National Book Critics Circle Awards

April 4th, 2014

March 13, 2014 the National Book Critics Circle announced its Award Winners for Publishing Year 2013.

The annual National Book Critics Circle awards are the only literature honors given out by book reviewers and critics.  Click on a highlighted title to go straight to our catalog.

Biography – Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World, by Leo Damrosch.

“Jonathan Swift is best remembered today as the author of Gulliver’s Travels, the satiric fantasy that quickly became a classic and has remained in print for nearly three centuries. Yet Swift also wrote many other influential works, was a major political and religious figure in his time, and became a national hero, beloved for his fierce protest against English exploitation of his native Ireland. What is really known today about the enigmatic man behind these accomplishments? Can the facts of his life be separated from the fictions?

In this deeply researched biography, Leo Damrosch draws on discoveries made over the past thirty years to tell the story of Swift’s life anew. Probing holes in the existing evidence, he takes seriously some daring speculations about Swift’s parentage, love life, and various personal relationships and shows how Swift’s public version of his life—the one accepted until recently—was deliberately misleading. Swift concealed aspects of himself and his relationships, and other people in his life helped to keep his secrets.

Assembling suggestive clues, Damrosch re-narrates the events of Swift’s life while making vivid the sights, sounds, and smells of his English and Irish surroundings. Through his own words and those of a wide circle of friends, a complex Swift emerges: a restless, combative, empathetic figure, a man of biting wit and powerful mind, and a major figure in the history of world letters.” (Yale University)

Fiction – Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi.

“As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are leaving the country if they can. Ifemelu—beautiful, self-assured—departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze—the quiet, thoughtful son of a professor—had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.

Years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. But when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, and she and Obinze reignite their shared passion—for their homeland and for each other—they will face the toughest decisions of their lives.

Fearless, gripping, at once darkly funny and tender, spanning three continents and numerous lives, Americanah is a richly told story set in today’s globalized world: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s most powerful and astonishing novel yet.” (Random House, Inc.)

General Nonfiction – Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, by Sheri Fink.

“Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink’s landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina — and her suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice. After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several health professionals faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths. Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting, unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing. In a voice at once involving and fair, masterful and intimate, Fink exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care and reveals just how ill-prepared we are in America for the impact of large-scale disasters–and how we can do better. A remarkable book, engrossing from start to finish, Five Days at Memorial radically transforms your understanding of human nature in crisis.” (Amazon.com)

Poetry – Metaphysical Dog : Poems, by Frank Bidart.

“In “Those Nights,” Frank Bidart writes: “We who could get / somewhere through / words through / sex could not.” Words and sex, art and flesh: In Metaphysical Dog, Bidart explores their nexus. The result stands among this deeply adventurous poet’s most powerful and achieved work, an emotionally naked, fearlessly candid journey through many of the central axes, the central conflicts, of his life, and ours.

Near the end of the book, Bidart writes:

In adolescence, you thought your work

ancient work: to decipher at last

human beings’ relation to God. Decipher

love. To make what was once whole

whole again: or to see

why it never should have been thought whole.

This “ancient work” reflects what the poet sees as fundamental in human feeling, what psychologists and mystics have called the “hunger for the Absolute”—a hunger as fundamental as any physical hunger. This hunger must confront the elusiveness of the Absolute, our self-deluding, failed glimpses of it. The third section of the book is titled “History is a series of failed revelations.”

The result is one of the most fascinating and ambitious books of poetry in many years.”

John Leonard Prize – A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra.

“Two doctors risk everything to save the life of a hunted child in this majestic debut about love, loss, and the unexpected ties that bind us together. “On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones.” Havaa, eight years old, hides in the woods and watches the blaze until her neighbor, Akhmed, discovers her sitting in the snow. Akhmed knows getting involved means risking his life, and there is no safe place to hide a child in a village where informers will do anything for a loaf of bread, but for reasons of his own, he sneaks her through the forest to the one place he thinks she might be safe: an abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded. Though Sonja protests that her hospital is not an orphanage, Akhmed convinces her to keep Havaa for a trial, and over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate” (Random House, Inc.)

