The Well-Readheads Go Off the Script

LH: Holy cats, sugar brains. it’s already November. That means we have experienced practically another whole year of bookish awesomeness! YAY BOOKS. And I think for this week’s column, instead of choosing a subject, we should just bust out of form and talk about anything bookish we want. Are you with me?

RJS: Freeeeeedom! Yes, I’m with you. What’s on your mind, doll?

LH: Three words: En. Eee. Thing. For example, what’s the best book-related item you bought this year?

RJS: You mean besides my awesome Read Harder t-shirt from Book Riot’s anniversary? That’d have to be my subscription to Oyster. 10 bucks a month for unlimited ebooks is pretty freaking great, and it’s my new favorite way to read backlist. Now it’s my turn to ask you, and your turn to flaunt that amazing dress, isn’t it?

LH: I was going to talk about the people I was excited to meet, but I’ll show off the dress, sure! I’m thinking about buying four more and making it my uniform.

liberty book dress

RJS: One could do a whole lot worse for bookish uniforms, but people are good too. Like the time we met Terry Tempest Williams and I cried all over her, then we ate chicken and waffles.

terry tempest williams

LH: That was at the top of my list. She was the nicest person ever! And the time we had lunch with Chuck Wendig and he didn’t melt us with his laser beard. And we got a new Donna Tartt book to read, because we have been very, very good.

RJS: Or they knew if they didn’t give us a new Donna Tartt book, we’d take to conducting Secret History-style bacchanals in my backyard. We also got a new collection of short stories from my favoritest favorite Laura van den Berg. Whaddya suppose we did to deserve that?

LH: Mentioned how much we love The Secret History in practically every post we wrote? New question! Discover a love for any new genres this year?

RJS: Girl, you know the answer is yes! After reading 50 Shades of Grey last year, I decided that I really wanted to understand romance and erotica and not just be able to tell the good from the bad but discern what defines my own taste in it. So I’ve been reading a toooooon of romance, and I subscribed to the WORDs of Love program that our friend and fellow Rioter Jenn runs at Word in Brooklyn, and it’s been pretty great. There have been some missteps, and more than a few silly euphemisms, but I’ve enjoyed. What about you? Could your literary horizons be any broader?

LH: It is true that I will read anything if it looks interesting to me, or it comes highly recommended by someone I trust. This year I discovered I love books about the Civil War, both fiction and nonfiction. It started back in January when I read The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. I had picked it up because Joss Whedon cited it as his influence for Firefly, one of my favorite shows. It was amazing! From there I moved on to The Alligators of Abraham by Robert Kloss (which you have heard me talk about a million times now – I can’t love this book more), Ambrose Bierce essays and stories (this guy HAD to have influenced Lovecraft) and more. And I’m still going – I now have just over 100 Civil War books in my house. History is so awesome! Someone please make me a Team Burnside shirt. Speaking of nonfiction, anything you’d like to drool over?

RJS: Oh yes! I am in seventeen different kinds of love with Smarter Than You Think by Clive Thompson, which is about how the internet is not ruining us but is actually changing our minds for the better by connecting us to each other and allowing us to solve problems faster and create more new things. Going Clear by Lawrence Wright, a history and exposé of Scientology, just rocked my world, as books about fringe religions tend to do. And Anything That Moves by Dana Goodyear totally changed the way I understand contemporary food culture. Right now, The Empathy Exams, a collection of essays by Leslie Jamison is making my brain scream in the most satisfying way. I took me forever to come around to loving essays, I think because I associated them with boring school writing, but I’m so glad I did. Anything you were a late convert to?

LH: I just read The Empathy Exams – twinsies! They are indeed wonderful. My only complaint is that I have had Broken Arrow by Rod Stewart stuck in my head for days, and if you’ve read the book, you know how that’s kinda upsetting. Instead of things I’m a late convert to, I want to tell you about a couple of books that I loved that I got to read early: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer and Thunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken. Annihilation comes out in January, and is creepy, brain-screaming fun, in the vein of Lovecraft (there he is again!) and Ballard. It’s mildly apocalypsy nature horror. And it’s really effing good. And as for the McCracken stories, which come out in April, I cannot stress enough how much I loved them. She is a writing goddess. These stories are white-hot brilliance with a pinch of Shirley Jackson. Whaddya say you wrap it up for us, kitten? Any last book awesomeness?

RJS: I’ve been saving the book-nerdiest bit for last. I am waaaaay late to the party, but I’m finally reading Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley. It’s a dripping-with-charm novel about a traveling book salesman and the farm woman who fell for him when he tried to sell his bookstore-on-wheels to her writer brother. I’ve been hearing about it for so long, and it’s just as wonderful as I expected. Books about books! I mean, what’s not to like?

On that note, we’d better call it a day. What are you digging lately, readers?

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