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

Thursday, March 20, 2014 9:49 am
Book Trailer Thursday: Hugo Marston series
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

Here’s something a little different: one trailer for a whole series. Watch Mark Pryor very very seriously discuss, in finely accented English, his very very serious methods for trailering his Hugo Marston series (The Bookseller, The Crypt Thief, and this year’s The Blood Promise, from Prometheus/Seventh Street).

“I even went to the trouble of sacrificing my youngest daughter…and bringing her back as a zombie!”

Friday, March 14, 2014 5:17 pm
2013 National Book Critics Circle Awards
Posted by: Biz Hyzy

Yesterday, the National Book Critics Circle announced the winners for their 2013 book awards. Booklist reviews of the winning titles are included below where available. If you want to learn more about the awards (including the finalists in each category) or see some photos of the winning authors at the awards ceremony, visit NBCC’s blog.



Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


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


Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World, by Leo Damrosch


Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti, by Amy Wilentz


Metaphysical Dog, Frank Bidart


Distant Reading, by Franco Moretti

Thursday, March 13, 2014 10:05 am
Book Trailer Thursday: The Signature of All Things
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things (Viking) is the third Carnegie-longlist title to be featured on BTT. Joanne Wilkinson writes, “Gilbert, in supreme command of her material, effortlessly invokes the questing spirit of the nineteenth century, when amateur explorers, naturalists, and enthusiasts were making major contributions to progress. Beautifully written and imbued with a reverence for science and for learning, this is a must-read.”


Time is running down to the announcement of the Carnegie shortlist–what have you read, and what are your favorites so far?

Thursday, March 6, 2014 9:47 am
Book Trailer Thursday: Hope Is a Ferris Wheel
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

The Booklist review of Robin Herrera’s Hope Is a Ferris Wheel (Abrams/Amulet) touts the debut novel’s delightful narrator and “unique supporting cast.” Here they are adorably animated in the book’s trailer, which features BTT’s first trailer (home) within a trailer (book). Girl with blue hair starts a school book club and finds solace and solidary in Emily Dickinson’s poetry? I literally just left my desk to see if there was a copy hiding around these corridors. Success! Added to my to-read tower. I hope you’re equally enticed.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014 9:37 am
Don’t miss Booklist at PLA 2014!
Posted by: Keir Graff

PLA 2014 IndianapolisExhibits for this year’s Public Library Association (PLA) conference open at 4 p.m. next Wednesday in Indianapolis. Will you be there? Booklist editors Bill Ott, Gillian Engberg, Brad Hooper, Donna Seaman, Rebecca Vnuk, Ilene Cooper, Joyce Saricks, and Keir Graff (that’s me) will be. Demands on your time will be many, but we hope you’ll make room on your schedule for few of the following fine events:

Mystery Author Meet & Greet. Join Booklist editors and mystery authors Walter Mosley, Peter Swanson, Ben H. Winters (and more!) for wine, cheese, and a little mystery! Thursday, March 13, 3:30–5 p.m., Booklist booth #1717.

Under the Radar: Good Reading You May Have Missed. Adult Books editor Brad Hooper joins a panel to discuss not-to-be-missed historical fiction. Thursday, March 13, 10:45 a.m.–12 p.m., Indiana Convention Center, Wabash Ballroom 1.

Association of American Publishers’ Young Adult Crossover Panel. Books for Youth editorial director Gillian Engberg moderates a panel with authors Laurie Halse Anderson, Jason Reynolds, Eliot Schrefer, and Gene Luen Yang. Signings to follow. Thursday, March 13, 10:45a.m.–12p.m., JW Marriott Indianapolis, White River Ballroom.

Top 5 of the Nonfiction 5. Reference and Collection Management editor Rebecca Vnuk joins a panel to discuss popular nonfiction for leisure readers. Friday, March 14, 10:45 a.m.–12 p.m., Indiana Convention Center, Wabash Ballroom 1.

Doing Time with Sisters In Crime. Audio editor Joyce Saricks joins a panel to discuss trends in crime fiction. Friday, March 14, 2–3:15 p.m., Indiana Convention Center, Wabash Ballroom 1.

Let’s Discuss Book Discussions. Rebecca Vnuk joins a panel to discuss book groups. Friday, March 14, 4:15–5:15 p.m., Indiana Convention Center, Room 244-245.

And, naturally, having read Joyce’s latest column, “RA at PLA,” I’m sure you’re planning to drop by our booth (an easy to remember #1717), business card in hand, to tell us which titles have been getting the most buzz. We’ll publish the results on this very blog. While you’re there, get your complimentary copies of Booklist and Book Links—and, if you need a new subscription, we’ll be happy to help out.

Thursday, February 27, 2014 11:52 am
Book Trailer Thursday: Dancing with Cats
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

This April, Chronicle will release a 15th anniversary reissue of Dancing with Cats by Burton Silver and Heather Busch (1999), which promises to keep “all the mystery and magic of cat dancing delightfully intact,” according to the book’s press release. The book’s copyright page acknowledges that, “Neither the publisher, author, nor photographer accept any responsibility for any adverse reactions which may result from the use of material in this book,” but I think you can still be trusted with this information. Without further ado, here’s Dancing with Cats.

