I've been dreading this one. My Printers Row Journal overlords — I mean editors — have been asking me to follow up on my recommendations. I did a similar column just over a year ago, and the reviews were mostly positive, but one just never knows when the magic might wear off.
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If I get on a bad string, will Printers Row send me to the minors, forced to write columns for the Penny Saver while I work on my slider?
So I went to email and Twitter asking for feedback and then simultaneously crossed my fingers and ducked my head.
Turns out, I'm still mostly awesome, with just enough failure to keep my head from swelling to the point where I'd have trouble fitting through doorways.
Let's start with the good. For Paul T., back in April I recommended Dan Chaon's "Await Your Reply." Paul declares, "It was right up my alley. I really enjoyed it. I mentioned it to my wife, and she loved it, too."
One stone, two readers; not that I endorse the stoning of readers.
Next, we go to the even better. I recommended Barbara Pym's "Excellent Women" to Trish T. of Myrtle Beach, S.C. She replies, "You introduced me to a new-to-me author, and I fell in love with her characters. She has just enough Jane Austen in her to make her books delightful." She goes on to say that she's read several more of Barbara Pym's books and even introduced Pym to her reading friends.
The Barbara Pym estate can send any gratuity they deem appropriate to me, in care of Printers Row.
The news isn't all good. Zac F. of Minneapolis had written in listing Frederick Exley's "A Fan's Notes" as one of his recent reads. I recommended Brock Clarke's homage, "Exley," but Zac thinks it pales in comparison. In his words, "The text that inspired Clarke's novel is undeniably brilliant," but he says that "Exley" "fell flat."
Diane F. of Chicago, who was clearly a fan of action-filled detective novels that don't spare the wit, was underwhelmed by the first installment of Don Winslow's Boone Daniels series featuring an ex-cop-turned-private eye in the San Diego surfing community, "The Dawn Patrol." The book flat-out "didn't appeal." However, she and I are both eagerly anticipating Carl Hiaasen's newly released "Bad Monkey."
In the case of my recommendation of Francine Prose's "Blue Angel" to Cheryl B. of Chicago, my instincts were so accurate that she reported she'd "already read and enjoyed" it. (I've offered a do-over via email.)
For Jim F. of Romeoville, I recommended James Hynes' "Next," a haunting novel with some surprising turns. He calls the novel a "funny, tragic and altogether fascinating read of self discovery." I couldn't say it better myself.
And with one reader, I hit the mark without even knowing the target. Craig B. of Chicago emails to say he'd checked out both "Geek Love" by Katherine Dunn and "The Dinner" by Herman Koch after I'd written about them approvingly. He calls "Geek Love" "probably one of the top-five-best works of fiction I have read in the last couple years." "The Dinner" was "another great read."
Before I break my arm patting myself on the back, and thus making it much harder to finish this column, let me be clear that if I really do have a gift, it is having jobs that make reading and thinking about books part of my daily activities. If I am good at recommending books to readers, it is entirely due to the time I spend in their company.
We'll do this again in a year's time.
Biblioracle John Warner is the author of "The Funny Man." Follow him on Twitter @Biblioracle.
The Biblioracle offers his recommendations
1. “Clever Gretel” by Jennifer Dotson
2. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert M. Pirsig
3. “Garbage: A Poem” by A.R. Ammons
4. “Swan Peak” by James Lee Burke
5. “Bad Habits” by Jenny McCarthy
— Donna P., Chicago
Boy, this is a bit of a stumper. Not a great way to start my fresh year of predictions. Do I go with poetry? Something to complement James Lee Burke's Robicheaux series? My guess is that Donna P. has read more deeply and widely in poetry than I have, so I'm going to go with fiction that has a philosophical bent, Walker Percy's “The Moviegoer.”
1. “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by William M. Miller Jr.
2. “1861: The Civil War Awakening” by Adam Goodheart
3. “Confederates in the Attic” by Tony Horwitz
4. “Started Early, Took My Dog” by Kate Atkinson
5. “Live Wire” by Harlan Coben
— Donna D., St. Louis
Another interesting mix. I'm going to tap into the classic sci-fi vein and recommend Marge Piercy's “Woman on the Edge of Time,” a book I read many years ago in college that has managed to stick with me.
1. “Lost in Translation” by Nicole Mones
2. “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese
3. “The Woman who Walked Into Doors” by Roddy Doyle
4. “Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout” by Lauren Redniss
5. “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid
— Deb. C., Western Springs
For Deb I'm recommending Nami Mun's powerful and propulsive novel in stories, “Miles from Nowhere.”
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