Add the billionaire philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft to those with summer reading recommendations.
Bill Gates posts five picks to his blog, gatesnotes, saying that “The books on this year’s summer reading list pushed me out of my own experiences, and I learned some things that shed new light on how our experiences shape us and where humanity might be headed.”
He offers an animated tour of each pick, detailing its pleasures:
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (PRH/Spiegel & Grau; Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample). Gates says “I loved reading this memoir about how its host honed his outsider approach to comedy over a lifetime of never quite fitting in.” It has jumped from #275 to #67 on Amazon.
The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal (Macmillan/FSG; OverDrive Sample). Gates admits he primarily reads nonfiction, but was very glad his wife gave him this novel about a heart transplant and all the lives it connects. He says “what de Kerangal has done here in this exploration of grief is closer to poetry than anything else.”
J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (Harper; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample). Used as THE book to explain the 2016 election, Gates writes it also explains the impact of a chaotic childhood and says “the real magic lies in the story itself and Vance’s bravery in telling it.” Already doing just fine, the Gates mention moved it from #18 to #10 on Amazon’s rankings.
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari (HC/Harper; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample). Calling it “provocative … challenging, readable, and thought-provoking,” Gates says he does not agree with everything Harari says but thinks it is “a smart look at what may be ahead for humanity.” Another rising title on Amazon, it moved from #354 to #125.
A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety by Jimmy Carter (S&S; S&S Audio; OverDrive Sample). Gates writes that this presidential memoir “feels timely in an era when the public’s confidence in national political figures and institutions is low.”
We can’t wait to see you in Chicago at the ALA Annual Conference next month! Join us in booth #2714 for tons of ARC giveaways and make sure to attend our many events! (All events are free unless otherwise noted.)
In time for making summer plans this Memorial Day weekend, Entertainment Weekly has released their ranked list of the 20 must-read books of the season. It’s in the new issue featuring Wonder Woman on the cover, but not yet online.
You can play along by reading the digital review copies of the chosen titles to see if you agree. Our spreadsheet of all the titles notes which are available for direct download or request.
The top pick is a debut, See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (Atlantic Monthly Press; RH Audio/BOT; Aug. 1; DRC available). It was inspired by a dream in which Lizzie Borden poked the author in the leg and said “I have something to tell you about my father. He has a lot to answer for.” EW says, “The resulting novel is compelling, scary – and gruesomely visceral.” The Guardian is on board too, calling it “a surprising, nastily effective” work with “irresistible momentum and fevered intensity … part fairytale, part psychodrama.”
Arundhati Roy’s return to the novel form, twenty years after The God of Small Things, is #2, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness(PRH/Knopf; RH Audio/BOT; June 6). The magazine calls it “gorgeously wrought.” Vogue says “From the novel’s beginning—’She lived in the graveyard like a tree’—one is swept up in the story.”
At #3 is New People by Danzy Senna (PRH/Riverhead; Penguin Audio; Aug. 1; DRC available). Offering a killer invitation to run out and pick it up, EW says: “You’ll gulp Senna’s novel in a single sitting but then mull it over for days.” Kirkus stars and offers a rare three exclamation points, writing “A great book about race and a great book all around.!!!”
The new graphic novel by Jillian Tamaki is #4, Boundless (Macmillan/Drawn and Quarterly; May 30): EW says the book “dazzles” and that it is “lush, vibrant, and packed with emotion.” The Comics Journal opens their review with “It’s said that great works of art are meant to be viewed at a distance from eye-level. Jillian Tamaki’s Boundless, inspires this same viewing condition.”
Dean Koontz wraps up the top 5 with The Silent Corner: A Novel of Suspense (PRH/Bantam; Recorded Books; June 20; DRC available). It is the launch of a new series and features an FBI agent trying to understand what is causing happy people to kill themselves, including her husband. The Hollywood Reporter says it is already optioned for a TV series and writes that Koontz plans to write at least five more in the series.
Several other summer previews have also been released, see our links at the right, under Season Previews. We will add to it as new lists appear.
Neil Gaiman’s short story, “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” which John Cameron Mitchell adapted into a feature film of the same name, has had its moment at the Cannes Film Festival, including a spectacular runway and spectacularly bad reviews.
Mitchell describes his adaptation to The Hollywood Reporter as “a Romeo and Juliet story between a punk and an alien.” He says he filled in the very short story with his own stance: “We brought in the punk element, because it wasn’t really in the story. Then I kind of plumped up the Romeo and Juliet story. The punks and the aliens are fighting to keep the lovers apart.”
The Hollywood Reporter calls it “Close encounters of the absurd kind … there’s too little narrative cohesion or persuasive subtext to make this much more than a low-budget folly that’s outre without always being terribly interesting.”
