Fall 2016 Adult Announcements: All Our Coverage

The editors have selected more than 700 adult titles for this feature (fall children’s announcements will appear in the July 18, 2016 issue) in anticipation of their attracting attention and, of course, generating sales. Our mission is to offer booksellers and librarians a helping hand in finding books to order and promote in the upcoming months, and to provide the industry with information that reflects our passion and experience.

Source: Fall 2016 Adult Announcements: All Our Coverage

You’ll find links here to titles in the following categories:

  • Art, Architecture, and Photography
  • Business and Economics
  • Comics and Graphic Novels
  • Cooking and Food
  • Essays and Literary Criticism
  • History
  • Lifestyle
  • Literary Fiction
  • Memoirs and Biographies
  • Mysteries and Thrillers
  • Poetry
  • Politics and Current Events
  • Romance and Erotica
  • Science
  • Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

Last Week’s Links

On Novels and Novelists

My 10 Favorite Books: Michael Cunningham

Author MIchael Cunningham lists the 10 (really 11) books he’d want with him if he were stranded on a deserted island.

The Author of ‘The Nest’ on How She Got Up the Courage to Write

the nestHere’s an interview with Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, author of the hit novel The Nest, which I read last month.

Sweeney decided to go back to school for an MFA in fiction writing at the age of 50. She’s currently writing the screenplay for the feature film version of her novel.

Grave Disruptions: Elizabeth Little interviews Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman is the New York Times –bestselling author of the Edgar Award–winning Tess Monaghan series and nine acclaimed standalone mysteries. A graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Lippman worked for 20 years as a reporter, including 12 at the Baltimore Sun.

Elizabeth Little interviews Laura Lippman, whose latest novel is the stand-alone mystery Wilde Lake.

Kurt Vonnegut Diagrams the Shape of All Stories in a Master’s Thesis Rejected by U. Chicago

“What has been my prettiest contribution to the culture?” asked Kurt Vonnegut in his autobiography Palm Sunday. His answer? His master’s thesis in anthropology for the University of Chicago, “which was rejected because it was so simple and looked like too much fun.” The elegant simplicity and playfulness of Vonnegut’s idea is exactly its enduring appeal. The idea is so simple, in fact, that Vonnegut sums the whole thing up in one elegant sentence: “The fundamental idea is that stories have shapes which can be drawn on graph paper, and that the shape of a given society’s stories is at least as interesting as the shape of its pots or spearheads.”

This piece, which features an infographic, also includes a short video of Vonnegut explaining his ideas. There are also links to other articles about Vonnegut.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Hackers are using this nasty text-message trick to break into people’s accounts

Watch out: That message might not be from who you think.

Source: Hackers are using this nasty text-message trick to break into people’s accounts

Earlier this week, Alex MacCaw, cofounder of data API company Clearbit, shared a screenshot of a text attempting to trick its way past two-factor authentication (2FA) on a Google account.

Please read this short article. It could save you a big headache.

Last Week’s Links

Recent Articles on Books, Authors, and All Things Literary

Seattle’s new Youth Poet Laureate has no home — but she does have a book deal

What a great local story about the power of the human spirit—and of the written word. The judges were unaware of Angel Gardner’s background and current living situation when they chose her to be Seattle’s Youth Poet Laureate:

Gardner’s poems — explicit and raw on matters of race, homelessness and abuse — “feel urgent when you read them, in a way that seems important for folks to pay attention to,” said one of the judges, Aaron Counts.

Please read this story and pass it on.

‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ Begins Previews in London, as Magic Continues

So you thought we’d seen the last of Harry Potter? NOT!

Here were a host of memorable characters, many of them making what amount to quick cameo appearances, much as a star might drop into a movie for a few minutes. Here were a second generation of new characters, including Scorpius, the unexpectedly delightful son of the decidedly undelightful Draco Malfoy, and of course the troubled Albus [Harry’s son], whose adolescent struggles to make sense of himself, his friends and his family form the focus of the play.

10 Literary Terms to Impress (or Annoy) Your Friends

An interesting graphic, even if it does perpetuate an inaccuracy that is one of my pet peeves.

To wit: in medias res, which isn’t even spelled correctly here. It’s also not defined quite correctly, but that’s a common mistake. Just about every literary handbook in the world tells you that this Latin phrase means “in the middle of things.” Except that it doesn’t; it means “into the middle of things.”

A book that begins in medias res throws readers into the middle of things, right into the action, where they must quickly figure out what’s going on.

Does Literary Criticism Have a Grade Inflation Problem?

I reported on the introduction of Lit Hub’s Book Marks here. When I took my first look at the site, which assigns letter grades to books on the basis of published reviews, I thought that the grades looked high.

