Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, May 11, 2012
From My Shelf
Books for Graduates
Graduation is a great time to give useful and inspirational books--dictionaries, atlases, thesauruses, ramen cookbooks. Here are a few more ideas.
A Keel's Simple Diary from Taschen--these little books come in lots of colors. Mine is olive green, which means that a) I like polar bears, b) am reserved and/or c) dislike politicians. I am also informed that electricity is my friend, and to think of something unhealthy, but not to try it. These diaries are clever, a painless way of keeping track of yourself. You can rate a day by choosing a) driven into a frenzy, b) shattered or c) vibrant. What high school or college student (or newly minted lawyer) couldn't relate to that?
Maybe you want your graduate to spend more time mapping out a coherent future. Good luck, but check out Jack Otter's Worth It... Not Worth It? (Business Plus/Hachette)--a practical book that demystifies the basics, like shelter and buying a car. He also talks about family matters and retirement, so parents and grads could share. From Student Loan vs. Skip College (take the loan) and See the World vs. Get a Job (see the world) to Lease vs. Buy, Financial Advisor vs. Broker and Florida vs. Nicaragua for the retiree, Otter explains the world concisely, smartly and with no small dose of humor.
My pick in the big-tome category is a doorstop from Yale University Press, Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 294 Lives by John Sutherland. It's 800+ pages, starting with John Bunyan (1628-1688) and ending with Rana Dasgupta (1971-). Sutherland has selected writers who exemplify every kind of fiction--fantasy, gothic, romance, "high" literature. He can surprise with his incisive assessments, as well as tidbits of information. This is a fabulous book--it's impossible to stop at just one biography. --Marilyn Dahl, book review editor, Shelf Awareness
Book Map; Furniture; Drinks; Canterbury Tales
The website for the Book Depository features a map that "shows who bought what, where, just now. The window of the map moves to reach the most recent purchase, zooming back and forth from Germany to Singapore to the United States to Australia to Norway. In each location, the title pops up. It's hypnotic," Jacket Copy reported, calling the map "inherently interesting to people who like books."
Bookcase of the day: "Stack it high" advised Lovely Listing in its celebration of "the glory of a lofted space! So much light! so much vertical wall space!"
"With a Bibliochaise, designed by nobody&co in Milan, Italy, your books are as close to your reading chair as they possibly can be. In fact, the shelves are part of the chair," OregonLive.com noted, adding helpfully that "pricing starts at about €4,400 ($5,756)."
Alcohol consumption on HBO's Game of Thrones series is the gift that just keeps on giving on the Internet. The latest version imagines what labels would look like "if the Game of Thrones Houses brewed artisan beers," Flavorwire noted.
And just to keep the booze flowing, theKitchn.com featured "Literary Drinks: 10 Famous Fiction Writers and Their Cocktails."
Canterbury Tales 2.0: a multimedia pilgrimage. The Guardian reported that 24 modern-day pilgrims, inspired by The Canterbury Tales, "braved piercing April 'shoures' to undertake a full-scale re-enactment Chaucer's masterpiece, acting out the tales as they travelled on foot to Canterbury in aid of the National Literacy Trust."
The Writer's Life
Ann and Jeff VandeMeer: Partners in Weird
Editor and publisher Ann VanderMeer and her husband, editor and author Jeff VanderMeer, are the editors of The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, a 1,152-page, almost four-pound book just published by Tor.
Tell us a little about who you are.
Ann: I started out my editing career as a reader. I grew up with all the Wizard of Oz books, which is its own kind of weirdness, and I've always tended to love that type of fiction. Back in the late '80s, I became the publisher/editor of my own magazine, The Silver Web, and about six years ago I was asked to step in and be the fiction editor for Weird Tales, which is the oldest fantasy magazine in the world, started in 1923. My love of weird fiction has continued ever since.
Jeff: I started writing fiction when I was in my early teens and started editing literary and poetry magazines. The fiction I was writing became categorized as dark fantasy or weird fiction. But when I was writing it, I just thought of it as fiction! As both an editor and a writer, then, I went through all these works that, to me, fit together but they were divided in ways that I felt were artificial. Over time, my editing projects got more ambitious. I won a World Fantasy Award in 2003 for an anthology series called Leviathan. At the same time I had a book out called City of Saints and Madmen, which was picked up as part of the New Weird movement; I also had a story in it that won a World Fantasy Award. Things just kind of snowballed from there.
