For those of you who don’t know (and I, despite years as a rather avid reader, had no idea until I started figuring out how to get published) an ARC is an Advance (or Advanced) Reader (or Reader’s or Reading) Copy (the C seems to always be for copy). They are also sometimes called galleys, for additional confusion. They’re sent out to booksellers/librarians/reviewers before the book itself is published so people can decide to stock or sell or review it, and they also send them to authors in order to get the little quotable endorsement phrases (blurbs) on the covers or on posters or t-shirts or whatnot. (Blurbs on t-shirts might not be a thing, actually, but someone should look into that. For BEA, maybe.)

So you have likely all seen blurbs on books. You may have already seen blurbs by me on books, of which there are two that are already in book form and two more on their way to being books (I shall give you a peek at the third at the end of this post). I have, to date, blurbed four whole books. I have been sent a lot more than that, though.

This is my current pile of things received late last year & year-to-date, with a bunny on top:

giant arc pile with bunny

 

It’s already more books than I could read in a year, especially a year where I should be writing a novel. (A novel which is requiring reading other not-in-the-pile books for research-esque purposes, too.) Which brings me to a sad but true confession:

I’m a slow reader.

Not like, glacial slow but it takes me a good chunk of time to read a standard length novel. I’ve been trying to keep track of everything I read this year and so far I’m managing about four books a month. So, no too shabby, but not enough to keep up with my for-my-own-entertainment, for writing research *and* please-blurb-me books, especially since the blurb-requesting ones are time sensitive. Like little book time bombs. Luckily they remain readable after the time limit expires. I am working on a way to stop time in order to read more, but so far I haven’t mastered it.

I’ve been trying my best to reply to the expired ones (just sent another batch of analogy-filled emails today) as much as I can, though sometimes I can’t find a specific contact email, and one of the emails I sent in this batch came back with an autoreply stating the editor no longer worked at the publisher. Oops.

Luckily I still have some time to possibly read a decent percentage of the pile but the other thing I have learned through this whole process is that I am absurdly picky. I like a lot of books but the ones I love enough to press on others and put my name on in blurby endorsement form are rarer.

Maybe there’s a book I’ll love in the pile somewhere or one will arrive in an envelope sometime soon (they arrive quite frequently) and hopefully I’ll manage to read it in a timely manner. It’s strange to be asked for such things, and even stranger to me that my name on someone else’s book makes any sort of difference. But I’m glad to be able to help boost the signal when I read something extraordinary.

So the next thing that will be appearing on bookshelves with my name on it is a book I mentioned very briefly in my list of books I read & enjoyed last year. It’s called The Resurrectionist, it unfortunately doesn’t come out until May but I was given an early copy and it’s even more gorgeous than I’d expected.

resurrectionist

 

resurrectionist blurb

 

I got to use so many of my favorite words in that blurb.

That’s another thing, for things I do blurb I try to avoid the “This book is better than kittens” generic sort of quote and try to be as descriptive and evocative of what I liked about it as I can. I won’t tease you with anything about blurbed book #4 since it won’t be out until September, but I seriously spent hours coming up with the right combination of words and I’m still mildly bitter that I didn’t manage to get the word “salt” in there somewhere.

And the moral of this post is I need more time to read. Or more time in general, that would be nice.

read this.

penumbra

 

I spent a good chunk of the weekend reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.

I had wanted to read it for a while because I like the title and I’m a sucker for books about books.

Also, the cover glows in the dark.

(Seriously. I checked.)

Also also, it has my name on the back of the (glow-in-the-dark) cover:

harkaway blurb

I figured if Nick Harkaway had such lovely things to say about it it would probably be worth reading.

It is.

It is fun and funny and just plain enjoyable. It has mysterious books and thievery and Google (the place!) and it reminded me a bit of Ready Player One in tone. It celebrates both the old and the new in delightful ways.

