18 Best Poetry Books to Read Right Now

poetry

I‘ve always been envious of poets. For me, poetry is acknowledgment of the primacy of the word as the building block for writing. While those who write in other genres may point to the sentence or even the paragraph as the focus for good writing, poets strip language down to bare words, and then place them together to create rhythm in the ear of the reader. This autumn, a number of outstanding poets are releasing new collections. Here we offer some notes for deciding which poets and poetry books to read as the lengthening nights and cooler temperatures summon the insistent desire to curl up and read.

The cover of the book Blue Laws

Blue Laws

Kevin Young

I first read Kevin Young in the first months after my father died. Young’s collection Book of Hours are poems that mourn the death of his father and celebrate the birth of his son. That juxtaposition of grief and joy spoke to my own sense of loss, and since then, Young’s poetry has been among my favorites.

In Blue Laws, Young has collected poems that span the twenty years between 1995 and 2015. To see this assemblage of work all together is to be astounded by Young’s range. He writes about love and loss on the personal level, but he also has given readers reflections on the blues; on the case of the slave ship, Amistad; and songs for the confederate dead. His Renaissance-man approach to poetry is on full display here.

There are no more saints—
only people with pain
who want someone to blame.
Or praise.
I am one of them, of course.

The cover of the book The Unaccompanied

The Unaccompanied

Simon Armitage

In this latest collection, Simon Armitage turns his attention to the minutia that defines Britishness. Whether it’s rambling around Coniston Water, looking back with nostalgia at the now useless Imperial measurements, or noticing the lone nurse at the busstop on her way to her night shift, The Unaccompanied reads like an old-fashioned curio cabinet.

It would be a mistake, however, to think that this is a mournful book. Flashes of humor and anger surprise the reader, as do the items that fill the writer’s cabinet’s shelves. Britishness is not defined by one’s race or ethnic heritage, but rather by the shared recognition of what is now and what has been. In one of the most powerful poems, Armitage changes how readers may think of single wooden chairs, seeing them as the site where one’s aloneness and difference from others is enacted in too many plain-walled rooms.

Songs about mills and mines and a great war,
about mermaid brides and solid gold hills,
songs from broken hymnbooks and cheesy films.

The cover of the book bone

bone

Yrsa Daley-Ward; Foreword by Kiese Laymon

Yrsa Daley-Ward’s spare writing turns one-sentence poems into razors under a reader’s skin, or provoke a smile or joy. But that economy of words in luminous one-line poems such as “intro” or “revelation” are contrasted with multi-stanza poems such as “some kind of man” in which the history of a relationship, a life, a community are told in the poet’s at once straightforward but subtle voice.

You told me I seemed haunted.
It was 3:00 a.m. and you could still smell
the storm clouds under my skin.

The cover of the book Love in the Last Days

Love in the Last Days

D. Nurkse

How does the warrior take down his armor so that he may make himself vulnerable to love’s wounds? This ambitious work is a retelling of the story of Tristan and Iseult, the lovers whose story is found in the stories of the Celts of Ireland, Brittany, and England. In D. Nurkse’s hands, the eternal story becomes something new: an erotic, sensual masterwork that will move readers.

The poems vary in form. Some read like the epics sung by the bards, others transform words into images that stare back at the reader, while some contain an entire world in four short lines, as he does with “The Grail,” written from the first-person perspective of the object sought for in vain throughout the Middle Ages.

This is powerful yet tender reading.

She whispered my name, but backwards,
since we were not made for each other,
but to be the other’s obstacle,
cherished and loathed like the self.

The cover of the book Poet in Spain

Poet in Spain

Federico García Lorca

It has become impossible to utter the poet Federico García Lorca’s name without remembering his awful fate at the hands of one of Francisco Franco’s fascist Falange gangs: assassinated in 1936 as Spain went to war with itself to try to stop fascism. Many of the poems reference death, and the possibility that he foresaw his fate has long haunted Lorca’s readers. It has never been clear whether Lorca was killed because he was gay or because he was a leftist; in the end, it hardly seems to matter.

But if to read Lorca is at once to be reminded of the power of art, it is also to be reminded of the tremendous talent that Lorca possessed. His love sonnets carry desire in the shape of bodies. To love is a physical act, and Lorca pulls all the senses into his work. His poems about death hint at a future of a forgotten corpse, buried in the dark of night by assassins ashamed of their deeds.

Dawn entangled us in bed
mouths pressing on the icy flow
of endlessly spilling blood

The cover of the book The Rain in Portugal

The Rain in Portugal

Billy Collins

Billy Collins is one of the best-known poets in the United States; a former Poet Laureate, his work frequently appears on the best-seller lists. One of the reasons for his popularity might have something to do with the lighthearted approach he takes toward life. That’s not to say that he doesn’t also write about the long nights of the human soul, but his poems play with language in wry ways that make one smile.

