Both proven prize winners and relatively new faces appear on the list of LA Times Book Award finalists for 2010, which were announced on Tuesday.
Books were nominated in 10 categories: Biography, current interest, fiction, first fiction (the Art Seidenbaum Award), graphic novel, history, mystery-thriller, poetry, science and technology, and young adult literature.
In fiction, old hands Jonathan Franzen, Richard Bausch and Rick Bass will be battling it out against Jennifer Egan (A Visit from the Goon Squad) and Frederick Reiken (Day for Night). We were also excited to see BookPage favorites Tana French and Tom Franklin up for the mystery-thriller award (alongside Laura Lippman, Stuart Neville and Kelli Stanley).
Of course, Laura Hillenbrand made it to the nonfiction category with her best-selling (and riveting) Unbroken, as did Edmund Morris with Colonel Roosevelt. Somewhat surprisingly, Patti Smith's Just Kids is included in the current interest category along with books like War and The Big Short.
For a full list of the nominees in all categories, click here.
As part of our Best Books of 2010 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
You've all heard everything there is to hear about this summer blockbuster, right? This is one case where the hype is more than justified. But rather than sing the novel's praises once again, I'll let Justin Cronin take it from here with some quotes about his vampire-novel-with-a-twist that I couldn't fit in to our June interview:
This is a book about how human beings lose their way. How humanity can get lost. The experiment that produces the great viral cataclysm is essentially an act of human greed—it’s trying to steal the future from your kids. The scientists who are seeking to engineer a virus that makes human beings so long-lived that they are essentially immortal have missed the true immortality that we possess, which is that the future we will not live to see is the future our children will live in. This is essentially the story of a world that has forgotten its children and needs to mend this broken chain. . . . .
The circumstances of my book are extreme, but they are versions of what happen to us all the time. Fear of the dark, you don’t know what’s out there. You get the bad moods at some point in your life. But in the meantime, the people in that place, they live in constant and overwhelming danger, but they have a job, they have families, they form relationships, they have a sense of clan and kin. They know the world that they know, and within that they assemble themselves domestically. So the world as we know it has in some way continued. It’s at the brink, and there’s not much left, but it’s there.
As part of our Best Books of 2010 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
I'll say it: I think Lionel Shriver should have won the National Book Award. The smart, unsentimental expat's 10th novel, So Much for That, asks the type of questions about health care that few legislatures are brave enough to face. Such as, whether an extra three months of life for a cancer patient—spent in and out of hospitals, enduring painful treatments—is worth the sacrifice of a life's savings.
But despite the serious topic, the book isn't dry: humor, dark or otherwise, lurks on almost every page. So Much for That does what a good novel should: manages to entertain you and make you think at the same time.
Read our full review of So Much for That here.
Keith Richards' memoir, Life, is shooting up the bestseller list and making the cover of the New York Times Book Review. It's also available on audio—and listening to Richards' life story just might be the more compelling option. Why? Well, it's narrated by two living legends: Keith Richards and actor Johnny Depp, as well as London musician Joe Hurley.
Keith introduces the book and reads the last chapter. Gotta love that accent.
Depp lends his actor's chops early on in Life. This excerpt is from the opening scene, which finds Richards and the Stones down South in front of a drunk judge on drug charges.
Depp told Entertainment Weekly, "Naturally, a catastrophic understatement would be required in order to fully detail the honor bestowed in being asked to partake in presenting the Life, quite literally, of The Maestro; an individual so legendary, a soul so revolutionary and a friend so dear. It’s quite a tale, as you might imagine." BookPage reviewer Martin Brady agrees, saying that Life is "one of the best pop music books ever assembled." (Read the review here.)
What makes you choose an audiobook over its print counterpart?
Maryglenn McCombs is a local book publicist and a great friend to BookPage. Maryglenn emailed us with a great story this morning, and we just had to share:
Those of you who know me probably know that I love dogs—especially my beloved and humongous Old English Sheepdog, Garcia. Some of you have any suggested that I am obsessed with Garcia. (Note the absence of denial.) Most of you probably also know that I am, by trade, a book publicist who loves books. I am writing to share a story about the unusual collision of my love of dogs and love of books.
