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Here's our monthly newsletter from Goodreads—giving you the latest and greatest in our quest to connect people through reading!

Love Stories | Christopher Moore | Alain de Botton | Status Update Writing Contest | Trivia | New Facebook & MySpace Widgets | Movers & Shakers | Maeve Binchy | Literature at Every Latitude | Jamie Ford | First Reads | Events Near You | Poem of the Month

The Book of Love

If only there were a definitive book on the subject of love. Authors have been puzzling over that capricious side of human nature since the beginning of time—with enduring stories about lovers like Layla and Majnun, Antony and Cleopatra, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Cyrano and Roxane, and Scarlett and Rhett. This month Goodreads celebrates love with a list of your favorite books about ardor and devotion. Vote for your most beloved book on the Best Love Stories list! Here are some of the frontrunners on Goodreads.

Gothic Romance: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
"This book has it all...a big spooky house, a mysterious past, broken hearts, lies, seduction and intrigue! The plot reaches out and grabs you by the throat. I am still recovering." —Chelsea

Hot and Heavy: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
"By affirming life and love in the face of an existence not of our choosing, by holding on to the hands of those we love for as long as life allows, and by letting go with joy when the time comes, we are victorious over death and become creators of the only meaning that matters." —Michael

Laugh Out Loud: The Princess Bride by William Goldman
"Zoo of Death, the most beautiful woman in the world, the Dread Pirate Roberts, a hunchback criminal mastermind, a giant, the greatest swordfighter on the planet, true love, revenge...who doesn't love that sort of thing?" —Echo

Stoic Yearning: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
"A story of romance that could have been and wasn't, of opportunities forever gone, and of emotion suppressed in favor of 'dignity,' all because of a man's blind dedication to things that he found out (too late) were ultimately unimportant. It's a rare love story." —Milly

Sexy Time Traveler: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
"It's a gripping and completely engrossing tale of violence, lust, love, compassion, choice, freedom, and determination. Most importantly, the book deals with a love so profound, it transcends time." —Heather

Interview with Christopher Moore—Goodreads Exclusive

The comic novel gets lots of laughs, but not lots of love in literary circles. It's quite a coup then that Christopher Moore pleases comedy lovers and critics alike, and commands a sizable cult following. Moore's novels have introduced characters like Roberto, the talking fruit bat in Island of the Sequined Love Nun; Jody, a vampire in love with a Safeway clerk in Bloodsucking Fiends (who also reappears in the sequel, You Suck: A Love Story); and Biff, his best-known character in the aptly titled Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. His new book, Fool, borrows the court jester character from Shakespeare's tragedy King Lear. Moore shares what he's writing next and explains why readers will never get tired of vampires.

Goodreads: The fool held a bizarre and fascinating position in the royal courts of the Middle Ages. Why were you interested in writing about such a character? And what led you to King Lear?

Christopher Moore: I've always written about rascals and tricksters. Avatars of irony, if you will. And I wanted to write about a character whose whole identity was delivering mirth. The Fool was the least powerful person at court, yet he was the only one who could speak truth to power. I guess part of it came from the fact that our country seemed it was being run by a bunch of liars, criminals, and nitwits, and the only ones who seemed to be pointing it out were the comedians. When I posed the idea to my editor, and said I didn't know whether to make it just any fool or Lear's fool, she jumped on Lear's fool, so that's the direction I went.

GR: William Shakespeare excelled at adapting existing material and making it his own. What do you think Shakespeare himself would say upon reading your adaptation of King Lear?

CM: OMGWTF? Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war! Maybe not. I think Will might be thrown by the bizarre pantheon of Gods that are invoked during the book, but I think he'd be fine with the story.

GR: What are some of your favorite literary love stories?

CM: I love, love, love The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers. My favorite is Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck. And I have to include my own The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, which answers the question, "Can a whole village of crazy people, off their meds, find love despite the fact that a sea monster disguised as a double-wide trailer is eating them?"

Read the full interview »

"In Bed" with Alain de Botton

When it comes to love and books, who better to get "In Bed" with than Goodreads author Alain de Botton? No nuance of human nature is too small or insignificant for Botton's subtle, probing analysis. The Swiss philosopher-writer links Proust, Socrates, and Nietzsche with modern love, jet travel, and status anxiety, and his latest endeavor, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, explores how work can either be soul-destroying or life-affirming. For February, Botton recommends five books that "seem particularly apt for understanding, appreciating and surviving love."

Unrequited Love: The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
"One of the finest novels I have known for unrequited love. Werther's appeal to me lay partly in his impossibly earnest relation to his own passion. The young German is devoid of all sense of perspective, irony, and naturally enough, humour. A cautionary tale for intellectual, sensitive young men."

Love Lost: The Unquiet Grave by Cyril Connolly
"The book is a seductive mixture of diary, commonplace book, essay, travelogue and memoir—arranged in loose paragraphs, in which Connolly gives us his views on women, religion, death, seduction, infatuation, and literature. The book was written in the wake of the collapse of Connolly's marriage (his wife ran off with the publisher, George Weidenfeld), and it is the perfect read for anyone who has been left."

Beyond Love: Maxims by François de La Rochefoucauld
"Another great book for people who want to survive rather than enjoy love. For a long time now, philosophers have liked to remind us that our apparently selfless and altruistic behavior is not quite as pure as we might think. La Rochefoucauld repeatedly reveals the debt that nice behavior owes to its evil shadow. He shows that we are never far from being vain, arrogant, selfish, and petty—and in fact, never nearer than when we trust in our own goodness."

Love as Inspiration: A Lover's Discourse by Roland Barthes
"Roland Barthes spent much of his career writing about the most ordinary things: washing powder, the Eiffel Tower, falling in love, short- and long-hemmed skirts, photographs of his mother. And yet he brought a classical education and a philosophical mind to bear on these subjects. Barthes's next-to-last book, A Lover's Discourse, helped me shape my first book, On Love. The debt wasn't at the level of ideas; it was a question of style and approach."

The Biography of Love: The Life of Henry Brulard by Stendhal
"The most distinctive feature of Stendhal's prose style is an excessive, almost manic, precision, particularly when handling emotional material. His life was immensely painful: He was deeply romantic and a terrible seducer. Stendhal is the perfect friend for those who can appreciate a man who describes himself thus: 'My normal state has been that of an unhappy lover, who loves music and painting deeply. Daydreaming is what I like to do best of all.'"

*Botton gave us so much good material that we decided to reproduce the long-form version here »

Goodreads Announces the First Ever
Status Update Writing Contest!

Marcel Proust excelled at many things, but he would have sucked at micro-blogging. As the author of one of the world's longest books, brevity was not his strong point. Is it yours? Enter the Goodreads Status Update Writing Contest!

What: The novel is passé. The short story is outmoded. Even Lonelygirl15's videoblog is yesterday's news. The new medium of creativity is the status update. Aficionados of Twitter and Facebook already understand the art and power of instant communication. We're taking it one step further: Can you tell your friends a story using only your Goodreads status updates? You can create a fiction or nonfiction story, and you can use as many updates as you want. Post only once (maybe a succinct haiku posted at a carefully selected time of day?) or go crazy and post every five minutes all day long (be the first to micro-blog a modern War and Peace). It's up to you!

When: Accept the challenge and pick any 24-hour time slot before the end of February to tell your story. The winner will be announced in the Goodreads newsletter, reaching nearly 2 million readers! To enter and read further instructions, join the contest group. Let your creativity run amok! Well, as amok as you can get with 140 characters per post. Good luck!

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 Shakespeare's plays is considered cursed?
Play the never-ending book quiz »

Fancy, New Widgets for Facebook and MySpace!

We've vastly improved the look and feel of our Facebook and MySpace application profile boxes, aka widgets. The new widgets are all about customization! You can show off up to three shelves of books, display your daily reading progress, and also add nuggets like trivia questions, Goodreads friends, and book clubs. To customize your widget, click on settings in the header of the Goodreads app on Facebook or MySpace.

Movers & Shakers

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

The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson
We all know Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, but what about Joseph Priestley? Read how this unsung intellectual and close friend of the Founding Fathers influenced science, theology, and politics in the 18th century. Nina says, "What most captured me was the concept of following your curiosity for the sake of seeing what might result coupled with the free-flow sharing of information. And he succinctly points out the necessity for leisure in order to achieve this. I highly recommend!"

The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee
The story of two love affairs set in Hong Kong in the '40s and '50s. A young English piano teacher falls for a charismatic English ex-pat named Will Truesdale, but Will is holding on to a love lost years before during the Japanese invasion and is hiding a dark past. GillyP says, "On the surface, this is a romance...underneath that surface lies a cleverly constructed mystery. There's a surprise in almost every chapter. No one is who or what they seem to be at the start."

Somewhere Towards the End: A Memoir by Diana Athill
At 91 years old, Athill, the famed literary editor of Philip Roth, John Updike, and Simone de Beauvoir and acclaimed writer in her own right, reflects candidly and with surprising humor on her many years of life and how little time she has left. Ron describes it as "unflinching" and says, "Let's put it this way: Tuesdays with Morrie, this is not. But Athill's elegant, no-nonsense tone will have its admirers." And Tom says, "She gets more done in half a sentence than the rest of us can manage in a paragraph."

The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis Of 2008 by Paul Krugman
With the 2008 Nobel Prize for economics fresh in hand, Krugman updates his 1999 tome for the current financial crisis, exploring the failure of regulation and its effects on the global economy. Jill says, "He's got a way with words and a way with focusing on what's important that makes other economics-oriented books seem like fluff. He's so good at scaring the financial crap out of you. And isn't that why you read economics books in the first place?"

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
First published in 1961, this celebrated novel is attracting new readers, thanks to a film starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio as Yates' iconic married couple struggling against "suburban malaise" in the 1950s. David says, "Yates is a master of the vivid, transparent prose style that is the gold standard for writers of realistic fiction. And the central dilemma his characters face—how to live a worthwhile life in a world that often conspires against it—is not one that will go out of fashion any time soon."

Interview with Maeve Binchy—Goodreads Exclusive

Irish writer Maeve Binchy stumbled upon her career by accident. As a young teacher traveling in Israel, she wrote a stirring letter home to her parents. Her father typed it up and sent it to The Irish Independent, which published the dispatch and launched what would become a career spanning several decades. Still going strong at 68, despite a brush with heart failure in 2002, Binchy has penned countless bestselling novels about small-town Ireland. Perhaps best known for Circle of Friends and Tara Road (a former Oprah's Book Club selection), Binchy talked with Goodreads about her new book, Heart and Soul, and why you should never invite more than four Irish people to a dinner party.

Goodreads: Heart and Soul is set in a heart clinic. Why did you choose this setting and how does it influence the story?

Maeve Binchy: I set Heart and Soul in a heart clinic because I attend one myself as a patient. I have always found it a place of hope and optimism, where they teach you how to manage your heart disease and not to be afraid of it. When I was young, if anyone had a heart attack, we thought it was goodbye. But not nowadays. It semed like a good place to set a story, a place where people were slowly getting courage to live their lives to the full. And I wanted to make it cheerful and postive and funny, which is what we all need.

GR: Your books capture the culture of Ireland. Although Ireland has not escaped the recent economic downturn, how has Ireland's rapid growth—finally joining the ranks of the world's wealthiest countries following centuries of poverty—influenced your storytelling?

MB: Ireland has changed a great deal in my lifetime. People became much more wealthy after we joined the European Union. The influence of the Catholic Church changed; once we feared the clergy and were in awe of them, and now it is much more communal. Once no foreigners came to work here, because there wasn't enough work for ourselves, but now it's multicultural, and you can hear twenty languages being spoken all around you. It has been a great help to the country and given us all more confidence.

When I started writing I used to concentrate on the '50s and '60s, but I needed to try to become more modern and catch up on today's Ireland. So I started to watch the young Irish people and talk to them as if they were a different tribe, which in many ways they are! I discovered that they are not so different from my generation. They have more freedom, more responsibility, and more courage than we had, but they also have areas of uncertainty and unrequited love as we all did.

GR: Your novels often explore the concept of love. Can you name a few of your favorite literary love stories?

MB: I think most people read a love story long before they ever know what true love is like. So we remember the great passions that we read about when we were young. I loved the story of Antony and Cleopatra, and how Antony allowed himself to dally with the Queen of Egypt when he should have been back in Rome watching his back. I liked the frenetic troubled romances in F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the changing patterns of Scarlett O'Hara's love life in Gone with the Wind.

