Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, May 15, 2012
From My Shelf
A Labor of Love
In today's issue, we have an interview with the estimable Buddy Guy, along with a review of his memoir, When I Left Home. We spoke with David Ritz, author of 20 "collaborative autobiographies," who worked with Buddy Guy on his book, to find out how he does it.
Ritz said, "It's a mystical process: it helps to love the person or love their artistry in order to capture them in a way that retains their musicality." And how could he not love Buddy Guy? "He's a complete joy. He let me do what I do, and when that happens, I really have a good time. He trusted me." Ritz enjoyed writing about Guy's music and his place in the musical pantheon: "Buddy Guy is very conservative in a sense--he loves and admires his elders, his musical elders. But for all of that, he was sort of an avant-gardeist. He paved the way for Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page."
Typically, Ritz does two to three months' of interviews before he writes. "Buddy is very country in a good way--he's used to working, to being on time." After the interviewing comes the difficult part: "Sometimes I struggle for months to get a voice right. Transcribing an interview doesn't work well because what the eye processes is different than what the ear hears. It helps to know the musical voice well. You can begin to hear the music in the voice.
"Buddy made very few changes; I think I nailed it with the first draft. Because he wears his heart on his sleeve, I didn't have to drag anything out of him. He knows who he is and is happy with who he is. I see myself as a surrogate so the reader can be where I am, to have that kind of intimacy.
"It really is a labor of love, and it's a privilege to do what I do." --Marilyn Dahl, reviews editor, Shelf Awareness
Original Potter MS; Silly Author Pics; Liquorice Bookcase
The original manuscript of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is on display as part of an exhibition--"Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands"--at the British Library, "a stone's throw from the station where the teenage wizard caught the Hogwarts Express," the Telegraph reported.
"Extremely silly photos of extremely serious writers" were highlighted by Flavorwire, which noted: "Every writer, no matter how serious, needs to let off a little steam now and then."
Our type of city. Colossal showcased artist Hong Seon Jang's miniature city constructed out of pieces of movable type from a printing press and observed: "It's fascinating to watch as the need for printed books and typography wanes, the unused objects themselves are more frequently used as an actual medium."
Non-edible liquorice bookcase of the day: Describing it as a "re-embodiment of a coiled liquorice wheel becoming a play of tubes," Bookshelf featured the Liquorice, "an innovative bookshelf in rotomoulded polyethylene. Cheekily irreverent, it treats books with respect and can be hung on its own or become part of varied combinations."
Now in Paperback
Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close (Vintage, $14.95)
Though the title of Close's novel comes from that cloying song from The Sound of Music, these white dresses symbolize gowns worn as a string of young women take that important walk down the aisle. So is this just another fluffy piece of chick lit about 20-somethings finally finding love? Not with Close's wry wit and deadpan delivery, which make this debut novel a treat to read.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (Back Bay Books, $14.99)
Chad Harbach's debut book is a big-hearted baseball novel about a small, scrawny high school kid who may be the greatest shortstop who ever lived. It chronicles five changing lives during a college's first tumultuous championship season, and is ultimately about losing what you love the most, be it college, talent or even hope. How people face their lives without the one element that used to give it meaning is Harbach's measuring stick of character. His endearing people pass their fiery tests with flying colors.
The Great Night by Chris Adrian (Picador, $15)
In the spring of 2009, the New Yorker published "A Tiny Feast," a short story by Chris Adrian about Titania and Oberon coping in the contemporary world as their changeling child underwent leukemia treatment in a pediatric cancer ward. The tale serves as an extended flashback in Adrian's latest novel, The Great Night, which borrows the structure of Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream with both comic and tragic overtones. Adrian's optimistic vision of love's capacity for renewal will surely weave its spell over many readers.
My New American Life by Francine Prose (Harper Perennial, $14.99)
Nothing is beyond the artistic reach of Francine Prose, whose writerly accomplishments include 16 novels, acclaimed works of nonfiction such as Reading Like a Writer, and three YA novels. In My New American Life, Prose has returned to seriocomic mode with the story of Lula, a 26-year-old immigrant from Albania. She is sometimes guileless, sometimes wily, while navigating the wilds of suburban New Jersey as a nanny for a 17-year-old boy. His father, an immigration lawyer and three Albanian thugs round out the cast of this very funny tale.
