Thursday, May 29, 2008

On literary festivals that I can't get to and a recommended reading list of authors that I can . . .

One of the things on my "to-do list" before heading to that great library in the sky, is to someday make it to the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival. Not only because the small Welsh town is host to numerous bookstores, but because I drool every year over the line-up of great authors they attract for their annual literary celebration. Alas, I'll probably have to wait until retirement as it always conflicts with Canadian conferences I have to work at.

This year, the Hay Festival is celebrating their 21st birthday and they've come up with a list of 21 authors who are appearing on their stages, "who may not be so familiar, but who we think are remarkable. Some are first time writers, some are huge stars in other languages. They’re all cracking reads." You can read the full list here and download sample chapters. And the Guardian chimes in here.

Some familiar names from our spring Dewey presentations include Jhumpa Lahiri, Nikita Lalwani, Catherine O'Flynn and Tom Rob Smith. I have the galley for Nick Harkaway's upcoming book The Gone-Away World in a pile at home (he's the son of John Le Carré but this debut novel is literally worlds away from spy thrillers), and I've long been wanting to read Daniel Kehlmann and Steve Toltz.

Then there's the Charleston Literary Festival near Lewes, that takes place in the former farmhouse belonging to painters Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, and frequent haunt of the Bloomsbury Group. This year's festival just wrapped up, but again, feast your eyes on the line-up (and very funky website) What I wouldn't have given to hear Jonathan Coe and Carmen Callil discussing Viragos! Sigh. Some day . . .

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

On the road in Seattle. . .

I've come to the beautiful city of Seattle for a few days inbetween conferences. It's my first visit and I'm loving the vibrancy of the streets (and their steepness - I adore cities on hills), the fact that coffee shops have latte happy hours starting at 7am, the long pedestrian paths along the waterfront, the terrific bookshops, the shoe shops, the seafood, and of course I had to check out their new main library.

While the design has had its critics, I quite liked it. It certainly stands out among its neighbouring buildings (I never have a problem if a library wants to draw attention to itself, architectually or otherwise). and once inside, all the floors are flooded with natural light which allows for very comfortable reading. The chairs are extremely comfy and well-padded, and though there is a lot of open space, the acoustics are such that you don't hear a lot of echoing voices or computer tapping. The third photo with the Dewey Decimal numbers on the floor is part of their four floor spiral system. You can follow the gentle ramp continuously through all the non-fiction sections, leading to the magazines and documents. The red stairs lead up to the fourth floor which contains meeting rooms - the walls, ceilings and floors are all painted different shades of red.

And there's a great view of the city high up on the tenth floor.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Post-Office Girl. . .

I have to say that it was the title that first drew me to this novel, although I've read and enjoyed Stefan Zweig's novella, The Chess Story, and definitely wanted to explore more of his work. But many years ago, I was a post-office girl. This was a time when Canada Post, in order to save money started leasing postal outlets into drugstores and in my case, a university bookstore (no more government salaries - you could pay part-time clerks half the wages). I remember my boss coming up to me on a Friday afternoon with two huge binders and saying, "here you go, you'll be opening the post office on Monday." I was petrified with the huge responsibility of handling people's mail (this was in the pre-email days when letters were actually written, bills paid by cheque, grad school applications that needed to be couriered by a certain time etc.) But after multiple frantic calls to Canada Post's helpline, I quickly got the hang of it and actually started to enjoy the challenge. For one thing, you meet everyone in your community. And it was fun to weigh packages, order pretty commemorative stamps and find a use for all the geography I'd learned over the years (it's not like that now - postal clerks just pop a letter on an automatic weighing machine and type an address into a computer - back then, we had to know which delivery zones each country fell into, all the delivery districts in Canada, and had to measure and weigh each package on scales that were not attached to computers. A fair bit of math was involved too). I still remember arcane postal regulations from those grim binders; the fact that live baby chicks are not allowed to be posted through the mail, is one of them. I still am amazed that someone felt the need to make it official in the rulebooks. The rest of the animal kingdom was not mentioned.

