June 28, 2016
This is due in October by the author of Forrest Gump, featuring vivid characters in an historical fiction tale. Interest?
Long fascinated with the Mexican Revolution and the vicious border wars of the early twentieth century, Winston Groom brings to life a much-forgotten period of history in this sprawling saga of heroism, injustice, and love. An episodic novel set in six parts, El Paso pits the legendary Pancho Villa, a much-feared outlaw and revolutionary, against a thrill-seeking railroad tycoon known as the Colonel, whose fading fortune is tied up in a colossal ranch in Chihuahua, Mexico. But when Villa kidnaps the Colonel’s grandchildren in the midst of a cattle drive, and absconds into the Sierra Madre, the aging New England patriarch and his adopted son head to El Paso, hoping to find a group of cowboys brave enough to hunt the Generalissimo down.Replete with gunfights, daring escapes, and an unforgettable bullfight, El Paso, with its textured blend of history and legend, becomes an indelible portrait of the American Southwest in the waning days of the frontier.
June 27, 2016
These titles were highlights of BEA and have good prospects for this summer and fall. Comment to claim. Candice Millard’s Destiny of the Republic circulated 400 times in our collection and was also a successful book discussion kit title. Now she’s out in September with Hero of the Empire, focusing on Winston Churchill’s daring youthful career as a war correspondent in the Boer War between Britain and what is now South Africa. Not only is Churchill’s escape from a prisoner of war camp a riveting read, but the analysis of changes in modern warfare (the Boer War was the first to feature concentration camps, snipers, and khaki military uniforms to substitute the famously traditional redcoats) and the depressing aftermath of the Boer War for South Africa’s future is also thoughtful and revealing.
Colson Whitehead has written an alternative history of slavery where the underground railroad is literally that – and the course slavery and its resistance have taken a very different turn in different states. While the brutality of slavery and its fugitive hunters is a dominant theme, the violence is alluded to more than depicted and throughout the book the main character Cora is suspended between certain dread of capture and hope for true deliverance.
The Nix is a debut by Nathan Hill due this August that mixes darkly comic dialog, insightful depictions of time and place, and biting satire of societal conflicts and trends both old and new. His ability to get into the head of Walter Conkite while he covers the 1968 Democratic Convention is keen.
Finally, John Aubrey My Own Life is a re-worked “autobiography,” critically acclaimed in Britain last year, of the notebooks of antiquarian and biography John Aubrey, who knew everyone who was anyone in the 1600’s scientific and political revolutions. The strung together observations touch on every aspect of Aubrey’s boundless curiosity and make for insightful reading.
Hero…and John Aubrey…are also titles under consideration in the PDA pilot, so please do encourage interested readers to reserve them.
Millard, Candice. Hero of the Empire. Doubleday, September 2016.
Summary: At age twenty-four, Winston Churchill was utterly convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England one day, despite the fact he had just lost his first election campaign for Parliament. He believed that to achieve his goal he must do something spectacular on the battlefield. Despite deliberately putting himself in extreme danger as a British Army officer in colonial wars in India and Sudan, and as a journalist covering a Cuban uprising against the Spanish, glory and fame had eluded him. Churchill arrived in South Africa in 1899, valet and crates of vintage wine in tow, there to cover the brutal colonial war the British were fighting with Boer rebels. But just two weeks after his arrival, the soldiers he was accompanying on an armored train were ambushed, and Churchill was taken prisoner. Remarkably, he pulled off a daring escape–but then had to traverse hundreds of miles of enemy territory, alone, with nothing but a crumpled wad of cash, four slabs of chocolate, and his wits to guide him.
Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad. Doubleday, September 2016.
Summary: From prize-winning, bestselling author Colson Whitehead, a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood–where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned–Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor–engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey–hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
Hill, Nathan. The Nix. Knopf, August 2016.
Summary: “The Nix is a mother-son psychodrama with ghosts and politics, but it’s also a tragicomedy about anger and sanctimony in America. . . . Nathan Hill is a maestro.” –John Irving A Nix can take many forms. In Norwegian folklore, it is a spirit who sometimes appears as a white horse that steals children away. In Nathan Hill’s remarkable first novel, a Nix is anything you love that one day disappears, taking with it a piece of your heart. It’s 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson–college professor, stalled writer–has a Nix of his own: his mother, Faye. He hasn’t seen her in decades, not since she abandoned the family when he was a boy. Now she’s re-appeared, having committed an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news, beguiles the internet, and inflames a politically divided country. The media paints Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high-school sweetheart. Which version of his mother is true? Two facts are certain: she’s facing some serious charges, and she needs Samuel’s help. To save her, Samuel will have to embark on his own journey, uncovering long-buried secrets about the woman he thought he knew, secrets that stretch across generations and have their origin all the way back in Norway, home of the mysterious Nix. As he does so, Samuel will confront not only Faye’s losses but also his own lost love, and will relearn everything he thought he knew about his mother, and himself. From the suburban Midwest to New York City to the 1968 riots that rocked Chicago and beyond, The Nix explores–with sharp humor and a fierce tenderness–the resilience of love and home, even in times of radical change.
