Tag Archives: Best of 2017

Anna Burns Wins the Man Booker Prize!

We’d like to take a moment to congratulate Northern Irish author Anna Burns, who was awarded the 50th Annual Man Booker Prize on October 16 for her novel Milkman!  Burns becomes the first Northern Irish author to win the award, and the first female winner since 2013, when Eleanor Catton took the award with The Luminaries.

Anna Burns wins 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction with her novel ‘Milkman’, at Awards ceremony announcing winner of the UK’s most important literary prize, at The Guildhall, London.
Via https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/oct/16/anna-burns-wins-man-booker-prize-for-incredibly-original-milkman

Burns drew on her memories of living through The Troubles in Northern Ireland to craft a story about middle sister in an unnamed city as she navigates her way through rumor, social pressures and politics in a tight-knit community. Burns shows the dangerous and complex outcome that can happen to a woman coming of age in a city at war.

Kwame Anthony Appiah, 2018 Chair of judges, commented on the book:

None of us has ever read anything like this before. Anna Burns’ utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in surprising and immersive prose. It is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance threaded with mordant humour. Set in a society divided against itself, Milkman explores the insidious forms oppression can take in everyday life.

Milkman also spoke to the concerns of today, Appiah reflected.  as quoted by The Guardian, he noted, “I think this novel will help people think about #MeToo … It is to be commended for giving us a deep and subtle and morally and intellectually challenging picture of what #MeToo is about.”

In addition to her prize money and public recognition, the Royal Mail is issuing a congratulatory postmark featuring the winner’s name, which will be applied to millions of items of stamped mail nationwide for six days from 17 October. It will read ‘Congratulations to Anna Burns, winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize’.

We here at the Free For All would like to add our congratulations to Anna Burns.  Milkman will shortly be available in the US, and we cannot wait to get our hands on it!

The Man Booker Shortlist is Here!

And we could not be more excited!

This year’s shortlist recognizes three writers from the UK, two from the US, and one from Canada.  There are four women and two men nominated.  Moreover, Daisy Johnson, at 27-years-old, is officially the youngest novelist nominated for the award.

At a press conference this morning, the 2018 Chair of judges, Kwame Anthony Appiah, remarked that each of these novels is “a miracle of stylistic invention.”   He continued: 

In each of them the language takes centre stage. And yet in every other respect they are remarkably diverse, exploring a multitude of subjects ranging across space and time. From Ireland to California, in Barbados and the Arctic, they inhabit worlds that not everyone will have been to, but which we can all be enriched by getting to know. Each one explores the anatomy of pain — among the incarcerated and on a slave plantation, in a society fractured by sectarian violence, and even in the natural world. But there are also in each of them moments of hope. These books speak very much to our moment, but we believe that they will endure.

The winner on the Man Booker Prize will be announced on 16 October at a dinner in London’s Guildhall.  Until then, we hope you enjoy perusing this shortlist!  Sadly, three of the titles are not yet available to us in the US, but we’ll be bringing you updates when they do!

The Man Booker Prize 2018 Shortlist

Esi Edugyan Washington Black (Canada)

Rachel Kushner The Mars Room (USA)

Richard Powers The Overstory (USA)

Daisy Johnson Everything Under (UK) This title will be released in the US in January 2019

Robin Robertson The Long Take  (UK)  Not yet released in the US

Anna Burns Milkman (UK) Not yet released in the US

Five Book Friday!

Via BuzzFeed

And, as promised, we all bring you the 2018 National Book Award Longlist for Fiction!  The announcement was made about an hour ago, and we are pleased as punch to bring the results to you!  As with yesterday’s list, clicking on the author’s name will bring you to their National Book Award author’s page.  Clicking on the title will bring you to the library page where you can check on the book’s availability and request it.

Fiction

 

And now, on to the books on our shelves!

