Advice for Readers

Ten Great Reasons to Read Fiction in November

  • Oakland readers are lining up for bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver's newest novel, Flight Behavior. Following her 2009 Orange Prize-winning novel The Lacuna, Kingsolver “performs literary magic, generously illuminating both sides of the culture wars, from the global-warming debate to public education in America” (Library Journal). Read or listen to a preview of Flight Behavior here.

  • The holds list is also mounting for Ian McEwan’s latest, Sweet Tooth. The author of acclaimed novels such as Atonement (2002) has received numerous awards, including the six nominations for the Booker Prize, which he won in 1998 for Amsterdam. Sweet Tooth has been described as “multilayered and labyrinthine” and “masterful” by Kirkus Reviews.  You can get a preview of Sweet Tooth here.

  • Colm Tóibín, celebrated Irish author of The Master and Brooklyn, has a new novella that tells an unorthodox account of the life of Mary, adapted from a 2011 play written for the Dublin stage. The Testament of Mary is being called “A work suffused with mystery and wonder” (Kirkus) and “a moving and thought-­provoking take on the life of a religious icon” (Library Journal).

  • Alice Munro, frequent contender for the Nobel Prize and “arguably the best short-story writer in English today” (Booklist) has a new story collection called Dear Life. “It's no surprise that every story in the latest collection by Canada's Munro is rewarding and that the best are stunning” (Kirkus Reviews).

  • Philip Pullman is best known for His Dark Materials, a trilogy of fantasy novels beginning with The Golden Compass beloved by both young readers and adults. On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Grimm’s fairy tales, Pullman has written Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version,in which Pullman has selected and revised 50 tales. Pullman is a “master storyteller” who is “perfectly suited to the task” (Library Journal).

  • In 1994, Caleb Carr wrote a mystery steeped in history and psychology about a hunt for a gruesome serial killer in 1895 New York City. The Alienist became a bestseller, won an Anthony Award for Best First Novel, eventually sold two million copies, and years later the book still has a steady stream of readers at the Oakland Public Library. So even though it hasn’t received reviews yet, it’s probably worth keeping an eye out for The Legend of Broken,Carr’s medieval era adventure which rolls out at the end of the month.

  • Lydia Millet concludes the trilogy that began with How the Dead Dream (2008) and Ghost Lights (2011) with Magnificence. Publishers Weekly calls Millet “a dazzling prose stylist” and Booklist calls her trilogy “searching, bitterly funny, ecologically attuned”.

  • Another posthumous novel is due out this month from the late, much admired Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño, author of 2666 and The Savage Detectives. Woes of the True Policeman might be Bolaño's final novel—he started writing it in the 1980s and revisited it later in life, but it remained unfinished at the time of his death in 2003. Kirkus Reviews calls it “a seductive grab bag filled with the mysteries of sexuality and literature”.

  • Ru is a semi-autobiographical novel by Vietnamese-Canadian author Kim Thuy. The novel, originally written in French, debuted in Canada and won their Governor General’s Award for 2010.  Tracing her family’s refugee journey in the late 1970s from Vietnam to Malaysia to Canada, this is a “luminous first novel of memories strung together with concise yet lyrical and sensuous prose” (Booklist).

  • Eduardo Halfon is a Guatemalan-born writer who has spent much of his life in the United States. He currently splits his time between his native country and Nebraska. Although he is bilingual, he writes in Spanish, and has already won prizes in the Spanish language literary world. A Guggenheim Fellowship helped him to finish The Polish Boxer, and it is his first work to be translated into English. A Booklist reviewer raved: “The Polish Boxer is sublime and arresting, and will linger with readers, who will be sure to revisit it again and again”.

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

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.

Sweet Tooth
by Ian McEwan
Summary: Recruited into MI5 against a backdrop of the Cold War in 1972, Cambridge student Serena Frome, a compulsive reader, is assigned to infiltrate the literary circle of a promising young writer whose politics align with those of the government.

The Testament of Mary
by Colm Tóibín
A provocative imagining of the later years of the mother of Jesus finds her living a solitary existence in Ephesus years after her son's crucifixion and struggling with guilt, anger, and feelings that her son is not the son of God and that His sacrifice was not for a worthy cause.

Dear Life
by Alice Munro
 A collection of stories illuminates moments that shape a life, from a dream or a sexual act to simple twists of fate, and is set in the countryside and towns of Lake Huron.

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version
by Philip Pullman 
 Presents mature and scholarly retellings of fifty favorite and lesser-known fairy tales on the two hundredth anniversary of the Grimm brothers' "Children's and Household Tales," in a volume that includes such stories as "Cinderella," "Rapunzel," and "Briar-Rose." 

The Legend of Broken
by Caleb Carr
An epic account about the kingdom of Broken follows the efforts of a solitary noble soldier to confront legendary medieval adversaries to save a fortress city from internal and external dangers.

by Lydia Millet
After her husband's death, Susan Lindley moves into her late great-uncle's Pasadena mansion and restores his taxidermy collection while being joined in the residence by an equally strange human menagerie.

