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  • Melissa Albert 1:00 pm on 2016/08/29 Permalink
    Tags: b&n readouts, colson whitehead, , , jennifer keishin armstrong, , ,   

    5 Great Books to Sample on Your NOOK Right Now 

    To celebrate the launch of our new Samsung Galaxy Tab A NOOK device, and $99.99 offer for upgraders, we’re celebrating some of our favorite things to read on the NOOK. If you haven’t yet discovered B&N Readouts, welcome to your new favorite way to sample great reads—with the Tab A, it’s the closest you’ll get to strolling through Barnes & Noble’s aisles outside of, you know, the nearest Barnes & Noble. Every day we post excerpts from fascinating new books, from thrillers to nonfiction to romance, accessible on your desktop and through the NOOK app. Here’s just a taste of the books we’re sharing this month.

    American Heiress, by Jeffrey Toobin
    Toobin unpacks the fascinating history of Patty Hearst, infamous socialite turned kidnapping victim turned revolutionary (or victim of Stockholm Syndrome, depending who you ask). Everyone remembers the iconic photo of the girl with the beret and the gun, but Toobin’s book reveals the true and complicated story of Hearst’s abduction and its major players—one that verges on a comedy of errors—while giving an illuminating overview of the mid-1970’s media and cultural landscapes. Even without Hearst’s cooperation, Toobin creates a compelling portrait of a woman and an era.
    Start reading on B&N Readouts now.

    Seinfeldia, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
    Armstrong’s highly entertaining, surprisingly insightful work explores the history of everybody’s favorite TV show about nothing, and the cultural moment it helped define. Seinfeld started out as a four-episode summer filler and grew into a media juggernaut, while maintaining its neurotic, oddball heart. Armstrong fills her book with gossipy details and behind the scenes insights that will send you running to Hulu to binge your favorite episodes.
    Start reading on B&N Readouts now.

    Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodson
    Acclaimed author Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming) returns to writing for adults with the elegiac story, told in poetic vignettes, of August, a former Brooklynite returning to her old neighborhood for her father’s funeral. The visit stirs up memories of her often difficult past—the glaring absence of her mother, the burgeoning Black Power movement of the 1970s, and the tight group of girlfriends who defined her days. In her spare, liquid prose, Woodson carries August from present to past and back again.
    Start reading on B&N Readouts now.

    You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott
    Abbott’s novels tend toward the darkhearted and propulsive, and her latest might be her most page-turning yet. It centers on the family of a gymnastics wunderkind, whose enormous talent is propelling her toward the Olympics, and her family into a double-edged position of local renown. Then a beloved member of their athletic community is killed in a hit and run, with implications that threaten to undermine both the trajectory of the Olympics-bound gymnast and the sanity of her protective mother, who’s about to learn how little she really understands about her daughter.
    Start reading on B&N Readouts now.

    The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
    Recently chosen for Oprah’s Book Club, Whitehead’s unmissable novel offers up historical fiction with a speculative twist: slave Cora escapes her plantation with new arrival Caesar, and the two make their way toward the Underground Railroad—only, in this telling, the metaphorical railroad has been transformed into a literal one. With a demonically driven slave catcher on their trail, Cora encounters horrors and wonders on the road, including a reimagined South Carolina that hides dark secrets and a dystopian Tennessee. Add this one to your required reading list.
    Start reading on B&N Readouts now.

     
  • Melissa Albert 1:00 pm on 2016/08/29 Permalink
    Tags: b&n readouts, colson whitehead, , , , ,   

    5 Great Books to Sample on Your NOOK Right Now 

    To celebrate the launch of our new Samsung Galaxy Tab A NOOK device, and $99.99 offer for upgraders, we’re celebrating some of our favorite things to read on the NOOK. If you haven’t yet discovered B&N Readouts, welcome to your new favorite way to sample great reads—with the Tab A, it’s the closest you’ll get to strolling through Barnes & Noble’s aisles outside of, you know, the nearest Barnes & Noble. Every day we post excerpts from fascinating new books, from thrillers to nonfiction to romance, accessible on your desktop and through the NOOK app. Here’s just a taste of the books we’re sharing this month.

    American Heiress, by Jeffrey Toobin
    Toobin unpacks the fascinating history of Patty Hearst, infamous socialite turned kidnapping victim turned revolutionary (or victim of Stockholm Syndrome, depending who you ask). Everyone remembers the iconic photo of the girl with the beret and the gun, but Toobin’s book reveals the true and complicated story of Hearst’s abduction and its major players—one that verges on a comedy of errors—while giving an illuminating overview of the mid-1970’s media and cultural landscapes. Even without Hearst’s cooperation, Toobin creates a compelling portrait of a woman and an era.
    Start reading on B&N Readouts now.

