• The five finalists for the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction were announced this week. Which one do you think should take home the prize?
• PWxyz compiled a list of 12 books that end in mid-sentence. Are there others that should've made the list?
• And while we're on the subject of breaking the rules, the folks at Qwiklit put together a list of 10 authors who ignored the basic rules of punctuation.
• Earlier this week, a Tweet from Rebecca Skloot prompted the New York Times to issue a way-overdue correction to a 161-year-old error.
• If you're not list-ed out yet, here's another one from Flavorwire that features 10 compelling unnamed protagonists in literature, which includes, of course, the narrator of du Maurier's classic.
• In last week's links, we shared BuzzFeed's "who's your classic author soul mate" quiz. But before you run off with him, you may want to take this new quiz that will tell you which Jane Austen hero is the One for you.
In The Story of Charlotte's Web, it was E.B. White. In his new book, The Adventures of Henry Thoreau, accomplished nature writer Michael Sims turns his eye to one of 19th-century America's most iconic figures. Our reviewer deems the book—which focuses on Thoreau's youth—"an amiable and fresh take on the legendary sage of Walden Pond." (Read the full review right here.)
We were curious about the books Sims has enjoyed reading lately, so we asked him to recommend three recent favorites, which he graciously agreed to share.
The Ghost in the Glass House
By Carey Wallace
I read a lot of children's and YA books, and lately my trend has been ghost stories. Most have been picked up randomly at library book sales—excellent older stories such as Betty Ren Wright’s The Dollhouse Murders and Colby F. Rodowsky’s The Gathering Room. But I've just read a fine new one by Carey Wallace, the author of the gorgeous 2010 novel The Blind Contessa's New Machine. Her first YA novel is elegant, witty, poignant and just as rich for adults. During the Jazz Age, 12-year-old Clare Fitzgerald travels with her wealthy, restless mother from hotel to rented house, from Europe to the United States. The mother is on the edge of having to address her demons, the daughter on the edge of adolescence. Then Clare meets Jack—or rather his ghost.
Wallace writes beautifully: “The unfinished walls were hung with a whole museum of curiosities: garden tools with handles rubbed smooth as driftwood, a pail full of the stubs of beeswax tapers, a few of Mack’s work shirts, soft with age, and a neat collection of herbs tied with scraps of ribbon and labeled. . . . As Clare’s eyes adjusted, she realized the shadows beyond the jars were full of roses, dozens of them, dried and stacked bloom to bloom like the skulls Clare’s mother had taken her to see, packed cheek to cheek in the Paris catacombs.”
By Marcel Proust, translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, revised and annotated by William C. Carter
I’m always rereading. I reread my favorite writers from childhood and everything else that I love: Kenneth Grahame, Jim Kjelgaard, Ruth Rendell, Dickens, Rilke, Hazlitt, Kevin Henkes, Philip Pullman, Annie Dillard, Thoreau, E. B. White, Beverly Cleary, Ovid, Raymond Chandler, Homer. Currently I’m re-reading Swann’s Way, which I’ve read twice before in its entirety and dozens of times in pieces. I’ve read the whole vast In Search of Lost Time, originally in the Moncrieff (and Kilmartin & Co.) translation, and I’m working my way through it a second time now in the multi-translator Penguin edition from several years ago. Now, thanks to this annotated revision of Moncrieff, I find myself returning again to the first volume. It’s a handsome deckle-edged trade paperback with crisp type, broad margins, and helpful annotations by the foremost biographer of Proust in English, William C. Carter (who is rivaled only by Jean-Yves Tadie, whose French masterwork was translated by Euon Cameron). Most importantly, it’s a full revision of Moncrieff, with endless corrections and thus a spectrum of restored nuances. Also it’s easy to hold in bed. And it smells great, which is only appropriate.
I read Proust for his psychological insight and his breadth of vision, but mostly for the cinematography. Has any other writer so beautifully captured the fleeting experience of everyday life? “For many years have now elapsed since the Combray days, when, coming in from the longest and latest of walks, I would still be in time to see the red reflections of the sunset in the panes of my bedroom window.”
