Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thomas Nelson: Love of Story

From My Shelf

Gift Books, Well-Lit

Laura Ingalls Wilder is finally getting her due as "a distinctive and vital voice in the canon of American Literature"--the Library of America has published her Little House series in a two-volume slipcased edition ($75), without illustrations and young-reader typography, and with historical notes. It's a fine choice for the adult Wilder fan. For Neil Gaiman fans, check out the gift edition of his classic novel Stardust, first published in 1999 (Morrow, $30). It comes with a dark blue, gold-stamped cover, frontispiece and chapter heading art, and smaller trim size.

Macdonald Harris (1921-1993) wrote 16 novels, and The Balloonist (1978) is probably his most famous. I discovered it years ago it in a used bookstore and was intrigued by the premise: in 1897 three men set out for the North Pole in a hot air balloon, carrying passenger pigeons and canned goods. Re-reading it in the reissue from Overlook Press ($14.95 paper) I was happy to find that it is just as elegant, quirky, witty and surreal as I remembered. Another favorite author who should be much better known is W.D. Wetherell, who wrote the brilliant A Century of November. Arcade has published his latest novel, The Writing on the Wall ($24.95), a story of three women whose connected lives span a century. When one of them begins to strip the wallpaper in an old house, she uncovers a memoir written on the walls; the women's stories, and others, unfold with tragedy, wisdom and grace.

A satisfying anthology for mystery lovers is Books to Die For, edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke (Atria, $29.99). More than 500 pages of the world's greatest mystery novels championed by the world's leading mystery writers, from classics to little-known gems. It's a great way to revisit old favorites and discover new delights. --Marilyn Dahl, book review editor, Shelf Awareness

Emblem Editions: Clara by Kurt Palka

Ecco: Riddle of the Labyrinth by Margalit Fox

Tarcher: Carried In Our Hearts by Jane Aronson

Book Candy

Authors in Movies; Books to Cookbooks; Literary Late Bloomers

Authors and their walk-on roles. Word & Film offered its choices for the "best literary cameos ever committed to film" and Flavorwire highlighted the "10 greatest historical literary cameos on time-traveling TV shows."

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Dinah Bucholz, author most recently of The Unofficial Narnia Cookbook: From Turkish Delight to Gooseberry Fool-Over 150 Recipes Inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia, "isn't the only author who adapted beloved books into cookbooks, Philly.com noted, as it featured a number of "other book-to-cookbook adaptations."

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Pop quiz: "some books are known by a variety of titles," Mental Floss asked readers to "match the well-known book title to its alternate title."

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A pair of modular bookcase options were featured by Design Milk. The Limit Bookshelf Divider by Alp Nuhoglu includes 36 boxes you can stack and place "to create any number of combinations to make the perfect shelf or room divider." Monocomplex's Lean Bookshelf "is a chevron-shaped modular bookshelf unit designed to keep books upright."

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You're never too old to publish. Flavorwire found "10 great literary late bloomers."

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Want to start an argument? Share Flavorwire's list of "New York's 100 most important living writers."

Consortium: Bookslinger

Great Reads

Further Reading: There and Back Again

The best way to prepare for Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, of course, would be to read the J.R.R. Tolkien novel, whether you're coming to the story for the first or the 50th time. You can read the Mariner Books edition (with or without a movie tie-in cover), or listen to Audible.com's unabridged audiobook version, narrated by Rob Inglis. Or, if you took high school Latin and are up for a bit of mental workout, Mark Walker has translated the entire novel as Hobbitus Ille (HarperCollins).

When you're ready to learn specifically about the film, you'll have several options. The New Zealand-based Weta Workshop offers a behind-the-scenes look at how Peter Jackson and his team created the world of the Shire in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles: Art & Design (Harper Design). Jude Fisher's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Visual Companion (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) describes that world from an internal perspective, accompanied by images of the characters and the sets from the film shoot, while Brian Sibley's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Official Movie Companion (Mariner Books) has more of a production diary feel to it, or maybe an official press kit.

