Christian Bauman on Amazon Rankings

So here’s something: of course I look at Amazon. I’ve been published long enough now to have the Amazon ranking not matter so much to me, but there is something else I find addictive about Amazon: what books are offered at a discount if you buy it with one of mine. There is an algorithm to this, I’m sure. Or something. Clearly the decisions aren’t being made by actual people (I’m guessing) because Christ you’d need an army. But I’m not sure what it’s based on. Always fascinating to me, though. Sometimes it’s easy: sometimes Amazon offers one of my books with another of my books. Boring (but encouraged, from a college-fund-for-my-daughters standpoint). Other times the selection is just way too predictable (offering The Ice Beneath You with something by Tim O’Brien, for instance. Not that I don’t love O’Brien, I do, but you know what I’m saying). Other times I’m stymied to find the connection, and it’s at those times that I get most excited. About a month ago, Amazon was offering Voodoo Lounge with the novel Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. I’d heard good things about this first novel, so I jumped and picked up a copy. What a great read! I lived in India for a year at a very impressionable age (I was 13), at about the time the novel was set. A wonderful and subtle voice, Desai has.

My brother-in-law gave me a copy of DeKooning: An American Master, by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan, which won the Pulitzer for biography not too long ago. Big book, and an endlessly fascinating read. I have zero ability in the visual arts, so am always very curious as to the inner workings of those who do. I found a lot to like and identify with in DeKooning, as well.

Two by Roth, recently: The Plot Against America and Everyman. Plot started very strong, but disappointed me somewhat in the end. Everyman I thought better than the bad reviews it got.
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