Best of the Bookternet: January 2016

By all accounts, 2016 is off to a great start. This month has been chock-full of interesting articles, exciting news, and passionate advice. Here are some of our favorite essays, blog posts, and lists since the first of the year.


Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories

The Atlantic makes a case for imagination and fantasy over morality in children’s lit. What do you say? Huck Finn or Narnia?

Via The Atlantic


The Time My Grown-Up Novel Was Marketed as Young Adult

Speaking of children’s literature and genre, Lit Hub digs deeper into how these labels affect marketing and ultimately, sales. Kate Axelrod explains the complications that lead to mislabeling her book.

Via Lit Hub

Gene Luen Yang
Photo: First Second Books

The War Over Comic Books Is Nearly Over, and Kids Are Winning

Like audiobooks, graphic novels (AKA comic books) have recently risen in popularity and received critical acclaim. In fact, Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese was named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.



Infographic: Analyzing Shakespeare’s Characters

Not interested in YA? All right then, this one is for you. This infographic explores the relationships between characters in Shakespeare’s tragedies.

Via Electric Literature

Neil Gaiman
Photo: Huffington Post

The Gaiman List

Author (and fantastic narrator!) Neil Gaiman makes a case for his favorite audiobooks, including Bleak House, Bag of Bones, and, of course, The Art of Asking.

Via HarperCollins


Author Amy Tan “Thrilled” By Bloodsucking Leech Named in Her Honor

A new species of leech, Chtonobdella tanae, has been named for author Amy Tan. Leeches feature prominently in her book, Saving Fish from Drowning, and she is reported to be tickled by the homage.

Via Gizmodo


Classic Characters You May Not Remember from Children’s Literature

OK, OK, one last kid-lit article. Check out this satirical post on, rounding up characters such as Sarah who lives in Heidi’s shadow and Mary Poppins’s creepy sister.

Via The Toast


Going Places

Did you know that Washington, D.C. bookstore Politics & Prose double as travel agents? For years they’ve been curating travel in France. This year, they’re expanding to Tuscany, Cuba, and more.

Via Politics & Prose


Finalists Named for 2016 PW Bookstore of the Year

More great indie bookstore news! Publisher’s Weekly has released their finalists for bookstore and sales rep of the year. Bookstore nominees include Village Books, Greenlight Bookstore, and more fantastic indies.

Via Publisher’s Weekly


25 More Hard Truths About Writing and Publishing

Attention writers! Zeroes author Chuck Wendig dishes out the facts about writing, publishing, and marketing books. Most surprising? Just how much influence your Twitter following does or does not have in selling books.


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Back to Basics With Classic Novels

Classics can be an intimidating genre.

But audiobooks bring classics to life in new and interesting ways. They add nuance and spirit to the prose, agenda and voice to the characters, and reawaken these stories to be enjoyed yet again. If you  want to name-drop George Orwell, Alexandre Dumas, Jane Austen, Aldous Huxley, or Victor Hugo and know what you’re talking about, this is a great place to start!

To make it even easier for you to get started, we’ve discounted these books for the month of August!


Animal Farm

By George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell (published in 1945) exposes the dangers of Stalinism. By using an allegory of animals attempting to self-govern on a farm, Animal Farm demonstrates how greed and power turn humans into animals, perpetuating systems of oppression that only benefit the few who run them.


Brave New World

By Aldous Huxley

Lenina and Bernard live in a nightmarish socialist utopia of sorts. The Brave New World in which they preside is home to a whole host of unprecedented horrors which serve as a warning for the future and a meditation on the present. Written by Aldous Huxley in 1932 and still applicable to this day.

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The Count of Monte Cristo

By Alexandre Dumas

Edmond Dantes is on the verge of having everything he ever dreamed of: The woman of his dreams, command of his own ship, and a close childhood friend as his second-hand man. But when he is framed by his best friend and sent to an isolated prison island—the Chateau D’Ife—for fourteen years and without explanation, all he can think of is revenge. The Count of Monte Cristo is a riveting classic.



By Jane Austen

The eponymous Emma continually promotes her own ability to play matchmaker, though most of her efforts to set people up go terribly, terribly wrong. Satirical and tender all at once, Emma is one of Jane Austen’s most-loved novels and inspired the 90’s hit movie, Clueless.


