Be the Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Share a list of nonfiction books on a topic you know a lot about. Or, ask for some advice for books on a particular topic. Or, put together a list of nonfiction books on a topic you’re curious about.
I get a lot of review requests for books about dogs…perhaps because my blog features that header of my dog Caribou and her friend Argus! At any rate, I don’t accept them all because I like to read about a lot of subjects (not just dogs!). That said, once in awhile I can’t resist a nonfiction book which focuses on the dog…especially the working dog. With my background in canine search and rescue, I tend to be more critical of these kinds of books…so when I read a particularly great book on the subject, I get really excited!
Here are three of the best books I’ve read about the dog with a focus on the working dog:
What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs by Cat Warren
Warren owns a certified cadaver dog and shares her experiences on her journey through the murky world of finding the dead. But she also makes room in her fantastic book for information about all working dogs, including military service, law enforcement, and search and rescue.
What the Dog Knows is part memoir and part science, it is Warren’s unswerving journey with a bigger-than-life dog as they go from novices to professionals in the world of the working K9. The book is highly researched and examines the science of the dog’s nose to better understand how dogs do what they do in law enforcement, the military, search and rescue, and other areas. Warren shares what has been discovered about the chemical composition of decomposing bodies, the unsuccessful attempts to create an artificial nose, and efforts to pinpoint ancient graves…among other things.- read my full review here.
Scent of the Missingby Susannah Charleson
Charleson certified a search and rescue (SAR) dog with the Metro Area Rescue K9 unit in Dallas, Texas and Scent of the Missing is her story of that journey with Golden Retriever Puzzle by her side.
[Charleson]…writes from the heart, but it is never sappy or overly emotional. Her prose is descriptive, intuitive, and honest. She writes about the big searches (like the search for human remains following the Columbia tragedy), but she also gives the reader details of the “small” searches, the searches that no one ever hears of except in the small town with a child or adult go missing. – read my full review here.
Being With Animals by Barbara J. King
Unlike the previous two titles, King’s book is not restricted to dogs, but instead looks at all animals and our special relationship with them. I felt like King’s well-researched book offers much to those readers interested in working dogs because it established the basis of our shared experiences with other animals as well.
Being with Animals is a fascinating and important book about our history and experience with animals. As humans, we share our homes with animals, but we also relate to them on religious and spiritual levels as well. Animals not only help us in our work, they provide companionship and unconditional love. Barbara King knowledgeably provides the reader with a plethora of well-researched information that helps define not only why animals are so important to humans, but how that relationship has evolved across time and cultures. Being with Animals narrows the gap between humans and animals, and reminds us of what we share vs. what separates us. - read my full review here.
Have you read any wonderful books about dogs, our relationship with them, or the working canine? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I have been really remiss at posting weekly Mailboxes – and I am sorry for that, but life seems to be getting in the way of blogging these days. This Mailbox includes all the books I’ve received since the last time I post on October 14th.
The good people at Picador sent me The Heat of the Sun by David Rain ((October 2013). This debut novel promises to be “a high-wire act of sustained invention—as playful as it is ambitious, as moving as it is theatrical, and as historically resonant as it is evocative of powerful bonds of friendship and of love.” Ben “Trouble” Pinkerton is the son of Lieutenant Benjamin Pinkerton and the geisha Madame Butterfly, and is now being raised in the United States by Senator Pinkerton and his upper-class wife, Kate. He is involved in many important events of the twentieth century: from Greenwich Village in the roaring twenties, through WPA work during the Great Depression; from secret government work outside Los Alamos, to a revelation on a Nagasaki hillside by the sea.
David Rain is an Australian writer who lives in London. He has taught literature and writing at universities, including Queen’s University of Belfast, University of Brighton, and Middlesex University, London. Learn more about Rain and his work by visiting the author’s website.
Other Press sent me an Advanced Readers Edition of A Fairy Tale by Jonas T. Bengtsson and translated from the Danish by Charlotte Barslund (April 2014). From the publisher:
In a Europe without borders, where social norms have become fragile, a son must confront the sins of his father and grandfather, and invent new strategies for survival. A young boy grows up with a loving father who has little respect for the law. They are always on the run, and as they move from place to place, the boy is often distraught to leave behind new friendships. Because it would be dicey for him to go to school, his anarchistic father gives him an unconventional education intended to contradict as much as possible the teachings of his own father, a preacher and a pervert. Ten years later, when the boy is entering adulthood, with a fake name and a monotonous job, he tries to conform to the demands of ordinary life, but the lessons of the past thwart his efforts, and questions about his father’s childhood cannot be left unanswered.