We started editing anthologies in 2007 because we wanted to join forces there; it made more sense to do it that way.
Ann: We've done a lot of anthologies together, some of them reprint anthologies and some original fiction anthologies. We edited an anthology of pirate stories called Fast Ships, Black Sails, and we did an anthology called Steampunk, and of course this current monstrosity.
What is "weird fiction"?
Jeff: We basically found two strands of "the weird." One is the one most people think of when they think of the weird tale, the one defined by H.P. Lovecraft: a story that has a supernatural element but doesn't fall into the category of a traditional ghost story or gothic tale, or--especially in the modern age--a tale that doesn't include vampires or werewolves and zombies, because they have become so archetypal that they are fully defined, they no longer represent the unknown.
The other strand we found was Kafka-esque weird. The difference here being that in the first type, the character comes into contact with the weird or whatever supernatural elements. With Kafka, you're already in the weird, you're living it.
Ann: A short answer can be "when the strange unusual supernatural and bizarre invade into your normal daily life, with the unknown and in many cases the unknowable."
Jeff: There's also a sort of beauty and discovery mixed in with the horror, which can produce an ecstatic or transformative moment. These tales may include something that's scary or very disturbing, but the point isn't usually the scare itself.
What stories can readers look forward to in this anthology that piqued your own personal interest in the weird?
Jeff: We actually published several of them in this book, since many of these have been out of print for over 40 years. For example, Jean Ray's "The Shadowy Street" and "The Mainz Psalter," which is a major achievement, since he needs to be reclaimed, as he's considered in France to be the equal or better than Lovecraft.
It's so excruciating to pick, since there's so many favorites in here. People don't know Ben Okri writes some amazing supernatural short stories. People don't know Amos Tutuola, who wrote The Palm-Wine Drinkard. There's an amazing excerpt from that book in our anthology, a phantasmagorical piece that's like nothing I've ever read before. I love the story by Clive Barker, and then there's "The Brotherhood of Mutilation" by Brian Evenson, who is one of America's best writers of weird fiction. There's an amazing Kafka-esque story in there by Leena Krohn called "Tainaron: Mail from Another City," which is just one of the most amazing things I've read.
Ann: People think of Leonora Carrington as being a surreal artist, but they don't realize that she was also a writer as well; we've got one of her stories in there from the early '40s.
I grew up as a huge Twilight Zone fan, and there was this one episode called "It's a Good Life." It was my favorite, even though it scared me, and I loved it so much. Growing up, you don't realize that someone also had to write it. As Jeff and I were combing through stories for this book, I came across the original story written by Jerome Bixby. I was really surprised by how much that story creeped me out--the way this writer was able to convey this feeling really impressed me, even as a fan of the TV episode.
As big as the book is (110 stories) and as many stories are included within, how many aren't included that should be?
Jeff: There are a few things we couldn't get permission for. At one point for one story, we were having to educate monks in a monastery who owned the e-book rights about what the Internet was. In another case, we were told that the person who represented the estate was in a coma and that there was no provision for the rights; she would have to pass away or come out of the coma for us to work out the rights to the story. We even had a plan to involve a friend of ours who was in a Mexican circus. Our friend had a horse, and was going to ride down the coast of Mexico to secure the rights to a story. Luckily, the author's agent came through at the last second. Multiply this by 116 stories by authors who are fairly obscure, and you get a sense of how complicated the rights issues were for this book.
Ultimately, the stories like this were few, and considering the amount of stories we could include, we're very happy with the result.
Ann: We started a website called Weird Fiction Review where we're publishing some additional fiction and nonfiction, essays and book reviews and movie reviews and all kinds of things related to the weird. That was our way of expanding the book, so to speak.
What's next for you both?
Ann: I'm just finishing up Steampunk Revolution, a reprint anthology with a handful of original fiction in it that I'm really excited about. I'm also hoping to do an anthology for the 90-year anniversary of Weird Tales.
Jeff: I'm working on a book for September called Wonderbook: The Definitive Illustrated Guide to Creative Writing. It's about finding a new visual language for teaching creative writing--plot structures, diagrams, things that deal with the texture of fiction presented in an illustrated, artistic way.
I've also just finished another novel, and a couple more coming down the pike, now that I have some time. Doing a lot of short fiction and nonfiction as well.
Ann: We're also doing a couple of anthologies that we can't talk about yet.
