October 6, 2016
Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale seems to have gotten a lot of mentions in this week’s EarlyWord Galley Chat and has supernatural elements. It doesn’t come out until January but is already generating holds in our system.
Books for Living is a biography by Will Schwalbe, famous for The End of Your Life Book Club, a perennial favorite in our discussion kit collection as well as a power circulater (over 500 times) in the regular nonfiction collection.
Please comment to claim.
Arden, Katherine. The Bear and the Nightingale. Del Rey.
Schwalbe, Will. Books for Living. Knopf.
October 6, 2016
The National Book Foundation has announced its shortlist for the National Book Award. This link includes the non-fiction and poetry candidates as well, which will probably trigger purchases or additional for the winners. I’ll highlight the fiction that hasn’t already been highlighted before in the previous post on the longlist.
Besides Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn, we also have
Jiles, Paulett. News of the World. William Morrow.
Publisher Summary: It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence. In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows. Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.
Bachelder, Chris. The Throwback Special. W. W. Norton.
Publisher Summary: The Throwback Special is the story of twenty-two ordinary guys who gather each fall to reenact what ESPN has called the most shocking play in NFL history: the November 1985 play in which Joe Theismann of the Washington Redskins had his leg horribly broken by Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. (The play was known by the Redskins as the Throwback Special.) Over the course of a weekend we follow the men as they choose roles; spend a long night of the soul revealing their secret hopes, fears, and passions as they prepare for the game; and finally enact their strange and yet oh-so-American ritual for what may be the last time. With his trademark microfine sense of humor and tragic sense of history (Michael Chabon), Chris Bachelder’s moving and very funny tale is filled with pitch-perfect observations about manhood, marriage, and middle age.
Mahajan, Karan. The Association of Small Bombs. Viking.
Publisher Summary: After witnessing his two friends killed by a “small” bomb that detonated in a Dehli marketplace, Mansoor Ahmed becomes involved with a charismatic young activist, whose allegiances and beliefs are more changeable than he could have imagined.
September 15, 2016
This has a persistent queue and I have an ARC if interested.
Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis- Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas. At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman. As they face the impending destruction of their community, each woman–fighting to balance the burdens she shoulders with the freedom she craves–must confront long-hidden scars. From a much-heralded new writer, Here Comes the Sun offers a dramatic glimpse into a vibrant, passionate world most outsiders see simply as paradise.
September 15, 2016
The National Book Foundation has put out its longlist for this year. The winner will be announced November 16th. We own all the fiction and non-fiction and at least a few of the poetry titles.
Here below are some highlights of the titles doing best in our system, not including Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, which is doing the best [210 holds!] and has been highlighted a couple times before.
Watson, Brad. Miss Jane. W.W. Norton & Co. [12 holds]
Since his award-winning debut collection of stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men, Brad Watson has been expanding the literary traditions of the South, in work as melancholy, witty, strange, and lovely as any in America. Now, drawing on the story of his own great-aunt, Watson explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central “uses” for a woman in that time and place: sex and marriage. From the highly erotic world of nature around her to the hard tactile labor of farm life, from the country doctor who befriends her to the boy who loved but was forced to leave her, Miss Jane Chisolm and her world are anything but barren. The potency and implacable cruelty of nature, as well as its beauty, is a trademark of Watson’s fiction. In Miss Jane, the author brings to life a hard, unromantic past that is tinged with the sadness of unattainable loves, yet shot through with a transcendent beauty. Jane Chisolm’s irrepressible vitality and generous spirit give her the strength to live her life as she pleases in spite of the limitations that others, and her own body, would place on her. Free to satisfy only herself, she mesmerizes those around her, exerting an unearthly fascination that lives beyond her still.