The Letters of Pliny the Younger
I’m reading these vivid, lively, elegant letters in a sturdy red cloth edition from the original 1909 set of Harvard Classics. I grew up in the country in eastern Tennessee and never made it to college. The seeds of my personal library were the 50-odd volumes of the Harvard Classics, which I bought in a cardboard box at a library book sale for four dollars when I was in my mid-20s. I’m still reading and re-reading them.
They include Pliny’s account of the death of his esteemed uncle, now called Pliny the Elder, and a terrifying eyewitness account of the latter’s death during the eruption of Vesuvius, because he was determined to get closer to the volcano and understand what was happening. The letters provide a time-machine panorama of the intellectual, moral, and social issues dominating Roman life in the first century. They make me want to write about this era. Pliny also brings to life his ordinary days and the surprising comfort of his villa: “Adjoining this angle is a room forming the segment of a circle, the windows of which are so arranged as to get the sun all through the day: in the walls are contrived a sort of cases, containing a collection of authors who can never be read too often. Next to this is a bed-room, connected with it by a raised passage furnished with pipes, which supply, at a wholesome temperature, and distribute to all parts of this room, the heat they receive. . . .”
What do you think, readers? Will you be adding The Adventures of Henry Thoreau—or any of Sims' recommended books—to your TBR list?
(Author photo by Lauren Sloan Patterson)
I recently came across this vintage 1930s library poster on the Library of Congress site proclaiming March as a month to read books “you’ve always meant to read.” It was the perfect prompt to reassess my ever-growing TBR list and focus on some of the books that have been lingering on there for a while.
While I’m not reaching as far back chronologically as the examples on the poster (Dickens! Eliot! Clemens!), here are three books that I’ve decided to move to the top of my stack this month:
I feel like I’m the last person on the entire planet who hasn’t read Beautiful Ruins, which has been collecting dust on my bookshelf for a year. The 1960s, behind-the-scenes peeks into the wacky film industry, a crazy love story? Yes, please! Plus, a little armchair travel to the Italian coast and sunny California sounds like the perfect way to pass the last couple of weeks of winter.
I love historical fiction, particularly relating to the Tudors. The real-life goings-on within the court of Henry VIII couldn’t have been more intriguing had they been scripted by the likes of George R.R. Martin. Corruption, ego, excess, scheming, and a Man Booker Prize—sounds like Wolf Hall has the perfect ingredients for a thrilling read that I’m looking forward to diving into.
As a huge fan of both Pride and Prejudice and “Downton Abbey,” it’s practically a crime—or a head-scratcher at the very least—that I haven’t read Longbourn yet. This critically praised re-imagining of the Austen classic—told from the perspective of the Bennett household servants—landed on our Best Books of 2013 list, and I’m hoping that reading it will take some of the sting out of the recent end of Downton’s fourth season.
But what about you, readers? Is there a book that’s been lingering on your TBR list that you might move up to the top this month? If so, we want to know what it is—share in the comments below!
• Flavorwire rounded up some fantastic video and audio clips of authors reading their own works. We're talking Joan Didion (at right), Zadie Smith, William Faulkner, Truman Capote . . . and 11 others!
• Hold onto your hats, Robert Galbraith fans, because J.K. Rowling has announced that her Cormoran Strike crime fiction series will not end with June's publication of The Silkworm. Five additional novels will follow!
• Brit Tim Martin has started a new 26-part weekly Telegraph series he's referring to as an "A to Z of forgotten books" that deserve to be remembered. First up: A is for Ariel by André Maurois, first published in 1923.
• Yes, Valentine's Day is over, and everyone's experiencing some internet-quiz fatigue these days, but no self-respecting bibliophile could pass up BuzzFeed's Which Classic Author Is Your Soulmate? (I, for one, can't wait to watch Before Sunset with my dreamily handsome match, Anton Chekov, at left.)
