Shelf Awareness for Thursday, September 23, 2021


Union Square Kids: Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, illustrated by Tom de Freston

Tor Teen: Into the Light by Mark Oshiro

Peachtree Teen: Junkyard Dogs by Katherine Higgs-Coulthard

Blackstone Publishing: The Wisdom of Morrie: Living and Aging Creatively and Joyfully by Morrie Schwartz and Rob Schwartz

Neal Porter Books: All the Beating Hearts by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Cátia Chien

News

The Vinyl Dinosaur Relocating to Bayville, N.J.

The Vinyl Dinosaur, which offers an array of records, books and memorabilia, has moved into a new space at 655 Atlantic City Blvd., Bayville, N.J. Patch Berkeley reported that the new location, less than a mile from the original spot, is double the size inside. The store will be selling books in a space named after owner Steven Baeli's mother, and features a stage to display instruments and for live music performances.

Baeli's shop is now "functional and open," though he is still putting the finishing touches on the new space. A grand opening is planned for early October. "It's been pretty rough," he said. "But it's been worth it because, I mean, it's vinyl. Vinyl is kind of an entity unto itself... it's definitely something people are drawn to."

For the time being, he "is only able to offer the sale of vinyl and CDs as the rest of the store space takes shape," Patch Berkeley wrote, adding that Baeli expects to finish the stereo portion of the store soon "before he turns his attention to the bookstore. The library portion of the space will be much larger than at the Vinyl Dinosaur's previous location, but Baeli believes the extra real estate will be worth it. Customers have grown accustomed to finding space to relax with a book, which is all part of the hub that brings people together over a shared interest."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Loyalty by Lisa Scottoline


Zando Launching Imprints with Gillian Flynn, Lena Waithe

Bestselling author Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Sharp Objects) and Emmy-winning screenwriter-producer-actor Lena Waithe have joined Zando, the independent publishing company founded last year by Molly Stern, to launch their own imprints, the Associated Press reported. 

Describing them as "dream publishing partners for Zando," Stern, who helped establish Flynn when she was the publisher of Crown, said: "I'm no different from millions of other readers who know what these remarkable creators stand for, respect their unique vision and trust their taste. Lena and Gillian are cultural pioneers who devour and celebrate exciting new literary work and share my desire to support new voices."

Flynn's imprint will be called Gillian Flynn Books and Waithe's will be an extension of the Hillman Grad production company she founded with Rishi Rajani. The AP noted that Waithe, "whose credits range from writing and producing the crime film Queen and Slim to creating the Showtime series The Chi, met Stern in 2017 after the publisher contacted her in hopes she might write a book."

"When I first met with Molly several years ago, I knew there would be something special we would create," said Waithe. "As Hillman Grad has grown, Rishi and I have had the opportunity to support underrepresented voices in film, TV and music. Now we get to do the same for books and we couldn't be more excited."

Flynn said Stern is "a force of nature, and she really interested me in this particular mission. If someone else had come to me about this, I'm not sure I would have been interested." 

Each imprint will publish four to six books a year, according to Zando, with Hillman Grad featuring "vibrant, richly imaginative work from underrepresented voices including memoir, literary fiction and YA," and Flynn's imprint focusing on "propulsive, culturally incisive and dynamic work from writers working across genres."


GLOW: Tordotcom: The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill


International Update: U.K., Australia Prep for Bookshop Days

Preparations are underway for Bookshop Day, the annual celebration hosted by the Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland. The Bookseller reported that part of the focus for this year's festivities on October 9 will be the BA's campaign encouraging customers to "Shop Early, Shop Local" ahead of the holidays.

Author-illustrator Dapo Adeola created the 2021 Books Are My Bag tote, which will be available to purchase in shops on the day. In addition, 21 billboards featuring Adeola's artwork and "Choose Bookshops" messaging will be displayed in Edinburgh beginning October 4 in the run-up to Bookshop Day.

Emma Bradshaw, head of campaigns at the BA, said: "We are always excited to celebrate Bookshop Day but this year is going to be even more special. Last year, celebrations had to take place in a different way, with a focus on online activities and virtual events. This year, we are so thrilled that bookshops will be able to welcome customers in person, and booksellers have been busy organizing the most amazing celebrations, from late-night openings to theatre performance to poetry slams. They really are creative people. With Christmas fast approaching, we encourage customers to start their gift shopping from Bookshop Day and to show ongoing support to these champions of the high street."

