February Titles Ready for Release

It’s hard to believe we are already talking February, however, this month’s titles slated for release hold quite the variety. Below is an abbreviated list of books hitting your bookstore shelves this month (for more see links below).

February 1:  Worst Case by James Patterson

February 1:  Kitchen Chinese:  A Novel About Food, Family, and Finding Yourself by Ann Mah

February 1: Pulitzer:  A Life in Politics, Print, and Power by James Mcgrath Morris

February 1:  Devotion:  A Memoir by Dani Shapiro

February 1:  The Hungry Season by T. Greenwood

February 1:  Conspirata by Robert Harris

February 2:  Point Omega by Don DeLillo

February 2:  Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian

February 2:  Shadow Tag by Louise Erdich

February 2:  Spirited:  Connect to the Guides All Around You by Rebecca Rosen

February 2:  Mornings in Jenin: A Novel by Susan Abulhawa

February 4:  Yalta:  The Price of Peace by Serhil Plokhy

February 4:  The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

February 9:  Black Hearts:  One Platoon’s Descent into Madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death by Jim Frederick

February 9:  Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

February 9:  The Bread of Angels:  A Journey to Love and Faith by Stephanie Saldana

February 9:  The Midnight House by Alex Berenson

February 9:  The Postmistress by Sara Blake

February 9:  A Dark Matter by Peter Straub

February 9:  Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett

February 9:  Willie Mays:  The Life, The Legend by James S. Hirsch

February 10: The Wife’s Tale by Lori Lansens

February 16: Horns by Joe Hill

February 16:  Ruby’s Spoon: A Novel by Anna Lawrence Pietroni

February 16:  The Man From Beijing by Henning Mankell

February 23:  A Big Girl by Danielle Steel

February 23:  The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran

February 23:  The Infinities by John Banville

Movie Adaptations Appearing on the Big Screen

Shutter Island: Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Emily Mortimer, and Mark Ruffalo, and directed by Martin Scorcese. This movie is based on the novel by Dennis Lehane.

Percy Jackson & The Olympians:  The Lightning Thief:  Starring Logan Lerman, Kevin McKidd, and Steve Coogan, and directed by Chris Columbus. This movie is based on the the book (young adult) by Rick Riordan.

*Support your local bookstores and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Full February release lists

BookBrowse (for members)

Barnes and Noble Coming Soon

amazon.com New Releases

A ‘Lit’tle of This, a Little of That

The Catcher in the RyeLegendary author J.D. Salinger died Wednesday at the age of 91. Salinger was widely known for his book The Catcher in the Rye which still remains on many high school required reading lists. Click here for Salinger’s “Best Sayings” from Catcher in the Rye. For more information on the author and his life, try this link to NPR.

The following article came to me from several people before I even got the chance to read The New York Times last Sunday. “Reading might well have been among the last remaining private activities, but it is now a relentlessly social pursuit,” bemoans Motoko Rich in The Book Club With Just One Member. As Rich moves beyond book to reader to examine the ways in which we choose to read, she shares their effects on the commercial pursuits of our contemporary book industry.

In case you are living under a rock, apple introduced the new iPad and it appears to be much more than an e-reader. A stretch for the literary purist, this latest gizmo brings much more than a book to the table. For more, read Publishers Embrace iPad As Rival to Kindle on NPR’s Morning Edition.

The largest book in the world will go on show for the first time as part of the British Library exhibition on maps. HuffPost reports that the largest book will be among 100 maps considered “some of the greatest in the world”.

Yes, I’m worried.

NPR’s What We’re Reading for Jan. 27 – Feb. 2 includes The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris. Mr. Ferris held a reading at The University of Michigan last Monday night as part of their Creative Writing program.

Poor Colm. Once again overlooked for his book Brooklyn, poet Christoper Reid walked away with the Costa Book of the Year  Award for 2009. The prestigious literary prize is given to writers based in the UK and Ireland. Reid’s book, A Scattering, is a tribute to his late wife.

*As always, support your local bookstores and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Kostova’s Swan Thieves a Bit Too Thick

564 pages is a lot to ask of a reader, and unfortunately, ask turns to beg in Elizabeth Kostova’s latest novel The Swan Thieves. Known for her bestselling debut work The Historian, I’m afraid Ms.Kostova won’t win any converts from those introduced to her work through this latest doorstopper.

Using voice as her palette, Kostova employs alternating narratives and their respective dialogue to frame the mystery surrounding famed painter and tortured artist Robert Oliver. Having recently attacked a painting at the The National Gallery of Art, the renowned Oliver finds himself placed under the residential care of psychiatrist Andrew Marlow. Arriving with little more than a stack of letters among his things, it is this mysterious bundle of antiquated correspondence that ultimately serves to nudge the story.

