Evie Wyld's thought-provoking new novel, All the Birds, Singing, introduces readers to Jake Whyte, a young Australian woman who tends sheep on a remote island off the coast of England and who has been trying to track down the beast that's threatening her flock. A second narrative explores what led Jake to the isolated island in the first place. Of the book's highlights, our reviewer says, "Wyld excels in the intimate details that make up the relationship between humans and animals." (Read the full review here.)
We were curious about the books Wyld has enjoyed reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three recent favorites, which she graciously agreed to share.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
By Richard Flanagan
I was in Perth recently and on the way to a radio interview the lady who was taking me there told me I had to read it. I’d recently met Richard, and enjoyed his company and so it seemed like a good idea. The book has the dark feeling of great art to it. It’s based on Flanagan’s father’s experiences as a POW working on the Thai-Burma Death Railway. I want other people to read it, because I need to talk about it with someone.
By Colin Barrett
This is a book of short stories that my editor sent. He never sends me books, and so I knew it’d be excellent. I love this for its brutality and also its humanity. The ordinary way extreme violence is described, and the domestic nature of the lives of his characters. It’s one of those books that makes you wonder if the characters are good people doing bad things or bad people doing good things.
The Night Guest
By Fiona McFarlane
This was sent to me in my capacity as a bookseller. The cover was so beautiful and unusual that I really wanted to sell it in my shop, so it was a relief when the book was fantastic too. It’s very funny, and also incredibly dark and harrowing. It’s been a long time since I read a book with an elderly protagonist who isn't a caricature of old age. Fantastically enjoyable to read.
What do you think, readers? Will you be adding All the Birds, Singing—or any of Wyld's recommended books—to your TBR list?
(Author photo by Roelof Bakker)
Imagine you're visiting a friend 500 miles from home. You're flipping through the latest issue of BookPage or pop onto BookPage.com and see a book that you must read. Immediately. What do you do?
Don't panic. Luckily, there's an interactive Google map that features the locations of known bookstores and libraries across the country . . . thousands of them. Take a look:
Wow. It's like looking at One-Eyed Willy's treasure map! What do you think, readers? Does this make you want to take an impromptu cross-country road trip?
Though they've been celebrating all month, librarians across the country somehow still managed to find time to vote for their favorite books releasing next month. The May LibraryReads list features mystery, romance, YA, history, thrills—something for everyone!
At the top of the list is We Were Liars, the suspense-laden new YA novel from E. Lockhart. Also featured are The Bees, the impressive debut from Laline Paull; Delicious!, the first novel by noted food writer Ruth Reichl; Bird Box, a frightful thriller by Josh Malerman; and Bittersweet, the intriguing third novel by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore.
See the full LibraryReads May list right here. Which books will be going straight onto your TBR list? Is there one in particular you're most looking forward to reading?
• If you're craving some bookish trivia that doesn't involve taking a quiz, Flavorwire rounded up a collection of Memorable Last Words of Literary Characters, including those of Hamlet, Anna Karenina, Scarlet O'Hara and more.
• Have you ever suspected that you might be living in a Dickens novel? The Toast presents a list of telltale signs that you just might be!
• Astronaut Chris Hadfield is following up his best-selling An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth with a book of sure-to-be-breathtaking photographs taken from the International Space Station—coming out this fall.
• Finally, if you have a new little one at home—a dog, that is—and are feeling overwhelmed by the whole naming thing, the folks at Book Riot have offered up a bunch of literary monikers for your consideration. May we also suggest Maisie (inspired by Henry James' What Maisie Knew), Scout (from To Kill a Mockingbird) and Watchdog (inspired by Tock from The Phantom Tollbooth)? Do you have a pet named after a literary character or author? Let us know in the comments below!
If it were possible to wear out an internet browser, I would probably be guilty of doing such a thing in my ongoing and never-ending quest to learn about the origins of certain words and phrases.
I know what you're thinking, but not all words lead back to Shakespeare. Even though the number of words and phrases he coined comes in at around a whopping 1,700, he did not, in fact, invent the English language. Indeed, we have lots of different writers to credit for contributing to it throughout the centuries.
In his addictive new book, Authorisms: Words Wrought by Writers, Paul Dickson offers a delightful A-to-Z exploration of familiar words and phrases that were coined or popularized by a wide range of authors, including these:
• Butterfingers—Charles Dickens in The Pickwick Papers (1836)
• Egghead—Carl Sandburg in a letter (1918)
• Eyesore—William Shakespeare in The Taming of the Shrew (1593)
• Freelance—Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe (1820)
• Nerd—Dr. Seuss in If I Ran the Zoo (1950)
• Scaredy-cat—Dorothy Parker in "The Waltz" (1933)
• Shotgun wedding—Sinclair Lewis in Elmer Gantry (1927)
• T-shirt—F. Scott Fitzgerald in This Side of Paradise (1920)
• Yahoo—Jonathan Swift in Gulliver's Travels (1726)
This fun, breezy (though authoritative), enlightening book will also give you the lowdown on and background of such words as pandemonium, chintzy, factoid and so many more. You'll never have to endure another awkward, cocktail-party conversation lull when armed with all of the knowledge packed into this entertaining compendium.