The novel spans the mid-1980s to early-twenty-first-century in Copenhagen, and is a coming-of-age novel which examines what it means to be a stranger in the modern world, and how, for better or for worse, a father’s legacy is never passed on in any predictable fashion.
Jonas T. Bengtsson has published two previous novels: his 2005 literary debut, Amina’s Letters, winner of the Danish Debutant Award and BG Bank First Book Award; and Submarino, the film adaptation of which took the 2010 Nordic Council Film Prize. He has also received the P.O. Enquist Literary Prize and was nominated for the Weekendavisens Literature Prize. He lives in Copenhagen.
Tor Forge sent me W. Bruce Cameron’s latest novel: The Dogs of Christmas (October 2013). The novel is described as “a charming and heartwarming holiday tale that explores the power of love, trust, and a basket full of puppies.” From the publisher:
While nursing a broken heart, Josh Michaels is outraged when a neighbor abandons his very pregnant dog, Lucy, at Josh’s Colorado home. But Josh can’t resist Lucy’s soulful brown eyes, and though he’s never had a dog before, he’s determined to do the best he can for Lucy—and her soon-to-arrive, bound-to-be-adorable puppies. Soon in over his head, Josh calls the local animal shelter for help, and meets Kerri, a beautiful woman with a quick wit and a fierce love for animals.
W. Bruce Cameron is the New York Times bestselling author of A Dog’s Purpose, A Dog’s Journey, and 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, which was turned into the hit ABC series. He lives in California. Learn more about Cameron and his work by visiting the author’s website.
And finally, from Penguin UK, Evie Hunter’s latest erotic novel: The Pleasures of Autumn(October 2013). From the publisher:
When museum curator Sinead O’Sullivan is charged with stealing the Fire of Autumn, a dazzling ruby with a history of violence and treachery, bail is set at one million Swiss francs. Investigator Niall Moore is hired to stop her fleeing and to find the jewel.
Their sexual chemistry is electric but logic says to ignore it. Desperate as she is to convince Niall of her innocence, Sinead cannot reveal everything she knows. And the feisty red-head’s improbable tale tells him that she is not to be trusted.
Yet it’s impossible to ignore the carnal heat between them. Niall, an expert interrogator, uses every trick of the trade – and every weapon in his erotic armoury – to get at the truth. Sinead, a fast learner, counters his every move with one of her own. Thief and thief-taker fight for dominance and there can be only one winner.
But what happens in their red-hot game of cat-and-mouse when criminals chasing the precious jewel come after Sinead … and the stakes become deadly?
Evie Hunter is actually two authors, Caroline McCall and Eileen Gormley, who met at a creative writing workshop in Dublin in 2010. On discovering that they shared a passion for erotic fiction, they became the best of friends. In early 2012 they got a chance to co-write a series of erotic novellas for an American publisher. They are the authors of The Pleasures of Winter. Learn more about McCall and Gormley by visiting the authors’ website.
Did any great books arrive at YOUR house this week?
I’ve grown more comfortable working with the dead. With parts of them, really. A few teeth, a vertebra, a piece of carpet that lay underneath a body. One of my German shepherd’s standard training materials is dirt harvested from sites where decomposing bodies rested. Crack open a Mason jar filled with that dirt, and all I smell is North Carolina woods – musky darkness with a hint of mildewed alder leaves. Solo smells the departed.- from What the Dog Knows -
A small pup arrived from Ohio and came to live with Cat Warren one May day in 2004. He was born a single pup with no brothers or sisters which was Warren’s only indication that he might be someone special. From day one, Solo, as he was named, turned Warren’s household upside down with his brash combination of humor, intelligence, and wild-child attitude. Even Megan, the Warren’s aging and dignified Irish Setter, was not spared Solo’s special brand of attention.
She stared at us without seeing, the whites showing at the edges of her large brown eyes. To handicap Solo a bit more, I soaked her fringed ears and tail in bitter-apple spray so he was less tempted to swing from them.- from What the Dog Knows -
But despite Solo’s overwhelming personality – or maybe because of it – he quickly won the hearts of his family. When Solo began to show signs of dog aggression, however, Warren sought the help of friend and K9 trainer, Nancy Hook, who spent one afternoon with Solo and then asked: “What are you going to do with him?” It was Hook who suggested Solo might have what it took to become a certified cadaver dog. So Warren did what she does best…she researched the heck out of the discipline and then jumped in with both feet.
