But I have to say that I took a little more notice than usual when I read about another awards announcement over the weekend—for the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year, sponsored by The Bookseller, a British book industry magazine.
Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes by Daina Taimina is apparently the oddest book title of the year, followed by What Kind of Bean is this Chihuahua? by Tara Jansen-Meyer; Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich by James A. Yannes; and other decidedly odd titles. Read the press release here and tell us—what's your favorite odd book title? (There are some gems out there; how about The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification?)
Another weekend, another post about the Masterpiece series on PBS. This week the spotlight is on contemporary British author Bernard Cornwell, who writes several different historical fiction series. Masterpiece Classic is airing a two-part series, Sharpe's Challenge, based on Cornwell's Colonel Sharpe series. Former naval hero Richard Sharpe is sent to India in the early 1800s in search of a missing British agent. It's a tumultuous time for the country, to say the least, and during the course of his search, Sharpe faces Indians who are less than happy with their English colonizers—as well as the seductive wiles of Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi.
The first episode airs Sunday night. Will you watch, or are you more a classic, "bonnets and breeches" costume drama fan? As much as I love series set in the English countryside, those bright saris might be a welcome change of pace. Read more about the Sharpe's Challenge adaptation here.
You can also check out the BookPage review of Cornwell's latest historical novel, The Burning Land.
What posts on book blogs did you enjoy reading this week? A few of my picks are below...
John Warner Tells You What to Read Next
Posted by John Williams on The Second Pass's blog
If you haven't been following the Tournament of Books closely, this post is a good point at which to jump in. Over at online lit publication The Second Pass's blog, John Williams highlights some commentary from the Quarterfinal round, in which Wolf Hall faced off against The Anthologist. The post will make you think about how and why we choose what we read:
The last two books I finished were Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask and Next by James Hynes. I read those because I loved their previous books. Their current ones delivered much the same pleasures as their last efforts. They were every bit as good as I hoped and expected, but I’d already tasted those flavors. Should I be forcing myself to be a bit more adventurous, to turn toward the unexplored territory, to occasionally pick pistachio over mint chocolate chip at Baskin-Robbins?
Okay, so maybe it's a little weird that I'm linking to a post about coloring books, but bear with me. The Taro Gomi coloring books (and books by other artists) that this blogger writes about on Nosuch Book are way more inventive and fun than the generic princess books I used when I was a kid. And even if you don't know a little one who'd be entranced by these doodles, adults are getting in on the action, too: "Playfulness returns with the bright sun and warm breezes of spring. With lots of reminders everywhere to not forget how to be a kid. Want to color with me?"
Books Podcast #70: Books for the Plane Ride
Posted by Books on the Nightstand
Going on a trip any time soon? Michael and Ann at Books on the Nightstand chat about what makes a great airplane book, and agree that a thriller is the best way to pass time on a long flight. What is your favorite airplane book? Share your picks on their blog (and here, too!).
There are plenty of big-name author releases I'm looking forward to this fall (Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, to name one). But a lesser-known British writer, Scarlett Thomas, is also up near the top of that list. Her inventive The End of Mr. Y blended fiction, philosophy and physics to create a fascinating and memorable read. The novel was filled with ideas and had enough plot to carry you through them—I was thinking about it long after the last page was turned.
Our Tragic Universe (HMH), her next novel, seems to have a similar surrealist angle—and a similar, smart-but-down-and-out heroine in Meg Carpenter, a woman caught in a dead-end relationship who's struggling to complete an overdue manuscript. When she takes on a writing assignment to review a book by an author who claims to have discovered a way to live forever, Meg has to wonder—would anyone really want to?
Consulting cosmology and physics, tarot cards, koans (and riddles and jokes), new-age theories of everything, narrative theory, Nietzsche, Baudrillard, and knitting patterns, Meg wends her way through Our Tragic Universe, asking this and many other questions. Does she believe in fairies? In magic? Is she a superbeing? Is she living a storyless story? And what’s the connection between her off-hand suggestion to push a car into a river, a ship in a bottle, a mysterious beast loose on the moor, and the controversial author of The Science of Living Forever?Smart, entrancing, and boiling over with Thomas’s trademark big ideas, Our Tragic Universe is a book about how relationships are created and destroyed, how we can rewrite our futures (if not our histories), and how stories just might save our lives.
There's a new review on our website that will appeal to people who liked Running with Scissors. . . or who are intrigued by families that have 14-bathroom apartments. Or who put hamsters in frying pans.
When I first heard of Wendy Burden's memoir, Dead End Gene Pool, I was skeptical. I reviewed Tad Friend's Cheerful Money in the October edition of BookPage, and I wondered. . . how much is there to say about fallen WASPs? (Friend's ancestors came to America in the 17th century and his father was president of Swarthmore College. Burden's great-great-great-great grandfather was Cornelius Vanderbilt. Both memoirs address the dysfunction in later generations of privileged families.)
