Saturday, January 19, 2008

ALA's Notable Books Council announces 2008 top picks

PHILADELPHIA - The Notable Books Council of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division American Library Association (ALA), today released its 2008 list of outstanding books for the general reader. The titles are selected for their significant contribution to the expansion of knowledge and for the pleasure they can provide to adult readers.

Since 1944, the goal of the Notable Books Council has been to make available to the
nation's readers a list of 25 very good, very readable, and at times very important fiction, nonfiction and poetry books for the adult reader. The Council consists of members selected from the membership of RUSA's Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES).

This is "The List for America's Readers:"


Bloom, Amy, Away, Random House (ISBN: 9781400063567)

Carlson, Ron, Five Skies, Penguin-Viking (ISBN: 9780670038503)

Chabon, Michael, The Yiddish Policeman's Union, HarperCollins (ISBN: 9780007149827)

Clarke, Brock, An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England, Algonquin (ISBN:

Clinch, John, Finn: a novel, Random House (ISBN: 9781400065912)

Englander, Nathan, The Ministry of Special Cases, Knopf (ISBN: 9780375404931)

Holthe, Tess Uriza, The Five-Forty-Five to Cannes, Crown (ISBN: 9780307351852)

Jones, Lloyd, Mister Pip, Dell (ISBN: 9780385341066)

McEwan, Ian, On Chesil Beach, Nan A. Talese (ISBN: 9780385522403)

Malouf, David, Complete Stories, Pantheon (ISBN: 9780375424977)

Pettersen, Per, Out Stealing Horses, Graywolf (ISBN: 9781555974701)

Trevor, William, Cheating at Canasta, Penguin/Viking (ISBN: 9780670018376)


Ackerman, Diane, The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story, W.W. Norton (ISBN: 9780393061727)

Angier, Natalie, The Canon, Houghton Mifflin (ISBN: 9780618242955)

Ayres, Ian, Super Crunchers, Bantam Books (ISBN: 9780553805406)

Godwin, Peter, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, Little Brown (ISBN: 9780316158947)

Groopman, Jerome, How Doctors Think, Houghton Mifflin Company (ISBN: 9780618610037)

Howell, Georgina, Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations; FSG 780374161620)

Isaacson, Walter, Einstein: His Life and Universe, S & S, (ISBN: 9780743264730)

Kingsolver, Barbara, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, HarperCollins (ISBN: 9780060852559)

Margonelli, Lisa, Oil on the Brain, Doubleday-Nan Talese (ISBN: 9780385511452)

Weisman, Alan, The World Without Us, St. Martins (ISBN: 9780312347291


Bosselaar, Laure-Anne, A New Hunger, Ausable Press (ISBN: 9781931337328)

Kennedy, X.J., In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus, Johns Hopkins (ISBN: 9780801886539)

This list will be available on the Notable Books Web page on the RUSA/ALA Web site
( with annotations at a later date.

Members of this year's committee are: Sara Maxine Taffae (Chair), State Library of
Louisiana; Patricia L. Gregory (Vice-Chair), Saint Louis University; Alicia Kathryn Ahlvers, Kansas City Public Library; Susie F. Brown; Shaker Heights Public Library; Hope Cockrell, Denton Public Library; Daniel J. Gillane, Lafayette Public Library;
Steven Jablonski, Skokie Public Library; A. Issac Pulver, Saratoga Springs Public Library; Rhea Joyce Rubin, Rubin Consulting; Andrea J. Slonosky, Long Island University-Brooklyn Campus; Shawna Saavedra Thorup, Fayetteville Public Library; and Brenda Clark Wegener, Mercantile Library; with Brad Hooper, Booklist.



Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (Henry Holt and Company)
Priest by Ken Bruen (St. Martin's Minotaur)
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (HarperCollins)
Soul Patch by Reed Farrel Coleman (Bleak House Books)
Down River by John Hart (St. Martin's Minotaur)


Missing Witness by Gordon Campbell (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
In the Woods by Tana French (Penguin Group – Viking)
Snitch Jacket by Christopher Goffard (The Rookery Press)
Head Games by Craig McDonald (Bleak House Books)
Pyres by Derek Nikitas (St. Martin's Minotaur)


Queenpin by Megan Abbott (Simon & Schuster)
Blood of Paradise by David Corbett (Random House - Mortalis)
Cruel Poetry by Vicki Hendricks (Serpent's Tail)
Robbie's Wife by Russell Hill (Hard Case Crime)
Who is Conrad Hirst? by Kevin Wignall (Simon & Schuster)


The Birthday Party by Stanley Alpert (Penguin Group – G.P. Putnam's Sons)
Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
by Vincent Bugliosi (W.W. Norton and Company
Chasing Justice: My Story of Freeing Myself After Two Decades on Death
Row for a Crime I Didn't Commit by Kerry Max Cook (HarperCollins –
William Morrow)
Relentless Pursuit: A True Story of Family, Murder, and the Prosecutor
Who Wouldn't Quit by Kevin Flynn (Penguin Group – G.P. Putnam's Sons)
Sacco & Vanzetti: The Men, The Murders and the Judgment of Mankind by
Bruce Watson (Penguin Group – Viking)


The Triumph of the Thriller: How Cops, Crooks and Cannibals Captured
Popular Fiction by Patrick Anderson (Random House)
A Counter-History of Crime Fiction: Supernatural, Gothic, Sensational by
Maurizio Ascari (Palgrave Macmillan)
Deviance in Contemporary Crime Fiction by Christiana Gregoriou (Palgrave
Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel
Stashower and Charles Foley (The Penguin Press)
Chester Gould: A Daughter's Biography of the Creator of Dick Tracy
by Jean Gould O’Connell (McFarland & Company)


"The Catch" – Still Waters by Mark Ammons (Level Best Books)
"Blue Note" – Chicago Blues by Stuart M. Kaminsky (Bleak House Books)
"Hardly Knew Her" – Dead Man's Hand by Laura Lippman (Harcourt Trade
"The Golden Gopher" – Los Angeles Noir by Susan Straight (Akashic Books
"Uncle" – A Hell of a Woman” by Daniel Woodrell (Busted Flush Press)


The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch (Little, Brown
Books for Young Readers)
Shadows on Society Hill by Evelyn Coleman (American Girl Publications)
Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn (Clarion Books)
The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh (Hyperion Books for Young Readers)
Sammy Keyes and the Wild Things by Wendelin Van Draanen (Random House
Children’s Books – Alfred A. Knopf)


Rat Life by Tedd Arnold (Penguin – Dial Books for Young Readers)
Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney (Random House Children's
Books – Delacorte Press)
Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
– Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
Blood Brothers by S.A. Harazin (Random House Children's Books –
Delacorte Press)
Fragments by Jeffry W. Johnston (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
– Simon Pulse)


If/Then by David Foley (International Mystery Writers' Festival)
Panic by Joseph Goodrich (International Mystery Writers' Festival)
Books by Stuart M. Kaminsky (International Mystery Writers' Festival)


"It’s Alive" – Dexter, Teleplay by Daniel Cerone (Showtime)
"Yahrzeit" – Waking the Dead, Teleplay by Declan Croghan & Barbara
Machin (BBC America)
"Pie-Lette" – Pushing Daisies, Teleplay by Bryan Fuller (ABC/Warner Bros
"Senseless" – Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Teleplay by Julie Martin &
Siobhan Byrne O’Connor (Wolf Films/NBC Universal)
"Pilot" – Burn Notice, Teleplay by Matt Nix (USA Network/Fox Television


Eastern Promises, Screenplay by Steven Knight (Focus Features)
The Lookout, Screenplay by Scott Frank (Miramax)
Michael Clayton, Screenplay by Tony Gilroy (Warner Bros. Pictures)
No Country for Old Men, Screenplay by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, based on
the book by Cormac McCarthy (Miramax)
Zodiac, Screenplay by James Vanderbilt, based on the book by Robert
(Warner Bros. Pictures)


