Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dayton Literary Peace Prize Winners Announced!

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize which was created in 2006 as an offshoot of the Dayton Peace Prize and is the first and only US literary award to recognize the power of the written word to promote peace.  The award is given in the categories of adult fiction and nonfiction book published within the last year.  Books nominated help readers gain an understanding of other cultures, people, religions and political points of view.  Each award carries a $10,000 cash prize.


Nonfiction:  Zeitoun by Dave Eggers 
Fiction: The Book Of Night Women by Marlon James
Runners up:
Nonfiction: In the Valley of Mist by Justine Hardy 
Fiction: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Adichie 
In addition, historical novelist Geraldine Brooks (People of the Book, March, Year of Wonders) will receive the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Lifetime Achievement.

Breaking Night: The Homeless to Harvard Story

This month marked the release of Breaking Night, the memoir of Liz Murray.  Liz was the inspiration for Lifetime's movie, Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story.  Liz completed high school while homeless and went on to win a New York Times Scholarship and attend Harvard University, which she graduated from in 2009.  She has also been awarded the White House Project Role Model Award, a Christopher Award and the Chutzpah Award given to her by Oprah.  Because of Liz's experiences with hunger as a child she now works with the non-profit organization, Blessings in a Backpack.  This organization supplies children in need with food for the weekend when they won't have access to it at school.  

Liz is combining the release of her book with Hunger Action Month (September) to help bring awareness to this issue. In addition she will be making appearances around the country sponsored by Meijer and Navistar to help increase the amount of children supported by this program every year from 38,000 to 50,000.  

The rest of this month's appearances are listed below:

* Thursday, September 23 Chicago, IL (Meijer, 10138 Indianapolis Blvd., Highland, IN)
* Friday, September 24 Chicago, IL (Meijer, 1251 Golf Road, Rolling Meadows, IL)
* Monday, September 27 Lexington, KY (Meijer, 351 W. Reynolds Road)
* Tuesday, September 28 Louisville, KY (Meijer, 4100 Town Center Drive)
* Sunday, October 10, Berkeley, CA (4:30pm, Redford Center, 2150 Allston Way)

For those interesting in purchasing Breaking Night please click the link below:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Shadow of the Wind

I wanted to let me mind absorb everything from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo before I plunged into the sequel so I decided to pick up a book a friend recommended to me, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  If I was looking for a quiet break from the suspense of the Stieg Larsson novel, this wasn't it.  

When I picked it up, it seemed to be the perfect read for a book nerd. It followed the main character, Daniel, the son of a rare books dealer as he becomes entangled in the mystery surrounding a mysterious book entitled Shadow of the Wind.  (A book about a book, does it get any better?).  Daniel after becoming intrigued by the novel seeks other written by the same author, Julian Carax.  But few seem to know anything about him except that for some years a dark and mysterious stranger has been collecting all the remaining copies of Julian Carax's novels and destroying them.  Before long this mysterious stranger approaches Daniel to obtain his copy, but Daniel strongly refuses to sell.  Daniel hides the book to protect it but years later that is still not the end to this mystery.  As Daniel learns more about the enigma that was Julian Carax, the greater danger he is in because someone is power is trying to keep a dark secret.  

But the book goes even beyond an enticing literary mystery.  Originally written in Spanish and published in Spain, the story is completely tied with Spanish history of World War II, a time period full of dissent and tension in Spain.  As you go through the novel, you realize that what happened to Spain during this time period is significantly different from what was going on in the rest of the world.  Its unique political history is irrevocably tied with the older character who set up the complex mystery which sweeps up Daniel and his friends.  If you are looking to be swept away to unfamiliar world where everything is possible, give this book a try.  

Isreal in Comics

Now I'm sure no one thought they would be exploring a tense political situation through a comic instead of  traditional book, but this is exactly what Sarah Glidden does in her upcoming comic, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less.  The comic chronicles Glidden's experience on a Birthright trip to Israel, an opportunity open to young Jewish Americans to help them connect with their Jewish heritage and Israel.  The comic will be released Nov. 3 in comic stores and Nov. 6 where books are sold, so keep your eye out for this new work.  

Sarah has links to some of her pre-pulication work on this comic available on her website.  There she also provides links to her reviews in Publisher's Weekly and The Daily Cross Hatch

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Censorship or Protection?

On Monday, the Ninth Circuit of the US Court of Appeals struck down 2 Oregon laws meant to protect minors from exposure to pornography and prevent child abuse in POWELLS BOOKS v. KROGER.  The laws in question made it illegal to sell or give materials to children under 13 that were sexually explicit and another law which made it illegal to distribute materials to children under the age of 18 "visual, verbal, or narrative descriptions of sexual conduct,".  The suit was brought by Powell Books and many other booksellers and organizations including  the Oregon ACLU.  They claimed that the law violated the First Amendment and was overly broad to include such common children's books as those written by Judy Blume.  

The court agreed.  Though the state claimed that the laws were only meant to target the distribution of hardcore pornography, the court noted, The statutory text makes no mention of “hardcore pornography,” but rather refers to “sexually explicit material” and a “visual representation or explicit verbal description or narrative account of sexual conduct.” .  This term "sexually explicit" the court decided was too broad and could include many common books intended for children because the law made no exception for the purpose of the work as a whole and whether "the work possesses any “redeeming social value.”

Stevie Wonder Tries to Bring Light to Those in the Dark

Yesterday, singer Stevie Wonder spoke to the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization to press them to alter copy right laws so that it is easier to make educational materials and books into audiobook formats to make these more readily available to the blind.  Right now it is extremely expensive to do so, limiting access for the blind in poor countries.  This is just one of issues that the World Intellectual Property Organization must deal with as there is a need to update copyright laws in general to catch up with all the new media which has been created in recent years.  The Internet in particular has caused many issues.  While Wonder is encouraging the organization to help with cheaper access he still recognizes ( considering his role as an artist) the need to protect the rights of the creators.  He jokingly urged his audience to seek a compromise or "I'll have to write a song about what you didn't do".   To read the source article please see the Huffington Post.

Monday, September 20, 2010

2010 PEN USA Literary Awards

PEN Center USA the West Coast center of International PEN was founded in 1943.  Its membership includes more than 800 writers, poets, playwrights, essayists, novelists as well as writers for TV and film, critics, historians, editors, journalists and translators.  They have now announced the winners of its 2010 Literary Awards competition.  In this competition PEN USA gives out awards in 11 separate genres.  These awards will be given out at the 20th Annual Literary Awards Festival (LitFest) held at the Beverly Hills Hotel Wednesday, November 17, 2010.  At LitFest each of the winners will receive a check for $1000.  Past winners of this award have included: Woody Allen, George Cloony, Ray Bradbury, Betty Friedan, Maxine Hong Kingston and Neil Simon.

The 2010 Winners are:

Victor Lodato: Mathilda Savitch (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)

Amy Catanzano: Multiversal (Fordham University Press)

Creative Nonfiction
Vicki Forman: This Lovely Life (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Research Nonfiction
Minal Hajratwala: Leaving India: My Family’s Journey from Five Villages to Five Continents (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company)

Children’s/Young Adult Literature
Paul Fleischman: The Dunderheads (Candlewick Press)

Mary Melton: Julius Shulman in 36 Exposures (Los Angeles Magazine)

Fady Joudah: Mahmoud Darwish’s If I Were Another (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Julie Hebert: Tree

Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner: Up in the Air (Paramount Pictures)

T eleplay
Peter Blake: House: “The Tyrant” (NBC)

The Graphic Literature Award
Matt Fraction: For His Outstanding Body of Work

The University of California Press Exceptional First Book Award
Angela Garcia: The Pastoral Clinic: Addiction and Dispossession along the Rio Grande (University of California Press)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

So I was a little late to jump on the Stieg Larsson bandwagon.  I had seen the books dominating all of the bestseller lists for months now, but I still hadn't managed to go to the store to pick it up.  I really didn't know anything about the storyline and didn't think it was any more or less special that the multitudes of other books that pass through the bestseller lists.  Then I went away on vacation with my sister and mother.   We bought several books to entertain ourselves with on the cross country flight, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was one of them as I had heard so much hype about it at this point.  My sister picked up the book and couldn't put it down.  My sister who never reads, ran through that book in less than a week.  So I was impressed and decided when she was done I would try it out.

This was one of the best reading decisions I have ever made in my life.  After years upon years of reading tons of books from all types of genres, there is little out there in a book that can surprise you.  You pick up on the clues to each plot development can always tell who the bad guy is.  There was nothing remotely predictable about anything that happened in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Without giving to much away for the handful of readers remaining who have not gotten to this book, the novel starts out with two parallel story lines.  The first follows financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist starting with his public conviction for libel.  The second follows investigator Lisbeth Salander, who works for a security firm doing background check for clients and is the absolute best at what she does, despite deceiving appearances.  For a long time the only connection between these two characters besides they both reside in Sweden someone hired Lisbeth to conduct a background check on Blomkvist.  After many separate adventures, about halfway through the novel the characters meet finally and the story only escalates towards its dramatic ending from there.

