• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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I Heard It Through the Grapevine

Word of mouth is the single most powerful selling tool known to man. Studies have shown people trust a personal recommendation over  institutional reviews, celebrity testimonials, advertisements, or a guy wearing sandwich boards hanging around the CVS. Now, of course we have e-word of mouth through Face and Twit. Is it the same as your friend raving about The Goon Squad or Jeff Eugenides new novel, or Daniel Craig in chaps in Cowboys and Aliens? How did book groups proliferate? One minute everyone is reading alone in a chair, the next they’re sitting around with a bunch of women drinking Chardonnay in Polartec vests reading Cutting for Stone. How? Word of mouth. Operator. Pollination. Water Cooler. What’s on your Ipod? What are you reading? What have you read? What do you recommend? This is not my beautiful wife.

What was the last book you recommended or bought from a recommendation. Word. Of. Mouth.

44 Responses

  1. I told my daughter she should read The Hunger Games. She loathed it and is even now researching the worst old folks homes in Texas to get me on the waiting list.

  2. I recommended Ian McEwan’s Solar to Clever Bob and he’s hooked. I tried to coerce an MIT genius to read it and let me know how sound McEwan’s science might be, but that didn’t work, so I will just remember the whole book with pleasure and keep spouting off about it around the metaphorical water cooler.

  3. The Book Thief via Downith’s clever mouth, then I told two friends then they told two friends and so on and so on.

  4. I’m always recommending The Element by Ken Robinson. Right now I’m readying The 19th Wife. I’m only 50 pages in but I’m tempted to call it a winner.

  5. The Twenty-One Balloons, to my older daughter, who visibly decided she would rather become illiterate (or do I mean alliterate?) than touch a book recommended by her mother.

    I bought it anyway. You know, to practice reading aloud.

  6. THE LACUNA. My neighbor plied me with limoncello and after I succumbed tossed her copy over the fence. Best book I’ve read all year. My husband loved it so much he went out and rounded up a first edition.

    Just started IRONWEED and am in awe. How have I not read this yet?

  7. I evangelize for The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, a fellow Canadian and U of Toronto alum. LOVE this charming, sweet, smart book about the death of a small newspaper (a la IHT.) As a journalist watching her industry implode, it hits home.

    Standing in line for the McQheen show for four hours, got into a great conversation with a young woman reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I also loved.

  8. The last book I read, and have been recommending, is The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma. It is mystery, sci fi, historical, literary FEAST. Genre bending at it best. And the cover….love it. I found it the old fashioned way, I plucked it off a bottom shelf at a bookstore.

  9. I’ve just read Olive Kitteridge, The Book Thief and The Year of the Flood (author recommendation, not that particular book).

    I have recently recommended to different people all three of those, plus Lolita, The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and Consider the Lobster.

    I don’t recommend based on the awesomeness of the book necessarily. It’s more geared toward something personal with the person I’m recommending to.

    • Nearly three years now since DFW took himself away. This past spring, The New Yorker published a story of his called “Backbone.” I recommend it to any student of the short story form. Wallace makes one small, seemingly off-hand move early in that story that is brilliant. What it is is not apparent until the end of the story. It violates the rules that are taught in writing workshops. It also opens up an added dimension to the story, a fissure into a larger world, if you will. I’m not going to say here what it is he does, but again, I recommend that anyone who is interested in the formal possibilities of the short story give “Backbone” a careful reading and see what it is DFW did.

      • Thanks, Tetman. It’s like Christmas for me to find something of his I haven’t read.
        Found it online…happy, happy…

      • I just read it, and having never attending a fiction writing workshop, can only guess at what you’re talking about. But if my guess is correct, I think you’re right, and it’s absolutely brilliant.

  10. “Daniel Craig in chaps.” Just chaps? Gotta see that.

    My family laughs at me because while they often follow my recommendations for books, I won’t follow theirs. Or very reluctantly when their complaints start building up. They have a higher tolerance for sappiness than I do. I have zero tolerance.

    The last recommendation from a family member was Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, which I resisted for months because that is so not my genre, but I finally read one and loved it. The writing is okay (the occasional “romance lingo” makes me roll my eyes), but the characterization is what grabs me. I read and reread. That Lula!

    Years ago I recommended Terry Pratchett to my family, and they’re pretty much all hooked now. Zany humor and wordplay, terrific parody/satire. At least the first 15 or so. He’s getting a little too serious for me now, although I’ve pre-ordered his next out of loyalty.

    • I’m kinda like this too. I have one friend in particular – I recommend books to her, she reads them and loves them. She recommends books to me — it then becomes a thing with me that I will NOT read it. Something that might have been a perfectly good candidate before, after she’s mentioned it, is struck from the list. Thank goodness I read the Invisible Bridge before she did. But she deserves this treatment, because sometimes she makes me cd’s of musical soundtracks (or scores, or whatever they’re called. Wicked, you know).

      Recommended Julia Glass recently to my former bookstore colleagues (but boy was I shocked when I read the year of her National Book Award win was the same as Everything is Illuminated, which is one of my all-time favorites).

      I’m reading now Through the Language Glass by Guy Deutscher, which was recommended to me by my former colleague, the head buyer for fiction at the shop . . . .go figure.

      When I read True Grit last winter after having read about the book itself in the runup to the release of the movie, I proselytized for that, but don’t think anyone took me up on it. Come to think of it, I loaned it to a friend and she hasn’t given it back.

      • I loved True Grit, Kim. I also couldn’t get anyone to read it. Kind of the way I loved No Country For Old Men, and couldn’t get anyone to read that either.

