Blurbs and birthdays

Advance praise for CLUTTER, plus what I'm reading this summer

Hey, hey, today’s my birthday! I’ve always enjoyed July 12, whatever age I’m turning, because its annual arrival reminds me I’m still here—and because I really enjoy birthday cake (yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting, please).

Is it odd that I enjoy my birthday more now, in the middle of life, than I did when I was in my salad days? I don’t think so. We should all have a chance to celebrate being here, and to celebrate being ourselves.

This year I have something other than birthday cake (mmm, cake) to look forward to: the birthday of my first book. CLUTTER: AN UNTIDY HISTORY arrives Sept. 1, less than two months from now, and while I’m anxious about its imminent arrival—I could write many posts about authorial anxiety—I’m also excited. I have been working and waiting for this book birthday a long time, and today of all days I want to focus on reasons to be happy.

One very good reason: some lovely advance praise for the book from Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Minter, two journalists and writers whose work I admire and have learned a lot from:

Here’s Gladwell:

"Jennifer Howard has written a brilliant and beautiful meditation on the nature of our attachment to things. Reading Clutter made me long for a life without clutter."—Malcolm Gladwell, New York Times bestselling author and host of the "Revisionist History" podcast

And here’s Minter:

"In Clutter, Jennifer Howard offers a fascinating and insightful account of what becomes of the stuff that we accumulate in our homes and lives. It's a powerful reminder of how the deeply personal acts of daily life are shared across families, cultures, economies, and countries, and a moving account of how one author's struggle to manage her family's clutter led to a deeper understanding of what matters most in all of our lives."—Adam Minter, author of Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade and Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale

Kirkus Reviews, one of the major outlets for advance reviews of forthcoming books, has also weighed in, and they like it, they really like it!

Like George Carlin’s infamous riff on “A Place for My Stuff,” Howard’s exploration of one dark corner of consumer culture is quick-witted and insightful—and, appropriately for the subject, refreshingly concise….

A keen assessment of one of society’s secret shames and its little-understood consequences.

A George Carlin comparison? Now THAT is a good birthday present. (If I ever get a tattoo, I may go for “refreshingly concise” in, say, a nice classic Garamond font.)

[My publisher would like me to remind you that pre-orders make a HUGE difference these days. With pub date less than two months away, this would be a fantastic time to preorder CLUTTER if you haven’t already. If you feel like talking it up to book-buying friends, relatives, booksellers, and librarians, that would be extra-awesome. Thank you!]

One of the best ways to kill time while waiting for your book to arrive in the world is to read other people’s books. My current #amreading/TBR pile includes S.A Chakraborty’s just-released THE EMPIRE OF GOLD, the conclusion to a mesmerizing fantasy trilogy that draws on Islamic folklore, along with a book that’s older than I am: CALL FOR THE DEAD, John le Carré’s first novel, in which he introduces the memorably melancholy British intelligence officer George Smiley.

Le Carré hooked me from the first sentence: “When Lady Ann Sercomb married George Smiley towards the end of the war she described him to her astonished Mayfair friends as breathtakingly ordinary.” Tell me more, tell me more.

I needed a good Cold War page-turner, having gotten bogged down in the Tudor interiority and court intrigue of Hilary Mantel’s THE MIRROR & THE LIGHT, volume three of the Wolf Hall trilogy that features that another plain but not so ordinary middle-aged man, Thomas Cromwell. A friend pointed out to me that without Anne Boleyn (she’s executed in the novel’s first pages), Mantel doesn’t have a foil worthy of Cromwell to work with. I’ll get back to the last volume eventually—I respect Mantel’s work enough to want to finish out Cromwell’s story—but for now my reading heart belongs to George Smiley and his no less treacherous world of midcentury bureaucrats and spies.

Happy reading, friends!