REAMDE by Neal Stephenson (Morrow, $18.99)
Neal Stephenson set the bar high for fictional virtual realities nearly 20 years ago with Snow Crash, and REAMDE raises it even higher. Russian mobsters, a computer virus, hackers in China... and that's just the beginning. Stephenson suddenly punches the literary equivalent of the nitro button, and this already engrossing techno-thriller escalates into an amazing action extravaganza.
Small Memories by Jose Saramago, translated by Margaret Jull Costa (Mariner Books, $13.95)
Nobel Prize-winner Saramago found a touching way to say goodbye to his readers in this short, fragile, posthumously published memoir. His memory faltering as he attempts to peer back at a childhood 80 years in the past, Saramago allows us to join him in savoring "the small memories of when I was small." Sometimes not recalling the exact order of things, the great writer returns to events again to deepen them with new details, with "the courage to turn the coin over and show you the other side."
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (Harper Perennial, $15.99)
Two women form the nucleus of this story: Dr. Annick Swenson has been in the Brazilian jungle for years working for a pharmaceutical company. Dr. Marina Singh was one of her students in medical school and is now a researcher for the same company. A journey to the jungles of Brazil to learn what happened to a co-worker brings Dr. Singh into contact with cannibals, creatures that bite and sting and, most frightening of all, her former teacher and mentor.
The Writer's Life
Buddy Guy: No Regrets
Buddy Guy is the epitome of Chicago electric blues. More so even than the men he idolized and worked with, Buddy Guy has influenced the cream of the crop of modern blues players--Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix and Jimmie Page, to name just a few. His first book, When I Left Home (reviewed below), was written with David Ritz, a well-known biographer and co-author of such soul and R&B luminaries as Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Janet Jackson.
Why did you want to write a book?
You know, David came to me, and I knew about him, and we sat down and had a talk. And what got me more into it is the fact that most of those great guys are not here to answer those questions he had from me. I didn't learn nothing in school, trust me. Everything I learned, including playing my guitar, is self-taught. The rest of it was street sense. I don't got no book sense, because my parents weren't able to send me to school. My mom and dad were sharecroppers, we was sharecroppers.
Most people these days don't understand that part of the recent past. We don't get it.
I try to tell my grandchildren that now. I used to come home in the afternoon on that farm in Louisiana. My mother had boiled a potato; that's all she had. If I said, "Momma, I don't want that," she would make me take the glass of water and go to bed. I could see as I got old enough how frustrated she was because that's all she had for me to eat. And they was so happy when I was 10 or 12 years old, I could go out on my own in the off season and hunt rabbits, birds, whatever, to keep you from eating boiled potatoes or boiled beans, you know. Because back then, there wasn't no McDonald's or Burger King, man, trust me.
What was your favorite part of writing this book?
David is such a good guy, because it's like lighting a fire with a wet piece of wood. Some of the things in there would take me 10 years to remember, but if you remind me of it, it's there. So he could go back. He knew a lot of the history. I could still beat him out once in a while. You know some of the younger people made a hit out of these songs, other than the people that made them did in the '20s. He'd talk about one of these old songs, and I'd say, "Uh-uh, David, that's not the case, that was Harvey Jo Turner," or one of those guys no one knows about now and he would say, "You got it. You don't forget."
You know, I'm 76 years old this year, and when I was coming up, if you was a guitar player, you was one of a kind. You could count all the guitar players on one hand when I was coming up. Lonnie Johnson, Lightning Hopkins, and I think T-Bone, and then out popped B.B. King and John Lee Hooker. You used to go into the music shop and ask for a harmonica and the owner would say, "Just give me anything to get it out the way, man." But Little Walter said, "If George Washington Carver could get all that technology out of a peanut, then I guess I can get something out of a harmonica," and boy he didn't fail. B.B. King did the same for the guitar. Now harmonicas and guitars are expensive.
In the book you talk about all the British artists coming over and playing the blues. I'd think you'd be angry at them for it, but you're not.
How could I be? The British guys came back to America and told white America who B.B. King or Ike and Tina Turner was. I don't know if you're old enough to remember, but they had a television show back then called Shindig. The Stones was getting bigger than bubblegum, and they was trying to get the Stones to come on Shindig, and finally Mick Jagger said, "I'll do it if you let me bring Muddy Waters." And they say, "Who is that?" And he got offended, "You don't know who Muddy Waters is? We named ourselves off of one of his records, Rollin' Stone." Me and him laughed about that a couple of weeks ago at the White House when we played for the president.
