The novel Wolf Hall has gotten more than its fair share of press this fall and winter—Booker Prize notwithstanding, it also earned a place on our top 10 fiction list and a glowing review from contributor Lauren Bufferd—but I couldn't resist adding one more blog post to the load. I finished the novel last week. Contrary to what the paragraph in your high school history book might imply, it took years of plotting and scheming for Henry VIII to get his marriage annulled and marry Anne Boylen, and Mantel's brilliant, meticulous recreation of these events is a remarkable achievement, if occasionally overwhelming to those unfamiliar with the 16th-century mindset. (However, corporate types and frequent "Survivor" viewers will probably identify easily with the cutthroat atmosphere and clandestine alliances.) Equally impressive is her reinvention of Thomas Cromwell, a man she sees quite differently from most historians.
Wolf Hall is first in a trilogy, and during a recent interview at Daunt Books in London, Mantel revealed a bit more about the second installment, The Mirror and the Light. "It picks up in the autumn of 1535, when the holiday makers at Wolf Hall in Wiltshire take Cromwell through his further rise and his abrupt fall in 1540," says Mantel toward the end of this clip (part 3 of 3 of the interview):
We are thrilled to announce the launch of BookPage Book of the Day – our first-ever daily e-newsletter!
This idea has been in the works for a while. We figure that many of you don’t have time to read BookPage cover-to-cover, and it might be easier to take a little bite of it every day.
With BookPage Book of the Day, you’ll receive a brand new review every weekday in your inbox. We’ll cover fiction on Mondays and Thursdays, nonfiction on Tuesdays and Fridays, and mystery or romance on Wednesdays. We’re only covering the newest books, so in January you can look forward to recent (or coming) releases from Tracy Chevalier, Elizabeth Gilbert, Beth Hoffman, J.M. Coetzee, Jude Deveraux and more.
(As a personal note, I’ve already read the books featured on Monday and Thursday in the first week in January, and they were both excellent. Seriously: There are some great books coming out in 2010.)
On Dec. 26, Amazon reported that it sold more e-books than physical books on Christmas Day. Also, the Kindle was the top gift sold on Amazon this holiday season (and apparently the top-selling gift on Amazon.com of all time).
These stats—at least regarding sales of e-books vs. physical books on Christmas Day—did not surprise me. One of the lures of e-books is instant gratification, and if anyone got an e-reader under the tree this year, I would bet that one of the first things they did was some online shopping for an e-book.
I received only physical books this year (including Jane Austen's Little Advice Book -- Aww), although I have big plans to blog about my experience reading on BookPage’s Kindle.
Since I know readers of The Book Case are some of the busiest readers around, I wondered how you received books this year. Did you get a new e-reader? Or did your family and friends stick to gifting classic ink-and-paper books?
Also: What was your favorite book you received? My family didn't give me too many books this year (probably because my bookshelf is about to topple as it is), although I was intrigued by Michael Crichton's Pirate Latitudes; my cousin excused himself from our Christmas dinner table in order to race through the final pages...
Since I know it’s easy to lose track of things in the chaos of the holidays, I thought The Book Case readers might appreciate a reminder that tonight is the premiere of Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women on PBS. The documentary (which the L.A. Times says does a “splendid job chronicling a woman who has served as an often hazy and romanticized role model”) starts at 9 p.m. EST.
I know Trisha will be tuning in – she gave Harriet Reisen’s book (upon which the documentary is based) a rave review and lobbied for its position on the BookPage Best Nonfiction of 2009 list. As a huge Little Women fan, I’m intrigued, too. Apparently the documentary will claim that Alcott was the J.K. Rowling of her day. Does anyone who’s read Reisen’s book agree?
While you wait for the documentary to start, read about Louisa May Alcott (the book) or watch the YouTube clip below the jump.
Now that we've shared our best books of 2009 with you, it's time to let loose the snark. The Guardian went first with an article about the worst books of the decade earlier this month, which made me think: what was the worst book I read all year? Like many of the Guardian commenters, I found Vernon God Little (which won the Booker in 2003) completely and utterly horrible, so that might be my worst book of the decade. But 2009 was actually a pretty good year for me, with no wallbangers that I can remember. A moment while I pat myself on the back for having excellent literary taste this year . . .
Were you equally lucky? Or was there a book you loved to hate in 2009? Share your thoughts in the comments!
For a little day-after-Christmas fun, we thought you might enjoy some behind-the-scenes photos from the BookPage holiday party. A week after the festivities, we’re still recovering!
We dare you to prove that your office Christmas party is more fun.
