It's the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and of course we at BookPage have some reading suggestions to make! Anyone concerned about our planet's future shouldn't miss this Q&A with environmental activist Bill McKibben, who posits in his latest book, Eaarth, that climate change has already happened. Still, he says, it's not too late: "[W]e're going to need to be dealing with the ever-increasing effects of an unraveling climate, which will be costly and hard. But not impossible, not if we think clearly, calmly and as communities."
Other Earth day highlights include a roundup of environmental books for kids. Since we believe that reading can encourage environmental awareness in children, we're giving away three of the books from the roundup: Mary McKenna Siddals' Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth; Frances Barry's Let's Save the Animals; and 31 Ways to Change the World, produced by We Are What We Do. To enter to win, read Bill McKibben's Q&A and answer the following question in the comments section: What can we (as individuals) do to help our planet? The deadline is April 29 at 10 a.m.
Yesterday some BookPage staffers were reviewing summer middle grade novels, and I couldn't help but pause at the cover of Kathi Appelt's Keeper—and think of Katherine's cover déjà vu series over at A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore.
A person and an animal on a boat? Sea life lurking below the water's surface? For the record, I think Keeper is a lovely cover, and it looks even better in person (it's one of those thick squarish books that are so pleasing to hold).
Keeper will be out May 18 from Simon & Schuster. In the meantime, read about Appelt's Newbery Honor Book The Underneath.
Have you seen any book jackets lately that give you a weird sense of. . . déjà vu?
I don't watch a lot of late-night talk shows, but last night I flipped to the Late Show just as David Letterman was making fun of the Kindle—more specifically, joking about how the iPad will run Kindle out of business. During his monologue, Letterman ran a "commercial" about all the great things you can do with your Kindle. . . besides reading.
His suggestions (to watch the complete segment, view this YouTube clip; the commercial start around 3:10):
Of course, at BookPage, we've already made our thoughts known concerning Kindle vs. iPad. (If you missed Lynn's report, check it out here.) What do you think. . . is Dave right, and Kindle's on the outs?
Tinkers by Paul Harding
Bellevue Literary Press, January 1, 2009
Since then, review outlets have written about the inevitability of quality fiction sinking under the radar. (Tinkers was reviewed favorably in The New Yorker and Publisher's Weekly. Many other publications—including BookPage—looked it over.) And there has been some backlash, or at least raised eyebrows, at the surprise expressed after Harding's win. When the New York Times ran a piece about Tinkers' unlikely rise to fame, Jennifer Weiner retorted on Twitter: "Indie booksellers, book bloggers congratulating themselves for getting TINKERS sales all the way to...7,000" and "Then again, I also never thought Times would fail to review debut by guy w/Iowa degree. Doesn't that come free w/diploma?"
After all the write-ups and raves about Tinkers, I decided to see why the Pulitzer Prize committee called the novel "a powerful celebration of life in which a New England father and son, through suffering and joy, transcend their imprisoning lives and offer new ways of perceiving the world and mortality."
I read Tinkers in one sitting, and though my expectations were incredibly (unreachably) high, I found the book to be deeply moving and beautifully written. It caused me to reflect on the small interactions that add up to a life, and the legacy we'll all leave behind. Tinkers is about an old man, a clock repairer, on bed rest at the end of his life. Most of the action takes place in his memory as he thinks about his father, a tinker. There are no quotation marks in the book, and the sparse dialogue feels like a smooth extension of the old man's thoughts.
The following passage (after the jump) takes place toward the beginning of the book, when the man (George Washington Crosby) decides to record his own oral history:
He began formally: My name is George Washington Crosby. I was born in West Cove, Maine, in the year 1915. I moved to Enon, Massachusetts, in 1936. And so on. After these statistics, he found that he could think only of doggerel and slightly obscene anecdotes to tell, mostly having to do with foolish stunts undertaken after drinking too much whiskey during a fishing trip and often enough centered around running into a warden with a creel full of trout and no fishing license, or a pistol that a doctor had brought into the woods: If that pistol is nine millimeters, I’ll kiss your bare, frozen ass right out there on the ice; the lyrics to a song called Come Around, Mother, It’s Better When You’re Awake. And so forth. But after a handful of such stories, he began to talk about his father and his mother, his brother, Joe, and his sisters, about taking night courses to finish school and about becoming a father. He talked about blue snow and barrels of apples and splitting frozen wood so brittle that it rang when you split it. He talked about what it is like to be a grandparent for the first time and to think about what it is you will leave behind when you die. By the time the tape ran out an hour and a half later (after he had flipped it over once, almost without being conscious of doing so), and the RECORD button sprang up with a buzz, he was openly weeping and lamenting the loss of this world of light and hope. So deeply moved, he pulled the cassette from the machine, flipped it back over to the beginning, fitted it back into its snug carriage of capstans and guiding pins, and pressed PLAY, thinking that he might preserve such a mood of pure, clean sorrow by listening back to his narrative. He imagined that his memoirs might now sound like those of an admirable stranger, a person he did not know but whom he immediately recognized and loved dearly. Instead, the voice he heard sounded nasally and pinched and, worse, not very well educated, as if he were a bumpkin who had been called, perhaps even in mockery, to testify about holy things, as if not the testimony but the fumbling through it were the reason for his presence in front of some dire, heavenly senate. He listened to six seconds of the tape before he ejected it and threw it into the fire burning in the woodstove.
