News for Collection Development and Readers Advisory Librarians

Hawk Soars

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 7.40.38 AMHelen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk (Grove Press, March 3, 2015; OverDrive Sample), a memoir about how she dealt with the painful loss of her beloved father by training a goshawk, is gaining attention on this side of the ocean after receiving both high praise and strong sales in Britain. Macdonald won both the Costa Book Award for Biography (scroll to page 3 to see the announcement) and the Costa Book of the Year in January as well as The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction (the UK’s highest award for nonfiction) last November.

In the daily NYT this week, Dwight Garner raves:

Helen Macdonald’s beautiful and nearly feral book, H Is for Hawk, her first published in the United States, reminds us that excellent nature writing can lay bare some of the intimacies of the wild world as well. Her book is so good that, at times, it hurt me to read it. It draws blood, in ways that seem curative.

This Sunday’s NYT Book Review features it on the cover (a rare occurrence for a book that hasn’t yet been released; we can’t remember the last time the NYT BR gave such prominence to an upcoming book):

In her breathtaking new book … Helen Macdonald renders an indelible impression of a raptor’s fierce essence — and her own — with words that mimic feathers, so impossibly pretty we don’t notice their astonishing engineering.

Some libraries are showing heavy holds and rising on modest orders while a few have yet to order. Now’s the time to buy it ahead of the stampede.

Oliver Sacks Bids Farewell

9780385352543_d778cIn an opinion piece in yesterday’s New York Times titled simply, “My Own Life,” author Oliver Sacks announces that he has terminal cancer.

True to the life-affirming spirit he has always demonstrated, he looks at this as an opportunity, he says, “It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me” and, “I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.”

He also notes that he has completed an autobiography that will be published in late April On the Move: A Life, (RH/Knopf; RH Audio, 4/28/15), which features a photo on the cover of Sachs as a young man. Few libraries have ordered it yet.

The story brought an outpouring of emotions on Twitter. Both the upcoming book and Sack’s classic, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat(S&S/Summit, 1985; now available from S&S/Touchstone) are rising on Amazon’s sales rankings.

Advance Attention:
Kim Gordon Memoir

0062295896_454a6Girl In a Band by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon (HarperCollins/Dey Street, 2/24), gets a succinct review from Bustle, “If you just feel like getting inspired by some prose written by a kickass, feminist rock star, Gordon’s book delivers.”

Arriving next week, it also gets attention via a profile of the author in the New York Times. Even though Gordon warns the book contains “No sex, drugs or rock ’n’ roll,”  and is “the most conventional thing I’ve done,” more attention is undoubtly on its way.

Oh My!
Manuscripts Are Falling
Out of the Sky!

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 9.53.43 AMIt seems manuscripts are turning up all over. On the heels of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman comes the news that a few new Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) books have been found as well. The newly discovered What Pet Should I Get? (Random House Books for Young Readers; July 28, 2015; ISBN 9780553524260) is receiving the most attention right now, but Geisel’s wife and his long time secretary announced yesterday that they also found material for at least two other books as they were cleaning out Geisel’s office.Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 9.58.20 AM

The New York Times reports that What Pet Should I Get?, believed to have been written between 1952 and 1962, features the same characters as the beloved One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.

Ron Charles, book reviewer for The Washington Post, composed a poem in tongue-in-cheek disbelief.

Zuckerberg Surfs the Zeitgeist

9781555977207_2389fMark Zuckerberg is being credited by the Guardian with having “tapped into an area of growing social anxiety with his fourth book club choice.”

Announced yesterday, the title is On Immunity: An Inoculation, (Graywolf Press; HighBridge Audio) by Eula Biss, a book that looks into the fears about vaccination. It was picked as a best book of 2014 by several sources, including the New York Times Book Review‘s top ten. (our downloadable spreadsheet of all the 2014 nonfiction picks is here).

Chat with Elise Primavera, Feb. 18

Live Blog Live Chat with Elise Primavera, MS. RAPSCOTT’S GIRLS


nightoftheHolds are rising in libraries for David Carr’s memoir, The Night of the Gun (S&S, 2008), causing several to order more copies in trade paperback.

Sadly, people are being brought to the book by the author’s recent death at 58, with news stories and obits noting his searing memoir of the days when he was, as he himself describes it, a “violent drug-snorting thug.”

Beloved among fellow journalists, his “fond and tearful” wake on Tuesday was covered in many publications, from the New York Times, where he was the media reporter,  to The Economist and the New York Post.