Les Misérables

By Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo’s beautiful and tragic story of Jean Valjean’s reentry into society and reinvention of his self after years of incarceration takes us on a journey of love and desperation that the world cannot forget. With self-sacrifice and immense spirit, Valjean works to protect Collette, Fantine’s daughter, to try to attone for a past he cannot change. Set against the backdrop of the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, Les Misérable is a French masterpiece.

For more ideas, visit or classics section!

Quotes to Help You Through the Hot Days of Summer

There’s nothing better than to close your eyes, nestled under the cool shade of a tree, listening to a good book. These authors would hardly disagree. In fact, there’s a long tradition of praising the summer months for all their glory.


But how could anyone who’s ever seen a summer—big explosion of green and skies lit up electric with splashy sunsets, a riot of flowers and wind that smells like honey—pick the snow?”

Lauren Oliver, Delirium

Prodigal Summer

. . . prodigal summer, the season of extravagant procreation. It could wear out everything in its path with its passionate excesses, but nothing alive with wings or a heart or a seed curled into itself in the ground could resist welcoming it back when it came.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer


I should remember the rose garden in summer, and the birds that sang at dawn. Tea under the chestnut tree, and the murmur of the sea coming up to us from the lawns below. I would think of the blown lilac, and the Happy Valley. These things were permanent, they could not be dissolved. They were memories that cannot hurt.”

Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

The Call of the Wild

But especially he loved to run in the dim twilight of the summer midnights, listening to the subdued and sleepy murmurs of the forest, reading signs and sounds as a man may read a book, and seeking for the mysterious something that called—called, waking or sleeping, at all times, for him to come.”

Jack London, The Call of the Wild


The beauty of that June day was almost staggering. After the wet spring, everything that could turn green had outdone itself in greenness and everything that could even dream of blooming or blossoming was in bloom and blossom. The sunlight was a benediction. The breezes were so caressingly soft and intimate on the skin as to be embarrassing.”

Dan Simmons, Drood

To Kill a Mockingbird

Summer was on the way; Jem and I awaited it with impatience. Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the treehouse; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill.”

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Got a favorite quote about summer? Let us know in the comments!

6 Children’s Books for Road Trips

When I glance across traffic into the windows of the minivan idling next to me, odds are the children’s heads bent over their screens.

Their parents have thrust them movies and mind-numbing games to capture their attention and give peace to the otherwise rambunctious group. In my family, whenever we were in the car for an extended period of time, my mother would pop in an audiobook that the whole family could enjoy. As soon as the voice began, the car fell silent, the only noise belonging to the narrator’s vibrant characters and voices. The audiobooks gave us the opportunity to participate in something as a family and also kept us munchkins entertained.

Whether you are headed to the cabin for the weekend, or embarking on an epic cross-country road trip to see the world’s biggest ball of yarn, these audiobooks will definitely keep the whole family engaged. Here are some of our staff’s favorite children’s audiobooks that are sure to captivate you and your little ones for hours on end.


Frog and Toad Audio Collection

By Arnold Lobel (Ages 3-5)

Generations of children love the award-winning stories of Frog and Toad. Their many adventures are sure to teach listeners of all ages a little something about love, friendship, and kindness. This audio collection includes all four Frog and Toad books and is read with wit and charm by their author Arnold Lobel.


Runny Babbit

By Shel Silverstein (Ages 3-5)

From the legendary author of Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, Falling Up, and The Giving Tree comes an unforgettable new character in children’s literature your children are bound to love. Follow Runny Babbit and his many friends who speak a topsy-turvy language all their own in Shel Silverstein’s latest book Runny Babbit. Laugh along with Runny and his mixed-up words, this is a children’s book sure to tickle everyone’s funny bone.


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

By C.S. Lewis (Ages 7 and up)

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the first novel in C.S. Lewis’s masterful Chronicles of Narnia. Dive into the magical world of Narnia with Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter on their journey to defeat the White Witch who has cast the land in an eternal winter. This epic adventure is a classic tale of good vs. evil and one that the whole family will love.


How to Train Your Dragon

By Cressida Cowell (Ages 8 and up)

Introducing Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, an unlikely hero who has a knack for adventure (or maybe misadventure) as he clumsily tries to win the approval of his Viking clan, the Tribe of the Hairy Hooligans. Discover where the story of How to Train Your Dragon began with the first instillment of this hilarious series. Loved by kids and parents alike, this book is sure to keep everyone laughing.


