Archive for the ‘Readers Advisory’ Category

N.K. Jemisin, Book Reviewer

Friday, August 26th, 2016

9780316229296_62f5aThe author of the Hugo winning The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin, has been in the news lately for her take on the current state of publishing and her reaction to winning “the Oscars” of her genre, but since last December she has also been sharing her views on Science Fiction and Fantasy in the NYT book review column “Otherwordly,” a bi-monthly roundup.

While the paper often assigns high profile authors to review high profile titles in the Sunday Book Review (Michael Connelly just reviewed Caleb Carr’s newest for example), Jemisin’s role is a bit different as she gets space to comment on a range of books within her genre specialty.

What kind of reviewer is she? A very precise, demanding, and appreciative one; a critic writing with vibrant engagement who is not willing to let much slide. What kind of reader is she? Based on her reactions to the works covered thus far, one that is interested in meaningful content rather than plot, values beautiful language, and appreciates in-depth characterizations.

For example, in her opening column she tries to figure out what China Miéville’s This Census-Taker (PRH/Del Rey) is all about, jumping from one possibility to the next before concluding, “This is a novel in which the journey is the story — but for those readers who actually want Miéville to take them somewhere, This Census-Taker may be an exercise in haunting, lovely frustration.”

Similarly, of Keith Lee Morris’s Travelers Rest (Hachette/Back Bay) she says the story is “not fresh” and thought “It’s beautifully written … Beautiful writing just isn’t enough to save any story from overfamiliarity.”

When a work does capture her fully, she gives it a rare “highly recommended” vote, as she has done for Andrea Hairston’s Will Do Magic for Small Change (Aqueduct Press), calling it a “beautifully multifaceted story … with deep, layered, powerful characters.”

All The Birds In The Sky (Macmillan/Tor/Tom Doherty), Charlie Jane Anders also impresses. She says it is “complex, and scary, and madcap … as hopeful as it is hilarious, and highly recommended.”

Below are links to her columns thus far:

December 28, 2015
February 23, 2016
April 19, 2016
June 17, 2016

Authors As Readers Advisors

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 is turning famous authors into readers’ advisors, giving them a platform to suggest titles well worth seeking out in “15 Women Writers Discuss Their Favorite Overlooked Books.”

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Elena Ferrante suggests fellow Italian writer, Elsa Morante, particularly her novel History (translated by William Weaver (Steerforth; OverDrive Sample; Feb. 2000) of which she says “One reads with one’s heart in one’s throat.”

Emily St. John Mandel offers J.M. Ledgard’s novel Submergence (Consortium/Coffee House; OverDrive Sample; Mar. 2013) saying it is a “masterpiece” that “both sings with tension and radiates immense humanity and tenderness.”

Ann Patchett, who, as a bookseller as well as author and, has experience advising readers, suggests Geoffrey Wolff’s “brilliant essay collection and memoir,” A Day at the Beach (PRH/Vintage; OverDrive Sample; Nov. 2013). She says it “offers up tales of daring along with expansive thinking, the bright light of humor, and the dark night of the soul, and delivers it all in writing sharp enough to cut your fingers on.”

Ann Beattie, Amy Bloom, Roxane Gay, Elizabeth Gilbert, Jamaica Kincaid, Miranda July, Lorrie Moore, Mary Roach, Karen Russell, Rebecca Stead, Meg Wolitzer, and Jacqueline Woodson, round out the authors making suggestions.

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On the site as well is “The 17 Best Books to Pick Up This August.” The list includes the buzzy Siracusa by Delia Ephron (PRH/Blue Rider Press; Penguin Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample) as well as The Imperial Wife by Irina Reyn (Macmillan/Thomas Dunne; OverDrive Sample) and Champion of the World  by Chad Dundas (PRH/G.P. Putnam; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample).

Talking Horror

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

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The WSJ Speak Easy podcasts take a look at pop culture, particularly TV and movies, but the latest is devoted to horror fiction, a half hour conversation that offers a way in to the genre for anyone who is not already a fan.

Featured are author Paul Tremblay, winner of last year’s Bram Stoker Award and whose new book Disappearance at Devil’s Rock (HC/William Morrow; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample) has garnered admiration. Joining him are Laird Barron, Man With No Name (JournalStone; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample) and Victor LaValle, The Ballad of Black Tom (Macmillan/Tor; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample).

Each discusses how they translate their own fears into their writing as well as the influence of H.P. Lovecraft and growing awareness of his racist views.

LaValle re-worked a Lovecraft story as The Ballad of Black Tom, taking Lovecraft’s idea that the most horrific idea is a universe that doesn’t care about your existence and turning it instead to a universe set against you, intent on wiping you out. He says that Lovecraft’s prejudices “limited his understanding of the breadth and depth of his own concept.”

