The many fans of the podcast SERIAL may not realized they owe thanks to Rabia Chaudry, a woman who has worked tirelessly to free her friend Adnan Sayed from prison. Believing he was wrongly accused of murdering his high school girlfriend, Chandry approached Sarah Koenig of This American Life in hopes of bringing more attention to the case. The result was the podcast, which became a huge success.
SERIAL did not arrive at a definitive conclusion on Sayed’s innocence or guilt. He is still imprisoned and Chaudry has not given up. She will publish a book in September, Adnan’s Story: Murder, Justice, and The Case That Captivated a Nation (St. Martin’s Press). Entertainment Weekly reports it is being written with Syed’s cooperation, quoting him from a press release, “As someone connected to me, my family, my community, my lawyers, and my investigation, there is no one better to help tell my story, and no one that I trust more to tell it, than Rabia.”
Available for pre-sale now on Amazon, it is already #17 in the True Crime Biography category.
Mary Gaitskill’s latest novel, The Mare (PRH/Pantheon; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample), is gaining traction in libraries where holds are soaring as high as 7:1 on light ordering.
As we noted earlier this month, The Marehas been widely reviewed. Maureen Corrigan added yet another glowing review on yesterday’s Fresh Air,
“Mary Gaitskill writes tough … You have to write tough — and brilliantly — to pull off a novel like The Mare … a raw, beautiful story about love and mutual delusion, in which the fierce erotics of mother love and romantic love and even horse fever are swirled together.”
Author and reporter Joby Warrick appeared on PBS Newshour last night to discuss the Paris attacks and this history of ISIS. In September, he published Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS (PRH/Doubleday; BOT; OverDrive Sample). It rose to #220 on Amazon’s sales rankings as a result of the show.
During the interview, Warrick explained the roots of the terrorist group:
“…to a lot of people … ISIS seemed to come out of nowhere last year. And the truth is, there is a very long and complicated story behind this organization. It’s quite different from al-Qaida. It’s always been a different stripe, but its story goes back into prisons in Jordan in the 1990s and with individuals who became radicalized and became very different from this message of al-Qaida about sort of driving out their Western powers from the Middle East.”
The Washington Post selected Black Flags as one of their 10 Best Books of 2015. In libraries, holds vary widely with large local spikes in some systems and steady circulation in others.
Trade reviews skipped over Randall Munroe’s newest book, Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words (HMH; OverDrive Sample), but Bill Gates steps in, posting on his blog a glowing endorsement of Munroe’s mix of illustrations and information.
Gates calls the detailed and over-sized drawings accompanied by clear explanations using common words a “brilliant concept” and “a wonderful guide for curious minds.” He goes on to say that Munroe reminds him “of Sal Khan of Khan Academy, or the novelist and Crash Course host John Green … polymaths who not only know a lot but are also good at breaking things down for other people.”
Thing Explainer is already in Amazon’s Top 100 (at #82). Munroe’s previous book, What If? (HMH, 2014) was on the NYT Hardcover Nonfiction list for over 40 weeks, and debuted at #1 during its first week of publication.
Holds are not strong yet for the new book. but expect them to grow. Monroe is getting attention, including a profile in the Wall Street Journal where he says that his favorite research technique is “googling a few search terms plus ‘pdf.’ It’s amazing what’s buried in old, poorly digitized PDFs hosted on some random professor’s website.”
The entire interview is likely to have readers googling – it is full of curiosities, including strange cloud formations and an odd animal that looks like be a cross between a cat and a lemur.
Ernest Hemingway’s memoir of his time in Paris, A Moveable Feast, is fast becoming a testimony to the city he loved and is being used, along with flowers and candles, as both a token of mourning and as a symbol of defiance in the face of terrorism.
The memoir’s title in French is Paris est une fete — or “Paris is a party.” NPR reports that the memoir is being used as a memorial on the one week anniversary of the recent terrorist attacks, because it celebrates “Paris as an exciting place of ideas, a nexus of people who love life and the arts. The book is set in the 1920s, as Paris recovered from the oppressions of World War I.”
It is flying off the shelves in bookstores in Paris and, according to Bloomberg Business, is “the fastest-selling biography and foreign-language book at online retailer Amazon.fr. Daily orders of the memoir … have risen 50-fold to 500 since Monday, according to publisher Folio.”
Closer to home, US readers are following suit, checking out the book in sufficient quantities that a small holds list is growing in many libraries we checked.
To support readers’ needs to mark the tragedy and re-discover a city and country unmarred by terror, librarians are putting together multi-media displays on Paris, including audiobooks and film, as Katie McLain, Reference Assistant at the Waukegan Public Library, shared in the most recent CODES Conversations hosted by the Readers’ Advisory Research and Trends Committee of RUSA/CODES (see the searchable archive on the sign-up page).
