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  • Jen Harper 6:43 pm on 2017/05/05 Permalink
    Tags: , what's that you're reading?   

    6 Conversation-Starting Books to Read in Public 

    Chatting up strangers in public can be an awkward proposition, but having an awesome icebreaker like a book can be a great way to get the conversation going. Just be sure to steer clear of tomes with titles like Don’t Talk to Me and I Have Enough Friends Already, Thankyouverymuch or anything akin to comedian Scott Rogowsky’s fake book covers like Human Taxidermy: A Beginner’s Guide. And now that you’re clear on the don’ts, we can fill you in on our picks for do’s for books to read to spark some conversation in public.

    Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, by Cheryl Strayed
    Author Cheryl Strayed—aka Sugar—the formerly anonymous online columnist for literary website The Rumpus, blends self-help and memoir in this slim book sure to get people talking. Strayed advises readers on topics like sex, love, family, and grief in this collection of advice from her Dear Sugar column with compassionate insight and her own heartbreaking stories. You’ll likely get the requisite, “Have you read Wild?” follow-up question more than a few times, but with this book, you’re likely to move on to much deeper topics fairly quickly.

    Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan
    Reading a cookbook? In public? Yes, just follow us here for a moment. It’s likely to attract attention because a cookbook as leisure reading is a bit unorthodox. Plus, it indicates an interest in yummy cuisine and learning how to cook it up yourself. And Marcella Hazan’s cookbook is an essential culinary bible for Italian cooking. You’ll get the scoop on pairing pasta shapes and sauces, learn to master an unbelievable four-ingredient tomato sauce, and hopefully chat up some other foodies in the process.

    Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
    The world-famous books about a young wizard named Harry Potter are always an awesome choice—whether it’s your first or 50th time reading them. And whichever one of the seven books from J.K. Rowling’s bestselling series you select, you’re bound to attract the attention of fellow Potterheads. They might open with, “How many times have you read that one?” And then you guys can talk about which house you’re in, the multitude of fan theories about the stories, your thoughts on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and on and on and on …

    Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
    The title of Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s third nonfiction book alone is enough of a reason for passersby to take a second look at what you’re reading. And then once they take that second glance, they’ll likely recognize Freakonomics, the 2009 book that melded economic principles with everyday life and pop culture in a way that most had never seen before. And now with Think Like a Freak, the bestselling authors give us a look inside their thought process, teaching us how to think more creatively and rationally. Lots of food for thought and fodder for conversation.

    Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
    Looking to invite some political discourse? Bring a copy of Ayn Rand’s 1957 book with you to the coffee shop, but be prepared: Those who have read this classic likely have strong feelings about it. It’s a dystopian future in which protagonist Dagny Taggart finds herself—economic conditions are grim, the government is doling out favors to the connected and exerting control over businesses, and the world is metaphorically bearing down on Atlas’s shoulders. So settle in for some lively conversation, and just try to keep things civil—and in case the conversation turns south, you’ve got a 1,000-page book to help bust your way through the crowd.

    Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
    You were likely assigned this book in high school and probably haven’t cracked it open since—or maybe you spaced on the summer reading and didn’t even get to it then. Regardless, reading it in public will likely provoke some comments and questions from intrigued strangers: “Hey, I read that in high school. Think it’s worth revisiting?” “Kinda feels like we’re living that book right now, doesn’t it?” “I still have nightmares about that pig’s head.” Nothing like a decapitated animal head on a stick to spark conversation.

    What books would you recommend as conversation-starters to read in public?

    The post 6 Conversation-Starting Books to Read in Public appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jen Harper 1:00 pm on 2017/03/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , you are here: an owner's manual for dangerous minds   

    Jenny Lawson’s You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds: Self-Help Coloring Book Is Profanely Profound 

    Jenny Lawson’s new book, You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds, hits shelves March 7, and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time for me. Like 40 million other American adults, I have an anxiety disorder—it’s not who I am; it’s just something I have, like brown hair or farsightedness or the Moana soundtrack stuck in my head.