Editor

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

April 3rd, 2014

(Find this book in our catalog)If this book were to be made into a movie it would be a romantic comedy, but it is much more than that. It is the story of Don Tillman, a genetics professor who is socially inept & has Asperger’s like symptoms. He is highly intelligent, focused, & seemingly unemotional, but feels he should have a wife. Therefore he starts The Wife Project. He designs a detailed questionnaire to put out on the internet or give to possible candidates. This leads to all sorts of situations, but things get really complicated when he meets Rosie. She is rebellious, non-conformist, erratic, with issues of her own. She is everything Professor Tillman is not looking for, yet they become friends. What will happen when Don starts The Rosie Project? With a lot of laugh aloud humor & a touch of pathos, this is a fun & engaging read. Read it when you need a boost of happy. It is very satisfying to see how Don changes throughout the novel.

http://pages.simonandschuster.com/therosieproject

 

Posted by Julia

Military Book Award

April 1st, 2014

Allen C. Guelzo has won the inaugural Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize in Military History, honoring “the best book in the field of military history published in English during the previous calendar year,” for Gettysburg: The Last Invasion (Find in our catalog). The award, which carries a prize of $50,000, was announced in a recent ceremony at the New-York Historical Society.

 

Chairman of the judging committee Dr. Andrew Roberts commented: “Gettysburg will stand out as a lasting and important work in the military history genre.”

Here’s what it says in our catalog about the book: ”

From the acclaimed Civil War historian, a brilliant new history—the most intimate and richly readable account we have had—of the climactic three-day battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863), which draws the reader into the heat, smoke, and grime of Gettysburg alongside the ordinary soldier, and depicts the combination of personalities and circumstances that produced the greatest battle of the Civil War, and one of the greatest in human history.

Of the half-dozen full-length histories of the battle of Gettysburg written over the last century, none dives down so closely to the experience of the individual soldier, or looks so closely at the sway of politics over military decisions, or places the battle so firmly in the context of nineteenth-century military practice. Allen C. Guelzo shows us the face, the sights, and the sounds of nineteenth-century combat: the lay of the land, the fences and the stone walls, the gunpowder clouds that hampered movement and vision; the armies that caroused, foraged, kidnapped, sang, and were so filthy they could be smelled before they could be seen; the head-swimming difficulties of marshaling massive numbers of poorly trained soldiers, plus thousands of animals and wagons, with no better means of communication than those of Caesar and Alexander.

What emerges is an untold story, from the trapped and terrified civilians in Gettysburg’s cellars to the insolent attitude of artillerymen, from the taste of gunpowder cartridges torn with the teeth to the sounds of marching columns, their tin cups clanking like an anvil chorus. Guelzo depicts the battle with unprecedented clarity, evoking a world where disoriented soldiers and officers wheel nearly blindly through woods and fields toward their clash, even as poetry and hymns spring to their minds with ease in the midst of carnage. Rebel soldiers look to march on Philadelphia and even New York, while the Union struggles to repel what will be the final invasion of the North. One hundred and fifty years later, the cornerstone battle of the Civil War comes vividly to life as a national epic, inspiring both horror and admiration.” – (Random House, Inc.)

Editor

Recent Top Women’s Fiction

March 31st, 2014

Booklist of March 15, 2014 showcased the top 10 women’s fiction from the last 12 months (reviewed in Booklist between March 15, 2013, and March 1, 2014). Click on a highlighted title to go straight to our catalog.

The Apple Orchard. By Susan Wiggs.

“Art specialist Tess has a successful professional life but is lacking in the family department. When she’s named heir to one-half of an estate and discovers the other half goes to the sister she never knew she had, her life gets turned upside-down.”

 

The Bookstore. By Deborah Meyler.

“Between studying art history at Columbia University on a prestigious scholarship and a two-week fling with a magnetic, wealthy man, 23-year-old Esme Garland from England is happily settling into life in Manhattan when she discovers she’s pregnant. This character-driven novel is witty and poetic.”

 

A Fall of Marigolds. By Susan Meissner.

“The heartbreaks of two women, separated by decades, come together in the history of a scarf that holds special meaning to each woman. Christian fiction author Meissner’s first mainstream women’s fiction novel hits all of the right emotional notes without overdoing the two tragedies.”

 

Golden State. By Michelle Richmond.

