Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Bacon Readers Survey Results

Thank you, Bacon Readers, for your enthusiastic and candid responses to last week’s survey! I especially appreciated the warm, honest, heartfelt, and often funny comments about your worries and what makes you happy… but first, the nuts and bolts. If you don’t live in or around Nashville, you most likely call another Southern city home (hello, Atlanta, Birmingham, Huntsville, Louisville, Paducah, Richmond, Chattanooga, Raleigh, Miami, …

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The Deep Dive: Eight Great Summer Reads

Book Titles: No One Can Pronounce My Name, Anything is Possible, The Stranger in the Woods, Since We Fell, The Women in the Castle, The Essex Serpent, The Radium Girls, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

“We want to know, I think, what it is like to be another person, because somehow this helps us position our own self in the world. What are we without this curiosity?” asks Elizabeth Strout (My Name is Lucy Barton, Olive Kitteridge, and the brand new Anything is Possible). Today’s post features eight inquisitive books as we stand at the edge of summer, ready to …

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Six Spring Reads: Goin Outta My Mind

Book Titles: Exit West, All Grown Up, Swing Time, Her Every Fear, Lincoln in the Bardo, Transit

Mindfulness has a stellar reputation these days, well deserved – but sometimes you don’t want to be where you are (more mindfully). Today’s post – at Styleblueprint – features six compelling, delightful, harrowing, entertaining, funny, and/or challenging current reads that promise to take you out of your own head. Below are a few Bacon bits to get your mouth watering…  We’re on a Road to Nowhere …

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The Bear and the Nightingale: Plot and Poetry Intertwine

When no one was looking I snuck in a total pleasure read – an impulse purchase on my ipad – one of Amazon’s “Best Books of January.” I succumbed to the temptation of The Bear and The Nightingale, by Katherine Arden (think Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book).  Set in a deep mythic past – in this case, 14th century Russia …

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Bacon’s Top Three Novels of 2016 (And Three I’m Reading Right Now)

I know I’m late to the party on top picks of 2016. I got distracted by a disruption in the Force. Taking inspiration from three wishes, three pointers (by the Tarheels), and meat and three’s, here are the three novels I loved most in 2016 (followed by three novels I’m reading right now)….  News of the World, by Paulette Jiles (National Book Award finalist, 2016) This was …

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Episode IV: The Princess Diarist (He Was Always On My Mind)

Book Title: The Princess Diarist

I recently finished reading The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher’s account of what went on behind the scenes during the filming of Star Wars. It broke my heart for her – for the girl she was at age 19, in love with Harrison Ford, and for the woman she was at age 59, writing the book. The first and last thirds of the book provide general …

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December Chills and Thrills: Top Picks

Book Titles: Our Family Trouble: A Domestic Thriller, A Gentleman in Moscow, Mister Monkey, The Underground Railroad, The Pocket Cathedral: A Collection of Prayers, Moonglow, Testimony

December can be stressful.  Correction:  December is stressful.  Give yourself a break here and there!  A puppy video.  A salted caramel hot chocolate.  A book or author event.  Today’s Bacon features four thrilling novels plus three upcoming author events in Nashville.   Don Winston frightens delightfully with Our Family Trouble: A Domestic Thriller, in which the Bell Witch returns after nearly a century’s rest.  The Bell …

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Imagine Me Gone

It’s crazy when the book you didn’t really want to read becomes the book you can’t stop talking about.  Adam Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone may be one of the most beautiful, wrenching novels about a family you’ll read this year, right up there with Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth.  If Commonwealth asks “What is a family,” Imagine Me Gone asks “What are the limits of love?” The story …

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Election Special: Prisoners of Geography

Book Title: Prisoners of Geography

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know about Global Politics is a stunning little snack-sized book – delicious, nutritious! – that provides an incredibly engaging account of the world our next president will face.  It’s an international bestseller – #1 in London when I picked it up this summer – and I’ve never read a pleasanter book covering so much territory.  …

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Two New Books and Three Great Truths from the Southern Festival of Books

I brought home two new books and three great truths from the Southern Festival of Books.  More on the books later.  On the truths: these aren’t showstopper truths or brand new truths.  They are humble and quiet; you’ve met them before.  I was glad they gently tapped me on the shoulder this weekend, and I’m sending you their greetings today. 1. Words from a stranger can …

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Southern Festival of Books: Top Picks

