Small Gems (and Fabulous Fiction Firsts #500)

It's that time again. As we approach winter solstice, the days are getting shorter and we are getting into high gear for the holidays, don't despair. Here are some suggestions for SHORT titles that you could curl up with.

46 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read In A Day, great reads under 200 pages. Mostly.

From GoodRead: Popular Under 200 Pages Books - wonderful time to catch up on some classics and new award winners. The Huffington Post also jumps on the bandwagon with their thoughtful and inspired reading list. Here is a list for nonfiction readers.

My personal find this year?

Our Lady of the Nile (in French) by Scholastique Mukasonga, winner of the 2012 Renaudot Prize and the Ahamadou Kourouma Prize - a moving and nuanced portrait of violence and survival; a debut novel of "rugged beauty and unbearable suspense".

The conflict between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority is expressed through the microcosm of Our Lady of the Nile, a Catholic boarding school for wealthy and influential young ladies in Rwanda. Virginia and Veronica are two Tutsi girls in the lycee because of quotas, and they are keenly aware of the dangers they face as ethnic minority. When Gloriosa, the daughter of a Hutu politician, starts telling lies about being attacked by Tutsis, the retaliatory violence costs Veronica her life and Virginia her education.

Born in Rwanda in 1956, the author experienced from childhood the violence and humiliation of ethnic conflicts. In 1973, she was forced to flee to Burundi and settled in France in 1992. Two year later, she lost 27 members of her family to the genocide of the Tutsi.

Slightly longer but spectacular in every way is Lily King's Euphoria * * *, a thinly-veiled account of the love affair between Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, her third husband while she was married to Reo Fortune as they were conducting anthropological research in the remote territories of New Guinea. (Readers curious as to the accuracy of the storyline might want to check out this article called "Mead's Folly").

"A taut, witty, fiercely intelligent tale of competing egos and desires in a landscape of exotic menace—a love triangle in extremis… The steam the book emits is as much intellectual as erotic…King is brilliant.”

Little wonder that it has been named winner of this year's Kirkus Prize for Fiction and the New England Book Award. New York Times, as well as Time Magazine, and NPR named it one of the 10 Best Fiction of 2014. I promise you that it is well worth the wait.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

National Book Award Winner for Young People's Literature

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature at last night's awards ceremony. In the book the author shares her childhood memories and reveals the first sparks that ignited her writing career in free-verse poems about growing up in the North and South. The other finalists in this category were:

Threatened by Eliot Schrefer

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book Two by Deborah Wiles

See the full 2014 National Book Award list of winners in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. (And AADL's list of the titles in the catalog for quick hold placing!)

National Book Award Finalists Announced


It's book award season! Britain announced their Booker Prize winner yesterday, and this morning brings the list of National Book Award finalists. There are five finalists in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People's Literature. The list includes major names, such as past National Book Award winner Marilynn Robinson, former US Poet Laureate Louise Gluck, and New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast.

You can view the list of finalists in the AADL catalog, read more about these titles, and place holds. The winners will be announced November 19th.

2014 Man Booker Prize awarded to Richard Flanagan for The Narrow Road to the Deep North

The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Australian author Richard Flanagan, has won the prestigious Man Booker Prize. The Man Booker is of British origin and comes with an award of 50,000 pounds. This was the first year that the prize was open to all authors writing in English, regardless of their nationality. In previous years, only citizens of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Republic of Ireland, or Zimbabwe were eligible.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North is a story of love and war spanning over six decades. Beginning during World War II, the story follows the life of an Australian surgeon, Dorrigo Evans, who is being held in a prisoner-of-war camp on the Thai-Burma Death Railway. As he struggles on the outside to save his men from disease, abuse, starvation and death, he is ravaged on the inside by memories of an affair he had several years earlier with the wife of his uncle. Readers learn not only of Dorrigo’s experiences in the POW camp, but of his childhood in Tasmania, his life before the war in Melbourne, and his experiences once the war is over.

Flanagan worked on this book for twelve years, and the Guardian (UK) calls it, “A masterpiece… a symphony of tenderness and love, a moving and powerful story that captures the weight and breadth of life.”

The other books short listed for the Man Booker Prize were To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, J: a novel, The Lives of Others, and How to be Both.

2014 Nobel Prize for Literature Awarded to Patrick Modiano

French author Patrick Modiano became the 111th person to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The reason given by the Swedish Academy was “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.”

Born outside Paris in 1945, Modiano is a prolific novelist and screenwriter. His work continually combines topics such as identity, guilt, and memory with recurring places, namely Paris, and events, often the German occupation of France during World War II.

For example, Mondiano's novel Missing Person, which won France's Prix Goncourt in 1979, features an amnesia-stricken private investigator determined to use his paltry clues to piece together the story of his life from before the Nazi occupation. The book draws from classic noir fiction and ghost stories, but is a thematically rich and atmospheric read. Check our catalog for more books and films by Modiano.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #484 -“Sometimes we want what we want even if we know it’s going to kill us.” ~ Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch

Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis

In these 14 linked stories (one of which won a 2014 O. Henry Prize), 14 yr.old Rainey Royal lives with her famous jazz musician father in a once-elegant Brownstone in Greenwich Village after her mother ran away to an ashram. Surrounded by her father's groupies and hangers-on, predators disguised as her father's best friend, she is lonely and vulnerable. Thankfully, there is her best friend Tina. As she tries desperately to nurture her own artistic talent and build a substitute family, she rebels in unconventional, sometimes criminal ways.

"Landis' captivating first novel is a ringing tribute to friendship, autonomy, and artistic presence." She "offers a rich, sometimes challenging portrait of young women doing their best to grow in the absence of positive role models."

