Talking with Marilyn Johnson, Late Fall with B&N’s Discover Great New Writers, PW’s Top Ten, & Tom Hanks, Author

Lots of book news this week. Marilyn Johnson, beloved of librarians for This Book Is Overdue!, has been getting raves for Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human scallyRubble (Harper, Nov. 11), including a starred LJ review. It was also No. 3 on this month’s LibraryReads List. When you think about it, it’s not such a leap from librarians to archaeologists, who are dedicated to preserving our cultural heritage and have lots of fun uncovering it. For an interview with the author, check out Prepub Alert: Video Interviews.

The Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program is wrapping up the year by changing the name of its forthcoming fourth season from Holiday to Late Fall, with seven choice titles making the list. That’s somewhat smaller than usual, but the first three seasons were especially hefty, with 18 titles for Spring, 19 titles for Summer and 20 titles for Fall. As always, great reading tips here. Fiction includes Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven (Knopf), a smart and ambitious breakout novel that’s shortlisted for the National Book Awards (whoa, Shakespeare!); and Stephen Collins’s The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil (Picador), a fable in graphic format (the Discover program’s first ever) that was featured at LJ’s Day of Dialog and got carted off a lot by day’s end.

Nonfiction includes Richard Blanco’s The Prince of Los Cocuyos (Ecco), a first memoir from the inaugural poet; Lev Golikin’s A Backpack, a Bear, & 8 Crates of Vodka (Doubleday), a memoir about the author’s escaping the collapsing Soviet Empire with his family and as an adult reinvestigating his roots; David Greene’s Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia (Norton), traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railroad with NPR host Greene; Michele Raffin’s The Birds of Pandemonium (Algonquin), about the conservation organization Pandemonium Aviaries and a big ALA and BEA buzz book; and Brian Turner’s My Life as a Foreign Country (Norton), a memoir from the award-winning poet (e.g., Here, Bullet) and veteran of conflict in both Iraq and Bosnia & Herzegovina, who reconstructs violence in wartime by imagining himself as a drone hanging above it all. That’s one I want you all to read.

And now that you’ve caught LJ‘s Best Books of the Year, check out out the top picks of our old sister magazine, PW. In fiction: Hassam Blasim’s The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq , mind-slamming stories by a man the Guardian calls “perhaps the best writer of Arabic fiction alive” (the Guardian); Elena Ferrante’s Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, an absorbing third novel of love and friendship in the “Neapolitan” series; Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings, also an LJ top ten and the fiction performance of the year; Lorrie Moore’s quintessentially Moore-ish Bark: Stories; and Joseph O’Neill’s The Dog, a West-meets-East study that was long-listed for the Man Booker.

In nonfiction: Eula Biss’s On Immunity: An Inoculation, an original reflection from the National Book Critics Circle Award winner; Emmanuel Carrère’s Limonov: The Outrageous Adventures of the Radical Soviet Poet Who Became a Bum in New York, a Sensation in France, and a Political Antihero in Russia; Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams: Essays, winner of Graywolf Press’s nonfiction prize; Héctor Tobar’s Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free, a sobering you-are-there read; and Lawrence Wright’s definitive Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David.

And this just in: Tom Hanks is publishing a short story collection with Knopf. No title or publication date yet, but it’s loosely inspired by photographs of typewriters from Hanks’s personal collection. Stay tuned.



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.