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Awards Galore!

October 16, 2014 by Reader's Connection

The winner of the Man Booker Prize and the finalists for the National Book Award have been announced.

The Man Booker Prize, which was open to American authors for the first time this year, has been awarded to Australian novelist Richard Flanagan for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

The Narrow Road to the Deep NorthFrom bestselling Australian writer Flanagan comes a supple meditation on memory, trauma, and empathy that is also a sublime war novel. Initially, it is related through the reminiscences of Dorrigo Evans, a 77-year-old surgeon raised in Tasmania whose life has been filtered through two catastrophic events: the illicit love affair he embarked on with Amy Mulvaney, his uncle’s wife, as a young recruit in the Australian corps and his WWII capture by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore. Most of the novel recounts Dorrigo’s experience as a POW in the Burmese jungle on the “speedo,” horrific work sessions on the “Death Railway” that leave most of his friends dead from dysentery, starvation, or violence. While Amy, with the rest of the world, believes him dead, Dorrigo’s only respite comes from the friends he tries to keep healthy and sane, fellow sufferers such as Darky Gardiner, Lizard Brancussi, and Rooster MacNiece. Yet it is Dorrigo’s Japanese adversary, Major Nakamura, Flanagan’s most conflicted and fully realized character, whose view of the war–and struggles with the Emperor’s will and his own postwar fate–comes to overshadow Dorrigo’s story, especially in the novel’s bracing second half. Pellucid, epic, and sincerely touching in its treatment of death, this is a powerful novel. — Publishers Weekly

The Narrow Road to the Deep North is also available as a downloadable e-book and a downloadable audiobook.



National Book Award finalists in the fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature categories can be viewed at the National Book Award site, where you can also see the longlist titles that got dropped. I’m sad about Spencer Reece’s The Road to Emmaus and Nigel Hamilton’s The Mantle of Command.

If you click on the Lila cover art, you go to the NPR treatment of the finalists, which is interesting in part because NPR originally goofed up when writing about Marilynne Robinson’s fiction, and because the comments about the goof start off with one by Andrew Halberstadt, who may be my nephew Andrew.

Okay, that isn’t interesting to you.

The National Book Award winners will be announced on November 19th.


The Ploughmen

October 15, 2014 by Reader's Connection

The Ploughmen

Sitting in his Montana jail cell, killer John Gload tells deputy Valentine Millimaki how at age fourteen he committed his first murder–killed a woman in her home, walked out, stopped after a while to eat an apple.

“About two miles later I sat down on a railroad berm to catch my breath. It was an interesting moment. By the time I ate that apple, I didn’t feel a thing about that woman.” He rolled his eyes up to regard Millimaki, his hands still open on his knees in a sort of offertory pose. “Val, I knew right then I’d never in my life have to do a regular day of work again.”

Gload is 77 years old, now, and the law has finally caught up with him. Millimaki is low deputy on the totem pole and is stuck with the graveyard shift at the jail, where Gload, for some reason, takes a liking to him. The deputy is a troubled man, himself, with a marriage coming apart, and the two of them form a strange bond.

I’m sure you’ll agree that Kim Zupan’s The Ploughmen sounds like a wonderful holiday gift. Anyone who likes dark crime novels might enjoy it, but I have to include a WARNING FROM THE SURGEON GENERAL: ANY READER WHO IS ALLERGIC TO OVERWROUGHT PROSE IS LIKELY IS LIKELY TO ENTER A COMA WHILE READING.

The tops of the hills behind the house were softly aflame with scarlet sunset. I grumbled while reading sentences like that, and there are a lot of them. But since reading The Ploughmen I’ve read a better-behaved crime novel, a “smart, literary mystery,” according to its cover blurb; and the characters from that book have already slipped my mind, whereas Gload and Millimaki stay with me.

Have I mentioned the deputy’s other low-man duty, searching for missing persons, which leads him on harrowing, poetic quests? I loved the book, despite my grumbling, and may reread it. Let’s close with a passage that works for me. Millimaki’s wife is a nurse, and he is on his way to a party that he doesn’t want to attend.

On the sandy bluff the surgeon’s house where he was to meet his wife appeared fortresslike against the dusk, its roofline a complex topography of hips and gables and Dutch hip dormers and a phallic tower with a dome of hammered copper which at that hour beaconed its russet affluence to the working-class homes on the river below. From the hilltop eminence the prefabs and double-wide trailers looked like shoe boxes or children’s blocks set haphazardly beside a papier-mâché stream. The department made calls with equal frequency to the homes of the wealthy for spousal abuse and ODed teens and skeletal anorexic wives on the roadway in their teddies strung out and waving handguns at the passing cars. Millimaki had discovered fairly quickly that the problems of the rich were much the same as those of the unrich, though in the savage glare of the booking-room lights their sportswear and excellent dental work made for more attractive photographs.


Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts 2014

October 13, 2014 by Reader's Connection

The Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts at the Jewish Community Center will run from October 28th through November 15th. Here is a list of the scheduled appearances by authors. Click here for the whole schedule, which includes dance and films and panel discussions.