--- 

In Australia, October 9 will be Love Your Bookshop Day. "Over the past year more than 16-million people have experienced lockdown in Australia and been unable to visit bookshops all over the country," the ABA's newsletter noted. "Love Your Bookshop Day 2021 (#LYBD2021) aims to bring our book loving communities together in spite of separation, to celebrate the stories, the sustenance and support available in a bookshop

"So, this #LYBD2021 let's 'blow up' the internet with love for bookshops! Let's connect communities across borders and recommend the comfort and delights of a bookshop. It can be your own, a sister store, or one in your favourite get-a-way country town. Tells us why, tell us with heart."

---

A year after Amazon entered the Scandinavian market, "the online retail giant is now expanding their services to Swedish customers," the European & International Booksellers Federation's Newsflash reported. "As of this week, customers can sign up for a premium account, which, among other things, provides free shipping. Prime can be seen as Amazon's customer club and is an important explanation for the American internet giant's success worldwide."

---

In November, the bookshops across Netherlands will celebrate the annual Kookboekenweek (cookbook week), organized by the Dutch literary foundation CPNB. EIBF's Newsflash reported that "the week-long event shares the love of good food and beautiful cookbooks. One of the highlights during the event is the presentation of the Golden Cookbook Award, a prize for the best original Dutch-language cookbook of the previous year." --Robert Gray


Soho Press: Black Dove by Colin McAdam


National Book Festival Promotes Use of Programming Around the Country

This year's Library of Congress National Book Festival--a mostly virtual event in 2021 that runs through Sunday--includes a new program called "Festival Near You" that aims to encourage groups and organizations around the country to host their own events incorporating online Festival presentations. During this year's Festival more than 40 programs are being held in some 15 states, hosted by, among others, schools, local libraries, state libraries, local humanities groups and affiliated centers for the book. Some of the events are watch parties, some are hybrid events with discussions following the Library event. The Library plans to continue the "Festival Near You" program beyond this year's Festival, which is an obvious fit for many bookstores.

"We're hopeful that this is the start of something that the Library does more regularly," Lee Ann Potter, director of professional learning and outreach initiatives at the Library's Center for Learning, Literacy, and Engagement, told Shelf Awareness. She added that the program is part of an effort to make the National Book Festival, traditionally held on the Mall in Washington, D.C., into a more national event. During the pandemic, the Library has become very aware, she continued, that "there are tools and technology that exist today that we are so much more familiar with, and are providing us with opportunities to do some really serious and really valuable outreach."

Bradley Graham, co-owner of Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., said, "We're delighted to be involved with the festival as the official bookseller for the eighth time. While we really miss the crowds, excitement, and spectacle that invariably come when the NBF is in-person, the Library of Congress has done an incredible job organizing a virtual equivalent and making it even more innovative this year."

Among typical "Festival Near You" events this year are one by an anti-racist book club at the Groton, Conn., public library, which is hosting a hybrid program at the local high school that includes watching a conversation with Ibi Zoboi and Yusuf Salaam, authors of Punching the Air--a book club selection--followed by a discussion.

An event at Waynesburg University in Waynesburg, Pa., will start with a group in Waynesburg watching a presentation on genealogy by Library of Congress staffers, followed by a conversation among the group in Pennsylvania about genealogy and doing genealogical research.

Potter also emphasized that the Library has been doing programs with authors for decades; more than 6,000 recordings are available on the Library's website that can be used for events around the country. Metadata for the recordings has recently been augmented to make it more easily searchable.


Weiser Books: Mexican Sorcery: A Practical Guide to Brujeria de Rancho by Laura Davila


Notes

Robert A. Caro Archive Exhibition Opens in New York Next Month

Robert Caro

An exhibit called "Turn Every Page": Inside the Robert A. Caro Archive opens October 24 at the New-York Historical Society in New York City; it is the first public exhibition drawn from the archive of the author of award-winning biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon B. Johnson. The Society acquired the archive in 2019.

Beginning with Caro's early career as a student journalist at Princeton and later as an investigative reporter for Newsday, the exhibit highlights his research for both The Power Broker and The Years of Lyndon Johnson (and the years of reporting he did for those books) as well as his rigorous process of interviewing, writing, and editing. The exhibit includes research notebooks, handwritten interview notes, scrapbooks, photographs, original manuscript pages and one of Caro's Smith Corona Electra 210 typewriters.

Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, said the exhibition offers a "window into his process, his thinking, and his writing. It also underscores the value investigative journalism has in historical research, and Caro's extraordinary ability to uncover as well as convey--brilliantly, and with clarity and elegance--the essence of power. That Caro's research and writing will be permanently on view in our building attests to his monumental standing as a biographer and historian."

For his biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, Caro won the Pulitzer Prize twice, the National Book Award twice, the National Book Critics Circle Award three times, and almost every other major literary honor, including the Gold Medal in Biography from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Francis Parkman Prize. In 2008, he was awarded the New-York Historical Society's History Makers Award, and in 2013, he received its American History Book Prize for The Passage of Power. In 2010, President Obama awarded him the National Humanities Medal.

On October 24, the New-York Historical Society is holding a symposium related to the exhibit, including a keynote by Caro; a discussion on History and Integrity in an Age of Misinformation featuring Bob Woodward and Douglas Brinkley; and a panel on Making History Matter featuring William P. Kelly, Lisa Lucas, Jane Mayer and Brenda Wineapple.


Vaughn's Bookstore, Detroit, Mich., to be Nominated to National Register of Historic Places

Vaughn's Bookstore after the 1967 Rebellion (Bentley Historical Society)

The building once home to Vaughn's Bookstore, a Black bookstore in Detroit, Mich., that "served as a center for Black culture and played a meaningful role in the Civil Rights movement in the city of Detroit," will be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, Patch.com reported. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made the announcement on Monday.

The Michigan State Historic Preservation Office has received $15,000 to nominate Vaughn's Bookstore. Founded in the early 1960s by Edward Vaughn, it was the city's first Black-owned bookstore. Vaughn's remained in operation on Detroit's Dexter Avenue until the 1970s. Ed Vaughn was active in the civil rights movement and went on to serve several terms in the Michigan State House of Representatives.

Mark A. Rodman, Michigan's State Historic Preservation Officer, said: "As the first Black-owned bookstore in Detroit and a hub of African-American journalism and conversation, Vaughn's Bookstore played a key role in the tumultuous Civil Rihts Movement of the 1960s. An important priority of the National Register program is to document those sites associated with significant events that have contributed to broad patterns of our history. We look forward to nominating the property to the National Register as the first step toward its reuse."


Personnel Changes at Algonquin

At Algonquin Books and Algonquin Young Readers:

Stephanie Mendoza has been promoted from publicity manager to senior publicity manager.

Kelly Doyle has been promoted from publicity assistant to associate publicist.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Margaret Josephs on Wendy Williams

Tomorrow:
Wendy Williams repeat: Margaret Josephs, author of Caviar Dreams, Tuna Fish Budget: How to Survive in Business and Life (Gallery, $28, 9781982172411).


This Weekend on Book TV: Bob Woodward and Robert Costa

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, September 25
8:35 a.m. Winifred Gallagher, author of New Women in the Old West: From Settlers to Suffragists, an Untold American Story (Penguin Press, $28, 9780735223257).  (Re-airs Saturday at 8:35 p.m.)

4:30 p.m. Elise Lemire, author of Battle Green Vietnam: The 1971 March on Concord, Lexington, and Boston (University of Pennsylvania Press, $45, 9780812252972). (Re-airs Sunday at 4:30 a.m.)

5:35 p.m. Sean Chick, author of Dreams of Victory: General P.G.T. Beauregard in the Civil War (Savas Beatie, $14.95, 9781611215212). (Re-airs Sunday at 5:35 a.m.)

Sunday, September 26
8 a.m. Qian Julie Wang, author of Beautiful Country: A Memoir (Doubleday, $28.95, 9780385547215). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m.)

9 a.m. Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, authors of Peril (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781982182915). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m.)

10 a.m. Michelle Easton, author of How to Raise a Conservative Daughter (Regnery, $28.99, 9781684512263). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

1:55 p.m. Rick Perlstein, author of Reaganland: America's Right Turn 1976-1980 (Simon & Schuster, $40, 9781476793054).

2:42 p.m. Geraldo Cadava, author of The Hispanic Republican: The Shaping of an American Political Identity, from Nixon to Trump (Ecco, $17.99, 9780062946355).