They close by listing what scares them most, various visions of the future.

 

Readers’ Advisory: Killer Women

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

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The currently hyper-popular psychological suspense genre is examined in depth by film critic Terrence Rafferty in the new issue of The Atlantic, declaring in the headline, “Women Are Writing the Best Crime Novels,”  

Among upcoming titles, Rafferty is particularly keen on The Darkest Secret, Alex Marwood (PRH/Penguin, Aug. 30) and You Will Know Me, Megan Abbott (Hachette/Little, Brown, July 26), calling the first “brilliant” and the second “superb.”

The genre was created by women authors, amply proved he says by the Library of America’s two-volume collection, Women Crime Writers (2015) and it now has “many more daughters than sons,” running down a global roster:

America — Megan Abbott, Alison Gaylin, Laura Lippman

England — Alex Marwood, Paula Hawkins, Sophie Hannah

Scotland — Val McDermid, Denise Mina

Ireland — Tana French

Norway — Karin Fossum

Japan — Natsuo Kirino

These authors have ushered in a new order, that, says Rafferty, “is not a world Raymond Chandler would have recognized … The female writers, for whatever reason (men?), don’t much believe in heroes, which makes their kind of storytelling perhaps a better fit for these cynical times. Their books are light on gunplay, heavy on emotional violence … pure noir, velvety and pitiless.”

Readers’ Advisory: Comics

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday offers a capsule overview of the state of comics, interviewing George Gene Gustines, of the NYT‘s Arts Beat blog, about the format’s allure, both for readers and for authors.

The brief interview gives insight into the value of all the mixes, mash-ups, alliances, and re-issues for readers and the big-name authors being drawn to the format.

Gustine delineates the current audience for comics, pointing out that all age groups are fans but the sweet spot right now are readers in their 40s who grew up on comics and have followed every significant character evolution and story line. He says that publishers are trying to appeal to kids again with a lot of new material to ensure the format does not age out.

STL001673Gustines also discusses the trend for prose authors to move to comics. As we reported, Ta-Nehisi Coates is topping the charts with his new version of Black Panther (the graphic novel compiling issues #1-4 is forthcoming: Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze (Hachette/Marvel; Sept. 27, 2016; ISBN: 9781302900533; $16.99).

9781401263133_63839Brad Meltzer (bestselling author of thrillers such as The Tenth Justice) had a highly successful turn as well says Gustines, creating a run of the Justice League of America and the comic series Identity Crisis that Gustines says “sold like gangbusters.”

Another thriller author, Greg Rucka, has written dozens of comics for both DC and Marvel including work on Batman and Spider-Man and Michael Chabon created stories for the Casanova comic with Matt Fraction, the Eisner and Harvey award-winning author of such popular series as Sex Criminals and Hawkeye.

9781506700632_97656Due in September is, Margaret Atwood’s Angel Catbird (PRH/Dark Horse; Sept. 6, 2016; ISBN: 9781506700632; $14.99), the first in an  . The Guardian quotes Atwood, “I have concocted a superhero who is part cat, part bird. Due to some spilled genetic Super-Splicer, our hero got tangled up with both a cat and an owl; hence his fur and feathers, and his identity problems.”

Dark Horse acquiring editor said it will be “a humorous, action-driven, pulp-inspired story … [with] …a lot of cat puns …. a strange mix of Will Eisner’s The Spirit, Grant Morrison and Chas Truog’s Animal Man, and Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s Squirrel Girl.”

All this, of course, on top of what is also a busy market of adapting print only books into comics, such as Paul Auster’s City of Glass, Donald E. Westlake’s Parker novels, and both Game of Thrones and Outlander.

Nancy Pearl’s New Year’s Pick

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

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Looking for a book for the New Year, something a bit different that crosses a number of popular genres? In her most recent KUOW radio appearance, librarian Nancy Pearl offers a suggestion, the 2014 genre-blending City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (PRH/Broadway; OverDrive Sample).

Saying it’s exciting to discover an author she has never read before, especially one with a backlist to explore, Nancy discusses the first in Bennett’s The Divine Cities trilogy (the second, City of Blades, PRH/Broadway; OverDrive Sample will be published on Jan. 26), a cross between mystery, fantasy, and SF about a land once ruled by incarnate gods and a young spy sent on a mission to catch a murderer.

The beginning is a bit odd, she says but the story and the world-building quickly caught her attention and drew her in.

She is not alone in that assessment.

NPR’s reviewer says he put the book down three times but,

“I also came back, drawn by something about City of Stairs, even in those interminable opening pages … It was the shine of a wholly and fully realized world. The hard gleam of competence coming from a writer who knows what he’s doing, where he’s going and just exactly how to get there … Bennett is plainly a writer in love with the world he has built — and with good cause. It’s a great world, original and unique, with a scent and a texture, a sense of deep, bloody history, and a naturally blended magic living in the stones.”