Jeff: We'd like to do a big anthology on dark fantasy...
Ann: ...because we're insane. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor
If You Love This Book, Put It Down
When people ask me to name books that have changed my life, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is always first on my list. I read it in my early 20s, before anyone knew who Annie Dillard was. Then she won the Pulitzer Prize and everyone knew her, but I never shook the feeling that she spoke to me first.
Whether she was showing me a cedar tree on fire with light or a young muskrat floating on his back in a stream, I saw those things as I had never seen them before. Her prose was so rapturous that the temptation was to forsake the world for her telling of it, but she would not let me. If you love this book, she said between the lines of every page, put it down. You must find the light in your own tree.
That was the truth that changed my life. Until then, I thought the best books were those that completely satisfied. Like good hosts, they invited me in, supplied all my needs while I was with them, and when we were done they let me go without too much talking at the door.
After Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, I decided the best books are those that refuse to satisfy. They don't want to meet my needs; they don't even care if I am happy with them. What they want is to enlarge my world, even if that means sending me away hungry for my own encounter with what they have brought to life.
A Zen teaching reminds students that a finger pointing to the moon is not the moon. If you want to see the moon, look past the finger. If you love this book, put it down.
--Barbara Brown Taylor, author of An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith and Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, both from HarperOne
Most Influential Books; 10 Books to Reread
SuperScholar compiled a list of the "50 most influential books of the last 50 (or so) years" and promised "if you read every book on this list, you will know how we got to where we are today. Not all the books on this list are 'great.' The criterion for inclusion was not greatness but INFLUENCE."
Noting that "sometimes, it just makes sense to reread a book that you loved instead of spending money on a new book that may turn out to be disappointing," the Express Tribune suggested "10 books to reread this summer."
Book Brahmin: Andrew Fukuda
Andrew Fukuda was born in Manhattan and raised in Hong Kong. After earning a bachelor's in history from Cornell, he worked with immigrant teens in Manhattan's Chinatown. That experience led to his debut novel, Crossing, which was selected by ALA Booklist as an Editor's Choice. Before becoming a full time writer, Fukuda was a criminal prosecutor for seven years.
On your nightstand now:
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.
Favorite books when you were a child:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl; Watership Down by Richard Adams.
Your top five authors:
Stephen King, David Guterson, Jhumpa Lahiri, John Burnham Schwartz, Ernest Hemingway.
Book you've faked reading:
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. I was simply too busy that semester sunbathing on the quad and playing intramural sports. Somehow I was able to write a paper on the book overnight; I grabbed random quotes and wrapped them around a completely random theory. The professor gave me an A+.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Stark and disquieting, it slayed me inside with its haunting gracefulness. The last paragraph devastated me, and still does with every rereading.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Jim the Boy by Tony Earley. Go ahead, take a look at the cover, and tell me you don't smell the sweet mountain air, hear the laughter of children soughing in the grass, feel the summer sun burnishing youthful hope into your skin. But the cover evokes childhood, like the language of the book itself, with a deceptive simplicity.
Book that changed your life:
Favorite line from a book:
"They wept together, for the things they now knew." From Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. A sentence that captures--with painful precision--the separation of intimacy, the intimacy of separation.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. I read it when I was still a naïve, thin-skinned 10-year-old. The book's ending floored me; I couldn't move for an hour. But now, after reading a few too many novels with a Sixth Sense-like plot twist, I'm too hardened and calloused to be caught by surprise anymore. Somebody sandpaper my skin down, erase my reading memory and put The Murder of Roger Ackroyd back in my hands again, please.
by Toni Morrison
This masterfully written novella uses alternating points of view, swift characterization-by-action and metaphorical symmetry with a compression that is simultaneously a tour de force and a tantalization. The real-time action of Home--Frank Money's quest to overcome his post-Korean War trauma and confront the Georgia of his childhood in order to rescue his sister from mortal peril--is easily dramatized within the short form.
The novella opens with a near prose-poem set in italics in which Frank recounts a memory of protecting "Cee" (short for Ycidra) when they were kids in Lotus, Ga., a town he hoped never to see again after he enlisted. This first-person beginning sets up Home's ingenious voice relay. In the italicized chapters, the protagonist confides in the author and sometimes argues with her about how she presents his story. These chapters alternate with third-person chapters that dramatize Frank's quest from a storytelling perspective; Morrison also interjects three singular authorial chapters dedicated to the significant women in Frank's life. In the penultimate chapter, the novella's point-of-view elevates all the way to a resounding omniscience; it concludes with a poem written in Frank's "I" voice. Regardless of narrator, the vividness of the chapters and their concise accumulation of experiences give Home a broader scope than would seem possible in so few pages.