With just a few days left in February, let's take a look at the March LibraryReads list, which features the 10 books coming out next month that librarians across the country are the most excited about sharing with their patrons.
Coming in at #1 is Laura McHugh's The Weight of Blood, which our reviewer describes as "a tense, taut novel and a truly remarkable debut. . . . a suspenseful thrill ride that satisfies in all the right ways." (Read our full review here, and our interview with McHugh about the book here.)
What do you think, readers? Will any of the March LibraryReads books be going on your TBR list?
Veteran romance author Lorraine Heath has written more than 60 novels over the past 20 years. Her latest, When the Duke Was Wicked (out today!), is the first in her brand-new, deliciously titled new Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series. Will the rakish Duke of Lovingdon (love it!) forgo his wicked ways and give in to his love for Lady Grace Mabry? In this guest blog post, Heath offers a peek into her creative process and shares how real life has a tendency to influence her while she's writing.
I’m a by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. When characters visit me, asking for their story to be told, they aren’t always forthcoming with what that story entails. Very often, they simply give me a glimpse—a scene or two—something to intrigue me, to make me want to explore what leads to the scene and what follows. When the Duke Was Wicked, the first book in the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series, was no exception.
When I began writing the book, my husband had just finished a successful prostate cancer treatment, and three of my friends had beaten breast cancer. Cancer was very much on my mind. I didn’t originally intend for Grace, my heroine, to have cancer. She was quite obsessed with marrying for love, but as I wrote the story, I realized that she needed to be struggling with something internally in order for the reader not to find her motivation weak. It needed to be something hidden, that her husband would discover on their wedding night. She planned to reveal it before the wedding, wanting someone who would love her so much that whatever her secret was wouldn’t alter his feelings. I considered an accident that had resulted in scarring, something that made her self-conscious. Then I envisioned the scene where Lovingdon, with his wicked ways, would seduce her. And when I envisioned him undressing her, I realized she’d had a mastectomy. During Victorian times, cancer was a disease that no one talked about. It was shameful to have suffered through it. So of course Grace didn’t tell anyone, not even her dearest friends. Her parents knew, and that was it.
When writing a story, we want the characters to have to face their deepest fears. Lovingdon had already lost his first love to disease and never wanted to love again. But he does fall in love with Grace. And then he discovers she’s had cancer—sees that physical indication—and it terrifies him, angers him. He can’t bear the thought of loving and losing again. There’s no guarantee that she will remain cancer-free. But during the time period for this story, the treatment of breast cancer was advancing so I could realistically have a character who survived it.
As a writer, I tend to incorporate in my stories whatever I need to work through. Not always, of course. I tend to be cruel to my characters, and I’ve never had anyone be cruel to me. I’ve never been abused or beaten. But there is usually something reflected in my writing that is part of me. Unfortunately cancer has been very present the past few years. Writing about it, giving my characters an optimistic and hopeful story, has allowed me to work through some of my anger and fears. Grace is such a strong character that I think I channeled some of my friends into her. She faces the disease with dignity and an indomitable spirit. She is determined to make every moment count, because she doesn’t know how many she might have left. She won’t be cowed. I think she is a remarkable character, one who has given me the opportunity to acknowledge those who face cancer—any cancer—with such grace.
Thank you, Lorraine! Readers, will you be adding When the Duke Was Wicked to your TBR list?
(Author photo by Kayla Marie Photography)
Bich Minh Nguyen's enthralling second novel, Pioneer Girl, offers a version of the immigrant experience that's different from the one we usually read about: the Middle America Asian-American experience. Our interview with Nguyen about Pioneer Girl highlights the fascinating inspiration behind the book, also offering a peek into her creative process.
We were curious about the books Nguyen has enjoyed reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three recent favorites, which she graciously agreed to share.
Happiness, Like Water
By Chinelo Okparanta
I love the distilled experience of reading short stories, and Okparanta’s debut collection is powerful and heartbreaking in the best way. Set in Nigeria and the United States, the stories follow characters struggling in their relationships, families, and social and political circumstances. The question of identity, especially for women, is always at the forefront, as in two of my favorite stories here, “On Ohaeto Street,” about a couple’s doomed marriage, and “America,” about a woman whose decision to emigrate creates hope but also signals the loss of family heritage.