What do you listen to now?
Well, I haven't changed a lot. A lot of people get successful and forget who they are, they forget where they come from, but guess what? We all was listening to spirituals and things before the guitars got amplified by Les Paul and Leo Fender and them. Lou Rawls had the Pilgrim Travelers, and I don't know if you can find that album, but I have it. I used to go pay 50 cents to go see the Pilgrim Travelers in Louisiana and it wasn't no drums or keyboards, it was just five or six guys making mouth noises behind the lead singer.
What about rap music and hip hop?
Well, [Shawnna] my youngest daughter--you probably know more about her than about me. She started out there with Ludacris, but is out on her own now. I guess she's been out there nine or 10 years. She's doing pretty good at it so far. You know, I don't have no complaint or nothing for what people like. Anything that people like that keeps them from fighting and fussing and shooting and cussing and doing like that.
After they stopped playing blues on the radio at all, I figured our lyrics were a little bit too strong. You hear B.B. King sing, "I got a sweet little angel, I love the way she spreads her wings," I was so dumb, I said, "B., what is that," and he said, "That's what we call beating around the bush, Buddy, you have to figure out what I meant."
Not any more, though.
No, the hip hoppers broke that up. You know the Isley Brothers had a record out in the '60s about some bulls**t going on, you had to bleep the "s**t." Now, you could come out and sing that, they'll probably have a double-platinum album that they'll sell you. You know, Johnny Guitar Watson played one, he didn't write it, but he had one 'bout "Dirty Mother for You." They would call that a party record. They wouldn't dare play that on the air.
Any regrets from your life?
No, I'd jump out the window to be able to do it again. Picking cotton in Louisiana is a long way from picking the guitar in the White House. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor
Freedom Was a Love Story
A few words on what freedom is.
We have this image of how we think it was when the slaves were freed. It is an image of singing and dancing. Of hoes thrown down and hats tossed high. Of leaps and shouts and cries of joy.
But if you read the history, you learn how one-dimensional that image is.
Yes, freedom was joy. It was also outrage for the cruelties they had endured. And worry over what would happen now. And even concern for the occasional benevolent master or mistress now left without slaves to tend them.
And it was love. That's the part we often forget.
When we think of African-American families these days, we are conditioned to think of dysfunction, absence and distance. But history says otherwise. It testifies to the monumental importance the freedmen placed upon family. Freedom, many decided, meant little unless it could fix--and formalize--the connections slavery had torn asunder.
So they wrote letters, they placed ads, they walked thousands of miles, all in the often hopeless hope of restoring--and being restored to--the embrace of family. Can I find my son who was sold from me 20 years ago? Have you seen my sister, who was given away as a wedding gift? Where is the wife whose loss I never ceased to grieve?
In my novel, Freeman, my protagonist, Sam, embarks on a thousand-mile walk to find Tilda, whom he has not seen in 15 years. He doesn't know where she is. He doesn't know if she is alive. He doesn't know if she's found another man. But he walks anyway. He has no choice. He loves her.
And that embodies the reason I wrote Freeman, the truth I wanted to share with every reader.
Freedom was a love story. --Leonard Pitts, Jr., author of Freeman (Agate Bolden, $16 trade paper)
Listen to an interview with Pitts here.
Well-Read Cities; Books to Challenge; Best Comic Book Movies
Alexandria, Va., and Cambridge, Mass., lead this list of the Top 20 Most Well Read Cities in America.
Offering a disclaimer that "we're of course not in the market for banning any books," Flavorwire reacted to the removal of E.L. James's erotic bestseller from the shelves of libraries in parts of Florida last week with a list of "10 books that should be challenged instead of 50 Shades of Grey."
Visual News featured the "top 10 most read books in the world," based on the number of books printed and sold in the past 50 years.
Although they "argued over this list a lot," io9 still reached some consensus in naming the "10 best comic book movies of all time.
