Libraryreads.org’s Top Ten Books for November 2014

Libraryreads.org has named their Top Ten books for November.  These books are picked by librarians across the country.

David Nicholls, Us (Harper)

Sarah MacLean, Rule of Scoundrels #4: Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover: The Fourth Rule of Scoundrels (Avon)

Marilyn Johnson, Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble (Harper)

Michael Connelly, The Burning Room (Harry Bosch Novel) (Little, Brown and Company)

Robin LaFevers, His Fair Assassin Trilogy #3: Mortal Heart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books)

Jojo Moyes, The Shop of Brides: A Novel (Penguin)

Bradford Morrow, The Forgers (Mysterious Press)

Ed. Leslie S. Klinger and Laurie R. King, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon (Pegasus)

Stephanie Barron, Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: Being a Jane Austen Mystery (Being a Jane Austen Mysteries) (Soho Crime)

Lydia Millet, Mermaids in Paradise (W.W. Norton & Company)

 

 

When Tobacco Was King

Evan P. Bennett has a new book entitled When Tobacco was King. The Florida Bookshelf has brief description of his new book.

The Florida Bookshelf

WheWhen_Tobacco_Was_King_RGBn Tobacco Was King: Families, Farm Labor, and Federal Policy in the Piedmont

Evan P. Bennett

In When Tobacco Was King, Evan Bennett examines the agriculture of tobacco, the South’s original staple crop. Advances in technology and shifts in labor and farming policy have altered the way of life for tobacco farmers, but rather than putting an end to tobacco culture, these developments have sent it in new directions and accelerated the change that has always been part of the farmer’s life. From Emancipation to the abandonment of federal crop controls in 2004, Bennett highlights changes endured by blacks and whites, landowners and tenants to show how tobacco farmers continued to find meaning and community in their work despite drastic changes.

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Is Literature Disappearing Up It’s Own A-Hole?

A.M.B. at the Misfortune of Knowing addresses Horace Engdahl criticism of the professionalization of writing. Instead of having normal jobs, writers can now get support from foundations and educational institutions that allow them to write full-time. Engdahl thinks the failure of writers to get real jobs will rob them of the experiences they need to become good writers. She points out that there is a “kernel of truth in his words: experience matters.” Do you agree with A.M.B.?

The Misfortune Of Knowing

Horace Engdahl seems to think so.

In comments to Le Croix, Horace Engdahl (of the Swedish Academy responsible for the Nobel Prize) criticized the “professionalization” of writing through financial support from foundations and educational institutions that allow writers to leave their “day jobs” to devote more time to writing. Noting that it’s particularly a problem for the “western side” of the world, he said:

Even though I understand the temptation, I think it cuts writers off from society, and creates an unhealthy link with institutions… Previously, writers would work as taxi drivers, clerks, secretaries and waiters to make a living. Samuel Beckett and many others lived like this. It was hard – but they fed themselves, from a literary perspective.

If we set aside Engdahl’s hypocrisy — he’s a literary academic linked with an institution — there’s a kernel of truth in his words: experience matters. Real-life experiences inform…

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The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

A Little Blog of Books has a review of Michel Faber’s anticipated new book The Book of Strange New Things. This genre crossing book combines science fiction and biblical elements to tell a story about a pastor ministering to inhabitants of another planet. Check out Little Blog of Books new review.

A Little Blog of Books

The Book of Strange New ThingsI was lucky enough to receive an advance review copy of Michel Faber’s new novel ‘The Book of Strange New Things’ which is due to be published in the UK this month. It tells the story of Peter Leigh, a Christian minister who is chosen by a mysterious corporation called USIC to embark on an out-of-this-world mission to a planet called Oasis in a far-away galaxy. Expecting a hostile reception from the native population, Peter is surprised to find the Oasans are keen to learn from the Bible which they refer to as The Book of Strange New Things and discovers that he isn’t the first pastor to visit them. However, Peter’s pregnant wife, Bea, is struggling to survive as various apocalyptic events unfold back on Earth which is putting a strain on their extremely long-distance relationship.

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The History Manifesto: Video Interview with Jo Guldi and David Armitage

The History Manifesto is new book from Jo Guldi and David Armitage that argues historians need to shift back to longer-term narrative history.  This may help historians recapture the prestige and influence that allowed them to help shape public policy.  The shift to microhistories (writing about time periods of 30 years or less) has limited historians influence.  Guldi and Armitage believe that the shift to longer narrative histories will encourage policy makers to take a longer approach to issues relating to human rights and the environment. The authors want the entire history profession to shift to long term thinking.

Guldi and Armitage make a fascinating argument.  Additionally, new digital analytical tools will make it easier for historians to research and write about longer periods of time.  Whether or not this shift would increase the prestige and influence of historians is debatable.  There are a number of reviews about The HIstory Manifesto online.  Scott McLemee has a brief review of their book at Inside Higher Ed.

Here is a short interview with the authors where they describe their project.

 

The Best Books and Historians According to Pulitzer Prize Winner James M. McPherson

Recently, the New York Times published a brief interview with noted Civil War historian James McPherson, The George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History at Princeton University.  He is best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning book Battle Cry of Freedom.  In the interview McPherson identified who he believes are America’s top historians, the best book on  the Civil War, the best military history books, the best books about African American history, most overrated history book (it’s a biggie), and the book most responsible for shaping his career.

All of the historians and books cited by McPherson are outstanding, but they are representative of his generation.  Not surprisingly, this was pointed out by several younger scholars on twitter.  It is also not shocking his preferences were predominantly from historians of either his generation or books that he read during his career.  In many ways books are like music, people like the music of their formative years better than anything that came before it or after.  His choices are certainly understandable, but open to debate.