From National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" honoree (see the video interviews) and Rona Jaffe Award-winner comes an urgent, intensely visceral debut novel about a young waitress whose downward spiral is narrated in electric prose - Love Me Back.

Merritt Tierce follows Marie, a single mother who gives in to brutally self-destructive tendencies with alcohol, drugs, self-cutting and one-night stands, looking for obliteration if not pleasure. The one thing that brings her life focus is her job as a waitress in an upscale Dallas steakhouse which she tackles with an easy smile and strong work ethic. "You keep your standards high and your work strong but these are necessary for success; you keep your dignity separate, somewhere else, attached to different things."

"(A) flawed thing of beauty, as terribly uncomfortable to read as it is often brilliant,...Tierce's first novel is unsentimental and unresolved but ultimately laced with an undercurrent of hope."

If you have never read indie author K.A. Tucker, praised for her "likeable characters, steamy liaisons, and surprising plot twists" (Kirkus Reviews), you might really enjoy Five Ways to Fall.

Purple-haired, sharp-tongued Reese MacKay knows all about making wrong choices; she's made plenty of them in her twenty-odd-years. So when her violent "redecorating" of her two-timing ex-husband's apartment lands her in jail, she decides to accept the only life-line thrown to her and moves to Miami to work for her stepfather, a renowned attorney.

Things are going well. Reese even finds she enjoys legal work and is good at it... until an embarrassing last-fling on a tequila-soaked weekend in Cancun walks into the office, and introduces himself as Ben Morris, the firm's new ace attorney. Now if Reese and Ben are truly smart, they would have stay clear of each other. But that won't make for a good story.

"A fun, flirty, super sexy love story that offers all of the best of opposites attracting".

2014 Young People's National Book Award Longlist Announced!

It's that time of year again - book award season! This year the National Book Award for Young People has listed ten youth and teen fiction and non-fiction titles in the running for the 2014 National Book Awards. The titles in contention are:
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
Girls Like Us by Gail Giles
Skink-No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
Threatened by Eliot Schrefer
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin
100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
Noggin by John Corey Whaley
Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book Two by Deborah Wiles
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
A few of these titles are on order and should appear in our catalog shortly so that holds may be placed.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #482

Winner of the 2010 Oe Prize, Japan's prestigious literary award, established to honor Kenzaburō Ōe; and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize - The Thief is the first novel by Fuminori Nakamura (in audio format) to be translated into English.

The nameless titular character is a deft Tokyo pickpocket, a loner who moves anonymously at the fringe of society. Through his mentor, he was drafted into an armed robbery by Kizaki, a vicious gangster. A simple job turned deadly when he learned that the old man they robbed was a prominent politician, and that he was brutally killed after the robbery. Meanwhile, his last tenuous connection to society is a desperate young boy forced into clumsy shoplifting by his addicted, prostitute mother. With nowhere left to run, the thief must barter his life with a labyrinthine test of his thieving prowess.

"Mystery/crime aficionados with exacting literary standards, as well as fans of Miyuki Miyabe; Natsuo Kirino; and Keigo Higashino" will find much to like here.

Watch for the October release of Nakamura's next novel to reach these shores - Last Winter We Parted is a "creepy if elegantly-crafted" standalone. The narrator, a nameless writer, gets assigned to pen an exposé of Yudai Kiharazaka, a 35-year-old Tokyo art photographer awaiting execution for burning two models to death.

Man Booker Prize 2014 Shortlist Announced!

The shortlist of books under consideration for the prestigious Man Booker Prize for fiction was released today.

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (US)
Boring, contradictory dentist Paul watches as his identity is stolen online, and is horrified to observe that fake Paul may be better than actual Paul. This is a brilliant send up of the absurdity of modern life and cleverly calls into question the reality of identity in a virtual world.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Australia)
This is the epic tale of an Australian in a Japanese POW camp, tormented daily by his surroundings but also by the memory of an illicit affair, who receives life-changing news as he struggles to care for his fellow soldiers imprisoned on the Thai-Burma death railway.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (US)
Fowler's 22-year old narrator steals the show in this novel about a family in which the scientist parents raised their two children alongside Fern, a chimpanzee that they treat as one of their own human children, and the repercussions that occur when they are separated.

J by Howard Jacobson (UK)
Previous Booker winner Jacobson has written a dystopian tale on par with 1984 and A Brave New World, where brutality rules, the past is off limits, and even the act of falling in love is regarded with suspicion.

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee (UK)
The saga of a Calcutta family in 1967, The Lives of Others explores the family dynamic through issues as dramatic as political extremism and as mundane as feuding in-laws, capturing within it the differences between generations and the changes in society through the lens of the Ghosh family.

How to be Both by Ali Smith (UK)
How To Be Both is a pair of intertwined novellas featuring protagonists living centuries apart, connected by the fluidity of creativity and time.

This is the first year that all authors are eligible for consideration. Previously, the prize was only given to authors within the British commonwealth, so it's pretty exciting to see two Americans make it to the shortlist in their first year of eligibility.

A longlist of contenders was released in July; the final winner will be announced on October 14th.

Best Picture Oscar Winners on DVD & Blu-Ray

If you've got the urge to see more (or all) Academy Award Best Picture Winners, then AADL can help. The library owns nearly every film on DVD (and some on Blu-Ray) from Wings, the first winner to 12 Years a Slave, the latest.

Sample all the winners in between: famous films such as It Happened One Night, Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, An American in Paris, On the Waterfront, Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather, and Amadeus; lesser-known but deserving films like The Life of Emile Zola, The Best Years of Our Lives, Gentlemen's Agreement, All the King's Men, Marty, and The Apartment, or overrated movies like... insert your own list here.

You don't have to track down the films by yourself. Go to the Catalog and click on the Best Picture Oscar link in the Awards list. Or click on the link here.

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