Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth StroutYet more acclaim for Robert Bolano‘s 2666.

It made the National Book Critics Circle‘s list of finalists for its 2008 awards.

The other titles rounding out the finalists in the fiction category are Marilynne Robinson‘s Home; Aleksandar Hemon‘s The Lazarus Project; M. Glenn Taylor‘s The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart; and Elizabeth Strout‘s Olive Kitteridge.

Noticeably absent is Toni Morrison‘s A Mercy, which received lots of buzz last year — including a spot on both The New York Times‘ and The Washington Post‘s lists of top 10 books for 2008.

Click here for the rest of the finalists in the categories of poetry, criticism, biography, autobiography, and nonfiction.

barack_obama_reading1In the spirit of the inaugural celebration, here’s a post devoted to President-Elect Barack Obama’s love of reading. He himself has written two critically-acclaimed books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, attesting to his appreciation of the power of words.

Culled from a variety of sources (see some articles on the topic at the end of the post), here’s a list of some of the books that Barack Obama has voiced his appreciation for:

Fiction

Poetry

Nonfiction

And Barack Obama himself is no stranger to being a widely-read and renowned writer; his books spent time at the top of the New York Times’ bestseller list and a signed first edition copy of Dreams from My Father sold on Abebooks.com for $5,500.

To read more about Barack Obama’s literary tastes, read “Barack by the books” at Salon.com and “From books, new president found voice” at New York Times.

from WebUrbanist

Stacks of books everywhere. A jumbled mess of books toppling over on the shelves. There are better ways to display your books!

And there are more options than a traditional, orderly bookcase. I found this great post on WebUrbanist featuring creative ways to store books. Short on space? Make a staircase out of bookshelves! Hang them from hangers! Build a fort of books for your children to live in!

So maybe these examples of creative bookshelving aren’t all the most practical, but they’re pretty awesome. Check them out at WebUrbanist.

from Bookshelf

And while you’re at it, check out another blog entirely devoted to bookshelves, like the one pictured above. That’s right — all bookshelves, all the time. Bookshelf.

Dangerous Laughter, by Steven MillhauserI haven’t posted in a while — my negligence is a function of getting back into the swing of real life after the holidays. Real life is much busier than I remember it being.

I’m back in DC, and there two major news stories here. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen much else on the local news. 1) The inauguration is upon us, and that means crazy time here. 2) It is really freaking cold outside, which has a critical effect on news story #1.

Since the windchill today has been in the single digits, I’ve decided to shut myself indoors. I made myself a warm pot of jasmine green tea, curled up under a blanket, and savored the first two stories from Dangerous Laughter, by Steven Millhauser.

The two stories I read, especially the first, were wonderful. I usually don’t read short stories, but I’m finding that they offer quick, self-contained, and satisfying escapes from reality. And in the unwelcome busy-ness I’m finding myself in, that’s wonderful.

I’ll get back on track with my posts on book collecting soon.

From the novel I’m currently reading, Birds Without Wings by Louis des Bernieres. It’s about the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey, set in the early 20th-century, and promises to continue the beautiful epicness of des Bernieres that I last encountered in Corelli’s Mandolin.

Birds Without WingsThere comes a point in life where each one of us who survives begins to feel like a ghost that has forgotten to die at the right time, and certainly most of us were more amusing when we were young. It seems that age folds the heart in on itself. Some of us walk detached, dreaming on the past, and some of us realise that we have lost the trick of standing in the sun. For many of us the thought of the future is a cause for irritation rather than optimism, as if we have had enough of new things, and wish only for the long sleep that rounds the edges of our lives. I feel this weariness myself.

A History of ReadingIt may sound silly, but I really enjoy reading about reading. Perhaps I enjoy these types of books because they introduce the pleasure of reading through someone else’s eyes, or they push me to approach reading in a different way. Or maybe I just like the books because I love the subject so much.

Regardless, here are three very interesting reads on reading, and books.

On Writing and Reading

  • Aspects of the Novel, by E.M. Forster — gleaned from Forster’s series of talks on such aspects as “The Plot” and “The Story,” the survey of novels is widely considered to a best nonfiction work of the 20th century
  • Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books…, by Francine Prose — she uses thought-provoking passages from Austen, Dostoevsky, le Carre, et al. to identify the elements that make great fiction
  • A History of Reading, by Alberto Manguel — a treasure trove of tid-bits related to the subject of reading throughout the ages, including personal stories and historical illustrations; a delight for any serious reader

Have any to add?

TwilightAfter another day of post-holidays sale hunting, a friend and I stopped at a Border’s. It’d been years since we’d really talked about books, and so we showed each other books we’d read lately and talked about what interests us.

I knew she’d seen the movie version of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer because I’d already heard her sigh over the “killer” looks of the male lead. But I found out today that she’d read all the books in the series, plus some other Young Adult books featuring vampires (though, she pointed out, there is a lamentable lack of sex scenes in the genre). Is it the crazed pop culture aspect of Young Adult books that draws her in, or does she just have a thing for vampires?

I didn’t get a definitive answer to that question, but when I came home I thought about the Twilight phenomenon some more. When I surf blog tags related to books and reading, I inevitably come across one or more mentioning Twilight. And the readers, like my friend, graduated from the Young Adult age group long ago.

And then, my Twilight Internet journey led me to… the $2,000 copy of Twilight on Alibris. That’s right. The book was published in 2005, and if the original purchaser is now selling the copy, he or she is apparently hoping for a greater than 10,000% return on investment. Not bad.

I have a few questions: Will anyone pay this? Is there any chance that the copy will be worth near this much, say, 20 years from now? And most importantly, is my friend’s copy a first edition?! I’ll have to inquire.

Since I’m new to collecting books, I have no idea how the values of overly hyped books fare in the long run. I also suspect that this incredibly quick and incredibly high price inflation of first editions with pop-culture significance is a recent phenomenon (perhaps best exemplified by the Harry Potter series).

In any case, if the book is conceivably that valuable… maybe I should read it.