Wednesday, October 14, 2015

2015 National Book Awards finalists named

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2015 at 10:42 AM

The finalists for the 2015 National Book Awards have been named. How many have you read?


Karen E. Bender, Refund

Angela Flournoy, The Turner House

Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies

Adam Johnson, Fortune Smiles

Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life


Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

Sally Mann, Hold Still

Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus

Carla Power, If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran

Tracy K. Smith, Ordinary Light


Ross Gay, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

Terrance Hayes, How to Be Drawn

Robin Coste Lewis, Voyage of the Sable Venus

Ada Limón, Bright Dead Things

Patrick Phillips, Elegy for a Broken Machine

Young People's Literature

Ali Benjamin, The Thing About Jellyfish

Laura Ruby, Bone Gap

Steve Sheinkin, Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War

Neal Shusterman, Challenger Deep

Noelle Stevenson, Nimona

The winners will be announced on Nov. 18 at a ceremony in New York City. 

Last year's winners were:

Fiction: Phil Klay, Redeployment
Nonfiction: Evan Osnos, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China
Poetry: Louise Glück, Faithful and Virtuous Night
Young People's Literature: Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Man Booker Prize for 2015 announced

Posted By on Tue, Oct 13, 2015 at 4:23 PM

A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications) by Marlon James was named as the winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction today.

The Man Booker Prize was launched in 1969, and aims to promote the finest in fiction by rewarding the best novel of the year written in English and published in the United Kingdom. Winners receive a prize of £50,000.

From the Man Booker Prize website:

The 44-year-old, now resident in Minneapolis, is the first Jamaican author to win the prize in its 47-year history.


A Brief History of Seven Killings is a 686-page epic with over 75 characters and voices. Set in Kingston, where James was born, the book is a fictional history of the attempted murder of Bob Marley in 1976. Of the book, the New York Times said: "It’s like a Tarantino remake of 'The Harder They Come,' but with a soundtrack by Bob Marley and a script by Oliver Stone and William Faulkner . . . epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal, and dizzyingly complex."

Referring to Bob Marley only as ‘The Singer’ throughout, A Brief History of Seven Killings retells this near mythic assassination attempt through the myriad voices — from witnesses and FBI and CIA agents to killers, ghosts, beauty queens and Keith Richards’ drug dealer — to create a rich, polyphonic study of violence, politics, and the musical legacy of Kingston of the 1970s. James has credited Charles Dickens as one of his formative influences, saying, "I still consider myself a Dickensian in as much as there are aspects of storytelling I still believe in — plot, surprise, cliffhangers.'" (Interview Magazine).

In addition to this year's winner, the 2015 shortlist included: 

Tom McCarthy (UK)              Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)

Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria)    The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)

Sunjeev Sahota (UK)             The Year of the Runaways (Picador)

Anne Tyler (US)                     A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)

Hanya Yanagihara (US)         A Little Life (Picador)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Upcoming book events in Memphis

Posted By on Mon, Oct 12, 2015 at 3:16 PM

Pat Morgan
Tuesday, Oct. 13
 5 p.m. (reception), discussion and book signing begins 5:30 p.m.
Blount Auditorium in Buckman Hall, Rhodes College

Pat Morgan will discuss her book The Concrete Killing Fields: One Woman's Battle to Break the Cycle of Homelessness at Rhodes College in Blount Auditorium in Buckman Hall. Free and open to the public, the event is hosted by the college’s Department of Political Science. The event will be followed by a book signing.

From Goodreads: With her gift of story-telling, deep sense of compassion, and rich Southern sense of humor, Pat Morgan takes you on a ride . . . a kaleidoscope of adventures that few ever experience. From the cotton fields of Arkansas to the concrete killing fields of Tennessee to the Presidents box at the Kennedy Center you will open your eyes, your heart and discover that it is never too late to live out your dreams.

Pat Morgan found her calling in the basement of Calvary Episcopal Church in Memphis, where she discovered the invisible people the homeless. She hadn't set out to become an expert on homeless people; she hadn't planned on working in Washington D.C.; and she hadn't planned on finding the missing healing ingredient that she needed. As a political insider, part policy maker and confessed political activist and junkie, Pat Morgan was the fly on the wall with a ringside seat. Failing at picking cotton as a young girl, she discovered that what she was good at picking was smart people and mentors to guide her.

