The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, J. Kenji López-Alt (W. W. Norton, 2015; OverDrive Sample) was a New York Times bestseller when it came out last year. It was also considered one of the best cookbooks of the year by both LJ and Amazon.
Gaining renewed attention, it moved up Amazon’s sales ranking from just outside the top 100 to #4.
The editor-in-chief of the science fiction site io9.com, Charlie Jane Anders, is receiving critical attention for her new novel All the Birds in the Sky (Macmillan/Tor Books; OverDrive Sample), which is an example of the rich possibilities along the crossroads of genre.
“[A] brilliant, cross-genre novel [that has all] the hallmarks of an instant classic. It’s a beautifully written, funny, tremendously moving … Like the work of other 21st century writers — Kelly Link and Lev Grossman come immediately to mind — All the Birds in the Sky serves as both a celebration of and corrective to the standard tropes of genre fiction.”
Cory Doctorow agrees, writing on Boing Boing that the novel is “smartass, soulful … everything you could ask for … a fresh look at science fiction’s most cherished memes, ruthlessly shredded and lovingly reassembled.”
The Guardian echoes those thoughts, saying that the novel “subverts genres … coming up with something greater than the sum of its parts … the result is a weird and charming read.”
Anders has been writing with passion and insight about science fiction and fantasy for years — so it only makes sense that … she’s melded the two genres in a way that opens a profound, poetic new perspective on each … 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.”
All the attention has yet to transfer into large hold queues but this is certainly a book to watch as award season comes around again.
Today on io9, in the essay “What It Means To Be a Science Fiction Writer in the Early 21st Century,” she describes how the process of writing the book led to her believe that “There is a huge opportunity, in 2016, for authors (and creators of all kinds) to scrape off the accumulated layers of meta from old story ideas—and to come up with brand new story ideas as well.”
Anders also recently gave a Harvard TedX presentation.
A new book exploring the scientific evidence of mind/body healing (using such practices as meditation, biofeedback, placebos, and more) is getting a great deal of attention and is rising on Amazon as a result, jumping from #1,177 up to #37.
Gross is clearly fascinated in the topic, especially the biological process of mental healing, the effects of stress, and the ethics of alternative therapies.
NYT’s nonfiction reviewer, Jennifer Senior, is a bit less engaged. She takes issue with some of the topics, saying little of this book is new, but praises Marchant’s writing ability, her solid approach (she says Marchant is “a scientist to her bones”), and her well-chosen subjects – “very moving characters to show us the importance of the research she discusses.”
Libraries we checked generally bought few copies. As a result, holds ratios are high, even though the overall numbers are modest.
Move over Dr. Seuss and make way for Beatrix Potter. She too is now among the list of beloved children’s authors with a newly found manuscript.
According to The Guardian, the treasured find, The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, has been lying low for 100 years, hidden in the V&A archives.
The project dates back to at least 1914, when Potter informed her editor that she was at work on a story of “a well-behaved prime black Kitty cat, who leads rather a double life.”
Various life events got in the way of Potter completing the tale, including WWI and marriage, but Potter drafted a mock-up of the book, complete with one finished illustration and a rough sketch.
Publisher Jo Hanks, who found the tale, says it offers some of the “best of Beatrix Potter … It has double identities, colourful villains and a number of favourite characters from other tales [even an “older, slower and portlier” Peter Rabbit].
Artist Quentin Blake, who in the past created new art for Roald Dahl’s books, has been selected to illustrate the tale. He told the paper, “I liked the story immediately – it’s full of incident and mischief and character – and I was fascinated to think that I was being asked to draw pictures for it … I have a strange feeling that it might have been waiting for me.”
According to The Washington Post, the new tale will be published world-wide in September by Frederick Warne & Co, Beatrix Potter’s original publisher, now owned by PRH. The 2016 publication date coincides with the 150th anniversary of Potters’ birth.
The Guardian offers images of Potter’s illustration and the new art by Blake. The BBC provides an excerpt of the story.
There’s a single holds leader for the week, James Patterson’s NYPD Red 4 (Hachette/Little, Brown) co-written with Marshall Karp, but fans are also looking forward to new titles by Alafair Burke, Elisa James, Marcia Muller and Brandon Sanderson.
The Innocent Killer: A True Story of a Wrongful Conviction and its Astonishing Aftermath
Michael Griesbach, narrated by Johnny Heller, (Tantor Audio)
The Netflix series Making a Murderer is now a bona fide cultural phenomenon, having made the cover of People magazine. Next week Tantor releases an audio of a book by one of the an assistant district attorneys in the department that prosecuted the case (big surprise, he thinks the prosecution got it right). Published by the American Bar Association in 2014, long before the series debuted, the print version is currently out of stock, but it is available as an eBook (OverDrive sample). In the U.K., PRH is releasing it under the Windmill imprint, as reported by the Guardian.
Emily Weiss, of the Bedford Public Library, Bedford, NH says:
“Benjamin transports readers to 1960s Manhattan. This story gives us the chance to spy on Truman Capote’s close friendship with Babe Paley and his society “swans,” and the betrayal and scandal that drove them apart. I loved the description of the Black and White Ball.”
“All the Birds in the Skyreads like an instant classic. In tackling big questions about what is really important in life and how we are all connected, the novel soars through magic and science, good and evil, and all the shades in between; through the struggles of children against clueless parents, teachers, and spiteful kids; and through the struggles of adults against a heedless society, all with a love story at its heart. Deep, dark, funny, and wonderful!”
“The beautiful stories in Sparks’ debut collection have an ephemeral quality that is difficult to categorize. Comparisons can be made to Haruki Murakami or George Saunders, but the writing is honestly unlike anything I have ever read. The otherworldliness of these stories will transport you beyond the minutiae of your everyday life and alter the way you look at the world.” —Shawn Donley, Powell’s Books, Portland, OR.
How to Be Single, Liz Tuccillo (S&S/Washington Square Press; OverDrive Sample – also in mass market) releases this week in order to promote the Feb. 12 opening of the film starring Rebel Wilson, Dakota Johnson, Leslie Mann, Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, and Damon Wayans Jr.
The romantic comedy, a big Valentine’s Day bet, follows singles on the dating scene in NYC.
Timed for Easter is the new Biblical movie, The Young Messiah, starring Sean Bean, David Bradley, and Jonathan Bailey. It comes out on March 11th.
Based on a novel by Anne Rice, the tie-in editions have both the movie title and Rice’s original book title: The Young Messiah (Movie tie-in) (originally published as Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt), Anne Rice (PRH/Ballantine Books; OverDrive Sample – also in mass market).
In a rare event for a university press, a tie-in edition is also out for Free State of Jones, starring Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Keri Russell.
The movie centers on the true life account of a Southern farmer who led a rebellion against the Confederacy.
The Free State of Jones, Movie Edition: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War (The University of North Carolina Press) was written by Victoria E. Bynum, a Texas State University professor, now retired.
Each month, our GalleyChatter columnist Robin Beerbower runs down librarian and bookseller favorites from the most recent Twitter chat (#ewgc). Below is her post for January.
Whipping out their crystal balls to predict which books will connect with readers this spring, GalleyChatters gathered for a Twitter chat earlier this month. Below are seven of the 113 titles mentioned. Check here for the complete Edelweiss list.
In Redemption Road (Macmillan/Thomas Dunne, May), John Hart has created the perfect combination of elements for any thriller reader, unending suspense, plot twists galore, and realistic settings. He is already receiving rave reviews from librarians, with Delphi (IN) Public Library’s library director, Kellie Currie, saying, “…thriller doesn’t do full justice to the book at all. The characters are not the cookie-cutter figures you often get in a plot-heavy novel. They’re complex and driven by a lot of inner angst. Great book for literary and thriller lovers alike.”
For a mesmerizing thriller with a more psychological bend, Elizabeth Brundage’s All Things Cease to Appear (PRH/Knopf, March) was favored by Jennifer Winberry (Hunterdon County Library, NJ), “A house with a tragic history, an unsolved murder and a town in need of answers and healing even twenty years later, this dark, Gothic novel tells the story of two families bringing evidence of evil and unknown crimes to light while at the same time plumbing the depths of the human psyche.”
