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  • Miwa Messer 8:00 pm on 2018/09/10 Permalink
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    Discover Great New Writers Fall 2018 Selections 

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

    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.

     
  • Miwa Messer 4:00 pm on 2018/07/10 Permalink
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    “Wonderfully Clear”: Christian Donlon on MS and parenting 

    “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 Worlds 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.

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

    “Wonderfully Clear”: Christian Donlon on MS and parenting 

    “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.

     
  • Miwa Messer 6:00 pm on 2018/06/19 Permalink
    Tags: , discover great new writers,   

    Social Creature Author Tara Isabella Burton on the Person She Invented Online 

    Things happen when Lavinia’s around—and while it seems like Louise has no idea what she’s gotten herself into with her new BFF, she knows she’s having the time of her life…

    Tara Isabella Burton’s wild debut novel Social Creature is Gossip Girl meets Gone Girl, creepy in a good way, and highly entertaining in a can’t-stop-reading-way. We asked Tara to take us behind the scenes of her fabulous, noir novel, and this is what she said.

    I post too much on the internet. I am witty (I hope) on Twitter; I wear extravagantly ridiculous vintage clothing on Instagram.

    I do not know how not to do this.

    I grew up, like many bookish and socially awkward and intensely lonely girls of my generation, extremely online. At ten, I was frenetically posting in the “religion and faith” message board on AOL (RIP). By thirteen, I was narrating my urge to live a poetic life on Livejournal: an impassioned diary I kept for a good decade. All of the writers I admired as a young teenager—Oscar Wilde, Anaïs Nin, Djuna Barnes—lived their lives as works of art, and I wanted this, too. The Internet—expansive, as-yet-uncolonized by the capitalist dictates of #influencers and purchasable followers—was the place on which I felt most at home. Maybe I did not, could not, live (as I longed to) in late nineteenth-century Paris, or the speakeasies of the jazz age, but in this kaleidoscope of pixels, I could pretend to.

    The person I invented online—or, more accurately, the person I grew into online—wasn’t just an alternate version of myself: an outright falsehood. She was a genuine extension of the best of myself—I am better, after all, writing words with care than saying them out loud extemporaneously. She was the person I most wanted to be. My online persona was the best of me.

    St. Ignatius of Loyola famously exhorted those struggling with belief to “perform the acts of faith and the faith will come.” For me, my online life was the means by which I, unsure of who I was but sure of who I wanted to be, first flexed the muscles of my being. I performed, not to transform, but to become.

    In writing Social Creature, I didn’t just want to write an outright condemnation of online culture, or of social media, or of the desire to create oneself, to live, as Lavinia says, with MORE POETRY!!! I wanted to capture both the longing—genuine, transformative, and spiritually necessary—to live “poetically”, and how that longing can play out, in a beautiful way, on social media. I wanted, too, to capture the dark side of this: what it means for two women without a strong sense of internal self to try to define themselves through externalities: through clothing, through Instagram likes, through party attendance, and—most importantly—through one another.

    Writing it required me to take a difficult look at myself and the persona I presented to the world, online and off. At the best of times, I am inherently performative—I like telling stories; I like making people laugh: I like having stories to tell. But telling the story of Louise and Lavinia in Social Creature challenged me to ask questions about myself—how reliant am I on the attention, or the adulation, of others? Who would I be if I were not only not extremely online but not online at all?

    The relationship between Lavinia and Louise—by turns romantic and obsessive, but invariably toxic—is the story of two women. But it’s also the story of what it means to learn to be yourself. It’s a lesson I, personally, have not fully learned. But it’s my hope that, through Social Creature, I have—at least—convincingly faked it.

    The post <i>Social Creature</i> Author Tara Isabella Burton on the Person She Invented Online appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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