Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Houghton Mifflin: The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong . . . and You Can Too! by Bryant Johnson

Timber Press: Saving Tarboo Creek: One Family's Quest to Heal the Land by Scott Freeman

HarperCollins: Laura's Album: A Remembrance Scrapbook of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson

Other Press: What You Did Not Tell: A Russian Past and the Journey Home by Mark Mazower

Chronicle Books: This Book Is a Planetarium: And Other Extraordinary Pop-Up Contraptions by Kelli Anderson

News

Image of the Day: We Are America

Last week at the HarperCollins offices, Walter Dean Myers (l.) and Christopher Myers discussed their book We Are America, which went on sale May 3. Author Walter Dean Myers said that as he did the research, it became clear to him that the Founding Fathers knew this would be "an imperfect union struggling toward perfection." Artist Christopher Myers talked about his travels and his mission to present Americans in all their diversity. Behind them is a facsimile of one of the 3'x9' murals from the book, featuring Captain John Smith sailing toward Jamestown (l.) and a refugee boat, both seeking freedom. The Myerses' website, who-is-america.com, will invite young people to submit videos of their own definitions of who and what defines America.

 


She Writes Press: Things Unsaid by Diana Y. Paul


Notes: Moyers Back at Penguin; Kindle's Revenue Forecast

Scott Moyers, a former editor at Penguin Press who left in 2007 to run the Wylie Agency's New York office, is returning to Penguin as publisher, effective Monday. Current president and publisher Ann Godoff will become president and editor-in-chief. The return coincides with the imprint's decision to expand its frontlist by 50% during the next year.  

"Scott has been my friend and colleague, on both sides of the publishing conversation, for many years," Godoff said. "His return to the Penguin Press, the publishing program we established together, insures that our growth plan will continue to center on quality and be informed by the breadth of his experience and dedication to his authors."

Moyers said he is "moved and honored to be rejoining the house that I love most and had such joy in helping Ann Godoff build. From its inception, the Penguin Press has been devoted to the support of ideas that matter and storytelling that lasts; this opportunity to join in the good work of growing the imprint while staying true to its first principles is thrilling.”

"Not too long ago, we met and he said, 'It may be time,' I just hopped on it. I said, 'Do not move. Don't move a muscle.' " Godoff told the New York Times, which also noted that she plans to increase the number of books the imprint publishes from 42 titles each year to at least 62.

"I knew that I could grow the Penguin Press by 50%, at least," she said. "I knew I had the capabilities here, that we were well enough entrenched, that we had the bedrock of solid authors and so on. And we had the architecture in place. But what I needed was a partner to build the list at that level. Scott was perfect." Moyers observed that the expansion played a major role in his decision.

When asked about a successor for Moyers, Wylie said, "The successor is me. I hope I'm up to it. I think it's a very good thing for Scott and a very good thing for the Penguin Press. It's good to have the Penguin Press growing and expanding their footprint, so I'm all for it. It was a surprise and we'll miss him, but I suspect I'll see just as much of him wearing his new hat as I did wearing his old."

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By 2012, the Kindle could be generating as much as $7.96 billion in total revenue for Amazon, according Caris & Co. analyst Sandeep Aggarwal, who said that "as the Kindle ecosystem expands, Kindle device users will not only continue buying more e-books but also subscriptions, accessories, hardware warranties, and eventually use Kindle’s wireless and computing capabilities for other data and content consumption (e.g. pictures, music, videos, e-mail, etc.)," International Business News reported.

"Since mid-2009, competition in the e-book market has been intensifying but, in our view, Kindle remains the most compelling e-book device and a material contributor to Amazon's non-core business growth," Aggarwal noted, predicting that for this year, Kindle can generate revenue in excess of $5.42 billion and $1.21 billion in gross profit, followed by "at least" $7.96 billion in total revenue and $2 billion in gross profit in 2012.

