Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gettting High On Great Stories by Karin Gillespie

Novels are my drugs. I slink into the book store (my dealer) and survey the wares. Glossy covers beckon, beguile. With sweaty palms I consider my selection. I go for hard stuff: a brand-new hardcover, damn the cost. My hands quiver as I slide the credit card to pay; it’s been too long since my last fix.

The drive home seems endless; the book seems to pulsate in its plain brown wrapper. I’m tempted to steal a sample at a red light or in heavy traffic.
Home, finally. I disconnect the phone, draw the drapes, slip the dog a hambone. I hold the book, my fingers caressing the slick cover, until I can take it no more and crack it open. I begin to read, waiting for that moment when I become slack-jawed and stoned by the storytelling.

Sometimes it’s page one, other times it’s page fifteen, if it doesn’t happen by page twenty-five, I start to get jittery. Did I get some bad stuff? Should I check Amazon? See what other people think? If I’m still sober by page fifty, I know I’ve been ripped off. The plot’s been cut with crap like backstory, extraneous scenes, navel gazing, or nature descriptions. No matter what I do I can’t get high.

But other times, I’m floating away on pure, high-quality dope. The world crumbles and characters and their troubles work their way deep into my cranium and nothing short of a nuclear cataclysm can kill my buzz. Best of all, the stuff’s so clean there’s no hangover; hard to believe it’s completely legal.

Lately, I found myself in reading rut, buying a lot of goods that don’t deliver. Sure. Sometimes I’d get a little mellow but nothing that made me bombed, swacked, blotto, whacked, pissed or pickled.

When that happens, I usually go for the tried-and-true, and re-read something. This time it was Rachel’s Holiday by Marianne Keyes. It’s been years since I’ve read it so it almost feels brand-new to me.

Here are some other novels that will get you high on the storytelling. (These are so good, I can’t even figure out how they work because they always suck me in.)

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin (The movie is out! I can’t wait to see it.)

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

There are definitely others but I can’t think of them off hand. So what books do it for you? Comment and you’ll have a chance to win “The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McKnees. Winner will be announced right here by 9 a.m Wednesday. WINNER! Mary. Email me at kgillespie (at) knology.net and I'll send the book. Thanks for the all the great book suggestions. Here's some info on the book:

Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O'Connor McNees returns to the summer of 1855, when vivacious Louisa May Alcott is twenty-two and bursting to free herself from family and societal constraints and do what she loves most. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire, she meets Joseph Singer, and as she opens her heart, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life.


  1. For me, it's more a formula of book X environment. I get great books each week to review, but often the environment (my house, the kids, my schedule) could keep me from sinking my teeth in and giving that wonderful book it's due attention.

    Right now I only have time to be sucked in in short intervals, but THE GENIUS IN ALL OF US is absolutely amazing. The book proves that genes have little to do with giftedness. I'm so enthralled to read it as someone who wondered where my creativity came from and also as a mother how I can assist my kids with their talents/interests as they grow.

  2. Oh Karen, I'm addicted to books and coffee, a deadly combo. I have been known to read a few chapters in the bookstore before making a purchase of a new author, I too fear that buyers remorse of getting 50 pages in and saying, it's not grabbing me..ugh.
    I often go to an author that is tried and true, and something light can help me out. I enjoy the Quilters series by Jennifer Chiaverini. I rarely run out of book ideas of what to read, I visit here too often and find new books!!
    I'd love to read Kelly O'Connor McNees book, it's getting so much good chatter with it's paperback release.

  3. Love the post, Karin! First cackle of the day! But omg--it's so true. I could feel the energy inside me bubbling up as I read your post, and I'm thinking--oh yeah, oh yeah, give me more! This weekend my sister and mother and I went to a neighborhood garage sale and there was one gal who had a whole box of books out. Whahhhhaw . . . I felt like an addict--we couldn't pilfer through the box fast enough--and yes--she reads my style, my favs! Yay! It was an adrenaline rush and we ended up exhanging names and emails so we could make another exchange, ahem . . . or perhaps discuss further our drug. What fun! I was high as a kite leaving there and tucked the huge sack next to my bedside so I can reach for that quick fix! Whahaaaa!

    I've got so many favs but Lisa Kleypas--SMOOTH TALKING STRANGER--a book I've already read lurks on my nighstand for those moments I gotta have the good stuff. I totally relate to your post and enjoyed it! What fun! From one addict to another . . . LOL!

  4. I'm fascinated by genius so I'll have to get that book, Malena.

    Anita, I also like the quilter books. Jennifer and I used to have the same editor.

