Friday Links: A Celebration of Books and Booksellers

Today I wish to celebrate both books and the people who sell them. Independent Bookstore Day is tomorrow, and fall titles start hitting shelves in a few days. Reading good books takes some sting out of this ongoing pandemic, so what better time to praise all things bookish?

Independent Bookstore Day logo of a hand holding an open book.

 

What have you all been reading during this period of safer-at-home? I know not everyone can focus on books right now, but sometimes that means returning to old favorites or finding joy in poems or shorter books. I’m doing some rereading, myself. Old romantic mysteries by Mary Stewart. Humorous poetry I discovered as a child. But also new romances and women’s fiction. Fantasy as long as it stays well away from dystopian situtations. All mixed in with “homework” reading: how to be a better, more active ally to BIPOC people, and political titles about the state of our democracy. If that sounds like a lot, it hasn’t been. It’s been slow going, spread over months, with more books piling up on my TBR behind them at a rapid rate.

Fall always brings a wealth of new titles. I’m trying to keep my pre-orders at a minimum, simply because there are soooo many new books I want to read. But pre-orders are the way to go in this new pandemic economy. Let publishers know they should print copies of the books you’re looking forward to reading. Supply chains are still moving slowly, so reader interest helps publishers know where to make their best efforts.

Meanwhile, here are a bunch of links to give you ideas of what to read, and where to get your copies. Plus the usual writing/industry chatter. I hope you find something interesting and inspiring. Have a great weekend, filled with wonderful books and maybe a little quality writing time!

This Week’s Links:

Independent Bookstore Day. – A resource of online and in-store events taking place to celebrate independent bookstores across the country.

117 Black-Owned Bookstores. – A great resource if you’re looking to support Black-owned businesses. You can even check for stores in your own state.

The Importance of Bookstores During the Pandemic. – A lovely homage to bookstores and all they do for us, especially in difficult times.

Eight Trends in Book Cover Art, From Busy Botanicals to Women Walking Away. – As it says. Some beautiful examples, attached to some great reads. (I’m personally partial to the botanicals.)

Paris Stories: The Writing of Mavis Gallant. – A short film about the Canadian author and her approach to writing, with interview footage as well as the author reading samples of her work. Inspiring, plus a lovely bit of armchair travel.

Why It’s Not Empowering to Abandon the Male Pseudonyms Used by Female Authors. – A thoughtful look at the recent decision to release a number of books written by women including their birthnames over the pseudonyms they chose, and why this is not a simple situation.

9 Books about Disreputable Women by Women Writers. – Great books featuring the inside stories of women society labels disreputable.

The New California Curriculum. – An interesting look at what it means to be a California writer, and where these writers fit into the literary landscape as we reconsider what types of books should be considered “canon.”

Plotting Your Fantasy with a Bullet Journal. – One writer’s system for organizing their writing, plot, and world building.

We Need People Within Our Publishing Houses Who Reflect What Our Country Looks Like. – A great interview with Lisa Lucas, who will be leaving her post as head of the National Book Foundation at the end of the year to take on the role of publisher at PRH’s Pantheon and Schocken Books.

Friday Links: The “I Need to Close Tabs” Edition

I accumulate goodies for Friday Links all week long. The tabs stay open in my browser until I post them here on the site. This becomes problematic, however, when I don’t do a Friday Links post for a few weeks. Hence this random, fly-by collection of links to occupy your weekend. Everything is bookish, related to reading or writing or publishing, but that’s about all I can say for a theme this week. Blame the heat or quarantine or pandemic brain, or possibly all three.

An open book with a 3D, black-and-white sketch of a pirate, treasure beneath a palm tree, and a pirate ship.

Wishing you all a good weekend. Please take care, whatever that means in your neck of the woods. Social distance, wear a mask, stay home if at all possible. Read something lovely or take a long nap. Be kind to others, and to yourself. Enjoy!

