New Nonfiction: Between Them – Richard Ford

This small, intricate recollection of his parents by Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Ford is his first book-length work of nonfiction. Ford brings his brings his trademark blend of understated wit, insight and empathy to the story of young Parker and Edna Ford, a traveling salesman and his wife living on the road together and later with young Richard in the South during the Great Depression. Parker died when Ford was 16 and Edna in 1981. He tells the story their lives in two parts, written decades apart, that together form a vivid portrait of a loving marriage in a by-gone America.

The book has three starred advance reviews and is already slated for coverage in the NYTBR, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, The Philadelphia Inquirer, VanityFair.com and The Huffington Post. Ford will be interviewed on Fresh Air and PBS Newshour.

“Ford vividly and gracefully preserves his memories of parents, his life “between them,” and the small Southern towns that provided the limits and the possibilities of their lives…. Every page of this little remembrance teems with Ford’s luxuriant prose, his moving and tender longing for his parents, and his affecting and intimate portrait of two people simply living life as best they can as their world changes around them.
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

By any standards, this is a singular volume, as peculiarly personal as it is slim. There are two sections, one devoted to each parent: ‘Gone: Remembering My Father’ and ‘My Mother, In Memory.’ The second was written three decades before the first, shortly after his mother’s death. Ford’s father had died much earlier, leaving his mother alone in the world to raise the son she loved, but not in the way she had loved his father. ‘He was her protector, but she was his,’ writes the author. ‘If it meant that I was further from the middle of things, I have lived my entire life thinking this is the proper way to be a family.’… A subtle, careful testament to devotion and a son’s love for his parents.
Kirkus (starred review)

“Illustrated with family photographs, Ford’s remembrance of his parents is a masterful distillation of sensuous description, psychological intricacy, social insights, and a keen sense of place. Ford’s reflections are bright with wit, edgy with candor, and lustrous with extraordinary poignancy and love.”
Booklist (starred review)

Between Them: Remembering My Parents (9780062661883) by Richard Ford. $25.99 hardcover. 5/2/17 on sale.

Poetry Month! Fast – Jorie Graham

A new book by Pulitzer Prize winner Graham is always an event;  Dwight Garner in the New York Times called her “a central figure in the last four decades of American poetry.”

A much admired and ground-breaking stylist, the scope of her subject matter is also impressive. This time she contemplates on the future–the ‘post-human’ condition from cyberbots to 3D-printed humans; the limits of life from the crumbling minds of old age to the possibility of consciousness beyond the grave.

“Graham’s 12th collection [is]… a dizzying, difficult exploration of that border and the world beyond—the one in which the human is becoming or has become unrecognizable: ‘Each epoch dreams the one to follow.// To dwell is to leave a trace.// I am not what I asked for.’ This latest book contains some of Graham’s most accomplished work to date—the poems ‘Reading to My Father’ and ‘The Medium’ among them—but Graham has always been a poet of great books, followed by books that explore new forms and new ways of seeing. This is at its heart a book of exploration, with varied levels of success. Still, there’s a great pleasure in reading one of America’s most intelligent poets work her way through subjects that are by their nature beyond understanding.”
Publishers Weekly

Fast: Poems (9780062663481) by Jorie Graham. $25.99 hardcover. 5/2/17 on sale.

 

National Poetry Month!

I suppose it is more than mere coincidence that April is both “the cruelest month” and National Poetry Month. In a world of blingy information inviting you to jump from apps to texts to Facebook, Snapchat, cat videos and yes, blog posts, the pleasure of letting your mind rest on a page contemplating a poem can’t be underestimated.

Not sure you know how to approach poem? There are lots of good ways in. Start with some popular poets. There’s a reason why Billy Collins and Mary Oliver actually sell: Their combination of craft, accessibility, emotion and intelligence make for enduring and rewarding reading.

Another way is to just jump in and immerse yourself in some of the greatest voices of our times. The Caedmon Poetry Collection is both a stunning historical artifact and an introduction to the greatest poems of the 20th century—read by the poets themselves. I grant that I’m a dork but it’s kind of thrilling to hear Auden, Yeats, Dylan Thomas, Anne Sexton, Neruda, Pound, Wallace Stevens, Margaret Atwood and T.S. Eliot (you’ll hear all about that cruelest month) reading in their own voices.

Or you could start with a guide. David Orr’s 2011 Beautiful & Pointless remains one of my favorite introductions. Simple and intimate, marked by wonderful examples, it shows as much as tells the reader the wonders to be found in poetry.

Add to that list of useful guides a new book from Robert Hass, a former U.S. Poet Laureate and winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. A Little Book on Form gives readers a vocabulary for understanding how the formal constraints and compression of poetry also create the possibility for expression our deepest and most intense feelings. Booklist notes that Hass, who is also a much-lauded essayist, “writes prose every bit as zestful, penetrating, and sure-footed as his poetry.”

Happy Poetry Month!

With specificity, clarity, and inspired insight…Hass’s reading is extensive, as shown by references to and quotations of dozens of poets, ranging in period from Caesar’s Rome to the Renaissance and 21st-century America. He includes the greats—Bashõ, Dickinson, Rudaki, Shakespeare—and a wealth of lesser-known talents. Hass discusses how poetic form synthesizes many subjects, including math, music, religion, and sexuality. Throughout, he justifies and asserts the place of order in poetic form, which is often accused of being chaotic and abstruse…. [An] emotionally and intellectually nurturing work of analysis, suited for academia and ambitious leisure readers.”
Publishers Weekly

A Little Book on Form: An Exploration into the Formal Imagination of Poetry (9780062332424) by Robert Hass. $29.99 hardcover. 4/4/17 on sale.

 Caedmon Poetry Collection: A Century of Poets Reading Their Work (9780062206404) $14.99 audio CD. Available now.

 Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry (9780061673467) by David Orr. $14.99 trade paper original. Available now.

Fiction Short Take: No One is Coming to Save Us – Stephanie Powell Watts

Absolutely terrific advance praise for this reinterpretation of The Great Gatsby set in an African American community in North Carolina.

 Along with the great advance reviews, on sale coverage is coming in NYTBR, USA, Today, the AP and Washington Post, O, The Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire and Essence. It’s also the cover story of the April issue of BookPage.

“In her patient yet rich first novel, a Great Gatsby reboot, Watts digs deep into the wounds of a down-and-out African-American family in the contemporary South…. [I]t hits home—and hard. Watts powerfully depicts the struggles many Americans face trying to overcome life’s inevitable disappointments. But it’s the compassion she feels for her characters’ vulnerability and desires— J.J.’s belief that he and Ava can work, Ava’s ache for a family, Sylvia’s wish to be seen and loved—that make the story so relevant and memorable.”
Publishers Weekly

The Great Gatsby is revived in an accomplished debut novel. Winner of a Pushcart Prize and other awards for her short fiction, Watts spins a compelling tale of obsessive love and dashed dreams set in a struggling North Carolina town. … Watts creates tender, sympathetic portraits of her two main characters, women enveloped in grief… Watts’ gently told story, like Fitzgerald’s, is only superficially about money but more acutely about the urgent, inexplicable needs that shape a life.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[Stephanie Powell Watts] explores The Great Gatsby’s themes of yearning, loss, hope, and disillusion in her powerhouse debut novel…. Watts’ lyrical writing and seamless floating between characters’ viewpoints make for a harmonious narrative chorus. This feels like an important, largely missing part of our ongoing American story. Ultimately, Watts offers a human tale of resilience and the universally understood drive to hang on and do whatever it takes to save oneself.”
Booklist

“Watts’ retelling is smart, unsettling, at times hilarious, and a wonderful update to this classic American novel.”
Nylon

No One Is Coming to Save Us (9780062472984) by Stephanie Powell Watts. $26.99 hardcover. 4/4/17 on sale.

Book of the Week: The Family Gene – Joselin Linder

I love it when a bookseller steps in and sells my books better than I can. Molly Gillespie from Joseph Beth in Cincinnati grabbed a digital copy of this before the ARCs came out and sent in a pretty much perfect assessment. So, I’ll turn over the reviewing to her:

Joselin Linder and her family are part of a genetic puzzle. Though the same unnamed disorder has killed multiple generations of her family, the reason for its occurrence remains an enigma. In her memoir Linder recounts the first baffling days of her father’s mysterious illness, the frantic fight as doctors race to find a cause, and in the years that followed, the dawning realization that the condition had spread had spread to the next generation.

“When I say The Family Gene hits hard, I mean it with the highest praise. Linder doesn’t hold the punches when describing the devastating effects of living with a bodily unknown, but at the same time avoids the traps of melodrama. Her explanations on complex physiological functions are concise and accessible. As a woman who also has a genetic disease it was tremendously gratifying to know someone else shared my experience: stumped physicians, constant testing and the question of prenatal screening.

“The cumulative result is a story equally valuable to a veteran patient and readers who have never knew you could have a ‘genetic counselor.’ The Family Gene is one woman’s a tremendous narrative of how far genetic research has come over the last twenty years and the current lifesaving work being done for our future.”
— Molly Gillespie, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

Her opinion was subsequently reinforced by starred reviews in both PW and Booklist. Review coverage at on sale starts with People magazine.

 “Linder delivers a moving and deft account of her journey to unearth a diagnosis of the mysterious family gene that caused her father’s and six other relatives’ untimely deaths. In this fascinating journey, she seamlessly moves from instructing on complicated genomic science to revealing the relatable follies of her 20s, never shedding wit or humor…. With compassion and a keen eye, she digs into her family history, medical history, and contemporary genetic science. Lessons on DNA and the significance of X chromosomes in passing genes are woven into Linder’s intimate look at her ongoing struggle to stay alive. She expertly balances the serious and often tragic with an indefatigable charm and warmth. This book is a wonderful blend of reflections on coming of age, medicine, and what it means to live against all odds.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Linder not only knows how to tell a compelling story but also how to use numbers to good effect and how to spell out complicated concepts… Her brutal honesty contributes to the power of this thoroughly researched chronicle of the quest to conquer chromosomal abnormalities.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Linder’s narrative is a combination of a fascinating medical detective story and an absorbing, powerfully written family chronicle…. [She] successfully integrates cutting-edge genetic research into her personal quest.”
—  Kirkus Reviews

The Family Gene: A Mission to Turn My Deadly Inheritance into a Hopeful Future (9780062378897) by Joselin Linder. $28.99 hardcover. 3/14/17 on sale.

Mystery Short Take: The Satanic Mechanic – Sally Andrew

In a suspense fiction world filled with serial killers, dead girls and gratuitously detailed depravity, the intelligently written cozy is an increasingly rare bird. Thank goodness Alexander McCall Smith put a flag in the ground for smartly written cozies to gather round. Sally Andrews belongs with them.

This is her second South African mystery featuring Tannie Marie—a recipe writer turned sleuth. Like McCall Smith, this series offers a peek into another culture with wit, heart and a cleverly constructed plot. Kirkus called Andrews’ first book Recipes for Love and Murder, “A delightful debut, tender and funny. The mystery takes on the worldwide problem of abused women while revealing both the beauties and problems of South Africa. And the recipes will make you want to drop everything and start cooking.” Strong advance reviews for this next book, too.

“Food heals, arouses, coerces, and kills in Andrew’s sublime second psychological cozy featuring South African agony aunt Tannie Maria van Harte, which also offers an immersion course in a polyglot post-Apartheid culture….When Bushman leader Slimkat is poisoned with honey-mustard sauce on the kudu kebabs, Maria suspects the white cattle baron whose land the Supreme Court awarded to Slimkat’s people….Tannie Maria’s authentic recipes, for which Andrew credits many sources, are easy to make far from the veldt. Her food wisdom is universal, unassailable: potato salad eases worry; warm orange pudding makes one feel whole.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The Satanic Mechanic: A Tannie Maria Mystery (9780062397690) by Sally Andrew. $26.99 hardcover. 3/28/17 on sale.

Book of the Week: The Hearts of Men – Nickolas Butler

Butler’s last book, Shotgun Lovesongs, made a huge splash in the Indie market. A heartfelt exploration of the inner lives and public fortunes of four Midwestern friends, it was a #1 Indie Next Pick and won a number of awards including France’s Prix Page/America, the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, and the Great Lakes Great Reads Award. Fans of that book will not be disappointed by this new novel which continues Butler’s exploration of small town Midwestern life and male relationships in particular. The Hearts of Men begins at a Wisconsin Boy Scout camp in 1962 and follows the life of Nelson Doughty and his popular friend Thomas from a traumatic hazing that forges their relationship and through the next sixty years. The Hearts of Men arrives with three starred advance reviews and is both a March Indie Next and LibraryReads pick. It has already been covered on NPR’s All Things Considered and Butler will be interviewed by NPR’s Lynn Neary at on sale. National reviews are already scheduled in the NYTBR, People and USA Today.

 “Butler returns to rural Wisconsin in this big-hearted epic full of sturdy characters that wear their hearts—and pride—on their sleeves. Told in four parts… [it] follows three generations struggling to find their place in a world bent on dealing them a bad hand. In the first section, 13-year-old social outcast Nelson finds little comfort as the camp’s bullied bugler while dealing with conflicted feelings about his abusive father. A tentative friendship formed with cocky older Jonathan saves Nelson’s hide more than once while also demonstrating the limits of just how much Jonathan can give…. In a fiery conclusion, Nelson and Jonathan reunite after more than 20 years….Butler demonstrates enormous command over the material and sympathy for his flawed characters. This beautiful novel might be his best yet.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Across three generations and as many wars, this earnest novel explores the ways boys become men and how even flawed men may stand as models for the young… A well-paced, affecting read.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review) “Butler’s latest delves into the meaning of loyalty and friendship, how some rise to life’s challenges while others fail… Fans of Butler’s award-winning Shotgun Lovesongs will welcome this impressive work with an outstanding ensemble cast. Top of the class for Butler on this one.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Butler achieves a rare triple play here of brilliant characterizations, a riveting story line, and superlatively measured prose, putting him in the front ranks of contemporary American writers of literary fiction.”
— Booklist  

“The Boy Scouts at Wisconsin’s summer Camp Chippewa practice their knot tying every morning at reveille. The knot that they don’t practice is the one that will bind four generations of Chippewa’s scouts to each other through wars and family upheaval. The cruelty of bully campers, the surprising loyalty of lightly made friends, the feckless absent fathers, the lonely heroism of soldiers and their mothers–the patterns repeat, each family generation sharing some of the blame, some of the glory….I was completely won over by Butler’s novel. The movie plays in my head. An original coming of age novel that deserves a place alongside of A Separate Peace.”
— Carla Bayha, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

“I’m a big Nickolas Butler fan. This is by far his darkest work. That said, this is a wonderfully crafted novel. I think Nicholas Butler is extremely good at writing in such a way that you can identify with all the characters in his books. This book, like Shotgun Lovesongs, alternates between several character’s point of view while following a delicate main thread. Loved it!”
— Tim Smith, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI

The Hearts of Men (9780062469687) by Nickolas Butler. $26.99 hardcover. 3/7/17 on sale.