Fredrik Backman, C.J. Box, Shirley Jackson, & The Voyage of the Slave Ship Antelope | Barbara’s Picks, Jul. 2015, Pt. 4

Backman, Fredrik. My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry. Atria. Jul. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9781501115066. $25. LITERARY FICTION
An international best seller published in more than 25 languages worldwide, Backman’s first novel, A Man Called Ove, got lovely reviews here that almost always used the word charming. That word (though perhaps with more edge) will likely pop up again in describing his new work, featuring seven-year-old Elsa, whose affectionate but slightly off-kilter grandmother has just died. Grandma leaves a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, and in the course of delivering them Elsa meets a strange assortment of kindly old ladies, difficult drunks, and attack dogs while seeing the fairytale world her grandmother always described come real.

Battles, Matthew. Palimpsest: A History of the Written Word. Norton. Jul. 2015. 256p. ISBN 9780393058857. $26.95. MEDIA STUDIES
A fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center, where he is associate director of metaLAB, a research group exploring the bounds of networked culture, Battles takes a refreshingly open-minded view on the history of the written word. While there’s fear that writing and hence the careful thought associated with it are threatened in our current cyber-environment, Battles shows that from cjboxMesopotamia to tweeting, writing has always gone through a relentless process of update and change. Librarians will remember Battles as author of Library: An Unquiet History.

Box, C.J. Badlands. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jul. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9780312583217. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466881501. MYSTERY
The small North Dakota town where 12-year-old Kyle lives with his mother is booming, thanks to the discovery of oil nearby. But oil money means drug money, which means gangs. No one’s more aware of that than Cassie Dewell, the new deputy sheriff, who’s been running into body parts clearly placed to shake her. Meanwhile, Kyle, who may be considered slow by the townsfolk but who really wants to help his mom, pins his hope on a package, left behind after a car wreck, that his mom’s boyfriend says will make their fortune. The author of the award-winning Joe Pickett series expands his purview; with a one-day laydown on July 28 and a 200,000-copy first printing.

Bryant, Jonathan M. Dark Places of the Earth: The Voyage of the Slave Ship Antelope. Liveright: Norton. Jul. 2015. 416p. ISBN 9780871406750. $28.95. HISTORY
A professor at Georgia Southern University who specializes in slavery and constitutional law, Bryant has written an instructive book about an incident and trial that informed the far better known Amistad case. In 1820, when the slave ship Antelope was captured off the Florida coast, the slave trade was illegal but slavery itself still legal in half the United States. Were the 300 Africans aboard to be considered slaves, then, and, if so, to whom did they belong? Bryant jacksonshirleypresents a broadened picture of the transatlantic slave trade while illuminating a legal battle with huge moral implications.

Jackson, Shirley. Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings. Random. Jul. 2015. 432p. ed. by Laurence Jackson Hyman & Sarah Hyman DeWitt. ISBN 9780812997668. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780812997675. LITERARY COLLECTIONS
Remember the chilling excitement of reading Jackson’s “The Lottery” for the first time? You’ll have that same experience over and over again with this new collection, which offers more than 50 unpublished and uncollected works drawn from Jackson’s papers at the Library of Congress and coedited by two of her children. Not only have these pieces never appeared before in book form, but many have never appeared at all, including 21 of the 29 stories and 14 of the 15 essays and lectures. With 2015 marking the 50th anniversary of Jackson’s death and 2016 the centenary of her birth, expect a blizzard of works about Jackson, including a big biography from book critic Ruth Franklin.

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.