This Week’s Links:

Cree LeFavour on the Pleasures of the Limitless Reread. – I am a fan of rereading, though I rarely have as much time to do so as I’d wish. This reflection on the joys of rereading really clicked for me.

The Battle Between W.E.B. DuBois and His White Editor Was an Early Reckoning Over Objectivity. – We think of great writers as respected for their skills and accomplishments, but they fought for whatever ground they gained.

Writers Who Cook: Serious Biscuits with Steven Reigns. – Because I know I’m not the only bookish person who has foodie leanings.

Joan Didion & John Dunne: A Literary Arts Podcast. – An interview from the archives, where the authors discuss their careers and writing processes.

Toni Morrison Let Us Know We Are More Than the Work We Do. – A lovely look back at the author and her wisdom on the anniversary of her death.

Penguin Quiz: Which Famous Literary Group Would You Have Been In? – Fun little quiz. (I’d have been part of the Algonquin Round Table, if you wanted to know.)

It’s Time to Radically Rethink Online Book Events. – The perfect essay for the age of COVID-19.

100 Must-Read Historical Romances. – A great list of fun titles to distract you from whichever of the latest dumpster fires occupies your brain.

Friday Links: Reading Your Way to Summer’s End

This Friday I propose we all forget about the pandemic (metaphorically) and focus on our TBR piles. Stay home this weekend, fix yourself a pitcher of tasty cocktails (or mocktails–your choice), grab a lawn chair or hammock and get reading. I will admit I’m spurred on by my own weekend reading list. Mine is all client-and-submission related, but the rest of the proposal stands. And you should feel free to tackle all those great vacation reads you’d normally enjoy on a plane or by a pool. (If you have a pool in your yard, even better.)

Not sure where to start? You are in luck. This week’s links feature lots of book lists. So if you are wondering what to read, or just what to pick up first, check below for inspiration. Ignore the insanity of the outside world and sink into a romance or a fantasy or thriller for distraction. Cheers!

This Week’s Links:

Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2020 Book Preview. – Frequent flyers here know I love this feature over at The Millions. Twice a year they present an enormous list of books coming out in the half-year or so ahead.

What 100 Writers Have Been Reading During Quarantine. – Tons of great ideas here. Some are recs, some just straight lists of what these writers have been reading recently.

The 50 Most Impactful Black Books of the Last 50 Years. – As the title says. Fantastic assortment.

John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal in Conversation. – A great chat between these two authors where they discuss process, science fiction, and more. For those of you looking for writing inspiration instead of reading inspiration (or both).

Independent Bookstore Day swag. – Independent Bookstore Day is creeping up, and you can now buy swag in the form of face masks or coffee mugs to honor/support the event.

2020 First Novel Prize: The Long List. – The long list for this year’s First Novel Prize by the Center for Fiction. I’m not sure every single one of these titles are out yet–I’ve heard buzz about ARCs for a couple–but many are, and you can always make a mental note for later if something appeals.

Happy Book Release to A Touch of Stone and Snow by Milla Vane!

A Touch of Stone and Snow by Milla Vane hits bookstores today. This second installment in Vane’s romantic fantasy series, A Gathering of Dragons, catapults you out of everyday life and into a magical adventure. Amazon.com lists it as one of the best romances for July! (Plus, book 1 in the series, A Heart of Blood and Ashes, made the list of best romances of the year so far.) And I have to admit, I’m a sucker for this cover…

A Touch of Stone and Snow

Milla Vane returns to a world of kings, magic, and passion in her exhilarating A Gathering of Dragons series. A great alliance forms to stand against an evil warlord intent on their destruction.

Danger lurks in the western realms. The Destroyer’s imminent return has sent the realms into turmoil as desperate citizens seek refuge—but there’s no safety to be found when demons and wraiths crawl out from the shadows. Even Koth, a northern island kingdom left untouched by the Destroyer a generation past, is besieged by terrors spawned from corrupt magics.

