Tag Archives: summer

Summer Reading Round-Up

As with exercise regimens and New Year’s resolutions, summer reading lists are those kind of goals that, despite the best of intentions, never seem to get finished. Still, I’m pretty jazzed about the amount of reading I’ve managed on the subway and at lunch, and I forgive myself for not getting to the rest of the list – I had two trilogies to attend to!

I realize that I never expressed my post-reading feelings about some of these titles, so here’s a round up of the books I promised I’d read, and actually did!

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo AND The Girl Who Played With FireStieg Larsson /

Murder mysteries aren’t exactly my thing, but I can see why this trilogy has so much buzz. If you can get through the first 250+ pages of exposition and keep up with the host of Swedish names, Larsson’s first book is a truly engrossing thriller, and the sequel takes it right on par from there.

I’m not sure why Dragon Tattoo, and especially detective/journalist/man-about-town Mikael Blomkvist, would be considered feminist in the least, as pointed out by The Rejectionist in this deliciously seething review. Blomkvist is exactly the man who male fiction writers like to fantasize they are (see Robert Langdon), and he spends way too much time being a lady-magnet in tweed to actually be a believable character. Salander, on the other hand, may be seriously screwy, but at least she is interesting.

I also agree that reading or watching highly disturbing scenes of rape and torture is not my idea of a good time (really, I only watch Law and Order SVU for Chris Meloni and Ice-T). I could stomach parts of the no-holds-barred Swedish film with the sound off, and reading those gruesome scenes left me needing some Glee songs and a cupcake.

That being said, take Stieg Larsson’s trilogy for what it is – crime fiction – not some icon of feminist literature. Maybe, like me, you don’t only read characters who hold to real-life moral standards (if that’s the case, knock yourself out with Left Behind, please). Get lost in Larsson’s cold, cold Scandinavian underworld… then come up for air and find something happy to do.

This Is Where I Leave You - Jonathan Tropper /

Several months after hearing Tropper speak and praising the cover design, I finally, finally read This Is Where I Leave You… and found a voice that I wasn’t exactly prepared for. Sure, the dark comedic elements were impeccably timed, as expected. But Tropper’s protagonist, Judd Foxman, also left me with a perspective on the middle-aged male psyche that I never experienced in any other story – not even Nick Hornby’s.

First of all, the entire premise of the book lends itself well to hilarious chaos: 4 siblings and in-laws in an otherwise non-religious family are forced together when their dying father’s last wish is for them to sit Jewish shiva.  Each quirky character brings a fresh, funny element to the dysfunctional family drama… but the pain and issues are real, too.

What surprised me, though, was how much insight I got from the inner dialogue of Judd, who is falling apart after his wife’s infidelity. The way that he narrates his relationships to women, brotherhood and ego are truly revealing, especially for a 22-year-old female reader. I may not have been able to relate to the book at all, but I could certainly appreciate it’s honesty.

Prep – Curtis Sittenfeld /

Prep was, by far, the biggest surprise of my summer.  I was looking forward to a juicy, fluffy YA read, but this was high school drama taken to a whole new level.  Prep chronicles the four years of Lee Fiora, a scholarship student at an elite boarding school. But the book contains none of the over-the-top, Gossip Girl-style cat fighting you’d think.  Instead, it is a poignant coming-of-age tale that is brimming with truth.

After a few weeks of devouring both the American Prep and British TV show, Skins, I have to wonder… is high school really that crazy for everyone?  Somehow, I’m not feeling that I missed out on much.

Running With Scissors – Augusten Burroughs /

I read the first chapter on my way to work this morning, and I’m not sold… yet.  I think it’s time I Wikipedia some background on Augusten and grab a ’70s print cocktail dress before I jump into this freaky family.

The Hunger Games AND Catching Fire AND Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins /

Do I really need to review this?  WHY HAVEN’T YOU JUST READ IT YOURSELF ALREADY?!

Or just read my blog posts about it.

image source

End Of Summertime

Soak it up, kids… fall is just around the corner.

Piggie at Coney Island, ©2010 Annie Beth Ericsson, digital color and pencil

Jonathan Tropper And The Magic Cover Design

I went to see Jonathan Tropper (interviewed by Allison Winn Scotch) speak at the Borders in Columbus Circle last Thursday night, simply because his book, This Is Where I Leave You, was on my summer reading list.  And his book was on my reading list because, well, I just liked the book cover.  Turns out, had it not been for some serious rebranding, I might not have ended up at that fantastic event at all!