And it has the honor of being the first book of 2013 to make me cry, completely unexpectedly. Happy tears of that good-book-sucker-punch-to-the-place-in-the-heart-where-the-booklove-lives sort.

Also, it glows in the dark.

(If there was ever a reason to get the paper book instead of the e-version, there you go.)

So since that was my weekend, I was extra delighted this morning to hear that it received an Alex Award, hurrah! (I haven’t read any of the other winners, bad me. More to add to the to-read list.)

2012 was a weird reading year for me. I feel like I didn’t read quite as much as I did last year. I read bits of things and more non-fiction than I usually do, there was more grazing than proper book devouring. I still got through a decent number of books. I didn’t, however, keep a proper list so I spent a lot of time staring at my shelves trying to remember if I read things this year or last year. For 2013 I will attempt to keep a proper list.

This is in no way, shape or form a “best of” list. This is stuff I read in 2012 and liked a lot. Most of them were not published this year.

There are two books in here that ended up with my name on them. There are a couple that had been on the to-read shelf for years. There’s a book that I read in its entirety in all of 15 minutes last week. There’s a cocktail book.

And a whole lot of Kate Atkinson.

Here is your visual aid*:

2012 books

Let’s start with the Kate Atkinson, shall we? My reading year was Atkinson-themed, I’d acquired Case Histories in Canada during my 2011 book tour and I took it on an airplane this year partially because it was a good size to fit in my bag and I got kind of obsessed after that and read all the Jackson Brodie books. I adore the way she writes, and I love a good mystery, and I love a multi-faceted narrative where everything feels disparate at first but then everything connects. They’re my new favorites to push on people, because sadly not nearly enough people in this country have read her books, but I hope that changes.

Rest of the tower, in order from top:

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories is filled with tiny bits of wonderment and delicious illustrations and it only took me 15 minutes (possibly less) to read but I know I will read it again and again.

The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen. First of the two with my name on them, I read this book before it was published in the US, curled up on a February afternoon with a pot of tea. I simply adore it, I’ve pontificated about it before, I recommend it to people whenever I can, book evangelist, etc. LOVE THIS BOOK. Love.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Had been sitting on the to-read shelf far too long, partially because I was avoiding circus books in general while working on The Night Circus. Finally read it and loved it this year, both a little bit sorry that I waited so long and a little bit glad because I think I read it at the right time for me.

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry. This was given to me by a lovely bookseller at Politics & Prose last year but I didn’t get around to reading it until this year, after several other people had recommended it to me, usually after hearing that I’m working on a fantastical detective-esque book-thing. It is a delightfully surreal detective story, and having spent a great deal of time reading a lot of classic, not-so-surreal detective stories lately I loved it all the more.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I meant to get to this last year but didn’t actually get a hold of it until it was out in paperback though I am pleased about that because the paperback is such a pretty color. This was one of those books I couldn’t put down and then couldn’t stop thinking about afterward, though it made me oddly melancholy.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. True confession: I have owned it since it came out in paperback but I only finally got around to it because I wanted to read it before I saw the movie. People have been recommending this to me for years knowing my taste in books, so I think I expected to like it a bit more than I did. I loved certain sections, I only liked others, but the book as a whole is astonishing. (I liked the movie, too.)

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters. As I mentioned, I have been reading a lot of detective stories. I also have apocalypse fatigue. I was primed to not like this book and I loved it. I especially loved the treatment of the impending end of the world, which felt nuanced and real and yet never overwhelmed the mystery, only informed it.

The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan & Chris Gall. I think it is fair to say that I drank more cocktails this year than I read books, but I did also start collecting more cocktail books which should count for something. This is one of my favorites, because beyond having fantastic cocktail recipes it’s an interesting, gorgeously illustrated book.

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler & Maira Kalman. The Basic Eight remains one of my all-time favorites, and this book reinforced my belief that Daniel Handler is or has been an adolescent girl, even though I’ve met him and he appears convincingly manly in person. This would be a brilliant, bittersweet story on its own but the Maira Kalman illustrations of the contents of the break-up box turn it into something extraordinary.