The Duke With a Dragon Tattoo: Yes, it’s another Duke-As-Hero historic romance, but Kerrigan Byrne’s stories never follow precedent or trope, so we’re convinced that this story is going to be both delightful and unique!  He is known only as The Rook. A man with no name, no past, no memories. He awakens in a mass grave, a magnificent dragon tattoo on his muscled forearm the sole clue to his mysterious origins. His only hope for survival—and salvation—lies in the deep, fiery eyes of the beautiful stranger who finds him. Who nurses him back to health. And who calms the restless demons in his soul.  Lorelai will never forget the night she rescued the broken dark angel in the woods, a devilishly handsome man who haunts her dreams to this day. Crippled as a child, she devoted herself to healing the poor tortured man. And when he left, he took a piece of her heart with him. Now, after all these years, The Rook has returned. Like a phantom, he sweeps back into her life and avenges those who wronged her. But can she trust a man who’s been branded a rebel, a thief, and a killer? And can she trust herself to resist him when he takes her in his arms?  Byrne’s books are always a topic of conversation around here, and Library Journal loved this new addition, describing it as “A hero so lost he fears he’ll never be found and a heroine who won’t give up on him reclaim their love in a bold, lyrical tale that brings the darker side of the Victorian Age into sharp relief; another winner in a stellar series.”

The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves: Eric R. Kandel was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his foundational research into memory storage in the brain, and his book thus draws on a lifetime of pathbreaking research and the work of many other leading neuroscientists to take us on an unusual tour of the brain.  e confronts one of the most difficult questions we face: How does our mind, our individual sense of self, emerge from the physical matter of the brain? The brain’s 86 billion neurons communicate with one another through very precise connections. But sometimes those connections are disrupted. The brain processes that give rise to our mind can become disordered, resulting in diseases such as autism, depression, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder. While these disruptions bring great suffering, they can also reveal the mysteries of how the brain produces our most fundamental experiences and capabilities—the very nature of what it means to be human. Studies of autism illuminate the neurological foundations of our social instincts; research into depression offers important insights on emotions and the integrity of the self; and paradigm-shifting work on addiction has led to a new understanding of the relationship between pleasure and willpower.  While this book is about the brain as an organ, it’s also about the brain’s role in making us who and what we are, considering the power and role of memory, emotions, and creativity.  It’s a work that is both wonderfully readable and deeply intelligent.  Publisher’s Weekly agrees, calling it “Highly accessible . . . Kandel’s deep compassion for people is also evident, as when he discusses how understanding the biological basis for mental disorders might take them out of the realm of legal culpability. The result of his work is an easily comprehended, meticulous synthesis of current research into the biological grounding of the human mind.”

Field of Bones: Fan-favorite J.A. Jance has returned with another installment of her stellar series featuring Sheriff Joanna Brady.  As we open, Sheriff Brady.  This time Sheriff Joanna Brady may expect to see her maternity leave through to completion, but the world has other plans when a serial homicide case surfaces in her beloved Cochise County. Rather than staying home with her newborn and losing herself in the cold cases to be found in her father’s long unread diaries, Joanna instead finds herself overseeing a complex investigation involving multiple jurisdictions.  Filled with the kind of characterization and small-town details that make this series such a winner, this eighteenth installment of Jance’s series is being praised by series fans, with Publisher’s Weekly noting “Jance ratchets up the tension …This long-running series shows no signs of losing steam.”

She Would Be King: Wayétu Moore’s powerful debut novel reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through the eyes and lives of three fascinating characters, whose bonds and whose magic will transform the world around them.   Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left for dead, but still she survives. June Dey, raised on a plantation in Virginia, hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica, can fade from sight when the earth calls him. When the three meet in the settlement of Monrovia, their gifts help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, and build a nation around themselves.  This is a powerfully emotive work that gives a voice and meaning to an area of the world seldom explored in fiction.  It’s being lauded by crtics and readers alike, as well, with Kirkus Reviews hailing it as “An ambitious, genre-hopping, continent-spanning novel. . . . Moore is a brisk and skilled storyteller who weaves her protagonists’ disparate stories together with aplomb yet is also able to render her sprawling cast of characters in ways that feel psychologically compelling. In addition, the novel’s various settings―Virginia, Jamaica, and West Africa―are depicted so lushly that readers will find themselves enchanted.”

