EarlyWord

News for Collection Development and Readers Advisory Librarians

Bright Titles, Big Season

The fall reading season is about to begin, heralded by the  appearance of season previews. New York Magazine kicks it off with a list of 45 titles (UPDATE: The list is now available online as well as part of the “Entertainment Generator“).

9780374280024_431e4Included is a title destined to appear on many lists, Jonathan Safran Foer’a first work of fiction in over a decade, Here I Am (Macmillan/FSG; OverDrive Sample), a domestic drama about a family in Washington, D.C. The author of Everything Is Illuminated, which made him a literary star at just 25, is a media darling. He was just profiled by Lev Grossman in Time. Earlier this summer, his email correspondence with Natalie Portman was published in the New York Times‘s style magazine, T.

9781631491344_48f16Also included is Alan Moore’s eagerly awaited Jerusalem (Norton/Liveright, Sept. 13). Moore is known for his graphic novels, Watchmen and V for Vendetta, but this new book is a non-graphic prose novel and a long one, ranging over 1200 pages. As the NYT explains, it is “centered on Northampton, England, Mr. Moore’s hometown [and] will combine historical fiction and fantasy. Mr. Moore has said the novel, which explores, among other subjects, the time-space continuum, is intended to ‘disprove the existence of death.'”

New York Magazine book critic, Christian Lorentzen, highlights his “5 Most Anticipated” :

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Against Everything: Essays, Mark Greif (PRH/Pantheon; OverDrive Sample; Sept. 6).

Substitute: Going to School With a Thousand Kids, Nicholson Baker (PRH/Blue Rider Press; Sept. 6).

The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride (PRH/Hogarth; RH Audio/BOT; Sept. 20).

Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love, Emily Witt (Macmillan/Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Oct. 11).

Swing Time, Zadie Smith (PRH/Penguin Press; Penguin Audio/BOT; Nov. 15).

See our catalog for a running list of the Fall picks as they are announced.

Live Chat with Katherine Arden, Author of THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE

Read our chat with Katherine, below.

Join us for the next live chat about The Most Danger Place on Earth byLindsey Lee Johnson on Setp. 28, 4 to 5 p.m., ET.

To join the program, sign up here.

Live Blog Live Chat with Katherine Arden – THE BEAR & THE NIGHTINGALE
 

More Backman On The Way

The author of the long-running trade paperback best seller, A Man Called Ove, and two LibraryReads picks, Britt-Marie Was Here and My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, (also currently a best seller in trade paperback), Fredrik Backman, has signed a deal to publish three new novels and a novella with S&S/Atria. Significantly, the news is reported by Deadline Hollywood, indicating the author has caught the attention of the U.S. movie business.

9781501160486_26853Coming first, on Nov. 1, is the novella, And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer (S&S/Atria; ISBN 9781501160486). Deadline says, like Ove, it “centers on an elderly man, who struggles to hold on to his memories, face his regrets and help his son and grandson prepare for his death.” It will be issued in a “small-format hardcover,” with illustrations.

The first of the three novels will be titled Beartown (S&S/Atria, May 2, 2017; ISBN 9781501160769). Deadline says “It concerns a depressed town whose hopes for a brighter future rest on its junior ice hockey team as it goes after the national title.”

MV5BMjE0NDUyOTc2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODk2NzU3OTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,679,1000_AL_Meanwhile, the Swedish-language film adaptation of A Man Called Ove will open in limited release on Sept. 30 (some sources list iy for release at the end of this month, but Sept. 30 now seems to be official).

Variety reviewed it when it was shown at the Goteborg Film Festival in February, calling the subtitled film “irresistible” and “A touching comic crowdpleaser,” commenting on the “terrific” cast and cinematography that makes it “a pleasure to watch.”

Cinema Scandinavia reports that in Sweden, where it was released late last year, Ove was a hit, topping the box office there and winning awards, including Best Actor for lead Rolf Lassgård.

Variety notes that Music Box Films won US distribution ights. Theyhave previously brought to the U.S. such Swedish imports as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.

