Archive for October, 2015

The NYT’s New Daily Book Critic

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

We’ve been waiting to hear who would replace daily NYT critic Janet Maslin since she shifted roles from full-time critic to an occasional contributor.

The news arrives in the paper tomorrow, in the form of a sidebar to a review of a nonfiction title currently hot in the media, Becoming Nicole, about a teen who transitioned from male to female, while her identical twin continues to identify as male.

The sidebar reads,

Meet Our New Critic
Jennifer Senior is the new daily book critic for The New York Times. For most of the last 18 years, she was a staff writer for New York magazine, where she wrote profiles and cover stories about politics, social science and mental health. She is also an author herself: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood was published in 2014. You can follow her on Twitter: @JenSeniorNY

9780062072221_cc8dfAccording to a press release by NYT Culture editor Danielle Mattoonon, Senior will focus on nonfiction, which is no surprise, given her background as a journalist writing about politics, social science, and mental health and as the author of the  best selling All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (HarperCollins/Ecco; HarperCollins and Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample).

While the daily NYT now returns to a roster of three full-time book critics, this appointment still leaves a void. Maslin focused on popular fiction and, reflecting her roots as a movie reviewer, made an effort to be the first to review titles she thought would be hits, getting behind books such as  Gone Girl.and The Girl on the Train.

The two other daily NYT critics have different approaches. Michiko Kakutani tends toward literary fiction (even though she reviews J.K. Rowling’s “Grizzly Crime Novel,” Career of Evil this week) and Dwight Garner tends toward nonfiction about popular culture, particularly music, (switching that it up today, with a review of  David Mitchell’s Slade House.)

Coming on the heels of cuts in book coverage by People magazine and USA Today, those looking simply for something “good to read” have fewer places to turn. Here’s hoping that Entertainment Weekly continues to consider books an important component their coverage of popular culture.

Fresh Air Talks Birds

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Two bird specialists, each of whom has recently published a book, talked with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday.

9781594859656_d3613Wildlife photographer Gerrit Vyn has been photographing birds and recording their calls for years. After contributing images to many other books, he has now released his own title, The Living Bird: 100 Years of Listening to Nature (Mountaineers Books). It includes over 250 photographs by Vyn as well as essays by noted birders and naturalists.

9780547840031_e5831Scott Weidensaul, who contributed pieces for Vyn’s book, has also published his own book, Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean (HMH). Following the pattern of other Peterson reference guides, it includes an exhaustive catalog with detailed descriptions of the owls, habitat, and behavior.

Both men communicate their fascination with birds, including the “tremendous of diversity of calls that owls make,” with samples that capture the feeling of being near the birds.

Welcome to the Spotlight,

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

9780062351425_a339dWelcome to Night Vale (HarperCollins/Harper Perennial; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample) is having its weird, subversive, addictive moment.

It is currently occupying the #59 spot on Amazon’s sales rankings and holds are growing at several libraries we checked.

As we reported, authors Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor were guests on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last week (time mark 36:24).

This week they are the subjects of a Books section feature in The New York Times., which summarizes their “show’s eerie existential themes” as “Don’t panic, but we’re all going to die,” and says “With its uncanny blend of the macabre and the mundane, the news out of Night Vale sounds like what might occur if Stephen King or David Lynch was a guest producer at your local public radio station.”

The feature details the history of the podcast and its move to print books, reporting publisher Harper Perennial has three more books in the works from Fink and Cranor and that the pair found an agent through the assistance of author John Green, who is a big fan of the show.

In a heads-up service to librarians, the paper also discusses other podcasts coming to print, “including The WTF Oral History, based on the comedian Marc Maron’s podcast, and Adnan’s Story, a book by Rabia Chaudry that is based on the murder case that inspired the wildly successful podcast Serial. It will contain new information about the case and will be published by St. Martin’s Press.”

Andrew Carnegie Medal Shortlist

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

The finalists for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction have been announced.

The three fiction picks are:

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The Sympathizer
by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press; OverDrive Sample)

The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard (PRH/Knopf; OverDrive Sample)

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (PRH/Doubleday; Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample)

The three nonfiction picks are:

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H is for Hawk
by Helen Macdonald (Grove Press; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample)

Hold Still by Sally Mann (Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio and Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample)

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf (PRH/Knopf; HighBridge audio; OverDrive Sample)

The titles are selected by a committee consisting of members of the Reference and User Services Association of ALA and staff from Booklist magazine. The winners will be announced during the ALA Midwinter meeting along with the Notable Book List, The Reading List, The Listen List, the Dartmouth Medal, the Sophie Brody Medal, and other RUSA book awards.