When Lizzan leads the Kothan army against these terrors, only to see her soldiers massacred and to emerge as the only survivor, she is called a coward and a deserter. Shunned from her home, Lizzan now wanders in solitude as a mercenary for hire, until she encounters a group of warriors seeking new alliances with the northern kingdoms—a group that includes Aerax, the bastard prince of Koth, and the man who sent her into exile.

Though they were childhood friends, Aerax cannot allow himself to be close to the only woman who might thwart his treacherous plan to save their island realm. But when a goddess’s demand binds them together, Lizzan and Aerax must find a way to overcome their painful pasts. Or there will be no future for the western realms…

Find A Touch of Stone and Snow at your favorite retailers, online and brick-and-mortar. Happy reading!

Best Books To Date: Plump Up Your 2020 Reading List

Amazon.com announced their list of the Best Books of 2020 So Far, and so many Knight Agency authors made the cut! We had six represent across the various genres, including my clients Nalini Singh and Milla Vane. Congratulations to all these wonderful writers! Several of the titles sit on my TBR pile already, and I’m excited to read the rest, too.

Knight Agency Books on Amazon's Best of 2020 So Far List

You can check out the entire list of this year’s best books to date over here. You can find the books themselves at all your favorite retailers, either brick-and-mortar or online, including your local indie.

Friday Links: Honoring Juneteenth Edition

Today we honor Juneteenth, not yet a national holiday, but hopefully on the way. I put this blog mostly on the back burner the last few months, for so many reasons. But today requires acknowledgement, and it feels like a perfect opportunity to discuss racism and humanity. Throughout these weeks of protest and activism following the killing of George Floyd, I’ve been active on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, trying to support and elevate Black voices. But it’s important for me to talk more broadly about my support of the Black community and that needs a little more space.

Racism comes in all shapes and sizes, but it surrounds us. As a white woman, I understand that I have grown up in this system. It’s in my DNA through decades of exposure. I have to do the work to resist that exposure because even if I am not actively, purposefully racist, I can still say or do things carelessly without understanding their effect. Doing that work means listening. It includes reading, viewing, paying attention. Supporting financially, emotionally, professionally. On Juneteenth, and every day after.

Publishing remains a painfully white industry, for all the active discussion about diversity the last few years. I am closed to queries at the moment, but when I reopen I will be rewriting my information about what I’m seeking. Currently I encourage diverse submissions, but I plan to be more specific about addressing BIPOC authors individually. As a reader and consumer, I work to diversify my reading choices, but I know I can always do better. I try to give money to a rotating list of charities and organizations that focus on providing opportunities to those who need them. In recent weeks, I’ve donated to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund for African American Students and We Need Diverse Books.

Boosting Black Voices

I’m just one person, with limited resources, but I have something of a platform. A decent Twitter following. Some terrific friends and colleagues who are on the same page about the need to boost Black voices. The older I get, the more I understand that networking can take you far, and a diverse network surpasses one with a narrow focus. More ideas, more connections, more chances of clicking with the right partner or finding that perfect opportunity. It’s not about scrambling to the top of the mountain by yourself; it’s about helping others and watching everyone rise together, then toasting your achievements with an amazing view.

Juneteenth week_Black_Publishing_Power_challenge

Amistad Books proposed the simple idea of purchasing two books by Black authors this week. Any two you wish. The concept? Flood the bestseller lists with Black voices, fiction and nonfiction. Boost the writers, give them sales, but also introduce readers to new names they might not have encountered. Have you picked up your books yet? There’s still time for this challenge, but any week counts. Go discover a new-to-you voice.

Books: The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin and Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
My #BlackoutBestsellerList purchases: One known-to-me author–N.K. Jemisin–and one new to me–Evan Winter.

24 Black Bookstagrammers Who Should Be on Your Radar. – Looking to read more Black authors but overwhelmed by the choices? Follow a couple of these folks for great recommendations.