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Amazon continues to announce expansion plans in the wake of online sales tax setbacks in South Carolina and Texas. The Arizona Republic reported that Amazon is expected to add 400,000 square feet to one of its fulfillment centers in the Phoenix area, "a move that will create hundreds of new jobs and expand the online retailer's footprint in Arizona to more than 3 million square feet." The plan calls for construction to begin this month for September completion. The Republic also observed that the state's "reluctance to press Amazon to collect sales tax from its Arizona buyers is seen as one of the reasons for the company's continued expansion in the state.

"We are committed to growth in Arizona because Governor Brewer and other state officials have demonstrated their commitment to Amazon jobs and investment," said Paul Misener, Amazon's v-p of global public policy.

The Seattle Times characterized Misener's response as "a possible rebuke to officials in other states who want to make Amazon collect sales taxes elsewhere."

On Monday, Amazon announced plans to build a 900,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Indianapolis, the company's third in Indiana, 6NEWS reported, adding that the new warehouse is slated to open this summer. In a press release, Amazon said the state had "demonstrated their commitment to Amazon jobs and investment."

In Tennessee, where Amazon may be planning three additional fulfillment centers (Shelf Awareness, May 9, 2011), Governor Bill Haslam told WTVF-TV "he's committed to making good on a promise he inherited from the previous administration. The promise said Amazon doesn't have to collect sales tax from Tennessee customers. When asked whether that same deal would apply to any Amazon expansions, the governor said it's too early to make any guarantees."

"We really need to sit down and talk with Amazon and see what are they talking about. How many jobs, investments, and the overall impact to the state before we do anything about that," Haslam said. But Dick Williams of Tennesseans for Fair Taxation countered: "Amazon is kind of being a bully and saying we'll take our toys and go home if we don't get this special exemption and they've done that in some other states."

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In a letter to customers, the makers of the iFlow Reader App announced the company would reluctantly cease operations May 31 because "Apple has made it completely impossible for anyone but Apple to make a profit selling contemporary e-books on any iOS device. We cannot survive selling books at a loss and so we are forced to go out of business." The company blamed agency model pricing for the decision.

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The Wise Owl Bookstore, West Reading, Pa., will host its grand opening May 15 with "a day of events including author signings, readings, maybe even some giveaways," BCTV.org reported. Owner Kira Apple said she is entering the bookstore business because "I miss the days when going out book-buying was an adventure, an event, where the journey was almost more fun than finding that one, perfect book. The Wise Owl Bookstore is a realization of many years of dreaming and wishing for such a place to exist in our area.

"I want to be a community resource, a location where readers, writers, and dreamers like me can find exactly what they're looking for, or find something they never knew they always wanted! Books can change lives, and I want The Wise Owl to be a little, heartfelt part of that change."

The Wise Owl Bookstore is located at 624 Penn Ave., West Reading, Pa. 19611; 610-376-2654.

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Jacket Copy visited Jack Kerouac's house in Orlando, Fla.: "I know: Florida? Jack Kerouac lived in Florida? In 1957, when On the Road was published, Kerouac came to live with his mother in Florida, in her Orlando bungalow in a quiet neighborhood called College Park. He stayed less than a year, but there, during a short and intense stretch not all that different from the one in which he composed On the Road, he wrote The Dharma Bums."

The house is maintained by the Jack Kerouac Project, "a bootstrap nonprofit that keeps the house up and, just as important, funds three-month writers residencies in the house," Jacket Copy wrote.

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Howard Andrew Jones, author of The Desert of Souls and managing editor at Black Gate magazine, recommended "Rich Tales In Cheap Print: Three Pulp Fiction Finds" for NPR. "After the dawn of the 20th century, popular fiction could be found at the corner newsstand by a nation eager for the tales. Each issue was printed on cheap, pulpy paper that was soon synonymous with the lurid style typical of the contents. The pulps have a well-earned reputation for purple prose, but there was gold among the dross."