Comics Super Hero, The NextGen

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Saga_Vol5-1_362_557_s_c1The Last Man VaughnOne of the leading creators of massively popular and critically praised comics deeply appreciates librarians.

In a feature posted this week in The Daily Beast, writer Emil Lendof introduces Brian K. Vaughan to readers as:

“the golden boy of modern comic book writing… He has the reputation and awards (10 Eisner wins and 10 Eisner nominations) to hold the title, and he’s been compared to comics titans like Frank Miller and Alan Moore. From blockbuster hits like Y: The Last Man, the space opera Saga, and TV writing/producing credits on some of the best seasons of Lost and Under the Dome, Vaughan has become one of the preeminent comics authors.”

The pair sat down for an interview that ranged from Vaughan’s appreciation for the artists he works with to the ways he works out his fears and anxieties in comic form. He also discussed the frequent calls for banning his series Saga and in the process gives a shout-out to librarians:

“The main reason why it hasn’t been banned is because of librarians, who are at the forefront of anti-censorship. They’ve been so great about saying, “It’s fine if you don’t want your children to read Saga, but this is not how libraries work.” It’s frustrating that some people challenge it, but I am so grateful for librarians that let people check out whatever materials they want.”

Librarians who do not yet know his name are likely to be hearing much more about him. The Hollywood Reporter has news that Vaughan’s comic Y: The Last Man, which he created with artist Pia Guerra, has just been bought by FX with plans to make it into a live action series. Nina Jacobson (Hunger Games) and Brad Simpson (World War Z) will produce and Vaughan will co-write. An air date has yet to be set as the project is still in its very early days.

the Dogs and More

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Yesterday was a three-book extravaganza for CBS’s venerable Sunday Morning magazine show.

9781579656713_1a0abThe Dogist by Elias Weiss Friedman (Workman/Artisan) was featured in a charming and smile-inducing report, sending the book racing up the Amazon sales charts where it is currently occupying the #62 spot.

The book is based on Friedman’s blog and Instagram accounts of the same name, which have done for dogs what Humans of New York and The Sartorialist have done for people and fashion. In the process Friedman has gathered over a million followers.

CBS posted a photo gallery in addition to the video segment.

9781250065919_b0b65 9780399167256_d72dfAlso featured were Erica Jong, whose new book Fear of Dying (Macmillan/St. Martin’s; Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample) rose to #148 on the Amazon chart as a result, and singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, for his new memoir Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink (PRH/Blue Rider Press; Penguin Audio; OverDrive Sample) who comes to CBS fresh off of his appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last week.

More on Robert Durst

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

Robert Durst is the subject of books, films, and documentaries, perhaps most famously HBO’s The Jinx in which he seems to confess to multiple murders, saying to himself while wearing a microphone, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

9781501125003_c11d0Add another book to the list. Author Jeanine Pirro, a former district attorney involved in one of the Durst murder cases, featured in The Jinx, is publishing a new title, He Killed Them All: Robert Durst and My Quest for Justice (S&S/Gallery Books; S&S Audio). According to the publisher summary, Pirro reveals “stunning, previously unknown secrets about the crimes.”

The book is creating its own controversy. The New York Times reports that Pirro’s former collaborator on the project has filed suit against her, accusing Pirro of knowingly stretching the truth and aggrandizing her role in the matter. The lawsuit further claims that her editor at S&S told her not to “allow ‘concerns about facts’ to impede her from turning in drafts of the book.” Pirro’s agent has scoffed at the charges and S&S disputes the claims.

Holds are slight thus far but that will change if media attention continues.

Riordan’s Next Best Seller

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

1423160916_25a72Ten years ago Rick Riordan got kids interested in reading about Greek mythology with the publication of The Lightning Thief. Since then he has also written series based on Roman and Egyptian mythology.

Now he is turning his attention to Norse myths with his newest book Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book One, The Sword of Summer (Disney; Listening Library; OverDrive Sample).