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. Read as 2011 turned into 2012 and I said last year it’d likely make the 2012 favorites list and it did, of course. And it has the honor of being the very first book I ever blurbed, which makes it special. Also, it’s shiny. Also also, it truly did give me a raging crush on a fictional lawyer.

 

*Other books I enjoyed in 2012 that are not pictured for various reasons:

Vermilion Sands by J.G. Ballard, lent to me and thus not in the pile. First Ballard I’ve ever read and some of the imagery will be in my head forever, I’m certain.

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer, because I read it before everyone found out he was a lying liar who lies and I loved it then, and I still love a lot of the ideas behind it.

The Resurrectionist by E.B. Hudspeth. I read a PDF galley and I cannot wait to see the finished book when it comes out next year. Beautiful and macabre, one of my very favorite combinations.

 

I will not say that I have too many books. I would never say that, even if I had All The Books which is probably impossible. Even if I had Most Of The Books, which I’m sure I don’t. But I have a lot of books. And I have a great many that I haven’t managed to read yet.

I did a quick count just to get an estimate, I went around to most of my shelves and counted the books I hadn’t read yet. I stopped at 200, and that wasn’t all the shelves and I didn’t even look at the ever-growing pile of advance copies sitting in the office. I have been accumulating books at a much faster rate than I can read them. They even show up in the mail all unexpected-like. And of course I am almost always incapable of visiting a bookstore without buying a book or five.

I think I’m at the point where 40-50% of the books I own I haven’t read yet. I used to keep them all on one shelf and had aspirations of keeping the to-read books contained to that single shelf but that never really worked and now they’re everywhere. They make me feel slightly less guilty this way, camouflaged in with books I have read.

I need more time to read.

I’m not the fastest reader. I’m not the slowest, either, but it takes me a few days to read a decent-sized book, especially when I’m busy which is pretty much always lately. I’ve become slightly more fond of travelling just because it gives me more time to read.

(Though, as an aside, the travel reading tends to mean that the hardcovers stay unread longer because the paperbacks are more travel-friendly. Yes I am aware that an e-reader would help with this but I have tried and failed at e-reading and I like my paper books with their delicate fibers beneath my fingertips and also I am far too fond of flipping back and forth.)

Since it would have been architecturally dangerous to pile all the to-read books into a proper to-read pile I instead put together a sampling of things that I am really looking forward to but haven’t gotten to read yet because of that pesky time thing. Hopefully all of these will be read in 2013, I should have more reading time next year.

 to-reads

books in tower form

I am quite frequently asked about books. Usually about books I like or that I’d recommend and I’ve been meaning to do book posts for the blog for ages, so December is going to have lots of them and this is the first one, featuring a tower of books.

This is not an ideal bookshelf or an all time favorites or any sort of thoughtfully curated list. This is what happened when I wandered around my apartment searching my bookshelves for the books that seemed like they should be in this pile to be blog-shared.

Caveats: there is nothing in this pile that I read in 2012, that post is separate and forthcoming (a preview: I fell in really deep booklove with Kate Atkinson this year). There are a lot of old favorites here, one of them is so old it has my signature inked inside the cover to distinguish it from when I first read it in high school, several have been read many times over. I purposefully did not choose multiple titles by single authors (though Smoke & Mirrors, Fingersmith & all the other Amphigoreys tried really hard to get in on the book tower action).

Also, I’m not going to go on about why I love every book in this pile. For one thing, this post would get far too long, and for another, booklove is a personal sort of thing and it doesn’t always fall easily into short sentences or even words. I hugged my copy of Einstein’s Dreams when I pulled it off the shelf, that’s probably all you need to know.

So here is Erin’s Tower of Books She Loves & Hopes You Might, Too. Presented in easiest-to-stack order and followed by a list of titles & authors.

