DPL to Host Author Leonard Pitts Jr.

Author and Miami Herald journalist Leonard Pitts Jr. will be reading from his first work of fiction this weekend at the Detroit Public Library. As a special guest for African American History Month, Mr. Pitts will offer a reading and discussion of his latest book release, Before I Forget.

Before I Forget falls in sync with Pitts’ profession as a syndicated columnist and pop music critic. The story of a once renowned  R&B star, Before I Forget follows the life of the fictional 70’s celeb Mo Johnson as he struggles with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease and his quest “to make peace with his father and reconcile with his son before it’s too late.”

In addition to his work as a syndicated columnist, Leonard Pitts Jr. is also the author of Becoming Dad:  Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood. According to his site, Mr. Pitts was awarded the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary and was a finalist for the Pulitzer in 1992 as well. His work has appeared in SOUL, Musician, Spin, TV Guide and Parenting.

The Detroit Public Library will proudly host Mr. Leonard Pitts Jr. on Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. This free reading and signing is open to the public and will take place at the DPL’s Main Branch in the Friends Auditorium. If you wish to purchase Before I Forget, Book Beat will be selling books for the event. As usual, it is always wise to call and confirm all information prior to the appearance. You can call The DPL at 313-833-4042 for more information.

*Support your local bookstores and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Literary Links from HeLa Cells to White House Walls

I knlacks.jpgow, I know, redirects are lame. However, while I am trying to finish up Maaza Mengiste’s amazing novel Beneath the Lion’s Gaze and tie up my BookBrowse review of Lisa Grunwald’s The Irresistible Henry House (March 16th release), I thought it might be nice  to provide you with a few recent links to help keep you afloat on the ever-flowing tide of literary news…

I am so curious about the new title The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Responsible for providing the HeLa cell line, Henrietta’s cells were taken from a biopsy back in the 1950’s and have played a key role in developing both cures and treatments for a variety of conditions that plague us to this day. Since I’m not entirely clear on the facts, try these links to author Rebecca Skloot, NPR, and Popular Science.

Mark Lawson will present Capturing America as part of the BBC’s online programming. This history of modern American literature will take a look at the story behind our positioning as a literary superpower of the 20th century. Such online features will include Roth, Vonnegut, Morrison, Updike, and more.

With the latest release of his work Point Omega, I caught Don DeLillo on NPR’s Morning Edition. If you are a DeLillo fan, I suggest checking out this thoughtful interview.

What does the NBA and Kirkus Reviews have in common? What the heck?

Take a look at what is apparently another great Michigan author publishing through a university press. Check out this piece about Ann Arbor native Donald Lystra and his book Season of Water and Ice on Mittenlit.

If you missed it in last Sunday’s Detroit Free Press, Julie Hinds’s article Halls of Power talks about former Detroiter Stacy Parker Aab and her new book Government Girl: Young and Female in the White House. A graduate of Troy High School, Aab went on to  “attend George Washington University” and eventually took on several political assignments providing the material for her new memoir. According to Hines, Ms. Aab  now lives in New York and blogs for the Huffington Post.

*Support your local bookstores and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Along Came James Patterson

Along Came a SpiderAfter reading The New York Times Magazine piece James Patterson Inc. by Jonathan Mahler, I’ve been a bit blue. Though Mr. Mahler did a wonderfully diplomatic job of presenting ‘the Patterson empire’, I personally struggled to find merit in Mr. Patterson’s utterly neon approach to our world of literature.

To be honest, I have only read a few of Patterson’s titles and knew virtually nothing about the man prior to Mahler’s article.  Lacking substance, I simply wasn’t interested in what I believed to be Patterson’s formulaic approach to storytelling. Not off the mark, the article reports that Patterson admittedly “considers himself as an entertainer, not a man of letters” and is quite frank about being “less interested in sentences now and more interested in stories”; an unsurprising fact considering his torrential flow of work.

Regardless of Patterson’s outrageously extensive publication list, I hesitate to use the term prolific in its warm, traditionally gifted context. Rather, I now perceive Patterson’s voluminous outpour as an all-consuming tidal wave which sadly, in its wake, leaves emerging voices strewn upon the fast receding shores of the book industry.

Already under the threat of potential collapse, it seems Mr. Patterson has procured for himself the perfect catch-22 within industry walls. Cuffed by the push for higher profits, publishers are now forced to maximize promotion of their heavy-hitters, ultimately leaving a slim trickle of pennies for divergent talent. Not only is this a devastating trend for passionate, range-seeking readers like myself, but even more so for an upcoming generation of aspiring writers.

But let’s face it, Mr. Patterson is an ad man and sales are his game. Ever clever,  Patterson has apparently surrounded himself with a team of regular co-authors to shore-up his work and drop it in the slick chute of what is fast becoming a monopolized industry. Can Mr. Patterson really question why other writers don’t acknowledge his contributions when he has launched himself into an entirely singular literary orbit of mass production?

I may be naive but I am not a hater, and while it seems like I am lashing out at James Patterson it is actually more my perception of what he represents:  the forfeiture of sincerity for monetary gratification. When I read, I hold the belief that the writer’s choice of words is a careful, selective process approached with the thought of enhancing an age-old craft. My belief was that an author worked from the inside-out and not the other way around in hopes of amassing greater profit and turnout.

So, perhaps you now see why I have been a bit blue and feel a bit cheapened. Though I appreciate the glimpse behind the door of the big house, I suppose Mr. Mahler’s article has stripped away a layer of my now endangered literary innocence. And, while we can attempt to justify Mr. Patterson’s assertion that his work gets people reading, we can’t deny that the literary bar is depths lower because of it.

*Support your local bookstores and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

January 20, 2010 New York Times article James Patterson Inc. by Jonathan Mahler

James Patterson.com

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

Go Bonnie Jo!

Go Bonnie Jo! Check out this Detroit Free Press article on Kalamazoo resident Bonnie Jo Campbell who is up for the prestigious National Book Award. If Ms. Campbell wins the award on Wednesday for American Salvage, she will also be carrying the prize for Wayne State University Press as the only small-press publication to be named a National Book Award finalist this year. For more information on the National Book Awards and the Michigan connection, please read my post Michigan Represents at National Book Awards.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Sunday, Lovely Sunday

A Weekly Post By Megan Shaffer

November 8, 2009

Of Note

-I’m not all that excited about Sarah Palin’s new book, however, it is noteworthy in that she is beginning her tour for “Going Rogue” here in Michigan. In fairness to Ms. Palin, I haven’t done much research on her upcoming release but must give her kudos for kicking it off in our lovely state. Available on November 17th, Ms. Palin will make her first appearance (after the Oprah show) at Barnes and Noble in Grand Rapids. For more on the book tour, try this post at CBS News.com.

-Try this latest Free Press Review of Stephen King’s Under the Dome. I don’t read King, but two out of four stars isn’t a real motivator. His new book releases this Tuesday.

Of National Interest

-Borders has announced they will close about 200 Waldenbooks stores in January, cutting their work force by about 6%. I hate to say it, but with the “Price Wars” of the discount  Big 3 (Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target), I fear this is the beginning of the end. Check out this news wire from The Wall Street Journal. (Check out my post The Shame of Literary Price Wars)

-On November 1st, my post Newbies for November listed all new releases for the upcoming month. There are a few titles that I was very excited about. As usual, NPR has covered most of these titles in their post What We’re Reading if you wish to check them out in more detail.

-Jonathan Safran Foer has shed fiction for non in his new book “Eating Animals”. Try this New Yorker piece Flesh of Your Flesh by Elizabeth Kolbert for a closer examination of the author’s push for vegetarianism and his take on the inconsistencies of our love of animals both on and off of the plate.

-Stephen King shares his concern on the latest price wars and his new release Under the Dome (which hits stores Tuesday) in this brief EW interview. For more information, see my post The Shame of Literary Price Wars (11-3-09).

Local Voice

*The 58th annual Detroit Jewish Book Fair will continue through Nov. 15. The Jewish Community Center has two locations in Oak Park and West Bloomfield. For more information go to www.jccdet.org.

-Sunday marks the 11th Annual Writers on the River Book Fair sponsored by the Monroe County Library System.

-On Sunday, November 8th, Howard Blum will present his book “American Lightning” at the JCC of Metro Detroit in West Bloomfield at 7:30p.m.

-On November 10th, Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor will present local writer Micheline Maynard and her book “The Selling of the American Economy”. Her presentation will be at 7:00.

-On November 11th, Steve Luxenberg will present at the Jewish Community Center in Oak Park at 7:00 pm. Mr. Luxenberg is the author of “Annie’s Ghosts” which you can find in my book review section.

-On November 12th, Tom Weschler will present “Travelin’ Man – On the Road and Behind the Scenes with Bob Seger” as his tour manager and photographer. Weschler will appear at Barnes & Noble in Allen Park.

-Sarah Palin will begin her ‘Going Rogue’ book tour in Grand Rapids. On November 18th, Mrs. Palin’s first stop will be at the Woodland Mall Barnes & Noble where she will  kick off her tour that will last through December 6th. (see Of Note above)

-Ms. Palin is not the only game in town; appearing a day earlier is one-time Republican candidate Mike Huckabee promoting his book “A Simple Christmas” at Schuler Books.

*If you have an event you wish to post, please send me a comment and I would be happy to include it in my Local Voice section.

Bestseller Lists

New York Times

Publishers Weekly

Indie Bestsellers

Sunday, Lovely Sunday

– A Weekly Post By Megan Shaffer


-I wrote a small post on the recent return of two German books taken by Robert E. Thomas, a young soldier serving in WWII.  I found more information and a short video clip at this Washington Post link.

-I received an email from Steve Luxenberg informing me that The American Booksellers Association has chosen Annie’s Ghosts for the Independent Booksellers Fall/Winter List of Recommendations for Reading Groups in the “A-List for Nonfiction” category. Please see my Annie’s Ghosts review for more on this wonderful Detroit-based story.

Of National Interest

-On Tuesday October 6th, Hilary Mantel was announced as the Man Booker Prize winner. The Washington Post reports that the author of Wolf Hall, a “tale of political intrigue set during the reign of King Henry VIII”, will take home the 50,000-pound ($80,000) prize.

-On Thursday, the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Herta Muller. For a more detailed account, read my Life is Literature for Herta Muller posting under Whimsy.

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood was released on Monday. The New York Times reports this as “the first authorized sequel to the A.A. Milne classic Winnie-the-Pooh books in more than 80 years.” An interview with David Benedictus, the writer who undertook this daunting task was heard on NPR’s Morning Edition.

-Remember the crazed sniper in D.C. back in 2002? His wife Mildred Muhammad says it was a ploy to commit and obscure her own murder.  She has written a book titled Scared Silent, in hopes of helping other victims of domestic violence.

-Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer has released a memoir titled We’ll Be Here For the Rest of Our Lives:  A Swingin’ Showbiz Saga. Detailing his colorful career, Shaffer reveals in an NPR interview that he started his career “playing piano in a Canadian topless bar.”  You don’t hear that every day.

-Arianna Huffington has announced a new HuffPost Book Club for the Huffington Post site.  The Club will be working in tandem with the New York Review of Books. The HuffPost Club’s first pick is titled In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore.

Local Voice

-The Detroit Free Press offers a fine article on Bich Minh Nguyen and her book Stealing Buddha’s Dinner in honor of her upcoming appearances for the Great Michigan Read. Nguyen will appear at the Penn Theatre on Saturday, October 17th at 1:00p.m., hosted by the Plymouth District Library. Stealing Buddha’s Dinner can also be found on my Feature Review page.

-Wayne State poet M.L. Liebler has won a Barnes & Noble Award for 2010. “The honor is given to writers who’ve helped other writers and given back to the writing community,” according to the full article in the Detroit Free Press.

-In addition to the update, I found this Michigan Radio interview with Steve Luxenberg, author of Annie’s Ghosts, which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago. The segment provides personal insights by Mr. Luxenburg as he revisits the sights that provide the backbone of his book.

-Paul Vachon, author of “Forgotten Detroit” will discuss his book on Wednesday, October 14th at the Detroit Historical Museum. The Free Press reports that Mr. Vachon’s book “goes behind the headlines of history to explore some lesser-known stories about Detroit’s rise from fur-trading center to 20th-Century industiral powerhouse.”

-The new novel “In a Perfect World” by Chelsea resident Laura Kasischke made its appearance in bookstores last Tuesday. She will discuss her new novel at Borders in Birmingham on Wednesday, October 14th, at 6:00.  Ms. Kasischke, a teacher of creative writing at University of Michigan, is also the author of novels “Suspicious River” and “The Life Before her Eyes”.

-Wayne State University Press will celebrate the launch of Travelin Man: On the Road and Behind the Scenes with Bob Seger by Tom Weschler and Gary Graff at Memphis Smoke in Royal Oak.  Doors open at 7:00 for author signings and a Seger tribute band will perform.

-On Thursday, David Small will be presenting his adult graphic memoir “Stitches” at 7:00. All event information can be found at the Book Beat.

Bestseller Lists

New York Times

Publishers Weekly

Indie Bestsellers