Posted April 29, 2010
Chicagoans, we’ve been taking note. You like to laugh. There has been no shortage of humor books hitting the market lately. A fair number of them are being churned out by the entertainment industry in the form of memoirs or collections of personal essays. Comedians in particular seem to have a lot to say. It makes sense. They’re used to pulling material from their lives to make us howl. So, if you’re wondering where your next laugh is coming from, why not check out some of these jokesters as they put pen to paper?
American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot by Craig Ferguson
The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee by Sarah Silverman
Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me by Howie Mandel with Josh Young
I Am the New Black by Tracy Morgan
I Drink For a Reason by David Cross
I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee
Last Words by George Carlin
The Making of a Stand-up Guy by Charlie Murphy with Chris Millis
My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs and Stand-up by Russell Brand
Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin by Kathy Griffin
This Time Together: Laughter and Reflections by Carol Burnett
When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win: Reflections on Looking in the Mirror by Carol Leifer
Around the World With Mysteries: South Africa
Posted April 27, 2010
It has been awhile, but we are back on the move and touching down in South Africa, a place that is not only getting attention as the host of the upcoming World Cup but as a “rising star” in the crime fiction scene according to Library Journal. The second installment of Malla Nunn’s series set in 1950s South Africa, Let the Dead Lie, has just been released. The first and second installments have each received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, which noted that Nunn offers both “suspense” and a “revealing glimpse” of segregated South Africa.
Another recent release getting praise is Jassy MacKenzie’s Random Violence, a debut novel set in contemporary South Africa. Yet another author to take note of is Roger Smith, who has been likened to Elmore Leonard in a Cape Town setting. His debut, Mixed Blood, has been adapted into a film starring Samuel L. Jackson as Zulu detective Disaster Zondi, which you can look for later this year. His second thriller, Wake Up Dead, is a dark and violent story told from multiple viewpoints. And finally, we’d like to recommend the “King of South African crime,” Deon Meyer, the author of a number of crime thrillers. His most recent, Blood Safari, is a stand-alone title that demonstrates, according to Publishers Weekly, that Smith is “a writer not to be missed.”
Best Poetry of 2009
Posted April 22, 2010
Whoever decided that National Poetry Month should be in April was a genius. With trees budding and flowers blooming, it’s the best time of year to make the case for poetry, which celebrates language for its beauty as much as its meaning. Few mainstream media outlets devote serious attention to poetry books during the year-end frenzy of “best of the year” lists, and every April Library Journal is always one of the last to weigh in. So finally there have been enough lists published that include poetry that we can take a stab at compiling the most celebrated poetry books of 2009, and it seems fair to say that Rae Armantrout’s latest book took the top honors, especially when you consider its Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award. Armantrout’s book and some of the other most highly praised collections are listed below, but check out the full lists for other suggestions. Following that is a list of last year’s top sellers according to the Poetry Foundation. (Their current chart is topped by Poet Laureate Kay Ryan’s latest.) Meanwhile, our Poetry Fest is this Saturday. (Appropriately, it’s the day after Talk Like Shakespeare Day!) Do consider joining us.