Scurr, Ruth. John Aubrey: My Own Life. The New York Review of Books, September 2016.
Summary: John Aubrey, My Own Life is an extraordinary book about the first modern biographer that reimagines what biography can be. This intimate diary of Aubrey’s days is composed of his own words, collected, collated, and enlarged upon by Ruth Scurr in an act of meticulous scholarship and daring imagination. Aubrey was born in Wiltshire, England, in 1626, and is best known as the author of Brief Lives , a book that redefined the art of biography through its informal and memorable sketches of the lives of his contemporaries, both men and women. The reign of Queen Elizabeth and the dissolution of the monasteries were not too far distant in memory during Aubrey’s boyhood. He lived through some of England’s most interesting times: the Civil War, the execution of Charles I, the brief rule of Oliver Cromwell and his son, and the restoration of Charles II. Scurr’s biography honors and echoes Aubrey’s own innovations in the art of biography. Rather than subject his life to a conventional narrative, Scurr has collected the evidence–remnants of a life, from manuscripts, letters, and books–and arranged it chronologically, modernizing words and spellings, and adding explanations when necessary. All sources are given in the extensive endnotes. The result is an immediate, vibrant account of a life, “rescued . . . from the teeth of time,” as Aubrey said of his own strivings.
June 23, 2016
I’ve got two of this one. It reminds me a lot of the His Dark Materials trilogy, in terms of both protagonist adventure and also the sophisticated worldbuilding around one distinguishing otherworldly characteristic, in this case the smoke some people give off when they “sin.” It also has a nice queue going. Comment to claim.
Summary: Readers of the Harry Potter series and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell are sure to be mesmerized by Dan Vyleta’s thrilling blend of historical fiction and fantasy, as three young friends scratch the surface of the grown-up world to discover startling wonders–and dangerous secrets. “Dan Vyleta writes with intricacy and imagination and skillful pacing; never once would I have considered putting his book down. In the manner of both a Dickens novel and the best young adult adventure stories (the Harry Potter series among them). . .his ending, which I wouldn’t dare reveal here, is a real firecracker.”–Jennifer Senior, The New York Times. Welcome to a Victorian England unlike any other you have experienced before. Here, wicked thoughts (both harmless and hate-filled) appear in the air as telltale wisps of Smoke. Young Thomas Argyle, a son of aristocracy, has been sent to an elite boarding school. Here he will be purged of Wickedness, for the wealthy do not Smoke. When he resists a sadistic headboy’s temptations to Smoke, a much larger struggle beyond the school walls is revealed. Shortly thereafter, on a trip to London, Thomas and his best friend witness events that make them begin to question everything they have been taught about Smoke. And thus the adventure begins… You will travel by coach to a grand estate where secrets lurk in attic rooms and hidden laboratories; where young love blossoms; and where a tumultuous relationship between a mother and her children is the crucible in which powerful passions are kindled, and dangerous deeds must be snuffed out in a desperate race against time.
June 21, 2016
A special tavern in Chicago where different drinks give you superpowers to fight demons? Enough said. This is a really fun paranormal debut. Includes sidebars with cocktail history and recipes. Comment to claim.
Krueger, Paul. Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge. Quirk, June 2016.
Summary: “College grad Bailey Chen has all of the usual new-adult demons: no cash, no job offers, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend still around when she moves back home. But her demons become a lot more literal when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders. It turns out supernatural creatures are stalking the streets of Chicago, and they can be hunted only with the help of magically mixed cocktails: vodka grants super-strength, whiskey offers the power of telekinesis, and tequila lets its drinker fire blasts of elemental energy. But will these supernatural powers be enough for Bailey and a ragtag band of mixologists to halt a mysterious rash of gruesome deaths? Includes 13 cocktail recipes from an ancient book of cocktail lore.”
June 16, 2016
McInerney, Lisa. The Glorious Heresies. Tim Duggan, August.