Morrison fans will find much to appreciate and learn from in Home, but may also yearn for the amplitude of her earlier novels. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts
Discover: A masterful and intense novella from an American Nobel laureate about a Korean War veteran's quest to rescue his sister and reconcile his tormented sense of home.
The Right-Hand Shore
by Christopher Tilghman
Christopher Tilghman's first novel, Mason's Retreat, introduced readers to the Mason family and their pre-World War II life at the Retreat, their legendary estate on Chesapeake Bay. In The Right-Hand Shore, Tilghman reveals the earlier family history.
In 1922, Edward Mason is called to the Retreat by then-owner Miss Mary Bayly. She is dying and wishes to leave the estate to the closest direct descendant of the original immigrant owner. Her ownership comes through her mother, Ophelia, who hated the Retreat and left her husband, Wyatt, to do with it what he would.
From Mr. French, who has been property manager for years, Edward hears the family story, starting with Boss Mason selling all his slaves before Emancipation, a shameful episode that separated families forever.
Wyatt Bayly was a passionate orchardist who envisioned miles of peach trees on the Retreat. He and his employees, black and white, planted, pruned, tended and harvested for many productive years, until a blight took all of them and left Wyatt a broken man. Abel Terrell, a black freeman, performed or supervised the grafting of most of the trees. Abel's son, Randall, and Wyatt's son, Thomas, were best friends, closer than brothers--until Thomas's blossoming affection for Beal, Randall's sister, threatened to tear apart the natural order of things of that time.
Miss Mary tells Edward that he may claim the Retreat and tells him what happened to Randall, Thomas and Beal. Tilghman, in stunning and evocative prose, has written a carefully explored and beautifully nuanced saga that is at once heartbreaking and hopeful. --Valerie Ryan
Discover: A story of families black and white, land that nurtures and fails and the hope for a different future.
by Tinsley Mortimer
If you're looking for an early beach read, you'll gobble up this story of a rich Southern girl making good in Manhattan, much as you would keep watching a car crash (or Showgirls), because although it's shockingly horrifying, you still can't look away. There are so many parallels between Southern Charm and socialite Tinsley Mortimer's actual life, for readers in the know, it will seem like she's not writing tongue-in-cheek so much as drawing directly upon her personal experience. The heroine, "Minty," has the same middle name as the author, and designs handbags just like the author. They're both Virginian debutantes who relocated to New York and they both own tiny yappy dogs (Mortimer dedicates the novel to hers).
The guilty pleasure of Southern Charm comes from the extent to which Mortimer's story is out of touch with reality, as a questionably reliable protagonist gets fame and fortune handed to her on a platter and doesn't give a second thought to planning a dream wedding (with $300,000 of her parents' money), only to cancel it. Country clubs and wasting scads of cash: welcome to Tinsley's--er, Minty's world.
You can't take Minty's tale seriously. Then again, are you supposed to? Southern Charm is adorably clueless and enjoyably easy to read--pure escapism at its finest. --Natalie Papailiou, author of blog MILF: Mother I'd Like to Friend
Discover: A socialite (and flash-in-the pan reality TV star) writes a novel with uncanny parallels to her life.
The Courtesan's Lover
by Gabrielle Kimm
Gabrielle Kimm's The Courtesan's Lover is an intricate tale of temptation, indulgence and sacrifice. Francesca Felizzi lives the sumptuous and extravagant life of a highly gifted courtesan in 16th-century Naples. She entertains wealthy and important men, reveling in the sensuous power that she holds over them. But when Francesca, disguised as a respectable widow, accompanies one of her patrons to a theatrical production, she meets the eminently honorable Luca della Rovere. The two experience an immediate and intense connection, and Francesca begins a dramatic reevaluation of her life.