A frank conversation about YA literature, police brutality, and the nuances of Black storytelling. – A very timely interview with authors Nic Stone and Kim Johnson about their writing and how their books fit into the current landscape.

Resources for Writers in Support of Justice and Action. – A varied list of links including places to donate, a reading list on racism, and some really creative ways to support the Black community, especially writers.

I Am Not Your Negro: the Film. – Many streaming services are showing an array of important Black films for free right now. Of the ones I’ve watched the past couple of weeks, this one struck me as a beautiful balance between the big-picture narrative of racism in the United States and a very personal story of James Baldwin’s experience watching his friends getting gunned downed for standing up for Black rights. Available on Amazon Prime among other places. Highly recommended.

Patronizing Black Businesses/Products

Bookstores in the United States that Specialize in Black Literature. – Plug in your state to see what’s near you, or check them all out to find out who ships.

An Anti-racist Nonfiction Reading List. – A great assortment of titles, including the broad scope ones we’re seeing everywhere but also some less frequent recs that get more topical.

49 Black-Owned Bookstores You Can Shop Online. – For those of you still shopping from your armchairs (as you should be–stay safe!).

21 Black-Authored Cookbooks to Add to Your Shelf. – For the foodies, so many wonderful-sounding cuisines to choose from. Check a few of these out.

Black-Owned Etsy Shops. – Check these out for your next round of gift giving or to splurge on yourself.

16 Black-Owned Organic Loose Leaf Tea Brands. – I love how very specific this list is. And I love tea.

I could keep going on and on, obviously. But this smattering of thoughts and links serves as a beginning, only. We need to keep having the conversation, to keep doing the work, if we’re ever going to approach a world that looks somewhat equitable. And even then, as with everything, we’ll need to keep doing the work. Change isn’t permanent; it’s a process.

Happy Release Day to Alpha Night by Nalini Singh!

Happy book birthday to ALPHA NIGHT by Nalini Singh, book 4 in her Psy/Changeling Trinity series, out today! This latest installment in the series will keep your heart racing. Oprah Magazine included it as one of 38 Romance Novels That Are Set to Be the Best of 2020. And check out that cover!

ALPHA NIGHT

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh returns to her breathtaking Psy-Changeling Trinity series with a mating that shouldn’t exist…

Alpha wolf Selenka Durev’s devotion to her pack is equaled only by her anger at anyone who would harm those under her care. That currently includes the empaths who’ve flowed into her city for a symposium that is a security nightmare, a powder keg just waiting for a match.

Ethan Night is an Arrow who isn’t an Arrow. Numb and disengaged from the world, he’s loyal only to himself. Assigned as part of the security force at a world-first symposium, he carries a dark agenda tied to the power-hungry and murderous Consortium. Then violence erupts and Ethan finds himself crashing into the heart and soul of an alpha wolf. Mating at first sight is a myth, a fairytale. Yet Selenka’s wolf is resolute: Ethan Night, broken Arrow and a man capable of obsessive devotion, is the mate it has chosen. Even if the mating bond is full of static and not quite as it should be. Because Selenka’s new mate has a terrible secret, his mind surging with a power that is a creature of madness and death…

Gear up for summer with this exciting, romantic read. Find ALPHA NIGHT through your favorite online retailer, in hard cover, e-book, or audio, or try your local indie bookstore. Be sure to call your favorite store to see if they’re open or doing curbside pickup. If not, order through Bookshop.org, which shares proceeds with a host of independent booksellers.

 

Friday Links: ‘It’s Finally April!’ Edition

April arrived, finally. March was possibly the longest month I have ever lived through. My mother likes to say March is her least favorite month. I think it’s mostly a weather thing, but this year, I have to agree. So welcome to April, and this week’s link roundup. I hope you’re all well and staying home, safe, and sane.

