Thursday, June 18, 2009


After four recent readings for The Year That Follows, it’s worth noting the joy of going to bookstores—the real brick-and-mortar kind, where you can browse among the tables and shelves and even find an employee (or two) who knows something about, well, books! In the last week I’ve read in New York, San Francisco, LA, and Santa Barbara, at Borders, Book Passage, Skylight Books, and Chaucer’s Books, respectively. I’ll always have a soft spot for Borders, as I used to shop at the original store, back when Borders was an independent, a Mecca for books in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Book Passage is a book Mecca itself, just north of San Francisco in Corte Madera. Skylight Books, which has received earlier mention in this blog, is one of my favorite spots in LA—tons of books, a huge skylight and tree, a staff of Iowa graduates (who says you can’t get a job with an MFA?), and shelf after shelf of the publishers’ finest. The front tables at Chaucer’s are reason enough to visit, a smorgasbord of fine literary dining.

The point of all this is simple: readers need bookstores. We need them because we need places to browse, to ask questions and get suggestions, and we need the tactile pleasure of picking up a book we’ve never seen and making it ours.

There’s only one way to save bookstores: shop in them.

(And now, since you’re going anyway, pick up a copy of The Year That Follows. It’s been out a week, and received some nice reviews.)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Books and Publicity

With two days till publication of my new book, The Year That Follows, I’m going to use this post to touch upon an issue or two that came up in a recent interview I did for KAJX, my local NPR affiliate. (For full audio of the interview, click here and then click on my name.)

One question that came up: what have you been reading recently? I always find this incredibly difficult to answer, not because I haven’t been reading, but because I have. Once I finish a book it goes into the ‘read’ file in my brain and I have a hard time remembering what was ‘recent.’ So, I’ve started keeping a computer file, which, of course, I didn’t have with me for the interview. I do now, though, and so here are a few titles that I’ve read recently and enjoyed: How It Ended by Jay McInerney, Mr. Paradise by Elmore Leonard, Rules for Saying Goodbye by Katherine Taylor, Five Skies by Ron Carlson, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop by Jeff Chang, Jesus’ Son and Nobody Move by Denis Johnson, The Plot Against America by Philip Roth, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. A bit of a random list, to be sure. I had my reasons for picking up each of these titles; more on that in a later blog.

Another question that came up: how do you publicize a book? Well, I wish I knew. The main purpose of this blog is to promote books (see the paragraph above), though my reach is, I’m afraid, a bit limited. I believe that of all the arts books offer the deepest satisfaction, but such satisfaction is not easily or quickly displayed on a screen—and if it can’t be sold on television (and it’s legal) it’s going to be difficult to sell. Nonetheless, we try. I’m heading out this week to make appearances in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara. If you happen to live in one of these places, please stop by. A full schedule of events is available here, or click on the Events link of my website,