It debuts this week in the #1 spot on USA Today’s Best-Selling Books list, a list that includes all ages and formats as well as in the top spot of The New York Times’ Children’s Middle Grade Hardcover list.

In and interview with Entertainment Weekly Riordan says that Norse myths present a special challenge because are gruesome and he had to figure out how to “present this accurately but also in a way that’s not completely terrifying”

Below is the book trailer.

Titles to Know and Recommend,
the Week of Oct 19

Friday, October 16th, 2015

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The biggest book of the fall in terms of holds, even outstripping James Patterson’s Cross Justice coming in early Nov, arrives next week, John Grisham’s Rogue Lawyer, (PRH/Doubleday). It gets an early welcome from Maureen Corrigan in the Washington Post, calling it a “terrific new thriller.”

Also arriving is the latest in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling), Career Of Evil, (Hachette/Mulholland). The BBC is set to adapt the entire series, with production expected to begin this fall. Broadcast dates have not yet been announced.

Also arriving are Host by Robin Cook, (PRH/Putnam) and Golden Age by Jane Smiley, (PRH/Knopf)

The titles covered here, and several more notable titles arriving next week, are listed with ordering information and alternate formats, on our downloadable spreadsheet, EarlyWord New Title Radar, Week of Oct. 19, 2015

Media Magnets 


The Explorers Guild: Volume One: A Passage to Shambhala, Kevin Costner, Jon Baird, Rick Ross, (S&S/Atria)

Yes, the co-author is THAT Kevin Costner. When when the project was announced in 2012, the plan was also to turn it in to an animated series and a film. For now at least, the book stand alone. Kirkus sees merit inits colorful cast, exotic locales, and intertwined fates” and as a result,  “the book slowly addicts. A rousing throwback whose spinning plates never stop, even at the end.” PW was less impressed, calling it a “massive doorstop of a volume is a curious, over-stuffed throwback … What could have been rousing becomes tedious as the authors pile on endless detail, delivered in densely worded prose sections that read like stage directions in a script.”

No surprise, the media is lining up for  Costner:

• ABC Good Morning America, October 20
• Fox-TV Access Hollywood, October 20
• ABC The View, October 20
• ABC Entertainment Tonight, October 20
• NPR Diane Rehm, October 21


Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home, Joe Klein, (S&S)

Joe Klein, Time magazine’s political columnist, tells the story of two soldiers who founded The Mission Continues, an organization that helps veterans adjust to life as civilians through community service. The book will be featured on NPR’s Diane Rehm, October 21 and CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, October 22.


Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, Sarah Vowell, (PRH/Riverhead)

Vowell got very early coverage for her latest, as one of Jon Stewart’s final guests on the Daily Show. For the audiobook, she is joined by some famous friends, John Slattery (as the Marquis de Lafayette), Nick Offerman (George Washington), Bobby Cannavale (Benjamin Franklin), John Hodgman (John Adams), and Patton Oswalt (Thomas Jefferson).


Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family, Amy Ellis Nutt, (PRH/Random House)

Featured on Good Morning America today, this book also profiled in this week’s People magazine in an article titled, “How Identical Twin Boys Became Brother and Sister: One Family’s Courageous Transgender Story” and is scheduled for coverage on NPR’s Fresh Air on Monday.


The Arab of the Future: A Graphic Memoir, Riad Sattouf (Macmillan/Metropolitan Books)

Reviewed in the New Yorker and the upcoming
NY Times Sunday Book Review.


Peer Picks

9780062351425_a339dWelcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (HarperCollins/Harper Perennial; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample)

LibraryReads, Oct — “This is classic Night Vale in written form. It’s an absolute must for Night Vale fans, and will possibly provide an introduction for those who haven’t found this snarky little podcast yet.” Debra Franklin, York County Public Library, Rock Hill, SC

Indie Next – “Welcome to Night Vale meshes the uncanny with the mundane in a way that doesn’t so much elevate the mundane as it illuminates life’s strangeness. For all its weirdness, Fink and Cranor’s work rings true. Like the best metaphors, the novel makes its reader think ‘Wait, what?’ and ‘Oh. Yes!’ in quick succession. New visitors to Night Vale will be as entertained and absorbed by the story and characters as longtime listeners of the duo’s popular podcast. Simply delightful!” —Amber Reed, Copperfield’s Books, Petaluma, CA

