Though I'm firmly in the camp who believes that Hilary Mantel deserves all of the praise and prizes that a grateful readership can bestow on her, I was delighted to see another one of my favorite books from 2012—and a definite underdog—nab the "Prize Formerly Known as Orange" for 2013 (next year, the prize will be sponsored by Bailey's Irish Cream).
Yes, the Women's Prize for Fiction 2013 winner was none other than A.M. Homes, author of May We Be Forgiven, a picaresque, darkly funny tale of one man's journey to acceptance.
The chair of the judges, actress Miranda Richardson, did a good job of summing up the book's appeal: "It is a book where we all found ourselves laughing out loud on trains or wherever we were reading," she told the crowd at London's festival hall, where the £30,000 prize was awarded. "You're laughing in kind of fear or horror as much as anything else. It's relentless, but great."
This year's shortlist was incredibly strong, and included, along with Homes and Mantel, Kate Atkinson, Zadie Smith, Barbara Kingsolver and Maria Semple.
We want to know which book you're most looking forward to reading this summer—whether it's while lying on the beach, relaxing by a lake, hanging out on your back porch or nestled in your favorite reading chair. Vote now!
Today's the day: Dan Brown's Inferno (Doubleday) is keeping readers busy everywhere. Our reviewer is frantically turning pages, but there have been a couple of early, entertaining pieces going 'round the web:
"How to Deal with Dan Brown's 'Inferno' " from The Atlantic:
You will see Inferno in a pile at your local bookstore, laughing in your face. You will hear about Inferno around the water cooler. Your mom will ask you, "Have you read this book, Fernono-something-or other, you know, by The Da Vinci Code guy? I like that Tom Hanks!" You may even read Inferno yourself, whether at the behest of an angry albino monk or because you you simply want to. . . . More important than whether you read it or not is knowing you have options. If you're wondering what they are, read on.
“Hello agent John, it’s client Dan,” commented the pecunious scribbler. “I’m worried about new book Inferno. I think critics are going to say it’s badly written.”
The voice at the other end of the line gave a sigh, like a mighty oak toppling into a great river, or something else that didn’t sound like a sigh if you gave it a moment’s thought. “Who cares what the stupid critics say?” advised the literary agent. “They’re just snobs. You have millions of fans.”
That’s true, mused the accomplished composer of thrillers that combined religion, high culture and conspiracy theories. His books were read by everyone from renowned politician President Obama to renowned musician Britney Spears. It was said that a copy of The Da Vinci Code had even found its way into the hands of renowned monarch the Queen. He was grateful for his good fortune, and gave thanks every night in his prayers to renowned deity God.
Alex: First, this woman missed her cat, Dustin. Her cat!!!! Would you keep this woman from her cat? It probably has an adorable name like Señor Mittens and is cute.
Second, all these people were allowed to do was eat and sleep and translate Dan Brown—literally the best part of the experience was translating Dan Brown. That is horrible.
Dustin: Exactly. Sleeping in a hotel sounds pretty good. Food: sounds fine. What part of this equation might be so bad that it’s led these people to share their harrowing stories with the media?
[T]he main emphasis here is hardly on gloom. It is on the prodigious research and love of trivia that inform Mr. Brown’s stories (this one makes mincemeat of all those factoid-heavy wannabes, like Matthew Pearl’s “Dante Club”), the ease with which he sets them in motion, the nifty tricks (Dante’s plaster death mask is pilfered from its museum setting, then toted through the secret passageways of Florence in a Ziploc bag) and the cliffhangers. (Sienna: “Don’t tell me we’re in the wrong museum.” Robert: “Sienna, we’re in the wrong country.”) There is the gamesmanship that goes with crypto-bits like “PPPPPPP.” (Sienna: “Seven Ps is ... a message?” Robert, grinning: “It is. And if you’ve studied Dante, it’s a very clear one.”)
With Mother's Day coming up this weekend, we know that many of you are searching for a special gift to share with your mom. And since there are few better treats for a mom than the opportunity to read a few good books with their children, we've put together a list of our favorite new picture books that celebrate mothers of all kinds, from soldier moms to squirrel moms. Read about two of them here, and then check out the whole feature to read the rest.
Reviews by Robin Smith
Brayden Bunny loves his mom but bristles at some of her rules. When she lets him know it's time to get out of bed, he wishes aloud that he could go and live with his friends. His mother overhears, and soon Brayden tries living at a number of his friends’ houses. Missy Mouse’s house is fun—but messy. The Badger family smells of unwashed badgers. The Squirrel family lives so high up that Brayden instantly knows it will not work out. He loves being with Auntie Grace, but still . . . something is not right. What is missing?
More sophisticated, but no less loving, is Sean Qualls’ treatment of Langston Hughes’ poem Lullaby (For a Black Mother). Collage and watercolor play well together here, inviting little ones to sleep while introducing them to the poetry of Langston Hughes. Qualls’ palette is calm and filled with overlapping circles, mirroring the repeating nature of the poem itself. The mother is front and center, wearing her lace dress, collaged with words from books. She is always looking right at her beloved diaper-clad baby, which is just where children expect their mother's gaze to fall. I especially loved the winding musical notes with the chubby baby singing in delight. The repeating words, displayed in a pleasing, stylized large font, will invite older brothers and sisters to read right along with baby—always a plus!