What the Dog Knows is part memoir and part science, it is Warren’s unswerving journey with a bigger-than-life dog as they go from novices to professionals in the world of the working K9. The book is highly researched and examines the science of the dog’s nose to better understand how dogs do what they do in law enforcement, the military, search and rescue, and other areas. Warren shares what has been discovered about the chemical composition of decomposing bodies, the unsuccessful attempts to create an artificial nose, and efforts to pinpoint ancient graves…among other things.
Well-trained cadaver dogs can smell the faint remnants of the odor of death, impregnated on a carpet swatch, for months following the brief presence of a newly dead person. – from What the Dog Knows -
It is all fascinating, but made even more engaging because Warren has connected with dozens of well-known people in the field and fills her book with stories about real dogs and their handlers – the searches they’ve been on, the hard work, the disappointments, the satisfaction of a job well done. At the center of What the Dog Knows are the dogs themselves who fling themselves into the work because to them it is less work and more play.
Those people who have been reading my blog from its inception know all about my search and rescue dog, Caribou, who gave my blog its name. She worked for 9+ years before retiring and passed away from spleen cancer nearly five years ago. Reading Warren’s beautifully penned book brought me back to the days when I rose with the sun for a long day of training, or drove 300 miles to help find a missing person. It reminded me of the special bond I shared with my gorgeous girl. It re-ignited all the passion I had watching my dog work, wondering what exactly she was smelling and visualizing microscopic skin rafts floating on air currents.
The memories are not all positive. I met my share of egotistical handlers and surly law enforcement personnel who thought a woman should not be out finding dead bodies with her dog. And so, Warren’s humility is refreshing. She does not pretend to know it all. She poses the questions, presents the research, gives first hand accounts and then admits we are a long way from understanding what the dog knows. She reveals her fears and doubts about her own skills and admits to her mistakes along the way.
Solo is getting older now, and a new dog has joined the Warren household – little Coda who is a different kind of challenge. Cat Warren wants to keep following a dog, finding the missing, solving mysteries. I feel lucky to have been able to share some of her journey.
What the Dog Knows is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Readers interested in the working dog will most certainly want to read this one. But even if you have never imagined yourself working side by side with a dog, if you have ever loved a dog you will find much to love in Warren’s book.
Learn more about Cat Warren and her work by visiting the author’s website. Follow her ongoing adventures and observations by reading her blog. Check out the book trailer where you can see Solo in action:
FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review.
The snowflakes drift through her to strike the ground. They cannot touch her.
“Dani – “
“What is wrong with me Dad?”
“Nothing Dani. There’s nothing wrong with you.” He tells his dead daughter.
She looks at the ground, sees his footprints alone in the snow. – from The Last Winter of Dani Lancing -
Jim Lancing spends a lot of time with his daughter Dani since her murder twenty years ago. She is a ghost that he is not willing to let go. Not yet. Patty, Dani’s mother, has a different way of connecting with her daughter – she wants revenge. The cold case eats away at Patty leaving her bitter, angry and a skeleton of who she once was – not only has Dani’s death devastated her parents, it has also separated them from each other.
Tom, Dani’s former childhood sweetheart, is now a cop and he wants more than anything to solve her murder. So when it looks like the case might be re-investigated, he shares that hope with Patty. His well-meaning words, however, unleash a new series of obsessive acts on Patty’s part. Will the case ever be solved? And at what cost?
P.D. Viner’s debut novel is told in interwoven points of view, back and forth in time – a technique that successfully creates tension as more facts about Dani’s untimely death are revealed. A mix of supernatural thriller and literary fiction, The Last Winter of Dani Lancing is a quick read. Early on, the style drew me into the plot and made me want to solve the mystery of Dani’s death.
But the novel is not without its weaknesses. At times it reads like a screenplay (not surprising given that Viner has studied film and cinematography) and for me, that gave the story a bit of a contrived feeling. Viner head hops a lot – giving the book an omniscient quality that didn’t completely work. As the novel comes to its surprising conclusion, there are quite a few events that unfold which felt unbelievable. I ended up turning the final page and feeling a bit disappointed.
All that said, I did read the book in record time for me these days..and the style is haunting. Viner successfully explores the destruction of a family in the wake of the death of a child, and demonstrates how family secrets can have lasting effects.
Readers who like ghost stories and family dramas may want to pick up a copy of The Last Winter of Dani Lancing.