An excerpt from the book was the cover story of the NYT Magazine when it was published in 2008. In the book, he took a journalists’ approach to his own life, reporting on it by interviewing the people who witnessed it.

Thanks to Barrie Olmstead, Adult Materials Selector, Sacramento Public Library, for the tip.


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.

GALLEY CHATTER: The Next Big Thing

GalleyChat regulars fell like proud parents when one of the books they spotted months ago begin to gain attention and head for best seller lists. That seems to be happening for one of the titles highlighted in December, debut author M.O. Walsh’s My Sunshine Away (Penguin/Putnam; Penguin Audio; OverDrive Sample; BOT Audio Clip). It went on to become both a LibraryReads pick and an IndieNext pick and has gotten the love from Entertainment Weekly (#3 on the “Must List” for the week, with a compelling review) and sister publication People picks it this week (“wrenching and wondrous … a mystery, a Louisiana mash note and a deeply compassionate, clear-eyed take on the addled teen-boy mind.”)

You could become a proud parent, too. Many of the titles highlighted below from the Feb. 3 GalleyChat are available as eGalleys on Edelweiss and/or NetGalley. Download the ones that appeal to you and let us know what you think during the next chat or in the comments section below (and don’t forget to nominate for your favorites for LibraryReads).

If you missed the Feb. 3 chat or simply couldn’t keep up (most of us can’t), click here for the complete list of titles mentioned.  If you would like to see what books I’m anticipating, “friend me” on Edelweiss.

9780316176538_e515bThe accolades for A God in Ruins (Hachette/Little Brown, May), Kate Atkinson’s sequel to the masterful Life After Life, arrived fast and furious with Stephanie Chase (Hillsboro Public Library, Oregon) calling it “An almost perfect book.”  Atkinson’s sequel picks up on the life of Teddy, the little brother of the main character in Life. In her Edelweiss review, Jennifer Dayton, Darien Library, commented, “At times funny and at others heartbreaking, Atkinson revels in the beauty and horror of life in all its messiness.” In addition to stocking up on this, librarians may want to buy extra copies of Life After Life.

9780385539258_d6a46When GalleyChat’s discerning readers start raving about book by an unknown author, calling it one of the best books of the year, and even the best book ever (Jessica Woodbury, blogger and Book Riot contributor), we take notice. A Little Life Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday/Random House, March), covers the decades long friendship of four men in Manhattan, although it’s much more than that. Jessica also said that even though it’s not an easy read, and long (over 700 pages), “This is a book about love and what it means and what it can do and it is the humanity of its characters and their love for each other that will stick with me.” Could it be the next The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt)?

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In Judith Clare Mitchell’s A Reunion of Ghosts (HarperCollins/Harper, March), three sisters agree to commit suicide by the year 2000 even though they have overcome a dark family past. Three GalleyChatters agreed it was wonderful with Janet Lockhart’s short but succinct review, “Gorgeous writing. Highlighted whole pages.”  Another book that received raves was James Hannaham’s Delicious Foods (Hachette/Little Brown, March), the tale of a son searching for his drug-addicted mother who was lured to a remote farm by a food company. This quirky story had Kelly Griffin, Collection Development Librarian from Chicago Public Library, saying, “Audacious, dark, funny and sometimes narrated by crack-cocaine. I have never read a book quite like this.”

9781476789255_e6bccFans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner may want to watch for Eight Hundred Grapes, Laura Dave (Simon & Schuster, June), a contemporary story of a woman returning to her family’s Sonoma vineyard after her fiancé’s explosive secret is revealed. Andrienne Cruz of Azusa City (CA) Library said, ”Eight Hundred Grapes is your typical domestic fiction, part love story, part family drama and Georgia’s witty retorts make for a juicy read.”

9780385523233_1f3afWater For Elephants by Sara Gruen was such a juggernaut that her next book At the Water’s Edge (RH/Spiegel & Grau/March), is highly anticipated by readers. Taking place during WWII, Maddie, her husband, and a friend search for the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, and according to Susan Balla (Fairfield County Library, CT), “This novel is part drama, part romance, and part mystery. Maddie’s reawakening to what is really important in life is the focus of this story…” Readers might be also be intrigued by the publisher’s description, “Think Scottish Downton Abbey.”