In the interview, McPherson often referred to an author, but failed to specify which books he preferred. In a number of cases, I have extrapolated which books he might specifically be recommending.  There are certainly other books from the authors he mentions that fit his descriptions.

Here were his answers:

Last Great Book He Read:

James Oakes, Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865

Best Books on the Civil War:

Allan Nevins eight volume set on the Civil War –

1. Fruits of Manifest Destiny, 1847-1852

  1. A House Dividing, 1852-1857
  2. Douglas, Buchanan, and Party Chaos, 1857–1859

4. Prologue to Civil War, 1859–1861

5. The Improvised War, 1861–1862

  1. War Becomes Revolution, 1862–1863

7. The Organized War, 1863–1864

8.The Organized War to Victory, 1864–1865

 

Favorite Biography of Civil War figure:

Jean Edward Smith, Grant

Best Military Histories:

John Keegan, The Face of Battle

Craig Symonds, Lincoln and His Admirals: Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Navy, and the Civil War

Craig Symonds, Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings

Craig Symonds, Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles That Shaped American History

Craig Symonds, The Civil War at Sea (Reflections on the Civil War Era)

Stephen W. Sears, Gettysburg

, Stephen W. Sears, Chancellorsville

Gordon C. Rhea, Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26-June 3, 1864

, Gordon C. Rhea, The Battle of the Wilderness May 5-6, 1864

Gary W. Gallagher, The Union War

, Gary W. Gallagher, The Confederate War

Joseph T. Glatthaar, Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers

, Joseph T. Glatthaar, Partners in command : The relationships between leaders in the Civil War

Rick Atkinson, An Army at Dawn: The War in Africa, 1942-1943

Rick Atkinson, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944

Rick Atkinson, The Guns Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945

Best African American History Books:

John Hope Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom

Ira Berlin, Generations of Captivity : History of African-american Slaves (03 Edition)

Many Thousands Gone Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America

Edited by Ira Berlin, Freedom: Documentary History of Emancipation

Most Important for His Career:

C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877-1913

Book Every President Should Read:

Doris Kearns Goodwin, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism

Most Overrated History Book:

Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Penguin Classics)

Books on His Nightstand:

Ron Chernow, Washington: A Life

Daniel James Brown, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

His Next Book:

Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton

 

Here is the link to McPherson’s interview – James M. McPherson: By the Book – NYTimes.com.

7 Reasons Why Ballet Dancers Choose Broadway

Ever wonder if it would be better to work on Broadway or a Ballet Company? Lee Wilson explains why she ultimately shifted from ballet to Broadway in her this post.  She is also the author of her new memoir, Rebel on Pointe: A Memoir of Ballet & Broadway.

The Florida Bookshelf

Lee Wilson Photo by Lesley Bohm

When Lee Wilson first began dancing, she wore tap shoes and took lessons in her neighbor’s basement. “I loved the scraping sound of taps brushing across the cement floor, the clicking sounds of the heel taps, and the crash of a full-footed stomp,” Lee recalls in Rebel on Pointe, her memoir that we published this past Tuesday.

But it was after watching ballet company after ballet company perform that Wilson found a new art. “Ballet gave me a glimpse of a different world order, and I wanted to be a part of that world.” After dancing on pointe in Europe and with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York, Wilson again felt drawn to a new dance outlet. “Every day, as I walked to the Metropolitan Opera House, I passed through the Broadway theatre district.” Wilson resolved to “become a part of this magical, musical, mind-expanding world,” and…

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Reading Jane Austen with Vladimir Nabokov

How did Nabokov read Jane Austin? Janine Barchas has a fascinating post at the JHU Press Blog about how Vladimir Nabokov both read and taught Jane Austin to his students. Barchas closely read Nabokov’s lectures and examined his “battered and marked-up teaching copy” of Austin’s Mansfield Park. Nabokov’s notations demonstrated that Nabokov not only closely read Austin’s book, but demonstrate that sought to completely understand the world that Austin had created. We all should take Barchas’s advice and read more like Nabokov.

Jane Barchas’s is the author of Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity

Johns Hopkins University Press Blog

Guest post by Janine Barchas

Great writers are great readers. And nothing dials up the magnification on a book like the green-eyed gaze of a fellow author.

In 2014, many Jane Austen fans have been rereading what is arguably her darkest and most difficult novel in celebration of Mansfield Park’s bicentenary. One unique copy of that novel, formerly owned by Russian-born American novelist Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977), enables the rereading of one great novelist over the shoulder of another.

nabokov 1

During the 1940s and 1950s, Nabokov taught at Wellesley and Cornell. He lectured there on fiction, placing Austen on his syllabus alongside Flaubert, Dickens, Proust, Kafka, and Joyce. The Austen novel he chose to teach was, ambitiously, Mansfield Park. Nabokov’s battered and marked-up teaching copy (an Everyman’s Library reprint from 1948) currently resides in the New York Public Library as part of the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection…

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The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

A Little Blog of Books has a review of one the Kirkus Prize Finalists for Fiction, The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters.

A Little Blog of Books

The Paying GuestsI feel very spoilt having two of my favourite authors publish new books this summer. First, ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage‘ by Haruki Murakami and now ‘The Paying Guests’ by Sarah Waters. Set in London shortly after the First World War, unmarried Frances Wray and her widowed mother have fallen on hard times and are forced to rent out rooms at their home in Camberwell. Frances becomes increasingly close to their young and modern “paying guests”, Leonard and Lilian Barbour. However, her relationship with Lilian soon triggers an unexpected and violent chain of events.

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