Each Friday we’ll be bringing you news about your favorite authors, literature and books in general. Tell us what you think in the comments:

Your E-Book Is Reading You

The Wall Street Journal takes an in-depth look at e-books and moves beyond the simple question of whether they will replace physical books (trust us – they won’t). Instead, they’re looking at what e-books tell publishers that simply isn’t possible with physical copies and what that means for the industry: 

Barnes & Noble has determined, through analyzing Nook data, that nonfiction books tend to be read in fits and starts, while novels are generally read straight through, and that nonfiction books, particularly long ones, tend to get dropped earlier. Science-fiction, romance and crime-fiction fans often read more books more quickly than readers of literary fiction do, and finish most of the books they start. Readers of literary fiction quit books more often and tend skip around between books.

10 of the Best Books Set In The Midwest

2009 Anisfield-Wolf winner Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine was named one of the top books in this oft-overlooked category of books. 

A Summer Reading List for College Freshmen

Our friends over at Bookriot compiled a list of book categories that each incoming college freshmen should read before stepping on campus in the fall. The goal? To be more well-rounded and well-read and therefore more easily able to excel in the classroom. Take a look at the list and let us know if you agree. What Anisfield-Wolf titles could fit the bill?

No, it’s not a “best books of all-time” list, but the list assembled by the Library of Congress, to celebrate the works that most define our nation’s history, is pretty close. There’s some stand-outs, like Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat. But the list particularly caught our eye because there are several Anisfield-Wolf winners on the list—and we’re thrilled. Check out who made the cut. Descriptions are pulled from the Library of Congress website: 

Langston Hughes, “The Weary Blues” (1925)

Langston Hughes was one of the greatest poets of the Harlem Renaissance, a literary and intellectual flowering that fostered a new black cultural identity in the 1920s and 1930s. His poem “The Weary Blues,” also the title of this poetry collection, won first prize in a contest held by Opportunity magazine. After the awards ceremony, the writer and photographer Carl Van Vechten approached Hughes about putting together a book of verse and got him a contract with his own publisher, Alfred A. Knopf. Van Vechten contributed an essay, “Introducing Langston Hughes,” to the volume. The book laid the foundation for Hughes’s literary career, and several poems remain popular with his admirers.

Zora Neale Hurston, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” (1937)

Although it was published in 1937, it was not until the 1970s that “Their Eyes Were Watching God” became regarded as a masterwork. It had initially been rejected by African American critics as facile and simplistic, in part because its characters spoke in dialect. Alice Walker’s 1975 Ms. magazine essay, “Looking for Zora,” led to a critical reevaluation of the book, which is now considered to have paved the way for younger black writers such as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison.

Gwendolyn Brooks, “A Street in Bronzeville” (1945)

“A Street in Bronzeville” was Brooks’s first book of poetry. It details, in stark terms, the oppression of blacks in a Chicago neighborhood. Critics hailed the book, and in 1950 Brooks became the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She was also appointed as U.S. Poet Laureate by the Librarian of Congress in 1985.

Ralph Ellison, “Invisible Man” (1952)

Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” is told by an unnamed narrator who views himself as someone many in society do not see, much less pay attention to. Ellison addresses what it means to be an African-American in a world hostile to the rights of a minority, on the cusp of the emerging civil rights movement that was to change society irrevocably.

Malcolm X and Alex Haley, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” (1965)

When “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” (born Malcolm Little) was published, The New York Times called it a “brilliant, painful, important book,” and it has become a classic American autobiography. Written in collaboration with Alex Haley (author of “Roots”), the book expressed for many African-Americans what the mainstream civil rights movement did not: their anger and frustration with the intractability of racial injustice.

Toni Morrison, “Beloved” (1987)

Toni Morrison won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her post-Civil War novel based on the true story of an escaped slave and the tragic consequences when a posse comes to reclaim her. The author won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993, and in 2006 The New York Times named “Beloved” “the best work of American fiction of the past 25 years.”

Check out the full list here. 

There’s nothing like seeing young people get excited about history, something that is typically pretty hard to do. “Warmth of Other Suns” author Isabel Wilkerson found this gem and shared it with all her fans, writing: 

Delighted that WARMTH is inspiring young people! A middle school in Milwaukee performed a play based on The Warmth of Other Suns, with lots of heart and just enough production values for someone in the audience to get it on YouTube. Just beautiful!

It’s almost hard to believe 1997 Anisfield-Wolf winner James McBride when he talks about his failures. His 2002 novel, Miracle at St. Anna, was turned into a movie Spike Lee a few years later and his debut, The Color of Water, was on the New York Times bestseller’s list for two years. But in this deeply personal and highly observant video, McBride shows us the true honesty that keeps readers coming back again and again.

2004 winner Edward P. Jones is a skilled writer. That seems to be understood quite well by all who have had the pleasure of reading one of his stories. We here at Anisfield-Wolf have said of his 2004 novel, The Known World, “Impossible to rush through, The Known World is a complex, beautifully written novel with a large cast of characters, rewarding the patient reader with unexpected connections, some reaching into the present day.” 

We’d say that’s some pretty good praise. In this interview with the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society, Jones is asked how he feels about being dubbed the “Tiger Woods of American Literature” and his own writing process. Enjoy. 

Have you read The Known World? What did you think? 