Set in a thinly disguised Manhattan restaurant that also happens to be a favorite among publishers, one of spring’s most anticipated novels is by a debut author (she was profiled in the NYT when the book was signed over a year ago), Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (PRH/Knopf, May).
About 22-year-old Tess, a recent NYC transplant who, despite no experience, is hired as a back waiter, Stephanie Anderson, Darien (CT) Library says, “Whether it’s the different varieties of oysters and their distinguishing characteristics, the proper wine to serve with foie gras or learning how deeply betrayal can color one’s life choices, this is a chronicle of what it means to be young, broke and finally on your own in the best city in the world.” Fans of Anthony Bourdain and Phoebe Damrosch’s Service Included: Four Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter will eat this up.
Lucy Knisley is known for writing graphic novels that honestly report on her life experiences. She continues that trajectory in the charming and sincere Something New: Tales of a Makeshift Bride (Macmillan/First Second, May). Lucy chronicles the process of planning a wedding while working out her feelings about getting hitched, and eventually works out a DIY approach to keeping the costs down and also making it a meaningful experience. Knisley’s drawings are perfect and the photos from the planning and wedding enhanced the visual experience. For those who weep at weddings, a tissue is recommended.
Mention of the forthcoming publication of Justin Cronin’s third book in the Passage trilogy, The City of Mirrors (PRH/Ballantine, May) caused many to download the galley immediately. When questioned whether it is necessary to read (or reread) the first two books to appreciate it, Rosemary Smith, top Edelweiss reviewer and blogger, said “The trilogy is much more powerful, but Cronin does a good job in his ‘Biblical’ forward and in flashbacks, so readers might be able to read just the last book. In it, readers will finally find out what happened to Amy (sort of) after the destruction of the Twelve and will witness humanity trying to make a comeback from the brink of total obliteration. Nothing will compare to the first book, The Passage, but this is as close as readers will get.”
Meaty Book Group Titles
The many fans of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See will want to read the compelling Everyone Brave is Forgiven (Simon & Schuster, May) by Little Bee author, Chris Cleaves. Janet Schneider said this World War II story about four comrades set in Europe is “…a beautifully written exploration of the futility of war, loss, bravery, racism, and social class, featuring memorable characters who will break your heart.” She also recommends it as a readalike for Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins.
Trying to predict what titles will be popular with book groups is always a gamble, but Janet Lockhart is betting on Jung Yun’s short but effective novel, Shelter (Macmillan/Picador, March) saying, “Kyung Cho lives just a few miles from his parents, Jin and Mae, but couldn’t be farther away emotionally. A horrific incident forces him to welcome his parents into his home and the reasons for their chilly relationship can no longer remain repressed. A story of family dysfunction that reads like a thriller; I stayed up late turning the pages because I had to know what happened next.”
To discover more eagerly awaited titles and enjoy a rollicking discussion, join us on February 6 at 4:00 (ET) with virtual happy hour at 3:30, #ewgc. To keep up with my anticipated 2016 titles, “friend me” on Edelweiss.
“Hadley is so perceptive about the tiny ways we find ourselves performing for one another, and so skilled at fluidly dipping in and out of the minds of her characters—whether they’re 6 and wishing to spy on the grown-ups or 76 and considering the comforts of decades-long marriage—that it can feel like she’s revealing little secrets about life that it would have taken you years to notice on your own.”
“… for anyone who cherishes Anne Tyler and Alice Munro, the book offers similar deep pleasures. Like those North American masters of the domestic realm, Hadley crystallizes the atmosphere of ordinary life in prose somehow miraculous and natural.”
“In her patient, unobtrusive, almost self-effacing way, Tessa Hadley has become one of this country’s great contemporary novelists. She is equipped with an armoury of techniques and skills that may yet secure her a position as the greatest of them. Consider all the things she can do. She writes brilliantly about families and their capacity for splintering. She is a remarkable and sensuous noticer of the natural world. She handles the passing of time with a magician’s finesse. She is possessed of a psychological subtlety reminiscent of Henry James, and an ironic beadiness worthy of Jane Austen. To cap it all, she is dryly, deftly humorous. Is that enough to be going on with?”
“Hadley’s popular reputation, especially in the U.S., hasn’t caught up with her critical one. But this novel, which uses her much-praised perceptiveness and her fine-brushed prose to tell a story of familial secrets and tensions, may help her break through.”