    Like a bunch of us, one of the things I do to cope with the disorder is take medication for it. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, my medication stopped working—it happens sometimes. So imagine my sheer delight when, while waiting for the new med to start doing its job, a handy self-help coloring book (totally a real thing) lands on my doorstep, and it’s by none other than the hilariously candid, awesomely quirky, fellow mental-illness-haver Jenny Lawson. If you’re not familiar with Lawson’s writing, you should probably call in sick to work, hole up in a pillow fort, and dive into this woman’s wonderful and weird world: Her taxidermy collection includes a pegasus and at least two maniacally smiling raccoons. She brought a koala costume all the way to Australia in hopes of wearing it while holding a real koala. She’s afraid of finding dead bodies in public bathroom stalls. And she once fended off some neighborhood swans who allegedly wanted to eat her.

    Lawson is the writer behind popular blog The Bloggess and author of bestselling memoirs Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, which details her eccentric upbringing by a taxidermist father with a propensity for bringing home roadkill, and Furiously Happy, a funny, irreverent, and honest collection of essays about Lawson’s struggles with and triumphs over depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.

    Her new book, You Are Here, is a somewhat different beast but every bit as magical. It’s still her voice, her heart, her humor on the page, but it’s only part narrative. It’s also part therapy—the kind that won’t cost you $150 an hour—part inspirational quotes, with some pages containing only two lines of funny, earnest, touching, and sometimes profane insights; and part grown-up coloring book, made up of Lawson’s own doodles of patterns, faces, and words created while waiting for an anxiety attack to pass.

    Another thing that sets this book apart from Lawson’s others is that it’s not just the tribe leader speaking to the members—you’re part of this. You are here. You, the reader, are necessary to create and finish this weird and wonderful book written by your bizarro BFF who just gets you. You can fill in the intricate black-and-white drawings with your own world of color; complete lists Lawson has started for you—like the five most outrageous things you’ve done, at least one of which is a lie; oust your demons by writing your fears on a completely black page and then ripping it from the book; and even draw your own doodles.

    I laughed out loud and cried—also out loud—while reading Lawson’s words and examining the pictures and her captions. And I’m excited to actually put gel pens to paper to color in these amazing images of whales, a knife-wielding pigeon, wacky women, and a bonnet-wearing T-rex, among others. Here’s hoping my OCD and perfectionism will allow me to push through and actually color the pictures without fear of ruining their beauty—something I think Lawson herself would say just isn’t possible.

    Mental illness tells us we are lost, unworthy, broken, and will never be whole. Mental illness lies. But Lawson doesn’t. Her honesty, humor, and vulnerability in this book will inspire you. And many of the vignettes in You Are Here will undoubtedly nestle into your brain and stay awhile. This is the one that has permanently set up residency in mine and perfectly sums up the power of this slim volume:

    “Once upon a time, there was a girl who forgot the rest of her story so she had to make it up as she went along. She kept it a secret all of her life. And one day when she was 99 she whispered this very confession to her husband. He paused and smiled kindly and told her that everyone was just making it up as they went along. And she was happy and sad all at once, and also a little bit relieved that she hadn’t known it all along. And that was the end.”

    You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds is on B&N bookshelves now.

    The post Jenny Lawson’s You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds: Self-Help Coloring Book Is Profanely Profound appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jen Harper 7:45 pm on 2016/12/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , happy bookmas, , ,   

    How to Throw a Book Nerd Holiday Party 

    The holiday season just has a literary air about it—maybe it’s the chilly weather, perfect for curling up in front of a fireplace with a good book; perhaps it’s the many memorable holiday scenes in literature from books like Little Women and Harry Potter; or it may just be a desire to unplug from the 100th airing of It’s a Wonderful Life. Whatever the reason, books and the holidays go together like hot cocoa and little marshmallows. So what better way to celebrate the season and your book nerdiness than with a bookish holiday party? Here’s everything you need to throw the perfect holiday lit fest for you and your book nerd pals!

