The National Book Award… honest, we have a National book award… they have a website…

It happened again. The National Book Award released a list of finalists and I completely missed it. Fortunately, The Huffington Post was on the ball, so check out the link at the end of this post.

I really wish this prize was better marketed. They even tried to jazz it up this year for the 60th Anniversary by allowing readers to vote for the best of the best. But where are the cardboard media stands in stores displaying the choices and encouraging you to “Vote for the Best of the National Book Awards Fiction!”? Or the feature tables – don’t those big box bookstores live for feature tables? At the very least someone should have picked up the phone and called Oprah!

Here are the Fiction Nominees:

  • Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage
  • Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin
  • Daniyal Mueenuddin, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders
  • Jayne Anne Phillips, Lark and Termite
  • Marcel Theroux, Far North

And Non-Fiction:

  • David M. Carroll, Following the Water: A Hydromancer’s Notebook
  • Sean B. Carroll, Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species
  • Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City
  • Adrienne Mayor, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy
  • T. J. Stiles, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

Sadly, the only one of the current nominees I’ve read is Sean B. Carroll’s Remarkable Creatures which I reviewed back in July.  Good book, but award-winning?  I’m not sure.

There are also categories for Poetry and Young Adult.

And here’s a link, as promised, to the poll being run by the Huffington Post.

It’s Monday? What Am I Reading?

Another Monday is upon us…  *yawn*.

Fortunately, this week should be a bit more exciting than most:  October is the month of book awards!

  • October 6th – 2009 Man Booker Prize Winner Announced
  • October 8th – Nobel Prize for Literature Announced
  • October 13th – 20 Finalists for the National Book Award are Announced (come on guys – you couldn’t come up with something snappier???)
  • Also, we missed the Scotiabank Giller Prize Longlist (thank you to KevinfromCanada for making us aware of Canada’s prize.  It seems all of North America needs to work on marketing our literary awards).

The winners of The National Book Award and the Scotiabank Giller Prize will be announced in November.

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Amphibian by Carla Gunn

As for my personal reading – I’m hoping to post reviews for Dan Simmon’s Drood and Amphibian by Carla Gunn this week.  Both were great, though very different, books.

I’m in the middle of The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, which is better than even I had hoped (and I had some high hopes for this after reading Oryx & Crake).   I know the reviews keep saying that this book can be read as a stand alone, and in its way it can.  But I very much recommend reading Oryx & Crake, either before or after The Year of the Flood, because it adds another layer to the story that it would be a shame to miss.Eating Air by Pauline Melville

Also, I’ve just begun reading Eating Air by Pauline Melville.  (This is a review copy I requested from the publisher, Telegram Books).  It’s out in the UK, but I have no idea when it will be released in the States.  I’ve been picking it up and carrying it around all week because it makes me so happy.  The dust jacket is beautiful and the book itself is the perfect proportions (I’m a big fan of short, squat books).  And the writing is stunning!  Hopefully, I’ll have a review up soon.  For now, here’s a teaser from the book’s first two paragraphs –

I want to tell the story of these extraordinary events without drawing attention to myself or implicating myself in any way.  I was involved only in the most tangential way, I can assure you – more by association than anything else.  These days it is possible to be locked up for even hinting that terrorism can be glorious or for having the wrong friends and courts don’t take into account the law of unintended consequences.  So it’s sotto voce for me.  To be on the safe side I have to present the truth as fiction.

I prefer to write in cafés.  I move around.   The Head in the Sand café in Camden Town is my current haunt.  Every morning the proprietor brings me a glass of rum steeped in hot peppers, a black coffee, two dishes of grilled peanuts and my newspaper.  I wear dark glasses with the right, coffin-shaped lens knocked out to make sure, in these lean times, that no-one steals my food.  The place is a little down-at-heel but I like the sludge-olive décor and those trendily scuffed wooden floors, bentwood chairs and the menu chalked on a blackboard behind the counter.  Who am I?  I come from Surinam.  My complexion is cinnamon.  I am as slim as Barack Obama.  My style is that of a graveyard dandy; black hat, black coat and a silver cane – it’s possible to dress like this in London without attracting undue attention.  Oh… and I think highly of myself which is always good for one’s health…

Please don’t forget to go to J. Kaye’s Book Blog to see what the rest of her friends & followers are reading.  Happy Monday! *strrrretttch*

It’s Monday, Again! What Am I Reading?

It’s Monday! What Am I Reading? I wish I could say something more exciting than this… but I’m working my way through A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book.  I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m  under halfway in… and I’m still waiting for something to happen.  Anything.  A meteor from the sky might liven things up a bit.  What is getting me through is the sheer beauty of the writing and… well, that’s about it.  I will finish this book.  My hope is that at some point it will turn around and blow me away.  It’s happened before.

