Archive for the ‘Literary’ Category


Thursday, July 9th, 2015

9780812995220_dd7ffBuzz has been building for Julia Pierpont’s debut novel Among the Ten Thousand Things (Random House; Random House Audio; OverDrive Sample). Called by Vanity Fairone of the most anticipated books of the year” based on the manuscript being sold at auction for an estimated six figures in 2012, it carries a cover blurb by Jonathan Safran Foer, “This book is among the funniest, and most emotionally honest, I’ve read in a long time.”

Libraries ordered conservatively, holds are building and many are going back for reorders.

We covered the book last week, pointing out Entertainment Weekly’s praise, which has since been followed by attention from some other heavy hitters.

Described in the upcoming New York Times Sunday Book Review as “a novel about a family blown apart and yet still painfully tethered together” by Helen Schulman whose own novels have also explored modern marital relationships, the review begins, “In some cases, the key to the success of a longstanding marriage may not be in its well-kept secrets but in its tacit agreements.” She calls the author “a blazingly talented young author whose prose is so assured and whose observations are so precise and deeply felt that it’s almost an insult to bring up her age,” which she then does in the very next sentence, “At 28, Pierpont has a preternatural understanding of the vulnerabilities of middle age and the vicissitudes of a long marriage, the habits of being.”

She also credits the author with creating an “an audacious structural move … about half of the way through, when she jumps ahead into the future, leaving no questions about the resolution of this story unanswered. It’s an injection of omniscience reminiscent of Jennifer Egan or Milan Kundera, and it makes the unfolding of what follows more riveting in a slow-mo, rubbernecking way.”

It is the top pick on Oprah’s “Dazzling New Beach Reads” list, called a “twisty, gripping story … [that] packs an emotional wallop.”

The Huffington Post’s “Bottom Line” puts Pierpont in the same company as Virginia Woolf: “Though comparisons to Virginia Woolf will necessarily place most contemporary novels in the shadow of her genius, Among the Ten Thousand Things carries through the late author’s spirit, if not her revolutionary style.”

The Vanity Fair story mentioned above all but anoints Pierpont’s book as the summer’s have-to-read, saying it is “a big, beating heart that soars,” summarizing its draw in glowing terms:

Against a summer smorgasbord of stories about syrupy flings or crime dramas, Among the Ten Thousand Things rises above for its imagined structure, sentence-by-sentence punch, and pure humanity . . .  Pierpont has written a debut so honest and mature that it will resonate with even the most action-hungry readers—perhaps against reason. Her story is the one we’ll be talking about this summer, and well beyond.


Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 9.33.11 AMHow is this for an endorsement? “Summerlong (Harper/Ecco; Dreamscape; OverDrive Sample) is the Great White Midlife Crisis novel that Jonathan Franzen has tried to write (and failed) and Jonathan Lethem has tried to write (and failed) and Michael Chabon (wisely) half-avoided ever trying to write.”

That is how Jason Sheehan describes Dean Bakopoulos’s newest novel in his NPR review.

The story about a marriage on the rocks told with humor and unflinching candor is getting acclaim from several other notable book sources and could become one of the “it” books of the summer.

It is already among Oprah’s favorite “Dazzling New Beach Reads” and gets the nod from The Washington Post’s Ron Charles as well.

The folks at Oprah say Bakopoulos is “masterful when it comes to imagining the ways that we all long to cut loose from our everyday obligations.”

While Charles remarks that the novel is “sexy but surprisingly poignant” and that “Bakopoulos’s greatest talent is his ability to mix ribald comedy with heartfelt sorrow… finding out how these desperate dreamers get through their summer of love and lovelessness will make your own even more refreshing.”

It is Sheehan’s NPR’s review, however, that gives the best sense of the reading experience: “Do not read this book if you are unhappy. It will kill you. … Don’t read it if you’re sad. Don’t read it if you’re restless. … Don’t read it if, sometimes, you wake late at night and think of just slipping away in the dark, calculating how far away you’d be before anyone knew you were gone because if you do, Summerlong will take you down with it, man. It will break you.”

Holds in libraries are rising on light ordering.


Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Go Set a WatchmanThe Wall Street Journal will post the first chapter of Harper Lee’s new book, Go Set a Watchman, plus a sample of Reese Witherspoon reading the audiobook, this Friday, four days in advance of the book’s publication. In the U.K., the excerpts will be published by the Guardian.

The chapter will also be discussed on the WSJ Book Club Facebook page.

For an amusing take on the promotion campaign for the book, check out the discussion between Peter Bart, Variety’s former editor-in-chief and Mike Fleming, also formerly of Variety and now at Deadline. Says Bart,  “How do you sell a (sort of) sequel to the great To Kill a Mockingbird when you have no star to promote it (Gregory Peck is long gone) and Harper Lee, age 89, hasn’t been seen in public in sixty years.”

It may seem hopelessly old-fashioned to the Hollywood crowd, but, according to the New York Times, bookstore promotions include “read-a-thons, midnight openings, film screenings, Southern food and discussion groups.”

Discovery Story Questioned

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Go Set a WatchmanIt seemed that the controversies about the publication of Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman had been laid to rest, but this afternoon the New York Times reports that questions have come up about  whether the manuscript was a “stumbled on” last August as had been claimed, or if it was actually discovered in 2011.

The timing is important to those that fear that Lee, now 89 and nearly deaf and blind, was manipulated into agreeing to the book’s publication. In 2011, Lee’s sister and protector Alice was still alive. If the discovery been revealed, she may have taken steps to prevent its publication.

It’s unlikely this will have any impact on the book’s release, set for July 14. The state of Alabama has already ruled against complaints that Lee was coerced and reported that she was in fact happy to hear so many people are interested in reading the book.


Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 10.34.31 AMOn Fresh Air yesterday author Vendela Vida spoke with Terry Gross about her new novel The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty (Harper/Ecco; HighBridge; OverDrive Sample), one of the show’s early summer reading picks.

The novel, about a woman’s unraveling identity, has received admiring reviews in local and national papers, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Cleveland Plain Dealer to the daily New York Times and the Sunday Book Review.

As a result, holds are spiking in some places and are generally outpacing fairly light ordering.

If you need a way to describe the story, check out these takes:

  • Entertainment Weekly, which gave the book a B+, offers a bang-up summary: “Vida’s twisting, feverish novel may be slim, but it’s full of intrigue, betrayal, and enough mysterious doppelgängers to overwhelm even Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany.”
  • The Huffington Post’s “Bottom Line” says it is for readers “interested in feminist literature, funny stories, and spare plots that’ll make your heart race.”

Order Alert:

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.


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.


Saturday, March 28th, 2015


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

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.