Category Author Posts

…yes, authors are just like us: they too look forward to the summer to finally read the books that have been sitting on their bedside table for weeks.

Now Two Roads has an exclusive (!) look at what some of our writers are reading this summer

Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Remember Me Like This (out now)

Bret Anthony Johnston’s summer reading pile

 

I tend to read in the morning before starting a day’s work and then again in the evening before bed, and I tend to read from a different book in each session. Fiction usually comes first, and I’m excited about the fiction I’m reading now or soon to read. Rene Steinke’s forthcoming novel Friendswood, Lea Carpenter’s novel Eleven Days (find out more here), some Chekhov stories, and a collection of strange and beautiful fiction called Nature Stories by Jules Renard. The Renard book might serve as something as bridge between my current fiction and nonfiction tastes, as I’m reading a lot about animals right now. One of the things I’m currently working on is a weird, nonlinear short story involving horses, and this book on horse psychology continues to prove invaluable to me in countless ways. Future projects may include the mythical (or is it?) chupacbra and the siege in Waco, Texas in 1993. This summer I’ve also been spending time with Emily Rapp’s heart-rending memoir The Still Point of the Turning World (find out more here). As for the book on iPhones, well, let’s just say I’ve recently gotten my first one and the transition hasn’t been easy or smooth. That book will probably be the most helpful, and it’s the one I’m looking forward to the least. Maybe there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

 

Jamie Kornegay, author of Soil (spring 2015)

Jamie Kornegay’s summer reading pile

As a full-time bookseller, my reading tends toward the new and upcoming – a merchant must test his wares, after all – and hence my summer stack is a blend of some of this season’s best, including startling debuts from Smith Henderson and a Mississippi friend, Lisa Howorth, as well as stories from the fiercely talented John Brandon, and what must surely be James Lee Burke’s masterpiece; and forthcoming fall titles, including one of my favorite writers, Richard Flanagan, whose new novel I’m currently loving, along with the reliably strange Michel Faber, history from Hampton Sides, and one of the U.S. South’s most popular writers, Rick Bragg, on one of the South’s most notorious rock-n-rollers. Sandwiched in the middle is something for the writer…

 

Sally Magnusson, author of Where Memories Go: why dementia changes everything (out now)

Sally Magnusson’s summer reading pile

 

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month I’ll be hosting the James Tait Black prize-giving ceremony at the Edinburgh Book Festival, so my holiday in Tuscany is a great time to devour the shortlist. The biographies were a bit large for my suitcase but the four novels are just right. Have just finished Jim Crace’s Harvest – a stunning read. The bottom two books are background reading for programmes I’m doing on the First World War.

 

 

Carrie Snyder, author of Girl Runner (spring 2015)

Carrie Snyder’s summer reading pile

 

Here’s the tour, from bottom to top, starting with the books I keep meaning to read, and do delve into on occasion, but have yet to finish: two library books, The Oxford History of Popular Print Culture, volume 1, and The Girl and the Game: A History of Women’s Sport in Canada (which I’ve already read, ages ago, but figure I should brush up on again in advance of my book coming out). Next is Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. I did intend to become a better person this summer. I regret to say I’ve stalled on step two. But I did read all through Matilda, by Roald Dahl, with my two youngest (ages 6 and 8). We loved it, although did note that Dahl seems to have a strong animus for the imposing female athlete, who is the villain in the piece. I whipped through Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, kept staying up late to read, which is what summer really should be for. Yes, that’s my own Girl Runner, the American uncorrected proof, which I confess I started reading the evening it arrived and just kept on. It’s homework, though. I’ve got a lot of readings booked this fall and I need to find and rehearse sections that would make for good drama. Just above is Anita Lahey’s essay collection The Mystery Shopping Cart, only available in Canada, and a very Canadian book of literary critique. Finally, the book I’m currently marching through: A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard, the second in the series; I loved the first, but am finding this one a little less moving, with its focus so far on raising small children while trying to find time to write, which is basically my life and has been for the past 13 years. This is hardly an original observation, but I keep wondering if anyone would be interested had a woman written it instead.