Alex Shephard, writing for The New Republic, has the same impression:

Lit Hub uses an A-F grading system. But none of the books are remotely in danger of flunking.

The reviews themselves have been pulled from 70 publications, including The New Republic, but only a few have been graded below a B-

Shephard looks at the state of literary criticism—and there are a lot of informative links in the article—before concluding that “literary criticism, like America’s universities, is suffering from severe grade inflation.”

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

BAILEYS Women’s Prize for Fiction » Announcing the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction winner

On Wednesday 8th June 2016 at the Clore Ballroom, Southbank Centre, London, Irish author Lisa McInerney was announced the winner of the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction for her debut novel The Glorious Heresies.

Source: BAILEYS Women’s Prize for Fiction » Announcing the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction winner

Books on the short list.

Introducing Book Marks, Lit Hub’s “Rotten Tomatoes” for Books | Literary Hub

Book Marks will showcase critics from the most important and active outlets of literary journalism in America, aggregating reviews from over 70 sources—newspapers, magazines, and websites—and averaging them into a letter grade, as well as linking back to their source. Each book’s cumulative grade functions as both a general critical assessment, and, more significantly, as an introduction to a range of voices.

Source: Introducing Book Marks, Lit Hub’s “Rotten Tomatoes” for Books | Literary Hub

I’m still checking this out. Let us know what you think about this new service in the comments.

The Classics Spin #13

The Classics Spin #13

I love these Classics Spins because they get me reading the books on my list when I might otherwise avoid them.

Here’s how it works: I list 20 books here that I have yet to read from my original list of 50+ classics. Tomorrow, June 6, the Classics Club will announce a number, and I have to read whatever book on my list has that number.

So here’s my list:

  1. Masters, Edgar Lee. Spoon River Anthology (1915)
  2. Agee, James. A Death in the Family
  3. Wilson, Sloan. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
  4. Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men
  5. Cather, Willa. O Pioneers!
  6. Smith, Dodie. I Capture the Castle (1948)
  7. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice
  8. Fowles, John. The French Lieutenant’s Woman
  9. Tarkington, Booth. The Magnificent Ambersons
  10. Lewis, Sinclair. Babbit
  11. Styron, William. Darkness Visible (1990)
  12. Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment
  13. Hardy, Thomas. Far From the Madding Crowd
  14. Adams, Richard. Watership Down
  15. Burns, Olive. Cold Sassy Tree
  16. O’Neill, Eugene. The Iceman Cometh
  17. James, Henry. The Beast in the Jungle
  18. Pym, Barbara. Excellent Women
  19. Nabokov, Vladimir. Pnin
  20. Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway

And the Winner Is . . .

#15. So I will be reading Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Burns by August 1.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Recent Articles on Books, Authors, and All Things Literary

Middle Eastern Writers Find Refuge in the Dystopian Novel

Because literature reflects the culture that produces it:

Five years after the popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere, a bleak, apocalyptic strain of post-revolutionary literature has taken root in the region. Some writers are using science fiction and fantasy tropes to describe grim current political realities. Others are writing about controversial subjects like sexuality and atheism, or exhuming painful historical episodes that were previously off limits.

ACTUALLY, CRITICISM IS LITERATURE

Literary critic Jonathan Russell Clark disagrees deeply with:

the implication that criticism is separate from the literature it describes, as if novelists, poets, playwrights, and nonfiction writers were the players in the game and we critics merely the referees. What’s intimated in many defenses of criticism is this gap between observer and observed, between artist and non-artist.

You’ve no doubt heard that offensive adage, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” In literary circles that’s often amended to, “Those who can, write books. Those who can’t, become critics.”

Here Clark insists on:

criticism’s inclusion as a genre of literature, and not as a subject that stands outside of it. When viewed as a separate entity, criticism becomes this Big Brother-like authority ready to pop up and take down any unsuspecting artist; it turns criticism into a practical evil that published authors must suffer through; and it devalues the work of those who became critics because they love literature and they love to write.

Critics have honed their love of literature and their skills in reading and writing as much as have the authors of the books they critique, and they deserve to be acknowledged as writers in their own right.

10 Books to Read While Waiting for the Return of ‘Gilmore Girls’

I had not heard of The Gilmore Girls until recently, and then suddenly I came across three or four references to the show. Since I believe in such synchronicities, I think I must now look for the show on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

But for those of you who are already Gilmore Girls fans, here are some reading suggestions from Amber Brock, a teacher of British literature.

Beyond the Dog: A Reader’s Guide to Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime was a big hit with one of my book groups when we read it shortly after it came out in 2003. The protagonist of the novel is a young man with autism, and the book’s presentation of his point of view was riveting and informative.

Although still primarily associated with his most famous work, Haddon has published three books since, which you can read about here.

