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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Books into Film: 2013

With the release of “Les Miserables” on Christmas Day, “Jack Reacher,” based on Lee Child’s character on Dec. 21 and “The Hobbit” and “Life of Pi” earlier in December, the year winds down with yet more books into movies. Earlier this year we saw films based on such books as The Hunger Games, One for the Money and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Once the holidays finish, here are some books you may want to explore before their film versions are released in 2013.

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

World War Z by Max Brooks

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Kid-Lit for Middle Graders

Looking for a great book for a young reader this holiday season? National Public Radio’s Backseat Book Club recently randomly polled some librarians and booksellers on this year’s best “middle-grade” fiction (The Year's Outstanding "Backseat" Reads, for Ages 9 to 14, Dec. 10, 2012). Here are a few of their top choices:
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Best of 2012

It’s that time of year again. Lists of 2012’s best books are beginning to appear. Here is a sampling from The Christian Science Monitor’s fiction and non-fiction choices released this week ("10 Best Books of 2012--Fiction," Dec. 3, 2012 and "15 Best Books of 2012--NonFiction," Dec. 3, 2012):

Arcadia by Lauren Groff

Canada by Richard Ford

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nancy Pearl’s Newest Picks

Nancy Pearl, author of the Book Lust series, has offered some new recommendations on her “Under the Radar” segment for National Public Radio (“Librarian Nancy Pearl's Picks for the Omnivorous Reader, Nov. 27, 2012”). When asked how she makes her selections, Pearl said, “I just pick some of the titles that I've most enjoyed since the last time I was on, without concern for whether they're fiction or nonfiction, genre or not, or aimed or classified as being for children or teens.”
Heft by Liz Moore
Among Others by Jo Walton
The Double Game by Dan Fesperman
Code Named Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks

On Thanksgiving at tables across the country, individuals will express gratitude for all that they value in their lives.  This year Huffington Post author and reviewer Nina Sankovitch offers her "Thanksgiving for 2012 Books" list, a variation on lists she does each year at this time.  Here are a few of the books she is thankful for in 2012:
Pure by Andrew Miller
Dead Scared by S.J. Bolton
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lincoln in Print

With Friday’s nationwide release of Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” readers may be interested in which biographies of our “Great Emancipator” are considered among the best. The film is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, so that is one place to start. Bill Lucey, writing in the “Huffington Post,” polled some scholars and historians on their favorites ("The Abraham Lincoln Reading List: Recommendations and Suggestions," Nov. 13, 2012). Here are a few other well-respected bios readers may enjoy:

Lincoln by David Herbert Donald

Abraham Lincoln: A Biography by Benjamin Thomas

Lincoln at Gettysburg by Gary Wills

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Laugh Therapy

As we recover from Sandy and the election, it’s definitely time for some light reading and a laugh or two.  For some suggestions try MSNBC host Will Geist's Six Favorite Humor Books, a list recently published in This Week. Here are some of his choices and a few of our own favorites as well.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Naked Pictures of Famous People by Jon Stewart   

Our Dumb Century by the Staff of The Onion

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Without Feathers by Woody Allen

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricanes and Superstorms

While the D.C. area escaped the worst of Sandy, this hybrid nor’easter with a hurricane inside (later called a post-tropical cyclone) was a first in recent history.  Now that things have died down, here is some reading for extreme weather buffs.

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Horror

So you’ve read all of Stephen King and other horror classics such as Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting, Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror or Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend.  As Halloween approaches, what’s next? You might want to try some from  last year’s Top Ten Horror Fiction,” posted by Booklist Online.

Dust by Joan Frances Turner

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

The Glass Demon by Helen Grant

The White Devil by Justin Evans

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bad Reviews

Not all classics earned raves when they first appeared. Flavorwire has gathered brutal comments from the first reviews of some of our most acclaimed literature ("15 Early Scathing Reviews of Classic Novels, Oct. 8, 2012).  Here are excerpts from just a few:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.  “. . .It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors.”
Graham’s Lady’s Magazine, 1848

Moby Dick by Herman Melville. “Mr. Melville is evidently trying to ascertain how far the public will consent to be imposed upon. . .” — New York United States Magazine and Democratic Review, 1852

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. “Monsieur Flaubert is not a writer.” — Le Figaro, 1857

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. “Mr. Scott Fitzgerald deserves a good shaking. . .”  The Saturday Review, 1925

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. “Catch-22 has much passion, comic and fervent, but it gasps for want of craft and sensibility. . .” New York Times Book Review, 1961

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. “The plan and technique of the illustrations are superb. … But they may well prove frightening, accompanied as they are by a pointless and confusing story.”
Publisher’s Weekly, 1963

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Great Group Reads

Is your book discussion group seeking some new reading? To celebrate National Reading Group Month in October, a committee of the Women’s National Book Association has published a list 0f 19 novels and one memoir selected as “Great Group Reads.” ("National Reading Group Month," Shelf Awareness, Oct. 5, 2012). Here are a few from the list:

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

The O'Briens by Peter Behrens

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Need a Laugh?

If the election hoopla is getting you down, maybe you need a distraction.  Humor is great medicine.  Calvin Trillin, author of Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff, just won the 2012 Thurber Prize for American Humor.  For a break from debates, ads, deficits, the 47 percent and more, here are some previous years’ winners you can sample as well.

Half Empty by David Rakoff (2011)

How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely (2010)

Lamentations of the Father by Ian Frazier (2009)

I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle (2008)

My Lucky Star by Joe Keenan (2007)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Loathsome Ladies

Writing in The Huffington Post, author Warren Adler has revealed his list of top wicked females in fiction (Female Villains: 10 Evil Women in Literature). Among them are Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth and Euripides’ Medea. Others include Annie Wilkes in Stephen King’s Misery and Nurse Ratched in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  If you want to sample more villainous women in literature, try these:

East of Eden by John Steinbeck (Cathy Ames)

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (Mrs. Danvers)

The Crucible by Arthur Miller (Abigail Williams)

Double Indemnity by James M. Cain (Phyllis Dietrichson)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


A few weeks back Publishers Weekly asked its followers on Twitter which books they loved and wished others would read. The magazine’s editors gathered the results and then published the best readers’ picks (“14 Underrated Books”).  If you’re looking for something new to read, try these:

In Pharaoh’s Army by Tobias Wolff

The Believers by Zoe Heller

The Flamenco Academy by Sarah Bird

The Long Walk by Brian Castner

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Teachers in Print

Fall is the season when students of all ages and their teachers return to the classroom.  Whether you are a pupil or a mentor, you may enjoy this list published in the Online Colleges blog earlier this year ( "The 20 Best Novels About Being a Teacher"). Here are a few to try:

Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Good bye,Mr. Chips by James Hilton

Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Grandparent Heroes

With Grandparents Day (September 9) just around the corner, Jennifer M. Brown, the children’s editor for Shelf Awareness, has published a list of her favorite grandparent books ("Grandparents We Can Count On").  Among them is The Ultimate Guide to Grandmas & Grandpas! by Sally Lloyd-Jones which offers such advice as “when you have a grandma or a grandpa, you need to scream and run away when they pretend to be a monster” or “you need to hold their hand when they cross the street.”

Here are a few others kids may enjoy:

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech

There’s Going to Be a Baby by John Burningham

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Red or Blue Reading?

With the Republican National Convention in full swing and the Democratic Convention set to begin next week, Amazon has put together an Election Heat Map 2012 based on sales of “red” or “blue” books on its site in the last 30 days. It also sorts the top 100 political books into “red” and “blue” categories.  Here are a few samples from the Amazon list:

The Amateur by Edward Klein (red)

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (blue)

Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich (blue)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Queens of the Crime Novel

The Huffington Post recently compiled a list of the greatest female authors of crime fiction ("Thirteen Female Mystery Writers," Aug. 16, 2102).  The four classic “Queens of Crime” are included: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham, but more contemporary writers appear, as well.  Here are a few from the list and samples of their best work:

Patricia Cornwall,  Postmortem

Laurie R. King, The Language of Bees

Val McDermid, The Wire in the Blood

Ruth Rendell,  A Sight for Sore Eyes

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Julia’s Centennial

Definitely a late-bloomer, Julia Child was 49 when she co-authored Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The rest is history.  Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the eccentric but delightful chef. Writing in Shelf Awareness, blogger Kathleen Girard shares some great reading by and about the culinary expert who introduced European panache to the dull American palate of the 1950s, 60s and beyond. Here are a few of her recommendations:

Backstage with Julia by Nancy Verde Barr

My Life in France by Julia Child

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Literary Thrillers

For those of you who aren’t fans of genre fiction, Flavorwire has a solution (" Eleven Thrilling Books for People Who Don't Read Thrillers," July 27, 2012) .  “While the ‘t’ word might throw off some high-minded snobs (admittedly, us),” the editors write, “there’s absolutely nothing wrong in delighting in a great book that is, well, thrilling.”  Here’s a sampling from their list of recent page turners with style:

Broken Harbor by Tana French

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Syndrome E by Franck Thilliez

The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Maeve Binchy’s Legacy

Maeve Binchy “was so full of life, so funny, so interested in people, so good and so kind to all of us writers who came after her,” wrote Irish author Marian Keyes on, a website for Irish women ("Irish Female Authors Pay Tribute to Maeve Binchy," July 31, 2012). Michael D. Higgins, president of  Ireland, also cited Binchy, who died on Monday, as “a source of encouragement and practical assistance to many young writers throughout her career.” While many are familiar with Binchy’s novels, such as Circle of Friends or Tara Road, you may wish to sample the work of other Irish women writers she inspired.

Rosie Dunne by Cecilia Ahern

Someone Like You by Cathy Kelly

The Charming Man by Marian Keyes

Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deidre Madden

Francesca’s Party by Patricia Scanlan

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Odd Olympic Moments

Whether it is the last-minute substitution of a baby as a rowing cockswain in the 1900 Paris Olympics, the 72-year-old Olympian who won silver in a shooting competition at the 1920 Antwerp games, or Ethopian Abebe Bikila’s  marathon  win barefoot at the 1960 Rome Olympics,  these now-biennial events always feature memorable moments. Esquire recently gathered these and other "Lesser Known Moments in Olympic History" in an online slide show.

When the 2012 London Summer Olympics launch Friday night, there will be many opportunities in the following 17 days for similar highlights.  Yes, we’ll want to see how Michael Phelps adds to his 16 medals, but we may also want to follow Sarah Attar, the 800-meter runner from Saudi Arabia. She is one of two women her country has ever sent to the games.

If you want to do some reading before Friday’s opening ceremony, here are a few suggestions:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012