Gone Reading is just the kind of company I enjoy supporting. They are a philanthropic enterprise founded in 2011, which markets a line of products for readers and book lovers. The company donates 100% of after-tax profits to provide new funding for libraries around the world. Yes, you read that correctly: 100%.
We believe that when people have open access to great reading materials, life always changes for the better. When libraries and reading materials are made available, people and their communities thrive through increased opportunity and self-empowerment.- from the Gone Reading website -
The bulk of charitable contributions benefit three organizations: READ Global and Ethiopia Reads, and BiblioWorks. Since its founding, Gone Reading International has been run completely by volunteers, with no salary costs incurred to date. No compensation, salary or dividends have been paid to company owners/founders Brad & Eileen Wirz. Most recently the organization underwrote a new community library in Ethiopia.
The Gebeta Community Children’s Library, as it’s known, was developed by Ethiopia Reads, an amazing non-profit that we’ve helped support since GoneReading launched in 2011. They approached us about the project in August, and I knew we could make it work. Ethiopia Reads already had the space lined up, conveniently located near their office in Addis Ababa. We wrote them a check and the library was outfitted and staffed in less than a month. Amazing! - from the Gone Reading website -
When I was contacted recently about trying one of Gone Reading’s products and providing a review, I did not hesitate. First, their site is really user friendly. It was easy for me to browse their terrific reading products which include t-shirts, book accessories, calendars, home decor, games, stationary, and more…all with a bookish theme. I selected one of their Reading Woman products: a 2014 Engagement Calendar.
I am always on the lookout for engagement calendars with unique artwork which also give me plenty of space to write. This calendar is 6″ x 8 ¼” and printed using soy-based inks on FSC® certified paper, which means the paper has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council™ and manufactured by an FSC® certified printer. (FSC® certification promotes responsible forest management by ensuring that forestry practices are environmentally responsible, socially equitable, and economically viable.) Product description:
This 2014 Engagement Calendar features 20 paintings by famous artists, including Gustave Caillebotte, Sir John Lavery, and Edward Hopper.
Also included are 57 weekly grids and 13 full-page monthly grids; double-page spreads of 2014 and 2015 yearly grids; a full 2014 calendar on the cover flaps; a list of international holidays; a world time zone map; a year planner with US, UK, and Canadian holidays; pages for notes; and a personal information page.
The result is a gorgeous, high quality calendar. Here is some of the artwork (click on each image to enjoy a larger view):
I really want to promote a company that gives back…and there are so many great products on Gone Reading which would make fun stocking stuffers or gifts for the readers in your life. SO, I am very happy to be able to offer my readers a special coupon code worth 25% off on the Gone Reading site.
TO GET YOUR 25% DISCOUNT
Use this code at checkout: caribou25
Coupon code is good for the total cost of the entire shopping cart, not including shipping.
Coupon code is good for any/all merchandise on the site and can be used an unlimited number of times before it expires at the end of the year.
That’s it! I hope you find something wonderful – and would love to hear your thoughts, comments and what you bought if you want to share with me!
Whatever your opinion of Cordova, however obsessed with his work or indifferent – he’s there to react against. He’s a crevice, a black hole, an unspecified danger, a relentless outbreak of the unknown in our overexposed world. He’s underground, looming unseen in the corners of the dark. He’s down under the railway bridge in the river with all the missing evidence, and the answers that will never see the light of day.- from Night Film, Prologue -
Marisha Pessl’s latest novel, Night Film, is a dark noir tale about a mysterious film director (Stanislaw Cordova) and his gifted daughter, Ashley. When Ashley is found dead in a run down building in New York, her death is ruled a suicide. But for investigative reporter Scott McGrath, Ashley’s death looms as suspicious. McGrath’s history with Cordova is tangled and toxic, and McGrath is determined to not only uncover the circumstances behind Ashley’s untimely death…but to reveal who Cordova is as a man.
I started reading this book at the end of September. It is a chunkster at more than 600 pages, but I thought it would be the perfect airplane read as it was touted as a page turner – a breathless and terrifying novel of suspense. Unfortunately, I found the book to be a laborious read. Pessl’s narrative unravels through the limited point of view of McGrath who painstakingly tracks down evidence of Ashley’s life right before her death. There are bizarre reports of witchcraft, dark magic, and unsavory characters. McGrath is joined by a questionable guy who had a history with Ashley (Hopper) and a naive, homeless woman named Nora. The threesome follow dubious leads and question the people who knew Ashley the best. I found myself growing tired of this endless investigation.
I read nearly 400 pages of this book before giving up. I just did not care enough about Ashley, her father, or the other characters to learn the final mystery of Ashley’s death.
