Book Blog – Likely Stories, from Booklist Online
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Book Blog - Likely Stories, by Keir Graff - Booklist Online

Likely Stories

A Booklist Blog
Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

Friday, April 18, 2014 11:33 am
Remembering Gabriel García Márquez
Posted by: Donna Seaman

Gabriel Garcia MarquezThe world responded instantly to the news of the death of Gabriel García Márquez, a Nobel laureate and a writer read and cherished by millions of readers everywhere. High praise for the artistry and humanity of his 15 novels and short story collections, from his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, reviewed for the Washington Post  in 1970 by novelist Paul West, to Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2005), reviewed in Booklist by Brad Hooper, can be found in newspapers, on the radio, and all over the Web. But Márquez  was never comfortable with public adoration and celebrity. Indeed, he poked fun of himself and the whole notion of the writer as hero or saint in Living to Tell the Tale (2002), which was to have been the first in a three-volume memoir.

His chronicle begins when he is 22, and happy to have abandoned law school to write. “For reasons of poverty rather than taste,” he writes, he looked like a hippie, with “a pilgrim’s sandals,” two decades before the counterculture.  When his mother asks him to accompany her to their hometown, Aracataca, and help her sell their old house, their journey traverses both space and time as memories surface. The sight of his crib brings back an indelible moment in which he stood, clutching the bars and screaming to have his diaper changed. He was wearing new overalls and couldn’t bear the thought of their being soiled. “That is, it was not a question of hygienic prejudice but esthetic concern, and because of the manner in which it persists in my memory, I believe it was my first experience as a writer.”

Márquez  also remembers “Lorenzo el Magnifico, the hundred-year-old parrot inherited from my great-grandparents,” who warned the family of an escaped bull charging toward the house; a duel that forever marked the family, and his parents. “The history of their forbidden love was another of the wonders of my youth.” Márquez continues,

“They were both excellent storytellers and had a joyful recollection of their love, but they became so impassioned in their accounts that when I was past fifty and had decided to at last use their story in Love in the Time of Cholera, I could not distinguish between life and poetry.”

As we mourn the loss of the man and reaffirm our appreciation for his spellbinding, soulful, and enduring works, we will forever be grateful to Márquez for his exceptional ability to discern the beauty in life, even in its tragedies, and to infuse literature with life’s infinitude of wonders.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 3:23 pm
Book Trailer Thursday: Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

As I assume it does in all of your lives, taxidermy comes up every now and again during Booklist’s coffee breaks. Like the huggable or frightening stuffed animals themselves, the topic seems to contain no end of intriguing, curious unknowns, (the most unanswerable often being, of course, why?).

See kittens get married and bunnies go to school, and hear author Pat Morris discuss Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy (Penguin) and his inspiration to collect the taxidermist’s “interesting and different” collection in a single volume.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 9:59 am
ILA names new “Soon to be Famous” Author
Posted by: Rebecca

Librarians have not always been willing to embrace self-published authors. It’s hard to spend limited dollars on an unproven book, and when it’s an e-only title, it’s even harder to add the book to the collection. But we can’t ignore self-publishing for long—last year, self-published books made up 32% of the Amazon best-seller list.  How do libraries help their readers discover the gems? The Illinois Library Association has a solution: Allow librarians to select and narrow down titles of merit. So they created the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author project, which recognizes and gives a boost to self-published authors. As finalist Mary Hutchings Reed said at the event, “There is no higher compliment to a writer than to have a librarian recommend your book.”

The award is the brainchild of library marketing professionals who were inspired after listening to a presentation by brand expert and NYU professor David Vinjamuri, who writes and speaks about the importance of libraries in the era of e-books and self-publishing. Vinjamuri wants libraries to wield their collective influence to lift a self-published author to success to create a measurable indicator of the power of libraries and librarians to affect books and reading.  “David made the point again and again about how libraries are instrumental in promoting reading and literature. He issued a challenge to libraries to find an unknown talented Illinois author that will become a success based on librarians’ recommendations. So we are taking up the challenge! The purpose of this exciting project is twofold—give a talented author exposure and spotlight the importance of libraries to literature efforts,” said ILA Executive Director Robert Doyle.

“Libraries and librarians are experts at recognizing exceptional literature and promoting the works of authors. We are just taking this role a step further and transforming it into an exciting project for writers and libraries,” said Dee Brennan, Executive Director of RAILS (Reaching Across Illinois Library System).

Librarians across the state nominated 103 self-published adult fiction titles, and more than 20 librarians served as judges. After a series of eliminations, three finalists were selected: Rick Polad, Carol Stream, was nominated by the Phillips Library at Aurora University for his book Change of Address; Mary Hutchings Reed, Chicago, was nominated for her work Warming Up by the Mount Prospect Public Library; and Joanne Zienty, Wheaton, was nominated by the Forest School Library in Des Plaines for her book The Things We Save. Zienty was awarded the top honor.

Photos from the event can be found in the Soon to Be Famous album on the RAILS Facebook page at:; and a recording of the presentation will soon be available from the Gail Borden Public Library’s YouTube channel at:

Visit the Soon to Be Famous Author page for more information on the finalists and their books at:



Tuesday, April 15, 2014 10:32 am
2014 LA Times Book Prize Winners
Posted by: Biz Hyzy

On April 11, the Los Angeles Times announced the recipients of their 2013 book awards at a gala event at University of Southern California. The winning titles are linked to Booklist reviews when available. To learn more about the LA Book Prizes, visit


Bolivar: American Liberator, Marie Arana



Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, Sheri Fink



A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki



We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo



Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, Ulli Lust



The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, Christopher Clark



The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)



Collected Poems, Ron Padgett



Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?, Alan Weisman



Boxers & Saints (boxed set), Gene Luen Yang


Friday, April 11, 2014 2:00 pm
Society of Midland Authors 2014 Award Winners and Finalists
Posted by: Biz Hyzy

The Society of Midland Authors has announced the winners and finalists for their 2014 awards for books published in 2013. Titles are linked to Booklist reviews when available.

