Plenty of Titles in Bloom This April

Due to the upcoming spring break, I’m posting on the early side. Below are some new titles slated for release in April. NLR will be back in two weeks.

Enjoy –

April 5 – Anthill by E. O. Wilson

April 20 – The Black Cat by Martha Grimes

April 6 – Contested Will:  Who Wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro

April 6 – The End of Wall Street by Roger Lowenstein

April 6 – Father Fiction:  Chapters for a Fatherless Generation by Donald Miller

April 6 – Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott

April 6 – In the Shadow of the Cypress by Thomas Steinbeck

April 6 – The Lake Shore Limited by Sue Miller

April 6 – The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg

April 6 – Mike and Mike’s Rules for Sports and Life by Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic

April 6 – Molto Gusto:  Easy Italian Cooking at Home by Mario Batali

April 6 – The Walk by Richard Paul Evans

April 12 – The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

April 13 – Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

April 13 – Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself:  A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky

April 13 – The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker

April 13 – Elegy for April by Benjamin Black

April 13 – Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

April 15 – The Eastern Stars:  How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris by Mark Kurlansky

April 13 – A Mighty Fortress by David Weber

April 13 – Oprah:  A Biography by Kitty Kelley

April 13 – The Other Family by Joanna Trollope

April 13 – The Shadow of Your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark

April 13 – Wrecked by Carol Higgins Clak

April 20 – Bounce:  Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success by Mathew Syed

April 20 –  All That Follows by Jim Crace

April 20 – A Boy Should Know How to Tie a Tie: And Other Lessons for Succeeding in Life by Antwone Fisher

April 20 – Deliver Us from Evil by David Baldacci

April 20 – The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith

April 20 – A Game of Character:  A Family Journey from the Southside of Chicago to the Ivy League and Beyond by Craig Robinson

April 20 – Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey

April 20 – Stuff:  Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy Frost

April 20 – The Third Rail by Michael Harvey

April 27 – The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

April 27 – The Council of Dads:  My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me by Bruce S. Feiler

April 27 – The Father of Us All:  War and History, Ancient and Modern by Victor Davis Hanson

April 27 – Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

April 27 – Reckless by Andrew Gross

April 28 – Nobody Move by Denis Johnson

April 27 – Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts

April 27 – Winston’s War:  Churchill 1940-1945 by Max Hastings

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Are You Hip Enough for ‘The Heights’?

NPR’s What We’re Reading: March 23-29 features Ari Shapiro’s review of The Heights, which is the first novel from Peter Hedges in quite some time (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape). I had my feelers out for this one a few weeks ago and was lucky enough to snag a brand-spanking new copy from the library.

Hedges latest work takes place in Brooklyn Heights, which seems to have become quite a character in its own right lately. In fact, it even has its own blog. With its celebrity residents and aggressively progressive ideology, there’s no doubt that Hedges had plenty of rich material to work with (yes, pun intended). Though Shapiro dings it, I’m still curious to see how The Heights manipulates through Hedges’ eyes.

Of particular note in this quick review is Shapiro’s reference to The New Yorker piece Borough Haul, which I caught a couple of weeks back. Though it’s focus is on Park Slope, “a leafy enclave of Victorian brownstones and Romanesque Revival houses,” this New York neighborhood commentary certainly echoes my literary expectations of Mr. Hedges take in Heights.

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-Post by Megan Shaffer

Lynch to Share ‘Apparition’ at Nicola’s Books

Thomas Lynch has been very busy lately with his recently released book Apparition & Late Fictions. A former Birmingham Brother Rice grad, Lynch and his family are well-known in the area for their funeral services rather than their literary output. However, Thomas Lynch’s mortuary skills have definitely become secondary in note of interest for avid readers.

Though Apparition is Lynch’s first crack at fiction, it’s noteworthy to mention his previous works have garnered high praise and recognition from literary circles. The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade was selected by the The National Book Foundation as a finalist in the non-fiction category just a few years back. In addition to his latest work, Lynch has penned three collections of poems, three books of essays, and will release Walking Papers later this year. It’s definitely worth the trip to Mr. Lynch’s site where you can check out his Utne interview (Thomas Lynch on Sex, Death, and Poetry ) among several interesting others.

The next stop on Mr. Lynch’s calendar of Michigan appearances will take place at Nicolas Books in Ann Arbor on Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 7:00 PM. As always, call ahead of time to confirm all event information before stepping out the door.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

Related Links

-For more on Thomas Lynch and his Nicola’s appearance, try this article by Leah DuMouchel  on Ann

-New York Times Book Review: Life With Death

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Chang-rae Lee Visits Liberty Street Borders

Whether it’s the L.A. TimesThe Washington Post , or the New York Times Book Review, everyone seems to be talking about Chang-rae Lee and his latest novel “The Surrendered.” Lee’s recent release is an ambitious work characterizing the ruinous effects of the Korean War and follows his acclaimed novels “Native Speaker,” “A Gesture Life,” and “Aloft.”

