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  • Brian Boone 4:00 pm on 2018/06/26 Permalink
    Tags: alan zweibel, born a crime, chrisopher buckley, coyote v. acme, dan gets a minivan, dan zevin, ha!, ian frazier, need a laugh?, no way to treat a first lady, the other shulman, thurber prize, , trevor noah   

    5 Hilarious Thurber Prize-Winning Reads 

    Since 1997, the Thurber House has awarded the Thurber Prize for American Humor. Broadly speaking, it’s an obscure literary award, but to writers of humor, comedy, and satire, it’s a tremendous honor. (It also carries a prize of $5,000.) That might be because it’s handed out by the estate of James Thurber, one of the finest and most prolific of American writers who wrote with being funny in mind. (His works include My World and Welcome to ItThe Wonderful Oand The Thurber Carnivalwhich includes his most famous short piece, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”) Unlike other literary awards, the Thurber Prize considers and recognizes works of both fiction and nonfiction alike. They’ve also got a pretty good track record when it comes to racial, cultural, and gender diversity. Here are some past, notable winners of the Thurber Prize. 

    1997: Coyote V. Acmeby Ian Frazier
    1997: In the first ever Thurber Prize vote, Ian Frazier’s essay collection somehow beat out two more well-known, classic humor essay compilations: Al Franken’s bestselling Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations and David Sedaris’s iconic Naked(Sedaris would win in 2001 for Me Talk Pretty One Day) Frazier would win again in 2009 for Lamentations of the FatherCoyote V. Acme gets its name from a popular piece Frazier wrote for The New Yorker, detailing Wile E. Coyote’s legal and complaint correspondence with the Acme Corporation, manufacturer of the many faulty products he unsuccessfully used to catch the Roadrunner in all those old cartoons. Other Frazier essays on pop cultural ephemera—a format now beloved by humor sites across the internet—include Don Johnson and “Ode to Billie Joe.”  

    2004: No Way to Treat a First Ladyby Christopher Buckley
    History, sex, and politics converge in this wry and lascivious satire that in the wake of today’s political climate feels like it’s about 1,000 years old. But cynicism is eternal and universal, especially when it’s delivered by Christopher Buckley, the author of Thank You for Smoking, and the son of National Review founder William F. Buckley. After the First Lady of the United States catches her husband, the president, having an affair with a Hollywood starlet. She throws an American historical relic at his head, which kills him, and the plot concerns the trial and its resultant media circus. 

    2006: The Other Shulmanby Alan Zweibel
    Shulman, a middle-aged guy with a lifelong weight problem always joked that he’s lost and re-gained the same 35 pounds since he was a teenager…which added up forms a complete separate person, a.k.a. Another Shulman. That’s his fictional alter ego, until he meets his real alter ego, a guy named Shulman who made all the good choices when our Shulman had made all the bad ones. In this inspirational, relatable tale of personal triumph and self-acceptance, scores are settled in the New York City marathon in this book written by a guy who knows comedy. Zweibel was on the initial writing staff of Saturday Night Live, and in the ‘80s, he co-created the innovative, fourth-wall busting sitcom It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. 

    2013: Dan Gets a Minivanby Dan Zevin
    Plenty of books and amusing essays in highbrow magazines have been written by aging dudes trying to come to terms with how they’re grown, responsible adults and not feckless young idiots anymore. But Zevin’s largely autobiographical take is probably the best one. With his life hurtling at high speeds into the titular adult-life metaphor of the title, Zevin (a Boston public radio host) details his journey from boy to man, and from romantic partner to family man, with stops at Costco, Disneyland, and the knee surgery clinic along the way. 

    2017Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
    Noah had his work cut out for him when he was plucked from the world of stand-up comedy and a brief tenure as a correspondent on The Daily Show to host the popular fake news show when Jon Stewart stepped down in 2015. He’s proven a worthy and funny choice, and he even matched his predecessor’s feat of winning a Thurber Award—Stewart and the TDS writing staff won in 2005 for America (The Book). Noah’s book isn’t a rehash of that book, though. Far from The Daily Show in book format, Noah wrote a harrowing and yet deeply funny memoir about his long, difficult, and at times, seemingly impossible road to success. Noah had to develop a sense of humor as a kid just to deal with living under apartheid laws in South Africa. The title refers to Noah’s very existence—his father is European, and his mother African, and interracial marriage was against the law in South Africa. Born a Crime is really a book about the power of humor and comedy to elevate and transform…which makes it a very worthy Thurber Prize winner. 

