Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Penguin Young Readers: Celebrate the very hungry caterpillar today!

From My Shelf

Feiwel & Friends: Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

Chronicle Books: Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel

Father's Day & Memories of War

It's complicated. Friday marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day. A week from Sunday, we celebrate Father's Day. While it may seem odd--even distasteful--to link the two, in a way I always have. My father, who died in 1971 at the age of 50, was in the 243rd Field Artillery Battalion during World War II. He landed at "Utah Beach" August 6 when "the first prime movers of the battalion pulled their guns and carriages onto French soil exactly two months after D-Day," as Frank Smith wrote in his 1946 book Battle Diary. This edited collection of after action reports is the only record I have of my father's war experiences. He--like so many others--didn't talk much about it.

Because books are so integral to our process of remembering, here are just a few recently published 70th-anniversary titles worth considering: D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy, 1944 by Rick Atkinson; The Dead and Those About to Die: D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach by John C. McManus (who recently shared his favorite books on the Normandy invasion with the Wall Street Journal); D-Day: Minute by Minute by Jonathan Mayo; The Americans on D-Day: A Photographic History of the Normandy Invasion by Martin K.A. Morgan; D-Day Through French Eyes: Normandy 1944 by Mary Louise Roberts; and Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings by Craig L. Symonds.

Also available are new illustrated editions of Stephen E. Ambrose's D-Day: June 6, 1944--The Climactic Battle of World War II and Cornelius Ryan's classic The Longest Day.

Books matter. Battle Diary, a modest, day-by-day chronicle of my father's unit during the war, has always provided me with a glimpse, however cloudy, of his young life at that perilous moment in history, which makes it one of the most important books I've ever read. This month, I opened it again. --Robert Gray

Quercus Books: The Wonder Down Under: The Insider's Guide to the Anatomy, Biology, and Reality of the Vagina by Ellen Støkken Dahl and Nina Brochmann

Book Candy

J.K. Rowling Quotes; 'Silent Bookshelves'

"If it's a good book, anyone will read it. I'm totally unashamed about still reading things I loved in my childhood." This is just one of "20 wise and witty J.K. Rowling quotes" collected by Mental Floss.


"Marriage plots." The Guardian unveiled "the best wedding dresses in literature."


You already knew, didn't you? In the Huffington Post, Beth Bartlett suggested "you know you're a book nerd if...."


Flavorwire searched "for the most stylish and snuggle-worthy ways to read, and came up with "10 snug and stylish ways to cozy up with a good book."


Maybe the world as we know it isn't coming to an end. Mashable found "21 books for those so over Dystopian fiction."


Bookshelf featured "silent bookshelves" designed by Antigone Acconci and Riccardo Bastiani. They are "made from a sheet of metal to mount on the wall to create a skyline effect with just a dash of color that all but disappears under your books."

Sleeping Bear Press: A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet by Clayton C. Anderson, illustrated by Scott Brundage

The Writer's Life

Tom Rob Smith: Who to Trust?

photo: James Hopkirk

Tom Rob Smith is the son of a Swedish mother and an English father. His play Losing Voices was produced by the Marlowe Society at St John’s College, Cambridge, the first student play it had ever funded. After graduating in 2001, Smith studied creative writing in Italy. Child 44, his first novel, won the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for best thriller and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His follow-up was The Secret Speech, and Agent 6 was the final novel in the series. The film version of Child 44 will be released later this year, produced by Ridley Scott. Smith lives in London. Our reviewof his latest thriller, The Farm (just published by Grand Central), is below.

You've said that the idea for The Farmis drawn from personal experience. Did your parents suffer something similar to that experienced by Daniel's parents? 

