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Posts Tagged ‘neil gaiman’

Elmore Leonard’s new book, Djibouti, has arrived!

Elmore Leonard is pretty much my favorite writer ever (I say that today; tomorrow I might say Neil Gaiman, the next day I might say Walt Whitman but for today let’s stick with Dutch).

Monday was Elmore Leonard’s 85th birthday, his fortieth novel, Djibouti, came out on Tuesday, and the trailer for the second season of the FX series Justified came out Wednesday. Three great reasons to celebrate what a prolific, generous writer has gifted readers like me. Here’s the man, the book, and the video after the jump: Read more…

My Summer Reading List

I have an ambitious reading list for this summer. Just like my dedication of two hours to write a day (or ten hours per week), I’m challenging myself to read for ninety minutes a day on Monday thru Wednesday plus Friday, or six hour a week. I tend to read 40 pages in an hour, 50 when I’m really feeling it, so if we take my optimistic number and combine it with six hours that’s 300 pages per week. Starting this week through the end of August, that’s fifteen weeks or 4500 pages. …That seems like a lot. I may have to re-think this. In the meantime, let’s get a little ambitious this morning!

All of these are selections I’ve never read before, so I have a completely fresh slate of stories awaiting me. Here they are in no particular order:

Road Dogs by Elmore Leonard (fiction novel, 272 pages)

The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry (fiction novel, 288 pages) * Excelsior UMC Men’s Book Club selection

On the Road by Jack Kerouac (nonfiction novel, 307 pages) * Excelsior UMC Men’s Book Club selection

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (nonfiction novel, 274 pages) * Excelsior UMC Men’s Book Club selection

The View From the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockemeier (short story collection, 288 pages)

Tin House #39 (short stories and poetry, 200 pages)

I’m Sorry You Feel That Way by Diana Joseph (nonfiction short story collection, 208 pages)

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (nonfiction, 320 pages)

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (fiction, 528 pages… I can’t find the abridged version, which the Ron Book Team has decided is just fine for our summer reading) * Ron Book Team selection

How to Think Theologically by Howard W. Stone & James O. Duke (textbook, 126 pages)

Best American Short Stories 2008 (short story collection, 384 pages)

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier (fiction novel, 272 pages)

I also have the following to “read” on audio, all of which are re-reads for me:

On Writing by Stephen King (nonfiction novel)

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (short story collection)

Up in Honey’s Room by Elmore Leonard (fiction novel)

The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman (kinda-sorta-not-really nonfiction novel)

From a Buick 8 by Stephen King (fiction novel)

That’s only 2235 pages – a far cry from the 4500 pages I calculated above. I think I’m going to be reading a lot slower than at my 50-pages per hour clip. I’ll be reading short stories and each one of those deserves to be digested slowly like little meals unto themselves. Some of the novels are for Men’s Book Club and I want to slow down and annotate them so I can better lead discussion sessions. And others I hope are so good I’ll need to slow down and savor them (Road Dogs). I’ll keep you posted as I finish different stories.

Right now, Kelly and I are almost finished with the audio version of From a Buick 8 and I’m about forty pages into The Last Picture Show and really enjoying it. I hope to finish it before I go to camp and start on a new book by then, too (that’s June 13, for readers who aren’t in the know).

What are you reading this summer?

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Books I gave, books I got

Merry Christmas, dear reader.

Books I received as gifts:

Best American Short Stories 2008 guest edited by Salman Rushdie

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Books I gave as Christmas gifts:

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks

1957 by Pradt & Dexter

1954 by Pradt & Dexter

21 Dirty Trick at Work by Phipps & Gautrey


Multiple Blessings by Jon & Kate Gosselin

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King on audio book

Barrelhouse Magazine – Roller Derby edition (for my wife)

I’ve never owned my own copy of O’Brien’s book, though I’ve read it, and will enjoy having a copy I can annotate at my leisure. As for the latest Best American edition, I’m excited to see some great writers: T.C. Boyle, Alice Munro, Toby Wolff, Nicole Krauss, Jonathan Lethem, and – hooray, hooray! – Kevin Brockmeier. This last author’s story is tops to be read first.

What books did you give / did you receive for Christmas?

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Your Friday Recommendation #32

Of the eleven people who will be at my pad for Christmas dinner, six are getting at least one book from me. Most of the remaining five have received a book or two from me at one point or another, and there are at least four other people I picked up a book to give to as a gift. Tomorrow we announce a winner in the Scrawlers.com “Dead of Winter” contest – just so I can give away yet two more books. In short, I believe a good read makes a good gift and I encourage you to think likewise.

