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Posts Tagged ‘friendship’

Jane’s Bookshelf: A Garden of Books for Spring

Friday, March 30th, 2012

JVMWhat does a publisher at the world’s biggest publishing house read for pleasure? (And how does she find the time?) Jane von Mehren is the Senior Vice President and Publisher of Trade Paperbacks at the Random House Publishing Group. Every now and then, she’ll be featuring her favorite reads in her Reader’s Circle column, Jane’s Bookshelf—books that she thinks you’ll love, whether you read them solo or with your club! And if you’re on Twitter, you can follower her tweets at @JaneatRandom.

Language of Flowers PBMy garden is starting to come to life with some daffodils—“new beginnings”—and purple hyacinths—“please forgive me”—though I’m still waiting for the tulips—“declaration of love”. I learned about the meanings of different flowers from Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s magnificent first novel, THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS. The novel’s heroine, Victoria Jones, is a fiercely independent and guarded young woman who is most comfortable communicating through flowers. From the moment Victoria leaves the foster group home where she grew up and enters the world as an adult, she relies on flowers to help her make her way—first when she works at a florist then to communicate with the man she eventually falls in love with. This beautiful story will have you rooting for this lovely, fragile young woman, needing to talk about the twists and turns in her story, as well as looking at every bouquet with a new eye as you try and decode its message.

Clara and MrTiffanyClara Driscoll, who spent decades working for Louis Comfort Tiffany, also knew a lot about flowers, for she was the designer of many of Tiffany’s most famous lamps—including the Wisteria, Lotus, and Laburnum lamps. Susan Vreeland’s novel CLARA AND MR. TIFFANY tells her story, introducing us to this gifted artist who, like so many women even now, must choose between her profession and her heart. Vreeland gives her readers a fascinating look at how both Clara and Tiffany created these gorgeous works of stained glass as well as the complicated friendship the two shared set against the changing social climate at the turn of the 20th century New York City.

Friendship has also been the core of many of my favorite novels: Khaled Hosseini’s THE KITE RUNNER, Kathryn Stockett’s THE HELP, Jane Austen’s SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, and Maeve Binchy’s CIRCLE OF FRIENDS. When I asked readers to name some of their favorites on Twitter they reminded me of others: Patrick Dennis’s AUNTIE MAME, John Knowles’s A SEPARATE PEACE, and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A LITTLE PRINCESS. On LibraryThing, Ann Brashares’s THE SISTERHOOD OFSisterhood Everlasting THE TRAVELING PANTS was mentioned as the third most tagged book about friendship. I hate to confess that I haven’t read the early books in Brashares’s series, but I absolutely adored SISTERHOOD EVERLASTING, the most recent installment and the first to have been published as an adult novel. The foursome—Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget—are about to turn 30 and are finding it harder to stay connected to their best pals as men, careers, and families take up more and more of their time—so they decide to take a trip together to cement their bonds of friendship and sisterhood. I can’t, of course tell you what happens, but let’s just say that Brashares’s novel is so emotionally satisfying and heartwarming that you’ll find yourself calling your BFFs just to say I miss you or sending them a bouquet of saxifrage—“affection”—and freesia—“lasting friendship.”

I’d love to hear about your favorite reads about friendship in the comments below or on Twitter at @JaneatRandom.

Win a copy of Ellen Feldman’s novel NEXT TO LOVE!

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Next to Love TPFor fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, The Postmistress, and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, a story of love, war, loss, and the scars they leave set during the years of World War II and its aftermath.

Set in a small town in Massachusetts, Next to Love follows three childhood friends, Babe, Millie, and Grace, whose lives are unmoored when their men are called to duty. And yet the changes that are thrust upon them move them in directions they never dreamed possible—while their husbands and boyfriends are enduring their own transformations. In the decades that follow, the three friends lose their innocence, struggle to raise their children, and find meaning and love in unexpected places. And as they change, so does America—from a country in which people know their place in the social hierarchy to a world in which feminism, the Civil Rights movement, and technological innovations present new possibilities—and uncertainties. And yet Babe, Millie, and Grace remain bonded by their past, even as their children grow up and away and a new society rises from the ashes of the war.

Beautifully crafted and unforgettable, Next to Love depicts the enduring power of love and friendship, and illuminates a transformational moment in American history.

MWF Seeking BFF: A Reader’s Guide

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

MWF Seeking BFF

Consider these questions if you’re reading Rachel Bertsche’s irresistible memoir, MWF Seeking BFF:

1) After moving to Chicago from New York City, Rachel quickly realized that “friend-making is not the natural process is used to be.”  Why do you think it is so much harder to make friends as adults? Or do you think making friends is as easy now (or easier) than it was when you were a kid?

2) When Rachel writes her BFF “want ad,” she hears from a number of women in her same situation, all of whom are hesitant to admit they too are looking for new friends. Rachel writes, “Popular culture has made it okay to yell ‘I need a man!’ from the rooftops, so why are we still embarrassed to say ‘I want a best friend?’” What do you think? Is it easier to admit you’re looking for love than it is to say you’re in the market for friendship? Why?

3) What would your BFF want-ad look like?

4) After Rachel meets Amanda (friend-date 18) she realizes that her new friend has a blog, and they’ve each blogged about the other. How has social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs) affected your friendships and the way you make new friends?

5) Rachel claims that her husband isn’t her best friend.  “A husband can fill many vital roles—protector, provider, lover—but he can’t be a BFF,” she writes. “Matt is my most intimate companion and the love of my life, But I can’t complain about my husband to my husband. That’s what friends are for.” Do you agree? Or do you think your spouse could be (and maybe should be) your best friend forever?

