Posted December 30, 2008
This was a very sad year indeed for the literary world. Many fine writers were lost, and they will be missed, but thanks to their fine contributions they will not soon be forgotten. Below is just a sampling of their vast bodies of work.
William F. Buckley Jr., 1925-2008, founder of the National Review and writer
God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom”
Getting it Right: a novel
Flying High: Remembering Barry Goldwater
The Reagan I Knew
William Gibson, 1914-2008, playwright
The miracle worker
Robert Giroux, 1914-2008, publisher and editor
Tony Hillerman, 1925-2008, writer
Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee series
John Leonard, 1939-2008, literary and cultural critic
Smoke and Mirrors : Violence, Television and Other American Cultures
Randy Pausch, 1960-2008, professor
The Last Lecture
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1918-2008, writer
One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich
Louis “Studs” Terkel, 1912-2008, writer
P.S.: Further Thoughts from a Lifetime of Listening
Touch and Go: A Memoir
Will the Circle be Unbroken?: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith
Working: People Talk about What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do
Hard times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
Division Street: America
Mysteries and Thrillers: The Best of 2008
Posted December 23, 2008
There are several forthcoming mystery and thrillers that we are looking forward to reading in the new year, including Three Weeks to Say Goodbye and Nemesis by Jo Nesbo. However, 2008 was a great year for the genre, and the holiday season is an ideal time to get caught up in a whodunit or a riveting thriller. We compiled a list of some of this year’s favorites:
When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson
Atkinson’s third novel to feature P.I. Jackson Brodie exhibits multiple storylines and a series of seemingly coincidental events that result in a complex, satisfying mystery.
Winter Study by Nevada Barr
Park ranger Anna Pigeon is part of a research project studying wolves and moose. The animals begin to exhibit bizarre behavior, and a member of the team is found mauled. Was it a wolf or something else? This chilling thriller is Barr’s 14th to feature Pigeon.
The Black Tower by Louis Bayard
Bayard’s historical thriller is set in 19th century Paris. The narrator, Dr. Hector Carpentier, is pulled into a police investigation by Inspector Vidocq after a man carrying a card with Dr. Carpentier’s name on it is found murdered.
The Likeness by Tana French
A girl is found dead and she more than resembles detective Cassie Madddox—she looks exactly like her. The ID on the girl indicates that she is Lexie Madison, an identity that Maddox assumed years ago as an undercover detective. With no leads, Cassie goes undercover as Lexie and returns to the large house where she lived with her fellow graduate students, all possible suspects in her death.
Private Patient by P.D. James
In James’s 14th mystery to feature Adam Dalgiesh, the police commander tries to solve the murder of investigative journalist Rhoda Gradwyn, who’s found dead shortly after undergoing a procedure at an exclusive cosmetic surgery clinic.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The first in a trilogy from the late Stieg Larsson featuring Blomkvist, a formerly respected journalist convicted of libel and about to be jailed when he is hired by Henrik Vanger to investigate the disappearance of his great-niece. Blomkvist procures the help of the eccentric researcher Lisbet Sanders to uncover the dark mystery behind this decades-old case.
Slip of the Knife by Denise Mina
Terry Hewitt, the ex-boyfriend of journalist Paddy Meehan, is found murdered, and the IRA is a likely culprit. When Paddy discovers that she is named in Terry’s will, she decides to investigate, but everyone involved seems determined to keep the motive of Terry’s death a secret.
The Turnaround by George Pelacanos
Pelacanos’ gritty novel set in Washington, D.C. revolves around a racially charged incident that has profoundly affected the survivors.
Exit Music by Ian Rankin
Inspector Rebus is 10 days from mandatory retirement and attempting to quickly solve the murder of Alexanader Todorov, an expatriate Russian poet, in this intricate police procedural.
Salt River by James Sallis
John Turner is the sheriff of an economically depressed community near Memphis. When the former sheriff’s troubled son crashes a car into City Hall, Turner set out to resolve the crime and makes some startling revelations in this literary outing.
Milton at 400
Posted December 18, 2008
This month saw the 400th anniversary of the birth of John Milton, the great English poet best known for his epic Paradise Lost. (Excerpts can be heard on this NPR webpage.) His free speech treatise “Areopagitica” is also often read in schools. In terms of pop culture, these days Milton’s influence is probably most strongly felt through the fantasy books of British novelist Philip Pullman, whose His Dark Materials trilogy takes its title from a line in Paradise Lost. Pullman’s trilogy, which includes the novels The Golden Compass (also adapted into a movie), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, is partly a reimagining of Milton’s work.
Several new books commemorate the quadricentennial, including Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer and Patriot by Anna R. Beer and John Milton: Life, Work and Thought (on order) by Gordon Campbell and Thomas N. Corns. Another recent title of interest is Nigel Smith’s Is Milton better than Shakespeare?. Milton enthusiasts may also be interested in a pair of novels that feature Milton as a character. Peter Ackroyd’s Milton in America imagines what would have happened if Milton had fled England for Puritan America in 1660. And in Paul West’s novella Sporting with Amaryllis, the author imagines the great poet as a randy but inexperienced young lad who is seduced by his muse. 400 years old, but clearly younger than ever.