Booker Longlist Title Gets US Publishing Date

In addition to famous names and international publishing houses, the Booker Prize also shines a light on small presses.

9781510719217_43f40Last year Marlon James and the U.K. indie press Oneworld took top honors for A Brief History of Seven Killings (published here by Riverhead, an imprint of the much larger Penguin Random House). This year’s longlist includes a title by an even smaller press, His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae, Graeme MaCrae Burnet (OverDrive Sample), published by the tiny 2-person house, Saraband.

At the time of the longlist announcement in July, the novel was not scheduled for a US release, but it is now set to be published here, also by an indie press, but one that is much larger, Skyhorse. The ship date is Sept. 13 [Correction: Ship Date is Sept. 27] , which will work well if the title makes it to the shortlist, which will be announced that very day.

Back in Scotland, the staff at Saraband fielded an endless round of inquiries after the longlist was announced. Publisher Sara Hunt told The Guardian, “It’s been crazy but fantastic … it’s hard to take in when most of the time we’re fighting to tell people about how good our books are, then suddenly everyone who hasn’t been in touch is wanting to speak to you at the same time – it’s that tricky day at work that you dream of having.”

The novel, a historical crime thriller, got little attention prior to the Booker spotlight, which The Guardian says is an oversight,

“a psychological thriller masquerading as a slice of true crime; a collection of ‘found’ documents …The book’s pretense at veracity, as well as being a literary jeux d’esprit, brings an extraordinary historical period into focus, while the multiple unreliable perspectives are designed to keep the audience wondering …  This is a fiendishly readable tale that richly deserves the wider attention the Booker has brought it.”

THE FIFTH SEASON Wins Hugo

9780316229296_62f5aThe 2016 Hugo Awards winners were announced on Saturday at the World Science Fiction Convention. N.K. Jemisin won Best Novel for The Fifth Season (Hachette/Orbit; OverDrive Sample).

The first book in the Broken Earth trilogy grabbed reviewers’ attention for its scope and scale. In the NYT Sunday Book Review, multiple award-winning author Naomi Novik wrote it is a novel of “intricate and extraordinary world–building.” The NPR reviewer  also lauded the author’s world-building as being full of “sumptuous detail and dimensionality.” Wired picked it as their book club title and Smart Bitches Trashy Books gave it an A grade, writing:

The Fifth Season blew my entire weekend. I had plans. I was supposed to, at least at some point, get out of bed and take a shower. Instead I stayed in my blanket fort and devoured this book. The most I managed to accomplish was feeding the cat and tweeting about how much I loved this novel.”

We wrote about Jemisin and critical reaction to the sequel, The Obelisk Gate (Hachette/Orbit; OverDrive Sample), earlier this week.

Jemisin headlines a sweeping win for female authors, with every fiction category going to a woman.

9780765385253_40f87Nnedi Okorafor won Best Novella for Binti (Macmillan/Tor; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample). Tor.com writes “Okorafor’s stories are where the ancient cultures of Africa meet the future, where what we have been and what makes us human meets what we can be and what we may be in the future.” NPR’s All Things Considered recently aired an interview with the author.

Uncanny2Hao Jingfang won Best Novelette for “Folding Beijing,” translated by Ken Liu. Tor.com says “it’s not just that this is a smart story doing crunchy, smart things in a clever fashion—that’s just one layer of the thing. It’s also an emotionally resonant and intimately personal piece, grounded thoroughly through the life experience of the protagonist.”

Naomi Kritzer won Best Short Story for “Cat Pictures Please.” io9 includes the story in a round up of “What Are The Best Short Stories of the Year So Far?” (for 2015) and links to a review in Apex magazine.

9781401265199_7147aNeil Gaiman takes home the Best Graphic Story prize for The Sandman: Overture Deluxe Edition, (DC Comics/Vertigo). The Nerdist and Tor.com provide reviews. Last year, NPR’s Terry Gross interviewed Gaiman about the book on Fresh Air.