But what is most interesting about this book is not just the fascinating and surprising plot line and the intriguing characters.  No, the most interesting element of this novel is the author's subtle political commentary that runs through the novel parallel to Lisbeth Salander's story.  Salander has been deemed not fit to managed her own life by the government, almost entirely on the basis that she refused to cooperate with the system.  She refused to talk in school, refused to talk to psychologists sent to evaluate her, so everyone assumed she was mentally slow instead of stubborn.  Because of this evaluation Salander has no control over her own affairs.  She has a legal guardian (who is not related to her) that controls every aspect of her life.  Throughout the novel, Larsson shows his reader her true nature and her background to make their more understanding of her behavior as Michael Blomkvist is.  Blomkvist confuses Lisbeth because he does not try and fix her, he just lets her be as she wants, something she has never experienced in her life.  This different role of government and society in controlling an individuals behavior is a very foreign concept to Americans (to whom individual freedom is the highest value) and only highlights the cultural difference between it and other Western European countries despite the fact they are usually described in similar, universal terms.

All in all, this is a novel with a little bit of something for everyone.  If you haven't yet you can click below to purchase your own copy of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

New York Times Bestsellers: Hardcover Non-Fiction

I thought I would add in the Non-Fiction selections for some variety for those of us who have an interest in reading beyond just the novel.  Notice towards the bottom of the top ten is Bob Dylan in America has broken into the bestsellers just after its release.  Don't forget to look back in the Book Nerd Archives for the review!

This Week
Last WeekWeeks on List
1THE GRAND DESIGN, by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. (Bantam, $28.) Central questions of philosophy and science, from the author of “A Brief History of Time.”1
2CRIMES AGAINST LIBERTY, by David Limbaugh. (Regnery, $29.95.) A political indictment of the Obama presidency. (†)13
3A JOURNEY, by Tony Blair. (Knopf, $35.) A memoir by the former British prime minister.32
4_____ MY DAD SAYS, by Justin Halpern. (It Books/HarperCollins, $15.99.) A coming-of-age memoir organized around the musings, purveyed on Twitter, of the author’s father.219
5THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS, by Isabel Wilkerson. (Random House, $30.) The Great Migration of blacks who fled the South, starting in 1915.1
6OUTLIERS, by Malcolm Gladwell. (Little, Brown, $27.99.) Why some people succeed — it has to do with luck and opportunity — from the author of “Blink.” Excerpt594
7THE BIG SHORT, by Michael Lewis. (Norton, $27.95.) The people who saw the real estate crash coming and made billions from their foresight. Excerpt926
8EMPIRE OF THE SUMMER MOON, by S. C. Gwynne. (Scribner, $27.50.) The story of Quanah Parker, the last and greatest chief of the Comanches. Excerpt812
9BOB DYLAN IN AMERICA, by Sean Wilentz. (Doubleday, $28.95.) Dylan’s music in the context of its time. Excerpt1
10THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS, by Rebecca Skloot. (Crown, $26.) The story of a woman whose cancer cells were cultured without her permission in 1951. Excerpt629

New York Times Bestsellers: Hardcover Fiction

Looks like Freedom is still holding out against the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, wonder how long that will last?

This WeekLast WeekWeeks on List
1FREEDOM, by Jonathan Franzen. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28.) A family of Midwestern liberals during the Bush years; by the author of “The Corrections.” Excerpt12
2THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST, by Stieg Larsson. (Knopf, $27.95.) The third volume of a trilogy about a Swedish hacker and a journalist. Excerpt216
3NO MERCY, by Sherrilyn Kenyon. (St. Martin’s, $24.99.) Book 19 of the Dark-Hunter paranormal series.1
4GETTING TO HAPPY, by Terry McMillan. (Viking, $27.95.) Revisiting the four women from “Waiting to Exhale,” 15 years later.1
5THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett. (Amy Einhorn/Putnam, $24.95.) A young white woman and two black maids in 1960s ­Mississippi.676
6*THE POSTCARD KILLERS, by James Patterson and Liza Marklund. (Little, Brown, $27.99.) An N.Y.P.D. detective joins a Swedish reporter in a search for the killer of young couples in Europe, including his daughter and her boyfriend.54
7LOST EMPIRE, by Clive Cussler with Grant Blackwood. (Putnam, $27.95.) Sam and Remi Fargo, a husband-and-wife treasure-hunting team, pursue an important relic.42
8APE HOUSE, by Sara Gruen. (Spiegel & Grau, $26.) Bonobos disappear from a research laboratory and turn up on reality TV, to the consternation of a scientist who studies them; from the author of “Water for Elephants.” Excerpt1
9*ZERO HISTORY, by William Gibson. (Putnam, $26.95.) Several characters from “Spook Country” return to a viral marketing and coolhunting agency; from the author of “Pattern Recognition” and “Neuromancer.”1
10DARK PERIL, by Christine Feehan. (Berkley, $25.95.) A Dragonseeker on a deadly mission; a Carpathian novel.32