Gregory Brassham and Eric Bronson add to Wiley's series of essay collections applying philosophical perspectives to pop culture with The Hobbit and Philosophy:  For When You've Lost Your Dwarves, Your Wizards, and Your Way; if you've ever wondered what the Taoist take on Tolkien would be, or what hobbits can tell us about hermeneutics, you'll want to have a look. Christian publishers are also finding a variety of ways to address Tolkien's novel, such as Louis Marko's On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis (Moody) or Matthew Dickerson's A Hobbit Journey: Discovering the Enchantment of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth (Brazos).

The Shire Collective's The Unofficial Hobbit Handbook (Writer's Digest), subtitled "Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned from Tolkien," teases out all sorts of tidbits from Tolkien's stories--like drawing upon the books' roots in 20th-century England to deduce that "hobbit vegetables are cooked only one way: boiled to extinction." In a similar vein, J.E.A. Tyler's encyclopedic The Complete Tolkien Companion (St. Martin's Press), first published in 1976, has been updated and re-released; you can use it to look up unfamiliar names or follow along with Bilbo's journey using the maps. --Ron Hogan

Loyola Press: The Church of Mercy by Pope Francis

The Writer's Life

A Passion for The Hobbit

Corey Olsen got his first copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit when he was eight years old, as a gift from a family friend. Over the next four years, he says, he read that book--along with the Lord of the Rings trilogy--countless times, and he's reread them at least once every year since. He credits the early exposure with indirectly inspiring him to pursue a Ph.D. in medieval literature. "Tolkien does such a remarkable job of explaining the ethos of medieval literature," Olsen explains. "I didn't go seeking out the medieval stuff, but once I found it, I loved it."

A few years ago, he convinced the English department at Maryland's Washington College that a course on Tolkien wouldn't just be popular with undergraduates, but could serve as a "gateway" class to get them interested in other medieval subjects. He was also writing about Tolkien for scholarly journals, but came to realize that their limited circulation meant he wasn't reaching much of his potential audience. "As much as I really enjoy the interplay with other scholars," he says, "I know there are plenty of other people outside of academia who would enjoy getting involved in the conversation." So, in the summer of 2009, he launched The Tolkien Professor, a website where he shares podcasts of his lectures--a project that has led to Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), a chapter-by-chapter guide to the novel and its themes.

The focus on The Hobbit rather than the entire Lord of the Rings saga is deliberate. "I think The Hobbit is too often seen as just a prequel," Olsen says. "A lot of people, even Tolkien fans, don't really respect it enough. It's not just a simple children's story." He pays particular attention to the fact that the original version of the novel was significantly different from later editions, which were revised to bring the story into closer alignment with the broader Middle Earth saga.

Specifically, he addresses the fifth chapter of The Hobbit: "Riddles in the Dark," and Bilbo's acquisition of the Ring from Gollum. In the original edition, the ring in question was a simple invisibility ring, and Gollum freely gave it to Bilbo as his prize for winning the riddle game. When Tolkien revised the novel to make it conform to his new Lord of the Rings storyline, minor tweaks would suffice for most sections, but this chapter obviously needed a more substantial alteration, which Olsen tracks in precise detail, along with the elements Tolkien put in The Fellowship of the Ring to explain the existence of a previous version of the story.

While he's doing that, though, he can also tell you what the riddles that Bilbo and Gollum pose to each other reveal about their characters--part of a larger consideration of the novel's many poems and songs, which readers sometimes skim over impatiently. "That's something that has been a stalking horse of mine for a while," Olsen admits. "It's shockingly common to skip the songs, but if you pay attention, you'll learn things about the themes of the story you won't get any other way. When you look at how they work in the story, it's quite remarkable."