Book clubs have tended to be a very private thing. Intimate gatherings among friends, book clubs were a simple time to reflect and discuss whatever work happened to have your group’s attention at the moment. With Oprah’s new book club, the experience has been magnified. Featuring webisodes with the authors and an ongoing Twitter conversation, Oprah hopes to take her book club (dubbed Oprah’s Book Club 2.0) to the next level. Check out the first webisode with Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild. 

Do you like this type of book club? Will you be participating? 

We tend to have a lot of historians on our winners list. They’re the people who can take what we’ve learned in history class and add life to it, making it relevant to our future. 2004 winner Ira Berlin is tops among those who can make you care and make you think. In this series of videos from PBS, Berlin discusses the state of American on the eve of the Civil War. Perfect for history buffs and lovers of American culture alike.

2005 winner Geoffrey C. Ward‘s latest book covers familiar ground—history—but also gives readers insight into his family history. The book is titled, A Disposition to be Rich: How a Small-Town Pastor’s Son Ruined an American President, Brought on a Wall Street Crash, and Made Himself the Best-Hated Man in the United States (quite a mouthful!). The focus of the story is on the life of Ferdinand Ward, Geoffrey’s great-grandfather—the Bernie Madoff of the late 19th century. 

The New York Times writes

Geoffrey Ward cuts his great-grandfather no slack. He describes a whiny, bullying, self-pitying narcissist who, once caught, didn’t even try to justify his behavior. The best things to be said about Ferd Ward are that he was reckless and ruthless enough to be worth reading about. And that when he tried to kidnap Clarence Ward, Geoffrey’s grandfather, he at least had some kind of reason. Clarence’s mother, Ella, had died; Ferd wanted access to her estate even if he had to steal his terrified boy in the process. Yet, somehow, “A Disposition to Be Rich” is written without malice.

Impressive.

Tell us – will you check out Ward’s latest work? Do you think you could have written a book that airs out the family’s dirty laundry? 

2012 nonfiction winner David Livingstone Smith, author of Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others, will be a on a panel at the G20 Summit in Mexico. He’s featured on a panel about provoking understanding, dealing with transforming communities and exploring new paradigms. In the video above, he explains why humans lie, and why it’s a part of human nature. He tells the audience, “The picture we have now is lying is pervasive…because it’s natural. It comes naturally to us. It’s not something our parents have to teach us.”

Anisfield-Wolf jury member Joyce Carol Oates explains how writers can get in touch with the core of their characters, using examples from her book, The Gravedigger’s Daughter. “If you allow your people to talk, they will express themselves in a way that the writer might not have thought of,” she says. “I give my students an assignment to create people talking to each other and my students say, “I don’t know these people.” I tell them, you have to listen.”

Check out the video below and let us know which characters from literature you most deeply resonated with. 

Our “New On The Bookshelf” series highlights new works from past Anisfield-Wolf authors. 

It’s a question many of us don’t like to think about that often: What happens when we die? But 2006 nonfiction winner Jill Lepore’s new book takes it a step further, analyzing our role in creating life—and death. In her new book, The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death, Lepore takes what could be an austere topic and infuses it with lots of surprises along the way. Lepore’s book couldn’t be more timely, particularly in today’s political climate, where debates over health care, birth control and abortion often take center stage.

In an interview with Newsday, Lepore discusses why this type of book is important:

There’s been a massive change in our orientation from looking for answers in the past to looking for answers in the future. We subscribe to this scientific, linear narrative of progress: Whatever is difficult about growing older, or dying, or raising children, will be solved at some future point. We subscribe to this notion so wholly that we forget this way of thinking is new. I try to pull back and show what’s lost when we don’t look backward; I think there is wisdom to be found in the study of how people long before us wrestled with these questions.

Read the rest of the interview here.

In the video above, Jill Lepore tackles the meaning of life (a modest topic, she says dryly) in a recent talk at Harvard. “Most questions about life and death have no answers, including notably these three: How does life begin? What does it mean? What happens when we die? No one has ever answered these questions and no one ever will. But everyone tries. Trying is the human condition. And history is the chronicle of the asking.”

2010 Lifetime Achievement winner Oprah Winfrey (do we even need to say her last name?) had big news to share – she’s ready to bring back her insanely popular book club, ready to tackle an all new landscape. Check out the video above and get the details on what Oprah has up her sleeve.

She’s planning to include reader’s tweets (using the hashtag #OprahsBookClub), Facebook posts and Instagram photos in a social media wrap-up on Oprah.com. The first selection is Wild by Cheryl Strayed, the story of one woman’s trek along the Pacific Coast—on foot. Check out Oprah’s Twitter feed to learn more.

Some of our very own Anisfield-Wolf winners will be in attendance at the 2012 Book Expo at the Javits Center in New York City, June 5-7. The Book Expo is one of the largest events in the literary field, with authors, librarians, editors, and other industry professionals in attendance each year. Among the authors will be 2008 winner Junot Diaz and 2006 winner Zadie SmithClick here for ticket information.

Junot Díaz

Junot Diaz

Tuesday, June 5
Adult Book & Author Breakfast
8:00 am – 9:30 am
Special Events Hall

 

Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith 

Thursday, June 7
Adult Book & Author Breakfast
8:00 am – 9:30 am
Special Events Hall