In this latest collection, Collins uses his poetry as commentary on popular items in public consciousness. In addition to his mocking tribute to Keith Richards – renowned for his abilities to survive just about anything – he turns around and mocks himself for his inability to meditate and a student’s insistence on referring to “Mr. Shakespeare.” But Collins also writes of loss. His tribute to his mother, and the poem he read at Seamus Heaney’s memorial service offer comfort to those afflicted by the all-too-human condition of grief.

As long as Keith keeps talking about
the influence of the blues on the Rolling Stones,
the earth will continue to spin merrily
and revolve in a timely manner around the sun.
But if he changes the subject or even pauses
too long, it’s pretty much curtains for us all.

The cover of the book How Lovely the Ruins

How Lovely the Ruins

Spiegel & Grau

Elizabeth Alexander’s anthology is organized around multiple themes that address suffering, both individual and cultural. Here is a book by one of the most important poets writing today that is intended to work as a balm for hard times.

The poems within offer succor for pain brought from the range of human emotions. In a section entitled “The New Patriots,” poems and prose pieces confront deep fears that we are watching the dissolution of the country by offering new definitions of patriotism that are not dependent upon an unwillingness to acknowledge inequality. In “Against Tyranny,” hope is offered in a myriad of pieces that address the pain of knowing that a country is being wrongly governed. But on the individual level, poems are addressed to the grief of personal loss, or the passage of time that brings death nearer.

This collection will make a great reference for those looking for the right words in difficult situations, but will also serve as a repository of great words from some of our best writers.

Please take
this grain of a grain of hope
so that mine won’t shrink.
Please share your fragment
so that yours will grow. –Denise Levertov, “For the New Year, 1981”

The cover of the book Devotions

Devotions

Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver has been writing her poems of nature, praise, and love for decades. In Devotions, she assembles work that goes back to her first published collection in 1965. For those who are longtime fans, this is an encyclopedia of her best-known work, plus many others that should be better known. For the neophyte, it provides the ultimate introduction to a national treasure.

Oliver’s popularity stems from the resonance that her poems create in readers. Whether speaking of her love for her dogs or her praise songs to the various flora and fauna that surround her New England home, or her encouragement to strike off on a journey of one’s own, Oliver’s talent with the word is as bright as the morning star.

And still, pressed deep into my mind, the river
keeps coming, touching me, passing by on its
long journey, its pale, infallible voice
singing.

The cover of the book Voyage of the Sable Venus

Voyage of the Sable Venus

Robin Coste Lewis

This gorgeous work is presented in the form of a triptych: lyric poems and others about the construction of the self bookend the piece in the middle. It is the “Voyage of the Sable Venus.” It may remind readers of the visual art form comprising collages of found objects. In this case, the “found objects” are the “titles, catalog entries, or exhibit descriptions of Western art objects in which a black female figure is present, dating from 38,000 BCE to the present.”

Juxtaposed, these words create a suffocating sense of the black female body under constant scrutiny, and yet one that is also erased. Its placement among so many other odds and ends put together in the exhibits turns the figures into objects that patrons might see and then lose as minutia in the flood of material.

Voyage of the Sable Venus feels like an instant classic.

Negro Woman Holding
A Bow and Arrow and Wearing

A Quiver

Sits on the Movement
Of the Table Clock at Her Feet

The cover of the book The Surveyors

The Surveyors

Mary Jo Salter

The title of Mary Jo Salter’s collection is a clue to its content. Her poems feature a series of individuals – sometimes the author, sometimes others – who observe or fail to observe the cultural objects in their path. And while some of these things that are viewed sit in silence in museums, some of the surveying takes place in spaces as loud and dynamic as Madison Square Garden, where Salter scrutinizes Roger Federer.

Salter’s voice is poignant when discussing the loss of a companion who died in Iraq. But her appreciation of Roger Federer’s physical form is cheeky, and provokes a smile. Perhaps the strongest moment of recognition comes in the poem that aches with nostalgia over her daughter’s former size, when she was “pastry level” as she and her mother walked the streets of Paris.

Submission is the mark of all the saints,
too humble to protest how history paints
their acts in its canonical report.
As for the rest of us, who knows our sins?

The cover of the book With the River on our Face

With the River on our Face

Emmy Pérez

Emmy Perez sings the borderlands between America and Mexico, a contested land where identity and nationality are under constant surveillance. Her poetry forces the reader to feel the persons who live in those lands. In poems that follow the currents of the Rio Grande, she re-immerses readers in the waters where we all developed, fills our senses with the scent of blooming roses, of burning mesquite, and crashes us into the barriers erected to prevent the development of cross-border relationships. Reading Perez ignites the desire to experience the heat and the sere landscape, and generates anger at the destruction of all that flourishes there.

Language can be so sexy.
It turns me on, consonance.

