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For National Short Story Month, a Game of Exquisite Corpse
Posted by jade on May 01, 2013

What's the best way to celebrate May's National Short Story Month? With a brand-new short story, of course!

We've enlisted 15 brave and brilliant authors, starting with Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan, for a bout of Exquisite Corpse—the classic parlor game popularized by the Surrealists, wherein each participant continues a story based only on the previous person's lines.

All of the writers are seeing the full story for the first time with this post, but our Internet experiment isn't over. Last up was the legendary Margaret Atwood, and now it's your turn. Keep the game going in the comments section!

Jennifer Egan
Author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, The Keep, and
Look at Me.
My oldest brother had a best friend in grade school and high school and even into young adulthood called Jack Anderson. Jack was one of those people you could look at at any age and say that he hadn't changed at all. He was the boisterous impresario; as a little boy he'd traded in action figures and contraband candy; as a teen he was the keg bearer, the late night swimmer, the deflowerer—the rascal that no one could ever seem to stay mad at for too long.
My brother eventually moved to the city, and when I graduated, I followed him there. We allowed ourselves to drift apart, tethered only by the occasional phone call or a slice of pizza at the joint halfway between our apartments—it was hard to talk and we both reminded each other too much of home. Jack was in the city, too, but I never once saw him the whole seven years I was there. In fact, I didn't see Jack again until he showed up to my brother's funeral. I found him in the parking lot after the service and asked him how he could show his face here, after what had happened, and he said, "I love you, but you have no idea what happened."
Charles Yu
Author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, Third Class Superhero, and Sorry Please Thank You.

Francesca Lia Block
Author of Weetzie Bat, The Elementals, and the upcoming Love in the Time
of Global Warming
I guess no one really does know. What happened. What ever happens. It is all filtered through our perceptions, and mostly our pain. Once in a parking lot much like this one Jack had confessed a secret to me. That was before the harm had been done. Maybe that moment was the beginning of it—the doing of harm. Now, seeing him with the lines on his forehead and around his eyes, testaments to each worry and shock of the past ten years, I wished we were leaning against his pickup truck with the moon looming above us and the loss erased from our faces as easily as light eradicates shadow. Mostly, I wished with a sick ache, that my brother was still alive. And that Jack had never whispered those words into my ear.
Wished that he had never said, "The moon, the sun, the stars, the sea, the sky, and the clouds have their meaning and I have mine. Your face is my meaning, your eyes that take in the visible world are my meaning, you are my meaning and my secret."
Frederic Tuten
Author of Tintin in the New World, The Adventures of Mao on the Long March, and Self Portraits: Fictions.

Robin Sloan
Author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and
Annabel Scheme.
Mostly because it was such an expensive thing to say. Forty-three words at six bucks each. Each had to be transcoded, amplified, packed in bosons, and flung across the rift at something close to the speed of light. The leading edge of his monologue had probably reached the other side by now. THE MOON, THE SUN. . . No, it was good. It had been the right thing to say. He swiped his card ($270 with tax) and stepped away from the microphone. The next customer had his message ready to go, written out on the back of a receipt. Just three words: RETURN TO ME. Smart.
He went over his message in his mind, once it was sent. Wondering if he should have said something different. Even the order of the words felt wrong. Too late now. It'd be months before a response was possible, even if anyone was still out there to hear, or to understand. Months now of waiting: alternately urgent and forgetful. Months of thinking sometimes: "Have they seen it? Are they sending a message back now, or now, or now?" and finding the not-knowing unbearable.

Some people had themselves suspended during the wait, closed down in a frosty sleep so that they'd be fresh and perky for the reply, if it came. But then sometimes the Sleep-Your-Cares-Away booths broke, in uncomfortable ways. Or got stolen—especially if you looked a little odd, you might end up displayed on someone's private channel for amusement. Or worse than amusement. No, if you wanted to continue to have a say in what happened to your various organs, you'd have to endure the wait.

Naomi Alderman
Author of Disobedience, The Lessons, and The Liars' Gospel.

