Man Booker Prize Shortlist Announced!

The Man Booker Prize Award finalists were announced today. Currently, American Yanagihara is a favorite to win, although competition is fierce, including previous Booker Prize finalist Tom McCarthy and Pulitzer Prize-winner Anne Tyler.

The nominees are:

Marlon James - A Brief History of Seven Killings
Tom McCarthy - Satin Island
Chigozie Obioma - The Fishermen
Sunjeev Sahota - The Year of the Runaways (US publication coming March 2016)
Anne Tyler - A Spool of Blue Thread
Hanya Yanagihara - A Little Life

This year continues the policy introduced in 2014 of allowing all authors writing in English, regardless of nationality, to be considered for the award. Michael Wood, chair of the judging panel commented that the selections on this year's list explore the darker areas of life, but stressed the quality of the books, saying, "What’s quite interesting is trying to work out how one can have such pleasure in books with such terrible stuff.”

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #553

Longlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, Did You Ever Have a Family * * * *, the debut novel by literary agent/memoirist Bill Clegg is a powerful story about finding solace in the least likely of places in the wake of a horrific tragedy.

An early morning explosion destroyed not only her historic farm house but everyone June Reid holds dear - the daughter and her fiance who would be married that day, her ex-husband, and her much-younger boyfriend, Luke - a troubled young man who seemed to have finally found his footing in this small Connecticut community. June, being the only survivor, finds it hard to remain. Numbly, she drives across country, landing at the Moonstone motel in the Pacific Northwest.

"What follows is a propulsive but tightly crafted narrative that moves back and forth in time and from character to character as Clegg builds out his opening scene to take in those sometimes surprisingly affected, " - from the florist who finds an appropriate use of the wedding flowers; the caterer who would never be paid; Luke's mother, Lydia Morey who continues to suffer abuse from a town unable to forgive her youthful transgressions and mourns the son just reclaimed; the 16 year-old pothead who knows more about the fire than he is willing to admit; to the owners of the Moonstone Motel who patiently reach out to June yet giving her space, sensing that she is "the most alone person... half in the world and half out of it."

"Elegant and heartrending, ...Did You Ever Have a Family is an absorbing, unforgettable tale that reveals humanity at its best through forgiveness and hope. At its core is a celebration of family - the ones we are born with and the ones we create." A particularly sober reminder "that we live to love and be loved, and that we should tell each other so before the moment slips away." Suggested readalikes: Thomas Matthew's We Are Not Ourselves (2014), and Red Hook Road (2010) by Ayelet Waldman.

Readers of Anne Enright and Michael Cunningham would not want to miss this.

Listen to a The New York Times podcast with Bill Clegg discussing this novel and the origin of the title.

* * * * = 4 starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #552 - “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” ~ Martin Buber

Winner of the 2012 Wilhelm Raabe Literature Prize, Imperium: a fiction of the South Seas * * by Swiss novelist/screenwriter Christian Kracht is "an outrageous, fantastical, uncategorizable novel of obsession, adventure, and coconuts."

In this fictionalized tale about August Engelhardt (1870-1919), a German citizen who founded a sun-worshipping, coconut-eating cult, who purchased a small island in Dutch New Guinea, where he lived as a nudist. Madness eventually took hold and further isolated him from the few people on the island who cared about him. "Comparable to the adventure stories of Robert Louis Stevenson, Jack London, and Daniel Defoe, albeit with a definite philosophical inclination."

Come Away With Me by Karma Brown. A patch of black ice on Christmas Eve will change Tegan Lawson's life in ways she never could have imagined. Almost consumed by grief (of losing her baby) and anger (at her husband Gabe who was driving) until she is reminded of their Jar of Spontaneity, a collection of their dream destinations and experiences, and thus, begins an adventure of a lifetime and a search for forgiveness.

"A warmly compelling love story, with flashbacks that start with the couple's meeting as freshmen at Northwestern eight years earlier, this becomes a wrenching account of dealing with unbearable loss. Have tissues at hand for Brown's deeply moving debut."