    Seinfeldia, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
    Armstrong’s highly entertaining, surprisingly insightful work explores the history of everybody’s favorite TV show about nothing, and the cultural moment it helped define. Seinfeld started out as a four-episode summer filler and grew into a media juggernaut, while maintaining its neurotic, oddball heart. Armstrong fills her book with gossipy details and behind the scenes insights that will send you running to Hulu to binge your favorite episodes.
    Start reading on B&N Readouts now.

    Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodson
    Acclaimed author Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming) returns to writing for adults with the elegiac story, told in poetic vignettes, of August, a former Brooklynite returning to her old neighborhood for her father’s funeral. The visit stirs up memories of her often difficult past—the glaring absence of her mother, the burgeoning Black Power movement of the 1970s, and the tight group of girlfriends who defined her days. In her spare, liquid prose, Woodson carries August from present to past and back again.
    Start reading on B&N Readouts now.

    You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott
    Abbott’s novels tend toward the darkhearted and propulsive, and her latest might be her most page-turning yet. It centers on the family of a gymnastics wunderkind, whose enormous talent is propelling her toward the Olympics, and her family into a double-edged position of local renown. Then a beloved member of their athletic community is killed in a hit and run, with implications that threaten to undermine both the trajectory of the Olympics-bound gymnast and the sanity of her protective mother, who’s about to learn how little she really understands about her daughter.
    Start reading on B&N Readouts now.

    The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
    Recently chosen for Oprah’s Book Club, Whitehead’s unmissable novel offers up historical fiction with a speculative twist: slave Cora escapes her plantation with new arrival Caesar, and the two make their way toward the Underground Railroad—only, in this telling, the metaphorical railroad has been transformed into a literal one. With a demonically driven slave catcher on their trail, Cora encounters horrors and wonders on the road, including a reimagined South Carolina that hides dark secrets and a dystopian Tennessee. Add this one to your required reading list.
    Start reading on B&N Readouts now.

     
  • Ester Bloom 6:30 pm on 2016/08/02 Permalink
    Tags: American Fiction, , colson whitehead, , , , ,   

    Colson Whitehead Takes The Underground Railroad From Metaphor to Devastating Reality 

    In the midst of this never-ending election, America is focused on either accepting or rejecting the notion that the country needs to be made great “again.” Meanwhile, some enterprising souls have wondered, When was America great? As recently as the 1950s? As long ago as the 1780s? Of one thing we can be sure, thanks to Colson Whitehead’s searing new novel about a young woman who escapes a Georgia cotton plantation: it was not the 1830s.

    The Underground Railroad, just named the latest Oprah’s Book Club selection, is a guided tour through the worst of American history. It makes brief detours to West Africa and aboard slave ships, but for the most part, it begins in the deep South, travels up to the Carolinas, and goes West to Indiana. Whitehead’s protagonist, Cora, initially escapes in the company of Caesar, a young man who is her equal in resilience and determination. Both have suffered. Both know they will suffer far more vividly if they are caught, especially since the man chasing them is a sadistic professional tracker named Ridgeway.

    Although the flap copy compares The Underground Railroad to Gulliver’s Travels, Whitehead’s book reads more like the American answer to Les MisérablesLike Victor Hugo’s 19th-century epic, Railroad follows a survivor who wants nothing more revolutionary than her own freedom. She tries to escape a man who is relentless in his pursuit of her. Whitehead uses Cora’s story to indict a society built on the injustice of the idea that an entire population of people like Cora is somehow biologically, morally, and intellectually subhuman.

    But while Hugo puts faith in, well, faith, embracing Christianity as a corrective to the meanness of man, Whitehead’s characters are not redeemed by religion. The cruelties visited upon characters like Fantine and Cosette pale in comparison to those Whitehead depicts. In many cases, those cruelties are even administered by people who consider themselves Christians, and think their actions are justified by the Good Book.

    In this world, the average American is not innocent. The average American is complicit: in clearing the deep South of Native Americans via malice and massacre, and then in farming that stolen land using labor stolen from people who were, themselves, stolen from their own land across the sea.

    Whitehead’s 19th-century America is a colder, more brutal place than even Hugo’s 19th-century France. But though the end result is bracing, it’s not overdone. It’s history, unwhitewashed, and that can be hard to take in, but Whitehead leavens his creation with a dash of hope, some humor, and just enough characters who aren’t sinister, callous, or bloodthirsty. Then he lets just enough of those characters survive.

    Still, those characters, like Caesar and Cora, who live up to the royal nature of their names and whose fierceness and intelligence keep them going no matter what, are liable to break your heart. At one point, in South Carolina, Cora hears the word “optimism.”

    Cora didn’t know what optimism meant. She asked the other girls that night if they were familiar with the word. None of them had heard it before. She decided that it meant trying.

