Advice for Readers

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in May

And the Mountains Echoed book coverAmericanah book coverA Constellation of Vital Phenomena book coverDead Ever After book coverA Delicate Truth book coverMontaro Caine book coverLittle Green book coverGood Kings Bad Kings book coverNorwegian by Night book coverKing of Cuba book cover

And the Mountains Echoed
by Khaled Hosseini
Readers around the world who loved The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns will be thrilled to get their hands on the newest book by best-selling novelist Khaled Hosseini. And the Mountains Echoed traces the intertwined stories of Afghanis in their home country and around the world in what Library Journal calls “a gorgeous tapestry of disparate characters joined by threads of blood and fate.” Booklist calls it a “vital, profound, and spellbinding saga.”

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie is the author of critically acclaimed and award-winning novels Purple Hibiscus (2003) and Half of a Yellow Sun. Her newest novel tells the story of Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who leaves her home country and her sweetheart to study in the United States, where she faces immense difficulties. When she starts blogging her rants about the racism she observes and experiences in the U.S., she wins admiration and financial rewards, all the while struggling with the separation from her love. Library Journal calls Americanah “witty, wry, and observant” saying “Adichie is a marvelous storyteller who writes passionately about the difficulty of assimilation and the love that binds a man, a woman, and their homeland.”

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
by Anthony Marra
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena follows the lives of a child, a failed doctor and a surgeon struggling to survive in war-torn Chechnya. It received starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal and Publishers Weekly and is the number one book on the Indie Next List, a monthly list of recommendations from independent booksellers from across the country. Kirkus Reviews calls it a “somber, sensitive portrait of how lives fray and bind again in chaotic circumstances.” You can read or listen to a preview here.

Dead Ever After
by Charlaine Harris
Fans of the Sookie Stackhouse fantasy/mystery books (and their TV adaptation True Blood) take note: this is the final novel in Harris’ immensely popular series.

A Delicate Truth
by John Le Carré
Le Carré has been writing acclaimed espionage novels for almost five decades. His newest follows the cover-up of a counterterrorism effort gone wrong in Gibraltar. Reviewers have been noting the lack of moral ambiguity that characterized so many of his earlier works; Booklist describes this change as a “new, shockingly realistic kind of noir in which right-thinking individuals who challenge the institutional order of things always lose.”

Montaro Caine
by Sidney Poitier
Beloved Academy Award-winning actor Poitier is the author of this month’s most unexpected debut, a mystery and science fiction mash-up in which the CEO of a multinational mining corporation seeks the origin of a mysterious coin.  Kirkus Reviews calls Montaro Caine “a pleasant surprise, elegantly written and keenly observed.”

Little Green: An Easy Rawlins Mystery
by Walter Mosley
Fans of Easy Rawlins will be overjoyed to learn that he’s back. In Blonde Faith (2007), Easy’s life (and the series) appeared to come to an end when he drove off a cliff, but in Little Green he awakens from a coma, it is still 1967, and Easy gets back into the P.I. game. His mission is to find a missing young man last seen in a Sunset Strip Club, which immerses Easy in the unfamiliar world of L.A.’s hippie culture. Library Journal calls it a “taut tale that rises above other mysteries through its strong African American protagonist.”

Good Kings Bad Kings
by Susan Nussbaum
This year’s recipient of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, Good Kings Bad Kings takes us on a scathing and tender tour behind the scenes at the Illinois Learning and Life Skills Center, a nursing home for teenagers with disabilities. As Kirkus Reviews puts it, “Nussbaum's vivid portraits of a wide variety of ILLC residents, some of whom are mentally ill as well as physically challenged, reveal the three-dimensional humanity of people the rest of society is all too willing to neglect and ignore. Well-meaning, well-written and well-plotted, with qualified justice for some of the bad guys and hope for a few of the oppressed.” Debut novelist Nussbaum is a playwright and disability rights activist.

Norwegian by Night
by Derek B. Miller
Advanced age and the beginnings of dementia force Sheldon Horowitz to leave Manhattan and move in with his granddaughter and her husband in Oslo in a novel that Kirkus Reviews describes as “part memory novel, part police procedural, part sociopolitical tract and part existential meditation.” A hate crime prompts Horowitz to protect a young boy while he battles his fading sanity and grapples with his emotional wounds as a Korean War veteran and the loss of his son in Vietnam. Booklist asserts “no brief plot outline can do justice to a book that deserves to find a place on a few best-of-the-year lists” and compares Norwegian by Night to the works of popular Scandinavian authors Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell, and Jo Nesbø.