Heather Cocks
Jessica Morgan
Authors of Spoiled, Messy, and the popular blog
Go Fug Yourself.
But what to do during the wait? He wandered over to the compound's extensive fridge and pondered the endless array of compact, clear bottles, each filled by precise government equipment to the same prescribed line. Ever since the Veganing, nobody drank anything but juices with unappetizing names like Bowels Be Free (cayenne, lemon juice, and a painfully effective dose of salmonella), or Pressed Begonia, Saffron, and Baconberry, the product of creative gardeners who bred "natural" berries that tasted like outlawed meats, a conciliatory gesture from the Overlord that rang, to him, as hollow as his stomach. He picked out an unlabeled orange concoction—juices of that color tended to be the least disgusting—and took a tentative sip. It tasted like a partially frozen meatball parm. It would do.

Rubbing his eyes, he felt overcome with a sense of put-upon tedium. Why was it always him in charge of the menial tasks? Why couldn't they have made him await The Answer at the beginning of the new TV season? Couldn't his brother have snuck him more than one bag of black market potato chips? Patrick was the only person he knew who was able to get contraband, and it was highly inconvenient that he'd taken that knowledge with him to the dream sphere. A post-Veganing world was no place for a person who once only ate whatever they used to sell at gas stations; he found it blasphemous to jam nuts in some tofu, coat it with hardened turnip milk, and call it a Snickers, but it was treason to question the Overlord's cookbooks. His stomach rumbled, and he sighed. Might as well make the rounds.

Supervising the Sleep Booths was the creepiest of his tasks he'd been stuck with, as it involved essentially spying on someone's most vulnerable moment. But no one else was awake to do it, and at the very least he felt he should be rewarded for the upcoming months of loneliness by gazing at the one person whose visage could fill him up the way juices never did, the person he was too afraid to drink in with his eyes when she was awake and could look back. He slid his ID card through the slot and punched in his passcode—her birthday, of course—and as his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he blinked, then blinked again. He'd expected to see her curled up in Booth 137J, a teasing smile playing at her lips as her eyelids twitched with an elaborate dream. Instead, he was staring at a locked, seemingly unbreached, and totally empty space.
Instinctively he peeped the live cam at the head of Booth 137J, streaming video from every booth every day every minute. Whatever had happened to her had probably already been viewed. Being first on the scene was no guarantee you were the initial witness. In fact there might be others on the way already, and not menial task guys like him. So he hit the green button at the base of Booth 137J thinking he might do her the favor of destroying evidence. Evidence of what? Who knew? The shatterproof lid squeaked and rattled as it slid backward, even the Overlord couldn't guarantee great equipment. He leaned over the bed of the booth. Where had she gone? Was she safe? As he reached out his hand he hesitated. He turned his ear to the booth. Faintly he heard it. Heard her. Still there. In there. Breathing. He must've gasped or cried out because she stirred. The empty booth groaned. Her disembodied voice, the one he could never mistake, said, "Is it my shift already?" The live cam practically purred as it corroborated the miracle.
Victor LaValle
Author of The Devil in Silver, Big Machine, and The Ecstatic.

Anne Lamott
Author of Imperfect Birds, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing, and Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith.
She was alive. His heart fluttered with relief, and then fear. His mind raced, but he had to think clearly: yes, she was his only real friend here, one of the few people he could still trust. Yet her very existence called his own into jeopardy.
She knew about the key, had seen it, the brass-plated skeleton key.
Was there a way for them both to come out of this unharmed? It did not seem possible. Yet he cared for her, maybe even loved her.
Again she called out softly. "I don't want to be late," she said.
"Let's go." With just two words, he had allied himself with her; pitted himself against the Organization. It was stupid, madness, but he knew that he didn't really have a choice. Hadn't had a choice since she'd broken through the fever of his dreams, drawn out of that terrible liquid suspension, that murky place between alive and not.
She took his hand. Her touch made everything shift, made him feel, just for a moment, as if everything would be all right.
There was a faint click; and then a deafening roar, as the world exploded.

Lauren Oliver
Author of Delirium, Before I Fall, and Leisl & Po.

