Lynn Reads a Book
This blog reflects Lynn Rosen’s comments on books she’s read and on happenings in the world of book publishing. You can purchase Lynn’s book recommendations at Barnes & Noble (we especially recommend Lynn’s store in Philadelphia!) or at your nearest indie bookstore. Wherever you choose to shop, we ask that you please support a bricks & mortar bookstore. They need your support! Shop local!
Cold weather caused a pipe to burst last week in the ceiling of the Drama Book Shop on West 40th Street in Manhattan, damaging many valuable books. Lin-Manuel Miranda to the rescue! The creator of the Broadway smash “Hamilton” tweeted to his followers to support the store and later made a video encouraging people to make purchases and donations. His help made a great difference. Just another friendly neighborhood indie bookstore supporter! And btw, have you seen the show? It’s brilliant! In other book news, Harper Lee passed away last week at age 89. To this day, her Pulitzer-prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird continues to be a bestseller and its story continues to touch and inspire readers as well as viewers of the film (or maybe that’s due to Gregory Peck…). For decades she was a mysterious one-hit wonder who shunned the spotlight until last year when HarperCollins published Go Set a Watchman, the book that Lee wrote first, and which her editor (wisely) told her to rewrite from the point of view of Scout as a young child. Controversy continues to swirl as to whether Lee, who suffered from dementia later in life, truly wanted this other manuscript published. Closer to home, things are busy at the Open Book Bookstore. According to the American Booksellers Association, we are part of a trend – 61 new stores opened in 2015. Some of our most popular books this month are the new Zahav cookbook by Michael Solomonov, and the entertaining novel The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, as well as adult coloring books. We even had an coloring book evening — fun! (Don’t worry, we’ll have another!) Young adults are enjoying the new graphic novel Roller Girl and for the littler ones it’s been a season of new classics by favorite writers like Mo Willems and fun new discoveries like local writer Zachariah OHora. What else, you ask? Why, events, of course – lots of ‘em! Such as… Do you love children’s picture books? Click HERE. Looking for a fun and novel (pun intended!) way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Click HERE. Want to eat some good food and talk about books? Click HERE and HERE. Have you thought about writing a memoir? Click HERE. Are you interested in learning how to get a book published? Click HERE. Already published and need some advice on what to do now? Click HERE. As always, stay tuned for more!...read more
This past Sunday I attended the kickoff event for this year’s Philadelphia area One Book One Jewish Community program. I am a volunteer member of the implementation committee for this group, and I help review selections and choose a book. This year we selected a memoir called A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka by Lev Golinkin. It tells tells the story of Lev and his family. Soviet Jews, leaving the USSR and settling in America. The kickoff event took place at Gratz College and about 400 people attended. I had the honor of interviewing Lev on stage after his talk, which was fun. Open Book Bookstore, our store, was also the official bookseller for the event. After the event, a woman came up to the book table and asked me where I got the books, i.e. from whom I purchased them. I replied to her: “I am a bookstore.” It turned out she too worked at a bookstore, and she was hoping no doubt that her store might provide the books. A good thought on her part, but I’ve got it covered. But what really struck me the next day as I was recalling this interaction was the way I replied to her, how, without really stopping to think, I simply said: “I am a bookstore.” It’s what, in high school English, we learn to call personification. Actually, now that I think of it, it’s the opposite of that. In personification, human qualities are given to inanimate objects. Here I made myself into an inanimate object. Except our bookstore is not inanimate. It’s a very vital, living place, full of activity and conversation, and filled with a stream of thoughtful, interesting people. I spend a lot of time there, and it has begun to feel like part of me. Most of my conversations these days, anywhere and with anyone, are in some way about books, and I spend huge chunks, if not most, of my time reading books or ordering books, managing inventory, and selling books. Indeed, I have become, and I am, a bookstore. Come visit me and my bookstore at 7900 High School Road in Elkins Park, PA. And if you’d like to read Lev’s memoir, which I recommend, we have it in stock or you can get it...read more