I add that last one because I know a lot of people are really starting to feel the magnitude of the situation. Millions of Americans filed for unemployment last week. People are worried. I wish I could help with that, but I hope I can at least provide a small distraction. Don’t be hard on yourself. Do what you need to in order to manage. If being creative helps, go for it. If you can’t focus on writing, go ahead and binge Netflix or bake or nap. If you’re still out there working in the trenches, thank you for taking that risk for all the rest of us, and stay as safe as you can.

I offer up another mixed list of links this week. Enjoy, and have a good weekend.

This Week’s Links:

We Need Art Right Now. Here’s How to Get into Poetry. – For the skeptics who looked at my post earlier this week and shook their heads.

Writer’s Digest 89th Annual Writing Competition. – In case you are feeling productive. Or maybe you have something in the drawer you can dust off and tweak a bit.

Ted Chiang Explains the Disaster Novel We All Suddenly Live In. – An interesting look at the world through the eyes of an excellent science fiction author.

The Debate: How Many Books Should You Have on the Go at Once? – The reader’s dilemma. Are you a one-at-a-time reader or are you surrounded be reads-in-progress?

Ann Patchett On Why We Need Life-Changing Books Right Now. – A lovely article on Patchett’s first encounter with the works of Kate DiCamillo.

Returning to Analog: Typewriters, Notebooks, and the Art of Letter Writing. – A slightly older read, but as so many of us rely on tech to communicate and work from home, it’s nice to remember the slower side, too.

Happy National Poetry Month!

National Poetry Month does not always hit my radar. I love poetry, but it’s the first thing to fall by the wayside when I’m busy. I realize that’s counterintuitive. Poems slip into cracks of time much more deftly than long novels or even short fiction. But they also require a different sort of thought process. Poetry demands time for reflection — time I don’t always have. But recently I’ve found myself reaching for favorite volumes more often. There’s something soothing about reading poetry when the world is on fire.

National Poetry Month poetry shelfie
A few beloved poetry titles, sharing space with some plays on my office bookcase.

Falling into Poetry

I know I read poetry as a child — so many children’s books feature rhymes or short free verse. However, my first awareness of poetry as a formal genre came in fourth grade, when my teachers introduced it. In my homeroom, Mrs. Brown posted a new poem up on the wall each month for us to memorize and recite in front of the class. (I can still remember the first one, though the rest faded with time.) My reading teacher, Ms Islan — this was the first year we changed classes for reading and were grouped by skill level — did a biweekly poetry day, where she would read us a few poems. After the first week, she had us sign up to read a poem aloud, too, encouraging us to discover and choose what we would share.

I first encountered Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson in that class, but the most memorable discovery was Alfred Noyes. One day, Ms Islan stood in front of us and read The Highwayman. It was the longest poem I’d ever heard, a complete story. It was so exciting that I nearly fell off my chair, leaning forward in anticipation. More than forty years later, I can still close my eyes and hear the rise and fall of Ms Islan’s voice.

Later came Shakespeare. T.S. Eliot. Auden and Dylan Thomas, Shelley and Yeats. Edna St. Vincent Millay. e.e. cummings. Sylvia Plath. And modern poetry, discovered in The New Yorker or The Paris Review or tiny, obscure journals from the newstand at Border’s. But when I’m in need of comfort, I return automatically to those old, foundational favorites.

Poems as Meditation

Poetry runs the full range of human emotions. I’ve read poems that stir anger or frustration, that serve as a call to action. But in times like this, I reach for poetry that feels calming. Gentle rhythms, soft ideas, images of nature or quiet spaces. I’ve tried, repeatedly, to develop a meditation practice, but my brain insists on churning ahead. But a peaceful poem can occupy my thoughts, fill up all those frantic corners of my mind. Just the right poem can serve as a small time-out.

Acquainted with the Night by Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain, and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
O luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

The other day I asked for poetry recommendations on Twitter, so now I have some new poets to check out. I hope to find more ideas now that National Poetry Month has started.

How about you? Do you read poetry? Who are your favorite poets? What sort of poetry moves or relaxes you? I’d love to hear about your choices.