The Memphis Jewish Community Center is celebrating its 3rd-annual Jewish Literary & Cultural Arts Festival. The festival will begin on October 15th and run through November 18th, showcasing world-renowned artists and authors. The schedule through October is as follows:

Thursday, Oct. 15
Artist talk and Shainberg Gallery opening with Keron Psillas
7:30 p.m.
Free event

Saturday, Oct. 17
Author talk with Faye and Jonathan Kellerman
7:45 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 19
Author talk with Alan Lightman
7:30 p.m.
Malco Ridgeway Cinema Grill
$15, general; $12, members

Wednesday, Oct. 21
Artist talk with Shirel Horovitz
7:30 p.m.
Free event

Thursday, Oct. 29
Author talk with Dani Klein Modisett
7:30 p.m.
$15, general; $12, members

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit or contact Amy Israel, or 901-259-9209.

Leigh Anne Tuohy

Thursday, Oct. 22
6:30 p.m.
The Booksellers of Laurelwood

Leigh Anne Tuohy, whose family inspired the hit film The Blind Side, will be at The Booksellers of Laurelwood signing her new book, the devotional Turn Around.
Giving isn’t always about money, much less a lot of money, and Tuohy challenges us to re-think what giving really means. Turn Around is a five-day-per-week devotional that uses scripture as a springboard to reconsider what it means to give sacrificially, generously, and immediately — many times, without having to leave your own community. We encounter opportunities to give every single day; what may seem like a small gesture to us may make a world of difference in someone else’s life. Make your next step one that causes you to turn around and meet a need.

Leigh Anne grew up in Memphis and attended the University of Mississippi, where she met her future husband; she now owns an interior design company. The Tuohys live in Memphis but travel all over the country speaking to thousands of people about their family, their faith, and how each of us can make a difference.

Linda Lee Patterson
Tuesday, Oct. 27
6:30 p.m.
The Booksellers of Laurelwood

Linda Lee Peterson is at The Booksellers of Laurelwood to read from and sign her new novel, The Spy on the Tennessee Walker, an enthralling tale of hidden secrets, the Civil War, restrained love, and intelligent women of the past and present.


This is the third in the acclaimed Maggie Fiori mystery series, but it’s not quite like the others. Yes, Maggie is still the smart-mouthed magazine editor in San Francisco whose curiosity leads her to become (or so says her long-suffering husband) over-involved in other people’s business, especially if a crime is involved. But this time the trigger is not a dead body — it’s a cache of journals, letters, and photographs of her great-great-great-grandmother Victoria, Maggie’s 19th-century doppelganger and a woman of much mystery. She was a nurse in a Confederate hospital during the Civil War, but why did she still have a horse, her beloved Tennessee Walker, long after all other horses had been conscripted for the war? What was her relationship with Walt Whitman? Who was Gabriel, the man she exchanged love letters with? And, most of all, why did she end up imprisoned under charges of treason and bigamy?

Linda Lee Peterson is the author of two previous Maggie Fiori mysteries, Edited to Death and The Devil’s Interval. She has also written several nonfiction books, including The Stanford Century, On Flowers, and Linens and Candles, and has written for many national publications, including the Chicago Tribune. A longtime San Franciscan and an alumna of Stanford University, Peterson now lives in Portland, Oregon.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Corey Mesler: Poet, author, entrepreneur, podcast fodder

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2015 at 3:14 PM

Our friend, the prolific writer and co-owner of Burke's Book Store, Corey Mesler, is being feted on the October 2015 podcast from Poetry Magazine. His poem, "Let the Light Stand," is featured in the recent issue of the magazine and editor Don Share, assistant editor Lindsay Garbutt, and consulting editor Christina Pugh have gathered to discuss it.

The trio jumps right into the fun at the 00:38 mark with Pugh reading. But first, Share shares that he grew up in Memphis and, while he doesn't know Mesler personally, he "grew up going to Burke's Book Store, which was pretty much the only place you could see real books like poetry books when I was a kid, so I'm very fond of Burke's."

You can listen to the podcast here.