Haslett, Adam. Imagine Me Gone. Little, Brown. [15 holds]
“Haslett is one of the country’s most talented writers, equipped with a sixth sense for characterization.”- -Wall Street Journal “Ambitious and stirring . . . With Imagine Me Gone , Haslett has reached another level.” –New York Times Book Review New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice Best Books of 2016 So Far — Time and Refinery29 From a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist, a ferociously intimate story of a family facing the ultimate question: how far will we go to save the people we love the most? When Margaret’s fiancé, John, is hospitalized for depression in 1960s London, she faces a choice: carry on with their plans despite what she now knows of his condition, or back away from the suffering it may bring her. She decides to marry him. Imagine Me Gone is the unforgettable story of what unfolds from this act of love and faith. At the heart of it is their eldest son, Michael, a brilliant, anxious music fanatic who makes sense of the world through parody. Over the span of decades, his younger siblings — the savvy and responsible Celia and the ambitious and tightly controlled Alec — struggle along with their mother to care for Michael’s increasingly troubled and precarious existence. Told in alternating points of view by all five members of the family, this searing, gut-wrenching, and yet frequently hilarious novel brings alive with remarkable depth and poignancy the love of a mother for her children, the often inescapable devotion siblings feel toward one another, and the legacy of a father’s pain in the life of a family. With his striking emotional precision and lively, inventive language, Adam Haslett has given us something rare: a novel with the power to change how we see the most important people in our lives.
Woodson, Jacqueline. Another Brooklyn. Amistad. [57 holds]
New Yorks Times Bestseller. The acclaimed New York Times bestselling and National Book Award-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming delivers her first adult novel in twenty years. Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything–until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant–a part of a future that belonged to them. But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion. Like Louise Meriwether’s Daddy Was a Number Runner and Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn heartbreakingly illuminates the formative time when childhood gives way to adulthood–the promise and peril of growing up–and exquisitely renders a powerful, indelible, and fleeting friendship that united four young lives.
O’Neil, Cathy. Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. Crown. [16 holds]
A former Wall Street quant sounds an alarm on the mathematical models that pervade modern life — and threaten to rip apart our social fabric. We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives–where we go to school, whether we get a car loan, how much we pay for health insurance–are being made not by humans, but by mathematical models. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness: Everyone is judged according to the same rules, and bias is eliminated. But as Cathy O’Neil reveals in this urgent and necessary book, the opposite is true. The models being used today are opaque, unregulated, and uncontestable, even when they’re wrong. Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination: If a poor student can’t get a loan because a lending model deems him too risky (by virtue of his zip code), he’s then cut off from the kind of education that could pull him out of poverty, and a vicious spiral ensues. Models are propping up the lucky and punishing the downtrodden, creating a “toxic cocktail for democracy.” Welcome to the dark side of Big Data. Tracing the arc of a person’s life, O’Neil exposes the black box models that shape our future, both as individuals and as a society. These “weapons of math destruction” score teachers and students, sort résumés, grant (or deny) loans, evaluate workers, target voters, set parole, and monitor our health. O’Neil calls on modelers to take more responsibility for their algorithms and on policy makers to regulate their use. But in the end, it’s up to us to become more savvy about the models that govern our lives. This important book empowers us to ask the tough questions, uncover the truth, and demand change.
Thompson, Heather Ann. Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy. Pantheon. [8 holds]
On September 9, 1971, nearly 1,300 prisoners took over the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York to protest years of mistreatment. Holding guards and civilian employees hostage, the prisoners negotiated with officials for improved conditions during the four long days and nights that followed. On September 13, the state abruptly sent hundreds of heavily armed troopers and correction officers to retake the prison by force. Their gunfire killed thirty-nine men–hostages as well as prisoners–and severely wounded more than one hundred others. In the ensuing hours, weeks, and months, troopers and officers brutally retaliated against the prisoners. And, ultimately, New York State authorities prosecuted only the prisoners, never once bringing charges against the officials involved in the retaking and its aftermath and neglecting to provide support to the survivors and the families of the men who had been killed. Drawing from more than a decade of extensive research, historian Heather Ann Thompson sheds new light on every aspect of the uprising and its legacy, giving voice to all those who took part in this forty-five-year fight for justice: prisoners, former hostages, families of the victims, lawyers and judges, and state officials and members of law enforcement. Blood in the Water is the searing and indelible account of one of the most important civil rights stories of the last century.
