Weekly Book News Roundup

  •  Has social media brought about “a great renaissance of public shaming”? Author Jon Ronson has a new book coming out – So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. He spoke with The Guardian about rants and tweets.
  • “A book we crack with our two hands creates an actual physical space for reverie that functions as an oasis outside daily life, a cocoon in space and time.” Amidst the ongoing debates about e-books versus print, Alix Christie explores the pleasures and permanence of print books in an essay for the Millions.
  • Last weekend, in the Globe & Mail, books editor Mark Medley examined the particular challenges faced by Canadian nonfiction writers.
  • Over the past week, Ryan Boudinot’s feature at the Stranger, “Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One,” has sparked bookish internet debates regarding the value of MFA programs and whether or not writing can be taught. Examples of Boudinot’s frank assertions, which have led to what is now being referred to as “MFA-gate,” include, “Writers are born with talent,” and “No one cares about your problems if you’re a shitty writer.”   In Electric Literature, writer and former MFA faculty Adrian Van Young responded to Boudinot’s essay in what he calls a “Rebuttal of Sorts.” Meanwhile, at Salon, Laura Miller dissects the Internet outrage sparked by Ryan Boudinot’s essay on the questionable value of a creative writing MFA. “He hasn’t expressed anything worse than what writers outside of the MFA bubble hear every day.”
  • Lambda Literary announced the finalists for its 27th Lambda Literary Awards. The “Lammys” celebrate the best lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) writing in twenty-four different categories. The winner will be announced on June 1st. Sixteen Canadian authors were shortlisted in 11 of 27 categories.
  • “In contemporary fiction with nameless narrators, the real-world, present-day phenomenon of namelessness is not usually confronted.” At the New Yorker, Sam Sacks examines the idea of books with nameless protagonists
  • After Faulkner won the Nobel Prize, he spent a lot of time traveling the globe. He was, and had, a bit of a problem, though.  The State Department circulated a memo called “Guidelines for Handling Mr. William Faulkner on His Trips Abroad,” designed to help agents curb Faulkner’s drinking. Their advice ranged from the obvious (monitor his liquor cabinet) to the subtle: “Keep several pretty young girls in the front two rows of any public appearance to keep his attention up.”
  • Book adaptation news:
    • Speaking of Jon Ronson, Scarlett Johansson is set to star in the adaptation of Ronson’s non-fiction book The Psychopath Test. In the book, Ronson explores the mental health industry and aims to uncover the turth about psychopathy diagnoses and find out how to identify a true psychopath. Jay Roach, who is best known for working on comedies such as Meet the Fockers and 50 First Dates, is set to direct.
    • Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven film and television rights have been acquired by Scott Steindorff. The story follows the days after a flu pandemic causes a civilization to collapse. Steindorff previously produced Jon Favreau’s Chef and the upcoming Jane Got a Gun.
    • Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey will be teaming up to create a television drama for OWN based on Natalie Baszile’s book Queen Sugar. The story follows a widow who moves with her daughter from Los Angeles to the Louisiana sugar farm she recently inherited. DuVernay, who directed the Academy Award nominee Selma, will write, direct, and executive produce the series and Oprah will executive produce and have a recurring role on the show.

Book to Movie © Tom Gauld

I have a few questions for you this week, based on the news roundup:

  1. Do you read nonfiction? If so, do you have a favourite genre?
  2. When you are reading fiction, can you tell if an author has come through an MFA program?
  3. Do you like nameless narrators? Can you think of a really great book you have read in which the narrator was never identified? Why do you think authors do this?
  4. E-book, or printed books? Do you have a preference?

Happy reading!!

Weekly Book News Roundup

Book News

  • Two bits of news in book-to-film adaptations this past week:
    • Actor Ewan McGregor is set to direct a film adaptation of Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel American Pastoral.
    • Richard Linklater, the director of the critically acclaimed film Boyhood, is in talks to direct a film adaptation of Maria Semple’s 2012 bestselling novel Where’d You Go Bernadette.
  • Nearly one hundred Canadian independent bookstores have signed up for the inaugural Canadian Authors for Indies Day, which is set to take place on May 2nd. Founder, and author, Janie Chang spoke about the initiative with Publishers Weekly.
  • In a controversial industry shift, an increasing number of publishing executives at large houses such as HarperCollins and Little, Brown are bypassing literary agents altogether and inviting open submissions of manuscripts.
  • In big book award news this week:
    •  The U.S. Jewish Book Council announced Canadian author Ayelet Tsabari as the recipient of the 2015 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature (Fiction) for her collection The Best Place on Earth: Stories. Established in 2007, the $100,000 U.S. award alternates annually between emerging fiction and non-fiction authors, and aims to recognize works that “explore the Jewish experience” and show the potential to make an impact on Jewish literature.  Fellow Canadian Kenneth Bonert was awarded $25,000 U.S. as the runner-up for his novel The Lion Seeker.
    • Nine writers from four different countries have been awarded the 2015 Windham Campbell Prizes for fiction, nonfiction, and drama. The winners will each receive $150,000 to support their work. For more information about the prize and a complete list of winners, visit the Grants & Awards blog.
  • The New Yorker has republished a 1962 essay by Alice Munro. Originally appearing Canadian magazine The Montrealler, Munro describes “the first real book” she ever read: Charles Dickens’s A Child’s History of England, whose tales of melodrama and morbidity provided, Munro writes, “the first glimpse I ever had of history, before I knew what history was… I had a private vision of what I was reading about—unexpected, incommunicable, painfully exciting.
  • Starting to write a book is hard. Then there’s the whole middle part—also difficult. And finally there’s the end, which is no cakewalk, either. Can we learn anything from the last sentences in famous novels? Jonathan Russell Clark explores the idea at The Millions“For writers, the last sentences aren’t about reader responsibility at all—it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to stop worrying about what comes next, because nothing does. No more keeping the reader interested, no more wariness over giving the game away. This is the game.” 