However, there was still some fun to be had. The film’s stars, Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning, lead a dramatic runway show when the cast showed up in their movie outfits, made of colorful latex (starting at :56):
A single adaptation airs this week. Netflix’s War Machine starring Brad Pitt begins streaming on May 26.
The film fictionalizes Michael Hastings’s The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan (PRH/Plume; Tantor Audio; OverDrive Sample). Pitt’s character is based on General Stanley McChrystal who was fired after Hastings’s exposé ran in Rolling Stone.
The movie details how the fictional general, Glen McMahon, is given command of the coalition forces in Afghanistan and, because of his ego and hubris is wildly unpredictable. Written and directed by David Michôd (Animal Kingdom), it is produced by the team that created the Oscar-nominated The Big Short. Tilda Swinton, Sir Ben Kingsley, Anthony Michael Hall, and Topher Grace star alongside Pitt.
The Hollywood Reporter writes that Neflix paid $60 million to finance the film after its original supporters backed out, fearful the movie’s arch black comedy slant might anger conservative audiences.
It received attention in advance of publication in January 2016, got three prepub stars and was a Feb. Indie Next pick. It went on to being picked as a best book of the year by Amazon, Kirkus, The Washington Post, and Time, where it was #5 on their list of “Top 10 Novels” of 2016. Critics praised the novel’s story, characters, and writing, but were particularly taken with Anders was re-working of the genre. NPR wrote “With All the Birds in the Sky, Anders has given us a fresh set of literary signposts — and a new bundle of emotional metaphors — for the 21st century, replacing the so many of the tired old ones. Oh, and she’s gently overturned genre fiction along the way.”
The opening of the Wayward Children series was a LibraryReads selection in April 2016 (the second, Down Among The Sticks and Bones, is a LibraryReads pick for this June). In a literary loop, Charlie Jane Anders sets up an excerpt that ran in io9, writing in the headline that it “Is So Mindblowingly Good, It Hurts.” NPR’s reviewer wrote, “Tight and tautly told, Every Heart grabs one of speculative fiction’s most enduring tropes — the portal fantasy, where a person slips from the real world into a magical realm somewhere beyond — and wrings it for all the poignancy, dark humor, and head-spinning twists it can get.”
David D. Levine wins the Andre Norton Award For Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy for Arabella of Mars (Macmillan/Tor.com; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample).
Having won a Hugo for his short stories, this is his debut novel. Locus said “It is a straight-up tale of incredible yet believable adventures fit to have flowed from the quill of Robert Louis Stevenson. It is old-school Planet Stories SF without snark, smarm or apologies. At the same time it is utterly state-of-the-art, 21st-century in its sensibilities and technics. It’s an intriguing counterfactual slightly reminiscent of Novik’s Temeraire series. It’s nuts-and-bolts gadgetry SF that John Campbell would have proudly adopted. It has gravitas and humor, romance and battle, sacrifice and victory in large measures. In short, I can’t see this book—and its intended successors, since it’s labeled Volume 1—as being anything but a huge triumph.” The reviewer was spot on. Book 2, Arabella and the Battle of Venus, comes out July 18th.
Both Anders and McGuire are also finalists for the other two important SF/Fantasy awards still to be given, the Hugo and the Locus. Levine is a finalist for the Locus.
The Locus Awards will be announced the weekend of June 23-25; the Hugo on August 11.
Amazon announced today that it has launched a “reimagined weekly bestseller list,” which they claim, unlike any of the many lists already available, is “A Bestseller List for What People are Really Reading and Buying.” They don’t point out that it is also unique in that it tracks only the books that people buy through Amazon.
There are two Amazon Charts, each divided between fiction and nonfiction. “Most Sold” tracks the top 20 books “sold and pre-ordered through Amazon.com, Audible.com and Amazon Books stores and books borrowed from Amazon’s subscription programs such as Kindle Unlimited, Audible.com, and Prime Reading.” A separate list, “Most Read,” claims to reveal which titles people actually read by tracking the “average number of daily Kindle readers and daily Audible listeners each week.” In Big Brother fashion, Amazon can also track Kindle titles according “to how quickly customers read a book from cover to cover,” noting which are literally “unputdownable.”
The goal, they say, is to help customers “discover their next great read,” but a look at the actual lists reveals that they offer precious little “discovery.” The majority of the 20 titles on each list are already fixtures on other best seller lists. The rest are published by Amazon’s own imprints (e.g., Lake Union Publishing, Thomas & Mercer, Montlake Romance) or are digital editions available on Kindle (e.g., four titles in the Harry Potter series published by Pottermore). And since Kindle sales and readership are included, the lists can be influenced by special promotions, such as those from Amazon itself and from BookBub.