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Author Emily St. John Mandel considered "5 Questions Never to Ask at a Bookstore Reading" for Blurb Is a Verb. "Let me first be clear: I love touring," she noted. "I love bookstore events. A great many of my favorite memories transpired in independent bookstores and at festivals from New York to Calgary to California.... It's an absolute pleasure to meet booksellers, and readers, and I like the reading itself. I even like the post-reading Q&A. That's the wildcard part of the evening, where you might be asked interesting questions about your work or your writing process or what great books you've read recently or how you tied your scarf in that nifty way, or, on the other hand, you might be asked whether you and your husband plan on procreating any time soon."

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The Guardian featured a slide show of "key workers: writers at their typewriters" and noted that since Mark Twain "became the first author to submit a typed manuscript with Life on the Mississippi in 1883, authors have been devoted to their machines."

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Book trailer of the day: The Way of the Happy Woman: Living the Best Year of Your Life by Sara Avant Stover (New World Library).

 


DK Publishing: Star Wars Coding Projects by Jon Woodcock


Lonely Planet on BEA: New York's Best Food Cultures

With more than eight million people in New York, you'd expect some great chow and some culinary diversity--and that's exactly what you get. New York manages to bring dishes from all over the world and make them their own. Here Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Experiences offers a rundown of New York's best tastes--and please, don't forget to tip your waiter.


Jewish Delis

"You gotta eat more already!" These NYC institutions do Jewish comfort food so right. Most of the dishes have their roots in Eastern Europe, but today they seem to taste quintessentially New York. If you're eating in, have the matzo-ball soup or the heaving pastrami on rye, usually served with a crunchy pickle. In a hurry? Grab a bagel with cream cheese. Try the newly relocated 2nd Ave. Deli (now on East 33rd St.) for Jewish classics.

Mexican

The taco truck, which has long been at the core of Los Angeles street food, has become a regular visitor to New York construction sites. Tacos are served either norteño (straight-up beef, best lashed with spicy salsa), with sesos (brains) or, for the New Age construction guy, with tofu. If you want to sit down to a meal, head to Brooklyn for some of the city's best taquerías.

Hot Dogs

The classic dog was first brought to New York in the 1800s by German Charles Feltman, who ran the first pushcart along the Coney Island seashore. Today every neighborhood has a vendor on the corner. Get a dog slicked with mustard and ketchup for the perfect, if inelegant snack you can eat with one hand. Try Nathan's Famous--it was opened by an employee from Feltman's original stall.

Soul Food

Soul food was born in the Deep South and brought to New York by African Americans, who created it. Soul food joints can be found in Harlem and the Bronx; the décor is usually low-key, but plates are piled high. Southern fried chicken, country fried steak and cracklin feature on many menus, with sides of collard greeds, mac cheese and corn bread. Head to Sylvia's in Harlem for a soul food taste.

Korean

Just off Herald Square, Little Korea is a small culinary enclave that brightens up 32nd Street with karaoke and all-night barbecue restaurants. New Yorkers love a bit of gogi gui (Korean barbecue) which involves a small grill in the middle of the table, ready to cook up marinated beef, thick-cut pork or vegetables with chilli paste. Try Madangsui on West 35th.

Chinese

More than 15,000 Chinese speakers call NYC home. Many hail from Fujian, so try a classic Fujian dish like "Buddha jumps over the wall," which is a variation on shark fin soup with sea cucumber, abalone and rice. If that's not to your liking, there's plenty of options for bubble tea and kung po chicken in the winding streets south of Canal that are home to New York's Chinatown. Try Great New York Noodle Town on the Bowery.

Italian

You'll find Little Italy just next door to Chinatown. There's creamy cannoli and fresh ravioli in the traditional delis on Mulberry St., or you can plump down at one of the tables with red-checkered tablecloths and slurp down spaghetti bolognaise at Sinatra's old favorite, Mare Chiaro. Finish up with a jitterbugging espresso nearby.