While I should have been reading my Byatt I finished Homer & Langley.  It’s a refreshing, well written and  a nicely thought out book.  The review will be up by Thursday night.  I’m pleased to say that this was a wonderful intro to E.L. Doctorow and predict a long and beautiful relationship ahead of us.

Tuesday I’ll be posting an interview I did with another blogger (which is why I’m waiting until Thursday to post my review of Homer & Langley).   Definitely come back to check it out.  Stop by at Bookduck in the meantime.  She leans towards  YA and some adult fiction, mainly in the historical and fantasy genre.  She also has great taste in music.

And the best thing about my Monday?  It’s telling you about what I did on Sunday!  The 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival!

Brooklyn Book FestA free yearly event, the Brooklyn Festival features new and emerging figures in literature – as well as some not so new favorites like Edwidge Danticat, Jonathan Ames, Pete Hamill and Steven Millhauser (to name just a few).  The authors participate by giving readings, taking part in panel discussions and signing their books.  And next year I intend to do all that – attend the panels, listen to the readings and have my books signed.  This year I was weak… I couldn’t tear myself away from the tables!

Everywhere you turned there was something to see.  Several small presses are represented – the ones that put out the great books that don’t always make it to the shelves of your local B&N, let alone get put on the feature table.  There were the literary reviews and magazines (Bookforum, The Paris Review & The New York Review of Books), and tons of new writer anthologies.   They even had a children’s section with readings and authors who took questions – exactly like they do for the adults.  I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face when I heard an author announce very seriously to the crowd, “The question is:  Why was the cow silly?”.

The Brooklyn Book Festival (and other festivals of its kind) is a great opportunity to see what’s going on outside of the bestseller list.  It’s also a chance to connect with authors and publishers.  So, here’s a sample of what I got to take home.  (Remember: this is just the stuff I found interesting and put in my tote.  I’ll be posting reviews in the upcoming weeks with my final thoughts).

  • The Coral Press is an independent press dedicated to a fiction genre they call musical fiction.   They gave out a nice sampler of six of their novels.  You can check them out at www.coralpress.com.  The website features musical accompaniments to their novels.
  • This Republic of Suffering: Death & the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin was a freebie courtesy of the  people from The National Book Award.  I’ve always had an interest in the American Civil War, so while it doesn’t sound all that upbeat I’m looking forward to giving it a try.   But here’s a question thats been troubling me:  Why doesn’t the National Book Award get the attention of, say, the Booker Prize or the Pulitzer?  There are some great books that have won over the years… and this year is their 6oth Anniversary.  To celebrate they’re opening voting for the best of the best to the public (voting begins September 21st).   On September 30th they post their 5 Under 35 (which I’m assuming is their shortlist?) for 2009.  Click here to see their website.  Sheesh, people, it’s time we got serious about our own awards!  The British bookies make ODDS on the Booker!
  • Museum Legs: Fatigue & Hope in the Face of Art by Amy Whitaker (who was kind enough to sign my copy) is a new book by a new author published by a new press.  Hol Art Books specializes in books by authors writing about the visual arts.  They also have a nice selection historical writings, including pamphlets put out for the International Exhibit of Modern Art in 1913.  Definitely a niche market, but an interesting one I’d like to learn more about.
  • Amphibian is a novel by Carla Gunn published by Coach House Books.  This is one of those books I can’t wait to start.  The nine-year-old hero’s name is Phineas William Walsh and he’s an environmentalist.  And I quote from the description on the back cover: “So, when a White’s tree frog ends up in an aquarium in his fourth grade classroom, it’s the last straw, and he and  his best friend, Bird, are spurred to action.”  Tell me, what’s not to like???

And my #1 score of the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival (drumroll)…

  • The Alchemaster’s Apprentice by Walter Moers and published by The Overlook Press.  Moers is a German author and this is his fifth book published in the U.S.  It’s the fourth that takes place in Zamonia (and yes I’ve read the other three).  It’s about a Crat.  It’s fully illustrated.  It makes me want to learn German just because I know there are books of his that haven’t made it into English yet.  If you like J.K. Rowling, you’ll like Moers.  Not because this is anything remotely like Harry Potter…it’s probably the farthest thing from Hogwarts.  You’ll have to take my word for it:   Moers is just fun… and in terms of his books there’s no one out there writing anything like them.  Click here to see.

So there’s just a taste of what followed me home.  For the rest of the month I’ll be posting bits and pieces of the rest of it.

Happy Monday!