If you tried to buy a copy of Pioneer Girl but couldn’t get the book in time for the holiday gift-giving season, you’re not alone. Demand for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s real-life story of growing up on the prairie outstripped supply, according to the book’s publisher, the South Dakota Historical Society Press. All major online book retailers currently list the autobiography as “out of stock.”
“We anticipated high demand, but sales of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography have outpaced the most optimistic pre-publication estimates,” SDHSP marketing director Jennifer E. McIntyre tells BookPage. “We attribute this to continuing publicity, well-placed advertising and enthusiastic reviews. The South Dakota Historical Society Press is temporarily out of stock but will begin shipping again in mid-January.“
Wilder wrote the autobiography in 1929-30, but was unable to sell it to a publisher. She later adapted much of the material from the book for her fictional Little House series, which became a beloved literary phenomenon. Pioneer Girl was finally published for the first time in November, in a beautifully illustrated and meticulously annotated edition, edited by Wilder biographer Pamela Smith Hill. The book received glowing reviews from numerous national publications, including BookPage.
McIntyre advises readers to check www.pioneergirlproject.org for updates on the book’s availability.
Meghan Daum's collection of searingly honest essays, The Unspeakable, is our Top Pick in Nonfiction for December. Her first collection, My Misspent Youth, expertly zeroed in on the collective feelings of a generation, and Daum doesn't disappoint in her latest as she fearlessly explores life nearing middle age. Our reviewer writes, "The Unspeakable is a stunner of a book about settling into one’s skin." (Read the full review here.)
We were curious about the books Daum has enjoyed reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three favorites, which she graciously agreed to share.
Recently I watched the HBO documentary Regarding Susan Sontag and that put me on a Sontag binge. I reread Notes on Camp and Illness as Metaphor, as well as Sigrid Nunez’s slender, perfect memoir Sempre Susan, about her experience living with Sontag in the 1970s. I’ve also been reading a lot of really great stuff I can’t tell you about yet—advanced readers copies of some terrific novels that will come out next year, as well as a couple of memoirs that should make a splash when their publication times come. One I can hint at is Bernard Cooper’s My Avant Garde Education. On the surface it’s a coming-of-age story about going to art school. But it’s really an inquiry into the way that aesthetics can shape our identities and how (forgive me if this sounds twee; there’s really no other way to say it) the visual can become the visceral. It’s quite original and magnificent, and it’ll be out in February.
In the meantime, since I’ve been championing the essay lately, here are a few of my favorite books of essays.
The 10 essays in this 2010 collection are dazzling, wicked and somehow both terribly sad and fundamentally joyful. Rakoff, who wrote in this book that his “internal age” was “somewhere between 47 and 53 years old,” died of cancer in 2012—at 47. Often compared to David Sedaris, not least of all because his name was also David, Rakoff’s work is just as funny as Sedaris’ but also darker and slyer and imbued with the wisdom of someone who was born internally middle-aged.
I don’t know what it says that the first two books on this list are by writers who died from cancer within a year of each other. Hitch, who died in late 2011, was often exasperating and sometimes wrong, but never anything less than brilliant. Half-drunk on bourbon, he still wrote circles around anyone amped up on black coffee.
You might know Als from his recent book, White Girls, and his criticism in The New Yorker. But before all that, back in 1996, Als published The Women, an extended essay—or perhaps three long essays—about the influence of three major figures in his life and how their complicated, conflicted relationships to their own race and gender identities helped imprint his own. Each time I read it, I still say to myself “I’ve never read a book quite like this.”
Thank you Meghan! Readers, do you see anything you'd like to pick up?
(Author photo by David Zaugh)
As part of our Best Books of 2014 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman and Raymond Carver—each a genius writer, each a self-destructing alcoholic. In pursuit of some explanation for the tragic connection between the writing life and booze, Olivia Laing traverses the U.S. by train, visiting each of these writers’ haunts and homes. She explores their childhoods and relationships, digs into their works and searches for clues to their addictions. There’s so much to enjoy in this provocative, moving exploration of literary history.
Every author has a story that they've been wanting—and waiting—to tell, holding on until the time is right. Like Stephen King's sequel to The Shining, or Jonathan Safran Foer's novel based on a real-life trauma (we're still waiting on that one!).
For celebrated author Judy Blume (The Summer Sisters; Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret), the story lingering in the back of her mind was about three airline crashes in her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, in the early 1950s. In the Unlikely Event is the result, and it will be published by Knopf on June 2.
Blume started researching the incidents in 2009, but she has firsthand memories from the time (she's 76, not that you can tell from her author photo!). In the Knopf press release, she explained why the crashes make such perfect fodder for fiction. “It was a crazy time. We were witnessing things that were incomprehensible to us as teenagers. Was it sabotage? An alien invasion? No one knew, and people were understandably terrified.” (You guessed it: They didn't have black boxes as we know them back then.)
In the wake of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines 370, debating the origins of a devastating flight accident feels all too timely. We can't wait to see what Judy Blume does with this book—how about you?
As part of our Best Books of 2014 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Dentistry, Judaism, the Boston Red Sox, Facebook, genetics, a biblical cult and a broken billionaire: Only a writer with Joshua Ferris’ considerable talents could turn these wildly disparate topics into a profound meditation on the meaning of existence. When New York dentist Paul O’Rourke discovers that someone is impersonating him on social media, he’s forced to re-examine who he is, why his relationships have failed—and why his patients won’t floss. Through Paul’s personal odyssey, readers get a penetrating, hilarious and unsettling look at life in an era of constant connection and persistent loneliness.
