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years best

year's best

Everybody’s doing a “Year’s Best” — here’s mine, in completely random order:


  • best romance novel to re-read: The Windflower by Laura London (aka Tom and Sharon Curtis)
  • second-best re-read: Hummingbird by LaVyrle Spencer
  • best best-of list to feature a book by my favorite author (aka, me)
  • funniest YA novel: Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors (there is some big upcoming news on this book and I can’t wait for Suz to spill the beans!)
  • coolest Nora Roberts book: The Hollow
  • novel most likely to send you into therapy: Cost by Roxana Robinson
  • best sobfest: Last Kiss by Luanne Rice
  • funniest: Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
  • most inspiring fiction: Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber
  • best love-your-body women’s fiction: Bikini Season by Sheila Roberts
  • best category romance novel: a tie–The Princess and the Cowboy by Lois Faye Dyer, It’s That Time of Year by Christine Wenger
  • best reissued novel for kids: Looking for Bapu by Anjali Banerjee
  • most overused device in literary fiction: a dead or missing child 😦
  • best serial thriller: Tailspin by Catherine Coulter
  • best book you probably haven’t read but should: People of the Book
  • stranger-than-fiction nonfiction: Identical Strangers by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein
  • best photographs: Life: The Classic Collection
  • biggest slog but worth the effort: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
  • cutest photographs with coolest story: The Daily Coyote by Shreve Stockton
  • best ending: Run by Ann Patchett
  • best holiday themed novel: The Letters by Luanne Rice, tied with A Virgin River Christmas by Robyn Carr
  • best escape: Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard
  • beach read most likely to make you forget you’re at the beach: The Secret Between Us by Barbara Delinsky
  • book that’s making all the “best-of” lists that people only pretend to have read: A Mercy by Toni Morrison
  • favorite best-of list
  • best-of list of books you probably won’t read
  • best first novel: Oxygen by Carol Cassella
  • best not-yet-published novel: Dog Days by Elsa Watson
  • best book about books: Book Lust and More Book Lust by Nancy Pearl
Use me...dont abuse me.

Use me...don't abuse me.

It’s nothing new (pun intended)–used book sales have been a part of the publishing equation ever since the first undergrad sold her first college textbook back to the bookstore in order to get money for Christmas presents. A book is one of those things that is the same whether new or used, content-wise, anyway.

With online swap sites making it ridiculously easy to acquire books for little more than shipping costs, the impact is finally taking a heavy toll on publishers and authors. The book you buy for a penny + shipping is a sale that will never show up on a royalty statement. No one except the reseller and the post office will see a penny from the transaction. Yet it’s not the reader’s job to care about this. Like any responsible person, the reader is probably looking for the most economical way to indulge her passion. I don’t blame her. I’ve bought plenty of second-hand books in my time. The used book I buy today was once manufactured and sold new, and the publisher, bookseller and author each got their cut. Now the book has been released into the wild, and any further readers it finds are simply a bonus. In my genre, books go out of print quickly, often within months of their release, so having them available used is a way to keep the backlist alive. I don’t make money from those sales, but I might find new readers.

The New York Times weighs in here with “Bargain Hunting for Books, and Feeling Sheepish About It” by David Streitfeld. The headline sums up the dilemma. We love books so much that we can’t get enough of them. But we’d go broke, buying everything at premium prices, so we buy used books, even knowing that some publisher’s sales are going to slip, and some author might find herself out of work.

Streitfeld is frank about his motives and methods. He’s an avid reader whose appetite for books conflicts with his sense of responsibility. I do wish the article had offered the obvious solution. People who want books at no cost should borrow them from the library. That way, everybody wins. The reader pays nothing for the book, the library wins a patron, the publisher sells a new book and the writer gets her royalties. Okay, so maybe the independent bookstore is left out of the equation, but in my community, the library and bookstore often cooperate.

These days, many libraries offer the option of downloading an audio or e-book directly to your home computer, so you don’t even have to go anywhere.

Where do you weigh in on the debate? Do you buy books new to support the industry? Do you buy them used to save money? Or do you use the library?

I clicked the used-book aggregator link in the NYT article to look up my own books. Somebody’s charging $292 for a copy of my novel, The Lightkeeper. Good gawd. I’d sell it to you for half that price.

Snowfall at Willow Lake is a finalist for a Reviewer’s Choice Award from RT Book Reviews. RT is the one publication that has reviewed every novel I’ve ever written. Thanks, RT!

And here’s something wonderful: Romantic Times readers have compiled a list of the 1001 Best Romance Novels of all time and two of my books are on there. Can you guess which two?

I couldn’t!

Do you remember the magic of your first book? The first book I ever bought with my own money was Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss. I scrounged up all my pennies, quarties and Kennedy half-dollars and bought it at Thrifty Westie’s in Portville, New York. It’s one of my most vivid memories as a reader. I read that book over and over, memorized stanzas of the bouncy language and slept with it under my pillow.

Give them books...give them wings

Give them books...give them wings

In Salon, Gary Kamiya wrote, “There are certain books that become a permanent part of your life, like an old tree that stands at the bend of a favorite path. You may not notice them, but if they were taken away, the world would be less mysterious, less friendly, less itself. …[I]t is a complete world. And like the old friend that it is, it always welcomes you back.”

Okay, so Yertle the Turtle isn’t War and Peace. Doesn’t matter. It’s the magic that matters. Owning a book gave me wings. That’s why I want every child ever born to have a book of her own. And I’m not alone. Here’s a way to knock out that “OMIGAWD I forgot to get something for Aunt Myrna!” feeling that strikes you as you rush out the door to a family gathering–make a donation to literacy in her honor, print out the acknowledgment and stick it in a pretty card. Here’s the perfect place to donate:

First Book provides new books to children in need addressing one of the most important factors affecting literacy – access to books. An innovative leader in social enterprise, First Book has distributed more than 60 million free and low cost books to disadvantaged children. First Book now has offices in the U.S. and Canada.

And check it out on Charity Navigator–it gets its highest rating for efficient use of your donation. Do it. Do it now. Give a kid a book–it’s like giving her a set of wings. Trust me on this.

Here is the last-minute “I had no idea it was Christmas-smack me upside the head” gift guide that will also make you the favorite this year. Not that we’re competitive in this family, but come on. Here’s a project for those snowed-in, shopped-out days before Christmas. Go to Google Images or some other image-finding place and search out some shots of your  mother’s favorite places. You get bonus points for finding favorite childhood places, and if they have a vintage look, all the better. Make some prints on good-quality paper and make a collage in a frame you have hanging around (pun intended).

If that’s not simple enough, check this out. You get a classy (but hilarious) calendar in your e-mail, for printing out on nice paper. There’s a design for girls and one for guys. “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

What are some of your favorite places? Send yourself a postcard.

…but my friend Sheila did! Here’s a free Christmas short story she wrote. Okay, so I did get you something. I got you that link. Now I’m exhausted. Pass the eggnog.

the smart shopper stays home

the smart shopper stays home

It’s nothing but fun! Wheee! See the whole slide show here.

Barkis is zooming

Barkis is zooming

a Christmas-y house in my neighborhood, taken by Jay with the trusty cell phone:

waiting for Christmas...

waiting for Christmas...

Even if you’ve seen this before (it’s had like a bajillion views on YouTube), it’s worth watching again. Pretty much the best dog-in-the-snow video ever:

Join me on Facebook. You won’t be sorry.

I tend to spontaneously give stuff away to readers and libraries. Join the fun here. Really.

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December 2008