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Posts Tagged ‘David Mitchell’

Periodically, we invite other book lovers to guest post on the Book Jam.  Today, we are thrilled to welcome Carin Pratt – an outstanding bookseller and former executive producer of “Face the Nation”.  We are ever so grateful that “Face the Nation” lost her services so that the Norwich Bookstore could benefit from both her expertise and avid reading tendencies. The Book Jam Lisas are always happy to pick up a Carin Pratt recommendation, and today we are even more pleased that she is sharing her picks on the Book Jam.  Enjoy!
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Every once in a while, you need to read to escape. Doesn’t matter particularly what you are escaping from — Trump, the excess Halloween candy that keeps winking at you, the pesky dog who keeps thrusting her nose into your lap wanting a walk, the dirty kitchen floor, that last cord of wood reproaching you in an unkempt pile outside the door. You get the drift. You just need to inhabit another world. One preferably totally unlike the one you live in.  Here are three books to provide you with that escape.
Somehow there’s nothing like a good South or North Pole exploration disaster story. Everland by Rebecca Hunt is just that, and you get two expeditions for the price of one — one set in 2013 and the other, in alternating chapters, set in 2012, both on the same island. Despite the time difference, the elements remain the same: howling winds, frozen extremities, ruined provisions, psychological dysfunction and epic hallucinations brought on by week-long blizzards that trap the fractious explorers in their tent. Add to that the question of when or if they will be rescued, well, it’s going to be a bumpy night, or month. Makes you want to go right out and sign up for that next ship going South, (or North), or at least shell out this year for a parka good to 40 below.
Slade House, the newest book by David Mitchell (Bone Clocks) is about soul-sucking vampires, two, to be exact. Siblings.  Now soul-sucking vampires might not be your cup of tea — they’re not mine — but give these two a try. Every ten years they have to lure some poor soul into their clutches to do what they do (which is described in a way you will find hard to forget), and gain enough energy for the next decade. They are very clever about this. Until…..  but then you will have to read it to find out.  Slade House is in many ways an old fashioned ghost story, with portals and time shifts, and all kinds of morphing. Quite gripping, but not as terrifying as some ghost stories, as there is actually some humor. And, the cover is very cool.
The Ibis Trilogy is, yes, I know, three books instead of one (Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke, Flood of Fire). You don’t have to read them all, though you may want to. Amitav Ghosh took ten years to write his epic of historical fiction about the opium trade. Set in the years before the opium wars in the mid 1800’s, his cast of characters cover a wide range of cultures (British, Indian, Chinese, etc) and occupations (sailors, traders, peasants, boat people, etc), and everyone has a story he weaves into the whole. It’s a funny, dramatic and linguistically playful masterpiece. And a different world altogether. Makes for a great escape.

THANK YOU CARIN!

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “Three Questions”.  In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam in the week leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events.

We are pleased to welcome Rob Gurwitt and Rob Mermim, the authors of Circus Smirkus: 25 Years of Running Home to the Circus. This book chronicles the story of Circus Smirkus, a special traveling international youth circus, created by Rob Mermin in response to his own question from long ago, “What would a society feel like,” he wondered, “in which there was humor without malice, laughter without scorn, decency in human relations, delight in sharing skills without aggressive competition?”

In 1987, after a long apprenticeship as a clown in Europe, he set out to create that society on a small patch of farmland in Greensboro, Vermont, and for the 25 years since, Circus Smirkus has been transforming the lives of its young performers – aged 10 to 18 ­ – and inspiring audiences wherever it plays.

CIRCUS SMIRKUS: 25 Years of Running Home to the Circus is the story of his vision.The authors will appear at the Norwich Bookstore on Wednesday, July 18th at 7 pm. Call 802-649-1114 to reserve your spot for this very special evening.

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This is the first time we’ve interviewed co-authors for 3 Questions so bear with us! Listed first are Rob Mermin’s responses and Rob Gurwitt’s immediately follow.

Rob Mermin, the founder of Circus Smirkus, ran off to Europe when he was nineteen to begin a 40-year career in circus, theater and TV. He trained in classical mime with Etienne Decroux and Marcel Marceau. He is also the former dean of Ringling Bros. Clown College. Rob’s awards include Copenhagen’s Gold Clown; Best Director Prize at the former Soviet Union’s International Festival on the Black Sea; and the Governor’s Award for Excellence, Vermont’s highest honor in the arts. Rob lives in Montpelier, Vermont.

