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Posts Tagged ‘John Feinstein’

Book Jam Question:   Why read Young Adult Literature?

Answer from Beth Reynolds, Children’s Librarian, Norwich Public Library, and bookseller, The Norwich Bookstore:  

“It all comes down to is this: Labels don’t matter, good writing does.”

Outstanding children’s librarian Beth Reynolds (and someone we are also lucky to call a dear friend) offers some words of wisdom around the YA genre and some sure fire hits for all of us looking for a good book — young adults and adults alike. This is our first in what we hope will be a series of guest bloggers on the Book Jam. So now, please enjoy a posting by our first guest author — librarian extraordinaire, Ms. Beth!

Ask anyone who works with books and they can fill you in on what happens to be the latest internet drama over one book or another. There is always an uproar about some genre: Chick-lit, Fantasy, Horror, Science fiction, Romance etc… When a group of books gets categorized and labeled, readers of that genre are often dismissed for their tastes. As if what they’re reading isn’t good enough, as if it isn’t literary enough for the likes of critics or someone looking down from on high.

As someone who spends her weeks donning her librarian’s cap and weekends wearing her bookseller name-tag, I can tell you that it’s often possible for me to guess a reader’s preference when they walk through the door.(Again, this is Ms. Beth writing this post, so please don’t try to find the Book Jam Lisas working in either a bookstore or library, although we both frequent both.) After many years of experience, it is possible for me to make some predictions and assumptions–but it’s not foolproof. In fact, the best interactions I have are with readers interested in a book just because the topic interests them, because a friend suggested it, or because they heard an interview on the radio.


But truly, NOTHING makes me happier than an adult coming into the Young Adult section to get a book, not for a teen, but for themselves. Much ink has been spilt over this very controversy – adults who read YA. If you think adults reading YA are wasting their time or if reading in the teen section is not something you’ve ever considered, think about this:

  • The lines between adult fiction and YA are blurry — There is a large amount of crossover and sometimes a book that ends up classified in one section is often thought to belong in the other. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was published as YA here but as Adult in England, the opposite is true of Mark Haddon‘s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Take a look at the Alex awards for each years offerings of titles published as adult but of interest to teens; you could be reading YA and not even know it.

  • YA books remind us of what it was like being a teen — I admit to reading a fair amount of boy meets girl, or boy meets boy or girl meets girl. Something about the vulnerability mixed with the possibility and potential for more appeals to me. I love the ability of these teen characters to live in the moment and their willingness to take that risk. Sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine that adults are ones doing the writing they manage to convey such honest teen emotions. Recently, Love Letters to the Dead by Ava DellairaAfterworlds by Scott Westerfeld and The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider became some of my favorites new books to recommend. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is being published in January and I hope everyone rushes out to read it.

  • There is often a shared feeling of experience among books in different genres — There are times when I read an adult book and I think “Hey, this feels just like book I read that was meant for younger readers. Somehow the author has managed to evoke that same essence”. Here are a few of my recent discoveries of superb pairings:

All the Light We Cannot See The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close = Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

Me Before You = Say What You Will

The Rosie Project = The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee 

  • There is more in the YA section then sex, drugs and gratuitous swearing — John Green, Maureen Johnson, Jennifer Smith, E Lockhart, Rainbow Rowell, Gayle Foreman… fabulous authors of realistic, contemporary fiction. Just kids, no fantasy or paranormal romance, with their honest emotions. There is a scene from Green’s The Fault in Our Stars when Hazel’s mom worries about losing her daughter, she questions whether or not she’ll be a mom anymore. To me that writing shows that divide for what it is: an aching, piercing line that divides, but one which we as adults can crossover to occasionally pretend that the world of choices after high school is still ahead of us. Many people say they wouldn’t go back again, but reading YA lets you relive some of the good parts.

