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  • BN Editors 7:00 pm on 2019/01/29 Permalink
    Tags: a place for us, american prison, discover great new writers, , fatima farheen mirza, heavy, kiese laymon, only killers and thieves, , shane bauer, , there there, tommy orange   

    Introducing the Life-Changing Finalists for the 2018 Discover Awards 


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    For more than 25 years, the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program has worked to identify and amplify the voices of those new authors writing books with the potential to change readers’ lives. Each year, our selection committee, made up of smart, engaged, and incredibly well-read booksellers, pores over piles of new releases to find the books coming to us from writers we believe deserve to become household name.

    In 2018, we championed 52 of them. Now, we have winnowed down that pile to the shortlist of titles that stand head and shoulders above even their vaunted peers. Here are the finalists, in fiction and non-fiction, for the 2018 Discover Awards. The nominees will share among them a cash prize pool of $105,000 ($30,000 for first place, $15,000 for second, and $7,500 for third) and receive special promotion in our stores. The winners will be announced on March 6, 2019.

    Here is the shortlist for the 2018 Discover Awards:

    Fiction

    Only Killers and Thieves, by Paul Howarth
    In 1885, Colonial Australia (where the indigenous people were targeted by the Native Police Force) is as wild and untamed as it will ever be—and this debut novel fully immerses readers in that world. In an outback suffering from devastating drought, two young brothers become caught up in a manhunt for an aboriginal stockman whom they believe has murdered their parents and little sister. But the truth is elusive, and the killing spree against native tribesman that results from their misguided “vengeance” has far-reaching consequences, and may haunt Billy and Tommy the rest of their lives.

    A Place for Us, by Fatima Farheen Mirza
    An Indian American Muslim family of five living in California come together for the eldest daughter’s wedding, an event that forces them to reevaluate their lives together and apart over the past few decades. In particular, youngest son Amar, who has become estranged from his parents and siblings, is reluctant to make peace with his past. Tension between the traditional Muslim culture practiced by parents Rafiq and Layla and the contemporary attitudes of their adult children infuses this highly anticipated debut with plenty of emotion and heart.

    There There, by Tommy Orange
    A powerhouse debut that deservedly earned a spot on countless best of the year lists even before its selection as a B&N Discover New Writers finalist, There There chronicles the coming together of twelve modern-day, urban Native American people at the inaugural Oakland, California, Powwow. Disparate in their ages, goals, hopes, and dreams, some of the twelve hope to connect with their history and/or long-lost family members; some desire to perform traditional dance; and others plan to take advantage of the event for their own purposes. It is a transcendent work, rich in specific cultural detail but with a compelling, human message that is also universal.

    Non-Fiction

    American Prison, by Shane Bauer
    A groundbreaking inside investigation into the private prison industry and the forces that drive it, told by a journalist who was legitimately hired under his own name with no background check to be a guard for $9 an hour. From the history of the industry to the treatment of prisoners to the ugly changes he saw in himself during his employment, this is a gripping story that cannot be ignored.

    Educated, by Tara Westover
    Raised in the rural Idaho mountains by a family of fundamentalist Mormon survivalists, Tara Westover didn’t attend school until she turned 17, and lived out her days preparing for the worst, helping her father salvage scrap to sell and canning food with her mother to get them through the looming apocalypse. She never saw a doctor, despite suffering serious injuries, including violence inflicted upon her by a sibling. Yet one of her brothers did make it out, however, and came back to the mountain one day with tales of college, and opportunities for a better life. Determined to follow in his footsteps, Westover taught herself enough math and science to gain admittance to Brigham University. This is the fascinating story of the strange ties that bind a family together, and the strength it takes to sever them and strike out on your own.

    Heavy, by Kiese Laymon
    We can’t stop thinking about this deeply personal book from a fearless writer. This revelatory memoir not only exposes what a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a man, it also delivers a powerful story of truth, love, and freedom. Kiese’s fans include Discover alums Lacy Johnson (The Other SideThe Reckonings) and Mychal Denzel Smith (Invisible Man Got the Whole World Watching).

    Learn more about Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program.

    The post Introducing the Life-Changing Finalists for the 2018 Discover Awards appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Miwa Messer 6:00 pm on 2019/01/28 Permalink
    Tags: , discover great new writers   

    Introducing the 2018 Discover Award Judges 


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    Reading is a deeply satisfying, solitary activity, but we all know books really are best when shared. The booksellers who sit on the selection committee for our Discover Great New Writers program are some of the smartest, most widely read, and certainly most opinionated readers I’ve had the fortune to work with—we’re always on the hunt for the new, the will-be-notable, and the not-to-be-missed, which means our selection committee meetings are never, ever boring.

    Every year we look at roughly one thousand submissions for the program and make our choices from there; in 2018 we tapped 52 books from writers we’d like to see made into household names, put them at the front of all of our stores, and promoted them online (#BNDiscover). But that’s not all we do for the books and writers we include in the Discover Great New Writers program. Each year, we ask six notable, established writers to help us pick six writers from that year’s selections to share a cash prize pool of $105,000. That’s $30,000 for first place, $15,000 for second, and $7,500 for third, for both fiction and nonfiction—and then there’s all of the additional promotion we’ll do in stores, online, and on the B&N Podcast.

    The judges for the 2018 Discover Awards have written some of our favorite books to date—many of which have been major bestsellers—and we’re thrilled they were able to join us to acknowledge some of the best new talent we saw last year. We announced our 2018 Discover Awards shortlist this morning, and the winners will be announced March 6, 2019.

    FICTION 

    Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women (a 2002 Discover Great New Writers selection), Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World.

    Helen Simonson is the New York Times bestselling author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (a 2010 Discover Great New Writers selection) and The Summer Before the War. She was born in England and spent her teenage years in a small village near Rye, in East Sussex before moving to the United States.

    Jess Walter is the author of eight books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Beautiful RuinsNational Book Award finalist The Zero, Citizen Vince, and The Financial Lives of the PoetsHis work has been published in thirty-twolanguages and his short fiction has won a Pushcart Prize and appeared three times in The Best American Short Stories yearly anthology.

     

    NONFICTION

    Mira Jacob is the author of the graphic memoir Good Talk. Her critically acclaimed novel The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing (a 2014 Discover Great New Writers selection) was shortlisted for India’s Tata First Literature Award, honored by the Asian Pacific American Library Association, and named one of the best books of the year by The Boston Globe, Bustle, and more.

    Adrian Nicole LeBlanc is an independent journalist who is best known for her award-winning, bestselling nonfiction book Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx.  She has received a MacArthur Fellowship, among other accolades and residencies, and she has written for many publications including the New York Times Magazine, and the New Yorker.

    Beth Macy is the author of the widely acclaimed and bestselling books Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America, Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crown South and Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local, and Helped Save an American Town. Her reporting has won more than a dozen national awards, including a Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard. 

    The archive of previous Discover Award winners and finalists is here, and you can check out our previous selections here. And while you’re looking at where we’ve been and what we’ve done…we’re looking forward. We’ve already picked twenty-three books for our Spring 2019 list, which covers books publishing from January through April, and as I type this, we’re working on Summer 2019, May-August.

    There’s always something new and wonderful to read, and the Discover Award judges, the Discover Great New Writers selection committee readers, and I are delighted you’ve joined us on a most excellent adventure.

    Miwa Messer is the Director of Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program.

    The post Introducing the 2018 Discover Award Judges appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Miwa Messer 8:00 pm on 2018/09/10 Permalink
    Tags: , discover great new writers   

    Discover Great New Writers Fall 2018 Selections 


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    We’re terrifically pleased to announce our Fall 2018 Discover Great New Writers selections—our third collection for 2018, another exciting mix of fiction, essays, memoir, and journalism from writers who aren’t yet household names, writers our booksellers believe we’ll continue to read for years to come.

    How it works: Every week, a team of our booksellers from around the country meets to review submissions; we start with roughly 1,000 books each year and select fewer than 60 for the program. We root for all of the books and their authors, waiting for the bookseller who says, “this made the hair stand up on the back of my neck,” or “I missed my subway stop,” or even, “I couldn’t stop holding my breath as I read, and I gave myself the hiccups.”

    What we’re looking for: In a word, WOW.