Craig Johnson
Author of The Cold Dish, Death Without Company, and the upcoming A Serpent's Tooth.
The door to the playground flew open, and it was, as he'd expected, a mad house.
Still clutching his wife's hand, he looked into the limpid pools of her eyes, the same terror there as in his own. Who would've thought that getting their child into school would be this difficult, this competitive, this. . .dangerous? He squeezed Bianca's hand as a young, blond woman with an eye patch approached, floating along upon the wave of screaming, miniature minions who flowed in a current around their knees like blood-thirsty piranhas.
"Can I help you?"
Snatching off his Tom Ford Marko TF144 sunglasses and jutting his chin forward, he let her know just with whom she was dealing. "We're here for the interview with the Organization's Advanced Preschool?"
She nodded. "The Jones'—is that correct?"
She caught him studying her patch, and he wondered if it was real or just a clever disguise; who knew what evil machinations labored behind the darkness of that hidden and all-seeing eye?
"It's pirate day."
Of course it was pirate day. That was the thing about schools as exclusive as this one: every day had to be something MORE than simply what it was. Just looking over the materials—OK, studying as if a life itself depended on it, which if you believed the hype was actually the case—he'd felt a mix of both awe and horror at how much preschool had changed since his own childhood. He remembered practicing letters, making macaroni necklaces, sitting in circles to start the day. At this school, however, if she were to get in, his daughter would be learning Mandarin, practicing the art of French pastry, and doing a daily yoga practice. And that was just in one week! He swallowed, looking around the room again at the children, who were now basically attacking the play stations, voices raised. This was not just the future. This was his future. And it scared him to death.
Sarah Dessen
Author of The Truth About Forever, Just Listen, and the upcoming The Moon and More.

Valerie Martin
Author of Property, Mary Reilly, and The Confessions of Edward Day.
"Ahoy Matey."
He looked away from the looting of the play stations into the amused dark eyes of a tall female pirate. Piratess? Her blouse was ruffled and she wore a red sash about her hips, in which she had thrust a plastic sword.
"You look like you've had your timbers shivered," she observed.
He frowned. He recognized the scream from the huddle at the water table as his daughter's. She made up for her size with powerful lungs and when pressed, as she was now, by two runty boys who were trying to wrest a wooden boat from her grip of steel, she could sometimes achieve a sonic triumph. He fought down his urge to rush to her rescue. Parents were not to interfere in the children's squabbles. Learning was taking place. Children didn't need prodding to learn; they should be free to follow their interests. Even the yoga classes and Mandarin Chinese would be "facilitated" rather than "taught." He'd read all that in the brochure. "Are you one of the teachers?" he asked the piratess glumly.
"Are you kidding," she replied. "Do you think they'd let a teacher in here with a weapon?"
Just then the screaming intensified. The water table had gone over. For a moment, in the company of the piratess and in possession of a screaming headache, he was tempted to let the children "learn" their way through the mess. But his daughter's costume—a robot ensemble that he had spent hours making with cardboard boxes, tinfoil, and hangers—would melt if it became too wet (although she looked like the Tin Man, in matters of water-solubility she was more Wicked Witch).
He sighed and went to rescue her.

Ally Condie
Author of Matched, Crossed, and Yearbook.

Margaret Atwood
Author of The Handmaid's Tale, The Blind Assassin, and the upcoming MaddAddam.
But just as he touched her, a horrifying transformation took place. Tiny fangs sprouted from her rosebud mouth, her blue eyes gleamed red, and leathery wings unfolded from her shoulders. She slipped his grasp, and with a banshee screech vanished up the chimney. The diminutive pirates and Munchkins gasped in astonishment. "How'd you do that?" one of them asked.
"I didn't do it," he replied. But he knew who had done it: his estranged first wife, Glamorgan, repudiated long ago in his search for a normal life. He'd cast her off when he'd traded his black unitard with the skull on it for the standard jeans and Ts of the doting father. He should never have referred to her as "that Satanist bitch" in an e-mail to a mutual friend from those magic days—magic in every sense of the word. The Internet leaked like a sieve. Now she'd made a vengeful move and stolen his beloved daughter.
He clenched his jaw. All right, it's war, he thought. Now where had he put that amulet?
"Don't worry, kids, your parents will be here soon," he said reassuringly. He'd shoo them out the door as fast as possible. Then it would be his move.
En garde, Glamorgan, he whispered.