From top to bottom:

Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

The Litte Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock

Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

Amphigorey by Edward Gorey

the vanishing act

I am still working on a long post about books that is not post-shaped yet but in the meantime I am delighted that I can finally recommend a book I read months and months ago now and promptly fell in love with and then pouted quite a bit when I realized I wouldn’t be able to push it properly on people until September.

And now it is somehow September, so now you can read The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen.

I’ve had trouble explaining the book to people. I mostly just want to hand it to potential readers and smile and walk away. The Vanishing Act is about a girl named Minou who lives on a small island with her father, along with a man known as Boxman (so dubbed because he builds boxes for magicians, of the sawing-ladies-in-half-variety), a priest and a dog called No Name. A year ago, Minou’s mother disappeared along with the turtle.

It feels like a fable. It has so many of my favorite things on one tiny snow-covered island wrapped in melancholy.

I’m going to share several covers because I can. It has been out in Australia for a while so I was given the Australian version back in February. I made a pot of cherry green tea and curled up in my office and read it in one sitting. I am not a particularly fast reader but it is a perfectly sized one-sitting sort of book. That cover looks like this:

I’ve been getting a lot of books to possibly blurb, you know, those quotes from other authors that boil down to “yay, you should read this!” A lot of them I simply haven’t had the time to read but I’ve also learned from this process that while I like a lot of books the ones I love are fewer. And in order for me to send a quote it has to be a book I both love and wouldn’t mind having my name on, because it seems my name could very well end up on it.

I am delighted and honored to have my name on The Vanishing Act.

This is my entire unedited blurb, for the record:

This book is a precious thing. I want to keep it in a painted box with a raven feather and sea-polished stones, taking it out when I feel the need to visit Minou on her island again. The best stories change you. I am not the same after THE VANISHING ACT as I was before.

Hey, remember how everyone was all excited that I’m going to write a chapter about how to start reading Neil Gaiman for BookRiot‘s Start Here project?

Well, if it doesn’t reach its funding goal, it won’t happen. There are only three (3!) days left and less than $5,000 to go. So please, if you think this sounds like a nifty, worthwhile project, contribute even a little bit. There are very cool rewards, too.

Tell your friends! Help reach the in-sight goal! Otherwise, I shall never reveal what I think is the best route for wandering into the wonderful world of Gaiman. And I do have a decent idea of what I’m talking about here:

start here

You may have already heard about Book Riot‘s Start Here project. If not, you can click the picture or the link or read this helpful description that I’m going to cut and paste for you:

There are so many fantastic authors and great books out there that sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin.

Say you’ve always wanted to read something by William Faulkner. You probably know a bunch of his books: The Sound and the FuryAs I Lay DyingLight in AugustAbsalom, Absalom! Maybe you’ve even come close to buying one. But every time you think about it, there’s that big question:

Which should you read first?

Start Here solves that problem; it tells you how to read your way into 25 amazing authors from a wide range of genres–children’s books to classics, contemporary fiction to graphic novels.

Each chapter presents an author, explains why you might want to try them, and lays out a 3-4 book reading sequence designed to help you experience fully what they have to offer. It’s a fun, accessible, informative way to enrich your reading life.

Start Here will be available both as an ebook (compatible with Kindles, iPads, Nooks, and a variety of other devices) and as a printed edition.

 

Fun, right?

I thought it was a fantastic idea to begin with, and I knew Joe Hill was writing a chapter and anything Joe Hill does seems like it’s probably cool, and now the section introducing the varied and wondrous worlds of Neil Gaiman will be composed by yours truly.

I am delighted and honored to be involved. I am still pondering my suggestions, as the collected Gaiman is vast and eclectic. It’s kind of like starting someone out on sushi when they’ve never had it before, there are a lot of tastes and textures to set up before we start setting things on fire.