In 2010, I received a call from my father in Sweden, telling me that my mum had been institutionalized because she was paranoid and delusional. My parents had retired to a small farm in the middle of the countryside and as far as I was aware they were happy, so the news was incredibly shocking. I set about making preparations to travel to Sweden but before I could catch my flight my mum somehow discharged herself from the hospital. She phoned me from a stranger's cell phone, claiming that everything my father had told me was a lie, she wasn't mad, he was involved in a criminal conspiracy and using the allegation of insanity to conceal his criminality. She intended to fly to England and tell me everything. I ripped up my ticket to Sweden and met her at the airport. She seemed lucid, articulate, agitated but otherwise normal. We went back to my apartment and she told me what she believed had happened in Sweden. That night I was forced to decide if she was ill or if my father had really done something terrible.

The Farm takes that premise and creates a fiction out of it; all the characters are made up, all the events in Sweden are made up, but the reader is faced with the same dilemma as the one I was faced with--who to believe, the mother or the father. 

After this episode was over, did you sense that this was a good topic for your next novel? At the time, did it seem too personal, too difficult to turn into fiction? 

The process was unusual in the sense that I never imagined an event from my own life would form the basis for a thriller. But all fiction is personal and impersonal at the same time. You have to pour your emotions into the story at the same time as trying to be objective.

I can't really discuss this question further without giving away the story since it was only after my mum recovered that I began to consider whether or not this could work as a novel.

The novel goes into territory far from your family's personal troubles. Where did the idea come from to take that personal event into a deeper, potentially darker place? 

As I've already said, the novel is a work of fiction, the mum in The Farm is nothing like my mum, and none of the events described actually took place. So the challenge was creating a story that embodied the central dilemma of uncertainty. I also remember feeling very scared when listening to my mum talk to me that night, so the narrative was always going to be a dark and disturbing one.

Especially at the beginning, the novel seems very much like a play, with lots of dialogue, less action. How did you determine the novel's organization, how its story would be told? 

It's a novel about storytelling--the mum is telling her son a story about the terrible things that took place in Sweden, and the son is telling us the story of listening to her, what he believes and what he doesn't believe. For me, as an author, it was a completely new form of narrative structure. There was a great deal of experimenting, the drafts of the novel changed quite radically as I tried to balance the two voices. 

The play you wrote in college, Losing Voices, seems to suggest (at least by title) something you carried through in this novel. How did you deal with the individual "voices" of your characters? 

It's strange, I wrote only plays at university, I didn't write any prose, except for a few short stories; it was only after university that I set about working on my first novel. I've always loved the theatre and Losing Voices was a curious play, a muddle, but an ambitious one. I guess there are connections. The voice of the mother in The Farm was always going to be a challenge, her voice was never going to be naturalistic because she's in such an extraordinary situation. She's speaking in monologue for much of the novel. Daniel, the son, on the other hand, is a listener, and spends a great deal of the narrative trying to piece together the truth. His first-person narrative is more traditional. The mother's narrative is, in effect, raw dialogue transcribed.

The novel addresses issues of trust, believability and doubt, much like John Patrick Shanley's play Doubt, where we're forced to question the veracity of the main characters. Did you consider making your narrator, Daniel, suspect, too?

Yes, Doubt is a fantastic play, and reliability is at the heart of this novel--who to trust, who to believe, how people say one thing but mean something else, how people appear to be your friend but are plotting behind your back. We should question the appearance of everything and everyone in The Farm--nothing is what it seems.

With regards to Daniel, he's never set up as a suspect, partly because I can't imagine how the logistics of it would work--he was in London when the alleged crimes were taking place in Sweden. That said, we should very much question everything Daniel says; his interpretation of his parents' action is suspect, because of his limitations in assessing them. We can see that Daniel is making mistakes and missing vital clues as to what really happened. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Watch the trailer for The Farm here.

Prometheus Books: Disarmed: Unconventional Lessons from the World's Only One-Armed Special Forces Sharpshooter by Izzy Ezagui

Book Review


Stories of Fatherhood

by Diana Secker Tesdell, editor

The Everyman's Pocket Classics series and editor Diana Secker Tesdell offer attractive, gifty, hardcover story anthologies covering a variety of topics, such as the sea, cats, horses and Christmas. They published an anthology on motherhood, too, and now we have its companion volume on fatherhood just in time for Father's Day.