I’m a big fan of Ruth Reichl; I really enjoyed her memoir, Tender at the Bone. I was pleased when I heard she was turning her hand to fiction, and I was very interested to read her new novel, especially once I started hearing the good reviews. Can you tell that opening was a set up for disappointment? Indeed, the novel was a let-down for this reader. It is the sort of book that, when I started it, I knew right away that it wasn’t really going to engage me, and I kept telling myself to put it down when there were so many other books beckoning for my time. Yet I persisted. I think I did so in large part on the strength of her name, her reputation, and my previous pleasant experience with her memoirs, and to a lesser degree because I did find her main character, Billie Breslin, to be charming, and I was interested to see how she made her way to finding herself in this coming-of-age novel. Not only do we have a charming Billie, but Reichl has created a quirky and appealing set of secondary characters to keep Billie company, particularly Sal, the owner of the cheese shop where Billie works. Reichl also, unsurprisingly, writes really well about food. Much is made in the beginning of the book of Billie’s special talent. She has a perfect palate, and can taste anything and discern what the ingredients are, even if it’s something rare and obscure like, apparently, curry leaf. However, later in the book this is only glancingly referred to, and I was sorry to see this amusing parlor game drop. When a character takes a bite of food, Reichl’s prose lights up with colorful adjectives. Unfortunately, when she’s merely writing about plot, her prose is duller. As for plot twists and turns and the big reveal… well, I figured out the secrets about Billie’s sister long before they were revealed (if you’ve read Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love, you will, too), and the love interest has a flashing red arrow pointing at him, so that one is a given. As for the main plot point of the book, Billie’s discovery of a secret stash of letters between famous chef James Beard and an unknown young girl written during WWII, it is (here comes that word again) a charming conceit, but not, for me, enough to hang a novel on. My verdict? A good beach read, but your brain won’t get too tangled up in...read more
Dear Caryl, You mentioned when I saw you Friday night that someone had recommended you read The Two Hotel Francforts by David Leavitt. That was such a funny coincidence because I was in the middle of reading it myself! I finished the book this weekend, and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you. I like David Leavitt. I read his last book, The Indian Clerk, and thought it was interesting and pretty good, and I also read The Lost Language of Cranes, which is his most highly-regarded book, although I must confess I don’t remember much of it. He always seemed to me like a writer who deserved more attention. This new novel has been getting a lot of positive attention, and I was looking forward to reading it. The book tells the story of two couples, Pete & Julia and Edward & Iris, who meet in Lisbon in 1940. American expatriates, they have had harrowing escapes from the encroaching Nazis, and have made their way to Lisbon to await passage back to the US on the ship Manhattan. The new acquaintances strike up a friendship, which evolves quickly into flirtation and then, unsurprisingly, into an affair. What is surprising is the partners who embark on the affair: Pete and Edward. It was this unexpected twist that made the novel sound interesting to me in the first place. After their passion is teased and then consumed, the relationship develops into something more predictable and less pleasant, more tedious, a kind of “you don’t love me like you used to” sort of thing. Iris then comes to see Pete for a “talk,” and explains the workings of her extremely unconventional relationship with Edward. Something about the tone, the setting, the story of the seemingly breezy and worldly couple who mask deep troubles, made me feel like the author was trying to do Fitzgerald and/or Hemingway in a way that felt derivative, not inspired or laudatory. It’s one of those books where the narrator (Pete) tells you at the beginning what’s going to happen at the end and, instead of following his story with interest in the process of how the characters got from A to B, I instead found myself skimming pages in a rush to just get it over with already. Unfortunately, I wanted to like this book much more than I did. In the end, Caryl, I wouldn’t really recommend it for you, but I’ll be happy to recommend some other good summer reading! Start with The Transcriptionist, a debut novel by Amy Rowland. See here for more info: https://lynnrosen.com/a-great-new-book-for-your-summer-reading-list/ Best,...read more
The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro This is a popular book; I’ve seen it around a lot and heard it mentioned in a positive context. The topic interested me. I think what really grabbed me is the cover art. Always meant to read it. Finally did. What I liked about the book: A glimpse into a new (for me) milieu: the Boston art world and the world of art in general. Lots of interesting details about painting techniques. What I didn’t like: Lots of detail about painting technique. I get that to really understand the plot the reader needed a more than superficial understanding of the artist’s technique, but at times it read like a lesson, not a novel. Liked: The main character, blacklisted but extremely talented (and sexy of course) artist Claire Roth. Didn’t like: Claire’s character could have used more emotional depth and complexity. Didn’t like: A narrative style that sometimes seemed confused about whether it was telling the story in past or present tense, and a voice that was often dry, dispassionate and distant. Didn’t like: A story that, near the end, suddenly veered from something more artsy and somewhat literary into a fast-paced police thriller complete with a deceptively friendly FBI guy. Liked: The premise (a stolen Degas; a forged Degas; other things about Degas I won’t give away), the misunderstood, maligned, and yet talented and tenacious protagonist, the inclusion of some Impressionist history, and the back story (real and imagined) of museum creator Isabella Stewart Gardner. This is the point at which I should be assigning a number of stars and thumbs up or down, but I’ll leave it at this and let you decide if this a book you wish to read. Let me...read more