For the Love of Jane
Posted December 16, 2008
On December 16, Jane Austen will turn a sprightly 233. In honor of her tremendous contributions to literature and popular culture, we thought we’d take this opportunity to point out the ongoing trend of books and movies inspired by her novels. There are those that put modern twists on her timeless stories, like the book credited with heralding in the chick lit genre—Bridget Jones’s Diary, with its nod to Pride and Prejudice—and the campy flick Clueless, an updated take on Emma. Then there are those who have taken it upon themselves to continue Austen’s stories, which Elizabeth Aston has done in her Darcy series, which begins with Mr. Darcy’s Daughters. Even mystery writers have gotten in on the action. The Jane Austen Mysteries, a series starring Detective Jane Austen, kicks off with Jane and the Unpleasantness of Scargrave Manor. Pride and Prescience is the first in the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy series, which features the newlyweds investigating some odd happenings among their friends and families. For more Austen-inspired reads and movies, check out the titles below:
D.I.Y. Film Fest: Holiday Films
Posted December 11, 2008
With the holiday season in full swing, there’s no shortage of films that can heighten the cheer or help you unwind from all the excitement. Here are a few fun facts about some of our favorites: It’s A Wonderful Life was considered a box office flop. Miracle on 34th Street was released in the month of May. The beloved song “White Christmas” was first featured in Holiday Inn. The genre includes something for everyone: dramas, comedies, animation and musicals. We recommend cuddling up on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate while watching one of these holiday classics:
The Bishop’s Wife
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Christmas In Connecticut
A Christmas Story
It’s a Wonderful Life
Miracle on 34th Street
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Lost in Translation, 2008
Posted December 9, 2008
The English language is so prominent in world culture, it’s all too easy for us to overlook authors who contribute in other languages. Recently, the Three Percent blog, among others, has been conducting a campaign to raise awareness of books that are translated into English and published here in the United States. Towards the same end, we take a look back at some of the highlights of the year’s translated fiction:
Chicago by Alaa Al Aswany
Everything Under the Sky by Matilde Asensi
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
2666 by Roberto Bolaño
Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolaño
Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya
White King by Gy’orgy Dragoman
Detective Story by Kértesz Imre
The Girl on the Fridge by Etgar Keret
Real world by Natsuo Kirino
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Beaufort by Ron Leshem
To Siberia by Per Petterson
Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago
Camera by Jean-Philippe Toussaint
Friendly Fire: A Duet by A. B. Yehoshua
Also noteworthy, the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature went to Jean-Marie Le Clezio. We have several of his books translated into English. Meanwhile, American publishers have been racing to make his work more available, just an example of something to look forward to in 2009.
Making Our List, Checking it Twice
Posted December 4, 2008
Everyone knows the classic Charles Dickens yuletide tale, A Christmas Carol. But if you’re looking for some fresh, more contemporary takes on the holidays, check out some of our other offerings, including a novel by a Pulitzer Prize winner, a collection of stories from America’s pre-eminent humorist and mysteries that run deeper than “What’s beneath the wrapping paper?”
Blue Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews
With only a week left until Christmas, antiques dealer Weezie Foley has her hands full with mysterious break-ins at her shop, some new competition and a grumpy boyfriend. Will Weezie be able to make it a merry Christmas after all?
A Christmas Grace by Anne Perry
Bestselling novelist Perry offers up her sixth Victorian holiday tale, this time set in 1890s Ireland, where a woman has traveled to care for her sick aunt.
Dashing through the Snow by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark
Mother-daughter mystery mavens present their fifth holiday offering, featuring a whole lot of lottery confusion.
The Ecco Book of Christmas Stories edited by Alberto Manguel
A collection of 23 Christmas stories from an impressive slate of authors including Paul Auster, Truman Capote, Graham Greene and Vladimir Nabokov, among others.
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Originally published in 1997, Sedaris’s Christmas collection is something of a classic. It has now been reissued with six additional stories of holiday hilarity.
Mr Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos
From Pulitzer Prize-winning Hijuelos comes the story of a man struggling with the death of his son, who was murdered around Christmastime.
Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan
Red Lobster manager Manny tries to keep up the holiday spirit throughout the restaurant’s final day.
The Last Noel by Heather Graham
On Christmas Eve, a gang of on-the-run thieves intrude on a family gathering in this holiday thriller from suspense veteran Graham.
Santa clawed: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown
Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie pen their first holiday mystery after Santa leaves a corpse under the tree.
Wolfsbane and Mistletoe edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner
Nothing says a holly jolly Christmas like wolfmen, as brought to you by Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery Series (which has been adapted into the HBO series, True Blood).
Distinguished Debuts of 2008
Posted December 2, 2008
A few authors manage hit the ball out of the park with their first work. Will they be one-hit wonders, or can we look forward to more great work from these new storytellers? We can’t wait to find out! In the meantime, here are some of the most critically acclaimed debuts of 2008:
Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan
This collection contains five stories set in present-day Africa (Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Benin) featuring children coping with and attempting to transcend their difficult environments.
Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
Living in Penang during the WWII era, Philip Hutton, who’s half-British and half-Chinese, befriends his next-door neighbor, Mr. Endo, a former Japanese diplomat. When war erupts, Philip finds his loyalty divided between his family and his friend.
Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
After a disastrous love affair, Willie Upton returns to her hometown of Templeton, N.Y. When her mother reveals that Willie’s unidentified father was from Templeton, she sets out on a genealogical quest to discover her family history.
Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner
A rich portrait of pre-Castro Cuba, Kushner’s novel is told from multiple points of view, including American ex-pats, Cubans and a former SS officer, as Batista’s government begins to crumble.
The Boat by Nam Le
In this collection of short stories, seven characters are all coping with crises in different corners of the world from Tehran to Columbia to Iowa.
Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles
Bennie is on the way to his daughter’s wedding in Los Angeles. After becoming stranded at O’Hare, he decides to compose a searing letter of complaint to American Airlines.
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
Set in the Soviet Union during the 1950s, Smith’s debut is part thriller, part historical portrait of the dark days of the Stalinist regime.
Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Despite his muteness, Edgar has the ability to communicate with the dogs his family breeds in rural Wisconsin. In a modern take on Hamlet, he becomes convinced that his uncle is responsible for the death of his father