Olsen has found no shortage of subject matter to discuss in his podcasts. For example, he's done nearly 30 two-hour episodes on The Silmarillion, a collection of other stories from Tolkien's universe; in that time, he says, "I feel like we scratched the surface, but not very deeply." The podcast, and the classes from which it emerged, serve as a solid rebuke to what Olsen describes as academia's "totally irrational resistance" to the fantasy genre. "There's this idea that literature is not serious unless it's what scholars call 'realistic,' which has never been a presumption of literature before," he says. "The idea that the fantastical story is somehow illegitimate as an art form is kind of crazed. One of the reasons to tell a story is that you're telling a remarkable story. If it's something you can walk out into the street and see, why are we talking about it?"

To redress the balance, Olsen recently launched the Mythgard Institute, an online educational program where he offers his Hobbit course to people who aren't enrolled at Washington College, as well as other courses on fantasy and science fiction literature. Participants can audit the classes for their personal edification, or work toward a master's degree.

And, as you might imagine, Olsen is eagerly anticipating the December 14 release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first installment of Peter Jackson's adaptation of the novel. His enthusiasm grows as he discusses the artistry with which the film's production team has managed to make the dwarves individually distinct and recognizable, and he's even more excited about all the ancillary material Jackson will be bringing into the story, including characters that aren't otherwise seen in The Hobbit. In the meantime, the podcasts continue--and one day, he allows, they might lead to a follow-up book taking on The Lord of the Rings. For now, if you've never read The Hobbit, or haven't read it in a long time, Exploring... is the perfect companion to help you appreciate its singular role in 20th-century literature. --Ron Hogan, founder of Beatrice.com

HarperOne: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Inklings

Creating Luck

William Ecenbarger is a journalist, travel writer and the author of Glory by the Wayside, a photo-essay book; Walkin' the Line, a travel-history narrative about the Mason-Dixon Line; and Kids for Cash, an account of a judicial scandal in Pennsylvania, released by the New Press in 2012.

I am continuously aware of the role of luck in my professional life. I was lucky at the age of 12 when I decided I wanted to be a journalist. I had the good fortune to grow up on Long Island, not far from New York, at a time when there were seven city daily newspapers plus two Long Island dailies. My father was a commuter and reader, and there was a continuous flow of newspapers into my home. I was lucky as a new college graduate when a newspaper editor turned me down for a job but suggested I stop in at the nearby UPI bureau because he thought they needed someone. I got the job, and it was the best training ground in the world. After 10 years with UPI, I decided I needed a change and just then the Philadelphia Inquirer was purchased by the Knight chain, which turned the paper into one of the best in the nation. I left the Inquirer to freelance in 1990, but three years ago I got a late evening call from one of the editors. An Inquirer staffer had become ill, and they needed someone to cover a hearing tomorrow morning. Could I do it? I did, and this story would occupy me for the next two and a half years. The result was my book Kids for Cash, an account of an infamous Pennsylvania case in which two judges took $2.8 million in bribes for sending children to a private juvenile detention facility.

I'm not suggesting that my life has been a stroll through a meadow of four-leaf clovers. And I will take credit for a durable work ethic; but I believe the harder you work, the more luck you'll have.

Putnam: Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon

Book Review

Fiction

She Loves Me Not: New and Selected Stories

by Ron Hansen

The diversity of subject matter in the 20 stories in Ron Hansen's She Loves Me Not is remarkable. He writes in different voices, faithfully rendering the broken English of a priest who is a native Polish speaker in "My Communist" and the offhand conversational tone of a scullery maid in the English countryside of horse and carriage days in "The Governess."

He can also recount the most mundane conversations perfectly. In "Can I Just Sit Here for a While?" Hansen introduces Rick Bozack, a crackerjack salesman who loves his work, enjoys the motel rooms with their "bolted-down color TV topped with cellophane-wrapped peppermints... the coffee thermos... the sweat on his ice-water glass.... What were they feeding everybody about the hard life on the road? You'd have to be zonkers not to love it."

When Rick and two friends go to a basketball game together, clichés fly as the three men talk about "testing the waters," "put it on the back burner," "get a better lay of the land." The conversation is absolutely authentic, skimming the surface of what all three are really thinking about.

