Archive for the ‘Literary’ Category

Order Alert:
THE MEURSAULT INVESTIGATION

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 10.55.22 AMAlbert Camus’s classic novel The Stranger includes a scene in which the anti-hero, Meursault, shoots a nameless Arab while walking along a beach in Algeria.

In his debut novel The Meursault Investigation (Other Press; OverDrive Sample), Algerian writer Kamel Daoud gives the murdered man a name. It is Musa. He had a family in Daoud’s retelling, a mother and father and critically, a brother named Harun.

It is Harun who tells Musa’s story, one that creatively echoes and challenges the story of The Stranger and expands it, and the history of Algeria, in complex and incisive ways.

Laila Lalami, author of The Moor’s Account, a finalist Pulitzer Prize in fiction for 2015, reviews The Meursault Investigation for the cover of the NYT Sunday Book Review, saying that literary retellings must be “so convincing and so satisfying that we no longer think of the original story as the truth, but rather come to question it … Daoud has done exactly this. Not only does he use an indigenous voice to retell the story of The Stranger, he offers a different account of the murder and makes Algeria more than just a setting for existential questions posed by a French novelist. For Daoud, Algeria is the existential question.”

Heller McAlpin, writing for NPR, says “What begins as a reproach to The Stranger for marginalizing ‘the second most important character in the book’ becomes a lament for Algeria’s long battle for independence, first from French colonists and subsequently from authoritarian Islamism.”

Additional attention has come from The LA Times “Jacket Copy”, The New Yorker, The Millions, and The NYT Magazine. It is also an Indie Next pick for June and won France’s Prix Goncourt award for “the best and most imaginative prose work of the year.”

For libraries that have ordered it, holds are heavy on light ordering.

STATION ELEVEN Wins Again

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 10.17.05 AMEmily St. John Mandel has won the Arthur C. Clarke award, recognizing the best in Science Fiction, for her bestselling novel Station Eleven (RH/Knopf; RH & BOT Audio; Thorndike; OverDrive Sample).

The book, a post-apocalyptic tale that weaves back and forth in time as it follows the fate of several characters while also exploring the sustaining power of art, has racked up a litany of accolades.

A finalist for both the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner, it was picked as one of the Favorite of Favorites by LibraryReads, and made multiple best books of the year lists including Entertainment Weekly’s which selected it as their #1 pick.

As we reported, George R.R. Martin is on the bandwagon too, lobbying fans to support it for the Hugo award.

The genre categorization doesn’t sit well with Mandel. Responding to a review in the Washington Post’s “Science Fiction and Fantasy” column she told Ron Charles,

I was surprised to discover that if you write literary fiction that’s set partly in the future, you’re apparently a sci-fi writer … my only objection to these categories is that when you have a book like mine that doesn’t fit neatly into any category, there’s a real risk that readers who only read “literary fiction” won’t pick it up because they think they couldn’t possibly like sci-fi, while sci-fi readers will pick up the book based on the sci-fi categorization, and then be disappointed because the book isn’t sci-fi enough.

On the other hand, this offers readers advisors an opportunity to use Station Eleven to expand both SF and literary readers’ horizons.

Check your holds, they  are heavy in some libraries and trade paperback edition is scheduled for June 2,

NPR’s Morning Edition
Book Club Returns

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 10.05.10 AMCheck your holds on Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins (Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample), announced today as  the second pick in NPR’s Morning Edition Book Club.

NPR asks a well-known writer to select each book for the club and to explain the reasons for that choice on the show. Gillian Flynn did the honors for this one, saying that Atkinson exhibits a “vast humanity for her characters, [an] incredible empathy… and is an author that can make readers weep on one page and laugh on the next.”

A God in Ruins is a companion of sorts to the bestselling Life After Life, (Hachette/Little, Brown OverDrive Sample), following a character from the first book, Ursula Todd’s younger brother Teddy. It is the story of a life strongly affected by war and is told through three generations – Teddy, his daughter, and grandchildren.

Flynn says readers will enjoy dissecting the book’s many characters and will have differing opinions about them, making it a good book group pick.

NPR provides a reading guide and instructions on how to post questions and comments via Facebook, Instagram and  Twitter  (using #morningeditionbookclub). Atkinson will appear on Morning Edition June 16th to answer those questions and discuss the book.

A God in Ruins follows Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories Of 33 Men Buried In A Chilean Mine And The Miracle That Set Them Free by Hector Tobar (Macmillan/FSG; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample). As we reported, the push from NPR helped that nonfiction account take off. A movie based on the story, titled The 33, starring Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche and Gabriel Byrne will be released November 13.

The Resplendent Toni Morrison

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.39.05 AMGod Help the Child (RH/Knopf; RH and BOT Audio; OverDrive Sample), Toni Morrison’s new book, arrives at the end of the month. She is featured on the cover of the upcoming New York Times Magazine.

