Tuesday, April 29, 2008

And the Winners Are...

The 2008 Literature to Life Award is being given to Frank McCourt, for his memoir Teacher Man. Literature to Life, the American Place Theatre’s performance-based literacy program, presents professionally staged verbatim adaptations of significant American literary works. Yay, Frank McCourt! Love him!

The 2007 LA Times Book Awards were presented last week. Andrew O'Hagan's novel, Be Near Me won for best fiction. Dinaw Mengestu's novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears won for best first fiction.

The 2007 Nebula Awards were also presented last week. Michael Chabon's novel, The Yiddish Policeman's Union won for best novel. The novel has also been nominated for a Hugo Award and an Edgar Award. Chabon is the first novelist to be nominated for all three awards at one time.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Not To Burn

A few months ago I mentioned that Vladimir Nabokov's son, Dmitri, was torn between publishing his father's last novel, or burning the work, as his father requested. Dmitri has decided to publish the novel, after his father appeared to him to give him the OK.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Author Visit!!

Jen Lancaster will be promoting her new memoir, Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest To Discover if Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, Or Why Pie is Not The Answer, at the Barnes & Noble at 1441 W. Webster Avenue in Chicago on May 6th at 7:30 pm.

Lancaster's first two memoirs, Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office and Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, or Who are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me? were hilarious! Take a look at my review. If you can manage the terrible traffic and road construction to get downtown, I know her new book will be worth the trip.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

This spring marked the first One Book One Zip Code for Deerfield, Bannockburn and Riverwoods, and the book chosen was Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. This is the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, who helped establish Partners in Health, which has helped to treat thousands of very poor people for TB and HIV/AIDS in countries such as Haiti, Peru, Russia and Rwanda. It is such an inspiring story and wonderfully written. There is so much I could say about this book, but it would not do it justice. Just read it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Top Ten Books EVER!

A recent poll shows that the top 10 all-time favorite books for adults are:

1. The Bible
2. Gone With the Wind
3. Lord of the Rings trilogy
4. Harry Potter series (of course)
5. The Stand by Stephen King
6. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (Seriously? In the top 10 books EVER?)
7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
8. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown (Again, seriously?)
9. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
10. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

What's in your top 10?

*A reader asked for the source of this poll. This was a Harris Interactive Poll of 2, 513 adults, taken online during March. I believe I read about it in PW's daily email.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Author Visit!

Dorothea Benton Frank will be appearing at the Warren Newport Public Library in Gurnee on April 25th at 11 am. She is best known for her novel, "Sullivan's Island" which is set in the south. She returns to the south once again with her newest novel, "Bull Island."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner

A while ago I mentioned my love for Jennifer Weiner. I have enjoyed reading all her books and have been patiently awaiting her latest, Certain Girls. I finally got the book earlier this week and have been able to concentrate on nothing else. Certain Girls is the sequel to Weiner's first novel, Good in Bed. If you will recall, Cannie Shapiro is a "festively plump" woman who ends up pregnant by her ex-boyfriend, Bruce, who published a humiliating article called "Loving the Larger Woman." In Certain Girls, we are back with Cannie and her daughter Joy, who is now 13 and about to become a woman (having her bat mitzvah). Cannie is now married to Peter (who is the "diet doctor" she met in the last book), and the two are contemplating having another baby. Joy is the typical 13 year-old: moody, sullen, obsessed with her appearance, embarrassed by everything her mother does or says. The chapters are alternately narrated by Cannie and Joy, so we hear each one's feelings and secrets. Initially, I thought the book was just OK. Weiner's clever wit is present and she tells a good story, but Joy is just a typical teenager and their lives are fairly mundane. Nothing that really shook things up. Until the last 40 pages. I will not tell you what happened, but I totally did not see that coming. Some drama comes into the picture, which livened the book up and made it more interesting. I did like the book quite a bit. It's not my favorite of hers, but it was a satisfying read.

Jane Smiley's review of the book for the Philadelphia Enquirer is somewhat critical, but she makes an interesting point that Weiner's book is obviously being published for a certain audience. The book is clearly being pushed as "Chick Lit," which is evident from the pink, fluffy cover. But this is not what I call Chick Lit. There is humor, but it deals with some serious family issues and Smiley is right that her book would appeal to a larger audience than those just looking for a fun fluff piece.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Although I've seen the movie many times, I never read Joanne Harris' novel Chocolat. Her next novel, The Girl With No Shadow is a sequel to Chocolat and should be arriving any day now, so I thought I ought to read it first. I absolutely love the movie, so I was worried that the book would either disappoint me, or I would love the book so much that the movie would now disappoint me. I find that happens a lot with books made into movies. For the most part, the movie follows the storyline of the book, with some changes. The good news is that this didn't change my feelings about the movie or lessen my enjoyment of the book. Both are delightful in their own right. The book has a slightly more serious side to it, with Vianne's memories of her mother and her past. But the characters are well-drawn and Harris' vivid descriptions bring the small village to life. Warning: the descriptions of the chocolate are likely to cause intense cravings. Stay tuned for my review of The Girl With No Shadow.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

And the winnner is...

The Pulitzer Prize winners were recently announced and Junot Diaz's novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the award for fiction. This is the first novel for Dominican-American author Diaz, which also won the National Book Critics' Circle Award and was a 2007 New York Times Notable Book. The story follows the life of Oscar, an overweight, nerdy Dominican boy, from childhood to his untimely death as an adult. The narrator, Yunior tells of Oscar's struggle to make friends, lose weight, and find a woman to love him.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Let's Talk About Books

I had been hearing a lot about Pierre Bayard's book How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read, so when I saw a copy at the library, I snatched it up. As a librarian, I get asked about books all the time. Have you read this? What's this about? Is this book any good? Most of the time I haven't read the book. It's not that I don't read-far from it. But I read random titles; I don't really follow a certain author or genre. Even though I know about many books, I thought this would give me the secret on how to talk about books I haven't read. Not so much.

Bayard claims that time spent reading a book is a "squandering of energy." Because there are so many books in existence, it is impossible to read them all, therefore our time would be better served in "non-reading." He explains that in the absence of reading, a person does not wish to read the book, or to understand the book. In "non-reading," the person actively chooses not to read the book, but grasps the essence of the book and its place in the "collective library." We can be culturally literate and able to discuss a book as long as we know about the book, and we understand its connections and correlations with other books. The rest of Bayard's book is really just a reiteration of this point. I understand what he's saying, but I don't agree. For instance, I have never read The Great Gatsby (shocking, I know). I know the basic story and its importance in literature, but could I have a serious discussion with someone about the book and not sound like a complete fool? Absolutely not. Bayard seems to feel that reading serves only one purpose: to attain cultural literacy. But most of the people that come into the library want to read books because they enjoy reading. This book doesn't really pertain to them (which I think is the majority of people). He does pose one interesting question though: is a book you have read and forgotten still a book that you have read? There are quite a few books I read in college, like The Invisible Man, that I have absolutely no recollection of. Couldn't tell you one thing about it. Yet I still tell people I have read it. Does it count if I can't remember it?

Although this book gave me a few things to think about, I don't really feel any more prepared to talk about books I haven't read. I was hoping for some more tangible tips or tricks, but no. My advice: squander your energy reading something else.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

And the winner is....

Each year, the Horror Writer's Association presents the Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement, named in honor of Bram Stoker, author of the seminal horror work, Dracula.

This year's winner for best novel is The Missing by Sarah Langan. Publisher's Weekly called her novel a "creepfest that recalls...the early work of Stephen King." An environmental catastrophe destroys the blue collar town of Bedford. On a school field trip to the abandoned town, an ancient horror is unearthed: a contagious plague that transforms its victims into something violent, hungry, and inhuman.

Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box won for best first novel. See my previous review, or lack of review, because I was too creeped out to finish the book.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Books to Movies

If you've read The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards, you know it just begs for a Lifetime movie adaptation. And it's finally here. Lifetime will be airing The Memory Keeper's Daughter on Saturday, April 12th at 8pm central. Emily Watson (who I love) will be playing the nurse, Caroline Gill.

This Sunday will be the final installment of PBS's Complete Jane Austen series. Sigh. Fortunately, they have some great movies lined up to follow. On April 13th will be the adaptation of E.M. Forster's novel, A Room With a View. On April 20th, we see Daniel Radcliffe in a roll other than Harry Potter in My Boy Jack, the story of Rudyard Kipling's search for his 17-year-old son (Daniel) after he goes missing during WWI. And, some of you may know that I love a good adaptation of an Elizabeth Gaskell novel. North & South (with Richard Armitage, not Patrick Swayze) is one of my favorite movies and rivals my affections for the Colin Firth version of P&P. Wives & Daughters is pretty great too. On May 4th, 11th and 18th, PBS will be airing the BBC's adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel Cranford. Joy!

Based on the novel by Kate Jacobs, which I have heard is a great read, The Friday Night Knitting Club will be released on the big screen in June, starring Julia Roberts. Definitely a great Girls Night Out movie.

One of my favorite chick lit novels, Confessions of a Shopaholic is also coming to the big screen (not sure on the release date). Isla Fisher (from Wedding Crashers) will be playing Becky Bloomwood. John Goodman and Joan Cusack will be playing her parents. Hmmm, not sure I see it, but I'll go with it. From the description I read, it seems that the movie will be set in New York City, so they must not be going the British route, which is disappointing, but I'm still looking forward to it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Author Visits!

The Deerfield Barnes & Noble will be hosting two author events during the month of April.

Saturday, April 5 at 2:00 pm; Book discussion and signing with Jason Seiden, author of the very smart, very funny book with a serious message: How to Self-Destruct: Making the Least of What's Left of Your Career. Seiden's unique blend of business savvy, psychology and humor will have you laughing AND thinking.

Sunday, April 13 at 1:00 pm; Book discussion and signing with Nancy Rips, whose book, Seder Stories: Passover Thoughts on Food, Family and Freedom offers 101 Seder memories and stories, some from the rich and famous, some funny, some touching, all memorable.