Indeed. Holds are exceeding a 3:1 ratio by wide margins at many libraries we checked.
To catch up with the book, listen to this interview with Hadley, which aired earlier in the month on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.
As the result of an embargo, preventing pre-pub reviews, many libraries are facing high demand on few, if any, copies of a new book on right wing money and politics, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (PRH/Doubleday; BOT).
Author and journalist Jane Mayer appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday and as a result the book is now #4 on Amazon’s sales ranking and holds are skyrocketing.
Mayer shares some horrifying stories about the Koch’s, the bad blood in the family, and the secret way they (and other wealthy conservative families) give money to shape politics.
Calling them the political equivalent of secret tax shelter banks in the Cayman Islands, she explains how the Koch’s and others have undertaken a concerted campaign to shape the political environment by financing think tanks to formulate ideas, bankrolling advocacy groups to support those ideas, and pressuring politicians to create laws to enact them – all constructed in a way to hide the identity of those funding the process.
Calling it a big, sweeping, Dickensian novel, the Slate critics, Meghan O’Rourke, Parul Sehgal, and Katy Waldman, jump into a conversation about the core of the novel and its message.
While the central character, a woman named Pip, should serve as the novel’s heart, all the participants agree that it is the mothers in the story that power its interest, saying that those characters offer a creepy sensibility that provides “a range of tones from horror to simmer” and become the most fascinating part of the story.
The group also discusses the portrayal of women and the ways the men operate in the novel, accusing Franzen of failing the Bechdel;Wallace test.
Each ends up recommending the novel, despite clear flaws, saying they admire Franzen’s ambition and his ability to identify questions readers need to address. However, they say that this is not the book to start reading Franzen – for that they suggest The Corrections.
Next month the book club will explore Lucia Berlin’s short-story collection A Manual for Cleaning Women, which was featured on a number of the year-end best books lists.
A children’s picture book that features George Washington’s enslaved cook has been withdrawn from sale by the publisher Scholastic, just weeks after it hit shelves.
Bowing to widespread pressure, Scholastic has ceased distribution of A Birthday Cake for George Washington, written by Ramin Ganeshram and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, saying in a press release, “We do not believe this title meets the standards of appropriate presentation of information to younger children, despite the positive intentions and beliefs of the author, editor, and illustrator.”
Published just a few weeks ago on Jan 5., the book is facing similar charges to those leveled at another recently published picture book that also features slaves smiling while they create a treat for the household’s masters, A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Sophie Blackall (RH/Schwartz & Wade).
It begins at the moment the author, a neurosurgeon finally completing over a decade of training, learns that his life, put on hold for so long, might very well end decades sooner than anyone would expect.
On the NYT’s Book Review podcast, Greg Cowles, who oversees the bestseller lists, hints that it is likely to hit the list next week and notes that it has been getting a lot of attention.
“Dr. Kalanithi, who died at 37, went on to write a great, indelible book … To paraphrase Abraham Verghese’s introduction, to read this book is to feel that Dr. Kalanithi still lives, with enormous power to influence the lives of others even though he is gone … I guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option.”
Entertainment Weekly gives it a A-, remarking that its “unsentimental approach” gives the book its power:
“There’s no redemption here. Kalanithi died before he finished the book, leaving his wife Lucy to write a beautiful but painful epilogue. In the few hundred pages he completed, he chronicles his transition from doctor to patient with an acute clinical eye … Its only fault is that the book, like his life, ends much too early.”
There’s just one title arriving with a a significant number of holds next week Blue, Danielle Steel, (PRH/Delacorte; RH Large Print; Brilliance audio). Fans are also anticipating new titles by Gregg Hurwitz (one of the peer picks, below) and Bernard Cornwall’s ninth installment in the Saxon Tales, Warriors of the Storm (HarperCollins/Harper).
Before I Forget, B. Smith and Dan Gasby with Michael Shnayerson, (PRH/Harmony)
Say it isn’t so. The vibrant B. Smith has early-onset Alzheimer’s at 64. She writes this poignantly titled memoir with her husband Dan Gasby and Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Shnayerson. An excerpt is featured in the new issue of People Magazine and B. and Dan are scheduled for an interview on NBC’s Today Show
Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Jane Mayer. (PRH/Doubleday; RH Large Print; RH Audio) — Embargoed
It is also a January LibraryReads choice. Barbara Clark-Greene of Groton Public Library, Groton, CT says.