In a story that is part ode, part biography,
part call to arms, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah discusses Morrison’s aura, her writing and editing, and her reception by the publishing world, one dominated by people who
do not look like her.

“The perplexing but wonderful thing about Morrison’s career is just how much her prominence was created not by the mainstream publishing world, but by Morrison herself, on her own terms, in spite of it.”

The article starts with Morrison’s recording session for the Random House/BOT audio of God Help the Child. The NYT provides a video interview with a sample of the reading, which proves her skills as a narrator.

Books on Tape has also created a special landing page for the audiobook, announcing that Morrison will also record unabridged editions of her earlier books, Paradise and Song of Solomon, both audios to be published in 2016.

Below a longer clip from the audio.

Harper Lee Elder Abuse Charges Cleared

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Go Set a WatchmanThe taint has been lifted from the publication of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman,(Harper; HarperAudio; HarperLuxe; HarperCollins Español; HarperCollins Español Audio; eBook) set for July 14.

On Friday, the Alabama officials looking into the case announced that accusations of elder abuse against Lee are unfounded. They declined to comment further. Due to confidentiality agreements, their findings will not be released. This followed the closing last month of the state’s investigation into fraud against Lee.

The novel will be released as an eBook as well as downloadable audio. It was only last year that Lee finally agreed to releasing To Kill a Mockingbird digitally.

It will also be available in Spanish-language print and audio editions, titled, Ve y pon un centinela.

Holds on all formats are reaching The Girl on the Train levels.

Reading Clubs Rejoice:
THE GOLDFINCH in Paperback

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 9.48.07 AMLibraries have plenty of hardcover copies of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch but it is still welcome news that the trade paperback edition (Hachette/Back Bay Books; ISBN 9780316055444; $20.00) hits the shelves this week, just in time for book club picks and kits.

It has also just been announced as the COSTCO book buyer’s pick for April.

CASUAL VACANCY, U.S. Trailer

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

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The HBO/BBC adaptation of  J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, (Hachette/Little, Brown) debuts on HBO April 29th & 30th.

It has already aired in the U.K., where fans resented a change in the ending. As a result, many took to Twitter to urge others to read the book instead.

The trailer for U.S. audiences was just released. Harry Potter fans will recognize one of the actors.

Media Tie-in Edition (cover not yet released):

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling
Hachette/Back Bay Books: April 28
Trade Paperback  $18.00 USD, $20.00 CAD

The BBC has also signed the detective series that Rowling wrote under the name Robert Galbraith (The Cukoo’s Calling, The Silkworm) for a series.

Holds Alert: A LITTLE LIFE

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

9780385539258_d6a46Heralded by many as the next Goldfinch (as in, poised to be a popular literary breakout) and an early favorite for the year of librarians on GalleyChat, Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (RH/Doubleday; OverDrive Sample) is becoming a holds superstar, with some libraries we checked spiking to ratios in the double digits.

Yanagihara’s second novel, after her acclaimed debut The People in the Trees, it tells the story of four friends, one of whom has lived a life of gothic trauma.

The 720-page novel is enjoying lavish attention. The LA Times’ review begins, “I’ve read a lot of emotionally taxing books in my time, but A Little Life … is the only one I’ve read as an adult that’s left me sobbing.” Vogue says the book announces “the arrival of a major new voice in fiction.” Kirkus, in a starred review, claims “The phrase ‘tour de force’ could have been invented for this audacious novel.” John Powers, a reviewer for NPR’s Fresh Air, confesses, “As I was reading, I literally dreamed about it every night.”

Even reviews that mention shortcomings offer high praise. The Huffington Post, in its “Bottom Line” column,  useful for readers advisors because it aims to combine “plot description and analysis with fun tidbits about the book,” calls it “a flawed but impressive novel that lifts the veil on the heart-wrenching consequences of trauma and loss.” It also calls the book “wondrous” and concludes that “the triumph of A Little Life’s many pages is significant: It wraps us so thoroughly in a character’s life that his trauma, his struggles, his griefs come to seem as familiar and inescapable as our own.” Entertainment Weekly in its B+ review says the novel is a “sometimes maddening read” but goes on to assert, “flaws and all, it’s still a wonderful Life.”

Check your holds. The waiting list might be as long as the novel itself.

Harper Lee Fraud Investigation Dropped

Friday, March 13th, 2015

At least one part of the State of Alabama’s investigation into complaints of elder abuse against author Harper Lee has been closed.

Alabama Securities Commission Director Joseph Borg tells the Associated Press that they have closed their investigation and that, in their conversations with Lee, “she was able to answer questions we asked to our satisfaction,” adding, “We don’t make competency determinations. We’re not doctors, But unless someone tells us to go back in, our file is closed on it.”