Can’t Resist A Few Good Crime Novels:

9781455586059_a34c2With the fabulous setting of New Hebrides and the intriguing plot of a twin daughter dying only to have the surviving twin tell the parents the wrong girl was buried, S. K. Tremayne’s Ice Twins (Hachette/Grand Central, May) is sure to be a hit.  Jessica Moyer, Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin said, “Gripping! In a disturbing way, could not put it down once I started. Reminds me of SJ [Sharon] Bolton’s early works.”

9780062220554_20a05-2A new Maisie Dobbs mystery is always cause for celebration and the eleventh entry in the series A Dangerous Place (Harper, March), is billed as her best yet. Stephanie Chase said it’s terrific and “features an unusual setting in Gibraltar at the time of the Spanish Civil War as well as a tender and nuanced look into the inner life of our heroine. Heartbreaking and intriguing.” DRC’s are available as of today.

For those of you whose patrons are clamoring for a Winspear readalike, suggest the new Ian Rutledge title by Charles Todd, A Fine Summer’s Day (HarperCollins/Morrow, Jan) the next in a series also set in the World War I era, along with Todd’s other series featuring Bess Crawford.

If you would like to join the fun, the next GalleyChat is Tuesday, March 3, 4:00-5:00 p.m. (EST).

YA GalleyChat, Tuesday, Feb. 17

The February edition of YA GalleyChat is now over.

Please join us for the next one, March 17, 5 to 6 p.m. (4:30 for virtual cocktails), Eastern DAYLIGHT Time (note that we will have sprung ahead by then, so please make the necessary time adjustments) — #ewyagc

RA Alert: FIND ME by
Laura van den Berg

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 9.47.47 AMLaura van den Berg, whose literary post-apocalyptic debut novel Find Me (Macmillan/FSG; OverDrive Sample) comes out tomorrow, is being compared to Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro and getting strong reviews and sustained attention by a wide range of critics. Salon, while comparing van den Berg to Atwood and Ishiguro called her “the best young writer in America.” The LA Times “Book Jacket” says that she captures “the disturbingly elegiac qualities of 21st century life to heartbreaking effect.” The Rumpus, likening van den Berg’s novel to the best moody and lonely music (such as many songs by Bon Iver, which should be the sound track if there is a movie adaptation) says that “rarely does a bleak novel achieve the same alluring strength of sadness … Find Me is that rare novel. It has the same potency as the most melancholy music.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 9.54.53 AM Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 9.56.28 AM

For a debut, it is getting a remarkable amount of attention, with the way paved by the author’s two collections of short stories, The Isle of Youth (an O Magazine pick for one of the best books of 2013) and What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us. It is a People pick for the week, with the following annotation,

A plague has killed millions, but young Joy has made it through. Defiant and immune, she escapes the scientists monitoring her and treks across the ravaged land, searching for the mother who abandoned her, facing down terrible memories. It sounds grim, but this is a thoughtful, touching story about survival — about finding ways to heal and reasons to live.

And it has been on multiple “highly anticipated lists,”  —  BustleFlavorWireThe Millions and BuzzFeed (for more upcoming titles, Feb. through Aug., check our Catalog of Titles on “Most Anticipated” lists).

Holds are heavy at many libraries we checked.


Lawrence Hill’s novel Someone Knows My Name, (Norton, 2008) has been adapted as a 6-part TV series, using the book’s original Canadian title, The Book of Negroes. Debuting last night, it will continue over the next two nights.

Critics are mostly favorable, with some predicting that this puts BET in line for its first Emmy nomination.

The following is from our December story about the series:

The novel, a fictional slave narrative, is based on the stories of American slaves who escaped to Canada after the Revolutionary War and were then recruited by British abolitionists to settle in Sierra Leone. The Washington Post praised its “heart-stopping prose” and noted that “Hill balances his graphic depictions of the horrors of enslavement with meticulously researched portrayals of plantation life.”

Directed by Clement Virgo, the movie stars Aunjanue Ellis, Louis Gossett Jr., Cuba Gooding Jr., and Lyriq Bent.

Gossett was interviewed about the series during its premiere at the  Toronto International Film Festival in November. He compares it to another TV mini-series he starred in, Roots.

Learn more at the Official Web Site.




Lawrence Hill
W.W. Norton; January 12, 2015
9780393351392, 0393351394
$15.95 USD

“A Serious Blow for
American Poetry”

9780679765844Former Poet Laureate Philip Levine died at 87 on Saturday. In today’s NYT, critic Dwight Garner describes him as the author of “spare, ironic poems of the industrial heartland” and calls his loss, “a serious blow for American poetry.”

