One of my favorite books in high school was Daisy Miller -- perhaps a strange choice for a 16-year-old girl -- but there was something fascinating and tragic about the 19th-century ex-pats seeking solace in European society. While Winterbourne toured Rome and Geneva, so many of the great artists and creative minds (such as Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent and Ralph Waldo Emerson) set sail for France, and this is the topic of two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough's The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, which goes on sale today!
Check out the preview in McCullough's own words to give you an even better feel for the revolutionary and "medieval" metropolis of Paris in the 19th century in this trailer from Simon and Schuster:
Our reviewer Martin Brady writes, "Unlike the more recent, disputatious era of U.S.-Franco relations (remember 'freedom fries'?), McCullough's France is where the American flag was flown as a symbol of proud friendship [...] and where the rich heritage of America's revolutionary debt to Lafayette was continuously honored."
It sounds like a wonderful time to be in Paris! Are you looking forward to grabbing a copy of McCullough's new book?
James Frey and Oprah met again earlier this week, as part of her "most memorable guests" series—and the talk show host offered an apology for her "lack of compassion" to the memoirist when he appeared on her show in 2006.
Frey opened up about the difficult times in the years since, including the tragic death of his infant son, but perhaps the most interesting revelation for book people like us was the glimpse into Full Fathom Five, the (controversial) company Frey started after his return to the U.S. There, young writers (and in the video they all looked quite young) work to develop Frey's ideas into books, video games and movies, in the style of Alloy Entertainment. I Am Number Four, their first release, hit the bestseller list and became a modestly successful film. Frey has already sold 10 projects from Full Fathom Five to HarperCollins.
Alas, the Full Fathom Five footage is not available online, but you can see other snippets from the shows on Oprah's site.
Did you watch James Frey on Oprah? Do you think that his two hours with Oprah made for good TV?
It has been 50 years since James crawled inside a giant peach to escape his heinous aunts Sponge and Spiker; 50 years since he went on a truly extraordinary adventure and added James and the Giant Peach to Roald Dahl's list of unforgettable stories.
In honor of Dahl, the world's greatest storyteller (and his humongous peach), Penguin Young Readers Group has launched Follow That Peach, where you can send a virtual Peach-gram to a friend anywhere in the world! Senders can then follow their peach on an interactive map as it travels the globe from one friend to another. The goal is for every peach to reach 50 people, in honor of 50 years of James and the Giant Peach. You can also print off Peach-grams and send them snail-mail style.
I love the idea of continuing the peach adventures! Who will get a peach from you?
What is your favorite Roald Dahl book? Mine is Matilda, but my favorite Dahl character will always be Miss Spider from James and the Giant Peach!
Erik Larson has a truly dark gift for turning nonfiction into pure entertainment. His sixth book, In the Garden of the Beasts, continues his reputation of capturing that which we wish were untrue by detailing the first year of Nazi rule with unflinching depth.
In his interview with contributor Alden Mudge, Larson discusses his struggle to cover the topic, saying, "When you get immersed in this era there’s something so repulsive about it that it can really drag you down ... No one really studies the very first year of Hitler’s rule. This is about the first dark warnings on the horizon."
With historical accuracy down to the weather and a uniquely personal and American take on the topic, In the Garden of the Beasts is something to get excited about.
I'm definitely picking it up today -- who's with me?
Happy National Library Week!
This probably qualifies as "preaching to the choir," but who cares—it's always a good idea to praise libraries, especially as the American Library Association encourages us to "Create your own story @ your library" during this special week.
So please tell us: Why do you love libraries? What will you check out next from the library? Why are you grateful for librarians?
Here you can watch John Grisham, Honorary Chair of National Library Week, weigh in on why he loves libraries.
What do you have to add?
I've been a devoted library goer my entire life (thanks, Mom!), and now I try to pass on the passion. Just last week, the 10-year-old girl I mentor told me she wanted to do some science experiments. Not being very "science-y" myself, I went to the source I knew would give us a hand: the local library. We checked out books that gave us plenty of ideas and all the information we needed.
Last night, BookPage's Associate Publisher Julia Steele and Contributing Editor Sukey Howard attended the Books for a Better Life Awards in New York City.
The awards benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and recognize self-improvement authors. Here's an impressive stat from the awards' website:
Since its inception in 1996, Books for a Better Life has honored more than 500 authors and has now raised more than $1.7 million to speed our progress toward achieving a world free of MS thanks to the support of the publishing industry.