MV5BMTc2MTQ3MDA1Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODA3OTI4NjE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,675,1000_AL_It was also a great night for Andy Weir. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (which is not a Hugo Award but is given at the same time) and the film The Martian (adapted from Weir’s debut novel) won Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.

An episode of Jessica Jones won Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Once again, the “Puppy” effect could be seen. However, it seems the voting members of the Hugo are learning to both live with and ignore the alt-right wing attack on the award (see our overview of the ongoing controversy).

As The Verge put it, “The immediate takeaway from tonight is that once again, slated works [the Puppy nominees] added to the ballot through a coordinated campaign have trouble swaying voters, although they were not unanimously dismissed, but in these instances, the awards largely went  to authors and works that really didn’t need help from slated works in the first place, such as Andy Weir or Neil Gaiman. In all other instances, voters opted to give the awards to extremely deserving works.”

Amazon Loves DICK

9781584350347-mediumAmazon Studios introduces three new titles in their “pilot season” this month. Unlike other networks, where pilots are seen by the few who decide which will go to series, Amazon invites viewers to get in on the action and vote for their favorites, with one exception. Woody Allen’s Crisis in Six Scenes is exempt from the process and is going directly to series.

Of the three pilots released this month, one bears a title that sounds more like it came from a bathroom stall than from a book. I Love Dick is based on a cult novel by Chris Kraus, published by the indie press Semiotext(e) in 1997.

Directed by Jill Soloway, the creator of the award-winning Transparent, which begins its third season next month, it stars Kevin Bacon and Kathryn Hahn, who also stars in Transparent.

Profiling the production, New York magazine writes that Soloway turns “one of the most compelling cult novels of the last 20 years into a television show with the potential to be as groundbreaking in its examination of gender politics as her first.”

The cult status of the book was explored last year in a piece in the New Yorker and the Guardian celebrated its UK debut last fall.

Amazon recently debuted two other pilots based on books, The Interestings, based on Meg Wolitzer’s novel, is not going to series, but The Last Tycoon, based on an unfinished novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is planned to begin streaming this fall.

Fall Film Adaptations and Tie-ins

2332_top1Fall is on the way, as Entertainment Weekly‘s current double issue reminds us, with its previews of 104 major movie releases through December.

Many of those films, including the one on the cover,  had their beginnings as books, some with strong literary credentials, like Ang Lee’s adaptation of the  award winning Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk or major best seller status, like The Girl on the Train and The Light Between Oceans.

One of the most heavily anticipated movies, however is based on a lesser-known title, The Queen of Katwe (S&S/Scribner), the biography of an unlikely chess champion, a young girl from a poor family in Uganda. The Disney movie, directed by Mira Nair, is already being touted as a film to break through #OscarsSoWhite.

See our listings of upcoming adaptations, for the both big and small screens, as well as our complete listing of upcoming tie-ins.

Hitting Screens, Week of Aug. 22

9780765322470Just one adaptation opens in the coming week but  it will not make much noise, since it opens in a limited number of theaters (also on VOD), which is unfortunate because it received strong reviews when it premiered at this year’s SXSW.

I Am Not a Serial Killer is based on the 2009 thriller of the same title by Dan Wells. The first in a series, it received a starred review from Kirkus, which called it a “gory gem …this deft mix of several genres features a completely believable teenage sociopath (with a heart of gold), dark humor, [and} a riveting mystery.” Other titles in the series received equally strong reviews from both Booklist and Kirkus.

The plot line is reminiscent of  another series, Dexter. In this case, the main character is a 15-year-old struggling with the realization that he exhibits the classic personality traits of a serial killer. As he fights his own tendencies, he uses his special knowledge to try to help solve a series of murders happening in his small town.

The movie stars Back to the Future‘s Christopher Lloyd and, as the main character, Max Records (Where the Wild Things Are).

From Royalties to Forfeitures

9780525953722It may not pay to avoid the rules. On the other hand, if books sales are the measure, maybe it does.