A River of StarsAnother sensational debut novel here, this one from journalist Vanessa Hua.  Holed up with other mothers-to-be in a secret maternity home in Los Angeles, Scarlett Chen is far from her native China, where she worked in a factory and fell in love with the owner, Boss Yeung. Now she’s carrying his baby. Already married with three daughters, Boss Yeung is overjoyed because the doctors have confirmed that he will finally have the son he has always wanted. To ensure that his child has every advantage, Boss Yeung has shipped Scarlett off to give birth on American soil. U.S. citizenship will open doors for their little prince.  As Scarlett awaits the baby’s arrival, she chokes down bitter medicinal stews and spars with her imperious housemates. The only one who fits in even less is Daisy, a spirited teenager and fellow unwed mother who is being kept apart from her American boyfriend. Then a new sonogram of Scarlett’s baby reveals the unexpected. Panicked, she escapes by hijacking a van—only to discover that she has a stowaway: Daisy, who intends to track down the father of her child. The two flee to San Francisco’s bustling Chinatown, where Scarlett will join countless immigrants desperately trying to seize their piece of the American dream. What Scarlett doesn’t know is that her baby’s father is not far behind her. An unpredictable adventure, a tale of friendship, empathy, and wit, this is  also a closely-observed story about Chinese immigrant’s experiences in the US that is as eye-opening as it is entertaining.  The USA Today agrees, describing the book in their review:  “Vanessa Hua’s story spins with wild fervor, with charming protagonists fiercely motivated by maternal and survival instincts. A River of Stars is a migrant narrative tenderly constructed around Scarlett’s quest to carve a life for her daughter and herself at the risk of deportation.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

The Phi Beta Kappa Award Short List!

On Monday, August 13, the Phi Beta Kappa Society announced the short list for the annual book award, which recognizes outstanding scholarly books published in the United States in the fields of the humanities, the social sciences, the natural sciences and mathematics.

Via https://www.pbk.org/Press/2018ShortList

Phi Beta Kappa was founded by five students at the College of William & Mary in 1776.  Their belief was that the new nation they hoped to build would need new intellectual institutions to that would reflect the principles of that nation–intellectual freedom, freedom of speech, and creativity.  Though the society was initially a secret one, which the founders believed would keep them safe from political persecution, Phi Beta Kappa is now a nationally- and internationally-recognized institution with Today there are 286 chapters at American colleges and universities and 50 active alumni associations located in all regions of the country.

As per their website, Phi Beta Kappa’s name originated from the motto “Love of learning is the guide of life,” a phrase the founders derived from the Greek Φιλοσοφία Βίου Κυβερνήτης. The three Greek letters ΦΒΚ are inscribed on the signature gold key that is today a nationally recognized credential signifying academic achievement.

The Phi Beta Kappa book awards are intended to recognize not only books that help us learn, but that do so in a way that is interesting, accessible, and effective.  As a result, non-fiction lovers will find plenty of books among these nominees to whet their literary palate!  There are three awards, each of which has their own short list.  The winning authors will be honored at a gala dinner on December 7th, 2018 in Washington, DC, at The Carnegie Institution for Science.  A description of the awards and their nominees are below.  Tune in for updates, as the award winners will be announced on October 1, 2018.

Via https://www.pbk.org/Awards/BookAwards

 

The Christian Gauss Award: Recognizes books in the field of literary scholarship or criticism. The nominees are:

The Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science: Honors outstanding contributions by scientists to the literature of science, encouraging literate and scholarly interpretations of the physical and biological sciences and mathematics. The nominees are:

The Ralph Waldo Emerson Award: Recognizes works from scholarly studies that contribute significantly to interpretations of the intellectual and cultural condition of humanity, including works in the fields of history, philosophy and religion as well as such fields as anthropology and the social sciences. The nominees are:

A huge Free-For-All congratulations to all the short listed works and their creators!

The 2017 Shirley Jackson Awards!

The 2017 Shirley Jackson Awards winners were announced July 15, 2018 during Readercon 29 at the Quincy Marriott in Quincy MA.,

As we noted last year,  the Shirley Jackson Awards are named after the beloved and revered author of such seminal works as “The Lottery” (among a phenomenal collection of short stories), We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and The Haunting of Hill House.  In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, the Shirley Jackson Awards recognize outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.  This year’s nominees represent some of the most intriguing, rule-breaking, genre-defying, intensely engaging reads of the past year (in our opinion, anyway…and that of the judges…).  Thus, you can only guess how terrific the winners’ books are!

So here is a selection from the categories of winners and nominees for the 2017 Shirley Jackson Awards, with links to the titles in our catalogs.  We hope you find some new books to add to your list here, and would love to help you find even more dark fiction to add to your summer reading!