The Commission, which investigates financial crimes, interviewed Lee at the request of Alabama’s Department of Human Resources. A spokesperson for the department declined the A.P.’s request for comment on whether there will be other inquiries.

All the attention is not sitting well with Lee. According to the Wall Street Journal, Lee’s close friend, historian Wayne Flynt, said in an interview on Thursday, “All the reporters, all the controversy. At 88, in bad health, she’s wondering if it’s worth it.”

Meanwhile, holds in libraries are skyrocketing for the book that is at the center of the controversy, Go Set A Watchman (Harper; HarperLuxe, HarperAudio; July 14, 2015).

Hollywood Loves
THE BURIED GIANT

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

9780307271037_b504aCalling it “ecstatically reviewed,” Deadline reports that film rights to Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant (RH/Knopf; RH Audio; OverDrive Sample) have been acquired by Scott Rudin, who has been called “The Godfather of the Literary Adaptation”  (Captain Philips, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Moneyball, Angela’s Ashes and the upcoming Jobs, among many others).

 

Take the comment about the novel being “ecstatically reviewed” with a grain of salt. The daily NYT critic Michiko Kakutani dismissed it as an “eccentric, ham-handed fairy tale.” Neil Gaiman had trouble nailing it down in the NYT Book Review, even after several readings and regretted his “inability to fall in love with it, much as I wanted to.” On NPR, Meg Wolitzer said she anticipated the book for months but was ultimately disappointed. The headline for her review on All Things Considered this week expresses her feeling succinctly, “Ishiguro’s Buried Giant Gets Lost In Its Own Fog.”

On the more ecstatic side is former Washington Post Book World editor, Marie Arana who calls it, “a spectacular, rousing departure from anything Ishiguro has ever written, and yet a classic Ishiguro story.”

Check your holds. Some libraries have reordered to meet demand, while others are doing well with relatively modest initial orders. Based on its rise on Amazon’s sales rankings (currently at #15, the third adult fiction title on the list), we can expect to see it in the top five on the NYT Best Sellers list next week.

Several of Ishiguro’s previous novels have been adapted as films, including The Remains Of The Da(1993) starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, and Never Let Me Go (2010),  Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield.

Tana French, TRUE DETECTIVE?

Sunday, March 8th, 2015


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Likening Tana French’s novels to the successful HBO series True Detective, a production company has acquired the adaptation rights to In The WoodsThe Likeness and Faithful Place (all Penguin/Viking) with plans to turn it ino a series of its own (one of the comments notes what many librarians will second, “They’re being modest. This series is SO much better than True Detective“).

The announcement in Deadline notes that the book feature interconnecting characters. Coincidentally, The Millions explores that subject in depth, but their comparisons are more literary, from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway to Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives, novels which, “generate vertiginous thrills as they dramatize the difficulties of understanding ourselves, other people, and the world at large.”

The Review Trifecta, BRAGGSVILLE

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.59.37 AMHaving already won two influential fans, the Washington Post‘s Ron Charles and the LA Times’ David Ulin, Welcome to Braggsville (HaperCollins/Morrow, Feb. 17; OverDrive Sample) by T. Geronimo Johnson gets the second premiere spot (the first right, after the cover) in the upcoming March 1 NYT Book Review, with another enthusiastic, if slightly mixed, review.

It’s difficult to match the openers of the earlier reviews:

“The most dazzling, most unsettling, most oh-my-God-listen-up novel you’ll read this year is called Welcome to Braggsville.” (Ron Charles, the Washington Post)

“When was the last time you were shocked by a turn in a novel? Not merely surprised or astonished but actually stunned? T. Geronimo Johnson makes it happen twice in his second novel, Welcome to Braggsville.” (David Ulin, the L.A. Times)

The Sunday Book Review begins more obscurely, “If you imagine a satirical The Indian Princess, James Nelson Barker’s 1808 libretto about Pocahontas, or a macabre E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, you might come close to T. Geronimo Johnson’s second novel Welcome to Braggsville.” The reviewer goes on to a requisite NYT BR quibble, complaining that the metaphors and similes weigh the story down in spots and ends, “Organic, plucky, smart, [it] is the funniest sendup of identity politics, the academy and white racial anxiety to hit the scene in years. Recent racial satires like the film Dear White People or Tom Wolfe’s novel Back to Blood fumble to light dead fuses … Johnson, by contrast knows just which dark corners to expose … and how to whirl an affecting yarn all the while.”

An Indie Next pick for February, the book is also getting review attention in local papers, several via the syndicated Associated Press review; “narrative diversions and jazzy prose riffs will frustrate some readers but thrill others, and overall Johnson deftly pokes dark fun at a wide swath of culture, high and low.”

Johnson describes the book in his own words below:

Early Reviews: THE BURIED GIANT

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

9780307271037_b504aComing next week, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant (RH/Knopf; RH Audio; OverDrive Sample) appeared on all the “Most Anticipated” lists for the new year and is getting a great deal of advance review attention.