Please let me introduce one of my all-time favorite mystery writers, Don Bruns (www.donbrunsbooks.com) with whom I have worked for years.
When Don came to me with the idea for his ninth novel, I asked (okay, begged) that he consider including Garcia, in all his Old English Sheepdog glory, as a character in the book.
Well, he did.
And much to Don’s surprise, Garcia wound up “taking over” the plot and ultimately becoming a major character in Don’s new novel, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, which Oceanview Publishing will release in hardcover and eBook on December 6, 2010. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff is a hilarious mystery about two stumbling, bumbling amateur detectives who get mixed up in investigating a crazy traveling carnival show—and nearly lose their lives in the process of contending with a cantankerous cast of carnies who don’t take kindly to the investigation.
Writer Tasha Alexander and her Victorian-era novels featuring the intrepid, ahead-of-her-time Lady Emily should be well-known to BookPage readers—see our reviews of them here. The fifth in the series, Dangerous to Know, came out last week. Here, Alexander gives us a glimpse behind the scenes of the research required for Dangerous, making us even more jealous of the life of an author!
I spent much of last summer housesitting in rural Normandy, writing and doing research for my latest book. It was heavenly. The landscape is extraordinary, like walking through an Impressionist painting, and the food is everything you’d expect from France. I’d do just about anything right now for the village boulangerie’s still-hot croissants. Spending a significant amount of time in the place your novel is set enriches the story in ways you can’t anticipate—and in ways that would be impossible if you limited your research to reading.
But the thing that surprised me the most about my time in France was driving. Or navigating, really. And that was something that couldn’t go into a novel set in 1892.
To start, let me say, for the record, that I absolutely adore France and the French. Always have, always will. Until I came to Normandy, I’d not spent much time in France outside of Paris (it’s pretty hard to tear yourself away from Paris), and I was looking forward to exploring the coast, the crumbling châteaux, and the lush countryside. Armed with directions printed from Google Maps, I set off for my first excursion, to the seaside town of Étretat.
Within about half an hour, I was hopelessly lost.
Google Maps, you see, doesn’t quite fit with France. I was approaching the trip like an American—an American planning to follow numbered highways to numbered exits.
Now. The French have both numbered highways and numbered exits. But to get to them isn’t quite so easy as you might think. It requires a different frame of mind. You don’t want to look for the number—instead, you need to go through each roundabout in the direction of the next village that’s on your way to your final destination. Knowing you need the N15 or the D8 isn’t enough. From that day on, I abandoned Google for a real, hard copy map, and made lists of towns before setting off. In the end, it made for much more pleasant excursions. How lovely to look for Pierrefiques or Fauville-en-Caux, wondering what you’ll see there, rather than fixating on numbers. Sure, you may eventually wind up on the N15, but more likely, you’ll never see the entrance and will spend a gorgeous afternoon meandering through charming places you’d never have seen otherwise.
Once you get accustomed to it, switching back to taking I-80 to exit whatever seems pedestrian and crass. I’m already looking forward to my next trip along the back roads of France.
Thanks, Tasha! Next time you go to France, take us with you. :) Visit her site for more about Tasha Alexander and the Lady Emily series.
Book trailers have come a long way—as we've seen with the videos we highlight every week on Trailer Tuesday—but sometimes the simplest route is the best. In this video from Penguin, John le Carré reads an excerpt from his latest book, Our Kind of Traitor (read the BookPage review). His dramatic performance, complete with accents, is a pleasure to listen to.
Of course, book trailer diehards can always turn to the more conventional video for the book from le Carré's New Zealand publisher:
Which approach do you prefer?