    We’re looking for stories we can’t stop thinking about, that entertain us, whisk us away to unfamiliar places (real or imagined). Stories that show us who we are in the world. Stories that tattoo themselves onto our DNA. Stories packed with characters we’d like to hang with in real life and don’t want to leave behind, even when we don’t like them very much. Stories spun from vivid imagination, hard work, and marvelous prose. We’re looking for stories that pulse with life and ideas and unforgettable imagery. We’re looking for universal truths in someone else’s details. We’re looking for books that readers can’t wait to press into the hands of other readers with a simple admonition: You’ve got to read this now.

    To check out other 2018 Discover picks, browse our now twenty-eight-year-old archive of past selections, or learn more about our annual Discover Awards, check out bn.com/discover.

    Fiction

    The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, by Imogen Hermes Gowar
    This incredible debut reminded us of novels by Discover alums Sarah Waters (Fingersmith and The Little Stranger) and Michel Faber (The Crimson Petal and the White) and 2017 Discover pick The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry. In 1780s London, a well-to-do merchant finds his life upended in a story of wonder, obsession, and desire. P.S. Madeline Miller, bestselling author of Circe, is also a major fan.

    The Lost Queen, by Signe Pike
    We can’t get enough of epic historical sagas like The Half-Drowned King, Linnea Hartsuyker’s 2017 Discover pick set in Viking-era Norway, a mystical and violent world, and we love Signe Pike’s debut, a story of a lost queen of sixth-century Scotland, the twin of the man who inspired the legend of Merlin, just as much. (Luckily for us, The Lost Queen and The Half-Drowned King are both first in a series.)

    The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris
    There’s so much story packed in this deceptively slim novel. Vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful, this illuminating tale of hope and courage—based on the true story of a prisoner forced to tattoo other prisoners at Auschwitz—is a testament to the endurance of love and humanity. Fans of gripping WW2 fiction like The Boat Runner, by Devin Murphy, won’t want to miss this one.

    The Waiter, by Matias Faldbakken
    There are times we just want to curl up with a dreamy story about wonderful characters, and this novel by a Norwegian artist is a terrific place to start. We were reminded of The Elegance of the Hedgehog and A Gentleman in Moscow as we read this charming and thoughtful story of a middle-aged waiter whose routine at a centuries-old European restaurant is turned upside-down by an unexpected guest.

    All the Colors We Will See, by Patrice Gopo
    My family’s presence in Alaska was a mixture of flavors…Jamaican roots and an American life. Family and faith are the heart of this warm and beautifully written collection of essays about the complex interplay between what it means to be different—and what it means to belong—by an author who has called Alaska, South Africa, and the American South home.

    All You Can Ever Know, by Nicole Chung
    What happens when you stop believing your own family mythology? This unforgettable memoir starts with one woman’s search for her birth parents and becomes a universal story of identity, family, and home. Like Discover alums Leah Carroll, author of Down City, and Sarah Perry, author of After the Eclipse, Nicole Chung turns a painful past into powerful art. Bestselling author Celeste Ng (Little Fires Everywhere) is a fan, too.

    American Prison, by Shane Bauer
    A groundbreaking inside investigation into the private prison industry and the forces that drive it, told by a journalist who was legitimately hired under his own name with no background check to be a guard for $9 an hour. From the history of the industry to the treatment of prisoners to the ugly changes he saw in himself during his employment, this is a gripping story that cannot be ignored.

    The Class, by Heather Won Tesoriero
    The incredible true story of an unconventional class and a band of whiz kids. Like 2015 Discover pick Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren, The Class is as much about the people as it is the science; the caliber of the high schoolers’ work will amaze you, and you’ll be rooting for these unforgettable students and their teacher at every turn. (The book’s editor, sweetly, calls this book “Friday Night Lights with nerds.”)

    Heartland, by Sarah Smarsh
    A perfect companion to 2015 Discover pick Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, this is an eye-opening personal story of working-class poverty, and an uncompromising look at what it means to have less in a country that often confuses personal worth with net worth. “There’s not a false note…This is just what the world needs to hear,” says George Hodgman, bestselling author of another 2015 Discover pick, Bettyville.

    Heavy, by Kiese Laymon
    We can’t stop thinking about this deeply personal book from a fearless writer. This revelatory memoir not only exposes what a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a man, it also delivers a powerful story of truth, love, and freedom. Kiese’s fans include Discover alums Lacy Johnson (The Other Side, The Reckonings) and Mychal Denzel Smith (Invisible Man Got the Whole World Watching).

    To Shake the Sleeping Self, by Jedidiah Jenkins
    Have you ever wanted to quit your day gig and hit the open road? Jedidiah Jenkins landed his dream job, but still wasn’t happy. So he did what many people only fantasize about doing: he quit his job to travel, bicycling the 10,000 miles from Oregon to Patagonia. This astounding and unflinching story of real-life adventure and self-discovery is also an inspiring call to build a life to believe in.

    The post Discover Great New Writers Fall 2018 Selections appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Miwa Messer 4:00 pm on 2018/07/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , discover great new writers, ,   

    The Ensemble Author Aja Gable on the Attempt to Say That Unsayable Thing 


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    Four friends are bound by their art and their ambition in Aja Gabel’s snappy debut, The Ensemble. We were delighted by the author’s insights about friendship, passion, and loyalty; her characters’ messy truths; and her lively, light writing. There is, as one of our bookseller reviewers said, “WOW on every page.” We asked Aja how her debut novel began for her, and this is what she said:

    Long before I wrote a word of my novel, The Ensemble, which is about a professional string quartet, I wrote one short story about music. A Russian violinist, Stefan, must fill in for his deceased teacher, Sergei, at a concert in Hong Kong. In a dressing room above the concert hall, he frets about his new million-dollar violin and the violent political riots happening outside his window. The drama is high and slick, and the language has a tinge of the old-fashioned. The story’s confidence wavers (an imprint of its nascency), but passages about the music performance flicker in early resemblance to the passages about music in my novel.

    I dug the old story up recently because I’ve been trying to figure out the origin of my novel, when the idea first began to take root. Was it here? I wondered.

    I know a neat and tidy origin story would point to a moment of revelation, an article that changed me, or a piece of music that unfolded a novel plot. But it feels instead like I’ve carried The Ensemble around with me for years, that it grew inside me as I grew, twining and fusing with my body from the moment I was five, when I first began to play the cello and write stories. Over the years, as I filled notebooks with fantasies and cut my calluses on steel core strings, the enmeshment continued. By the time I entered writing school, still playing the cello on the side, it was complete.

    Because of that fusing, I didn’t write about music because writing about music felt like writing about my skin or my voice. What was there to say? It was just me.

    I wrote that short story about the Russian violinist because of a conversation I had with a teacher about writing a novel. Make it easy on yourself, she said. What do you know enough about to write 300 pages? This version of the “write what you know” advice hadn’t occurred to me before. Rereading the story now, I see why. My relationship to music was the most intimate relationship I had, shared with no one but other musicians who I played with. But I believed novels to be big, outsized, highly dramatic. I also believed people wanted that sense of symphonic gravitas in any story about classical music. So I wrote a story that had all of that: political strife, foreign locales, tortured Russian artists. It’s not a bad story, but in rereading, I struggled to find the beating heart of it. It didn’t feel like my novel.

    It wasn’t until a year later, alone on a writing retreat, that I decided to do what I’d been hesitant to do before. I unraveled the story of music that was braided inside me, and began to parse the strands, until I figured out what it was about. That intimate narrative I’d tended to and told to no one but myself was itself about intimacy. When you play music with someone, you come to know their artistic impulses, their breath and body, their secret ambitions and wayward desires. And as I put the threads back together on the page, it took on new life and grew again. There are no steely Russians and no mid-recital explosions in this one. Instead, there are subtler and equally earth-shattering moments: a cruel, tossed off phrase, heartbreak that morphs with time, the death of an absent mother, the loss of a best friend.

    In the end, it did become big. The tale of a collaborative life, lived through music, across decades, is inevitably expansive. But it didn’t become big because I’d intended to write an epic. I don’t think any great novel begins by being enamored of its bigness. What ultimately opened the door into this novel was, for me, what always draws me to any book: truth, recognition, heart, the attempt to say that unsayable thing.

    I am now able to see it: the daunting excavation of the internal story I’d tended to for years. I don’t think it’s the root of every novel, but it was for my first one. I look at that old short story, the one about Sergei and Stefan and the riots, and see a writer who wanted to do what she thought other people wanted to read. But I think now that we should always only be writing what we ourselves want to read. And even in that older story, what I gravitate toward are the scenes of music, Stefan’s uncertainty while playing, his love of the physical feeling of his violin, his fear of the outside pressures drowning out his concerto, his song.

    The Ensemble is on sale now.