    Literary theme
    You can get as specific or general as you want. On the specific end of the spectrum, you could have a Harry Potter–themed Yule Ball and have everyone don their finest dress robes or a Dickensian-style fete filled with mirth and merriment. The super-general It’s a Holly Jolly Book Nerd Holiday Party theme works too—but yes, the title does need a little work. We think you can take it from here.

    Bookish decor
    Get thee to Pinterest and start searching for DIY book trees—they’re super-easy to construct, and they won’t leave pine needles all over your floor. Making a DIY menorah can be a little trickier, since books and fire don’t make a great combo—unless your party theme is Fahrenheit 451. Set up holiday-themed books on end tables and the mantle, and hang some bookish ornaments from the tree to get everyone in the book nerd holiday spirit.

    Book-themed beverages
    Your options for party drinks—both alcoholic and non—are endless. There are so many awesome recipes for butterbeer, you can give the Three Broomsticks some serious competition. Plus, there are lots of fun lit-themed cocktail recipes like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margarita and The Last of the Mojitos from Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist. And for wine lovers, we can’t forget about literary-labeled wines like Ex Libris and Well Read (which is, well, red).

    Festive food
    You can cook to the theme of your party—a nice roast beast from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, anyone? Or have guests contribute a fave dish from literature—like Turkish Delight from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe or Key lime pie from Nora Ephron’s Heartburn. Or encourage attendees to come up with a book-punny dish—One Flew Over the Couscous Nest or Lord of the Fries perhaps?

    Lit gifts
    Everyone loves party favors, but you don’t have to handle them for the whole crowd. Have everyone bring a wrapped book as a gift—and party attendees can either take one at random as they leave or swap them White Elephant–style. Or you can have the giver attach a “blind date with a book”–type note to the wrapped book with the genre and a brief review (that doesn’t reveal the plot), and everyone can just take the one that tickles their fancy.

    The post How to Throw a Book Nerd Holiday Party appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jen Harper 4:00 pm on 2016/11/18 Permalink
    Tags: , guess who's coming to dinner?, , ,   

    7 Characters We’d Love to Invite to Holiday Dinner 

    Typically, holidays are all about assembling a bunch of relatives for one grand meal—whether you like it or not. But no, not this time. This year, rather than turning to the family email list for our invites, we’ve cracked open some of our favorite reads to plan our dinner party.

    The Paperless Post went out weeks ago, but there are still a few people who haven’t yet replied, like the Cat in the Hat, naturally—he just shows up whenever and wherever he pleases—and Edward Cullen, who texted something about the dinner menu likely not being to his taste. He can be so moody sometimes.

    Regardless, the evening still promises to be a lively occasion. Now let’s see who’s coming so we can figure out the seating arrangements.

    Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins)
    Perfect! She said she would bring the turkey. Hopefully, she’ll at least remove the arrow from it this time. You know, she doesn’t really like to talk about her stints in the Hunger Games—totally understandable—so we’ll have to put her next to someone who won’t really push her on it.

    Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy (Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen)
    We’ll put Elizabeth right next to Katniss. She and Darcy will definitely respect Katniss’s boundaries. Plus, Elizabeth and Katniss are both super-smart, strong, independent women, so they’ll have plenty of conspiring to do about ways to crush the patriarchy. Plus, they can compare pins on their “Long Hair Don’t Care” Pinterest boards.

    Sirius Black (Harry Potter, by J. K. Rowling)
    This’ll be interesting—Mr. Darcy next to Sirius Black. They can relate about the whole rebelling against familial expectations thing. Plus, you know, Darcy has lightened up a bit since he paired up with Elizabeth, but sitting next to a loose cannon like Sirius Black might really help him unwind. Plus, everyone always loves Sirius’s wild stories.

    Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins, by P. L. Travers)
    Speaking of Sirius’s crazy tales, he tends to get pretty animated when he’s in storytelling mode—lots of wild gesticulating, which, in the past, has resulted in red wine all over the carpet and cranberries on the light fixtures. So I think having Mary Poppins seated next to Sirius would work out quite nicely. She can magically whisk away any stains before they set. Plus, she can deftly corral any kids who happen to come to dinner. The Lost Boys from Peter Pan always seem to pop in right when dinner is served.

    Hassan Haji (The Hundred-Foot Journey, by Richard C. Morais)
    Hassan is such a good guy—decent, respectful, and an amazing chef. He’ll insist on bringing a dish, so let’s have him do an appetizer. There’s no way my sweet potatoes and mini marshmallows can compete with whatever French-Indian fusion deliciousness he whips up.

    Minny Jackson (The Help, by Kathryn Stockett)
    Someone else who will insist on bringing a dish is that sassy spitfire of a woman, Minny Jackson. Love that lady, and she is an awesome cook. But she has spent so much of her life cooking and cleaning for other people. She should just be able to put her feet up and enjoy the evening without having to lift a finger. Plus, we already have plenty of pie.

    What fictional characters would you invite to holiday dinner?

    The post 7 Characters We’d Love to Invite to Holiday Dinner appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jen Harper 3:00 pm on 2016/09/27 Permalink
    Tags: bnstorefront-holidaypagetoscreen, , gone again, , ,   

    4 Reasons to Read The Girl on the Train Before You See the Movie 

    Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train has all the elements of a page-turning thriller—unreliable narrators, a missing woman, lies, affairs, alcoholism, voyeurism, love, obsession, secrets, and more. Naturally, those qualities made it a riveting cinematic experience when it hit theaters this fall, with Emily Blunt in the title role—but this is one story you want to see play out on the page first.

    The book follows Rachel, an unemployed, divorced alcoholic, who takes the train along her former work commute route every day in an attempt to hide the fact that she lost her job. During her rides, she drinks and fantasizes about the lives of a couple whose house she passes. She’s named them Jason and Jess and sees them as an idyllic pair living a charmed life, just a few doors down from the home Rachel used to share with her husband, who now lives there with his new wife. One day, Rachel sees—or thinks she sees—something from the passing train that will explode the lives of both couples…as well as her own.

    Here are four compelling reasons you should definitely make time to read the book before you buy your tickets.

    You’re the casting director. And the set designer, the director of photography, location manager, and even the head of craft services (if you like to snack while you read). Sure, we all know Blunt has been cast in the lead role. But one of the beautiful things about reading the book first is that you don’t automatically insert images of Blunt as Rachel—or any of the rest of the cast—in your head as you read. Your imagination teams with Hawkins’s words to create the mysterious people, shadowy places, and shady situations in this spellbinding story.

    You can make the pleasure of the story last even longer. A movie is only a couple of hours, but the book is deliciously so much more. Even if you’re a super-fast reader, you can stretch out these 336 pages over a few commutes of your own. And all that extra time benefits the storytelling greatly—heightening the monotony of Rachel’s typical day-to-day life, the powerlessness she feels in her addiction to alcohol, and the black hole of Rachel’s memory surrounding one tragic night.

    There’s more to the story. There’s only so much detail that can be packed into a film. Plus, the novel employs trickery with its unreliable narrators, alternating points of view, and careful doling out of information via methods that only work word-by-word and page-by-page. The movie will naturally have its own modes of deception to keep viewers guessing, but it’s valuable to get the story the way the author intended it first, and then check out the film for the sake of comparison, as it can often differ greatly.

    You get to be that person who walks away from the movie proclaiming, “The book was better.” Or maybe you’ll be that person that says, “Wow, the movie really did justice to the book,” or, “Was that movie really based on this same book?” Regardless of your take on the film, you’ll be on solid ground to compare the two. And when someone at the office says, “What did you think about that character they added/totally left out/completely changed?,” you’ll know exactly what to say.

    The post 4 Reasons to Read The Girl on the Train Before You See the Movie appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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