Kimm (His Last Duchess) writes in dynamic and often elegant prose that is a pleasure to read, and her accurate evocation of the historic Neapolitan setting is vivid and engaging. The large and varied cast of characters can be a bit overwhelming early on, but all are well drawn and eventually settle into their individual roles. It is only in Francesca's sudden change of heart regarding her profession that the novel disappoints. Francesca's abhorrence of her disreputable past is a bit simplistic, removing a great deal of her agency as a character; though still appealing, she's somewhat diminished by the abrupt and absolute investment in a morality society had heretofore been unable to impose upon her. But if this is a weakness, it is at least an interesting and provocative weakness, and The Courtesan's Lover remains a thoroughly compelling read. --Judie Evans, librarian
Discover: Sixteenth-century Naples in all its lascivious glory, as a courtesan abandons her profession for love.
Mystery & Thriller
The Uninvited Guests
by Sadie Jones
An English manor house in the middle of nowhere and in dire financial straits, a beautiful marriageable daughter, a brace of suitable suitors, a goofy little sister, a drip of a brother and a birthday party--Jones's The Uninvited Guests contains all the ingredients you need for several different concoctions.
Emerald, whose 20th birthday it is, and her brother, Clovis, a year older, cordially loathe their stepfather, Edward Swift, who is a perfectly nice man. He just isn't their beloved father, who had the bad form to die. Imogen, the nine-year-old sister called Smudge, wants an image of her pony on her bedroom wall. Getting Lady up the stairs to create this work of art was do-able, with only one odoriferous accident, but getting her down is quite another thing.
As festivities begin with a few of Emerald's friends in attendance, about 20 people make their way up the drive talking of a train wreck from which they have luckily escaped. The Railway is called to fetch them, but they feel no urgency and insist that Mrs. Swift feed and lodge the poor stragglers until the next day.
One more guest arrives a bit later: a man from Mrs. Swift's possibly salacious past. Was he really part of the railroad accident? What does he know about Charlotte Swift? Will there be a deus ex machina at the end that will save the day, the manse, the uninvited guests and the reputation of the lady of the house? --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Oregon
Discover: A serio-comic mystery set in the English countryside, complete with hilarious send-ups and sinister happenings.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
by Brian Evenson
Brian Evenson is an award-winning novelist and short story writer (Fugue State; The Wavering Knife) who has fallen between the cracks, so to speak. Horror, fantasy and science fiction readers all like to claim him as one of theirs, but Evenson is one of those writers who likes to blur the distinctions between genres. In the 25 stories collected in Windeye, Evenson shows himself to an imaginative writer first and foremost.
The title story is about a little boy who enjoys playing with his sister. One day, they try to get close to look into a small round window, the windeye, that they can never find inside the house. He holds her so she can look inside, and suddenly it was as if "she had dissolved into smoke.... She was gone." But where? Then there's "Baby or Doll," about a man who can't decide which is which. Other stories feature a transplanted ear with a mind of its own and a woman who keeps "falling out of time" and can't seem to fall back in. An Evenson tale is one laced with an ominous sense of ambiguity. Imagine Beckett's Murphy or Molloy lost, walking around in a Poe tale, then read these stories to find out why Jonathan Lethem calls Evenson "one of the treasures of American story writing." --Tom Lavoie, former publisher
Discover: Unsettling stories that like to twist and turn against all expectations.
by Michelle Sagara
Michelle Sagara's (Chronicles of Elantra) urban fantasy, Silence, is a story about necromancers, but not quite like others you may have read recently. There aren't any armies of the dead, insidious rituals or tête-à-têtes with Satan--instead, Sagara offers a thoughtful, slow-building narrative about friendship, loss and healing.
Silence is told from the perspective of a young woman as she discovers an unusual gift. The bereaved heroine, recovering both from the loss of her father and her boyfriend, is philosophical and often darkly hilarious. Sagara, a mother of two teenagers herself, knows how to create situations and dialogue that feel utterly genuine even when they are fantastic. The characters are all well drawn, but Sagara's depiction of Michael, a teen with autism, is the clear standout. She highlights both the difficulties and rewards of his condition with grace and sensitivity.
Silence probably isn't for everyone. It builds its suspense through painstaking restraint, and revels in the mundane as often as the extraordinary. This is a book for patient readers, especially those who prefer subtlety, to discover rather than to be told. That's not to say that there isn't plenty of action to be had; while not as bloodthirsty as, say, The Hunger Games, Silence has its fair share of violence. But, as the title implies, Sagara's novel is ultimately about the quiet moments that define both comfort and grief. It just so happens that some of those moments occur in a graveyard. --Katherine Montgomery, book nerd
Discover: A delightfully understated, delicious fantasy that can be snapped up over a lazy Sunday, leaving you eager for the sequel.