 

Aylet Waldman, author of Love and Treasure (out now)

Ayelet Waldman’s summer reading pile

 

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my new novel and by far the most exciting part of that is delving into a new area of research. Research is my joy. It’s the actual writing part that kicks my ass.

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier this month the people behind the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction launched a wonderful campaign to get readers to share the one book, written by a female author, that has had the most impact on their life. Called #thisbook, the call to arms has seen many familiar faces involved, from journalist Grace Dent to author Joanna Trollope and Olympic medalist Katherine Grainger, and you can find out more on their website: thisbook.com.

To celebrate the Baileys Prize, awarded later tonight, we’ve asked some of our Two Roads authors to share their favourite book written by a female author. See their picks below…

I read To Kill A Mockingbird in school, like most of us. Emotionally, it struck chords, even as its larger themes – racism, justice, courage – were likely lost on me, as larger themes often are when we encounter them via assignment, not experience. Years later, when my father died, a federal judge gave a eulogy comparing him to Atticus Finch. I’d never made that connection, though the links were there: my father fought for social justice. He wasn’t afraid to do the right thing, even courting controversy. He took a role in civil rights. That judge ended that eulogy by riffing on a line from Lee’s novel: “Stand up; a great man is passing.” It’s what’s said to Jean Louise (Scout) as her father exits the courtroom. “Stand up; your father is passing”. And so she stands. She probably stands for reasons it will take her a long time to understand, though the reader knows immediately: that day will be one of the most meaningful of that little girl’s life.

We may not choose our experiences. In a way, though, we play a critical editorial role in our memories. We may not choose what we read the first time we read something but once a book becomes part of our sense of ourselves, click: a match is struck; something’s illuminated. I had that experience with To Kill A Mockingbird. I had that experience with Scout.

Lea Carpenter graduated from Princeton and has an MBA from Harvard. She was one of the original editors at Francis Ford Coppola’s literary magazine, Zoetrope, and later served as Deputy Publisher for The Paris Review. Her debut novel, Eleven Days, was longlisted for the Baileys Prize for Fiction 2014. She lives in New York with her husband and their two sons.

Not long ago, an Advanced Readers Copy of a novel called Half the Kingdom by Lore Segal arrived at my door. Over my morning cup of Earl Grey, I somewhat lackadaisically opened it. My expectations were not high. I’d never heard of this “Lore,” and the publisher was not one of the major houses. I assumed the novelist was yet another young graduate of an MFA program. And then I read the first two sentences:

‘The doctors, nurses, and patients in the overcrowded, too-brightly lit Emergency Room turned toward the commotion. It was the very old woman, thrashing about her with improbably strength and agility. “You do not,” she shouted, “you do not tell me to relax. I will not relax.” ‘

Two hours later, as I turned the last page (it’s a short book and I’m a fast reader), I lay back, stunned. The novel was masterful. Concise and incisive. The prose assured and confident. The subject matter complex, transcendent of genre. Mordant and wise, and terribly sad without being maudlin. There was no way this book was written by a twenty-three year old.

A quick Google search revealed the depth of my ignorance and my hubris in imagining I knew anything at all about who really matters in contemporary American fiction. Lore Segal is not 23. She is 86 years old. Her previous novel, Shakespeare’s Kitchen, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Within a week I had not only read that book, but two others, Her First American, and Other People’s Houses. How could it be that I had missed the work of Lore Segal until now? Please, I beseech you, if you suffer from the same literary deficit as I, do yourself the favor of remedying it right now.

Ayelet Waldman is the author of Love and TreasureRed Hook Road and the New York Times bestseller Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace. Her novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits was made into a film starring Natalie Portman. Her personal essays have been published in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Vogue, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. She and her husband, the novelist Michael Chabon, live in Berkeley, California, with their four children.

