Tag Archives: best seller

Study This: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

I’ve already written about The Summer Before the War—which I read first (and which is, in fact, the more accomplished novel)—but I really enjoyed Helen Simonson’s novel-writing skills in Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (the New York Times calls it “funny, barbed, delightfully winsome storytelling”) and I think there’s a lot to learn from reading her. Indeed, the […]

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Possible … Not Probable

Some years ago in a weak moment I fell victim to some mediocre book marketing—“follow-up to the international best-selling Pillars of the Earth!”—and purchased Ken Follett’s World Without End, a one thousand–page historical novel. I’d read and enjoyed his early work*—Eye of the Needle (1978), Triple (1979), The Key to Rebecca (1980), The Man from […]

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A Look Inside the Biz

Sometimes you come across miraculously insightful information where you least expect it. Like, in the pages of your Entertainment Weekly magazine. I’ll explain. Every writer I know—published or unpublished, experienced or less experienced—wants to know the magic formula to getting published. We’ve talked about this before. There is a formula. It’s very simple—just three things: […]

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Study This: The Summer Before the War

It’s nearly 500 pages long—and I flew through Helen Simonson’s second novel set in an English village. I never wanted to put it down. Also, it made me angry (on behalf of a character I loved), and it made me cry a couple times. This is a sign that I was fully invested—in the characters, […]

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My Favorite Book v. 2015 (#MyReadingYear)

Back in 2012 I wrote an article called “My Favorite Book … This Year.” I do track what I read, and I know my reading tastes well enough that I generally end up with a year’s worth of excellent books. They should all be favorites—but there are always some standouts. The year past is no […]

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Short Saturday: Best Seller Versus Literary Staying Power

I’ve had more than one occasion to look up best-seller lists from decades past, often when I’m researching for this blog. I’ve read my share of books (and my mother read a lot before me, so those books were around the house when I was growing up), but … I haven’t always read the year’s best […]

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Study This: Us

I’ve written about David Nicholls before.* If you’ve been around here long, you’ll know I truly loved—loved—One Day, but the fact is, I’ve read all his novels, in order, and I’ve enjoyed them all. In brief, having just reviewed those old articles, here’s what I said: • felt real; 1980s; had something to say about […]

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Short Saturday: Editing the Dead

I read quite a bit of Shirley Jackson’s fiction in middle and high school—lots of her short stories, and the “fictionalized memoirs” Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons. Since the former begins with a family that has “two children and about five thousand books,” I immediately identified with them. (Our family had three children […]

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I’m a Fan of Books, So Are You, and It’s All Good

One meaning of the word fan, according to my fave dictionary, is “an enthusiastic devotee of a sport (as baseball) or diversion (as ballet) usually as a spectator rather than a participant” and/or “an ardent admirer or champion (as of a person, technique, or pursuit).” In this sense, it’s probably short for fanatic and was […]

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Ann Patchett on Practice Writing

Not too long ago I ran a post I called “Trains, Planes, and Pen Names (and Practice).” It is about authors—well known, award-winning authors—who, before they became well known award winners, did all sorts of writing to pay the bills. And, not coincidentally, honed their writing chops. These writers were fairly open about the general […]

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