The cover of the book Electric Arches

Electric Arches

Eve L. Ewing

It’s difficult to write about Eve Ewing’s work. The poetry leaves me wonderstruck. Whether she’s writing of riding a bicycle as a little girl, narrating stories in her head as she rides along, or whether she is writing an affirmation for prisoners, her language shifts and mutates, pulling the reader into various shapes that reflect one’s own emotions in response to the words.

Her ode to shea butter and oil, her memories of performances by Prince, her neighborhood descriptions – Ewing’s poetry encompasses the quotidian and the sublime. And the poems themselves change shape from page to page, their bodies of text containing surprises and puzzles.

Let me be clear:
there’s nothing wrong with feeling rapture in the broke
or the broken.

The cover of the book Ordinary Beast

Ordinary Beast

Nicole Sealey

Nicole Sealey writes her poems in conversation with other writers, or the work of scientists, or even, in the remarkable poem “cento for the night i said, “i love you,” as a work in which she knits together the words of other poets to create something new.

Her poems are existentialist affirmations of life against the abyss. In “imagine sisyphus happy,” she takes the last line of Albert Camus’s essay about suicide in order to continue the dialogue, reaching across time and space to imagine how we go on when the rock escapes us. In “clue,” she turns a board game into a comic jaunt.

Pray the gods do not misquote your covetous pulse for chaos,
the black from which they were conceived. Even the eyes of gods
must adjust to light. Even gods have gods.

The cover of the book Thousands

Thousands

Lightsey Darst

Organized as if they came directly from Lightsey Darst’s notebooks, this collection has an intimacy about it that speaks to the tenderness inside the reader. The poems range from reactions to pieces of art, to things the poet has read, and then, because art and life are not long separated, they become reportage from a love affair. Don’t be surprised if there’s a catch in your throat when you read.

Some things you save because you know better.
Some things you save because you love.

The cover of the book Why Poetry

Why Poetry

Matthew Zapruder

From the book, which argues that the way of teaching poetry in school prevents most people from feeling that they are capable of reading poetry, which is why so few books of poetry are found on the bestseller lists:

“Too much of us have been systematically taught to read poetry as if it is full of symbols that stand in for meanings not obviously present in the text itself. The reasons for the pervasiveness of this idea are complex. Regardless of why, so often I have seen even the simplest poem, full of single-syllable words any five-year-old knows, greeted with incomprehension. And I think one big reason is the way we have been taught to think about the genre of poetry: a place where objects are no longer what they are in the world, but symbolic.”

As a means of making poetry less intimidating, Matthew Zapruder offers chapters about the various ways of reading poetry, each designed to encourage readers to stop being intimidated by the art form.

The cover of the book Best American Poetry 2017

Best American Poetry 2017

David Lehman and Natasha Trethewey

In the introduction to this collection of poems drawn from poetry journals that were published in 2016, Natasha Trethewey writes of the power of poetry in her own life. She addresses too how as a mixed-race child growing up in a state where, prior to Loving Virginia, her parents’ marriage had been declared illegal. The poems here are reflective of Trethewey’s sensibility; she observes that “any anthology could serve as an autobiography of the mind of the anthologist.” And yet, her selections also speak to the themes that occupied us in 2016. This collection is perfect for those who are curious about what is happening in the field, and may be a gateway book to reading other collections.

We need the truth of poetry, and its beauty, more than ever.

The cover of the book Equipment for Living

Equipment for Living

Michael Robbins

The decision to award Bob Dylan the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature was met with a variety of responses, most of which turned on the question of whether songwriting comprised poetry, and thus, literature, or whether songwriting was itself its own literary genre. The answers to these questions were varied, but for those who are interested in exploring the connections between the two art forms, Michael Robbins provides a series of essays in which he demonstrates what makes both forms work. The “playlist” he provides as an appendix to the book is provocative, juxtaposing names that have never been mentioned in such proximity.

I was with a friend, and we had been talking earlier in the evening about our attraction to disparate accounts of the world as broken – Marxism, Christianity. I leaned across to her during the song and said, ‘The world is broken, but this is one of the things we do about it,’ … She said, ‘And would it mean as much if the world were whole?’”

The cover of the book Poetry Will Save Your Life

Poetry Will Save Your Life

Jill Bialosky

Jill Bialosky provides a wonderful list of human emotions and situations, and then provides analysis of poems that offer some kind of advice, commentary, or chance to process what one is feeling. It’s such a brilliant idea, one wonders why it hasn’t been done before. And while it seems like it’s a compendium of favorite poems, it’s actually a memoir that provides the context for the reading of the poem with a story from Bialosky’s life. The writing is mesmerizing, and this acknowledgment of the role that reading poetry has played in Bialosky’s life is as powerful a justification for poetry’s existence and testament to its power that I’ve read.

One of my favorites of the many sections I enjoyed is the one labeled, “Sexuality.” It begins:

My best friend and I carouse around our neighborhood in her father’s Cadillac, dubbed the “cruise mobile.” We are fifteen. My friend’s mother had a nervous breakdown when we were in elementary school and never fully recovered. My own mother is in a fragile state. We long to escape the constricting quiet and ennui in our homes.

