It’s that time of year again – the time of year when various orginizations and institutions take the cue from the NCAA basketball tournament to create their own contest in which various products are placed into brackets so that, via head to head competition, the best of the best can be determined. Usually this sort of thing is reserved for beer commercials, and it’s hard for anyone to pay that much attention to it, but, as they proved last year, The Morning News has taken the March Madness ripoff to a new level with its Tournament of Books. It was good fun for basketball fans and book fans alike last year and it promises to be good fun this time around to. To play along, meet the judges and download your bracket (pdf). Anyone want to start a pool?
This year's National Book Award finalists have been announced. In the fiction category, the big name is Denis Johnson, who immediately becomes the presumptive favorite for his novel Tree of Smoke. Joshua Ferris, meanwhile, makes a splash with his debut effort Then We Came to the End. And in the nonfiction category, let's not ignore "The Hitch." Not making the cut are notable novelists like Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, Jane Smiley, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Don Delillo, Junot Diaz, and Richard Russo. Here's a list of the finalists in all four categories with bonus links and excerpts where available:Fiction:Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski (excerpts)Varieties of Disturbance by Lydia Davis (briefly noted)Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris (excerpt, a favorite of TEV's, a "most anticipated" book)Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson (excerpt, a "most anticipated" book)Like You'd Understand, Anyway by Jim Shepard (excerpt, Apparently, Shepard's publisher forgot to submit his books for NBA consideration in 2004)Nonfiction:Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat (excerpt)God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens (excerpt, Atheism Hits the Bestseller ListUnruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution by Woody Holton (excerpt)Ralph Ellison: A Biography by Arnold Rampersad (excerpt)Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner (excerpt)Poetry:Magnetic North by Linda Gregerson (excerpt)Time and Materials by Robert Hass (poem)The House on Boulevard St. by David Kirby (excerpt, Kirby's colorful website)Old Heart by Stanley Plumly (excerpt)Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006 by Ellen Bryant Voigt (poem)Young People's Literature:The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (excerpt)Skin Hunger: A Resurrection of Magic, Book One by Kathleen Duey (excerpt)Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin (excerpt)The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (excerpt)Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (author blog)
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The IMPAC shortlist has arrived. If you don't know about the IMPAC, it's a very unique prize with a very long longlist. This year's longlist was composed of nominees from 169 libraries in 45 countries around the world. Those picks are then whittled down to a shortlist via a panel of judges. As you'll see from the shortlist, since the process leading up to this award takes so long, some of the books aren't exactly new. I think involving libraries makes the IMPAC unique compared to a lot of other awards out there. It seems a lot more egalitarian than, say, the Booker or the National Book Award, and I appreciate the international flavor as well. There's more info about the award at the IMPAC site. Now, here's the shortlist with some comments:Arthur and George by Julian Barnes - Was shortlisted for the Booker back in 2005 - excerptA Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry - Joined Barnes on the 2005 Booker shortlist.Slow Man by J.M. Coetzee - This book was featured in our long ago post "The beauty of British book design."Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer - Corey took a look at this book in a "CVBoMC" installment last year. - excerpt.The Short Day Dying by Peter Hobbs - This debut effort by British novelist Hobbes was nominated by a single library in Bergen, NorwayNo Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy - With The Road getting all the praise these days, some might forget that McCarthy's previous novel hit shelves just 21 months ago, a blink of an eye for a writer who's written ten books in 41 years - excerptOut Stealing Horses by Per Petterson - This book by the Norwegian Petterson won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize last year. It'll be published in the U.S. next month.Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie - Shalimar was a Whitbread finalist in 2005, but generally the book is not thought to be one of Rushdie's best efforts. The book was nominated by a library in Berlin - excerpt