I wanted to love this book. But, I do think it is overwritten and could have been edited down to about half its size in order to speed up the narrative and hold the suspense better. Sadly, I never fully engaged with the plot which felt contrived to me.
I have read some interesting reviews of this book since laying it aside. The Washington Post found it to be a “rambling exploration of the way pop culture infects our expectations, our concepts of reality.” While The New York Times observed that “this book was more exciting to write than to read.”
And above and below all this was the sound of the child’s cries, hovering in the trees, seeming to come from all directions at once. Was it a comfort? It was all new – the company, the sounds – but also he felt as if it had been going on for a long time. He was, he thought – and was shocked at this discovery – happy.- from The Orchardist, page 74 -
William Talmadge is an orchardist in the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the century. He is no longer a young man and he carries a continuing grief for his sister who disappeared one day into the woods and was never seen again when they were both still children. It is this history which perhaps allows Talmadge to tolerate two young girls who appear on his property, both pregnant and traumatized. Talmadge is drawn to the girls, wants to care for them and provides them with food and a place to stay…but it is an uneasy alliance. Talmadge’s long time friend, Caroline Middey who is the local midwife, cautions Talmadge about his involvement with these two girls, named Jane and Della. One day men arrive at the orchard with guns, and what unfolds is both tragic and unexpected, and has long reaching consequences for all the characters, including Jane’s newly born daughter, Angelene.
She was like an egg encased in iron. She was the dream of the place that bore her, and she did not even know it. – from The Orchardist, page 418 -
The Orchardist unfolds over decades and centers primarily on Talmadge, a gentle loner who longs for a family, and three women: Caroline Middey, practical and motherly; Angelene, who represents hope for the future; and Della, a lost young woman who is angry and searching for herself. Of them all, it is Della who is the most difficult to understand and the character who stands on the outside. Filled with despair and grief, Della leaves the orchard and the man who wants to raise her as his own – she goes out into a world filled with uncertainty and violence and struggles to find comfort where there is none.
And then other things distracted her. Drinking, but that was not all of it. Riding horses wasn’t enough anymore, to access that despair that she needed so badly.- from The Orchardist, page 147 -
If Della is less than sympathetic at times, it is Talmadge who tugs at the heartstrings of the reader. He wishes to right the wrong in his life (the unexplained disappearance of his sister) by creating a family with Angelene, Caroline and Della – but fate and a sense of inevitability stand in his way.
She fought against the same force against which he fought. Fate, inevitability, luck. God. He would fly in the face of this force now, for her. If she could be freed from it, he would free her. He would make it all up to her, now.- from The Orchardist, page 342 -
The Orchardist examines grief, loneliness, the healing force of nature and solitude, redemption, and the search for one’s identity. The novel’s sense of place and time is strong, with beautiful and lyrical descriptions of the Pacific Northwest and more specifically, the isolated life an an orchardist in the early part of the twentieth century.
Strengths: descriptions of nature, characterization – very literary. Captures time and place well.
I’ve been out of the country for a couple of weeks, and just before I left, I crafted this pillow as part of the Threadbias Pretty in Patchwork Holidays Sew-a-long. The pillow in the book uses the words “Ho Ho Ho,” but because they gave an alphabet chart, I could chose any word I wanted. I decided to keep my pillow bright and happy and sew the word CREATE as an inspirational message in my sewing room.
This is a super easy pillow to make (and fun to stitch too). I used scraps from my scrap bin and a large piece of Kona Raffia for the flanges and back.
Buttonholes were a new skill for me to master, so I practiced a bit before doing them on the pillow…and it was pretty easy!
Finding buttons I liked proved to be a harder task…and so I eventually purchased a button making kit from Joanne’s and made my own covered buttons.
I love this one…and it looks great in the sewing room!
The last time I posted a mailbox was way back on September 23rd. I’ve been out of the country on a fabulous trip to Italy (we were gone 18 days), and hope to be posting some updates on that trip soon – but today I get to share some books with you which arrived while I’ve been gone.
Just a day before leaving on my trip, Lydia from Riverhead Books sent me a signed copy of Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave by Patty Chang Anker (October 2013) which is a designated a memoir. From the publisher:
Patty Chang Anker grew up eager to please and afraid to fail. But after thirty-nine years, she decided it was time to stop being a chicken. Motivated initially to become a better role model for her two young daughters, she vowed to face the fears that had taken root like weeds, choking the fun and spontaneity out of life. She learned to dive into a swimming pool, ride a bike, do a handstand, and surf. As she shared her experiences, she discovered that most people suffer from their own secret terrors—of driving, flying, heights, public speaking, and more. It became her mission to help others do what they thought they couldn’t, and to feel for themselves the powerful sense of being alive that is the true reward of becoming brave.