It goes without saying that no cats were harmed in the making of this book, and I assume all received extra treats.

Friday, February 21, 2014 12:04 pm
Poetry and Film: An Evening with Bidart and Franco (yes, that Franco)
Posted by: Courtney Jones

FrancoBidart on stageOn Wednesday, February 19th, Booklist senior editor Donna Seaman, and editorial assistant Courtney Jones went to see poet Frank Bidart and actor James Franco discuss poetry and film at an event during the Chicago Humanities Festival. Here’s what they had to say:

Donna says:

Lots of literati have been making fun of James Franco’s venture into writing via graduate school, but I’ve been intrigued by his great hunger for literary mentors and academic validation. Franco is a big movie star, so why subject himself to the demands of M.F.A. writing workshops? Why seek M.F.A.s in fiction writing and poetry as well as directing and filmmaking? The guy is already rich, famous, and able to do whatever he wants. He went back to school because he wants to do it all; he needs to do it all, and he wants to do it right.

Actors AnonymousI read Franco’s first novel, Actors Anonymous (2013) with high interest, and appreciated the nerve it took to write so scathingly about Hollywood from inside—his satire really does bite the hand that feeds him. The celebrity is keen to show just how oppressive and destructive fame can be.

Franco’s commitment to poetry had been expressed in films. He played Allen Ginsberg in Howl, metaphysical dogcreated and starred in The Broken Tower, a biographical tribute to Hart Crane. Then Franco’s first poetry collection arrived, Directing Herbert White (2014) (see Donna’s review in the March 15 issue of Booklist!). The title refers to his homage to the master poet Frank Bidart—Metaphysical Dog is his most recent, stellar collection–and Franco’s short film adaptation of Bidart’s most disturbing poem, “Herbert White.” In his poems, as in his novel, Franco shreds the silver screen, but he also writes about his formative years, and pays tribute to Hollywood dead. It is an extremely compelling book.

So when I heard that Franco and Bidart were going to appear together at an event hosted by the Poetry Foundation and the Chicago Humanities Festival, I knew I had to go. And I was very lucky to score tickets. I found out later that the event sold out in seven minutes (the venue seats more than 800). And I was delighted that Courtney Jones was able to join me.

Girls screamed when Franco walked on stage, but ultimately the audience was just as enthralled by Bidart. What we witnessed was a two-hour mutual admiration marathon performed with affection by the 74-year-old poet and professor and the 35-year-old actor, director, and writer. A conversation facilitated by the poet, writer, academic, and Poetry Foundation president Robert Polito. Franco talked about how he always thought he had to keep his acting work separate from his writing—and he’s been writing his entire life. But once he realized that all kinds of fiction writers and poets were writing about the movies, a world he knew infinitely more about than they did, he knew that he could, and should, bring the two halves of his creative life together.

The actor loves poetry, the poet loves film—Bidart, like Franco, grew up in California and wanted to be a director. They talked about voice and adaptation and “Herbert White” and the mysterious and difficult art of poetry. They took great pleasure in sharing a stage, in reading each other’s work, and we all basked in that warmth, that radiance. Even if “Herbert White” the poem and Herbert White the movie are profoundly unnerving. Courtney and I continued the conversation as we left the building, concluding as we walked that poetry has a whole lot more dimension and impact than film.

What’s next for James Franco? He’ll be in Chicago for a while yet, rehearsing for his role in the Broadway production of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

FrancoBidartTixCourtney says:

Already an author of short stories and a novel, really it was only a matter of time before James Franco turned his eye to poetry. Of all his endeavors this one might seem to be the silliest, and that’s saying something considering his stint on General Hospital. Poetry is hard. Reading good poetry, for me anyway, is difficult, and writing it, seems nearly impossible. But alas, Mr. Franco has done it. Written a book of poetry, that is. That night, a few hundred eager, some might say giddy, young people clutched what possibly was their first-ever purchased book of poetry, sweatily awaiting their ten-seconds-or-less encounter with Franco when he signed it.

It was a full house, a mixed crowd—an interesting mash up of the hip, young, and possibly clueless, and the poised, poetical, and amused. There were those there obviously there to see Bidart. But Franco’s fans were dedicated. The young women sitting next to me had driven four hours for the event, and the women in front of us snapped pictures the entire time, zooming in on Franco as best their phones would allow. One might have thought they were at comic con, or some other fan convention. But it was not comic con. This was a discussion about poetry, specifically Frank Bidart’s “Herbert White,” a persona poem about a murderous, necrophiliac. Bidart had only ever read it publically two times; this event made three. Earlier in the day an email went out warning people about the content, and suggested a departure time for people who wished to avoid it.