Biography & Memoir
A Queer and Pleasant Danger
by Kate Bornstein
Kate Bornstein started life as Albert, a Jewish kid on the Jersey shore who knew when he was four and a half years old that he wasn't a boy. Bornstein's path was predictably complicated from there, but the lengthy list of problems she lists in her prologue astounds: she suffers from leukemia as well as anorexia, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome and a history of cutting; she's a sadomasochist, a transsexual and a former member of the Church of Scientology. Furthermore, A Queer and Pleasant Danger states from the outset its purpose of hopefully someday introducing Kate to her daughter and grandchildren, currently estranged.
If this list of disorders and minority statuses sounds alarming, never fear. Bornstein is funny, flippant, irreverent and witty. We follow Albert as a child in Jersey, a student at Brown, post-graduate studies in theater at Brandeis and the search for meaning that brought him to Scientology; then on his journey to become Kate, through a new life in San Francisco, Seattle and finally New York, with a series of relationships of every arrangement imaginable (and unimaginable). She generally has a good time, especially after becoming Kate, and her story ends on a positive note. Her tone is most serious in discussing the world of Scientology, which she presents as decidedly distressing and wacky, but her voice overall is impertinent and great fun. A Queer and Pleasant Danger is not for the faint-hearted, for reasons that become fairly evident (see: sadomasochism), but is ultimately uplifting, hopeful, even joyous--and always droll. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pages of julia
Discover: A radical gender theorist and performance artist's memoir makes its eye-catching subtitle look staid.
Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter
by Frank Deford
Frank Deford's candid, often self-deprecating memoir, Over Time, has the flavor of a congenial evening spent hanging out at one of the Manhattan watering holes he frequented with his Sports Illustrated colleagues in the '60s and '70s. Interspersed with brief profiles of sports legends like his close friends Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King are snippets of autobiography--from Deford's days growing up in Baltimore to his college years at Princeton to his rise as a sportswriter.
After covering the NBA in the '60s, Deford realized he'd rather be writing about sports personalities than about the games that soon would be ubiquitous on television. That decision launched him on an odyssey along the back roads of American sport, into the twilight world of roller derby and tractor pulls. Deford also includes wry glimpses of his role as a participant in the Miller Lite ("Tastes Great! Less Filling!") ad campaign and of his trip with SI swimsuit models.
He ruefully describes the 18 months he spent in 1990 and 1991 as editor of the ill-fated National Sports Daily, when he helped burned through $150 million of the fortune of a genial Mexican billionaire trying to start a USA Today-like sports paper. "We went out of business on our own before the Internet could do it to us," he writes.
As free of illusion as it is rich with wit and insight, Frank Deford's memoir reveals the life of a man whose talent is every bit the equal of the great athletes whose stories he's revealed to us. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer
Discover: Eminent sportswriter Frank Deford offers a look back at his half century covering the games we find so compelling.
Engines of Change
by Paul Ingrassia
Pulitzer-winning journalist Paul Ingrassia offers an entertaining overview of 15 cars that defined the American Dream. From his opening chapter on the iconic Model T to the concluding chapter irreverently titled "An innovative car (the Prius) and its insufferable drivers (the pious)," Ingrassia takes us on a ride through the dreams embodied in the cars we loved and the talents of those who designed and built them and created the ads that sold them.
Although embedded in Detroit, Ingrassia doesn't neglect the hippie Volkswagen Beetle and Microbus or the practical Honda Civic ("in just two colors... yellow and orange... bright enough to cure hangovers in a Japanese pachinko parlor") or the yuppie BMW 2002 ("Reeboks on your feet, radicchio and arugula on your plate, a BMW parked outside"). However, he is at his best on good old American muscle cars like the Pontiac GTO (whose optional-equipment list was "as long as your arm and twice as hairy"), or the Mustang ("a car to make weak men strong, strong men invincible"). While the "soccer mom" Chrysler Minivan makes Ingrassia's list, the true stars of the "light truck" craze are the classic Jeep CJ-7 ("Real Jeeps have round headlights") and the Ford F-150 ("Pickups are driven by guys who fish for bass with mail-order poles from Cabela's called Whuppin' Sticks"). No matter our ages, Ingrassia has a car to define that time in our lives when the size of our tailfins or engine mattered--if only because Madison Avenue told us so. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.