Levine won a Pulitzer Prize for his collection The Simple Truth (RH/Knopf, 1994) and two National Book Awards, for Ashes: Poems New & Old (Atheneum, 1979) and for What Work Is (RH/Knopf, 1991). His most recent collection was News of the World, (RH/Knopf, 2009).

The New Yorker, which published many of his poems, beginning in 1958, notes that Levine credits a high school teacher for opening his eyes to poetry,

When I was in the eleventh grade and the war was still going, a teacher read us some poems by Wilfred Owen. And after class, for some reason, she called me up to her desk and said, “Would you like to borrow this book?” How she knew that I was responding so powerfully to these poems, I’m not sure, but I was. She said, “Now, I want you to take it home, and read it with white gloves on.” In other words, don’t spill soup on it. It was probably the most significant poetic experience I had in my whole life, and I was only seventeen. Just to discover that there was a young man some years before whose feelings about war were so similar to my own, yet he had experienced it all, whereas I was only living in dread of having to go to war.

DESCENT A Best Seller

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 8.27.51 AMSeveral new titles debut on the 2/22 NYT Fiction Best Sellers list, including Tim Johnston’s Descent (Workman/Algonquin; OverDrive Sample; Jan 6), a book we have been watching (see our Jan 8th Readers Advisory).

The cover features a blurb from Lisa Unger, whose new book Crash and Burn also debuts this week. She describes Descent as a “pulse-pounding thriller of the first order … a truly captivating read.” The Washington Post‘s Patrick Anderson went further, saying, “The story unfolds brilliantly, always surprisingly, but the glory of Descent lies not in its plot but in the quality of the writing.”

Johnston’s first adult novel (he published the YA title Never So Green and a book of short stories, Irish Girl), it is his first best seller.

The other debuts are more expected. Most were covered in our Titles to Know column:

#3  The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah (Macmillan/St. Martin’s; Macmillan Audiol OverDrive Sample)

# 4 Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins/Morrow; HarperLuxe; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample) — reviewed on the NPR Web site. with this great analogy, “They are confections, these stories. Like eating a delicious piece of chocolate and, halfway through, finding a finger in it. “

#7  Crash & Burn, Lisa Gardner (Penguin/Dutton; OverDrive Sample)

#9 Funny Girl, Nick Hornby, (Penguin/Riverhead; BOT; OverDrive Sample), also covered in the NYT‘s “Inside the List” column

And, The Girl on the Train continues to ride at #1 after 4 weeks.

9781594205866_67fe3On the Nonfiction list, Alexandra Fuller’s third memoir Leaving Before the Rains Come(Penguin Press, Penguin Audio; OverDrive Sample) rises after 3 weeks to #5. Strong reviews continue to rain down on it, the latest from yesterday’s Chicago Tribune, appreciates the author’s growth. “Fuller’s first memoir, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, presented readers with the unstinting rollick of her African childhood” and “Leaving Before the Rains Come, circles back and through to the man she marries in the final pages of Dogs [and] remembers the shock and awe of early love. It traces the dissolution of bonds.”

Several other titles are debuts

#10 The Teenage Brain, by Frances E. Jensen with Amy Ellis Nutt (Harper; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample) — as we wrote earlier, this one was featured on NPR’s Fresh Air.

#11  Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice (S&S; Recorded Books; OverDrive Sample) — the author was featured on several shows, but the clincher was his appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Coverage continues with Entertainment Weekly, which makes in #3 on their “Must List of the :Top 10 Things We Love This Week.”

#14 The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity Norman Doidge (Penguin/ Viking; Penguin Audio) — This may sound like voodoo science, but The Guardian, writes, “Doidge is, if not the inventor, then at least the populariser of a brand new science. That science is called neuroplasticity” which says the brain can not only self-repair, but, “for conditions that range from Parkinson’s disease, to autism, to stroke, to traumatic head injury – can be stimulated by conscious habits of thought and action, by teaching the brain to “rewire itself”.”

In children’s books, the ALA awards announced at Midwinter are having an effect.

9780316199988_47010In childrens, the Caldecott winner, The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Sentat (Hachette/Little, Brown), arrives at #10 on the Picture Books list, and the winner of the Newbery, The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), makes its first appearance at #4 on the Middle Grade list.

On the Graphic Books list, Scott McCloud’s heavily anticipated master work, The Sculptor (Macmillan/First Second) lands at #1 during its first week on sale.

Rachel Joyce Tops March LibraryReads

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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