I think I'll have to reconsider my position. Although Dead End Gene Pool doesn't hit shelves until April 1, our review is available now online. Nonfiction editor Kate Pritchard called Burden's memoir "darkly funny," writing:
Burden herself is a delightfully strange character, especially as a child, when her fascination with all things morbid was at its peak. (In one episode, she attempts to drive off one of her mother’s suitors by dressing up like Wednesday Addams and trying to cook her pet hamster in a frying pan.)
Sounds like we're not the only ones who've taken notice of this memoir. On Wednesday there was a lengthy write-up about Burden in the New York Times, which includes a slide show of her Portland home. (Note the camel skull on her coffee table.) Penguin also released a video interview with the author which features photos of family members in the book (watch the video after jump).
What do you think—is the WASP memoir a hot genre? Will you read Dead End Gene Pool?
The Romance Writers of America announced the 2010 RITA Award finalists today, and many of the titles are recommended in BookPage by our romance columnist, Christie Ridgway.
Before I get to that, though, we want to give a shout out to Christie for getting not one but two of her own nominations—for Dirty Sexy Knitting and I Still Do. Former BookPage romance columnist Barbara O'Neal is also a finalist for The Lost Recipe for Happiness. Congratulations, ladies!
Click here to view the complete list of finalists. Among the titles covered in BookPage are Fireside by Susan Wiggs (for Contemporary Series) and Laura Lee Guhrke’s With Seduction in Mind (Historical Romance). I was also happy to see that Ally Carter got a nomination for YA romance (I interviewed her in December), and Kristan Higgins got a nod for Too Good to Be True. (We ran an interview with her in February.)
The Awards will be announced on July 31 at the RWA’s National Conference in Nashville, and you can bet there will be BookPage bloggers in attendance to report back on all the fun.
What’s your favorite romance novel?
Less than a year after the publication of South of Broad, Pat Conroy has signed a deal to write My Life in Books, a nonfiction account of the “people, writers and books that made him into the reader and writer he is today, from Tolstoy to Thomas Wolfe and beyond,” according to an announcement yesterday in Publisher’s Marketplace.
This will not be the best-selling author’s first foray into nonfiction. The Water Is Wide (1972) is based on his experiences as a schoolteacher, and in 2002, Conroy published My Losing Season, a memoir inspired by his senior year season as starting point guard on The Citadel’s basketball team. In 2004, he published The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life, which includes personal stories in addition to recipes.
No doubt My Life in Books will be eagerly anticipated; Conroy is a favorite of BookPage readers—South of Broad was our cover story in August (read a review of this “lush, remarkable new novel”), and we interviewed him in 2002 about My Losing Season.
I wonder how the book will be organized—chronologically based on what he was reading when? By author that inspired him? When Gay Talese (the husband of Conroy’s editor, coincidentally) described some of the stories and inspiration behind his books in 2006’s A Writer’s Life, I thought the result was a bit disjointed; he bounced from anecdote to anecdote, with long digressions thrown in. I hope Conroy’s book has a clearer narrative structure.
Will you read My Life in Books?
Ms. Johnson was the author of a memoir, It Is Well With My Soul: The Extraordinary Life of a 105-Year-Old Woman. Originally slated to be published on April 27, the book's publication date has now been pushed up to March 31. It tells the story of her life, from her early days in Dallas, Texas, living through segregation and the Jim Crow era, to her education (she was the oldest living black graduate of Case Western Reserve University), to her marriage and family life, to her values as a Good Samaritan, and up through her attendance at Barack Obama's presidential inauguration in January 2009.
Another remarkable African-American woman's life is celebrated in a memoir by Ann Nixon Cooper, whom Obama mentioned in his Election Day speech. Ms. Cooper's book, A Century and Some Change: My Life Before the President Called My Name, was also released mere weeks after her death. She passed away on Dec. 21, 2009, at 107 years old.
It's inspiring to read about these women and the incredible change they witnessed over the course of their lifetimes. If you're looking for a similar book, check out Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First Hundred Years, published in 1993. Although the Delany sisters, born in the 19th century, have also now passed away, we are lucky that all of these women have shared their stories with us.
In recent weeks there have been tidbits of information about the movie version of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help—the BookPage reader favorite book of 2009. Stockett herself mentioned the movie in an interview with Katie Couric, and yesterday the Huffington Post gave some background information on director Tate Taylor, who optioned the story before the book was even published, and has been friends with Stockett since they were five:
"She didn't even have a publisher yet and I said, 'You've got to let me option this,'" Taylor said in an interview from New York, where he was having casting interviews. "And she said, 'I'm going to hold you to this. It's going to be so much fun.' And then, of course, she got her agent and I was the last person in the world they wanted."
On The Root, media and culture critic Natalie Hopkinson is skeptical of a Hollywood adaptation, writing that she doesn’t have “particularly high hopes for what will happen to this sweet book when Hollywood gets its grubby hands on it. If the recent piece in People magazine speculating on who the cast would be is any indication, we need to brace ourselves.”
What are your thoughts on casting for The Help?