Book of the Month: A Great Reckoning

Our September Book of the Month is Louise Penny’s highly-anticipated murder mystery, A Great Reckoning. For this, the twelfth novel in her acclaimed Chief Inspector Gamache series, Penny returns to the Québécois village of Three Pines, where the discovery of a peculiar old map the walls of a quaint bistro leads Gamache on a thrilling pursuit filled with danger, intrigue, humanity, and hope.

“There is something rotten at the Sûreté academy, and the now-retired Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has been brought in to clean it up. In the meantime, a strange map has been found in Three Pines. Old friends, new characters, murder, and history combine in another irresistible tale from Penny, whose writing is always compassionate, funny, and literate. This latest in the series is not to be missed.”
—Kathy Magruder, Pageturners Bookstore, Indianola, IA

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Listen to a preview of A Great Reckoning

Join readers and listeners all month on social media to discuss A Great Reckoning. Use the hashtag #agreatreckoning and find us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Watch Louise Penny discuss A Great Reckoning on PBS

Find culinary recipes inspired by the Chief Inspector Gamache series.

Book of the Month: Why Not Me?

Each month we choose a Book of the Month. Something that one or more of our team loves and think you’ll love too. When I suggested Why Not Me? by the hilarious Mindy Kaling, Nick, our Creative Director said, “Great book! I just finished listening to it.” So we knew we had a winner.

Full of self-deprecating humor about modern life, this book is as relatable as it is side splittingly funny. Just watch the book trailer below, in which Mindy talks herself into a corner.

If you could use more laughs like this, why not pick up Why Not Me?

Make sure to follow us on Twitter, where we’re always suggesting great books like Why Not Me?

Cooking with Ruth Reichl

I love to experiment in the kitchen. I’m not afraid to pick out a new gadget be it a sous vide set-up or pressure cooker and go at it. But it can be a bit daunting. That’s why Ruth Reichl is such a joy to listen to. It’s like she’s watching over your shoulder, telling you to add a little more salt or stir more vigorously.

In the video below, Reichl talks about her love for audiobooks, recording My Kitchen Year, and more. Enjoy!

Like listening to cooking books? Check out a few more of our favorites here

Book of the Month: Interpreter of Maladies

One of the things I (and just about everyone I know) love about podcasts is that they are easily digestible. They contain stories, opinion, and news that are gulped down and understood in usually less than an hour. It’s the same reason why books of short stories make excellent audiobooks. It’s a joy to meet characters, watch them grow, and say goodbye to them in the time it takes to commute to work or clean the kitchen.

When deciding to pick a book of short stories for our February Book of the Month, we turned to a modern classic: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. Lahiri writes both tenderly and fiercely of family, marriage, society, and the immigrant experience. It is no wonder that her debut collection received a Pulitzer. Though it’s been awhile since this book was first released, the stories feel fresh and brim with life.

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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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Book of the Month: The Happiness Project

What will 2016 hold? If I knew that, I’d be a millionaire. Like everyone, I hope that good things are up ahead. More than hope though, I can prepare, plan, and cultivate a positive outlook for the new year. That’s why we picked The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin as our first Book of the Month for 2016.

Rubin chronicles her year of doing the things that she’s always wanted or meant to do, including reading Aristotle and organizing her closets. She collected her thoughts in order to inspire others to do the same.

Maybe reading Aristotle or cleaning out your closet doesn’t appeal to you, but that’s O.K. The beauty of a Happiness Project is that it can be tailored to individual tastes. Maybe you’d rather try sky-diving or plant a vegetable garden or read more diversely. It’s up to you. So listen to the book, grab a pen, make a list, and start 2016 out right.

The Happiness Project is 40% off all through January!

Ann Patchett’s Twisting, Turning Life and Books

Ann Patchett’s books twist and turn, snaking through crises and into catharsis. Her own life is perhaps not as dramatic, but still full of adventure. Maybe not the kind that involves hostage situations or the Amazon rain forest, but of a literary variety.

And it’s part of why I like her so much. She’s honed her skill, sentence after sentence, writing for magazines including Seventeen, Gourmet, and the New York Times, while living in her hometown of Nashville. When the last independent bookstore in Nashville closed, she and her friend Karen Hayes opened Parnassus Books. As she says, she didn’t want to live in a city without a bookstore. Who can blame her?

She has written many books, all with something special to offer. State of Wonder is mysterious and organic. It’s why it’s our Book of the Month. Bel Canto won both the PEN/Faulkner prize and Orange Prize for Fiction, and for good reason. But if you want to get to know more about Ann and her life, check out This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, her book of essays.


Bel Canto

Themes of beauty, love, and duress intermingle during a hostage crisis at a South American party in Bel Canto. The books tension and characters grab you, turning everything you thought you had figured out upside down.

