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, December 6, 2013 1:30 pm
Remembering Mandela’s Legacy
Posted by: Sarah Hunter

Nelson Mandela, by Kadir NelsonBooklist reviewer Vanessa Bush shared her thoughts earlier today on Nelson Mandela’s passing and an upcoming book examining his life. Here are some more recommended titles—some by Mandela himself— and features from the Booklist archives.

Adult Books

In His Own Words, by Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela: A Life in Photographs, by David Elliot Cohen

Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela

Mandela: The Authorized Portrait, edited by Mac Maharaj and Ahmed Kathrada

Mandela: An Illustrated Autobiography, by Nelson Mandela

Books for Youth

Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela and Chris Van Wyk

Mandela: The Man, the Struggle, the Triumph, by Dorothy Hoobler and Thomas Hoobler

Nelson Mandela, by Meredith Martin

Nelson Mandela, By Kadir Nelson

Peaceful Protest: The Life of Nelson Mandela, by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Tree ShakerTree Shaker: The Story of Nelson Mandela, by Bill Keller

Booklist Features

Core Collection: Peace, Not Warby Hazel Rochman

Read-alikes: Growing Up Under Apartheid, by Hazel Rochman

Friday, December 6, 2013 11:10 am
Minority Report: Knowing Mandela Was the Real Deal
Posted by: Vanessa Bush

My oldest son, now an adult, was a toddler when Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years imprisoned on Robben Island. I held my squirming son in my lap as I watched the historic occasion and tried to get him to watch, too. He was bored and distracted; I was stunned and mesmerized. Nelson Mandela a free man, a man I only learned about in college when I also first learned about South Africa’s apartheid system. I couldn’t believe such a system existed, even given the disgraceful history of the U.S.; it was beyond my imagination to think that such a system could exist in modern times.

Knowing MandelaWhen I heard the news of Mandela’s death at the age of 95, I was gratified that one of the books I’ve read recently was John Carlin’s Knowing Mandela, scheduled for the February 1, 2014 issue of Booklist, Spotlight on Black History.

Carlin was the first foreign correspondent to interview Mandela as president of South Africa. Carlin covered Mandela’s release in 1990 and spent the next five years covering Mandela’s historic presidency. In 2009, Carlin met again with Mandela as the former president’s health was failing. Beyond the hard-bitten image of the objective reporter, Carlin fully admits to deep admiration for Mandela.

Carlin details the personal and political struggles of a man who’d journeyed from freedom fighter to prisoner to president and revered statesman. Mandela had the charisma and pragmatism necessary to insist that South African whites own up to the truth of the brutality of apartheid and that all South Africans (black, white, and other) be willing to reconcile the painful past for the sake of the future. His stunning charisma disarmed everyone, as Carlin relates story after story of sworn enemies and skeptics falling under the spell of Mandela’s kindness and decency. For me, this was the most gratifying part of the memoir, to read that Mandela was the real deal, that his public dignity, decency and integrity were elemental to the private man as well.

I’m also grateful that that same squirming toddler as a high school student got a chance to travel to South Africa and see for himself the nation that had struggled with apartheid and still had a long way to go, as does the US, in healing the wounds of the past. But thanks to Mandela’s example, all nations are at least a bit farther along the way.


Thursday, December 5, 2013 11:03 am
Book Trailer Thursday: Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

The year is almost over, but we have a first for 2013 (and probably ever) on BTT: a beat-boxed book trailer for Chip Kidd’s Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design. Ch-ch-ch-ch-eck it out!

Now accepting submissions for beat-boxed everything in 2014.

Thursday, November 28, 2013 3:06 pm
Book Trailer Thanksgiving: Mast Brothers Chocolate
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

Can’t think of eating another thing, right? Wrong! Happy Thanksgiving! And, why, hello, Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook. I’d love this trailer even if it weren’t for a book about chocolate, (in part because I see a bearded Adrian Grenier every time I look in the mirror, too, and now I feel less weird about that). But this is a book trailer about a book about chocolate!!

From the city that sometimes smells like hot cocoa, wishing you and yours a warm and happy holiday.

Friday, November 22, 2013 9:00 am
The Secret History of My Magnificent Obsession with Novels about the Assassination of JFK
Posted by: Ben Segedin

Libra, by Don DeLilloOne of the perks of working at Booklist is the abundance of publishers reviewer’s galleys that litter our hallways, making our workplace more than just a fire hazard, but instead, a book-lover’s paradise. And while many of the galleys ultimately end up in the recycling bin, a number of them find their way onto precarious piles in our offices, on our desks, shelves, and floors, where we hope that we might someday get around to reading them. Another common destination for these proofs is with family members. For better or for worse, my brother Paul has been the recipient of numerous crime novels that have been reviewed by my colleagues.

Winter Kills by Richard CondonNot that long ago I handed Paul a stack of recent novels, a batch that included Max Allan Collin’s Ask Not and Jim Lehrer’s Top Down. He noticed that several of these titles shared a common theme: the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I hadn’t yet taken note of the momentous anniversary approaching.

“How many novels do you suppose have been published featuring the assassination?” my brother asked. Being a big fan of James Ellroy, he mentioned American Tabloid. I immediately thought of Don Delillo’s Libra and Stephen King’s 11/22/63.  We both recalled Richard Condon’s Winter Kills and the movie that was made based on it. I seemed to recall that William F. Buckley Jr. had written one a while back. And, speaking of Condon, could we include his Manchurian Candidate? Why not? Before I knew it, I was obsessed with the idea.