I’ve had many great books gifted to me over the years. When I was a kid, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. In college I got copies of Signal To Noise by Neil Gaiman, and my first copy of Writer’s Market. Christmas gifts have ranged from Dude, Where’s My Country? by Michael Moore, The Daily Show’s America: The Book, Terry Pratchett’s The Bromeliad Trilogy brilliant autobiography I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This by Bob Newhart, and Walt Whitman’s Memorandum on the [Civil] War. For wedding gifts, Kelly and I picked up Malcolm Gladwell’s innovative duo, Blink and The Tipping Point. And just for fun, my mother snagged me a copy of Neil Gaiman’s Two Plays for Voices on audio. This is just a small sampling of the great books I’ve received as gifts, but you get the picture. If I didn’t get a book on my own, I’ve had good people kind enough to know my tastes and find me good picks.

I hope you’re giving the written word to someone special this year. Who’s getting what from you? Okay, you can reply on December 26th, if you’d like, but I’d love to hear your picks for others (and what you receive in return).

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P.S. The image I’ve selected to go with this post is of Bob Newhart’s autobiography because it’s so unbelievable good, plus it has many of his classic routines in print for the first time:

Your Friday Recommendation #25

Due to a hectic schedule this week, I’m only one-third of the way through Neil Gaiman’s latest, The Graveyard Book, yet I feel pretty confident recommending it.

A toddler who comes to be named Nobody Owens wanders out of his home and into a graveyard on the night his family is slain by a mysterious man. A community of ghosts, led by Mr. and Mrs. Owens, elect to grant the boy ‘freedom of the graveyard’ and harbor him to both raise him and keep him safe. The story feels unique to me and Gaiman’s language is a sensory delight. He manages to keep the tale visually and viscerally appealing with descriptive language while keeping the story moving, and that’s besides the stylish, haunting illustrations by long-time Gaiman collaborator, Dave McKean.

The Graveyard Book is perfect for me because it’s a YA book following a boy’s life in which every chapter is its own complete short story and yet connect to each other in an overall arching storyline. That’s precisely the project I worked on during my MFA days, aside from the whole ‘being raised by ghosts’ bit. I’ve found each story I’ve read so far to truly feel self-contained while also feeding into the stories that came before it, every one adding to the story. There’s enough mystery in the first few stories to keep me interested in seeing what ultimately happens to young Nobody Owens, and I hope to finish the novel next week if my likely-just-as-hectic schedule permits.

Minnesota Public Radio ran a wonderful piece on Neil Gaiman this week and the author wrapped up his book tour for The Graveyard Book in St. Paul on Wednesday night. Unfortunately for me, I work most every Wednesday evening (except next week. Pity, off by just one week!), but hopefully you made it to one of his readings. Don’t feel too bad for me, however; I’ve met the man at least nine or ten times, and at the fifth meeting he called me an official stalker.

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The Graveyard Book has arrived

Neil Gaiman writes some of my favorite stories, and his latest novel, The Graveyard Book, hits shelves and virtual shelves today. Advanced buzz on this one is good, so do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. Ooh, and look at this fancy counter his publisher has made for me to imbed into my blog post (yes, it comes out today so the counter isn’t counting down anymore but still, it’s shiny):

Tonight is my first Beck concert. I’ll let you know how much rockaphernalia (look it up in the Becktionary!) there is to be had tomorrow.
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Your Friday Recommendation #10

In celebration of his blog’s seventh anniversary, Neil Gaiman has put up one of my favorite novels, American Gods, for free on the internet for the rest of the month.

American Gods is one of those sprawling, epic tales that combines characterization, tone, and theme to bring everything together. A young man who goes by Shadow is released from prison a few days early because his wife is killed in a car accident. On the way home, he crosses paths with an old man who goes by Mr. Wednesday who knows precisely who he is and offers him a job traveling with him across the country. From there, the book takes a journey into a world of gods – both the new and the old – vying for their right to exist and remain viable in modern America.

Not your typical fare? That’s precisely why you should read it. Gaiman lays out several themes as threads throughout the novel, letting them cross over each other and weave a tight tapestry focusing on identity. The question of who one is, how one sees themselves, and how others understand them is one of the oldest stories, particularly in America – a country founded upon the creation and discovery of identity. That said, the novel is image-driven, never letting the story take a back seat to its themes – a lesson young writers could learn when it comes to balance.

If that doesn’t entice you, keep in mind Gaiman’s American Gods has won the Hugo Award for Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novel, the Bram Stoker Award for Best Horror Novel, the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, and the Nebula Award for Best Novel. It’s a New York Times bestseller, and it’s one of my favorite books. If you still need convincing, Neil Gaiman let his readers vote which book to make available for free. How many writers do that?

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