    What Thurber prize-winning books have you enjoyed?

    The post 5 Hilarious Thurber Prize-Winning Reads appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Brian Boone 3:00 pm on 2018/03/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , daniel devoe, David Almond, Gertrude Chandler Warner, ha!, , , robinson crusoe, skellig, the boxcar children, , with a laugh track   

    5 Classic Books Hollywood Should Adapt Into Corny Sitcoms 

    Not every TV show was dreamed up by some people on their laptops in Hollywood. Many of today’s most popular shows have literary origins. Game of Thrones is based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, for example, and Westworld is a thorough and thoughtful expansion of a kind of pulpy early ‘70s adventure novel by Michael Crichton.

    But those are high-budget, prestige cable dramas with relatively small audiences. What really brings in the viewers are broad, laugh-track-sweetened sitcoms, like The Big Bang Theory and Mom. Those aren’t based on books, but that doesn’t mean an ’80s-style sitcom couldn’t have a high fallutin’ inspiration. (There’s a show on right now called Superior Donuts that’s based on a play by Pulitzer Prize-winner Tracy Letts, after all.) There are plenty of novels out there that would make fantastic, cheesy, classic-style sitcoms. After all, they’re already episodic in nature and explore the kinds of problems that sitcom characters easily solved in 22 minutes, week after week after week. Here are some books we’d love to see taped before a live studio audience.

    The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Chandler Warner
    There hasn’t been a good orphan show in a long time, not at least since the heady days of the early ‘90s with Webster, Diff’rent Strokes, and Punky Brewster. Plots often revolved around somebody trying to separate the adoptive parents from their kid for some reason, and the plucky orphan or orphans strive to keep everybody together. That’s pretty much the plot of The Boxcar Children, Gertrude Chandler Warner’s heartwarming tale—clearly from another time—about a group of abandoned kids who become a tight-knit family unit when they take refuge in an abandoned boxcar. Yep, it’s a children’s book about homeless children (one of whom is a baby) living in a dangerous situation. Each episode of The Boxcar Children could be about the Boxcar Children (which is what they call themselves) trying to thwart some bumbling fool from Child Services.

    Skellig, by David Almond
    There have been so many high-concept sitcoms about normal people trying to keep some extraordinary creature hidden from the neighbors or the authorities—an alien on ALF, an alien on American Dad, a robot on Small Wonder, a genie on I Dream of Jeannie, and so on. Just sub in “wise and mystical human/owl/angel creature” for alien, robot, or genie and you’ve got Skellig!, the hilarious tale of a little boy who keeps his garage friend a secret.

    The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    The beloved French children’s book about a sweet and sensitive little boy who lives on a lonely planet all by himself is very reminiscent of How I Met Your Mother. For example, they share a similar framing device—the main character (Ted, the Little Prince) tells of his adventures to a downed pilot, and his children, respectively. Those adventures also often involve relationships gone wrong, such as Ted’s many ill-fated romances, and the Little Prince’s thing with the self-absorbed rose in a jar, and the self-absorbed geographer. All a TV producer would have to do is make the stories funny instead of overwhelmingly melancholic.

    High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby
    Think Cheers, but instead of barflies in a bar, it involves a different public place catering to a different compulsion: obsessive record collectors trying to buy records. Except that gloomy store owner Rob, aggressive employee Barry, and milquetoast Dick hilariously criticize the bad taste of anybody who comes in to buy a record. Sure, there are some colorful regulars, but most of the action revolves around Rob, Barry, and Dick ruminating on women, just like in Hornby’s novel. Also, it takes place someplace “cool,” like Portland or Austin, so bands are always dropping by to play a song or two.

    Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
    The famous Gilligan’s Island theme song namechecks Robinson Crusoe, one of the first major novels in the English language—so let’s go back to where it all started and just have a Robinson Crusoe sitcom. He’s a boorish, arrogant jerk, like many sitcom characters, and he’s just desperate to get off that island, by any means necessary. But he’s kind of dumb and his schemes never work, much to the chagrin of his over-it manservant, Friday. It’s Gilligan’s Island meets Jeeves and Wooster!

