Best of the Bookternet: December 2015

It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of the book-related Internet, sucking up hours reading reviews, bookish news, and memes. But that takes away time from reading and listening to great books! So we’ve curated a list of the best of the bookternet this month, saving you time. Enjoy!


Authors We Lost in 2015

We lost many beloved authors in 2015, including Terry Pratchett, Jackie Collins, and Henning Mankell. CBC Books pays tribute.

Via CBC Books

Veronica Roth
Photo © Alex Washburn/WIRED

About That Next Book

Veronica Roth, author of the mega-bestselling Divergent series, gives us a glimpse of her next series: a space opera already getting Star Wars comparisons. Plus, cute dog gifs!

Via The Art of Not Writing

Celeste Ng
Photo © Kevin Day Photography

Author Recommendations from Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You author Celeste Ng discusses some of her favorite coffee table books. Subjects range from portraits to food to letters.

Via Penguin Blog

Photo © Heike Steiweg

Whom do You Write for? “Pandering” Essay Sparks a Debate

In case you missed it, in November, author Claire Vaye Watkins wrote a long essay for Tin House about writing for male approval. A Wide range of responses ensued, notably from Jamaican author and Man Booker prize-winner Marlon James. NPR brought them together to discuss the essay, and gender and race in publishing.



Thank You, From a Bookseller

James Patterson was at it again this year—no, not writing books, though he did that too—giving out bonuses to booksellers. He donated $250,000 independent bookstore employees, including Kevin Sampsell of Powell’s in Portland, OR, who is forever grateful.

Via Powell’s Books


Actually, Emma Is the Best Jane Austen Novel

A close look at Jane Austen’s Emma upon the 200th anniversary of its publishing, as well as the rich bitches we love to hate in literature and real life.

Via Literary Hub


Margaret Atwood Is Writing a Superhero Comic Book

Author of realist and science fiction (and plenty in between) Margaret Atwood is working on a three-volume series of graphic novels. Origins-wise, the hero’s genetics are accidentally enhanced à la Spiderman, but knowing Atwood, this won’t be just a rehash of tropes.

Via Electric Lit


Oxford Dictionaries Chose an Emoji as Word of the Year and Yet the Sky Still Hangs Above Our Heads

It will be hard to translate the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year into audiobooks. They chose an emoji.

Via The Stranger

New Books

Top Ten 2016 Debut Novels We’re Looking Forward to

What books have you excited to ring in 2016? Book bloggers, who are often the best resources for bookish news and reviews, weigh in.

Via Broke and Bookish

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Narrator Edoardo Ballerini on Genres, Beautiful Ruins, and Hollywood

Edoardo Ballerini has had a varied career. He’s had recurring roles in  hit television series such as The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire, and will be in Quarry next year. He’s worked as a stage actor and film producer. He’s also narrated numerous audiobooks, including books by James Patterson, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Cherie Priest.

Ballerini’s father is Italian, and he grew up both in America and Italy, which is part of why he was such a natural fit to narrate Beautiful Ruins. I called him up to talk about Beautiful Ruins, the differences between acting and narrating, and his dream audiobook gig.

[Judy Oldfield]: You’ve narrated several audiobooks of all different sorts, including thrillers and mysteries, like James Patterson’s NYPD series, books about mindfulness, and more literary books like Beautiful Ruins. Do you approach reading for different genres differently?

[Edoardo Ballerini]: Absolutely. I have always said that the narrator’s job is to follow the author, to be as faithful to the text in representing it as possible. So the difference between narrating James Patterson and the Dalai Lama as you can imagine is pretty broad.

I really feel like my job is to be James Patterson as much as I can be when I am narrating James Patterson and to be the Dalai Lama—which is a tall order—when I’m narrating the Dalai Lama. It’s an interesting acting exercise. I feel like the narrator is meant to be as faithful to what is presented as possible, as opposed to let’s say theater, where you can be more interpretive, take your instinct, and do something new and different. I feel like the narrator’s job is not that. And so I do approach the different genres very differently.

[JO]: So then it really does differ from your work as a TV or a movie or a stage actor. Was it hard for you to make that switch when you started narrating audiobooks?

[EB]: No, my background is actually literary. Both my parents were academics and I went to school with the intention of being an academic myself—an English major. And so the world of books—the world of literature—was very natural to me, and it’s something that I had wanted to do for a very long time. It felt like a very comfortable fit for me, and I am so pleased that it worked out the way it has. I’ve met so many wonderful people, and I feel very at home in the world of audiobooks.

[JO]: How were you selected to narrate Beautiful Ruins?

[EB]: That’s an interesting question. A woman named Paula Parker was in charge of producing it in concert with HarperAudio and she knew me from some other work we’d done. She knew I spoke Italian, that I have an Italian background, and that I move between acting genres (meaning I do some in television and some in Hollywood). And along came a title which somehow blended Italy and Hollywood, and so she thought of me.

Beautiful Ruins and I, I feel like, were a match made in heaven. I really feel like if there was ever a book I was meant to narrate, that was it. To me—I’m almost embarrassed to say this—but it was easy. It was an easy book to narrate because it just felt so natural. It just felt like these worlds that were being written, these characters—I knew them all. I didn’t have to do that much outside of myself, and so I remember when I first read it I thought, “Wow, this is going to be special.” And I think the longevity of the success of the audiobook has proven that there was this kind of perfect match of narrator and text.

[JO]: Yeah, I heard Jess Walter talking about audiobooks on his podcast and he said that of his books that have been made into audiobooks, this was definitely his favorite and the only one he can really listen to comfortably.