With its drawn-out detail and long-winded narrative, I’m afraid The Swan Thieves overextends. As it fluctuates between the voice of Dr. Marlow and that of 19th century artist Beatrice de Clerval, the reader is pulled along a flat and plodding journey covering both continent and coast. Sadly, Kostova’s attempts at eloquence collapse under the weight of her own words, and eventually move to kick out the legs of the story.

Despite such reader frustration, Ms. Kostova’s considerable passages on French Impressionism, art history, color subtleties and portrait execution are nuanced and informative. As they weave through the novel’s entirety, Thieves will at the very least put those not versed in the finer arts of portraiture and art genre upon higher ground.

Nonetheless, as readers well know what works for one book doesn’t always work for another, and I suspect the literary devices used to bring The Historian such acclaim simply didn’t work this time around. Though The Swan Thieves has heart, its pulse would have beat more with much less.

*Support your local bookstores and universities. It matters!

Post by Megan Shaffer

Ann Arbor Borders to Host Abraham Verghese

Details“I think I was drawn to medicine with a strong sense of medicine being a romantic pursuit, a calling. I still really am very much in love with medicine, and I love what I do. And I often think the writing emanates from that stance of being a physician. And I worry that I would become mute if I ever left medicine and tried to write.” *

This quote from Abraham Verghese is not all that surprising given the eloquence and depth of Cutting for Stone, his beautiful first novel which was published last year. A professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine and holding an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Verghese has placed himself in perfect position to translate reality into fiction.

Following his two non-fiction works (My Own Country and The Tennis Partner), Cutting for Stone follows the life of twins Marion Stone and his brother Shiva as their lives wind down different paths amidst the political and domestic unrest in Addis Ababa. An epic journey of the soul, Verghese’s characters attest to the innate longing and necessity of our ties to family and homeland.

Borders in Ann Arbor will host Cutting for Stone author Abraham Verghese for a reading and signing event on Tuesday, Janurary 26, 2010 at 7:00 PM. As always, it’s a good idea to call and confirm prior to this event for any additional information.

-Support your local bookstores and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

*From NPR piece: Story Specialists: Doctors Who Write

National Book Critics Circle Announce the Familiar

American SalvageSome familiar names flew at the Housing Works Bookstore last night when the National Book Critics Circle announced the finalists for its 2009 awards. Recently coming off of her National Book Award nomination, Kalamzaoo resident Bonnie Jo Campbell’s short story collection American Salvage (Wayne State University Press) is once again making the fiction list.

Similarly reappearing in the non-fiction category is author Greg Grandin’s Fordlandia:  The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City (Metropolitan Books) for his fascinating account of Henry Ford’s attempt to establish a “rubber kingdom” in Brazil. Both books were also selected as 2010 Michigan Notable Books.

Established in 1974, the National Book Critics Circle is a non-profit organization consisting of “more than 600 active book reviewers who are interested in honoring quality writing”. The awards for the 2009 honors will be  presented on Thursday, March 11, at The New School in New York.

*As always, support your local bookstores and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer (with a nod to Nancy)

Related Links:

2010 Michigan Notable Books!

National Book Critics full finalist list

Arts Beat Blog: NYTimes

DPL Author Series Hosts Lev Raphael

At 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 23, 2010, The Detroit Public Library will host a reading and discussion of Lev Raphael’s My Germany – A Jewish Writer Returns to the World His Parents Escaped as part of their Celebrate Authors Series. Quoted on the DPL site as a “masterfully written memoir”, the event will be hosted at the Main Library – Old Fine Arts location.

Lev Raphael is no stranger to the state of Michigan. He holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from Michigan State University where he taught Creative Writing. Not just a classroom presence, Mr. Raphael was also a review columnist for the Detroit Free Press and a voice for Michigan Radio.

A pioneer in American-Jewish literature, the prolific Raphael is widely known for his writings about children of Holocaust survivors (both of his parents are survivors). Mr. Raphael has published books, essays, articles, reviews and various literary works which have been translated and published in multiple languages. His writings not only garner high praise but have also amassed numerous prizes and awards. In addition, his literary Papers were purchased by MSU and now rest in the Michigan State University Libraries.

*As always, support your local bookstores and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Links:

Elizabeth Bachner’s lengthy reflections on Bookslut

You Tube Interview on Lansing Online News

Raphael on Salon.com

Never Too Late for Avedon at DIA

Richard Avedon: Portraits of PowerIf you haven’t been to the Detroit Institute of Arts lately, you are missing out. If you didn’t take advantage of the the latest exhibit, well, all is not lost. The DIA’s sleek Avedon Fashion Photographs Exhibit packed up on January 17th, however, there is still a way to catch a consolidated glimpse of Richard Avedon’s work. And, of course, it all comes back to books.