Patty Chang Anker blogs for PsychologyToday.com‘s Anxiety section and her own award-winning blog Facing Forty Upside Down. Her work has appeared in O Magazine, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, iVillage, The Huffington Post and in numerous other publications and websites. She has been named a Good Housekeeping ”Blogger We Love” and a “Top 25 Funny Mom” on Circle of Moms. Some Nerve is Anker’s first book. She is a former Director of Media Relations for The New York Times and veteran book publicist for W.W. Norton, Taunton Press and Basic Books. Her campaigns include the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times series “How Race is Lived in America.” She lives in a village north of New York City with her husband and two daughters. Learn more about Anker and her work by visiting the author’s website.
I was really excited to receive a finished copy of What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs by Cat Warren published by Simon & Schuster October 2013. Most people who read my blog know that its name comes from my working dog, Caribou – and when I read about Cat Warren and her cadaver dog Solo, I knew I would want to read this book. From the publisher:
In What the Dog Knows, Warren uses her ongoing work with Solo as a way to explore a captivating field that includes cadaver dogs, drug- and bomb-detecting K9s, tracking and apprehension dogs—even dogs who can locate unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers and help find drowning victims more than two hundred feet below the surface of a lake. Working dogs’ abilities may seem magical or mysterious, but Warren shows the multifaceted science, the rigorous training, and the skilled handling that underlie the amazing abilities of dogs who work with their noses.
Warren interviews cognitive psychologists, historians, medical examiners, epidemiologists, and forensic anthropologists, as well as the breeders, trainers, and handlers who work with and rely on these remarkable and adaptable animals daily. Along the way, she discovers story after story that proves the impressive capabilities—as well as the very real limits—of working dogs and their human partners. Clear-eyed and unsentimental, Warren explains why our partnership with dogs is woven into the fabric of society and why we keep finding new uses for their wonderful noses.
Check out the book trailer:
Cat Warren is an associate professor at North Carolina State University, where she teaches science journalism, editing, and reporting courses. She lives with her German shepherd, Solo, and new puppy, Coda, in Durham, North Carolina. Learn more about Warren and her work by visiting the author’s website.
Ade: A Love Story by Rebecca Walker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2013) is a debut novella about the power of love and the limitations of the human heart. From the publisher:
When Farida, a sophisticated college student, falls in love with Adé, a young Swahili man living on an idyllic island off the coast of Kenya, the two plan to marry and envision a simple life together—free of worldly possessions and concerns. But when Farida contracts malaria and finds herself caught in the middle of a civil war, reality crashes in around them. The lovers’ solitude is interrupted by a world in the throes of massive upheaval that threatens to tear them apart, along with all they cherish.
Rebecca Walker is the author of the best-selling memoirs Black, White and Jewish and Baby Love, and editor of the anthology Black Cool. Learn more about Walker and her work by visiting the author’s website.
All Russians Love Birch Trees by Olga Grjasnowa, translated from the German by Eva Bacon (January 2014) is the winner of the Kuhne Prize, the Anna Seghers Prize, and long-listed for the German Book Prize 2012. This debut novel is set in Frankfurt, and follows a young immigrant named Masha. From the publisher:
Fluent in five languages and able to get by in several others, Masha lives with her boyfriend, Elias. Her best friends are Muslims struggling to obtain residence permits, and her parents rarely leave the house except to compare gas prices. Masha has nearly completed her studies to become an interpreter, when suddenly Elias is hospitalized after a serious soccer injury and dies, forcing her to question a past that has haunted her for years.
[This novel]… tells the story of a headstrong young woman for whom the issue of origin and nationality is immaterial—her Jewish background has taught her she can survive anywhere. Yet Masha isn’t equipped to deal with grief, and this all-too-normal shortcoming gives a particularly bittersweet quality to her adventures.
Olga Grjasnowa was born in 1984 in Baku, Azerbaijan, grew up in the Caucasus, and has spent extended periods in Poland, Russia, and Israel. She moved to Germany at the age of twelve and is a graduate of the German institute for Literature/Creative Writing in Leipzig. In 2010 she was awarded the Dramatist Prize of the Wiener Wortstätten for her debut play, Mitfühlende Deutsche (Compassionate Germans). She is currently studying dance science at the Berlin Free University.