3:26 p.m. Miles Harvey, author of The King of Confidence (Back Bay, $18.99, 9780316463607).

4:10 p.m. Marcia Chatelain, author of Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America (Liveright, $18.95, 9781631498701).

4:51 p.m. Kate Masur, author of Until Justice Be Done: America's First Civil Rights Movement, from the Revolution to Reconstruction (Norton, $32, 9781324005933).

5:35 p.m. Elly Fishman, author of Refugee High: Coming of Age in America (The New Press, $26.99, 9781620975084).

6:31 p.m. Roy Richard Grinker, author of Nobody's Normal: How Culture Created the Stigma of Mental Illness (Norton, $30, 9780393531640).

7:17 p.m. Amy Stanley, author of Stranger in the Shogun's City: A Japanese Woman and Her World (Scribner, $18, 9781501188534).



Books & Authors

Lee Child and Andrew Child: Keeping Jack Reacher Alive

Brothers and co-authors: Andrew Child (l.) and Lee Child. (photo: Tasha Alexander)

Lee Child is the author of the bestselling Jack Reacher series. A series based on the first Reacher novel, The Killing Floor, will stream on Amazon Video in early 2022. Lee Child announced his retirement last year, handing over the reins to his younger brother, Andrew (who's written nine thrillers under the name Andrew Grant). The two are cowriting a handful of the Reacher books during the transition; Better Off Dead (Delacorte, October 26, 2021) is their second collaboration.

How do you divvy up the writing duties? Who handles what?

Lee: The best part of writing is lying on the sofa, daydreaming about what-if this, or what-if that. We both do that part. Then comes the hard work--typing, spelling, organizing--and Andrew does that part. Nowadays there's a third part, which is promoting the book, and we're doing that together, but sadly only virtually. We were looking forward to being on stage together.

Andrew: My spelling's not the greatest, but I am a fast typist and I love the experience of seeing the ideas we've kicked around taking shape on the page. That's extremely satisfying, but I do wish it was possible to do some live events together. That would be fun.

What was the inspiration behind the trafficking of chemical weapons plot in Better Off Dead?

Andrew: It was an article I read about the use of chemical weapons during the two recent wars in Iraq. It was a wide-ranging piece, but the thing that really stuck out was the fact--which is mentioned in the book--that soldiers who were injured while dealing with a cache of shells containing illegal chemicals after an engagement with the enemy was over, or while transporting suspicious munitions for analysis, etc., were denied Purple Hearts. This struck me as tremendously unfair, and the kind of thing that could easily breed sufficient resentment to push an already desperate person onto a very bad track.

Did either of you get to interview a member of an Army Technical Escort Unit as part of your research?

Lee: We could tell you, but then we'd have to kill you. Seriously, probably yes, but neither of us is that kind of real-time researcher. We feel that approach makes exposition too shiny and new. Better to let things percolate a while. So we rely on what we learned over the last few years, and the people we've met. In my case, I've been lucky enough through Reacher to get invited to all kinds of army places, and I've met hundreds of serving men and women, and the way they move around, I bet a few of them have passed through that unit.

The villain in Better Off Dead is named Dendoncker. There's a Belgian footballer named Leander Dendoncker. Is there a story here?

Lee: There's been a story since my first book--if I get stuck for a name for a person or a place, then, yes, I turn to soccer players. Usually Villa if it's a good guy, and not if it's not.

Andrew: Better Off Dead continues that tradition. We have a character called Houllier, for example. And of course Fenton....

What's the easiest thing about writing with a partner, and the most challenging?

Andrew: A big part of the daydreaming stage that Lee mentioned earlier is asking the question what happens next? It's much easier to answer that when you have someone you trust to bounce ideas off. The biggest challenge is when you fear that yours might be crazy or ridiculous but [you] have to suggest them anyway.

Lee: Really, it's two sides of the same coin for me. The bad part is, I have to say bad ideas and dumb words and confusing sentences out loud in front of someone else, which is deeply wounding, obviously. The good part is, consequently I have no chance of fooling myself about them, which makes for a lot of saved time in the end.

How do you meld your different writing styles into one seamless narrative?

Lee: Deep down they're not very different. The delicious irony in all this is, for nine books Andrew took great care not to sound like me, and now he's supposed to.

Andrew: Lee is absolutely right. I feel like the shackles have been removed and I can finally write how I always wanted to.