Like other famous artists, compilations of Avedon’s industry changing photographs have been secured and bound. In addition to the many books available online and at the Richard Avedon Foundation site, you can also find his work much closer to home. The DIA’s museum shop carries Richard Avedon:  Portraits of Power among several other titles, and offers various artist collections as well.

Though the life of Richard Avedon played out through his incredible fashion photographs, he eventually became the first ever staff photographer for The New Yorker which is well known for its reportage, literary contributions, and eccentric Americana. Avedon made the New Yorker his home until his death of a brain hemorrhage while on assignment in 2004.

For more information on Richard Avedon and his work, try the links below:

PBS American Masters Series

Adam Gopnik’s New Yorker piece on Richard Avedon

Avedon piece in the New York Times

More on Richard Avedon in Topics section of the New York Times

*As always, support your local bookstore, universities, and art institutions. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer with a special thanks to Linda Erikson!

Stead and Pinkney Now Proud Medal Owners

Yesterday morning the winners of the John Newbery Medal and the Caldecott Medal were announced at the American Library Association’s (ALA) midwinter conference in Boston. Known for their prestige, the annual awards are presented for literary and artistic contributions respectively.

Rebecca Stead won the Newbery Medal for When You Reach Me. This medal honors the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

Jerry Pinkney  won the Randolph Caldecott Medal for The Lion & the Mouse. This medal honors the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

For a wonderfully detailed article on the winners, try this New York Times article, A Very New York Novel Wins Newbery Medal.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

*As always, support your local bookstore. It matters!

PW’s List of All 2010 Winners

Detroit Free Press Article on Winner Announcement

Jim Harrison Works His Way Back Home

Cover ImageI’m a little late to the Jim Harrison party. OK, very late, but as they say, “better late than never.” It has only been in the past two weeks or so that the name Jim Harrison has repeatedly come up in conversation. However, when my friend mentioned him and said, “but I’m sure you know all about him,” I had to admit that I had not a clue.

Like it so often happens, once a name or a word is mentioned it continues to crop up in the most unexpected places. For starters, I bumped square into Harrison’s latest work The Farmer’s Daughter as I took the corner at Baldwin library. Shortly afterward, my sister- in-law emailed me from her Paris home to tell me she had enjoyed True North, was currently reading Returning to Earth, and asked me my opinion on Jim Harrison’s style. I thought, “that’s it!” Who is this person?

I decided I would do some solid research on this not so masked man and post a piece about him. Yet, there he was again. As luck would have it, Free Press specials writer Christopher Walton did all the work (and oh, so much more) in his piece Poet of the Peninsulas, a beautiful spread which appeared in today’s edition of the Detroit Free Press.

Walton states that “at 72, Harrison’s literary output is accelerating” which is pretty impressive considering he’s “published 32 books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and written articles for Esquire, Sports Illustrated, the New York Times Book Review and others.” The included fact that nearly all of Harrison’s recent work is set in northern Michigan only adds to the local fascination, ramping up excitement for his latest work.

So as I approach Mr. Harrison’s December release “The Farmer’s Daughter” with full intrigue, I feel far more prepared and informed thanks to the hard work of another. I highly suggest you check out Walton’s article and the relatively broad scope of the book section in this week’s Free Press. I hope to post my review later this month.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

*Christopher Walton’s article appeared in the Sunday, January 17, 2010 edition of the Detroit Free Press.

*As always, support your local bookstores and universities. It matters!

University of Michigan Press To Release New MLK Book

Prominent Americanist Godfrey Hodgson has authored a dozen books about politics in the United States. Covering presidential elections, political society, and key players in the wheel of American politics, The University of Michigan Press will offer his latest work titled Martin Luther King.

Touted by the publisher as “… ideal for new students of King or those looking to revisit the dramatic events of the era,” Hodgson’s book will release on January 18, 2010. Of no   coincidence, this Monday the 18th also marks the holiday commemorating the life and legacy of civil rights activist Martin Luther King.

Mr. Hodgson has also worked as a newspaper and magazine journalist. He has reported through media circles including television and documentary film. Additionally, he has been a university teacher and most recently acts as a visiting journalism professor at City University in London.*

*information taken from jacket

For more on the author and title, try the following links:

Martin Luther King on The UofM Press

Other books by Godfrey Hodgson

-Post by Megan Shaffer