Bacevich, Andrew J. America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History. Random House. [One hold on 4 out copies]
From the end of World War II until 1980, virtually no American soldiers were killed in action while serving in the Greater Middle East. Since 1990, virtually no American soldiers have been killed in action anywhere else. What caused this shift? Andrew J. Bacevich, one of the country’s most respected voices on foreign affairs, offers an incisive critical history of this ongoing military enterprise–now more than thirty years old and with no end in sight. During the 1980s, Bacevich argues, a great transition occurred. As the Cold War wound down, the United States initiated a new conflict–a War for the Greater Middle East–that continues to the present day. The long twilight struggle with the Soviet Union had involved only occasional and sporadic fighting. But as this new war unfolded, hostilities became persistent. From the Balkans and East Africa to the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, U.S. forces embarked upon a seemingly endless series of campaigns across the Islamic world. Few achieved anything remotely like conclusive success. Instead, actions undertaken with expectations of promoting peace and stability produced just the opposite. As a consequence, phrases like “permanent war” and “open-ended war” have become part of everyday discourse. Connecting the dots in a way no other historian has done before, Bacevich weaves a compelling narrative out of episodes as varied as the Beirut bombing of 1983, the Mogadishu firefight of 1993, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the rise of ISIS in the present decade. Understanding what America’s costly military exertions have wrought requires seeing these seemingly discrete events as parts of a single war. It also requires identifying the errors of judgment made by political leaders in both parties and by senior military officers who share responsibility for what has become a monumental march to folly. This Bacevich unflinchingly does. A twenty-year army veteran who served in Vietnam, Andrew J. Bacevich brings the full weight of his expertise to this vitally important subject. America’s War for the Greater Middle East is a bracing after-action report from the front lines of history. It will fundamentally change the way we view America’s engagement in the world’s most volatile region.
September 13, 2016
At least in print. The shortlist includes two Americans, Paul Beatty and Ottessa Moshfegh, as well as two Britons and two Canadians. The winner will be announced Tuesday, October 25th, at which time there may well be an additional order to meet demand. Last year’s winner, Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings, has circulated over 200 times.
This “regular” Man Booker Prize now allows American authors to be candidates, as long as their work is published in the UK between May of the previous year and April of the award year. That’s a good thing because the award is influential in the US. What’s great about this year’s shortlist is these have already been published or scheduled to be published in the US, so no long wait if you haven’t already discovered them.
The rules for the Man Booker International Prize have changed as well. This relatively new prize, won by American Philip Roth in 2009, now promotes translated works, considering
“any work in print or electronic format written originally in a language other than English and published in the UK by an imprint formally established in the UK.”
So here’s the shortlist:
Beatty, Paul. The Sellout. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
Summary: A biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality–the black Chinese restaurant. Born in the “agrarian ghetto” of Dickens–on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles–the narrator of The Sellout resigns himself to the fate of lower-middle-class Californians: “I’d die in the same bedroom I’d grown up in, looking up at the cracks in the stucco ceiling that’ve been there since ’68 quake.” Raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, he spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He is led to believe that his father’s pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family’s financial woes. But when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that’s left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral. Fuelled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town’s most famous resident–the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins–he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.
Levy, Deborah. Hot Milk. Bloomsbury.
Summary: Sofia, a young anthropologist, has spent much of her life trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s unexplainable illness. She is frustrated with Rose and her constant complaints, but utterly relieved to be called to abandon her own disappointing fledgling adult life. She and her mother travel to the searing, arid coast of southern Spain to see a famous consultant–their very last chance–in the hope that he might cure her unpredictable limb paralysis. But Dr. Gomez has strange methods that seem to have little to do with physical medicine, and as the treatment progresses, Sofia’s mother’s illness becomes increasingly baffling. Sofia’s role as detective–tracking her mother’s symptoms in an attempt to find the secret motivation for her pain–deepens as she discovers her own desires in this transient desert community.
Burnet, Graeme Macrae. His Bloody Project. Perseus. (Coming October 4th).
Summary: A brutal triple murder in a remote Scottish farming community in 1869 leads to the arrest of seventeen-year-old Roderick Macrae. There is no question that Macrae committed this terrible act. What would lead such a shy and intelligent boy down this bloody path? And will he hang for his crime? Presented as a collection of documents discovered by the author, His Bloody Project opens with a series of police statements taken from the villagers of Culdie, Ross-shire. They offer conflicting impressions of the accused; one interviewee recalls Macrae as a gentle and quiet child, while another details him as evil and wicked. Chief among the papers is Roderick Macrae’s own memoirs where he outlines the series of events leading up to the murder in eloquent and affectless prose. There follow medical reports, psychological evaluations, a courtroom transcript from the trial, and other documents that throw both Macrae’s motive and his sanity into question.