The earmark of these collections is the quality and range of the stories, and Stories of Fatherhood holds to those standards. Here are 20 stories by writers both well-known and relatively undiscovered. Every story is, in its own way, a small masterpiece. There are two Irish jewels: Frank O'Connor's "My Oedipus Complex" and James Joyce's "A Little Cloud." There are a handful from past greats, such as Guy de Maupassant, Franz Kafka, Edith Wharton, Katherine Mansfield and D.H. Lawrence. In "Christmas," Vladimir Nabokov reaches back to his own early years in Russia to detail a father's grief as he returns to the family's estate to bury his dead teenage son.

In John Updike's elegiac and poignant "My Father's Tears," the narrator tells us about the only time he saw his father cry. Harold Brodkey's poetic "His Son, in His Arms, in Light, Aloft" chronicles special moments when a boy's father picked him up. Jim Shepard's "The Mortality of Parents," which marks the death of a father with wit and wisdom, will have readers looking for more of his work. The book itself is compact and inexpensive; the literature within is priceless. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A moving collection of short stories about fatherhood from literary greats.

Everyman's Library, $16, hardcover, 9780375712456

Grand Central Publishing: The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer

A Replacement Life

by Boris Fishman

One happy byproduct of the Jewish exodus from the Soviet Union was the arrival in the West of fine writers like Gary Shteyngart, Lara Vapnyar and David Bezmozgis. In his first novel, A Replacement Life, Boris Fishman, who left Minsk for the U.S. in 1988, stakes a strong claim to be included someday in that impressive company.

Soviet immigrant and Upper East Sider Slava Gelman is a junior staffer at a New Yorker clone, struggling to land a spot as bylined reporter. His life changes course unexpectedly when, after the death of Slava's grandmother, his grandfather enlists his talents. Yevgeny wants his grandson to draft applications for him and a coterie of elderly Jews to receive reparations from the German government for time in "ghettos, forced labor, concentration camps."

There's only one problem with Slava's new assignment as a "curator of suffering": the elaborate accounts he crafts are works of imagination, not recollection. Under pressure to satisfy the demands of his clients and to meet a looming deadline, Slava becomes increasingly agitated over the consequences he faces if his fabrications are discovered.

As much as A Replacement Life is about the inability to escape the pull of family and culture while struggling to fashion a golden new life out of the dross of the old one, it's also a wistful recognition of the elusiveness and malleability of facts, making the case that "to write a good story, the facts had to become the story's instruments." Like his protagonist, Fishman manages to keep all these plates spinning, finally bringing them to a clean stop with impressive style. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: The blurry line between fact and fiction when a young man begins writing reparations claims for Soviet Holocaust survivors.

Harper, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062287878

Shelf Awareness Giveaway: The Minimalist Kitchen: 100 Wholesome Recipes, Essential Tools, and Efficient Techniques by Melissa Coleman

Mystery & Thriller

Mr. Mercedes

by Stephen King

Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes opens in a present-day depressed Midwestern metropolis, where retired detective Bill Hodges is haunted by the one who got away. It has been several years now, but he can still see the job fair, the long lines of unemployed people who'd waited overnight in the cold, the ghostly gray Mercedes accelerating through the crowd, the gristle and gore dripping from its fender as it drove off. Hodges is considering suicide when he receives a letter from someone claiming to be the Mercedes Killer.

Hodges is reinvigorated by a second chance at solving the cold case, with a few unlikely allies. The neighbor kid who mows Hodges's lawn contributes computer skills and a surprisingly strong sounding board for new theories. The sister of the car's original owner is both a delightful foil to the former cop's depression and a potential love interest. Her niece brings the challenge of dealing with mental illness, but also a steely resolve, to this dubious crime-fighting team. While tracking Hodges's efforts, Mr. Mercedes simultaneously follows the Mercedes Killer himself. He's a loner who works two jobs, lives with his mother and attracts no attention, but harbors creepy inclinations worthy of Stephen King.

