The top title on the March LibraryReads list of ten titles published this month that library staff love, seconds that emotion. The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce, (Random House; RH Audio. March 3) is a “companion novel” to Joyce’s surprise best seller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.
Miss Queenie Hennessy, who we met in Joyce’s first book, is in a hospice ruminating over her abundant life experiences. I loved the poignant passages and wise words peppered throughout. Readers of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry will enjoy this book. There’s no fast-paced plot or exciting twists–it’s just a simple, sweet story of a life well-lived.
Andrienne Cruz, Azusa City Library, Azusa, CA
Also on the list is a title by Lynne Truss, whose book on grammar, Eats Shoots & Leaves, was another surprise best seller. Cat Out of Hell, (Melville House, March 3) is a novel that the author says is so “very quirky (and very British),” that getting an American publisher for it was “quite a surprise.” She should be even more surprised by this reception.
Cats don’t live nine lives. They survive eight deaths. There’s something special about Roger, the cat, and it’s not that he can talk. Truss spins readers through a hauntingly, portentous tale. When my cat’s tail thrums, I’ll forever wonder what devilment will follow. Ann Williams, Tippecanoe County Public Library, Lafayette, IN
Heading in to Valentine’s Day weekend, which morphs this year into Fifty Shades of Grey weekend as the R-rated movie opens to major box office expectations, the book it is based on is #3 on Amazon’s best seller list, followed closely by the boxed set of the entire trilogy. At #13, is a title that sounds similar, Fifty Shades of They (Creative Pastors) by the founding pastor of the Fellowship Church, a Dallas megachurch, Ed Young.
Although the title may seem to pay homage to E.L. James’s famous novel, Young calls that book a “perverted attempt to trap readers and leads them to a misunderstanding of what intimacy and connection are all about.” As a protest, he plans to “baptize” copies of it this weekend. His book, published by Creative Pastors, an imprint of the Fellowship Church, is about forming relationships with the “right ‘they'” and claims to offer “fifty simple, yet profound insights that will help any relationship thrive.”
None of the titles arriving next week have long holds list waiting for them. The new Richard Price novel, currently showing few holds against fairly modest ordering, may take off amidst a burst of media attention. Also arriving, several LibraryReads and GalleyChat titles to recommend.
You can understand why Richard Price wanted to write a “slicker, more commercial book,” the reason, as this week’s NYT feature reports, he decided to try writing under a pseudonym. Among fellow crime writers, he is considered a master. Yet, despite awards and acclaim, his books don’t sell as well as Dennis Lehane’s or Michael Connelly’s.
Although the author himself thinks he didn’t achieve his goal, some reviewers disagree. In the New Yorker, Joyce Carol Oates calls The Whites, “more of a policier than Price’s previous fiction—more plot-driven and less deeply engaged by the anthropology of its urban communities.” In his other books, she says, setting is “lavishly detailed” but in The Whites, “the grim urban landscape is scarcely more than a backdrop. The author focusses on the interwoven lives of a number of characters in language as forthright and free of metaphor as a police report, and on the construction of an elaborate narrative that shifts between present and past action.”
Michael Connelly, on the cover of this Sunday’s NYT Book Review, says Price “manages to give the story a fierce momentum, one that makes putting this book aside to sleep or eat or do anything else very difficult … This book literally interrupted my professional and personal life. Once in, I had to stay in and stick with it to the end.” This one could give Price the commercial success he seems to be seeking.
