To Buy or Not to Buy

New York magazine runs semi-regular features called “Is This Book Worth Getting?” Each of the titles under consideration is judged by whether to “Buy It” or wait for some other version of the book (paperback or cable). While this may be the essential information readers want from reviews, rarely is the question approached so directly.

After all the over-the-top reviews of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (“Summer’s most enchanting debut” — Janet Maslin, The New York Times), New York magazine throws cold water all over it, saying readers should wait for the paperback. Perhaps they got too hung up on the fact that the story echoes Hamlet — other reviewers have seen that as a dismissable plot device (indeed, Entertainment Weekly didn’t mention Shakespeare at all in its solid “A” review).

Despite New York’s low opinion, heavy reserves are building around the country.

The three titles deemed worthy of their hardcover price are:

Dear American Airlines
Jonathan Miles

  • Hardcover: $22.00
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin,(April 29, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0547054017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547054018
  • Audio CD: Unabridged, $24.95
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks, (June 5, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1433214741
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433214745
  • Audio Cassette: Unabridged, $24.95
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks, (June 5, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1433214733
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433214738

New York says this letter of complaint in novel form is “Funnier at times than both [David] Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs.” The final line of the review is a gem; “Fictional or not, unreliable narrators are a dime a dozen; believable ones are rare.”

The LA Times‘s David Ulin says;

Dear American Airlines is a gimmick novel, which we approach with a certain suspension of disbelief. Even the most despairing passenger, after all, would never write a 180-page complaint to customer service, nor would he reveal in it everything about himself: the refund request as public confessional.

Yet the concept works beautifully…

It was featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review and was reviewed positively in the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune, (“Turn to nearly any page and you’ll find a funny, smart, touching, wonderfully caustic or well-turned sentence or paragraph”) among others.

The book is on order for all libraries I checked, with heavy reserves building (14 to 1 in one case). Get that book on the shelves!


Roxana Robinson

  • Hardcover: $25.00
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (June 10, 2008
  • ISBN-10: 0374271879
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374271879

This one has not been as widely reviewed as the others. New York begins by making it sound unappealing, ” For twenty pages or so, Cost appears to be one of those deadly fiction-M.F.A. thesis novels,” but ends by saying, “Robinson somehow turns this badly stacked deck into a very fine and swiftly moving book propelled forward by multiple subtle changes in point of view—and an actual plot.”

Libraries have this on order in small quantities, with heavy holds building in some areas.


Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love
Lara Vapnyar

  • Hardcover: $20.00
  • Publisher: Pantheon (June 3, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0375424873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375424878

Vapnyar was covered recently in the New York Times “Dining & Wine” section (“Her Killer Meatballs Are the Stuff of Fiction“). This second book of stories, following There Are Jews in My House, is about “first-generation Russians eking out a living in Brooklyn.” While food is the major focus, “it is simply an entry point into her character studies.” New York says you might be tempted to compare this to Eat, Pray, Love, but Jhumpa Lahiri, “another spare realist who crafts a circumscribed world of immigrants at sea in our globalized culture,” is more apt.

The book is owned in all libraries I checked, with comfortable holds to copies ratios.

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