When world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson isn't making television appearances or working at his award-winning New York restaurant, Red Rooster Harlem, he's cooking at home. And now you can try your hand at his "truly doable" recipes thanks to his new cookbook, Marcus Off Duty.
Black Bottom–Peanut Pie
MAKES ONE 10-INCH PIE
A classic Southern black-bottom pie has a rich chocolate ganache topped with meringue. I make mine more decadent. Yes, it still has the black bottom, but the topping is a gooey, salty hit of peanuts. Inspiration comes from my favorite childhood snack—the Snickers candy bar. When I was a kid, I would treat myself to a Snickers bar on the way to soccer practice. I was convinced that the combination of chocolate and peanuts gave me the energy I needed to play for hours. I don’t eat many candy bars these days, but I still love that combination of flavors.
FOR THE CRUST
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 (11-ounce) box vanilla wafer cookies, such as Nilla wafers
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
½ cup sugar
FOR THE PEANUT TOPPING
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
½ cup light corn syrup
4 teaspoons molasses
10 ounces (about 2 cups) unsalted roasted peanuts
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
FOR THE GANACHE
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (64% cacao), finely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream
MAKE THE CRUST
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the milk solids brown and the butter smells deliciously nutty, about 10 minutes; be careful not to let it burn. Take it off the heat immediately.
3. Pulse the vanilla wafers in a food processor to make coarse crumbs. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the processor, add the sugar and melted butter, and pulse until all the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly on the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch pie plate. Bake until lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on a rack.
4. Turn the oven up to 375°F.
MAKE THE PEANUT TOPPING
5. Beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one by one, then beat in the corn syrup and molasses. Stir in the peanuts and salt.
MAKE THE GANACHE
6. Place the chocolate in a medium, heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, then pour over the chocolate. Gently whisk until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth.
7. Pour the ganache into the cooled pie shell and let it set for 10 minutes. Spoon the peanut topping on the ganache. Use an offset spatula or a table knife to spread the filling evenly over the ganache, covering it completely.
8. Bake the pie for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 325°F and bake until the crust is browned and the topping is set, about 45 minutes.
9. Cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before serving.
The new year is full of great books! Librarians around the country voted, and LibraryReads has put together a list of the incoming January titles that librarians are most excited about reading and sharing with their patrons.
Topping the list is Alan Bradley's latest delightfully dark mystery starring the pint-sized sleuth Flavia de Luce, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. Our Top Pick in Fiction for January, Graeme Simsion's follow-up to his best-selling The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect, also makes the list, along with The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister, a tale of illusions and possible murder. Other anticipated novels include The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, whom we interviewed in our latest issue, and Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar, a novel about an elite group of London's intellectuals, The Bloomsbury Group. You can check out the full LibraryReads list here.
The world lost a talented storyteller when 71-year-old novelist Kent Haruf died earlier this month, after a battle with cancer.
Longtime interviewer Alden Mudge has talked to a lot of authors in his time, but he was especially impressed by the kindness of Haruf when he spoke to the author in 2004.
"Readers make a critical mistake when they assume that the virtues—or vices—of a novel's characters are the same as those of its creator. But on this particular morning, it is more than tempting to find in Haruf's direct, thoughtful and self-effacing conversation everything that is most uplifting in the characters who populate his fictional town of Holt, Colorado."
Haruf's many fans can be consoled by the fact that there'll be one last trip to Holt, Colorado: Our Souls at Night will be published by Knopf in June. It's another simple story of everyday people leading lives that are only remarkable in that they are actually being remarked upon. This time, the story centers on a widow and widower who forge an unlikely friendship with benefits that aren't exactly approved of by their small-town neighbors—and which becomes more complicated with the arrival of a five-year-old grandson.
Will you read it?
RELATED CONTENT: More on Kent Haruf.
What do you do when you're unable to touch the one you love? That's the question in Gena Showalter's latest paranormal romance, The Darkest Touch. The warrior Torin is doomed to carry the demon of Disease for eternity, meaning that anyone he touches becomes violently ill and will most likely die.
Unfortunately, Torin inadvertently kills the friend of the powerful Red Queen, Keeley. Vowing to avenge her friend’s death, she tracks down the host of Disease—only to discover that Torin is actually a pretty nice guy. The two unexpectedly grow close, and even though they are baffled by their bond, they cannot deny the powerful attraction between them. Of course, if they act upon this attraction, Keeley's life is put in danger. However, Keeley reveals that there might be a cure for his Disease, and they both have a compelling reason to find it: each other.
Showalter guides readers into a compelling supernatural world with a welcome sense of humor and playfulness. Things may be deadly serious for Torin, but Showalter knows that romance is at its best when it’s fun.
She finished her project and threw it at him. “I know, I know. I’m super talented and beyond thoughtful. You don’t know what you’d do without me. You’re welcome.”
He held the material up to the light. “What is this?”
“Only the best thing ever for a man with your particular ailment. A shirt with a retractable hood. That way you can cover your face during fights and not have to worry about opponents accidentally brushing against your skin.”
“I don’t worry about that anyway. If my opponents aren’t killed by Disease, they’re killed by me.”
Yes, she’d seen his dagger work. “Well, I was your opponent and I’m still here.”
He offered her a half smile. “You’re right.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
Had no one given him gifts before? “Say thank you, and put it on.”
“Thank you.” Motions swift, he removed his shirt and pulled the new one over his head, then anchored the hood in place.
“Well?” she prompted. “What do you think?”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, princess, but I kind of feel like Batman.”
“Well, are you Batman? Has anyone ever seen the two of you in a room together to prove this—” she waved a hand over him—“isn’t your secret identity?”
He lifted the hood to glare at her, and she laughed. A ray of sunlight shot through the windows as if purposely seeking her.
What are you reading this week?