“Estranged sisters Julie and Heather are brought together as Heather goes into labor and Julie, a doctor, rushes to her side to assist. But the sisters are separated by forces beyond their control, as their city, San Francisco, is in chaos, shut down by political protests. Perfect for fans of issue-driven women’s fiction.”

 

Ladies’ Night. By Mary Kay Andrews.

“Grace, an interior-design blogger, discovers her husband is cheating on her. She begins therapy with a group of other “marital misfits,” and the women soon start meeting at Grace’s mother’s bar, where they plot revenge but eventually learn to move on.”

 

Sweet Salt Air. By Barbara Delinsky.

“Two girlhood friends who’ve been estranged for the past 10 years reunite to collaborate on a cookbook, both of them harboring secrets. Never fear; Delinsky knows when a happy ending is in order.”

 

Time Flies. By Claire Cook.

“In this delightful beach read, two best friends reunite for their high-school reunion and overcome their fears. The banter is a lot of fun, and the characters’ realization of what is important is certain to make readers yearn for reconnections of their own.”

 

Who Asked You?By Terry McMillan.

“Told from the perspectives of several of the characters, this novel offers an array of personalities and everyday life challenges within a story of close friends, family, and neighbors as they grow and change over many years.”

 

The Whole Golden World. By Kristina Riggle.

“Dinah’s world is about to fall apart—her teenage daughter has been caught half-naked in her teacher’s car. Rain, the teacher’s wife, is watching her life fall apart instead of rejoicing in the news that she’s finally pregnant. Fans of Jodi Picoult will devour this story.”

 

Annotations Booklist March 15, 2014 – editor

Cannibals and Colonialism

March 28th, 2014

Savage Harvest: a tale of cannibals, colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s tragic quest for primitive art by Carl Hoffman has been getting a lot of media exposure.  It looks both fascinating and horrifying, and should appeal to fans of armchair travel,  true-life mysteries and stories of America’s financial aristocracy. (Find this book in our catalog).

“The mysterious disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in New Guinea in 1961 has kept the world and his powerful, influential family guessing for years. Now, Carl Hoffman uncovers startling new evidence that finally tells the full, astonishing story.

Despite exhaustive searches, no trace of Rockefeller was ever found. Soon after his disappearance, rumors surfaced that he’d been killed and ceremonially eaten by the local Asmat—a native tribe of warriors whose complex culture was built around sacred, reciprocal violence, head hunting, and ritual cannibalism. The Dutch government and the Rockefeller family denied the story, and Michael’s death was officially ruled a drowning. Yet doubts lingered. Sensational rumors and stories circulated, fueling speculation and intrigue for decades. The real story has long waited to be told—until now.

Retracing Rockefeller’s steps, award-winning journalist Carl Hoffman traveled to the jungles of New Guinea, immersing himself in a world of headhunters and cannibals, secret spirits and customs, and getting to know generations of Asmat. Through exhaustive archival research, he uncovered never-before-seen original documents and located witnesses willing to speak publically after fifty years.

In Savage Harvest he finally solves this decades-old mystery and illuminates a culture transformed by years of colonial rule, whose people continue to be shaped by ancient customs and lore. Combining history, art, colonialism, adventure, and ethnography, Savage Harvest is a mesmerizing whodunit, and a fascinating portrait of the clash between two civilizations that resulted in the death of one of America’s richest and most powerful scions.” (HarperCollins)

Editor

True Crime – “a brazen serial imposter”

March 27th, 2014

Blood Will Out: the true story of a murder, a mystery, and a masquerade by Walter Kirn (Find in our catalog).

“In the summer of 1998, Walter Kirn–then a young novelist struggling with fatherhood and a dissolving marriage–set out on a peculiar, fateful errand: to personally deliver a crippled hunting dog from an animal shelter in Montana to the New York apartment of one Clark Rockefeller, a secretive young banker and art collector. Thus began a fifteen-year relationship that drew Kirn deep into the fun-house world of an outlandish, eccentric son of privilege who, one day, would be shockingly unmasked as a brazen serial impostor and brutal double-murderer.”

