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2012 PEN Literary Awards Announced

Catherine the Great book coverThe PEN American Center, the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization, has chosen the winners of the 2012 PEN Literary Awards. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie won the Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography, and you can see the story brought to life by favorite book dramatist Barbara Rinella at MPPL on October 1.

Click here for category information and a complete list of winners. Highlights include

Robert W. Bingham Prize: Zazen by Vanessa Veselka

Achievement in American Fiction: E.L. Doctorow

Award for the Art of the Essay: Arguably by Christopher Hitchens

Literary Science Writing Award: The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick

Award for Literary Sports Writing: Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball’s Longest Game by Dan Barry

Illustrated Children’s Book: Never Forgotten by Patricia C. McKissack

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on September 5, 2012 Categories: Awards, Books, Literary, Nonfiction

LISTS: Novels of Ancient Greece

Gates of Fire book coverIf you like the movie 300, about 300 Spartans fending off overwhelming hordes of the Persian army at the strait of Thermopylae, then you’ll probably enjoy the similarly-themed novel Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. But your ancient historical fiction reading spree doesn’t have to stop there…

Click here for more novels set in or tied to ancient Greece.

By Readers' Advisor on August 31, 2012 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Literary

Fiercely Solitary and Terribly Elegant

The Hedgehog DVD coverSometimes a prickly exterior hides true refinement, and young Paloma suspects this may be true of Madame Michel, the concierge of her family’s luxury apartment building. This intrigues Paloma, and that’s unusual, especially since she is already weary of life’s pretensions and thinking of ending her life on her twelfth birthday. While she documents her final weeks and the empty hypocrisy of those around her, she realizes that Madame Michel may be a kindred spirit. The arrival of a new tenant, a Japanese gentleman, surprises both with new possibilities and deeper understanding. Based on the exquisite novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, The Hedgehog is a gentle, bittersweet ode to the treasures of the soul.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on August 27, 2012 Categories: Literary, Movies and TV

LISTS: Famous Writer Biopics

Quills DVD coverHunter S. Thompson was known to shoot typewriters. Dorothy Parker drank more than she wrote. Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin’s relationship was equal parts eros and literature. There are even rumors that the Marquis de Sade wrote a manuscript in blood.

Click here for movies on the strange and passionate lives of famous writers.

By Readers' Advisor on August 24, 2012 Categories: Lists, Literary, Movies and TV

Trashy or Brilliant? You Decide.

The Modern Library listed Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov, as the fourth best novel of the twentieth century. It explores a romance between Humbert, our middle-aged narrator, and a possibly sexually precocious pre-teen named Dolores.

Here’s Nabokov being interviewed on Close-Up, a Canadian Broadcasting Coroporation show, about his controversial novel.

By Readers' Advisor on July 7, 2012 Categories: Books, Literary

Celebrate June is Audiobook Month

Bossypants audiobook cover

Just in time to highlight great listens for summer reading, the winners of the 2012 Audie Awards have been announced! Honoring the year’s best recordings in a rich mix of categories, these awards are a perfect source of listening suggestions while traveling on vacation, basking in the sun, or making everyday routines more exciting. Try one of the most recent winners below or sample past Audiobooks of the Year. Need more incentive? Don’t forget that listening to an audiobook counts as reading in our Summer Reading Program!

Audiobook of the Year: Bossypants by Tina Fey

Solo Narration (Male): Simon Vance, narrator of The King’s Speech

Biography/Memoir: Bossypants by Tina Fey

Fantasy: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Humor: Shatner Rules by William Shatner with Chris Regan

Literary Fiction: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Multi-Voiced Performance: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

Mystery: Feast Day of Fools by James Lee Burke

Narration by the Author: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Personal Development: Prime Time by Jane Fonda

Romance: New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb

Thriller/Suspense: The Nightmare Thief by Meg Gardiner

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on June 11, 2012 Categories: Audiobooks, Awards, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Humor, Literary, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense, Nonfiction, Romance

For the Lit-History Nerds

Dancing with Mrs. Dalloway book cover“The Raven,” Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poem, stole its main character from a Dickens novel. Jack London was an adventurer in the Yukon before he was the writer of The Call of the Wild. Treasure Island’s Long John Silver was based on the real life, one-legged, big-hearted poet William Ernest Henley, and Sherlock Holmes was based on a doctor of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s acquaintance. In Dancing with Mrs. Dalloway, Celia Blue Johnson relates the stories and inspirations behind fifty famous works of literature. Each miniature history is a clear, concise account that usually takes no more than five-ish minutes to read. It’s great for curiosity’s sake or for cocktail party fodder.

By Readers' Advisor on February 9, 2012 Categories: Books, Literary, Nonfiction

National Book Award Winners

Salvage the Bones book cover“You owe it to yourself to read this book,” wrote Library Journal, and the judges emphatically agree. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn West is the newly announced winner of the National Book Award for Fiction. In this powerful story, a pregnant 14-year-old living in dire poverty tells of her family’s struggle to prepare their rural Mississippi property for a hurricane that happens to be called Katrina. Stephen Greenblatt took top Nonfiction honors for The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, and Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out & Back Again won in the Young People’s Literature category. Click here for a complete list of finalists and interviews with the authors.

By MPPL on November 19, 2011 Categories: Awards, Books, Literary, Nonfiction

Wilde Audio Fun

Importance of Being Earnest audiobook cover“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”  If your ears itch for fast-paced, witty dialogue and a dash of romantic intrigue, you can do no better than the L.A. Theatre Works production of The Importance of Being Earnest.  One of the most adored plays in the English language is brought to vivid life, complete with assumed names, mistaken lovers, and a misplaced handbag.  James Marsters leads a cast of nimble voice actors in the story of Jack and Algernon, who both pretend to be named Ernest in order to enjoy double lives.  Laugh out loud with the play that best showcases Oscar Wilde’s scathing humor.

By MPPL on September 19, 2011 Categories: Audiobooks, Humor, Literary

Might As Well Live

Dorothy Parker author photoDorothy Parker was a notorious wit, wisecracker, poet and writer. She was a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table (as portrayed in the movie Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle). Parker was a New Yorker regular, a Hollywood screenwriter and an O. Henry Award winner. She was active in politics as early as 1927, where she was arrested for “loitering and sauntering” at a protest. Later, throughout the 1940s and ’50s, the F.B.I. created a 1,000 page dossier on her activities. For a taste of Parker’s hilariously belligerent, bittersweet work, try her Complete Stories or the collection of her “lost” poems, Not Much Fun.

By MPPL on June 23, 2011 Categories: Books, Literary, Movies and TV