Friday, January 29, 2010

Local Author Finalist for Book Award

The National Book Critics Circle has announced the finalists for its book awards for the publishing year 2009, and local writer Debra Gwartney is on the list!The National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974 at the Algonquin, is a nonprofit organization consisting of some 600 active book reviewers who are interested in honoring quality writing and communicating with one another about common problems. The organization is managed by a 24-member all-volunteer board of directors.

Along with the finalists listed below, the NBCC also awarded Joyce Carol Oates the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement award and Joan Acocella the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. Here are the finalists, by category:



  • Blake Bailey, Cheever: A Life
  • Brad Gooch, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor
  • Benjamin Moser, Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector
  • Stanislao G. Pugliese, Bitter Spring: A Life of Ignazio Silone
  • Martha A. Sandweiss, Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line


  • Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage
  • Marlon James, The Book of Night Women
  • Michelle Huneven, Blame
  • Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall
  • Jayne Anne Philips, Lark and Termite


  • Wendy Doniger, The Hindus: An Alternative History
  • Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City
  • Richard Holmes, The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
  • Tracy Kidder, Strength in What Remains
    Wiliam T. Vollmann, Imperial


  • Rae Armantrout, Versed
  • Louise Gluck, A Village Life
  • D.A. Powell, Chronic
  • Eleanor Ross Taylor, Captive Voices: New and Selected Poems, 1960-2008
  • Rachel Zucker, Museum of Accidents


  • Eula Biss, Notes from No Man's Land
  • Stephen Burt, Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry
  • Morris Dickstein, Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression
  • David Hajdu, Heroes and Villains: Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture
  • Greg Miner, Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Recent Losses

The first few weeks of the new year have not been kind to the reading community. By now you've probably heard of the recent deaths of Robert B. Parker (author of the Spenser novels, among many others) and Erich Segal (best known for his novel Love Story, with its subsequent smash movie with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal).

The first few weeks of 2010 have also seen the passing of two great writers and thinkers: Mary Daly, feminist philosopher and theologian and author of such books as Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism; and social historian Howard Zinn, whose best-known book is A People's History of the United States (did you know a graphic novel version of the book was published not too long ago as well?).

I've also recently learned that the world has lost the wonderfully delightful and playful contributions of Stephen Huneck, who took his own life in early January at age 60. Huneck was a folk artist known for his whimsical paintings, sculptures, and woodcuts of dogs, and for his series of books featuring Sally, his black lab. The series includes Sally Goes to the Beach, Sally's Snow Adventure, and -- my personal favorite, although I am partial to all things Sally -- Sally Goes to the Mountains. I love this guy's work -- and I'm a cat person! Boston Magazine once wrote "The work of Stephen Huneck is like laughter; enriching to life and uplifting to the soul."

And today we learned of the passing of J.D. Salinger at age 91 at his home in New Hampshire. Salinger wrote four books: Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, and the one for which he is best known, The Catcher in the Rye, written in 1951 -- before retreating to his home and refusing to publish any more.

He once wrote to biographer Ian Hamilton (in the course of suing Hamilton for quoting from his unpublished letters), "I think I've borne all the exploitation and loss of privacy I can possibly bear in a single lifetime."

Let's hope the bad news takes a breather for a while, so we can take some time to appreciate the contributions of the ones we've recently lost.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Shhhh. It's a Secret!

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a total sucker for great picture books. My mom was an elementary school librarian for years, and in return for helping her catalog new books in the summer we got to read them all first! And we did. My little sister is now a middle-school librarian, so clearly she caught the book bug too.
I was thrilled that The Lion & the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney, just won the Caldecott Award. And I've gone on and on about how much I love Yummy, by Lucy Cousins. It's, well, just totally yummy!

But there's another great picture book that I'm loving right now that has just recently come back in stock (it's been in great demand): It's a Secret, by John Burningham. In this beautifully and whimsically illustrated story, little Marie Elaine (who grows even smaller in the book) learns where her cat, Malcolm, goes at night, when she joins him to attend a cat party

Thursday, January 21, 2010

White Tiger Fans

Just heard through the grapevine that Aravind Adiga, author of Booker-Prize-winning novel The White Tiger as well as a collection of linked stories (Between the Assassinations) has been signed to his third book, Last Man in the Tower, a sweeping novel set in contemporary Mumbai that explores the conflict between a high-powered real estate developer and one man who won't sell out. That's the good news. The bad news is you have to wait until 2011.

All 2010 Calendars 50% Off!

Can't remember what day of the week it is??? Or when you're going to the dentist or your kid's recital? Have we got solutions for you! All of our 2010 calendars, datebooks, and bookmark calendars (very cool) are now 50% off. At that price you can afford one in every room, and maybe even in your car! They're moving fast, though, so hurry in for the best selection.