John Grisham, Stephen King, and Michael Connelly take the top three spots on the current NYT’s Hardcover Fiction list but Mitch Albom’s The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto (Harper; OverDrive Sample) has opened in the number four spot, showing surprising strength when measured against the less than strong demand in libraries (holds are well within a 3:1 ratio where we checked).
It opens at #1 after continuing its rise following the juicy revelations that the senior President Bush called Dick Cheney an “iron ass” and had more to say about George W. Bush’s presidency.
Two other books about presidents fill the number two and three spots on the nonfiction list, Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger’s Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History (Penguin/Sentinel; Penguin Audio; OverDrive Sample) and Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s Killing Regan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency (Macmillian/Henry Holt; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample).
Featured on the cover of the NYT’s Sunday Book Review, Mary Beard’s SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (Norton/Liveright; OverDrive Sample) is racing ahead of copies ordered, with holds ratios raging from 6:1 on the low end to over 16:1 on the high end in libraries we checked.
Beard, perhaps better known in the UK where she is a classics professor at Cambridge University, is similar to Neil deGrasse Tyson here – a noted expert in a field many people are interested in but don’t know as much about as they would like.
Beard does for ancient Rome what Tyson does for space, offering an accessible and fascinating history that grips readers through stories, arguments, and contrary opinions (Cleopatra likely did not commit suicide via snake bite).
In the NYT’s author Ferdinand Mount heaps praise on Beard and explains the title, saying:
In SPQR, her wonderful concise history, Mary Beard unpacks the secrets of the city’s success with a crisp and merciless clarity that I have not seen equaled anywhere else. (The title comes from the Roman catchphrase Senatus Populusque Romanus — the Senate and People of Rome.)
The Guardian reviews it as well, under a headline that calls it “vastly engaging,” and The Atlantic says it is “magisterial.” Dwight Garner, reviewing for the daily NYT‘s said Beard is “charming company” and suggested this book might be her breakout moment in the US.
Both Time and Smithsonian offer interviews. Beard, rather a gadfly in the UK, answers a question from Time about in which era she would most like to live throughout history with this:
“I would not pick any. I’m a woman! It’s just about conceivable to me that a man might be able to find someplace, but it would all be a hell! There’s no political rights, death in childbirth, and no aspirin! Never. I like now.”
Not only a peer pick, Simon’s memoir is getting heavy media attention and is already rising on Amazon’s sales rankings.
For the December 2015 Indie Next pick, Ed Conklin, Chaucer’s Books, Santa Barbara, CA said:
“Boys in the Trees is a surprising and delightful read and more than a guilty pleasure derived from a crass and exploitative celebrity culture. Carly Simon has always been an appealing and alluring personality, and her memoir presents an honest — yet crafty — look at her life, beautifully and elegantly voiced. At times captivating, touching, and occasionally embarrassing, it is unfailingly entertaining — a sexy and romantic book with a sweet heart and soul.”
The big book-to-move adaptation hitting theaters today is the final in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games series, Mockingjay Part 2. As we reported when the full trailer was released, the frenzy over the film even extends to an Entertainment Weekly “deep dive” into the preview itself.
Bursting on screen as well is the story of the Kray twins, Legend, based on The Profession of Violence by John Pearson, a 1972 nonfiction account of the brothers who ran the organized crime scene of London’s East End during the 50s and 60s.
Concussion (Movie Tie-in Edition) by Jeanne Marie Laskas (Random House Trade Paperbacks).
The movie, starring Will Smith, is based on the 2009 GQ article by Laskas. It opens on Christmas Day.
CBS’s 60 Minutes featured the topic, but not the film, last Sunday (time mark 26:46).
The Magicians (TV Tie-In Edition) by Lev Grossman (Penguin/Plume).
The series stars Jason Ralph (he has appeared on TV series Madam Secretary and Gossip Girl and in films such as A Most Violent Year) as Quentin Coldwater, a new recruit at the Brakebills College, a school of magic.
As we noted earlier, the success of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, has turned Hollywood mad for military movies based on books. One of Tinsel Town’s next hopes in the genre opens January 15, 2016, the same weekend that its predecessor opened last year.
Now that there is a critical mass in fiction, we’ve collated the lists into one downloadable spreadsheet.Best Books, Fiction, 2015, V. 1 Use it to test your book knowledge, remind yourself of titles you wanted to read, create displays, and for end-of-the-year buying.
As we’ve learned to expect, there’s little agreement among critics. This year’s National Book Award winner in fiction, Adam Johnson’s Fortune Smiles, was picked by only two of the six other sources.
Watch for our upcoming collations of Nonfiction and Childrens picks and updates as more best books selections arrive. Links to the lists are on the right, under “Best Books.”
Fans of Jojo Moyes can celebrate. The release date for the film adaptation of her novel Me Before You(Penguin/Pamela Dorman) is being moved – once again.
This time, however, the film sill arrive in theaters earlier than expected, on March 4 rather than the previously announced June 3.
Deadline reports the change is designed to “hook women, particularly those off from college and high school on spring break.”