Maggie Shipstead's second novel, Astonish Me, is our Top Pick in fiction for April. Our reviewer describes it as "a request, a demand, a dare, all wrapped up in two little words, heavy with promise. And like the prima ballerina at the heart of the novel itself, Shipstead delivers a glorious story that does exactly what it says it will." (Read the full review here.)
We were curious about the books Shipstead has enjoyed reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three recent favorites, which she graciously agreed to share.
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This had been on my to-read list forever, and when Adichie won the NBCC Award for fiction, I finally remembered to go out and buy it. What a truly spectacular book. Everything about it is alive and essential and harmonious: the flawless prose, the fully-realized characters, the looping shape of the narrative, the vividly textured settings. Although Adichie's story speaks to big, thorny issues like race and class and immigration (not to mention love), her characters all feel like complete, complex people, not props for an argument, and the novel has a gentle archness and lightness of tone that makes its remarkable depth and insight seem effortless.
I was at a book festival with Arthur Phillips this winter but shamefully hadn't read his books, so I decided to start with his first, Prague, a novel that came out in 2002 and revolves around a group of ex-pats living in Budapest, not Prague, in the early 1990s. (The cheeky fake-out of the title alone is reason enough to love this book.) It's full of wit and casual brilliance and a pleasantly convoluted nostalgia-that-is-also-a-deep-suspicion-of-nostalgia and characters who, like real people, are capable of holding all sorts of endlessly shifting, often contradictory convictions and delusions. On a technical level, the omniscient voice, which I think is incredibly difficult to sustain, is used masterfully and acrobatically throughout to deliver all kinds of structural surprises and to convey a sense of overarching vision.
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
By Adelle Waldman
Waldman's debut novel is so sharply observed it's a little frightening. I've read it twice, and both times I felt the continuous sense of recognition that the best fiction inspires, where you keep thinking, "Yes, that's exactly how it is!" The consciousness of the protagonist, Nate, is rendered with an intricate completeness that I found immensely satisfying, but I was also fascinated and moved by the novel's many insights about fickleness of desire and its resistance to intellectual governance. There's a formidably critical mind behind this book, but I'd hesitate to call the novel satirical: Waldman forgoes comic exaggeration in favor of precise, measured, unflinching truthfulness tempered by compassion, even tenderness.
What do you think, readers? Will you be adding Astonish Me—or any of Shipstead's recommended books—to your TBR list?
(Author photo by Michelle Legro)
• 101 Books debunks 5 literary legends, including the one about Dr. Seuss and Kurt Vonnegut.
• Coming next year from Random House is Garlic in Fiction, a new collection of works by Shirley Jackson, culled from her archives and edited by two of her children. It'll feature stories, drawings, lectures—can't wait!
• Something you don't have to wait for: Zadie Smith's new short story from The Paris Review.
• Short on free time for reading? Flavorwire has put together a list of 50 incredible novels under 200 pages, including Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, and The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka.
• In movie news, last year's National Book Award winner for fiction, The Good Lord Bird by James McBride, is heading to the big screen, with Liev Schreiber and Jaden Smith set to star. Are you looking forward to seeing it?
• Finally, BuzzFeed gets inside the mind of legendary romance cover model, Fabio. Enjoy!
The fun will actually begin on Tuesday (April 22) evening, though, with more than 20 author events planned to kick things off. Check out all of the who, when and where details to see if there will be a celebration near you.
Then, next Wednesday night, thousands of volunteers will be giving away 550,000 copies of books to light or non-readers in under-served communities. The list of 38 books to be distributed includes fiction and nonfiction, new books and classics, as well as several YA titles and even a collection of poetry.
The WBN folks have created a handy interactive map detailing all of the giveaway locations across the country, and there's also a list of participating bookstores and libraries, sorted by state.
All participants are encouraged to write about their experiences and enter the WBN ebook essay contest. The winning essays will be featured in an ebook to be distributed at next year's World Book Night. Check out all of the contest details here.
The World Book Night tagline says it all: spreading the love of reading, person to person. Will you be taking part? If so, we'd love to hear about it! Share your plans—or past WBN experiences—in the comments section, below.
Jean Hanff Korelitz's new novel, You Should Have Known, is the type of unrelenting page-turner that keeps readers (including myself) up way into the night, simply unable to put it down. Our reviewer calls the taut story of how the comfortable and predictable life of a Manhattan therapist is completely upended "an insightful, compelling tale." (Read the full review here.)
We were curious about the books Korelitz has enjoyed reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three recent favorites, which she graciously agreed to share.