Oops! John Daniel Date & Time

John Daniel's reading at Roots Brewery for Oregon Wild Wednesday that I talked about yesterday will be next Wednesday, January 27th, at 6 pm. This link should take you to the Oregon Wild Web site and further information about the event.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Portland Authors Win Major Book Awards

Several major children's book awards were announced this week, and for a couple there's a local connection!

But first, let's start with the Caldecott Medal, which went to one of my favorite picture books of the year: The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney. This nearly wordless book set on the East African Serengeti is a retelling of the Aesop's Fable, and it is truly remarkable.

Caldecott Honors awards went to Marla Frazee for her illustration of All the World, written by Liz Garton Scanlon, and to Pamela Zagarenski for her illustration of Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors, written by Joyce Sidman.

The 2010 Newbery Medal went to Rebecca Stead for her novel When You Reach Me, a remarkable second novel set in the Upper West Side Manhattan neighborhood of Stead's childhood. Four Newbery Honors were awarded as well:

  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (which also won the National Book Award), by Philip Hoose
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin
  • The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg, by Rodman Philbrick

The 2010 Michael L. Printz Award went to Libba Bray for her novel Going Bovine, about a 16-year-old diagnosed with Mad Cow disease who takes off on a road trip in search of a cure with a Sancho Panza-type sidekick he meets in the hospital. It involves parallel universes, a dwarf, and a yard gnome. Nancy Pearl raved about this book, and I can tell you from first-hand experience that Libba Bray is hysterically funny.

Four books were recognized with Printz Honors:

  • Charles and Emma: The Darwin's Leap of Faith, by Deborah Heiligman -- this book was a finalist for a National Book award
  • The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey
  • Punkzilla, by Adam Rapp
  • Tales from the Madman Underground: An Historical Romance, by John Barnes

The William C. Morris Award for best debut Young Adult novel went to Portland author L.K. Madigan, for her book Flash Burnout. L.K. -- otherwise known as Lisa Kay -- works in Portland in the operations department of Becker Capital Management. Her novel features wise-cracking, girl-crazy Blake Hewson, who provides the comic balance in a story that deals with heavy issues, including meth addiction. Madigan's next book, The Mermaid's Mirror, is due out next Fall.

The committee also named four honor books for YA debut:

  • Ash, by Malinda Lo
  • Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
  • The Everafter, by Amy Huntley
  • Hold Still, by Nina LaCour

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for "the most distinguished book for beginning readers" went to Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!, by Geoffrey Hayes, published by Toon Books, the publisher of high-quality comics for kids that was founded by Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman. The four Geisel Honor books are I Spy Fly Guy, by Tedd Arnold; Little Mouse Gets Ready, by Jeff Smith (Also a RAW Junior/Toon book), who is also the author of the popular Bone series; Mouse and Mole: Fine Feathered Friends, by Wong Herbert Yee; and Pearl and Wagner: One Funny Day, by Kate McMullan and illustrated by R.W. Alley.

The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal went to Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream, by Tanya Lee Stone. The three Sibert honor books were The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors, by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tony Persiani; Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11, by Brian Floca; and Philip Hoose's Claudette Colvin, mentioned earlier in this blog.

Another local author, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, won a Pura Belpre Honor Award for her book Diego: Bigger Than Life, illustrated by David Diaz. Bernier-Grand's book was also a finalist for a 2009 Oregon Book Award.

This has been a big year for kids' books authors from Portland, as local author Laini Taylor was a finalist for the National Book Award with her book Lips Touch: Three Times. Congratulations to all!

John Daniel to read for Wild Wednesday

One of our favorite authors, John Daniel, will be reading next week at Roots Brewery in an event hosted by Oregon Wild. John's most recent book is The Far Corner: Northwestern Views on Land, Life, and Literature. He is also the author of Rogue River Journal and Looking After (or his "popoir" and "momoir," as he calls them) -- two of my all-time favorite books -- and other books of poetry and nonfiction.

John's books have won two Oregon Book Awards and one Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, and he is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He writes about the land,those who inhabit it, and our connections to place. John and his wife, Marilyn, live in the foothills of the Coast Range west of Eugene.

Following John's reading of selections from his books, Oregon Wild Old Growth Campaign Coordinator Chandra LeGue will discuss the recent introduction of old-growth protection legislation for eastern Oregon forests.

Oregon Wild Wednesday is a free quarterly event open to all ages. RSVP is not required, but you are encouraged to arrive early. Roots Organic Brewery is at 1520 SE 7th Avenue in Portland. You can read more about this event here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nominees for Dilys Winn Mystery Award

This year's nominees for The Dilys Award have just been announced. The award has been given annually since 1992 by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA). Once a year, members submit nominations for the mystery titles they most enjoyed handselling and then vote to select the winner, with the award presented at Left Coast Crime convention each year. The Dilys Award is named in honor of Dilys Winn, the founder of the first specialty bookseller of mystery books in the United States. The list of finalists this year includes one of my personal favorites (Sweetness -- which just came out in paperback today!) and several that I'm eager to read. Here's the list:

  • Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley
  • A Quiet Belief in Angels, R.J. Ellroy
  • The Dark Horse, Craig Johnson
  • The Girl Who Played with Fire, Stieg Larsson
  • The Ghosts of Belfast, Stuart Neville
  • The Brutal Telling, Louise Penny
  • The Shanghai Moon, S.J. Rozan

Previous winners of the Dilys Award include Peter Hoeg for Smilla's Sense of Snow, Julie Spencer-Fleming for In the Bleak Midwinter, Louise Penny for Still Life, Colin Cotterill for Thirty-Three Teeth, and Val McDermid for A Place of Execution.

2009 Bestsellers at Broadway Books

The Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel-in-short-stories Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout, topped the list of bestselling books at Broadway Books in 2009. The list of our top 25 bestselling titles includes 18 novels and 3 memoirs and seems heavily influenced by book clubs and our staff favorites. Quite happy to see so many local authors represented on this list as well. How many of these have you read? I'll post some genre-specific 2009 bestseller lists in a day or two.
  1. Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout
  2. The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
  3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  4. The Opposite Field, Jessie Katz
  5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
  6. The Highest Tide, Jim Lynch
  7. The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein
  8. The Stubborn Twig, Lauren Kessler
  9. Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri
  10. My Life in France, Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme
  11. The Hearts of Horses, Molly Gloss
  12. Pedaling Revolution, Jeff Mapes
  13. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
  14. Out Stealing Horses, Per Petterson
  15. Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson with David Oliver Relin
  16. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
  17. Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  18. Run, Ann Patchett
  19. White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
  20. Night Train to Lisbon, Pascal Mercier
  21. People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks
  22. Lavinia, Ursula LeGuin
  23. Twilight, Stephenie Meyers
  24. The Book Thief, Mark Zusak
  25. Dreams from my Father, Barack Obama

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Finalists for 2009 Story Prize

Finalists for the 2009 Story Prize were announced today. The award, in its sixth year, is an annual award for books of short fiction. The three finalists were were selected from among 78 story collections from 53 different publishers or imprints. Here are the 2009 finalists -- all of which are debut collections:
  • In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, by Daniyal Mueenuddin, presents eight connected stories set in southern Pakistan. This book was also a finalist for this year's National Book Award.
  • Drift, by Victoria Patterson. The thirteen stories in this collection are set in the wealthy enclave of Newport Beach, California.
  • Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, by Wells Tower. The paperback edition of this collection of nine stories will be published in a couple of weeks.

Founder Julie Lindsey and Director Larry Dark selected the finalists for The Story Prize. Three independent judges will determine the winner. This year’s judges are writer A.M. Homes, journalist/blogger Carolyn Kellogg, and librarian Bill Kelly. The award ceremony will be held in New York City on March 3. All three finalists will read from their work and be interviewed on stage by Larry Dark. The author of the winning collection will receive a $20,000 prize. Previous winners of The Story Prize include Edwidge Danticat, Mary Gordon, and Tobias Wolff.

Val McDermid Wins Diamond Dagger

Writer Val McDermid has just been awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger Lifetime Achievement Award. This coveted award, presented by the Crime Writers' Association, has been sponsored by Cartier since its inception in 1986. The CWA committee selects writers nominated by the membership. Nominees have to meet two essential criteria: first, their careers must be marked by sustained excellence, and second, they must have made a significant contribution to crime fiction published in the English language, whether originally or in translation. The award is made purely on merit without reference to age, gender or nationality.

The announcement by the Crime Writers’ Association recognizes McDermid's work over more than 20 years. In 1995 she won the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year for The Mermaids Singing, which first introduced her readership to Tony Hill and Carol Jordan and went on to become an international bestseller. Fever of the Bone is the sixth novel of this series , the inspiration behind the TV series "Wire in the Blood."

When bestselling (and local) novelist Chelsea Cain read at Broadway Books recently, she revealed that Val McDermid and her Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series was the impetus behind the writing of her Portland-based series about serial killer Gretchen Lowell. After getting hooked on the first three books in the series, Cain became impatient waiting for the fourth and decided to start her own series -- thus Gretchen Lowell, Archie Sheridan, and Susan Ward were born.

"I'm thrilled and proud but also a bit gobsmacked," said McDermid. "The Diamond Dagger is the jewel in the crown for any crime writer, and this makes me a member of a pretty stellar club. But I still think of myself as a young Turk, and it's hard not to see this honour as placing me firmly in the Establishment. I guess I'll just have to regard it as something to defy as well as to embrace!" You just have to love someone who uses the word "gobsmacked," no? This seems like a great occasion to check out McDermid's books.
The UK-based Crime Writers' Association was founded by John Creasey in 1953. Previous winners of the Cartier Diamond Dagger honor include Sue Grafton, Elmore Leonard, Ian Rankin, Sara Paretsky, and PD James.

Farewell, Joey, and Happy Trails!

So you've probably noticed that our blogging has been a bit sporadic, at best, recently. And today I'm going to talk about why that is. On Christmas Day I had to bid a sad farewell to Joey the Miracle Cat, my good buddy for the past decade, as he finally grew weary of the battle. Readers of this blog know that we lost Joey's younger brother Mikey in late August to a fast-acting cancer. So now my house is officially kitty-less, and I am bereft and haven't had the oomph for blogging.

Why, you might ask, do I refer to Joey as "Joey the Miracle Cat"? Well, sit back and put your feet up and I'll tell you the story of this amazing cat. I adopted Mikey and Joey a little over ten years ago, when they were about three and six, respectively. (They came pre-named; I called them my two little mechanics from the Bronx.)

Shortly after I adopted them, Joey wandered into the street and got hit by a car. I rushed him to Dove Lewis, where they told me he was unlikely to make it through the night. But he did make it through the night, and then another and then another. Thanks to the folks at Dove Lewis, a couple of kitty specialists, and especially to my vet, Kerri Jackson, he survived the crash. He had his jaw glued shut for a couple of months so it could repair itself, and I fed him through a tube in his stomach. He came out of it all short one eye and one lung lobe (we found out about the latter later), and slightly brain-damaged from the pain medication -- but also with a zest for life I've rarely seen in any cat. Every day was a gift to Joey -- and to all who knew him -- and he reveled in all that life had to offer.

You could not ask for a more easy-going, easy-to-love cat. Almost two years ago he was diagnosed with a tumor in his abdomen, and I thought we were going to lose him. But he persevered. Then, about six months ago, we found a second tumor in his chest cavity. He struggled more with the stairs, and I often had to "helicopter" him up to the bedroom. But he ate, and he groomed, and he played (he loved his Undercover Mousie), and he purred. He happily rode in the car so that he could come with us to the beach, and when we arrived he walked through his new abode as if he'd always lived there. Nothing rattled Joey. He especially loved sitting in front of the gas fireplace until his bones were like rubber. He could be anywhere in the house and hear the fan kick on and he would march with a sense of urgency to plop down right in front.

I've loved and lost many wonderful cats over the years, but Joey truly was in a class by himself. There will be new cats in my life, but his (and Mikey's) are awfully big paws to fill. A fond farewell to you, Joey my friend, and a big thanks for the wonderful moments and memories. And now I can get back to thinking about books. And blogs. I promise.

Friday, January 8, 2010

2010 PNBA Book Awards

The 2010 winners of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Awards were announced today. The winners, which were selected by a committee of independent booksellers from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska, were chosen from more than 200 nominated titles, each written by a Northwest author and published in 2009. This previous blog post gives you the full list of nominated titles. And now...drum roll are this year's winners:

  • The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt & The Fire That Saved America, by Timothy Egan
  • The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest, by Jack Nisbet
  • Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest
  • The Crying Tree, by Naseem Rakha
  • All In a Day, by Cynthia Rylant & illustrated by Nikki McClure

Previous winners of the PNBA Book Award include Garth Stein, Jim Lynch, John Daniel, Gina Ochsner, Lauren Kessler, Sherman Alexie, David Biespiel, Floyd Skloot, Jess Walter, and John Laursen & Terry Toedtemeier. You can read about all of the nominated titles and previous winners at the PNBA Web site. Lots of good reads here! Congratulations to all of the nominated authors and to the winners.

Oregon Writers Colony Calendar Sale

Sadly, last week's calendar sale/fundraiser for the Oregon Writers Colony was postponed by the let's-catch-everyone-off-guard snow storm. Happily, the event will take place Saturday afternoon -- that's tomorrow! (barring another "snow event," as we like to call them in Portland) -- from 3 pm to 5 pm. You can click here to read the details. Suffice it to say there will be treats and photos of nearly naked writers, and all for a good cause! How can you miss it? Plus the opportunity to browse for books for yourself, now that the December holidays are behind us. Hope you can join us!