The music lover in your life will appreciate the gift of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, by Wall Street Journal reporter and literary blogger Terry Teachout. BookPage reviewer Ron Wynn says this "superb" biography contains tidbits of information about the famous jazz musician that will surprise even the most ardent fans (did you know Armstrong had a taste for pot, or feuded with President Eisenhower?).
A former city girl, Ree Drummond left her high-heeled boots and sushi dinners behind to marry a cattle rancher, "Marlboro Man." After having four children, she started to chronicle her adventures in cooking, ranching, homeschooling, photography and home repair on a blog, The Pioneer Woman—and in just three years, Drummond, or "P-Dub" as she is often called, became an Internet phenomenon, à la Dooce’s Heather Armstrong or Greek Tragedy’s Stephanie Klein.
Like many bloggers, Drummond is making the jump from web to print, and her cookbook—appropriately named The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl—came out in October. Full of the homey recipes, beautiful photography and goofy humor found on her site, the book became an instant hit: the week of November 6, the book was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in the Hardcover Advice category.
I’d heard tales of huge turnouts on Drummond's book tour, so I eagerly went to Nashville’s signing at Davis-Kidd Booksellers on December 8. I’m not a good judge of crowd size, so I’ll just say that an entire floor of the bookstore was packed (not Mall-of-America-packed, but packed all the same). Before she started signing books, Drummond admitted that she’s nervous speaking in front of crowds, but offered to answer questions. One woman shouted out “Where’s Marlboro Man?”, and after a brief answer (at home, taking a break from travel) Drummond launched into signing books.
Since there wasn’t time at the signing for an interview, BookPage asked Drummond to respond to some questions via e-mail.
BookPage: If I could only make one recipe in The Pioneer Woman Cooks, what should it be, and why?
The Pioneer Woman: This is an impossible question to answer! It depends on what you're in the mood for. Comfort food? (Mac & Cheese, Chicken Fried Steak, Meatloaf, Comfort Meatballs would suit you just fine!) Elegant food? (Roasted Beef Tenderloin, Burgundy Mushrooms, Creamy Rosemary Potatoes would make you smile.) Sweets? (The Chocolate Sheet Cake and Peach Crisp will make your eyes roll back in your head.) Sorry—I wasn't very helpful, was I?
Is there a city-girl cooking trick or two you've taken with you into your ranch kitchen?
I've always been addicted to cooking with wine. Sometimes the cowboys turn up their noses if I add too much to a pot roast or braising short ribs. But I loved it then, now, and forever. Oh, and I always add more garlic than normal people would—5 cloves instead of 3.
Many of the recipes and stories in The Pioneer Woman Cooks have already appeared on your website. Did writing a book feel different than writing a blog post?
Yes. A book is tangible, can be held in your hand, passed to a friend, carried into your kitchen. I knew I couldn't possibly write a cookbook without including my longtime favorites like cinnamon rolls, blackberry cobbler, the Marlboro Man Sandwich, and Jalapeno Poppers, so I balanced existing recipes with new ones. It was important to me that the book retain the same feel of the site—sort of a stream-of-consciousness, irreverent, relaxed approach to cooking and life.
Are you able to read all the comments on all of your posts—and if so, how long does it take?
Aside from contest posts (which elicit more comments than a normal post), I do read every single comment left on my site. I can't imagine not reading them—I learn more (and crack up more) reading the comments folks than anything I could come up with. Very hilarious people read my site. I love them!
How do your kids feel about their mom being a web star?
“Star” isn't a word that really enters into our consciousness in our life on the ranch. Stars, I imagine, don't have manure on their porch. And if they do, they probably have someone on staff to shovel it away.
I don't have a staff like that.
Now I'm really depressed.
Which is sexier: chaps or cowboy hats?
Oh, the former. Most definitely . . . the former. I recommend them for lifeless marriages everywhere!