Which brings to mind driving with my best friend at night, mostly in circuits around town, talking all the time about when we can leave our small hometown forever.

Bialosky’s tale continues, and she chooses to illustrate it with Sharon Olds’s “The Sisters of Sexual Treasure.” The poem and Bialosky’s commentary remind readers that the desire to escape can also drive the desire to explore another’s body, looking for new territory to keep us occupied until the day of departure finally comes.

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12 Audiobooks to Get You Through the Crazy Holiday Season

Shopping

The holidays are just around the corner, and while that can mean many things, for many of us it likely means a long road trip, or two. No matter the length, road trips (particularly in holiday traffic) can be an excruciating endeavor.

Snacks, a less-than-judicious amount of caffeine, comfy clothes, and a good audiobook can make all the difference. They can turn a miserable car ride into something not only tolerable, but enjoyable.

To help you manage pesky holiday excursions, we’ve curated a list of twelve of our favorite audiobooks. There are books here for the whole family to enjoy, as well as more grown-up fare.  Let’s have a look.

The cover of the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

J.K. Rowling, Read by Jim Dale

If you haven’t experienced Jim Dale’s truly delightful narration of the Harry Potter series, this is the perfect time to check it out. Dale is one of best audiobook readers in the business, and Harry Potter might just be his masterpiece. More importantly, J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world is perfect for the whole family.

The cover of the book Life

Life

Keith Richards, Read by Johnny Depp

What could possibly be better than Keith Richards’ insightful and candid memoir read by Johnny Depp? The answer, of course, is not much. Depp’s languid, playful, wry reading of Mr. Richards’ various hijinks is the perfect distraction for a long car ride. This one may not be for the kiddos, though.

The cover of the book Matilda

Matilda

Roald Dahl, Read by Kate Winslet

Matilda is one of Roald Dahl’s best-known and most charming creations. The spunky magic-tinged tale is a perfect example of Dahl’s wonderfully absurd prose style, and more importantly, it’s excellent for kids – and adults who are kids at heart. Kate Winslet’s narration is just icing on the cake.

The cover of the book The Martian

The Martian

Andy Weir, Read by R.C. Bray

If you want a read to make a car-ride fly by, Andy Weir’s best-selling thriller is just the ticket.  The instant-classic tale of a astronaut stranded on Mars following a botched expedition is exhilarating, tense, and darkly humorous. This one is guaranteed to make that trip seem mercilessly short, and beyond some PG-13 language, this another solid family read. Weir’s latest, a futuristic heist set on a colony on the Moon titled Artemis, is also well worth a listen.

The cover of the book The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman, Read by Neil Gaiman

There’s nothing quite like listening to a writer read their own work, and Neil Gaiman is among the best. This 2009 Newberry Award winner is as captivating for adults as it is for children, and features Gaiman’s trademark magic-tinged, subversively gothic style. The Graveyard Book centers on an orphan raised by ghosts in a cemetery following the murder of his parents.

The cover of the book Hogfather

Hogfather

Terry Pratchett, Read by Nigel Planer

What would the holidays be without a Christmas tale? If you’re in the market for something catering a bit more toward grown-ups, Terry Pratchett’s deliriously comical skewering of Father Christmas is just the ticket. In Pratchett’s Discworld, the Hogfather is a scary Santa Claus-like figure who delivers gifts on Hogswatchnight.

The cover of the book A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens, Read by Tim Curry

If you prefer something both classic and more kid-friendly, look no further than Tim Curry’s brilliant reading of Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol. A Christmas Carol is an obvious holiday staple, and Curry’s voice is a perfect match for Dickens’ linguistic flourishes.

The cover of the book Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies

Liane Moriarty, Read by Caroline Lee

Big Little Lies may begin as a light satire of suburban parenting, but things heat up quickly. Filled with compelling, well-drawn characters and sharp-tongued wit, Big Little Lies is the sort of book that might just make you wish that car ride was a tad longer.

The cover of the book The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride

William Goldman, Read by Rob Reiner

If you’ve only experienced the cinematic adaptation of The Princess Bride, do yourself a favor and pick up this audiobook. While the movie is a classic, the novel’s wry observations of Floran culture and self-aware, tongue-in-cheek really are a delight.

The cover of the book Uncommon Type

Uncommon Type

Tom Hanks, Read by Tom Hanks

You can add great writer and unsurprisingly great narrator to the list of things that make Tom Hanks generally awesome. This collection of short stories, all based – to a certain extent – on Hank’s well-known love of typewriters, run the gamut from poignant and heartwarming to downright hilarious. And Hanks’ amiable reading brings the whole thing to another level.

