The highlights from this week's new paperbacks include the finale of a mega-selling Dean Koontz suspense series and a revealing biography of a former first lady:
By Dean Koontz
Bantam • $9.99 • ISBN 9780345545893
Odd Thomas returns to the fictional California desert town of Pico Mundo in what as billed as the “final adventure” for Koontz’s popular character. The paperback includes a bonus short story, “You Are Destined to Be Together Forever,” available previously only in eBook format. The Odd Thomas series has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.
By Tom Cooper
Broadway • $15 • ISBN 9780804140584
Lost pirate treasure, environmental disaster, drug smuggling and bayou hijinks are all part of the mix in Cooper’s darkly comic debut, which drew critical raves and earned the first-time author comparisons to Mark Twain and Elmore Leonard. The novel is our Top Pick for book clubs this month.
By Cecilia Ekbäck
Weinstein • $16 • ISBN 9781602862944
Set in remote Swedish Lapland in 1717, this haunting historical novel has won praise for its vivid portrayal of a remote community gripped by fear after the mutilated body of a neighbor is discovered. The Swedish-born author, who now lives in Canada, chose familiar turf for her first novel: Both her parents are from Lapland.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis
By Barbara Leaming
Thomas Dunne • $16.99 • ISBN 9781250070258
Leaming argues that Jackie Kennedy suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing her husband’s assassination, a condition that would influence her actions for the remaining 31 years of her life.
When Dan Marshall was 25, he left behind his life in California and moved back home to take care of his terminally ill parents. In his memoir, Home Is Burning, Marshall recounts a horrible time in his life with honesty and humor. Our reviewer writes, "Home Is Burning is perhaps the funniest book about dying I’ve ever read . . . [Marshall] takes an unflinching look at how real families fall apart—and pull together—in their own ways." (Read the review).
We asked Marshall to tell us about three books he loves.
Middle Men by Jim Gavin
Sometimes you read a book that feels like it was written specifically for you. That was the case with Middle Men. Maybe it was because most of the stories take place in Los Angeles, where I live, or maybe it was because of the multiple Del Taco references. But I really connected to these stories about different characters somehow stuck in the middle, a sort of real-life purgatory between dream and reality.
Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
I’ve always had a fascination with stand-up comedy. It seems to be the most grueling profession to break into. Steve Martin’s book proved that life sucks ass for about 10-to-15 years, no matter how successful you become. I was particularly interested in how many times Martin had to re-invent himself as he struggled to build a career. The book is a great lesson in perseverance and adaptation. I had been meaning to read this book for years. And finally did! So, I, like Steve, showed a lot of determination in achieving my dreams.
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
My brother gave me this book and said that it reminded him of me. I soon realized what he meant, because this is a collection of stories about a character who sucks at love. It’s a beautiful book and proof that most of us fumble around with relationships, even the most significant and important ones. Díaz nails you with so many poetic and hilarious one-liners that you’ll end up doing a lot of underlining and starring as you read, so have a pen handy.
(Author photo by Sharon Suh)
French chef Jacques Pépin shares his favorite recipes for entertaining at home in his new cookbook, Jacques Pépin: Heart & Soul in the Kitchen. With the holidays quickly approaching, it's handy to have a few easily made, shareable dishes up your sleeve. Whip up this Cannellini Bean Dip with just a few ingredients when (unexpected) company inevitably drops by.
Cannellini Bean Dip
I like to offer guests a little treat when I’m serving drinks, and this dip is always welcome. My pantry is never without canned beans, from cannellini to black beans to large butter beans. The garnishes make the dish look more attractive—and more like a classic hummus made with chickpeas.
For the dip: Reserve 1/3 cup of the beans for garnish. Put the remaining beans in a blender or food processor. Add all the remaining ingredients and process until very smooth, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula a few times if need be to help combine the ingredients.
Transfer the dip (you should have about 2 cups) to a shallow serving dish and create a well in the center.
For the garnishes: Put the reserved beans in the well in the dip and pour in the olive oil. Sprinkle with the paprika, poppy seeds, and parsley. Serve surrounded by the tostadas or tacos, toasts, or crackers.
Halloween is my favorite holiday, but horror movies leave me spooked for weeks. Which is why In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe: Classic Tales of Terror 1816-1914 is perfect for scaredy-cats like me. While definitely Halloween appropriate, this collection of 20 early horror stories won't leave you totally mortified. Edgar Allan Poe tends to hog the spotlight when it comes to short horror fiction, but this collection, which includes helpful annotations, calls attention to lesser-known masters of the genre.
The titles alone are creepy—and also kind of hilarious in all of their earnest Victorianism: "The Mummy's Foot" (1840) by Theodor Gautier, "A Tragedy of Bones," (1895) by George Macdonald and perhaps the most mysterious, "The Leather Funnel" (1902) by Arthur Conan Doyle. I can't wait to curl up with some hot chocolate and find out what that leather funnel does.