Founded in 1915, the Society has honored Midwest authors with annual awards since 1957. This year’s banquet is Tuesday, May 13, at the Cliff Dwellers Club in Chicago. Paul Durica, founder of Pocket Guide to Hell, an assortment of free walking tours aimed at divulging Chicago’s dark history, will be the master of ceremonies. Tickets are $75. To reserve, visit



Little Known Facts, by Christine Sneed


Happiness, Like Water, by Chinelo Okparanta

The Lost Episodes of Revie Bryson, by Bryan Furuness




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


The Longevity Seekers: Science, Business, and the Fountain of Youth, by Ted Anton

Harriman vs. Hill: Wall Street’s Great Railroad War, by Larry Haeg




The Man He Became, by James Tobin


Young Titan, by Michael Sheldon




One Came Home, Amy Timberlake


Navigating Early, by Clare Vanderpool

The Blessing Cup, by Patricia Polacco




The Nazi Hunters, by Neal Bascomb




Bury My Clothes, by Roger Bonair-Agard


Silverchest, by Carl Phillips

Song and Error, by Averill Curdy



Chris Jones, theater critic for the Chicago Tribune

Friday, April 11, 2014 11:05 am
Total Boox Launches Free Reading Week
Posted by: Rebecca

There’s a new e-book platform in town, Total Boox. In honor of National Library Week, Total Boox is making its entire collection of ebooks available for free reading between April 13 and April 20, 2014. Anyone with an Android, IOS, or Kindle Fire tablet in the United States and around the world can download and read over 20,000 quality titles for free at

Total Boox’ list of ebooks includes an array of fiction and nonfiction titles bearing imprints of the world’s premier publishers, including O’Reilly, FW Media, Sourcebooks, Other Press, Elsevier, Red Wheel Weiser, Berrett-Koehler, Open-Road, and many more. Various categories are represented, including those in high demand: genre and literary fiction, crafts and self-help, religion and spirituality, health and medicine, business and careers, and more.

For information on how to implement Total Boox in libraries, visit

Thursday, April 10, 2014 3:51 pm
Book Trailer Thursday: The Undertaking of Lily Chen
Posted by: Sarah Hunter

Danica Novgorodoff’s gorgeous The Undertaking of Lily Chen features lovely watercolor backgrounds, stylishly exaggerated figures, and a life-or-death story in contemporary China as Deshi searches the countryside to find a corpse bride for his recently deceased brother. If that wasn’t enough to convince you of the drama at hand, this book trailer ups the ante with a gravelly voiced narrator and blood dripping in slow motion! But don’t let the earnest tone deceive you: there’s subtle humor in the absurdity of Deshi’s journey, in the I-think-I-love-you-but-I’m-supposed-to-murder-you kind of way.

Thursday, April 3, 2014 10:13 am
Book Trailer Thursday: The Lowland
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

With just a few days to go until the announcement of the 2014 Carnegie Medals for Fiction and Nonfiction Shortlist, we’re turning the BTT spotlight on another of the longlist titles. Of Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri’s fourth book The Lowland (Knopf), Donna Seaman writes, “Lahiri attains new heights of artistry—flawless transparency, immersive intimacy with characters and place.”

Tune in bright and early Monday (April 7) morning to see if The Lowland and your other favorites made the cut!(B.Y.O.Coffee.)

Friday, March 28, 2014 11:38 am
Booklist Editor Donna Seaman Moonlights for a Better Earth
Posted by: Keir Graff

Creative Nonfiction: The Human Face of SustainabilityHow Donna Seaman does it, I’ll never know. In addition to her prodigious reviewing load for Booklist, our adult books senior editor finds time for many fascinating outside projects. In what is merely her most recent, she guest-edited the spring issue of Creative Nonfiction magazine, reading nearly 450 essays submitted for the theme “The Human Face of Sustainability.” She forwarded her recommendations to a team of reviewers at Arizona State University’s Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, who selected a winner for a $10,000 prize—and, in an unprecedented move, offered up another $1,000 for each of the finalists, so taken were they with the entries’ quality. Read Donna’s introductory essay, “Facing Facts.”

Donna made another important contribution to the issue, interviewing Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014). You can read that in its entirety as well, and you’re bound to agree that “Turning Out the Lights Just Isn’t Going to Do It.”

Sustainability is not recycling, nor bringing cloth bags to the supermarket. It is fundamentally rethinking everything that we do, and it is living very, very differently. —Elizabeth Kolbert

Thursday, March 27, 2014 10:05 am
Book Trailer Thursday: I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

Do you know where you’ve seen (or in some cases, heard) Judy Greer before? Well, she doesnt, and she wrote a book about it. In the Booklist review of I Don’t Know What You Know Me From (Doubleday), Kristine Huntley writes, “Greer’s bubbly best-friend personality and self-deprecating anecdotes will have readers rooting for her, and will likely win her new fans.” Huntley predicts interest from theater-hopeful teens, too. Watch the trailer and bonus clip, and never not know what you know her from again!

Here’s Greer, who’s not sure she’s a celebrity but IS sure she’d like her own celebrity fragrance, reading from IDKWYKMF. This one’s for you, text-and-walk-ers!

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Quoted material should be attributed to:
Keir Graff, Likely Stories (Booklist Online).

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