Beyond a beautiful piece of art or the occasional puppy, a new book is my favorite Christmas gift. During the holidays, my bedside table swells in waves of books, precariously stacked and teetering. At night, donning reading goggles, I dive in head first to read Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, Little Bee by Chris Cleave, and Knives at Dawn by Andrew Friedman. Beneath this stack, an undertow of old favorites: A.M. Holme’s Things You Should Know and several colorful spines highlighting the venerable editions of New Stories from the South, edited by Shannon Ravenel.
In the morning, new interior design books inspire my day: Design*Sponge at Home by Grace Bonney and The Perfectly Imperfect Home by Deborah Needleman. Beside an afternoon fire, I listen to Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson, narrated by Steven Kaplan. Little in life is more luxurious than getting lost in a good story on a winter afternoon.
As writers, we are passionate readers. We read not only to enjoy the suspension of disbelief, but also to listen to our muse sing along to the cadence of a well-paced story. We appreciate a hook that leaves us hungry and a plot twist we wish we’d thought of first; we are amused by an odd simile and pained by a mischievous typo in a published work.
Winter is the most wonderful time to feast on words. Unlike summer’s pink-hued and thin paperbacks, winter kindles our intellect with thick bound classics and historical memoirs.
At the beginning of each year, we rush out of January’s gate with good intentions of healthier eating, cardiovascular overhauls and literary conquests. Easily discarding our first two resolutions, we are determined to maintain our third. We scour the book reviews and journal picks, making our lists and checking them twice. We linger in big box bookstores sipping pumpkin lattes and secretly filing titles behind our ears, which we’ll check later on Amazon, hoping for a deal. We download eBooks and update wish lists. We sit in dark theaters thinking snarky, hideous thoughts about a screenwriter’s adaptation, and upon leaving, say too loudly to our companion, “The book was much better.”
Back at home, we curl our legs under a crocheted throw and snack on a delicious sentence, nibble away at a chapter, and munch through an entire mystery without stopping for a sandwich. Thanks to writers, we are satiated in the exquisite cerebral feast we call story.
So, what exciting and wonderful stories are stacked on your bedside table?
Here are my recommendations for a five-course feast of online book resources:
www.Audible.com: If you love listening to books as much as reading books, you may want to try this audio library. For a fifteen-dollar subscription, you can listen to one book per month. If you are familiar with audio book prices, you’ll appreciate this deal. Discounted specials allow you to purchase additional books for less.
www.Goodreads.com: This free site allows you to collect and share book reviews. It helps me remember what I’ve recently read as well as find new books through fellow readers’ reviews and ratings. Are you a member? Add me to your friend list.
www.Gutenberg.org: Project Gutenberg is an iReader’s dream. Over 36,000 eBooks are available for free download. Through its affiliates, an astounding 100,000 books are shared.
New York Times Book Review Podcast: Authors, editors and critics discuss books and the literary scene with Same Tannhaus, the editor of the NYT Book Review. Listen to the mp3 episode of your choice or subscribe to the podcast.
www.PBS.org, Arts & Entertainment section, subtopic Literature & Writing: Although DVR and TiVo may be two of our favorite acronyms, we still miss some of the best book talk on TV when we don’t program these devices. Going online to the PBS site can fill the void. The site offers one stop clicking for all of your video feeds and literary needs. Check out Jeffery Brown’s thoughts on "The Year (2011) in Fiction."