State of Wonder

Patchett returns to South America in State of Wonder, as Dr. Mirina Singh tracks down her old mentor in the rain forest. Its setting oozes beauty and death; its characters fierce and fragile.


This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

New and old essays are together for the first time in This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. From willing herself over a six-foot wall to opening a bookstore, to working on relationships to perfecting her craft, Patchett examines her remarkable life.



An accident and a snowstorm disrupt lives in Run. Spanning only 24 hours, this is an emotional roller coaster that will leave you wanting more.


The Magician’s Assistant

A magician’s widow tracks down secrets about her late husband’s family, taking her on a cross-country odyssey. The Magician’s Assistant is a book of beautiful sentences and harrowing loss.


The Patron Saint of Liars

Rose travels to St. Elizabeth’s, with the intention of giving up her baby once it is born. Moving and complicated, The Patron Saint of Liars is more than it first appears and unforgettable once completed.

State of Wonder is our book of the month! Get it today and let us know what you think.

Book of the Month: State of Wonder

We here at Libro love bringing you a Book of the Month each month. We’ve had nonfiction books about psychology, health, science, and music. We’ve included fiction taking place in Seattle and the Italian coast. Each book has a unique experience, something to offer the listener—to enrich your life. Our October book is no exception.

This month’s book is another work of fiction, this time set deep in the Amazon rain forest: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.

State of Wonder follows Dr. Marina Singh, a pharmacologist, on her quest to retrieve her old mentor, Dr. Swenson, from the Amazon. But Dr. Swenson is hiding more than just the malaria research she’s been working on.

Marina must battle poisonous snakes, showers of arrows, and her own body in her mission to bring back Dr. Swenson and her research. Marina’s job and love life are intertwined and therefore both are on the line, but perhaps more importantly, she wants to impress her old teacher, who doesn’t even remember her.

In the end she has many decisions to face, none of them easy.

The intricacy of Patchett’s characters are matched by her prose. Patchett’s description of the Amazon is compelling. It’s an overwhelming world of beauty and pestilence, chaos and natural order. She writes of the rain:

“Every drop of rain hit the ground with such force it bounced back up again, giving the earth the appearance of something boiling.”

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It’s these lush sentences that really bring the world to life, and lift listeners out of the dreariness of autumn in North America.

Patchett has taken many literary influences, added the rain forest and medical research and come up with a tale that is at times thrilling and at others deeply moving. It’s a compelling listen.

I’m especially pleased to pick this book not just because it’s great—though it is—but because Patchett is also the co-owner of Parnassus Books, an independent bookstore in Nashville, TN. As an author and bookstore owner, she’s an advocate of independent bookstores everywhere.

State of Wonder is our Book of the Month. Follow us on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to join the conversation!

Dolen Perkins-Valdez on Genres, Complex Characters, and Healing Our Wounds

Dolen Perkins-Valdez follows the rabbit hole of historical footnotes, adds robust, nuanced characters,  rhythmic dialogue, and intricate subtexts, and produces some of the best historical fiction around.

The inspiration for her first book, Wench, came one day when she discovered a reference to Tawawa House, in Ohio, where white slave-owners vacationed with their enslaved mistresses in the 1850s.

Her second book, Balm, takes place in Chicago shortly after the end of the Civil War, and follows the stories Hemp, who has just been freed from slavery, Madge, a black woman who grew up free and has the gift of healing, Sadie, a War Widow who’s creating a new life for herself as a medium, and Michael, a German-American doctor mourning the loss of his brother.

Dolen took the time to speak to me about both books over the phone, while she was visiting her home state of Tennessee.

[Judy Oldfield]: There’s tons of people writing historical fiction, but you seem to focus on details that other people might brush over. What draws you to your topics?

[Dolen Perkins-Valdez]: It’s a case-by-case thing. The thing that drew me to Wench is different than what drew me to Balm. With Wench I was really drawn to this place in Ohio that no one was really talking about and not just that place, but not talking about those kinds of places, and they weren’t having those kinds of conversations, which had to do with the psychological trauma of slavery and the physical abuse of women.  So I was really drawn to figuring out for myself what it was like for those women who were staying in that place.

For Balm, I was much more attracted to a broader conversation about how people were putting their lives together after the Civil War. I was also very intrigued by the continued, imagined hold of the Civil War over Americans and what that war continues to mean for us as a country.

[JO]: Despite taking place in the past, your themes are extremely relevant today. Do you intentionally put in a lot of parallels or do they naturally come about when you’re writing about race or gender in the past?

[DPV]: I think they naturally come about. I think any historian or aficionado of history or historical fiction writer believes there are clear connections between the past and the present and that’s why we’re captivated by the past. When I’m writing, I’m really trying to stay in that particular moment. I’m not trying to draw contemporary parallels because the characters wouldn’t have been able to draw those. And I think that my initial attraction in the first place is that these are questions that are still important now.

