August 2010

Dear Reader,

Here I am in Maine enjoying an uninterrupted indulgence of reading and relaxation (used to be no computers, no phones - just heaven - now the email world has intruded but still a slice of heaven). Anyway, my determination to read was challenged when the power went out last night at about 2:30 in the morning. This woke me up because all the gidg-gadgets in the house make a last gasping noise before they shut down. It soon became clear that falling asleep again wasn't going to happen and I wanted to read. I found myself groping my way downstairs thinking, "I remember where the flashlight might be" - and it was and, miraculously, it worked.

Now tucked back in bed with a book and flashlight I resume reading Nicole Krauss's new novel, Great House (coming out in early October). It may be over thirty years since I've read by flashlight and I'm immediately filled with the sensation of reading when I was a child - and used a flashlight under the covers to avoid waking my sister. Along with that came the intimacy of just you and the words and the quietness and willingness to savor every word. This became the perfect cocoon to reread Nicole's beautiful sentences and have the scary scenes take on an added dimension of mystery. It was the pleasure of reading in all its glory.

All this got me wondering - this experience of holding a book - of being one with the words and being immersed and surrendering to the story - is it uniquely tied to a physical book? Can the experience of reading be duplicated with an electronic device? Does it engage the same dimensions of the brain and therefore elicit the same sensations? Most of my recent conversations about books quickly gravitate toward electronic reading. This is not a discussion about trying to stop the march of technology, but simply a curiosity I have, and I would love to have a further conversation. And an easy way for us to do this is for you to go to the rjjulia blog.

By the way, Nicole's new book is glorious - she is one of the most exquisite fiction writers today. While you wait for her new book (you might want to reserve a copy) I urge you to read her previous book The History of Love, which I consider one of the top twenty fiction books of the last ten years.

Another book I am loving is The Bolter by Frances Osborne. I am definitely adding this to my list of recommended book club titles. The Bolter is the biography of Lady Idina Sackville (great-grandmother of Ms. Osborne, which only added to my fascination). Idina was a too-independent female, viewed as a real bad girl. Five husbands, lovers galore, abandoned children, drinking and drugs - I am riveted. And, I asked myself, if a guy was this naughty, would we be just as judgmental?

Now on to ladies who are much better behaved. I have to thank all of you who made our Fiction Luncheon at the Pine Orchard Club such a wonderful occasion. What a fabulous pleasure meeting three authors, just starting out, who are all incredibly talented and writing books that are full of emotional honesty and fascinating female characters, and that take us to a unique trio of places: turn of the century Boston and Trinidad, Italy in the 1800s, DC during the Civil War. My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira especially moved me - reading about Mary's determination to become a doctor felt contemporary and riveting - a perfect summer afternoon read.

Even though I'm enjoying my time in Maine, I'm also very much looking forward to another luncheon with you - this a much more casual affair. Please join me on Tuesday, August 10th at noon at the store for one of our regular book chats. We'll be talking about some of my favorite books of the past few months, the new books coming in the fall that I'm most excited about, and hopefully getting to hear from you what you are loving - we'll supply the brown-bag lunch. These events are always such fun and I hope to see you there.

I love when our booksellers come up with a clever idea and run with it. And what more perfect way to spend a Friday evening than at the store, sipping wine (and other more exotic drinks) and talking about books? Stop by on the 13th for Books and Booze - we'll be serving samples of drinks and pairing them with the perfect reads. Our booksellers have also scheduled their own reading group on Wednesday the 18th for David Nicholls's One Day. I will say that I could not put the book down, but I did feel a little manipulated by the ending. One Day is the hot new book that's receiving lots of buzz - I can't wait to hear everyone's reactions.

I urge you to come to our event on the 26th - Christopher Chabris will be here discussing The Invisible Gorilla. I just loved this book - it is perfect for the business person trying to improve the process of making decisions or anyone seeking to understand the impact of perceptions versus reality. Chabris will help you understand how we can get hijacked by what we think we are seeing versus what is really happening in front of us.

I will write again and share with you the pile of books I brought to Maine and the ones that have made my time here memorable; here are two that are at the top of my pile. Gary Shteyngart is brilliant and so clever. I wondered if I was too old to be reading his newest, Super Sad True Love Story, but realized that I'm young enough to recognize his genius. Set in the future, he takes geopolitical events to the extreme. It's a very funny book that I rather like but didn't love. I'm also in the middle of David Mitchell's lastest, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. I'm loving this one, though in the past I've found Mitchell a bit confusing - I'll keep you posted.

See you in the store,