Bring Up the Bodies
by Hilary Mantel
Tudor England during the reign of Henry VIII is a place readers have visited many times--but in the hands of Hilary Mantel, it becomes territory both new and unsettling. In Bring Up the Bodies, the sequel to the Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall, Mantel weaves a richly textured world that is at once deeply foreign and entirely relevant, coalescing around the single thing that over centuries remains unchanged: the driving passions of people, even those who are kings. Through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, a man of formidable intellect, the psychological and political complexities of the court are unraveled for inspection. And as ever, Mantel's virtuoso use of language is compelling.
Erotic desire and violent death are a constant, powerful undercurrent. In Wolf Hall, the king was driven by his desire for Anne to upend the churches of England; in Bring Up the Bodies, the whispers at court subtly insinuate sexual possibilities as everyone is preoccupied with Anne's body: watching for signs of pregnancy, listening for signs of adultery. In such a world--where sexuality is pervasive but seldom seen and death threatens even the most powerful--truth becomes inextricably entangled with imagination, and Cromwell fashions a reality in which Anne's adultery is suddenly plausible.
Here the downfall of Anne Boleyn is remade into a chilling suspense story. Thomas Cromwell orchestrates events that lead to Anne's death because otherwise, chances are good that she will do the same to him. --Ilana Teitelbaum, book reviewer at the Huffington Post
Read more about Bring Up the Bodies and Hilary Mantel in our Maximum Shelf.
Discover: The sequel to the Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall wherein Hilary Mantel creates a suspenseful, unsettling story from the familiar one of Anne Boleyn’s downfall and Cromwell’s machinations.
My Struggle: Book One
by Karl Ove Knausgaard , trans. by Don Bartlett
It's a lucky reader who gets buried alive in the literary avalanche of Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle--a freewheeling, funny, smart, provocative chunk of narrative that just keeps on coming, a flashback-laced plunge into one man's life.
At the book's center is Knausgaard himself, telling his own story in a montage of memories, first as a 16-year-old with illegally obtained beer on New Year's Eve, then, in Part Two, as an adult accompanying his brother to remove a houseful of his father's bottles and alcoholic debris to prepare for his father's funeral.
Bravely dog-paddling into this river of language, the reader encounters dozens of characters from Knausgaard's life: his bungling, domineering father, his aloof but devoted brother, his elusive mother, both of his wives, his best friends, his first crushes, his uncles and aunts and cousins and--most of all--his incontinent, repetitive, alcoholic Grandma, once torn between her love for two brothers, now consumed by her clinging son. Looping backward and forward in time, through the angst of adolescence, the exhaustion of childrearing, the flickering changes in his parents as they grow apart and decide upon a divorce, Knausgaard records hyperrealistic impressions with scalpel precision.
That My Struggle is so often warm and funny belies all the stereotypes of bleak, humorless Scandinavian writing. Knausgaard builds emotional momentum out of the ordinary, making a profoundly moving climactic sequence out of cleaning an obscenely dirty house, or out of a mother and her two sons drinking in the evening, reliving their memories. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle
Discover: The first of a six-volume Norwegian epic laying out the author's life in hyper-realistic detail through a flashback-laced narrative piled thick with memories, laughter and anguish.
A Dog’s Journey
by W. Bruce Cameron
It's not necessary to circle your reading chair three times before settling in with A Dog's Journey, Bruce Cameron's sequel to his bestselling A Dog's Purpose, but it would be appropriate. It's also not necessary to have read the first book; anyone who appreciates the pet-human relationship will easily embrace Cameron's premise that a dog's spirit is reincarnated over multiple lives. After several run-throughs, Buddy found his life's purpose: watching over Ethan. As A Dog's Journey begins, Ethan has died, and Buddy is at the lake, on the dock with baby Clarity, Ethan's granddaughter.
Buddy's personality remains consistent, even when he returns as Molly, Max and Toby, taking readers to the precipice of grief as each dog ages. It's the human relationships that are unpredictable. (Some people don't even like dogs!) But Clarity recognizes the love each dog brings to her, although Cameron never resorts to a "deja vu" conceit to explain why she connects with them. Nor does the plot become sappy. Clarity has a tough life, and her dogs offer comfort while narrating her angst. She flees her self-centered mother as a teen; it takes many years and four dog lives for Clarity to find peace. Told in straightforward prose, A Dog's Journey an adult novel, but is appropriate for readers age 12 and up, and is likely to join novels like The Art of Racing in the Rain on the bookshelves of literary dog lovers. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller
Discover: The sequel to A Dog’s Purpose reintroduces an uncommon canine trying to make sense of his life.