All of the author appearances begin at 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct 28

Hank Phillippi Ryan, author of Truth Be Told
$8.00 / $5.00 for JCC members
Truth Be Told

Boston Register news reporter Jane Ryland is covering a human interest foreclosure story when she stumbles onto several murders committed in recently foreclosed homes. Investigating further, Jane becomes entangled in one dangerous situation after another. In the meantime, the reporter’s clandestine love interest, Boston police detective Jake Brogan, is actively pursuing answers to a 20-year-old unsolved murder. The cold case turns personal as Jake consults case files written by his deceased grandfather, a former police commissioner, to determine if the individual confessing to the crime is truly the killer. As Jane and Jake each gets closer to the truth, they find their lives and their romantic connection precariously hanging in the balance. Danger and intrigue surround them both as they desperately seek closure. The third entry in the “Jane Ryland & Jake Brogan” series packs a powerful punch, and offers a clever mix of mystery, corruption, and romance. Mystery enthusiasts will want to drop everything and binge-read until the mind-boggling conclusion. — Library Journal


Monday, November 3rd

Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of Got Religion?: How Churches, Mosques, and Synagogues Can Bring Young People Back will join with a panel of local religious leaders in a discussion of why young people are dropping out of the religious traditions and how this trend can be reversed.
$8.00 / $5.00 for JCC members
Got Religion?: How Churches, Mosques, and Synagogues Can Bring Young People BackThe millennial generation is stuck in a condition called emerging adulthood; that is, these twentysomethings are delaying the traditional markers of growing up, leaving home, becoming financially independent, getting married, and having children. The reasons for this condition are varied–the new technology, the economic downturn that has affected them disproportionately as well as a combination of radical individualism and a general distrust of institutions, and, some believe, the intransigent attitudes of organized religion. One of the primary by-products is low church attendance or little to no religious affiliation among millennials. Unlike other people who have studied this group, though, Riley is more optimistic. In this short but compelling volume, she adopts an ecumenical approach, profiling religious communities–Jewish, Mormon, Catholic, Evangelical, Muslim–with an emphasis on how religions can work together to bring young people back into the fold. Millennials, she insists, are looking for a community with a sense of purpose. A thoughtful and appealing book that addresses an important topic with commonsense solutions. — Booklist

Tuesday, November 4th

Allen Salkin, author of From Scratch : Inside the Food Network
$8.00 / $5.00 for JCC members, BUT you can bring five cans of tomato products for Second Helpings to receive free admission.

From Scratch : Inside the Food NetworkThe Food Network has risen from obscurity and ridicule in the early ’90s to become a powerhouse of cable television, transforming chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Paula Deen into celebrities and changing food culture forever. With a light wit and balanced perspective, Salkin, a former food and media reporter for the New York Times, presents the definitive history of the network from inception to the present day. Food Network devotees will delight at the inside knowledge of internal scandals, the intriguing biographies of their favorite star chefs, and an exclusive look at the ever-shifting lineup of executives and parent companies . . . Salkin moves deftly between periods in the channel’s development, garnishing the narrative with frequent quotes from influential personalities to add depth. — Publishers Weekly


Wednesday, November 5th

Peter Eisner, author of The Pope’s Last Crusade : How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI’s Campaign to Stop Hitler

$8.00 / $5.00 JCC members

The Pope's Last Crusade : How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI's Campaign to Stop HitlerNotwithstanding the spate of current works on the tragic shortcomings of Pius XII during World War II, journalist and producer Eisner refocuses the spotlight in this relevant study on his predecessor, who did speak out against anti-Semitism and the threat of Nazism–though he was silenced by an untimely death in 1939. Pius XI . . . had been deeply moved by an American Jesuit priest’s 1937 book Interracial Justice, about his work among poor Maryland blacks, and summoned the author, Rev. John LaFarge, to the Vatican in 1938. In his 80s, Pius XI had a serious heart condition, yet the growing Nazi menace demanded action: The year before, Pius had issued an important encyclical, With Deep Anxiety, slamming the Nazis for racist policies and oppression of Catholics; now, aware he was on death’s door, Pius was determined to go further in a new message he urged LaFarge to write swiftly and in secret. Eisner traces LaFarge’s work in Paris over the summer of 1938 and his missteps in confiding in the pope’s Superior General Ledochowski as a go-between, a shadowy figure who allowed the document to languish while the pope grew more ill. Ledochowski, like the pope’s secretary of state Cardinal Pacelli (the future Pius XII), believed that the pope was imbalanced and that communism (and Jews) was the menace, not Nazism. Eisner closes with excerpts from LaFarge’s powerful encyclical and the chilling suggestion of what might have been the outcome had it been published. An exciting reminder of how Vatican machinations continue to haunt history. — Kirkus Reviews


Thursday, Nov 6th

Scott Cowen, author of The Inevitable City: The Resurgence of New Orleans and the Future of Urban America