Childcare/Parenting: Brave Girl Eating by Harriet Brown (HarperCollins)
First Book: The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner)
Green: Eaarth by Bill McKibben (Times Books)
Inspirational Memoir: Breaking Night by Liz Murray (Hyperion Books)
Motivational: Life Unlocked by Srinivasan S. Pillay, MD (Rodale)
Personal Finance: The New Good Life by John Robbins (Ballantine)
Psychology: Composing a Further Life by Mary Catherine Bateson (Knopf)
Relationships: Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell (Random House)
Spiritual: The Ten Things to Do When Life Falls Apart by Daphne Rose Kingma (New World Library)
Wellness: Back to Life after a Heart Crisis by Marc Wallack, MD and Jamie Colby (Avery Books)
Books for a Better Life also has a Hall of Fame, and this year Dr. Nancy Snyderman, the chief medical editor of NBC News, and Jamie Raab, executive vice president of Hachette Book Group and publisher of Grand Central Publishing, were inducted. Above, you can see a photo of David Baldacci introducing Raab.
Congratulations to the winners! In BookPage's self-help roundup of January 2011, we wrote that guidebooks can give readers "a renewed sense of purpose and effective new strategies for dealing with life’s challenges." As the Books for a Better Life website states, there is a clear connection between self-help books and MS: "Living with a chronic, unpredictable illness and overcoming life’s challenges go hand-in-hand with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis."
Have any self-help books helped you overcome challenges?
Since 1997, the National Education Association has celebrated Read Across America Day on March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss. (He would have been 107 today.) The purpose of the day is to serve as an "annual reading motivation and awareness program" for kids and teens and to provide the resources to keep "reading on the calendar 365 days a year."
You can find local resources and activity ideas on the NEA website and on Random House's Seussville site. Just for fun, you ought to check out these "Lessons for Adults from the Father of Children's Stories" from Time magazine.
And now some questions:
What's your favorite book by Dr. Seuss? (The Lorax!)
If you're on this blog, you like books. How did your teachers and parents encourage your love of reading when you were a kid? (My parents took me to the public library all the time—especially during the summer—and my elementary school teachers and librarians encouraged me to participate in our Accelerated Reader program.)
How do you spread the gift of reading today? (I mentor a fifth grader and gave her a stack of books for Valentine's Day, including Spaceheadz. On our last outing, she talked my ear off about aliens. I was thrilled!)
I have attended many an event at Nashville's now-closed Davis-Kidd Booksellers (most memorably a Mockingjay release party), and like everyone else I was really, really sad when the bookstore closed in December.
Last week, I breathed a sigh of relief when the Borders less than a mile from my apartment was not on the closure list. Besides the fact that I appreciate living within walking distance of two bookstores, I also had plans to go hear Daniel J. Sharfstein read from his new book, The Invisible Line. (Sharfstein was originally scheduled to read at Davis-Kidd. He was worried his publicity was cursed!)
I had never been to a store event at this particular Borders, but I am happy to report that there were so many people in attendance that some had to sit on the floor. Sharfstein's book traces the history of three African-American families who chose to cross the color line and pass for white. In his talk last night, the author argued that these three complex stories are representative of America's story, where the construction of race and racial identity is anything but clear-cut.
As Sharfstein answered questions on judicial processes in the Jim Crow South and how genealogical research has given meaning to people's lives (like when a person who'd identified as white her entire life found out her ancestors had been slaves), I was struck by how valuable bookstore readings are. Twitter chats, the features on enhanced e-books and book trailers are all really snazzy, but nothing beats actually talking to the author.
Are you interested in The Invisible Line? Have you been to any inspiring bookstore events lately?
If you're a Moning Maniac, then heck yes it does. It's the release day of Shadowfever, the final book in Karen Marie Moning's Fever series!
If you couldn't make it to NOLA, you can get a taste of chatting with the author in this handwritten Q&A featured in the February issue of BookPage (I love Moning's answer for what she'd want with her on a desert island.):
Even if you're not into dark fantasy, you can probably appreciate that the Shadowfever launch party is pretty darn awesome. What would be your ideal author event?
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the devastating, 7.0 earthquake that hit Haiti, and as many news sources have noted, the recovery is slow. The Red Cross is still in the country and thousands are still homeless.
One of the Americans who was there when the quake hit was Dan Woolley, a director of Compassion International. Woolley was trapped in the rubble of his hotel for nearly three days, a story he recounts in his new book, Unshaken.
Woolley shared a little more about his story, and his return to Haiti this week, in an essay for BookPage.
You wonder what you will feel like in the last moments of your life, when you finally look death in the face . . . how your beliefs about death and the afterlife will play out. For me, it moved really quickly from abstract to tangible, given I was buried under six floors of rubble following the January 2010 Haiti earthquake. I will never pretend to understand why God allowed me to be rescued while many others did not make it out alive.