    Marian, Sounds like we are birds of a feather. Glad you liked the post.

  5. Love the post Karin! I'm completely addicted too...and we have the best indie bookseller in the world in our town...BOOKS ARE SUCH A BLESSING!

    Right now I'm reading the new CJ Box, COLD WIND. He is such a good storyteller, but his character and setting are even better.

    Waiting on my pile: The new Julia Spencer-Fleming, ONE WAS A SOLDIER and The Particular Sadness of the Lemon Cake. Loved recently Barbara O'Neal's newest, I think it's called BAKING A GOOD LIFE? and GIRL IN TRANSLATION.

  6. Thanks, Roberta! I love Girl in Translation too! Just out in pb.

  7. Barbara's latest is HOW TO BAKE A PERFECT LIFE. Lucy, you were close! And it is quite good.

    Recently read THE OPPOSITE OF ME by Sarah Pekkanen and she tells a great story!

    Absolutely loved IF SONS THEN HEIRS by Lorene Cary, a multigenerational family story. Just out this month.

    Some older faves that pop to mind when I think of storytelling:

    The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

    Your Blues Ain't Like Mine by Bebe Moore Campbell

    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

    Bel Canto, The Patron Saint of Liars or anything by Ann Patchett

    The Magicians by Lev Grossman (Harry Potter for grown ups)

  8. I've been in that rut lately whee nothing is doing it for me. I want to fall in love with a book and I just think "bleh". A book that I fell in love with and spread the news to everyone was The Book of Bright Ideas by Sandra Kring. Love it and can read it often. I loved the storytelling recently in The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. I know there are many more. I buy books constantly. My TBR pile is beyond measure. I think that I'm an optimist that thinks every book is going to make me fall in love with it.

  9. Karin, we have the same taste. I LOVE Marian Keyes. There's nothing better than strolling into a bookstore and getting a new fix. I just devoured the Lee Child series starring Jack Reacher - delicious!

  10. Carleen, I also love Skipping a Beat (trying to make my way through all the girlfriend books.)
    Mary, my TBR pile is ridiculous too. Next up "Say Her Name."

    Sarah, I don't know how MK can write so many books and be so consistently witty. She amazes me.

  11. Great post! Just finished BOSSYPANTS (not a novel) by Tina Fey and highly recommend it!

  12. The last two things I loved: Alice I Have Been, by Melanie Benjamin; and the YA novel Before I Love, by Lauren Oliver.

    I'm very curious about the LMA novel, partularly since I have Little Women and Me coming out in November.

  13. For me, it's books and chocolate. Favorite recent reads...

    Pure thriller read: THE LOST TEMPLE by Tom Harper.

    Mix of Agatha Christie and Jane Austen: BELLFIELD HALL by Anna Dean.

    Mystery set in Florence: THE DROWNING RIVER by Christobel Kent.

  14. Karin, fabulous post!
    I loved The Thirteenth Tale, too. And Katherine Neville's The Eight. And anything by Jane Austen ;). Susan Elizabeth Phillips writes romantic comedies that just pull me in and keep me laughing -- First Lady, Breathing Room, Nobody's Baby But Mine. Sue Miller and Elizabeth Berg's work is wonderful, too. And I've also recently read several novels by my GBC sisters that made me feel like a fangirl, they were so good. I'm so honored to be among such terrifically talented writers... In nonfiction, I found Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers to be really interesting, and it addresses some issues of "genius" as well.

  15. Leslie, I just bought Bossy Pants for my husband. Will have to snitch it when he'd done.
    Lauren, I love "Before I Fall!" Talk about a page-turner. That could have been on my list.
    Sara, there's nothing better than a pure thriller.
    Marilyn, I'm a big Berg fan as well.

  16. Karin, I feel like that, too! My big "vice" is book-buying. I just go on binges sometimes where I can't get enough. Two of my favorite books that I've re-read because they do it for me so completely are Margot Livesey's EVA MOVES THE FURNITURE and Mark Salzman's LYING AWAKE. Just really wonderful stories and beautiful prose.

  17. Loved this and so agree--for me, The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak and After You by Julie Buxbaum

    jpetroroy at gmail dot com

  18. Karin,

    I loved Something Borrowed (and Something Blue) by EG. I'm planning to see the movie this week with my daughters.

    I've recently read THE WEIRD SISTERS by Eleanor Brown. What a voice! And MAJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND. Absolutely charming, I couldn't put it down :)

  19. I enjoy reading all genres of books except westerns and horror stories. My favorites of course are the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, I liked Melanie Benjamin's Alice I have been I am also a Danielle Steele fan. Too many to mention here.