American Tabloid, by James EllroySo here is the fruit of my obsession: “50 Years, 50 Books: The Assassination of JFK in Fiction.” And while I, in the spirit of full disclosure, have read very few of them, and I’m certainly not recommending all of the novels included in my list (in fact, some of them seem downright dreadful—e.g., Sherlock Holmes in Dallas), I did make several interesting discoveries, and, in the course of compiling this opus, I must admit that I am now even less certain about what really happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Thursday, November 21, 2013 2:15 pm
Book Trailer Thursday:11/22/63
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

On the day before the fiftieth anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination, today’s book trailer borrows from the past–two years ago, to be precise–to feature Stephen King’s time-traveling novel of the event, 11/22/63. There’s no shortage of promo material online for readers who might have missed the lauded bestseller in 2011, or those who are on their library’s wait lists anew. Three different, interest-piquing hooks:

Interview with King:

TV commercial:

Trailer (UK):

Be sure to come back tomorrow, when we’ll share Ben Segedin’s whopping list of books—50 in all—offering a fictional take on that dark day in Dallas. Given the number of wild scenarios often shopped as truth, who’s to say what’s plausible?

Thursday, November 21, 2013 10:12 am
National Book Award Winners
Posted by: Keir Graff

The National Book Award winners were announced last night, at a gala, star-studded ceremony in—where, else?—New York. Once the cheering had died down, the smoke from the fireworks had cleared, and the rowdy hooligans had been dispersed by baton-wielding mounted police (some literary groupies just don’t take it very well when the authors whose names are tattooed across their knuckles don’t bring home the trophy), four books were left standing, held aloft by a triumphant quartet of authors—who, in a display of outstanding sportsmanship, traded their game-worn jerseys on the spot.


The Good Lord Bird, by James McBride

The Good Lord Bird, by James McBride





The Unwinding, by George Packer

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, by George Packer






Incarnadine, by Mary Szybist

Incarnadine, by Mary Szybist





Young People’s Literature

The Thing about Luck, by Cynthia Kadohata

The Thing About Luck, by Cynthia Kadohata





Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

E. L. Doctorow

Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community

Dr. Maya Angelou

Thursday, November 21, 2013 10:02 am
Word for Word: Good-Bye Alligators & Overcrowded Stilettos
Posted by: Daniel Kraus

17 and GoneBehold! Here at last we reveal the identity of our mystery author, who dared to play mad libs with her own prose. The results, I think, speak for themselves!

Truck drivers go missing every day. They slip out of bedroom feather dusters and into repulsive cars. The leave good-bye alligators or don’t get a chance to masticate anyone. They cross loan sharks. They hitch rides, nibbling themselves into overcrowded stilettos, sitting on scatterbrained laps. They dismember and french-kiss, or they shove their earthworms out of earwigs and give off vodka shouts. Girls make plans to nose-dive, but they also sparkle without meaning to, and sometimes people confuse one for the tattletale.

Nova Ren SumaYou know that distinctive voice, don’t you? It’s none other than Nova Ren Suma and the book is 17 & Gone (see our review).  Personally I think “vodka shouts” will be the hippest party trend of 2014, but if you prefer the original, non-reptilian passage, here you go:

Girls go missing every day. They slip out of bedroom windows and into strange cars.  They leave good-bye notes or they don’t get a chance to tell anyone. They cross borders. They hitch rides, squeezing themselves into overcrowded backseats, sitting on willing laps. They curl up and crouch down, or they shove their bodies out of sunroofs and give off victory shouts. Girls make plans to go, but they also vanish without meaning to, and sometimes people confuse one for the other.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 3:46 pm
Remembering Charlotte Zolotow
Posted by: Michael Cart

Charlotte ZolotowI first met the legendary editor/publisher/author Charlotte Zolotow, who has died at the age of 98, sometime in the late 1980s, when she was a guest on the cable television author interview program “In Print,” which I was hosting and co-producing at the time. I was all-a-tremble at the prospect, since I held her in such awe, not only for her fame as an editor and publisher at Harper and Brothers (as it was then named) but also for her authorship of 70 or more distinguished books for children. I needn’t have worried. Charlotte, when I met her, was both warm and wonderful, and I was immediately smitten. Talking with her about her work as an editor and about the many books she wrote, including Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, William’s Doll, and (her first) The Park Book was a lovely experience because she was herself lovely. And insightful. I remember asking her how, as an adult, she wrote such affecting books for children, and she simply said that the emotions she felt as an adult were the same she experienced as a child. What better answer could there be?

I knew Charlotte was always on the lookout for new authors, but I was dumbfounded when, the second time I met her (at her office in New York), she offered me a book contract. That changed my life, making it possible for me to take an early retirement and become a writer, columnist, and editor. And I will always be deeply in her debt for that.

Of course, Charlotte not only changed my life, she also changed books for young readers thanks to her editorial acumen, keen intelligence, and venturesome publishing. During her 53-year-long career at Harper, she worked with such authors as M. E. Kerr, Paul Zindel, Patricia MacLachlan, Francesca Lia Block, Paul Fleischman, John Steptoe, and hosts of others.

So we mark her passing not only with sorrow, but also with deep gratitude for her extraordinary life and career that left the world an inarguably better place.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 9:45 am
Book Trailer Thursday: Liliane’s Balcony
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

Liliane’s Balcony, a part-prose, part-poetry novella of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home Fallingwater, is the subject of this week’s book trailer. Reviewer Katharine Fronk writes that author Parker “sculpts and controls myriad, nearly unwieldy elements to construct a driven plot that illuminates the perched house and those who live within it.”

Pills, chills, and a painting–but no house. To see the house, you’ll have to read the book.

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

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