Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Sunday Salon - Backlist Beauties

I've always been a friend of the backlist books. In other words, hype makes me nervous and if there's too much hype it translates into too much pressure, and then it's not fun anymore, and I don't call and I don't write. You know the story.

I've been reading far newer fiction lately going against my natural instincts as a reader and diving headlong into the super-hyped. Weird for me. Fun, but weird. So in an effort to call attention to some of the backlist beauties I've run across during my Sunday morning mama-time bookstore browsing, I thought I'd toss this post out into the ether and see what feedback y'all can provide.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin -- Few works of literature are as universally beloved as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Now, in this spellbinding historical novel, we meet the young girl whose bright spirit sent her on an unforgettable trip down the rabbit hole–and the grown woman whose story is no less enthralling.

So, the "universally beloved" thing doesn't do much for me, because I'm probably one of eight people in the world who haaaates Alice in Wonderland. It made me want to stab myself in the nostril with a croquet club...stick...thing. BUT, I like pretty covers, and the cover of this book is very pretty and it sounds downright interesting. I happened to see it when I passed it last week and was reminded that, Hey! I've heard of that on ze blogs! I shall own it. Or library it.

The Keep by Jennifer Egan -- Two cousins, irreversibly damaged by a childhood prank whose devastating consequences changed both their lives, reunite twenty years later to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe, a castle steeped in blood lore and family pride. Built over a secret system of caves and tunnels, the castle and its violent history invoke and subvert all the elements of a gothic past: twins, a pool, an old baroness, a fearsome tower. In an environment of extreme paranoia, cut off from the outside world, the men reenact the signal event of their youth, with even more catastrophic results. 

Even though I've completed -- and didn't love -- A Visit from the Goon Squad, I'm game for The Keep. I also have her 2009 novel, Look at Me, on my stacks. BUT, I'm a glutton, and this one looks completely droolworthy. I think I also remember this one being discussed in my online book groups and maybe around the blogosphere in 2007. I've slept since then. Either way, I'm all over it now.


Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato -- Fear doesn't come naturally to Mathilda Savitch. She prefers to look right at the things nobody else can bear to mention: for example, the fact that her beloved older sister is dead, pushed in front of a train by a man still on the loose. Her grief-stricken parents have basically been sleepwalking ever since, and it is Mathilda's sworn mission to shock them back to life. Her strategy? Being bad. Mathilda decides shes going to figure out what lies behind the catastrophe. She starts sleuthing through her sisters most secret possessions—e-mails, clothes, notebooks, whatever her determination and craftiness can ferret out.

I fell in love with the cover of this one ages ago. How could I not? It's my favorite color scheme, and it's all silhouetty and creepalicious. I'm also slightly embarrassed because I read and commented on a review of this book just last week and now I can't remember to save my cotton-pickin' life who it was! Remind me, if you're reading. This one sounds quite sinister and possibly heartbreaking. Why not make it a summer read!?!


The Glass Room by Simon Mawer -- Viktor and Liesel, a rich Jewish mogul married to a thoughtful, modern gentile, pour all of their hopes for their marriage and budding family into their stunning new home, filling it with children, friends, and a generation of artists and thinkers eager to abandon old-world European style in favor of the new and the avant-garde. But as life intervenes, their new home also brings out their most passionate desires and darkest secrets. As Viktor searches for a warmer, less challenging comfort in the arms of another woman, and Liesel turns to her wild, mischievous friend Hana for excitement, the marriage begins to show signs of strain. The radiant honesty and idealism of 1930 quickly evaporate beneath the storm clouds of World War II.

And on this last one, I'm doing the guilty dance. It's a bit like the pee pee dance but not nearly as animated and much drier. I downloaded this book ages ago -- when I first got my Nook -- because I read a review over at Frances' place. Between the blurb and her review and the cool cover and all, I simply couldn't resist. And there the book has remained for a year. That makes me a slacker -- I'll wear the crimson S on my chest. I hope this one knocks me over after waiting so long to read it.

And there you have it -- the not-so-new books that are calling to me the loudest these days.  

Have you read them? What's on your backlist wishlist?

Note: I'm sorry I've published this thing three times. Your feed readers all loathe me right now. I drafted it a couple of days ago, set the time wrong when I edited today, and finally spelled "Sunday" wrong. Yeah, I'm an English professor. Woohoo!

27 comments:

  1. Hey Andi! I read Alice I Have Been last year with MAJOR reservations. I've never actually read Alice in Wonderland, but any historical fiction that attempts to use real people and lots of supposes I'm hesitant.

    But this one, well, I freakin' adored it. It definitely captivated me and played little into Alice In Wonderland. Who knows the truth for me, who cares. It was a disturbing read but well worth it.