Wishful Thinking by Kamy Wicoff is the answer to every single parent's dream. Jennifer Sharpe is barely able to keep her head above water as she juggles a demanding boss and even more demanding children and their schedules... that is until a brilliant physicist secretly installs a miraculous time-travel app on her phone that allows her to be in more than one place at the same time. Jennifer is almost literally, beside herself with glee, and is hopefully hooked... until the inventor threatens to remove the app from her phone for breaking the rules.

"(A) modern-day fairy tale in which one woman learns to overcome the challenges and appreciate the joys of living life in real time."

In The Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright, Philadelphia wine critic Che Milan is dumped by her longtime lover on the same day that her mother's ashes arrive on her doorstep, with a note reminding Che of a half-forgotten promise to take her mother to Canterbury. So she joins a group of eight women to walk the sixty miles from London to Canterbury Cathedral. In the best Chaucer tradition, the women swap stories as they walk, each vying to see who can best describe true love.

Through her adventures along the trail, Che finds herself opening up to new possibilities in life and discovers that the miracles of Canterbury can take surprising forms.

* * = 2 starred reviews

2015 Kate Greenaway Medal winner- Shackleton's Journey

The British Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals awards one illustrated text each year with the prestigious Kate Geenaway Medal for outstanding illustrations in a children's book. This year the winner was Shackleton's Journey by William Grill.

Shackleton's Journey is the story of the final expedition in the "Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration" which spanned almost 50 years! It is also the story of Earnest Shackleton who wanted to "do something better" and to "make a name" for himself. While the story of the expedition is fantastic (in many senses of the word!) the reason that it won the award was for its breathtaking illustrations.
It is very hard to make a picture book where the illustrations capture the scope of something as big as this expedition, which included 69 dogs and a stowaway!!!

This book will keep you interested with it's beautiful mixture of words and illustrations.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #549

"A literary thriller", Dragonfish * * * by Whiting Award winner Vu Tran is the "nuanced and elegiac, noirish first novel" of an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Chicago.

Robert Ruen, an Oakland (CA) cop with an anger management issue is forced at gunpoint to travel to Las Vegas in order to help find Suzy, his Vietnamese ex-wife who has disappeared from her new husband, Sonny, a violent Vietnamese businessman, smuggler and gambler. As Robert pursues Suzy through the sleek and seamy gambling dens of Las Vegas, shadowed by Sonny's sadistic son, "Junior," he realizes how little he knows of her - from her perilous escape from war-torn Vietnam, to the dangers and hazards in a Malaysian refugee camp where she first met Sonny.

Parallel to Robert's investigation is a secondary narrative in the form of letters to a daughter Suzy abandoned decades ago, throwing light on a woman debilitated by sorrow and haunted by ghosts and guilt.

"Vu Tran takes a strikingly poetic and profoundly evocative approach to the conventions of crime fiction in this supple, sensitive, wrenching, and suspenseful tale of exile, loss, risk, violence, and the failure to love."

"A superb debut novel…that takes the noir basics and infuses them with the bitters of loss and isolation peculiar to the refugee and immigrant tale. " (Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air). Also check out this week's The New York Times Book Review for Chris Abani's review (and podcast), whose The Secret History of Las Vegas would be an interesting readalike.

Vu Tran will be participating in the Suspenseful Reads panel at this year's Kerrytown Bookfest. September 13, at 2:45 at the Kerrytown Concert House.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

Nonfiction doesn't mean non-interesting Maya van Wagenen's Popular wins YASLA's award for excellence in nonfiction!

Maya was not your traditional 8th grade student, and not because she made a six figure book deal out of her memoir of the 8th grade. No Maya decided that she would adopt the styles of the 50's and wear them to school regardless of what her friends and fellow school goers thought about it. She used a 1950's popularity guide by Betty Cornell and for the rest of the year she followed what it said. What she found out was... well I won't spoil it for you! Read and find out for yourself!

This book is great and wonderfully put together. Sometimes when you're reading it you forget for just a moment that the person was only 15 when the book was published! So check out Popular : a memoir : vintage wisdom for a modern geek and find out why it won the award for yourself.

2015 Man Booker Prize Longlist Announced!

The 13 books nominated for the prestigious Man Booker Prize were announced yesterday, July 29th. This is the second year in which authors of all nationalities are eligible for the award - previously only authors from the United Kingdom and Commonwealth were considered. The award is given for an outstanding work of fiction, and is selected by a panel of five judges.