A Mind of Winter
by Shira Nayman
The unusual love story of Shira Nayman's A Mind of Winter shows us a sophisticated view of romantic love's inherent smallness in the shadow of war. Featuring unforgettable characters in varying states of decline and debasement, the novel depicts a level of human damage caused by the smoldering ruin of Europe after the Second World War for which not even the most ostentatiously pastoral revelry of postwar-America could provide respite.
Working back and forth in time and spanning continents, Nayman gradually builds a story of two lovers, Christine and Robert, split for mysterious (yet obviously scarring) reasons during the Blitz. Christine turns up later in Shanghai on a vividly drawn self-destructive tear involving opium dens and brothels. Meanwhile, wealthy Oscar holds court at his estate in the Hamptons with a collection of interesting, semi-permanent party guests. One of his guests, Marilyn, a war photographer who adores her husband, is unmoored by the memories of what she saw through her camera and recklessly embarks on an ill-fated affair with the world-weary Barnaby. Finding a kindred soul in his guest's disaffectedness, the ostensibly British Oscar befriends Marilyn--and we learn what has become of Christine and Robert.
Nayman's pacing is tantalizingly opaque; where the story and its entrancing characters are going is never quite clear until the end. That end brings a satisfying closure, but the sensation of how these characters are hounded by the echo of war is distinctly unsettling. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic
Discover: A vivid, sophisticated romance unfolding--in a complicated narrative structure--after the wreckage of the Second World War.
by Simon Mawer
Simon Mawer's novels often tread loosely down the genre path of historical fiction, and Trapeze is no exception. It's the story of Marian Sutro, a woman recruited by the British Special Operations Executive to be an agent in occupied France near the end of the Second World War. Sutro is based on the real-life Anne-Marie Walters, whose 1946 memoir, Moondrop to Gascony, chronicled the special role female spies played in the war. With a storytelling flair, Mawer recreates the tension and loneliness of a woman driven by duty and pride into a life where "your cover story would become more real than your true story. The lies would become truths, and truth lies."
The young Sutro is ostensibly recruited because of her native French-speaking skills and mastery of a covert agent's toolbox of Morse code, parachuting, weapons, memorization and endurance. However, it is her childhood friendship with a French scientist that elevates a good spy story into one with overtones of morality and game-changing technology. Before the war, Clément Pelletier did research in France with Niels Bohr and others on an atomic bomb. The British desperately want to extract him from Paris to finalize a working prototype before Hitler does. Clément and Marian had a youthful crush, and her feelings still linger despite the intervening time and war. That romance will determine the success of her real mission--to convince him to leave and bring the war to a rapid close. Mawer's crisp prose, erudite science and subtle bilingual details raise Trapeze above the genre riff-raff. –-Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.
Discover: A fact-based story of a female British agent working with the French Resistance to end World War II.
Food & Wine
by Michael Natkin
In Herbivoracious, Michael Natkin offers "a collection of vegetarian recipes that are so full of flavor, so pleasurable to make and to eat, and so satisfying that, if you are an omnivore, you won't give a second thought to the fact that they contain no meat." Natkin first became interested in vegetarian food at the age of 18, when his mother, battling cancer, decided to try a macrobiotic diet. This sparked an enduring passion for food that led to an award-winning vegetarian blog, from which Herbivoracious has emerged.
Vegetarians will be thrilled by the wide variety of recipes--from a beginner-friendly aglio e olio (spaghetti with garlic and oil) to the more challenging chirashi sushi. But even the most exotic recipes are explained with clear, simple instructions that will not intimidate even the greenest chef.
In addition to recipes, Natkin includes a section on ingredients--how to choose a perfectly ripe avocado and which canned tomatoes have the best flavor--and a section on equipment. Sidebars provide additional information on how to find the best ingredients, when to veer from a recipe and how to perfect a technique. Natkin believes experiencing other cultures' cuisines can bridge differences and encourage mutual respect, in addition to providing original flavors, so Herbivoracious is quite international as well.
Why vegetarian? At the end of his introduction, Natkin explains: "Because vegetarian meals are good for you, tread more lightly on our planet's resources, and are kinder to animals." Add to that "simply delicious" and you have a recipe for success. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics
Discover: A user-friendly, health-conscious, international exploration of vegetarian cooking.
