New Fiction Titles on the New York Times Best Sellers List (3/26/06)

Five new titles on the List this week featuring popular writers and introducing a new bestselling author from Great Britain.

At #2 is The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult: this author's popularity continues to grow with each new book about a family coping with one of today's hot-button issues; this time it is teens and date-rape.

At #8 is False Impression by Jeffrey Archer: a prison sentence has not hurt sales of his latest book about chicanery in the art world.

At #10 is Nightlife by Thomas Perry: this latest mystery involving the hunt for a woman serial killer has given the author some of the best reviews of his career.

At #12 is Labyrinth by Kate Mosse: another search for the Holy Grail, this British bestseller is latest contender for Dan Brown's place.

At #14 is Kill Me by Stephen White: what happens when you sign a contract to end your own life?

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #13 - Season of the Madonnas, Part 2

Not straightly a debut novel (though first in our collection)...
The Priest's Madonna is of the flesh-and-blood variety. It refers to Marie Dernanaud who is the housekeeper and secret lover to a charismatic village priest in Rennes-le-Chateau, France.
A set of curious artifacts unearthed during church renovations link this 19th century romance to Mary Magdalene and the Knights Templar.
Loosely based on a hazy historical event, Amy Hassinger's second novel is not just another Holy Grail want-to-be. It's "marvelously written, ...a rich fabric of love, mystery, anguish and faith". Starred review in Library Journal. Amy will be reading and signing April 6th and April 8th at these Michigan locations.
For fans of The Birth of Venus and Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #13 -Season of the Madonnas, Part 1

Starred reviews in Booklist and Library Journal, Debra Dean’s debut novel The Madonnas of Leningrad, moves back and forth between the two worlds of Marina – an elderly woman on the eve of her granddaughter’s wedding and the young docent at the Hermitage Museum during the Siege of Leningrad, 1941. As the grasp of the present becomes elusive, the lovely paintings in Marina’s “memory palace” remain just as lush and vivid as when she made her daily walk through the abandoned galleries of empty picture frames.
“Dean eloquently depicts the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease and convincingly described the inner world of the afflicted”. A lovely journey, almost as good as a real tour of the Hermitage.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #12

This gripping legal thriller by real-life lawyer Dugoni, features golden-tongued, never-lost-a-case, legal ace David Sloane who is the The Jury Master. Now baddies are after him. Could they be after the package that came in the mail?
Two other converging storylines (suicide of a presidential confidant and the murder of a rookie cop), bring together a rumpled police detective and a shadowy ex-CIA operative who happens to share Sloane’s mysterious nightmares.
Fresh and fast paced, this conspiracy theory debut mystery compares well to vintage Grisham, and Martini. Readers who enjoyed Baldacci’s Absolute Power and fans of Enemy of the State will find much to like here. Surely, movie deals can’t be far behind.

Worries: Ending Global Poverty

These books offer guides to what might work:

Ending Global Poverty: a Guide to What Works by Stephen C. Smith
The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time by Jeffrey Sachs

Other books explain why foreign aid has not been more successful and how to improve the delivery of aid:

The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly
The Samaritan's Dilemma: The Political Economy of Development Aid by Clark C. Gibson, Krister Andersson, Elinor Ostrom, and Sujai Shikumar

Or suggest that the failure of aid is due to “kleptocratic governments, rampant corruption,…and cultural fatalism” (Publisher’s Weekly, March 9, 2006):

The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn't Working by Robert Calderisi

Or suggest that multinational corporations can ease or eliminate poverty by creating markets:

A Corporate Solution to Global Poverty: How Multinationals Can Help the Poor and Invigorate Their Own Legitimacy by George Lodge and Craig Wilson

Or explain how ending poverty can be done profitably by selling to those at the bottom of the pyramid: “the world's billions of poor people have immense entrepreneurial capabilities and buying power. You can learn how to serve them and help millions of the world's poorest people escape poverty”:

The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by C. K. Prahalad
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Brando without a cause

One of my favorite DVD "extras" is the rare screen test with actors who didn't get the part. The clips either make it pretty clear why or leave you endlessly speculating what could have been. Last year I caught Judy Garland's uneven screen test for Annie Get Your Gun, a part that ended up going to Betty Hutton after Garland was fired for erratic behavior associated with her ongoing drug and alcohol problems.

In May, a new edition of "A Streetcar Named Desire" will be out and all the buzz is about one of its many "extras": a heretofore presumed-lost 1947 screen test with 23-year-old Marlo Brando trying on the lead in Rebel without a Cause. (Brando apparently turned down the role and eight years later it was made with James Dean.) Brando biographer Darwin Porter says, "From the moment Brando enters the room...he is lightning on legs...he is at the peak of his physical beauty and virile power."

Poetry: The best medicine

To get your daily dose and to celebrate April as National Poetry Month, check out "Poem-A-Day." When you sign up, you will receive a poem every day in your e-mail beginning April 1 and continuing throughout the month.

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The Academy of American Poets established National Poetry Month in 1996 as a month long celebration of poetry to bring to the general public greater attention to and appreciation of poets, past and present, their books and the importance of poetry in our culture. Events and resorces that have grown out of National Poetry Month include reading series, curriculum ideas for teachers and tip sheets for booksellers and librarians. Their colorful posters are free Even local businesses have become involved as in one restaurant where poems were printed on placemats.

Iraq blog is shortlisted for writing prize

Baghdad Burning, the riveting blog written by Riverbend, a twenty-something Iraqi woman living in Iraq, has been shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction 2006. Her eyewitness accounts and "on the ground" analysis of what is happening in and to her country have been compiled into a book by the same name and published by Feminist Press.

The Samuel Johnson Prize, Britain's most lucrative award for nonfiction writing (30,000 Pounds), was established in December 1998 by BBC Four. The prize "is awarded to a work in the English language published in the UK and written by an author of any nationality in one of the following areas: current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography, and the arts."

The winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2006, will be announced at an awards dinner in London on Wednesday, June 14.

U.S. Naval Academy's first African American graduate is honored

Wesley Brown

Wesley Brown, the first African American to graduate from the United States Naval Academy, was honored on Saturday, March 25, 2006, in Annapolis.

Brown, the subject of Robert J. Schneller, Jr.'s book, Breaking the Color Barrier: The U.S. Naval Academy's First Black Midshipman and the Struggle for Racial Equality (2005), attended the groundbreaking ceremony at the Academy for the Wesley Brown Field House, a state-of-the-art gym.

Lt. Cmdr. Brown served in three wars -- World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars -- but he says one of his toughest battles was his four years at the Academy where the well-documented rigors of midshipman life, were compounded by the challenges he faced as he pioneered diversity at Annapolis. Since he graduated in 1949, more than 1600 African Americans have graduated from the Academy.

Science Fiction giant, Stanislaw Lem, is dead

stanislaw lem

Stanislaw Lem, author of such science fiction classics as Solaris and His Master's Voice, died Monday, March 27, 2006, in Krakow, Poland.

Solaris, the first Lem science fiction title to be published in America, was made into a movie in 1972. It won The Grand Prize of the Jury that year at the Cannes Film Festival. Thirty years later, Steven Soderbergh remade Solaris starring George Clooney.

Born in Lvov, Poland (now in Ukraine) on September 12, 1921, Lem studied medicine until he abandoned it during World War II to work as a mechanic.

Following the war, he pursued his writing career with a vengeance, often to the dismay of the Polish Communist regime.

Lem, who won the Kafka award in 1991, was 84 years old.

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