Welcome back to Book News, bookworms! Though I’m glad I took a much needed break from blogging, I’m happy to be back. Whoever said summer was a slow time was wrong! So much has been going on in the book world that I couldn’t possibly cram all my interesting links into one Book News post. So here’s the start of it. Remember to keep coming back each Saturday for more!
- Sad news to start with: during Book News’ break, the literary world lost some members. On July 31st, American author and writer Gore Vidal passed away at age 86. Vidal’s wide-ranging career included novels, screenplays, essays and a critically acclaimed memoir. Amazon’s Omnivoracious blog called Vidal “an American original” and a “literary giant.” Just a day or so earlier, Irish bestselling novelist Maeve Binchy passed away as well, at age 72. Binchy was best known for her novel Circle of Friends, and for her accurate and contemporary depictions of modern Dublin life. With 16 novels and several short stories, she often topped the New York Times bestsellers list and she received a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Book Awards.
- May the odds be ever in their favor. In the past few weeks, we’ve had tons more casting news for the upcoming film version of Catching Fire, the second book in The Hunger Games series. In addition to naming every minor Tribute and character, the studio announced that actress Jena Malone will take on the role of Johanna Mason, a previous Games winner who becomes an ally to Katniss, despite her “wicked ability to murder.” Jena’s not exactly who I pictured as Johanna, but I’m interested to see how she does with Johanna’s biting wit and sharp personality. Meanwhile, Lynn Cohen (best known as Magda from Sex and the City) will portray Mags, the deceptively silent, but fiercely loyal female tribute from District 4, alongside Finnick (the heartthrob who has yet to be cast).
- Three cheers for spinsters! During the last weekend in July, at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference, the annual RITA Awards, given to romance novels, were announced. There are, of course, several categories, but my favorite category is Regency Historical Romance. The 2012 RITA winner for Regency Historical Romance was Tessa Dare’s A Night To Surrender, the first book in her Spindle Cove series. Dare is an excellent writer and her Spindle Cove series is among my favorites.
- In other book award news, the longlist for the 2012 Man Booker Prize was recently announced. As I’ve explained before, the Man Booker is basically like the Pulitzer Prize of the United Kingdom and a VERY BIG DEAL (for British, Irish and Commonwealth authors, anyway). The longlist is determined by a panel of jurors (which, interestingly, included Dan Stevens, Cousin Matthew from Downton Abbey) and features 12 books. These will then be narrowed down to a list of finalists and, eventually, one winner. Previous Man Booker winner Hilary Mantel made the list again. In 2009, she won for her Tudor-themed novel Wolf Hall. This time around, that novel’s sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, made the cut.
- Harry Potter reigns triumphant. NPR asked its listeners to vote on the 100 Best YA Novels and, not surprisingly, Harry Potter and friends took the top spot.The Hunger Games series came in second, with To Kill a Mockingbird in third. The full list of 100 features a fairly good mix of classic literature and newer releases (John Green makes the top 20 an impressive five times!), though there is, of course, plenty of room for debate over what made the list and in which order. Fair warning: NPR’s short blurbs about each book or series sometimes contain spoilers for the books. Proceed at your own risk.
- As a direct result of NPR’s list, Flavorwire decided to uncover what a reader’s favorite YA series says about him or her. If Harry Potter is your series of choice, then you probably spent a lot of time wishing you were cooler than you actually were. I also found out that my love of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meant that I had never been to Comic-Con, but I desperately wanted to go. I swear – it’s like Flavorwire is inside my head!
- Unless you’ve been living under a rock, August saw the world captivated by the Summer Olympics, which took place in jolly ol’ England, home of fabulous literature. Though it received mixed reviews, the Opening Ceremony featured several nods to classic English literature (including, perhaps not intentionally, a re-created English pasture that immediately brought to mind the Shire and its hobbits). Actor Kenneth Branagh recited part of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, while J.K. Rowling read aloud from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. A large puppet version of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named tried to take over the field, before a legion of children and several Mary Poppins cast him away. Whatever your opinion of the ceremony as a whole, you had to enjoy the homage to Britain’s rich literary history.
- Lastly, a bit of fun: one mother decided to test that old theory about not judging a book by its cover. She had her six-year-old daughter look at the covers of classic novels and then guess what the book was about. The daughter’s answers are so imaginative and wonderfully funny. Upon looking at a cover of Jane Eyre, she decided it “is about a girl that goes mining. I don’t know why, but she looks like she would go mining.” Meanwhile, a cover of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five apparently looked like a book about a slot machine lost in the desert (which is, incidentally, a Vonnegut book I would read). The lesson? You really can’t judge a book by its cover.
As always, happy reading.