According to the NYT, Mark Owen, a pen name for the former Navy SEAL who wrote No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden (Penguin/Dutton, 2012), has agreed to forfeit close to 7 million dollars for failing to clear his book with the Pentagon as well as several other infractions that raised questions surrounding the possible disclosure of classified information.

The NYT reports that this outcome is a result of a Justice Department investigation and that the department decided not to press charges but settle instead for the cash returns.

In a statement Owen said, “I acknowledge my mistake and have paid a stiff price, both personally and financially, for that error … I accept responsibility for failing to submit the book for review and apologize sincerely for my oversight.”

The renewed attention is helping book sales, the title rose on Amazon, jumping up from #466 to #160.

Owen has already faced stiff criticism from some of his fellow SEALS and others in the special operations community for what was seen as cashing in on his duty. 60 Minutes reported on the story at the time and interviewed Owen.

From X-Men to ALIAS GRACE

9780385490443Anna Paquin is joining the cast of the Netflix series adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace (PRH/Anchor; OverDrive Sample), reports IndieWire.

The actress, best known for her roles in X-Men and HBO’s True Blood, is set for the role of Nancy Montgomery, one of the two people allegedly killed by Grace Marks in the 1800s.

As we wrote previously, the double murder rocked Canada in the 1840’s with the public avidly following every detail and debating the question of whether the poor young Irish immigrant Marks (to be played by Sarah Gadon) was guilty of killing her employer and his housekeeper/lover (Montgomery).

Mary Harron (American Psycho) is directing the six-hour series. Filming started this month. No word yet on an airdate.

This is not the only new Atwood adaption on the way. As we noted earlier, Hulu is adapting The Handmaid’s Tale.

Closer to Screen: WONDERSTRUCK

9780545027892Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Brian Selznick’s middle grade novel  Wonderstruck (Scholastic, 2011) is moving closer to the screen with filming recently concluded, reports Movie Pilot.

Starring Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Okes Fergley (Pete’s Dragon), the film also features newcomer Millicent Simmonds, a 13-year-old deaf actress in the role of Rose, who is also deaf.

Selznick is known for his brilliant imagery and creative storytelling and it seems Haynes will bring an equally inventive approach to the story, electing to film sections as a silent movie, matching not only the era in which part of the novel is set, but also the deaf Rose’s silent world. Deadline notes that “this section of the narrative will see an unprecedented number of deaf actors in roles that would normally go to hearing actors.”

The film, produced by Amazon studios,  is expected for release sometime next year.

As we noted previously, this will be Selznick’s second book adapted by a celebrated director, after Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning Hugo, based on The Invention Of Hugo Cabret.

Titles to Know and Recommend, Week of August 22, 2016

9780812998481_fc792Keep your eye on Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue (Random House; PRH Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample) in the upcoming week.

This debut novel made news when it won a major deal in advance of the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair (with a different title). At that time, the agent said that Mbue, who is from Cameroon and is now an American citizen living in Manhattan, is “part of the new generation of African writers just being discovered” that includes Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun, NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names, Teju Cole Open City, and Dinaw Mengestu How to Read the Air.

The author is profiled in the Wall Street Journal‘s Friday Arts section, with an excerpt from the book. She describes the story, below:

It is People magazine’s “Book of the Week,” described as a “page-turner about race, class and the Wall Street meltdown … Mbue’s writing is warm and captivating, but her message is pointed: American dreams can and do turn into nightmares.”

The Washington Post chief critic, Ron Charles, says that it comes at the right time, as it “illuminates the immigrant experience in America with the tenderhearted wisdom so lacking in our political discourse ” A review is also coming from the NYT Sunday Book Review.

9780679455691_2685aThe cover of this week’s NYT Sunday Book Review is devoted to Caleb Carr’s new book, Surrender, New York (Random House; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample), reviewed by fellow crime novelist Michael Connelly. Unlike his most famous novel, The Alienist, which was set in 1896, this one says Connelly, is “an addictive contemporary crime procedural stuffed with observations on the manipulations of science and the particular societal ills of the moment. Call it mystery with multiple messages.” The book’s 600 plus pages require “more dedication (from the reader as well as the writer) than is usual for a crime novel,” but says Connelly, “This is a novel you set time aside for.”

