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Best of 2023 Fiction Book Set: Interview With Elizabeth Lane

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Best of 2023 Fiction Book Set: Interview With Elizabeth Lane

Best of 2023 Fiction Book Set: Interview With Elizabeth Lane

Customers are always asking us for recommendations on what to read next. This year, we made it easy to quickly add our top 10 book suggestions to your shelves with one purchase for you, or to gift to a reader in your life!

Elizabeth Lane, co-author of For The Love of Books: Designing and Curating a Home Library and book curator extraordinaire, assembled this stunning new Juniper Books collection after reviewing thousands of books published in 2023. We asked her a few questions about her role as a book buyer, and how she came to select these ten amazing books for this collection. 

What are your responsibilities as a book buyer, and why is this role so important to you?

I am the book buyer at Partners Village Store, our local independent book and gift store in Westport, Massachusetts. We are a coastal town – bustling in the summer and very quiet during the winter months. As a book buyer, I am reading all the time – discovering new titles, revisiting older ones, and then discerning what our customers would want to read. Our Westport customer has very distinct tastes, for example, our nature / gardening section is incredibly popular and perhaps unique to a more rural community, so choosing appropriate titles for the store is essential. When I first started buying books for Partners, I was surprised by how overwhelmed and intimidated people often feel walking into a bookstore and, therefore, value a bit of guidance. Because of this, the role of the bookseller is very relational. As Amazon grows, this relational aspect between the bookseller and the customer is increasingly lost and this loss is keenly felt. I feel that Juniper Books brings this trust and discernment inherent to bookstores to the online space in a very organic and personable way and so it's been an honor to work with them!

Could you explain your process of selecting the books in this collection? 

One of the greatest gifts of the bookselling community is its willingness to share opinions. There are many resources available to us where we can see what other booksellers are reading and share reviews to help us all raise the level of curation. It's an incredible collaborative community. Publishers, too, play an essential role in this collaboration as they provide advanced copies, so we may read complete manuscripts before publication and can then make educated decisions about which new releases might speak to our specific communities.  

As the year closes, there are quite a few "Best Books of the Year" lists and I think they are, at their core, highly subjective and all of them are valuable. As we read these lists, we might find that none share even one of the same title, but what they do share is the hope that someone will find a book they're inspired to read within the list. As The New York Times shared a few weeks ago, a recent study found that less than half of adults had read one or more books for pleasure in the previous year. The hope for every bookseller is to raise that number. As ideas related to wellness and self-care have become more popular, I believe that there is no better act of self-care than time spent with a book. 

When I curate a Best Books list, I look for books that have compelling stories, well-drawn characters and that intangible quality that we are all familiar with – that sense of not wanting a story to end, so much so that once we read that last sentence we are compelled to close the book and hold it close, hoping to remain on that specific journey a little longer. 

Why is it so important to read contemporary fiction? 

I think our contemporary fiction set is a wonderful gift to give someone this holiday season as it simply gives someone permission to slow down and take a quiet moment for themselves and travel to other worlds and experiences wherever they are in their own lives. A book quiets the noise.  We are all so busy these days and the leisure time required to “find a good book” no longer exists for many people. Through this set, I hope to fill that gap by bringing fantastic stories to a reader's front door. Reading contemporary fiction, specifically, is essential. It's the simplest way to experience a life different from our own. Through contemporary fiction, the author offers insights into our own present while also giving us a character we can live alongside, one with their own unique landscape and experiences. We carry a bit of that experience with us after that final page and, because of this,  reading strengthens our ability to see beyond our own reality. Quite simply, reading builds empathy, something we all need in abundance. 


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