Woes of the True Policeman
by Roberto Bolaño
After his political disillusionment and love of poetry leads to a scandal that forces him to flee from Barcelona, Amalfitano, an exiled Chilean university professor and widower, arrives in Santa Teresa, Mexico where he meets a magician and writer whose work highlights the fragile nature of literature and life.

by Kim Thuy
An award-winning autobiographical novel follows the immigration experience of a young Vietnamese girl who came of age in a hardscrabble Quebec community before earning an education and pursuing a career and her literary ambitions, in a story imparted as a sensuous array of memories

The Polish Boxer
by Eduardo Halfon
The narrator, a Guatemalan literature professor, encounters a number of interesting characters, including a Serbian classical pianist, a young Israeli woman, and a Mayan poet, before pursuing his most enigmatic subject--himself.

Posted on 11/1/2012 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

Book Awards Season Mysteriously Continues

Earlier in October, approximately 1500 authors and fans gathered in Cleveland, Ohio for the 2012 Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. This year’s event featured appearances by a number of mysterious luminaries such as John Connolly, Elizabeth George, Robin Cook and Mary Higgins Clark. A number of annual prizes are awarded at Bouchercon, including the Anthony, Macavity, Barry, Shamus and Dilys Awards. Here is a roundup of all of the winners. Congratulations to all!

The Anthony Awards are literary awards for crime and mystery fiction. The winners are selected by Bouchercon attendees. They are named for the author, editor and critic Anthony Boucher, who is also the namesake for the convention. Fun fact: Anthony Boucher was born in Oakland!

  • Best Novel
    A Trick of the Light
    by Louise Penny
    Investigating a murder at a solo artist's Quebec village home, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team encounter deceptive nuances in the art world that distort every clue they find with tales of duality and broken hearts.

  • Best First Novel
    Learning to Swim
    by Sara J. Henry
    Witnessing a small boy being thrown into the middle of Lake Champlain, Troy Chance rescues the child only to discover that he had been kidnapped and is at the center of a bizarre and violent plot. (Currently available through the library as an eBook; a print copy will be available for holds in the catalog in early November.)

  • Best Paperback Original
    Buffalo West Wing
    by Julie Hyzy
    No way is White House Executive Chef Olivia Paras handing over a suspicious box of barbecue chicken wings to Abigail and Josh Hyden, children of the country's new commander in chief and her new boss, with no clue as to who provided the culinary gift. With the First Lady giving her the cold shoulder for her decision and the family's personal chef being brought in, Ollie starts to fear for her job. But then it turns out that the chicken was poisoned... (Currently available through the library in Large Type; a standard edition will be available for holds in the catalog in early November.)

  • Best Non-Fiction
    The Sookie Stackhouse Companion
    by Charlaine Harris, editor
    A tour of Bon Temps, Louisiana, provides a definitive guide to the family, friends, enemies, adventures, and lovers of clairvoyant waitress Sookie Stackhouse, heroine of the bestselling novels and HBO series "True Blood."

  • Best Short Story
    "Disarming" in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
    by Dana Cameron
    Read it online here.

The Macavity Awards are selected by the members of Mystery Readers International, an organization of fans of mystery fiction founded in Berkeley by Janet Rudolph.

  • Best Mystery Novel
    Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead

    by Sara Gran
    Augmenting her brilliant deductive skills with dream analysis, marijuana, and the written work of a mysterious French detective, private investigator Claire DeWitt reluctantly returns to post-Katrina New Orleans to solve the disappearance of an unpopular prosecutor.

  • Best First Mystery Novel
    All Cry Chaos
    by Leonard Rosen
    When 30-year-old math genius James Fenster is blown up in his Amsterdam hotel room, via the precise detonation of military-grade rocket fuel, shortly before he was due to address a World Trade Organization conference, Henri Poincaré, aging Interpol agent and great-grandson of a legendary mathematician, investigates.

  • Best Mystery-Related Nonfiction
    The Sookie Stackhouse Companion
    by Charlaine Harris, ed.
    A tour of Bon Temps, Louisiana, provides a definitive guide to the family, friends, enemies, adventures, and lovers of clairvoyant waitress Sookie Stackhouse, heroine of the bestselling novels and HBO series "True Blood."

  • Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award
    Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains
    by Catriona McPherson
    After receiving a letter from a woman who fears that her husband is planning to kill her, Dandy Gilver goes undercover as a maid and uses her aristocratic connections and prowess to discern the truth.

  • Best Mystery Short Story
    "Disarming" in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
    by Dana Cameron
    Read it online here.

The Barry Awards are presented by Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine, and selected by their subscribers.

  • Best novel
    The Keeper of Lost Causes
    by Jussi Adler Olsen
    Chief detective Carl Mørck, recovering from what he thought was a career-destroying gunshot wound, is relegated to cold cases and becomes immersed in the five-year disappearance of a politician.