“I’m fascinated by people who find themselves in positions of alienation or some kind of cultural dissonance,” states Lee on the site of Princeton University where he teaches creative writing. “The characters may not always be Asian Americans, but they will always be people who are thinking about the culture and  how they fit or don’t fit into it.”

How fitting then, for Lee to appear for a reading and signing next to the diverse campus  of the University of Michigan. Borders in Ann Arbor will proudly host Chang-rae Lee on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 7:00 PM at their Liberty Street location. As always, call prior to the event to confirm date, directions, and times.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Baldwin Launches Young Professionals Book Group

Baldwin Public Library is launching a new book group tonight at the Zuma Coffee House in Birmingham. Open to all 20 and 30-somethings, the group will be discussing Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow. Not only is this the featured title for the first meeting of the Young Professionals Book Group, but Presumed Innocent is also the centerpiece of this year’s Everyone’s Reading program. Copies of the book will be accessible for those who carry a Baldwin library card or have one registered at Baldwin. Books on tap for the group include The Plot Against America by Philip Roth and How to be Good by Nick Hornby.

The Young Professionals Book Group will meet Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 7:00 pm. The Zuma Coffee House is located at 207 S. Old Woodward in Birmingham. For more information contact Kathryn Bergeron (

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Skloot Explores the Mortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Every ambitious explorer sets out to learn more about the unfamiliar; to chart, mark, and categorize new territory is innate to the quest. History has shown us grand explorations  of land, sea, and air in the pursuit of fame and fortune. Yet not every venture is so grandiose, and sometimes such expeditions take on a quieter, nobler tone when mere curiosity steps in and humanity takes over.

Science writer Rebecca Skloot is not an explorer per se, but she certainly found herself navigating foreign fields when she decided to seek out the story behind the cells that revolutionized modern medicine. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the result of Skloot’s unending patience in her search for scientific truth and the hard-won affection of the family behind the legendary HeLa cells.

When the name Henrietta Lacks was briefly mentioned in Skloot’s biology class years ago, her young journalistic wheels began to turn. Skloot’s instructor informed the class that Henrietta died in 1951 from cervical cancer, but before she died, samples of her tumor were taken and cultured. Henrietta’s cells (HeLa is taken from the first two letters of her first and last name) began to reproduce at a startling rate which had never occurred before in a lab setting. This quick reproduction provided scientists with endless possibilities for cellular testing and examination, and as a result Henrietta’s cells have become the “standard laboratory workhorse.”

However, it wasn’t the cells that caught Skloot’s interest. Rather, it was the mysterious Black woman behind them that ultimately set the aforementioned wheels into full motion. “I’ve spent years…wondering what kind of life she led, what happened to her children, and what she’d think about cells from her cervix living on forever – bought, sold, packaged, and shipped by the trillions to laboratories around the world. I’ve tried to imagine how she’d feel knowing that her cells went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to human cells in zero gravity, or that they helped with some of the most important advances in medicine… .”

But to get to the true story of Henrietta Lacks one must first win over the family of Henrietta Lacks, and no doubt this was the most difficult obstacle for Skloot. Kept for years in the dark from any information of their mother’s cells, the Lacks children are reticent to give interviews or even return calls. Repeatedly blindsided by doctors, lawyers, and reporters, the Lacks family collectively tossed years of anger and frustration into a bubbling pot that continues to boil over at the mere mention of HeLa cells. For the Lacks family, HeLa is inextricably bound with intense racial, moral, and economic injustice. Yet somehow Skloot’s persistence  paid off, and her earnest intent eventually won over Debra Lacks (Henrietta’s daughter), thus prompting the rest of this profound story.

Encompassing everything from the plantation South to research procedures to cellular biology, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks could have been one laborious read. However, Skloot succeeds in her deft attempt to set the Lacks’ record straight. With a crosscut approach to Henrietta’s cellular and familial evolution, Skloot simplifies the history of HeLa while working the Lacks backstory. Though at times Skloot steps off-trail and gets tangled in the branches of the Lacks family tree, she does manage to stay objective leaving ample room for individual interpretation. Even for those who are not cell savvy, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a sympathetic and interesting journey marked by the tender lives behind the the world’s most important contributor to contemporary medicine.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

-Review by Megan Shaffer

Related Links

CBS News Segment

-NPR’s ’Henrietta Lacks’: A Donor’s Immortal Legacy

-NYT Book Review Eternal Life By Lisa Margonelli

Lit Legend Leonard and More

There are plenty of reading events going on in the Detroit area this week so be sure to see my last post for information. In addition, a few extra points of interest have come to my attention that are definitely worth sharing.

Tune in to this NPR interview Elmore Leonard, At Home In Detroit by Noah Adams to hear from our very own local literary legend.

The Book Beat has scheduled a signing by R & B legend Andre Williams on March 20, 2010 from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. Williams’ Sweets and Other Stories is a “tough and gritty collection of tales of tragedy and perseverance from the mean streets of Chicago and beyond.” This is the first fiction effort from Andre Williams who performed on some singles for Detroit’s Fortune Records in the 50’s and 60’s.*

Check out this week’s update on  NPR’s What We’re Reading which features The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, the second book in Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce detective series. It won’t appeal to all, but this eleven-year-old girl who made her character debut in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie completely won me over. You can find NLR’s brief review by clicking here.

The Orange Prize for Fiction longlist was announced for 2010 and you’ll never believe who was on it? Yes, Hilary Mantel for Wolf Hall – what a shocker! Kidding. I actually bought this book back in December and now feel officially compelled to read it. There has been so much noise surrounding this title, I was waiting for it to die down a bit before I cracked the spine. Is it hype or is it just that good?

*Information courtesy of Book Beat site.

-Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Author Appearances Abound This Week

There’s much to look forward to this week on the author appearance front.  Tied to Michigan by home, topic, or publisher, here’s a heads-up on a few familiar authors and their fast- approaching local events. There’s a lot of info here so make sure you call and confirm dates and times prior to the event.

On Thursday, March 18, 2010, Marygrove College Institute for Detroit Studies will present An Evening of Recent Detroit Fiction. This evening event features readings and booksignings from Peter Markus, Susan Messer, and Michael Zadoorian. The event will take place at Marygrove College Alumnae Hall in the Madame Cadillac Building located at 8425 West McNichols in Detroit. Beginning at 7:00pm, this function is free and open to the public.

In addition to two other appearances, Susan Messer will also present Grand River and Joy on Thursday, March 18, 2010 at the JCC of Metro Detroit in West Bloomfield from 12pm-1pm as part of their Lunch and Literature Series Book Club.

On Friday, March 19, 2010, The University of Michigan Press Author Series will proudly present two of their published authors. Debra Spark, author of the novel Good for the Jews, and Susan Messer, author of the Detroit-based work Grand River and Joy will  read from their novels and discuss creating a sense of place in fiction. This event is from 5:00pm-6:30pm and will be held in the Screening Room on the second floor of the University of Michigan’s Shapiro Undergraduate Library which is located at 919 S. University in Ann Arbor.

Also representing The University of Michigan Press this week is Michigan author Mardi Link. Ms. Link will present at the Dearborn Inn as part of The Michigan in Perspective:  Local History Conference. Sponsored by The Historical Society of Michigan, the conference will take place on Saturday, March 20, 2010 and will include a talk and booksigning by Link, the author of Isadore’s Secret and When Evil Came to Good HartFor more specific information call (313) 271-2700.

Night Light’s Reviews

Messer Comes Home With ‘Grand River and Joy’

‘Isadore’s Secret’ Still Thrills

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Estleman’s ‘Alone’ Invokes Garbo Glam

If you’re looking for something smart but not too heavy, you might want to give Loren Estleman’s latest Valentino mystery a shot. Alone is a modern-day work with a shout out to the glamorous age of big-screen legend Greta Garbo. As Valentino works to renovate a run-down movie house, he becomes entangled in a clumsy murder which ultimately invokes the voice of his beloved Garbo.

Alone is good clean fun and packs sharp, blue-streak dialogue in its pages. Estleman relies on brains for brawn rather than devices of profanity and perversion to work his story. Crediting his readers’ intelligence and ability to follow his quick lead, Estleman moves with a flip yet debonair style that conveys sincere (albeit sarcastic) sentiment. Alone’s characters provide a humorous commentary on age, politics, love, and greed. Though Estleman’s latest won’t rock your literary world, it will provide you with nice slice of escapism.

Loren D. Estleman is the author of more than sixty novels. He has earned four Shamus Awards, five Spur Awards, and three Western Heritage Awards. He lives in central Michigan with his wife, author Deborah Morgan.* For more on this man behind many books, you can link to Mr. Estleman’s “About” page here.

*Taken from book jacket courtesy of Forge Books.

-Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

-Quick review by Megan Shaffer

‘Wolf Hall’ Snags Another Award from NBCC

The National Book Critics Circle announced their annual literary award winners at the The New School’s Tishman auditorium last night. The awards were given out in several categories for the 2009 publishing year. According to the NBCC site, the Critics Circle  includes “…more than 600 active book reviewers who are interested in honoring quality writing and communicating with one another about common concerns.” The list of winners follows:

Fiction:  Hilary Mantel for Wolf Hall (also winner of the Man Booker Prize)

**Michigan’s Bonnie Jo Campbell was nominated for American Salvage

Nonfiction:  Richard Holmes for The Age of Wonder:  How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science

Autobiography: Diana Athill for Somewhere Towards the End (also won the Costa Award for Biography)

Biography:  Blake Bailey for Cheever:  A Life

Criticism:  Eula Biss for Notes from No Man’s Land:  American Essays

Poetry:  Rae Armantrout for Versed

Lifetime Achievement Award:  Joyce Carol Oates

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Links

New York Times Arts Beat

NBCC’s Critical Mass Blog Announcement