In Zweig's The Post-Office Girl , translated by Joel Rotenberg, our heroine Christine is not having as much fun. She's in charge of a small postal outlet in a tiny Austrian village in the mid-1920s. The town has still not recovered from the emotional and economic ravages of the First World War. Christine lost a brother fighting, and her father lost his business. She now lives with her dying mother in a dank one-room attic, anticipating a life of dreariness that will never change. One day, she receives a telegram from her wealthy aunt Clara, who has not been in touch with the family for decades and she is invited to visit at a swank, Swiss resort. Christine is dazzled by this new life. Clara buys her new clothes and gets her hair cut. There are sumptuous meals and dancing and two men start showering her with attention. But just as she is reveling in her changed fortunes, she makes a series of mistakes that threaten to uncover secrets about her aunt's past life, and Christine is suddenly sent home. And now the boredom and tediousness of her former life becomes unbearable. She meets Ferdinand, a bitter war veteran who took years to get home after being stuck in a labour camp in Siberia. He is struggling to get a job, to get his papers sorted and is tired of fighting the endless bureaucracy of his country. The two begin an awkward and uncomfortable affair until Ferdinand comes up with two possible plans for escaping their unhappy lives - but both are fraught with irreversible consequences.

Zweig is wonderful in his descriptions of the mundane and inescapable minutiae of these characters' lives. Their sadness and desperation seeps through the pages like the remnants of a discarded teabag. This is a lost generation indeed, but not one that is sipping champagne and dancing the Charleston (although Christine certainly gets a glimpse of that life and yearns for it). As with so many others in those post-war years, they feel their youth and lives have been stolen from them through no fault of their own. This novel has never been published in English before; it was found with Zweig's papers after he and his wife committed suicide in 1942, and only published in German in the 1980s. But thanks to NYRB, it is now available to English readers, and it can take its rightful place in the canon of WWI fiction. Also highly recommended for Patrick Hamilton fans.

How Pinocchio Learned to Read. . .

The culmination of the Canadian Library Association conference was Saturday's inspiring keynote talk by Alberto Manguel, author of (among many books), the fabulous The Library at Night and The History of Reading - essential books for any bibliophile or person working in the industry.

Cleverly using the story of Pinocchio (Carlo Collodi's original version, not Disney's), as a framing narrative for his talk, Manguel insisted that it is not enough for Pinocchio (and our society) to just learn the basic mechanics of reading. Pinocchio learns his alphabet and the rudimentary skills of reading, but he never becomes a true reader because of the obstacles that society (in this case, his school) put in his way. His fellow students mock him with the insult, "You talk like a printed book" and throw heavy tomes at him. There are constant temptations to veer him away from books. His "moral guides" are continually telling him that books won't feed an empty stomach and neglect to instruct him on the true value of reading - that books can not only be sources of revelation but that one can see one's own life reflected in them and the literary traditions that all books cull from. All Pinocchio is left with is the ability to parrot the words without digesting them; he is trained to repeat society's propaganda, but not to question it.

"In Canada, the intellectual act has no prestige whatsoever," Manguel said. "Most of our leaders are barely literate; our values purely economical." He pointed out that it is very easy to become superficially literate but that time and a deliberate effort are the two essential requirements of the act of reading (what the Slow Reading movement is all about). Reading, unlike so much of what the contemporary consumer desires, is never obtainable with the least possible effort, and schools and libraries need to continue to be advocates for the printed word. He is by no means anti-internet which he recognizes as an invaluable tool, but he warns that we have to be careful not to privilege the "container over the content". Judging from the number of librarians who, during the Q & A session lamented the greater allocation of budgets towards computers at the expense of books, and the mentality that makes them slaves of circulation numbers, Manguel hit quite a few nerves. But as he pointed out, it's not just about providing the public with what they want, but to also provide them with what they don't yet know they need.

Hear, hear! It was a terrific talk. You can read the crux of it on his website here. Just click under "Notebook" and then "Essays". You can also check out his recommended reading suggestions (with a real international flair - Manguel is fluent in six languages!). His favourite books for 2007, for example, include My Uncle Napoleon by Iranian author Iraj Pezeshkzad, Hungarian writer Sándor Márai 's The Rebels (I concur - all his books have been Dewey picks for me - Esther's Inheritance will be out this fall), a Spanish classic, Nada by Carmen Foret, and the latest collections from two Canadian poets - Margaret Atwood's The Door and Lorna Crozier's The Blue Hour of the Day.

And if you are inspired to read the original Pinocchio, NYRB books is publishing a new translation this fall by Geoffrey Brock, with an introduction by Umberto Eco. Don't you just love the cover?

I took Alberto out to lunch following his very long signing session, and he was so delightful to chat with. We talked non-stop about books from the bread rolls to the dessert. These are the days when I truly, truly, love my job.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Food for fun: Snack on this. . .

We all love clever children's books that appeal equally to adults, and now here's a wonderful kids CD that I'm absolutely crazy about. Snack Time by Canada's The Barenaked Ladies has just been released and I can't think of a better band to write kids' songs. I've been giggling through this charming collection which tackles subjects ranging from popcorn to loons to ninjas to allergies. The lyrics are as quirky, clever and unusual as their adult albums, and the music is incredibly catchy. My favourite song is probably "789" (sung as seven ate nine). Here's a sampling of a few lines:

"123 and 4 more makes 7
And 6 is afraid of 7. . .
Cause 7 ate 9"

"Once upon a time in our solar system
We couldn't make do without 9
But Pluto's not a planet now,
so 8'll do fine."

And there's an enormously fun and very sophisticated alphabet song called "Crazy ABCs" where all the words phonetically sound as if they start with different letters than in their written form, for example: "M is for Mnemonic" or "P is for Pneumonia, Pterodactyl, and Psychosis". Crazy indeed, but I love it. They should think about turning this song into a picture book.

I sense a sing-along coming on a future Dewey Diva road trip. Definately recommended if you want to find your inner child or just want to have an excuse to do silly dances around your hotel room.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

On the road in Vancouver (again). . .

I'm back in Vancouver for two conferences, the first one being the Canadian Library Association conference. It's wonderfully bright and sunny in the city and despite getting up yesterday at an ungodly 3:45 am to catch a 7:00 flight, I'm feeling surprisingly energetic. One of things I love about Vancouver is all the lush foliage. Coming into the city from the airport along Granville Street, it's impossible not to admire the enormous hedges (hiding many a secret garden, I'm sure) and the multiple varieties of topiary - all on a huge, gigantic scale. There is so much construction of high-rise condos going up everywhere in the city, and yet inbetween the bustle and dust, one stumbles on the odd pedestrian square - a tiny little oasis of verdant green which is so pleasing to the eyes. Such as this:

I've come with lots of reading material as usual, but for the first time, some of it is in a new format. My company has recently issued some Sony Readers to the reps in order for us to download manuscripts of upcoming books. Now, I've been the biggest sceptic of electronic reading devices in the past, but I've been pleasantly surprised by how light and small this gadget is (it's slightly larger than a mass market book and very slim - fits easily into a purse) and how comfortable reading the type is. You have a choice of three font sizes and I had no problems with eye strain reading for a solid two hours on the flight. I love the environmental benefits of saving all that paper and also it's ideal for travelling - manuscripts can weigh a ton. Currently I've brought nine with me on the Sony reader - I'd never have been able to pack that many into a suitcase. So, for work purposes - I absolutely love it. But then manuscripts are not books - they are just large and heavy piles of paper.
So would I use the Sony Reader as a consumer and book buyer? No - I don't think they can ever replace actual books, especially for the generations that have grown up with the real thing. (What the future kids may start to read with is anyone's guess). I can see a healthy market however, for the Sony Reader in downloading academic textbooks and journals, travel guides and other reference material. If the technology improves so that one can scroll through the pages very quickly (say as fast as scrolling through songs on an iPOD), then I'd definately load one up with several dictionaries, a thesaurus, language verb tense guides, maps, and other reference material and carry it everywhere. But for fiction and trade non-fiction, it just can't replace the aesthetics of an actual book (at least not for me). It can't replicate the tactile feel of the paper and the joy of gazing on a beautiful cover. I also am constantly dog-earring pages, underlining passages, and writing notes in the margins of my books and while the future technology will probably allow one to simulate these thing electronically - I want to continue to do it in my own handwriting; I want to make my books my own. So I don't think either the industry or book lovers need to panic. Yet.
And in addition to my nine electronic manuscripts, I still packed two books and two printed galleys and I'll be hitting more than a few bookstores on this trip.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Graphic noir. . .

Why the picture above? Well, apart from testing out the merits of my new digital camera, and being slightly obsessed these days by dots (I bought this bowl for only $2.00 at IKEA and I don't know why, but it gives me such pleasure to beat eggs in it), I really needed something visually bright and sunny to do after reading a rather gloomy, but brilliant graphic novel. Cooking an omelet was the best I could come up with. And since one of the characters was a talking teabag (not nearly as photogenic), an image of domesticity is perhaps not completely irrelevant.