Where is the brass-plated skeleton key? Does Glamorgan end up meeting Jack Anderson? Will the hero's daughter ever learn to speak Mandarin? The story is now yours, Goodreads writers!

Live Video Chat with Terry Brooks, Today at 2pm ET/11am PT
Posted by Patrick Brown on April 29, 2013

Join us today at 2pm ET/11am PT for a live video chat with legendary, bestselling fantasy author Terry Brooks. We'll be talking about his latest book, The Bloodfire Quest, the second in his series The Dark Legacy of Shannarah, as well as his previous work and his life as a writer. Don't miss your chance to ask a question of this titan of the genre!

To watch a recording of the chat, click here.
What Shakespeare Play Should I Read? An Infographic
Posted by Jessica Donaghy on April 23, 2013

Happy birthday, William Shakespeare! In his honor, try our helpful infographic to find out what celebrated play you should read next.

Where did you end up—comedy, history, or tragedy?
Live Video Chat with Gillian Flynn, Today at 2pm ET/11am PT
Posted by Patrick Brown on April 09, 2013

Join us on Wednesday, April 10 at 2pm ET/11am PT for a live video chat with bestselling author Gillian Flynn. We'll be discussing her runaway hit novel Gone Girl, as well as her previous work. Where does this incredibly talented author find inspiration for her dark, addictive novels? The chat will last a half-hour, and if you can't make it, don't worry, we will record it.

To watch the chat or ask a question, click here.
Exciting News About Goodreads: We're Joining the Amazon Family!
Posted by Otis Chandler on March 28, 2013

When Elizabeth and I started Goodreads from my living room seven years ago, we set out to create a better way for people to find and share books they love. It's been a wild ride seeing how the company has grown and watching as more than 16 million readers from across the globe have joined Goodreads and connected over a passion for books.

Today I'm really happy to announce a new milestone for Goodreads: We are joining the Amazon family. We truly could not think of a more perfect partner for Goodreads as we both share a love of books and an appreciation for the authors who write them. We also both love to invent products and services that touch millions of people.

I'm excited about this for three reasons:

1. With the reach and resources of Amazon, Goodreads can introduce more readers to our vibrant community of book lovers and create an even better experience for our members.
2. Our members have been asking us to bring the Goodreads experience to an e-reader for a long time. Now we're looking forward to bringing Goodreads to the most popular e-reader in the world, Kindle, and further reinventing what reading can be.
3. Amazon supports us continuing to grow our vision as an independent entity, under the Goodreads brand and with our unique culture.

It's important to be clear that Goodreads and the awesome team behind it are not going away. Goodreads will continue to be the wonderful community that we all cherish. We plan to continue offering you everything that you love about the site—the ability to track what you read, discover great books, discuss and share them with fellow book lovers, and connect directly with your favorite authors—and your reviews and ratings will remain here on Goodreads. And it's incredibly important to us that we remain a home for all types of readers, no matter if you read on paper, audio, digitally, from scrolls, or even stone tablets.

For all of you Kindle readers, there's obviously an extra bonus in this announcement. You've asked us for a long time to be able to integrate your Kindle and Goodreads experiences. Making that option a reality is one of our top priorities.

Our team gets out of bed every day motivated by the belief that the right book in the right hands can change the world. Now Goodreads can help make that happen in an even bigger and more meaningful way thanks to joining the Amazon family. (And if you want to be part of this, please check out our Jobs page for open positions. We've got a lot of hires to make!)

This is an emotional day for me. Goodreads is more than a company to me – it's something that Elizabeth and I created because we wanted it to exist. Since then it has grown a lot and become a place we love working at, full of incredibly smart and passionate people who also believe in our mission. I feel a little like a college graduate – happy to come to this milestone, nostalgic for the past amazing seven years, and incredibly, incredibly, excited for the future.


P.S. For the more official version of the announcement, here's the press release that went out today.

P.P.S. Please let us know – what integration with Kindle would you love to see the most?

Live Video Chat with Lawrence Wright, Today at 2pm ET/11am PT
Posted by Patrick Brown on March 20, 2013

Join us today at 2pm ET/11am PT for a live video chat with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright. We'll be discussing his new book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. Don't miss this chance to ask a question about one of the world's most mysterious organizations. And if you miss the chat, don't worry, we will record it.

This chat is over. Please click here to watch the archived recording.
Now It's Even Easier to Show Off Your Love of Books on Facebook
Posted by Brian Rosenblat on March 13, 2013

Good news today for our members who love to share their Goodreads reading activity on Facebook!

Facebook has made improvements to timeline to organize and showcase activity from apps with a new feature called sections. Goodreads is among the apps that can share into your new sections on timeline and the About page. This is being rolled out on Facebook over the next few weeks so don't worry if you don't see it on your timeline yet—it's coming.

The Goodreads app for Facebook is already the number one book—related app on Facebook—more than 2.5 million of us are using the app. And in the last four weeks alone, we shared more than 20 million books on Facebook. That's a whole lot of book love!

Of course, we've made sure to give our members complete control of what you share via the Goodreads app on Facebook. You can edit your settings at any time.

Every day, the Goodreads team wakes up, comes into the office, and focuses on one mission: to help people find and share books they love. The Goodreads app on Facebook is another great way for you and your friends to connect over a shared passion for books.

If you haven't signed up for our app on Facebook and would like to try it out, please go to your Account page on Goodreads (go to the top right corner of Goodreads, click on the drop-down arrow, and click on "edit profile"), click on the Apps tab, and follow the instructions under Facebook.

As Facebook rolls the new timeline out to a broader audience, we'll follow up with an additional post to give more details.

Books are better when shared with friends. Happy sharing!
What's Going On with Readers Today? Goodreads Finds Out
Posted by Otis Chandler on February 25, 2013

What makes someone decide to read a particular book? Do people read on their cell phones? Is there really a "walled garden" or do people shop around for e-books? And how many readers actually want books in serial format?

These are all questions we tackled in our presentation at February's publishing industry conference, Tools of Change. This year, we decided to do something a little different. We asked publishers what topics interested them, and then we surveyed the experts—the Goodreads community. The results were fascinating.

Book Discovery

"Discovery" is a huge topic in the publishing industry, especially as more and more books are published each year. For this presentation, we took a different tack. Rather than just ask a general "How do you discover books?" question, we went to recent readers of two popular books on Goodreads and asked: "What convinced you to read this book?"

The two choices were Gone Girl (which was the most reviewed book on Goodreads in 2012 and the winner of the Mystery & Thriller category in the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards) and The Night Circus (a debut novel from 2011, which was a finalist in the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards).

A recommendation from a trusted friend was the clear winner for both books. This reinforces other industry studies and also underlines something we've long believed: Books are one of the strongest social objects that exist.

From our earliest days, humans have always connected over stories. We see remnants of those tales in cave paintings dating back 40,000 years. The power of a story—and the desire to share and talk about that story—lives on today, even in a world turned increasingly digital. In fact, if you look at the graphic above, several of the top answers (Everyone Talking About It, Book Club, On "Best" Lists) all go back to one powerful need: wanting to be connected with our "tribe" through stories.

E-Books Escape from the E-Ink Reader

With 75% of our members reading books in e-book format at least some of the time (see slide 19 "Which format do you prefer to read in?"), publishers are interested in which devices people use to read. There have been industry reports, for example, that tablets are outselling dedicated e-readers. Publishers want to see how this impacts the choice of devices for e-book reading.

  • 37% of our survey respondents read e-books on their cell phones. Of these,
    • 72% read e-books on their cell phones while commuting or waiting in line
    • 13% say that their cell phone is the only device they use to read e-books
    • A surprising, but still small, number of people noted in the "Other" response option that they use their cell phone as a backup device. For example, one member wrote that she uses her cell phone to read e-books "when my child has my Kindle." We think if we'd given this as an option that we would have seen a high enough percentage to have included "use as backup e-book reading device" in the top responses.
  • 86% of survey respondents who own a tablet read e-books on the device. Of these,
    • 74% use their tablets to read around the home
    • 68% read e-books with their tablets in bed
    • Almost a third (32%) say that the tablet is the only device they use to read e-books

E-Book Readers Take Down That Wall

We also took a look at how locked in people are to their e-reader devices. Surprisingly, we found that almost three quarters (73%) of e-book readers shop around for the best price at least sometimes. And 20% always shop around for the best price.