The best part of reading YA is that these books are often told in the first person. The writer knows they have to grab the reader from the very beginning, so the first sentence often hooks you. Also, most books in this genre are not incredibly long and don’t require a huge time commitment. If nothing else, they are easily accessible but filled with thought-provoking ideas that linger after you finish reading. They contain multitudes– like some of the teens you know. Sometimes I read them in between other books, I think of them as palate cleansing. They take you out of your own head and that’s often why I read.

I ran into a mom and her teen-aged daughter the other day and we started reminiscing about the book club we had when our kids were in 4th grade. Wanting to invoke that feeling again, I asked if her daughter would be up for a Book Club when she went away to college next year and we started listing off fun titles to read. She asked if I had read When We Were Liars and I nodded my affirmation with a conspiratorial smile. Her mom looked intrigued and I thought, “Hey, my work here is done. Though my mission to have adults sample what YA has to offer still looms large”.  If you’re intrigued to find out more about adults reading YA, read on:


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Unknown-2There’s STILL time to find a great gift for those hard-to-gift-people on your list.  Remember – size does not matter, substance does, and books are the perfect fit for anyone. You don’t even have to ship them because you can simply gift them to an iPad.

Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza, and a Joyous New Year to all. We truly look forward to sharing more recommendations in 2014. We wish you a great year’s end full of good books and fun with friends and family. Thank you for being a part of The Book Jam in 2013 – 2014 promises to be a year full of fabulous paragraphs and plots.

But before you finish up your wrapping, wait! – here are just a few more ideas before Santa heads out with his sleigh…

For non fiction readers

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (November 2013) – We love essay collections, and this one by Ms. Patchett is truly superb. And it’s not simply about happy marriages, but about life’s trials and the wisdom that comes with age. Patchett’s writing is clear, funny, insightful and causes you to think a bit differently for a time about owning a bookstore, divorce, friendship, censorship, and life in South Carolina. We truly think this would make a thoughtful gift for mature readers on your list. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

For fiction lovers

Sycamore Row by John Grisham (October 2013) – When I saw this novel on a “best books of 2013″ list – a list that also included Donna Tartt and other authors whose novels tend not to become blockbuster movies, I decided to give it a read.  I am so very glad that I did!  Mr. Grisham is a master at plot and suspense.  And, since I am a fan of the movie A Time To Kill, spending time with Jake Brigance years after the trial from that first book, felt like a mini-reunion.  My recommendation?  Get this for anyone you know loves to read, but for whom you don’t know what types of books they like.  But, please use this next bit of advice, and before you gift Sycamore Row to someone else, read it yourself and enjoy the treasured gift of time with a page-turning story.  ~ Lisa Christie

For young adults or sports fans or adults who like young adult novels and/or sports books

 Foul Trouble by John Feinstein (November 2013) – This is another great young adult book from Mr. Feinstein.  This young adult outing is not one from his mystery series, but is about the corruption in college basketball.  He definitely has an ax to grind with the NCAA and some colleges, but with this book, he does so in a good story.  Reading it with your favorite sports fan or young adult could be a great way to engage in a conversation about abuse, trust and doing the right thing. ~ Lisa Christie

Poetry, or a great gift for anyone who needs a chuckle

God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Marla Frazee (2013) – This collection is going to be a go-to gift for a while, especially for those people whose preferred reading genres are unknown.  Hilarious illustrations accompany amusing poems about God and what she/he does every day (e.g. take a desk job, make dinner, ponder advice from Buddha). ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

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And so it was on a snowy night last week in late November that sixty people from the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire gathered in the wine cellar of the Norwich Inn to talk about some of 2012’s great books. Great books for gifting, great books for curling up with on the couch, great books for sharing with friends. It was, in a word, well, great.

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This special event, the second incarnation of “Pages in The Pub”-  an evening designed by “The Book Jam” (and this time sponsored by The Vermont Community Foundation) to gather people at a local inn  to discuss literature – raised over $1,300 for Vermont Libraries. We heard suggestions from booksellers and bibliophile alike who discussed titles that would make the perfect gift for friends and loved ones. They covered everything from engrossing reads for the memoir enthusiast, picks for the man who “has enough flannel shirts but not enough fiction,”  to mouth-watering tomes for people who like to “cook up a culinary snowstorm.”