Ranging over subjects as different as Oscar Wilde in Omaha and a poignant vignette about dementia, or two damaged people possibly finding love and the important lesson in a sparrow's flight and murder, Hansen shapes the short story genre to his own ends again and again. His literary expertise, his craftsmanship and his profound insight into what people are capable of are refined to perfection in each of these stories. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: 20 stories on 20 subjects--each one thought-provoking and surprising--from an author with many richly deserved awards.

Scribner, $25, hardcover, 9781451617580

Ecco: Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda

The Other Side of the World

by Jay Neugeboren

Even after 18 books--including the memoir Open Heart--and several awards, Jay Neugeboren remains relatively unknown. Hopefully, The Other Side of the World, a novel about two young men with difficult fathers and a girlfriend in common, will bring him to a wider audience. Narrator Charlie Eisner is confused and frustrated when his friend Nick Falzetti marries Trish and then leaves her to make his fortune in Singapore. Nick--Tom Sawyer to Charlie's Huck Finn--convinces Charlie to join him, and sets him up in a job brokering palm oil from plantations carved from the clear-cut rain forests of Borneo. Charlie's life is good until he travels to Borneo for himself and sees the destruction Nick's company brings to the world's densest collection of endangered flora and fauna. When Nick dies from a precipitous fall from his balcony after a night of drunken revelry, Charlie goes home to express condolences to Nick's parents and to Trish.

Neugeboren's tale is just getting started, however. Charlie's father, Max, a retired literature professor, has long dominated his son with his sarcasm, jokes, literary allusions and countless women--among them Seana O'Sullivan, a former student who now writes edgy, sexy novels. When she impulsively insists on traveling with Charlie to see Nick's family in Maine, she stimulates him into a self-awakening trip. Neugeboren turns this stereotypical story of an unmoored young man into a successful novel of literary asides, broken families, exotic travel and Auden's "vague, quasi-mystical experience called 'falling in love.' " --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: The funny, unsettling odyssey of a young man's escape from his difficult father and a broken friendship to an optimistic self-awareness.

Two Dollar Radio, $16.50, paperback, 9781937512026

Sweet Tooth

by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan has not written a novel with a female protagonist since Atonement. In Sweet Tooth, he shows once again that he can inhabit the female voice completely.
Serena Frome ("rhymes with plume") wanted to major in English literature, but her mother convinced her to major in math. She acquiesced, got a barely respectable third at Cambridge and continued to read everything. She has a job with the British intelligence service MI5 by virtue of an affair with a married professor, Tony Canning, who recommended her for the position and eventually dumped her--literally and unceremoniously--at a layby. She doesn't learn the reason for that until years later; indeed, there are several things about Tony that Serena doesn't know.

Her duties at MI5 are mundane--file this, type that--until she is called in to see the higher-ups one day. Because she is a "literary type," she is recruited for "Sweet Tooth," a special project that aims to co-opt writers with somewhat leftish tendencies and steer them away from anti-Western bias. Serena will pose as the representative of a cultural foundation with money to give out and will "run" novelist and journalist Thomas Haley in the hope that he will write the sorts of articles MI5 is looking for.

Serena starts by reading Haley's short stories (curiously reminiscent of many of McEwan's), then meets and falls in love with the man. How can she continue to deceive him while really loving him? The resolution is vintage McEwan. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: Ian McEwan's reflections on Ian McEwan, 1970s England and intelligence capers all come together to make one really good spy novel.

Nan A. Talese, $26.95, hardcover, 9780385536820

Mystery & Thriller

The Right Hand

by Derek Haas

When the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, it can deny all accountability. As the title of Derek Haass's The Right Hand suggests, CIA agent Austin Clay does things the U.S. government doesn't want to acknowledge. His latest mission is to recover a field operative captured by the Russians, but he bucks orders and attempts to rescue an innocent young Hungarian nanny as well. Unbeknownst to him, though, the Russians aren't the only ones set to battle Clay--to the death--in order to stop him.

Haas's screenwriting background (Wanted and 3:10 to Yuma) is evident in a panoply of visually-oriented action sequences that keep The Right Hand's pace swift and its intensity high. Occasional improbably convenient circumstances, like a fully functioning motorcycle at an uninhabited dacha, are easy to overlook when the plot quickly propels the reader on to the next scene with well-placed twists and engaging characters.