King's fans will recognize his talents with suspense, finely drawn Americana and the horror of pure evil lurking in the everyday. His characters are as true-to-life and likeable as ever. As the improbable heroes and the Mercedes Killer rush toward a crashing finish, Mr. Mercedes is proof yet again that King can still terrify his readers without invoking the supernatural. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A detective novel by the horror master in which a mass murderer torments a retired cop who fights back.

Scribner, $30, hardcover, 9781476754451

The Farm

by Tom Rob Smith

English writer Tom Rob Smith (Child 44) offers a disarming twist on the chilling psychological thriller genre with The Farm, set mainly on a somewhat desolate farm in rural southern Sweden.

Daniel is living an uneventful life in London with his partner, Mark, when he receives a frantic phone call from his father, Chris: "Your mother... she's not well.... She's been imagining things." Daniel decides to fly to Sweden, but then he receives a one-word e-mail from his mother, Tilde: "Daniel!" Then another call from his father telling him she's discharged herself from the hospital in which he'd placed her. He insists she's making accusations against him and none of them are true. Another call comes from his mother who says everything Chris has said is a lie, and she's flying to London.

The Farm is a book of voices: Daniel's narration, then his mother's. She reveals that she and Chris were well-off but then lost most of their money, which they kept secret. She thinks Chris has been corrupted by their neighbor in Sweden, whose adopted daughter is missing. Tilde is convinced Chris is involved and that they want to keep her quiet. She has proof; her satchel contains "evidence." Piece by piece, her desperate story unfolds. Daniel is confused, skeptical. He wants to believe her, but can all this really be true?

The competing voices are compelling, confusingly layered with truth and conjecture. Part mystery and part confession, The Farm is filled with secrets. It fascinates, it puzzles. Take a deep breath and dive in with an open mind. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A mystery of voices within voices that's a modern-day Moonstone: Who can be trusted and who can be believed?

Grand Central, $26, hardcover, 9780446550734

Vertigo 42: A Richard Jury Mystery

by Martha Grimes

New Scotland Yard Superintendent Richard Jury returns to the page with a visit to Vertigo 42, a stylish high-rise champagne bar in London. Jury is meeting friend-of-a-friend Tom Williamson, whose wife, Tess, died 17 years earlier. Her fatal fall down a flight of garden stairs was ruled a result of a misstep, but Tom isn't convinced. He asks Richard Jury if he'll use his connections to investigate.

Five years before Tess's death, she'd hosted a party for some children at her estate; tragically, nine-year-old Hilda Palmer fell into a drained pool on the grounds and died. Could Tess's death been an act of revenge?

For the next seven days, Martha Grimes (The Man with a Load of Mischief) plots the journey of Jury and his dependable sidekick, Sergeant Wiggins. As they travel through the English countryside, they seek out the five surviving party guests (all now adults with secrets of their own), hoping to unearth new insights into Tess's death. Their quest is complicated by two more deaths--in Long Piddleton and Sidbury--that may or may not be related.

With each new discovery and red herring, Grimes leads readers deeper into dark, winding labyrinths of suspicion and doubt. Jury remains an engaging protagonist: smart, witty, sarcastic and wholly unafraid to follow his instincts. As in the other 22 books in the series, Grimes's fondness for classic movies, literature and cleverly named British pubs resurface. While some of the identifying descriptions of the large supporting cast are a bit sketchy, Grimes gives just enough information to refresh old fans and whet the appetites of new readers. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A surprising mystery that pays homage to the best of Hitchcock, from a master of the genre.

Scribner, $26, hardcover, 9781476724027


by William McIlvanney

Originally published in 1977, William McIlvanney's Laidlaw, the first book in a trilogy, set a standard for noir mystery. In this reissue, McIlvanney's gruff, broad strokes read as freshly as ever.