  • Best first novel
    The Informationist
    by Taylor Stevens
    Dealing information to wealthy clients throughout the world, Vanessa Munroe hopes to leave her unconventional past behind her until a mission to find the missing daughter of a Texas oil billionaire forces her to return to the central Africa region of her youth.

  • Best British Novel
    Dead Man’s Grip
    by Peter James
    Carly Chase is still traumatized ten days after being in a fatal traffic accident which kills a teenage student from Brighton University. Then she receives news that turns her entire world into a living nightmare. The drivers of the other two vehicles involved have been found tortured and murdered. Now Detective Superintendent Roy Grace of the Sussex Police force issues a stark and urgent warning to Carly: She could be next. (Currently available through the library as an eBook; a print copy will be available for holds in the catalog in early November.)

  • Best Paperback Original
    Death of the Mantis
    by Michael Stanley
    In the southern Kalahari area of Botswana, three Bushmen are found standing around a ranger who is dying from a severe head wound and Detective David "Kubu" Bengu must figure out, with the help of an old school friend, if the Bushmen were there to help or were the murderers. (A copy will be available for holds in the catalog in early November.)

  • Best Thriller
    The Informant
    by Thomas Perry
    Years after the Butcher's Boy wipes out several mobsters and disappears, Justice Department official Elizabeth Waring is approached by the mythical hit man, who asks her for crucial information in exchange for helping her to crack an unsolved murder case.

  • Best Short Story
    The Gun Also Rises in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
    by Jeff Cohen
    Read it online here.

The Shamus Awards are presented by the Private Eye Writers of America in honor of the best private detective fiction of the year.

  • Best Hardcover P.I. Novel
    A Bad Night's Sleep
    by Michael Wiley
    Infiltrating a burglary crew as part of a mission to identify corrupt police officers, Chicago private investigator Joe Kozmarski encounters unexpected challenges that take him from a spa club for couples to the gang-troubled streets.

  • Best First P.I. Novel
    The Shortcut Man
    by P.G. Sturges
    In the City of Angels, not everyone plays by the rules. Henry is a "shortcut man," someone who find solutions that may not always be legal. When he gets an assignment from porn producer Artie Benjamin, his life becomes more complicated.

  • Best Paperback Original P.I. Novel
    Fun & Games
    by Duane Swierczynski
    Reeling from the revenge killing of his partner's family, ex-cop Charlie befriends an actress who rants about men who specialize in making deaths look like accidents, and tries to protect her when she becomes their next target.

  • The Hammer Award  for Best Series P.I. Character
    Nate Heller by Max Allan Collins
    Books in this series can be found here. 

  • Best P.I. Short Story
    "Who I Am" in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
    by Michael Z. Lewin

The Dilys Award is presented by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, and is awarded to the mystery book that members have most enjoyed promoting to their customers.

  • Ghost Hero
    by S. J. Rozan
    Investigating a rumor about new paintings by a famous contemporary Chinese artist who has been dead for twenty years, private investigator Lydia Chin and her partner, Bill Smith, discover that a new client is not who he claims to be.

Posted on 10/19/12 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

Double Booker

Hilary Mantel has won the 2012 Booker Prize for Bring Up the Bodies, the sequel to her 2009 Booker Prize winner Wolf Hall.  She is only the third author in the history of the prize to win twice—and she has the distinct honor of being the first to win for both a novel and its sequel!

Read the announcement here.

Wolf Hall
Assuming the power recently lost by the disgraced Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell counsels a mercurial Henry VIII on the latter's efforts to marry Anne Boleyn against the wishes of Rome and many of his people, a successful endeavor that comes with a dangerous price.

Bring Up the Bodies
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.

Posted on 10/16/12 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

Nobel Prize for Literature awarded to Mo Yan

Mo Yan of China has won the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature. He is internationally known as a prolific and revered portraitist of Chinese rural life. The Swedish Academy says of his work: “Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition.”

Currently the Oakland libraries own most of his books that have been translated into English, in addition to works in the original Chinese. Early birds have already started placing holds on his books.

Read more at the Nobel Prize website, the New York Times, or listen to this Granta interview from earlier this year.

Books at Oakland Public Library by Mo Yan in English:

Big Breasts and Wide Hips
Jintong, his mother, and his eight sisters struggle to survive through the major crises of twentieth century China, which include civil war, invasion by the Japanese, the cultural revolution, and communist rule in the new China. (2004)

The Garlic Ballads
The author of the critically acclaimed Red Sorghum presents an epic story--banned in his native China--about a group of peasants who challenges the Communist authorities when they are forced to destroy their own crops. (1995)

Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out
Stripped of his possessions and executed as a result of Mao's Land Reform Movement in 1948, benevolent landowner Ximen Nao finds himself endlessly tortured in Hell before he is systematically reborn on Earth as each of the animals in the Chinese zodiac. (2008)

Red Sorghum
A story of Northeast Gaomi Township narrated omnisciently by a young man at the end of the cultural revolution. (1993)

The Republic of Wine
Plagued by persistent reports of cannibalism in a province known as the Republic of Wine, the Chinese government sends a special investigator to substantiate the disturbing rumors. (2000)

Shifu, You'll Do Anything for a Laugh
A collection of short stories, ranging from the tragic to the comic, reflect the author's disdain for bureaucracy and repression. (2001)

Mo Yan also has a novel scheduled for English release in January 2013, titled Pow!