Austin Clay is a refreshing addition to the world of literary spies--a compassionate, complex character who makes mistakes and yet still succeeds in his field. Michael Adams, the newly appointed chief of EurOps, provides a strong counterpoint to Clay's action-driven character. Adams is a strategist; he excels with data and codes and planning. The dynamic between these two characters creates a rich diversity in Haas's world of espionage.

With any luck, The Right Hand is just the beginning of Austin Clay's exploits. Thriller fans will eagerly await his return. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A spy thriller that creates high definition on the page with explosive action, sharp prose and multidimensional characters.

Mulholland, $25.99, hardcover, 9780316198462

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Silhouette: A Peacer Novel

by Dave Swavely

In a not-so-distant future, the Great Quake has devastated the infrastructure of the Bay Area so severely that oligarchies of private security forces called "peacers" (i.e., peace officers) now rule much of the world, and San Francisco is in effect an independent city-state. For BASS officer Michael Ares, the line between good and evil, order and chaos, is about to be tested as he uncovers the motives behind the brutal murders of his four-year-old daughter and best friend in Dave Swavely's fiction debut, Silhouette.

Swavely, a Presbyterian pastor and author of four previous works of self-help rooted in Christian faith, spins a fast-moving, believable tale of flying aerocars, all-seeing falcon drones, mind-control microchips and ethical relativity as he navigates Ares through the investigation to discover the shadowy figure behind the crimes. In his quest, Ares begins to question his unconditional devotion to his long-time mentor Saul Rabin--as well as his brotherly rapport with Rabin's heir apparent, Saul's son Paul--and confronts his emotional failings as a father and husband.

Although the ending becomes increasingly predictable, Silhouette's saving grace lies not in the unfolding mystery but in the very real scenarios that Swavely paints. Echoes of Blade Runner and A Scanner Darkly run throughout a society ruled by corporate interests, sharpening the divide between the have and the have-nots. Ares's soul-searching journey echoes Swavely's own philosophical ministrations, where "risk and destiny are synonyms" and "the greatest men are the ones who make the most difficult choices." --Nancy Powell

Discover: A thought-provoking debut novel with a futuristic scenario that may be well on its way.

Thomas Dunne, $24.99, hardcover, 9781250001498

Romance

Badlands Bride

by Adrianne Wood

In Badlands Bride, Adrianne Wood (Mind Tricks) takes readers off the beaten path and on an entertaining romantic adventure.

Mason Donnelly is the best journalist on the frontier, but he hasn't landed a scoop in months and hopes his investigation of a Badlands fossil dig will help. His reporter's instinct tells Mason there's more to the dig than dinosaurs, but no one is talking, not even gorgeous and demanding heiress Lily Highfill.

Lily's spent several years exiled to Denver by her mother, who finds Lily's spirit embarrassing. With a return to Boston looming, Lily joins her grandfather and almost-fiancé on a fossil dig as a sketch artist. Rakish Mason initially piques her temper, but soon he's indulging her in a put-on flirtation to rouse her aloof beau's jealousy. As their flirtation turns serious, the paleontologists strike sapphires, and Lily knows she must convince Mason to leave before he learns of the find. A newspaper article about a cache of gemstones would ruin the dino dig altogether. But how can she turn him away when he's captured her heart?

The out-of-the-ordinary setting adds an extra dimension to Wood's traditional strife-turns-to-passion plot. Although the lovers' initial meeting is explosively snarky, Wood builds their relationship in a wholly believable fashion, and her decision to pair Lily with the penniless but gallant journalist rather than attempting to find redemption for the rich but unworthy suitor is endearing. Western romance fans should give this change of pace a try. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Latah County Library District and blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: A romance author makes her print debut with an adventure set in the Colorado Badlands, as an heiress and a frontier reporter struggle to repress their mutual passion.