Last night, Stephen Colbert featured the founders of the podcast on the Late Show, forcing him to face the challenge featuring an audio medium on a visual one. When he mentioned the guests in the opening monologue, the crowd cheered and Colbert congratulated them for being a “hip audience”


9781250068828_bbeefHome Is Burning: A Memoir by Dan Marshall (Macmillan/Flatiron Books; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample)

Indie Next –“Emotionally devastating and also somehow incredibly funny, this memoir left me feeling grateful for the bonds of family. Marshall’s mother has been fighting cancer — and winning! — since he was a kid, but when his father is diagnosed with ALS, Marshall moves home to help battle this new medical challenge. It might have gone better if Marshall was at all the responsible, mature, and resourceful person the situation called for. Instead he flails and fails and acts wildly inappropriately — because what else can you do as your dad wastes away? Sometimes there’s nothing more important than looking mortality in the face, admitting we’re scared, and making a fart joke.” — Nichole McCown, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

A film adaptation is in the works, with Miles Teller as the star, directed by Jonathan Levine for New Line Cinema.

9781451649321_d8cdaThe Lake House by Kate Morton (S&S/Atria Books; Bolinda Audio)

Indie Next – “The Lake House explores an unsolved kidnapping that occurred between the World Wars at an isolated country house in England. Morton here continues to do all the things she does so well: weaving together a multi-generational family story from numerous perspectives; showcasing different facets of the same events; and bringing a wonderfully complex plot together in a kaleidoscopic web of uncovered secrets, past and present. With delightful characters, fascinating settings, and a captivating mystery, Morton draws us into a world we’re sorry to leave. Highly recommended!” —Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, MI

9781616204136_8448eWe Were Brothers: A Memoir by Barry Moser (Workman/Algonquin Books)

LibraryReads, Oct –  “Moser’s deeply personal memoir of his volatile relationship with his brother in the segregated south is thoughtful and beautifully written. Strong differences of opinions divided the brothers. Late in life, reconciliation came, but only after years of heartache. There is much to ponder from this work, which is timely given current racial tensions.” PJ Gardiner, Wake County Public Libraries, Raleigh, NC


It’s a big week at the multiplex for movies based on books (tie-ins for these have been released and our listed in our catalog of movie tie-ins).

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Goosebumps — based on characters from R.L, Stine’s books for kids, it expected to do well at the box office. In addition to the movie tie-ins, several of the original books have been reissued as Classic Goosebumps (with the line “Now a Major Motion Picture” on the covers).

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Room — #1 pick of the week by People, “Of all the important, buzzy films his season, this is the one you won’t be able to shake,” it is  based on the novel by Emma Donoghue.

Beasts of No Nation — #5  People pick of the week — Based on the novel by Uzodinma Iweala, this will be released simultaneously on Netflix and in the Landmark Theatres chain, so it can qualify for the Oscars.

Truth — Based on the memoir by 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes, Truth And Duty: The Press, The President, And The Privilege Of Power, with Robert Redford playing Dan Rather in a scary wig, this one has not been playing well with the critics.

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

Scientology Tell-All

Friday, October 16th, 2015

9781101886960_28aaaAnticipation is building for Leah Remini’s upcoming tell-all about her experiences with the Church of Scientology, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology (RH/Ballantine). Best known for her role as Carrie Heffernan on the CBS show King of Queens, and currently the star of TLC’s reality show, It’s All RelativeRemini left the Church after being a member for 30 years.

Lawrence Wright wrote a best selling account of the Church in 2013, Going Clear, the basis for this year’s award-winning HBO documentary of the same name, but Remini, who Vanity Fair describing her as “a well-connected Hollywood player” predicts she will have juicer stories, “until either Katie Holmes or Nicole Kidman [both women were married to Tom Cruise, who is deeply involved in the church] put pen to paper, this sounds like the closest we’ll get to exploring the Hollywood side of Scientology.”

People and Redbook have reported on the upcoming book, as have the tabloids. ABC’s 20/20 will do an hour-long interview with Remini on October 30, before the book’s release the following Tuesday. She will also be featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, as well as dozens of other shows. Even Rachel Ray and Dr. Oz will get in on the action.

Holds are starting to grow at libraries we checked.

More GIRL On The Way

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Screen-Shot-2015-08-24-at-10.24.18-AMAfter the success of The Girl in the Spider’s Web, David Lagercrantz is on tap to write two more titles for the Millennium series.