The list of nominees includes 5 Americans, up from 4 in last year's list. They include:
Bill Clegg - Did You Ever Have A Family? (release date September 8, 2015)
Leila Lalami - The Moor's Account (release date September 9, 2015)
Marilynne Robinson - Lila
Anne Tyler - A Spool of Blue Thread
Hanya Yanagihara - A Little Life

You can find copies of all of the finalist books published so far that are owned by AADL on this list. The shortlist will be announced on September 15, revealing the final 6 titles under consideration. The winner will be announced October 13, 2015, so stay tuned!


I purchased the adorable picture book Sparky!, by Jenny Offill, for a friend last Christmas and I am so glad that the library now has it in our collection, too! Winner of the Charlotte Zolotow Award for best picture book text, this book is a true gem for readers of all ages, especially those who consider themselves animal lovers. A young girl wants a pet, but her mom keeps saying ‘no’ to every pet she suggests. Finally, her mother says that she can have any pet she wants… “as long as it doesn't need to be walked or bathed or fed." Of course, like the girl’s mom, most of us believe that description leaves few viable pet options. But, with the help of her school librarian, the girl finds a pet that fits the bill… a sluggish, yet strangely lovable sloth. Readers will grow to adore Sparky along with his owner as this too-cute book progresses.

Offill is the author of 17 Things I’m Not Allowed To Do Anymore, 11 Experiments That Failed and While You Were Napping, all for children, and the deeply moving Dept. of Speculation, for adults.

2015 Eisner Award Winners!!!!!

This past weekend the 27th Eisner Awards were handed out, and it was quite a year with lots of artists and works getting multiple wins!

Lumberjanes (which if you've been following the blogs got a mention on here a few weeks ago) took home 2 awards; Best New Series and Best Publication for Teens (13-17)

Saga took home 2 awards as well; Best Continuing Series and Best Penciler/Inker for Fiona Staples

Little Nemo took home 4 awards. 1 for the Complete Little Nemo; Best Archival Collection/ Project. 1 for Little Nemo Return to Slumberland; Best Limited Series. 2 for the collection Little Nemo Dream Another Dream.

The Zoo Box won Best Publication for Early Readers up to 7 years.

Hip Hop Family Tree vol 2 won Best Reality-Based work.

This One Summer won Best Graphic Album- New.

Through the Woods won Best Graphic Album- Reprint

Blacksad: Amarillo won Best US Edition of International Material

Showa: A History of Japan 1939-1944 and Showa: A History of Japan 1944-1953 won Best US Edition of International Material- Asian

Gene Luen Yang won Best Writer

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #541 - “On my way out I was even going to shake his hand, but I remembered just in time that I'd killed a man." ~ Albert Camus, The Stranger

Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud's The Meursault Investigation * * is “(a) tour-de-force reimagining of Albert Camus's 1942 classic The Stranger, from the point of view of the mute Arab victims.” It won the Prix François Mauriac and the Prix des Cinq-Continents de la francophonie, and is a finalist for the Prix Goncourt. A feature film based on the novel is slated for release in 2017.

The narrator, Harun was the younger brother of “the Arab” killed by the infamous Meursault, the antihero of Camus’s classic novel. Seventy years after that event, Harun, who has lived since childhood in the shadow of his sibling’s memory, refuses to let him remain anonymous: he gives his brother a story and a name—Musa—and describes the events that led to Musa’s casual murder on a dazzlingly sunny beach.

Night after night, "(a)s Harun meditates on guilt, alienation, and his failed affair with Meriem, a university student, his quarrel is revealed to be not just with his mother and Meursault, but with post-Independence Algeria and God himself. Ultimately, Harun identifies more with his brother's killer than with his own zealous countrymen. "

"The novel…not only breathes new life into The Stranger; it also offers a bracing critique of post-colonial Algeria…" (The New York Times Magazine)

"Fiction with a strong moral edge."

”For its incandescence, its precision of phrase and description, and its cross-cultural significance, The Meursault Investigation is an instant classic.“ (The Guardian)

* * = 2 starred reviews

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