From a design standpoint, I found it interesting to learn that Jonathan had several thoughts on the evolution of his book covers.  Until he moved to Dutton (the adult imprint, natch), his covers looked like this:

Not heinous, but not exactly future classics, either.  Luckily, Tropper’s latest book cover (under a new designer’s point-of-view) transformed his image, and the book skyrocketed into bestseller heaven.  But what amused me from Jonathan’s story is that, now, all his past books from other publishers have come out of the woodwork looking like this:

Magically branded – just like that!  I’m not sure how common this phenomenon is for best-selling authors, but it’s a super-smart idea, and I love the end result across the board.  Jonathan was clearly pleased too, and felt that the cover design played a huge role in the wild success of This Is Where I Leave You.

His comments brought up the long-debated issue of authors having control over the look of their covers.  As a writer, one would have a pretty good visual of the book they’re slaved so hard over, you can imagine that they would want a say in it.  Add to that the “make it or break it” effect that covers have on sales, and there’s enough pressure to make an author’s head spin over the very thought of a blah book design.  Still, as we all know, writers are not designers (at least, usually), and may not know what’s best for their own books (even if they think they do).  As with everything else in publishing, creating an amazing book is a team effort!

In children’s books, I often am asked why authors don’t get to pick the illustrator or make any directions as to the look of their picture books.  Here’s why: an illustrator, working beyond the constraints of the author’s “vision”, almost always creates something more fresh and inspired than what the writer could have imagined.  It is the same with designers – they add another layer to the project, not compromising their own skill and creativity for the author, hopefully resulting in a higher quality product that the author will love anyway.

Even more than that, editorial, sales and marketing teams all have years of expertise (and figures to back it up), that play a major factor in the outcome of a book cover.  So, while an author may not get exactly what they envisioned, they will get a thought-out solution – hopefully one that will sell.

So should book cover design be left to the collective knowledge of the publishing industry – or to the author who has poured their passion and words into the book itself?  Tough questions have no right answers, but feel free to share your feelings.

And go read all of Jonathan Tropper’s books – in their pretty new covers, of course!

The Summer Reading List 2010

Kicking off the blog with a classic summer tradition – the reading list!

Now that I have a daily commute and plenty of relaxation time at Brighton Beach, I can’t wait to breeze through these picks:

The Girl With The Dragon TattooStieg Larsson / I’m not usually a fan of murder mysteries, but this trilogy has been red-hot for so long, I might as well jump in the fire, too.

An Education – Lynn Barber / Like so many films that leave you wanting more, I can’t wait to dive into the story again – but this time from the inspiration herself.

This Is Where I Leave You - Jonathan Tropper / Maybe I want to read this book because I’m a sucker for bitingly witty takes on deeper truths.  Or maybe I just like the cover design.

Prospect Park West - Amy Sohn / Juicy, juicy summer gossip – Park Slope-style!

Dreaming In Hindi - Katherine Russell Rich / Please let this satisfy my craving for all things reminiscent of Eat Pray Love and Bollywood…

The American Painter – Emma Dial / Woman in the New York art world.  Sold.

The Imperfectionists - Tom Rachman / This cast of quirky, complex characters, set in a dying newspaper of bustling Rome, sounds so appealing that I may have to splurge for the hardcover (note: every other book on this list is in paperback, because I’m cheap).

Prep – Curtis Sittenfeld / Don’t judge!  It’s no worse than watching Pretty Little Liars on Hulu…. and obviously everyone does that.

Running With Scissors – Augusten Burroughs / I’ve read every other author along the lines of Augusten Burroughs – except for the man himself.  It’s like being a punk fan who has never heard The Clash.

Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It - Maile Meloy / Since G. P. Putnam’s gets to publish her first YA project, I should probably check out her books for adults.  If she’s any bit as lyrical as her brother (Colin Meloy of the Decemberists), I’ll love it!

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins / I’m only about two years behind the ball on dystopian YA fiction.  Guess I better get started.

Stay tuned to see how all these promising books turn out.  Any suggestions?  Please recommend!