Glaswegian detective inspector Laidlaw is the quintessential hardened, hard-drinking cop. When thug Bud Lawson's daughter doesn't come home, Bud wants Laidlaw's help. Where other cops hold Bud's criminal past against him, Laidlaw is willing to assist. For this case, unconventional Laidlaw is partnered with ambitious, impressionable detective constable Harkness. He's an excellent foil for Laidlaw, and the growth and development of their relationship throughout is a satisfying side plot.

A murdered teenage girl wouldn't usually seem related to the network of thugs and gangsters that run Glasgow's criminal industry. But her killer--exposed to the reader early on--quickly becomes a pawn. Bud's gangster associates want him so they can exercise their revenge; other gangsters with other connections want him spirited safely out of town; and, of course, Laidlaw has his own goals.

The phonetically spelled Scottish brogue adds color to dialogue, and McIlvanney's lyricism is surprisingly refined in this coarse world ("She waited patiently for his head to come back from a walk around his guilt"). Laidlaw is not so much action-packed--although there is plenty of head-busting--as it is considered, psychological and concerned with the existential. McIlvanney has earned his reputation as the father of "tartan noir," and readers will be glad to know that rest of this trilogy is set for re-release in late 2014. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A reissued literary Scottish noir mystery from the 1970s that's heavy on character, setting and lyricism.

Europa Editions, $16, paperback, 9781609452018


Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush

by Geoff Dyer

Geoff Dyer (Jeff in Venice) is one of those writers who can't stop--he'll write about anything that catches his fancy and do it really well. In addition to his novels, he's written essays and nonfiction works on such diverse topics as yoga, jazz, World War I, John Berger and D.H. Lawrence. Here, he tackles an aircraft carrier: the USS George H.W. Bush.

It's Another Great Day at Sea for Dyer, spending a couple of intense weeks on a massive metal "floating island." It's a riveting excursion into bigness and "endless walkways, hatches, and doorways."

He describes the flight deck as a "world apart from the rest of the carrier." Take away this, and the planes, and all you've got is a very big boat. He tells us about two brothers serving on board in different sections who didn't set eyes on each other for six months. That's big--"big as small towns." Population: 5,000. And the smell--"like a garage with fifty thousand cars in it."

Readers will feel the tension when he writes about the arresting wires ("thick as rope but thin and wiry") that grab F-18 planes (66 of them) as they come roaring in. Dyer ably conveys his awe at the logistics of feeding such a large crew. And then there's the cleaning; it goes on day after day, everywhere, especially in ordnance. The bombs, missiles and fuel alone could devastate a small city.

Dyer goes on quite a trip and keeps readers intrigued the whole way. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: What an average, cramped, exhilarating day on an aircraft carrier is like.

Pantheon, $24.95, hardcover, 9780307911582

Biography & Memoir

The Map Thief

by Michael Blanding

The international rare-map community is a fairly small one, and E. Forbes Smiley III was one of the most well-known and respected dealers. He'd been involved in the business since the early 1980s and his knowledge of maps pertaining to the settling of the American continent was second to none. For many years he helped wealthy clients build staggering collections.

But his public bonhomie hid a dark secret: he was chronically short of cash. Over the years, as more of his checks bounced, more dealers became wary. But no one suspected that in order to cover his debts Smiley would do the unthinkable: he started stealing maps from institutions all over the world, sometimes slicing maps out of books four and five centuries old.

Much like Miles Harvey's The Island of Lost Maps, The Map Thief tells the tale of a man who got away with his theft for years. What makes Smiley so diabolical is that, as an esteemed map expert, he knew exactly which maps would garner the highest prices. He stole maps worth millions of dollars, decimating library collections in the process.

Michael Blanding (The Coke Machine) has compiled interviews with Smiley's friends and colleagues, FBI agents, librarians and even Smiley himself to piece together a portrait of a desperate man. A gripping mix of true crime, cartographic lore and bookish obsession, The Map Thief is a book that map and book lovers will devour, even as they cringe at the crimes described. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Why a well-respected antiquarian map expert turned to grand larceny.