Critical and Award Favorites of 2009
Versed by Rae Armantrout (National Book Critics Circle Award, Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award Finalist, Library Journal)
A Village Life by Louise Gluck (New York Times, L.A. Times)
Chronic by D.A. Powell (Publishers Weekly, L.A. Times, SF Chronicle, Library Journal)
The Bitter Withy by Donald Revell (Publishers Weekly, Library Journal)
Transcendental Studies by Keith Waldrop (National Book Award)
Museum of Accidents by Rachel Zucker (Publishers Weekly, Library Journal)
Five Top-Selling Poetry Books of 2009
Praise Song For The Day by Elizabeth Alexander
Bicycles: Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni
Evidence by Mary Oliver
Endpoint and Other Poems by John Updike
In Search of Small Gods by Jim Harrison
One Book, Many Journeys
Posted April 20, 2010
Please join us tomorrow at the Harold Washington Library Center for an event with Colm Tóibín, the author of Brooklyn, our spring One Book, One Chicago selection. Chicago Public Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey will join Tóibín in a conversation about his life, work and writing Brooklyn. Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis, a young woman who leaves 1950s Ireland for New York. “Purging the immigrant novel of all swagger and sentimentality, Tóibín leaves us with a renewed understanding that to emigrate is to become a foreigner in two places at once,” notes the New Yorker. For those who have already read and enjoyed the novel, check out the suggested further reading in our One Book brochure, which includes both works of fiction and nonfiction. And we’d like to suggest a few more of our favorite fictional accounts of the immigrant experience:
The Road Home by Rose Termain
Widower Lev leaves his mother and his child in Eastern Europe to seek work in London. Although he is initially depressed by what he finds upon arriving, he begins to form meaningful relationships and rebuild a life for himself.
The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
Martin Boeber is a Jewish grocer in postwar Brooklyn, struggling to make a better life for his family, when he is robbed in his store at gunpoint. Things improve when Frank Alpine becomes his assistant, but tensions arise when Frank and Martin’s daughter Helen begin to fall in love.
Master Butcher’s Singing Club by Louise Erdrich
A German solider, Fidelis, returns from WWI and marries his best friend’s pregnant widow, Eva. The couple moves to American and settles in North Dakota. Fidelis builds a butcher shop business and a singing club in town in Erdrich’s rich and life-affirming novel.
Small Island by Andrea Levy
Levy tells the story of four individuals in postwar England (two Jamaicans and two Britons) struggling with a changing society, loss and understanding one another.
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
This previous One Book selection is a collection of penetrating short stories exploring the lives of Indians, many of which feature characters coping with assimilation and changing identities.
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
A rich story, reversely told in vignettes, of four sisters and their family, who flee their privileged life in the Dominican Republic and embrace American life, demonstrating both the difficulty of coming of age and being an immigrant.
I’d Like to Thank My Agent…
Posted April 15, 2010
Several awards have recently been announced, most prominently the Pulitzer Prizes this week. Nabbing the award for fiction was a little novel from a small-time press: Paul Harding’s Tinkers, published by Bellevue Literary Press. It’s reportedly the first novel from a small press to win the award since A Confederacy of Dunces won in 1981 for Louisiana State University Press. The novel initially had a small print run, and so the publisher has rushed to reprint the book, with bookstores and libraries (like ours) across the country ordering more copies. The novel, in which a clock repairman on his deathbed relates his life story, quietly garnered excellent reviews and made many lists of the best of the year, including honor rolls from Publishers Weekly, NPR and Library Journal.
Meanwhile, the award for general nonfiction went to The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy by David E. Hoffman. Best Drama went to the Broadway musical Next to Normal. The History award went to Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed; the Biography award to The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles; and the Poetry award to Versed by Rae Armantrout (who has graced one of our very own stages here at the Library).
Other awards have recently been announced, too. The NAACP Image awards honored The Long Fall by Walter Mosley in its fiction category, while Henry Louis Gates Jr. took home the award for nonfiction for his In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past. Full awards information is available online.
Also, late last month Sherman Alexie’s War dances received the prestigious Pen Faulkner award for fiction. And lastly, the Bram Stoker Awards, which celebrate the horror genre, honored Audrey’s Door by Sarah Langan as best novel. Lots of recommendations for reading!
Poetry Fest 2010
Posted April 13, 2010
Please join us next Saturday, April 24 for our annual Poetry Fest at the Harold Washington Library Center. Enjoy a reading with Cornelius Eady, whose honors include the Lamont Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets for Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (1985), grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund. And his book Brutal Imagination (2001) was a National Book Award Finalist. There will also be a workshop, readings, poetry cram and other poetry-related events. Check out all the Poetry Fest events here.
In addition, we’d like to recommend taking a look at our Popular Topics page on poetry, which includes resources on reading, writing, performance and analysis, as well as links to upcoming poetry programs.