Publisher Summary: From Lisa McInerney, hailed by The Irish Times as “arguably the most talented writer at work in Ireland today,” comes The Glorious Heresies , a searing debut novel about life on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. When grandmother Maureen Phelan is surprised in her home by a stranger, she clubs the intruder with a Holy Stone. The consequences of this unplanned murder connect four misfits struggling against their meager circumstances. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father, Tony, whose feud with his next-door neighbor threatens to ruin his family. Georgie is a sex worker who half-heartedly joins a born-again movement to escape her profession and drug habit. And Jimmy Phelan, the most fearsome gangster in the city and Maureen’s estranged son, finds that his mother’s bizarre attempts at redemption threaten his entire organization. Biting and darkly funny, The Glorious Heresies presents an unforgettable vision of a city plagued by poverty and exploitation, where salvation still awaits in the most unexpected places.
Danler, Stephanie. Sweetbitter. Knopf, May.
This is how we meet unforgettable Tess, the twenty-two-year-old at the heart of this stunning debut. Shot from a mundane, provincial past, Tess comes to New York in the stifling summer of 2006. Alone, knowing no one, living in a rented room in Williamsburg, she manages to land a job as a “backwaiter” at a celebrated downtown Manhattan restaurant. This begins the year we spend with Tess as she starts to navigate the chaotic, enchanting, punishing, and privileged life she has chosen, as well as the remorseless and luminous city around her. What follows is her education: in oysters, Champagne, the appellations of Burgundy, friendship, cocaine, lust, love, and dive bars. As her appetites awaken–for food and wine, but also for knowledge, experience, and belonging–we see her helplessly drawn into a darkly alluring love triangle. With an orphan’s ardor she latches onto Simone, a senior server at the restaurant who has lived in ways Tess only dreams of, and against the warnings of coworkers she falls under the spell of Jake, the elusive, tatted up, achingly beautiful bartender. These two and their enigmatic connection to each other will prove to be Tess’s most exhilarating and painful lesson of all. Stephanie Danler intimately defines the crucial transition from girl to woman, from living in a place that feels like nowhere to living in a place that feels like the center of the universe. She deftly conjures the nonstop and purely adrenalized world of the restaurant–conversations interrupted, phrases overheard, relationships only partially revealed. And she evokes the infinite possibilities, the unbearable beauty, the fragility and brutality of being young in New York with heart-stopping accuracy. A lush novel of the senses–of taste and hunger, seeing and understanding, love and desire– Sweetbitter is ultimately about the power of what remains after disillusionment, and the transformation and wisdom that come from our experiences, sweet and bitter.
June 16, 2016
Please comment to claim. It’s not literally about the Manson Helter Skelter scene but takes inspiration from the time/place. Emma Cline was at Day of Dialog this year and spoke about family dynamics and the vulnerability of the main character to groups offering a sense of belonging, as well as violence as a backdrop. Peter’s read and says it’s raw in content but not writing style. This one has a lot of holds in our system.
Publisher Summary: An indelible portrait of girls, the women they become, and that moment in life when everything can go horribly wrong–this stunning first novel is perfect for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad . Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged–a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence. Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction.
June 14, 2016
Who’s up for Alan Moore’s second (non-graphic) novel, at some 1279 pages, coming this September? I can only claim to have skimmed it myself, but I think it will be something many will be reading and even more claiming to have read. It does have some exquisite descriptions and unsettling ideas, images, and sensations, including several chapters spelled phonetically in a very different dialect (and not just the dialog either). Historical, fantastical, epic, set in Moore’s hometown of Northampton, England, it is here and the right reader is out there. Please comment to claim. It also has a recent, updated photo of Alan Moore himself, who looks like a man probably should after being holed up writing such a tome. It will be in the catalog shortly, and here’s a cover image and an annotation from Norton. [The ARC I have lacks cover art].
Moore, Alan. Jerusalem. Liveright, September, 2016.
In the half a square mile of decay and demolition that was England’s Saxon capital, eternity is loitering between the firetrap housing projects. Embedded in the grubby amber of the district’s narrative among its saints, kings, prostitutes, and derelicts a different kind of human time is happening, a soiled simultaneity that does not differentiate between the petrolcolored puddles and the fractured dreams of those who navigate them. Fiends last mentioned in the second-century Book of Tobit wait in urine-scented stairwells, the delinquent specters of unlucky children undermine a century with tunnels, and in upstairs parlors laborers with golden blood reduce fate to a snooker tournament. An opulent mythology for those without a pot to piss in, through the labyrinthine streets and pages of Jerusalem tread ghosts that sing of wealth and poverty; of Africa, and hymns, and our threadbare millennium. They discuss English as a visionary language from John Bunyan to James Joyce, hold forth on the illusion of mortality post-Einstein, and insist upon the meanest slum as Blake’s eternal holy city. Fierce in its imagining and stupefying in its scope, Alan Moore’s epic novel, Jerusalem, is the tale of Everything, told from a vanished gutter.