Discover: Modern American social history, through the cars we drove and the ads that drove us to buy them.
Children's & Young Adult
A Hero for WondLa
by Tony DiTerlizzi
In this much-anticipated sequel to The Search for WondLa, Tony DiTerlizzi (the Spiderwick Chronicles) answers many of the lingering questions with futuristic world-building and confident storytelling.
The first book ended with a startling realization: Eva Nine, who believed she was the sole human in a world of aliens, meets another human--a pilot named Hailey, who arrives to "bring [her] back home" from the wilds of Orbona. This sequel picks up the morning after, as Hailey Turner recharges his ship to take Eva and her Caerulean friend, Rovender Kitt, to the human city of New Attica, "where a bright and beautiful new future awaits." During their passage, Eva meets someone like her, a "reboot"--Sanctuary-born humans "raised by ancient technology so that mankind can once again rule the world." He warns Eva that the city operates under too many rules and promises made by Cadmus Pryde, the visionary behind the reboot initiative.
DiTerlizzi expands Eva's world with the exciting addition of New Attica. Its technology may be ancient to the Atticans, but it will seem advanced for readers, with inventions such as a Divination Machine that reveals a puzzling scene from the future with Eva and Cadmus Pryde. Eva's hopes for a better world cause her to put blinders on, until she is ready to examine the mounting evidence and face the truth about her world. In the process, she must question what constitutes family and loyalty. DiTerlizzi's masterful two-color illustrations in blue and black ramp up the tensions. The trilogy's end can't come soon enough. --Adam Silvera, assistant, Books of Wonder, New York
Discover: The sequel to The Search for WondLa, in which Eva Nine gains admittance to a city of humans in a world of aliens.
My Dad Is Big and Strong, but...: A Bedtime Story
by Coralie Saudo , illus. by Kris Di Giacomo
A turning of the tables and charming artwork set this warm and funny bedtime book apart from its kin.
In the beginning, the tale seems familiar, both to the narrator and to readers--but don't let that fool you. "My dad is big and strong, but every night it's the same old story," says a child sporting a cornflower-blue crewneck. The boy's father towers over him in a white collared shirt, black tie and wool hat. A clock says 9:00. "I don't want to go to bed!" reads a message taped onto the wall.
We might assume that's the boy's sentiment, but we would be wrong. "At first, I try to be nice: 'Dad, I say, it's already quite late.' " A clock on the table shows 9:45. Father swaps roles and adopts a childish rant, "No no no, I won't go to sleep!" The boy's promise of a story brings Dad down from the chandelier where Di Giacomo shows him hanging by one foot. As the man begs for "One more story pleeease" on bended knees, readers will erupt in giggles while Dad holds his son captive, high in the air, then lays prostrate on the floor. Saudo gets the inflections just right in her parent-child turnabout, and Di Giacomo exploits the situation's comic possibilities. The limited palette of gray teals, warm browns and bare whites play up the nighttime contrasts and the father's vulnerability: children discover that even big, strong dads can be afraid of the dark. A guaranteed bedtime winner. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: A bedtime book that shakes up the formula when a big strong Dad forestalls his son's pleas to stay up late.
by Jennifer Bosworth
Struck starts with an unusual paranormal twist: Mia Price's powerful attraction to lightning. Add to that a more familiar "girl meets boy" theme, and set it against a backdrop of two warring factions that want to exploit Mia's extraordinary abilities, and debut author Jennifer Bosworth offers a novel with plenty of action.
Mia is not your typical heroine. She enjoys being struck by lightning, feels it in her blood when a good storm nears. Living in a future Los Angeles ravaged by disaster and choked by food and medicine shortages, Mia struggles to keep her family together. Her brother is keeping secrets, and her mother is growing increasingly distant as she becomes obsessed with watching a religious cult leader on television. And then there's the mysterious new boy who catches Mia's attention.
Mia is instantly likable, a strong character who doesn't back down easily. Bosworth's visual imagery makes each scene come alive, and Mia's growing frustration with her family palpable on the page. Although Struck appears to be a stand-alone title, there are enough loose threads that a sequel could connect. Even without some of the questions being fully answered, this debut will certainly resonate with readers looking for something different in the paranormal world. --Sherrie Petersen, children's book reviewer and blogger
Discover: An action-packed YA debut that builds to an electrifying conclusion.