Britten and Brülightly by Hannah Berry is a noir mystery set in an unknown city somewhere in the British Isles where it rains all the time (which makes things very difficult for the teabag, aka Stewart Brülightly, as when he gets wet, he infuses). The Britten of the title is Fernandez, who everyone thinks is French but who continually insists has never been in that country. He is a private investigator nicknamed "The Heartbreaker" because he mostly investigates love affairs for jealous spouses and inevitably has to break bad news to them. This has taken its toll and Britten is fairly depressed. He lives alone and talks only to his "partner", the teabag he keeps in his jacket pocket or propped up on a table. Only a murder will get him out of bed, so when a woman hires him to investigate her fiance's suicide - which she is convinced was actually a murder - Britten takes the case. Blackmail, a publishing magnate and secrets from the past all complicate the mystery which has an unexpected if rather depressing ending. The artwork is wonderful; Berry has drawn from multiple perspectives and creates a despairing mood through the constant rain. Moody blues and nostalgic sepia mix with the mostly gray and black palette to create a sad but very clever narrative with just enough expected touches of comic irony to satisfy noir readers. This is an import title from the U.K. and you won't find it easily at bookstores, but your local independent will be able to special order it, and library wholesalers will have no problems obtaining it either. It's definately worth the wait, and apart from a tiny bit of cussing, there are no content issues for teens. I'd recommend it for mystery readers, but also for anyone who doesn't think they like graphic novels. This might change your mind.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Daphne and George and Henry and Constance and Jim, oh my. . .

Readers tend to get obsessive about their favourite books and authors and if those readers are also writers, they often channel their enthusiasm into their own writing, through biographies or literary criticism. But in the last ten years or so, there has been a boom in novels that fictionalize the lives of famous authors; Michael Cunningham's best-selling The Hours, is just one well-known example. I personally love this trend which celebrates, if sometimes in eerie, haunting ways, the lasting influences of these inexplicable literary and imaginative forces.

I've just finished reading a wonderful novel in this same vein: Daphne by Justine Picardie (I got my copy from the U.K. - it's not clear when it'll be out in Canada - it's published by Bloomsbury which is changing Canadian distributors shortly. Still, keep an eye out for it).
The novel combines a modern story with a fictionalized account of the period of Daphne du Maurier's life when she was writing The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte, her biography of the tormented, alcoholic brother of Charlotte, Emily and Anne (being Bronte obsessed myself, this was a book I HAD to read). Daphne is going through a rough patch in her personal life. Her husband is having a mental breakdown and she's just discovered he's also been having an affair. She is being haunted by the presence of her own famous literary creation, Rebecca, and also thinks she's being watched by sinister men in trilby hats (her grandfather was George du Maurier who wrote the bestselling novel Trilby, after which the hats were named). She is also engaged in a strange and strained correspondence with J. A. Symington, the former librarian and curator at the Bronte Parsonage who was dismissed in disgrace after several important manuscripts went missing. Now a bitter, failed scholar who believes that Branwell was a neglected genius, Symington warily sees Daphne as a possible ally in the rehabilitation of Branwell's literary legacy. Part of the story involves a mystery surrounding a missing notebook of Emily's poems. There is also a modern component; the novel is partly narrated by a young woman trying to write her PhD dissertation on the Brontes' juvenilia but becoming increasingly fascinated by the influence of the Brontes on Daphne Du Maurier's own work, and her correspondence with Symington. She is married to a much older professor whose research interests center on Henry James, and who sneers at du Maurier's work as too popular and lowbrow for serious academic attention. To complicate matters, he's not yet over his ex-wife Rachel, an academic and poet who is also a fan of the Brontes and Daphne du Maurier, and whose presence in the couple's house is palpable and causing tension in the marriage. Our modern narrator has to decide whether to continue living in this uncanny pastiche of a du Maurier novel or to find her own reality and come to terms with her literary demons.
There is so much to cut your teeth on in Daphne (librarians and archivists in particular will love it), and at its core the novel is really about the relationships and inevitable influences - obsessive, spooky, unconscious and yet necessary - between readers, writers and the written word. It certainly makes one want to go back and reread all of du Maurier's novels. Like the members of the Bloomsbury Group, the connections - personal and literary - between du Maurier's family and other writers is widespread and fascinating and has been explored extensively in contemporary fiction. So if you are intrigued by this literary period, which among other things, examined sexuality in all its permutations and the ever present and lasting impact of the First World War (which may be a clue to a continued contemporary interest), here are some suggestions for further reading (with less than six degrees of separation between them):

A fictionalized account of Henry James' friendship with George du Maurier, particularly at the time du Maurier was writing Trilby and James was failing as a playwright, is wonderfully told in David Lodge's novel Author, Author.

Parts of the same story but with a different focus are recounted in Colm Toibin's terrific and award-winning novel, The Master.

Both the Lodge and Toibin novels cover James' friendship with the bestselling commercial American writer Constance Fenimore Woolson. But for a very different take on this relationship, you must read Elizabeth Maguire's moving novel The Open Door which will be published in June. This is Constance's story and is very much the tale of a woman writer trying to survive in a man's world and also about finding herself in Europe after years of looking after an elderly mother. It would make a terrific bookclub pick alongside The Master.

Daphne du Maurier was the cousin of the five Llewelyn Davies boys, orphaned at an early age and taken under the guardianship of J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, which was inspired by one of the boys and named after another. Daphne was particularly close to Peter Llewelyn Davies who also appears as a character in Picardie's novel. The story of "The Lost Boys" is quite tragic - one died in the First World War, another drowned while an undergraduate, Peter committed suicide - and yet irresistably interesting as an example of haunting literary influences through the generations. I got chills down my spine reading Daphne as the story of the boys having nightmares of Peter Pan hovering outside their nursery window threatening to take them away, is juxtaposed with the haunting of Lockwood by Cathy's ghost in Wuthering Heights - a scene that in turn disturbs Daphne. And how eerie is it that the day that she sent her cousin the finished manuscript of her Branwell biography was the day he committed suicide; he had been working on a biography of his family sorting out the papers he continually referred to as the "Family Morgue". The novel has definately piqued my interest in reading du Maurier's short stories, some of which tackle these familial ghosts.

The possibly creepy relationship between J. M Barrie and the Lost Boys continues to be examined in books. An interesting fictional take is Canadian Sky Gilbert's novel The English Gentleman, again a mixture of modern story with the past, as an academic finds a stash of letters between Barrie and Michael Llewelyn Davies, written before Michael drowned (or committed suicide) near Oxford. For non-fiction readers, Andrew Birkin's J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys is an indepth and wonderfully written biography. And this August, to tie everything together, we'll be publishing a book I'm itching to read: Captivated: J.M. Barrie, The Du Mauriers and the Dark Side of Never Never Land by Piers Dudgeon. This promises to reveal in all the literary connections between Trilby, Rebecca and Peter Pan.
In the meantime, I've just purchased two DVDs that I'll be watching this weekend. Andrew Birkin was also the writer for a four part BBC series than ran in the 1970s called The Lost Boys, with Ian Holm playing Barrie. And then I've just found an import copy of David Lean's movie of Blithe Spirit starring Rex Harrison and Margaret Rutherford. What does Noel Coward's play have to do with everything I've posted so far? Not a lot, except that Coward was great friends with Gertrude Lawrence (he wrote Private Lives for her), and as I discovered from reading Daphne, Gertie (as she was known) had a love affair, not only with Daphne du Maurier, but also with her father, the actor Gerald du Maurier (who played Captain Hook and Mr. Darling in the first production of Peter Pan).

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Flights of Film Fancy. . .

Ah, the long weekend is here at last. I have to hit the road again next week - off to Vancouver for the Canadian Library Association Conference (if you are attending, do check out our Dewey Diva presentation on Friday - I'll be talking about upcoming summer books and providing a bit of a fall preview), and then the longest conference in my annual schedule - the Congress for the Social Sciences and Humanities - Canada's largest academic conference, also in Vancouver.

But this weekend is all about indulging in my two favourite passions - reading and movies (with a lot of laundry thrown in). I went to see a really delightful film that shouldn't be missed if it comes to a rep theatre near you. The Flight of the Red Balloon stars the ever luminous Juliette Binoche as Suzanne, a busy single mother who leaves her young son Simon in the care of a Chinese film student named Song Fang. We follow the daily lives of these three through the streets of Paris as a big, red balloon trails behind. And if you live in a small apartment with lots of books in an expensive city, you will definately appreciate the set decor. (It's another reason I love French films - there are always lots of books in them). It's a simple story about childhood and the strings that attach us to other people and it's beautifully filmed. You can read more about the film and watch the trailer here. And yes, it's a direct homage to Albert Lamorisse's 1956 film The Red Balloon which has just come out on DVD from Criterion (though try to find a copy in Toronto - completely sold out everywhere I looked!). I haven't seen this film since I was eight - how many of us saw it in school?

