The Bellwether Prize has just been announced online—Naomi Benaron won for her novel Running the Rift.
The Prize, which comes with a $25,000 award and guaranteed publication by a major publisher, was founded and fully funded by Barbara Kingsolver. The mission of the Prize—given to a first-time novelist—is to "advocate serious literary fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships." Benaron's novel will be published by Algonquin.
In a press release, Kingsolver said that Running the Rift:
engages the reader with complex political questions about ethnic animosity in Rwanda and so many other issues relevant to North American readers. . . For one, it conveys the impossibility of remaining neutral within a climate of broad moral compromise—even for purportedly apolitical institutions like the Olympics.
Now, Benaron teaches at Pima Community College in Tuscon (in addition to working with the Afghan Women’s Writing Project and being a triathlete and a certified orthopedic massage therapist!).
In the past, BookPage has covered Bellwether winners such as The Book of Dead Birds (Gayle Brandeis), Mudbound (Hillary Jordan) and The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (Heidi Durrow). I will eagerly anticipate more information about Running the Rift.
Do you have a favorite novel that addresses social justice issues?
Last night, the 2010 James Beard Award winners were announced. The award highlights the year's best cookbooks in several different subject areas. We at BookPage were especially pleased to see Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home, cookbook columnist Sybil Pratt's 2009 favorite, take home the prize for General Cooking. Get your taste buds ready, because this week's recipe will be Thomas Keller's delicious take on Pineapple Upside Down Cake, from the pages of Ad Hoc at Home. Did anyone try David Lebovitz's Nonfat Gingersnaps over the weekend?
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2010 James Beard Award Winners (links take you to the BookPage review)
Real Cajun by Donald Link with Paula Disbrowe
Baking and Dessert
Baking by James Peterson
Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology by Randall Grahm
Cooking from a Professional Point of View
The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts by The French Culinary Institute with Judith Choate
Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller
Love Soup: 160 All-New Vegetarian Recipes by Anna Thomas
The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews
Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way by Francis Mallmann and Peter Kaminsky
Reference and Scholarship
Encyclopedia of Pasta by Oretta Zanini de Vita
Pasta Sfoglia by Ron and Colleen Suhanosky with Susan Simon
Writing and Literature
Save the Deli by David Sax
Coming in October from Little, Brown—The Wolves of Andover, the prequel to the 2008 hit The Heretic's Daughter. Dallas novelist Kathleen Kent tells the story of Martha Allen and Thomas Carrier, who in her earlier novel experienced the Salem Witch Trials. Their courtship sounds equally daunting: Thomas, who played a significant role in the English Civil War, finds himself pursued by assassins sent to the New World from London, while Martha navigates the complicated world of a household servant.
Related in BookPage: Our review of The Heretic's Daughter.
Rick Riordan of Percy Jackson fame is launching a new series, the latest Sookie Stackhouse book is is out and more—it's a big week for reviews and features on BookPage.com! Which book will you read first? (Click on the book titles to keep reading.)
Interview with Leah Stewart about Husband and Wife
Sarah and Nathan are just your average American couple: still in love after more than 10 years together, they have a toddler daughter and an infant son; Nathan is a well-regarded novelist poised for commercial success with the release of his new book, Infidelity. Sure, Sarah isn’t writing poetry much anymore, and she hates her day job, but sacrifices must be made in the name of family. Then Sarah learns that Nathan’s new book isn’t all drawn from his imagination. He cheated on her, at a writer’s retreat, while she was pregnant with their son.
Review of The Red Pyramid—book #1 in Rick Riordan's new series
The author of the wildly popular Percy Jackson series introduces a new set of heroes to his legions of fans in Book One of the Kane Chronicles series. Siblings Carter and Sadie Kane have been raised on opposite sides of the globe—Sadie with her grandparents in London and Carter with his father, who travels the world studying Egyptian artifacts.
Review of Get Capone by Jonathan Eig
I’m a Chicago guy. Been one all my life. So I thought I knew everything there is to know about the “Chicago Way.” You know, using hustle and muscle to get power and money. But along comes this other Chicago guy, Jonathan Eig, to teach me some new things. His book, Get Capone, is about the guy who made the “Chicago Way” famous. Al “Scarface” Capone, that is—the most notorious Chicago gangster of all time.
Interview with Charlaine Harris about Dead in the Family
For an author who gives a lot of interviews, Charlaine Harris knows how to keep a secret. She's working on a new series, but can’t share the details (“people who talk don’t write”), she's cagey about where Sookie’s telepathic abilities came from, and she won’t say whether Sookie really wants to live her life with a vampire.
The End of Poetry Month
Posted on The Best Words in their Best Order
FSG has done a fantastic job with their poetry month blog, and if you haven't been keeping up, today's post provides links to some highlights. Read about the "distinct animal" of the poetry reading, why Louise Glück doesn't like National Poetry Month, why Meghan O'Rourke enjoys publishing emerging poets in The Paris Review and more.
The Surrendered, by Chang-rae Lee—a review
Posted on Shelf Life
I interviewed Chang-rae Lee for the March issue of BookPage, and since reading The Surrendered, I've wondered what sort of response people will have to Lee's latest novel. It's written beautifully, but the characters live (or are killed by) such wrenching tragedies that the nearly 500 pages can be a lot to stomach. So I enjoyed reading Gentle Reader's post on Shelf Life, in which she describes her reactions to the novel, and I understood when she wrote, "while I recommend Lee’s writing, I feel this book is definitely for the stout of heart."