There have been a lot of mashups and boundary-crossing novels in fiction lately, but this one took me by surprise.
Amish + Vampire = ??? Well, conflict, for sure, since it is unlikely that the Amish community looks on the undead with anything approaching approval.
From Publisher's Marketplace:
Leanna Ellis's FORSAKEN, first in the Plain Fear series in which a young Amish woman mourning the mysterious 'death' of her beloved, now a vampire, must choose between two brothers, between good and evil, between a lasting love and the damnation of her soul, to Peter Lynch at Sourcebooks.
Today, Kevin at The Millions made a strong case for Lionel Shriver as America's best living novelist. The thoughtful post is worth a read, but the standout for me as a Shriver convert already was a throwaway mention of a We Need to Talk About Kevin movie coming in 2011. Eek!
According to IMDB, Ezra Miller (Afterschool & "Californication") will play teenaged Kevin, and Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly will play his parents in the film, directed by Lynne Ramsey. I can't think of a more perfect Eva than Swinton and am now doubly excited for the film's release. Filming is set to start in Connecticut this month.
What do you think of Shriver as a candidate for best living American writer? If you don't agree, who would you nominate?
Beth Pattillo's Jane Austen tributes have been a hit with BookPage reviewers. Romance columnist Christie Ridgway called Jane Austen Ruined My Life—about a heartbroken Austen expert—"smart chick lit that’s an absolute pleasure to read." This year, Linda White was charmed by Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, in which an office manager meets a "dashingly handsome yet annoyingly aloof publishing executive" at a Pride and Prejudice seminar.
And now Pattillo has signed a deal to add more fuel to the current Jane Austen craze. GuidepostsBooks will publish The Dashwood Sisters Tell All: A Novel with Sense and Sensibility. (Right now there's no set pub date, but my money's on February 2011, since her two previous J.A. novels were published in Feb. '09 and Feb. '10.)
Per Publisher's Marketplace, this novel will follow three sisters on a walking tour of Hampshire, England, where they find a book that might be the diary of Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra, chronicling their lives as sisters and shedding new light on the writing of Sense and Sensibility.
If you can't wait that long for an Austen fix, pick up Allegra Goodman's The Cookbook Collector in July—a Sense and Sensibility-type story for the digital age.
Have you had enough of Austen, or will you relish another homage to the queen of social comedy?
Novelist Jan Karon will be returning with a second Father Tim novel, In the Company of Others, on October 19. After concluding her Mitford series in 2005 with Light From Heaven, Karon used the marriage of beloved character Father Tim to launch a spin-off series that seems just as popular with her many fans.
So far, few details have been released about the upcoming book—though Karon has said it is one of her longest: "This book will have many more chapters than my previous novels, and the lengths will vary greatly." It takes place in County Sligo, Ireland, where Father Tim and Cynthia have traveled to do some genealogical research. Instead, the couple becomes caught up in the lives of the county's modern-day inhabitants, especially the family who owns the inn where they are staying.
For today's highlight of book trailers, I've decided to focus on nonfiction—Jason Turbow's hilarious must-read for baseball fans: The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, and Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America's Pastime (love that complete title) and First Brother-in-Law Craig Robinson's anticipated memoir, A Game of Character.
You can get the inside scoop on the following dilemmas in Turbow's book, which is covered in our April baseball roundup: How does a pitcher know when to hit a batter? How does a runner know when it’s acceptable to bulldog the catcher? Should a ballplayer bring his wife to the bar at the team’s hotel? The trailer definitely captures the fun and upbeat tone of the book:
A Game of Character goes on sale today, and BookPage reviewer Pete Croatto writes that the book is "a combination of autobiography, motivational handbook and presidential campaign log." Although there is motivational prose (complete with exclamation points) that will ensure Robinson's spot "on the corporate speaker circuit," Croatto assures us that this memoir is really a compelling tale of determination and principles. Here's a preview:
Have you seen any good book trailers lately?
BookPage is proud to present our first video author interview: a Q&A with Thomas Chatterton Williams, author of Losing My Cool: How a Father's Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture. His 2007 Washington Post column on the pernicious effects of hip-hop culture on African Americans was based on his own experience, and the book is both personal and universal as it chronicles Williams' youthful struggle between the worlds of street cred and college credits.
Friend of BookPage Stephenie Harrison came up with a few brilliant questions for the Penguin Press publicity department to ask Williams during a visit to their NYC offices. His answers are sure to make you think.