Cornbread Nation 6: The Best of Southern Food Writing
by Brett Anderson, editor
Reading is a pleasure that most of us wish we could do more often, if only time and energy would allow it. Reading about food is an even more exquisite treat for some; if the focus happens to be Southern food, well, that's simply icing on the cake. Luckily, for those who appreciate all that the world of Southern food entails, there's Cornbread Nation.
Cornbread Nation 6: The Best of Southern Food Writing is edited by Brett Anderson, a restaurant critic and features writer at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and he has created a compilation that will literally make the reader salivate. Divided into six categories, with such titles as Menu Items and Southern Characters, the book features an eclectic mix of essays, brief memoirs, poetry and profiles. Savvy readers will recognize contributors like Molly O'Neill, Michael Pollan, Calvin Trillin and Kim Severson--and savor the discovery of new voices, as well as the ability to revisit the words of the past (including notes by Frederick Douglass on the sustenance of slaves). Southern food is influenced by a combination of diversity, history, location and tradition; Cornbread Nation 6 delves into each of these inspirations, but also allows a glimpse of the innovation shaping Southern cuisine and food culture today. --Roni K. Devlin, owner of Literary Life Bookstore & More
Discover: A new volume in a popular series about the distinct and influential food culture of the American South.
Summer Days & Balmy Nights: Simple Summer Food from Sun-drenched Shores
The perfect gift book has arrived, filled with original--yet accessible--international recipes and photographs of sun-drenched Mediterranean scenes.
Summer Days & Balmy Nights is divided into six sections that reflect the best dishes from Spain, Italy, France and Greece, tailored to summer eating--light dishes that emphasize fresh produce and simple preparation. The first section, "Grazing Plates," is divided by country and includes explanations of each regional cuisine. For example, Greek Meze are "delicious little plates of spicy, savoury and often salty food... designed to enhance the taste of alcoholic drinks," while the Spanish Tapas are "from the Spanish word 'tapar,' meaning 'to cover'... originally served in bars and used as lids covering alcoholic drinks to protect the drinks from fruit flies."
The remaining sections are not divided by country, but do include facts about unfamiliar regional terms or why certain countries use certain herbs. Classic favorites are reinterpreted in refreshing ways, like a vegetable-only bouillabaisse or a steak Nicoise. The "Food to Go" section is an original take on picnics--including savory delights such as the mixed mushroom frittata, souvlaki (Greek kebab) in pita, and cheesy stuffed croissants--while "Alfresco Feasts" focuses on lighter pasta and risotto dishes as well as quick pizzas and tarts. Summer Days & Balmy Nights ends with desserts and drinks--from panna cotta and strawberry tiramisu to sangrias and iced coffees. This book would be a welcome gift simply based on the luminous photography; the exquisite recipes are almost incidental. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics
Discover: A luminous, mouth-watering sojourn through the best cuisine the Mediterranean has to offer.
Biography & Memoir
When I Left Home: My Story
by Buddy Guy with David Rich
Buddy Guy is the epitome of Chicago electric blues. Even more than the men he idolized and worked with, Guy influenced the cream of the crop of modern blues players: Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, to name just a few.
When I Left Home is Guy's story, from growing up the son of Louisiana sharecroppers and the early gift of his first guitar to the bus ride to Chicago where he could get a "real job" as a janitor at the university while playing nights at the clubs, sharpening his act. The stories in this memoir read as a veritable who's who of modern electric blues: Guy started out as a hardworking musician alongside well-known artists like Howling Wolf and B.B. King, then started his own band with Junior Wells in the late 1950s and, ultimately, became a blues legend in the '60s, when "white guys from Britain" popularized the genre and the players.
Guy describes how he created his signature wild style by copying guitarists who would have ladies in the clubs screaming for more. He talks about the racial discrimination of the era and the way many of his contemporaries ended up dead or wasting their lives with drugs and alcohol. He also discusses his own failings and mistakes along the way with the candor and humility of a genuinely nice human being who sees his extraordinary success as a gift not to be squandered. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor
Discover: The man who defined the sound of the Chicago blues and influenced a generation of rock guitarists shares his life story.