(I really did have sushi that was on fire last week. It said “torched at table” and I expected maybe they’d pull out a little crème brûlée torch but instead it arrived aflame and continued to burn for quite a while and it was delicious.)

My Gaiman guide may end up having a slightly unconventional approach (I already know I’m not going to suggest starting with American Gods, for one thing) but I think it will be a lot of fun and also gives me an excuse to page through my gorgeous Absolute Sandman editions again.

If any of this sounds appetizing to you, you can help kickstart Start Here here.

 

I seriously just spent a considerable amount of time writing a post that was mostly little bits of things and also a list of things that I am going to post about in upcoming proper posts and then there was some sort of draft-saving internet hiccup and now that post has vanished.

So, as I do not have time to rewrite it today, I instead give you a fraction of that missing post in the form of the pile of unintentionally color-coordinated books I bought today. I blame the fact that the text in Sacré Bleu is actually blue for ending up with a very blue bunch of books.

coffee table/books

This is my coffee table. My coffee table has not been this clear since before the book tour. I am far too pleased about the clearing of the coffee table, even though it quite possibly involved cluttering other tables not pictured.

I am having one of those days where I have a lot to do so I am procrastinating by cleaning off my coffee table and eating chocolate very seriously as though by treating the chocolate eating as something important it becomes a more productive activity.

Anyway, on to something somewhat productive, I have been meaning to do a post of my favorite books of 2011. Note that they are favorites and not bests. I shall break them in to categories.

 

Favorite book published in 2011. (This one is a tie.)

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I lived in this book for a good month, because it is three books and a total of nearly 1,000 pages. I had a very battered galley copy by the end and now my gorgeous hardcover is sitting next to it on the shelf. I was worried that I wouldn’t be satisfied with the ending after so much time and so many pages but  I really was. It’s hard to explain, it’s like 1984 but different. It’s surreal but in a realistic way. It’s a book to live in for a while, sometimes stopping and looking up at the sky to count the number of moons.

Habibi by Craig Thompson. This book is gorgeous. Gorgeous. It is a book to pet and “oooh” over before you even get to the story within it that is equally beautiful. The lines of Craig Thompson’s artwork make me weak in the knees and the lines of the art in this book are so fluid they almost seem to move, as though the ink has yet to dry and wants to stay in motion. Calling it a graphic novel doesn’t properly express what it is, it’s a work of art. Also, Craig himself is lovely and huggable. I know because I’ve hugged him and the fact that I have hugged the person who created this lovely thing amazes me.

Favorite book published in 2011 that I have not technically read. (Though it is on the aforementioned coffee table.)

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton. Okay, so I haven’t read the book but I have read and loved it in internet form (harkavagrant.com) so I know what kind of brilliance is contained within these pages. I have two book tour regrets and they both involve not meeting people despite being in meetable proximity, one of those people is Ron Charles and the other is Kate Beaton, I know she was at IFOA in Toronto at some point but our paths did not cross which is probably good because I might have fangirled all over her.

Favorite book I read in 2011 that was published in a year other than 2011.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. This book had been on my to-read radar (hadn’t even made it to the to-read shelf) and when I was in Mississippi I happened to have enough time to browse books at Turnrow Book Company and found this lovely little edition that happened to be signed and since it was small enough to fit in my bag I had to get it. It then became travel reading and I loved it to bits, for a book that is so much about music it feels like music, soaring and heartbreaking, grand and intimate all at the same time.

Other favorites published in 2011 that I will not elaborate upon to save space:

The Devil All The Time by Donald Ray Pollock

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Other favorite books read this year but published in years other than 2011:

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Every novel ever written by Dashiell Hammett.

That’s the list, though I didn’t read much that I disliked this year. Fables should have some sort of honorable mention even though I’m still working my way through, and I’ll be surprised if Angelmaker doesn’t make the list next year since I’ll be finishing it as 2011 turns into 2012. And now you probably have a better understanding of what I mean when I say my taste in books is eclectic.