Blood Will Out
By Walter Kirn
Last week I gave a reading with my friend, novelist Jane Green, at R.J. Julia bookstore in Madison, Connecticut. R.J. Julia is one of the great bookstores—warm and friendly and full of people who love books. The store has a very sweet tradition of thanking writers who come to give readings by letting them choose a book from the stock. Here’s the funny part: thousands of books to choose from and Jane and I both picked the same one: Walter Kirn’s new memoir, Blood Will Out. I’ve been fascinated by the Clark Rockefeller case since I first read about it in 2008, as I am fixated on sociopaths in general. But Kirn, who actually met Rockefeller (or “Rockefeller”) in 1998 and maintained a connection with him for years, had a front row seat to his constant myth making. Kirn’s willingness to examine his own culpability in accepting these falsehoods makes his memoir a powerful examination of deceit and its even creepier cousin, self-deception.
How I Became Hettie Jones
By Hettie Jones
I had dinner at the American Academy of Arts and Letters the other night with my husband (he’s the member, not I!). The room was so full of important writers, artists and composers that even the most determined name-dropper would run out of steam before getting through a fraction of them, but I was most truly thrilled to be sitting with the daughters of Amiri Baraka (who’d been memorialized in a pre-dinner ceremony). I’ve had no special feelings for Baraka, but their mother, Hettie Jones, is the author of one of my very favorite memoirs, the sublimely entitled How I Became Hettie Jones. The book is Hettie’s account of leaving her Queens childhood for Beat Generation art and bohemia in 1950s Greenwich Village, marriage to poet and playwright Baraka (then known as Le Roi Jones), and what it was like to be a white woman married to a black man who ultimately came to feel that he could no longer be a black man who was married to a white woman. Their daughters, who are my age, are characters in a book I’ve loved for twenty years; talking to them and hearing about their lives only made me want to read it again.
By Alison Bechdel
Last fall I was lucky enough to see the Public Theater’s production of Fun Home, a musical adapted from Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir of the same name. I’m not a big fan of graphic anything, and had only vaguely heard of Bechdel, but I was so wowed by the power of Bechdel’s work that I went rushing out to read all of her books. Bechdel is a deeply cerebral writer, processing and reprocessing the motifs of her life with reference to literature, philosophy and psychological theory. Her story may not sound outwardly eventful (father, mother and three children grow up in an old Pennsylvania home; the daughter’s gradual self-identification as a lesbian may or may not create a crisis of identity in her closeted father), but Bechdel manages to funnel an entire world of ideas into and out or her autobiographical material. I loved Fun Home and Bechdel’s more recent Are You My Mother?, but I had the best time of all with the omnibus edition of her hilarious and wonderful syndicated strip Dykes to Watch Out For. Am I converted to “graphic anything”? Nope. But I’ll read whatever Bechdel writes from this point on. And if Fun Home transfers to Broadway, I’m definitely going to see it again.
(Author photo by Mark Czajkowski)
Why does the same joke leave one person LOLing and another yawning or stone-faced? Why do we laugh? Does humor have a dark side? Is laughter really the best medicine? These thought-provoking questions—and more—are tackled head-on in The Humor Code, the fascinating, thoroughly entertaining new book by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner—released just in time for National Humor Month.
McGraw—founder of the Humor Research Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder—and award-winning journalist Warner traveled the globe on a quest to get to the root of what makes things funny, stopping in Los Angeles, Tanzania, Palestine, Copenhagen and even venturing into the Amazon. Among the experts they consult are a head writer for The Onion, Hunter "Patch" Adams (yes, that Patch Adams), New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff and several "top members of the Japanese Humor and Laughter Society."
Their around-the-world romp ended in Montreal, where Warner drew upon their newfound wisdom by attempting stand-up at Montreal's Just For Laughs comedy festival, which is basically the Olympics of comedy fests. How did he do? I won't spoil it for you.
If you're still scratching your head over why Tanzania, wonder no more. In this excerpt from the fourth chapter, the authors explain what drew them to the East African country:
Good news greets us in Uganda as we disembark our plane: "Uganda has defeated the outbreak of Ebola," announces a large placard standing in the airport's main hall. "Please have a nice stay."
Well, that's a relief.
We actually have a different malady in mind—one far less lethal than Ebola, but evocative nonetheless. We're here in East Africa on the trail of the so-called 1962 Tanganyika laughter epidemic. As the story goes, in 1962 in the northwest corner of Tanganyika (a country now known as Tanzania), hundreds of people began laughing uncontrollably. The affliction, if you could call it that, spread from one person to the next, and nothing seemed to stop it. Schools shut down. Entire villages were caught in its throes. When the laughing stopped months later, a thousand people had some down with the "disease."
Since then, the Tanganyika laughter epidemic has captured imaginations the world over. Newspaper articles have been written about it, radio shows have explored it, and documentaries have dramatized it. But many of these accounts detailed the incident from afar, relying on secondhand sources, scraps of information, and rumors. Few people have investigated the event themselves, tracking the laughter all the way to its source. That's why we're here.
To be honest, we're a bit skeptical of the whole account. Uncontrollable laughter, jumping from person to person like a devilish possession, doesn't make sense. But something happened in Tanganyika in 1962. There are enough firsthand accounts and medical reports to confirm that. But what that something is—and what, if anything, it has to do with humor—is still up for debate.
What do you think, readers? Will you be checking out The Humor Code?