NYPL Debuts Staff Picks Tool

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 10.03.54 AMThe New York Public Library is offering a new take on staff picks, a browse tool that combines the readers’ advisory features of appeal with the sort features of NPR’s Book Concierge.

Every month the NYPL staff posts 100 picks for adults, YAs, and children.

Those selections are tagged so that users can decide if they want a book driven by the appeal elements story or character, for example, and then select from a list of themes, such as “creepy,” “nail-biters,” or “tales of courage.” Order is not prescribed (themes can be picked first) and there is no limit to the number of tags a reader can choose.

Titles appear as a grid of jacket covers or a list of titles and neatly rearrange themselves on the screen as each tag is chosen.

Once happy with their selections, users can click on a cover image (or title) and read a short, signed annotation. Links to both the print and ebook records are on this same page.

News of the new interface made Bustle and GalleyChat.

Well done, NYPL.

 

RA Resource: Slate’s Audio
Book Club

Monday, July 13th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 2.13.20 PMLooking for another way to get oriented to popular books or ideas for book discussion? Consider dipping into Slate’s Audio Book Club, a monthly podcast of lengthy conversations about newish titles.

If book discussion groups were an English Lit. class they would be something like Slate’s podcast. Three interested and invested readers – armed with copious notes – gather to discuss a book in full detail, spoilers included. Participants tend to be picky, and even with books they enjoy are never shy about pointing out weaknesses.

9780385353304_db2df-2Sometimes the conversation also veers into larger topics. This month the three reviewers took up the subject of genre as they discussed Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven (RH/Knopf; RH & BOT Audio; Thorndike; OverDrive Sample).

For all those increasingly confused and frustrated by genre borders it makes for interesting listening. The Slate readers conclude that Mandel intentionally plays around with genre, winking at conventions as she does so (despite her contention that she writes literary fiction).

Previous podcasts have covered All the Light We Cannot See, H is for Hawk, and Girl on the Train.

Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman is up next, in August.

(Note: it is called an audio book club because the conversations are delivered via podcast. They do not discuss audiobooks).

RA Alert: FRESH AIR’s Summer Reading Suggestions

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

NPR reviewer Maureen Corrigan, author of So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be And Why It Endures, offers a collection of early summer reading suggestions during a segment on NPR’s Fresh Air.

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She begins with Vendela Vida’s new novel, The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty (HarperCollins/Ecco; HighBridge Audio; OverDrive Sample). A traveler loses her wallet and passport and “What ensues is a kind of existential suspense tale in which our heroine is at first paralyzed by the theft and then emboldened to borrow other women’s documents and identities.”

Corrigan calls Patricia Park’s debut novel Re Jane (Penguin/Pamela Dorman Books; OverDrive Sample) “a wickedly inventive updating of Jane Eyre.”

Two nonfiction works round out her picks.

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Deborah Lutz’s The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects (W.W. Norton) examines objects important to the Brontë sisters, including a dog collar, a writing desk, and an amethyst bracelet.

In No Better Friend: One Man, One Dog, and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival In WWII (Hachette/Little, Brown; OverDrive Sample), Robert Weintraub tells the story of the only official American canine POW, a dog named Judy who survived the horrors of a Japanese interment camp.

Corrigan says each of her picks “begin in familiar territory and then surprise us readers by going off into places we could never anticipate.” Read on indeed!

Nancy Pearl Suggests Crossover YA

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

In support of kid’s summer reading, librarian Nancy Pearl has been discussing books for young readers on her weekly radio show for Seattle’s NPR affiliate KUOW.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.19.41 AMThis week, however, she highlights a YA crossover she thinks adults will enjoy as well, Michelle Cooper’s A Brief History of Montmaray (RH/Knopf Books for Young Readers; 2011; OverDrive Sample).

Set in 1936 on a fictional island nation between France and Spain, it features the journals of Sophie FitzOsborne, a sixteen year-old member of an impoverished royal family. Europe is about to fall to war, a fact made clear when German officers arrive at the shores of Montmaray.

Nancy compares it in tone to I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.24.11 AMScreen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.37.24 AMUnlike Smith’s standalone, A Brief History of Montmaray begins a trilogy. The other two books are The FitzOsbornes in Exile (RH/Knopf Books for Young Readers; 2012; OverDrive Sample) and The FitzOsbornes at War (RH/Knopf Books for Young Readers; 2012; OverDrive Sample).

