Tournament of Books 2011
Posted January 25, 2011
We realize that January is not quite over, but we're going to jump to March for a minute. That's right. We're looking ahead at March Madness, but not the basketball kind. We're talking about the Seventh Annual Tournament of Books. Why are we talking about this now? We are just so excited that the line-up of titles that will compete in this lively literary contest has been announced! That gives us all a head start on our reading!
But let's back up a minute to bring everyone up to speed on what the heck we're talking about. We'll let The Morning News, the creators of the tournament, explain: "Each spring we take sixteen of the most celebrated novels of the previous calendar and seed them into a competitive bracket—the kind you see in the N.C.A.A. basketball championship. Seventeen judges are enlisted throughout several rounds of competition, with each arbiter considering two books and advancing one. In this way, a pool of 16 books becomes eight, eight becomes four, four becomes two, and two becomes one, The Rooster, Champion Book of the Year." You can find more details including the list of judges, an explanation of how the contenders are chosen and an explanation of the Zombie round by going to the announcement page.
This year's competition will kick-off on March 7th. Without further ado here's the list:
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Nox by Anne Carson
Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky
Room by Emma Donoghue
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
Bloodroot by Amy Greene
Next by James Hynes
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
Model Home by Eric Puchner
So Much for That by Lionel Shriver
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
Kapitoil by Teddy Wayne
Savages by Don Winslow
If you liked True Grit...
Posted January 20, 2010
The movie True Grit, a western adpated from the novel by Charles Portis (and previously adapted as a John Wayne film), is currently a surprise hit at the box office. In fact, they say it's the biggest hit of the illustrious Coen Brothers' careers (by far). So chances are good that many people are (re-)discovering the joys of the western, a beloved American genre that can be traced at least as far back as 1823 with the writings of James Fenimore Cooper.
Looking for more good western movies to watch? A couple years ago the American Film Institute compiled a list of the ten greatest westerns. Now is as good a time as any to explore our great film heritage.
AFI Top Ten Westerns
- The Searchers. Director: John Ford. 1956
- High Noon. Director: Fred Zinnemann. 1952
- Shane. Director: George Stevens. 1953
- Unforgiven. Director Clint Eastwood. 1992
- Red River. Director Howard Hawks. 1948
- The Wild Bunch. Director: San Peckinpah. 1969
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Director: John Foreman. 1969
- McCabe & Mrs Miller. Director: Robert Altman. 1971
- Stagecoach. Director: John Ford. 1939
- Cat Ballou. Directed by Elliot Silverstein. 1965
Posted January 13, 2011
As we prepare to set in for the long winter ahead of us we expect that curling up with a good book will become the norm. While this is a perfect time to get lost in a sweeping novel, we also find it's an ideal time to immerse ourselves in the works of a single writer. Luckily for us there have been a number of collected works published recently.
Long, Last, Happy: New and Selected Stories collects the late Barry Hannah's writing. Library Journal notes, "Though working in the Southern gothic tradition of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor, Hannah is ultimately unlike either of them, with a wilder, more darkly comic edge, a Southern and an American original."
Another collection set to hit our shelves any day now is Gryphon: New and Selected Stories by Charles Baxter. Booklist notes that the stories "showcase Baxter's first-rate talents in the form: sophisticated humor, exact writing style, plots at once ordinary and extraordinary, and in common with all masters of the form, wizardry at the fetching opening line." And Kirkus Reviews raves, "The uncanny power of Baxter's work derives from his knowledge of our secret selves as well as our surface ones."
Not to be outdone, several women authors have recently published great collections. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis is praised by Booklist: "Whatever the focus, Davis' incisive, rightfully celebrated stories snap us awake with their topsy-turvy yet dead-on perspective." Equally well received is Nadine Gordimer's Life Times: Stories, 1952-2007. Library Journal highly recommends the collection, noting "…these powerful and serious stories span the career to date of a critically acclaimed, prize-winning author." Another noteworthy collection is Anne Beattie: The New Yorker Stories, which Library Journal calls "… a fine collection of stories about characters whose failures to connect with others become Beattie's success as she astutely and wittily plumbs the depths of human relations."
And there you have it. Plenty of wonderful stories to carry you through the coming months.
