“I couldn’t put it down.” – Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project
When Rachel Bertsche first moves to Chicago, she’s thrilled to finally share a zip code, let alone an apartment, with her boyfriend. But shortly after getting married, Bertsche realizes that her new life is missing one thing: friends. Sure, she has plenty of BFFs—in New York and San Francisco and Boston and Washington, D.C. Still, in her adopted hometown, there’s no one to call at the last minute for girl talk over brunch or a reality-TV marathon over a bottle of wine. Taking matters into her own hands, Bertsche develops a plan: She’ll go on fifty-two friend-dates, one per week for a year, in hopes of meeting her new Best Friend Forever.
In her thought-provoking, uproarious memoir, Bertsche blends the story of her girl-dates (whom she meets everywhere from improv class to friend rental websites) with the latest social research to examine how difficult—and hilariously awkward—it is to make new friends as an adult. In a time when women will happily announce they need a man but are embarrassed to admit they need a BFF, Bertsche uncovers the reality that no matter how great your love life is, you’ve gotta have friends.
This summer, Reader’s Circle is proud to present in paperback one of the best memoirs we’ve read in years. A few months ago, as we started to think about publishing Gail Caldwell’s extraordinary memoir in paperback, we remembered all the many readers, bloggers, authors, and reviewers who loved it when it first appeared in hardcover, and we thought: why not capture some of them on film? The result is a moving testimony to the power of Let’s Take the Long Way Home. As Time magazine said when it named the book one of its top ten nonfiction titles of 2010, this is a memoir “meant to be savored and shared.” We hope you and your book clubs will read this and agree that it’s an experience best fulfilled by passing it on to the friends in your life who mean the most to you. And we hope you’ll share this video with them too!
Included in the video are Kelly Corrigan, bestselling author of The Middle Place; Carol Fitzgerald, president of The Book Report Network; Bethanne Patrick, editor of Shelf Awareness; Esther Bushell, founder of LiteraryMatters.com; and Jesse Kornbluth, editor of HeadButler.com.
“Stunning . . . gorgeous . . . A book of such crystalline truth that it makes the heart ache.”—The Boston Globe
By implementing the key strategies in Dr. Meeker’s book, you can be happy, hopeful, and a wonderful role model. You can teach your children to be the very best they can be—and isn’t that still the most precious reward of motherhood?
Here are Dr. Meeker’s 10 Habits:
#1 UNDERSTAND YOUR VALUE AS A MOTHER
#2 MAINTAIN KEY FRIENDSHIPS
#3 VALUE AND PRACTICE FAITH
#4 SAY NO TO COMPETITION
#5 CREATE A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH MONEY
#6 MAKE TIME FOR SOLITUDE
#7 GIVE AND GET LOVE IN HEALTHY WAYS
#8 FIND WAYS TO LIVE SIMPLY
#9 LET GO OF FEAR
#10 HOPE IS A DECISION – SO MAKE IT!
“I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.” –Ernest Hemingway
A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, Paula McLain’s stunning novel The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and an extraordinary love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley. Set during the same period as Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises, Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife brilliantly captures the voice and heart of Hadley Hemingway as she struggles with her roles as a woman—wife, lover, muse, friend, and mother—and tries to find her place in the intoxicating and tumultuous world of Paris in the twenties.
After you read The Paris Wife you will want nothing more than to experience the streets of Paris yourself. And now you can win a round trip vacation! Enter now for your chance to win the Grand prize: a week long trip for two (2) to Paris including airfare, hotel and transportation to and from the Airport, and a copy of the book The Paris Wife. 10 runner-up winners will receive a copy of book The Paris Wife. Click here to learn more!
Hosted by Kathy Patrick, Beauty and the Book is a great new series of your favorite authors discussing their books. Each week the show will feature a new and exciting author interview (among others, Pat Conroy, Lisa See, Yann Martel, and Helen Simonson are on the schedule) along with entertaining tips and makeovers.
After an amazing run in hardcover, Wes Moore’smemoir The Other Wes Moore is now out in paperback.
Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence? Wes Moore, the author of this fascinating book, sets out to answer this profound question.
New York- based journalist, author, and novelist Farai Chideya spoke by telephone with Wes Moore about his story, the other Wes Moore’s story, and what we can all do to help bridge the opportunity gap that plagues our society. Their conversation was originally published in SMITH Magazine on June 22, 2010.
Farai Chideya: You talk about the South Bronx so beautifully in your book and how it has changed between the time your grandparents bought a house there in the fifties and when you moved there in the eighties. How did you first come to understand place?