King of Cuba
by Cristina García
In her latest novel, García imagines the life of Cuba’s aging dictator, interspersed with the rants of Goyo, an octogenarian Cuban exile in Miami who stews with hatred for the leader while he plots his assassination. Booklist calls King of Cuba “spectacularly agile, strategically surreal, wryly tender, and devilishly funny” and Publishers Weekly describes García’s writing as “laced with candor and wit as she portrays the lives of two men united by the past.” García is the author of six novels, including Dreaming in Cuban (1992) which was nominated for the National Book Award.

Are you looking forward to an upcoming new release? Tell us about it!

Posted on 3/29/2013 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library. 

Book Giveaway: Ghana Must Go

Book Cover of Ghana Must Go


Ghana Must Go is the story of an immigrant family of Ghanaian and Nigerian descent headed by a successful doctor living the American Dream in Boston with his wife and four children. But when he leaves his family for another woman, the family splits apart. Sixteen years later estranged family members meet again in Accra, reunited by the patriarch’s funeral. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly calls it “gorgeous” and “driven by eloquent prose.” You can read more about it here and listen to an interview with the author here.


 Debut novelist Taiye Selasi is a protégée of Toni Morrison and author of the story “The Sex Lives of African Girls,” which was included in The Best American Short Stories 2012. She has recently been included in Granta’s newest list of the Best Young British Novelists. Selasi, the child of Ghanaian and Nigerian parents, was born in London, raised in Massachusetts and now lives in Rome.

I have one paperback advance copy of Ghana Must Go to give away to a lucky winner.

To enter:

1. Leave a comment below about a book you love to recommend to other readers.

2. Email me at with a copy of your comment and contact information so I can reach you if I draw your name.

I’ll draw a winner at random on Friday morning, May 3. Thanks for entering!

Posted on 4/26/2013 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library.

2013 Pulitzer Prizes Announced

Earlier this week the 2013 Pulitzer Prizes were announced.

Orphan Master's Son book coverEmbers of War book coverBlack Count book coverStag's Leap book coverDevil in the Grove book cover

Fiction fans breathed a sigh of relief when Stanford professor Adam Johnson received the award for his novel The Orphan Master's Son. If you remember, last year’s Pulitzers created quite a controversy when no fiction winner was chosen despite three excellent contenders (Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Swamplandia! by Karen Russell and The Pale King by David Foster Wallace).

Here are the 2013 Pulitzer Prize winning books, with descriptions from the Pulitzer juries:


The Orphan Master's Son
by Adam Johnson
“An exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart.”

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank
by Nathan Englander
“A diverse yet consistently masterful collection of stories that explore Jewish identity and questions of modern life in ways that can both delight and unsettle the reader.”

The Snow Child
by Eowyn Ivey
“An enchanting novel about an older homesteading couple who long for a child amid the hard wilderness of Alaska and a feral girl who emerges from the woods to bring them hope.”


Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam
by Fredrik Logevall
“A balanced, deeply researched history of how, as French colonial rule faltered, a succession of American leaders moved step by step down a road toward full-blown war.”

The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675
by Bernard Bailyn
“A luminous account of how the British colonies took root amid raw brutality, often with terrible consequences for the settlers as well as the native population.”

Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History
by John Fabian Witt
“A striking work examining how orders issued by President Lincoln to govern conduct on battlefields and in prisons during the Civil War have shaped modern laws of armed conflict.”


The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
by Tom Reiss
“A compelling story of a forgotten swashbuckling hero of mixed race whose bold exploits were captured by his son, Alexander Dumas, in famous 19th century novels.”

Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece
by Michael Gorra
“An elegant and enlightening book that brings together the complicated life of a great author and the evolution of his great novel, "The Portrait of a Lady."

The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy
by David Nasaw
“A monumental work that tells the story of the relentless tycoon who created a dynastic family that helped shape modern American history and also suffered immense tragedy.”


Stag's Leap
by Sharon Olds
“A book of unflinching poems on the author’s divorce that examine love, sorrow and the limits of self-knowledge. “

Collected Poems
by Jack Gilbert
“A half century of poems reflecting a creative author’s commitment to living fully and honestly and to producing straightforward work that illuminates everyday experience with startling clarity.”

The Abundance of Nothing
by Bruce Weigl
“A powerful collection of poems that explore the trauma of the Vietnam War and the feelings that have never left many of those who fought in the conflict.”


Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America
by Gilbert King
“A richly detailed chronicle of racial injustice in the Florida town of Groveland in 1949, involving four black men falsely accused of rape and drawing a civil rights crusader, and eventual Supreme Court justice, into the legal battle.”

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
by Katherine Boo
“An engrossing book that plunges the reader into an Indian slum in the shadow of gleaming hotels near Mumbai’s airport, revealing a complex subculture where poverty does not extinguish aspiration.”

The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature
by David George Haskell
“A fascinating book that, for a year, closely follows the natural wonders occurring within a tiny patch of old-growth Tennessee forest.”

 Visit from the Goon Squad book coverBrief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao book coverThe Road book coverKnown World book coverMiddlesex book cover

I have truly loved reading some of the Pulitzer winners over the last decade, namely A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Known World by Edward P. Jones, and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Have you had any great Pulitzer reading experiences? Or, are you feeling inspired to read any of this year’s award winners?


Posted on 4/19/2013 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library.


Finalists Announced for 2013 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Looking for a great book? Earlier this week, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award announced its 2013 shortlist.

The selection process for this award is unusual because it begins with libraries. Each year over one hundred public libraries from around the world each nominate up to three novels of “high literary merit” written in or translated into English--alas, this effort does not include Oakland Public Library. (It is worth noting that the list of countries represented by these libraries weighs heavily European, and so do the finalists.) The shortlist and the winner are then selected by a panel of judges which varies every year. This year’s winner will be announced on Thursday, June 6.

The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award was established in 1994 and first awarded in 1996. Past winners include Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann, Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, The Known World by Edward P. Jones, and My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk.

Check out a contender! Here is the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2013 Shortlist, with descriptions from our catalog:

City of Bohane
by Kevin Barry
 The once-great city of Bohane on the west coast of Ireland is in terminal decline, infested by vice and split along tribal lines. For years, it has been under the control of Logan Hartnett, the godfather of the Hartnett Fancy gang. But now his old nemesis is back in town, his henchman are becoming ambitious, and his wife wants him to give it all up and go straight.

The Map and the Territory
by Michel Houellebecq
Translated from the original French by Gavin Bowd
 Traces the experiences of artist Jed Martin, who rises to international success as a portrait photographer before helping to solve a heinous crime that has lasting repercussions for his loved ones.

by Andrew Miller
Engineer Jean-Baptiste Baratte is tasked with emptying an overflowing cemetery in Paris in 1785, work he considers noble until he begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery parallels his own fate and the demise of social order.

by Haruki Murakami
Translated from the original Japanese by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel
An ode to George Orwell's "1984" told in alternating male and female voices relates the stories of Aomame, an assassin for a secret organization who discovers that she has been transported to an alternate reality, and Tengo, a mathematics lecturer and novice writer. 

The Buddha in the Attic
by Julie Otsuka
Presents the stories of six Japanese mail-order brides whose new lives in early twentieth-century San Francisco are marked by backbreaking migrant work, cultural struggles, children who reject their heritage, and the prospect of wartime internment. 

The Tragedy of Arthur
by Arthur Phillips
When their long-imprisoned con-artist father reaches the end of his life, Arthur and his twin sister become the owners of an undiscovered play by William Shakespeare that their father wants published, a final request that represents either a great literary gift or their father's last great heist.

by Karen Russell
The Bigtree children struggle to protect their Florida Everglades alligator-wrestling theme park from a sophisticated competitor after losing their parents.

From the Mouth of the Whale*
by Sjón
Translated from the original Icelandic by Victoria Cribb
The year is 1635. Iceland is a world darkened by superstition, poverty, and cruelty. Men of science marvel over a unicorn's horn, poor folk worship the Virgin in secret, and both books and men are burnt. Jonas Palmason, a poet and self-taught healer, has been condemned to exile for heretical conduct, having fallen foul of the local magistrate. Banished to a barren island, Jonas recalls his gift for curing "female maladies," his exorcism of a walking corpse on the remote Snjafjoll coast, the frenzied massacre of innocent Basque whalers at the hands of local villagers, and the deaths of three of his children.

The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am*
by Kjersti Skomsvold
Translated from the original Norwegian by Kerri A. Pierce
Mathea Martinsen has never been good at dealing with other people. After a lifetime, her only real accomplishment is her longevity: everyone she reads about in the obituaries has died younger than she is now. Afraid that her life will be over before anyone knows that she lived, Mathea digs out her old wedding dress, bakes some sweet cakes, and heads out into the world--to make her mark. She buries a time capsule out in the yard. (It gets dug up to make room for a flagpole.) She wears her late husband's watch and hopes people will ask her for the time. (They never do.) Is it really possible for a woman to disappear so completely that the world won't notice her passing? The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am is a macabre twist on the notion that life "must be lived to the fullest."

Caesarion (Little Caesar)*
by Tommy Wieringa
Translated from the original Dutch by Sam Garrett
Pianist Ludwig, whose life was derailed when his artist father left his family when he was a boy, embarks on a journey around the world, while coping with the discovery of his mother's former career as a pornographic actress.

*Most of these finalists are available at Oakland Public Library and the rest can be borrowed through Link+. If you haven’t tried Link+, you can read more about it here.

Posted on 4/12/2013 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library. 

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in April

Maya’s Notebook
by Isabel Allende
In Allende’s latest, 19-year-old Berkeley native Maya moves to the Chilean island of Chiloé, sent by her grandmother to escape a recent descent into drugs and crime. Although Allende sets this novel in the present day, she manages to weave Chile’s dark political history into the story. Booklist raves, Maya’s Notebook “is a boldly plotted, sharply funny, and purposefully bone-shaking novel of sexual violence, political terror, "collective shame," and dark family secrets, all transcended by courage and love.”

Life After Life
by Kate Atkinson
Popular mystery writer Atkinson takes a break from her Jackson Brodie series for a historical and speculative novel with an unusual premise that Booklist calls “wildly inventive.” Life After Life follows Ursula Todd from her birth in 1910 England through World War II as she relives her life in numerous ways, experiencing death and rebirth multiple times, while world history is rewritten over and over. Atkinson plays with the idea that life could take any direction in a novel that is “provocative, entertaining and beautifully written” (Kirkus Reviews).

Life After Life
by Jill McCorkle
Coincidentally, author Jill McCorkle has a new novel with the exact same name that is also receiving early praise. Her Life After Life follows the people who cross paths at a retirement center in small-town North Carolina. Kirkus says “McCorkle's masterful microcosm invokes profound sadness, harsh insight and guffaws, often on the same page.”

Last Friends
by Gardam, Jane
Last Friends concludes the trilogy British author Gardam began with Old Filth (2006) and The Man in the Wooden Hat (2011), known for its “witty style, insatiable readability, and cast of strange and amazing characters” (Booklist). While the two earlier books concentrated on Sir Edward "Old Filth" Feathers and his wife, Betty, this new volume turns to Sir Edward’s longtime rival, Sir Terence Veneering, and his rise from poverty in an era when class meant everything. In a starred review, Kirkus calls it “exquisitely expressive” and “impeccably written.”

Harvard Square
by Andre Aciman
Harvard Square takes place in 1970’s Boston, where an Egyptian Jewish Harvard student befriends a Tunisian Muslim cab driver. United by a common language (French) and shared immigrant experiences, they spend the summer chasing women until circumstances create a wedge between them. Publishers Weekly gives Harvard Square a starred review, and Booklist says it “provides an interesting look at the dilemmas of identity, the concept of home, and our enduring need to belong.” Egyptian-born Aciman is the author of an acclaimed memoir and several novels, including Call Me By Your Name (2007), a New York Times Notable Book and Lambda Literary Award winner.

The Hope Factory
by Lavanya Sankaran
The Hope Factory is “a vivid exposé of modern India's growing pains” (Kirkus), in which the owner of an auto parts manufacturer tries to expand his business without the help of his father-in-law. Meanwhile, his family’s household help are struggling, like the maid who is trying to provide for her family while fighting eviction from a rental that has been targeted by developers. Publishers Weekly offers high praise to Sankaran, saying The Hope Factory “firmly establishes her talent through the nuances of her characters and a striking exploration of culture.”

by Brian Kimberling
Nathan Lochmueller is an aimless college graduate whose talent for tracking birds lands him a job as a researcher despite his usual poor luck. As he wanders through the forests of southern Indiana, he encounters a number of curious folks. At home he struggles with his complicated romantic relationship and doomed capers with his immature friends. Kirkus calls Snapper “a well-turned debut that airdrops its characters into an appealingly offbeat milieu” told with a “wry, self-deprecating wit.”

The Morels
by Christopher Hacker
In this metafictional drama, Arthur Morel has just finished a loosely autobiographical novel called The Morels, in which he has described a shocking and criminal family secret. He claims it is fiction, but his family no longer believes him, causing an avalanche of personal and legal troubles. Morel runs into the novel’s narrator, a filmmaker, who decides to make a documentary that will separate the family’s truth from fiction. Library Journal calls it “entertaining,” “audacious,” “thought-provoking” and “one of the top first novels of the year.”

The Carrion Birds
by Urban Waite
The hero of this dark thriller is a widower, father of a son with a disability, Vietnam veteran, and a drug smuggler. He’s ready to retire from the cartel and start a new life with his son, but he has one last score to settle. Kirkus Reviews calls The Carrion Birds “fierce and lyrical”, saying “Waite's narrative rages as a perfect torrent of violence flooding toward its inevitable conclusion.” Library Journal recommends it for fans of Cormac McCarthy and “readers who like their crime fiction on the dark side.”

The Humanity Project
by Jean Thompson
The Humanity Project is a compassionate look at people struggling with bad circumstances and bad choices. Sean is a handyman, low on work and about to lose his house, while his teenage son, Conner, makes a series of disastrous decisions. Art is a pot-smoking divorcee who is suddenly a father again when his estranged 15-year-old daughter is sent to live with him after a tragedy and a string of dangerous behavior. The lives of these characters intersect when a wealthy widow decides to establish a nonprofit with a vague mission: The Humanity Project. Booklist calls The Humanity Project “instantly addictive,” saying “Thompson is at her tender and scathing best in this tale of yearning, paradox, and hope.” Thompson’s books have earned high praise; her novel The Year We Left Home was selected by Kirkus as one of the best books of the year in 2011, her 2009 story collection Do Not Deny Me was a New York Times Notable Book, and Who Do You Love: Stories was a 1999 National Book Award finalist for fiction.

Are you looking forward to an upcoming new release? Tell us about it!

Posted on 3/29/2013 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library. 

Women’s Prize for Fiction Announces the 2013 Longlist of Nominees

The Women’s Prize for Fiction is one of the most prestigious literary awards in the English-speaking world. It was established in the United Kingdom to recognize the best original full-length novel written in English by a female author of any nationality. The Women’s Prize has been awarded to a number of beloved authors, including Barbara Kingsolver, Marilynne Robinson, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zadie Smith, and Ann Patchett. If it doesn’t sound familiar, perhaps it’s because the Women’s Prize was called the Orange Prize from the time it was launched in 1996 until last year, when it parted ways with its main sponsor.

The 2013 longlist was announced earlier this month; the shortlist of finalists will be announced on April 16 and the final prize will be awarded on June 4.

If you are searching for your next book, the Women’s Prize longlist has some great inspiration! Here’s the list, with summaries from our catalog:

Life After Life
by Kate Atkinson
The award-winning author of Behind the Scenes at the Museum follows the experiences of a woman who after being born on a snowy night in 1910 repeated dies and reincarnates into the same life to correct missteps and ultimately save the world.

The Marlowe Papers
by Ros Barber
Exiled writer Christopher Marlowe shares the story of his life from his humble youth as a cobbler's son who counted nobles among his friends to his adult misadventures as a Queen's spy, fickle lover and religious skeptic whose talent for plays, poetry and trouble led him to hide his identity behind the name William Shakespeare.

The People of Forever are Not Afraid
by Shani Boianjiu
This coming-of-age story follows the lives of three Israeli girls who join the Israeli Defense Forces when they turn 18 and deal with gossip and flirting along with the threat of constant danger and intense military training.

Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
When a beautiful woman goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary, her diary reveals hidden turmoil in her marriage and a mysterious illness; while her husband, desperate to clear himself of suspicion, realizes that something more disturbing than murder may have occurred.

How Should A Person Be?
by Sheila Heti
Facing a creative dilemma after a failed marriage, Sheila gathers inspiration from a depraved and free-spirited artist who becomes her lover, in a tale based on incidents from the author's true life that combines literary observations, self-help advice and unstinting confessions.

May We Be Forgiven
by A.M Homes
Feeling overshadowed by his more-successful younger brother, Harold is shocked by his brother's violent act of rage, which irrevocably changes both of their lives, placing Harold in the psychologically dynamic role of father figure to his brother's adolescent children and caregiver to his aging parents.

Flight Behavior
by Barbara Kingsolver
Tired of living on a failing farm and suffering oppressive poverty, bored housewife Dellarobia Turnbow, on the way to meet a potential lover, is detoured by a miraculous event on the Appalachian mountainside that ignites a media and religious firestorm that changes her life forever.

The Red Book
by Deborah Copaken Kogan
Centering around Harvard's Red Book, a collection of personal triumphs and failures from graduates, this tongue-in-cheek novel follows a group of roommates from the class of 1989 as they prepare for their 20th reunion weekend.

Bring Up the Bodies
by Hilary Mantel
A sequel to the Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall depicts the downfall of Anne Boleyn at the hands of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell as Anne and her powerful family fight back while she is on trial for adultery and treason.

by Bonnie Nadzam
Hoping to regain a sense of goodness in himself after the disintegration of his marriage and the death of his father, middle-aged David Lamb focuses on helping awkward and unpopular eleven-year-old Tommie by taking her on a road trip from Chicago to the Rockies.

The Forrests
by Emily Perkins
Dorothy Forrest absently accompanies her dysfunctional family as they relocate from New York City to New Zealand, where she is swept through an emotionally charged existence of commune dwelling, early marriage, parenting, and loss.

by Michèle Roberts
Growing up side by side in the Catholic village of Ste. Madeleine, pious grocer's daughter Marie Angèle aspires to a life of comfort while impoverished laundress' daughter Jeanne hides her Jewish heritage, until the outbreak of war binds the girls together.

The Innocents
by Francesca Segal
As he prepares for his wedding to Rachel Gilbert, the woman he has been with for 12 years, 28-year-old Adam Newman begins to question everything when Rachel's fiercely independent and beautiful young cousin moves home from New York, offering him a liberation he never knew existed.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette
by Maria Semple
When her notorious, hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled, and agoraphobic mother goes missing, teenage Bee begins a trip that takes her to the ends of the earth to find her.

by Elif Shafak
The lives of twin sisters born in 1940s Turkey diverge when one stays in their childhood village and becomes a revered midwife while the other moves to London with her bitter husband and three children.

by Zadie Smith
Growing up in the same 1970s urban planning development in Northwest London, four young people pursue independent and reasonably successful lives until one of them is abruptly drawn out of her isolation by a stranger who is seeking her help.

The Light Between Oceans
by M.L. Stedman
Moving his young bride to an isolated lighthouse home on Australia's Janus Rock where the couple suffers miscarriages and a stillbirth, Tom allows his wife to claim an infant that has washed up on the shore, a decision with devastating consequences.

Alif the Unseen
G. Willow Wilson
Forced underground when his ex-lover's new fiancé breaches his computer, putting him and his clients in jeopardy, young Arab-Indian hacker Alif discovers the secret book of the jinn and uses its insights to enable life-threatening developments in information technology.

A Trick I Learned From Dead Men
by Kitty Aldridge
Not yet available in a U.S. edition, this novel is about a young man coping with loss by becoming an apprentice at a funeral parlor.

Mateship with Birds
by Carrie Tiffany
Not yet available in a U.S. edition, this story takes place in 1950’s rural Australia, where a bird-loving farmer finds himself in trouble when he tries to teach his young neighbor about the birds and the bees.

Posted on 3/22/2013 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

Check Out an Award Winning Book

Over the past few weeks, the winners of three major book awards have been announced. Yesterday the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize was awarded to Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng for his novel The Garden of Evening Mists. Eng’s novel takes place in post-World War II Malaysia, where a survivor or a Japanese work camp finds solace in a Japanese garden. The judges called it "a novel of subtle power and redemptive grace." Read more here.

Just a day earlier, the Story Prize was awarded to debut author Claire Vaye Watkins for her collection Battleborn. Her contenders were the very popular and celebrated authors Dan Chaon (Stay Awake) and Junot Díaz (This Is How You Lose Her). Read more here.

In late February, the winners of the prestigious National Book Critic Circle Awards were also announced. Here are the winners in all categories:

Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys*
by D. A. Powell

Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights
by Marina Warner

Swimming Studies*
by Leanne Shapton

The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
Robert A. Caro

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
Andrew Solomon

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Ben Fountain

You can read more about these books and authors here.

This week the longlist of nominees was announced for the 2013 Women's Prize for Fiction (until recently known as the Orange Prize). I’ll write about it next week, but if you can’t wait, you can view the list here.

I’d also like to congratulate our own recent winner at Oakland Public Library. Pamela Calvert, enthusiastic patron of the Dimond Branch, won last week’s blog contest and will receive a copy of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, the new novel by Mohsin Hamid. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Posted on 3/15/2013 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library.

*These titles are available through Link+. If you are new to Link+, read this.

Book Giveaway: How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

If How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia sounds like a business self-help book, it is because the author inventively evokes that genre to tell the rags-to-riches story of an unnamed narrator in an unidentified developing nation.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia came out earlier this week, and it is already receiving a lot of praise. The New York Times calls this novel a “a compelling story that works on two levels — in this case as a deeply moving and highly specific tale of love and ambition, and as a larger, metaphorical look at the mind-boggling social and economic changes sweeping ‘rising Asia.’” Moreover, “Mr. Hamid reaffirms his place as one of his generation’s most inventive and gifted writers.” Read The New York Times review here, another review from NPR here, and an interview with the author from The Atlantic here.

Among other commendations, Hamid’s novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist was shortlisted for the Man Booker Award and Moth Smoke was a PEN/Hemingway Award finalist.

I have one paperback advance copy of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia to give away to a lucky winner.

To enter:

1. Leave a comment below about what you’re currently reading or what you’re planning to read next.

2. Email me at with a copy of your comment and contact information so I can reach you if I draw your name.

I’ll draw a winner at random on Tuesday morning, March 12. Thanks for entering!

Posted on 3/8/2013 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library.

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in March

The Burgess Boys
by Elizabeth Strout
Oakland readers are already joining the hold list for Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, her first since 2008’s Pulitzer Prize winning Olive Kitteridge. The Burgess Boys is about three estranged siblings brought back together by a family crisis, and a community fractured by a hate crime against Somali immigrants in small-town Maine. “Strout's tremendous talent at creating a compelling interest in what seems on the surface to be the barest of actions gives her latest work an almost meditative state, in which the fabric of family, loyalty, and difficult choices is revealed in layer after artful layer” (Booklist).

Oleander Girl
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Korobi Roy, orphaned at birth, has been raised by protective grandparents in Kolkata (Calcutta, India). Plain and unsophisticated Korobi makes a strange match for her wealthy and dashing fiancé Rajat, much to others’ surprise and disapproval. Soon after their formal engagement, Korobi learns that her father is indeed alive; he lives in the United States, he was never married to her mother, and he is an African-American man. With this news, she leaves for the U.S. to find him. Booklist calls Oleander Girl “utterly transfixing” and “a superbly well-plotted, charming, yet hard-hitting novel of family, marriage, and class.” Divakaruni may be best known for her 1997 novel set in Oakland, The Mistress of Spices, which was named one of the top 100 books of the 20th Century by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Murder Below Montparnasse
by Cara Black
San Francisco’s own Cara Black continues her popular Aimée Leduc mysteries set in present day Paris. An elderly Russian art collector may have clues to the whereabouts of private detective Leduc’s long lost mother. This is the thirteenth installment (following 2012’s Murder at the Lantern Rouge) in a series that has been called “taut, well-observed, and thoroughly entertaining” (Library Journal). If you’re new to this atmospheric series, start with number one, Murder in the Marais.

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat
by Edward Kelsey Moore
Moore’s debut novel follows the trajectory of the lives and friendship of three women from high school through middle age. The Supremes are an inseparable trio—Odette, Clarice and Barbara—and Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is their regular hangout for forty years, as well as the first Black-owned business in Plainview, Indiana. Library Journal predicts it will be a best seller, and praises Moore’s use of “warmhearted humor and salty language to bring to life a tight-knit African-American community that's complete with competing churches, wacky relations, a fortune-telling fraud, and the ghost of a drunken Eleanor Roosevelt.”

The Fun Parts: Stories
by Sam Lipsyte
Lipsyte is known as the satirical author of Home Land and The Ask, both New York Times Notable Books. His new collection sounds caustic, witty, offbeat and sometimes violent. The Fun Parts includes stories published in The Paris Review and The New Yorker; you can read a sample here. Publishers Weekly gives it a starred review, noting “Lipsyte's biting humor suffuses the collection, but it's his ability to control the relative darkness of each moment that makes the stories so engrossing.”

Sister Mine
by Nalo Hopkinson
Hopkinson is a Jamaican-Canadian science fiction and fantasy writer who has been recognized as a World Fantasy Award winner and Nebula Award nominee. In Sister Mine, Hopkinson tells the story of the conjoined offspring of a deity and a human woman turned sea creature. Their surgical separation leads to the loss of power by one sister, and the gain of supernatural power by the other. Hopkinson’s many fans will look forward to this release.

A Thousand Pardons
by Jonathan Dee
In A Thousand Pardons, successful lawyer Ben Armstead’s poor behavior ends in spectacular disaster, ruining his career and his marriage. His ex-wife Helen successfully emerges from this crisis by starting  a career as a PR maven who, in a departure from the prevailing wisdom of the public relations field, rescues her clients from their own catastrophes by convincing them to apologize and ask for forgiveness. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews calls it a “triumph”, saying “Dee has written a page turner without sacrificing a smidgen of psychological insight”. Dee’s 2010 novel, The Privileges, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

A Tale for the Time Being
by Ruth Ozeki
A writer struggling with writer’s block on the coast of British Columbia is connected to a lonely and suicidal teen in Tokyo by means of a lunchbox that washes up on the beach after the 2011 tsunami carries it across the ocean. A Tale for the Time Being intertwines the stories of these two strangers with an account of the life of the teen’s great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun, in a “beautiful narrative remarkable for its unusual but attentively structured plot” (Booklist). Kirkus raves: “The novel's seamless web of language, metaphor and meaning can't be disentangled from its powerful emotional impact: These are characters we care for deeply, imparting vital life lessons through the magic of storytelling. A masterpiece, pure and simple.” Ozeki is the author of the best-selling novel My Year of Meats (1998).

Ghana Must Go
by Taiye Selasi
A Ghanaian man achieves the American Dream: he is a successful doctor in Boston with a wife and four children. But when he leaves his family for another woman, the family splits apart. Sixteen years later they travel from the United States to Accra, reunited by the patriarch’s funeral. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly calls it “gorgeous” and “driven by eloquent prose.” Debut novelist Selasi is a protégée of Toni Morrison and has a story included in The Best American Short Stories 2012.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia
by Mohsin Hamid
If this sounds like a business self-help book, it is because the author inventively evokes that genre to tell the rags-to-riches story of an unnamed narrator in an unidentified developing nation. The New York Times calls this novel a “a compelling story that works on two levels — in this case as a deeply moving and highly specific tale of love and ambition, and as a larger, metaphorical look at the mind-boggling social and economic changes sweeping ‘rising Asia.’” Moreover, “Mr. Hamid reaffirms his place as one of his generation’s most inventive and gifted writers.” Among other commendations, Hamid’s novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist was shortlisted for the Man Booker Award and Moth Smoke was a PEN/Hemingway Award finalist. You can read an excerpt of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia here.

Are you looking forward to an upcoming new release? Tell us about it!

Posted on 3/1/2013 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library.

Pride and Prejudice Celebrates 200 years

On January 28, 1813, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was published for the first time. After two centuries, Austen's story of beautiful, clever and poor Elizabeth Bennett and arrogant Mr. Darcy continues to persist as both a canonical and popular novel.

Proof of the lasting influence of Pride and Prejudice is its impressive number of film and literary adaptations. There are movie and television versions, including the 1940 release starring Laurence Olivier, the 1995 BBC series starring Colin Firth, and the 2005 film starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. There are also numerous novels that continue the story or tell it faithfully from another character’s point of view, such as Pemberley by Emma Tennant and Lydia Bennet's Story by Jane Odiwe.

Then there are the more imaginative departures. There are mystery adaptations, including P.D. James’ recent Death comes to Pemberley, and horror spin-offs such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange. Austenland by Shannon Hale, a popular 2007 novel about a Darcy-obsessed young woman vacationing at a Pride and Prejudice-themed resort, has recently been adapted into a film that debuted last month at Sundance. There are sexier versions (Pride/Prejudice by Ann Herendeen), young adult offshoots (Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik), and even a Bollywood film (Bride and Prejudice). This list of adaptations on Wikipedia is enough to make your head spin.

Of course, you can celebrate this milestone by reading or re-reading the original. You can find various editions in our catalog here, here, here, and here.

Happy Anniversary!

Posted on 2/15/2013 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library