The Cabinet of Wonders

By Marie Rutkoski (Ages 9 and up)

When the Prince of Bohemia commissions Petra’s father to build the finest astronomical clock, the Prince steals her father’s eyes, enhances them, and wears them as his own. It is up to Petra to reclaim her father’s eyes and in doing so, finds that people in the castle are not as they seem and everyone’s hiding something up their sleeve. Marie Rutkoski’s startling debut novel, about the risks we take to protect those we love, brims with magic, political intrigue, and heroism. This book will take your family on an amazing adventure they won’t  forget.


Walk Two Moons

By Sharon Creech (Ages 10 and up)

In her Newbery award-winning novel, Sharon Creech intricately weaves together two tales, one funny, one bittersweet, to create a compelling, and utterly moving story of love, loss, and the complexity of human emotion. A heartwarming tale following the journey of a young girl as she rediscovers her past, and a family classic that any young teen would enjoy.

What’s your family listening to this summer? Let us know in the comments!

The 6 Best Fathers in Literature

Most people will tell you that they have the best dad in the world. I’m no exception. I really do think I had the best dad. The only way he could have been surpassed is in fiction, and even then I’m not so sure.

Here are some of my and the Libro team’s favorite fathers in literature. From supportive side characters to crime-solving heroes, these dads love their kids and will do anything for them.

And a very happy Father’s Day to all of the real-life dads out there!


Mr. Bennet

Pride & Prejudice

While Mrs. Bennet tut-tuts over her daughters’ marriage prospects, Mr. Bennet is as calm and refreshing as cool breeze. He believes in Elizabeth like nobody else in the family does and understands that there’s more to life than finding a rich husband. When Elizabeth refuses to marry Mr. Collins, he says, “An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”


John Ames


Gilead opens with a letter from John Ames to his young son. In it, he explains he’s dying, gives a bit of explanation about his life, but most of all, his letter is steeped in his love for his son. Ames is old and dying, and more than anything else he regrets that he won’t be there for his son. Throughout the book he recounts his life, as well as the lives of his own father and grandfather. Of all the books on this list, this is the best choice for a thoughtful Father’s Day gift.


Tam Al’Thor

Wheel of Time series

It’s difficult to talk about a character in such a long series without giving away too many spoilers. But I can say that Rand, the hero of the books, could never have endured or grown the way he did without the stability and good influence of his father. Tam teaches Rand to enter the void, a meditative state, focusing his energy and powers. He’s pretty handy with a sword too.


Elgin Branch

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Elgin Branch might start off disengaged with his family, and way too into his job at Microsoft, but throughout Where’d You Go, Bernadette, he comes to realize that his daughter, Bee, is more important to him than anything else. Like any good parent, he wants what is best for her, but just what that is might not be what he originally planned.


Alex Cross

Alex Cross series

When he’s not out solving crime, Alex Cross can be found in his basement teaching his kids how to box. Though he wants to make the world a better, safer place, he’s happiest out slurping icecream cones with his family. But Alex’s lifestyle often places those he loves in danger. It’s what makes kidnapping in Cross My Heart such a heart-poundingly good thriller.


Atticus Finch

To Kill a Mockingbird

Atticus Finch believes in truth and justice, and tries to instill these ideals in his children. But he’s also a tender-hearted man, and realizes that his children are young. He doesn’t talk down to them, but tries to explain the world to them in ways that they can understand. Atticus tells them, “You might hear some ugly talk about it at school, but do one thing for me if you will: you just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don’t you let ’em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change.” It’s just one of the many pieces of his advice we could all use.

What father figures have we missed? Let us know in the comments.

Paradise Lost

In the first few lines of Paradise Lost, John Milton invokes the Muse, an homage to ancient epic poems. Paradise Lost contains the drama, the larger-than-life personalities of Greek or Norse sagas, but owes just as much to the England in which it was written as it does to ancient poetic traditions. Its language is English; its story is Biblical. Whispering Angels, plotting demons, deep romance, vast landscapes, and thrilling battles fill its lines. First published in 1671, it tells the well-known tale of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, imbuing it with grand power and sweeping imagery.

Milton was already blind when he began writing Paradise Lost, dictating it to his daughter. Listening to the audiobook version is like being transported back to his home, listening to him compose this epic poem, word by word, enraptured by his beautiful language.

Listen to the opening lines of Paradise Lost, as Milton invokes the Muse and sets the scene.

From short to epically long, we have a variety of poetry audiobooks to choose from. Check them out!