Wes Moore: I think the first time I really understood place was actually when I first started to understand my need to be a part of one, and I felt myself having difficulty finding that. As I was in the Bronx and started getting older and going through that burgeoning process of manhood, and tried to get that understanding of what that felt like and what that was—and my mother was working multiple jobs to send me to the school across town—I increasingly found myself “too rich” for the kids in my neighborhood. I was one of the only kids in my class that didn’t go to school in the area. But as I went across town for this other school, I found myself being “too poor” for the kids in my school because they didn’t understand anything about my background or why I was one of the only kids in the school who had to travel an hour- plus to get to school. That’s the first time I started to understand place and my role and my footing because I found myself searching for it—I found myself searching for that comfort, that support, that acceptance that seemed so elusive at every turn. I just found myself increasingly more uncomfortable everywhere I went.
FC: One of the moments in your book that had me cracking up was that, because your family was financially strapped, you actually sometimes wore your older sister’s pants to school. You say that you thought you could pull it off, but in retrospect people were probably rolling their eyes. You have a lot of moments like that in your book, lightness and humor in a book that has a lot of tough moments, starting with the death of your father prematurely on.
WM: That definitely came through in the first draft. One thing I realized throughout this process very early was that if I was going to do any justice to this process, I needed to be transparent, I needed to be honest about it. As I was going on thinking about my life there were a lot of lighthearted, humorous moments and I wanted to make sure that my story highlighted that—and Wes’s story also. This wasn’t just some purely macabre story about how bad things are, but about reality and about the reality of all of our lives. And the fact is there were, even in the midst of chaos, a lot of lighthearted moments that not only are important to remember, but also helped you kinda get by, particularly as you think back in retrospect and you can look at them from a different place. There were things that really came out in the first draft and ended up making it to the final cut.
FC: Let’s talk about the other Wes Moore. You have spent hundreds of hours with him at this point, but you didn’t grow up with him. You write about his interior narrative very convincingly. Did you ever think you crossed the line and took too many liberties with how you constructed his life on paper? How did you hit the right tone?
WM: My talks with the other Wes Moore were free- ranging conversations where you’d be asking one question and the next thing you know it’s an hour later and you’ve got all these amazing anecdotes, and these amazing facts, and these amazing stories that you’re going to have to go back and make sense of and let them process once you’ve done your transcription. It wasn’t about me coming up with a framework and having him fill in the colors in between the lines. It was more taking what he was giving me and then processing it, and I think a lot of that came from Wes. The format of the book wasn’t something I came into the process with. It wasn’t like I came in and said, “Okay, we’re going to go over these couple of years: tell me about 1982, tell me about 1984.” It really was about hearing these different stories, and that was when I started noticing a pattern and noticing a trend. Some of the years where Wes had some of the most influential and important factors in his life ironically took place in my life [as well]. It was really taking what he gave me and being able to process it from there.
FC: Do you think you ever overstepped the line in turning his life into prose?
WM: No, not at all. It’s interesting because Wes was one of the people who really pushed me to write this book when I was first approached by author and publicist Terrie Williams. She knew that I had reached out to Wes and I had gotten to know him. She said, “I think this is something bigger, I think this could be a book.” I was at first very reluctant, and told her, “I don’t know, Terrie.” There were two things that pushed me over. One was that I thought about the tragic death of the police officer, and I thought if I could do something that would help keep these tragedies from happening again, I think it’s necessary and could be useful. And then I thought about something that Wes told me. He told me, “I’ve wasted every opportunity in my life and I’m going to die in here, and if you can do something that can help people better understand the ramifications of their decisions and also understand the neighborhoods these decisions are being made in, then I think you should do it.”
FC: My mother was a Baltimore City school teacher; the other Wes Moore is from Baltimore and you really paint a picture of his struggles as a smart kid in tough schools. When I read your book I thought of my mother. Some of the kids she taught sixth grade science to went on to get MDs and PhDs. Others were in the drug game and shot dead on the street. Their potential was wasted.
WM: Wasted is really the best word to use. One of the things I want to show is: this is not a dumb guy. This book is not a celebration of the exception, this is a book that questions why we even have exceptions in our society in the first place. There’s very little [that] separates us and someone else altogether. That’s one of the things I wanted to show with Wes—had that intervention been there, had those supports been there, had there been a certain level of attention instead of a certain level of apathy about his final destiny, I can’t help but think that things would be different.
FC: You mentioned your book was originally supposed to be more prescriptive. What do you hope this book can do for readers, for kids, for society?
WM: I wanted people to understand their potency and I wanted people to actually do something about it. In addition to the call to action, I wanted to add all of these organizations where people could get involved, and all of them are vetted organizations that would love to hear from you, either if you’re looking for help or you’re looking to help. That was genuinely important to me, because one thing the book helps to show is that if we’re willing to get engaged, if we’re willing to get involved, then we can really make a substantial and permanent impact, not just in the life of someone else, but in the life of our entire society.
FC: How does being an author and the process of writing compare to being a paratrooper or a Rhodes Scholar or a White House Fellow—some of the other roles you’ve played?
