On Thursday, I encountered no line at a local CVS as I received my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Friday I had that feeling like you’re about to come down with something, and Saturday I woke up feeling a little tired, but essentially fine.
In two weeks I’ll be as protected from Covid as possible, and it is hard to know what to do with this new condition, particularly as the virus is still endemic throughout the country, and a pandemic in other parts of the world.
In next week’s (already written) column I try to use my training in narrative analysis to figure out how to negotiate this new reality, but I’m curious what others who are ahead of me in terms of protection are up to, and if it feels as weird as I think it does.
The comments are a great spot for this, as is replying to this message, which send me an email.
The responses to last week’s question about why they heck we keep so many books around are beautiful, thoughtful, even stunning in their insight. They will make their way into a future column almost certainly. If you haven’t looked at those comments yet, please do, and feel free to keep adding more voices. I was particularly struck about how many people see their books in a way similar to how we use photo albums (back when we printed pictures) as artifacts that mark our lives in meaningful ways. Letting go of books can feel like letting go of treasured memories, and why would we want to do that?
This week’s column is one of my patented, “I’m worried about something, but I’m also trying to see if there’s a way this could work” pieces about how celebrities on TikTok and Instagram are promoting books. More readers is good. Having to get the attention (or be) a celebrity to sell a book, is not.
I had been planning a lighthearted column about how Philip Roth’s clock radio (which I won on a lark at auction) was underappreciated as a source of his literary success because of its lack of presence in the newly released “Roth: A Life,” when the news that Blake Bailey, Roth’s biographer, had been credibly accused of grooming his former 8th grade students for later sexual encounters, including alleged sexual assault broke.
It’s a truly disturbing story on a lot of different levels, a story I’m still trying to process for a possible future column of my own. The New York Times has the details here if you’re curious, but it isn’t pretty.
Every so often you read a book that just grabs you and won’t let go. Happened to me recently with J. Robert Lennon’s Subdivision. It’s a mix of mystery, surrealism, and domestic drama, that’s maybe even influenced by role playing video games. If that sounds interesting, check it out.
Michelle Lee has a list of books that help combat discrimination and xenophobia.
Yesterday was independent bookstore day, a “holiday” I don’t particularly celebrate because in my world, every day is (or should be) independent bookstore day, but in honor of that, here’s a list of stores owned by authors.
Reading Companion of the Week
This is D’Artagnan, who looks as dashing as his name. Send your favorite reading companion to me at email@example.com.
All links to books on these posts go to The Biblioracle Recommends bookshop at Bookshop.org. Affiliate income for purchases through the bookshop goes to Open Books in Chicago. A huge (relative) jump in affiliate income this past week to $36.00 for the year. Thanks very much!
My call for more recommendation requests brought a flood, but don’t let that discourage you. I’m going to try to do a couple of more than usual today and will do a midweek recommendations-only update, should time allow.
1. Winged Victory by V.M. Yeates
2. Tom Stoppard: A Life by Hermione Lee
3. Beavers by Rachel Poliquin
4. The Liar’s Dictionary: A Novel by Eley Williams
5. In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado
Nathan C. - Los Angeles, CA
The Liar’s Dictionary is a sneaky big seller. It hadn’t gotten on my radar at all, but now I’m seeing it everywhere. If you’ve read it, I’d be curious to hear about your experiences with it. I think Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, with it’s combination of history and mind-bending storytelling is a good fit for Nathan.
1. The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
2. Interior Chinatown by Charles You
3. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
4. The Night Watchman by Louise Edrich
5. A Promised Land by Barack Obama
Maurice P. - Highland Park, IL
1. Monogamy by Sue Miller
2. The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
3. Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
4. Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
5. When Harry Met Minnie by Martha Teichner
Cathy O - Minooka, IL
Writers & Lovers by Lily King, one of my favorite reads from last year, just when I was emerging from my early pandemic funk has the right mix of empathetic character portrayal and personal drama for Cathy.
1. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership by James Comey
2. The Third Rail by Michael Kelly
3. See Jane Win: The Inspiring Story of Women Changing Politics by Caitlin Moscatello
4. A Time for Mercy by John Grisham
5. Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce
Mary Beth N. - Chicago, IL
I’m hoping that Mary Beth hasn’t yet started Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series because she has seventeen installments to look forward to if not. Still Life is the first volume.
1. The Belton Estate by Anthony Trollope
2. The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey
3. Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith
4. The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World by Patrik Svensson
5. Mr. Skeffington by Elizabeth von Arnim
Joanne S. - Harpswell, ME
Joanne reports that the book on eels was an impulse pull from the new releases at the local library, which is a wonderful testament to both libraries and publishers, that there is everything under the sun available, just in case you’re surprised by your own curiosities. Joanne is drawn to some classics, so I’m going in that vein and recommending Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie.
Enjoy your day, your week, even your month, because ambition doesn’t hurt,