Robert’s Roundup #38 (Feb-March 2023)

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Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited,  and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint.NYP means “Name Your Price” (that’s an option on Smashwords and other booksellers). If you’d like to submit an ebook to me for review or mention in this column, see my instructions here. MAILING LIST: I just started a mailing list for my publishing company. Will mail out every 2 months and will include excerpts from my Robert’s Roundup columns and other random stuff. MASTADON:

This column includes recent 99 cents from the Farrar Strauss Giroux book sale on Amazon (US). (These prices are still good as of March 7!). Update: It now appears that FSG is implementing rolling sales — every week they add a new batch to their sales. Also, on Smashwords some of my Personville Press titles are free or discounted: see this, this and this.

Dilemma. I have now figured out a pretty easy way to add links to Amazon ebooks on my blog. Wow, I never realized it could so easy. But I have decided not to. As convenient as it would be to do this, I don’t particularly want to show any favoritism towards (A while back they banned me from participating in their affiliate program, which is part of the reason). I always take the trouble to link to relevant web pages of authors, and really they can tell you the optimal place to buy their digital content. (Hint: It’s not always going to be Amazon). Also, I am mindful that Amazon can refer to or or, etc. My links to the US store don’t particularly help people outside the U.S.

Occasionally I will link directly to Amazon when I think it’s hard to locate something or when I want to save a search query, as I did below.

Between 2019 and Fall 2022, I was a big fan of Smashwords/Draft2Digital, and so saw the value of linking to their website. Since then I’ve had a falling out with them. I’m not going to remove the links I already provided, but I’m not going to be linking to that store, no thank you.

I’m busy in the middle of several important things, so haven’t had time for anything bloggy — but I have a very interesting blogpost coming soon I promise! I’m aware that these columns look incomplete and half-assed, but I actually go back into older columns and clean them up and add things as appropriate so they look reasonably polished. I like to start with an empty template just for convenience.

I have to put up an author WordPress site in the next month or so — something I haven’t done in a while. If I can manage — I think I can — I’ll work on doing a facelift of this website’s look — it screams 2011! — Hopefully I can do it by April.

Publisher Shortcuts:

Here’s the search URL for Farrar Strauss and Girous on, which is discounting several of its ebooks to 99 cents. You can access the list here. I count about 50-100 titles if you subtract the story samplers and 10 page stories, etc. It’s owned by MacMillian so I went ahead and did searches of the other prestige publishers.

If you do a search of different FSG imprints, other 99 cent sales pop up: PicadorNorth Point PressFSG OriginalHill and WangCeladon BooksHenry Holt.

Below under the “Blink and its Gone” section you will find the 99 cent ebooks I bought.

Indie Author Spotlight


Under the Radar

The Lockhart Women: A Novel by Mary Camarillo. (Author website and zoom interview) . This indie novel won a California fiction contest and several other indie fiction contests. Here’s an essay praising Flannery O’Connor‘s A good man is hard to find. A juicy FO quote:

Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.

Flannery O’connor

The Corner Garden by Lesley Krueger

Oil and Dust (The Elemental Artist Book 1) by Jami Fairleigh. (Author website). She described it as a “cozy post-apocalyptic fantasy” Here’s her favorite reads of 2022 (mostly fantasy). (Zoom interview on Youtube).

Fact Check and More Probing Tales by James Hanna. I love this guy’s fiction. I should definitely feature him in the Indie Author Spotlight (haven’t done it in a while).

REIMAGINING BEN by Panayotis Cacoyannis. Cacoyannis’s latest ebook which are dark satires.

Gigantic: Stories From the End of the World by Benjamin Harnett. Strangely, I bought this by mistake and decided to keep it anyway.

Existential Smut 1: Youthful Indiscretions by Hapax Legomenon (Author Website). Artsy erotic short story anthology. 99 cents on Amazon stores until the end of the month.

I bought so lovely stuff from the FSG firesale that I have to create categories.

Art of the Publisher by Robert Calasso. A nice reflection on the art/business of publishing by a noted Italian writer and publisher.

Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation by Ken Liu. Also, Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation by Ken Liu.

Waste Tide by Chen Quifan. Chinese sci fi. “An accomplished eco-techno-thriller with heart and soul as well as brain.”

The Human Touch: Our Part in the Creation of a Universe by Michael Frayn. Ambitious philosophic ramblings by this noted playwright.

Helpless: A Novel by Barbara Gowdy. Canadian author I’ve always wanted to read.