6) After looking at the relationship research, Rachel claims that when it comes to friends, “more is more.” Do you agree? Or do you believe in quality over quantity?

Bertsche_Rachel7) Have you ever been on a blind friend-date? If yes, what were the circumstances? How did you meet? If no, would you like to? Did MWF Seeking BFF warm you up to the idea of friend-dating? What parts of Rachel’s search would you be willing to incorporate into your own life?

8. At first, Rachel thinks people will find her friendship advances weird or creepy. Eventually, though, she realizes that “it’s not that people are less civilized now, it’s just that we think they are, and so we act accordingly. We don’t reach out unsolicited for fear of being rejected. We don’t talk to new people because we assume they don’t want to be bothered. But as I continue to pursue friendships, I’m constantly surprised at how receptive people are.” Are you surprised that women were receptive to Rachel’s attempts at friendship? How would you have reacted if she had asked you out?

9) Rachel makes clear throughout the book that even though she is looking for new friends, she has plenty of great old friends. What is it about our lifers that makes them so special? Did reading about Rachel’s quest make you appreciate your own lifelong BFFs more?

10) Throughout her search, people tell Rachel she can’t force friendships, they should just happen. Do you think one can successfully search for friendship, or should it always happen naturally?

11) By the end of her quest, Rachel may not have a new BFF but she says she has a “bouquet of friends.” For Rachel, the definition of BFF has changed. She realizes she isn’t as likely to talk on the phone with her best friend every night for two hours like she did when she was 15. Families, careers and responsibilities make that impossible. How has your definition of BFF, or your requirements of your friends, changed over the years?

Jane’s Bookshelf, Volume 1: New Year, New Books

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

JVMWhat does a publisher at the world’s biggest publishing house read for pleasure? (And how does she find the time?) Jane von Mehren is the Senior Vice President and Publisher of Trade Paperbacks at the Random House Publishing Group. Every now and then, she’ll be featuring her favorite new reads in her Reader’s Circle column, Jane’s Bookshelf—books that she thinks you’ll love, whether you read them solo or with your club! And if you’re on Twitter, you can follower her tweets at @janeatrandom.

The AffairEvery year, I use the holiday break as a time to try new authors, revisit favorites, explore genres I don’t often reach for, and catch up on that classic I’ve been meaning to get to. This year, my new author was Lee Child. So many people rave about this series’ hero, Jack Reacher, I had to meet this guy. THE AFFAIR is a perfect place to start since it’s the story of the events that result in his leaving the military and becoming the loner ex-military cop he’s so famous for. I loved being in Reacher’s mind as he investigates the death of a young woman in a small Mississippi town, uncovering a case that is more complex and nuanced than he’s been led to believe. And when he brilliantly outwits the bad guys who definitely don’t want to be found, I cheered, realizing that I too had become a “Reacher creature.”

lonewolfI haven’t read a Jodi Picoult novel in ages, so when an early copy of LONE WOLF (being published by Atria this spring) came my way, I knew I was in for a treat. After an accident leaves Luke in a vegetative state, his estranged son and overprotective daughter must decide his fate in a tale that is emotionally and morally riveting. Luke has spent his life working with wolves, and what you learn about wolf pack behavior resonates beautifully with the story of this family in crisis. Yes, I cried—and yes, there are some painful moments—but I couldn’t stop reading. And the ending has one of those incredible surprises that I didn’t see coming, but was so true and utterly satisfying.

Catherine_the_GreatI have always loved biography, but with so many (often shorter) books on my pile, I don’t read as many as I’d like. Robert Massie’s CATHERINE THE GREAT brings Catherine, who became Empress of Russia in 1762, completely alive in the pages of this masterful portrait, making you understand her as a woman, mother, politician, lover, and ruler. No less impressive is his account of the era’s history and the artistic, military, philosophical, and political events that she controlled for more than three decades.

MadameBovary_transLydiaDavisOnly part way through the classic, Lydia Davis’s translation of MADAME BOVARY, I’ve found myself reading it a bit differently since I’ll be discussing it with my Ladies of Lefferts book club in a couple of weeks. I cherish the conversations and camaraderie of our evenings together, which reminds me of the delightful, witty memoir by Rachel Bertsche, MWF SEEKING BFF we just published. Bertsche writes about how central the book club experience was to her while trying to forge the friendships she craved when she left behind her BFFs in New York and moved to Chicago. She’s right: the combination of delicious food and lively conversation brings people together in an intimate way. As I finish MADAME BOVARY and start 2012, I wish you many a great read, engrossing discussion, and deepened friendship.

Rachel Bertsche’s MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

MWF Seeking BFFI 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.

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Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Let's Take the Long Way HomeThis 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

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Win two copies of Gail Caldwell’s Let’s Take the Long Way Home: one for you, one for a friend!

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Let's Take the Long Way Home

Caldwell_gail“A lovely gift to readers . . . You can shelve Let’s Take the Long Way Home,Gail Caldwell’s beautifully written book . . .  next to The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion’s searing memoir about losing her husband. . . . But that’s assuming it makes it to your shelf: This is a book you’ll want to share with your own ‘necessary pillars of life,’ as Caldwell refers to her nearest and dearest.” —The Washington Post (Best Nonfiction of 2010)

Watch Kelly Corrigan and others on why they love Let’s Take the Long Way Home:

Winners will be chosen randomly and notified on September 1st.

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