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Below is a list of all twenty books discussed during the evening along with its own special six word review.  (Yes, we limited the presenters to six words so we would not run out of room, and they creatively rose to the challenge.) Each is linked to The Norwich Bookstore where you can learn more about these treasures. You’ll also notice that our picks are divided into rather specific categories. These are ones that we created last year as part of our annual “best of” list for  The Book Jam blog; our 2012 “best of” edition of the Book Jam will be published separately next week so stay tuned.  And, just a small technicality: some of the books below were first published in 2011, but are new to paperback in 2012, so we counted them.

Our wonderful, dynamic, thoughtful presenters included:

  • Penny McConnel, Owner, Norwich Bookstore
  • Beth Reynolds, Children’s Librarian, Norwich Public Library
  • Arline Rotman, President of the Norwich Women’s Club (and retired Massachusetts judge and current family law consultant)
  • Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie, curators of the Book Jam Blog

We’d like to thank the our panelists, The Norwich Inn, The Norwich Bookstore, all those who attended, and the Vermont Community Foundation for making this evening possible.

So sit back and read on for ideas —- holiday shopping help is on its way.

Cookbooks: For people who like to cook up a culinary snow storm:

   

Roots: The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes by Diane Morgan, selected by Lisa Cadow (2012) – Cook from this all winter long.

Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman, selected by Penny McConnel (2012)- Yum yum yum delicious delicious delicious.

The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden, selected by Arline Rotman (2011) – Cuisines, cultures, history—delicious  reader’s cookbook!

Non-fiction or reference book or poetry: For people who like to think and chat while sitting by the wood stove:

 

Stag’s Leap: Poems by Sharon Olds, selected by Penny McConnel (2012) – Divorce through a wife’s compassionate eyes.

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie, selected by Arline Rotman (2011) – History that reads like a novel.

Memoirs: For people who enjoy living vicariously through other people’s memories:

 

 Wild by Cheryl Strayed, selected by Lisa Cadow (2012) – Hiking boots: too small. Adventurousness: infinite.

Winter Journal by Paul Auster (2012), selected by Penny McConnel – Intimate. Honest. Difficult. Beautiful. Unforgettable.

Field Guide to Now by Cristina Rosalie  (2012) selected by Beth Reynolds – Little books can change your life.

Adult Fiction: For a woman who only has time for the best fiction:

  

Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman (2012), selected by Lisa Cadow – Australia 1920s. Baby washes ashore. Decisions.

The News From Spain: Seven Variations on a Love Story by J. Wickersham (2012), selected by Penny McConnel – Seven delicious short stories that deliver.

The Secret Keeper  by Kate Morton (2012), selected by Beth Reynolds – Puzzles from the past demand solving.

Adult fiction: For a man who has enough flannel shirts but not enough good fiction:

     

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, selected by Lisa Cadow (2012) – Beauty, grace in Colorado despite apocalypse. Really.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (2012), selected by Beth Reynolds (2012) – It’s so much more than music.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (2011), selected by Arline Rotman – Youth, ambition, family, friendships—peripherally baseball.

Coffee table book or literary gifts for your favorite hosts/hostesses/co-workers:

   

Dancers Among Us by Jordan Matter (2012), selected by Beth Reynolds – Inspirational beauty found in unexpected places.

Jerusalem: A cookbook by Ottolenghi & Tamim (2012), selected by Arline Rotman – A beautiful book that I covet!

AN ADULT BONUS PICK

 End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (2012), selected by Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie – Mother. Son. Many books. Little time.

BONUS SELECTIONS FOR KIDS

   

Picture Books: For families to read together during snow storms

The President’s Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems about the Presidents by Susan Katz, selected by Lisa Christie – Humorous poems. Facts. Presidential Inauguration soon.

Books for young readers (ages 8-12): Those beyond Tonka trucks and tea parties but not yet ready for teen topics

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke, selected by Lisa Christie – First friend helps end family curse.