I’ve written a couple posts about actor, writer, director, performance artist James Franco. He is a discussion topic precisely because he’s everywhere, and sometimes seems inescapable. And I admit, maybe I’ve been harsh, mostly because Franco is an easy target. By the time the film screening portion of the evening came around, I’d changed my mind about Franco. Watching him search for the right words to describe the immediate connection he felt to the poem (described as a “tingle”), it dawned on me slowly how into it he really is. He might not have the vocabulary to discuss the work, but as he laboriously explained his desire to capture youth culture and how Hollywood cannibalizes its young, gesturing enthusiastically when words failed him, it struck me that it isn’t some performance art piece or a practical joke to him. He cares. A LOT. Then I realized that I was the clueless one.

The film, like the poem manages to capture the isolation, self recrimination, and horror of the protagonist’s actions. Franco discussed honing in on the fact that Herbert had a family, and the bodies in the woods were his deepest darkest secret. A vice for which there was no help, no Murderers Anonymous support group he could seek out for comfort and the means to get over the compulsion. It was an interesting vision, and made for a gripping short film subject. Some of the deeper layers, the part that connects Bidart to the poem, don’t and can’t make it into that medium, and leaves some of the context to wither and die off- screen. But that’s part of adaptation, isn’t it? As with Franco there are facets to his nature which don’t translate to press junkets, movie premieres, and Oscar hosting gigs. It’s through the poetry and the novel, and short stories that we catch a glimpse of what he’s aiming for.

Thursday, February 20, 2014 5:00 pm
2013 Ezra Jack Keats Award Winners Announced
Posted by: Tim McLaughlin

Once again the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award winners have been announced for 2013. The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation is dedicated to the memory and works of the great children’s book author and illustrator, and also continues to promote children’s books that “portray the universal qualities of childhood, a strong and supportive family and the multicultural nature of our world.” The awards are given each year to new writers and illustrators, in hopes that their works signal a promising future for children’s literature. Enjoy!

tea party rules   New Writer Award Winner

  Tea Party Rules, by Ame Dyckman



New Illustrator Award Winnerrain!

Rain!, by Christian Robinson


Honor Book Award Winners for New Writer

sophie's choice   Sophie’s Squash, by Pat Zietlow Miller

   I Love You, Nose! I Love You, Toes!, by Linda Davick



Honor Book Award Winners for New Illustrator

Tea Party Rules, by K. G. Campbelltake me out to the yakyu

Take Me Out to the Yakyu, by Aaron Meshon

My Grandpa, by Marta Altes

Thursday, February 20, 2014 2:14 pm
Book Trailer Thursday: The Boys in the Boat
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

Turn on your TV and flip to NBC. Now, dial it back 77 years, six months and a few days. Set the antennae about 60 degrees to the… What, your TV doesn’t do that? Did you try kicking the side of it? Switching off then on again? You should probably get that fixed, but luckily I can hook up your time travel today. (Next time will cost you.)

So, all together now, here we are at the 1936 summer Olympics in Berlin for BTT’s second featured Carnegie longlist title, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (Viking). Alan Moores writes in his starred review that the book “informs as it inspires,” and interested listeners won’t be disappointed by the audiobook version, either, according to Sue-Ellen Beauregard. Stay tuned to see if The Boys in the Boat and other Carnegie titles make the next cut when the shortlist is announced this spring.

Thursday, February 20, 2014 8:59 am
Word for Word: That’s Dude
Posted by: Daniel Kraus

Where Things Come BackThe curtain is lifted! Revealed below is the identity of the latest author who trudged into the unknown to play mad libs with his own book. As always, it wasn’t pretty.

I was 45 years old when I saw my first kite. It wasn’t my goose Oslo’s. It was a stocking who looked to have been around 19 or at last in her late 10s. She didn’t have any visible fire or rabbits, clocks, or televisions, so I assumed that she had just died of some Macbook or something; her tree barely hidden by the thin, pernicious sheet as it awaited its placement in the brats. The 73rd kite I ever saw was my storm, Oslo’s. I recognized his maniacal brown shoes immediately as the poem wearing the bright ridiculous coat grasped the tall handle and yanked hard to slide the body out from the clunky wall.

“That’s dude,” I said to her.

JCWAuthorPicBut of course such willy-nilly wording can’t hide the Printz-and-Morris-Awards-winning stylings of Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. (Man, books about kites always win.) Sure, we could’ve played Word for Word with Whaley’s new book, Noggin, but seeing as how screwy that book already is (it’s about a guy whose head is transplanted onto another body), we didn’t want you to O.D. on screwiness.

Here is the original kite-free passage:

I was seventeen years old when I saw my first dead body. It wasn’t my cousin Oslo’s. It was a woman who looked to have been around fifty or at least in her late forties. She didn’t have any visible bullet holes or scratches, cuts, or bruises, so I assumed that she had just died of some disease or something; her body barely hidden by the thin white sheet as it awaited its placement in the lockers. The second dead body I ever saw was my cousin Oslo’s. I recognized his dirty brown shoes immediately as the woman wearing the bright white coat grasped the metallic handle and yanked hard to slide the body out from the silvery wall.

“That’s him,” I said to her.

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

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