Dominant Animal: Stories by Kathryn Scanlan. (Author Home Page and a Review +Interview)

Field Guide by Gwendolyn Gross (Author page)

Biology/Social Sciences

This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite.

If Dogs could talk: Exploring the Canine Mind by Vilmos Csányi, Richard E. Quandt

The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World by Carl Safina. MacArthur grant winner who has written about animals of all kinds.

Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar. How scientists figured out what the heart was all about.

Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything by David Bellos


Utopia Drive: A Road Trip Through America’s Most Radical Idea by Eric Reece. Nature writing by a Kentucky author. He investigates many political experiments taking place in the south.

Scandinavian Noir: In Pursuit of a Mystery by Wendy Lesser. I will read anything by Wendy Lesser. She’s a great writer and scholar.

Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope by Chalmers Johnson. 2010 book by CIA manager who makes the case that the US needs to downgrade its overseas adventurism because it drags down our standing.

Worldmaking: Art and Science of American Diplomacy by David Milne. Great ruminations about how diplomacy and alliance building works. See this Youtube lecture.

City of Angels: or the Overcoat of Dr. Freud by Christa Wolf. Award winning German novel — and last before her death — about a citizen of East Germany dealing with the past.

Redemption: Last Battle of the Civil War by Nicholas Lemann.

Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America by Eliza Griswold.

Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table by Ellen Wayland-Smith

Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche by James Miller. Intellectual history tracing the relationship between the ideas of philosophers and how they lived their lives.

Banvard’s Folly: Thirteen Tales of Renowned Obscurity, Famous Anonymity, and Rotten Luck by Paul Collins Fun historical tales.


On Balance by Adam Phillips. Reflections on poetry and life by a British writer.

How to Become a Scandal : Adventures in Bad Behavior by Laura Kipnis.

Access All Areas: Selected Writings 1990-2011 by Sara Wheeler. Collection of travel and nature essays by a UK writer.

Dictionary of the Undoing by John Freeman. Young US writer who publishes short rants about various topics.

My 1980s and Other Essays by Wayne Koestenbaum. Stream-of-consciousness critical responses to literature and art from the 1980s by a comp lit professor.

The Fame Lunches: On Wounded Icons, Money, Sex, the Brontës, and the Importance of Handbags by Daphne Merkin. Merkin writes urbane, satirical sketches for the New Yorker and that sort of thing.

Acid West: Essays by Joshua Wheeler. “Beautiful, bawdy, and roguishly charming essays.” He’s from Texas/Louisiana.

Hogs Wild: Selected Reporting Pieces by Ian Frazier. Chronicler of contemporary America. Decade of reporting about unconventional subjects.

Desert Harvest: New and Selected Essays by Bruce Berger. Lyrical essays about the American desert and life on the desert.

When I Was a Child I Read Books: Essays by Marilynne Robinson. Robinson reflecting on childhood reading, as I’ve also been doing.

Styles of Radical Will by Susan Sontag. Milestone collection of essays about aesthetics by Sontag. (Very memorable and influential). Also, At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches (some lectures, plus essays she never finished).

Senior Moments: Looking Back, Looking Ahead by Williard Spiegelman. Texas-based editor of Southwest Review reflecting on life and literary topics.

Essays of Leonard Michaels. Critical and personal essays.

Approaching Eye Level by Vivian Gornick. Gornick always writes great and perceptive essays. One of the best.

A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind by Siri Hustvedt. 1.99 . Bought the hardcover last year, but I so wanted to buy it in ebook! Now I have two copies. (FYI, other essay collections by her are also on sale for 99 cents).

Writing Home by Alan Bennett. Collection of personal essays by this British playwright.

Busted in New York and Other Essays by Darryl Pinckney. Literary critic who writes a lot about African-American culture and literature.

At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays by Anne Fadiman.

Several nonfiction works by essayist John McPhee: Draft No 4: On the Writing Process, Giving Good Weight, Table of Contents. Also Second John McPhee Reader, which is slighter longer.

Just Enough Liebling: Classic Work by the Legendary New Yorker Writer by A.J. Liebling. Prolific writer for the New Yorker in the 1930s and 1940s.

Poetry and Writings by Poets

Two essay collections by Polish poet Adam Zagajewski: Defense of Ardor and Slight Exaggeration.

Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry: A Bilingual Edition (German Edition) by Paul Celan.

End of the Poem: Oxford Lectures by Paul Muldoon. (Author website, YouTube vid ) Oxford lectures on poetry by a distinguished Irish poet

Selected Verse (Bilingual) by Frederico Lorca. Also Poet in New York

Music for the Dead and Resurrected: Poems by Valzhyna Mort (Belorussian poet). I actually think I was in a group zoom call with this woman once.

Selected Poems 1988-2013 by Seamus Heaney. Great Irish poet.

The Poetry of Petrarch. Tr. by David Young. Floored that this is on sale.


Turn the Beat Around: Secret History of Disco by Peter Shapiro

Bob Marley: The Untold Story by Chris Salewicz

Love for Sale: Pop Music in America by David Hajdu.

Devil’s Horn: Story of the Saxophone, from Noisy Novelty to King of Cool by Michael Segel.

The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice by Greil Marcus

The Biographical Dictionary of Popular Music: From Adele to Ziggy, the Real A to Z of Rock and Pop by Dylan Jones . Collection of newspaper articles written about various bands.

Reinventing Bach by Paul Elie.

Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life by John Adams. Legendary classical composer.

Somebody Scream!: Rap Music’s Rise to Prominence in the Aftershock of Black Power by Marcus Reeves. Rap Music overview.

Short Stories

Likes by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum. “For readers of Joy Williams, George Saunders, Lauren Groff, and Deborah Eisenberg, Likes helps us see into our unacknowledged desires and, in quick, artful, nearly invisible cuts, exposes the roots of our abiding terrors and delights.

An Elegy for Easterly: Stories by Petina Gappah. Zimbabwean fiction writer praised by J.M. Coetzee (my former writing teacher).

Instructions for a Funeral (Stories) by David Means. Noted story collection by an author who has won many awards. Amazon comment: “Means is a secret poet. He wrote his thesis on Whitman. He’s like Denis Johnson in that way: he has the soul of a poet and he’s not afraid to use it. Perhaps one day we’ll see his poems but for now, the short stories are more than enough, dammit.”

Nimrod FlipOut: Stories by Etgar Keret. Young experimental Israeli writer who published some things on This American Life a while back.

We Love Anderson Cooper: Short Stories by R.L. Maizes. First story collection with lots of animals appearing in them.

Venus Drive: Stories by Sam Lipsyte. Funny bawdy stories published in 2002.

Chemistry and other Stories by Ron Rash. Accomplished Southern writer. I basically want to read everything by this guy.

Sam Place, Same Time (Stories) by Tim Gautreaux. Lousiana author. Here’s a long interview and a staged reading of one of his stories.

How It was for Me: Stories by Andrew Sean Greer. Early story collection by the author of the universally beloved and Pulitzer-winning Less.

Library Purchases/Printed books

FUN BOOKS ABOUT US PRESIDENTS: Paul F. Boller collects short biographical sketches about US presidents and puts them into highly readable volumes. He’s collected PRESIDENTIAL DIVERSIONS, PRESIDENTIAL WIVES, PRESIDENTIAL ANECDOTES, PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS and PRESIDENTIAL INAUGERATIONS. These books will entertain history buffs, students and even nonreaders looking for recreational reading. You can buy used copies for very cheap online or at your local used book store.

Quite a Year for Plums by Georgia author Bailey White. (Youtube reading and a 12 minute sitdown interview). Here’s an audio of one of her NPR stories.

Hour before Daylight by President Jimmy Carter. I haven’t been a fan of Jimmy Carter’s writing style, but it seems to work for a childhood memoir.

Creative Commons/Freebies


Literary Articles and Essays




Capsule Book Reviews


Multimedia/Podcasts, Etc

Here’s Electric Cereal, a nice literary channel on Youtube with lots of interviews.

To my amazement I watched a movie version of Childhood’s End by Arthur Clarke. (I watched it with commercials on tubi – yuck!) I was simply curious about how the story might transfer to screen, and it did quite well overall. The love interests were a little overlong, but I realize you had to do something to humanize the book for the screen.

Personville Press Deals

I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. Prices normally appear highest on Amazon, Apple, Kobo and BN, somewhat lower on Google Play Books and lower on the two DRM-free stores which are Smashwords and Payhip. Personville Press is committed to selling DRM-free ebooks and audio files directly from the Personville Press payhip store or from SmashwordsThe prices listed here are the non-discounted price on Amazon. Check the links to see if they are discounted at the moment (it happens often).






One response to “Robert’s Roundup #38 (Feb-March 2023)”

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Avatar

    Thanks for the Flannery O’Connor quote and link to ‘A Good Man…’ – one of the unforgettable stories. I haven’t read it in a very long time – about to visit the link.

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