‘There’s Either a Gun or a Wedding’: An Interview with Whit Stillman

“My daughter has proved to be cunning and manipulative—I couldn’t be more proud.” This loving adulation is spoken by Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) near the end of Whit Stillman’s fifth film, Love & Friendship, which chronicles the conniving successes of a widowed woman set on finding the perfect match for herself and her daughter. An adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s lesser known works, the novella Lady Susan, here Stillman has found his ideal match in the 18th century novelist: both revel in the gentle mockery of bourgeois social norms through the comedy of manners.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Books I Finished in May

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Original publication date: 1857
Translated by Lydia Davis
(Penguin Books, 2010)

Highly recommended

madame bovaryMadame Bovary is a seminal work in the rise of literary realism:

an approach that attempts to describe life without idealization or romantic subjectivity. Although realism is not limited to any one century or group of writers, it is most often associated with the literary movement in 19th-century France, specifically with the French novelists Flaubert and Balzac. George Eliot introduced realism into England, and William Dean Howells introduced it into the United States. Realism has been chiefly concerned with the commonplaces of everyday life among the middle and lower classes, where character is a product of social factors and environment is the integral element in the dramatic complications (see naturalism). In the drama, realism is most closely associated with Ibsen’s social plays. Later writers felt that realism laid too much emphasis on external reality. Many, notably Henry James, turned to a psychological realism that closely examined the complex workings of the mind (see stream of consciousness).

Citation: “Realism.” The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia®. 2013. Columbia University Press. 15 May 2016.

Emma Bovary, daughter of a farmer and wife of a country doctor, dreams of a love that she can never attain. In the convent school she attends as a young girl, she reads romantic accounts of mythical love and imagines a similar life for herself. But her visions of what married life should be quickly fade in the face of real life in a country village. She then turns to motherhood to sustain her, but her lofty visions of motherhood pale in the reality of the everyday chores of caring for a child. Still searching, she hires a servant to take care of her daughter and imagines herself involved in truly passionate love affairs that rise above quotidian reality. In a discussion about literature with Leon, one of her would-be lovers, occurs the following exchange:

”That’s why I’m especially fond of the poets,“ he said. “I think verses are more tender than prose, and more apt to make you cry.”

”Yet they’re tiresome in the end,“ Emma said; ”these days, what I really adore are stories that can be read all in one go, and that frighten you. I detest common heroes and moderate feelings, the sort that exist in real life.” (p. 73)

That pesky “real life” always intrudes on the romantic picture of love she developed from her earliest reading:

One day when [Emma and her lover] had left each other early, and she was walking back alone down the boulevard, she caught sight of the walls of her convent; she sat down on a bench, in the shade of the elms. How peaceful those days had been! How she had longed for the indescribable feelings of love that she had tried, with the help of her books, to imagine for herself! (p. 251)

Someone like Emma can never be happy, the novel assures us:

She was not happy and never had been. Why was life so inadequate, why did the things she depended on turn immediately to dust? … Yet if somewhere there existed a strong, handsome being, with a valorous nature, at once exalted and refined, with the heart of a poet in the shape of an angel, a lyre with strings of brass, sounding elegiac epithalamiums to the heavens, then why mightn’t she, by chance find him? Oh, what an impossibility! Nothing, anyway, was worth looking for; everything was a lie. Every smile hid a yawn of boredom, every joy a malediction, every pleasure its own disgust, and the sweetest kisses left on your lips no more than a vain longing for a more sublime pleasure. (p. 252)

Not long after I finished reading Madame Bovary, I came across the article Alain de Botton on why romantic novels can make us unlucky in love. He distinguishes between the tradition of Romantic novels, “novels that do not give us a correct map of love, that leave us unprepared to deal adequately with the difficulties of being in a couple,” and Classical novels, which, he writes, present us with a picture of the right kind of love:

The narrative arts of the Romantic novel have unwittingly constructed a devilish template of expectations of what relationships are supposed to be like – in the light of which our own love lives often look grievously and deeply unsatisfying. We break up or feel ourselves cursed in significant part because we are exposed to the wrong works of literature.

That is exactly what happened to Emma Bovary.

Choose your books wisely.


the nestThe Nest by Cynthia E’Aprix Sweeney
(HarperCollins, 2016)

Recommended

Meet the Plumb children: Leo, Jack, Beatrice (Bea), and Melody. Years ago their father, Leonard, set up a trust to provide them with a little nest egg, “not an inheritance,” he insisted, for a midlife boost. The money was to be distributed when Melody, the youngest child, turned 40. Over the years “the nest” has grown more than Leonard ever imagined. Since Leonard’s death, the fund has been administered by his wife, Francie, who has steadfastly resisted her children’s various pleas to allow them to borrow against their future inheritance.