Thin-Crust Pizza

Oh boy, does the pizza debate (thin-crust vs deep-dish) get pizza lovers going. Chicagoans love their deep pizza pies, but in the Big Apple, the thinness of the crust is a source of civic pride. Plus a thinner base means speedier cooking for the city that never sleeps. The preferred snack option is the long, triangular slice (you'll need to develop a certain dexterity to stop it flopping onto your chest like a relaxed bow-tie) topped with basics like mozzarella and pepperoni. Try Two Boots, where you can rent a video at the same time, John's (the small branch in the Village) or the ever-delicious Carmine's.

Cheesecake

The New York cheesecake began in 1921 with Leo Lindemann, whose Lindy's in Midtown first served a cake that blended cream cheese and regular cream with a splash of vanilla on a cookie crust. It became a sensation. Variations use graham crackers for their crust, swirl in flavorings like mandarin or lemon or replace cream cheese with cottage cheese. Today New York cheesecake appears not only on menus across the city, but as a benchmark dessert around the world. Try a slice at Junior's--they're in three locations across the city so you can walk off a slice on your way to the next one.

Spanish Harlem

One of the biggest ethnic communities in New York runs from Fifth Avenue to the East River just above 96th Street: it's known as El Barrio or Spanish Harlem. Since World War II La Maquetta (the market) has been at the center of the Puerto Rican community, though it's dwindled to less than 200 stalls selling everything from tropical fruits to religious icons and perhaps a good serving of cocina criolla (Creole cuisine), which blends Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican influences. Look for vendors serving crab empanadillas (half-circle pastries) or piraguas (cones of ice flavored with tamarind or guava).

 


KidsBuzz for the Week of 09.18.17


Pennie Picks Shanghai Girls

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has chosen Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (Random House, $15, 9780812980530) as her pick of the month for May. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:

"I have been a fan of Lisa See since I read her novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and made it my December 2006 book pick.

"Then I read her 2009 novel, Shanghai Girls, and fell in love anew with See's talent for telling a story so transportive that closing the book feels like waking from a dream.

"Never in my life have I been so eager to find out what happens to a set of characters as I was with sisters Pearl and May and the young Joy. I contacted See, asking for more. It's little surprise that I wasn't the only reader to do so.

"We'll get the rest of the story in June in the sequel, Dreams of Joy. If, like me, you've already read Shanghai Girls, I imagine you too are searching for a way to strike a balance between tearing into it and savoring every last word."

 


Berkley Books: The French Girl by Lexie Elliott


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Eileen Myles on KCRW's Bookworm

This morning on Imus in the Morning: Douglas Brinkley, editor of The Notes: Ronald Reagan's Private Collection of Stories and Wisdom (Harper, $25.99, 9780062065131).

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Today on the View: Susan Lucci, author of All My Life: A Memoir (It Books, $25.99, 9780062061843).

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Tomorrow on the Today Show: Henry Kissinger, author of On China (Penguin Press, $36, 9781594202711).

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Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Eileen Myles, author of Inferno: A Poet's Novel (OR Books, 9781935928034). As the show put it: "Fearless Eileen Myles discusses her fears. It was tough to pioneer her singular class-conscious, lesbian-feminist poetry: she's tough and loving, vulnerable and impervious--a lot of contradictions which make this autobiographical novel (and our discussion of it) inimitable."

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Tomorrow on Ellen: Shania Twain, author of From This Moment On (Atria, $27.99, 9781451620740).

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Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Jonathan Kay, author of Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground (Harper, $27.99, 9780062004819).

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Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Betty White, author of If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won't) (Putnam, $25.95, 9780399157530).

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Tomorrow on the View: Chaz Bono, author of Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man (Dutton, $25.95, 9780525952145). Bono is also on CNN's Piers Morgan Show tomorrow.

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Tomorrow on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Martin Meredith, author of Born in Africa: The Quest for the Origins of Human Life (PublicAffairs, $26.99, 9781586486631).

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Tomorrow on the Colbert Report: John Bradshaw, author of Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet (Basic Books, $25.99, 9780465019441).

 


Soho Teen: No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear


On the Set with Nick Flynn

In a video posted on Norton's website, author Nick Flynn reported from the set in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where the film version of his memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City is shooting. The movie stars Robert De Niro as Flynn's father and Paul Dano as Flynn.