[EB]: Yeah he said that to me as well. . . . We actually did an event together here in New York where I read a piece of the book and we discussed it in front of the audience and he said to me the same thing, privately, that it’s the only book of his that’s on audio that he can really listen to. So, it was the right pairing. I think casting, be it in audiobooks or be it in film, television, stage, whatever it is, is so important and this was just one of those moments where it all came together in the right way.

[JO]: You talked about having a bit of insider information. How did you feel about his depictions of Italy or Italians?

[EB]: I thought the main character, Pasquale, is a very beautiful character. That was in the sixties portion of the book as readers and listeners might be familiar with. My father is of that generation and so I’ve certainly met a lot of these people, and been to a lot of these smaller towns up the coast. It felt very honest to me. It felt very pure. It felt like this guy really could have existed and I could see him very easily. I thought it was a very honest, fair depiction of an Italian man of that time and that place in a small town, falling in love, and trying to expand his world and trying to break out.

[JO]: And what about Hollywood?

[EB]: The Hollywood characters also felt equally honest. You know, the Michael Dean producer, the young development assistant who is trying to make her way, and her slacker boyfriend. I feel like I’ve met these people a hundred times over.

I think, the success of the book, both in print and in audio, speaks to these chords that it struck in people, that these were real characters, that they lived authentic lives.

[JO]: Do you have a favorite moment in the story?

[EB]: It’s very easily the Richard Burton parts. I mean I know it’s an easy thing to point to, but it was so delicious, these scenes. And believe me, I’m never going to get to play Richard Burton ever again in my life. Just the chance to embody this legendary actor was just so absurd. From what I was told about Burton, it seems that too was an honest depiction of what the man was like. And just the chance to be in his voice and his head—it contrasted with Pasquale who is this beautiful young innocent. Those scenes were so great, they were so great.

[JO]: I know you said that this was almost like the ultimate audiobook for you, but if you had the chance to record any audiobook, what would it be?

[EB]: That’s a tough one. There are so many. You know one that I would love to do, is Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again—which is Thomas Wolfe, not Tom Wolfe. I’m not a Southerner so I probably shouldn’t be asked to do it, but it was a book that had such an impact on me as a young man in college that I would love to do that.

There’s another actually, now that I think about it: Jack London’s Martin Eden. It’s essentially London’s semi-autobiographical story of how he was this sort of brutish sailor who ended up in this wealthy man’s library and was introduced to the world of books and then launched into being a writer. It’s such a beautiful story, I’d love to do Martin Eden. So if anybody’s ever producing Martin Eden please give me a call.

Edoardo Ballerini shows great range as a narrator. Check out some of the many books he’s narrated.

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.

Another Reason to Love James Patterson

Readers love James Patterson for his thrilling plotlines, clever characters, and seemingly never-ending drive that allows him to publish several best sellers each year. His latest in the vast Alex Cross series, Hope to Die, took fans on a riveting journey, as Cross battled criminal masterminds, undergoing a series of trials and tribulations, in order to save his family. In the YA Maximum Ride series, readers engrossed themselves in the avian-human hybrid world of the flock, which saved the world, among other things. Normal everyday issues of marriage, family, and friendship collide with gritty heroism and fast-paced mystery and in his Women’s Murder Club.

But I love him for what he’s done for independent bookstores.

Back in 2013, Patterson took out full-page ads in The New York Times Book Review, Publisher’s Weekly, and Kirkus, asking readers to consider why, given the bank and auto-industry bailouts, the government wouldn’t bail out the book industry.


In 2014, Patterson put his money where his mouth is. Not waiting for a helping hand from the government, Patterson announced that over the course of the year, he would be giving $1 million of his own money to independent bookstores across the country. All stores had to do was apply and note what they would use the money for.

The bookstores must be viable bookstores with a children’s section (Patterson is also the man behind, so sorry, your garage sale doesn’t count. But other than that, stores could decide how to spend the money.

Before cofounding Libro.FM, I worked as an independent publisher for many years. Indie publishing is in my blood, and as a publisher, I have long relied on independent bookstores to place books like Brain Rules into eager hands. But I also understand the sacrifices that go into owning an independent bookstore. Without a big operating budget, upgrades, new programs, or even raises get put off year after year.

None of the grants that James Patterson gave out will fix the publishing industry or save a bookstore from shutting its doors permanently (as I said, the stores must be viable to begin with). But they will have an impact on each store, and that’s important. supports indie stores around the world. Check out our indie bookseller recommendations, including staff picks from Third Place Books (Seattle), Green Apple Books (San Francisco), and Book Passage (San Francisco). As it happens, all three of those stores received money from Patterson. Book Passage was able to buy a bookmobile, that will enable them to travel to more book fairs. Green Apple renovated their floors.

Kevin Ryan and Pete Mulvihill show off the new floor at Green Apple Books, courtesy of a Patterson grant.
Kevin Ryan and Pete Mulvihill show off the new floor at Green Apple Books, courtesy of a Patterson grant.

This year, James Patterson intends to keep supporting independent bookstores. (To recommend a store, visit his page here).

My dream is that we will live in a culture where extra funds aren’t needed to help bookstores distribute great books, curate reading programs, or even keep their roofs up. But I am also a businessman and a pragmatist, so, at least for now, I applaud James Patterson, and keep encouraging my friends and family to shop at their local independent bookstores.

Watch James Patterson discuss his endeavors, along with his romance novel First Love, below.

What’s your favorite indie bookstore? Let us know in the comments. To hear more about James Patterson and similar authors, sign up for our newsletter.