Pugh says beforehand, "I really liked the mood of this poem, it's very upbeat and playful." After reading, she calls it a poem "in the litany tradition" and compares it to the English poetic tradition while pointing out that it isn't religious but, instead, a celebration of the body. 

Share, however, points out that, "It is suffused with something spiritual enough to raise us above and outside that lovely world he outlines . . ."

"I think it has sort of a plain-spoken sexiness about it," Garbutt adds.

"One of the things I really like about the poem," Pugh says, "is the way it does this kind of interesting dance with metaphor, wanting to resist it and yet letting it in, almost against its own will in certain ways, and I like the push/pull aspect of it."

Mesler is the author of numerous poetry chapbooks and novels, most recently Memphis Movie.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Memphis Reads Dave Eggers

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2015 at 2:06 PM

Memphis Reads, the city-wide book club, has chosen What Is The What by Dave Eggers as its next community read. 

Memphis Reads selects one book annually to be read by the Memphis community at large. 
The month-long event consists of discussions and related arts events, and culminates in an event with the author on November 5th. All events are free and open to the public.

What Is The What is an epic novel based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng who, along with thousands of other children, the Lost Boys, was forced to leave his village in Sudan at the age of seven and trek hundreds of miles by foot, pursued by militias, government bombers, and wild animals, while crossing the deserts of three countries to find freedom. When he finally is resettled in the United States, he finds a life full of promise, but also heartache and myriad new challenges.

Eggers, born in Boston, is also the author of the memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), the novel You Shall Know Our Velocity (2002), and the story collection How We Are Hungry (2004). He founded McSweeney's, an independent book publishing house in San Francisco which puts out a quarterly literary journal, the monthly magazine The Believer, the website, and a DVD quarterly of short films, Wholphin. With Ninive Calegari, he has written Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers.

Memphis Reads began as a program from Christian Brothers University as part of their "First Year Experience" wherein all incoming freshman participate in the reading of a selected book and hold discussions and other events throughout the school year. In 2014, the University teamed up with local partners, including Memphis Library, Rhodes College, and Facing History and Ourselves, to expand the program city-wide.

Last year, Memphis Reads featured The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu.

For more information on the program and all events, please visit

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Books Read: Booker Prize Edition

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 11:00 AM

So recently, a coworker was talking about a book he accidentally downloaded — something about witches and vampires. He called it “a horrible piece of filth.”
This is exactly how I would describe a book I’ve been thinking about a lot about lately because of the recent announcement of the shortlist for the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

I had seen a link about the Man Booker and clicked to see if I had read any of the titles and to get suggestions. One of the books I had read — the horrible piece of filth, aka A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

Now, it wasn’t exactly a surprise about the nomination. After I read the book, incensed, offended, and confused, I googled other reviews and, while I saw similar opinions as mine about the book, the majority of it was effusive praise. I was stunned.

Many, many years ago, I was at a barbecue where a young girl of about four or five told her mother to stop eating her plate of barbecue while she, the girl, ate her meal of McDonald’s or whatever. The mother looked at her incredulously, to which the daughter responded, “I’m not wrong about this.”

I’m not wrong about this.

A Little Life starts follows four men, starting in college and through decades after. They are: the handsome Willem with a gift for people and a sad past; the privileged Malcolm working out his place as a biracial man; the coddled Jean-Baptiste, the artist who demands to be the center of attention; and the brilliant Jude, wracked by a painful but mysterious condition and a more mysterious backstory.

The novel starts out promisingly enough. There’s a St. Elmo’s Fire vibe to it. But then it starts to almost exclusively focus on Jude.

His story is parceled out little by little. And it is horrific. Truly and absolutely. He was abandoned as an infant in a dumpster and ended up in a home with a bunch of monks … you can see where this is going. But then it gets worse and worse yet again to the point where it pushes at the ridiculous. (I’m not wrong about this.) Humans can be bad, sadistic, and it seems the worst of society’s worst ills — all of it — had befallen Jude.

Jude is enveloped by the acceptance of the other three men and finds true, unconditional love in a professor and a doctor. But his demons make him do horrible things to himself. Those around him are terrified and beg him to stop, and Jude pleads, “I’m so sorry” so much over the course of 700-plus pages I was moved to count it. “Sorry” appears 193 times. (That’s about every four pages. To be sure, not all of them are from Jude’s lips but the vast majority are.)