 


Owlkids: Letters to a Prisoner by Jacques Goldstyn


Movies: Trailer for Real Steel; Hunger Games Casting

DreamWorks released a new trailer for Real Steel, based on the short story by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend). Deadline.com reported that the movie, directed by Shawn Levy and starring Hugh Jackman, is set for an October 7 release.

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Stanley Tucci will play TV host Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games, the Gary Ross-directed adaptation of the Suzanne Collins's novel, according to Deadline.com, which also reported that Woody Harrelson has landed the role of Haymitch Abernathy, the mentor of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence).

 



Books & Authors

Awards: James Beard

Winners of the 2011 James Beard Foundation Book Awards include:

Cookbook of the Year: Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy by Diana Kennedy (University of Texas Press)
American Cooking: Pig: King of the Southern Table by James Villas (Wiley)
Baking and Dessert: Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours by Kim Boyce (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)
Beverage: Secrets of the Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink Like the World's Top Wine Professionals by Jordan Mackay and Rajat Parr (Ten Speed)
Cooking from a Professional Point of View: Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by Rene Redzepi (Phaidon)
General Cooking: The Essential New York Times Cook Book: Classic Recipes for a New Century by Amanda Hesser (Norton)
Healthy Focus: The Simple Art of EatingWell Cookbook by Jessie Price & the EatingWell Test Kitchen (Countryman)
International: Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories by Grace Young (S&S)
Photography: Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine; photographs by Ditte Isager (Phaidon)
Reference and Scholarship: Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes by Mark Bitterman (Ten Speed)
Single Subject: Meat: A Kitchen Education by James Peterson (Ten Speed)
Writing and Literature: Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg (Penguin)
Cookbook Hall of Fame: On Food and Cooking: The Science & Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee (Scribner)

James Beard award–winning chefs and restaurants were named Monday night. The complete list of James Beard award winners in all categories can be found here.

 


A Visit from the PowerPoint Squad

I sat down to lunch with Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, exactly one week after she won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and HBO announced it would produce a series based on her book. We shared tapas and conversed about everything from Twitter to picky eaters (both of us) to Catholic guilt (hers) and new jobs (mine), but spent most of our time discussing process....

 

"I don't hate Twitter at all, but I can't seem to get in the habit of it. I'm obviously a disaster of a tweeter," Jennifer Egan lamented.

But Egan just received a Pulitzer for her latest novel, a series of interlocking narratives that features an entire chapter "written" in PowerPoint. Why wouldn't she enjoy the social networking of Twitter? Egan explained, "I'm much more interested in Twitter for fiction. That's really why I joined, because I'm curious about this as a genre, more than as a source of information. Anything that's so volatile and interesting, I just want to be present."

Being present matters a great deal to Egan. "When I was working on Look at Me I felt a little sense of presumption, of overstepping bounds. For example, I write about a guy who's gay in that novel. There was a part of me that thought, wow, I wonder if people will be mad at me. Do I have the right to characterize this experience?"

Egan continued: "But if you're limited to only being able to write about people who are like you, whatever that means, your hands are tied. I feel like writing is, to some degree, about ignoring those voices of critique that tell you you don't have the right to approach certain material." Her instinct to expand the format of fiction into PowerPoint came during the summer of 2008, when the Obama campaign turned around, and some articles on why that happened mentioned a PowerPoint presentation.

Back then, Egan didn't even know that PowerPoint was software, didn't have it on her computer--and tried to concoct the chapter's first draft by hand. "That was a monster," she said. "I was literally drawing rectangles on yellow legal pads and thinking I was 'doing PowerPoint.' Finally, I asked my sister, who is a consultant, to help me, and got entranced by the jargon, by the names of the slides, like 'waterfall chart' and 'bubble chart.' "

Finally, just before the book was finished, Egan purchased the PowerPoint software and went for it. What happened then changed her book. "I'd been trying to write about a character who was sort of corporate, because I guess I thought that kind of person would tell their story in a 'deck.' But that wasn't working, and it didn't start working again until I realized that I hadn't visited my character Sasha in her future life. However, I'd already decided I wouldn't write from anyone's point of view more than once, and I didn't want to break that. Then I realized Sasha's young daughter could write the PowerPoint and it was like, problem solved!"