Louis Bayard isn't afraid to take on new territory in his work—since he first turned to writing historical mysteries in 2003, his novels have covered Dickens, Poe and 19th-century French detective Vidocq with equal skill. Now, Bayard has tried his hand at writing a book that takes two present-day scholars on a search for a 16th-century letter that is the key to a mystery. The School of Night (Holt) will hit shelves on March 29.
From the catalog:
In the late sixteenth century, five brilliant scholars gather under the cloak of darkness to discuss God, politics, astronomy, and the black arts. Known as the School of Night, they meet in secret to avoid the wrath of Queen Elizabeth. But one of the men, Thomas Harriot, has secrets of his own, secrets he shares with one person only: the servant woman he loves.
In modern-day Washington, D.C., disgraced Elizabethan scholar Henry Cavendish has been hired by the ruthless antiquities collector Bernard Styles to find a missing letter. The letter dates from the 1600s and was stolen by Henry's close friend, Alonzo Wax. Now Wax is dead and Styles wants the letter back.
. . . Joining Henry in his search for the letter is Clarissa Dale, a mysterious woman who suffers from visions that only Henry can understand. In short order, Henry finds himself stumbling through a secretive world of ancient perils, caught up in a deadly plot, and ensnared in the tragic legacy of a forgotten genius.
After editing five crime anthologies, Rosemary Herbert joins the mystery-writing ranks with her first novel, Front Page Teaser (Down East Books).
Describe your book in one sentence.
Set in Boston, and following the adventures of a gutsy, underdog, tabloid newspaper reporter on the trail of a missing mom, Front Page Teaser: A Liz Higgins Mystery is not just a fast-paced puzzler, but a love song to the news reporting life.
What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?
“Think tabloid.” My first editor at the Boston Herald told me this with a wink, because she did not mean to suggest that I write as if I were reporting for the National Enquirer. What she did mean was to cut to the chase, keep the pace lively, write with attitude and verve, and especially to get to the heart of the matter. When I was young, my creative writing teacher, Mr. Alfred Haulenbeek, told me to believe in myself and to “grow in the appreciation of fine language.” Put these pieces of advice together and you have a winning combination.
How would you earn a living if you weren't a writer?
As a librarian. I have worked as a reference librarian at Harvard University and as a children’s librarian in Maine. In fact, subplot in Front Page Teaser is drawn from my library experience. When my reporter-sleuth Liz Higgins asks librarians to reveal the reading habits of a missing woman, the librarians stand as bastions protecting the privacy of library patron circulation records. I added this to my book as a tribute to librarians and librarianship.
What was the proudest moment of your career so far?
Being nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America for The Oxford Companion to Crime & Mystery Writing. I served as editor-in-chief for this volume.
If you had to be stranded on a desert island with one fictional character, who would you want it to be?
Nancy Drew. I’m sure she would get us out of the desert island “scrape” with pluck and aplomb. Meanwhile, we could trade some clever sleuthing clues.
What are you reading now?
Tony Hillerman’s Landscapes (Harper) by his daughter, Anne Hillerman, with photographs by Don Strel. Because Tony Hillerman is not here to celebrate the recent paperback publication of our book A New Omnibus of Crime (Oxford University Press), I have been missing him. Anne’s book makes me feel closer to Tony and his work.
There's a new voice on the historical fiction scene as of today: Kathe Koja. Known mainly for her young adult fiction, Koje made her literary debut publishing horror with Bantam Dell. She returns to an adult audience with Under the Poppy, her first book with Small Beer Press. Imaginative, poetic and more than a little bawdy, the book follows the comic/tragic love triangle involving a pair of orphans and the man who runs the brothel where they take shelter.
Fans of authors like Sarah Waters and Michel Faber won't want to miss this romp set against the bustling backdrop of 1870s Brussels, which Koja describes as a story about "love and faithfulness, what it means to really be true: to a person, a vocation, through tremendous struggle and unavoidable pain. Under the Poppy is at its deepest heart the love story of Rupert and Istvan." Read the rest of our Q&A with Koja on BookPage.com.