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sexual Chemistry A History of the Contraceptive Pill

Released in August 2010, this latest find concerns a topic that affect millions around the world-The Pill.  This controversial topic has been debated for decades and now is taken by millions of women for reasonings ranging from pregnancy prevention, period regulation and even to prevent other symptoms such as acne and PPMD and other serious female medical concerns.  But few of us ever stop to think how and why this magic pill for so many came to be such a large part of American culture.  Now we have an answer.

In Sexual Chemistry, author Lara V. Marks traces the history of "The Pill" from its origins to the 20th century and its impact in science and in cultures around the world.

National Reading Group Month

Usually when most of think of October the only celebration that comes to mind is Halloween.  A one day holiday has become over the years the theme for the entire month.  But there is a new month long celebration that has taken root in October.  The Women's National Book Association named October National Reading Group Month in 2007 as a part of its 90th anniversary celebrations.  Each year since special events have been held in WNBA chapter cities of Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC featuring bestselling authors at bookstores and libraries.  Events are open to the public.  October is coming up so check out the National Reading Group Month website for events in your area.  This year's signature event will be held in Nashville.

Here are the Great Group Read selections from National Reading Group selection committee.  If your reading group is looking for a new book, think about trying some of these:

Blame by Michelle Huneven

The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle

Cheap Cabernet: A Friendship by Cathie Beck

Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

Molly Fox's Birthday by Deirdre Madden

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin

Room by Emma Donoghue

Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye

Up from the Blue by Susan Henderson

The Original Diva-The Story of Sarah Bernhardt

This month the Yale University Press has released a new biography of Sarah Bernhardt, the first one published in English in decades, written by former Simon and Schuster editor in chief, Robert Gottlieb.  The biography is part of the Jewish Lives series which is a collaboration between the Yale University Press and the Leon D. Black Foundation, meant to highlight the influence of prominent Jewish figures throughout history on literature, religion, philosophy, politics, cultural and economic life, and the arts and sciences.

Sarah Bernhardt is often thought of as the first modern star.  An actress who achieved great fame and was a master of self-marketing.  She managed her career in true modern sense getting endorsement and engaging in self-promotion.  She engaged in many public affairs and was brashly proud of her own illegitimacy as well as her son's  and her own Jewish heritage. She was also an early feminist and advocate against racism.

Click below for even more information about this exciting new biography:

New York Times Review

Book website at Yale University Press

The Barnes and Nobel Review Daybook

As I was exploring for new fun finds for my readers, I decided to take a closer look at the Barnes and Nobel Review's Daybook section.  I thought at first glance that it was a section that just gave a daily recommendation to keep things fresh.  When I looked first at today's book I just saw The Lord of the Flies, a book most have heard of or even read at some point in high school, so I clicked on the section to see what else I could find and realized the list was not what it appeared.  When I clicked on a previous day's post about Anne Bradstreet, the first line in the post stated this was the day in history when she died.  I realized then that this was a "this day in history" list, but the literary version.  I then reread the post on The Lord of the Flies.  What the post revealed was on September 17, 1954 William Golding's first novel, The Lord of the Flies was published for the first time.  The novel which is known for its famously Hobbesian view of human nature, was apparently rejected from 21 publishers before it went on to become a classic requirement for all high school readers.  William Golding never understood why, however, the rest of this novels were viewed as holding this depressing view as well.

Ever curious what happened on this day in literature?  Check out the Barnes and Nobel Review Daybook list for new updates.  The Daybook list is written by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department at Memorial University in St. John's in Newfoundland.  For more of his work can be found at

Today's post inspire you to reread or pick up The Lord of the Flies for the first time.  You can find it at Amazon by just clicking below!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Rest of Oprah's List

So if this most recent pick of the Oprah book club has has gotten you intrigued as to what other picks she has made in the past, here they are.  Since it began on September 17, 1996 (exactly 14 years ago) the Oprah book club has added 64 books to its reading list.  Here are the picks since 2003.  I think readers will be surprised by the number of classics on the list, especially in comparison with the new release choice of Freedom.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier

Night by Elie Wiesel

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
Light in August by William Faulkner
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Keep a look out for information on the books on this list and reviews!