The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The NPR Book Concierge is here! A new annual feature, it’s one of the best ways (I think) to find a contemporary read to give as a gift or get for yourself. Personally, I’ll be perusing everything in the “Mysteries” and “Seriously Good Writing” cross-section.

NPR’s Book Concierge

Use the filters below to explore some 250 titles NPR staff and critics loved this year. (You can also combine filters!)

How do you figure what books to gift? Any tried and true tricks to picking something your friends and family love?

A Word on Spoilers

Spoilers. They’re everywhere these days, aren’t they? I think it’s safe to say that pretty much everyone hates them. No one wants the book they’re about to read or the movie they’re about to see to be ruined because someone else couldn’t keep their mouth shut. But there are degrees of spoilers. Telling someone who’s never read Harry Potter how the final book ends is egregious and, in my world, unforgivable. But what if you don’t go that far?

What if you just mention your favorite joke from a story? Or your favorite scene? Is that still a spoiler?

Let’s try a specific example.

What if there’s a cameo in the middle of a movie that remained a complete surprise to everyone upon first watch, but you decide to let the cat out of the bag in your review? That’s not telling anyone how the movie ends or what happens to the main characters, so is it really a spoiler? I’d argue yes. This exact scenario played out on At the Movies with A. O. Scott and Michael Phillips in 2009 when they reviewed Zombieland. You can watch the clip here, but if you haven’t seen the movie and want to, I don’t recommend watching it. Basically, Phillips gleefully reveals the surprise to the viewers. What bothered me about this is the fact that when I saw the movie, it was so delightfully unexpected, I was almost giddy–why would anyone, especially someone who liked the film, want to ruin that experience for everyone else?

There’s a joy in discovering things about a piece of work like that. Can you imagine what The Godfather would be like if its scenes hadn’t so thoroughly permeated pop culture? Imagine seeing that movie unfold and genuinely having absolutely no idea where Sonny Corleone would end up. Or how about Star Wars? What would The Empire Strikes Back be like to watch if we didn’t already know who Luke’s father was?

That’s what I want to preserve for you with my reviews. I know that if you wanted to learn more about any of the books I talk about, it’d be easy. But I like the idea that maybe I can convince someone of a story’s value without having to pull out all of its pieces. I like the idea that I can hate something without needing to ruin it in a way that might make it less enjoyable for you if you disagree.

My boyfriend takes things to the extreme, often refusing to watch trailers or read news about anything he’s interested in reading or watching in order to preserve a kind of “pure” experience for himself. I don’t think it’s necessary to go that far. But I do want you to know why it is that my reviews tend to be sparse on details when it comes to talking about plot.

I want to give you the same fresh experience I had, the chance to really dive in free from expectations about where the story will go. I’m not sure if I’ve been able to strike the perfect balance on this bog yet, but I’m certainly working on it, and I hope it’ll end up being worthwhile.

-S

Housekeeping Updates

Hey, all.

I just thought I’d post a brief update since some of my writing is taking a little longer than expected.

I have a couple posts in the works as well as a new piece for Booklicious coming down the pipeline that will be less of a review and more of an update on some interesting changes in the publishing industry. My most recent review is of a book coming out this July, The Good Girl by Mark Kubica, but I might wait to publish that closer to the book’s release date. It’s currently both my longest and most political review, so it might need some more… tweaking. I’m also experimenting with some new formatting for reviews after I plowed through four trade paperbacks in a row and felt that comics deserved a slightly different style than my regular reviews.

In the meantime, I’m still figuring out this whole “blogging with a purpose regularly” thing and will be making changes to the site accordingly!

Happy reading

-S

An Experiment

I’ve been blogging consistently since I was about 14 years old. I had a Xanga. No one read it because I didn’t want anyone to read it. I didn’t tell anyone about it except my best friend, and it stayed that way until college. Then I prepared for study abroad and started a new blog, and a group of about five of my closest friends were aware of it, though I still kept a private blog just for myself (and again, maybe my best friend). What I wrote was a fairly thorough diary of my life and nothing more.

When Tumblr rolled out, I was a senior in college. Everyone I knew signed up for it, but I had no idea what to do with it. The format was foreign to me—it didn’t seem meant for writing and that was all I ever did. But I kept up with it, posting regularly and writing less until I hardly really wrote anything at all. It didn’t take too long to realize this, and for a long time, I hated it but did nothing. I had an audience there, albeit a minuscule one, and I didn’t feel I could go back to hiding everything I wrote.

But late last year, I decided to give myself a challenge.

I was reading more than I had in what felt like my entire life. I was an English major in college, yes, and literature was always my best subject. Yes, I remember being 6 years old and wanting to be a writer. But I never made enough time to read for fun, for myself. Then suddenly I found myself going through a book or two a month. I was always reading something, and it was the most consistent I’d ever been at anything. At around the same time, I was looking for something to dedicate myself to as a way to force myself to write again. I needed some kind of timeline. Some kind of deadline. Something—anything—to compel me.

And then it hit me.

If I reviewed every book I read, I’d post at least once a month. It was an achievable goal. It was realistic.
It was the push I needed.

And now here we are, a good five full months on the dot since I started that project for myself and I haven’t skipped a beat yet.

So where does this leave you?

Well, the experiment will continue. Everything I read, I’ll review, and I’ll review it here. I’ll also be moving over my existing reviews to get started. So everything from my thoughts on Jane Eyre to why I hated Hope: A Tragedy and where I think contemporary YA fiction is going will be here. These are reviews for no one and everyone, and if no one finds this little blog, that’s okay, too. Because most of all, these reviews are for me.

Welcome.

hello, there

This is me.