    This woman was born into the bleakest kind of bondage and was never taught that she deserved anything: not liberty, not the pursuit of happiness, not even her own life. But she stays hopeful, anyway. Keeps moving. Keeps trying.

    Over his years as one of America’s most imaginative, capable authors of literary fiction, Whitehead has become known for writing stories that tweak the circumstances of everyday life. The worlds he describes are grounded in reality, but they grow in unexpected directions, toward elevator-related mysteries or zombies. In The Underground Railroad, the tweak is the railroad itself: instead of being a metaphor, it is an actual network of tracks running like a hidden subway from South to North and back again, serviced by a few devoted eccentrics who, even when threatened with torture and death, refuse to condone a status quo of slavery.

    Because of those engineers, the reader cannot entirely despair, even of a society in which a weekly lynching is considered family fun. Like trains, Caesar and Cora may stall, but even in hellish darkness, they keep pushing forward, hoping that, at the next station, or the next, they may finally find freedom, or at least light.

     
  • Tara Sonin 12:45 pm on 2016/08/02 Permalink
    Tags: ayana mathis, , , , colson whitehead, , , ekhart tolle, , , , , , oprah's picks,   

    10 Favorites from Oprah’s Book Club 

    Deciding which book is the “next big thing” is a tough job. Good thing we have Oprah to do the job for us! Her thought-provoking book club selections are some of my favorites of all time—and in honor of her latest pick, announced today, we’re taking a look back at some of her best previous selections.

    Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
    Cheryl Strayed’s world was in shambles: her marriage was crumbling, she was struggling with drugs and infidelity, and she still hadn’t moved on from her mother’s death four years earlier.  So she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail—over one thousand miles of rough terrain—alone. This memoir-turned-movie (starring Reese Witherspoon) is gut-wrenchingly sad but ultimately uplifting, as Cheryl finds the physical and emotional strength to push forward, both on the trail and in her life.

    The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
    “Handful” Grimke is a slave in Charleston during the 1800s. When she’s ten years old, she’s given to Sarah, the daughter of her owner, as a gift. The two girls are thrust together during a tumultuous period in history, both suffering great losses—and sharing in one another’s joys—against the backdrop of the abolition and women’s rights movements. Based on the true story of abolitionist Sarah Grimke, this novel tracks the evolution of a young girl brought up in privilege, and how she eventually fought for the liberation of people everywhere, especially slaves and women.

    The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, by Ayana Mathis
    Hattie’s story is one of devastation and grit. She escapes Georgia in 1923 in pursuit of the American dream in Philadelphia. Instead, she marries a man she will grow to hate—especially after the deaths of her firstborn children, which could have been prevented. As a result, Hattie hardens herself toward her following nine children, hoping to better prepare them for the troubles that surely await them in a world that was not kind to their mother. Each child’s perspective is see in chapters carrying them all the way through 1980, resulting in a beautiful portrait of a family let down by a world they long to thrive in.

    Ruby, by Cynthia Bond
    Ephram Jennings has always loved Ruby Bell, ever since she was a little kid in their small Texas town of Liberty. But Ruby ran away as soon as she could, escaping a violent household and seeking refuge in 1950s New York City. Years pass, and when Ruby is finally lured home again by family tragedy, she and Ephram are reunited. But Ruby’s mental state begins to unravel once she’s home, and Ephram is forced to make a choice: rescue her from her own pain, or remain loyal to his hometown.

    Nightby Elie Wiesel
    A memoir of the author’s experience surviving the Holocaust, Night is a simultaneously terrifying and uplifting story of what happens when the entire world is ripped out from beneath you, and the strength it takes to begin again after tragedy strikes. Elie was an almost 11-year-old in Romania when World War II began, and the encroaching Nazi threat began to destroy Jewish families’ way of life. Eventually, Elie and his family were taken to Auschwitz, where he lost his father, endured unspeakable atrocities, and questioned whether God existed. A book that forces the reader to confront the deepest evils of humanity, Night is haunting, beautiful, and essential reading.

    A New Earth, by Ekhart Tolle
    Moving on from fiction to self-help, this next Oprah book club pick is all about you unleashing your best self on the world. In Tolle’s view, the ego is humanity’s enemy, and if we release our conscious attachments to our egos, we will live more fulfilling lives—and also end most of the conflict and suffering in the world. If you’re looking for a new start, this is the book for you.

    The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
    A man and his young son wander a postapocalyptic American wasteland, searching for survival on the coast—what awaits them there, they don’t know, but it can’t be worse than what they’ve left behind. The two are alone after the suicide of the boy’s mother, unable to live in the nuclear winter. Written in beautiful, minimalistic prose, The Road is mysterious, brutal, and ultimately hopeful, a treatise on the true love between a father and his son when the entire world around them has broken down.