The cover of the book A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time

Madeleine L’Engle, Read by Hope Davis

A Wrinkle in Time is brilliantly drawn classic that has endured as a favorite for adults and children alike. It’s also incredibly thought-provoking and a sure conversation starter, particularly if you’re listening with children. With a highly anticipated adaptation on the way from Ava Duvernay, and starring the likes of Reese Witherspoon and Oprah, now’s a perfect time to give this one a look.

The cover of the book And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie, Read by Dan Stevens

If you’re anything like me, nothing beats a good mystery for a road trip.  When it comes to mysteries, Agatha Christie is in a class all her own. While any of her classics will get the job done, And Then There Were None is simply one of her bests and most complex.

Speaking of books that were made into movies…

The 12 Best Stephen King Adaptations, Ranked

King Films

Movie posters from Stephen King adaptations

Stephen King might likely be our most adapted living American author. His “writer” credit at IMDB is sitting at a staggering 242 credits. Given the renewed interest in all things Stephen King of late, driven in part by the runaway box office success of “It,” it’s a safe bet that more King-inspired projects are on the not-too-distant horizon. The bounty and overall quality of Stephen King adaptations that have made their way to screens large and small lately make now the perfect time to count down our picks for the twelve best. Though the reputation of King adaptations overall can be a bit lacking, there were quite a few gems – “Christine” (1983), “Salem’s Lot” (1979), “11.22.63” (2016) – that had to be cut. When the figurative dust settled, here are the twelve we’re committing to. Have at it.

12. “Creepshow” (1982)
This 1982 collaboration between Stephen King and legendary director George Romero is a love letter to the classic EC-style horror anthology comics (titles like House of Secrets, Haunt of Fear, and Tales from the Crypt), from the framing narrative right down to the camera angles. It’s over the top and plays like a B-movie – and that’s the point. “Creepshow” was King’s first and arguably his best foray into screenwriting and featured largely original material. However, two of the vignettes (“Weeds” and “The Crate”) were based on short stories by King.

The cover of the book The Green Mile

11. “The Green Mile” (1999)
Based on the 1996 serial novel of the same name, “The Green Mile” was written and directed by Frank Darabont, a director who seems to have a particularly steady hand with Stephen King adaptations. The film, which received an Academy Award nomination for best picture, featured the talents of Tom Hanks and the late Michael Clarke Duncan, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of John Coffey, a man with supernatural gifts wrongfully convicted of murder.

 

The cover of the book Dolores Claiborne

10. “Dolores Claiborne” (1995)
Featuring a predictably brilliant performance from Kathy Bates in the title role, “Dolores Claiborne,” based on the novel of the same name, is an example of the breadth of Stephen King’s talent. This Taylor Hackford-directed adaptation eschews King’s normal horror trappings for a patient, affecting thriller that takes its times as it moves toward its shattering climax.

 

The cover of the book Mr. Mercedes

9. “Mr. Mercedes” (2017)
“Mr. Mercedes” got off to a great start over its first four episodes. I had the opportunity to screen the remaining six episodes and can thankfully say it proved a worthy adaptation of Stephen King’s Edgar Award-winning 2014 mystery novel. Anchored by a talented cast – particularly series leads Brendan Gleeson and Harry Treadaway – “Mr. Mercedes” is nearly as quick-witted and engrossing as its source material.

 

The cover of the book The Dead Zone

8. “The Dead Zone” (1983)
“The Dead Zone” is one of the most underrated of Stephen King’s adaptations and Christopher Walken’s performance as Johnny Smith, a teacher who gains the ability to glimpse the future after awaking from a coma, is one of the actor’s best. Thanks in large part to David Cronenberg’s masterful direction, “The Dead Zone” is a taut and powerful thriller that holds up remarkably well.

 

The cover of the book Gerald's Game

7. “Gerald’s Game” (2017)
Gerald’s Game has long been thought of as one of the more difficult Stephen King tales to bring to the screen. Its premise – a woman is handcuffed to a bed and stranded alone in a cabin after a bit of bondage gone bad – doesn’t necessarily lend itself to cinematic treatment. Fortunately, the talented direction and writing of Mike Flanagan and what may be a career best performance from the underrated Carla Gugino make this one of the finest Stephen King adaptations in recent memory.

The cover of the book It

6. “It” (2017)
The most recent adaptation of Stephen King’s sprawling novel is shattering box office records and with good reason. It is one of Stephen King’s most iconic novels and the culmination of much of his early writing. While this adaptation, which will unfold in two parts, takes more than a few liberties with the underlying narrative including updating the time period, director Andy Muschietti manages to faithfully capture the spirit and tone of the book. To quote myself: “The result is a film that couches its scares in a sepia-toned haze of summer breaks, adolescent friendships, and the secret places of childhood. This more than anything else is the key to why ‘It’ largely works.”