Pocket, $7.99, mass market paperbound, 9781451698244

Biography & Memoir

Listening for Madeleine: A Portrait of Madeleine L'Engle in Many Voices

by Leonard S. Marcus

In Listening for Madeleine, Leonard Marcus shapes the reflections of a wide range of Madeleine L'Engle's relatives, friends and colleagues into an unconventional biography--more of an oral history--of the award-winning novelist through the perspectives of those who knew and were influenced by her.

Marcus organizes the 50 interviews presented in the book according to the context in which the party knew L'Engle: writer, mentor, friend, family member or fan. While certain of her characteristics seem to have been evident to nearly everyone--her work ethic, her keen intellect and curiosity, her faith and spirituality--other facets of her personality were revealed, or experienced, less uniformly. For example, while many considered her giving, generous and warm, others perceived these qualities as part of a persona she cultivated rather than as natural attributes. Some of those closest to her have challenged that presentation, noting that L'Engle was a storyteller and writer of fiction, which extended to aspects of her own story.

If that's the case, then L'Engle's four memoirs, collectively known as the Crosswicks Journals, may not be genuinely autobiographical--or, at any rate, they may not be completely, factually accurate. That said, Listening for Madeleine isn't genuine, traditional biography, either. Rather, Marcus has assembled a fascinating, impressionistic portrait of a complex woman, a portrait that might best be considered as a companion to the Crosswicks Journals, giving readers the opportunity to see Madeleine L'Engle from a variety of angles. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

Discover: Madeleine L'Engle's family and friends remember the author in a collection of conversations with acclaimed children's literature historian Leonard S. Marcus.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28, hardcover, 9780374298975

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

by Jon Meacham

Thomas Jefferson was full of contradictions: philosopher and politician, thinker and farmer, writer of the Declaration of Independence and slave owner. Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion, clearly understands what a complicated man Jefferson was. In Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, Meacham tries neither to lionize nor to denigrate his subject but to present him as a man who sought ultimate good yet was willing to compromise in order to succeed. Fearing a monarchical revival, Jefferson spent decades fighting against a strong central government, which led to the creation of a two-party American political system that endures to this day.

As Meacham points out, although Jefferson hated confrontation, he almost always managed to get his way through his skillful application of intellect and intrigue. From his privileged childhood through his college days in Williamsburg; his governorship of Virginia; his terms as ambassador, secretary of state, vice president and president, Jefferson was always planning and scheming and one step ahead of most of the people around him.

Meacham's deft portrayal of Jefferson's character and personal life lends a humanity to Jefferson that is clear, even 200 years later. Meacham creates a vision of a man who was unmistakably a genius, gifted in the art of power, whose impact upon American history cannot be understated. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Thomas Jefferson was a complicated man whose grasp of human nature and politics was second to none.

Random House, $35, hardcover, 9781400067664

Religion

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

by Anne Lamott

In Traveling Mercies, her first memoir about faith, Anne Lamott asserted, "Here are the two best prayers I know: 'Help me, help me, help me,' and 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.' " In Help, Thanks, Wow, she has distilled those prayers to one word each--and added a third. In three brief chapters and a coda on "amen," she explores the wisdom and power of these four simple words.

Lamott's trademark wry humor shines through as she explains (with frequent reassurance for the religion-shy) why these prayers can help anyone. She admits to frustration that the world seldom works the way she wants it to. But instead of taking God to task (which she'd rather do), she prays "Help," acknowledges the limits of her own power, and finds (often surprisingly) that she can say "Thanks."

Gratitude is a popular and sometimes nebulous concept, but Lamott pulls no punches in her "Thanks" chapter: life is difficult, and gratitude does not necessarily erase the challenges. What it can do, she explains, is open people up to blessings they might not otherwise notice and make them more open to serving others. And while "Wow" can either express utter joy or raw grief, it serves a vital purpose in both forms--"making sure we are not dulled to wonder."

Longtime fans and new readers will appreciate Lamott's honesty and plain language (she avoids God-jargon whenever possible). Reactions may vary, but "thanks" and "wow" will certainly be among them. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A wry and wise take on three simple, honest prayers, laced with Anne Lamott's signature humor.

Riverhead, $17.95, hardcover, 9781594631290

Children's & Young Adult

This Moose Belongs to Me

by Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers's (Lost and Found) humorous and touching tale stars a child, Wilfred, who claims ownership of a moose that's its own master. Yet the boy finds a way to make the friendship work.

Blond-haired Wilfred, sporting bow tie and suspenders, makes a kind of "ta-da" gesture toward a four-legged spindly-legged moose with large antlers: "Wilfred owned a moose." Standing on a chair, the boy attaches a tag labeled "Marcel" on the furry fellow's right antler. Wilfred explains "the rules of how to be a good pet," but Marcel rarely follows them. Since the moose likes to go his own way and the boy has a poor sense of direction, he takes a ball of blue string to find his way back, which trails off the sides of the pages.

Jeffers creates thought balloons to depict the boy's fantasy of a tuxedo-clad moose serving drinks from a tray, and the two riding together over Niagara Falls in a barrel. The author-artist superimposes images of his boy and moose heroes atop stunning landscapes of the Grand Tetons, Mt. Hood and Wyoming's Jackson Lake. On one particularly long walk, Wilfred makes "a terrible discovery.... Someone else thought she owned the moose." When a dejected Wilfred rushes home to sulk and gets tangled in his blue string, who comes along to save him? Marcel.

Children will delight in detecting more than Wilfred does about the ways of animals in the wild, and will enjoy the book's gentle lesson that true friendship involves give and take. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A delightfully quirky tale of friendship between a proper boy and a wild moose that stresses the importance of give-and-take.

Philomel, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 3-up, 9780399161032

Ashen Winter

by Mike Mullin

Ashen Winter picks up several months after the conclusion of Ashfall, the first book in this dystopian trilogy.

Alex and Darla have been living with Alex's relatives, working hard to help each other survive in a harsh new world. When Alex discovers a clue that could lead him to his parents, he and Darla take off to search for them and try to bring them back to the farm in Iowa.

The landscape isn't all that's bleak in the aftermath of Yellowstone's supervolcano. The government has failed to help, and roving bands of cannibals seek out fresh meat to sell on the black market. Surviving communities go on lockdown, making the difficult journey even more challenging. As Alex and Darla face one obstacle after another, the detailed explanation of each encounter sometimes slows down the action. But the realism of the storyline makes it impossible to set the book aside.

Mullin doesn't shy away from the brutality of the situations he's created. Yet in the midst of some tense moments, a new character, Ben, manages to lighten the mood with his focused perspective on all things mechanical. Circumstances have forced these teens to become adults. Their belief that things will get better gives them a reason to survive; their compelling stories will keep people turning the pages. --Sherrie Petersen, children's book reviewer and blogger

Discover: A realistic story of survival in the chaotic aftermath of an endless volcanic winter.

Tanglewood, $17.95, hardcover, 567p., ages 14-up, 9781933718750

Poetry

Poems 1962-2012

by Louise Glück

It's difficult to summarize the career of Louise Glück in a brief review. She's the author of 11 books of poetry, as well as a collection of essays about poetry. Her work has been honored with the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the William Carlos Williams Award and the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction, along with fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She's even been a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and the poet laureate of the United States. There are more achievements that could be added to this list, but it is best to let her body of work speak for itself.

Poems 1962-2012 encompasses all of the verse in Glück's previously published books of poetry; with the collection arranged chronologically, the evolution of her career and the development of her work are clearly on display. Glück's style has always been somewhat spare but with evidence of tight control, and these abilities don't waver with time. Later poems, though, demonstrate a shift toward longer narratives and the sort of self-reflection that comes with increasing age, accumulated experience and an awareness of mortality. This retrospective collection is not to be missed. --Roni K. Devlin, owner, Literary Life Bookstore

Discover: One of the most highly anticipated poetry titles of the season, a half-century's retrospective honoring one of America's premier poets.

Ecco / Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $40, hardcover, 9780374126087

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