How to Cook Like a Man: A Memoir of Cookbook Obsession
by Daniel Duane
When Daniel Duane (A Mouth Like Yours) and his wife welcomed their daughter into the world, he found his writing, surfing and rock-climbing skills of little use in his life as a new father. Though his repertoire initially consisted of burritos and stir-fry, he decided to become the family cook.
From this simple beginning sprang an eight-year obsession with cookbooks, kitchen techniques and obtaining the freshest ingredients. Ignoring the reservations of his wife, who grew up in a restaurateur family and wanted to leave complicated cuisine behind, Duane embarked on a journey that would eventually include butchering his own meat, diving for live abalone and taking a two-day steak-eating tour of Las Vegas. While his adventures in the culinary world sustained him through personal tragedies, they also occasionally put a strain on his relationships with family and friends, finally leading him to question whether his enthusiasm stemmed from a desire to feed his family or from pure self-interest. The pitfalls he recounts, including an over-the-top truffle-themed dinner party that left his friends with a lifelong truffle aversion, range from amusing to harrowing, as Duane finds that learning to cook like a man is not as important as learning to be a man.
Duane describes his evolution as a cook as it entwines with his evolution as a father and examines how food shapes our lives. Readers of any level of culinary skill will relate to this funny, reflective and honest memoir. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger, Infinite Reads
Discover: A memoir of one man's journey toward true manhood through both culinary mastery and fatherhood.
Children's & Young Adult
by Andrew Fukuda
Andrew Fukuda (The Crossing) takes the feeling of isolation that dominates adolescence and builds a world around it in a novel where the tension rarely slackens.
Seventeen-year-old narrator Gene dares not laugh or cry, or walk into the sunlight. If he did, his secret would be out, and he would be devoured by his neighbors and classmates--literally. Gene is the last heper--human--left in a world of vampire-like carnivores who consider hepers the greatest delicacy. Gene lost his mother and sister when he was too young to remember them. Then his father disappeared. Now Gene must masquerade alone, with only his memories and his father's lessons to sustain him. "Never forget who you are," the man told him. And for Gene, remembering who he is becomes his nightmare: "Every time I... hold in a sneeze or stifle a laugh,... I am reminded of who I am. A fake person." Then the Ruler announces that for the first time in a decade, he will hold a Heper Hunt. Just as Gene discovers there are others like him, he is chosen to be one of the hunters.
Fukuda perfectly captures the excruciating experience of high school, where it feels as if every gesture receives close scrutiny by the entire student body. He turns up the violence a notch from Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games because this society is hardwired to kill the hepers. Since Gene narrates, we know that he must survive, but how he survives is what propels us swiftly through these pages. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
For more on The Hunt, check out our Maximum Shelf.
Discover: A fast-paced novel for fans of The Hunger Games starring a high-school age human in a world of vampires.
The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict
by Trenton Lee Stewart , illus. by Diana Sudyka
The author of the much-loved Mysterious Benedict Society series here gives readers a delightful prequel.
When readers meet nine-year-old Nicholas Benedict, a newly arrived orphan in the small town of Pebbleton, right away they can tell that he is no ordinary child. Not only does he suffer from narcolepsy, which causes him to fall asleep whenever he is overcome with emotion, he also has an exceptional memory, is very observant and tends to solve mysteries before others have even noticed they need solving.
Child's End orphanage is peppered with the usual menaces: strict and sneaky director Mr. Collum, a cranky but lovestruck housekeeper, a gang of bullies known as the Spiders and a nurse who eagerly administers "drops" to the orphans for any possible ailments. But when Nicholas discovers that Mr. Collum is on the hunt for a treasure hidden by the orphanage's wealthy founders, his life takes on a powerful purpose. Money would mean freedom!
Freedom, however, proves not to be as important to Nicholas as friendship, and readers will be deeply satisfied when Nicholas finally finds allies and creates a home for himself. Though readers may guess what the orphanage's "treasure" is before Nicholas does, the story takes many surprising twists and turns, from creepy to hilarious. Fans of Stewart's series will be thrilled to discover the story of the Society's founder, and Nicholas is such an endearing character that those who haven't read the other books will no doubt be eager to do so. --Molly McLeod, middle school librarian
Discover: The thrilling tale of boy genius Nicholas Benedict, future founder of the Mysterious Benedict Society.