Gotham, $27.50, hardcover, 9781592408177

When I First Held You

by Brian Gresko, editor

I have a 10-year-old girl. She's a joy. She's work, though. I'm tired by the time she goes to bed. I try to read when she goes down but my attention doesn't last. Thank goodness for When I First Held You on my nightstand. It's a collection of luminous essays by men on parenthood that are easily read and terrifically illuminating.

In his essay "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory," Ben Greenman writes, "If fatherhood is remembering things that did not exactly happen, it is also forgetting things that did happen." The essays in this collection, edited by Brian Gresko, are full of remembrances and half-remembrances of parenting in all its glory: failure, triumph, joy, tribulation, humorous bits and tragedies big and small.

Chris Bachelder, most known for his humor writing (Bear v. Shark), contributes an achingly beautiful piece about how kids grow up: "I know well that there might come a day, and it won't be long, when they will not be so eager to talk to me, their father.... They will become more interior, less transparent, their voices diminished by adolescence, by the virulent forces that strike at the mouths of young girls."

The diverse cross-section of today's finest writers includes Justin Cronin (The Passage), Peter Ho Davies (The Welsh Girl), Andre Dubus III (House of Sand and Fog) and Dennis Lehane (Mystic River), and the subject matter is as varied as the writers themselves. Readers will laugh, or perhaps wipe a tear; parents will nod knowingly. --Jonathan Shipley, freelance writer

Discover: A fine celebration of parenthood in all its colors.

Berkley, $15, paperback, 9780425269244

Children's & Young Adult


by Deborah Wiles

As she did in Countdown, Deborah Wiles uses a documentary novel format, interspersing fragments from the period (newspaper clippings, photos, quotes, song lyrics and profiles of historic figures) throughout a fictional narrative that offers both white and black perspectives during Freedom Summer. The effect is powerful.

No one knew what to expect when SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) volunteers came to Greenwood, Miss., in June 1964. Many called the volunteers "invaders" and "agitators" as they entered segregated communities throughout the South with a mission of education, integration and, most importantly, voter registration for black citizens. For 12-year-old Sunny, summer was supposed to mean swimming, listening to Beatles records, going to the movies and avoiding her stepmother. However, when news of "invaders" arrives, a storm rolls over her carefree summer. Raymond Bullis, on the other hand, dreams of becoming the next Willie Mays and of swimming in the white folks' pool. Then he comes home to find a white girl "Freedom Righter" in his kitchen, ready to shake things up. He becomes determined to do more than just answer phones to help the cause and earn real freedom.

By emphasizing the wider context, the history, story and characters come to life in ways that would have been impossible otherwise. Wiles emphasizes the danger and upheaval of this civil rights campaign, as well as the incredible importance of standing up for change and the power of the vote. Compelling and complex, Revolution is a revelation in historical fiction. --Julia Smith, blogger and former children's bookseller

Discover: Deborah Wiles brings the experiences of two families to life during Mississippi's Freedom Summer in 1964.

Scholastic, $19.99, hardcover, 544p., ages 8-12, 9780545106078

Milo and Millie

by Jedda Robaard

Milo and his teddy bear, Millie, undertake an excursion that preschoolers will want to travel with them again and again.

Jedda Robaard gives youngsters a hint of what's ahead when Milo holds up a paper boat he's made: "This is Millie and me," the book begins, with boy and bear set against a white background. A turn of the page reveals the two sailing inside the paper boat as they spy a giant duck. Gentle blue watercolor waves keep them afloat. "We sailed past a busy city," the text says, with buildings made of what could be colored blocks, "which was guarded by fearsome frogs." Milo pulls Millie back up into the boat as the harmless-looking wide-eyed frogs swim nearby. The two don rain hats when the seas get rough ("We sailed right into a terrible storm"), and luckily get rescued by "a huge whale." The collage boat and its passengers always remain the focus in Robaard's illustrations, even when they land in a "swirling whirlpool" on a page dominated by blue spiraling brushstrokes. The book closes with Milo and Millie safely tucked in bed. Though boy and bear take their journey solo, youngsters will know they are never at risk. Milo always finds his way to safety, and keeps Millie close at hand. Directions for making one's own "little boat" round out this satisfying adventure.