The Washington Post‘s mystery and thriller reviewer, Patrick Anderson, is less willing to set the time aside, saying, Carr’s “descriptive passages can be elegant and informative but they go on endlessly, maddeningly … Carr’s plot is complex, sometimes bewildering, and the reader can become lost amid his epic digressions, no matter how well they read.”

Below are several other titles arriving next week to fanfare from the media as well as booksellers and librarians. For those, and other notable titles arriving next week, with ordering information and alternate formats, check on our downloadable spreadsheet, EarlyWord New Title Radar, Week of Aug. 22, 2016

The Campaign in Books

9781501155772_21d8f  9780399576225_47c2b  9780735214460_dc255

The first new book about Trump since he became the official Republican candidate, The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston, came from Brooklyn-based indie publisher Melville House earlier this month and is currently at #11 on the NYT Hardcover Nonfiction best seller list, up from #15 last week.

More on Trump and the campaign arrives next week:

Trump RevealedAn American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power, Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher (S&S; S&S Audio; OverDrive Sample).

The Washington Post assigned a team of their journalists to do a major investigation on the candidate, publishing stories in the paper leading to next week’s release, as well as an excerpt from the book. It is scheduled for heavy media attention from TV and radio:

CBS Face the Nation, August 21
• NPR All Things Considered, August 22
• MSNBC Morning Joe, August 23
• NPR Fresh Air, August 23
• CNN New Day,August 24
• MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Reports, August 24

We’re Still Right, They’re Still Wrong: The Democrats’ Case for 2016, James Carville (PRH/Blue Rider; Penguin Audio; OverDrive Sample).

The media may be obsessed with Trump, but there will surely be time for Democratic strategist Carville, who is adept at memorable sound bites (and has a few things to say about Trump, as the book’s jacket indicates).

In Trump We Trust : E Pluribus Awesome!, Ann Coulter (PRH/Sentinel; RH Audio; OverDrive Sample).

Predictably, the tea party’s poster girl is publishing a pro-Trump book.

Peer Picks

Three LibraryReads titles pub this week, including Fiona Davis’s debut which we featured in a live chat as part of the PRH EarlyReads Program.

9781101984994_8f6a1The Dollhouse, Fiona Davis (PRH/Dutton; Penguin Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample).

“This is the story of the women who stayed in the Barbizon Hotel in the 1950’s. A reporter is tipped off about one of the women, who still lives in the building over 60 years later. As she tries to research a murder and a case of switched identities, she starts becoming part of the story. The narration switched between 2016 and 1952 and as I read the novel, I soon got caught up in the next piece of the puzzle. It had history, romance, and a way to view the changing roles of women. Enjoyed it very much!” — Donna Ballard, East Meadow Public Library, East Meadow, NY

It is also a B&N Summer reading selection.

9780062405616_8b799First Star I See Tonight, Susan Elizabeth Phillips (HC/William Morrow; HarperAudio).

First Star I See Tonight is a satisfying addition to the Chicago Stars series. Cooper Graham has just retired as the quarterback when he meets private investigator Piper. Their relationship starts off with a mutual dislike that quickly turns into one full of sparks. Watching them navigate the waters is fascinating. In the end Cooper lays it all on the line in order to win his biggest game ever…a happily ever after. I highly recommend the book.” — Jennifer Cook, L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire , WI

Additional Buzz: First Star receives stars from three pre-pub reviewing sources, Booklist, Kirkus and PW

9780735221086_bebf2The Couple Next Door, Shari Lapena (PRH/Pamela Dorman Books; Penguin Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample).

“This book is so full of twists and turns that my head was swiveling. Who took baby Cora? Marco and Anne decide to leave their baby home alone. After all, they share a wall with their neighbors, with whom they are partying. They would take turns checking in on her baby monitor. But when they return to their flat the first thing they find is an open door and no Cora. Who’s to blame? Could it be an unlikely suspect that you won’t see coming? If you like a book that keeps you guessing until the very end you won’t be disappointed.” — Debbie Frizzell, Johnson County Library, Roeland Park, KS

Tie-ins

MV5BNDU3MDk4NjE1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODk5MTc0OTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,631,1000_AL_The tie-in edition for one of the most anticipated moves from page to screen hits shelves this week, complete with a snazzy new cover and the long awaited release of a mass market edition, The Girl on the Train (Movie Tie-In), Paula Hawkins (PRH/Riverhead Books; Penguin Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample; also in mass market).

The movie follows the dark and twisty tale of a woman who fantasizes about the life of others and sees something she was not supposed to see. As a missing person investigation spins out she becomes intimately involved in the case. It stars Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, and Luke Evans and opens Oct. 7.

9781501106484_6d921Another big adaptation is The Light Between Oceans, starring Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender. The trade paperback tie in edition The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman (S&S/Scribner; HighBridge; OverDrive Sample; mass market) comes out this week.

The movie, about a couple living in a remote lighthouse who rescue an infant and keep her without informing the authorities, opens on Sept. 2, to capitalize on the long  Labor Day Weekend.

MV5BMTk2MjczMTQ4MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzM4MzczOTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,675,1000_AL_The James Patterson machine rolls on with the film adaptation of Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life, James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illustrated by Laura Park (Hachette/jimmy patterson; Hachette Audio/Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample; in pbk as well).

Opening on Oct. 7, it tells the story of a middle schooler who decides to break all the rules and stars Lauren Graham, Thomas Barbusca, and Isabela Moner.

9781101972250_8a27aThe long anticipated Oliver Stone film on Edward Snowden hits screens on Sept. 16. It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scott Eastwood, Shailene Woodley, and Nicolas Cage.

The film drew on several titles, one of them coming out as a tie-in  this week, The Snowden Files (Movie Tie In Edition): The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man, Luke Harding (PRH/Vintage; RH Audio; OverDrive Sample).

For our full list of upcoming adaptations, download our Books to Movies and TV and link to our listing of tie-ins.

Readers’ Advisory: OBELISK GATE

9780316229265_28d13A rising star in the SF and fantasy world, N.K Jemisin just received a glowing review on NPR’s book site for the second in her Broken Earth trilogy, The Obelisk Gate (Hachette/Orbit; OverDrive Sample).

The new novel picks “up right where that first book left off” says NPR reviewer Amal El-Mohtart, “plunging us deep into the Evil Earth and all its machinations after the first” (The Fifth Season). She continues, it “pole-vaults over the expectations I had for what epic fantasy should be and stands in magnificent testimony to what it could be.”

The SF site, Tor.com has different take on the book, writing “The Obelisk Gate is small and safe where The Fifth Season was large and surprising.” It happens that El-Mohtart also writes for Tor.com and begins a short exchange with their reviewer in the comments section, helping RA librarians by speculating that reading both books back-to-back might affect a readers perception.

io9 sides with El-Mohtart regardless of reading order. They featured the book in their August list of “15 Must-Read” titles for the month.

The Fantasy fan world initially took note of the author when she won the Locus award in the first novel category for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Her profile rose even higher when The Fifth Season was shortlisted for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. It also hit many best books lists for the year, including the New York Times and the Washington Post‘s.

Librarians new to Jemisin might want to read The Guardian‘s 2015 profile, which says her books “are about multicultural, complex worlds that stand out in a field that has been traditionally dominated by white men.”

She is known for elaborate world-building, her unique settings, far beyond the typical locales for Fantasy, and her strong point of view. As The Guardian puts it, “Stereotypical fantasy series like, say, The Lord of the Rings, usually present a virtuous status quo threatened by a dark and eventually defeated outsider. But Jemisin’s stories almost always involve a flawed order, and the efforts (also flawed) to overthrow it.”