Posted January 11, 2011
Next Monday will mark the 25th anniversary of the federal holiday honoring civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr., and Chicago Public Library will be closed. Reflecting on the legacy of MLK would be a great way to spend the day, and many cultural institutions in Chicago will be celebrating. The DuSable Museum is hosting a Dr. King Celebration with activities and performances throughout the day. We also recommend checking out DuSable's exhibit, "Tracing the Civil Rights Movement 1848-1968," for a rich look at the long history of the movement. The Chicago History Museum will be commemorating MLK Day with many activities, including a performance of The MLK Project: the Fight for Civil Rights by the Writers' Theater. Also, the Chicago Children's Museum will be hosting I Have a Dream, Dr. King, an open mic for children in the afternoon. Many choose to remember King by serving their communities on the holiday; check out the MLK Day website for opportunities to serve.
If you are interested in learning more about Dr. King and the civil rights movement, we highly recommend checking out Taylor Branch's Pulitzer Prize-winning King era trilogy covering the years 1954-1968. It includes Parting the Waters, Pillar of Fire and At Canaan's Edge. We also recommend the recently published Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides, a gripping study of King's assassination, and Freedom Summer by Bruce Watson about the summer of 1964 when hundreds of students went to Mississippi to register black voters.
Resolutions to Read
Posted January 6, 2011
I always meant to read... Ever find yourself starting a sentence that way? For some reason, the turning of the calendar is like the waving of a magic wand when it comes to inspiring changes of habit. And lots of New Year's resolutions involve reading. For example, several writers and readers shared their personal resolutions with the LA Times.
But you don't have to tackle War and Peace (really! it's ok!) in order to accomplish something with your reading. Stuck in a reading rut? It happens to all of us. This year, challenge yourself to read something out of your comfort zone: are you a fantasy fan? Try a mystery. A literary fiction fan? Try a romance. A current events and news junkie? Try a book of humor. A classics nut? Try a biography. Essays, true crime, science fiction, westerns, how to, short stories - there are all kinds of books to read.
Shake up the old routine. Here are some suggestions how:
Read more books. Step it up! Pick a goal of a certain number of books and go for it. And there are all kinds of reading challenges you can sign up for online. ("Sorry, honey, I can't take out the garbage. I've got that reading challenge to work on.") Salon lists some of the more offbeat choices.
Read fewer books. Here's a thought: read slower, in longer chunks of time, and more appreciatively. You've heard of the slow food movement? How about slow reading?
Read a book in translation. The late Stieg Larsson's books have got many people thinking about all the great books originally published in languages other than English.
Read a book in a foreign language. Studying a language? Brushing up for travel? They say immersion is the best way to learn.
Read an award winner. We have many awards listed on our web site, and there are many more.
Read a book you always 'meant' to read. Reading shouldn't be like schoolwork. It really is ok not to read the famous old classics. But it's also great sometimes to read something that your grandparents (or theirs) also might have read. Oprah Magazine recently talked to several authors who admit which books they've long meant to read, and they got some excellent advice on how to approach a difficult book.
Read a book just for fun. Put your serious reading aside and try something fun and fluffy. Harry Potter helped make it ok for adults to enjoy books for pure storytelling magic. Recapture the thrill of wondering, what happens next?
Lastly, read the way you want to. Paper, ebooks, audiobooks: there have never been more choices in how you choose to read. Don't let anyone tell you their way of reading is better than yours. (The environmental debate is, as always, more complicated than it seems.) So take some time before the frenzy of the routine takes over again and reflect: what do you want to read?
Caught Reading: O'Hare Airport Edition
Posted January 4, 2011
While we were away for the holidays we took note of what our fellow travelers were perusing. We spotted some no-brainers like the third and final installment in Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest and David Sedaris' latest, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary. But we also spied a few surprises across the aisles such as, The Zookeeper's Wife, Diane Ackerman's non-fiction WWII story of how the director of the Warsaw Zoo and his wife aided 300 Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Below are a few more titles that were making the rounds:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The City & the City by China Mieville
A Density of Souls by Christopher Rice
Ghost Wars by Steve Coll
Oil: Money, Politics, and Power in the 21st Century by Tom Bower
The Shack by William P. Young
The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder