January 11, 2012
The Costa Book Awards is one of the UK’s most prestigious and popular literary prizes and recognises some of the most enjoyable books of the year by writers based in the UK and Ireland.
It’s unique for having five categories: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book.
The winner in each category receives £5,000, and then one of the five winning books is selected as the overall Costa Book of the Year, receiving a further £30,000, and making a total prize fund of £55,000. The Costa is the only prize which places children’s books alongside adult books in this way.
The Costa Book Awards started life in 1971 as the Whitbread Literary Awards. From 1985 they were known as the Whitbread Book Awards until 2006, when Costa Coffee took over ownership from Whitbread.
The 2011 Category winners were announced earlier this month. The five category winners, each of whom will receive £5,000, were selected from 568 entries. The five successful authors who will now compete for the 2011 Costa Book of the Year are:
Biography: Poet and debut biographer Matthew Hollis for his first work of prose, Now All Roads Leads to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas.
Novel: Andrew Miller for his sixth novel, Pure.
First Novel: Debut novelist and former Great Ormond Street nurse, Christie Watson for Tiny Sunbirds Far Away.
Poetry: Carol Ann Duffy for The Bees, her first collection since being appointed Poet Laureate in 2009.
Children’s Book: Former opera singer and debut children’s writer, Moira Young for Blood Red Road, currently being adapted for film by Scott Free, Ridley Scott’s production company.
The winner, selected by a panel of judges chaired by Editor of the London Evening Standard, Geordie Greig and
comprising Hugh Dennis, Dervla Kirwan, Mary Nightingale, William Fiennes, Flora Fraser, Patrick Gale,
Jojo Moyes and Eleanor Updale, will be announced on Tuesday 24th January 2012.
Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won nine times by a novel, four
times by a first novel, five times by a biography, seven times by a collection of poetry and once by a
children’s book. The 2010 Costa Book of the Year was Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott.
June 28, 2010
We’re at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. and having a great time. Without exception, the programs we’ve attended have been inspiring and full of good ideas to be put to use when we return to Essex. We had the opportunity to attend a publishing book blast on Friday afternoon and heard about a handful of favorites from their publishers. We especially enjoyed the presentation by Ina Stern from Algonquin Books for West Of Here by Jonathan Evison (not to be released until Feb. 2011–such a long time to wait!) A brief synopsis of the plot:
An epic western adventure wrapped in the history of one small town, from the rugged mudflats of the northwestern frontier, to a rusting strip mall cornucopia, West of Here is a conversation between two epochs, one rushing blindly toward the future, and the other struggling to undo the damage of the past.
Ina also spoke passionately about the upcoming release, certain to be a bestseller, by Brock Clarke who also wrote An Arsonist’s Guide To Writer’s Homes In New England. Exley (to be released in October, 2010), is a terrific follow-up for a writer who has been compared with John Irving and Richard Ford. The plot:
For nine-year-old Miller, who lives with his mother in Watertown, New York, life has become a struggle to make sense of his father’s disappearance, for which he blames himself. Then, when he becomes convinced that he has found his father lying comatose in the local VA hospital, a victim of the war in Iraq, Miller begins a search for the one person he believes can save him, the famously reclusive — and, unfortunately, dead — Frederick Exley, a Watertown native and the author of his father’s favorite book, the “fictional memoir” A Fan’s Notes. The story of Miller’s search, told by both Miller himself and his somewhat flaky therapist, ultimately becomes an exploration of the difference between what we believe to be real and what is in fact real, and how challenging it can be to reconcile the two.