    What novel would you love to see as a sitcom?

    The post 5 Classic Books Hollywood Should Adapt Into Corny Sitcoms appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Brian Boone 5:00 pm on 2018/01/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , ha!, , , , , , ,   

    6 Classic Books That Almost Had Completely Different Titles 

    Have you ever written a book? It’s very, very hard. Writers have to come up with thousands of perfect words and arrange them just so to create a thrilling and original narrative that also expresses their worldview via memorable and compelling characters. Doing all that requires a set of long-form expression skills, which is quite the opposite of coming up with a title—or encapsulating the entire novel into a handful of well-chosen words. A lot of writers can’t make a book and then also come up with a great title—the latter could and maybe should be up to editors and the marketing department. Here are some beloved classic novels whose authors nearly cursed with a terrible title. 

    Where the Wild Horses Are, by Maurice Sendak
    Where the Wild Things Are is a universally beloved childhood favorite. That’s probably because it’s a lot of fun, but also a little bit scary, and Maurice Sendak never coddles or placates the reader. The friendly monsters called “Wild Things” are so well and mysteriously named that its perplexing that Sendak only called the book what he did to solve a problem. He’d initially planned to write Where the Wild Horses Are. Except that when he sat down to illustrate, he had a really hard time drawing horses. Horses became “Things” and the book’s name changed, too.  

    Tomorrow is Another Day, by Margaret Mitchell
    Let’s get real: Gone with the Wind is a powerful, epic tale of war, love, self-respect, proto-feminism, and believing in onself…but it’s also a bit of a soap opera. As such, Margaret Mitchell nearly stuck her Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War novel with a number of soapy titles, such as Tote the Weary Load, Bugles Sang True, and Not in Our Stars. Still, the book almost went to print under the name Tomorrow is Another Day…even though that’s a total spoiler for the book’s moving final line. Ultimately Mitchell found the best title from “Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae,” a poem by 19th century French poet Ernest Dowson. 

    Something That Happened, by John Steinbeck
    John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is history’s second-best Great Depression novel, second only to Steinbeck’s The Grapes of WrathAs such, it’s a sad tale about desperate men doing desperate things, and Steinbeck reportedly wanted to make sure that the novel didn’t judge the characters one way or the other for the book’s violent conclusion. He tried to express that by going full objective journalism for the title, which is so nonjudgmental that it’s kind of hilarious. He changed his mind when he found some words that said the same thing, that humans are victims of fate, only more poetically. They were in a poem, in fact: Robert Burns’ “Of Mice and Men.” 

    The Last Man in Europe, by George Orwell
    Up until a few months before publication, Orwell was going to call, his novel about a future dystopian totalitarian state in which Big Brother was always watching The Last Man in Europe. At virtually the last minute, Orwell’s publishers asked him to come up something more commercial than what sounds like a book about the last human alive after a zombie apocalypse. His solution: the blunt, ominous far-off futuristic year in which the scary book took place: 1984.  

    Trimalchio in West Egg, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    F. Scott Fitzgerald suggested many high-fallutin’ titles for what ultimately became The Great Gatsby, his book about the rise and fall of the personification of the American Dream in the Jazz Age. Under the Red, White, and Blue was a little too on the nose, as was Gold-Hatted Gatsby. The High-Bounding Lover was just a little-too-1920s. Fitzgerald also really wanted to call his book Trimalchio in West Egg. The latter part reflects the book’s setting; the first part is a literary reference to Trimalchio, a character who enjoys life in obscene excess in the 1st century Roman book The Satyricon. 

    Panasonic, by Don DeLillo
    DeLillo’s meditation on modern life and its many pollutants was titled Panasonic reportedly up to the last round of galleys. But then the Matsushita Corporation, which controlled the trademark of the well-known consumer electronics company, wouldn’t grant permission. So White Noise it was.

    What working titles of classic books are you glad were ultimately revised?

    The post 6 Classic Books That Almost Had Completely Different Titles appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 7:30 pm on 2017/12/12 Permalink
    Tags: ha!, , what it says on the tin   

    How to Judge a Book by Its Cover 

    You’re not supposed to do it, but judging a book by its cover is a skill we all employ from time to time; whether we’re standing in a busy Barnes & Noble or squinting at a screen full of thumbnails, a book’s cover is often all you have time to peruse. Sure, in a perfect world you’d linger over every book, smelling the paper and reading copious swaths of the text in order to figure out if it was written just for you. But in reality, we often don’t have the time.  Therefore, being able to parse a cover to deduce the kind of book you’re dealing with—and judge whether it’s what you need in your life—is a vital skill.