My hope is that by reading Balm we can reflect upon that moment and its connection to current day controversy, such as the continued presence of the Confederate flag on state ground. The flag continues to be present on dozens of state capitals and not just Charleston, South Carolina. There are monuments to Confederate generals all over the country. I think the country needs to think about this history and continue to contemplate what it means for us as a nation. I hope that this book is kind of a healing space for people as we think these things through.

[JO]: There’s so much nuance and complexity in your characters. There are times when the audience loves, hates, and forgives a character. How do you strike that balance between lovable and very flawed people?

[DPV]: The very first thing any author has to do is to love their characters. I love all my characters. I have a particular fondness for them even with those characters that I struggle to understand. In Wench, the character that I most struggled to understand was Drayle [a white slave-owner] and even though I had a difficult time understanding him, I tried to paint him with a compassionate brush stroke. Valerie Martin, the author of the book Property among others, wrote a blurb for Balm that said I “look to the past with a compassionate eye”. I think that’s what I try to do with my characters, to have compassion for them even when they’re really wrong. That’s the key for people who are writing about unlikeable characters.

[JO]: The New York Times recently took some heat for using the term “slave mistresses” but the description for Wench uses basically the same term, “enslaved mistresses”. How do you feel about using that term or is there a different term that you’d like your characters in Wench and the people that this really happened to described as?

[DPV]: The word “slave” is a very inadequate word to describe people, so scholars tend to prefer the term “enslaved people.” The word “slave” defines a person whereas “enslaved” defines a condition.

But the importance of The New York Times’s acknowledgement of that problematic phrase was that the history of rape of black women has largely gone unrecognized in this country. What makes these terms even more difficult is the lack of acknowledgement. If we had more direct, truthful acknowledgement of what happened (which is a very terrible history but it is our history as a country) I think there would be less anxiety around how we term it.

But it’s very difficult and my editor and I struggled with how we would phrase it when I published Wench. I think there are some people who maybe read the front jacket and thought well they weren’t mistresses they were raped. I understood that sentiment but I think after they read the book and understood that the title of the book, Wench, actually is a good connotation of the kind of sexualization that black women underwent at the time.

[JO]: Let’s talk about some of the mechanics of writing. I love your dialogue. You don’t use a lot of apostrophes, you’re not dropping the ‘g’ at the end of an ‘ing’ word, but you focus really on the rhythm of speech and it’s one of the things that translates so well into audiobooks. How were you able to capture historical dialects so well?

[DPV]: If I were to try to capture the dialect in its absolute authenticity, it would probably be unreadable for the contemporary reader. I try to paint a sound. But I did just try and capture the flow, the rhythm, the sound of how maybe my grandparents talked. My grandfather was born in 1904 and my grandmother in 1909 and I remember how they sounded. I tried to use that as my guide.

There’s a phrase in Balm when Madge asks her mother about using a Hoodoo trick on the soldiers that violate her house. Madge says, “I thought you didn’t cast those kinds of tricks on people.” Her mother answers, “don’t ain’t can’t.” Once you get into a rhythm you can hear what your characters are saying. But it is a contemporary representation of the speech. It’s my own interpretation and isn’t an authentic characterization.

[JO]: In Balm, there’s all this talk about Hoodoo, root medicine, root doctors, and mediums. There’s a bit of the fantastic about it. It’s a little magical, gothic, yet it’s classified as historical fiction. Where do you stand on genre classification?

[DPV]: I have a lot of MFA students who are huge fans of J.K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman. They’re really torn because they’re in these MFA programs and they want to write what they believe is literary fiction but their hearts are with these genre writers. I think those classifications are beginning to fail us because the genre writers are so good. That line between literary and genre is blurring and I’m glad. I grew up in the 70s and 80s watching I Dream of Genie and Bewitched and reading Stephen King, so I am not really concerned about classification.

I do think there are still some readers out there that might come to Balm and want it to be one thing or the other. But I’m not interested in that divide. I just try to write where my heart is.

I researched every plant that’s mentioned in Balm and everything that they do is actually in the realm of the real; those are things that people actually did, those are actual healing properties of those plants.

But then it came to me that Madge had an extra gift and that drew her to Sadie. Early on someone was talking about the mediums who were very popular during and after the Civil War (these were women who said they communicated with the dead) and said, “Well you know those mediums are false right?” And I said, “Well how do you know they were false?” Maybe some were and maybe some weren’t but it was just really important for the book to take a stand on that and not be ambiguous. I decided that Sadie would be a genuine medium. If I was thinking of those divides I would have been creatively hampered.