From "A Night of Horror" (1899) by Dick Donovan:
How long I slept I do not know, and never shall know; but I awoke suddenly, and with a start, for it seemed as if a stream of ice-cold water was pouring over my face. With an impulse of indefinable alarm I sprang up in bed, and then a strange, awful, ghastly sight met my view.
I don’t know that I could be described as a nervous man in any sense of the word. Indeed, I think I may claim to be freer from nerves than the average man, nor would my worst enemy, if he had a regard for truth, accuse me of lacking courage. And yet I confess here, frankly, that the sight gazed upon appalled me. Yet was I fascinated with a horrible fascination, that rendered it impossible for me to turn my eyes away. I seemed bound by some strange weird spell. My limbs appeared to have grown rigid; there was a sense of burning in my eyes; my mouth was parched and dry; my tongue swollen, so it seemed. Of course, these were mere sensations, but they were sensations I never wish to experience again. They were sensations that tested my sanity. And the sight that held me in the thrall was truly calculated to test the nerves of the strongest.
There, in mid-air, between floor and ceiling, surrounded or made visible by a trembling, nebulous light, that was weird beyond the power of any words to describe, was the head and bust of a woman. The face was paralyzed into an unutterably awful expression of stony horror; the long black hair was tangled and disheveled, and the eyes appeared to be bulging from her head.
Are you reading anything spooky to get into the halloween spirit?
This week's new paperbacks range from a celebrity memoir to a gripping true-crime title:
Even This I Get to Experience
By Norman Lear
Penguin • $17 • ISBN 9780143127963
This revealing and sometimes poignant memoir from the creator of groundbreaking TV sitcoms "All in the Family" and "Sanford & Son" won critical praise from many sources, including Booklist, which called it "one of the best Hollywood memoirs ever written."
The Uncollected David Rakoff
Edited by Timothy G. Young
Anchor • $15.95 • ISBN 9780307946478
Rakoff, a humorist who died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 47, was perhaps best known and beloved for his many episodes on NPR's "This American Life." This collection includes many entries never before published in book form, including transcripts of appearances on "Fresh Air" and "This American Life," as well as many snarky, hilarious essays. In the book's foreword, playwright Paul Rudnick identifies one of his favorite pieces as Rakoff's essay on Stuart Little, aptly titled "The Love That Dare Not Squeak Its Name."
The Danish Girl
By David Ebershoff
Penguin • $16 • ISBN 9780143108399
Ebershoff’s best-selling debut novel, first published in 2000, is available in a new movie tie-in edition one month before the release of a highly anticipated film version starring Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne in the title role. The novel is loosely based on the life of Lili Elbe, one of the first people in the world to undergo transgender surgery.
By Jill Leovy
Spiegel & Grau • $16 • ISBN 9780385529990
Taking the murder of Los Angeles teenager Dovon Harris as her starting point, award-winning reporter Leovy examines the plague of violence in black communities and the failed response of the criminal justice system. Meticulously reported and thoroughly absorbing, the book won critical raves and was a bestseller in hardcover.
Autumn and harvest time go hand-in-hand with independent reading time. My first BookPage blog post of this school year provided an introduction to STEM, STEAM and STREAM for parents. (Read it here.) Now I want to suggest two novels that parents and children can enjoy together, and which offer wonderful connections to math and science for third- through sixth-grade readers.
In 2010, Aaron R. Hawkins, a professor of electrical engineering at Brigham Young University, published his debut novel for children, The Year Money Grew on Trees. Hawkins said he was inspired by his own memories of growing up in New Mexico and working on his family’s orchard. I’ve been recommending this delightful title as a read-aloud to parents, librarians and teachers ever since I reviewed it for BookPage five years ago.
The year is 1983. Jackson Jones, the book’s 13-year-old hero, has the chance to obtain an apple orchard—but only if he can earn $8,000 from the crop. Jackson convinces his sisters and cousins to help. The book’s humor—and magic—is in watching Jackson and his team learn about pruning, irrigating and fertilizing, to say nothing of trying to figure out the economics of their new business. The author has included maps and illustrations of mechanical equipment and irrigation systems, along with mathematical calculations.
The Year Money Grew on Trees is a wonderful book for budding farmers, engineers, businesspeople and just plain lovers of apples. Check out Hawkins’ website for pictures of some of the equipment used here.
Another debut novelist, Jacqueline Kelly, received a Newbery Honor for her first book, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (2009). (A sequel, The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, was released earlier this year.)
Like The Year Money Grew on Trees, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is historical fiction—only it’s set a bit earlier, in 1899 Texas. Here, the STEM connections are most strongly related to natural history and botany, for Calpurnia’s grandfather is a devoted follower of Charles Darwin, whose book The Origin of Species was published in 1859.
