Monday, January 11, 2010

Book-Buying, Hickeys, and Novels Without Quotation Marks

Today, I went book-shopping, muggle-style.

Recently, I've been getting books in three ways:

1) People buy them for me for various spiritual holidays that involve elves.
2) People send them to me with sticky-notes attached to them.
3) I write them.

Which is all very well and good, but it's not the same as going into a bookstore and just setting your debit card on fire with some books you've chosen yourself. Anyway, so I decided to do such a thing this afternoon. Not making a list beforehand. Just going in, unprepared, with only my wits and my Candie's jeans to keep me alive.

So. This is what went down.

General impressions:

If you want to be published in the adult "literature" section, you will have a far better chance if you title your novel something with "daughter" or "wife" in it. I was dazzled by THE MEMORY KEEPER'S DAUGHTER, THE ALCHEMIST'S DAUGHTER, THE BEE-KEEPER'S DAUGHTER, THE DOCTOR'S DAUGHTER, THE BAIT-SELLER'S DAUGHTER. And THE TIME-TRAVELER'S WIFE, THE GOOD WIFE, THE SECOND WIFE, MY FAVORITE WIFE, THE OTHER WIFE, THE DOCTOR'S WIFE, THE PIANIST'S WIFE, THE KRAKEN WIFE, PLEASE, TAKE MY WIFE.

Likewise, I had not been in the YA section of a brick and mortar store for awhile, or if I had, my eyes had become accustomed the


of the thing.

I mean, if I wanted girls in boarding schools kissing vampires who had become vampires after being bitten by other vampires who were kissing girls in prep schools, this was the place to be. If I wanted a break from snogging pulse-challenged men with iron deficiencies, there were many light YAs involving studying with the OMZGITSTHECUTEHUNKFROMSCHOOL.

I was looking for neither of these things. I was looking for some favorable combination of some or most of these things:

a) pretty prose
b) something different
c) distinctive voice
d) something I had not yet read
e) something not involving kissing vampires unless those vampires then killed the main character ded.*
f) something that did not involve the word "hunk" or "crush" in the description**

*Not that I have not enjoyed my share of kissy vampire novels -- Richelle Mead does this well -- but dude. I want to see them evil. I mean, really evil. I mean, like, hell hath no fury like a creature born of fire and blood, etc. etc. 
**Not that I have not enjoyed my share of kissy hunk/ crush novels -- Elizabeth Scott does them well -- but dude. I need my angst. I need a lot of it. I want my novels like I want my vampires -- drawing blood, take no prisoners.

Also, I wanted to see what it took to get me to pick up a book and what it got to get me to keep such book until I got to the register. I found out, humblingly, that I was affected by the cheapest tricks out there: end caps, giant book dumps, and large numbers of a certain book stocked. Even though I knew how you got those things and how you didn't, still, I tended to look at those things first, particularly in the adult mainstream section. Tables didn't affect me one whit. Covers moreso in the adult section, where I wasn't familiar with the new releases, and less so in the YA, where I had seen most everything on blogs.

Anyway, once I got over the fact that there were two girls in the YA section giggling over this and generally making me feel like knocking their heads together if they said "hickey" one more time, I bought the following (after deciding that Thing 1 was not dating until she was 16): 

1. PRETTY MONSTERS by Kelly Link. I have walked by this book approximately 400 times since it came out, though I remembered vaguely some favorable reviews for it. This time, however, I recalled that somebody (who turned out to be the fearless Natalie), had read it and loved it. This is not enough for me, however, as, unfortunately, I am a picky reader and hate most things. So I opened that sucker up and read a few lines. Also, the jacket flap hinted at subtle humor and then dug the point home by saying that there were illustrations by Shaun Tan, one of my graphic heroes. I was solder than sold.

2. IF I STAY, by Gayle Forman. Again, this has been recommended to me one thousand times. However, like I said: I am apathetic about many, many books. But this was the first time I actually opened it up, and the voice looked distinctive. That + angsty subject matter? Sold.

3. THE BOOK THIEF, by Markus Zusak (that guy used up every single K in the Scrabble box with that name). Another one of those, "Maggie, you must read. It is stunning." Plus it appears on all these "BEST YA BOOKS EVER WRITTEN BY ANYONE USING REAL WORDS" lists. So. I just got it. Oh, please, please, let me like it.

4. THE CHILDREN'S BOOK, by A. S. Byatt. This one I read a really positive, well thought out book review on one of the book blogs that I read in my blog reader. I wish I could remember which one! But it was worded in such a way that I remember thinking: "I might really like that." So . . . that, combined with, I'll confess, a cover perfectly designed to suck Maggie in, meant I took it with my growing stack.

5. THE LITTLE STRANGER, by Sarah Waters. I would have never, never, never remembered the name of this book offhand, but because most blog reviewers cleverly post the cover with their review, I saw the cover and remembered I'd seen a review for it on Moonrat's blog, Editorial Anonymous. She had said: "I love Sarah Waters; she's an absolute wonder of psychological messing with you" and I was like "I . . . want to be messed with."

6. THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy. I don't think I'll like this book, because I don't tend to like things that are good for me. But people keep telling me I will like it. So I just bought the damn thing, and I'll read it. Fine. FINE. See what happens when you bully me? I did open it and see that ol' Cormac's religion doesn't believe in quotation marks. That's fine. I'm tolerant of all beliefs. Just so long as his brand of literary allows for plot, we can still be friends.

7. THE PHYSICK BOOK OF DELIVERANCE DANE, by Katherine Howe. Okay, this book is a risk. When I saw the title, I knew I'd heard of it before, but it had been so long ago that I can't remember if it was positive or negative. Whatever it was was a profound enough mention to lodge the title in my head, so it was either a stunning recommendation or a scathing pan. Whichever it is, I now own it (I did read a page, to see if it looked palatable)(it did).

8. THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett. I have just heard so many good things from people I trust about this one that I was just biding my time to get it. I haven't even opened it to see what the prose looks like. I just bought it. Some recommendations are just that good.

Anyway, then I went up front and they swiped my credit card, saw my name and said, "Ohmigosh. You're Maggie Stiefvater, our resident author! So nice to meet you!" 

And completely out of character, probably because I'd been staring at the wall behind her head and thinking about the next scene for FOREVER instead of being at all author-personality-turned-on-to-charm-not-stun, I actually blushed. I can't remember the last time I blushed. Glad to see the ol' cliche cheeks still work, even in jaded, Wednesday-Addams author types such as myself.

So. That's how I buy books, apparently. You guys?


Suzanne said...

For Christmas I got a Kindle, which is so very dangerous. Because the Amazon "1-click shipping"? Is a thing of evil. Lovely, lovely evil.

The only downside I've found to the Kindle (seriously, only 1, I love the thing) is that when I loves me a book, I can't lend it out after reading it.

Kristi said...

My book club just finished The Book Thief and all eleven of us loved it -- which is saying something if you knew our group. It's easily my favorite YA book ever.

We also read The Help. I'll admit I'm a sucker for historical fiction w/ multiple POV's, but this book was amazing! Happy reading!

I buy most of my books through recommendations from friends - or if it's one of our book club picks, in which case I'm forced to buy it. :)

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Hahaha, you should do more posts like this. I usually go in now with a plan, knowing exactly what was released that week when it comes to YA. But for adult books when Im in the mood, Ill do more of your approach and wander around a bit and see what catches my eye.

Also I LOVED If I Stay-its one of those books I wished I had written. The Children's Book keeps catching my maybe Ill get to that too soon.

storyqueen said...

I did not want to like the Book Thief. I tend to be oppositional (about reading) and hate to read stuff that people tell me to. And I didn't like it at first. But Markus just sucked me in.

One of the best books I read last year.

What did I buy at the bookstore last week?

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater.


Maggie Stiefvater said...

Suzanne, I never thought about that aspect of the kindle!! That would be terrible for me!

Kristi -- more stunning recommendations . . . makes me really look forward to reading!

Frankie -- heee. Hopefully most of these will now appear on favorable reviews later . . .

Shelley -- hahahah, I'm the same way! Also, WOOOO! I hope you like LAMENT!

Larissa said...

I usually go in with a planned purchase, so the marketing gods cannot tempt me.

Then I leave with three more books than I planned on.

The end caps and covers do get me, but I don't buy unless the blurb on the back intrigues me. I will also snag any new books out from my list of Favorite Authors - those I grab without even looking at them except to see that it's new and I don't already have it.

A bookstore is an extremely dangerous place for my bank account.

Steve Brezenoff said...

Ooh, Pretty Monsters. Just reading the title gives me chills now because of the amazingness that is that collection and Ms. Link in general. Don't pass go. Read it first.

The Road was all kinds of boring, IMHO, but of course very few people agree with me on that. I'll look forward to reading your thoughts on it.

Donna Gambale said...

IF I STAY = wonderful.

And I also have been debating buying THE HELP because of the fifty glowing reviews I've read.

I feel so lost in the adult section. And because I bought so many books this fall that I haven't read, I'm putting myself on a book-buying hiatus til I've read at least a couple. But then I go to the library.

storyqueen said...


Lament was cooler than cool!


Erin said...

I'm reading The Road, and you get through the first chapter thinking "Oh, this is going to be slow" then the next thing you know, you're half way through with it...My mom read Delivernace Dane in a day, but I haven't had a chance to, borrow it yet.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Okay, okay, Steve, I will tackle it next. Donna, you would like THE HELP. Everybody would like THE HELP, even if it is not the most challenging of books out there. It's a really good jump into the adult section, promise. You'll like it.

Shelley, thank you!

Erin, I'll keep that in mind while reading THE ROAD.

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