The author-artist expertly travels the line between fantasy and the familiar, acknowledging the importance of imagination in a child's everyday life. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A boy and his teddy bear take an imaginative trip.

Candlewick, $14.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 2-5, 9780763667832

Performing Arts

Not to Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film

by Kenneth Turan

Kenneth Turan's Not to Be Missed, about his all-time favorite movies, has an epigraph from the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman: film goes "deep into the twilight room of the soul." The popular Los Angeles Times and NPR film critic admits that these are the "films that meant the most to me.... I couldn't live without them." And why 54? It's a "lucky number."

He breaks his selections into decades, from the teens (Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr.) up to the "new century" (which includes the powerfully contemplative Of Gods and Men). Before the ink is dry on his 54 top choices, he can't stop himself from giving special attention to three films in his "Orson Welles Double Feature"; each of the three brief critiques is personal, perceptive and fun to read.

Turan continues to cheat on his numerical limit with chapters called "The Fifty-Fifth Film" (including Jean Cocteau's glorious Beauty and the Beast) and "A Second Fifty-Four," another chronological list of favorites--though these picks lack the in-depth treatment given to the first set. He's ecumenical in his selections. There are many American films, but a good contingent of foreign titles and documentaries. He captures each with a pithy phrase: Seven Samurai is a "humanistic epic"; Chinatown is "intricacy itself"; Vertigo is a "touch of genius... and madness."

If pressed, Turan can pick his favorite film: Marcel Carné's Children of Paradise, a picture "you experience more than watch... a miracle many times over." Turan's thoughtful list will inspire readers to rent some of his all-time favorites, and they can have the utmost confidence in Turan's wise and enthusiastic recommendations. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A film critic's "spiritual autobiography" that delves into his favorite films.

PublicAffairs, $25.99, hardcover, 9781586483968


Author Buzz

Dear Reader,

THE RECIPE BOX is inspired by my grandmothers' beloved recipe boxes and filled with treasured family desserts like cherry chip cake and peach-blueberry slab pie. We all have old, flour-flecked, handwritten recipe cards with treasured recipes, ones we ask our moms, grandmas and sisters to make because they capture beautiful memories. Like a favorite family dessert, THE RECIPE BOX is filled with love and sweetness, things we could use more of these days. Richard Paul Evans calls the novel “a touching tribute to the women and food that unite us and connect our past to the present." A perfect book for readers and foodies of every age!

I’m giving away five books, but ANYONE who enters will receive a beloved family recipe! Email to win!

Much love,

Buy this book

St. Martin's Press 

Pub Date:
March 20, 2018


List Price:


Dear Reader,

GODS OF HOWL MOUNTAIN transports you into a world of folk healers, moonshine runners, and serpent-handlers in the high country of 1950s North Carolina. Upon returning home from the Korean War, whiskey bootlegger Rory Docherty and his legendary healer grandmother Granny May must pit themselves against dangerous mountain clans, revenue agents, and the secrets of their own dark past.

Says Jeff Zentner (THE SERPENT KING): "If you loved...anything by Ron Rash, you’ll love this book. Appalachian Gothic at its absolute finest."

I'm giving away five copies. Email me at

Taylor Brown

Buy this book

St. Martin's Press 

Pub Date:
March 20, 2018


List Price:


Dear Reader,

Sometimes, fate is just another well-executed mission...

THE COINCIDENCE MAKERS is the story of Guy, Emily & Eric, whose job is creating coincidences—happenings that look like random events but that will cause people to change their own lives. I invite to join me in a journey about fate, free-will and above all, about love, in a book Kirkus magazine called “unpredictable and heartfelt” and that is now being translated into over a dozen languages.

I'm giving away five books. Write to to win!

Yoav Blum

Buy this book

St. Martin's Press 

Pub Date:
March 6, 2018


List Price:


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