Barbara’s Picks, May 2013, Pt. 1: Allende, Hill, Le Carré, Savage, Strout, and the World’s Strongest Librarian

Allende, Isabel. Maya’s Notebook. Harper: HarperCollins. May 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780062105622. $28.99; eISBN 9780062105646. CD: HarperAudio. LITERARY FICTION
Having sold over 57 million copies of her books worldwide, the esteemed author of The House of the Spirits knows what she’s doing. So trust her on this stylistic departure, which borrows from the thriller writer’s toolkit. Abandoned as a child, 19-year-old Maya Vidal has been raised by her grandparents—near-mystical earth mother Nidia, an immigrant from Chile (like the author herself), and Popo, a gentle African American professor. When Popo dies, Maya plummets downward in a haze of drugs, alcohol, and petty crime until she’s in trouble with folks on both sides of the law. In the end, Nidia intervenes in a way Allende fans will appreciate. Look for the eight-city tour to Boston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, DC; a 150,000-copy first printing.

Hanagarne, Josh. The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family. Gotham: Penguin Group (USA). May 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781592407873. $26. MEMOIR
So many memoirs, so little time. But this one is expected to be big—like its author, a 6’7″ librarian in the main branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library who has Tourette’s syndrome. Hanagarne first exhibited the syndrome’s physical and vocal tics as a six-year-old participating in a Thanksgiving Day play, and they swelled to alarming proportions while he was serving on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Any number of treatments failed (including botox injections that shut down his voice for three years) until he met a former U.S. Air Force tech sergeant who taught him to control his tics through strength training. His blog,, a mix of book talk and strength-training tips that gets over 80,000 visitors a month, gives evidence of a witty and upbeat voice that should make his book fun (and inspiring) reading.

Hill, Joe. NOS4A2. Morrow. May 2013. 704p. ISBN 9780062200570. $28.99; eISBN 9780062200594. HORROR
In a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith whose license plate reads NOS4A2, Charles Talent Manx takes children on a terrifying ride out of the real world to an amusement park of sorts called Christmasland that mirrors his sick imagination. Finally, he’s stopped by Victoria McQueen, who can find anything after riding her bike across a weather-beaten covered bridge that, inexplicably, takes her wherever she wants to go. Now, decades have passed, and Manx is rolling again—with Vic’s son as his target. A scary and inventive premise, and here’s betting that New York Times best-selling author Hill will deliver; with a one-day laydown on April 30, a nine-city tour to Austin, Boston, Boulder, Denver, Kansas City, New York, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle, and a 200,000-copy first printing.

Le Carré, John. A Delicate Truth. Viking. May 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780670014897. $27.95. CD/Downloadable: Penguin Audio. THRILLER
As evidenced by the recent success of the film version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Le Carré may have gone white-haired since publication of his sensational The Spy Who Came in from the Cold nearly five decades ago, but his understanding of political intrigue in an amoral world remains as timeless as his scenarios are up-to-date. Here, a top-secret counterterrorist operation codenamed Wildlife, launched in 2008 on the British Crown colony of Gibraltar with the intention of abducting a jihadist arms buyer, may have gone badly awry. That’s what Toby Bell, the foreign office minister’s private secretary, is trying to determine three years later as he weighs duty against conscience.

Savage, Dan. American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics. Dutton. May 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780525954101. $26.95. SOCIAL SCIENCES
Author of the syndicated sex-advice column “Savage Love” and books like The Kid, an award-wining memoir of adoption, Savage made his name with It Gets Better, the far-reaching Internet-based campaign he founded with husband Terry Miller in support of LGBT adolescents. That campaign eventually won an Emmy and became a New York Times best-selling book. Here Savage takes on a host of issues, from gun control to obesity to sex education. “At a Loss,” for instance, discusses his mother’s death and the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church in which he was raised. Great for discussion.

Strout, Elizabeth. The Burgess Boys. Random. May 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781400067688. $26; eISBN 9780812984613. CD/Downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY FICTION
Strout’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Olive Kitteredge astonished by making everyday small-town life luminous and absorbing, and she promises to do the same thing here. Devastated by their father’s death in an accident when they were children, Jim and Bob Burgess leave upstate Shirley Falls for New York City, where Jim is a hotshot corporate lawyer idolized by Legal Aide lawyer Bob. Then their sister, Susan, calls them home to help deal with her troubled teenage son, Zach, and family tensions that have been held at bay emerge to reshape everyone’s life forever.

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.