A couple of weeks ago, I set off on a 12-day trip to London and St. Petersburg. Ordinarily, this would mean pretty much carrying my weight in reading material -- who wants to be stuck on a plane with the wrong book? -- but this trip was different. Instead of half a dozen books, I was setting out with only a Kindle. While my shoulder was happy about the lighter carry-on, I couldn't help feeling a bit unprepared.
The verdict? I'm not sure I need to travel with books ever again. While I did end up buying a novel in the London airport (the first few pages of Little Bee got me hooked, and I couldn't use the Kindle's wireless feature overseas), having several books and periodicals at my fingertips was pretty much heaven. Not to mention that the device was a conversation piece -- even the flight attendants were asking about it.
This experience only cemented my opinion that the Kindle is the device that will take ebooks mainstream. The novelty factor, the convenience of having a world of books at your fingertips -- it reminded me of the way I felt the first time I traveled with an iPod. The Kindle isn't perfect: it's expensive, the joystick feels somewhat prehistoric if you're used to devices with a touchscreen, and the wireless network can be slow. And aside from the device itself, there are issues about pricing and DRM that have yet to be worked out (at least publishers can look to the experience of the music and TV industries while working on these). Still, I can't help but feel that ereaders are the best way to make reading relevant for a generation that's grown up with the Internet.
Anyone else ever traveled with a Kindle or another ereader?
Am I imagining this or have chickens become fashionable? In my suburban neighborhood, a few trendsetters are keeping chickens in their backyards -- it's against code restrictions, but if the neighbors don't tattle and the chicken coops are hidden from street view, the homeowners get away with it. And they're rewarded with a steady supply of delicious fresh eggs.
If this is a trend, debut author Jane Berentson is tapping into it in her new novel, Miss Harper Can Do It, on sale Thursday. Annie Harper is a third-grade teacher who finds solace in the companionship of a pet chicken when her boyfriend ships out for a 392-day military deployment. ("Wow, Annie," a friend tells her. "You have a garbage disposal, a dishwasher, and a chicken.") To prove that there are those among us who keep chickens not only for food, but also as pets, Berentson has produced a video about pet chickens on Staten Island:
Chickens are all the rage in children's books, too, with several new picture books touting the glories of our feathered friends. One of our favorites is Tillie Lays An Egg by Terry Golson. In finely detailed photos by Ben Fink, Tillie gallivants around the farm, laying her eggs in unexpected places. Pre-school teacher Allison tells us that her students love to spot Tillie's eggs and beg to hear this book read aloud again and again. And here's the best part: little ones (and their interested parents) can watch the real-life Tillie and her chicken companions on Golson's live hencam. Be sure to click on "Inside" for a second view inside the chicken coop (eggsactly!). Why am I suddenly craving deviled eggs?
Over at A Fuse #8 Production, a reader poll ranks Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes as number 15 on a list of the Top 100 Picture Books of All Time.
We share the love for Henkes' naughty-but-lovable heroine, and have for quite a long time. Back in 1996, when Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse was first published, we interviewed Henkes about the book and his inspiration for the story. In a sequence of events that's still hard to believe, Henkes also describes how he made a trip to New York at the age of 19 and landed a book contract with Greenwillow on his second day in the city. Although there are thousands (and thousands) of book reviews and features in the BookPage.com archives, this interview remains one of our most-read articles, year in and year out. Which proves two things: there's no explaining the mysteries of web traffic, and very few book-related sites on the web offer the length and breadth of the BookPage archives. Try browsing through BookPage.com yourself (including the flip-through version of the current print edition) and stay tuned for the long-awaited and totally redesigned site that will put more book news and recommendations at your fingertips.
More on Kevin Henkes: When Lilly returned for her Big Day in 2006, readers learned more about the memorable mouse and her creator in this illustrated Q&A.
One of our favorite books from the upcoming May issue of BookPage is Alan Bradley’s debut novel, Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. In Sweetness we meet Flavia de Luce, an 11-year-old aspiring chemist with a passion for poison and intrigue. When a series of inexplicable events strikes Buckshaw, the decaying English mansion that Flavia and her family call home, Flavia is delighted to get to the bottom of things.
