Now in Paperback: News of the World – Paulette Jiles

This New York Times bestseller, National Book Award Finalist and MPIBA “Reading the West” award winner was also on many “Best of the Year” round-ups at the end of 2016. So, it should be a crowd-pleaser on the paperback tables all summer long.

The new edition also includes a P.S. section with an essay from Jiles and reading group guide. And I just heard it’s in development as a movie starring Tom Hanks. (Perfect casting!)

News of the World (9780062409218) by Paulette Jiles. $15.99 trade paper. 6/20/17 on sale.


Publicity: News of the World – Paulette Jiles

In a second NYT review the NYTBR raves about News of the World in advance of this week’s NBAs, concluding:

“…at scarcely 200 pages, this exhilarating novel, a finalist for this year’s National Book Award, travels through its marvelous terrain so quickly that one is shocked, almost stricken, to reach the end. So do what I did: Read it again.”


News of the World (9780062409201) by Paulette Jiles. $22.99 hardcover. On sale now.

Book of the Week: News of the World – Paulette Jiles

This little book has taken a long, peripatetic road to publication. Originally intended as a March 2016 publication, we started requesting bookseller reads over a year ago. Along the way, a funny thing happened….

Paulette Jiles is a respected author of (mostly) literary historical fiction. Perhaps that’s the reason that reads for this small gem of a novel started slow out of the gate. Maybe it’s because people felt they knew Jiles; maybe it’s that at first blush it looked too much like a “western”… Whatever the reason, the curious thing is that when someone did read the book, they couldn’t let it go—they had to tell someone else about it.

Reviews below will explain what the book is about but here are a few broad strokes: At first it seems a simple story about an elderly Civil War vet asked to return a white captive girl who had been living with the Kiowa in Northern Texas. The miracle of the book is that in just about 200 pages Jiles opens a window on another time and creates and enduring, unforgettable relationship between an old man and a child.

I was one of those readers who couldn’t let it go and I got two early bookseller endorsements from two very different parts of the country:

Jiles is talented on every level – true voices, character development, historical accuracy, humor and poignancy.  She proves that a fantastic book can be accomplished in under 225 pages.  What a gem! The story itself is beautiful.  But the bonus for me was the geography and demographic of the Captain and Johanna’s journey thru post-Civil War Texas – an era and area with which I was unfamiliar, along with the relationships between the free blacks, war veterans, various native tribes and  civilians.  Just another example of Jiles’ mastery of historical fiction.”
— Karen McCue, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI

News of the World is a winner.  This was a lot of story packed in a relatively short book….Jiles created two outstanding characters with Captain Kidd and Johanna and I immediately engaged with them and their story.  They are both brave, humble and honorable individuals for whom I felt deep respect.  Kidd’s sharp, indignant humor made me laugh – ‘Young man, stop speaking in explanation points.’  I look forward to selling this book.”
— Tina Smith, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington, KY

In the meantime, the same thing was happening in-house at Harper. Our company’s president and publisher, Michael Morrison, weighed in:

It’s a quintessential American novel, set in post-Civil War Northern Texas…[A] relatively short, contained novel, beautifully written and with not a wasted scene or sentence.  It’s the kind of book you not only can read in a weekend, but you want to stay up until you finish it. And all ages, men and women will equally respond to it.”

After last year’s fall trade shows and over the course of the holiday season, more and more booksellers started reading and telling each other about it. We printed more ARCs to meet demand and a kind of “slow buzz” built as booksellers handsold it to one another. Then Eric Boss, a retired and widely respected Penguin rep in Mountains and Plains Region sent out this praise to Western booksellers:

The harsh sweetness of this book is entirely captivating….I recommend this one to everyone. Lovers of adventure, history, stories of family, admirers of human courage and love, readers of well-written prose (and this is very finely crafted work) are included in this invitation. I found it immensely rewarding and downright heartwarming.”

We gradually got that we had something very special here.

So the book didn’t come out in March. Its appeal is so broad, the story so winning, we decided that it would make a great holiday handsell. That intuition seemed to be confirmed when Charles Frazier, perhaps the king of the Civil War “journey” novel, wrote that News of the World is

[a] powerful, richly-realized journey. . . .  Captain Kidd belongs in the pantheon of great Western characters along with True Grit’s Rooster Cogburn and Lonesome Dove’s Gus and Call.”

The Captain and Johanna’s journey took another turn last week when News of the World was longlisted for this year’s National Book Award. It was previously named both an Indie Next Pick and the #1 LibraryReads Pick.

Check out this video interview with Paulette. It will give you a nice feel for the story and its landscape.


You can get more background in this print interview. Please feel to use both on your own social media.

 Johanna Leonberger remembers almost nothing of her first 6 years, when she lived with her parents. Instead, her memory extends only as far as her Kiowa family—she speaks no English and by white standards is uncivilized….At first reluctant to take her the 400 miles to the town near San Antonio where her aunt and uncle live, he soon realizes his itinerant life makes him the most plausible person for the job—and he also knows it’s the right thing to do. He buys a wagon, and they start their journey, much to the reluctance and outrage of the undomesticated Johanna; but a relationship soon begins to develop between the two. Jiles makes the narrative compelling by unsentimentally constructing a bond based at least in part on a mutual need for survival, but slowly and delicately, Johanna and Kidd begin to respect as well as need one another. What cements their alliance is facing many obstacles along the way, including an unmerciful landscape; a lack of weapons; and a vicious cowboy and his companions, who want to kill Kidd and use the girl for their own foul purposes. As one might expect, Kidd and Johanna eventually develop a deep and affectionate relationship….Lyrical and affecting, the novel succeeds in skirting clichés through its empathy and through the depth of its major characters.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Jiles’ lyrical style and minimal punctuation allow the reader to become immersed in the dusty Texan landscape, witnessing the anguish, fear, compassion, and joy in the unlikely pair’s journey.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Jiles delivers a taut, evocative story of post–Civil War Texas in this riveting drama of a redeemed captive of the Kiowa tribe. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an elderly widower, earns his living traveling around, reading news stories to gatherings of townspeople. While reading in Wichita Falls one evening in the winter of 1870, he sees an old acquaintance…[who] persuades the Captain to escort young Johanna on the remainder of the three-week journey. The Captain, who has grown daughters of his own, at first feels sorry for the girl. Johanna considers herself Kiowa; she chafes at wearing shoes and a dress, struggles to pronounce American words. Challenges and dangers confront the two during their journey, and they become attached. Jiles unfolds the stories of the Captain and Johanna, past and present, with the smooth assuredness of a burnished fireside tale, demonstrating that she is a master of the western.”
Publishers Weekly

 News of the World is the perfect choice for just about any reader and will be my favorite handsell for the Fall season. Traveling news reader Captain Kidd and his young charge Johanna make an odd but captivating and colorful duo as they make their way through lawless post-Civil War Texas, heading to San Antonio on a journey that everyone they encounter understands to be so dangerous as to be foolhardy. Practically a death-wish. Onward they go, in an affectionate battle of wills, with the Captain hell-bent on delivering Johanna, a recently and reluctantly freed Indian captive, to her relatives in South Texas and Johanna equally determined to remain with Kidd. Paulette Jiles’ prose is lyrical and News of the World is a splendidly entertaining and very moving novel.”
— Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover, Denver, CO

“WOW!!! —  Heavy sigh — What a gem! A love story of two people, a way of life and a time and place. How so much can be packed into so slim of a novel…the depth of feeling I had for Captain Kidd and Johanna — his solitude, her confused terror. Exquisite descriptions had me feeling as if I was there in Texas riding along in the bullet ridden Curative Waters wagon with them.”
— Deborah Carson, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

“Jiles is a gifted wordsmith whose descriptive prose creates vivid physical and emotional landscapes that you slip into without effort.  It is filled with interesting and lesser known historical facts of the time period and culture but it is the portrayal of the evolving relationship between two unique characters that is particularly moving and beautiful.  At times I found the story so engaging I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough, at other times I lingered….In the end I found News of the World to be a subtle yet powerful story about compassion and transformation.  Jiles could have drawn out the story, could have packed in more details but she didn’t need to. It’s a wholly satisfying story.”
— Sharon Gambin, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

“For such a small book, Paulette packed a punch of a story with characters that still haven’t left me….Jiles truly has constructed a tale that everyone will enjoy. From the beginning, I felt like I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough – but when I reached the moments of suspense… HOLY WOW. This woman has a true talent. My favorite quote from the entire book comes after the battle with Almay: ‘No. Absolutely not. No. No scalping… It is considered very impolite.’ Maybe it was the adrenaline I had built up while sitting on the edge of my seat, but I thought it was hilarious.”
— Macon Wilson, The Booksellers at Laurelwood, Memphis, TN

News of the World (9780062409201) by Paulette Jiles. $22.99 hardcover. 10/4/16 one day laydown.

New in Paperback: The Illusion of Separateness, Lighthouse Island, The Skull and the Nightingale

A few reads that deserve a second shot at some display space…

This was an Indie Next Pick and Van Booy remains a bookseller favorite with good reason. His prose is lush yet economical, the story profound and imbued with a simple, poignant humanity. Inspired by true events, this is the story of six seeming strangers whose lives prove inextricably linked. A gorgeous story.

“The uncanny beauty of Van Booy’s prose, and his ability to knife straight to the depths of a character’s heart, fill a reader with wonder….There are so many wonderful sentences in this book, a reviewer groans for want of room to list them.”
   — San Francisco Chronicle

“Masterful prose….From minimalistic sentences he wrings out maximum impact, stripping away artifice and elaboration in favor of stark, emotional clarity and honesty.”
   — Boston Globe

“His writing is consciously poetic and at times aphoristic, and he deftly portrays his characters’ raw emotions.”
— Wall Street Journal

The Illusion of Separateness (9780062248459) by Simon Van Booy. $14.99 trade paper original 7/29/14 on sale.


This is a novel for those who like their dystopic fiction to lean literary. A paean to reading, narrative tradition and the power of stories to fuel imagination, it is also a story about the power of imagination to save lives. Nadia is a young orphan who travels through a new American Dust Bowl searching for a brighter future. If that recalls Steinbeck… well there you go. You’ll get a bracing dose of other literary echoes, too, in this story about stories and how they save our lives.

“Although the novel’s “Drought Age” sounds a serious Ancient Mariner warning, Lighthouse Island initially engages readers as a literary lark, with Nadia taking turns playing Alice exploring dry land, Huck lying his way out of tight spots and Isabel Archer searching for the fiction-based ideal. When life becomes too oppressive, Nadia listens to readings from classic authors on an anachronistic ‘Big Radio.’”

Lighthouse Island (9780062232519) by Paulette Jiles. $15.99 trade paper. 7/29/14 on sale.


Super reviews for this delicious historical thriller. Both literary and sexy, with nods to Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Clarissa, 18th century literary specialist Irwin offers up vivid, visceral, page turning suspense.

“Evokes Tom Jones, The Crimson Petal and the White, and Les Liaisons Dangereuses. . . . Irwin has crafted a terrific historical novel, and an even better psychological thriller. A-”
— Entertainment Weekly

“Amid Irwin’s spot-on descriptions of 18-century England’s squalor and splendor, the masquerades and dinner parties, this passion play mostly rests between the sheets where Lust lies. . . . Irwin’s secondary characters also fascinate . . . A tale of morals, intriguingly told.”
   — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Skull and the Nightingale (9780062202369) by Michael Irwin.  $14.99 trade paper. 8/12/14 on sale.


“[A] provocative novel . . . This surprisingly dark story of twisted head-games and base instincts is, by turns, troubling and engrossing.”
— Booklist


“[V]ividly renders the darker side of the Age of Enlightenment. Readers who like their history served up with conquest and betrayal will enjoy this page-turner.”
   — Library Journal.”

Book of the Week: Lighthouse Island – Paulette Jiles

This is a great read from a great novelist and one of my very favorite books of the fall so I’m going to run long on this one.

Jiles is well-known for her meticulous researched and rousing historical novels of which America’s librarian, Nancy Pearl, said, “Despite their differences of plot, settings and genre, what I love about each one of these books is the same: the voice of the narrator. These narrators are so compelling, so engaging, so real that I resented each moment I wasn’t reading them. I hope you enjoy their company as much as I did.

And that’s the way I felt about her newest—a dystopian literary quest story that takes place in an unnervingly plausible near-future America. For those of you who don’t often think of “literary” and “dystopia” rest comfortably in the same sentence, I would say this works well for readers from Karen Walker Thompson’s Age of Miracles to Margret Atwood’s stunning MaddAddam.

What she has in common with Thompson and Atwood is a vivid, detailed, fully realized future that reads more like a historical novel than one of the popular commercial dystopias. Page after page, I kept thinking, “Oh, so that’s how the world turns out.” And this dark but hopeful story has something in common with Cormac McCarthy in its beautiful, hypnotic language.

And the language brings it a kind of magic–the magic of the human spirit, fueled by stories–and a vision that a handful of individuals have for themselves amidst a crumbling totalitarian world of disinformation, brutality and incoherence. Many times I thought of 1984 and how logical some of Jiles’ imagined outcomes for us might be in a world of diminished resources. How gratifying that painting a picture of the ruined world isn’t the whole point of the book.

Instead, this is an adventure story about a girl on a quest. And young Nadia’s plucky, shrewd optimism informs the tone of the whole book. This line about the weather captures that: “Weather was a kind of faerie, a land of mystery and peril that nobody could control or even understand.”

Editor Jen Brehl says that this book is not unlike the author’s breakout first novel, Enemy Women—and that feels spot on. Jen writes that both are stories of “a determined young woman who sets out on a seemingly impossible journey to a faraway place and, along the way meets, then loses, then somehow finds again, the love of her life.”

Nadia falls in love with books as a child when her eyes are damaged and she can’t watch the “bread and circuses” fed to the masses through state-owned TV. Books have fallen into disuse and the only connection the people have to their past and their literary culture is something called “Big Radio”, a mysterious broadcast that reads classic literature night and day through the seasons. (BTW: I thought Jiles’ vision of the world regressing back to an almost completely oral culture was haunting.) Through all the privation and stupidity and adversity, Big Radio is in the background, an echo of a grander human past and a beacon to the future of those who choose to listen. In taking on the telling of this adventure, Jiles gives us a story about stories complete with resonances from fairy tales, classic adventures, and classic writers from Orwell all the way back to Homer.

Bookseller support made this one an October Indie Next pick and I include a couple endorsements below along with an excerpt from PW’s review. If you want to read a great writer at the top of her game, try this one.

A century and a half into a worldwide drought finds Earth to be a bleak, dry, decaying urban landscape, precarious for everyone but especially for Parentless Dependent Children like Nadia Stepan. Nadia is a loner, a lover of books in a television addicted world, and dreams of escaping to Lighthouse Island, an improbable haven of trees, rain and wilderness, somewhere to the Northwest. This dystopian novel is beautifully written and almost dreamlike in its setting. Paulette Giles’ scenes of Nadia navigating the crumbling cityscape and her surreal interactions with the many desperate characters are vivid, shocking and often darkly funny, and all the while lit by Nadia’s energy, guile and hope. Nadia is her own lighthouse, and she finds a keeper in all of its definitions in James Orotov, mapmaker, demolitions expert and fellow dreamer and traveler.”
–Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO

“I’ve been trying to figure out how to best present my thoughts on this book: if I say, ‘simply and beautifully crafted…’ it doesn’t communicate the elegiac feel given to the horrors of this probable future by such economical prose; nor does it convey the humanity given to a frightening possibility!  The author’s skill carves out moments of beauty in this sorrow, whether it’s a child’s naive mythos or a blasted landscape devoid of both hope and sustenance. If she’s this good in her previous works, I must read them all.”
–Karen Tallant, The Booksellers at Laurelwood, Memphis, TN

“Jiles’s latest is a lyrical take on dystopian fiction set in an arid, borderless future in which a surfeit population has caused the totalitarian government’s Agencies to resort to drastic survival measures. ‘People disappeared but everybody pretended not to notice and stayed neutral and colorless like fabric lampshades.’ Nadia Stepan, deserted by her family when she was four, leads a lonely existence centered on her fantasies about living on Lighthouse Island, a magical place advertised on TV… The dangerous plot James hatches is like that of one of Nadia’s beloved classic novels. The real test, however, consists of living without the restrictions that have defined their existences up until now. Jiles’s prose is a striking match for the barren landscape of this moody adventure tale.”
Publishers Weekly

Lighthouse Island (9780062232502) by Paulette Jiles. $26.99 hardcover. 10/8/13 on sale.