Unfortunately, by then, it was June, and light revisions on A Visit from the Goon Squad were due in September. "I was taking four to five months to write each chapter," Egan recalled. "I now had two months to do something I'd never done before, and these were also the two months in which I was a judge for the National Book Awards, with 400 books in huge piles around my house and the summer in which my husband's father suddenly died. On top of all that, I didn't know if my editor would welcome this kind of unexpected chapter, But I was driven to do it. The idea of pulling off something new and exciting is so irresistible that it blocks out all of the rest of it. It's like a thrill-seeking thing, almost.

"Once I finally had the hang of it, I finally understand why I had wanted to work in PowerPoint so much--it is a sort of microcosm of the way Goon Squad works as a whole, which is these vivid moments with big gaps in between, each one different from all the others. The book is so much about pauses, and somehow writing this chapter let me figure out those pauses."

Egan tells me that she thinks that's because the narrator of the chapter, Sasha's daughter, Alison, is the character closest to her creator. "I don't know if it's that I feel my job is to make people uncomfortable, as Alison says, but I do feel like my job is to listen to what people say and watch them. That's what I like to do. That's what I've always liked to do, and I felt different ways at different times about that side of myself. As a teenager I felt like such a loser because I was always watching and listening, never acting, never in the drama. I was always on the sidelines--but now I realize that's exactly where I want to be."

Egan continued: "It's the most openly sentimental chapter in the book, which I was able to do only because the coldness of the form let me go there. If it were written as conventional fiction, it would be the schmaltziest bore anyone has ever looked at. It only works because of the cold container. So it ends up being this very emotionally honest chapter, but structurally, it feels like the heart of the book to me, and I think the book almost didn't have a heart."

So Jennifer Egan can find emotional honesty in a graphics-driven software program--but she still doesn't "get" Twitter or Facebook? She laughed. "I don't really like writing as myself."

Egan explained that she wrote the first chapter of Goon Squad thinking, "It was just a story. I loved the idea of writing about someone taking someone's wallet because I've had my wallet taken so many times, and it's typical of me to leap into the other half of the experience and want to 'see' that. There was actually a specific moment where I was in a hotel bathroom and I looked down and saw a wallet. I suddenly thought: Someone takes the wallet.... Who does it, and why? And that seemed so exciting. I live for that."

Live for what, precisely? "For that moment when I'm not me anymore. I think I crave that in the same way other people might crave community. I want to forget that I'm me. That's what I love about being a journalist. I completely forget that I have a life. I forget that I have a house or children. I just sit there and listen to what is coming at me." --Bethanne Patrick

 

 


Book Brahmin: Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks is the author of People of the Book, March (winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction) and Year of Wonders, plus the nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Her new novel, Caleb's Crossing (Viking, May 3, 2011; view the trailer here), is based on a young man from Martha's Vineyard who, in 1665, became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Born and raised in Australia, Brooks lives on Martha's Vineyard with her husband, the author Tony Horwitz, and their two sons.

On your nightstand now:

The Thousand Autumns of Jakob de Zoet by David Mitchell. I am enjoying this--Mitchell has discovered exactly the kind of historical backwater I love--a rich and alien setting, a distant time and place. Yet his characters are familiar to us, their hearts are recognizable. I love his use of what he terms "bygonese" to give a sense of authenticity to antique language.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Scruffy by Paul Gallico. My father was a proofreader, and he was proofing this book as a serial in a women's magazine. He would bring the proofs home and read them to me at bedtime. It's a wonderful novel, set during the dark days of World War Two, when a British solider is charged with keeping alive the last of the apes on Gibraltar, because their fate is linked in myth with that of Britain. 

Your top five authors:

Tim Winton, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Rose Tremaine, Mary Renault. It is hard to stop at five... I could go on... and on....