Posted on 10/12/2012 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library.

National Book Award Finalists Announced

Congratulations to the finalists for the National Book Awards!

The National Book Awards are given annually to writers of U.S. citizenship in order “to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of good writing in America”. Panels of distinguished writers (including past National Book Award recipients) are convened to select the best books in four categories: fiction, non-fiction, poetry and young people’s literature. The final awards will be announced on November 14.

You may recognize some of these authors—in addition to being well regarded, many of them are already popular with Oakland readers. Catalog links and short summaries have been provided below for books that are already available through the library. Books that are not yet owned by the library will be ordered this month and will appear in the catalog in early November.

And the finalists are:


This Is How You Lose Her
by Junot Díaz
Presents a collection of stories that explores the heartbreak and radiance of love as it is shaped by passion, betrayal, and the echoes of intimacy.

A Hologram for the King
by Dave Eggers
In a rising Saudi Arabian city, far from weary, recession-scarred America, a struggling businessman pursues a last-ditch attempt to stave off foreclosure, pay his daughter's college tuition, and finally do something great.

The Round House
by Louise Erdrich
When his mother, a tribal enrollment specialist living on a reservation in North Dakota, slips into an abyss of depression after being brutally attacked, 14-year-old Joe Coutz sets out with his three friends to find the person that destroyed his family.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
by Ben Fountain
A satire set in Texas during America's war in Iraq that explores the gaping national disconnect between the war at home and the war abroad. Follows the surviving members of the heroic Bravo Squad through one exhausting stop in their media-intensive "Victory Tour" at Texas Stadium, football mecca of the Dallas Cowboys, their fans, promoters, and cheerleaders. 

The Yellow Birds
by Kevin Powers
In the midst of a bloody battle in the Iraq War, two soldiers, bound together since basic training, do everything to protect each other from both outside enemies and the internal struggles that come from constant danger. 


Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956
by Anne Applebaum
More information here

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
by Katherine Boo
A first book by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist profiles everyday life in the settlement of Annawadi as experienced by a Muslim teen, an ambitious rural mother of a prospective female college student and a young scrap metal thief, in an account that illuminates how their efforts to build better lives are challenged by regional religious, caste and economic tensions.

The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
by Robert A. Caro
The fourth volume in the award-winning and best-selling biographical series focused on Lyndon Johnson.

The Boy Kings of Texas
by Domingo Martinez
More information here

House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East
by Anthony Shadid
A journalist traces the story of his family's effort to rebuild an ancestral home in Lebanon amid political strife and how the work enabled a greater understanding of the emotions behind Middle East turbulence.


Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations
by David Ferry
More information here

Heavenly Bodies
by Cynthia Huntington
More information here

Fast Animal
by Tim Seibles
More information here

Night of the Republic
by Alan Shapiro
More information here

by Susan Wheeler
More information here

Young People’s Literature

Goblin Secrets
byWilliam Alexander
More information here

Out of Reach
by Carrie Arcos
More information here

Never Fall Down
by Patricia McCormick
When soldiers arrive in his hometown in Cambodia, Arn Chorn Pond is separated from his family and sent to a labor camp, where he works in the rice paddies until he volunteers to learn to play an instrument--a decision that both saves his life and lands him in battle.

by Eliot Schrefer
More information here

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon
by Steve Sheinkin
More information here

Posted on 10/10/2012 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library


Coming in October: Five Hit Novels & Story Collections and Five More to Look Out For

Place your holds now on these upcoming hits:

  • Set in a North Dakota Ojibwe community, Louise Erdrich’s The Round House is the second installment in a planned trilogy that started with 2008’s Pulitzer finalist The Plague of Doves.

  • Best-selling mystery author Donna Leon takes a break from her Commissiario Guido Brunetti series, but still features the Venetian setting she’s famous for in her newest, The Jewels of Paradise.

  • Dennis Lehane’s newest thriller Live by Night is being described as “an utterly magnetic novel on every level, a reimagining of the great themes of popular fiction--crime, family, passion, betrayal--set against an exquisitely rendered historical backdrop” (Booklist).

  • New story collections from beloved award-winning authors: Sherman Alexie’s newest is Blasphemy; Emma Donoghue’s Astray follows her very popular 2010 novel Room.