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The Silkworm

In 2013,  the audiobook of The Cuckoo’s Calling by as-yet-unknown author Robert Galbraith, shot to number one. It was only after the book made a successful debut in its own right that the world discovered that Robert Galbraith was actually J.K. Rowling. Rowling, writing as Galbraith, is now back with The Silkworm, the second installment of the acclaimed Cormoran Strike series. This time, Strike is on the case of a missing author, whose latest manuscript is so filled with violence and thinly-veiled references to those around him, it’s been deemed “unpublishable”. There may be none of the magic of the Harry Potter novels, but the suspense, twists, and details are all still there.

Listen to a clip from the beginning of The Silkworm.

 Have you read The Silkworm or The Cuckoo’s Calling? Let us know what you think or link to your review in the comments. Sign up for our newsletter to hear more about J.K. Rowling and similar authors.


7 Books for a Stimulating Book Club Discussion

I was recently talking to some friends who are in wine clubs (read: book clubs) about the books that make the best book club picks. People’s tastes in books are all different, but that’s OK; each person’s pick doesn’t have cater to everyone. Rather, the best selections generate a lively debate, either because their controversy provokes discussion, their topic sheds light on a part of the world or lifestyle unknown to us, or their prose is layered with meaning and everyone’s individual views enrich the conversation.

Here are a few books that everyone agreed created a lively atmosphere in any book club and go well with a malbec. Not every book was universally loved, but each had something to offer.

I Am Malala

by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

Not even the bullet of a Taliban member’s gun could stop Malala Yousafzai from completing her education. Determined to fulfill her dreams, and with the encouragement of her parents, she fought for the right to go to school in the Swat Valley, Pakistan. She has since become the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it makes a great book club pick: So often we watch the news, and see faceless violence, statistics, and fear. This book demonstrates the complexity of life in a war-torn country.

A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson, and Kris Shepard

Twelve of Dr. King’s most famous, most moving, most thought-provoking speeches are gathered here, and bonus material includes commentaries by theologians and leaders. While the book is great, the audio edition includes the original recordings, and narration from the likes of Rosa Parks, Yolanda King, Ambassador George McGovern, and Senator Edward Kennedy.

Why it makes a great book club pick: King’s speeches, like his work, don’t just cover racial inequality, but social and economic inequality too. Everyone will leave with difficult thoughts, but it’s hard not to feel hopeful after listening to Dr. King.

And for fun, watch Dr. King tell a joke on The Tonight Show.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

by David Foster Wallace

At moments licentious, at others tender hearted, and often both, the bulk of these short stories revolve around DFW’s imaginings of men’s relationships with and ideas about women. These meticulously crafted stories are like a trip through the labyrinth of David Foster Wallace’s brain. If you aren’t familiar with him, take a minute to read one of my favorite DFW pieces on Roger Federer in The New York Times: Federer as Religious Experience.

Why it makes a great book club pick: Much shorter and more digestible than Infinite Jest, this collection still oozes postmodernist longing while managing to be uproariously funny.

Have a Nice Guilt Trip

by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

Dozens of pithy stories make up this fourth collection by mother-and-daughter team Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella. Tackling everything from jury duty, to dog-grooming, to the benefits of central air, nothing is too ridiculous, too taboo, or too mundane for these ladies.

Why it makes a great book club book: Laugh-out-loud funny, everyone will have a different favorite. The best jokes and anecdotes will be flying all night.

Killing Lincoln

by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying Bill O’Reilly’s presence on our cultural map. Here we meet him on neutral ground, discussing the assassination of President Lincoln. More like a fast-paced thriller than historical treatise, this book captures the imagination.

Why it makes a good book club pick: No doubt about it, this book is riveting. The conversation might stop there, but it also might go deeper, into the responsibility an author has to fact-check every small detail versus the author’s commitment to entertain, or whether or not the author has a broader agenda outside the narrative.

The Heretic’s Daughter

by Kathleen Kent

Kathleen Kent, a tenth-generation-descendant of the figures in this story, recounts the horrors of the Salem witch trials. This sweeping family saga, told through the eyes of a ten-year-old girl, brings new life to an oft-told American tale.

Why it makes a good book club pick: With prose that’s gritty yet luscious, it’s easy to mark this one as the best book-club books you’ll read this year. But the dynamic characters and attention to detail are what will really hold the conversation.

The Betrayers

by David Bezmogis

Part high literature, part political thriller, The Betrayers covers one pivotal day in the life of Israeli politician Baruch Kotler. When he fails to back down over the policies regarding the West Bank, his political enemies expose his affair, forcing him to flee to Yalta, where he runs into the man who sent him to the Gulag 40 years ago.