Book you've faked reading:

The Tree of Man by Patrick White. I was supposed to read it for my final year at high school but I couldn't bear it. At the time I thought White was a pretentious old git. I suppose it's time I tried him again.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Bread of Angels by Stephanie Saldana. I usually make fun of blurbs that call books luminous, but this one really is. It is a mix of gorgeous writing, deep insight and page turning story, by a young American in Syria on a Fulbright just as America goes to war in Iraq and her Damascus neighborhood is flooded with refugees.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester. I think it was the Australian edition--wonderful cut-out dust jacket revealing a delicious-looking peach....

Book that changed your life:

A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. It opened my eyes to the natural world, which continues to prove an abundant source of inspiration and reflection to me.

Favorite line from a book:

"By now she knew that this life, despite all its pain, could be lived, that one must travel through it slowly; passing from the sunset to the penetrating odor of the stalks; from the infinite calm of the plain to the singing of a bird lost in the sky; yes, going from the sky to that deep reflection of it that she felt within her own breast, as an alert and living presence." --Andre Makine, Dreams of My Russian Summers; the "she" is a French women, trapped in Siberia by the Russian Revolution. She believes her husband has been killed in the war, and is out picking dill stalks on the steppe. This moment is just before her husband returns to her.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I wanted to read it again as soon as I finished it.

 

Book Brahmin: Geraldine Brooks

 

Geraldine Brooks is the author of People of the Book, March (winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction) and Year of Wonders, plus the nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Her new novel, Caleb's Crossing (Viking, May 3, 2011; view the trailer here), is based on a young man from Martha's Vineyard who, in 1665, became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Born and raised in Australia, she lives on Martha's Vineyard with her husband, the author Tony Horwitz, and their two sons.

 

On your nightstand now:

The Thousand Autumns of Jakob de Zoet by David Mitchell. I am enjoying this--Mitchell has discovered exactly the kind of historical backwater I love--a rich and alien setting, a distant time and place. Yet his characters are familiar to us, their hearts are recognizable. I love his use of what he terms "bygonese" to give a sense of authenticity to antique language.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Scruffy by Paul Gallico. My father was a proofreader, and he was proofing this book as a serial in a women's magazine. He would bring the proofs home and read them to me at bedtime. It's a wonderful novel, set during the dark days of World War Two, when a British solider is charged with keeping alive the last of the apes on Gibralter, because their fate is linked in myth with that of Britain. 

Your top five authors:

Tim Winton, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Rose Tremaine, Mary Renault. It is hard to stop at five... I could go on... and on....

Book you've faked reading:

The Tree of Man by Patrick White. I was supposed to read it for my final year at high school but I couldn't bear it. At the time I thought White was a pretentious old git. I suppose it's time I tried him again.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Bread of Angels by Stephanie Saldana. I usually make fun of blurbs that call books luminous, but this one really is. It is a mix of gorgeous writing, deep insight and page turning story, by a young American in Syria on a Fulbright just as America goes to war in Iraq and her Damascus neighborhood is flooded with refugees.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester. I think it was the Australian edition--wonderful cut-out dust jacket revealing a delicious-looking peach....

Book that changed your life:

A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. It opened my eyes to the natural world, which continues to prove an abundant source of inspiration and reflection to me.

Favorite line from a book:

"By now she knew that this life, despite all its pain, could be lived, that one must travel through it slowly; passing from the sunset to the penetrating odor of the stalks; from the infinite calm of the plain to the singing of a bird lost in the sky; yes, going from the sky to that deep reflection of it that she felt within her own breast, as an alert and living presence." --Andre Makine, Dreams of My Russian Summers; the "she" is a French women, trapped in Siberia by the Russian Revolution. She believes her husband has been killed in the war, and is out picking dill stalks on the steppe. This moment is just before her husband returns to her.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I wanted to read it again as soon as I finished it.