Entertainment Weekly reports that his Swedish publisher has to release a fifth in 2017, followed by a sixth in 2019. Following the precedent of the previous, we can expect those books to be released simultaneously in the U.S.

According to a publisher statement, Lagercrantz found The Girl in the Spider’s Web “so much fun to write and such a breathtaking adventure” that he “just can’t resist” writing more.

In an earlier interview with Entertainment Weekly, Lagercrantz said he found plenty of subject material for the series, sharing that he kept notes while reading the first three books by Stieg Larsson and found “lots of threads that I’m sure he would have developed.”

After hitting the NYT Best Seller list at #1 on Sept. 20, The Girl in the Spider’s Web has remained in the top three, moving back to #2 this week.

Meet PRH Library Marketing

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

Following the 2013 merger of  publishers Random House and Penguin, CEO Markus Dohle said that the restructuring of various department within the new company would evolve slowly and indeed it has. The most recent move is the joining of the Penguin and Random House Adult Library Marketing departments.

Formerly, each department handled both library and academic marketing. Reflecting the continuing increase in sales in both areas, each will now have a dedicated department

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Library marketing is being consolidated under Jen Childs, formerly Director, Library Marketing, Random House, newly named VP, Library Marketing, Penguin Random House Adult. She reports to Skip Dye, Vice President, Library Sales.

Continuing to report to Dye are he Library Field Sales and Marketing Group which represents BOT audio, Living Language, as well as all PRH titles to libraries, and their manager, Sharon Parker.

Dye in turn continues to report to Jaci Updike, President, Sales, Penguin Random House. In the memo to staff announcing the change, she placed emphasis on digital publishing, saying, Dye’s “keen understanding of the digital landscape in both public and school libraries, make him a go-to problem-solver. Skip is also a motivating leader with insightful perspectives on how to increase our digital library sales, together with our physical titles, in this marketplace.” She further promised, “We will be ramping up our already extensive outreach efforts to libraries nationwide with our innovative marketing programs, as we align our two adult library marketing departments under one leader.”

Continuing in the department are:

Elizabeth Fabian, Associate Director, Library Marketing, Random House Group
Erica Melnichok, Manager, Library Marketing, Crown Group
Kelly Coyle-Crivelli, Manager, Library Marketing, Penguin Random House Publisher Services (PRHPS)

Moving over to the new PRH Library Marketing department are former Penguin Library Marketing staff members Dominique R. Jenkins Manager, Penguin Library Marketing, and Maureen Meekins, Coordinator, Penguin Library Marketing.


Alan Walker, formerly Vice President, Penguin Academic
and Library Sales & Marketing (pictured, left, in faux mug shots) will now focus on the academic market. Alan worked with us at EarlyWord to develop the Penguin Debut Author program, now in its third year.

Michael Gentile is the new V.P., Director, Academic Marketing, Random House, Crown, and Penguin Random House Publisher Services.

3edcdfe-2The Random House Library Marketing department was begun by Marcia Purcell 20 years ago, when she was lured away from New York Public Library after nearly 24 years as coordinator of adult services for branch libraries, including collection development. She retired in 2012 and is now a Library Outreach Consultant.

Meanwhile, Penguin and Random House Children’s Library Marketing teams remain as two separate departments.

Contact information for all publishers’ library marketing departments is available in our directories:

Library Marketing — Adult

Library Marketing — Childrens

National Book Awards Shortlist

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015


Winnowed down from longlists of ten titles in each category, The National Book Awards shortlists were announced today on NPR’s Morning Edition.

After her loss last night at the Booker Awards, Hanya Yanagihara sails through to the next round of the NBAs. Lauren Groff, whose book Fates and Furies is the current NPR Morning Edition Book Club pick, also makes the shortlist.

In what many may see as a surprise based on his earlier reception, Bill Clegg did not make the cut to the shortlist with Did You Ever Have a Family.

NPR book experts, providing color commentary on the announcements, highlighted Angela Flournoy’s The Turner House, saying it is a “lovely, lovely book” that picks up on many of the themes in the entire fiction list as it is a domestic drama dealing with financial insecurity, children and parents, and grieving.