When creating a fight scene, did you ever try out the fight choreography on each other?

Lee: Much better in the mind's eye. I wouldn't want to hurt him.

Andrew: You mean you wouldn't want to go back to doing all the typing.

Lee, what has Andrew brought to Reacher that wasn't there previously?

Lee: The plan was to somehow, magically, invisibly, give Reacher a more plausible relationship with modern technology, which Andrew did last year with The Sentinel plot, and Reacher's reaction to it, which really worked, because it's there in Better Off Dead, too, but so unobtrusive it's no big deal. The unexpected thing Andrew did was rebalance Reacher in terms of his dialogue. I had been making Reacher so taciturn that three words would make a long speech, and a haiku would sound like a filibuster. Andrew remembered the earlier books, where Reacher spoke in whole paragraphs, often lethal and effective, sometimes rambling and funny. I'm glad we're moving back in that direction.

Andrew, what traits of Reacher's do you hope to magnify or explore in future novels?

Andrew: Reacher is so well established and so well loved that I'd be crazy to make any wholesale changes. As Lee mentioned in the previous question, we made a conscious decision to nudge the world Reacher inhabits forward a tiny bit in terms of technology, and I don't see myself wanting to reverse that course. I also would like to continue our reconnection to the wit and humor of Lee's earlier books, because I see that as an integral part of both Reacher's character and his arsenal.

Will Reacher's travel ever be affected by travel restrictions and lockdowns?

Lee: That's a great question, seriously, about the nature of fiction. Surely people read to escape, not to wallow in what they're currently hating. So I doubt we--or anyone--will get very far into the reality of the pandemic. The 1918 flu was a gigantic global disaster, and it hardly shows up in fiction at all.

Andrew: I think the only way Reacher would be affected would be in response to some kind of widespread logistical change, such as we saw with airlines after 9/11. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis


Awards: Bloody Scotland Winners

At the recent Bloody Scotland festival, Craig Russell took the McIlvanney Prize for best crime novel of the year for Hyde, becoming the first author to win the award twice. The judges called Hyde "a fantastic book with a gothic background that draws you in and brings the reader back to the Scottish origins of Jekyll and Hyde's creator, Robert Louis Stevenson. A dark tale that was a delight and a thoroughly entertaining read. It shows that Scottish crime writing is amongst the best in the world."

Robbie Morrison won the Bloody Scotland Crime Debut of the Year award for Edge of the Grave, described by the judges as a "terrific debut novel, with a memorable cast of characters, which impressed the judges with its ambitious, authentic, deep dive into the Glasgow gangland and class divides of the 1930s."


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, September 28:

Cloud Cuckoo Land: A Novel by Anthony Doerr (Scribner, $30, 9781982168438) follows three adolescents in the past, present and future connected by a single book.

Santa Cruise by Fern Michaels (Kensington, $26, 9781496731197) is a romance set aboard a holiday singles cruise.

Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography by Laurie Woolever (Ecco, $29.99, 9780062909107) contains nearly a hundred interviews about Anthony Bourdain.

Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters by Steven Pinker (Viking, $32, 9780525561996) explores rationality in the modern world.

Feeding the Soul (Because It's My Business): Finding Our Way to Joy, Love, and Freedom by Tabitha Brown (Morrow, $27.99, 9780063080287) is the memoir of the actress and social media star.

The Last Graduate: A Novel by Naomi Novik (‎Del Rey, $28, 9780593128862) is book two in the Scholomance fantasy trilogy.

A Calling for Charlie Barnes by Joshua Ferris (Little, Brown, $28, 9780316333535) follows a discontented father facing economic and medical problems.

Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber (Flatiron, $19.99, 9781250268396) is the beginning of a new YA series about curses and happily ever afters.

Pony by R.J. Palacio (Knopf, $17.99, 9780553508116) features a 12-year-old boy who sets out--with only the help of a pony and a ghost--to find his abducted father.

Paperbacks:
The Duchess by Wendy Holden (Berkley, $17, 9780593200353).

A Yuletide Kiss by Madeline Hunter, Sabrina Jeffries and Mary Jo Putney (Kensington, $15.95, 9781496731296).