This week’s book news has me curious about a few things, so I would love to hear from you:

  1. What is your favourite independent bookshop? Do you make a point of shopping at independent bookstores?
  2. What is the first ‘real’ book you remember reading?
  3. And, as always,  I would love to know what you’ve been reading this week? Anything excellent, that you would recommend?

Happy reading!

Visit your local independent bookseller today!

Visit your local independent bookseller today!

My Most Anticipated Reads For Spring & Summer (And Brief Hiatus Announcement)

Photo: Aude Van Ryn

Photo: Aude Van Ryn

First, a quick explanation about my planned hiatus: Some health issues will have me in hospital and out of commission for a time. So, I won’t be able to share any reviews or news for a little while. In my absence, I hope you will tell me all about the books you are reading and enjoying. I always love to hear great recommendations from fellow book lovers and given I will have some extensive downtime – your suggestions will be particularly welcomed right now.

So — please leave a comment and share some reading suggestions with me or tell me about the books you are most anticipating this spring and summer!! (I truly would love to hear from you.)

Before taking my break, I thought I would share with you some titles I am really looking forward to this spring and summer. (One resource I love and look forward to each year is The Millions: Most Anticipated. This is a giant list of books and there are always a large number of titles that hold appeal for me.)

Anyway…onto my hotly anticipated books:

* And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini – Hosseini’s wonderful novel The Kite Runner was an amazing and emotional reading experience for me several summers ago.

* Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – with each of her novels, I become more and more intrigued with this writer. This could be a huge book for her.

* Transatlantic by Colum McCann – McCann is another writer I respect and I am quite curious about this new one.

* Night Film by Marisha Pessl – only her second novel, it’s been delayed a couple of times and is being much-hyped. I didn’t love her first book, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, though I did like it and was impressed by her potential.

* The Autistic Brain by Temple Grandin – Grandin is a bit of a hero in this house so I am keen to read her new book which was released today!

* Paris by Edward Rutherfurd – Rutherfurd is always great for an immersive and escapist reading experience. This 832 page tome should be a wonderful summer read!

* Gioconda from Lucille Turner – a debut that is getting me quite excited: a) I love literary fiction debuts; b) historical fiction!!

* The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – okay, the word ‘screwball’ in the description is appealing. And, if I am being shallow – i love the cover design. So yes! Sometimes I judge a book by its cover.

New Canadian Books Making Me Drooly:

* In Calamity’s Wake by Natalee Caple – this is silly but the word ‘calamity’ has always been one of my favourites and I have long been taken with the legend of Calamity Jane. So…this book really is a must read for me.

* The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai – this book sounds amazing!

* Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz – sounds fascinating and possibly has the potential to be a novel that can crossover to mature YA readers.

* The Family Took Shape by Shashi Bhat – a debut novel that has really captured my attention! (In case you didn’t note earlier in the post: I am such a huge fan of literary debuts. It’s like a genre unto itself for me!)

* Caught by Lisa Moore – Moore is such a compelling storyteller. Any novel she writes is going to be worth reading!

* Maxine by debut novelist Claire Wilkshire – As we have already established…I love a debut novel. A debut novel from Newfoundland-based writer makes me very excited!

* Miracles of Ordinary Men by Amanda Leduc – I have heard such great things about this book!

* Studio Saint-Ex by Ania Szado – I actually received an advanced copy of the novel from Penguin Canada (thank you!!) and devoured it. Szado’s well researched imaginings are immersive and transportive. I really loved this book and have been working on a proper review for the novel.

* River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay – I think this is going to be a great read. Kay is a lovely man and cares deeply about the research he puts into each of his historical fiction novels.

If you are looking for more reading suggestions, Publishers Weekly has also posted a fairly comprehensive list of books – there’s sure to be something for every reader here.

So – tell me what you are most looking forward to reading over the next couple of months?? I really would love to hear about all the great reading you have planned.