The Invisible Zoo

9780062368591_892eaI Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong (HC/Ecco; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample) is rising on Amazon after getting the Fresh Air bump, moving from #570 to now sitting firmly within the top 50 at #41.

Host Terry Gross talked with the author, Ed Yong, a writer at the The Atlantic and for National Geographic‘s “science salon,” Phenomena. The early part of the interview is a not-for-dinner-table conversation about fecal transplants and “fake poop.” It then moves to a more wide ranging and fascinating exploration of what the microbiome and its nearly countless numbers do.

One intriguing outtake is the fact that humans have evolved so that the sugars in breast milk feed the microbes in a baby’s stomach, sugars specifically meant for the microbe as the baby cannot digest them. Yong says “So breast milk isn’t just a way of nourishing an infant. It’s a way of nourishing babies’ first microbes. It’s really a way of engineering an entire world inside a baby’s body. You know, breastfeeding mother is a sculptor of ecosystems.”

There is also a microbe called Wolbachia that “allows some caterpillars that eat leaves to stop the leaves from turning yellow. It actually holds back the progress of fall so that … its hosts can have more to eat.”

To close the interview Gross asks Yong what he thinks about now that he knows about the microbiome multitudes and he says,

“all this biology which I thought I knew, all these creatures, these elephants and hawks and fish that I was fascinated by, these things I could see with my eyes, are actually deeply and profoundly influenced by things that I cannot see. And I know that if I go to a zoo now that every animal and every visitor in that zoo is in fact a zoo in its own right.”

NYT Consolidates Book Coverage

A recent NY Post story has us on high alert for possible changes to the last standalone newspaper review section in the country, the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

The Post claimed management was considering turning it into a digital-only publication, a change that has signaled the death knell for other such publications. The NYT editor in charge of a “strategic review” of the paper immediately dismissed that as “crazy talk.”

Pamela Paul, NYT Photo Credit: Earl Wilson, The New York Times, April, 2012

Pamela Paul, NYT
Photo Credit: Earl Wilson,
The New York Times,
April, 2012

But there was something afoot. Yesterday, the NYT announced that  all book coverage, including Sunday and daily book reviews, as well as publishing news, will now be under the direction of the Editor of the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Pamela Paul.

Until now, daily reviews and the Book Review have been separate, with separate reporting structures and approaches, making them virtually sister publications. Daily coverage is handled by a group of three regular critics, Michiko Kakutani, Dwight Garner and Jennifer Senior, with occasional contributions by Janet Maslin who retired last year.

On the other hand, the editors of the Sunday section do not act as critics, but as assigning editors, selecting titles to be reviewed and selecting writers to cover them. In some cases, the reviewers are celebrity authors, like Michael Connelly who reviews Caleb Carr’s new book on the cover of this week’s issue. In other cases, they are scholars or authors of similar books to those under review, a practice that has been regarded as open to both professional jealousies and back-scratching.

In a memo to staff about the change, NYT Executive Editor Dean Baquet calls Paul “one of our biggest stars.” That star has had a fast rise at the Book Review. In 2011, she was named the Children’s Book Editor. Just two years later, she took over as Editor, when Sam Tanenhaus left to become a writer-at-large.

According to the memo, Paul will be responsible not only for book coverage, but for recommending changes in direction. It appears that shutting down the Book Review is off the table:

It will be Pamela’s job to think about how our coverage should change and, of course, how it should not change. (We will, for instance, maintain our Sunday Book Review. It is hard to imagine the paper without it.) Above all, we believe we have a significant opportunity to expand the audience for our books coverage.

Also off the table is shutting down daily coverage:

And I want to make clear that under Pamela’s leadership, books and book reviews will be a consistent and significant part of The Times’s daily culture report.

One change is already in the works, under a single reporting structure, coverage can be coordinated to decide “which books are so important they deserve both a daily and a Sunday review” rather than that happening, as it has to date, by coincidence.

There is still reason to be concerned about the NYT‘s book coverage. Consolidation rarely results in expanded coverage. Most often, it goes the other direction.