      • For me, part of the pleasure was in seeing Oklahoma described in a poetic and beautiful way. If you’re from New York or Paris, or the coast of Maine, I suppose, you’ve seen it a million times, but the most iconic piece of literature dealing with Oklahoma that comes to mind is, of course, the Joads leaving. So I loved reading that. But as far as recommending it to others, of course, it was the sly humor, especially of Mattie, but also the comic returns of La Boeuf and Rooster. I still haven’t seen the film.

  11. Recommended: The Street of Crocodiles, and Other Stories, by Bruno Schulz

    Purchased upon recommendation: Firework, by Eugene Marten

  12. easy living by Jesus Hardwell. genius short story writer who, one day, will be a fucking legend.

    how late it was, how late by James Kelman.

    rereading: the remains of the day by Kazuo Ishiguro.

    • How Late It Was, How Late, by James Kelman. Yes! I read that book years ago and you, having read it I assume, will understand me when I say that fucking book was fucking great, man, just fuck! I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

      Was Sammy blind or not? Are you sure? How do you know?

  13. Someone just recommended Blue Coyote and A Dirty Job two books by Christopher Moore. I’ve got them, but have to finish some Neil Gaiman before I dig in.

    • Those are on my list too! Alas, too few brain cells and my attention span is for shit.

      Just finished a debut: GAMES TO PLAY AFTER DARK. So good. Followed some Twitter buzz about it. On the YA side, cracking THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, though I’m always resisting books in the over-the-top-gotta-read dept.

      But, seeing as the second half of August is coming up (the time to read steamy, sexy, hot fiction), I’m on the lookout for something super raunchy.

  14. Honestly? Right now I am singing the praises of The Forest for the Trees, which I just finished. (Am re-reading the first half). Most recent recommendation before that: Dawn Light, by Diane Ackerman. I would only allow myself one essay a day, so that I could savor the beauty of her prose, and of the places she described.

    I have a wish list in Amazon of books recommended by online friends, but the book I most recently bought on the strength of a recommendation was on that a favorite author (Anne Lamott): The Spirituality of Imperfection. It is next on my reading list.

  15. Most recent recommendation was a young pipsqueak read Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. He did, and he was amazed.

    Most recent read was Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Wow. When we hate, we really hate ourselves most.

    Most recent read from recommendation by Orson Scott Card was the novel Recovery Man by Kathryn Rusch, part of her Retrieval Artist series. It’s the kind of sci-fi book that makes you think there’s so much potential here, great world building, plot and character, and if she would only have a good editor cut out her telling vs showing, setups with no payoff and padding. And then you realize that’s a sign of an enjoyable author, not a bad one.

  16. Recommended to me and I loved it — Cutting for Stone.

    I’ve recently recommended Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner to someone who hadn’t discovered Stegner yet. Also rec’d The Magicians by Lev Grossman and Ahab’s Wife by Sena Naslund, loved them both for very different reasons.

  17. I can’t believe you did this.

    “Sacred Sin” by Virginia Llorca, but not available til tonight on Amazon.com.

    Adult content.

  18. David Malouf’s RANSOM. Terrific…

    • I use this one in my Latin and English classes to talk about the importance of perspective. I adore this text. Plus, gorgeous cover art.

  19. I always recommend Bel Canto, but after reading State of Wonder, I’m wondering if it’s as good as I remember. Will have to reread. The Secret History keeps getting recommended to me, so that’s next on my list.

    • Nobody but my husband takes my recommendations. I pressed Bel Canto on him and he loved it. I’ve raved about Memoirs of a Geisha, my guilty pleasure, many times and have only been taken up on it once. I bought a case of Bambi (Felix Salter’s original) as a Christmas gift for a girls’ ashram where I taught years ago, but I don’t know if any of them ever read it.

      Last recommended book I read was Bill Bryson’s The Thunderbolt Kid, simply because it was handed to me and I didn’t want to be impolite. Wasn’t crazy about it, but there were a few good laughs in it.

  20. “Vaclav and Lena” by Haley Tanner Not a multi-layered book, but a story well told with a recognizable voice and fast pace.

  21. Penelope Mortimer’s “The Pumpkin Eater” recommended by a woman I wish were my mother and “Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain” by David Eagleman, snail mailed to my door by a old and much loved friend.

    I have two perennial recommendations; “Middlemarch” by George Eliot and “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens. If you lock me away give me just those two books.

  22. I’ve recommended Atonement and Never Let Me Go many times with good feedback. I gave a copy of the later to an ex-boyfriend and he didn’t care for it, which is how I know he’d one day get the EX.

  23. I have been recommending Darin Strauss’ Half a Life to everyone willing to listen. As my friend said, it’s a game-changer. And hooray to McSweeney’s for standing up for quality publishing. Gorgeous paper, font, formatting. This is how reading is SUPPOSED to feel.

  24. Everything I read is a recommendation, from either friends or publicists or reviewers. I’m not sure what the alternative would be.

    My recommendation for the month is Stacy Carlson’s Among the Wonderful, which just came out from Steerforth Press. I finished it this afternoon and immediately started making a list of people who should read it, because I think it’s pretty fantastic. It’s set in New York in 1842, in Barnum’s Museum, with a bunch of strange and fantastic characters — primarily a giantess and a taxidermist. So if any of that appeals to you I say go get it already. It’s her first novel and I’m guessing that her stuff is going to get more muscular as she goes — there are a few rambly places in this one — but it’s really weird and marvelous and thought-provoking, and I haven’t heard near enough buzz about it since it’s come out. I just want to hand-sell the shit out of it.

  25. How did I get here? 😉

    Last book I recommended was Marion Roach’s The Memoir Project.

  26. Last books I recommended were “A Big Storm Knocked it Over by Laurie Colwin and “A Vist from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan.

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