Any book by a woman about a woman’s fight with life compels me to dive into the story. For years I believed I was bad at it, this living of life, because each day felt like a big bruiser out to knock me down. Mudbound by Hillary Jordan tells of a woman following her husband into the wilderness, trusting and loyal, strong and determined to make good. Just like me.  Gradually the work load and the loneliness and the deprivations take their toll, until something breaks. Just like me. And, in reading how she rises from the depths of despair into a new light, I also found strength. Without books like Mudbound, I’m not sure I would have found that strength. I read and read, to realise I was not alone, yes, but more, to feed my own hungry soul and to find the guts to keep going.  Mudbound, and other great stories, were and are my daily bread.

Judy Fairbairns has lived on her Scottish island with her husband since 1978. Married now for 40 years, she has five children, all grown up – one of whom runs the whale watching business she and her husband started. Island Wife, a memoir about living on a remote Scottish island, is her first book. She paints, takes wild walks and is working on a novel.

It’s official: Christmas time is upon us!

And what better way to celebrate the festive season than a bookish Christmas tree? Featuring books we’ve published in 2013 and authors we look forward to publishing next year, it’s our way to say thank you for an extraordinary year of reading!

Stay tuned for a month of Christmas goodies, including some of our authors’ favourite Christmas memories, our recommended festive reads and special holiday recipes…

Two Roads Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you wondered what writers like to read when they go on holiday?

Research material for their next book?

The classics?

Nothing at all?

Well, we have the answer: we asked a few of our own authors to share their summer reading piles and to explain why they picked those books in particular. Take a look!

Judy Fairbairns, author of Island Wife: Living on the Edge of the Wild

I like variety when I read a pile of books. All these

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are about man’s relationship to something or someone and that, for me is the fascination of life.

Judy Fairbairns summer reading pile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lea Carpenter, author of Eleven Days

Anna is enough on her own, but the others offer balance. And each of the others is also riveting.

Lea Carpenter summer reading pile

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Kirsty Wark, author of The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle

I like the way books accumulate. I think of them as a treat in store rather than a daunting task – though the Su Doku has stuck in there for a while now: my game plan for burnishing my brain cells isn’t really working. I will add to and subtract from the pile over the summer.

Kirsty Wark author of The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle summer reading pile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book

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Club

The Watch Tower is part of a series called ‘Text Classics’. It’s a great series of books from a terrific Australian publisher. Everyone has been talking about Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Pat Barker’s ‘Regeneration Trilogy’ gave me some of my best reading ever – so of course I can’t wait to read her new one, Toby’s Room. I heard William Dalrymple speak and he was captivating. And this is such an important piece of history. I started The Stranger’s Child and was so enthralled that I actually made myself stop for a while so that I could save it for a perfect summer day. Leigh Newman’s memoir goes between Alaska and New York, portraying a remarkable childhood. And The Orchardist is a bookseller favorite – I kept seeing it on ‘staff recommends’ shelves.

Of course I’ll pick up lots more along the way. And I’ve already raced through some wonderful books.

Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club summer reading book pile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First-time author, Ashley Dartnell, is our guest blogger this month. Farangi Girl was published in June

‘Just put your anxiety aside and write the book.’

Ashley DartnellThis was the advice my teacher (the writer Blake Morrison) gave me as I spiralled through yet another cycle of self doubt. I was in the second year of an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths. I had given up my job to do the course, my husband had just lost his job and my six year old had just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. What Blake was referring to was not any of those problems but my chronic unease about the subject matter of my book. This was despite the fact that I had applied to Goldsmiths after twenty-five years of working in business and media explicitly to write this particular book: an autobiographical memoir of my growing up in Iran during the time of the Shah.

What was causing such disquiet, as Graham Greene so brilliantly put it, was ‘the bitterness leaks again out of my pen.’ I was upset and horrified at how much anger, how much bitterness was flowing out of me. Every day, I would sit at my desk in a trance: lost in the sights, sounds and emotions of my childhood. At the end of the day, after I switched off my computer, if anyone asked me what I had written, I had absolutely no idea. The material was coming from some very deep and well hidden reservoir. The next morning I would read through what I had written in a state of anticipation and despair—the scenes of my childhood were so vivid and often difficult and sad.

And, the secrets—so many secrets! All my life I had successfully avoided thinking about the complicated web of secrets my mother had woven. Now I was untangling the strands of deceit and obfuscation and it was painful.

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