The Flight of the Red Balloon has a beautiful soundtrack (don't most French films?) with a lovely piece of piano music running throughout. If like me, you are a big fan of film scores, then you must get The Essential Guide to World Cinema three CD set. I've been listening to this all week as I've been reading the weekend papers or doing household chores. Each CD has a theme: "Box Office Hits" includes music from such wonderful films as Cinema Paradiso, Amelie, and Memoirs of a Geisha. "Cult Favourites" has music from a lot of films that I haven't seen, but based on the bits of score I've now heard, I really want to check out Pelle The Conqueror and Central Station. I have seen The Girl With the Pearl Earring and thought it was just an okay movie - but "Griet's Theme" is wonderful and I can listen to it over and over again. And my favourite CD in the set is "La Nostalgie" which contains music from European movies of the 1960s and 1970s. Here is Georges Delerue's music from Truffault's Jules and Jim (one of my favourite films) and a piece from Michel Legrand's score for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, sung by Tony Bennett and themes from La Dolce Vita, La Strada, and 8 1/2. Even if you haven't seen these films, you'll recognize the music - a lot of it has appeared in commercials or trailers for other films. Terrific stuff - and let's face it, wouldn't we all love a running soundtrack to our lives? I'm happy to borrow some from these movies.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Spreading the Word: The Truth about Librarians

Last fall I recommended a fantastic book called Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert.
This memoir by an assistant librarian with the Los Angeles Public Library system was both funny, heart-wrenching and illuminating on what goes on 'in the stacks' and behind the desk at the public library. USA Today said of the book 'Free For All aims to do for libraries what Bel Kaufman's Up the Down Staircase did for urban schools in 1965 or what Bill Buford's Heat did for professional cooks in 2006.'
I just received an e-mail about an upcoming screening of a documentary that sounds like a good companion piece to the book, helping to dispel myths about the library profession. The Hollywood Librarian: A Look at Librarians in Film is said to focus on the work and lives of librarians and how librarians and libraries have been portrayed onscreen throughout the years. The trailer looks fantastic.

If you are in the Toronto area, the documentary will be showing at the Ryerson University Lecture Hall LIB 72 (Library Building) on Wednesday, June 4 at 7:30 and you can buy tickets through the Access OLA website.

I would love to see this, but will be in Vancouver on the 4th- I'll have to wait for the DVD!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I Really Should Be Working...

I've just finished our Fall 08 sales conference, which came in at a record-setting eight days! I should really be getting some work done, as I have about a thousand things on my to-do list (including many, many new books that I want to read). However, we've been getting so many e-mails about Stephenie Meyer and her forthcoming book (there are only 79 more days, 7 hours, 5 minutes and counting until the release of Breaking Dawn), I couldn't help checking out her website. In doing so, I came across the trailer for the movie adaptation of Twilight. It looks fabulous! Check it out here if you haven't seen it already.

If you would like to download a countdown clock for Breaking Dawn for your own website, you can do so at the official Twilight Saga website.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Best of the Bookers

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Booker prize, a panel of judges have just narrowed down all the winners to announce a shortlist of the Best of the Booker. The contenders are:

Pat Barker - The Ghost Road
Peter Carey - Oscar and Lucinda
J.M. Coetzee - Disgrace
Nadine Gordimer - The Conservationist
Salman Rushdie - Midnight's Children
The bookies have their money on Rushdie (he won the Best of the Bookers done twenty years ago), but don't be surprised if Coetzee takes it - Disgrace is one of the most powerful and unforgettable novels I've ever read. The winner will be decided by reader votes and announced on July 10th. You can vote yourself here.

Monday, May 5, 2008

It may be a little quiet around here. . .

. . . for the next two weeks or so. Our apologies - we're all in sales conference mode which requires an awful lot of prep both before, during and after. A few of us will be hitting the road to Ottawa later this week and then prepping for CLA, and the two of us who are also academic reps will be going to the Congress (Canada's largest - and longest!) academic conference later this month. Busy, busy, busy. A big welcome to those librarians who've just discovered us, particularly from the west, and we'll be back with more book news and book recommendations soon. In the meantime, there are lots of great reads lurking in our archives so have a hunt through them.