Why it makes a good book club pick: Baruch Kotler’s staunch principles are the stuff book club discussions feast upon. Everyone will be asking “Do you think he should have?” and “Why wouldn’t they?” and “Were you surprised when?”

Have a favorite book from your book club? Leave a suggestion or link to your review in the comments below.

Review: The Girl With All the Gifts

I came to The Girl With All the Gifts, M.R. Carey’s zombie novel, excited but wary. Carey is half of the team behind the Unwritten series of graphic novels, one of the best series to come out in recent years. He also wrote the Sandman spin-off Lucifer and several issues of Hellblazer. Hence my excitement.

But a graphic novel, even one as prose-filled as The Unwritten can sometimes be, is an entirely different medium from a traditional novel. It’s like asking a painter to sculpt or a drummer to pick up a guitar. The similarities are there, but the artist can’t rely on his usual effects.

Coupled with my uncertainties about the medium, was its topic: yet another zombie book. After World War Z  and The Walking Dead, I wasn’t sure we really need another zombie survival story. Hence my wariness.

And yet, from the get-go The Girl With All the Gifts does not disappoint. Carey takes the now wearisome zombie trope, and true to its mythos, raises it up anew. He moves sideways, ducking and weaving through the dusty labyrinth of clichés and already-been-dones. These are not your average zombies.

The story centers on Melanie, a ten-year-old girl, living in zombie-plagued England. She attends a special school, where she is both pupil and test subject. Military men escort her between her class and cell, and the only source of light in her life is her teacher, Miss Justineau, who takes pity on the students, reads them Greek mythology, and once, in a brave and intimate act, even reached out and stroked Melanie’s hair. Melanie and her classmates are the key to the survival of the human race.

Carey relies on the now almost-expected explanation of infection for the zombies’ cause. But he digs deeper into this conceit, riffing off of the actual fungus Ophiocordyceps, a tropical fungus that infects ants and turns them into automatons, leading them to latch onto plants and stay there until their deaths. In The Girl With All the Gifts, the fungus has transformed, affecting humans and causing them to crave flesh. Carey’s descriptions are fantastic—gruesome and plausible:

Caldwell steps into the room and circles the infected man slowly and warily. The marks of violence he bears are, she sees now, very old. The blood from the wounds has mostly dried and flaked away. Each is rimmed with an embroidery of fine grey threads, the visible sign that Ophiocordyceps has made its home within him. There’s grey fuzz on his lips, too, and in the corners of his eyes.”

Carey allows our protagonist, Melanie, to be young and naive but grants her a genius-level intellect that enables her to move apace with the plot. Her imagination is bold yet child-like as she dreams of the stories she reads in school. But it his her inherent kindness in the face of the unrelenting chaos and violence around her that make her a rich character. She is at times wildly sentimental and others pragmatic, but never dispassionately so. Indeed, her pragmatism stems from her love of Miss Justineau and the other children.


While the book remains cerebral until the end, it balances the action this genre craves, moving at a steady clip and always intriguing. I found myself wanting to keep listening as much for the characters themselves, to hear their thoughts and inner struggles as much as I wanted to follow their perils through zombie hordes and determined villains. The setting migrates from the rigid halls of Melanie’s compound out into the abandoned English countryside, where the typical hordes of both zombies and dangerous survivors roam. Carey, however, keeps the story anything but predictable.

In the end, Carey wraps up the story, and the zombie epidemic with a darkly satisfying bow. Joss Whedon called The Girl With All the Gifts “Heartfelt, remorseless, and painfully human . . . as fresh as it is terrifying. A jewel,” which is no exaggeration. The last minutes are eye-widening in their twists but I cannot image a better conclusion, as wrought as it may be.

The narrator, Finty Williams, brings the perfect amount of poise to the book. Her (to my American ears) proper Queen’s English, sets the tone for the story, particularly in the classroom setting in the beginning. Williams is the daughter of Judi Dench and Michael Williams, and her classical training is imminently apparent.

Overall, I found The Girl With All the Gifts to be a delightful change of pace in an increasingly dull genre. From it’s focus on female characters, to its creepy descriptions, to its characters chilling decisions, its depth and conviction never wavers. If authors continue to produce zombie novels, and I’m sure they will, they’ll have another one to live up after this one.

Listen to a clip about Melanie reflecting on a violent encounter and learning to accept her situation:

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