The Booker Prize has long been, arguably, the book prize with the most buzz, the one award that carries with it a raft of commentary and gossip. There has always been something provincial about the Booker; the award is closely watched by book lovers globally, but these readers may also roll their eyes a bit at the betting lines and fevered U.K. newspaper commentary that it comes with. That changes this year -- we'll see how much -- as books from the U.S. are eligible for the first time. Previously, entries were limited to titles from the U.K. and Commonwealth countries (India, Australia and so on). Books published between October 2013 and September 2014 are eligible. U.S. book prizes have never generated the same degree of interest in the U.S. that the Booker does in the U.K, and the Booker folks clearly saw an opportunity there. The motivation behind the wider Booker field seems to be to try to build the brand, as they say, and create a first truly global, annual book prize, a plan met with some consternation by those who appreciated that Prize's ability to focus the book world's attention on U.K. writers. The U.S. and U.K. book industries run on parallel tracks that also have plenty of crossover. Novels become hits on both sides of the Atlantic, but readers and the publishing establishments in each country also have distinct tastes (and not just in book cover design). The experiment begins today, with Joshua Ferris, Karen Joy Fowler, Siri Hustvedt, and Richard Powers representing the first crop of Americans to be featured on a Booker Prize longlist. While the list has some global diversity, it is male-dominated, with only three women among the 13 authors on the longlist. The biggest surprise might be the appearance of Paul Kingsnorth, whose longlisted novel The Wake was released by a crowd-funded publisher, Unbound. All the Booker Prize longlisters are below (with bonus links where available): To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (excerpt, Ferris's Year in Reading 2009) The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (Khaled Hosseini on Karen Joy Fowler) The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt (our review) J by Howard Jacobson The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth (at Unbound) The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (Exclusive: David Mitchell’s Twitter Story “The Right Sort” Collected) The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee Us by David Nicholls The Dog by Joseph O'Neill (O'Neill's 2008 Year in Reading) Orfeo by Richard Powers (our review) How to Be Both by Ali Smith (Wordsmith: The Beguiling Gifts of Ali Smith) History of Rain by Niall Williams
Last month, we unveiled the longlists for the Best Translated Book Awards (BTBA), an award founded by Three Percent that comes with a $5,000 prize for author and translator alike. Below, behold the finalists. The winner will be announced at a ceremony in New York and at The Millions on May 4. For more information on the award, its history, the judges, etc., please visit the official Best Translated Book Award site and the official BTBA Facebook page, and follow the award on Twitter. Best Translated Book Award 2017: Fiction Finalists Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya, translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell (Dominican Republic, Mandel Vilar Press) Chronicle of the Murdered House by Lúcio Cardoso, translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson (Brazil, Open Letter Books) Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi, translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman (Mauritius, Deep Vellum) Zama by Antonio di Benedetto, translated from the Spanish by Esther Allen (Argentina, New York Review Books) Doomi Golo by Boubacar Boris Diop, translated from the Wolof by Vera Wülfing-Leckie and El Hadji Moustapha Diop (Senegal, Michigan State University Press) War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans, translated from the Dutch by David McKay (Belgium, Pantheon) Umami by Laia Jufresa, translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes (Mexico, Oneworld) Oblivion by Sergi Lebedev, translated from the Russian by Antonina W. Bouis (Russia, New Vessel Press) Ladivine by Marie NDiaye, translated from the French by Jordan Stump (France, Knopf) Among Strange Victims by Daniel Saldaña Paris, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney (Mexico, Coffee House Press) Best Translated Book Award 2017: Poetry Finalists Berlin-Hamlet by Szilárd Borbély, translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet (Hungary, New York Review Books) Of Things by Michael Donhauser, translated from the German by Nick Hoff and Andrew Joron (Austria, Burning Deck Press) Cheer Up, Femme Fatale by Yideum Kim, translated from the Korean by Ji Yoon Lee, Don Mee Choi, and Johannes Göransson (South Korea, Action Books) In Praise of Defeat by Abdellatif Laâbi, translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith (Morocco, Archipelago Books) Extracting the Stone of Madness by Alejandra Pizarnik, translated from the Spanish by Yvette Siegert (Argentina, New Directions) (read our review)
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Now that Hollywood's "award season" is over, the book world's is getting started, and, in what may be a preview of the Pulitzer, Edward P. Jones' much lauded novel, The Known World, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. It took him so long to write this book that he was too embarrassed to call his agent when he finally finished it. Lucky for him, it seems to have worked out quite well. The winners in the other categories are: Sons of Mississippi: A Story of Race and Its Legacy by Paul Hendrickson in the general non-fiction category; Khrushchev: The Man and His Era by William Taubman in the biography category; River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West by Rebecca Solnit for criticism; and Columbarium by Susan Stewart for poetry. As I may have mentioned before, the NBCC Award is great because it is not limited to American books -- it includes all books written in English -- and because, unlike the Pulitzer, it doesn't skew towards rewarding books that are focused on American themes, thus allowing a book like Khrushchev to be praised.A New Wave of Graphic NovelsScott McCloud writes on his blog that the runaway experimentalism in comics in recent years has given way to a return to storytelling. The shining stars of this new trend are Blankets by Craig Thompson and an upcoming anthology called Flight.