a couple of her books; you could try her short stories or maybe Death of the Heart?

    I really love Irish fiction, old and new.

    • March 7, 2010 11:03 pm

      Oh right, I just now read your earlier comment about Bowen. I always think of her as having a lot to say about Ireland and its relationship with Britain, which is a pretty big part of its history. But I suppose that if you were to read her, it might be best to read one that’s also set in Ireland, which is not the case in Death of the Heart. I haven’t read any of her books other than The Last September that are set in Ireland, although I would guess that maybe there are others? Anyhow, sorry that wasn’t all that helpful :)

      • March 8, 2010 1:54 am

        Thanks to the link to the Keegan! I love ‘sampling’ authors online. :) I love Bowen, and I looked up her other novels, but it appears the only one set in Ireland is The Last September. Odd, right? Your comment was still definitely helpful! And I might just read some Bowen for fun anyway, hehe.

        I had NO idea that so many of my readers had such strong affection for Irish fiction. I feel like I need to start reading more of it right away!

  23. March 9, 2010 11:05 am

    Oh I’m glad someone else has seen BookPage! They’re based out of my hometown and the library I worked at in high school always had copies. I also write reviews for them occasionally.

  24. March 9, 2010 11:06 am

    PS to everyone, I think you can check to see where BookPage is available in your area from their website. Lots of bookstores carry it as well.

  25. March 9, 2010 12:17 pm

    Our library doesn’t have Book Page, but two of the other library systems I visit do carry it. You know, I’ve never asked why we don’t have it in town; I must do that! Yes, it’s another good resource, I agree …

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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