Thursday, April 30, 2009

Nick Hornby Recommends

I love Amazon as much as the next public-interest employee, which is to say a lot, because their prices are low. They just are. But that doesn't mean that the collapse of the brick-and-mortar bookstore doesn't depress me - I mean, who doesn't love wandering aimlessly through the aisles of a good book store, browsing, looking for bargains, trying to discover authors you've never read before? What would get people to buy more books, or people who already buy books to buy more? Waterstone, the big British bookseller, has come up with one of those brilliant ideas, like the post-it note, which should have been obvious all along, but, for some reason, wasn't. Waterstone has been designating large tables, prominently displayed at the front of the store, filled with a popular author's favorite books.

Lately, Waterstone picked Nick Hornby for one of these promotions, and he's just about the perfect choice - a good author, but also just engaging and interesting, like a smart friend of yours whose book recommendations you would take to heart. Hornby's selections included several CSD favorites like Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Kurt Vonnegut's The Sires of Titan, Dennis Lehane's Mystic River, Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping, and Michael Lewis' The Blind Side, but also features a slew of books I've never heard of, as well as a few popular-in-the-U.K.-but-obscure-here types. Its as good of a summer reading list as you're going to find anywhere.

If Barnes & Noble (or Borders, who probably needs the help more than B&N) mimicked Waterstone's promotion in this country, which authors would you most like to seem them pick? Whose taste in literature would you guess is the most similar to your own? I for one would love to see what Michael Chabon, Jonathan Franzen and Don DeLillo recommend. Anyone else?


ryan said...

jonathan lethem, please.

Ellen said...

If the author doesn't have to be American, how about Margaret Atwood? Her books span so many genres, it would be interesting to see what's on her shelf.

Wade Garrett said...

Ryan - In that case, you should check out a novel entitled A Meaningful Life, by an author named LJ Davis. It was written in the early 70s, was out of print for decades, and was saved from obscurity by Lethem, who found a second-hand copy and fell in love with it. Its about the first wave of gentrification in what is now Boerum Hill - the same neighborhood and time period about which Lethem wrote in Fortress of Solitude. Lethem pulled some strings to get the book into print again and wrote a preface for the new edition. The NY Times had an article about the author about a month ago.

Ellen - Atwood would be an excellent choice, and I think she's popular enough to pull it off, even though she's Canadian. But an author like Martin Amis, for example, who is enormously popular in other English-speaking countries but far less so in the U.S., probably wouldn't work as well (though I'm sure his recommendations would be excellent.)