In nonfiction there were few surprises as the big names and buzzy books made the second round. NPR commentators remarked that Ta-Nehisi Coates’s best seller, Between the World and Me is a book notable for its “tone of implacable, fatalistic dread.” They also called attention to the two memoirs, written with grace and skill by non-memoirists, photographer Sally Mann and poet Tracy K. Smith.

Poetry also saw many of the big names make the shortlist although one of the few household-name poets of recent years, Jane Hirshfield, did not. NPR’s book experts especially liked Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things, calling it “a beautiful collection” and saying the lyrical and emotional poems lure one to read them aloud.

The Young People’s Literature list is called the “antidote to Frozen” by the NPR experts. They highlighted Nimona in particular, praising it as a “beautiful, goofy, charming graphic novel” that explores how we talk about girls and women and offers a grand mix of wistfulness and sadness that marks the best of YA literature.

The full shortlists are below. Winners will be announced on Nov. 18th.


Information on the longlist titles here.

Karen E. Bender, Refund: Stories (Counterpoint Press, dist. by Perseus/PGW)

Angela Flournoy, The Turner House (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies (Penguin/Riverhead)

Adam Johnson, Fortune Smiles: Stories (Random House)

Hanya Yanagihara,  A Little Life (RH/Doubleday)


Information on the longlist titles here.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (RH/Spiegel & Grau)

Sally Mann, Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs (Hachette/Little, Brown)

Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness (S&S/Atria; S&S Audio)

Carla Power, If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran (Macmillan/Holt)

Tracy K. Smith, Ordinary Light: A Memoir (RH/ Knopf; Recorded Books)

Marlon James Wins the
Booker Prize

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

[Note: we’ve made several additions to this story since we first posted it last night]

In the second year that American writers were eligible for the Booker, two made the shortlist, but ultimately did not win. The winner, however, lives in the U.S. and his books were originally published by U.S. publishing houses.

The9781594486005_04fae winner is the first Jamaican writer to win the award, Marlon James for A Brief History of Seven Killings (Penguin/Riverhead; HighBridge Audio; OverDrive Sample, 2014; released in trade paperback, Sept. 8, 2015). He lives in Minneapolis and teaches at Macalester College in St. Paul.

In his remarks, James said he was shaped by reading previous Booker winners and noted that ten years ago he nearly gave up on writing, thanking Johnny Temple at independent publisher Akashic Books in Brooklyn for publishing his debut, John Crow’s Devil, (9781936070107). He also thanked his editors at the Riverhead imprint of Penguin U.S. (see him give his acceptance speech here — the second video).

A Brief History of Seven Killings, published last year in the US, appeared on many of the year’s best books lists and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

James is scheduled to appear on Monday at Minneapolis bookstore Magers & Quinn. He is also scheduled for appearances at Hennepin County Public Library at the end of the month.

In March, he was interviewed on Late Night with  Seth Meyers:

Reviews — Michiko Kakutani, New York Times; Washington Post; Wall Street JournalNYT Sunday Book Review.

The Guardian calls the winning novel “an epic, uncompromising novel not for the faint of heart. It brims with shocking gang violence, swearing, graphic sex, drug crime but also, said the judges, a lot of laughs.”

UPDATE: The Booker Bump strikes again. By Wed. morning, Oct. 14, A Brief History of Seven Killings rose to #20 on Amazon sales rankings in paperback and #137 in hardcover.

Surprise Author Interviewer

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

President Barack Obama turns his hand to book discussion, conducting an interview with Marilynne Robinson for a piece published in the 11/5 issue of The New York Review of Books.

9780312424404_9e782The President reveals that he read Robinson’s second novel, Gilead when he was on the 2004 campaign. In it, he discovered one of his  “favorite characters in fiction,” the pastor John Ames, whom he describes as “gracious and courtly and a little bit confused about how to reconcile his faith with all the various travails that his family goes through.”

The two go on to discuss faith, religion, creativity, small town values, American optimism and pessimism, and the “us versus them” tendency of politics.

In a brief segment the President asks Robinson how she developed such a wide perspective growing up in a small rural location.

how do you think you ended up thinking about democracy, writing, faith the way you do? How did that experience of growing up in a pretty small place in Idaho, which might have led you in an entirely different direction—how did you end up here, Marilynne? What happened? Was it libraries?

Robinson’s immediately answers, “It was libraries.”

The conversation takes place in two parts. The first is available now and the second will be posted in the next issue. A free audio recording of the interview is available via iTunes.