Three days, eight food trucks, 288 authors, performance stages, downtown vibe, perfect fall weather:  BAM!  It’s the Southern Festival of Books.  Check out the schedule to see the host of terrific authors coming to Nashville October 14-16.  Today’s post features my quick guide to some of the Festival’s best offerings. FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14th The Future of Nashville Media Bruce Dobie, Ken Paulson, Kelly Gilfillan Friday, October 14, …

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Southern Festival of Books Special: Brad Watson, Miss Jane

My couples book club recently enjoyed a heated discussion about Brad Watson’s new novel, Miss Jane, longlisted for the National Book Award.  I think I might have said some provocative things.  (Can I blame it on the jet lag?  Or was I just being contrary?)       Miss Jane is the heavily fictionalized story of the author’s great aunt, who lived in rural Mississippi at a …

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Adventures in China

I am not a hearty traveler.  “If you were a farm animal, you would have been put down,” quipped my husband.  Between the food poisoning and the vertigo, the garden variety infections and anxiety, I’d have to agree. Despite distressing health, I was able to make a few observations and take a lot of pictures during the 17-day trip to mainland China and Hong Kong …

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Bacon at the Beach: Top Pick, Summer 2016

Book Titles: The Summer Book, The Excellent Lombards, Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Modern Lovers, Maestra, Tiny Beautiful Things

I have to tell you about The Summer Book, a quietly beautiful little novel first published in 1972 and still in print.  The paperback is just the right size for your beach bag, and it’s like the perfect sand dollar you find maybe once in your life:  a small miracle, ordinary in its way, but also extraordinary.  It has given me a vision of who …

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Couples Book Club: “Gentlemen, This Is Why We Have Survived as a Species” (The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen)

This month, my couples book club read The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen, and I suppose you could call it a spy novel of the tortured soul variety.  It’s the story of a communist mole for the North Vietnamese who finds himself – in a bizarre turn of the screw – writing his “confession” under duress in a communist re-education camp.  The son of a French priest and Vietnamese mother, …

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Late Summer Special: He Said/She Said Featuring Governor and Mrs. Haslam

A boy from Knoxville and a girl who grew up in Memphis found some pretty good real estate in Nashville: the Tennessee Governor’s Residence!  Today’s post concludes the Summer Reading series at Bacon, featuring Governor Bill Haslam and his wife, Crissy.  In a taxing political season, it’s reassuring to have a Governor and First Lady like ours – nimble of mind and generous in spirit.  The Governor is living …

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First GREAT novel of 2016: My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout

Book Title: My Name is Lucy Barton

  My Name is Lucy Barton is the book your friends will be reading this winter, this spring, and beyond.  I try not to be a bully about recommendations, but you should join them!  I was recently reminded of Muhammed Ali’s approach to the ring: “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” and this seems to me Elizabeth Strout’s genius in My Name is Lucy …

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A Hunter of Lions, A Trainer of Horses, a Lover of Airplanes and Men (Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain, and West with the Night, by Beryl Markham)

Book Titles: West with the Night, Circling the Sun

A woman long dead – marvelous and bold and complicated – is the subject of Paula McLain’s new novel, Circling the Sun.  Read this book if you want to spend more time in Paula McLain’s company (The Paris Wife).  I wouldn’t blame you!  It’s a suspenseful, engaging read, focusing on the storied love triangle between Markham, Karen Blixen, and Denys Finch Hatton (think Out of Africa, published under Blixen’s …

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If You Liked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… (on Act One, by Moss Hart)

Book Title: Act One: An Autobiography

I have a book to recommend to you – a grown up tale, and true – that has every bit as much cruelty, wonder and suspense as you find in the world of Charlie Bucket and Willy Wonka. “I grew up in an atmosphere of unrelieved poverty, with … ‘the dark brown taste of being poor’ forever in my mouth and the grim smell of …

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Margaret Mead – Among the Tribes – with Malaria – and Between Two Men

Book Title: Euphoria

Lily King makes no grand claim that Euphoria explains Margaret Mead, though her bibliography suggests extensive research.  Reading it made me feel as if I could understand at least partially what it might have felt like to be Margaret Mead – among the tribes – with malaria and big ideas – and between two men. “While this is a work of fiction,” writes King, “it was …

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The Last Days of My Dog

Book Title: Dog Songs

These are the last days of my dog, Belle.  She remains in good spirits – at least, today – but lymphoma has caused the nodes in her neck to swell to the size of golf balls.  The vet says the time will soon come when we shouldn’t let her suffer. I am walking around with a hole in my heart already.  Mary Oliver’s beautiful new …

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