• We're guessing you probably don't need any encouragement, or anything, but Qwiklit has put together a really fun list of 50 Reasons You Should Be a Bookworm.
• Tuesday, April 2, was International Children's Books Day, which the folks at Flavorwire commemorated with a list of 10 Celebrities' Favorite Children's Books.
• Raise your hand if you can relate to this simple but clever illustration of the writing process posted over on Picador's blog.
• Our reviewer describes Jill McCorkle's Life After Life as a "beautifully written, perceptive and poignant novel that will linger in readers’ minds for a long while." McCorkle's publisher, Algonquin, is giving away 30 signed copies of the book. Enter here to win.
• The New York Review of Books reports on the April 18 launch of the awe-inspiring Digital Public Library of America, which aims to be "a distributed system of electronic content that will make the holdings of public and research libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies available, effortlessly and free of charge, to readers located at every connecting point of the Web." That's one library we can't wait to visit.
• We're saddened by the news of Roger Ebert's death, which has us reminiscing about being on the receiving end of his illustrious "thumbs up."
• Could there be a more heavenly combination than books and cocktails? Reading through Flavorwire's list of 15 book-filled bars resulted in the immediate lengthening of our travel destination wish list.
• Speaking of heaven, we just heard about Out of Print, a new documentary about books screening later this month at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Our fingers are crossed that it gets picked up for distribution so that it lands in one of our theaters soon.
• In the meantime, we'll settle for Book Riot's delightful "six-pack" of author interviews from The Colbert Report.
• Finally, we were excited to learn that on April 11 People.com will be hosting an online chat with Khaled Hosseini to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the publication of The Kite Runner. Get all of the details here.
Librarians have always been cool in our book, but that opinion seems to be going mainstream. This afternoon, Flavorwire posted a fabulous list of "10 of the Coolest Librarians Alive." Right on! We just think the list needs to be a lot longer.
There's also been a lot of buzz around the May release of The World's Strongest Librarian, a memoir based on Salt Lake City librarian Josh Hanagarne's popular blog about books and weightlifting. Stay tuned because we'll be reviewing the book in our May issue.
What say you, readers? Who do you think needs to be added to the list, and what makes him or her cool in your book?
Remember our February cover?
Of course you remember our February cover. Namely, you remember our February cover model and our not-so-subliminal suggestion to . . . read with him.
You would not believe the number of questions we got about this cover. So many, in fact, that we've considered a centerfold. (Kidding.)
Where did we find him? Did we get to go to the photoshoot? Does he work at BookPage? Sadly, no, no and no. While he was the first male model to be featured solo on the cover of BookPage, we did not get to throw a party and invite him. And he did not read to us aloud from our favorite book as we fell asleep.
Nevertheless, he will never be forgotten. And we're not the only ones who will forever cherish their time with the February issue. Elizabeth Timmins from Muehl Public Library in Seymour, Wisconsin, wrote us:
"BookPage is always popular with our patrons. But wow, did we ever get a ton of comments on the February 2013 issue because of the male model on the cover. In fact, we only had one copy left. We laminated the cover of that copy and have it posted in the women's bathroom. (We are a small library in a small community that has a great sense of humor.) I thought this might make you laugh. Have a great day!"
Any other BookPagers enjoy the February man candy? Share your stories in the comments below.
As another Wednesday at the office starts to wind down, we wanted to share this link to Flavorwire's gallery of delicious photos of famous writers hanging out at their homes.
How I would love to take a peek at what's on Mark Twain's desk (below)! Or eavesdrop on the conversation taking place on Virginia Woolf's porch. Or take in all of the amazing (and now priceless) art on the walls of Gertrude Stein's Paris apartment.
Which picture do you wish you could Photoshop yourself into?
Readers, this is a bittersweet note. After writing more than 1,100 blog posts, discovering countless favorite new books and having the privilege to interview some of my very favorite authors, today is my last day at BookPage. I have loved talking books with so many passionate readers whom I have met through my work here, and it's been a privilege to come to work every day and get excited about books. I really am inspired by the people who read BookPage and The Book Case—especially those of you who read 15+ books a month! (And I know there are a lot of you out there.)
I think my favorite readers are the ones who have approached me over the last few years to say that a book they learned about in BookPage helped them cope with a tough experience, or inspired a great conversation. And I love hearing from people who go to the library on the first of every month to get their hands on a copy of BookPage. You make me smile!
And all of you grabbing (and dog-earring!) BookPage on the first of the month? That is totally going to be me in a few weeks, as I am moving from Nashville to Little Rock, Arkansas, where I will soon become a proud card-carrying member of the Central Arkansas Library System. After three and half happy years at BookPage, I am moving to a position at a magazine in Arkansas—though I fully expect to pop up in the comments here every once in a while. (I've taken a peek at some of the posts you can look forward to on the blog in the coming weeks—and some of the features in BookPage—and I know that we are all in for a treat.)
Thank you for letting me share my love of books on The Book Case. Happy reading!