ABC News chief national correspondent and Nightline co-anchor Byron Pitts just published a book about teens who overcome horrible circumstances ranging from bullying to abuse, addiction, and getting caught up in wars, Be the One: Six True Stories of Teens Overcoming Hardship with Hope (S&S; S&S Books for Young Readers; OverDrive Sample).
It is soaring on Amazon thanks to segments on The View and other shows, moving from #52,295 to #54.
Pitts knows the ground he covers. He tells The View he was raised by a very young single mother, did not learn to read until he was 13, and struggled with stuttering well into college. He says the teens he met were all dealt a bad hand. They opened a new world to him, illustrating the African proverb, “When you pray, move your feet.”
Booklist says the book “reads like an engrossing news program…Uplifting in its message and captivating in its content.”
It is a historical set in the 1920s that traces the story of a Kansas woman named Cora (played by McGovern and coincidentally the name of the character she played on Downton), who acts as the chaperone of Louise Brooks, a 15-year-old girl who becomes the famous 1920’s movie star (played by Julia Goldani Telles, The Affair).
McGovern is very familiar with the novel. She read the audiobook version, getting an AudioFile Earphones Award in the process. In their review, Audifile writes, “McGovern’s soft-spoken performance is utterly entrancing. Her careful use of emotion and mastery of expression pull listeners into this period piece about a young woman on the road to self-discovery and a girl on the brink of fame … an outstanding audio experience.”
It’s a relatively slow publishing week in terms of big names. Other than James Patterson, who releases a YA novel this week, Crazy House (Hachette/jimmy patterson; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample), the most recognized name is Michael Crichton, whose novel Dragon Teeth (HC/Harper; HarperAudio) is being published posthumously. Prepub preview are strong and it’s an Indie Next pick (see “Peer Picks,” below). The NYT book editor, Pamela Paul, publishes a book about, guess what? Reading. My Life with Bob (Macmillan/Henry Holt and Co.; OverDrive Sample) uses the reading notebook she has kept since high school, called “Bob,” or Book of Books, as the basis of a memoir. Prepub reviews are strong, with LJ saying, “Titles about reading and books abound, but this memoir stands in a class by itself. Bibliophiles will treasure, but the addictive storytelling and high-quality writing will vastly increase its audience.”
“I was a fan of Single, Carefree, Mellow so it was a treat to read Katherine Heiny’s latest release. Standard Deviation wryly delves into the complications and contradictions inherent in good, long-term love and parenting a slightly more challenging child. This is a laugh-out-loud, funny read with brains and heart, and a gentler world to spend time in for anyone who just needs a break.” —Sarah Bumstead, Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, CA
“Shadow Man is supposed to be the story of a serial killer who was horribly abused as a child and the efforts of the police to track him down and keep him from killing others. However, this book is really about Ben Wade, one of the detectives on the case. While the victims of the serial killer greatly affect Wade, who gives his all to catch him, it is the apparent suicide of a young teenager that really shakes up his world. Much more than just a search for a killer, Shadow Man is about living in the shadows of what happened in the past. Shadow Man could be called a thriller, but it is really much more than that, with characters that are so real you can feel their pain.” —Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC
Dragon Teeth, Michael Crichton (HC/Harper; HarperLuxe, HarperAudio).
“I worshipped Michael Crichton. I cried for two days when he died, in part because there would be no more novels. However, after all these years, Dragon Teeth is a true surprise, and a joyful one indeed! Although he’s more associated with futuristic science, Mr. Crichton was a dab hand at the historic thriller, and this novel is deeply grounded in fact. At its heart are two feuding paleontologists, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Marsh, participants in the late-1800s Bone Wars, a period of frenzied fossil discovery. Add to the mix a fictional Yale student, friendly and unfriendly Native Americans, a heap of varmints and scoundrels, and a lady or two, and you’ve got a rollicking good story!” —Susan Tunis, Bookshop West Portal, San Francisco, CA
“The unnamed narrator of Wang’s winning and insightful novel is working on her PhD in synthetic organic chemistry, but the chemistry she really needs to learn is the one that makes relationships click. The prodigy daughter of high-achieving Chinese American parents, she’s always strived to meet their demanding expectations. Then, suddenly, she just can’t. Her lab work falters. She’s unable to accept or decline her boyfriend’s marriage proposal. But when she has a breakdown and loses in both academia and in love, she finally realizes how angry she is. Coming to terms with her past becomes her next project, and soon she can see her parents in a new light — and they aren’t the fierce tiger couple they’d always seemed to be.” —Laurie Greer, Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, DC
Five tie-ins come out this week for the same movie, Despicable Me 3. The film stars Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, and Trey Parker. It will premiere on June 30.
