Ernest Hemingway’s memoir of his time in Paris, A Moveable Feast, is fast becoming a testimony to the city he loved and is being used, along with flowers and candles, as both a token of mourning and as a symbol of defiance in the face of terrorism.
The memoir’s title in French is Paris est une fete — or “Paris is a party.” NPR reports that the memoir is being used as a memorial on the one week anniversary of the recent terrorist attacks, because it celebrates “Paris as an exciting place of ideas, a nexus of people who love life and the arts. The book is set in the 1920s, as Paris recovered from the oppressions of World War I.”
It is flying off the shelves in bookstores in Paris and, according to Bloomberg Business, is “the fastest-selling biography and foreign-language book at online retailer Amazon.fr. Daily orders of the memoir … have risen 50-fold to 500 since Monday, according to publisher Folio.”
Closer to home, US readers are following suit, checking out the book in sufficient quantities that a small holds list is growing in many libraries we checked.
To support readers’ needs to mark the tragedy and re-discover a city and country unmarred by terror, librarians are putting together multi-media displays on Paris, including audiobooks and film, as Katie McLain, Reference Assistant at the Waukegan Public Library, shared in the most recent CODES Conversations hosted by the Readers’ Advisory Research and Trends Committee of RUSA/CODES (see the searchable archive on the sign-up page).
John Grisham, Stephen King, and Michael Connelly take the top three spots on the current NYT’s Hardcover Fiction list but Mitch Albom’s The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto (Harper; OverDrive Sample) has opened in the number four spot, showing surprising strength when measured against the less than strong demand in libraries (holds are well within a 3:1 ratio where we checked).
It opens at #1 after continuing its rise following the juicy revelations that the senior President Bush called Dick Cheney an “iron ass” and had more to say about George W. Bush’s presidency.
Two other books about presidents fill the number two and three spots on the nonfiction list, Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger’s Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History (Penguin/Sentinel; Penguin Audio; OverDrive Sample) and Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s Killing Regan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency (Macmillian/Henry Holt; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample).
Featured on the cover of the NYT’s Sunday Book Review, Mary Beard’s SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (Norton/Liveright; OverDrive Sample) is racing ahead of copies ordered, with holds ratios raging from 6:1 on the low end to over 16:1 on the high end in libraries we checked.
Beard, perhaps better known in the UK where she is a classics professor at Cambridge University, is similar to Neil deGrasse Tyson here – a noted expert in a field many people are interested in but don’t know as much about as they would like.
Beard does for ancient Rome what Tyson does for space, offering an accessible and fascinating history that grips readers through stories, arguments, and contrary opinions (Cleopatra likely did not commit suicide via snake bite).
In the NYT’s author Ferdinand Mount heaps praise on Beard and explains the title, saying:
In SPQR, her wonderful concise history, Mary Beard unpacks the secrets of the city’s success with a crisp and merciless clarity that I have not seen equaled anywhere else. (The title comes from the Roman catchphrase Senatus Populusque Romanus — the Senate and People of Rome.)
The Guardian reviews it as well, under a headline that calls it “vastly engaging,” and The Atlantic says it is “magisterial.” Dwight Garner, reviewing for the daily NYT‘s said Beard is “charming company” and suggested this book might be her breakout moment in the US.
Both Time and Smithsonian offer interviews. Beard, rather a gadfly in the UK, answers a question from Time about in which era she would most like to live throughout history with this:
“I would not pick any. I’m a woman! It’s just about conceivable to me that a man might be able to find someplace, but it would all be a hell! There’s no political rights, death in childbirth, and no aspirin! Never. I like now.”
Not only a peer pick, Simon’s memoir is getting heavy media attention and is already rising on Amazon’s sales rankings.
For the December 2015 Indie Next pick, Ed Conklin, Chaucer’s Books, Santa Barbara, CA said:
“Boys in the Trees is a surprising and delightful read and more than a guilty pleasure derived from a crass and exploitative celebrity culture. Carly Simon has always been an appealing and alluring personality, and her memoir presents an honest — yet crafty — look at her life, beautifully and elegantly voiced. At times captivating, touching, and occasionally embarrassing, it is unfailingly entertaining — a sexy and romantic book with a sweet heart and soul.”
The big book-to-move adaptation hitting theaters today is the final in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games series, Mockingjay Part 2. As we reported when the full trailer was released, the frenzy over the film even extends to an Entertainment Weekly “deep dive” into the preview itself.
Bursting on screen as well is the story of the Kray twins, Legend, based on The Profession of Violence by John Pearson, a 1972 nonfiction account of the brothers who ran the organized crime scene of London’s East End during the 50s and 60s.
Concussion (Movie Tie-in Edition) by Jeanne Marie Laskas (Random House Trade Paperbacks).
The movie, starring Will Smith, is based on the 2009 GQ article by Laskas. It opens on Christmas Day.
CBS’s 60 Minutes featured the topic, but not the film, last Sunday (time mark 26:46).
The Magicians (TV Tie-In Edition) by Lev Grossman (Penguin/Plume).