 1.What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

Freddy the Pig” series by Walter Brooks were the first books I ever took out of the library when I was a kid. Freddy was at various times a detective, explorer, magician, politician, cowboy, poet, and daydreamer. He surely set me on the path to Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson and others tales of worldly travel and grand adventure.

 2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

Mark Twain, to laugh and complain about the human race.

 3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

About to open Hermann Hesse’s novel about the artist’s life, The Glass Bead Game, which I read when I was twenty.  I’m wondering about my response to it now, after 40 years. I love to revisit good books.

Rob Gurwitt is a freelance writer who lives in Norwich, Vermont. As a writer, he got toknow Circus Smirkus on a magazine assignment in 1999, and he and his family have been captivated by circuses ever since. His two children are performing with Circus Smirkus this summer. It is their second year on tour with the troupe.

 1.What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

When I was about 12, I discovered The Best of Gregory Clark on my parents’ shelves. He was a wry, observant columnist and storyteller for the Toronto Star between the wars, tapping out gems of emotion and truth in tight prose that felt roomy. I still read him. Same with Meyer “Mike” Berger, the first “About New York” columnist for the NY Times, who found little story bombs in what everyone else considered the humdrum and commonplace. Every writer should take lessons from him. Finally, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children was the first book that made me go, “Oh my God, people can write like that!” Not that I ever could.

  2. What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

Hands down, David Mitchell (The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Cloud Atlas). Though I think it would take more than one cup of coffee to figure out how such a protean, brilliant mind works.

 3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. I know, I’m late to the game — but all of you who’ve already read it, don’t you envy me for getting to read it for the first time?

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Books to curl up with Dec 2010 (Click to Listen) or download http://www.box.net/files#/files/0/f/0/1/f_662868909.

We’ve decided to dedicate a second annual show to recommending a few books that would be perfect to curl up with once the holiday houseguests have left. Or in the case of those of us living in central Vermont, to read while we’re snowed in (like the rest of northern New England). Yippee!

And in between the sledding and skiing, we’ve also added a few titles to the list that we’re hoping to read ourselves.  We will report on the results later. In the meantime, happy new year and happy reading.  May 2011 be full of good books for you.

What we have read and recommend

Perfect for a long winter’s read

Hawaii by James Michener – Having had a bad Michener experience in her youth,  Lisa Christie never thought she would recomend one of his books.  So here it goes. She loved Hawaii.  The saga of how the islands formed from the sea, were peopled by Polynesians, and then shaped by New England missionaries, Japanese immigrants, Chinese immigrants and history is full of interesting characters and decisions.  One caveat, be prepared to devote a lot of time to this book.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson — A very comforting book about the English countryside, class conflict and second chances at love.  The  main character is of another era and delightful – wish we could meet him. This book is lovely, old-fashioned and yet somehow so of-the-moment.

Truly great writing

Let the Great World Spin by Collum McCann – Just an amazing book about life in New York City.  Truly great writing and a thought provoking tale of making a life in all kinds of circumstances.

Almost any title in the Penguin Classics Series — They have developed a gorgeous printing of many classics. The beautifully illustrated hardcovers will make you happy just to hold them while you read amazing tales.  Titles include Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Eyre, with Arabian Nights coming this spring.

What we hope to curl up with soon:

Isn’t it time you met this woman?

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff – A look at the life of the woman everyone has heard of but knows so little about.

Read this and send it to a friend

Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A memoir of friendship by Gail Caldwell — A look at friendship and it’s importance told through the sotry of two women – Ms. Caldwell and Caroline Knapp the author of Drinking: a love story.  A good book for a good friend.

Still a best-seller one hundred years later

The Autobiography of Mark Twain – What could be better? The great author Twain writing about the fascinating subject of Twain.

Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell  – the latest novel by Mr. Mitchell is well written tale of Japan and Holland.

At Home: a short history of private life by Bill Bryson – Our former across the river neighbor dissects the rooms in his English home and in doing so writes a history of why we live in the dwellings we do.

Coffee and a mystery to boot

On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle – A series of mysteries set in a NYC coffeehouse. If you want to learn a little about coffee while reading a light mystery, this series might be for you.

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