  • It’s going to be a busy month: there are many more notable October releases from hailed authors, such as House on Mango Street author Sandra Cisneros; popular and versatile writer Walter Mosley; Booker winner John Banville; Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk; literary icon Tom Wolfe and worldwide bestselling crime novelist Jo Nesbo.

Now for a few books you might not hear so much about but are definitely worth checking out:

  • The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg has been receiving glowing advance reviews. It’s being called the “sleeper hit of the fall” (CBS This Morning), and “a sharp-tongued, sweet-natured masterpiece of Jewish family life” (Kirkus).

  • Fans of the cult favorite House of Leaves will be excited to hear that there’s a new book from Mark Z. Danielewski, The Fifty Year Sword. He’s known for his playfully experimental and postmodern use of text—not everyone’s cup of tea, but he does seem to have a devoted following.

  • Life Goes On is Hans Keilson’s 1933 autobiographical first novel, in English for the first time. Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review, calling the book “a wonderful achievement”. Keilson received a good deal of attention in 2010 for The Death of the Adversary and Comedy in a Minor Key. At the time he was 100 years old (he died the following year); Francine Prose called him a “genius” and one of “the world’s very greatest writers” in the New York Times.

  • Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles sounds intriguing: a darkly comic and Kafkaesque story of one man’s disastrous housesitting gig for an obsessive compulsive friend. Booklist says “readers who enjoy stories that make them simultaneously cringe and howl with laughter will not want to miss this book.”

  • T. Geronimo Johnson’s debut Hold It ‘Til It Hurts is about two African American brothers who have just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. They have been welcomed by two surprises from their adoptive white parents: their father has just died, and their mother is offering the information they need to find their biological parents. Chitra Divakaruni writes in the San Francisco Chronicle: “this masterfully written book, filled with trenchant observations and unafraid of tenderness, marks Johnson as a writer to watch”.

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

The Round House
By Louise Erdrich
When his mother, a tribal enrollment specialist living on a reservation in North Dakota, slips into an abyss of depression after being brutally attacked, 14-year-old Joe Coutz sets out with his three friends to find the person that destroyed his family.

The Jewels of Paradise
by Donna Leon
Caterina Pellegrini, a native Venetian with a doctorate in baroque opera, must determine the rightful ownership of two locked trunks belonging to a famous composer who has been dead for centuries.

Live by Night
by Dennis Lehane
In 1926, during Prohibition, Joe Coughlin defies his strict law-and-order upbringing by climbing a ladder of organized crime that takes him from Boston to Cuba, where he encounters a dangerous cast of characters who are all fighting for their piece of the American dream.

Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories
by Sherman Alexie
Combines fifteen of the author's classic short stories with fifteen new stories in an anthology that features tales involving donkey basketball leagues, lethal wind turbines, and marriage.

by Emma Donoghue
A collection of short stories featuring a cross-section of society including runaways, drifters, gold miners, counterfeiters, attorneys, and slaves from Puritan Massachusetts and revolutionary New Jersey to antebellum Louisiana.

The Middlesteins
by Jami Attenberg
Two siblings with very different personalities attempt to take control of their mother's food obsession and massive weight gain to save her life after their father walks out and leaves her reeling in the Chicago suburbs.

The Fifty Year Sword
by Mark Z. Danielewski
Late one evening at a party at an East Texas ranch house, five orphans gather to hear a story about a quest for a terrible weapon. Before them lies a long black box with five latches. As the owner of the box settles into a curious tale of revenge, the children grow more and more captivated, even as we grow more and more afraid that a new crime may await them all, especially as clocks in Upshur County approach midnight.

Life Goes On
by Hans Keilson
Published when the author was just twenty-three, Life Goes On was Hans Keilson's literary debut, an extraordinary autobiographical novel that paints a dark yet illuminating portrait of Germany between the world wars. It is the story of Herr Seldersen--a Jewish storeowner modeled on Keilson's father, a textile merchant and decorated World War I veteran--along with his wife and son, Albrecht, and the troubles they encounter as the German economy collapses and politics turn rancid. The book was banned by the Nazis in 1934. Shortly afterward, following his editor's advice, Keilson emigrated to the Netherlands, where he would spend the rest of his life. Life Goes On is an essential volume for readers of Keilson's later work.

Care of Wooden Floors
by Will Wiles
A British copywriter house-sits at his composer friend Oskar’s ultra-modern apartment in a glum Eastern European city. The instructions are simple: Feed the cats, don’t touch the piano, and make sure nothing damages the priceless wooden floors. Content for the first time in ages, he accidentally spills some wine. The apartment and the narrator’s sanity gradually fall apart in this unusual and satisfying novel.

Hold It ‘Til It Hurts
by T. Geronimo Johnson
by When Achilles Conroy and his brother Troy return from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, their white mother presents them with the key to their past: envelopes containing details about their respective birth parents. After Troy disappears, Achilles-always his brother's keeper-embarks on a harrowing journey in search of Troy, an experience that will change him forever. Heartbreaking, intimate, and at times disturbing, Hold It 'Til It Hurts is a modern-day odyssey through war, adventure, disaster, and love, and explores how people who do not define themselves by race make sense of a world that does.

Posted on 10/01/12 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library.

2012 Booker Shortlist Announced

Last week, the six finalists for the Man Booker Prize were announced. If you’re not familiar with the Booker, it is the United Kingdom’s most prominent literary award. It has been awarded annually since 1969 to a novel written in English by a citizen of the U.K., the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. Winners of the Booker Prize tend to enjoy critical and popular success in the United States as well.

This year’s shortlist includes Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, the sequel to 2009 Booker winner Wolf Hall. Mantel’s latest has already been a bestseller in the U.S. and a hit at Oakland Public Library. Other finalists include The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng, Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil, Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, The Lighthouse by Alison Moore, and Umbrella by Will Self. To the annoyance of local readers, these books are often unavailable in the U.S. at the time that the finalists are announced--however, a shortlist nomination will often speed up a U.S. release. At this time, Bring Up the Bodies, The Gift of Rain, and Narcopolis are available, and Umbrella has been scheduled for U.S. release in early 2013.

On a side note, acclaimed Oakland author Yiyun Li will sit on the 2013 Booker judging committee.

Current Nominees and Recent Winners of the Man Booker Prize available from Oakland Public Library

Bring Up the Bodies
By Hilary Mantel
2012 Booker Shortlist
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. The sequel to Hilary Mantel's 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history.

The Garden of Evening Mists
By Tan Twan Eng
2012 Booker Shortlist
Seeking solace in the Malaysian plantations of her childhood after grueling World War II experiences, criminal prosecutor Yun Ling Teoh discovers a Japanese garden and its enigmatic tender, an exiled Japanese royal gardener who reluctantly accepts her as an apprentice. By the author of The Gift of Rain.

By Jeet Thayil
2012 Booker Shortlist
A tale of vice and passion set against a backdrop of late 1970s Bombay finds a New Yorker becoming entranced with the underworld culture of an opium den and brothel where he encounters a pipe-making eunuch, a violent businessman, and a Chinese refugee.

The Sense of an Ending
By Julian Barnes
2011 Booker Winner
Follows a middle-aged man as he reflects on a past he thought was behind him, until he is presented with a legacy that forces him to reconsider different decisions, and to revise his place in the world. 

The Finkler Question
By Howard Jacobson
2010 Booker Winner
Julian Treslove, a radio producer, and Samuel Finkler, a Jewish philosopher, have been friends since childhood and, as they enter middle age, they reminisce over their struggles with self-identity, anti-Semitism, women, love, and the past.

Wolf Hall
By Hilary Mantel
2009 Booker Winner
Assuming the power recently lost by the disgraced Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell counsels a mercurial Henry VIII on the latter's efforts to marry Anne Boleyn against the wishes of Rome and many of his people, a successful endeavor that comes with a dangerous price.

The White Tiger
By Aravind Adiga
2008 Booker Winner
Balram Halwai is a complicated man. Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer. Over the course of seven nights, by the scattered light of a preposterous chandelier, Balram tells the terrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in life -- having nothing but his own wits to help him along.

The Gathering
By Anne Enright
2007 Booker Winner
The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan are gathering in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother, Liam, drowned in the sea. His sister, Veronica, collects the body and keeps the dead man company, guarding the secret she shares with him - something that happened in their grandmother's house in the winter of 1968. As Enright traces the line of betrayal and redemption through three generations, she shows how memories warp and secrets fester.

The Inheritance of Loss
By Kiran Desai
2006 Booker Winner
In a crumbling house in the remote northeastern Himalayas, an embittered, elderly judge finds his peaceful retirement turned upside down by the arrival of his orphaned granddaughter, Sai.

The Sea
By John Banville
2005 Booker Winner
Following the death of his wife, Max Morden retreats to the seaside town of his childhood summers, where his own life becomes inextricably entwined with the members of the vacationing Grace family.

Posted on 9/19/12 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library.

Coming in September: Five Hit Novels and Five More to Look Out For

Place your holds now for these upcoming hits:

  • The Bay Area’s own Michael Chabon has a new book out in September, and his Oakland fans will be especially interested in the local focus. It’s called Telegraph Avenue, and features two down-and-out record store owners battling the encroachment of an entertainment megastore. You can get a preview from NPR here.
  • Pulitzer prizewinner Junot Díaz (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) and Orange Prize winner Zadie Smith (White Teeth) also have new books out next month that are sure to garner lots of attention. 
  • In September we’ll also see a new novel from Lee Child, the seventeenth thrilling novel featuring the mysterious drifter Jack Reacher. If you’ve never heard of this award winning and extremely popular series, you will soon: Tom Cruise will play Reacher in a feature film this December.
  • Readers are already placing holds for The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults coming out in a few weeks. Just don’t expect wizards or magic!
  • Keep in mind that as the hold lists grow longer, we'll order more copies.