The series stars Jason Ralph (he has appeared on TV series Madam Secretary and Gossip Girl and in films such as A Most Violent Year) as Quentin Coldwater, a new recruit at the Brakebills College, a school of magic.
As we noted earlier, the success of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, has turned Hollywood mad for military movies based on books. One of Tinsel Town’s next hopes in the genre opens January 15, 2016, the same weekend that its predecessor opened last year.
Now that there is a critical mass in fiction, we’ve collated the lists into one downloadable spreadsheet.Best Books, Fiction, 2015, V. 1 Use it to test your book knowledge, remind yourself of titles you wanted to read, create displays, and for end-of-the-year buying.
As we’ve learned to expect, there’s little agreement among critics. This year’s National Book Award winner in fiction, Adam Johnson’s Fortune Smiles, was picked by only two of the six other sources.
Watch for our upcoming collations of Nonfiction and Childrens picks and updates as more best books selections arrive. Links to the lists are on the right, under “Best Books.”
Fans of Jojo Moyes can celebrate. The release date for the film adaptation of her novel Me Before You(Penguin/Pamela Dorman) is being moved – once again.
This time, however, the film sill arrive in theaters earlier than expected, on March 4 rather than the previously announced June 3.
Deadline reports the change is designed to “hook women, particularly those off from college and high school on spring break.”
Starring Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games), it is directed by Thea Sharrock. This will be her first feature film, after directing the BBC miniseries The Hollow Crown and Call The Midwife. Moyes wrote the screenplay.
As we wrote in May, this is the not the first release date adjustment for the film. The June 3 date was major delay from its original Aug. 21, 2015 release date.
According to Deadline, the move puts the film into direct competition with several other anticipated movies, including Tina Fey’s untitled war comedy based on Kim Barker’s memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan (in her review of this “darkly funny” war reporter’s memoir, the NYT‘s Michiko Kakutani presciently called the author a “sort of Tina Fey character, who unexpectedly finds herself addicted to the adrenaline rush of war.”)
A movie-tie in edition of Me Before You is scheduled for Jan. 26, 2016:
Last night’s National Book Awards ceremony was filled with speeches giving generous praise to other writers. It lacked the challenges to the establishment offered last year by Ursula LeGuin (including a jab at her publisher for their ebook pricing to libraries). Happily, it also lacked the painful moment of casual racism by last year’s host (but why do hosts feel compelled to make fun of the proceedings, as did Andy Horowitz this year, who opened the evening by remarking that most people would say of the Awards’ sponsor, “What the fuck is the National Book Foundation?”).
The day-after reporting stresses the surprise win in fiction as well as diversity of authors.
While most stories focus on Ta-Nehisi Coates’s expected honor in nonfiction for Between the World and Me (PRH/Spiegel & Grau), almost all highlight Adam Johnson’s less expected win for fiction with his short story collection Fortune Smiles: Stories (PRH/Random House).
Reporters such as Meredith Blake of the LA Times writes,
In a completely surprising outcome, Adam Johnson claimed the award for fiction with his short story collection, Fortune Smiles. Johnson, who beat out such favorites as Hanya Yanagihara for A Little Life and Lauren Groff for Fates and Furies, appeared as stunned as anyone by the victory. “I told my wife and my kids, ‘Don’t come across America because this is not going to happen,’” said Johnson, who teaches at Stanford.
The second major theme of the reporting is the diversity of authors. Bustle offers this take:
In a world when we still (still!) have to call out award committees for having largely white, male longlists and shortlists, it was positively thrilling to see three out of the four awards handed out to black writers. Not only that, but the winners tackled issues like mental illness, racism in modern America, and the black female experience through history.
In summing up the night of bookish celebration, many reports quoted Don DeLillo’s acceptance speech for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters medal (basically, the National Book Foundation’s lifetime achievement award), in which he proclaimed, “Here, I’m not the writer at all, I’m the grateful reader.”
Below is a sample of the reporting. For those who have more of the NBA titles in their TBR piles than not, the VOX story is a particularly good resource, providing a librarian-friendly summary of every nominee’s story line, appeal, and highlights.
Calling This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! a “coming of old age novel,” Evison reveals that he spent some of his teen years as the only person under 70 in an old folks trailer park, taking care of his grandmother and watching widows reinvent their lives.
That experience helped him craft Harriet and is an example of his empathetic writing process. He explains that as he writes he seeks to get out of his own way and inhabit the character in front of him, “jumping through an empathetic window” so their actions feel inevitable.
He also talks about the film version of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, which is now in post-production and expected to open in 2016, with a script by Rob Burnett, the former executive producer of the Late Show with David Letterman, and starring Paul Rudd and Selena Gomez.
A movie version of This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! might also make it to the screen.Deadlinereported last month that Focus Features has optioned film rights.
The conversation is followed with further book suggestions to pair with Harriet, offered by Mary Ann Gwinn, the Seattle Times book editor.