Behind the scenes of the Rock Bottom Remainders
Posted on A Moment of Jen
Trisha posted about author rock band the Rock Bottom Remainders a couple weeks ago, and it was fun to read a behind-the-scenes report of one of their concerts in Jennifer Weiner's blog. She writes, "Growing up, I always wanted to be a writer…but I had rock-and-roll fantasies, of standing in front of a cheering crowd, wailing into a microphone or rocking out on a guitar."
What book blog posts have you enjoyed this week?
Briefly, Beatrice and Virgil is about Henry, a novelist whose life parallels Martel’s. Henry comes to know a taxidermist—also named Henry—who is writing a play. The play stars Beatrice and Virgil, a donkey and a howler monkey, and Henry (the novelist) comes to see their story as an allegory for the Holocaust.
Warning: There are spoilers in the podcast, so listen at your own risk!
Should we interpret Beatrice and Virgil as an allegory—and if so, what does it mean? How should we react to the "Games for Gustav" in the final section?
Will Life of Pi fans be disappointed with this novel? Why has critical response from major review outlets and book blogs been so varied? Will Beatrice and Virgil become a favorite for book clubs?
Why has the famous pear scene so captured the hearts of readers? Does Martel manage to represent the Holocaust in an innovative way? What does Beatrice and Virgil teach us about content vs. sales potential, in the eyes of a publisher?
Is Beatrice and Virgil a "successful" novel?
How did you react to Beatrice and Virgil? Tell us in the comments.
The Last Child by John Hart took top honors for best novel. No surprise there. Who wouldn't want to read about the "lineal descendant and spiritual soul mate of Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield"?
Dave Cullen's Columbine—which has "the immediacy and starkness of a documentary"—won an Edgar for Best Fact Crime.
Several BookPage editors were pleased that Mary Downing Hahn won for Closed for the Season ("Best Juvenile"). Hahn wrote Tallassee Higgins, one of my childhood favorites, and many others. In September, watch for Hahn's new book The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall.
Click here to view the complete list of Edgar winners. For an interesting analysis on why Edgar winners don't typically win more than once, read this article in the Wall Street Journal.
What's the best mystery you read in 2009?
This expanded version of the popular feature from the print edition of BookPage shares the release dates for some of the guaranteed blockbusters hitting shelves in May. Which May release are you most looking forward to? Tell us in the comments.
Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush
The highly anticipated memoir from the notoriously
private former first lady. It will also be available as a signed collector's edition.
Tell-All by Chuck Palaniuk
Knopf Doubleday, $24.95
The always edgy author gives his unique take on old Hollywood in a subversive new novel.
Blue-Eyed Devil by Robert B. Parker
Parker's posthumous Western brings back Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch for some vigilante justice.
Executive Intent by Dale Brown
Morrow, $26.99, ISBN 9780061560859
It’s president against vice president in Brown’s near-future political thriller.
Miracle on the 17th Green by James Patterson & Peter de Jonge
Little, Brown, $19.99
Patterson and de Jonge pair up for the inspiring story of a man who, at 50, suddenly achieves his life's dream of becoming a professional golfer.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
The final novel in the Millennium Trilogy brings back Lisbeth Salander for more adventure, danger and suspense.
Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger
Simon & Schuster, $25.99
What happens when normal girls are left behind when their boyfriends hit the big time? They get revenge.
This morning I was psyched to see an unexpected deal on Publisher's Marketplace—Colin Meloy, the lead singer/songwriter for Portland-based indie rock band The Decemberists, has signed a three-book deal with HarperCollins. He's writing a middle-grade series called "Wildwood," and according to a press release it's "a classic tale of adventure, magic, and danger, set in an alternate version of modern-day Portland, Oregon." Meloy said the books will be his "humble paean to that grand tradition of epic adventure stories" by the likes of Lloyd Alexander, Roald Dahl and Tolkien.
The first book will come out in Fall 2011. Donna Bray, who in the past has worked on Newbery winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi and National Book Award Finalist The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich, among many others, bought the book.
The Decemberists are one of my favorite contemporary bands—and they put on an incredible live show. At first I thought it was odd that Meloy is writing novels, but when I think about the storytelling nature of his songs, it makes perfect sense ("The Mariner's Revenge Song" in itself could be a book!)
Carson Ellis—Meloy's wife, and the artist behind The Decemberists' memorable album covers—will illustrate the books. You may also be familiar with her work on Trenton Lee Stewart's The Mysterious Benedict Society; she designed the cover and the interior illustrations in book one of the series.
Do you listen to The Decemberists? Will you check out the Wildwood books? The Decemberists have such a dedicated fan base that I suspect these books might reach beyond the typical middle-grade audience and become collector's items for music fans!
The 2010 Time 100 list was released online today, and I was thrilled to see Suzanne Collins show up in the Artists category. Lizzie Skurnick, author of Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading, wrote an ode to Collins and her Hunger Games books. (If you've been living under a rock*, The Hunger Games is book one in a dystopian YA trilogy. A group of 24 teens must battle to the death—only one can be left standing—in a reality-TV-show-meets-the-Olympics-type spectacle. Katniss Everdeen is the female representative from the underdog "District 12".)
Like Katniss, she's a natural, lighting from thriller to bodice ripper to fantasy in the space of a few chapters, churning out a powerful, innovative oeuvre without making a big deal about it . . . She's a literary fusioneer, that rare writer who is all things to all readers. Today's would-be revolutionaries should be so lucky.
The Time 100 list recognizes "the people who most affect our world." Which other authors should be on that list?
*Like me, until this past weekend, when I ditched all invitations and responsibilities to read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. And yes, I would love to attend a Mockingjay midnight release party on August 24.