Things start to look up again for Jude, but then …

Jude’s story and A Little Life is straight-up suffering porn. That uneasy feeling you get is not art.

A Little Life is a horrible piece of filth. I’m not wrong about this. 

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Upcoming book events for the remainder of September 2015

Posted By on Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 11:23 AM

Taylor Kitchings
Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015
6:30 p.m.
The Booksellers of Laurelwood

Taylor Kitchings will be discussing and signing his new middle-grade novel Yard War


It’s 1964 in Jackson, Mississippi, deep in the civil rights movement, and the one black person 12-year-old Trip Westbrook knows well is Willie Jane, the family maid, who has been a second mother to him. When Trip invites her son, Dee, to play football in the yard, Trip discovers the ugly side of his smiling neighbors. Even his loving grandparents don’t approve. But getting to know Dee and playing football, being part of a team, changes Trip. He begins to see all the unspoken rules he lives by but doesn’t agree with, such as “respect your elders.” What if he thinks their views are wrong? This engaging, honest, and hopeful novel is full of memorable characters, and brings the civil rights-era South alive for young readers.

Taylor Kitchings’ roots in Mississippi run many generations deep, though it took him a while to circle back to them. As a college freshman, he recorded the original album Clean Break, now considered a collector’s item. As a junior, he wrote music for mallet and giant Mobius strip, and performed at Manhattan’s Café La MaMa. In the years between his BA from Rhodes College and MA from Ole Miss, he traveled from Memphis to New York to Europe, writing and performing songs on piano. He and his wife Beth have two children and live in Ridgeland, Mississippi, where he teaches English at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. His short story “Mr. Pinky Gone Fishing” was published in the collection Tight Lines from Yale University Press. Yard War is his first novel.

Audrey Taylor Gonzalez
Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015 2:00 p.m.
The Booksellers of Laurelwood

Memphian Audrey Taylor Gonzalez will be discussing and signing her coming-of-age novel South of Everything


Set in 1940s Germantown, South of Everything is a magical coming-of-age story about the daughter of a plantation-owning family, who, despite her privileged background, finds more in common with the help than her own family. She develops a special kinship with her parents’ servant Old Thomas, who introduces her to the mysterious Lolololo Tree, a magical, mystical tree with healing powers that she discovers is wiser than any teacher or parent or priest. Her connection with the Lolololo Tree opens her eyes to the religious and racial prejudice of her surroundings, and readers will root for her to fight against injustice and follow her heart to meet her fate.

Reverend Audrey Taylor Gonzalez was born in Memphis in 1939. In the span of her long career, she has been a journalist, TV host, art gallery owner, racehorse breeder, mountain climber, world traveler, breast cancer survivor, and the first woman to be ordained to holy orders in the Southern Cone of South America at Uruguay’s Holy Trinity Cathedral in Montevideo. She’s a philanthropist, mother, and grandmother to her own children, as well as many people in need who have crossed her path over the years. As a deacon at Calvary Episcopal Church in Memphis, Audrey received the prestigious Juvenile Court Judges Award for Outstanding Service in 2012 and 2014, and she was selected by the governor of Tennessee as a Commissioner on TCCY (Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth). She is the author of three books, the fictional memoir The Lolololo Tree and two collections of writings and homilies, Sermons and Such and The Shady Place. South of Everything is her first novel. Gonzalez resides in Memphis.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ann Beattie’s Nighttime Reading, Southern-Style

Posted By on Thu, Aug 27, 2015 at 10:57 AM

Wanna know what books Ann Beattie’s got on her night stand right now? The New York Times knows, because the paper just asked her.

Top of the list is Memphian Corey Mesler’s latest novel, Memphis Movie. And it’s right up there with Paragon Park by poet Mark Doty, who spent time in Memphis growing up.

Among Beattie’s all-time favorite short stories? “The Fireman’s Wife” by Richard Bausch, who taught a few years ago at the University of Memphis, along with “The Womanizer” by Richard Ford and “No Place for You, My Love” by Eudora Welty, two of Mississippi’s finest, living (Ford) or dead (Welty). Among the best writers, period, working today? Beattie lists Elizabeth Spencer, born in Carrollton, Mississippi, in 1921.