I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-Sook Shin, translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell (April 2014) is a somber and reflective look at how nostalgia can be both a dagger and a balm in times of personal and social crisis. Set in 1980s South Korea, the novel follows Jung Yoon, a highly literate twenty-something woman, as she recounts her own tragic personal history, as well as those of her three intimate college friends. Love, friendship and solitude are the same everywhere, and this book promises to make this “poignantly clear.”
Kyung-Sook Shin is the author of seventeen works of fiction and is one of South Korea’s most widely read and acclaimed novelists. Her best seller, Please Look After Mom, has been translated into more than thirty languages. She has been honored with the Man Asian Literary Prize, the Manhae Prize, the Dong-in Literary Award, the Yi Sang Literary Prize, adn France’s Prix de l’Inapercu as well as the Ho-Am Prize which recognized her body of work for general achievement in Korean culture and arts.
A Curse on Dostoevsky by Atiq Rahimi, translated from the French by Polly McLean (March 2014) is a novel which “flirts with literature” and “ponders the roles of rin, guilt, and redemption in the Muslim world.” When Rassoul, a student of Russian literature in Leningrad, kills the wealthy old lady who prostitutes his beloved, Sophia, he recalls reading Crime and Punishment. Out of principle, he gives himself up to the police. But his country, after years of civil war, has fallen into chaos and in Kabul there is only violence, absurdity, and deafness. Rassoul’s desperate attempt for redemption turns into a farce. The novel is being described as “a nostalgic ode to the magic of Perssian tales and a satire on the dire reality of now.” It also promises to “portray the resilience and wit of Afghani women.”
Atiq Rahimi was born in Afghanistan in 1962, and fled to France in 1984. There he has become renowned as a maker of documentary and feature films, and as a writer. The film of his novel Earth and Ashes was in the Official Selection at Cannes in 2004 and has won a number of prizes. A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear has also been adapted for the screen. His adaptation of The Patience Stone, which he co-wrote and directed, was also recently made into a feature film. Since 2001 Rahimi has returned to Afghanistan to set up a Writers’ House in Kabul and to offer support and training to young Afghan writers and filmmakers. He lives in Paris.
From Plume, two books with the central focus on dogs arrived:
The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods (October 2013) promises to be “a tale of revolutionary research, funny and moving adventures in the field, and useful insights into what your dog is actually thinking.” From the publisher:
In the past decade, we have learned more about how dogs think than in the last century. Breakthroughs in cognitive science, pioneered by Brian Hare have proven dogs have a kind of genius for getting along with people that is unique in the animal kingdom. Brian Hare’s stunning discovery is that when dogs domesticated themselves as early as 40,000 years ago they became far more like human infants than their wolf ancestors. Domestication gave dogs a whole new kind of social intelligence. This finding will change the way we think about dogs and dog training—indeed, the revolution has already begun.
Vanessa Woods is a research assistant, journalist, and author of children’s books. A member of the Hominoid Psychology Research Group, she works with Duke University as well as Lola Ya Bonobo in Congo. She is also a feature writer for the Discovery Channel, and her writing has appeared in publications such as BBC Wildlife and Travel Africa. Her first book, It’s Every Monkey for Themselves, was published in Australia in 2007. Woods lives in North Carolina with her husband, scientist Brian Hare.
Dr. Brian Hare is associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University in North Carolina and a member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, which is a division of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University, founded the Hominoid Psychology Research Group while at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and subsequently founded the Duke Canine Cognition Center when arriving at Duke University. His research has consistently received national and international media coverage over the last decade and has been featured in the Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Economist, The New York Times, The New Yorker, National Geographic, Time, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Nature, Wired, Science magazine, CNN and ABC (Australia). In 2004 the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation named him a recipient of the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award, Germany’s most prestigious award for scientists under age 40. In 2007 Smithsonian magazine named him one of the top 37 U.S. scientists under 36. Learn more about Hare and his work by visiting the author’s website.
Throw the Damn Ball: Classic Poetryby Dogs by R.D. Rosen, Harry Prichett, and Rob Battles (October 2013) is an anthology of timeless and humorous poetry from the authors of the bestselling books Bad Dog, Bad Cat and Bad President. The book borrows heavily from classic poets including Yeats, Dickinson and Frost and reflects on “dog’s concerns” such as: love, loss, friendship and mealtime.