 


Book Review

Children's Review: Blood Red Road

Blood Red Road: Dustlands, Book One by Moira Young (Margaret K. McElderry/S&S, $17.99 hardcover, 464p., ages 14-up, 9781442429987, June 7, 2011)

Moira Young's debut novel, the first of the Dustlands series, unfolds in prose as spare as the wind- and sand-dominated landscape. Saba and Lugh, 18, are twins, born on the dried-up remains of Silverlake on Midwinter Day, "when the sun hangs low in the sky." Their mother died giving birth to their now nine-year-old sister, Emmi. Their father reads their fates in the stars, but he has no connection to the earth since the death of his wife. It seems to Lugh that there's nothing written in the stars, and Pa might do better to notice that there's too little to eat and no water supply except for the dew they collect. Only when four men in long black robes and leather vests show up on horseback (calling to mind the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) does Pa seem to come alive. He tells Saba, "They're gonna need you, Saba. Lugh an Emmi. An there'll be others too. Many others. Don't give in to fear. Be strong, like I know you are. An never give up."

The four horsemen kidnap Lugh and kill Pa--less than 30 pages into the book, and Saba is left alone to protect Emmi and rescue her twin brother. Pa once told them how to find Mercy, their mother's friend whom she'd known in Hopetown, the main city. Saba plans to leave Emmi with Mercy in Crosscreek while she searches for Lugh. They find Mercy in a dell with trees and two streams that meet up in a creek. Saba has never seen a place like this, with plenty of water and plants that grow, and begins to resent her father for keeping them in a dry desert land. Mercy explains to Saba that she parted ways with their father: " 'He looked to the sky for answers, I looked here.' She tap[ped] her hand over her heart." Before Saba goes on her way, Mercy gives her a heartstone, which Saba's mother had given her: "It lets you know when you've found your heart's desire." The stars versus the heart. The heroine must figure out for herself what she believes rules her path.

Saba starts out as an unsympathetic narrator. But as her world becomes wider, so does her perspective. Her ferocious will to survive serves her, and the information she gathers from those she meets along the way helps her see herself differently. The world Moira Young builds is breathtaking, with expanses of beauty, like Crosscreek, and a mountain pass draped in fog. But Saba also discovers shifting sands and winds so powerful that they can cover an entire "flyer" (airplane) fleet and make skeletons of skyscrapers. Giant carnivorous worms dwell deep beneath a dry riverbed. Few people know how to read. An addictive drug called chaal grown high in the mountains rules everything, and the Tonton--men in black robes, like those who stole Lugh--gather slaves to tend the chaal and serve a "king" who dresses like "Lewis Ex Eye Vee, the Sun King of France." For entertainment, the King holds gladiator-style fights in a "colosseum." After three defeats, the loser "runs the gauntlet," and the waiting crowd kills him or her in an end worthy of Tennessee Williams's Suddenly, Last Summer. There's an overriding sense of terror, akin to the world of Mad Max, ruled by tyranny rather than anarchy. But Saba also discovers romance, friendship and trust. Young uses coincidence to perfection, augmenting the importance of the question raised by Saba's father: Does fate truly rule our paths? This first book in the Dustlands series does not answer that question in full, but it does bring this first adventure to satisfying completion, and the cinematic images will linger in readers' minds until Saba's next adventure.--Jennifer M. Brown

 


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Titles in Florida Last Week

The following were the bestselling books at independent bookstores in Florida during the week ended Sunday, May 8:

1. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
2. Summer and the City by Candace Bushnell
3. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
4. A Visit from Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
5. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
6. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
7. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
8. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
9. The Butterfly's Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe
10. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

Reporting bookstores and their handselling favorites:

Books & Books, Coral Gables, Miami Beach, Bal Harbour: The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch
Book Mark, Neptune Beach: The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips
Inkwood Books, Tampa: Divergent by Veronica Roth
Vero Beach Book Center: Seeds by Richard Horan

[Many thanks to the booksellers and Carl Lennertz!]

 


Feiwel & Friends: The Principal's Underwear Is Missing by Holly Kowitt
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