    Here are our helpful guidelines for judging books by their covers.

    Cover Design Element: All Text—whether it’s just the title and author’s name or a few sentences of type, the cover is 95percent words.

    What It Means: Whatever the genre, the publisher considers this book to be a prestigious work. This cover design can cross genres—it’s sometimes used in non-fiction, often in literary fiction, and can even be found now and then in other genres. No matter what the subject matter of the book, a cover of all-text means you’re supposed to be prepared for some life-changing stuff.

    Example: I Can’t Breathe, by Matt Taibbi; Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison.

    Cover Design Element: Silhouette of Man with Gun—there might be other elements on the cover, but the primary focus is a faceless man holding a gun.

    What It Means: It’s a thriller, it’s action packed, and the characters may not be the most unique or interesting because their main function will be to kick a lot of butt while saving the world. Something about the “silhouette man with gun” just screams determination and heroism to graphic designers for some reason.

    Example: Manhunt, by James Patterson and James O. Born.

    Cover Design Element: Man in Hooded Cloak with Staff—standing either in the midst of an ancient forest, a huge hall in a castle, or possible floating in the air.

    What It Means: This is an epic fantasy, and there is an ancient wizard involved. This is a little different from the next item on this list, in that the focus on the wizard instead of a warrior means this is probably more of an old-school fantasy with a focus on ancient magic and lore rather than a grimdark focus on “gritty” fantasy realism.

    Example: Wishsong of Shannara, by Terry Brooks.

    Cover Design Element: Swords—pile of Corpses Optional.

    What It Means: This isn’t your grandfather’s fantasy; this is a brutal slaughter-fest in which the forces of darkness are really dark. There might be magic and elves, but there will also be blood, buckets of it, as well as lingering descriptions of realistic details of war. You can practically hear the Black Metal soundtrack this book rocks to.

    Example: Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence.

    Cover Design Element: Lady in a Dress.

    What It Means: Depends a bit on the dress, and if the lady is alone. If there’s a buff-looking gentleman with her, it’s probably considered a romance. If it’s an old-fashioned dress that nevertheless anachronistically shows a lot of cleavage, it’s also probably a romance. On the other hand, if the lady is facing away from the camera and is dressed in a very demure manner or is wearing a simple white cult-like dress, it’s probably a work of straight ahead fiction with a female-centric vibe and a soapy thriller or mystery aspect. Or possibly a romance.

    Example: The Duchess, by Daneille Steel.

    Cover Design Element: Shirtless Dude.

    What It Means: Romance. A steamy slab of beefcake-lovin’ romance. There’s a 10 percent chance it’s an urban fantasy about werewolves; see color codes below.

    Example: Heart Sight, by Robin Owens.

    Cover Design Element: Vintage Photo.

    What It Means: Likely a memoir or biography of someone who lived long ago. 10 percent  chance it’s a work of historical fiction. If it’s a photo of a child, the story will be heartbreakingly sad. If it’s a celebrity, they’re more than likely dead.

    Example: Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt.

    Cover Design Element: Photo of a Child, with a Childlike Font.

    What It Means: This book was written from the get-go to be the saddest damn thing ever. The kid on the cover has a 50 percent chance of dying at the climax.

    Example: Literally anything by Cathy Glass.

    Cover Design Element: Spaceships, Monsters, Aliens, People with Glowing Stuff Around Them.

    What It Means: We don’t need to explain sci-fi and fantasy to you, do we? Here’s your quick-reference decoder ring:

    SPACESHIP—Probably military sci-fi. ASTRONOMY IMAGE—Hard sci-fi. ALIEN CREATURE—Big-idea sci-fi. WOMAN IN LEATHER PANTS WITH SWORD—Urban fantasy.

    Example: Leviathan Wakes, by James S.A. Corey, Dante Valentine Series, by Lili Saintcrow, or Artemis, by Andy Weir.

    Cover Design Element: Color Coding.