Joining the chorus of voices championing YA books as crossovers, Nancy advises adults to browse the teen section when they are hunting for titles they would otherwise miss due to marketing and library classifications.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.31.55 AMScreen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.31.40 AMIn that spirit, last week she talked about Edward Carey’s Heap House (Overlook Press; OverDrive Sample). Intended for 11-12 year-olds, it also appeals to adult fans who like weird, luxuriantly imagined fantasy. It too is the first in a trilogy. Foulsham (Overlook Press; OverDrive Sample), book two in the series, comes out in early July.

The Librarian MAD MEN Connection

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 10.12.27 AMReaders who geek out on Mad Men already know Billy Parrott, the Managing Librarian of the Art and Picture Collections at the New York Public Library, from his contributions to #MadMenReading, his blog, The Man Men Reading List, and Pinterest board, all dedicated to the books featured in the series.

Now Parrott is partnering with AMC to create an official reading list and is capturing the attention of the media as the final season of Mad Men airs. The Guardian features Parrott in a lengthy piece on the key books of the series – including works by Frank O’Hara and Dante – while New York magazine asks Parrott to provide a run down of the best literary scenes from the show.

Taking the opportunity to plug the library profession, he tells The Guardian,

“This is what librarians do on a daily basis. Every morning, on the subway on the way to work, I look to see what others are reading, and I think about what else I might suggest for them if they came up to me in the library and asked for a recommendation.”

RA Help for New Terry Pratchett Readers

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 9.46.57 AMThe widely reported news of Terry Pratchett’s death is likely to send readers to the library. For those new to Pratchett, who wrote over 70 novels, many as part of the sprawling Discworld series, it can be hard to know where to start.

Readers’ advisors can turn to the A.V. Club’s well-considered path through Pratchett’s novels and consult BoingBoing’s posting of Krzysztof Kietzma’s handy infographic to the interrelated books in Discworld (unfortunately, it’s difficult to read. A larger version is available here).

BuzzFeed offers a ranked listing of his 30 best works while USA Today and Mashable suggest five starting titles.

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.

New for the New Year

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

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Need some titles for the tip of your tongue when people ask what to look for in the new year? Take a look at The Barnes & Noble Review‘s selections of “the most enticing new books slated to arrive in the first half of 2015″ and Entertainment Weekly’s “20 Books We’ll Read in 2015” (caution: as we noted earlier, some of the titles on the latter list won’t be out until the fall).

There’s not much agreement between the lists, with just three titles appearing on both lists.

Two overlaps are unsurprising, based on sheer name recognition — Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins, (Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio, May 5) and Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child,(RH/Knopf; RH Audio, April 21).

The third is less obvious, James Hannaham’s Delicious Foods, (Hachette/Little,Brown; Hachette Audio, March 17). Entertainment Weekly warns, “Don’t let the appealing title fool you. This searing novel tackles death and big food corporations. Also, it’s partly narrated by crack cocaine. Yep,” Adds B&N, “James Hannaham kicks off his new novel (following his debut God Says No) with a teenager’s desperate escape from a twenty-first century slave plantation to which drug addicts are seduced to become captive labor.”

Check both lists. You’ll find at least one answer to the question, “Anything interesting coming out?”

RA Opportunity: SERIAL

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

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Serial, a nonfiction podcast designed by the creators of This American Life, has become such an obsession, that fans gathered for “listening parties” for the final episode of the first season in mid December. Since the episodes are posted at 7:30 on Thursday mornings, at least one of these events, held at a Lower Manhattan bar, was dubbed “Serial and Cereal” (with a splash of Jameson’s in the coffee).

The debut season, which began in October, focuses on a Baltimore high school student found guilty of killing his ex-girlfriend and sentenced to life in prison. Each week, Sarah Koenig, the host of Serial, examines the case and goes where the evidence leads, introducing a rich cast of characters and an immersive and suspenseful story that has become the most listened-to podcast in the history of the medium (see coverage in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Entertainment Weekly).

Libraries have responded to the interest. The Chicago Public Library offers a reading list that includes nonfiction and audiobooks, such as Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (RH/Spiegel & Grau, 2014; OverDrive Sample) andThe Skeleton Crew by Deborah Halber (Simon & Schuster, 2014; OverDrive Sample), also linking to the Serial site.

The New York Public Library highlights six books on criminal justice for Serial fans, including The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (The New Press, 2010; OverDrive Sample). Fanwood Memorial Library in New Jersey also offers listeners guidance for next reading choices, including Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (Random House/Nan A. Talese, 1996; OverDrive Sample) and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Random House/Modern Library [reprint], 2013 ; OverDrive Sample).

In addition, Business Insider recently posted a list of suggested true crime books (such as Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me [Norton [20th Anniversary Ed], 2000; OverDrive Sample]) while BookRiot offers a list of audiobooks to try after Serial concludes (including Mary Roach’s Stiff  [Norton, 2003]).

There will be more. A second season has been announced, thanks to listener donations, although the subject and release dates have not yet been announced.