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Amanda Palmer on Recording Her Audiobook, the Weird Places She Writes, and Fear

If you already follow Amanda Palmer, author of The Art of Asking, on Twitter, then you probably know that lately she’s been busy grieving, battling Lyme Disease, recording with her father, and preparing to have her first baby with her husband Neil Gaiman. So we were incredibly pleased that she took time out from her nonstop, go-go-go life, to answer a few questions for us via email.

[Judy Oldfield] My understanding of the way audiobooks are made is that narrators—even when it’s the author narrating their own work—are given a script that they can’t stray from. It’s hard for many authors. Was it hard for you?

[AP] No, it wasn’t hard. It was actually really helpful to be in the recording studio at that exact moment. I was in New York for three straight days of recording and the book itself was in final editing stages, which meant that I was sitting there with a pencil, changing lines, scratching out repetitive words, saying things like, “Wait . . . that doesn’t actually makes sense, does it?” And I’d stop and ask the audio engineers, “Does that makes sense?” And they acted as editors along with me.

So in a sense, I was still finishing up the script, and lucky for me. Because reading aloud brings new problems into light that silent reading just doesn’t highlight. And it also really solidified my own personal relationship with the book, to just sit there for three days and read the whole thing, in front of an audience, even if the audience was just audio engineers and a rep from the publisher. It was like doing a live performance and seeing how the emotional arcs actually hit me, and hit the people listening. Truth be told, there were two or three times I looked out the studio into the control room and made sure they were crying . . . or at least close to crying. I choked up at least three times.

[JO] In The Art of Asking, you wrote about needing a lot of privacy in order to create. What’s the most unusual place you’ve written something (be it blog posts, your book, or music)?

[AP] Ha. Well—I’ve written in a lot of strange places, especially since getting a phone and being able to leave myself notes and voice memos anytime. Bathrooms everywhere. Friends’ homes. Subways. Closets at parties. One of my favorite birth-spots for a full song was in a keg room of a nightclub in Portland, OR, where I wrote “Astronaut”. I held a gun to my head that night because the guy I was writing it about was in the audience for one night and one night only. And so I just did it. An immediate audience has often been my mother of invention.

[JO] People have very strong opinions on you and your work. I have a friend who says that listening to your former band The Dresden Dolls got her through her divorce. But I’ve also read critics who’ve dismissed you for anything from your appearance to your mistakes (real or perceived). Any idea why you provoke such strong responses from people?

[AP] Sure. I think people with strong emotions elicit strong emotions. It used to bother me more, but I’ve come to realize that it’s just part of the game of life. It’s especially true when you’re a woman, and the more of the world I see, the more I see people being fearful of women who live out loud, mistakes or no. And I figure my job is just to get on with it, and not to cower, and not to try to please people.

[JO] Your TED Talk has 7 million views. Your book, The Art of Asking, is a bestseller. What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened to you because of the talk or the book?

[AP] The most surprising? Honestly the most surprising thing is when I’m walking down the street in New York and a super bad-ass looking hoodlum-esque teenager passes me on the street, takes his headphones off, and says, “Wait, are you that TED girl? I just saw your TED talk and I loved it. That asking shit is dope.” That’s happened multiple times. And I’m always astoundingly happy.

[JO] You’ve recently gone back to crowdfunding, though in a newer, more sustainable way. How has Patreon helped you as an artist?

It’s liberated me. There’s 5,500 people currently entrusting me with their credit cards basically saying, “Go ahead and make art, and charge as needed, forever,” which feels like a massive relief and responsibility at the same time. It’s like I got access, suddenly, to a magic highway spur that bypasses the entirety of the mass media, the music industry, and the entire establishment.

But there are moments when it just feels surreal to be so far off the grid, with absolutely nobody in the “real world” paying attention to the madness that is going on outside the city.

But then again, that’s the modern world. There’s always so much going on nowadays that you don’t know about. Sometimes it feels like me and my fans live in a cave, and I worry that we need more air.

[JO] is a new company. We’re the independent bookstore for digital audiobooks. As a writer, an entrepreneur, and an advocate of independent bookstores, what advice do you have for us?

[AP] Don’t let Amazon and Audible get you down.

[JO] What challenges or fears are you facing right now? What are you doing to overcome them?

Oh dear lord . . . nice timing. I’m eight months pregnant. I have NO IDEA what is about to happen to me, I feel like I’m about to fall of an existential cliff, and I’m just bracing myself for an unknown reality over which I will have little control. And what am I doing to overcome them? Nothing, really, except trying to put every piece of zen wisdom I’ve ever lean red into practice. There is only now, now and now. And now. Whatever happens: birth, death, change, catastrophe . . . it will still be now, and it will still be fine. There is never ever any space for regret or fear. It’s poison.

The Art of Asking is our Book of the Month. Use the code WeLoveAmanda at check out to get 25%.