Book Geek Bulletin: Kicking Off the Fall Rush

Book Geek Bulletin 9-1-2015 Book Geek Bulletin is a regular feature where we round up what’s going on in the world of literary culture and books—both here in Minnesota and around the world.

Local Lit

Dear Committee Members coverUniversity of Minnesota English professor Julie Schumacher’s novel Dear Committee Members made the shortlist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor. The award has previously been won only by men, but for the first time, all three finalists this year are women. The winner will be announced September 28, 2015.

Also in award news, Minnesota-born Lori Ostlund (who now lives and teaches in San Francisco) made the shortlist for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize with her forthcoming book After the Parade.

Both good news and bad news for Minnesota bookstores this month. The good is that Valley Bookseller in Stillwater is turning 25 years old next week. The store is celebrating with discounts, giveaways, and a reception on September 12 featuring author William Kent Krueger; see their website for details. The bad news is that Ancestry Books in northeast Minneapolis, which opened less than two years ago, has announced that it will close its storefront September 26 due to issues with the building’s landlord. You can read the official announcement from the store on Facebook, and City Pages has an article here.

A small sampling of new titles dropping from Minnesota publishers in the first part of September:

  • Best to Laugh: A Novel by Lorna Landvik (University of Minnesota Press), from the best-selling author of Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons
  • Cat Is Art Spelled Wrong edited by Caroline Casey, Chris Fischbach, and Sarah Schultz (Coffee House Press), which features “the most interesting writers we know, all asking and answering the same question: why can’t we stop watching cat videos?”
  • Offstage Voices: Life in Twin Cities Theater by Peg Guilfoyle and Sally Wingert (Minnesota Historical Society Press), featuring the firsthand accounts of 40 local theater professionals, for which there will be a launch event September 14
  • Surviving Minnesota Winter: A Guide for Newcomers & Residents Alike by Brett Ortler (Adventure Publications), a book that will attempt to help you not be miserable this winter
  • The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth (Graywolf Press), a postapocalyptic novel released in the UK at the end of 2013 that has been getting attention for its invented language, among other things; this is its first US printing

Author Neil Gaiman visited DreamHaven Books, Comics, and Art in Minneapolis and signed “a few” books and comics—so if you’re looking to pick up an autographed copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Anansi Boys, Sandman, or other titles, get ’em while they’re hot. (For more Gaiman news, jump to the Page to Screen section below.)

And there are a ton of literary events coming up in September, including:

  • Read & Ride Day at the Minnesota State Fair (September 2, 2015), when a library card gets you discounted admission to the fair and book-related activities are going on all day in Carousel Park (in front of the Grandstand). The offerings include a “Collaborative Comics Jam” and a signing by Dessa at Rain Taxi’s booth.
  • The kickoff for this season’s Talking Volumes series (September 15, 2015), which will feature author Jonathan Franzen (Freedom, Purity). The second installment, on October 25, will welcome Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink of Welcome to Night Vale. The series is a collaboration between MPR, the Star Tribune, and the Loft.
  • Housequake: Coffee House Press Shakes Up Publishing (September 21, 2015), Coffee House Press’s celebration of its new fall books, publisher Chris Fischbach’s anniversary with the press, and more, held at Fulton Brewery.
  • Judy Blume in 2009. Photo by Carl Lender

    Judy Blume in 2009. Photo by Carl Lender

    Iconic children’s author Judy Blume (Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret) in conversation with librarian, critic, and best-selling author Nancy Pearl (September 24 and 25, 2015) at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. A ticket also gets you a copy of Blume’s latest book.
  • Puttin’ on the Fitz (September 24, 2015), a fundraiser for the nonprofit Fitzgerald in St. Paul, which has the theme of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 25th birthday in 1921. The organization is dedicated to education, outreach, and preservation.
  • Harry Potter and the Night That Shall Not Be Remembered (September 26, 2015). (Update: The event has since been redubbed the Pub-Crawl-That-Must-Not-Be-Named.) The event page for this Harry Potter–themed Minneapolis bar crawl was created August 18 by Facebook user Maria Balogh and has already amassed over 7,000 RSVPs. The page states that more details are in the works.
  • A reading by New Zealand comic artist Nick Horrocks at Magers & Quinn (September 28, 2015) as part of what the bookstore describes as the first US tour for Horrocks in more than 10 years. Check out details for the reading on the store’s events page.

Global News

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and The Guild actress Felicia Day’s memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), was published August 11 and hit the New York Times bestsellers list for nonfiction.

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) The Girl in the Spider's Web The Shepherd's Crown book cover

The Girl in the Spider’s Web, the first book in the Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) not to be written by the late Stieg Larsson, was released in select countries August 27 and in the US today. After Larsson died in 2004 without a valid will, his manuscripts were thrown to the center of a dispute between his relatives and his longtime partner. Not surprisingly, there has been some controversy over the new book, which was written by David Lagercrantz. Entertainment Weekly published a prepublication excerpt August 23.

