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Goodreads 2.0 | Holiday Gift Guide | Malcolm Gladwell | Movers & Shakers | John Grogan | First Reads | Laura Miller | Trivia | Dennis Lehane | Events Near You | Poem of the Month

Announcing Goodreads 2.0!

Goodreads gets a face-lift this month, making it easier on the eyes, but more importantly, easier to use! In addition to some aesthetic tweaks, the redesign is wider (960 pixels), and new header navigation gives you faster access to all sections of the site. Looking for your next great read? Check out the new and improved explore page!

Another upgrade is our new comment notification system. Now you can select instant, daily, or weekly digests for any discussion you are following, including group topics, review comments, and book topics anywhere on the site. Don't let the next hot topic pass you by!

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Goodreads' Holiday Gift Guide
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Readers are a finicky bunch, so the Goodreads team took great care to gather an array of unique gifts in every price range. Score some book lover's pajamas, a quirky book light shaped like a novel, or a sensuous leather-bound journal. Happy hunting!

enlightenment_book_lamp pajamas frayed_journal reading_is_sexy curly

More holiday gift guide items…

10 Questions for Malcolm Gladwell—Goodreads Exclusive

In 2000, a book about social epidemics, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, fulfilled its own destiny by spreading contagiously from reader to reader to become a bestseller. This feat placed New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell on a pop culture pedestal. His second book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, likewise delivered, and fans have been eagerly awaiting Gladwell's next big epiphany. Newly released, Outliers: The Story of Success reveals what we all want to know: how to become the next Bill Gates. This month, Gladwell shares with us his prophesies—he's already forcasting that the recent U.S. presidential election will prove one of the biggest tipping points in his lifetime.

Goodreads: What is your main source of ideas?

Malcolm Gladwell: Mostly things people tell me. The one thing I learned from all my years at The Washington Post is how social reporting is. It is really about talking to people, having people tell you things. That will always be the most efficient and useful way of finding out new and interesting things. You have to expose yourself to as many interesting people as you can. There's no shortcut for that kind of process.

GR: What was your inspiration for Outliers?

MG: It was conceived in a period in which CEOs were bringing down huge paychecks, patting themselves on the back, and arguing that they deserved it and that their success was of their own making. I was curious about that—is it true? Is it a fair assessment to say that highly successful people deserve all the credit for their achievement? From there, the thinking progressed, and I tried to re-complexify our understanding of how we get where we end up. I started with the lawyers chapter [Chapter 5], which looks at a group of people who have reached the very pinnacle of their profession. They were the first to tell me about all the extraordinary opportunities that came their way—that was very instructive and humbling. There was none of the self-serving clapping themselves on the back. The fact that they were discriminated against turned into their greatest opportunity. I interviewed one of the most powerful lawyers in the world, and he told me, "At the time, it was the worst thing in the world not to be able to get a job at a fancy law firm, but it's the greatest thing that ever happened in my life." It was a humble acknowledgment of how forces much larger than himself shaped his career. I really wanted to bring that point home.

GR: Is it possible for adults to change course and strive for success in a new field? Or is it best to start young?

MG: The thing that all these successful people share is dedication and obsessiveness for what they do. The chapter about 10,000 hours [Chapter 2] says that you will only reach a level of mastery if you are willing to devote essentially 10 years to a particular discipline. There's nothing special about when you devote those 10 years. Those 10 years can be between the ages of 40 and 50, or 60 and 70. It just so happens that many of us who achieve great things put in those 10 years early in life, but there's nothing special about youth. Youth is not necessary for the process; what's necessary is time and honest effort, which is heartening.

Read the full interview »

Movers & Shakers

Goodreads can tell you what's hot! These books have been racing up our most popular charts in the last month.

2666 by Roberto Bolaño
Chilean exile Bolaño barely finished his final book before his death in 2003. Published posthumously, 2666 examines the human capacity for violence through a series of unsolved murders in Santa Teresa, a fictional U.S.-Mexico border town based on the real Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Goodreads member Nathan says, "2666 is a miracle, a monolith, an endlessly debatable modern epic that looks back at you when you look into it." And Conrad says, "This book is pretty remarkable for being so easy to read. It's like drinking Campari and soda—you only notice when you try to stand up."

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
After a 10-year wait, Lamb is back with his third novel, this time focusing on the struggles of a husband and wife who survived the Columbine High School shootings of 1999. Megan says, "Wally Lamb creates characters who become real as they are revealed on the page. When thinking about the book between readings, it was like revisiting acquaintances I was getting to know intimately. There are twists and turns, history that is revealed and unraveled like the labyrinth that he alludes to in the novel."