    And also, I still have no idea what the Goon Squad is about. So much hype but not a clue. The book by said author that you posted about, however, looks incredible. Love creepy tunnels and lore.

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  2. I have Egan's Goon Squad book, a novel which my mother read first (as she always gets to my books before I do; I spend too much time on the computer!). She said it made her feel 'slimed' so I'm anxious to see how it makes me feel.

    At any rate, I can't be too worried about backlist stuff, as I can hardly get to the things on my 'frontlist'. Is there such a thing?

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  3. p.s. love your line about 'too much pressure, then I don't call, I don't write'. Amen, sister! Trying to avoid the pressures in life, for sure!

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  4. I first read your title as "Blacklist" but Backlist is good too. ;) I respond the same way to a lot of hype, but I've never thought about going to a backlist book instead--I usually just wait until the hype has died down so I can be more objective.

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  5. The Keep is one that I wanted to read back when several were reading it for the RIP challenge back when it came out but I had forgotten about it. I was so glad when you reviewed Goon Squad because I recognized the author's name and it put the book back on my radar. Hope its a good one.

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  6. I'm a backlist reader more than hype reader as well...unless the hyped book is an author I must read asap. I like getting hyped books 6 months later in the Barnes&Noble bargain bin :)

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  7. Hey slacker! Read it. You'll love it. :) My backlist is so huge that I have stopped thinking of it as a backlist (which causes me anxiety) and have now identified it as my reading savings account. Wealthy forever.

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  8. Oh, Alice I Have Been made me feel gross. I started reading it but then I got way squiffed out in the first few chapters and I couldn't carry on with it. I'll be interested to see what you think -- I felt totally chicken for not reading more of it.

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  9. Christina, I'm glad you freakin' adored Alice I Have Been! That's a good recommendation. :D As for Goon Squad -- lots of dysfunction! But isn't most lit fiction these days? Ha!

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  10. Bellezza, I can understand feeling slimed by Goon Squad. It's not the slimiest book I've ever read by any stretch of the imagination, but there were parts that made me cringe and wanna slap a character.

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  11. Melody, I usually promptly forget about hype books once they fade from the blogosphere, but I've made a concerted effort lately to keep better track of my wishlist for when some of the hype is gone.

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  12. Carl, I hope The Keep is a good one, too. I usually don't read multiple works by the same author in a short period of time, but The Keep is so tempting, I might dive right in.

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  13. Patti, you're so right! I'm often shocked by what I find in the remaindered pile. lol There are VERY few authors whose books I'll run out and buy or download when they're brand new. In addition to the expense, I often find myself disappointed.

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  14. Frances, THAT is the right attitude! I love it and will promptly begin reciting this new mantra to myself.

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  15. Jenny, I can't wait to see what's so icky about it! Sort of like a dare. lol I think I have a good idea what it could be though.

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  16. Pre-blogging, I read almost only backlist books -- I was too cheap to pay for new books most of the time. Now, I read almost all new books... it's an odd transition.

    Anyway, I have a copy of Alice that I picked up while in NYC -- it looks good, and I'm excited to read it!

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  17. The Glass Room has been sitting on my shelves for more than a year now unread. I can't wait to read your thoughts on it.

    I've never heard of Mathilda Savitch but now it's on my tbr list! I want to run to the library and check it out but I have so many books to read. :-( *hmm I just looked at my tbr list on Goodreads and it's already on my list. I wonder how it got there.*

    I have yet to finish Delicate Edible Birds. I think I need to start over. I hope you have a great week.

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  18. I have only read The Glass Room from your list, but it was one of my favourites from the year it was released. I hope that you like it as much as I did.

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  19. Interesting titles you've found. I'm like you - I love backlist and older books! Always more exciting I think :)

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  20. Enjoy Alice! The transition is an odd one. Still don't have the $$$ to buy new books but NetGalley has helped with that lot. And e-books. Woo!

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  21. Natasha, definitely start over on Delicate Edible Birds if need be. I looooooved that collection! And I do that too. Go add something to my wishlist that's already there. So many books, so little time!

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  22. Thanks, Jackie! I hope I like it, too! If you liked it, there's a good chance.

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  23. Let me add my praises for Alice...read it last year and loved it. I reviewed it on my blog--if I stop being lazy, I will look it up for you in a bit.

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  24. Yayyy, Tammy! I'll go search for it on your blog. No prob!

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  25. I'm always reluctant to read the "popular" books too. I usually try to wait awhile for all the hoopla dies down. Enjoy your backlist beauties!

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  26. I read The Keep when it came out. I wasn't sure about it in the beginning, but I stuck with it and I loved it!!!

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