"The Catch" – Still Waters by Mark Ammons (Level Best Books)


Bill Pronzini


Center for the Book in the Library of Congress
Kate's Mystery Books (Kate Mattes, owner)


In Cold Pursuit by Sarah Andrews (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Wild Indigo by Sandi Ault (Penguin Group – Berkley Prime Crime)
Inferno by Karen Harper (Harlequin – MIRA Books)
The First Stone by Judith Kelman (Penguin Group – Berkley Prime Crime)
Deadman's Switch by Barbara Seranella (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Monday, January 14, 2008


Laura Benedict is the author of Isabella Moon, her first novel which was published a few short months ago to wonderful reviews.

From Mount Olympus to Days of Our Lives: My Rules for Writing

When I first sat down to write a thriller, I gave myself two rules: 1) Something had to happen to move the story along in every chapter, and 2) The events could possibly happen on a scary, sexy version of my favorite television soap opera, “Days of Our Lives.” Does that sound funny to you? Whenever I give a reading or a talk and tell that story, it’s always followed by nervous giggles from most of the women and uncomfortable looks from attendant men. In academic crowds, people sometimes frown.

You see, soap operas aren’t considered acceptable role models for writers of literature. Soap operas are melodramatic---souped up on plot and emotion. They bring to mind housewives eating ice cream out of a box in front of the television, unattended children, piles of laundry. (Few people extend their disdain to men camped out in front of “Friday Night Lights,” or HBO’s “Rome.” But I digress.)

I have always loved plot: tattered copies of Bronte novels and Shakespeare’s plays have been among my most prized possessions. Years ago, someone gave my daughter a copy of D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths. Do you have any idea what Zeus’s sex life was like, what intrigues swirled around him, what agonies his family members put each other through? I adored the big family drama novels of the twentieth century. I swooned over The Thornbirds, Dr. Zhivago, and The Carpetbaggers. My more recent plot-driven favorites are by Elmore Leonard and Elizabeth George. Okay, so there might be a rather more direct connection between The Carpetbaggers and “Days of Our Lives” than Ancient Greece and modern-day Salem (the imaginary town where “Days” takes place), but my point is the same. It’s all about story and vibrant characters who tend to do the things we at home generally have the good sense not to—but really wish we could.

Before the writing of my novel, ISABELLA MOON, really got under way, I spent a considerable amount of time asking myself, “What’s the strangest/wildest/most unlikely thing that could happen right now? What would really be fun and astonishing?” How freeing it was to put the character-writing skills I’d developed over the years to use in a plot that pleased and entertained me.

One of the loveliest compliments a reviewer ever paid me was to say that the supernatural elements in ISABELLA MOON were as natural and realistic as the books’ characters. Little did she know how delighted I would be to read that, because I wanted my characters to be just as sensible as the inhabitants of Salem were when the beautiful and good Dr. Marlena Evans started inexplicably causing trouble. Was she depressed, mentally ill, or drunk? No. She was possessed by a demon, of course! So they got her an exorcist and she was soon right as rain. At least until a few years later when she was discovered to be a serial killer, but wasn’t really. It all had something to do with the victims’ bodies not really belonging to the victims, but to corpses surgically altered to look like the intended victims.

Pass the ice cream!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Matrimony Proposal for Reading Groups

I received an email from Joshua Henkin, author of MATRIMONY, which was selected as one of the New York Times top 100 Books of 2007. I thought I would share:

"I wanted to let you know about a standing offer I have out to book groups, which is that I'd be happy to participate by phone (or in person, if the book group is in the New York, New Jersey, Philly area) with book groups that discuss MATRIMONY."

If your book group is looking for an author to speak with, or you are in the tri-state area and would like to have an author discuss his book with your book group, get in touch with Josh through his website:

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