Now for a few books you might not hear so much about but are definitely worth checking out:

  • Attica Locke’s second mystery, The Cutting Season, takes place in post-Katrina Louisiana where a murder investigation exposes new evidence in a crime against a former slave more than a century earlier. Her first novel, Black Water Rising, was a nominee for a fistful of awards including the Orange Prize, the Edgar Award, the NAACP Image Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.
  • Victor LaValle also has a number of awards under his belt, plus a new novel, The Devil in Silver, which is being described as a cross between One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and a Stephen King tale (Library Journal). If that isn’t enough comparisons for you, his work has been likened to the writing of Ralph Ellison and Thomas Pynchon (Wall Street Journal).
  • Tatjana Soli is receiving praise for her follow-up to 2010 debut The Lotus Eaters, which was a New York Times bestseller and James Tait Black prize winner. Her new novel, The Forgetting Tree, is a tale of grief and struggle on a citrus farm in Southern California.
  • Two of September’s most well-reviewed debut novels tell Iraq War stories. Fobbit, by David Abrams, is a satire of the Iraq War that “nails the comedy and the pathos, the boredom and the dread, crafting the Iraq War's answer to Catch-22” (Publishers Weekly). In The Yellow Birds, debut author Kevin Powers “writes with a rawness that brings the sights and smells as well as the trauma and decay of war home to the reader” (Kirkus).

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

Telegraph Avenue
By Michael Chabon
When ex-NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fifth richest black man in America, decides to open his newest Dogpile megastore on Telegraph Avenue, Nat and Archy, the owners of Brokeland Records, fear for their business until Gibson's endeavor exposes a decades-old secret history.

This is How You Lose Her
By Junot Díaz
Presents a collection of stories that explores the heartbreak and radiance of love as it is shaped by passion, betrayal, and the echoes of intimacy.

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.

A Wanted Man: A Reacher Novel
By Lee Child
Hitching a ride to Virginia in a car with three strangers, Jack Reacher finds himself unwittingly involved in a massive conspiracy that makes him a threat.

The Casual Vacancy
By J.K. Rowling
A long-anticipated first adult novel by the award-winning author of the Harry Potter series follows the early death of a small town councilman whose demise reveals deep-rooted conflicts in his seemingly idyllic community, which rapidly deteriorates in the face of cultural disputes, generation clashes and a volatile election.

The Cutting Season
By Attica Locke
When the dead body of a young woman is found on the grounds of Belle Vie, the estate's manager, Caren Gray, launches her own investigation into Belle Vie's history, which leads her to a centuries old mystery involving the plantation's slave quarters--and her own past.

The Devil in Silver
By Victor LaValle
Landing in a budget-strapped mental institution after being accused of a crime he does not remember, Pepper is assaulted by a monstrous creature that has been attacking patients but that the hospital staff does not believe exists.

The Forgetting Tree
By Tatjana Soli
Abandoning the world of her literary education to move to her husband's California citrus ranch, Claire Nagy forges an all-consuming bond with her family's land that eventually supersedes her relationships with her husband and children. 

By David Adams
At Foreward Operating Base Triumph, a combat-avoiding staff sergeant named Chance Gooding spends his time composing press releases that spin grim events into statements more palatable to the public. 

The Yellow Birds
By Kevin Powers
In the midst of a bloody battle in the Iraq War, two soldiers, bound together since basic training, do everything to protect each other from both outside enemies and the internal struggles that come from constant danger. 

Posted on 8/31/12 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library.

Happy Birthday Julia! Plus some tasty fiction

This month marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Julia Child, a beloved and iconic individual who changed the way Americans think about food and cooking. Accordingly, a new biography called Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child has just been released. Author Bob Spitz brings together personal diaries and letters to tell her story in a captivating new way, cooking up a “deliciously satisfying read” (Huffington Post).

If you’d like to commemorate her birthday with a book, another great choice would be My Life in France. Published in 2006, this memoir was written in part by Julia Child and completed after her death by a grand nephew, Alex Prud'homme. It recounts her time in France: the great romance of her marriage, the delicious meals, and the unforgettable story of how she learned the skills of a master chef. My Life in France is “charming, idiosyncratic and much fun--just like its author” (Kirkus). Last year’s A Covert Affair : The Adventures of Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS by Jennet Conant tells the less known story of Julia and Paul Child’s service in the Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the CIA) in this “well-researched, entertaining, and fast-paced read” (Library Journal). Or perhaps you’d like to take a stab at cooking up something from her inspirational cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Or, if you’re a fiction reader and you're hungry for a culinary-themed novel, here’s a menu for you:

In the Kitchen
by Monica Ali
Booker Prize-shortlisted author Monica Ali's long-awaited second novel brings readers into the vivid world of a London restaurant kitchen.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
By Aimee Bender
Being able to taste people's emotions in food may at first be horrifying. But young, unassuming Rose Edelstein grows up learning to harness her gift as she becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.