The cover of the book Different Seasons

5. “Stand By Me” (1986)
There’s often a hint of autobiography in Stephen King’s work; it’s clear he draws heavily on his own experiences, whether working in a textile mill or being a writer or just plain, old childhood. It is that autobiographical note that lends “Stand By Me” its potent authenticity and magic. Based on a King novella called The Body and directed by Rob Reiner, “Stand by Me” is ostensibly a coming-of-age tale; it is also a poignant examination of friendship and the bittersweet loss that often accompanies growing up. The Body was featured in King’s 1982 collection Different Seasons.

The cover of the book Misery

4. “Misery” (1990)
Kathy Bates took home an Oscar for her iconic turn as Annie Wilkes. Bates proved absolutely captivating in her ability to switch from adulation to savagery to overwhelming depression in the space of a moment. Thanks to her performance, her chemistry with James Caan, and the steady direction of Rob Reiner – who clearly knows a thing or two about adapting Stephen King – “Misery” is a taut, economical thriller that more than does justice to the source material.

 

The cover of the book The Shining

3. “The Shining” (1980)
Stanley Kubrick’s take on Stephen King’s novel – the author’s first hardback bestseller – is a masterful descent into pure madness anchored by an unforgettable performance from Jack Nicholson. The film hums with tension and unease. While it may be a stark departure from Stephen King’s novel, everything from Nicholson’s performance to the hotel’s bizarre geography and the unrelenting sense of dread that settles over the entire proceeding simply works.

The cover of the book Carrie

2. “Carrie” (1976)
With superb and Oscar nominated performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie as Carrie and Margaret White, as well as the skillful direction of Brian De Palma, “Carrie” remains one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King novel. De Palma wisely stripped King’s novel, already one of his leaner works, to its essence and this tale of a bullied and ostracized teenage girl builds with remarkable tension toward its shocking conclusion.

1. “Shawshank Redemption” (1994)
Choosing the top spot here was no easy task; indeed, I could quite possibly make a solid argument for any of the top five to claim this spot. However, at the end of the day Frank Darabont – I told you that name would come up again – captured lightning in a bottle with this adaptation of the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. From the director’s near-flawless direction to the performances of Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman (not to mention Freeman’s iconic narration) and Thomas Newman’s rarely mentioned pitch-perfect score, everything comes together for a deeply satisfying and moving cinematic experience. The short story is featured alongside The Body in the collection Different Seasons.

Books to Film: December Releases

The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell

The Disaster ArtistThe Disaster Artist_filmMovie: The Disaster Artist
When it comes out: December 1 (Limited); December 8 (Expanded)
What the book is about: In 2003, an independent film called The Room—written, produced, directed, and starring a very rich social misfit of indeterminate age and origin named Tommy Wiseau—made its disastrous debut in Los Angeles. Described by one reviewer as “like getting stabbed in the head,” the $6 million film earned a grand total of $1,800 at the box office and closed after two weeks. Now in its tenth anniversary year, The Room is an international phenomenon to rival The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Thousands of fans wait in line for hours to attend screenings complete with costumes, audience rituals, merchandising, and thousands of plastic spoons, but readers need not have seen The Room to appreciate its costar Greg Sestero’s account of how Tommy Wiseau defied every law of artistry, business, and interpersonal relationships to achieve the dream only he could love.

The Tribes of Palos Verdes by Joy Nicholson

Tribes of Palos VerdesTribes of Palos Verdes_filmMovie: The Tribes of Palos Verdes
When it comes out: December 1
What the book is about: Medina Mason is a defiant, awkward newcomer to the affluent beach community of Palos Verdes, California. As her parents’ marriage disintegrates and her beloved brother falls prey to the temptations of drugs and the lunacy of their mother, Medina surfs to survive, finding a bitter solace in the rough comfort of the waves. This is the moving story of growing up “different,” of the love between siblings, and of one girl’s power to save herself.

The November Criminals by Sam Munson

November CriminalsNovember Criminals_filmMovie: The November Criminals
When it comes out: December 8
What the book is about: For a high school senior, Addison Schacht has a lot of preoccupations. Like getting into college. Selling drugs to his classmates. His complicated relationship with his best friend (NOT his girlfriend) Digger. And he’s just added another to the list: the murder of his classmate Kevin Broadus, and his own absurd, obsessive plan to investigate the death. When presented with an essay question on his application to the University of Chicago—What are your best and worst qualities?—Addison finds himself provoked into giving his final, unapologetic say about all of the above and more.

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf & Robert Lawson

FerdinandFerdinand_film.jpgMovie: Ferdinand
When it comes out: December 15
What the book is about: All the other bulls would run and jump and butt their heads together. But Ferdinand would rather sit and smell the flowers. And he does just that, until the day a bumblebee and some men from the Madrid bullfights give gentle Ferdinand a chance to be the most ferocious star of the corrida—and the most unexpected comic hero.

Molly’s Game by Molly Bloom

Mollys GameMollys Game_filmMovie: Molly’s Game
When it comes out: December 25
What the book is about: In Molly’s Game, Molly Bloom takes the reader through her adventures running an exclusive high-stakes private poker game. Her clients ranged from iconic stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck to politicians and financial titans so powerful they moved markets and changed the course of history. With rich detail, Molly describes a world that until now has been shrouded in glamour, privilege, and secrecy, one where she fearlessly took on the Russian and Italian mobs—until she met the one adversary she could not outsmart, even though she had justice on her side: the United States government.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool by Peter Turner

Films Stars Don'tFilms Stars Don't_filmMovie: Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool 
When it comes out: December 29
What the book is about: On 29 September 1981, Peter Turner received a phone call that would change his life. His former lover, Hollywood actress Gloria Grahame, had collapsed in a Lancaster hotel and was refusing medical attention. He had no choice but to take her into his chaotic and often eccentric family’s home in Liverpool. Turner had first set eyes on Grahame when he was a young actor, living in London. Best known for her portrayal of irresistible femme fatales in films such as The Big HeatOklahoma and The Bad and the Beautiful, for which she won an Oscar, Grahame electrified audiences with her steely expressions and heavy lidded eyes and the heroines she bought to life were often dark and dangerous. Turner and Grahame became firm friends and remained so ever after their love affair had ended. And it was to him she turned in her final hour of need.

 

World Fantasy Awards Announced

by Chris SchluepNovember 07, 2017, first appearing on Omnivoracious

The winners of the 2017 World Fantasy Awards have been announced. The ceremony was held earlier this month in San Antonio, Texas at the World Fantasy Convention. The Lifetime Achievement Awards, presented annually to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding service to the fantasy field, went to Terry Brooks and Marina Warner.

Below is a list of the winners from selected categories. You can see all of the winners listed on Locus.

Best Novel

  • The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
  • Borderline by Mishell Baker
  • Roadsouls by Betsy James
  • The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
  • Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Best Long Fiction

  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
  • The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
  • Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
  • A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Best Short Fiction

  • Das Steingeschöpf” by G.V. Anderson
  • Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander
  • Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar
  • Little Widow” by Maria Dahvana Headley
  • The Fall Shall Further the Flight in Me” by Rachael K. Jones

Best Anthology

  • Dreaming in the Dark edited by Jack Dann
  • Clockwork Phoenix 5 edited by Mike Allen
  • Children of Lovecraft edited by Ellen Datlow
  • The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 edited by Karen Joy Fowler & John Joseph Adams
  • The Starlit Wood edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe

Best Collection

  • A Natural History of Hell by Jeffrey Ford
  • Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie
  • On the Eyeball Floor and Other Stories by Tina Connolly
  • Vacui Magia by L.S. Johnson
  • The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

Winners of the 2017 National Book Awards Announced

by , NOVEMBER 16, 2017, first appearing on Library Journal

“Books matter because they give us information and hope and connect us to other people,” said Lisa Lucas, the National Book Foundation’s executive director, in a recorded message at the National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner on November 15, at Cipriani’s in New York. Lucas appeared in person as well, appealing to the tightly packed audience for support (envelopes in the program facilitated donations) and proclaim the desire to “not just celebrate [both winners and finalists] tonight but…keep celebrating the work they do.” The awards were the focus of the evening, but as always, National Book Foundation programming got big plugs throughout.

Lucas’s what-books-can-do theme was carried forth by the award winners. Robin Benway, winner of the award for Young People’s Literature for Far from the Tree (HarperTeen), an affecting story of family, told her fellow finalists that “sharing this experience with you has been an honor” and celebrated teenagers as the “toughest audience because they need to hear the truth more than anybody.” Said Frank Bidart, poetry winner for Half-light: Collected Poems, 1965–2016 (Farrar), a magisterial compilation of all the poet’s previous volumes plus the new collection Thirst, “I’m almost twice as old as any of the other finalists, and writing poems is how I survived…. I hope the journey these poems go on help others to survive as well.”

Masha Gessen, whose The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia (Riverhead) clarifies the emergence of a new brand of autocracy in Russia today by charting the lives of four people born at the time Communism fell, noted “I never thought a Russian book would be on the list for the National Book Awards, but things have changed.” Said Paula J. Giddings, chair of the nonfiction panel, the judges looked for books that were “national or transnational in scope and significance,…books that spoke to the underpinnings that shape a culture, …and books that [address] the tyranny of state”—those who perpetuate it, those who succumb to it, and those who resist.

Winning her second National Book Award for Sing, Unburied, Sing (Scribner), an ambitious story of poverty, oppression, and family fractured along race lines and encompassing African American–rooted magic realism, Jesmyn Ward spoke affectingly of the subtexts she has sensed in rejections of her work, as if readers were saying, “What do I have in common with a pregnant 15-year-old or a 13-year-old with a drug-addicted mother?” That challenge to universality begs the question of what books can do, as articulated by master of ceremonies Cynthia Nixon, who saw them as offering not just escape but a “welcome knowledge of history [and] broadened perspective. They cultivate empathy, inspire action, and make us feel less alone.”