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
"I never thought I'd get so caught up in a novel about an alligator, a snake, a mangy hound dog, and a couple of cats," says KT. Earning comparisons to Watership Down and The Mouse and His Child, Appelt's animal story for young readers (but loved by adults too) follows the unlikely friendship of a cat and dog living in a Southern swamp. KT continues, "It wells up from the murky depths of muddy backwaters, where one is either predator or prey, and where love and redemption are often fleeting."

Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg
A father's memoir about the summer he hospitalized his 15-year-old daughter and the impact of mental illness on his family. CMolieri says, "Sunshine will make your heart bend with each turn of the page. Greenberg's experiences coming in and out of the ward are so eloquently described you can almost smell the disinfected linoleum floors." And Mary says, "The reader is left reflecting on the line between sanity and insanity, brilliance, creativity, and who each of us really is."

The Boat by Nam Le
A debut collection of poignant stories set all over the globe. The author takes readers to Iran, Columbia, the U.S., Austrailia, Japan and on to a boat in the South China Sea. Nicholas says, "Each story is a world so completely real and realized that it feels like a living, breathing being." And Pa says, "Written in exquisite prose, The Boat travels across time and space...providing vivid and at times harrowing snapshots of what it means to be human. Le is an extraordinary young writer."

Interview with John Grogan—Goodreads Exclusive

John Grogan did not set out to write a "dog book." The title character in his debut memoir, Marley & Me, may be a rambunctious Labrador Retriever, but Grogan aimed to tell an autobiographical story of how he and his wife adjusted to married life as newlyweds. Still, the canine character struck a chord with readers, keeping the book on the The New York Times bestseller list more than a year. Now the film, starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, is slated to drop this December. Grogan's second memoir, The Longest Trip Home (enter now to win a copy »), digs deeper into his past, starting in childhood and spanning 40 years of Grogan family history. He talks with Goodreads about life since Marley, why it pays to be a pack rat, and flirting with senior citizens.

Goodreads: You had an unusual start as a writer: police reporting about violent crime in small-town Michigan. Did you always want to write a book?

John Grogan: It was my dream back then actually. I was a young reporter just starting out, and I had the fire in my belly to write a book right out of college. At murder and arson sites I was thinking, "There's got to be some kind of a book in this!" I really had the book-writing bug from the start, but I didn't have a clear vision of what story I was meant to tell.

GR: The Longest Trip Home is your second memoir. Was the second book easier to write than the first?

JG: The second book was more difficult for me to write for a couple of reasons. One, it's a more complicated story to tell; it takes place over 40 years instead of 13. And two, it involves a lot of people who are dear to my heart, so I was trying to be honest and also respectful. Consequently, I spent a lot of time thinking, hand wringing, and re-reading, whereas Marley & Me just flowed out of me. For this one, I had 40 years of life experience, so I had to figure out what's relevant and what's not and how to arrange those experiences in a way that would get to the emotional truth. I put a lot more energy in this book. I'm actually prouder of this book as a piece of writing, and it is very close to my heart.

GR: You changed the names to protect the privacy of many people in the memoir. What kinds of reactions have you had from friends and family who are featured in the story?

JG: I made the decision that anyone who was a minor at the time of the telling deserved privacy. We all do some reckless things as kids, and we have a right to not have that pulled back in our face 40 years later. I've heard from friends along the way, and several of my teachers have come to book signings. I even talked with Mrs. Selahowski, the neighbor lady who I used to spy on when she was sunbathing. She's now an elderly woman who had no idea! It was one of those moments that are at once very embarrassing and also kind of sweet. Here's this woman in her 80s with a little reminder of how beautiful she was in the prime of her life. There have been a lot of moments of reconnection like that along my book tour.

Read the full interview »

First Reads—win prerelease books from Goodreads!

Be the first to read new books! Goodreads has tons of prerelease books and reading-themed goodies available for our members. All you have to do is sign up and cross your fingers! View all prerelease books on First Reads »

"In Bed" with Laura Miller

Did you ever dream of visiting Narnia? Laura Miller, cofounder of and regular contributor to The New York Times Book Review, was enchanted by The Chronicles of Narnia as a child. Her new book, The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia (enter now to win an advance copy »), explores the life and times of C.S. Lewis. She tells Goodreads, "C.S. Lewis would probably insist that no true FON (Friend of Narnia) can ever entirely outgrow it, but most adults acquire a taste for stronger stuff. Here are five suggestions for people who spent their childhoods peeking hopefully into wardrobes."

Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
"Almost any Murakami novel will do (The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is another good bet), but this one, I think, comes closest to unfolding the mystery at the heart of his entrancing, addictive fiction. The strange landscapes that Murakami's heroes explore—other worlds that are also inner worlds, often remind me of the Wood Between the Worlds from The Magician's Nephew."

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
"How do you translate the powerful motifs of European and British myth to America, a nation where the culture is historically shallow? By grafting them onto our own home-grown folklore: the tough-guy detective story and the Stephen King-style horror epic. A star-crossed ex-con named Shadow gets mixed up with a motley crew of decommissioned gods who are looking to make a comeback, led by the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday. You can figure out who he is if you really try."

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
"Of all the contemporary fiction writers who incorporated fairy tales into their work, none did it better than Carter in this sumptuous collection of short stories. Carter understood that the essence of those old, old tales was not the happily ever after but the implacable and often arbitrary power of sex and death, over which only a stout heart and a cunning mind can ever hope to triumph."

Little, Big by John Crowley
"Smokey Barnable falls in love with Daily Alice Drinkwater, whose extended family lives in a large, peculiar house north of New York City and has a past and certain connections they'd prefer to conceal. This novel is meandering and hypnotic, and while I was reading it I wasn't always entirely sure how much I liked it. Afterwards, I couldn't stop thinking about it, until the idea of it seemed to entwine itself around my imagination like ivy. Ineffable and unforgettable."

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
"In the early decades of an alternate 19th century, two rival magicians practice their craft against the background of the Napoleonic Wars. A potent cocktail combining the cool, ironic wit of Jane Austen with the heady imagery of Lewis, this is the sort of book that leaves some readers cold but strikes others as the very thing they've been waiting for all their lives and can never get quite enough of, the literary equivalent of enchanted Turkish Delight."

The Never-Ending Book Quiz

Think you have a mind like a steel trap? Play the The Never-Ending Book Quiz and see how you stack up against your friends!

Featured Trivia Question

Which of these books was NOT written by a Russian?
Play the never-ending book quiz »

Interview with Dennis Lehane—Goodreads Exclusive

Don't tell Dennis Lehane that he's a Hollywood kind of guy. Clint Eastwood and Ben Affleck may have transformed Lehane's books, Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone into Oscar-worthy films, and Martin Scorsese may have just wrapped filming on the upcoming Shutter Island, but Lehane's a Boston man through and through. This month the author pays homage to his East Coast roots with the publication of The Given Day (enter now to win a copy »), a historical epic set in post-World War I Boston that Goodreads member Joe calls Lehane's War and Peace. Lehane chatted with Goodreads about crazed baseball fans, the long-awaited return of his popular Kenzie-Gennaro crime series, and some of his favorite books.

Goodreads: The Given Day centers around the Boston Police Strike of 1919. What drew you to this event?

Dennis Lehane: It confounded me that the city I was born and raised in had once gone four months without a police force and that the first three days after they walked off the job were one big, long riot. To say that piqued my curiosity would be an understatement. I spent a year reading everything I could get my hands on about the time period. After that year, I realized I was becoming a little too enamored of the researching part, and so I put it away and got down to the actual writing of the book. Parallels [to events today] were something I tripped over during the writing of the book. Once they began appearing, they did so at such an alarming rate that it became clear my job would be to make sure I simply reported them, not editorialized on them.

GR: The story intricately weaves together two character (Luther and Denny) arcs across quite a range of true historical events. For such a complex structure, do you do a lot of pre-planning in advance, or do you let it flow and revise later?

DL: Luther walked into the novel on his own, and I had to trust that he'd eventually tell me why he was here. I never have a strong sense of my plots—I usually know something about what has to happen at the end, and in this case, I knew the end was the Boston Police Strike itself, but beyond that I'm just throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. If you work hard enough at this method, you get a real nice pasta dish, but you also spend a fair amount of time picking noodles off the floor and throwing them away. In the end, it's the only way I know how to do it.

GR: Your books often feature Boston, your hometown, and many Irish characters. How does your personal history as a first-generation Irish American influence your writing?

DL: My parents both came over on the boat when they were in their twenties. The Ireland my parents knew, which was the Ireland of farmers, is much more akin to the Ireland of the 19th century than it is to the 20th. So I grew up with a sense of a much larger, richer historical past than a lot of kids who were children of '70s/'80s Boston. I also grew up with a revolving cabal of Irish uncles and aunts who got together every weekend, rain or shine, and told stories of the old days. For a budding writer, how much more blessed could you be?

Read the full interview »

Poem of the Month

unscrew the moon by Andrew Lundwall

strange stars plucked the bones of her piano
dying the same dream night after night
if love might could be taught to be
cellphone refugees' genuflecting lips
throw long o's of sweeter life preservers
lies to each glance foretold by eyelash tips
mounts of sweat that creak of compromise
forgetful togetherness crayoned on chest
blacklisted alibis swallow to drain to fertilize
hazel-eyed assassins disguised as buoys
bobbing on a feather-filled lake in fishnets
tread tongues along bottom learning disturbed
a pixilated fantasy of horizon bloods up swells
each shell confesses when crunched underfoot
of delusions of grandeur fake a chain unscrew moon
where pretend is promise it's best not to get

Read more poetry »

With love,

Jessica, Elizabeth, and the Goodreads Team

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