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Ann Patchett: An Appreciation

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Okay, I’ll admit it: I hadn’t read any Ann Patchett until last summer, when a friend of mine sent me an urgent text. You HAVE to read this book, she said. It’s amazing. You would love it. The book: Ann Patchett’s collection of essays, THIS IS THE STORY OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE, and since my friend has never steered my wrong, I immediately went out in search of the book.

I ended up buying the audiobook, and if there is ANY book I recommend listening to instead of reading (though of course, both would be great), it’s this one. Hearing Patchett read her essays about falling in love with opera, handling a book banning, caring for a geriatric dog, and, ahem, opening an independent bookstore felt like she was a friend telling a lively story right through my car speakers. If anything shows how much I immediately fell in love with Patchett’s writing, maybe this will: after finishing THIS IS THE STORY OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE, I devoured six more of her titles in less than six months.

Given my admiration of her books, you can bet I’m thrilled we’re hosting her as guest of honor at Interabang’s Grand Opening on Sept. 11. While she won’t sign books, she’ll say a few words about the importance of independent bookstores (she owns her own in Nashville) and we’ll raise a glass to the exciting adventure of starting a new one!

Whether you’re a longtime fan hoping to pick up another title or a newcomer trying to decide which to read first, I hope this list whets your appetite and encourages you to read her books.

Staff Pick Logo
This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062236678
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - November 5th, 2013

Reading this collection of essays is so delightful it’s easy to forget how challenging it is to craft such perfect stories. Patchett manages to describe ordinary events of her life “lived close to home” in straightforward prose that mines daily life for jewels of wisdom.

Truth & Beauty: A Friendship Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060572150
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Published: Harper Perennial - April 5th, 2005

A raw, beautiful book about the friendship between Patchett and the poet and memoirist Lucy Grealy, who suffered from cancer of the jaw that left her with a lifelong disfigurement. Their friendship is one for the ages. It made me thankful for the precious, deep friendships in my own life.

Bel Canto: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780060188733
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Published: Harper - May 22nd, 2001

The book that put Patchett on the map, BEL CANTO is as romantic as it is terrifying. Beautifully written in gorgeous lyrical prose, I love this book because it reveals the face of the “other”, how our enemy is just as human as we are.

Run: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061340642
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Published: Harper Perennial - July 29th, 2008

One of Patchett’s lesser-known novels, RUN is a book about adoption, the loss of a parent, the difficulty of poverty, and simply coming of age. The familial drama that occurs in only the span of a few days is familiar to us all.

State of Wonder: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062049810
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Published: Harper Perennial - May 8th, 2012

Patchett drops us right in the middle of the Amazonian jungle, and it’s a terrifying, captivating, otherworldly land. In this literary mystery, the characters are so vivid you’ll think they’re actually alive.

The Magician's Assistant Cover Image
ISBN: 9780156006217
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harvest Books - September 17th, 2004

Nebraska never appeared entrancing to me until I read THE MAGICIAN’S ASSISTANT, where suddenly the snow, the open space, and the big sky all came alive. The magic is in the details here -- interesting characters, detailed descriptions, and a surprise ending about who we really love and why.