Until now. A very drunk Leo, the oldest, has picked up a pretty young woman from the catering staff at a family wedding and driven off with her for a quick tryst. Along the way Leo drives into a spectacular car crash that causes the amputation of the young woman’s foot. To keep Leo out of trouble and the story out of the papers, Francie has approved a huge chunk of the nest as a hush-money settlement quietly arranged by Leo’s cousin and family lawyer.

The book opens as the other three siblings gather for a meeting with Leo to make clear that they expect him to repay the nest so that they can all get their money when Melody turns 40 in three months. Over those three months we get to know all four of the Plumb children, two of whom desperately need that inheritance—the whole amount they’ve been counting on, not the half left after Leo’s payout.

Sweeney deftly brings all these major characters, along with a few minor ones, to life in an exploration of the meanings of family, relationships, commitment, betrayal, and money. The resolution, which is exactly right for these characters in these circumstances, is a lesson in moving through dysfunction into a new working definition of family.


A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
© 1959

leibowitzThis book was popular when I was in college back in the late 1960s. I never got around to reading it back then, and the same mass market paperback has been kicking around on my bookshelves ever since then. It won the 1961 Hugo Award for best science fiction novel.

A Canticle for Leibowitz is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel that deals with the themes of recurrent history and of the conflicts between church and state, and between faith in science. It comprises three sections:

Part I: Fiat Homo (“let there be man”)
Part II: Fiat Lux (“let there be light”)
Part III: Fiat Voluntas Tua (“let thy will be done”)

Part I opens 600 years after nuclear devastation, known as the Flame Deluge, destroyed 20th century civilization. Isaac Leibowitz, who had been a scientific engineer with the U.S. military, started a monastic order to preserve as much knowledge as possible by hiding books, memorizing books, and writing out new copies. The order’s abbey in the Utah desert is the repository for the Memorabilia, the remaining documents of the earlier civilization. We learn that after the nuclear devastation, there had been a backlash against the science and technology that had produced it, a period known as the Simplification, when learning, even the ability to read, became a cause for execution. For 600 years the Order of Leibowitz had been keeping safe the Memorabilia for a time when the world was once again ready for it. Part I ends with the canonization of Leibowitz as Saint Leibowitz.

As Part II opens, 600 years after Part I, civilization is beginning to emerge from the previous dark age. While scientists study the Memorabilia at the abbey and begin to make crude instruments from the preserved descriptions, political unrest and manipulation heat up.

After another 600 years, in Part III, mankind once again has nuclear weapons along with spaceships and extraterrestrial colonies. Members of the Order of Saint Leibowitz load the Memorabilia onto a ship and head off toward another planet just as the people of earth once again destroy themselves through nuclear attack.

Through its three sections this novel examines the themes of the cyclical recurrence of history and the eternal conflicts between darkness and light, knowledge and ignorance, truth and deception, religion and science, and power and subjugation. A Canticle for Leibowitz has remained in print since its original publication and is generally considered one of the outstanding works of science fiction. I’m glad I finally got around to reading it.


chatham school affairThe Chatham School Affair by Thomas H. Cook
(Bantam Books, 1996)

Recommended

I’ve seen so many recommendations of this book, which won the 1997 Edgar Award for Best Novel, that I finally had to read it.

Henry Griswald, now an old man, narrates this story of an event that occurred about 70 years ago, in 1927, when he was 15 years old. In this classic coming-of-age story, he reflects on the significance of the event and how it affected both his own life and the lives of others.

The structure of the novel features a framing device, a short sequence at both the beginning and end, that serves to introduce, then conclude the main action. At the beginning, an old friend visits Henry, now an old man, to enlist his help in selling the property that contains Milford Cottage. At the end, after the sale of the property, the book returns to its present time with a short section in which Henry distributes the money from the sale of the property.

The bulk of the novel, between these two events, consists of Henry’s memory, examination, and explanation of what happened at Milford Cottage on that day long ago. He begins with the most general memories—description of the setting and introductions of the characters involved. He continues to peel back the layers of the experience, like peeling an onion, gradually moving toward the center in ever-tightening circles. This spiraling structure is appropriate, perhaps even inevitable, in the narration of how a character comes to understand how a long-ago event affected the rest of his life.

I recommend this novel for anyone interested in deep psychological fiction.


Year-to-date total of books read: 17

Man Booker International Prize goes to ‘The Vegetarian’ – CNN.com

South Korean author Han Kang won the prestigious Man Booker International Prize on Monday for “The Vegetarian,” a novel about a “completely unremarkable” woman, to use the book’s description, who subverts societal norms including, in a nod to the title, giving up eating meat.

Source: Man Booker International Prize goes to ‘The Vegetarian’ – CNN.com