70-year-old author Alan Bradley has written a memoir and collaborated on a work of nonfiction, but this brilliant mystery is his first novel. Fans of Flavia de Luce will be delighted to hear that Sweetness is just the first in a series following Bradley’s charming new heroine.
To read our review of Sweetness—and get a sneak peek of the May issue—click here.
To enter to win a free copy of Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, leave a comment (by May 1) that includes the title of your favorite mystery novel.
UPDATE: This contest has ended, but you can still join the discussion by commenting on your favorite mystery.
Ursula Le Guin won the Nebula Award (her sixth by our count) for best novel at a ceremony Saturday night at UCLA. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America chose Le Guin's Powers, the third book in the Annals of the Western Shore series, for the top honor. Interestingly, the novel is aimed at young adult readers, as is another Nebula finalist, Cory Doctorow's Homeland Security thriller Little Brother. Can we take this as another indicator that some of the most imaginative fiction being published today is in the YA market?
The winner of the Andre Norton Award for young adult science fiction and fantasy went to Ysabeau S. Wilce for Flora's Dare, a wild romp of a book, which has one of the longest subtitles we've seen lately: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room). For a look at the woman behind this fantastical vision, check out Kelly Link's 2007 BookPage interview with Wilce or the author's entertaining (and somewhat bizarre) website.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of months, you’ve probably seen a trailer for The Soloist, a new movie about the remarkable bond between a Los Angeles journalist (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) and a homeless, classically trained musician (Jamie Foxx). But did you know the movie is based on a book by that L.A. journalist, Steve Lopez?
Today is the last day to enter our very first Book Case giveaway. Click here and leave a comment for a chance to win one of the season's most talked-about debut novels. And be sure to read the recommendations from 27 readers (and counting) on their personal favorite coming-of-age stories.
In 2007, a young, handsome and totally unknown writer named Joshua Ferris rocked the publishing scene with his brilliant debut novel And Then We Came to the End. Writing in a first-person-plural narrative, Ferris satirized the American workplace by exploring a fictional Chicago advertising agency at the end of the 90s Internet boom. The book won the PEN/Hemingway Award, was named one of the New York Times Book Review’s “10 Best Books of the Year” and became a finalist for the National Book Award. Not bad for a 32-year-old who worked in—you guessed it—advertising before turning to writing.
In January 2010, Ferris will be back with The Unnamed—a novel that sounds as mysterious as its title. The novel focuses on Tim and Jane Farnsworth, a long-married couple who seem to have it all. But Tim has twice battled a bizarre, inexplicable illness, and when that illness returns, Tim’s behavior becomes so frightening that he and Jane are forced to leave their comfortable existence and battle against a series of terrifying new realities. Industry buzz says that while this book is absolutely a departure for Ferris, the new novel is well-worth the wait.
To read more about Ferris and his debut novel, check out his 2007 interview with BookPage.
Exciting news for Barbara Kingsolver fans—Harper has just announced that they will release The Lacuna, Kingsolver’s first novel in nine years, this November. Kingsolver’s last novel was The Prodigal Summer, following the tremendous success of her blockbuster (and Oprah pick) The Poisonwood Bible.
Seven years in the making, The Lacuna is set in Mexico and the U.S. during the 1930s, 40s and 50s. According to Kingsolver’s publisher, the novel “tells the story of Harrison William Shepherd, a man caught between two worlds—an unforgettable protagonist whose search for identity will take readers to the heart of the twentieth century’s most tumultuous events.” And a bonus for history buffs—The Lacuna includes real-life historical figures like Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Leon Trotsky—a first for Kingsolver’s fiction.
We haven’t read a word of The Lacuna just yet, but Kingsolver is an office favorite and we can’t wait to see what amazing world she has created for her readers this time.
Any other readers out there see this as a very strange piece of casting? I never pictured Patricia Cornwell's famous medical examiner as frumpy, but I didn't see her looking like Lara Croft either! Especially in the early books (Body of Evidence, All That Remains) Cornwell presents Scarpetta as more of a restrained, professional, all-business type. Hollywood, of course, has its own priorities, and fidelity to books isn't one of them. We're especially interested in reports that the first movie won't be based on one book in the series, but several. Does this mean they'll simply take the Scarpetta character and come up with a whole new storyline?
Also, we're wondering who'll play Scarpetta's niece, Lucy. And her policeman pal, Marino. Nominations anyone?