R.D. Rosen is the Edgar Award winning author of Strike Three You’re Dead and other Harvey Blissberg mysteries, plus several nonfiction books. He once wrote for Saturday Night Live and starred in comedy specials for PBS and HBO. Learn more about Rosen and his work by visiting the author’s website.
Harry Prichett has written and performed for the improv comedy group Chicago City Limits, created the off-off-Broadway show Work=Pain=Success, and is a voice of television commercials. Learn more about Prichett and his work by visiting the author’s website.
Rob Battles has written and produced for public radio stations and NPR, and is a senior vice president for a large, forward-looking media company.
The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black (Anchor Books, October 2013) is a debut novel set in Glaveston, Texas. Mourning for her daughter and her crumbling marriage, photographer Clare Porterfield returns to her childhood home hoping to find distraction in mounting an exhibition featuring the island’s vivid history. From the publisher:
Things haven’t changed much during her decade away: her relationship with her mother and older sister is still fraught and competitive, and their neighbors, the Carradays, wield the same moneyed influence they have for generations. But Clare finds that she is now an outsider, out of step with the unique rhythms of Galveston life. As she copes with her grief by digging deeper into the past, she discovers secrets that have grown and multiplied like the wildflowers that climb up Island walls and fences—secrets that will give her a new understanding of her own history.
Elizabeth Black was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island and now lives in Houston, Texas. The Drowning House is her first novel.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis (Vintage Books, October 2013) is set in 1923, and centers around fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd who is swept up by the tides of the Great Migration. From the publisher:
Full of hope, she settles in Philadelphia to build a better life. Instead she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment, and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins are lost to an illness that a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children, whom she raises with grit, mettle, and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them to meet a world that will not be kind. Their lives, captured here in twelve luminous threads, tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage—and a nation’s tumultuous journey.
Ayana Mathis is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship. Her first novel, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, was a New York Times Bestseller and was selected by Oprah Winfrey as the second pick for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Originally from Philadelphia, she lives in Brooklyn. Learn more about Mathis and her work by visiting the author’s website.
Whew – that’s it for now (I still need to pick up mail at the post office, so I don’t know if there are more books waiting for me there!).
Did any amazing books arrive at YOUR house this week?
The last time I posted a mailbox was way back on August 25th – just about one month ago. If you’re wondering why, read this post. So today I will share with you what has arrived over the last few weeks.
It’s Fine By Me by Per Petterson, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (September 2013) promises to be another gem by this fantastic literary fiction author. I’ve read Out Stealing Horses (read my review) and I Curse the River of Time (read my review) by this author – loved one and was luke warm on the other…so I am hoping I love this one. It’s Fine by Me revisits the protagonist, Arvid Jansen, from I Curse the River of Time. Arvid is a youth who befriends a boy named Audun who lives with his mother in a working-class district of Oslo. Audun is a complex character who at first refuses to talk, then spends hours discussing Jack London and Ernest Hemingway while wondering if school is the right path for him. Described as “spare, slim, and haunting” by author Caroline Leavitt, the novel promises to be both tender and brutal.
Per Petterson won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for his novel Out Stealing Horses, which has been translated into more than thirty languages.
Don Bartlett lives in England and works as a freelance translator of Scandinavian literature.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (September 2013) has been named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle. It won the Alex Award and was a finalist for the Lost Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction. Set during the Great Recession, the book focuses on Clay Jannon who has left his job as a web-design drone in San Francisco to work at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But the store is odd and Clay is determine to uncover its secrets. Described as “surreal” and “part technological meditation, part thrilling adventure, part requiem,” the novel is about passion for books, history and the future.
Robin Sloan grew up in Michigan and splits his time between San Francisco and the Internet. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is his first novel. Learn more about Sloan and his work by visiting the author’s website.
Atticus Books sent me a novel in short stories. Sidewalk Dancingby Letitia Moffitt (November 2013). The book is described as “a careful exploration of a diverse family’s dynamics told with the subtle wrist bends and brush strokes of a perpetual outsider.” It is a series of linked stories of a multi-ethnic family’s search for stamina and identity in a world of onlookers.” The stories take the reader to China, to Hawaii, to New York City, to Ireland and are classified as “autobiographical fiction.”
Letitia L. Moffitt was born and raised in Hawaii. She received her doctoral degree in English and Creative Writing from Binghamton University in New York and currently teaches creative writing as an associate professor at Eastern Illinois University. Her work – fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction – has been published in literary journals. Learn more about Moffitt and her work by visiting the author’s website.
Did any amazing books arrive at YOUR house this week?