Posted April 8, 2010
The recent April showers we’ve been enduring are reminders that spring has arrived, traditionally a big time for new books. This year is no exception. Scott Turow will present his latest, a sequel to Presumed Innocent, and Yann Martel finally follows up his mega-success The Life of Pi. Humorist Chelsea Handler is back with her latest, and comedienne Sarah Silverman’s debut is sure to keep the laughs coming. Bernice McFadden’s latest historical novel is set during the fascinating Harlem Renaissance, while Peter Carey’s latest historical was inspired by Alexis de Tocqueville. Finally, surely no book is anticipated more strongly than the late Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the conclusion to his sensational trilogy. Some of these books have already raced up the bestsellers lists, and some haven’t been published yet, but the following list is just a selection of the many books lined up for the season. Happy reading!
Sure to Be Bestsellers
Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende
Deliver Us from Evil by David Baldacci
The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg
The Shadow of Your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark
Till You Hear from Me by Pearl Cleage
Money to Burn: A Novel of Suspense by James Grippando
Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
Bite Me: A Love Story by Christopher Moore
House Rules by Jodi Picoult
Innocent by Scott Turow
Promise: President Obama, Year One by Jonathan Alter
This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett
Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush
Backing Into Forward: A Memoir by Jules Feiffer
Jesus: A Biography, from a Believer by Paul Johnson
Oprah: A Biography by Kitty Kelley
Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama by David Remnick
Didn’t I Feed You Yesterday?: A Mother’s Guide to Sanity in Stilettos by Laura Bennett
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler
The Ask by Sam Lipsyte
Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee by Sarah Silverman
Popular Series Returns
Elegy for April by Benjamin Black
Changes: A Novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
The Third Rail by Michael Harvey
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson
The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz
A River in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters
Lover Mine by J.R. Ward
More Books to Savor
Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey
The Good Son by Michael Gruber
War by Sebastian Junger
Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott
Put on Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom by Queen Latifah
Solar by Ian McEwan
Glorious by Bernice McFadden
The Lake Shore Limited by Sue Miller
The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo
Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick
Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
Posted April 6, 2009
Please join us at 6:00 p.m. Thursday, April 22 for Writers on the Record with Victoria Lautman. Peter Carey, Australia’s most celebrated novelist and the recipient of two Booker prizes, joins Lautman to discuss his forthcoming novel, Parrot and Oliver in America, which is loosely based on Alexis de Tocqueville’s visit to the United States in 1831. Oliver (Tocqueville) is accompanied by Parrot, his servant and eventual friend, on this comic adventure. Publishers Weekly states, “Richly atmospheric, this wonderful novel is picaresque and Dickensian, with humor and insight injected into an accurately rendered period of French and American history.”
If you are interested in Peter Carey’s other works of fiction, we have provided a list below:
April Bonanza of Books
Posted April 1, 2010
A number of remarkably high-profile authors have recently announced brand-new books, all of which are coincidentally scheduled to be released today. Publishing insiders would be giddy at the prospects of so many authors with gargantuan sales records releasing new works in one season, let alone one day. In further good news, all seven titles will instantly be available in heavily discounted print, 99-cent ebook and 3D movie editions. So whether you’re a fan of romantic vampires, star-crossed romance, edge-of-your-seat thrillers or brain-teasing nonfiction, rest assured there’s something here for you. [Update: We hope you enjoyed this post, which was an April Fool’s Day joke. The books listed below are completely made up.]
The Traffic Court Subpoena by John Grisham
Sparkly Moonbeams by Stephenie Meyer
Think Again: The Surprising Inadequacy of Common Sense and Why You Need My Books to Understand Anything by Malcolm Gladwell
Strong Enough for a Man, but Written for the Ladies by Steve Harvey
Irish Indulgences by Nora Roberts
Cross Stitch: An Alex Cross Cozy by James Patterson
Illuminati Illusions in Illinois by Dan Brown