The Epicure's Lament
By Kate Christensen
For ten years, Hugo Whittier, upper-class scion, former gigolo, failed belle lettriste, has been living a hermit's existence at Waverly, his family's crumbling mansion overlooking the Hudson River. He passes the time reading Montaigne and M. F. K. Fisher, cooking himself delicious meals, smoking an endless number of cigarettes, and nursing a grudge against the world. But his older brother, Dennis, has returned, in retreat from an unhappy marriage, and so has his estranged wife, Sonia, and their (she claims) daughter Bellatrix, shattering Hugo's cherished solitude.

Beat Until Stiff
By Claire M. Johnson
A San Francisco pastry chef reveals the cutthroat restaurant trade in this mystery featuring restaurant manager Mary Ryan. When Mary finds the dead body of one of her employees, the investigation exposes all the dirty secrets that the food business would like to keep under wraps.

Hungry Woman in Paris
By Josefina López
From the celebrated author of Real Women Have Curves, a young woman, disillusioned with life, runs away to Paris and enrolls in cooking school to reawaken her senses and mend her broken heart.

Pomegranate Soup
By Marsha Mehran
Three Iranian sisters--Marjan, Layla, and Bahar Aminpour--flee the turmoil of the Islamic Revolution in their native country to seek refuge in Ireland, where they open the exotic Babylon Cafe.

John Saturnall's Feast (coming soon)
By Lawrence Norfolk
Taken in at the kitchens at Buckland Manor after the cruel death of his mother, young John quickly rises from kitchen boy to cook before catching the attention of the daughter of the lord of the manor, who resolves to starve herself until her father calls off her unwanted engagement.

Baking Cakes in Kigali
By Gaile Parkin
Rendered a confidant and supportive friend for her willingness to listen to her neighbors in genocide-stricken Rwanda, baker Angel Tungaraza provides decadent confections and transforming counsel to a series of troubled customers.

by Jaspreet Singh
Kirpal Singh reminisces on his life as a Sikh cook in the military camp at the foot of the Siachen Glacier in Kashmir and how his friendship with Irem, a Pakistani woman arrested for entering Kashmir illegally, made him question the tumultuous conflict between India and Pakistan.

The Book of Salt
By Monique T. D. Truong
Considering whether he will accompany his employers, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, to America, a personal cook remembers his youth in French-colonized Vietnam and his days cooking for the doyennes of the Lost Generation.


Please post any reading suggestions or birthday wishes in the comments. Happy birthday Julia!

Posted on 8/21/12 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library.



Bike Books Worth Making the Trip

British author Chris Cleave’s novel Little Bee was probably one of the most popular library books of 2009, besides being a bestseller and a huge hit with book clubs. The story in his new novel, Gold, centers around the turmoil bubbling between the lives of two rival Olympic cyclists. According to Publisher’s Weekly, Cleave “pulls out all the stops getting inside the hearts and minds of his engagingly complex characters.” If that weren’t enough adrenaline, PW goes on to note that “the race scenes have true visceral intensity, leaving the reader feeling as breathless as a cyclist.” Gold, likely to be another hit, provided the inspiration for this list of bike-themed books.

I am eager to read the new book by the Bay Area’s own Grant Petersen, owner of Rivendell Bicycle Works in Walnut Creek. Last month he published the opinionated myth-busting manifesto Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike. Petersen insists that above all, biking should be fun. His opinions and writing style are unconventional, forthright and humorous. This book has the potential to demystify bicycling for any would-be rider who has ever been turned off by pricey gear or spandex clad culture. Read a New York Times review of the book here.

Other great bike books from the last few years include iconic musician David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries, a chronicle of his experiences as a cyclist in New York City and around the world. To Byrne, the book is also an exploration of how cycling affords a liberating and unique way to view the urban environment.  In It’s All About the Bike, Robert Penn recounts his personal search for the perfect bike while tracing the history of cycling in a tale that will appeal to enthusiasts “as well as those with an interest in that curious point where technology and humanity come together” (Booklist). Todd Balf’s Major: A Black Athlete, a White Era, and the Fight to Be the World's Fastest Human Being is a biography of the African-American cycling legend Major Taylor and his inspirational life and career during the turn of the century. 

If this has you all geared up to ride, the library offers a number of guidebooks for biking around the Bay Area; you can find some here. However, if literary fiction is more your speed, I can suggest another current novel to turn you into an armchair cyclist: A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson. Two stories are intertwined here: In 1923, Eva and her sister have escaped a dreary life in England by means of a Silk Road missionary effort and a publishing contract to write a guide to bicycling in the Far East; their tale is paired with a modern day story in London. “Beautifully written in language too taut, piercing, and smartly observed to be called lyrical, this atmospheric first novel immediately engages… Highly recommended” (Library Journal).

Please mention your favorite bike-related books in the comments. I’d also love to hear your suggestions for other book lists you’d like to see. Happy reading!

Posted on 8/8/12 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library.