Included in the tie-in line up is Despicable Me 3: The Junior Novel, Sadie Chesterfield (Hachette/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; also in a Deluxe edition). Other tie-ins include the hardback picture book Despicable Me 3: Agnes Loves Unicorns!,Universal (Hachette/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) and Despicable Me 3: Seek and Find, Universal (Hachette/LB Kids). There are also two level readers, Despicable Me 3: The Good, the Bad, and the Yellow by Trey King (Hachette/LB Kids) and Despicable Me 3: Best Boss Ever by Trey King (Hachette/LB Kids)
The first trailer was just released for the film adaptation of the bestselling memoir by Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle (S&S/Scribner, 2005):
Starring Academy Award winner Brie Larson as Walls with Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts as her dysfunctional, sometimes homeless parents, Rex and Rose Mary, the film opens in wide release on August 11.
The author approves, telling People magazine, “They did a spectacular job bringing to life a complicated story, there’s so many nuances … I wanted Brie Larson to play this role even before I knew who she was. She understands how to be strong and vulnerable at the same time, how you can fight and be scared at the same time … The first time that I saw Woody in makeup and in character, I started trembling and crying … the degree to which he captured my father was breathtaking.”
The memoir spent over 250 weeks on NYT best seller lists, in both hardcover and the trade paperback, where it had its most enduring success. Also a constant in book groups, the memoir is assigned reading in schools, and even has its own Cliff Notes.
Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Brian Selznick’s middle grade novel Wonderstruck (Scholastic, 2011) was screened this morning at the Cannes Film Festival, bringing mixed reactions. On the positive side, the AP writes, “The cacophony of the Cannes Film Festival was tamed Thursday by a deaf 14-year-old actress, Millicent Simmonds, whose screen debut is being hailed as a breakthrough.”
Describing the film itself, the AP calls it, “Fanciful and sentimental… an unlikely family-friendly turn for Haynes, the director of Far From Heaven and Mildred Pierce. But it doubles down on his fondness for period tales, weaving parallel story lines from 1927 and 1977.”
Variety‘s Chief Film Critic Owen Gleiberman is more subdued, saying the film is “a lovingly crafted adventure of innocence that winds up being less than the sum of its parts.” The Hollywood Reporter says the the screening drew merely a “polite burst of applause from the assembled press,” but adds the film “can be expected to be welcomed with a lot of warm reviews.”
Produced by Amazon Studios, Wonderstruck enters the Festival as concerns are heating up over changes in the way, as Variety puts it, “people are consuming content,” with particular animosity directed at Netflix, which has two films in competition that were originally scheduled to debut on the company’s streaming service, thus bypassing theaters (they have since changed that plan).
On the other hand, Amazon works in partnership with theatrical distributor Roadside Attractions, which will open Wonderstruck in limited release on October 20, but there is still concern about whether they will stick to that arrangement for future films.
Expressing his displeasure with Netflix at a press conference, Cannes jury president, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, stated his position,
Actor Will Smith, also on the panel, basically said “good luck with that,” responding that his three children, “go to the movies twice a week and they watch Netflix. There’s very little cross between going to the cinema and watching what they watch on Netflix in my home.” Variety dryly notes, “Netflix, it just so happens, is the distributor of Smith’s next movie, the big-budget Bright, which opens this year.”
As we posted, early accounts reported that HBO was considering four different series, with Martin working on two of them. Martin says HBO is actually considering five different ideas and he is working on all of them.
He cautions that HBO is highly unlikely to proceed with all five, “At least not immediately. What we do have here is an order for four — now five — pilot scripts. How many pilots will be filmed, and how many series might come out of that, remains to be seen.”
Martin also objects to the term “spinoff,”
I don’t think it really applies to these new projects. What we’re talking about are new stories set in the “secondary universe” (to borrow Tolkien’s term) of Westeros and the world beyond, the world I created for A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE … None of these new shows will be “spinning off” from GOT in the traditional sense … Every one of the concepts under discussion is a prequel, rather than a sequel. Some may not even be set on Westeros. Rather than “spinoff” or “prequel,” however, I prefer the term “successor show.” That’s what I’ve been calling them.
He will not say what the shows will be about (Tor.com speculates on that issue), but does address the question on everyone’s lips, “I AM STILL WORKING ON WINDS OF WINTER and will continue working on it until it’s done.”
Reviews be damned, Paula Hawkins’s Into the Water (PRH/Riverhead; RH Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample) can now be declared a #1 best seller. In its second week on sale, it moved to that spot on the new USA Today Best Selling Books list, jumping from #4 and knocking James Patterson off his perch in just one week. This practically guarantees it will be #1 on the NYT list later this week.
Holds are growing, reflecting the considerable interest in the author and some recent PR, via media interviews and her U.S. book tour. Patron demand is catching up. After a rather sluggish start, especially when compared to the pre-pub holds for her debut,lists have grown and libraries have placed multiple re-oreders.