Books for your favorite High Schooler: Tales for teens who still like to drink hot chocolate and spend snowy days reading, but who are not quite ready for adult themes

Rush for the Gold: An Olympic Mystery by John Feinstein, selected by Lisa Christie (2012) – Gold Medals. Teen Detectives. Great Series.

 

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For those of you needing something to do while you wait for the 2012 Super Bowl or for those of you needing something to read during the Super Bowl, we have some novels for you.  Why? Because assuming there is great overlap between avid readers and avid sports fans, we want to make sure  you all have some super reads to accompany the pre-game hype, the chili, the nachos, all those funky ads and the let-down once the game is over.

So here we go – two Super Reads for Super Bowl Sunday. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats   and When the Elephants Dance .

Some things these books have in common: neither novel is well-known among my friends or even among fellow book lovers/sellers I have encountered.  Both novels take place in lands I have not yet been lucky enough to visit.  Both novels are grounded in their location. Both novels draw on traditional folklore from their respective countries to weave a tale that remains with the reader for a long time. I believe both were even first novels for their respective authors.  So this post is dedicated to these two amazing – even “super” – finds that are reminiscent of each other.  We hope that flipping their pages is as enjoyable as waiting for those touchdowns, Super Bowl parties and amusing ads.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan Philip-Sendker ( Feb 2012).  I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of the English translation of this novel and I loved every word.  I am now fully aware of why this has remained a bestselling novel in Germany,  and I am extremely grateful someone translated it to English so that I was able to read it — as my German is non-existent.

The plot begins when a 30-something woman goes in search of her father who has mysteriously left his family and job in America to find his first love.  The story continues in Burma where the daughter is met by a wise man who slowly reveals the incredible truth of her father’s childhood. In between these revelations, the daughter must reconcile her father’s story with the man she thought she knew.  The characters and the beauty of Burma will remain with you long after you close this book. ~ Lisa Christie

When the Elephants Dance by Tessa Uriza Holthe (March 2002).  This novel provides insight into Filipino culture in the waning days of World War II.  How?  By following the Karangalans – a family who huddles with their neighbors in the cellar of a house near Manila to wait out the war.  The book alternates between 1) heart-wrenching looks at life during war as those hiding in the basement venture out to forage for much-needed food, water and news and, 2) spellbinding myths and legends the group uses to entertain each other while they wait for the war to end.  The book is a testament to the power of stories in giving much-needed resolve to survive. ~ Lisa Christie

OK, for those of you reading this who need a sports book for your Super Bowl count down– here you go — John Feinstein’s young adult series.  If possible, listen to them as an audio book. He narrates and that oh-so-familiar voice from his guest spots on NPR and It’s Only a Game, guides you well as you enjoy the mysteries that Steve Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson, his book smart, common sense endowed and avid sports fan teen heroes uncover as they cover America’s great sporting events: NCAA final four, Super Bowl, US Open.  And, while we haven’t yet read it, we noticed that he also has a new book for adults One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game. He considers this not a memoir (he says he is too young for that), but  more of an epilogue to many of his previous best sellers. ~ Lisa Christie

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Another John Feinstein "hit"

He did, he did the Iditarod!

LISTEN NOW to Olympic Book March 2010 or download the jamcast at http://www.box.net/shared/r84dkhq7bf 

Inspired by the Olympics, Lisa and Lisa discuss books that remind them of the Olympics.  While only one book in this discussion is actually about the actual event, all deal with endurance and perseverance against the odds  while providing engrossing reads.

J Lisa C’s picks include John Feinstein’s sports series for young adults and Dead Reckoning: Great Adventure Writing from the Golden Age of Exploration, 1800-1900 by Helen Whybrow.

Lisa LC’s picks are Magic Tree House #16: Hour of the Olympics by Mary Pope Osborne, Winterdance by Gary Paulsen, Grayson by Lynne Cox, and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami.

And be sure to listen to Lisa and Lisa’s new jam “tasting” and the weekly “Book Bind.”

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