So Much for That by Lionel Shriver
Harper, March 2010
Shep could feel it, that for Zach suddenly the whole happy-family playacting was too much. The boy didn't know that until a week ago his father was about to abscond to the east coast of Africa, and he didn't know that his mother had just been diagnosed with a rare and deadly cancer, much less did he know that as far as his mother was concered the disease was his father's fault. But these highly incidental unsaids emitted the equivalent of the high-frequency sound waves that convenience stores now broadcast outside their shops to keep loitering gangs from the door. What dulled adult ears could no longer detect was unbearable to adolescents, and the same might be said of emotional fraud. Zach popped his pizza pocket early from the taoster and took his half-frozen dinner in a paper towel upstairs without even bothering with "See ya."
Roast chicken, boiled potatoes and steamed green beans. Glynis commended his preparation, but only picked. "I feel fat," she admitted.
"You're underweight. It's only fluid. You have to stop thinking like that."
"Suddenly I'm supposed to become a different person?"
"You can be the same person who eats more."
"Your chicken," she said, "is probably not what I feel so little appetite for." This was surely true. Given the purpose of food, an appetite at meals implied an appetite for the future.
The 2010 Golden Globe nominations were announced this morning, and I was happy to see that many of the picks were based on books. Here are the highlights:
Up in the Air, based on Walter Kirn’s 2001 novel, led the pack with six nominations: best picture (drama), best actor in a drama, best director, best screenplay and best supporting actress (two nominations here, for Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick).
The Blind Side, based on Michael Lewis’s book of the same name, was nominated for best actress in a drama.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (a BookPage favorite!) and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs were both nominated for best animated feature film.
Invictus, based on John Carlin’s book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation, was nominated for best actor in a drama.
The Lovely Bones, based on Alice Sebold’s novel, was nominated for best supporting actor.
Precious, based on the novel Push by Sapphire, was nominated for best picture (drama), best actress in a drama and best supporting actress.
Sherlock Holmes was nominated for best actor in a comedy.
A Single Man, based on Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel, was nominated for best actor in a drama, best supporting actress and best original score.
See a complete list of nominees. How many of the books-to-movies have you read? What book would you like to see as a movie next year?
And finally, the last of our "Best of 2009" lists: nonfiction. This year's picks include a little of everything, with an emphasis on memoir—it was a good year for getting personal.
[gallery link="file" columns="4" orderby="rand"]
Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
Lit by Mary Karr
Louisa May Alcott by Harriet Reisen
Stitches by David Small
Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder
Googled by Ken Auletta
Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon
The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes
Home Game by Michael Lewis
The Secret Lives of Buildings by Edward Hollis
As always, share your picks in the comments. Is there something we missed?
I can’t believe this has escaped my radar until now, but one of my all-time favorite authors, Isabel Allende, has a new book out in April! Last night I gave away a copy of The House of the Spirits at a book swap, and I’m currently in the middle of Daughter of Fortune... It must be fate—a dose of Allende-esque magic—that I received word of the new book today.
Out on April 27, The Island Beneath the Sea is another historical epic – what Allende does best, in my opinion. The original Spanish version of the novel was released in August as La isla bajo el mar and is already a bestseller. From what I can gather from the pub copy, the novel will tell the story of Zarité, a slave fighting for freedom in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) at the end of the 18th Century. Her owner will ultimately take her to New Orleans.
Note that the jacket image I’ve posted is of the Spanish edition of the novel, published by Knopf. The English edition will be published by HarperCollins. That jacket hasn’t yet been released.
The Island Beneath the Sea is Allende’s first novel since Inés of My Soul in 2006. In her review of that novel, BookPage reviewer Kelly Koepke wrote that Allende’s “singular talent for storytelling...grows stronger with each new work.” If The Island Beneath the Sea only lives up to Allende’s past work (marked by dreamy, detailed and emotional descriptions of character and place), then we’re all in for a treat.
So far, the novel seems to have healing powers -- at least for the author. In an interview with the Latin American Herald Tribune, Allende said that a stomach ailment convinced her she had cancer as she was writing The Island Beneath the Sea. “I went from one doctor to another and no one could cure me,” she said. “When I finished the book, the symptoms went away and so far [they haven’t returned].”
Related in BookPage: Read a 2003 interview with Allende, “a gifted storyteller who forges an enchanting amalgam of memory and imagination.”
Will you be reading The Island Beneath the Sea? What is your favorite book by Allende?