The NYT Book Review features it on the cover of the upcoming issue , with a review by Neil Gaiman (whose just released collection of stories and poems Trigger Warning, is also getting attention), in a review that indicates he had trouble nailing the book down, regretting his “inability to fall in love with it, much as I wanted to, ” and even after “reading it a second and third time … still finding  its characters and events and motives easier to understand, but even so, it guards its secrets and it world close.” He can’t let it go, however, because it “does what important books do: It remains in the mind long after it has been read, refusing to leave, forcing one to turn it over and over.”

The New York Times daily critic, Michiko Kakutani, has no problem dismissing it, calling it an “eccentric, ham-handed fairy tale with a jumble of story lines lifted from Beowulf, Arthurian legend and assorted folk traditions … recounted in stilted, formalistic language that’s presumably meant to evoke a bygone era.”

Among the novel’s fans are the Washington Post‘s former Book World editor, Marie Arana and booksellers, who picked it as an Indie Next title:

Ishiguro’s new novel is a work of wonder, transport, and beauty. A recurrent theme in his earlier books, always shown with great originality, is the matter of what happens after we have lost our way. In The Buried Giant, Ishiguro explores losing direction, memory, and certainty, as the primary characters cling to remnants of codes of behavior and belief. Which is the way through the forest? Where might our son be? And where is the dragon, and who shall seek to slay her? Set in the time just after King Arthur’s reign, Ishiguro’s tale, with striking, fable-like rhythm and narrative, shows how losing and finding our way runs long, deep, and to the core of things. — Rick Simonson, The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA

The Oprah Ripple Effect

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

9780804188241_p0_v1_s600These days, it takes more than an Oprah pick to make a book a sensation.

The most recent Oprah 2.0 Book Club pick, Cynthia Bond’s debut novel Ruby (RH/Hogarth; RH Audio; RH large type announced for March 17;  OverDrive Sample). announced two weeks ago, reached a high of #98 on Amazon’s sales rankings then dropped out of the Top 100 (it hit the March 1 NYT Trade Fiction list at #7).

After a feature about the author on NPR’s Morning Edition yesterday, it rose again, this time to #82. The story focuses on the author’s financial struggles as a single mother while she worked to complete the book. Bond was widely compared to Toni Morrison at the time of the novel’s publication, which racked up a number of starred reviews, and received fairly wide attention for a literary debut, but sales did little to change the author’s life until Oprah came along.

opr_cvr-lgAnd more is coming. NPR notes, “Because today’s market is much more segmented now than when her original book club began, Winfrey is personally promoting Ruby in her magazine, on her cable network and in interviews.”

The upcoming March issue of O Magazine features Oprah’s interview with the author (sneak peek here). By the way, we’re a little scared by that cover. Please don’t tell us that Oprah has discovered the life-changing magic of tidying up (looking more closely, Oprah’s approach is clearly more American, with rules like, “Know What It’s Worth” before throwing anything out.)

Ruby is a first in a projected trilogy, which may be a good thing for Oprah, who bought both the movie and TV rights.

RA Alert: WELCOME TO BRAGGSVILLE

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.59.37 AMIt is the rare review that begins with such exuberant praise as “the most dazzling, most unsettling, most oh-my-God-listen-up novel you’ll read,” but that is the beginning of Ron Charles’s rave in yesterday’s Washington Post for T. Geronimo Johnson’s Welcome to Braggsville (HaperCollins/Morrow, Feb. 17; OverDrive Sample), a novel Charles goes on to claim will “shock and disturb” even as Johnson’s “narration has such athleticism that you feel energized just running alongside him — or even several strides behind.”

David L. Ulin of the LA Times shares Charles’s enthusiasm, opening his review with “when was the last time you were shocked by a turn in a novel? Not merely surprised or astonished but actually stunned?” and goes on to call Johnson’s novel “audacious, unpredictable, exuberant and even tragic, in the most classic meaning of the word.”

Welcome to Braggsville is an IndieNext pick for February, with the following recommendation,

“In Welcome to Braggsville, Johnson explores cultural, social, and regional diversity in a world increasingly driven by social media. His satirical and ironic style portrays a UC Berkeley — ‘Berzerkeley’ — student from Georgia who, along with his friends, goes back to his hometown to challenge an annual Southern tradition and inadvertently sets off a chain of events resulting in tragic consequences. Johnson’s creative language play envelops the reader in the Deep South with the impact of a razor-sharp Lynyrd Skynyrd riff.”

Johnson has jumped from a literary nonprofit publisher (Coffee House Press) to HarperCollins with his second novel (after his debut Hold It ‘Til It Hurts, which was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award). For your readers willing to be challenged, lift some quotes from Charles’s review, which also makes it sound like a strong book club candidate.