Starring Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games), it is directed by Thea Sharrock. This will be her first feature film, after directing the BBC miniseries The Hollow Crown and Call The Midwife. Moyes wrote the screenplay.
As we wrote in May, this is the not the first release date adjustment for the film. The June 3 date was major delay from its original Aug. 21, 2015 release date.
According to Deadline, the move puts the film into direct competition with several other anticipated movies, including Tina Fey’s untitled war comedy based on Kim Barker’s memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan (in her review of this “darkly funny” war reporter’s memoir, the NYT‘s Michiko Kakutani presciently called the author a “sort of Tina Fey character, who unexpectedly finds herself addicted to the adrenaline rush of war.”)
A movie-tie in edition of Me Before You is scheduled for Jan. 26, 2016:
Last night’s National Book Awards ceremony was filled with speeches giving generous praise to other writers. It lacked the challenges to the establishment offered last year by Ursula LeGuin (including a jab at her publisher for their ebook pricing to libraries). Happily, it also lacked the painful moment of casual racism by last year’s host (but why do hosts feel compelled to make fun of the proceedings, as did Andy Horowitz this year, who opened the evening by remarking that most people would say of the Awards’ sponsor, “What the fuck is the National Book Foundation?”).
The day-after reporting stresses the surprise win in fiction as well as diversity of authors.
While most stories focus on Ta-Nehisi Coates’s expected honor in nonfiction for Between the World and Me (PRH/Spiegel & Grau), almost all highlight Adam Johnson’s less expected win for fiction with his short story collection Fortune Smiles: Stories (PRH/Random House).
Reporters such as Meredith Blake of the LA Times writes,
In a completely surprising outcome, Adam Johnson claimed the award for fiction with his short story collection, Fortune Smiles. Johnson, who beat out such favorites as Hanya Yanagihara for A Little Life and Lauren Groff for Fates and Furies, appeared as stunned as anyone by the victory. “I told my wife and my kids, ‘Don’t come across America because this is not going to happen,’” said Johnson, who teaches at Stanford.
The second major theme of the reporting is the diversity of authors. Bustle offers this take:
In a world when we still (still!) have to call out award committees for having largely white, male longlists and shortlists, it was positively thrilling to see three out of the four awards handed out to black writers. Not only that, but the winners tackled issues like mental illness, racism in modern America, and the black female experience through history.
In summing up the night of bookish celebration, many reports quoted Don DeLillo’s acceptance speech for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters medal (basically, the National Book Foundation’s lifetime achievement award), in which he proclaimed, “Here, I’m not the writer at all, I’m the grateful reader.”
Below is a sample of the reporting. For those who have more of the NBA titles in their TBR piles than not, the VOX story is a particularly good resource, providing a librarian-friendly summary of every nominee’s story line, appeal, and highlights.
Calling This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! a “coming of old age novel,” Evison reveals that he spent some of his teen years as the only person under 70 in an old folks trailer park, taking care of his grandmother and watching widows reinvent their lives.
That experience helped him craft Harriet and is an example of his empathetic writing process. He explains that as he writes he seeks to get out of his own way and inhabit the character in front of him, “jumping through an empathetic window” so their actions feel inevitable.
He also talks about the film version of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, which is now in post-production and expected to open in 2016, with a script by Rob Burnett, the former executive producer of the Late Show with David Letterman, and starring Paul Rudd and Selena Gomez.
A movie version of This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! might also make it to the screen.Deadlinereported last month that Focus Features has optioned film rights.
The conversation is followed with further book suggestions to pair with Harriet, offered by Mary Ann Gwinn, the Seattle Times book editor.
This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! was a September LibraryReads pick:
“Harriet Chance receives word that her recently deceased husband, Bernard, has won an Alaskan cruise. Deciding to go on the trip, she is given a letter from her close friend Mildred, with instructions not to open it until she is on the cruise. The contents of this letter shatter Harriet and she begins to reevaluate her life and her relationships.” — Arleen Talley, Anne Arundel County Public Library Foundation, Annapolis, MD
Dress in your best and join the National Book Awards this evening, via live stream.
UPDATE: The site now says that live stream will begin at 7:40 p.m.
Yesterday, Jacqueline Woodson hosted the National Book Award Teen Press Conference (livestream, below, Woodson begins speaking at time stamp 16:35)
And at another event last night the finalists in all categories read from their books.
There’s been little speculation in the press on which books will win. We have to look to the U.K. for a look at the odds on the fiction and nonfiction categories. In a story today, The Guardian asks,”how obscure can the judges go?”
The director turns to different material for his next adaptation, Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck (Scholastic, 2011). Whe
n the project was announced in May, the Haynes already had several other projects in the works. Today is was announced that Julianne Moore will star, indicating Wonderstruck may be next on his list.
This will be Selznick’s second book adapted by a celebrated director, after Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning Hugo, based on The Invention Of Hugo Cabret.