Moshfegh, Ottessa. Eileen. Penguin.
Summary: The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father’s caretaker in a home whose squalor is the talk of the neighborhood and a day job as a secretary at the boys’ prison, filled with its own quotidian horrors. Consumed by resentment and self-loathing, Eileen tempers her dreary days with perverse fantasies and dreams of escaping to the big city. In the meantime, she fills her nights and weekends with shoplifting, stalking a buff prison guard named Randy, and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father’s messes. When the bright, beautiful, and cheery Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counselor at Moorehead, Eileen is enchanted and proves unable to resist what appears at first to be a miraculously budding friendship. In a Hitchcockian twist, her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.
Szalay, David. All That Man Is: Stories. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
A magnificent and ambitiously conceived portrait of contemporary life, by a genius of realism. Nine men. Each of them at a different stage in life, each of them away from home, and each of them striving–in the suburbs of Prague, in an overdeveloped Alpine village, beside a Belgian motorway, in a dingy Cyprus hotel–to understand what it means to be alive, here and now. Tracing a dramatic arc from the spring of youth to the winter of old age, the ostensibly separate narratives of All That Man Is aggregate into a picture of a single shared existence, a picture that interrogates the state of modern manhood while bringing to life, unforgettably, the physical and emotional terrain of an increasingly globalized Europe. And so these nine lives form an ingenious and new kind of novel, in which David Szalay expertly plots a dark predicament for the twenty-first-century man.
Thien, Madeleine. Do Not Say We Have Nothing. W. W. Norton & Co. (Coming October 11th).
Summary: “In a single year, my father left us twice. The first time, to end his marriage, and the second, when he took his own life. I was ten years old.”Master storyteller Madeleine Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations–those who lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution and their children, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square. At the center of this epic story are two young women, Marie and Ai-Ming. Through their relationship Marie strives to piece together the tale of her fractured family in present-day Vancouver, seeking answers in the fragile layers of their collective story. Her quest will unveil how Kai, her enigmatic father, a talented pianist, and Ai-Ming’s father, the shy and brilliant composer, Sparrow, along with the violin prodigy Zhuli were forced to reimagine their artistic and private selves during China’s political campaigns and how their fates reverberate through the years with lasting consequences.With maturity and sophistication, humor and beauty, Thien has crafted a novel that is at once intimate and grandly political, rooted in the details of life inside China yet transcendent in its universality.
September 12, 2016
This is a survivalist love story novel by the first winner of The Apprentice. Curious? Comment to claim. Thanks!
A father from Chicago takes a road trip to the city of Whitehorse, in Yukon Territory, with his wife and son. During the car ride, they reveal to the boy their harrowing experience surviving a horrific plane crash in the wilderness ten years before, which is how the boy, in fact, came to be born. Set amid the deep, wild woods of the Yukon, First Light tells the story of Daniel Albrecht and Kerry Egan, young lovers leaving a work trip in Alaska to plan their wedding back home in Chicago. Not long into their trip, both engines of their plane catch fire and send them careening into a mountainside in the middle of a terrible snowstorm. Kerry is seriously injured in the accident, and it soon becomes clear that search-and-rescue teams aren’t going to find the survivors in time to save her. Daniel–the one person with survival experience amid the passengers–makes the courageous decision to find help and bring it back to the rest of the passengers, hoping against hope he might save the woman he loves. He leaves Kerry in the care of their coworker, Phil Velez, himself seriously injured in the crash, and takes off into the woods to find a town, a house with a telephone, a road. Something. But Daniel’s choices are made all the more difficult by the presence of his boss, a stubborn man more interested in results than taking care of people. Only one man will come out of their trek alive, but it still may not be in time to save Kerry and the others back at the crash site, slowly dying from their injuries. As the parents’ story draws to a close, the truth about the boy’s life, and the identity of his father, will at last be revealed.