    The post <i>The Ensemble</i> Author Aja Gable on the Attempt to Say That Unsayable Thing appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Melissa Albert 2:00 pm on 2018/07/10 Permalink
    Tags: , christian donlan, discover great new writers, ,   

    “Wonderfully Clear”: Christian Donlon on MS and parenting 


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    “My daughter took her first steps on the day I was diagnosed—a juxtaposition so perfect, so trite, so filled with the tacky artifice of real life that I am generally too embarrassed to tell anybody about it.”

    Journalist Christian Donlon writes about his MS and his daughter’s development with incredible grace and candor in his memoir, The Inward Empire: Mapping the Wolds of Mortality and Fatherhood, a Summer 2018 Discover Great New Writers selection that’s often very funny despite its serious subject. We asked Christian how he keeps his sense of humor in the midst of chaos and pain, and this is what he said:

    My daughter Leontine, who is now almost five, has just discovered jokes. Well, it is a partial discovery at least. She gets the two-part format of many jokes and she gets the social anxiety involved. (I can tell, after she has said the joke’s opener, that she is filled with tension regarding the closer; she understands innately that getting a joke right is a terribly serious business.) But I don’t know if she knows why the jokes she has learned are funny—why it is funny, say, that the way to get Pikachu onto a bus is to poke him on—and she doesn’t understand that a joke is a bit like a firework: it can only go off once with any particular audience.

    The thing is, jokes are hardly essential with a girl like Leon. She has been making me laugh since she was born, it seems. Since she could express herself I got a sense that here was a girl who saw the world in a slightly different way, who would watch most things out of the corner of her eye and find them ridiculous. Ridiculous and strange. Out walking on the way to school recently, my wife and Leon found one of Leon’s name labels long detached from whatever bag or lunchbox it had once been fixed to and blowing around in the wind. “That’s strange?” Leon asked, more for confirmation of her reading of it than anything else. And then: “I love it when things are strange.”

    I think my daughter’s presence in my life probably explains why people sometimes tell me that I have written a funny book, or rather that my book has made them laugh despite themselves. I am always delighted to hear this, even if it was not entirely my intention. On the surface my book is about fairly serious things: it’s about my diagnosis, shortly after my daughter’s birth, with multiple sclerosis, a maddeningly unpredictable and frequently brutal neurological disease in which the protective coatings of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are accidentally shredded by the immune system. When you have MS, people start to describe you as a sufferer, and so I assumed that I had written a sufferer’s book.

    If I haven’t, it’s because of Leon’s influence. Because of my fantastic, unprecedented, bewildering, and glorious daughter who has grown up alongside my disease, and whose explosion of life and new ideas and new cognitive abilities has been a vital pleasure to me as my own mental equipment has started to falter. I have wanted to mope theatrically at times, but it is hard to mope when you have a daughter who wants you to show them how to draw the really hard parts of a pony – always the back hooves—and who finds your moping hilarious anyway. Even at its worst, when I am stuck in bed with sore legs or muddled vision—the sheer range of things that MS can do is baffling—I can hear her elsewhere in our house, arguing with a cat or mis-singing the latest chart songs with a wonderful scatterbrained innocence.

    Practically, I would say two things about all this. Firstly, while I worry about my own diminishing agency as an MS patient who is also a father of a young child, Leon makes it wonderfully clear what my priorities are, and she gives me the humour I think you need to hold onto when you have been dropped into the bewildering world of neurology, where simple things are suddenly not so simple, and when the entire landscape around you can occasionally feel like a Victorian stage magician’s set filled with trick staircases and tilted mirrors.

    Secondly, I was talking with another MS patient the other day and we remarked on the fact that public understanding of this disease has progressed over the last few years from pretty much nothing to an appreciation that MS is a very complicated thing. Then, public understanding has sort of halted, and perhaps people are tempted to look away from MS because complicated things often make them feel foolish and powerless and sad.

    Humour, though, or at least a certain amount of easy wit, or a willingness to admit that some awful things do have undeniably funny aspects, might be a good way to make people look again at a thing they have already decided they don’t want to look at. A sense of humour—often, more specifically, my daughter’s sense of humour—has not just helped me understand my new world a little more, it might allow other people in, too.

     

    The post “Wonderfully Clear”: Christian Donlon on MS and parenting appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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