Atwood, Hajdu, Semple, & Zink | Barbara’s Picks, Oct. 2016, Pt. 3

Atwood, Margaret. Hag-Seed. Hogarth: Crown. (Hogarth Shakespeare.) Oct. 2016. 256p. ISBN 9780804141291. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780804141307. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY FICTION
Now that Jeanette Winterson, Howard Jacobson, and Anne Tyler have all had a go at contemporizing Shakespeare via the “Hogarth Shakespeare” series (purveyed by Penguin Random House companies in eight countries, with rights sold to 11 other publishers), Man Booker Prize winner Atwood takes on The Tempest. Owing to a scheming assistant, Felix has lost his job as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival and finds himself in isolated southern Ontario, teaching Literacy Through Theatre to prisoners at the Burgess Correctional Institution. As the Burgess Correctional Players begin videotaping an interactive rendering of The Tempest, Felix’s old enemies swing into view and are made participants in vengeful Felix’s production. Even Felix’s daughter, Miranda, dead for 12 years, has magically chosen to be a part of the proceedings. Note that Atwood has nearly a million Twitter followers.

Hajdu, David. Love for Sale: Popular Music in America. Farrar. Oct. 2016. 304p. ISBN 9780374170530. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374710507. MUSIC
To chronicle America’s popular music, distinguished music and pop culture critic Hajdu begins with America’s pop music industry, explaining our impassioned hummings and thrummings by going back to the advent of the sheet-music industry in the late 1800s. From there, it’s a semplepersonal yet comprehensive journey through the invention of records and radio, the glories of jazz, the Italian crooners beloved of Hajdu’s grandmother, those rocking 45s beloved of Hajdu himself, disco vs. punk with New York as backdrop, the roar of hip-hop, and today’s one-size-does-not-fit-all musical landscape. Currently with the Nation, Hajdu has given us excellent books like Positively 4th Street and The Ten-Cent Plague, but this has a bigger scope.

Semple, Maria. Today Will Be Different. Little, Brown. Oct. 2016. 336p. ISBN 9780316403436. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316403443. lib. ebook ISBN 9780316395601. CD/downloadable. WOMEN’S FICTION
Start the day bright and early. Organize son Timby for school. Get to those yoga and poetry classes. Ditch the bad language. Become passionate again with husband Joe. Eleanor has just hatched a small-step plan for polishing up her life, but it’s blown to smithereens when Timby wangles a day off from school and Joe tells the office—but not Eleanor—that he’s on vacation. Now she’s in for some big changes. Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette, slated for the big screen, has sold over a million copies across formats and was a New York Times Best Book. With a 200,000-copy first printing.

Zink, Nell. Nicotine. Ecco. Oct. 2016. 304p. ISBN 9780062441706. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062441720. LITERARY FICTION
A quirky, sharply observant chronicler whose tales of unexpected domesticity say a lot about contemporary society, Zink won enthusiastic fans—not to mention several best book nods and nicotinea National Book Award long listing—for last year’s Mislaid. Here, rebel-with-a-difference Penny Baker resists the overblown idealism of her parents (mom’s from a South American tribe, while fading hippie dad’s still famous for his psychedelic healing center) and the questionable charms of her half-brothers (one obnoxiously rich, the other on a distant island) to lead a conventional life. But when she meets a bunch of anarchistic young rebels cheerfully squatting in the house she inherits on her father’s death, Penny blazes up with passion, commitment, and a sudden sense of belonging. The house, by the way, is nicknamed Nicotine because these edgy millennials are committed to smokers’ rights. With a 50,000-copy first printing; look also for Zink’s trade paperback original, Private Novelist (224p. ISBN 9780062458308. $15.99), which collects two early novellas spinning off from the works of Israeli novelist Avner Shats.

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.