This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! was a September LibraryReads pick:
“Harriet Chance receives word that her recently deceased husband, Bernard, has won an Alaskan cruise. Deciding to go on the trip, she is given a letter from her close friend Mildred, with instructions not to open it until she is on the cruise. The contents of this letter shatter Harriet and she begins to reevaluate her life and her relationships.” — Arleen Talley, Anne Arundel County Public Library Foundation, Annapolis, MD
Dress in your best and join the National Book Awards this evening, via live stream.
UPDATE: The site now says that live stream will begin at 7:40 p.m.
Yesterday, Jacqueline Woodson hosted the National Book Award Teen Press Conference (livestream, below, Woodson begins speaking at time stamp 16:35)
And at another event last night the finalists in all categories read from their books.
There’s been little speculation in the press on which books will win. We have to look to the U.K. for a look at the odds on the fiction and nonfiction categories. In a story today, The Guardian asks,”how obscure can the judges go?”
The director turns to different material for his next adaptation, Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck (Scholastic, 2011). Whe
n the project was announced in May, the Haynes already had several other projects in the works. Today is was announced that Julianne Moore will star, indicating Wonderstruck may be next on his list.
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.
An embargo prevented pre-pub reviews for Jon Meacham’s newest Presidential biography, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush (Random House; BOT; OverDrive Sample).The media managed to get their hands on the book, however, and the story that the elder President Bush called Dick Cheney an “iron-ass” became the talking point of last week’s 24-hour news shows. As a result, holds are generally topping 5:1 in places we checked, with local spikes running much higher.
Now that the book has been released, reviews have begun to appear. The newest daily NYT reviewer, Jennifer Senior, calls the biography “absorbing” and “artful” and says that Meacham is “clearly possessed of the same judiciousness and diplomatic skills as his subject.”
But Senior pulls no punches when Meacham “turns a blind eye to unflattering events,” offering a number of examples including the following about the fallout after Katrina:
“Forget whether this blistering attack was justified. What’s interesting here is the incident Mr. Meacham does not mention: that the former first lady Barbara Bush, after touring the Houston Astrodome and seeing thousands of evacuees living in squalor, told NPR, “So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them.” How could he have left that out?”
“Meacham’s access and lack of ideological fervor allow him to paint Bush the man in unusually subtle colors … Destiny and Power reflects the qualities of both subject and biographer: judicious, balanced, deliberative, with a deep appreciation of history and the personalities who shape it. If Meacham is sometimes polite to a fault, Destiny and Power does not suffer for it. His kinder, gentler approach succeeds in making George H. W. Bush a more sympathetic — and more complex — figure.”
Mary-Louise Parker’s debut, Dear Mr. You (S&S/Scribner; Simon & Schuster Audio), a memoir in letters addressed to the men of her life, is generating large hold queues, with some libraries we checked spiking as high as 8:1.
No surprise,Parker has been getting a great deal of media attention. From a New York Time’s profile to a glowing review in both that paper and on NPR, under the headline “Dear Mary-Louise Parker, You’ve Written A Great Book.”
“The book is written in a smart, beguiling voice that is inextricably entwined with qualities that Ms. Parker radiates as an actress. There’s as much flintiness as reckless charm. Flirtation and mischief are big parts of her arsenal. So is the honest soul-searching that gives this slight-looking book much more heft than might be expected.”
“Parker has created a unique and poetic memoir through a series of letters–some of appreciation, some of apology, some simply of acknowledgement–to the men in her life. Ranging from a taxi driver to a grandfather she never knew, each man has left an imprint and shaped her into the person she has become. Full of feeling, growth, and self-discovery, Parker’s book has left me longing to write my own letters.” PJ Gardiner, Wake County Public Libraries, Raleigh, NC.
The celebrated outdoor life in Paris, in its cafes and markets, is just one of the many victims of the recent attacks. A book about one of the quintessential areas for such activity, The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs (Norton; Tantor Audio; OverDrive Sample), is moving up Amazon’s sales rankings, jumping from #3,339 to #255, spurred by the author’s interview on NPR’s Fresh Airand perhaps by a sense that buying the book is a way of showing solidarity with the people of Paris.
In what amounts to an enlightening social studies lesson, author Elaine Sciolino, the former Paris bureau chief for The New York Times, talks with Terry Gross about Paris and the terrorists’ attacks of last week, sharing insights about the political, cultural, religious, and historical landscape of her adopted city.
In her view, there are several reasons the city was attacked:
“First, [Paris] is home to the largest Muslim population and the largest Jewish population of any country in Europe. It has been very forward-leaning in terms of using military to attack Islamic extremists in Iraq, now in Syria, before that in Mali… Also, physically it is very easy to get from France to Syria. You just go to the edge of Paris, and you take a bus to Istanbul and then cross over land into Syria, so it’s like kind of like summer camp for terrorism training.”
Gross and Sciolino do not spend a great deal of time on her book. For more on it, The Miami Herald reviewed it earlier this month and Sciolino adapted part of the book for a story in Travel and Leisure, complete with wonderful photographs.
It’s touching that it’s not a book about politics that is rising as a result of the attacks, but a book that celebrates daily life in Paris. Holds are strong in libraries we checked.