    What It Means: If you’re really in a rush, you can often tell what kind of book you’re dealing with simply by the overall color palette of the cover (there are always exceptions; these rules are more like guidelines). Here’s your decoder ring: BLACK/RED—Urban fantasy. BLUE/ORANGE—Mainstream fiction. YELLOW—Historical fiction. PINK/PURPLE—Women-oriented fiction. BLACK/WHITE: Serious literchure. BLACK/WHITE/RED—Serious sci-fi, fantasy, or horror.

    Examples: A Conjuring of Light, by V.E. Schwab, All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, A Column of Fire, by Ken Follett, , by , and A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara.

    These aren’t hard and fast rules If you grab a blue book from the shelf and it turns out to be a space opera, well, don’t say we didn’t warn you. But if you’re in too much of a hurry to read back cover copy, you’ll do pretty well judging books by these cover guidelines.

    The post How to Judge a Book by Its Cover appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 4:00 pm on 2017/10/26 Permalink
    Tags: beauty and the beast, ha!, , , , spooky costumes   

    Your Bookish Halloween Survival Guide 

    Gather ‘round the Cauldron, because Halloween is almost here! From costume inspiration and hosting tips to party-appropriate chit-chat, we’ve got your bookish Hocus Pocus survival guide right here.

    1. Playing Dress Up on a Dime

    The most intimidating thing about Halloween is by far the costumes. Some people go ALL OUT! But when inspiration fails, you can always turn to books (and your own closet) for the perfect part to play. Got black pants and a black polo shirt? Braid your hair to the side and buy a cheap Mockingbird pin…voila, you’re Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games! (Bonus: this same costume works for Tris from Divergent—just add some combat boots and a temporary tattoo!)

    Pair a long black coat, a bright colored scarf, some white gloves, and an umbrella for an easy turn as Mary Poppins! (Bonus points if you bring her magic overnight bag filled with goodies for the party, see below for suggestions.) Another classic book character just needs a white button down, black skirt, black flats and some knee high socks—tease your hair and top with a pink bow to dazzle the crowd as Eloise!

    Let’s not forget the guys, who, let’s face it, always have it easier. Got a nice black suit you never wear? The costume options are endless: splash some fake blood on your face for a look from American Psycho; buy some black-rimmed glasses for Clark Kent and hide a superman T shirt underneath; buy a deerstalker hat online and you’re Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes.

    1. Cast Spells…I Mean, Play Party Games

    Every party needs some quality games! Using books as inspiration, write down the names of famous book characters on index cards. (You can even keep it Halloween themed and stick to magical ones.) Then, have someone select a card and place it on their forehead facing out, so they can’t see who they are. Then, it’s a classic game of twenty questions to find out whether they are Severus Snape, Frankenstein, Jamie Fraser, or Wonder Woman! (You can also play this game as charades, because who doesn’t want to see their friend’s best Edgar Allen Poe impression?)

    Murder mystery parties are always popular, and there are kits online you can buy to get started! And last but certainly not least, once you have a few literary-themed libations inside you, telling ghost stories will be equally horrifying and hilarious.

    1. Let Them Eat Cake (or Chocolate Frogs)

    It’s impossible to survive Halloween without snacks. As they always say, you can’t go wrong with Harry Potter-inspired snacks: some chocolate frogs, golden snitch cake pops, and butterbeer ice cream will do the trick! Throw a tea party by way of Alice in Wonderland, with tea sandwiches and cookies decorated like playing cards, or go full Regency Jane Eyre style with seed cake, trifle, white soup, and poached salmon. Finally, you could always serve wedding cake with the Game of Thrones wines, but be careful there are no Lannister loyalists present.

    1. Be Our Guest (and always bring a gift)

    If you’re not hosting the party, but attending instead, it’s always polite to bring a gift. If the party is bookish-themed, why not bring your favorite tome? For witchy parties, Practical Magic is perfect. For horror bashes, some vintage Goosebumps books would be fun! If Disney is the theme of the day, the Beauty and the Beast DVD is a great choice.

    1. Staying In Can Still Be Spooky

    If Halloween parties aren’t your thing, but you still want to celebrate, go all out! Buy some classic horror movies like Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, and Hocus Pocus and go to town (and still get to bed before the moon is full.)

    Happy Halloween, bookworms!

    The post Your Bookish Halloween Survival Guide appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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