WM: I think some of the things I had done before really prepared me to be a writer in some ways. First of all, writing takes a real level of discipline. For example, with my schedule I would wake up at 5:15 a.m. and write for a couple of hours before getting ready to go to work, and then go work my day job for the rest of the day. There were some mornings I would literally sit in front of the computer for an hour with nothing to say, but I forced myself to go through this process because I knew that was the only time I could really efficiently get it out. When you wake up reading articles about a father of five, a police officer that went to work one day and will never come home, and then you read letters from someone who will spend the rest of their life in prison, it adds a certain level of humility to your day and a certain level of clarity in a certain context. Everything I did before helped me respect the discipline of writing.
FC: Your life has intersected in different ways with different types of African diasporic histories. Your family has roots in Jamaica and Cuba as well as the U.S. I’m wondering how you think of blackness in the twenty-first century, since we are so much more diverse in terms of immigrant groups influencing American blackness and we’re also at a critical point in history.
WM: One thing that I have always been taught and believed in is understanding our past and our history and our roots. Not just for where you’re going—understand where you come from. There’s a certain pride in that. When you think about not just my family but the larger diasporic movements, and the evolutions and the successes and the victories that have taken place, it has really been pretty extraordinary. It’s something that gives me a great sense of pride, it’s something that gives me a really strong foundation in terms of where we can go, because I really do appreciate where we’ve come from.
FC: One of the pivotal moments in your book is when your family sends you to military school in order to get you off the streets of the South Bronx. You went on to train as a paratrooper and serve in Afghanistan. How can veterans get what they need from our nation?
WM: One of the partner nonprofits we have throughout the book tour is Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the first and largest organization that supports younger veterans, particularly from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. We’ll spend so much time giving soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines support when they are overseas, and then when they come home it stops. Something that was really important to me—this is personal—I saw the challenges that so many families, including my own, had to deal with having someone deployed and not knowing who is coming home to you. If we are going to send people overseas to fight, then we need to support them [when they come home] as much as we did overseas.
FC: It seems like today, versus when I was growing up, there is more of a disconnect between the role[s] of servicemen and women and other citizens. Right now, maybe people are fatigued from the war, but it doesn’t seem as if we are having a dialogue.
WM: We’ve been in Afghanistan for close to a decade, and you think about the amount of casualties we’ve had in Afghanistan and the casualties we’ve had in Iraq. But if you ask people what the biggest issue in the country is, I don’t know where the fact that we have more than a hundred thousand troops serving fits in their consciousness. Less than 1 percent of the population has served. Less than 1 percent really knows from a firsthand experience what it’s really like over there. In terms of what can be done, a lot of it will be up to not only the citizenry and population, but also up to the policy makers to make sure that this is a group on Americans’ minds.
FC: And finally, Wes Moore, what’s your Six-Word Memoir?
After a year in paperback, Jamie Ford’s bestselling debut novel enters the top 10 on the New York Times paperback fiction bestseller list. To celebrate (and to continue celebrating National Reading Group Month) we wanted to share the reading guide, video with readers who haven’t yet discovered this gem of a novel. And for those who have, check out Jamie’s never-ending book tour!
“Explores the age-old conflicts between father and son, the beauty and sadness of what happened to Japanese Americans in the Seattle area during World War II, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love. An impressive, bitter, and sweet debut.”
-–Lisa See, bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
1. Father- son relationships are a crucial theme in the novel. Talk about some of these relationships and how they are shaped by culture and time. For example, how is the relationship between Henry and his father different from that between Henry and Marty? What accounts for the differences?
2. If you were Henry, would you be able to forgive your father? Does Henry’s father deserve forgiveness?
3. From the beginning of the novel, Henry wears the “I am Chinese” button given to him by his father. What is the significance of this button and its message, and how does Henry’s understanding of that message change by the end of the novel?
4. The United States has been called a nation of immigrants. In what ways do the families of Keiko and Henry illustrate different aspects of the American immigrant experience?
5. If a novel could have a soundtrack, this one would be jazz. What is it about this indigenous form of American music that makes it an especially appropriate choice?
6. Henry’s mother comes from a culture in which wives are subservient to their husbands. Given this background, do you think she could have done more to help Henry in his struggles against his father? Is her loyalty to her husband a betrayal of her son?
7. Compare Marty’s relationship with Samantha to Henry’s relationship with Keiko. What other examples can you find in the novel of love that is forbidden or that crosses boundaries of one kind or another?
8. What struggles did your own ancestors have as immigrants to America, and to what extent did they incorporate aspects of their cultural heritage into their new identities as Americans?
9. What sacrifices do the characters make in pursuit of their dreams for themselves and for others? Do you think any characters sacrifice too much, or for the wrong reasons? Consider the sacrifices Mr. Okabe makes, for example, and those of Mr. Lee. Both fathers are acting for the sake of their children, yet the results are quite different. Why?
10. Was the U.S. government right or wrong to “relocate” Japanese Americans and other citizens and residents who had emigrated from countries the U.S. was fighting in WWII? Was some kind of action necessary following Pearl Harbor? Could the government have done more to safeguard civil rights while protecting national security?