But if you haven’t read any of the above, don’t be too hard on yourself. The book that Beattie is embarrassed to say she’s never read: On the Road by Jack Kerouac. •

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Get Carded: September Is NLCSM

Posted By on Tue, Aug 25, 2015 at 3:51 PM

What’s the most important school supply this new school year? A library card, and it doesn’t cost a cent.

That’s the message of the American Library Association, which is partnering with public libraries across the country in September to celebrate National Library Card Sign-up Month. Snoopy, in a “Joe Cool” T-shirt, is national honorary chair for the monthlong campaign.

Continue reading »

Friday, August 21, 2015

Happy Anniversary, Burke’s!

Posted By on Fri, Aug 21, 2015 at 1:13 PM

How many 140-year-olds do you know asking for a bike to celebrate nearly a century and a half of doing business? In Memphis, that would be Burke's Book Store, which was founded in 1875 by Walter Burke on North Main, and it’s been operating at different locations ever since. That makes Burke’s one of the oldest businesses in Memphis still operating (now at 936 S. Cooper) and one of the oldest independent book stores in the country.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

“Killing Fields” a Triple Winner; Writers Conferences Slated for This Year’s Mid-South Book Festival

Posted By on Wed, Aug 19, 2015 at 4:37 PM

Memphian Pat Morgan has made it her mission to work on behalf of the homeless both locally and nationally, and she wrote about that mission in The Concrete Killing Fields: One Woman’s Battle To Break the Cycle of Homelessness, published in early 2014.

In that book, Morgan described her days directing the Calvary Street Ministry in downtown Memphis. She wrote about her government work in Washington, D.C. But she also wrote engagingly about her difficult past and need for personal healing, both of which she handled with candor and surprising humor. The Flyer was impressed. Others have been impressed.

Continue reading »

Saturday, August 15, 2015

For Joshua Hood, the Road to Publication Was an Uphill Battle

Posted By on Sat, Aug 15, 2015 at 6:27 AM

Joshua Hood had already gone through, a database of literary agents, and gotten a slew of rejections in answer to his query letters. He’d exhausted too in search of an agent. But through the annual conference known as ThrillerFest, an agent got interested in Hood’s manuscript, a contemporary military thriller set in today’s worn-torn Middle East, and she got interested in Hood himself.

He told her about being a decorated war veteran and former member of the 82nd Airborne division in Iraq and Afghanistan, and after reading his manuscript, she had two things to say. The good news was: Hood had a story to tell. The bad news: Hood didn’t know how to write a book. There were rules to storytelling in general and added rules to writing a successful thriller in today's market, and Hood needed to learn them. She gave him the name of a “story doctor.”

Continue reading »

Friday, July 31, 2015

Grawl!x 2.0

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2015 at 9:46 AM

In a blog post on the website of the Booksellers at Laurelwood, where he works, Matt Nixon called it “a book talk, a discussion, a presentation, a convocation.” He also named it Grawl!x, which Nixon headed this past May as “a sneak-peek and the low-down on a hand-picked selection of upcoming and recent off-beat literary fiction” for Memphis book lovers.

It’s that time again — time for Grawl!x to meet and the public's invited. The location is Muddy’s Grind House (585 S. Cooper) on Saturday, August 1st, at 4 p.m. Come with new titles (offbeat’s okay) that you’d like to share with other readers. Nixon will be there with his own recommendations.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Register Now for Literacy Mid-South’s Literacy Summit in September

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2015 at 8:45 AM

The Literacy Summit at Playhouse on the Square on September 9th will be an all-day event for those, working outside the traditional classroom, who want to improve the reading skills of young people in Memphis — and better their chances of success later in life. Organized by Literacy Mid-South and co-sponsored by International Paper and the Bodine School, registration for the summit (at a cost of only $10) is officially open.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Harper Lee: The Early Numbers

Posted By on Tue, Jul 14, 2015 at 12:48 PM

Wait and see. That seems to be the case today among Memphis booksellers.

July 14th is the official publication date of Go Set a Watchman (published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins). The book is Harper Lee’s first novel and the one written before To Kill a Mockingbird but only now seeing its way into print and into the hands of readers. Locally, though, the morning was a quiet one, with no great rush when three area bookstores opened.

Continue reading »

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