Son of a Gun
By Justin St. Germain
I recently taught this memoir, which is as clear-eyed, beautiful and intense as one could hope for in a work of nonfiction. While St. Germain focuses the narrative on his search for understanding in the years after his mother’s murder, he also reflects on the landscape of Tombstone, Arizona, and its culture of myth-making and violence. With restraint and care, St. Germain weaves together ideas about past and present, rage and stillness, loss and reinvention.
By Natalie Baszile
I just started this lovely and absorbing novel about a mother and daughter who move from Los Angeles to Louisiana, drawn by an inheritance of 800 acres of sugarcane land. The farming life and the Southern country life are completely unfamiliar to Charley Bordelon and her daughter Micah, and they have to learn quickly. Much is on the line here, as Charley feels like this is her one big chance to start over and make a life for herself and Micah. And there’s a tantalizing mystery, too: Who was Charley’s father? Why did he leave all this land to her? I can’t wait to see how the stories and secrets unfold.
What do you think, readers? Will you be adding Pioneer Girl—or any of Nguyen's recommended books—to your TBR list?
• A literary treasure brought to our attention by Open Culture: The British Library has posted a digital copy of Jane Austen's simply delightful parody, "The History of England," which she hand-wrote and illustrated when she was just 15 years old.
• HuffPost presents 8 female characters who deserve their own book. (My addition to the list: Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca.)
• Ever wondered what sorts of books Bill Gates likes to read? (Some might be a little surprising!)
• J.K. Rowling recently admitted to having a few regrets about the ending of the Harry Potter books, inspiring the folks over at The Millions to round up a slew of other infamous literary second thoughts.
• Stein by Picasso, Zola by Manet—Book Riot offers up 9 portraits of great authors painted by great artists.
Listen up! The Audio Publishers Association has announced the nominees for the 2014 Audie Awards across 29 categories. Two of our own here at BookPage—Julia Steele, our associate publisher, and Sukey Howard, contributing editor who writes our Audio column—will be serving as judges this year, and we certainly don't envy their having to select just one winner from all of the nominees, which include:
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (read by Will Patton)
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (read by George Guidall)
The Good House by Ann Leary (read by Mary Beth Hurth)
The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler (read by Tavia Gilbert)
Jacob's Oath by Martin Fletcher (read by Ari Fliakos)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (read by Neil Gaiman)
Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett (read by Amy McFadden)
The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan (read by Kate Udall, George Guidall, Jason Culp, Erik Bergmann)
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (read by David Pittu)
The Son by Philipp Meyer (read by Will Patton, Scott Shepherd, Kate Mulgrew, Clifton Collins Jr.)
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín (read by Meryl Streep)
White Dog Fell From the Sky by Eleanor Morse (read by Carla Mercer-Meyer)
Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill (read by Sandy Rustin)
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell (read by Malcolm Gladwell)
The End of Nature by Bill McKibben (read by Jeff Woodman)
The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti (read by L.J. Gasner)
Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel (read by Arthur Bishop)
C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race by Geoff Williams (read by Robertson Dean)
Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King (read by Peter Francis James)
Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff (read by Mitchell Zuckoff)
The Hour of Peril by Daniel Stashower (read by Edoardo Ballerini)
Nero's Killing Machine by Stephen Dando-Collins (read by Robert Fass)
One Summer by Bill Bryson (read by Bill Bryson)
See the full list of nominees here. Winners will be announced at a gala in New York City on May 29. Which books will you be rooting for?
A couple of weeks ago, we shared our favorite recent literary love stories . . . and asked you to share yours. Hundreds of you participated in the poll, and, after careful tabulation, we are thrilled to present the five books that garnered the most votes:
#1 Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
#2 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
#3 The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
#4 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
#5 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
What do you think about the results? Did your favorite literary love story make the list?