As far as I can remember, though, few giveaways have come close to our holiday giveaway. We are sending a box'o'books filled with SIX January titles to an incredibly lucky reader. We're giving away:
Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert
The First Rule by Robert Crais
Witch & Wizard by James Patterson
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova (Read a sneak preview here)
A Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokhova (Read about the memoir's fantastic blurbs)
Roses by Leila Meacham
Plus we’re giving away Books-A-Million gift cards.
If that list makes you drool as much as it does me, sign up to receive Tuesday’s edition of BookPageXTRA. You'll get an email from us on Tuesday morning with contest details inside. Good luck!
By the way, if James Patterson is your thing – maybe you’ve already bought a copy of Witch & Wizard, which hit shelves today – then you will love our Q&A with Patterson himself, in which the author writes the following of his YA novel: “For those who have been waiting for a series as mouthwatering and addictive as Harry Potter, this’ll do it.” Decide for yourself and let us know what you think of the book.
It took two rounds of voting and several discussions, but we've finally distilled the long list of wonderful novels published in 2009 into a list of 10. Unlike a certain book trade publication, we went overwhelmingly female with this list, which nonetheless includes a variety of genres and combines old favorites with new names.
[gallery link="file" columns="4" orderby="rand"]
A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein
A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Lark and Termite by Jayne Ann Phillips
The City & The City by China Mieville
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson
We at BookPage have been fans of J.A. Konrath and his "winning cocktail of humor, suspense" since Whiskey Sour was released in 2004. And we can attest to his savvy marketing techniques—the autographed coasters he sent along with his 2006 Meet the Author piece still bedeck our cubicle walls.
On his blog, Konrath talks frequently about his inventive attempts to go viral—using social media like twitter and Facebook, creating videos, and even making some of his works available for free on his website. All have grown his audience; none have been the next "Wedding Dance" video. In a post published Friday, he shares his latest tactic: an eBay auction.
The main goal of the auction isn't to sell the books. It's to introduce people to my sarcastic brand of humor. The product description is essentially 500 jokes. The point, of course, isn't to be viewed by people who already know me. It's to be viewed by folks who had no clue who I was before looking at the auction.
p.s. Auction ends today at 1, so check it out now if you're going to.
I went out to see Fantastic Mr. Fox last night, and I am happy to report that it is, in fact, fantastic. The animation is lively and unusual, and the script is full of grace notes and genuinely funny moments, but what really makes the movie work is the characters, who are voiced with such intelligence, compassion, and deadpan humor that I found myself truly caring about them and whether or not they would survive their adventures.
I loved Roald Dahl as a child, and I couldn't count how many times I read and re-read The Witches, The BFG, and Dahl's autobiography, Boy, among others—but somehow I never read Fantastic Mr. Fox. So I can't comment on how faithfully the movie sticks to the story, but I can say with some certainty that it possesses one of the central qualities of Dahl's work: imagination.
And imagination goes hand-in-hand with the knowledge that the world is essentially a wild place. There's real danger here, as in many of Dahl's books, and the audience senses that, partly because the world of the movie is deceptively big. Though it all takes place in (and under) a very small town and the surrounding countryside, it feels expansive—there are tree homes, sewers, helicopters, broad fields, and a train going by in the distance—and the characters move through it with the ease and exploratory fervor of wild animals. Which, of course, they are, and the movie gets some mileage out of the tension between their wild natures (tearing out the throats of chickens) and their genteel demeanors (Mr. Fox's fondness for making toasts).
If that tension seems more like director Wes Anderson's preoccupation than Dahl's, it's certainly possible; Anderson has built his career on characters (particularly men) who are trying to understand their own natures and find their way in the world, and Fantastic Mr. Fox has plenty of these. But these personal quests never detract from Dahl's story; in many ways, they drive the action and keep us invested in the outcome. (In that way, Fantastic Mr. Fox is similar to my favorite of Anderson's films, Bottle Rocket, which also tells the story of a gang of inexperienced and essentially good-hearted people who band together under a charismatic leader to pull off a series of mild heists, more mischievous than malicious.)
Fantastic Mr. Fox is a thoroughly delightful movie, and one of my favorites from this year. Fans of Roald Dahl or Wes Anderson are in for a treat; fans of both are very, very lucky.