Novel
WINNERThe Hole, by Hye-young Pyun

NOMINEES:

Novella (tie)
WINNER: The Lost Daughter Collective, Lindsey Drager
WINNER: Fever Dream, Samantha Schweblin

NOMINEES:

Single-Author Collection
WINNERHer Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado

NOMINEES:

Edited Anthology
WINNERShadows and Tall Trees Volume 7, edited by Michael Kelly (Speak with a Library staff member to access this title)

NOMINEES:

  • Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales, edited by Ellen Datlow
  • The Djinn Falls in Love, edited by Mahvesh Murad & Jared Shurin
  • Looming Low Volume 1, edited by Justin Steele & Sam Cowan (Speak with a Library staff member to access this title)
  • Tales From a Talking Board, edited by Ross E. Lockhart (Speak with a Library staff member to access this title)

Five Book Friday!

And a wealth of congratulations to Kamila Shamsie, who was awarded this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction for her novel, Home Fire!

Shamsie’s novelreworks Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone to tell the story of a British Muslim family’s connection to Islamic State was hailed by the judges of the prize as “the story of our times”.   According to the 2018 Chair of Judges Sarah Sands, said: “This was a dazzling shortlist, it had depth and richness and variety. We were forcibly struck by the quality of the prose. Each book had its champions. We loved the originality of mermaids and courtesans, we were awed by the lyrical truth of an American road trip which serves as a commentary of the history of race in America, we discussed into the night the fine and dignified treatment of a woman’s domestic abuse, we laughed over a student’s rite of passage and we experienced the truth of losing a parent and loving a child. In the end we chose the book which we felt spoke for our times. Home Fire is about identity, conflicting loyalties, love and politics. And it sustains mastery of its themes and its form. It is a remarkable book which we passionately recommend.”

It’s a good day for books, beloved patrons, so let’s keep celebrating by taking a look at some of the other super-terrific stories that have swung up onto our shelves this week, and are eager to make your acquaintance!

The Death of Mrs. Westaway: I don’t know about you, but Ruth Ware’s psychological thrillers are some of the highlights of my summer reading, so it’s with great pleasure that we introduce her newest novel, about a tarot card reader named Hal.  When Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but a tarot reader needs to be talented at reading people and adapting to their needs, so Hal decides to take matters into her own hands.  But at the funeral of the deceased, it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.  This book especially has earned Ware a number of comparisons to Agatha Christie, but there is also something delightfully modern about her unsettling plots and crafty, surprising heroines.  It’s also been earned starred reviews left, right, and center, including one from Booklist, who cheered, “The labyrinth Ware has devised here is much more winding than expected, with reveals even on the final pages… a clever heroine and an atmospheric setting, accented by wisps of meaning that drift from the tarot cards.”

Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York: With the release of some 19th-century and early 20th-century medical records, it’s becoming possible to tell new, more compassionate, and insightful histories of madness, medicine, and the people who were caught up in medical and state institutions.  In this book, Stacy Holt uses narratives from the inhabitants of Roosevelt Island–once known as Blackwell’s Island, a stretch of land in New York’s East River that was the site of a lunatic asylum, two prisons, an almshouse, and a number of hospitals.  This was a site of terrible overcrowding; prisoners were enlisted to care for the insane; punishment was harsh and unfair; and treatment was nonexistent.  Yet despite the aching human tragedies and horror that Holt describes, there are also stories of hope, including the work of Reverend William Glenney French, who devoted his life to ministering to Blackwell’s residents, battling the bureaucratic mazes of the Department of Correction and a corrupt City Hall, and testifying at trials, all while wondering in his diary about man’s inhumanity to man.  This isn’t an easy read by any means, but it’s a significant one that asks a lot of pressing questions about today’s mental health treatments, as well as illuminating the past.  Publisher’s Weekly agrees, describing this book as “a vivid and at times horrifying portrait of Blackwell’s Island…Horn has created a bleak but worthwhile depiction of institutional failure, with relevance for persistent debates over the treatment of the mentally ill and incarcerated.”

The Art of the Wasted DayAn ideal read for the summer, Patricia Hampl’s book is a delightfully different kind of travel story, describing her journeys to the homes of those who made repose a goal, even an art form.  She begins with two celebrated eighteenth-century Irish ladies who ran off to live a life of “retirement” in rural Wales. Her search then leads to Moravia to consider the monk-geneticist, Gregor Mendel, and finally to Bordeaux for Michel Montaigne–the hero of this book–who retreated from court life to sit in his chateau tower and write about whatever passed through his mind, thus inventing the personal essay.  In the midst of this study, Hampl also recalls her own personal relationship with leisure, from her childhood days lazing under a neighbor’s beechnut tree to the joys discovered in quietly falling in love, which led to the greatest adventure of her life.  A thoughtful, emotional study about the joys found in thinking, in wandering, and in exploring, this is a book for all of you armchair explorers who are looking for a new kind of escape.  The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote a glowing review of this book, calling it,  “A wise and beautiful ode to the imagination – from a child’s daydreams, to the unexpected revelations encountered in solitary travel, meditation, and reading, to the flights of creativity taken by writers, artists, and philosophers.”