“With the background of the making of Gone with the Wind, this is a delightful read that combines historical events with the fictional career of an aspiring screenwriter. Julie is a wide-eyed Indiana girl who, through a series of lucky breaks, advances from studio go-fer and assistant to Carole Lombard to contract writer at MGM. A fun, engaging page-turner!” — Lois Gross, Hoboken Public Library, Hoboken, NJ
“Considering that King is one of the finest mystery authors writing today, it’s no surprise that the latest in the Russell/Holmes series is an engaging read. Intrigue follows the duo as they board a liner bound for Japan and meet up with a known blackmailer and a young Japanese woman who is not all that she seems. Great historical research and rich atmosphere!” — Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI
“Fifteen-year-old Thorn, determined to become a king’s soldier, is fighting not just physical opponents, but her world’s social mores. Girls are supposed to desire nothing more than a wealthy husband. Period. Thorn’s struggles to achieve her dream make for a riveting read. Second in a series, this book reads very well as a standalone.” — Cynthia Hunt, Amarillo Public Library, Amarillo, TX
A favorite on our September GalleyChat, “With its English manor setting, threads of madness, and hints of hauntings, it’s an obvious homage to Kate Morton, Victoria Holt, Sarah Waters, and Daphne du Maurier. Before reading, Google ‘Owlpen Manor’ to see the house that inspired the setting.” Edelweiss is also showing “much love” (their version of “likes,” but stronger) from a dozen librarians.
This title appears to be embargoed, since there are no prepub reviews and, as a result, libraries have not ordered it. Co-author Hassan published a story last week in The Guardian in which he writes that he and Weiss conducted in-depth interviews with ISIS members for the story. Hassan is a journalist for The National, an English-language newspaper from Abu Dhabi, which reviews the book. No news just now on media attention, but given the subject, and that it is the first title from publicity magnet Judith Regan’s new S&S imprint (her colorful presence is welcomed back in a story in last Friday’s NYT), expect to be hearing about it.
While described as both affecting and riveting, Addario’s take on photography, war, and being a woman in a high-octane profession has had mixed reviews. Kirkus gives it a star, saying the memoir is “a remarkable achievement … a brutally real and unrelentingly raw memoir that is as inspiring as it is horrific.” Entertainment Weekly, however, gives it a “B”, marking it down for failing to fully flesh out the people in Addario’s life.
As more attention mounts, Addario’s amazing and timely story, illustrated with 90 of her photographs, is likely to have staying power – making it a title to watch.
If you’re going to use a pseudonym, why reveal it on the book’s cover? In an interview in today’s NYT, Richard Price explains why the cover of his new book The Whites (Macmillan/Holt; Macmillan Audio), coming on Tuesday, carries the awkward attribution, “Richard Price Writing as Harry Brandt.”
He set out to write in a different style, a “stripped-down, heavily plotted best seller.” The only problem was that he couldn’t pull it off and ended up writing a Richard Price novel. Bowing to his publisher and editor who convinced him that if he didn’t make the pseudonym transparent, he would commit “commercial suicide,” he wound up with the two names on the cover. He says it “seemed like a good idea in the beginning, and now I wish I hadn’t done it,”
In an advance review, also in today’s NYT, Michiko Kakutani says it has all the hallmarks of a Richard Price novel, “an ear for street language … kinetic energy … hard-boiled verve … [characters] who become as vivid to us as real-life relatives or friends.”
The title refers to the white whale that haunts Ahab in Moby Dick. Similarly, the cops and former cops in Price’s novel are all haunted by previous cases. Kakutani praises it as ” a gripping police procedural and an affecting study in character and fate.
Prepub trade reviews are also strong. In a starred review, Booklist calls it ” a strong contender for best crime novel of 2015.”
It’s become commonplace for us to write that Jon Stewart has featured on The Daily Show the author of some heavy-duty book on an important topic, which then flies up best seller lists. Sadly, Stewart announced last night that he is leaving the show possibly in September when his contract is up, but it “might be July, or December,” because “this show doesn’t deserve an even slightly restless host.”
Before Stewart, who would have imagined serious conversations with authors presented in the context of a comedy show? Not only did he introduce that concept and make it work, he continued it in another show he produced, The Colbert Report. Thanks, Jon Stewart, for giving books the attention they deserve. You never seem restless when you are engaging authors, whether you agree with their points of view or not.
True to form, Stewart featured a 2-part interview with President Obama’s campaign manager and “political philosopher,” David Axelrod on the same show. As a result, the book, which had already received a boost from a feature on CBS Sunday Morning, rose from #139 to #28 on Amazon sales rankings.
Believer: My Forty Years in Politics (Penguin; OverDrive Sample) details Axelrod’s relationship with Obama as well as his Senate and Presidential campaigns, but he also shares stories of other politicians and his belief in the kind of politics that serves the nation best. In an interview with the New York Magazine he says “I didn’t want to write a book that would be measured by the number of revelations in Politico … I wanted to write a narrative, a story about my life, through my eyes, through the evolution of politics in our country.”
It’s somewhat of an irony then that Politico leaked a story from the embargoed book that “Mitt Romney ‘12 concession call ‘irritated’ Barack Obama” which brought a swift response from the Romney camp that the call never happened. And now news sources are jumping on evidence in the book that Obama was lying when he initially said he opposed gay marriage.
For the most part, however, as David Gergen puts it in his New York Time’s review, “David Axelrod has written a highly readable, uplifting account of the candidate he loves — and, reassuringly, has shown politics can still be a calling, not a business.”
The author of a string of best sellers Into the Wild,(1996), Into Thin Air (1997), Under the Banner of Heaven (2003), and Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman (2007) is publishing a new book in April that examines campus rape. Titled Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, (RH/Doubleday; RH Audio; RH Large Print), it is about a series of attacks at the University of Montana, which, according to the publishers press release, Krakauer decided to write “after learning that a young woman with whom he and his wife have a close relationship suffered intensely in secret for many years after she was raped by a man she trusted.” The story is being picked up by news sources, including USA Today.
Days after the announcement that Go Set A Watchman, (Harper; HarperLuxe, HarperAudio; July 14, 2015) Harper Lee’s first, unpublished book, had been discovered and will be published in July, media excitement subsided into dark questions.
Lee, now nearly blind and deaf, lives in an assisted living facility and does not speak directly to the press. All of her statements are issued by her lawyer, Tonya Carter, who is also the person who discovered the manuscript. Throughout her life, Lee was adamant that To Kill a Mockingbirdwould be her only book. Is it any wonder that questions are being raised?
Over the weekend a purported cover appeared on Twitter, which Amazon is now shows as the cover [UPDATE: the cover has now been removed from the Amazon site. Whether it is the real cover or not, it looks very similar to the U.K.’s 50th anniversary edition of Mockingbird, above and Amazon U.K. is still showing the Watchman cover above left]. As of this writing, no cover appears on HarperCollins’ site.
What does the title mean? According to a story on the Alabama Media Group web site, Lee, who grew up reading the bible and particularly loved the King James version, took it from Isaiah 21:6, “For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” One of her life-long friends, Monroeville, Alabama resident, Wayne Flynt tells the publication, ”
‘Go Set a Watchman’ means, ‘Somebody needs to be the moral compass of this town.’ Isaiah was a prophet. God had set him as a watchman over Israel. It’s really God speaking to the Hebrews, saying what you need to do is set a watchman, to set you straight, to keep you on the right path … Nelle [Harper Lee] saw her father as being the watchman on the metaphorical gate of Monroeville [which became Maycomb in To Kill a Mockingbird] … To me it’s a beautiful title that was probably wildly out of fashion in 1960 … I find it a delicious irony that this [original] biblical title … is suddenly coming back as a second novel, because the first novel made her an international literary celebrity, and now it doesn’t make it any difference what she calls it.”
At #2 on the 2/15/15 NYT Nonfiction Hardcover list is a book that many have had trouble getting their hands on, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, (South Dakota State Historical Society Press). The book, which had an initial print run of just 15.000 copies, was sold out before Christmas. A second printing of 15,000 was released the week represented by the list and it is now out of stock on Amazon and wholesaler sites (some indies, like Powell’s have copies available). As NPR reported last week, a third printing, of 45,000 copies is in the works. If you haven’t been tracking this title, check EarlyWord‘s earlier coverage from August, December and January.
Other notable new additions to the list:
#6 The Reaper, Nicholas Irving with Gary Brozek, (Macmillan/St. Martin’s) — with a cover that bears striking similarities to American Sniper, (Harper) as well as a similar subtitle, (author Irving is just “One of the Deadliest Special Ops Snipers” as opposed to Sniper‘s Kyle, who gets a higher billing as, “the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History“). Unsurprisingly, given the success of Clint Eastwood’s film adaptation of Sniper, rights were acquired to adapt The Reaper as a 5-part TV series by the Weinstein Co. No news yet on which network will air the series, but production is expected to begin this summer. We’re not seeing significant holds in libraries at this point.
Next week features several books by rising stars, from a YouTube comedian poised for the transition to HBO, to several heavily anticipated debut novels, including one by an author who thinks her character makes Katniss Everdeen “look like a wuss.”
Also highly anticipated is Anne Tyler’s 20th novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, (RH/Knopf; OverDrive Sample) the LibraryReads #1 pick for the month and an Indie Next pick, it is also a People pick this week (“will delight her many fans:) and Michiko Kakutani, reviews it in the NYT today (it doesn’t delight her). A rumor has sprung up that Tyler is retiring. She tells the Wall Street Journal that’s untrue; “I have no idea whether I’ll do another [book], but I would never put myself in the position of saying I wouldn’t or would … It depends on whether something arrives or not.”
Entertainment Weekly picks Sunshine as the top book on the 2/16 ‘Must List,’ along with a strong review in the books section, “Walsh has an innate knack for plot and suspense, but the real pleasure here is his prose: The heat of a Louisiana summer and the joy of getting a phone call from your crush are as vivid as the pangs of nostalgia you my feel for your teenage self.’ It is also and Indie Next and a Library Reads title
The author signed at Midwinter and he sings for librarians here:
Quick; does that title, or that cover, make you think “another dystopian novel”? It may soon. As the Wall Street Journal proclaims, “Author Sandra Newman thinks Katniss Everdeen, of the ‘Hunger Games’ trilogy, is kind of a wuss.” Her 15-year-old heroine is bolder. ““Instead of agonizing over kissing a boy, she just has sex. Instead of killing people with her archery skills, she has an assault rifle. I also think she’s a lot smarter and funnier than Katniss Everdeen, but clearly I’m biased.”
“Newman drops the reader into a small tribe of scavengers, hunting and thieving out a meager survival in the woods of Massachusetts, approximately 80 years after an unnamed plague has wiped out most of the U.S. population. The world Newman creates is original, richly detailed, and compellingly realized, including the patois in which the story is told. At turns violent, romantic, funny, and touching, The Country of Ice Cream Star wraps an exploration of power, American institutions, race, and human nature into a ripping, twisting, and turning post-apocalyptic tale that is epic in scope and achievement.” —Matt Nixon, The Booksellers at Laurelwood, Memphis, TN
One of the GalleyChat favorites from September, GalleyChatter Robin Beerbower says, “I haven’t read many graphic novels but I am now addicted to Lucy Knisley’s series of personal experiences that started with Relish: My Life in the Kitchen and continued with An Age of License. Her latest receives high praise from collection development librarian Janet Lockhart who said ‘Knisley is single handedly turning me into a graphic novel reader.’ ”
This Y.A. title has been given “much love” by 99 people to date on Edelweiss, which must be a record. 65 of them are bloggers, which makes us suspect a blog tour. Nevertheless, on GalleyChat, it was described as “epic fantasy and everyone’s talking about it.” It’s the first in a trilogy, by an author who graduated from USC’s screenwriting program in 2012. Optioned by Universal for a film adaptation, the deal was featured in TheHollywood Reporter.
UPDATE: Several more news stories now question whether Harper, who is deaf and nearly blind, knew what she was signing when she authorized the publication of Go Set A Watchman. Paste magazine concludes that Harper Lee’s lawyer, “Tonja Carter may be a rogue operator taking advantage of a less-than-capable author who never wanted this book published at all.”
After great excitement over the news that a second novel by Harper Lee, Go Set A Watchman (Harper; HarperLuxe; HarperAudio) has been discovered and will be released this summer, the naysayers have arrived.
In a New York Times Opinion piece, Bookslut editor in chief Jessa Crispin begs, “Don’t Do It, Harper Lee,” pointing out that today’s internet culture is unforgiving when disappointed and reminding people that the book was “rejected by Ms. Lee’s original editor in the ’50s” and therefore “may be substandard.”