This is pretty oddball, but I’m giving a copy of Comic Con: 40 Years of Artists, Writers, Fans, And Friends (Chronicle) to my teenage son who loves comic books and hopes to attend Comic Con himself one day. The book is a large-format, illustrated look at the history of the show.
My dad is a huge fan of literary fiction, so I’m giving him John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River (Random House) and E.L. Doctorow’s Homer & Langely (Random House). Irving and Doctorow are two of his favorite writers and I know he is excited about their new books
—Abby, Fiction Editor
I'm giving The Lacuna (HarperCollins) to my mom, who loves both Mexico and art history, and The Education of a British-Protected Child (Knopf Doubleday) by Chinua Achebe to my dad, who loves both postcolonial writers and childhood memoirs.
—Kate, Nonfiction Editor
I'm giving City of Thieves (Penguin) by David Benioff to my grandfather. This book has been a hit with everyone I've recommended it to, including my brother, who hadn't read a book in years before I loaned him my copy. My grandfather loves novels about World War II and has visited St. Petersburg, where the novel is set, so I think he'll enjoy this one.
—Trisha, Web Editor
My 18-year-old sister just started college in New York (1,300 miles away from home!), so I’m giving her a copy of Ann Packer's The Dive from Clausen's Pier (Random House). I think my sis will appreciate the story of a young woman’s search for independence—plus, Packer does great descriptions of NYC.
—Eliza, Assistant Web Editor
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Whether you're celebrating Christmas or just celebrating a couple of days off, we're betting this long weekend will contain at least a few hours of reading time for most of you. It certainly will for me. Snug in my suitcase: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark and Crash Course by Paul Ingrassia. Neither of which has any connection to Christmas, but I'm sure to be getting enough holiday spirit from other sources!
There's someone on my holiday list who would be a perfect match for this book—and she's not going to be happy that we're giving a copy away (sorry Grandma)! But in the spirit of Christmas that's exactly what we're doing. So, if you would like a charming little pocket guide to all those perplexing bird behaviors, complete with illustrations and sidebars, just leave a comment telling me what your favorite book in our science roundup is by Monday, December 28, and you could have The Bird-Watching Answer Book in your hands by the New Year.
If you need a moment to relax amidst holiday festivities, peruse these Christmas books from the BookPage archives.
Also: What are you reading over the long weekend? I’m diving into Chang-rae Lee’s The Surrendered (out in March 2010).
Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou
The celebrated poet first read this poem at the 2005 White House tree-lighting ceremony, and now it graces the pages of a picture book. The poem isn't an obvious choice for a children's book - it's philosophical, thought-provoking and full of big words like covenant, rancor and apprehension. Yet it is a powerful message—sermon-like—and a good one for children to hear.
The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket
A Christmas story by Lemony Snicket? For those who know Snicket's best-selling series of books, this sounds like an oxymoron. He's well-known for his funny but often bleak, Edward Gorey-like view of the world. Never fear, The Lump of Coal is a small holiday gem, a follow-up of sorts to last year's Hanukkah tale, The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming. Yes, it does have its share of grim moments—after all, it's about a lump of coal! But it's also full of humor, and it serves as a nice diversion from all the holiday schmaltz.
Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo
Rarely is a holiday book so lovely in every way as Kate DiCamillo's Great Joy. The story is heartwarming yet wonderfully subdued; the artwork glows. What's more, this short tale has a message that's bound to resonate with readers of all ages.
Blue Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews
The weather outside is decidedly not frightful in balmy Savannah, Georgia, where Weezie Foley is gearing up for what she hopes is her best Christmas ever. She expects her antique shop to grab first prize in the annual historical district window-decorating contest, even if the nasty new owners of the shop across the street seem hell-bent on sabotaging her victory. Even better, Weezie suspects this might be the year that her boyfriend, Daniel, finally pops the question.
Christmas Remembered by Tomie DePaola
Tomie dePaola's new book, Christmas Remembered, is billed as the renowned illustrator's first work for all ages. In 15 short chapters he describes his favorite holiday memories, starting in 1937 when he was three years old and his parents installed a fake, plug-in fireplace in their Connecticut apartment.
The Handmaid and the Carpenter by Elizabeth Berg
In Elizabeth Berg's lyrical recasting of the story of Mary and Joseph, The Handmaid and the Carpenter, we are reminded that the parents of Jesus were a startlingly young, humble couple. Deeply in love, they are struggling to understand the mystery of what visiting angels have told them: that Mary will bear the Son of God.