    The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
    Against the backdrop of the Congo’s rebellion against Belgian Rule, Nathan Price brings his wife and four daughters to help him in his evangelist cause. The story is narrated by Orleanna, his wife, and later, their four daughters, as they recount their father’s involvement in the western colonization of Africa through a unique and sometimes prejudiced lens. But their time in Africa changes them irrevocably, and their journeys take them on different paths towards redemption.

    Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
    The book opens with Cal sharing a defining fact of his life: he has not always been Cal, and sometimes goes by Calliope. Cal was born intersex, possessing both female and male genitalia. The journey Cal takes towards self-acceptance and understanding begins even before birth: it kicks off with the history of Cal’s entire family, beginning in 1922 with their grandparents’ journey to America, and the reveal of another secret: Cal’s grandparents were siblings, and married one another for protection in their strange new world. Family and personal history mingle with some of the most important moments in American history in this emotional story of a person reconciling their past and present.

    Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
    And finally, drumroll, please—Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead, is the newest Oprah’s Book Club pick! Continuing the pattern of her previous picks, this novel deals with the intersection of race and gender against the cruelty and desperation of the Antebellum South. Cora, a slave, learns about the underground railroad from Caesar, a new arrival on the plantation where she labors. Together they decide to escape, encountering not just terror, pain, and the dogged pursuit of a slave hunter, but slipstream twists to the historical narrative, including the transformation of the metaphorical railroad into a literal one.

     
  • Jeff Somers 12:43 pm on 2016/08/02 Permalink
    Tags: colson whitehead, , , , , ,   

    Oprah Names a New Book Club Selection 

    Twenty years ago, Oprah Winfrey launched a new feature of her legendary television show: Oprah’s Book Club, starting with inaugural pick The Deep End of the Ocean. Over the next 15 years, Oprah’s Book Club had an astonishing effect on book publishing and the careers of the writers she chose. The club encouraged Oprah’s viewers to read more, read more difficult books, and then come together to discuss them. When The Oprah Winfrey Show ended in 2011, so did the book club—but it was revived on Oprah’s OWN network a year later. This new version of the club, known as Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, has been much more exclusive, with only four books selected over the course of five years. And today we have a fifth: the Oprah’s Book Club 2016 selection is The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead.

    The Author
    Whitehead is a lifelong New Yorker, born in Manhattan, a recipient of MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships, and the bestselling author of six novels and many works of nonfiction. Whitehead is a master of blending genres and styles, introducing gritty noir combined with fanciful sci-fi elements, tackling issues of race, culture, and societal rot with an almost Pynchonesque energy and unpredictability. His work is equal parts intellectual challenge and pure entertainment, offering a lively humor that makes even his most challenging and original concepts a lot of fun to read about. Anyone who has been looking for a new favorite author should follow Oprah’s direction and read his new novel.

    The Underground Railroad
    Whitehead brings his sense of the absurd in the service of truth to his newest novel. In The Underground Railroad, Cora is a slave on a Georgia plantation, living a miserable, hellish existence. In Whitehead’s version of history, however, the Underground Railroad Cora hears about and escapes to isn’t a metaphor for a series of safe havens and secret pathways to the North—it’s a literal railroad underground, a belching steam engine that pulls a creaking boxcar along steel tracks. Cora and a fellow slave, the educated Caesar, climb aboard and begin a horrifying adventure that’s easy to compare to classics of the imagination such as Gulliver’s Travels, but with a modern sense of dark humor and horror that makes their adventures much more than the increasingly surreal sum of their parts.

    The Horrors of Slavery
    Whitehead is one of the few modern authors who has the tools to tell a story like this—simultaneously a harrowing story of slavery and one woman’s fierce determination to escape it, and an exercise of imagination that sees Cora discovering an antebellum southern city that can’t possibly have existed, complete with soaring skyscrapers and a tolerant attitude towards blacks that makes it seem like an ideal place to escape to (until an even more sinister reality is discovered). Cora’s travels on the underground railroad lead her into increasing dangers, but also keep her one step ahead of the slave-catcher Ridgeway, who justifies his relentless pursuit with an increasingly elaborate series of rationales for his career and livelihood. Driven ever onward, Cora encounters people and places that slowly tighten the sense of tension and terror—the book turns into one of the most gripping and terrifying stories of slavery and its evils you will ever read, not in spite of the more fanciful aspects of the story but because of them.

    A Modern Classic
    The Underground Railroad is one of those books in which a masterful writer comes into complete control of his talents at precisely the right moment to produce a book perfectly suited to its time. As we continue as a nation and a people to struggle with the ugly legacy of slavery, the ongoing battle with systemic racism, and a surge of violence in our society that seems never-ending and unstoppable, Whitehead’s new novel examines the roots of all of these problems in a way that feels electrifyingly new and smart. Once again Oprah has proved she has her finger on the literary pulse; she has chosen a book that everyone should read.

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