Then there’s the fears that Lee was pressured into agreeing to its publication, which brought a swift rebuttal by Lee, via her attorney, that she is “happy as hell” about it and the public’s response to the news.
That lawyer, Tonja Brooks Carter, described as a “gatekeeper between the author and the outside world,” is profiled by the Wall Street Journal‘s “Law Blog” which reports that Harper Lee got to know her through her sister Alice Lee.
This may sound eerily familiar. Last year, Marja Mills published The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee, (Penguin Press, July, 2014), in which she writes lovingly about befriending the two Lee sister and moving next door to them. Lee, however, denied involvement with the book and accused the author of using her sister Alice to get to her. Shortly after Mills’ book was published, Lee reaffirmed her position and, as reported by Entertainment Weekly‘s online column, “Shelf Life,” added, “rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.”
This story is unlikely to end until the book is published in July.
Kelly Link’s new collection, Get in Trouble (Random House, Feb. 2, 2015; OverDrive Sample), her first for adult readers in over a decade, is getting widespread attention, and strong reviews, in sources ranging from NPR to Salonto The LA Time’s “Jacket Copy,” which says readers will be “hopelessly engaged” in the stories. The Salon review matches that glowing tone by asking if any author has “a better, deeper instinct for the subterranean overlap between pop culture and myth?”
Link’s collection focuses attention on a genre that is as popular as it is hard to define: Slipstream.
Picking up on the swell of interest, The Wall Street Journalprofiles Link while also exploring the popularity of the genre, which they define this way:
The label slipstream encompasses writing that slips in and out of conventional genres, borrowing from science fiction, fantasy and horror. The approach, sometimes also called “fantastika,” “interstitial” and “the New Weird,” often feathers the unexpected in with the ordinary, such as the hotel in Ms. Link’s new collection of stories Get in Trouble, where there are side-by-side conferences, one for dentists and another for superheroes in save-the-world costumes and regalia.
Hats off to the WSJ for offering a cogent and manageable definition (even though it is sure to continue the debate of just what Slipstream is).
The article goes on to offer even more help to readers’ advisors by supplying a list of example titles and some reasons for the genre’s popularity.
Explaining the interest, John Kessel, co-editor of the slipstream anthology Feeling Very Strange, writes, “I think one reason this kind of fiction has become more popular is that the world doesn’t make a lot of sense to a lot of people … So fiction that suggests that the world is inexplicable, but that there is some feeling of connection nonetheless, speaks to people.”
“It is a crazy story,” says Jon Stewart, describing guest Bill Browder’s book, Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice, (S&S; Recorded Books; OverDrive Sample). Browder was the largest foreign investor in Russia, and his investigations into various companies began exposing corruption. A young lawyer working for him ended up testifying against some of the people responsible for the corruption. As a result, he is arrested, tortured and killed.
Tonight, the show will feature Wes Moore, and his new book, The Work: My Search for a Life That Matters, Wes Moore, (RH/Spiegel & Grau; BOT Audio Clip; OverDrive Sample). The author’s previous book, The Other Wes Moore, was a best seller. He spoke at last year’s ALA Midwinter.
No surprise, Harper Lee’s second book, Go Set a Watchman, announced yesterday, instantly shot to #1 on Amazon’s sales rankings. Many libraries have added the title to their catalogs (see Hennepin County’s listing) and holds are building.
Also in the top 100 is the HarperLuxe larger print edition, while the audio is #1 on the “Books on CD” list.
Still to come, the cover reveal of Watchman. We’re also looking forward to learning who will read the audio. Sissy Spacek is the voice of To Kill a Mockingbird, released in audio in 2007, nearly 50 years after the book.
There’s no news yet about an eBook edition. Lee famously held off signing the rights to an eBook of Mockingbird until last year.
Go Set a Watchman
HarperCollins/Harper; 07/14/2015; $27.99
Large Print, paperback
HarperLuxe; 07/14/2015; $27.99
HarperAudio; 07/14/2015; $34.99