The Order of Time: Carlo Rovelli’s study, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, made scary science into something accessible, beautiful, and downright enjoyable, and now he is back to study time.  We all experience time, but the more scientists learn about it, the more mysterious it remains. We think of it as uniform and universal, moving steadily from past to future, measured by clocks. Rovelli tears down these assumptions one by one, revealing a strange universe where at the most fundamental level time disappears.  Weaving together ideas from philosophy, science and literature, Rovelli suggests that our perception of the flow of time depends on our perspective, better understood starting from the structure of our brain and emotions than from the physical universe.  It’s a concept that makes sense when you consider that it was humans who made time and clocks and such things, but this journey ties those inventions into a much deeper, richer understanding of the world that will have you rethinking all the basic tenants of time that you thought you knew.  Scientific American loved this book, noting in its review how “Rovelli, a physicist and one of the founders of loop quantum gravity theory, uses literary, poetical and historical devices to unravel the properties of time, what it means to exist without time and, at the end, how time began.”

Social CreatureHere’s another thriller to keep your summer sizzling–in fact, Tara Isabella Burton is already drawing comparisons to Gillian Flynn and Tara French, so fans of those compulsively-readable authors should be quick to add this to their summer reading list.  Louise has nothing. Lavinia has everything. After a chance encounter, the two spiral into an intimate, intense, and possibly toxic friendship.  They go through both bottles of champagne, and as they drink, Lavinia tells Louise about all the places they will go together, when they finish their stories, when they are both great writers-to Paris and to Rome and to Trieste…but Lavinia will never go. She is going to die soon.  A modern twist on Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, this book takes a razor-sharp look at our social conventions, all while telling a story that is addictive, dark, and scintillating in the ways of all good summer thrillers.  Kirkus Reviews gave it a starred review, praising “Burton’s exceptional character work…every individual is both victim and villain, imbuing their interactions with oceans of emotional subtext and creating conflict that propels the book toward its shocking yet inevitable conclusion…At once a thrilling and provocative crime novel, a devastating exploration of female insecurity, and a scathing indictment of society’s obsession with social media.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

The 2018 Nebula Award Winners!

We are in the thick of awards season, beloved patrons, and let me tell you, it’s a good season to be a reader.  Last week, the winners of the 52nd Annual Nebula Awards were announced at the annual convention of the  Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)

The Nebula Awards (a picture of one of the awards is on the left) were first awarded in 1966, and have grown in prestige to be recognized as one of the most significant awards for science fiction and fantasy in publishing.  Each year, a novel, novella, novelette, and short story are chosen…and just in case you, too, were wondering what a “novelette’ is, it is defined by SFWA as “a work between 7,500 and 17,500 words”, while a “novella” is between 17,500 and 40,00 words.  Any book written in English and published in the United States is eligible for nomination, and members of SFWA cast their ballots for the favorite books.  This means that, essentially, the awards are chosen by readers and genre devotees, which means that they are not only of high quality in terms of genre and style, but that they are also a darned good read.  As you will see, screenplays are also recognized with the Ray Bradbury Award, and middle grade and young adult fiction is nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Once again, the Nebulas are a bastion of diversity and good storytelling.  As we mention each year, science fiction is a genre that is beautifully suited to questioning our current realities, imagining new ones, and crafting relationships that challenge and confront stereotypes.  Fantasy does this, as well, and you’ll see from the titles listed below, the authors honored at the Nebula Awards are gifted at utilizing and transforming the genres to tell wildly inventive, insightful, haunting and compelling stories that linger long after the final page has turned.

We hope you find some new reading and viewing fodder among the nominees and winners listed below.  For more information and a full list of Nebula winners, visit the SFWA’s website!

BEST NOVEL

WinnerThe Stone Sky, N.K. Jemisin 

Nominees:

THE RAY BRADBURY AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING DRAMATIC PRESENTATION

Winner: Get Out (Written by Jordan Peele)

Nominees:

THE ANDRE NORTON AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION OR FANTASY BOOK

WinnerThe Art of Starving, Sam J. Miller

Nominees: