Tuesday, November 24, 2009

And the Winners Are....

On Tuesday November 17th at a black-tie dinner at Cipriani Wall Street (New York City) Andy Borowitz, writer and comic, announced the winners of this year’s National Book Awards.

This year’s winner for fiction is Colum McGann, author of Let the Great World Spin, a novel created around Phillippe Petit’s intrepid tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers, but focusing on life in New York City in the 1970s. McCann’s work has been called “dazzling and hauntingly rich.”

The non-fiction winner is T. J. Stiles for his biograpy of Cornelius Vanderbilt entitled The First Tycoon.

Poetry winner was Keith Waldrop for Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy. For those of you who do not know, Mr. Waldrop is from Providence, RI. He has written over 15 books of poetry. He is also an actor, director and publisher. The young people’s literature award went to Phillip Hoose for Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice.

For a list of all the finalists and winners plus links to interviews check out the National Book Foundation site. Meg

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Library Loot

Many book bloggers do a regular post called “library loot” wherein they list all the stuff they have recently got out from their local library. Here’s my list, as of today:

Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith. Smith is the author who wrote Gorky Park, one of my all time favorite mysteries and Wolves Eat Dogs was recommended to me as a title that was just as good. Smith has the ability to craft a respectable story and place it in squarely and masterfully in the dark and unstable context of modern Russia. This story is partially set in Chernobyl – a truly surreal but real and tragic backdrop.

Kindred in Death by J. D. Robb. Robb (aka Nora Roberts) is one of the author’s I pick up whenever she writes anything. Her Lt. Dallas series is always a fascinating read and a pleasant and often exciting visit with characters she has created over the series’ 35 or so titles.

After the Prophet by Leslie Hazelton. After the Prophet is sub-titled “the epic story of the Shia-Sunni split in Islam” and is a very well written telling of the story of the death of Mohammed and the struggle for his succession – a struggle the whole world is still embroiled in today.

A Church of Her Own by Sarah Sentilles – Sentilles tells the tale of women priests and their efforts to be recognized, valued and successful in their chosen profession. Sentilles can be a bit strident at times, but she is at her best when recounting the personal journeys of the many women ministers she met and interviewed.

Empire Falls by Richard Russo, read by Ron McLarty – Another recommendation from a friend, I have not begun this book yet, but Richard Russo is a very popular and talented author and I love hearing to Ron McLarty narrate an audiobook. I am looking forward to listening.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling, read by Jim Dale – Even if you have read all the Harry Potter books, you deserve giving yourself the treat of listening to Jim Dale become the characters in Rowling’s books. She was very lucky to have him narrate all her Harry Potter books, and if you have not listened in, you have a treat in store. Meg

Friday, November 6, 2009

World War I Classics

November 11, 2009 , the 11th day of the 11th month, is the 91st anniversary of the armistice that ended The Great War (World War I). Referred to often as “the war to end all wars,” (unfortunately we now know this to be a bit optimistic) the books written to help men and women come to grips with and attempt to understand the horror – trenches, barbed wire, mud – loss and death that were a part of that (and all) wars are still classics and worthy to be read. Here are four recommended titles.

All Quiet on the Western Front , a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, was published in 1929, and was the author’s way of coming to terms with the war and his participation in it. The war in the trenches as described from the German viewpoint vividly demonstrates that the tragedy and horror of war has no nationality.

“We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we believe in war.” Chapter 5 – AQotWF

A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway, was also published in 1929. It is the unforgettable story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his love for a beautiful English nurse. The love affair between Lt. Henry and Catherine Barkley is set amidst the inexorable sweep of war and battle.

Three Soldiers (1921) by John Dos Passos is one of the key American war novels of the First World War, and remains a classic of the realist war novel genre. In a letter to a friend written in 1918, Dos Passos says “[War], no matter where, consisted of boredom, slavery to all sorts of military stupidities.…It was no more than an enormous, tragic digression in people’s lives which brought death to the intellect, to art, to everything that mattered.” These are the themes that run through Three Soldiers, a book that still stands as a testament to the dehumanizing effects of war.

A Son at the Front by Edith Wharton (1922) conveys the initial excitement of war and the subsequent disillusionment, boredom and manipulation occuring away from the front lines. Wharton explores the effect of war on those left behind with her customary powerful prose. Meg


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