Read the full interview »

Literature at Every Latitude

Beijing, China:
39° 55'N
116° 20'E
Looking for something outside the Western canon? Great stories know no borders. Each month Goodreads brings you a new recommendation from a different country!

Brothers by Yu Hua
Already a runaway bestseller in China with more than a million copies sold, Brothers is poised and ready to expand its audience with a freshly published English translation. It tells the tale of two brothers growing up during Mao's Cultural Revolution who then must navigate China's adjustment to the free market. Goodreads member Gautam calls it, "Funny and dirty, and it tells so much about modern China. It's long but engrossing, like the best of Dickens."

Interview with Jamie Ford—Goodreads Exclusive

Debut author Jamie Ford knows how to sell, sell, sell. Despite a very successful career in advertising (he's won over 400 Addy Awards), Ford was determined to extend his writing skills—first in the short story medium and now with his first novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Jumping back and forth between the 1940s and 1980s, the book tells the story of Henry, a Chinese-American living in Seattle, and his love for Keiko, a Japanese-American student who is sent with her family to an internment camp during World War II. Ford chatted with Goodreads about cultural identity, why he is drawn to love stories, and how he can write just about anything on a deadline.

Goodreads: What inspired the story, and how much, if any of it, was inspired by family history?

Jamie Ford: The inspiration was a button my father wore as a Chinese-American teenager growing up in Seattle during WWII. The button read, "I Am Chinese," and a lot of Chinese kids wore them to separate themselves from their Japanese neighbors. It was an icon of the time and just haunted me. And the rest, as they say, is history.

GR: Henry and Keiko come from two different cultures, and yet are united in a way by the hostility of a third culture, the United States, during the turmoil of World War II. Do you think it has gotten any easier for love to transcend culture since the 1940s?

JF: Without a doubt—I remember what an oddity my own parents were. My dad was Chinese and my mom was Betty Crocker white—an unusual pairing in the '60s. Most people assumed that my mother was Chinese, partly because of my last name, but mainly because that was the norm—this war-bride model of a white guy bringing home an Asian wife. Growing up, the only two Asian men that I knew of with Caucasian wives were Bruce Lee and my dad. Now ethnicity, at least in Seattle, is almost an afterthought. I remember waiting tables in college and noting the lovely diversity of couples that came in for dinner. Geography and proximity still play a natural factor, but I do think love is somewhat color-blind these days. (Though culture, lifestyle, and religion can be just as divisive at times.)

GR: What are some of your favorite literary love stories?

JF: I think my brain must be hard-wired for love stories. Sense and Sensibility is a personal favorite. And I love Shakespeare, though I tend to prefer comedy over tragedy, favoring Much Ado About Nothing over Romeo and Juliet. Not a big fan of Wuthering Heights, though, oddly enough. When I think of modern literary love stories, I almost draw a blank—which is rather tragic in itself. Are we writing fewer love stories these days? Paging Doctor Zhivago...

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 »

Goodreads Poetry Contest!

Want your words to reach nearly two million people? Goodreads and the ¡ POETRY ! group have partnered to host an ongoing poetry contest. Each month the winning poem will appear in our newsletter. Join the ¡ POETRY ! group to vote each month to pick a winner from among the finalists. You can also submit a poem for consideration. Here is our February winner!

Roots & Wings
by Wendy Brown-Baez

It is a spring-time ritual. To feel
the stretch, tiny crackle of bones

hollow for expected flight. It is
a way to shed winter, the beary

coat of hunger and sleep. It is
lifting a face to sun, to shiver

with velvet tips of green, the
tingle of sap as it begins to sing

its way up from the bulb. It is the
expansion out deep into earth

wet from snow-melt, delirious
with nutrients, learning green.

It is ancient as the first day of creation,
new as the hatching of love in the

compost. It is a fever as it unfolds
in the pulsing of blood, a lift to the sky.

It comes to earn our seeded trust,
it brings us back to kneel and sing.

Read more poetry »

With love,

Jessica, Elizabeth, and the Goodreads Team

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