That then opened up the question: Were some e-book readers more likely to shop around than others?

A surprising 18% of Kindle readers also read on Apple iBooks, and 15% also read in the Nook format.

Nook and Apple iBook readers appear to be less locked in to their formats than Kindle readers.

It's important to note that we didn't ask respondents what their primary format was, so this data should only be taken as an indication of the level of experimentation that's taking place. But it does open up some interesting questions. In particular, as tablets increasingly become the e-book reader device of choice for more and more people, does this also mean that they are reading across different e-reader apps? A question for a future survey, perhaps.

Please, Sir, I Want Some More

Everybody's favorite example of an author who had success publishing his books in a serial format is Charles Dickens (author of, among other classics, Oliver Twist). With the rise in e-books, there has been an increasing rise in people experimenting with the serialization of books.

We asked Goodreads members whether they would be interested in reading a book in serial format instead of waiting six months for a complete book. We also asked them to rate their interest for both an author they knew and liked and an author they did not know.

The contrast in responses was clear. For an author that they knew and liked, almost half (49%) said they would be interested in this concept. However, for an unknown author looking to use this technique to gain readers, the data is not as encouraging. Only 17% said they would be interested and more than half (55%) said they are not at all interested. That's not to say that you shouldn't experiment with this option if you are an author looking to grow a fan base. After all, a certain successful book with the word "fifty" in its title originally started as a serial. Just be aware that the barriers for unknown authors are higher than you might realize.

For even more nitty-gritty from the world of readers, please take a look at our complete presentation:

Is the Book Really Better Than the Movie?
Posted by Patrick Brown on February 22, 2013

Half of this year's ten Best Picture nominees are based on books: Lincoln (adapted from Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals), Life of Pi (from Yann Martel's novel), Silver Linings Playbook (from Matthew Quick's book), Les Misérables (Victor Hugo, by way of Broadway), and Argo (based on both Antonio J. Mendez's autobiography The Master of Disguise and Joshuah Bearman's article from Wired). But the jump from page to screen isn't always so successful. Too many times we leave the theater sighing and saying, "The book was better." Of course, the opposite is sometimes true. Occasionally a story is so well adapted that it will outshine the original source material. Ever hear of the 1979 thriller Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp? It spawned the movie Die Hard, which has gone on to become one of the most memorable movie franchises of the last 30 years. "Yippee-ki-yay!" indeed.

Here's the big question: Is the book really better than the movie? In our search for an answer, we looked at more than 300 books and the movies made from them to determine whether the adaptations generally received better or worse reviews than their counterparts. For the books, we used our average rating (found on every book page on Goodreads). For the movies, we used the Rotten Tomatoes average audience rating.

In general, people liked the books in our sample set better than the movies, giving the books an average rating of 3.94 stars while rating the movies just 3.59. This makes sense, though, as one would imagine that relatively few unpopular books get adapted into movies.

By analyzing the movies to see which ones had higher ratings than the book they were based on and ordering them by the size of the difference in ratings, we were able to calculate exactly which adaptations were significantly better on the screen. The results are somewhat surprising:

Two of the top 10 adaptations from our list are nominated for Best Picture this year— the movie version of Life of Pi outpaced its book source material by a considerable margin and Argo trails only The Social Network for highest ratings discrepancy. Even though only one of the adaptations on our list won Best Picture (despite eight of the ten being nominated), we're betting on Argo to beat the odds and take home the big award.

And then there are the adaptations that maybe should've stayed on the page. When it comes to book-based movies that have disappointed us, the lesson seems to be "Do not mess with our childhood memories!" Either that or "Do not mess with Dr. Seuss!" Children's movies dominate the list of worst adaptations.

Do you have a favorite book-to-movie adaptation? How about one you'd rather forget ever happened? And who do you think will take home Oscar gold?
Live Video Chat with Kim Harrison, Today at 2pm ET/11am PT
Posted by Patrick Brown on January 29, 2013

Join us today for a live video chat with bestselling author Kim Harrison. We'll be talking about her new book Ever After, the 11th in her popular series The Hollows. Don't miss this chance to ask one of the hottest authors on Goodreads a question!

Click here to watch a recording of the chat!