$8.00 / $5.00 JCC members

The Inevitable City: The Resurgence of New Orleans and the Future of Urban AmericaAfter Hurricane Katrina, most of Tulane University lay paralyzed and underwater. Cowen, president of Tulane at the time, led a charge to dramatically refashion the university, and the surrounding city, with a mission of social service and responsibility. In forthright and upbeat fashion, Cowan details the development of that mission, and the sometimes-controversial renewal plan he helped steer with civic and business leaders. Facing unprecedented devastation and a shockingly slow and inadequate government response, Cowen and company were forced to make “hard call” that often met with resistance from, among others, members and representatives of an understandably suspicious population of poor, mostly African-American residents. The university soon restructured and mobilized its academic departments, such as the School of Architecture, bringing services and expertise to blighted areas of the city, and encouraging undergraduates (via a new academic requirement) to actively engage neighborhoods through the Center for Public Service. Part memoir, part leadership study, the book offers 10 principles for rebuilding American cities. Given Cowen’s central role in the regeneration of New Orleans, this is a bird’s-eye view that’s sure to appeal to policy makers, activists, and corporate managers. In addition, Cowen acknowledges historical patterns that feed both the city’s character and the frictions it faces as a diverse but still unequal society.– Publishers Weekly


Wednesday, Nov 12th

Annabelle Gurwitch, author of I See You Made an Effort : Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50

$11.00 / $8.00 JCC members (Light refreshments are being served on this “Ladies Night Out,” which I think accounts for the higher price.)

I See You Made an Effort : Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50Actress and writer Gurwitch offers up a rollicking collection of essays detailing the hazards encountered when a woman approaches 50. Whether she is extrapolating on the symptoms of perimenopause, attending a concert with her teenage son, assessing fashion for older women, or realizing the mistake of Googling “age-related conditions” on the Internet, Gurwitch tackles all of it all with aplomb. Her witty writing allows for deft exploration of even the most sensitive and intimate subjects while still finding the humor in her situation. She admits aging gracefully is best achieved with a bit of help, although it proves to be a zero-sum game with effects that fade quickly. “I’ve filled, frozen and ultrasounded, all in the name of what is often referred to as maintenance.” Gurwitch’s essay about becoming a member of the sandwich generation and caring for her aging parents is heartfelt and makes her aware of what the future holds. “This must be another milestone that lies ahead for me: the day when you speak to and of your doctors more frequently than your friends.” These essays contain a devilish good dose of fun and more than a dash of agita for those approaching and beyond the half-century mark. — Publishers Weekly


Thursday, November 13th

Rabbi Amy Eilberg, author of From Enemy to Friend : Jewish Wisdom and the Pursuit of Peace, will be joined in conversation by Dr. David M. Craig, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at IUPUI.

$8.00 / $5.00 JCC members

From Enemy to Friend : Jewish Wisdom and the Pursuit of PeaceEilberg, the first woman ordained as a rabbi in Conservative Judaism, has produced a practical guide to fulfillment of the Jewish religious commandment to “pursue peace”–not just for personal piety, but to become an effective peacebuilder in the world. Her work addresses both interpersonal conflict and the process of fostering dialogue between groups with deeply entrenched differences. Eilberg provides insight into the basic causes of division, beginning with biochemically based human reactions to fear, and includes her own understandings on peace and conflict theory. The book draws upon, among others, classical Jewish texts and the theology of later Jewish (e.g., Martin Buber) and non-Jewish religious thinkers. Eilberg also offers a peacemaking discipline according to the principles of Mussar, a system of Jewish moral discipline which began in the 10th century C.E., yielding a personal practice that can prevent, and remedy, animosity between oneself and others. Articulate and accessible to both scholars and laypersons, the book includes a rich account of Eilberg’s own experience, building peace between Jews, between Jews and Palestinians, and through interreligious dialogue. — Publishers Weekly


Once again, the perfect holiday gift!

October 11, 2014 by Reader's Connection

I’ve said this in years past and I’m saying it again. My 12 weeks of holiday suggestions have begun, and reigning supreme over all other gifts, excepting of course the gift of your heart to the one you love, is a gift card from Indy Reads Books.

Once again, these words appear thereon:


You, the bearer of this card, are entitled to the designated worth of merchandise at Indy Reads Books.

And this gift is already working to support our adult literacy programs in Indianapolis.

Looks as if we all win.

Indy Reads Books
911 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46202


Patrick Modiano has won the Nobel Prize

October 9, 2014 by Reader's Connection

Out of the Dark




The 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to French novelist Patrick Modiano. The library owns some of his titles in the original French and is ordering more English-language copies. Our only English title at the moment is Out of the Dark.




Missing Person (On Order)Peter Englund, the Nobel Academy’s permanent secretary, says, “Patrick Modiano is a well-known name in France but not anywhere else. He writes children’s books, movie scripts but mainly novels. His themes are memory, identity and time . . . His best known work is called Missing Person. It’s the story about a detective who has lost his memory and his final case is finding out who he really is: he is tracing his own steps through history to find out who he is . . . They are small books, 130, 150 pages, which are always variations of the same theme – memory, loss, identity, seeking. Those are his important themes: memory, identity and time.”