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover
No Gods, No Monsters (Convergence Saga #1) by Cadwell Turnbull (Blackstone Publishing, $26.99, 9781982603724). "Cadwell Turnbull weaves fantasy with current events to reveal how difficult it is to hold onto your humanity when society denies your existence or, worse, systematically erases you." --Nicole A. Johnson, Baltimore Read Aloud, Baltimore, Md.

Hao: Stories by Ye Chun (Catapult, $26, 9781646220601). "A wonderful collection of short stories that span the Chinese and Chinese American diaspora through time and place. These women, strong yet powerless, find their own meaning of hao (good)." --Audrey Huang, Belmont Books, Belmont, Mass.

Paperback
The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun (Atria Books, $17, 9781982170714). "While Dev believes in fairytale romances, Charlie most certainly does not. That doesn't stop the two of them from stumbling into their own romantic comedy that will leave you absolutely charmed." --Lauren Homza, Rediscovered Books, Boise, Idaho

For Ages 6+
Einstein: The Fantastic Journey of a Mouse Through Space and Time by Torben Kuhlmann (Northsouth Books, $22, 9780735844445). "Einstein and his theory of relativity send the mice on an adventure to solve a problem, and ultimately to entertain us! 'Ingenious' is the perfect word to describe this fourth book in the series." --Margaret Neville, The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah

For Ages 8 to 12
Treasure in the Lake by Jason Pamment (HarperAlley, $22.99, 9780063065185). "A brilliant treasure of the heart with beautiful graphics, wonderful characters, and a story that will excite readers on every page. Kids and adults will be grabbing this one off the shelf and devouring it." -- Chris Abouzeid, Belmont Books, Belmont, Mass.

For Teen Readers
Call Me Athena: Girl from Detroit by Colby Cedar Smith (Andrews McMeel, $21.99, 9781524865603). "This story of an immigrant girl growing up in Detroit in the 1930s hits every mark. Woven into the story are her parents' histories and all the love and loss the family has faced. It will tug your heartstrings." --Izzy Stringham, Bookbinders Basalt, Basalt, Colo.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: Orwell's Roses

Orwell's Roses by Rebecca Solnit (Viking, $28 hardcover, 320p., 9780593083369, October 19, 2021)

It is hardly surprising that a writer as talented as Rebecca Solnit considers George Orwell, who once wrote that "good prose is like a windowpane," to be "a foundational influence on my own meander toward becoming an essayist." In Orwell's Roses, she repays some of her debt by viewing her subject's work through the prism of his connection to the natural world, discovering "another Orwell whose other perspectives seem to counterbalance his cold eye on political monstrosity."

Solnit's touchstone is the roses Orwell planted, in 1936, at the cottage he rented in the Hertfordshire village of Wallington and that he occupied intermittently until he moved to an island off Scotland's west coast, where he spent the last four years of his life. For Solnit, the flowers were "invitations to dig deeper" into "who [Orwell] was and who we were and where pleasure and beauty and hours with no quantifiable practical result fit into the life of someone, perhaps of anyone, who also cared about justice and truth and human rights and how to change the world."

Unlike a conventional biography, Orwell's Roses is an impressionistic journey through highlights of what Solnit calls Orwell's "notably episodic" life, at crucial points describing how her "unfamiliar Orwell," an "avid naturalist," sought "refuge in natural and domestic spaces and repaired to them often." She devotes close attention to the months Orwell spent in the depressed areas of northern England, and especially the "lurid misery" of its coal mines, that produced The Road to Wigan Pier, as well as his time fighting with the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War, the subject of his Homage to Catalonia. She also offers an incisive analysis of Nineteen Eighty-Four, a work she calls "perhaps the twentieth century's most significant book about systematic lying."

As is the case in works like Recollections of My Nonexistence: A Memoir and The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, in Orwell's Roses Solnit leads the reader on some fascinating excursions. She reflects on the notorious enclosure movement in 18th- and 19th-century Britain; reviews the Stalinist attack on science; and investigates the Colombian flower industry, source of 80% of the roses sold in the United States, "items where the tension between what something looks like and what it means as a product of labor and industry was particularly strong."

There's no way to predict whether history someday will accord Rebecca Solnit's work the same respect George Orwell's has earned. Regardless, readers of the early 21st century should be grateful for her clear-eyed, articulate presence in our midst. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Rebecca Solnit pays homage to one of her literary models in an account of Orwell's career that emphasizes his attachment to the natural world.


Powered by: Xtenit