The Book Beat - December 6, 2019
An Existential Crisis in America?
Dictionary.com has proclaimed EXISTENTIAL to be their word of the year. If, like me, you haven’t seen the official definition of this word since Philosophy 101 in college, check it out below:
--Of or relating to, existence.
--of, relating to, or characteristic of philosophical existentialism; concerned with the nature of human existence as determined by the individual's freely made choices.
Dictionary.com’s write-up (link below) explains it really well (with a Toy Story 4 shout-out, to boot), but the bottom line is: Life in America at this moment is challenging. Whether it’s political division, job/family/life stresses, health problems, rebuilding after natural disasters, economic anxieties, etc. there’s a lot going on for a lot of people and stress levels are high. And on top of that are the ever looming questions, “What am I doing with my life? Who am I? Where do I fit in the fabric of the universe?” Lofty questions, for sure. Whether you’re 16, 21, 40, or 70, struggling with your place in this crazy, challenging, joyous, heartbreaking, tragic, euphoric world is a constant struggle. And it seems like nowadays this philosophical dilemma is at a fever pitch. Take a look at what dictionary.com has to say—and follow them on Twitter, they’re surprisingly hilarious.
Kiss It, Hawthorne!
Back in 1855, Nathaniel Hawthorne complained to his publisher about “the damned mob of scribbling women” and how books written by women about “women in the drawing room” were superficial, boring, and not as well written as, well, his books and other books by men. Was he just not willing to share the literature landscape with women authors? Or was he not interested in the subjects they were writing about?
Answer: None of the above. He was just jealous that their books were outselling his. This bias against genre books, in particular romance books, continues today. Also continuing? Their kick-ass sales records. A billion-dollar industry, romance books continue to sell, sell, sell and, as Glamour Magazine’s Samantha Leach chronicles in her fabulous week-long romance series, their content is changing and adapting to the issues of modern times.
I beg you. Check out her great articles. You’ll learn what an “alphahole” is; be amazed at the sheer scope of topics, characters, stories, and sub-genres romance books cover; and find out exactly what happens at a romance-book cover shoot (or a “clinch” cover, as it's known in the biz). And, really. Who doesn’t love a story with a guaranteed HEA (happily-ever-after)?
104 Reasons to Celebrate Books
Betty X. Davis is my hero. For her 104th birthday, she didn’t want presents or cake. She just wanted people to donate books that she could share with a local elementary school. See her and her story below.
The Best Books of the Year
We’re mere weeks away from the end of the year, so many sites have started to share which books they think were the best of 2019. Links to some of those are below. I read a lot, so I can’t say my list is THE definitive list, but I will be sharing my favorite books of the year in an upcoming installment of The Book Beat. I’m thisclose to hitting my GoodReads goal of 52 books (or one a week). I can’t fail now!
Jo Should Have Married Laurie
How about that for getting your attention? Yes, I am a JoLaurie shipper, have been forever, and you cannot tell me that Amy was the better choice for him. No. Never. No way. I don’t want to hear it. After typing this, I’m literally going to put my hands on my ears and say “La, la, la. I can’t hear you.”
Anyway, now that I’ve said my peace, let’s discuss the thrilling resurgence of the classic Louisa May Alcott book, Little Women. Similar to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Little Women is enjoying a time in the spotlight as several revivals (reboots, reimaginings, revamps...whatever your preferred term) are hitting the shelf and screen.
First, a modern take in books. For the last few years, my friend Gloria and I have attended the New Jersey Romance Writers conference. For many of those years, romance author Virginia Kantra has been there. Always an inspired voice of romance-writing wisdom and support, she’s definitely a writer who has paid her dues (30 books!) and deserves a big(ger) break.
Enter her newest book, Meg & Jo. A modern take on the Little Women characters (Beth & Amy is the planned sequel), this book finds Jo struggling with her work as a journalist in New York City and Meg, a married mother of toddlers. After Mamma March gets sick, all four March sisters congregate in North Carolina and drama ensues. I just got my hands on this book today and can’t wait to dig in! I have no doubt it will be great.
Next, I put the link below to the trailer for the Greta Gerwig-directed Little Women movie coming out near Christmas. Emma Watson! Meryl Streep! Saoirse Ronan! Laura Dern! Timothee Chalamet! How can this be bad? I’m really looking forward to seeing how Greta shakes things up. Sigh, if only she put Laurie and Jo together. Nope, don’t try it. I still can’t hear you. ;)
Cover of the Week: Upstream by Mary Oliver
I first became entranced by Mary Oliver’s profound, eloquent words in college, when she came to visit and read from her book of poetry, Twelve Moons. From that moment, I was hooked. I still get sad thinking of her passing earlier this year and how the world of literature is forever deprived of new words and observations from her poetic pen and vibrant mind.
Her last book, the collected essays Upstream came out in paperback in late October. I bought the hard cover last year and took my time reading it. It’s a book that begs to be savored, not rushed.
A collection of essays about how the natural world fed her artistic soul and inspired her revered work, this book is a must-have for writers, nature lovers, or just people who marvel at how some writers are so adept at expressing themselves luminously through the written word.
And the cover! If any cover speaks to Mary’s work and her spirit, it is this vividly colored image of a stream and the trees, brush, grass, and nature surrounding it. I literally broke free from my work cubicle one gorgeous fall day, plopped this book down in the leaves, and snapped this pic. Not staged, quickly done, and with no filter used, this is quite possibly my best Bookstagram pic ever, if I do say so myself. I like to think it’s no thanks to me, but thanks to a great art department at Penguin Publishing House, the beauty of nature, and the essence of Mary’s amazing work.