Barbara's Picks, Apr. 2012, Pt. 2: From Lionel Shriver to Archangel Reforestation

Moore, Christopher. Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Art. Morrow. Apr. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780061779749. $26.99; eISBN 9780062101242. CD: HarperAudio. COMIC FANTASY
Not the biggest reader of comedy or fantasy, I’ve not had a chance to try Moore’s best-selling titles, like You Suck and Bite Me. But this one sounds really intriguing, and it’s backed by lots of in-house enthusiasm. Vincent Van Gogh has shot himself, and friends Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and baker-turned-painter Lucien Lessard want to know why. Apparently, Vincent was terrified by both a color man he thought was stalking him and a certain shade of blue. A little sojourn through the art world and brothels of late 19th-century Paris reveals that other painters have been haunted by the color man‚ and a shadowy woman in blue. Art, mystery, and Belle √âpoque France‚ this book can’t miss. With a one-day laydown, a 250,000-copy first printing, and a nine-city tour to Austin, Boston, Denver, New York, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Rash, Ron. The Cove. Ecco: HarperCollins. Apr. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9780061804199. $25.99; pap. ISBN 9780062126115. $17.99. LITERARY
Twice winner of the O. Henry Prize, twice nominated for the PEN/Faulkner, and recently awarded the Frank O’Connor International Story Award, Rash is one of those loved-by-the-cognoscenti authors who broke out to a larger audience with Serena, a New York Times best seller. Here, in the early 1900s, a little patch of rural North Carolina is carefully avoided by the locals, who think it’s haunted. They also avoid birthmarked Laurel Mars, who lives there with her brother and who finally finds love with a mute, mysterious passerby. But can their love last? I’m pleased to be pushing this book just before our starred review appears; it’s a lyrical, sharp-eyed look at the evil wrought by human ignorance. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

Shriver, Lionel. The New Republic. Harper: HarperCollins. Apr. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780062103321. $25.99. lrg. prnt. LITERARY
Shriver’s last three novels have done splendidly: 2010’s So Much for That was a National Book Award finalist, 2007’s The Post-Birthday World was named the Number 1 Book of the Year by Entertainment Weekly, and 2003’s much-talked-about We Need to Talk About Kevin has been made into a film that earned Tilda Swinton a Best Actress nomination at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. So it’s reasonable to have great expectations for her latest, which, interestingly, was written back in 1998. But now her themes‚ terrorism and the cult of personality‚ have truly come of age. In an alternate past on an invented European peninsula, Edgar Kellogg has replaced charismatic Barrington Saddler as reporter in a no-count Portuguese-speaking country plagued by the homegrown terrorism of Soldados Ousados de Barba‚ The Daring Soldiers of Barba. With the big Bear gone, the terrorists have suddenly become quiet. Great for book clubs, which make the guide and outreach a terrific bonus to what should be a terrific book.

McGill, Jerry. Dear Marcus: A Letter to the Man Who Shot Me. Spiegel & Grau: Random. Apr. 2012. 192p. ISBN 9780812993073. $22; eISBN 9780679644606. MEMOIR
In the 1980s, McGill was a well-liked 13-year-old living in the projects on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and indulging his talent for sports and dance. Then he was shot in the back and left paralyzed from the waist down; his assailant has never been apprehended. After the shooting, McGill took the high road, getting a B.A. in English and an MFA in education, traveling the world, acting, teaching, and campaigning for the disabled. His memoir, flooded with both pain and forgiveness, is written as a letter to the man who shot him, whom he has dubbed Marcus. McGill published this book himself, then sent a copy to Lorrie Moore, whose assessment in the New York Review of Books has sent it on to bigger things. One of those works that makes you feel really, really humble.

Mali, Taylor. What Teachers Make. Putnam. Apr. 2012. NAp. ISBN 9780399158544. $19.95. EDUCATION
A former middle-school teacher and now a teacher advocate, Mali wrote a poem, What Teachers Make, that has been viewed more than five million times on YouTube and was read at Yale’s commencement by Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. (Friedman’s wife is a teacher.) The essays here, on teaching hard work and reaching a difficult student, for instance, were inspired by the poem, and Mali emphasizes making a difference, not making money. With everyone debating the real value of what teachers do, here’s a heartfelt explanation. A crucial book on a crucial subject; get it for believers and doubters alike.

Robbins, Jim. The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, the Future of Our Forests, and a Radical Plan To Save Our Planet. Spiegel & Grau: Random. Apr. 2012. ISBN 9781400069064. $25; eISBN 9781588369994. ENVIRONMENT
A brawny, hard-living, and once hard-drinking nurseryman from Minnesota, David Milarch conceived a brilliant plan after a near-death experience. He set out to find and then clone the tallest, broadest, hardiest tree for each of the 872 known species in the United States, aiming to replant the clones worldwide and thus provide a living archive of tree genetics at a time when trees are vanishing and the ecosystem faces crisis. Called Archangel Reforestation, his project has received considerable media attention. Science reporter Robbins, who broke the story in the New York Times, discusses what lies behind Milarch’s success; the publisher is also pitching his backstory and appealing persona. Note, too, the books’s eco-friendly packaging. A great book about someone making a difference; lots of promotion.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.