We heard an eloquent and moving description of Sir Salman Rushdie’s forthcoming book, Luka And The Fire Of Life, a fairy tale, written for his son Milan, to be enjoyed by children and adults alike. After hearing Sir Salman himself speak on Saturday afternoon about the book, we’re convinced it’s going to become a well-loved classic. It’s a companion book to Haroun And The Sea Of Stories. You’ll want to go read that while you wait for the release of Luka (November, 2010). The plot:
The adventure begins one beautiful starry night in the land of Alifbay, where a terrible thing happens: Luka’s father, Rashid, the legendary storyteller of Kahani, falls suddenly and inexplicably into a sleep so deep that nothing and no one can rouse him. To save him from slipping away entirely, Luka must embark on a journey through the world of magic with his loyal companions, Bear the dog and Dog the bear, as they encounter a slew of fantastical creatures, strange allies, and challenging obstacles along the way—all in the hopes of stealing the Fire of Life, a seemingly impossible and exceedingly treacherous task.
June 14, 2010
The New Yorker editors have announced their picks of the best 20 writers under 40. This is the magazine’s first such list since 1999, when it identified several future literary successes including Junot Díaz and Jhumpa Lahiri. Stories by the authors will be featured in upcoming issues of the magazine. The list is evenly divided between women and men. Some titles of novels by the author follow his/her name.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, — Half Of A Yellow Sun; The Thing Around Your Neck
Chris Adrian, — The Children’s Hospital; Gob’s Grief
Daniel Alarcón, — Lost City Radio; The Secret Miracle: The Novelist’s Handbook
David Bezmozgis, — Natasha And Other Stories
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, — Ms. Hempel Chronicles; Madeleine Is Sleeping
Joshua Ferris, — The Unnamed; Then We Came To The End
Jonathan Safran Foer, — Eating Animals; Everything Is Illuminated
Nell Freudenberger, — The Dissident; Lucky Girls
Rivka Galchen, — Atmospheric Disturbances
Nicole Krauss, — Great House (due out in October); The History Of Love
Krauss is married to another author on the list– Jonathan Safron Foer.
Yiyun Li, — Vagrants; A Thousand Years Of Good Prayers
Dinaw Mengestu, — How to Read The Air (due out in October); The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears
Philipp Meyer, — American Rust
C.E. Morgan, — All the Living
Tea Obreht, — her first novel is due out in 2011
ZZ Packer, — Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
Karen Russell, — St. Lucy’s Home For Girls Raised By Wolves
Salvatore Scibona, — The End
Gary Shteyngart, — Super Sad True Love Story (due out in July); The Russian Debutante’s Handbook; Absurdistan.
Wells Tower, — Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
April 12, 2009
The 2009 Golden Kite Awards, sponsored by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, is the only award for children’s book authors and artists judged by their peers. This year’s winners (for books published in 2008) are:
Nonfiction: A Life in the Wild: George Schaller’s Struggle to Save the Last Great Beasts by Pamela S. Turner
Nonfiction Honor Recipient: The Mysterious Universe: Supernovae, Dark Energy, And Black Holes by Ellen Jackson
Picture Book Text: A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
Picture Book Text Honor Recipient: Before John Was A Jazz Giant by Carole Weatherford
Joe Nocera is The New York Times’ Talking Business columnist. He also writes a business-oriented blog at The Times called Executive Suite. A few years ago he asked his regular readers for suggestions for the best business fiction books. Unable to come up with a sufficient list of fiction, he turned his eye toward non-fiction books; narrative non-fiction, that is, and consulted a few other business-minded authorities for their advice. They agreed on the following list as the very best business books. If you have a title you feel has been unfairly excluded, you can let him know at the original blog post.
“Barbarians At The Gate by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar ~~ a rollicking account of KKR’s leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco.
Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis ~~ (even though I’ve since become convinced that the anecdote that gives the book its title never happened).
The Devil’s Candy by Julie Salamon ~~ (Greatest dissection of the movie business ever written.)
The Box by Marc Levinson ~~ (Hard to believe you can write a great book about the rise and importance of the shipping container, but he pulled it off.)
Indecent Exposure by David McClintick. (Published in 1982, it single-handedly created the business narrative genre).
The Go-Go Years by John Brooks ~~ (The best book by the most elegant writer to ever make business his subject.)
The Kingdom and the Power by Gay Talese ~~ (Yes, the subject is The New York Times, but how can you leave it off any list of great business books?)
Titan by Ron Chernow ~~ (Chernow’s magisterial biography of John D. Rockefeller.)
Do You Sincerely Want To Be Rich by Godfrey Hodgson, Bruce Page and Charles Raw ~~ (Hard to believe that this committee of authors could write a sensational narrative about the rise and fall of Bernard Cornfeld, but that they did.)
Disney War by James Stewart ~~ (”Best corporate psychoanalysis I’ve ever read,” says John Huey.)
The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald ~~ (Forget his Enron book, “Conspiracy of Fools.” This book, about the strange saga of Mark Whitacre and Archer Daniels Midland, is his masterpiece.)
Father, Son and Co.: My Life at IBM and Beyond by Thomas J. Watson and Peter Petre ~~ (The only great ghost-written C.E.O. autobiography ever written. No one else — not even Lee Iacocca or Jack Welch — even comes close.)
When Genius Failed by Roger Lowenstein ~~ (Another one of those “how-did-he-do-it?” books: this account of the fall of Long Term Capital Management, which by all rights should be a tough slog, is crackling good read.)
Greed and Glory on Wall Street by Ken Auletta ~~ (This book, about the crack up of Lehman Brothers, has a great cast of characters, starting with Steve Schwartzman.)
The Smartest Guys in the Room by Peter Elkind and Bethany McLean ~~ (O.K., O.K., they are former colleagues of mine, and I was deeply involved in editing this book — but I have to say, I think it turned out pretty well!)”
July 20, 2008
Liam Durcan is a writer whose most recent novel is Garcia’s Heart. He lives in Montreal and works as a neurologist. Recently, he wrote an essay for The Globe And Mail entitled: You’ve Got Me Under Your Skin. He asserts that reading fiction is good for us, not because it teaches life lessons but because it immerses us in other minds and other experiences. He goes on to defend this contention with evidence from a recent study conducted by University of Toronto psychologists where subjects who read a short story in The New Yorker scored higher on social reasoning tests than those subjects who read an essay from The New Yorker. Read the entire article if you’d like to learn more about why reading fiction is good for you.
July 18, 2008
The winners of the 2008 Thriller awards were announced last week at the annual ThrillerFest gala. The 2008 Thriller Award Winners include:
For Best Novel:
THE GHOST by Robert Harris
For Best First Novel:
HEART-SHAPED BOX by Joe Hill
The 2008 Thriller Award Nominees include:
July 17, 2008
Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, “a detailed account of the famous murder, in 1860, of a three-year-old child of a respectable middle-class family,” won of the £30,000 (US$60,064) Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction. Patrick French’s biography of V.S. Naipaul had been the favorite.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Samuel Johnson Prize. Sponsored by BBC Four, it celebrates diverse and thought-provoking writing in non-fiction. The prize covers current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts. The competition is open to authors of any nationality whose work is published in the UK in English.
“The judges were unanimous: this is one of those great non-fiction books that uses the techniques of fiction to magnificent effect,” said judging panel chair Rosie Boycott. “On first reading, it is an absolute page-turner. Then, when you reread it, you realise how many levels it has, how much it tells you.”
The shortlist included:
The World Is What It Is: the authorized biography of V.S. Naipaul by Patrick French – available in the US in November, 2008
Blood River: A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart by Tim Butcher -available in the US in October, 2008
Crow Country by Mark Cocker – currently unavailable in the US
The Whisperers by Orlando Figes
The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross.
June 25, 2008
A recent spate of quality espionage fiction has come to our attention bringing with it a return to Cold War-style spy stories of old. John le Carré created the yardstick by which most other spy novels are measured against along with a number of other contemporaries who propelled the genre forward with protagonists who were as morally ambiguous as their enemies. Le Carré returns this fall with A Most Wanted Man. Set in Germany, it chronicles the fate of a Muslim man who relocates to Hamburg to begin medical school but has a shadowy past that attracts the attention of intelligence agencies from Germany and beyond.
