Gretchen Berg

Liz's Favorite books of 2012

There were a ton of great books in 2012.  So many, in fact, that Lisa and I had hard time narrowing them down, not to mention the fact we had a good ol' girlfight over who got which ones! (She'll share her 2012 faves tomorrow...) Besides the bestselling authors we already know are wonderful, I also chose three debuts that you may not have heard of.  Because who doesn't love discovering a fab new author?!

The books listed here are the ones that I couldn't put down, that I couldn't wait to get back to, that had characters that I was thinking about(and in some cases dreaming about!) long after I was finished.  These books were my favorite of the year. And girlfrin', I read a lot!

And hey-we want to hear what books you LOVED in 2012.  Don't forget to leave a comment and let us know!



1. Ten Girls to Watch by Charity Shumway Not gonna lie--Shumway had me from page one with her fresh and dynamic narrative.  This could have been just another story about a girl trying to make it in the Big Apple, but she made it an engaging page turner about Dawn. When she's tasked to track down the past winners of Charm Magazine's Ten Girls To Watch, she ends up discovering a few things about herself through the exceptional women she's researching. And don't even get me started on how she got the job in the first place! (her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend gets her the gig...) Do yourself a favor and pick up this lovely debut!




2.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn So, I almost didn't put this one on the list.  Not because it wasn't effing fantastic(because it was!), but because it's already received so much press this year and topped so many "best of" lists.  But, there was just NO WAY I could skip highlighting this haunting tale about two of the most effed up people you will ever meet.  Gone Girl, which is about a woman who goes missing on her five year wedding anniversary, is absolutely brilliant.  I couldn't get the book out of my head for days after finishing(and even had a few nutty dreams about it...) If you haven't read it yet, you need to RUN, not walk to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy. Seriously.




3. I Have Iraq In My Shoe by Gretchen Berg Attention, my fellow SATC fans.  You are going to love the sh*t out of this memoir! When Gretchen, a shoe-loving fashionista gets a job teaching English in Iraq to pay off her mounting credit card debt, she has no idea what she's in for. Berg had me cheering her on as she navigated a completely new culture that didn't seem to wear deodorant or appreciate her keen sense of style. SO smartly written and freakin' hilarious, I promise that you'll fall in love with Gretchen on page one. Sometimes, memoirs can lose their steam in the middle, but I Have Iraq in My Shoe had me engaged from beginning to end.



4. Point, Click, Love by Molly Shapiro Another fresh debut! I loved the sparkling narrative in this novel about four Midwestern friends who are each trying (and in some cases failing) to navigate the online and social networking world.  Kate's realizing that online dating might not be all it's cracked up to be. Anne is stalking her possible sperm donor. (long story!) Maxine obsesses over celebrity gossip to distract her from the cracks in her marriage. And Claudia resents the hell out of how much time her husband spends on Facebook. What makes this book special? The way Shapiro weaves their stories beautifully with her sharp writing.  I couldn't put it down!



5.  The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner Oh, how I loved this book! When Ruth(who headed to LA six years prior with her sassy grandmother in tow) hits the Hollywood lottery and gets the green light on the show she's written, she can't wait to become the next Shonda Grimes.  But when the reality of how things really get done in Tinseltown sets in, she realizes that she may be in over her head. And did I mention she has a huge freakin' crush on her boss? I loved the insider details Weiner included, having just come off her own Hollywood story. This story leaped off the page and I raced to the end.  For me, this was my favorite of hers since Good in Bed. (Which, for the record is on the short list for my ALL-TIME fave books!)



YA Bonus Pick!

Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft by Jody Gehrman  I was on a business trip when I opened this book on my iPad.  THREE hours later, I had the run the battery down devouring this charming tale about Audrey, a witch-in-training who has to get it together when her mother goes missing under mysterious circumstances.  Audrey has her own teenage problems to deal with as she attempts to get her powers up to speed before everything is destroyed by someone from her mother's past.  Fun, light and absolutely addicting, I can't wait for the next book in this series!




xo, Liz

Lit IT Girl: Debut Author Gretchen Berg

Our guest today: Gretchen Berg Why we love her: We fell in love from the first word of the first chapter of her debut memoir.  Seriously.  This is the kind of girl that we'd love to do happy hour with!

Her debut: I Have Iraq In My Shoe

The scoop on it: It's the timeless, classic tale: girl-meets-recession, recession-forces-girl-to-go-to-Iraq. I Have Iraq in My Shoe follows the author out of her comfort zone and into the Middle East. Taking the wit of Jen Lancaster and the fun of Sophie Kinsella and moving it to the desert, this is the story of a single, fashion-obsessed American female who finds herself metaphorically strapping on a Kevlar caftan to work in Iraq for a year. Irreverent and hilarious, saucy and smart, it's a tale of lessons both taught and learned, and all in the midst of a war zone: from teaching Iraqi women in headscarves while wearing designer pumps to enduring the shame and frustration of astronomical luggage fees.

Our thoughts: Liz's favorite book of the year so far.  It's like Sex and the City 2, but awesome and hilarious instead of boring and predictable. Gretchen's narrative is addicting.  LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it!

Giveaway: FIVE copies!  Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win!  We'll choose the winners on Monday, July 23rd after 6pm PST.

Fun fact: If you love her book, check out her blog!  It's super fun too!

Where to read more about Gretchen: her website or Twitter.


1. How many agents did you query before you found "the one"? Nine (which, incidentally, is my lucky number)

2. What's a line from your "favorite" rejection letter? Each rejection was surprisingly kind and helpful. One really great agent had emailed me and said while there were things she loved about my writing, and things she loved about the story, she was really hoping it would be more like “Eat, Pray, Love”. I huffed to myself, “Yes, wouldn’t it be great if we could ALL have lives like ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. I mean, who wouldn’t want to flit off to Italy and spend all that time eating delicious pasta and gelato, and then end up in Bali meeting her soulmate? Who?!” So. Very. Bitter.

And then I went home for summer break, and the movie had just come out. It was everywhere. “EAT, PRAY, LOVE!” JULIA ROBERTS! Everyone was reading it, everyone was going to see the movie, everyone was talking about it. I could not get away from it. It mocked me from television interviews and book covers and movie posters and silently taunted “Your story isn’t like thiiiiiiiiis one!”

After summer break I went back to the ms and resumed my search for an agent. I revisited the few rejections I had received to really absorb their comments and see how I could use that information to make the ms better. I re-read that one agent’s email again, which upon closer inspection actually said:

“…There is so much I like about your voice and your energy, but ultimately I wanted more of an organizing principle (like EAT, PRAY, LOVE)…”

Oh. That is different from what I had thought it said. Hunh. She’s right about that organizing principle thing. She hadn’t wanted the book to be like “Eat, Pray, Love”, she just wanted the mess of my manuscript to have more of a shape to it (at the time it was very blobbish.) So, now I read my emails a little more carefully and a little more slowly, but still laugh whenever I see “Eat, Pray, Love”.

3. What was the hardest part about writing your debut novel? Writing without knowing whether or not it would be published. “All this work when I could be creating outfits on Polyvore!” I can do blog post after blog post (after blog post), but writing an entire book takes serious discipline, and I’m not so much about the discipline.

4. What is the best/worst advice you received while you were trying to break into the book biz? I faithfully read Nathan Bransford and Chuck Sambuchino’s blogs for any/all information about getting published, and all their advice is “best”.

Worst advice would be from my dad, when I was talking about querying agents he rolled his eyes and made disparaging remarks, doubting the integrity of literary agents everywhere.

5. How did you celebrate your book deal? I know I should be whipped soundly for admitting this but I really haven’t properly celebrated it yet. I think I’ve been baby-stepping through the entire process, afraid to get too excited about any one part of it, because after that there’s still more. I’ll celebrate properly when I get my first royalty check, and the celebration will totally depend on the size of the check (crosses fingers for beach house).

6. Who is your writer crush? Tina Fey. And since crushes do not have to be monogamous, also Helen Fielding.

7. If you were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book, what would it be? “Bridget Jones’s Diary”. Being in Iraq was kind of like being on a desert island, and that was the one book I brought with me.

8. What's on your iPod right now? Miranda Lambert’s “Baggage Claim”, Sia’s “Clap Your Hands”, and I’m almost sick of “Call Me Maybe”. Almost. My obsession can be entirely attributed to the Harvard Baseball Team’s YouTube video. I’m not proud.

9. What's your #1 stress reliever? Exercise. Or wine. Sometimes I’ll have a few glasses of wine and then think “I should totally get on the treadmill. I’m so motivated right now!”

Not advised, no matter how confident you are the railings will assist your balance.

10. Who/what would you place in the center of the Entertainment Weekly bullseye? Anderson Cooper and Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes. For totally unrelated reasons, of course.

Thanks Gretchen!  xoxo, L&L