Each chapter in The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate begins with a quotation from Darwin. Calpurnia, the only girl among six brothers, dreams of becoming a scientist herself someday, to her parents’ dismay. Calpurnia tries to fulfill her mother’s expectations that she learn domestic arts, but the truth is, she much prefers exploring the natural world with Grandaddy. One of the highlights of the novel is the duo’s discovery of a new species of plant “heretofore unknown.”
This is a wonderful book for young scientists and plant lovers—both girls and boys. It also complements many nonfiction books on botany, Darwin and the natural world available at your library.
This fall, grab an apple (or some warm homemade applesauce), curl up and read!
Deborah Hopkinson wrote about Charles Darwin in Who Was Charles Darwin? She has also written about the 19th-century astronomer Maria Mitchell in Maria’s Comet. Next spring she will publish Follow the Moon Home, a book about sea turtle conservation with Philippe Cousteau. She's also a regular contributor to BookPage.
In Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam, an alligator is transported through the early 20th-century South as his owners, an estranged married couple, attempt to take him back to Florida. Our reviewer writes that Carrying Albert Home is "an intentionally improbable, bizarre trip through Southern Americana that is a tall tale blend of fact and fiction." (Read the review).
We asked Hickam to tell us about the books he's read lately, and he says he nearly always has these three books on his desk.
Ballads of Cheechako by Robert Service
When I was a child in the West Virginia coalfields, I was terribly near-sighted, a fact not discovered until I was in the fourth grade. This turned out to be a wonderful thing for my future career as a writer since I couldn't see well enough to play outside with the other kids, so I contented myself with reading anything and everything that resided on my parents' bookshelves. They were both avid readers so I had a lot to choose from, but there was one book that my father kept on the table beside his easy chair. It was this one, leather-bound and worn with age and use, by Robert Service. He had marked his favorite passages inside, but on the last page, he had but one comment and that was "Amen." Since I saw him often reading it, I also sneaked around and read it, too, absorbing Service's colorful language, his deep knowledge of the adventurous men and women of the North, and his masterful ability to tell a good story in rhyme. I keep a copy now on my desk for those days when I need a little inspiration on how to tell a compelling tale or wish to be reminded of my father's love of this great writer.
Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
This is the companion piece for Steinbeck's better-known novel, Cannery Row. It is a short novel but, unlike its predecessor, has an actual plot. In this case, Doc, who mostly wandered somewhat aimlessly as an observer through the first novel, desperately needs to find someone to love and to love him back. He ends up with Suzy, a prostitute who isn't very good at her trade, and also needs to find someone, and it's clear that it could be just about anyone, who might actually love her back. Steinbeck was someone my parents met in their great adventure that I wrote about in Carrying Albert Home, and they had all of his books, including The Red Pony, which he inscribed to my mother. As a boy, I read them all, but it was Sweet Thursday I liked the best because I was fearful, just like Doc and Suzy, that I might not ever find anyone to love me the way I hoped to be loved. Between writing my books, I often take out especially these two novels by Steinbeck and get myself lost in his sweet prose. Unhappily, however, when I'm writing, I can't read him because I end up writing bad Steinbeck until I can get his style out of my head!
Max Perkins, Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg
When I got busy in the writing trade, I began to meet a few editors who worked for big New York publishers, and I was always fascinated by how they got to be one of those exalted people. When I expressed that to one of my editors, she laughed and said, "I'm no Max Perkins!" Since I had no idea who he was, I looked him up and found this excellent biography. The next thing I knew I was deep into a marvelous story about the man who guided the careers of Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Erskine Caldwell and Marjorie Rawlings among other writers, including poor old Tom Wolfe who, without Max, probably would have never been published at all. Berg's book took me into the office of Perkins and sat me down at his desk and let me pretend to also be a big-time New York editor faced with the foibles, foolishnesses and insecurities of even the best writers in the world. Within the book, I also found the best advice ever that Max gave to editors, which also gave me something to think about as a writer: "If you have a Mark Twain, don't try to make him into a Shakespeare or make a Shakespeare into a Mark Twain. Because in the end an editor can get only as much out of an author as the author has in him."
Thank you, Homer!
(Author photo by Linda Terry Hickam)
You have to admire an author who, after a successful debut, tries something new with a second novel. British novelist Charlotte Rogan, author of The Lifeboat, is doing just that.
Or is she? Now and Again, which will be published in April, is a contemporary novel, set nearly 100 years after the events of The Lifeboat. But Rogan is once again exploring themes of justice and what really constitutes the moral high ground—this time, through the story of a secretary at a munitions plant who discovers her boss is at the center of a high-level cover up. Juxtaposed with her moral dilemma is that of a military captain, who struggles with the fallout of a deadly mission.
The Lifeboat was one of my favorite books of 2012, and I wasn't alone: The novel has sold more than 150,000 copies. I'll definitely be reading this one. How about you?
RELATED CONTENT: More news about 2016 releases.