Robert Littell also produced well-crafted spy fiction in the 70′s and still continues publishing. His 2002 fictionalized account of the CIA, The Company, a bestseller, was made into a multi-part series by both the BBC and TNT. He has followed that up with Legends, a darkly humorous story about an aging spy’s identity crisis and Vicious Circle, an account of a kidnapping plot gone bad sending Israel and Palestine to the brink of collapse.
Charles McCarry had a small but devoted following in the 70′s for his books featuring CIA agent Paul Christopher. McCarry too, has seen a recent renaissance in his popularity beginning with Old Boys which brought back Paul Christopher and an aging group of fellow co-workers. Last year’s Christopher’s Ghosts continues the popular series.
We are lucky to have a cadre of newer writers to continue presenting espionage in the Cold War tradition. Olen Steinhauer has a first-rate series of books featuring Inspector Emil Brod set in a fictional Eastern European country. The first, The Bridge Of Sighs, nominated for multiple awards, begins at the end of WWII. The series closes at the fall of the Berlin Wall with Victory Square, portraying the corruption that has etched itself on Brod over the preceding 40 years.
Jenny Siler also writes as Alex Carr. Her books depict events still resonating in our society: Easy Money, portrays drug running with its origins in the killing fields of Vietnam, and An Accidental American covers the 1983 Beirut bombings. Carr’s newest novel brings us up to date, exposing the underbelly of Morocco in The Prince of Bagram Prison.
Daniel Silva‘s bestselling series starring Mossad agent Gabriel Allon carries on the tradition with his take-no-prisoners scenarios and plenty of action just begging to be bought up by Hollywood. His latest installment, Moscow Rules, is due out in July.
In a similar vein, but already cashing in on the Hollywood interest, is Robert Ludlum with Eric Lustbader and the Bourne series. The latest Bourne book, The Bourne Sanction, is due out the end of July.
Although William F Buckley is gone, he’s certainly not forgotten, and his bestselling Blackford Oakes series will continue to find new fans. Oakes, a CIA agent described by Buckley as being “distinctly American”, acquits himself with style and charm. The series begins with Saving The Queen and concludes with Last Call For Blackford Oakes.
Last but not least, Ted Bell has produced an enjoyable spy series with Alex Hawke as the lead character who works for both the American and British governments. The series includes Hawke, Spy, Assassin and TSAR due out this September.
May 17, 2008
From the study “Reading Aloud To Children: The Evidence” by Elisabeth Duursma EdD, Marilyn Augustyn MD and Barry Zuckerman MD published in May in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood: “Promoting healthy child development lies at the heart of pediatric practice, yet a major challenge facing the field is applying “evidence based standards” to our practice. In one area of this effort though, reading aloud to children, the evidence is clear. There is ample research demonstrating that reading aloud to young children promotes their development of language and other emergent literacy skills (e.g., Adams, 1990; Sénéchal & Levre, 2002; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998; Storch & Whitehurst, 2001) which in turn helps children getting ready for school (e.g., Ezell & Justice, 2005; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998).
“You can imagine if someone technologically came up with a widget that would stimulate all aspects of a two-year-old’s development, everyone would want to buy it,” said Boston University School of Medicine professor Barry Zuckerman, who led the study. See the full article in the Guardian.
Studies show that children who are read to from an earlier age have better language development and tend to have better language scores later in life. Getting children to grip pages with their thumb and forefinger improves their motor skills.
Most important, though, said Zuckerman, is that reading aloud is a period of shared attention and emotion between parent and child. This reinforces reading as a pleasurable activity.
“Children ultimately learn to love books because they are sharing it with someone they love,” he said.