We’ve turned Thanksgiving to leftovers, cyber shopped ’til we’ve cyber dropped, and now at long last, our “most wonderful time of the year” has finally arrived. That’s right, ’tis the season for “Best Book” lists, and much to our page-turning delight, the NY Times, NPR, and many others will soon be casting their votes for the top reads of 2016. In fact, we’re so excited for the coming of the lists that this year we’re adding a local flavor to “Best Books” season. Throughout December, we’ll be featuring real-life EPL patrons and their favorite 2016 reads regardless of what years their picks were published. So grab a pen, grab some paper, and get ready to visit Off the Shelf early and often. Thanks to your fellow Evanston bookworms, your next favorite read is likely right around the corner.
We’ve turned Thanksgiving to leftovers, cyber shopped ’til we’ve cyber dropped, and now at long last, our “most wonderful time of the year” has finally arrived. That’s right, ’tis the season for “Best Book” lists, and much to our page-turning delight, the NY Times, NPR, and many others will soon be casting their votes for the top reads of 2014. In fact, we’re so excited for the coming of the lists that this year we’re adding a local flavor to “Best Books” season. Throughout December, we’ll be featuring real-life EPL patrons and their favorite 2014 reads regardless of what years their picks were published. So grab a pen, grab some paper, and get ready to visit Off the Shelf early and often. Thanks to your fellow Evanston bookworms, your next favorite read is likely right around the corner.
This year is the first time the Man Booker Prize, United Kingdom’s most prestigious literary award is celebrating authors of literary fiction “whether from Chicago, Sheffield or Shanghai.” Four American authors and one Irish-American writer are among the 13 finalists: Joshua Ferris for To Rise Again at a Decent Hour; Karen Joy Fowler for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; Siri Hustvedt for The Blazing World; Richard Powers for Orfeo and Joseph O’Neill for The Dog. Other nominees include: Richard Flanagan (Australia), Howard Jacobson (Britain), Paul Kingsnorth (Britain), David Mitchell (Britain), Neel Mukherjee (Britain), David Nicholls (Britain), Ali Smith (Britain), Niall Williams (Ireland). The winner who will receive 50,000 pounds (about $85,000) will be announced in October. Read more in these articles from the NYT and NPR.
Actress Ruby Dee died Wednesday at her home in New Rochell, NY at the age of 91. A passionate and versatile performer, she received accolades for her role in the 1970 Athol Fugard drama Boesman and Lena, and her role as Ruth Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s landmark drama A Raisin in the Sun. She went on to reprise that role in the 1961 film version with one reviewer noting: “Is there a better young actress in America, or one who can make everything she does so effortless?” Her film career included roles in the films of Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever) as well as for a supporting role in the 2007 film American Gangster, for which she won an Oscar nomination. A lifelong civil rights activist, along with her husband Ossie Davis, Ms. Dee “lent her voice and presence to the cause of racial equality outside show business.” In With Ossie and Ruby, she wrote” The largest piece of unfinished business before humankind is, in our opinion, poverty, spiritual as well as material, racism, yes, and sexism, too; Struggle is all there is, and we are still committed.” Read more about this legendary actress in today’s NYTimes and NPR tributes. And check the EPL catalog for more of her works.
86-year-old poet and activist Maya Angelou died Tuesday at her home in Winston Salem, N.C. Born Marguerite Johnson, she grew up in St. Louis, Mo. and Stamps, Ark. and was first called Maya by her brother. Leaving a troubled childhood and a segregated South, she began a career as both dancer and singer, touring Europe in the 1950s in a production of Porgy and Bess. She also studied dance with Martha Graham and performed with Alvin Ailey. Patrick Henry Bass, an editor at Essence Magazine, talked about her unique voice: “You would hear that voice, and that voice would capture a humanity, and that voice would calm you in so many ways through some of the most significant challenges.” The first of her series of memoirs I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings revealed some of the “scars of her past”. Film director John Singleton who used Ms. Angelou’s poems in his film Poetic Justice said he remembers the effect her poem Still I Rise had on him: “It makes me feel better about myself, or at least made me feel better about myself when I was young.” The poem begins with these lines:
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Nobel-Prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez died today in Mexico City at age 87. The Colombian novelist “widely considered the most popular Spanish-language writer since Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century,” was a master of the literary genre magic realism. In a 1984 interview with NPR, he said his writing was forever shaped by the grandparents who raised him as a young child:
“There was a real dichotomy in me because, on one hand … there was the world of my grandfather; a world of stark reality, of civil wars he told me about…. And then, on the other hand, there was the world of my grandmother, which was full of fantasy, completely outside of reality.”
His 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, which poet Pablo Neruda called “the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since Don Quixote” established him as a literary giant. Both the New York Times and NPR have in-depth coverage. And check out the EPL catalog for works by this revered author.
Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses won the Newbery medal for “the most distinguished American children’s book” of 2014. The story of a squirrel who is revived after being swallowed whole by a high-powered vacuum is illustrated in black and white by K. G. Campbell. Locomotive, by Brian Floca, was the winner of the Caldecott medal, “given to the artist who had created the most distinguished picture book of the year.” Both the Newberry and Caldecott medals were awarded by the American Library Association. Read more about the winners and the other honorees in today’s NPR article.
Unpublished letters by author Mary Shelley were found by professor of English Literature at Anglia Ruskin University Nora Crook. While researching an obscure 19th-century novelist, she saw a “listing for 13 documents at Essex Record Office, catalogued under the tantalising words: “Letter from Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley” – and knew they had never been published before. The letters dated between 1831 to 1849 were written to stockbroker Horace Smith (friend of Mary’s husband poet Percy Bysshe Shelley) and his daughter Eliza and discuss Mary’s declining health and her pride in her son – but surprisingly don’t mention Frankenstein at all. Some of the letters are still stamped with the author’s own scarlet wax seal. Read more of this fascinating discovery here. And check the EPL catalog for works by Mary Shelley.
29-year-old Claire Vaye Watkins has won this year’s Dylan Thomas Prize for her debut story collection Battleborn. “Aimed at encouraging raw creative talent worldwide” the prize is restricted to writers under 30 and is worth 30,000 pounds (about $48,000).” Ms. Watkins also won two other major prizes on the same day: the $10,000 Rosenthal Family Foundation award and the $20,000 Story Prize. Her stories are set in the American West and were inspired by her childhood in Nevada. She told Fresh Air: “I always say I exist in a constant state of homesickness, and that’s really the context in which I wrote this book, too.” Read more about this prize-winning author’s very interesting background here.
French writer and philosopher Albert Camus, born 100 years ago today in Algeria is probably best known for his novels The Stranger and The Plague. But as France marks his centennial, “it’s his politics, not his his philosophy, that still makes waves.” Winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957 and regarded as a giant of French literature, Smithsonian contributor Joshua Hammer, says it’s Camus’ “North African birthplace that permeated his thoughts and shaped his writing.” Like South Africa, French Algeria was a “very segregated society” and Camus “represents an Algeria of the pieds-noirs, the name given to the million-plus Europeans who lived there. He really didn’t know the Arab world.”Read the rest of this fascinating NPR article and check the EPL catalog for works by and about this author.