“In the summer of 1998, Walter Kirn—then an aspiring novelist struggling with impending fatherhood and a dissolving marriage—set out on a peculiar, fateful errand: to personally deliver a crippled hunting dog from his home in Montana to the New York apartment of one Clark Rockefeller, a secretive young banker and art collector who had adopted the dog over the Internet. Thus began a fifteen-year relationship that drew Kirn deep into the fun-house world of an outlandish, eccentric son of privilege who ultimately would be unmasked as a brazen serial impostor, child kidnapper, and brutal murderer. Kirn’s one-of-a-kind story of being duped by a real-life Mr. Ripley takes us on a bizarre and haunting journey from the posh private clubrooms of Manhattan to the hard-boiled courtrooms and prisons of Los Angeles. As Kirn uncovers the truth about his friend, a psychopath masquerading as a gentleman, he also confronts hard truths about himself. Why, as a writer of fiction, was he susceptible to the deception of a sinister fantasist whose crimes, Kirn learns, were based on books and movies? What are the hidden psychological links between the artist and the con man? To answer these and other questions, Kirn attends his old friend’s murder trial and uses it as an occasion to reflect on both their tangled personal relationship and the surprising literary sources of Rockefeller’s evil. This investigation of the past climaxes in a tense jailhouse reunion with a man whom Kirn realizes he barely knew—a predatory, sophisticated genius whose life, in some respects, parallels his own and who may have intended to take another victim during his years as a fugitive from justice: Kirn himself. Combining confessional memoir, true crime reporting, and cultural speculation, Blood Will Out is a Dreiser-esque tale of self-invention, upward mobility, and intellectual arrogance. It exposes the layers of longing and corruption, ambition and self-delusion beneath the Great American con.” – (WW Norton)

Editor

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

March 26th, 2014

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (Find in our catalog) has won the 2014 Dilys Award, which honors the mystery that members of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association  most enjoyed selling during the previous year. The announcement was made Thursday, March 20 during the Left Coast Crime 2014 conference in Monterey, Calif.

This is what it says in our catalog: “NOMINATED FOR THE 2014 EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL

“That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word.”

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family—which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother—he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.

Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. – (Simon and Schuster)

Editor

One Maryland, One Book 2014

March 24th, 2014

The Maryland Center for the Book has announced that the selection for One Maryland One Book 2014 is The Distance Between Us: A Memoir by Reyna Grande. (Find this book in our catalog)

The theme for 2014 is “the American Dream.” The titles suggested by the public last Fall touched on varied interpretations of the American Dream. The book selected by the committee covers a subject that we see frequently in the news today. Ms. Grande’s story is that of an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States when she was almost 10. The Distance Between Us tells her journey before and after coming to the U.S. She gained legal status at the age of 13. Today she teaches writing at UCLA Extension.

More information is available on the Maryland Humanities Council website. Click here for an interview from The Daily Beast with the author.

Editor

LibraryReads Top Ten for April

March 24th, 2014

The Storied Life of A. J. Kikry: a Novel by Gabrielle Zevin.

 

 

 

Frog Music: a Novel by Emma Donoghue.

 

 

 

And the Dark Sacred Night: a Novel by Julia Glass.

 

 

 

Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James.

 

 

 

By Its Cover: a Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery by Donna Leon.

 

 

 

The Intern’s Handbook: a Thriller by Shane Kuhn.

 

 

 

Love Nina: a Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe.

The Axe Factor: a Jim Juree Mystery by Colin Cotteril.

 

 

 

Family Life: a Novel by Akhil  Sharma.

On the Rocks: a Novel by Erin Duffy.

 

 

 

Editor

The Martian by Andrew Weir

March 20th, 2014

(Find this book in our catalog) This brilliant debut novel, though classed as science fiction, will appeal to a larger audience than just those readers who enjoy the science fiction genre. It is a story of survival in one of the most inhospitable environments, Mars. Mark Watney, engineer & botanist, is left on Mars, presumed dead, when the rest of the mission evacuates the planet. The reader cannot help but be engaged by the charming, humorous, determined Watney. We share his hopes & fears, & as the tension mounts & his days on Mars count down towards the end, we cannot help but root for this hero. Mark is a great character, his creativity & positive attitude in the face of adversity make you want him to survive, but will he, when so many things can go wrong. Thrills, suspense & real science combine in this wonderful story of humanity & survival.

http://www.andyweirauthor.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18007564-the-martian