Also newly released is Terry Pratchett’s final, posthumous Discworld novel, The Shepherd’s Crown (NPR Books published an exclusive excerpt last week). Pratchett passed away March 12, 2015, due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep, the sleep-inducing children’s book that was self-published on Amazon’s CreateSpace platform last spring but has recently been all over news outlets since it shot to the #1 spot on the site, may be headed to a traditional publisher. Author Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin, a psychologist and linguist, has signed with a literary agency in his native Sweden.

Publishers Lunch has reported a number of interesting book deals in the last couple of weeks, including:

  • A book based on the the American Association of Patriots ’zine How to Talk to Your Cat about Gun Safety, “a parody guidebook that mixes the lighthearted silliness of Cat Fancy magazine with the rhetoric of a Chick tract”
  • The Reader, a new thriller by Christopher Farnsworth, author of The Eternal World (just published August 4) and the President’s Vampire series
  • Author and blogger Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counter Intuitive Guide to Living the Good Life (based on his article series of the same name), an “anti-positivity, real-world self-help guide”

Newsweek reported on the latest book by Pulitzer Prize–winning author Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian, No Country for Old Men), which is titled The Passenger and is set to be published in 2016.

John Oliver released a Last Week Tonight video about his book-publishing plans.

The group Authors United has made an official request with the Department of Justice, in the works for some time, asking for an investigation of Amazon for what the group says is a monopoly. You can read the full letter on the AU website.

The University of Texas-Austin has acquired the archive of Japanese author Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day, An Artist of the Floating World). The collection includes the manuscript for “a pulp western [Ishiguro] thought had been lost—his first serious attempt at fiction” and a short novel, To Remember a Summer By.

The rocketship-shaped Hugo Awards logoThe Hugo Awards for science fiction and fantasy were presented August 22, 2015 at Worldcon, the World Science Fiction Convention. In case you haven’t been following the selection process, it was more contentious than possibly any other year of the Hugos—in a nutshell, finalist voting was dominated by the so-called Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies campaigns, who were unhappy with the direction they felt the awards were taking. (For a concise overview, check out NPR.) In the end, no “Puppies” candidates took home awards, with voters choosing not to present awards at all in the categories without any non-Puppies nominees. Book awardees included The Three Body Problem (Cixin Liu) for best novel, “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” (Thomas Olde Heuvelt) for best novellette, and 2015 CONvergence guest of honor Wesley Chu for the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer. Click here for the full list of winners, finalists, and voting numbers.

Speaking of controversies, AWP—the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, whose annual conference was held in Minneapolis this year—has recently been accused of discrimination and lack of transparency, and it looks like things are going to get worse for the organization before they get better.

A few contests worth mentioning: (1) a giveaway by Penguin Random House for a 50-book library in the genre of the winner’s choice; (2) a cover design contest by Little, Brown & Co. for the 20th-anniversary edition of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest; and (3) a contest to win signed first editions of books by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.

And just for fun, YouTube user Alt Shift X posted an almost-straight-faced breakdown for George R. R. Martin fans explaining why Tommen’s kitten Ser Pounce may actually be Azor Ahai, foretold hero of the followers of R’hllor. (Spoilers ahoy.)

Page to Screen

A second trailer has been released for The Martian, based on the book of the same name by Andy Weir, as has a Star Talk–style promo featuring astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. The book was Weir’s debut novel and was originally self-published in 2011 before Crown Publishing acquired and re-released it.

A second trailer has also been released for Goosebumps, based on the long-running book series. (Why Jack Black seems to be using a pseudo-British accent to play author R. L. Stine, who is from Ohio, I have no idea.)

In rights news:

  • Showtime has acquired the rights to Loving Day, a semi-autobiographical novel by prose and comic author Mat Johnson (Pym, Incognegro). Deadline reports that “Talks are underway with high-end writers to collaborate with the author on penning the adaptation.”
  • In what Deadline describes as a “competitive bidding,” Shane Brennan (best known as the executive producer of NCIS) and CBS Television Studios have bought the rights to the yet-to-be-published sci-fi novel Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald, with the author to write the adaption. The book, which will be published by Tor September 22, 2015, is the first in a planned series.
  • MGM has optioned the rights to Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, a YA novel that officially releases today and “centers on a 17-year-old girl who is allergic to everything.”
  • Daniel Dae Kim (Lost) and his production company, in collaboration with Das Films, are developing a film based on the memoir Escaping North Korea by Mike Kim.

Loving Day book cover The Girl on the Train book cover American Gods book cover

Haley Bennett (The Equalizer) has been cast as Megan in the movie adaptation of the best-selling novel The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Dreamworks acquired the rights almost a full year before the book was published in January 2015.

And finally, Starz has officially given the green light and set a start date for production of Freemantle Media’s TV adaptation of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, which was originally announced in June. Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies) and Michael Green (Heroes) are showrunners.

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