Plug: Bookish

A friend turned me on to this new Website called Bookish, which works a bit like the Netflix algorithm that says to you, “You may also like…” after you’ve watched a movie and rated it highly. In other words, you plug in a book you like, and Bookish recommends five or ten others you might also like. There’s even a “more like this” button, so you can hone in more closely on a few gems.

I tried it out.

When I typed in Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Bookish recommended:

  • Learning to Fly, by Steph Davis;
  • Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson;
  • A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson; and
  • The Expats, by Chris Pavone.

Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder yielded these suggestions:

  • In One Person, by John Irving;
  • Before I Go to Sleep, by SJ Watson;
  • Seven Types of Ambiguity, by Elliot Perlman; and
  • The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown.

I haven’t read any of the above books. I guess before I can really recommend Bookish I should read one or two and see how well they did, but I love the concept.

One catch: Bookish, so far anyway, is definitely geared towards new releases. I typed in two of my favorite Modernist classics, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth. To the Lighthouse wasn’t even in the database. House of Mirth was, but no suggestions came up. They say they’re adding new books every day, so maybe they’ll get some classics on there, too. I hope so.

Hey, speaking of algorithms, Netflix keeps telling me to watch “The Queen of Versailles.” The cover photo completely turns me off, but Rotten Tomatoes gives it 95% and five stars. Anyone seen it?

Losing Ourselves

I thought it was really interesting that two blog posts today were about the immersive (I think I just made up a word) world of fiction. The Living Notebook writes about Absorption today, about fiction that “brings us further into [a] dream, overwhelming our senses until the dream seems real.”

And over on popcorn, Karen McHegg discusses books that “create a world different from the one [she] lives in.” You can read about those books here.

It made me think: which books have most absorbed me in recent years? My first thought was Emma Donoghue’s brilliant novel Room. I also felt immersed in the strange world of Karen Russel’s Swamplandia and the more-real-yet-also-quite-strange one of Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder.

Which books have absorbed you lately? Head on over to popcorn and tell Karen McHegg.

And me? Today I’m immersed in three-year-old land. L. had a touch of pinkeye, and I knew I’d get the stink eye if I sent him to school.

Onward,

Susie

Plug: Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder

I still have about 25 pages to read, but I am officially plugging Ann Patchett’s novel State of Wonder. The book was sitting on my bedside table for weeks but didn’t excite me, probably because the cover is kind of nondescript and the title just didn’t evoke much–innocence, childhood, maybe science? Then a friend said she was reading a novel about a single woman who travels to the Amazon and I thought, perfect.

Thank you google images

Thank you google images

The book is just beautifully done. It has elements of magical realism, a la Karen Russell’s Swamplandia, but since I know that book annoyed a lot of people don’t take that as your main comparison. Perhaps I should say the book has elements of the otherworldly, and while it seems to be making a statement about primitivism–one might argue that it’s a bit reductive in its portrayal of Amazonian tribes of Indians–I am fascinated by the people that Dr. Marina Singh encounters on her journey. So much about it is surprising, unexpected. I realized about 50 pages ago that I had no idea what was going to happen, and as we all know, if you can’t wait to find out, that makes for a page-turner!

You may recall I mentioned Patchett’s Truth and Beauty as one of my Must-Read Memoirs way back when.

Well, folks, it’s the last day to vote in the Medium Short Fiction Contest, where my story “Shunyata” is an entry. As my sister in law said, I do wish it weren’t a popularity contest, but there you have it. I have been pretty popular; my story, about love lost and spirituality found, hit the #2 slot on Saturday but this morning is back around #5. Top three get read and judged by an agent and the prize is $2,012. Every vote really does count, and today is the last day to vote, and if you haven’t and you’re so inclined…well, I’m very grateful.

Here’s to reading in the new year!

Also:

http://bit.ly/WVC0eC

http://nyti.ms/VeKqg3