“Sara arrives in the small town of Broken Wheel to visit her pen pal Amy, only to discover Amy has just died. The tale of how she brings the love of books and reading that she shared with Amy to the residents of Broken Wheel is just a lovely read. Any book lover will enjoy Sara’s story and that of the friends she makes in Broken Wheel. If ever a town needed a bookstore, it is Broken Wheel; the healing power of books and reading is made evident by this heartwarming book.”
“A sweet story of love and loss set in a residential care facility. Two of its youngest residents, a man and a woman both diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, fall in love. Their story is intertwined with the stories of other residents and employees at the facility, including a recently widowed cook and her seven-year-old daughter. A moving and improbably uplifting tale.”
Two additional January LibraryReads picks also hit the shelves this week.
“Readers rejoice!” says Janet Lockhart of Wake County Public Libraries, Raleigh, NC, “John Rebus has come out of retirement. Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox are working an important case and ask for his help. Then an attempt is made on the life of his longtime nemesis, Big Ger Cafferty. Are the cases connected? A top notch entry in a beloved series.”
“A slightly more curmudgeonly Bill Bryson recreates his beloved formula of travel writing and social commentary. This book is a lovely reminder of all the amazing natural beauty and historically significant sites found in the United Kingdom. Even though Bryson extols the virtues of his adopted homeland, he never lets up on the eccentricities and stupidity he encounters. Bryson’s still laugh-out loud funny and this book won’t disappoint.” – Susannah Connor, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ
Two additional February IndieNext picks release as well.
“The U.S. government secretly trained a group of orphaned children to be lethal assassins when they grew up. Evan, one of these children and now a grown man, has left the program and disappeared, resurfacing only to help those in desperate need. It is through this work that one of his enemies has found him, but which enemy — the government, one of his fellow orphans, or a relative of one of the many bad guys he has gotten rid of? Filled with lots of twists and turns and neat techno gadgets, Orphan X takes you on a roller coaster ride that will leave you breathless and waiting for the next installment of the Nowhere Man.” —Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC
“This story of an engaged couple trying to navigate crazy family dynamics, betrayal, and professional dilemmas on their way to getting married is one of the funniest, most unique novels I’ve ever read. If you simply list the story’s elements — a hippy commune, a combat field-medicine controversy, screaming snails, a devious pharmaceutical exec, a long-dead social theorist, the world’s greatest hypochondriac, and a main character who believes a squirrel is following her around California trying to tell her something — you would think that there is just no way it could all come together, but it absolutely does, and ingeniously so. A terrific book!” —Rico Lange, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 4, Marvel Comics (Marvel), which airs on Netflix, comes out this week.
As we reported earlier, Nexflix began streaming the series based on the Marvel superhero in late November. Four books collect the original comics, making this week’s entry the last of the tie-ins.
Starring Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad) as Jones, a character with superhuman strength, the show has racked up some very impressive reviews. Just one example is Eric Deggans take for NPR. He calls it “powerful” and “brilliant” and says it is one “of the best TV shows of the year.”
Also coming this week are several library-friendly titles among the the many Zootopia tie-ins to the new Disney movie due out March 4. Featuring the voices of Idris Elba, Ginnifer Goodwin, and an all star cast, the animated film is about a rookie bunny cop on her first big case.
Zootopia: Judy Hopps and the Missing Jumbo-Pop, Disney Book Group (Disney Press).
A new book overturns dieters’ ages-long focus on calories. By an endocrinologist with impressive credentials (he’s a professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, among other positions), it debuts on the #3 spot on the 1/24/16 NYTAdvice, How-To & Miscellaneous list.
Always Hungry?: Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells, and Lose Weight Permanently (Hachette/Grand Central Life & Style; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample) tells dieters to re-think their approach.
Rather than a calories in/calories out model, Ludwig says processed carbohydrates and added sugars are the real problem, creating a chemical state in the body that makes gaining weight easy and losing it difficult.