Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
When I recently came across a book that was the subject of an earlier blog post by Sue, I noticed it has a new sticker on it: PEN/Bellwether Prize Winner for Socially Engaged Fiction. This led me to look up more about this award and its background. Here’s what I learned:
The Bellwether Prize, which was established in 2000 by Barbara Kingsolver and is funded entirely by her, was created to promote fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. The $25,000 prize is awarded biennially to the author of a previously unpublished novel of high literary caliber that exemplifies the prize’s founding principles. The winner also receives a publishing contract with Algonquin Books. The PEN/Bellwether Prize will be conferred at PEN’s Literary Awards Ceremony in New York City in the fall of 2014.
Past winners include:
2000 – Donna Gershten for Kissing the Virgin’s Mouth [now on order for KPL]
2002 – Gayle Brandeis for The Book of Dead Birds
2004 – Marjorie Kowalski Cole for Correcting the Landscape
2006 – Hillary Jordan for Mudbound
2008 – Heidi W. Durrow for The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
2010 – Naomi Benaron for Running the Rift
2012 – Susan Nussbaum for Good Kings Bad
PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction
Having spent the first part of my KPL career working in the Teen Services area, I had the opportunity to be exposed to a whole new genre of literature that I’m quite sure didn’t really exist when I was a teen. As a result, and because I had to know what I was talking about when recommending books, I read perhaps a disproportionate amount of teen literature as an adult. Among some of my favorites, in no particular order, were:
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson
The First Part Last by Angela Johnson
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
As I review this list, I recognize that the overriding theme of most of these titles is self-identity, obviously a developmental hallmark for kids between the ages of 12 and 18. I also recognize honest characters, humor, and intelligent writing as some common features of many of these books, things that I would think are important to kids today who are looking for a book that will be worth the time it takes to read…no small task in this digital age of immediate gratification.
What’s worth noting, however, is that those themes still speak to me as an adult and that sometimes, tackling them through the eyes of young protagonist gives me just the perspective I need in my own life.
If you haven’t been to the Teen room lately, you owe it to yourself to check it out and perhaps find a book that will appeal to you.
You’ll never look at roosters the same after you’ve seen the images of the genetically engineered featherless one shown in this larger-than-life collection of animal portraits by photographer Tim Flach. Treat yourself.
More Than Human
I've enjoyed Anne Lamott's previous books and therefore have been looking forward to reading her latest, Help. Thanks. Wow.: The Three Essential Prayers. The simple concept of the title combined with her familiar and often humorous writing style have led me to think (hope) that once again, I'll be able to identify with her perspective on personal spirituality in an easy-to-read, down-to-earth way.
Help. Thanks. Wow.: The Three Essential Prayers