Presented with the 2017 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, Richard Robinson, Scholastic chairman of the board, said that while he always wanted to receive a prize for a novel, “I am so grateful to the National Book Foundation for giving me a reading award instead.” His acceptance speech, gracefully introduced by President Bill Clinton (“I don’t think he’s ever going to win an award that reflects his heart as this one does”), embodied his conviction that reading is a solution to social ills, which makes it especially important to get books into the hands of all children.“In the years to come, reading will be more important than ever,” he declared. Rejecting a world of 20 percent reading haves and 80 percent have nots, he added “We have a huge stake in establishing a level playing field.”

Annie Proulx, winner of the 2017 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, took up the theme of social responsibility, pointing out that “we are living through a massive transition from representative democracy to viral direct democracy,” which is overwhelming us in a “garbage-strewn tsunami of raw data.” Decrying environmental degradation and encouraging listeners to join citizen science projects, she celebrating “outmoded values like truth” and wrestled with the tension between hard facts and hope, taking up books as a model: “The happy ending still beckons.”

Genre Friday – Nordic Noir Crime Fiction

Nordic Noir 101: 10 Best Books to Get to Know the Genre

Tunnel

Photo © Shutterstock

I first stumbled onto Nordic noir through Christopher Nolan’s 2002 film, “Insomnia,” which was a remake of the 1997 Norwegian thriller of the same name. That film’s complex plotting, desolate atmosphere, and morally compromised protagonist immediately hooked me. My next real foray into the subgenre would come a few years later when I picked up a copy of Stieg Larsson’s international bestseller, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, to see what all the fuss was about and then immediately plowed my way through the remainder of the initial trilogy in the Millennium Series. Like millions of others I was hooked and Nordic noir has maintained a section on my bookshelf ever since.

For fans of crime fiction, Nordic noir represents the bleakest of the bleak, often centering on brutal crimes tinged with shocking violence. The tales invariably feature protagonists who, while possessing a generally ferocious sense of justice, are nonetheless tortured, brooding, and generally introspective. The settings, whether city streets or remote villages, are desolate and harsh. Combine these elements with densely plotted mysteries that often feature more than a few shocking turns and a spartan, direct prose style to accentuate the genre’s dark themes and it is not difficult to see why Nordic noir has been so influential and successful a piece of the crime genre.

The runaway success of The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo in many ways kicked the doors open for other booms in fiction from this Northerly part of the world. Though Larsson unfortunately passed away before the publication of his bestselling novels, for fans of his mercurial and damaged heroine, Lisbeth Salander, journalist and author David Lagencrantz has fortunately and gamely stepped up to continue the Millennium Series. The latest, The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, is now available. That makes this the perfect time to take look at some of the best from the classics to more recent favorites.

The cover of the book The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye

David Lagercrantz

In the fifth installment of the Millennium Series, brilliant hacker and troubled outsider Lisbeth Salander is as close as she’s ever been to unraveling the mysteries of her traumatic childhood. In order to finally do so, she turns to Mikael Blomkvist, editor of the investigative magazine Millennium. The duo soon find themselves in the midst of one of the most dangerous predicaments either has ever faced.

 

The cover of the book Smilla's Sense of Snow

Smilla’s Sense of Snow

Peter Hoeg

This acclaimed 1992 novel by Peter Hoeg was part of the vanguard of Nordic noir. It centers on Smilla Jaspersen, a scientist specializing in the study of snow, who is drawn into the investigation of the death of her six-year-old neighbor.

 

 

 

The cover of the book The Snowman

The Snowman

Jo Nesbo

Jo Nesbo may be the current king of Nordic noir and his tortured investigator Harry Hole is one of the genre’s most intriguing protagonists. Hole is a celebrated, if unorthodox, detective and Norway’s leading investigative expert on serial killers. The very limits of his endurance and sanity are tested when he falls into a deadly game of cat and mouse when a missing woman leads him to a pattern of disturbing murders from the last decade. While The Snowman is the eighth Harry Hole novel, it also works as a standalone read and is arguably the point where Nesbo really hits his stride with Hole’s character.

The cover of the book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larsson

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was an instant classic upon publication and stands as one of the finest thrillers in recent memory. Centering on the forty-year-old investigation of a missing person’s case, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a dense and atmospheric read and introduced the world to one of the thriller/crime genre’s most captivating heroines in Lisbeth Salander.

 

The cover of the book The Crow Girl

The Crow Girl

Erik Axl Sund

This 2016 bestseller focuses on the murder investigation that follows after the body of an abused young boy is discovered in a city park. As Detective Jeanette Kihlberg dives into the case, she is drawn into a deep and complex web of violence and corruption. Originally published as a trilogy in Sweden, The Crow Girl is an intricate and emotionally complex read.

 

The cover of the book The Ice Beneath Her

The Ice Beneath Her

Camilla Grebe

The Ice Beneath Her is the American debut of acclaimed Swedish author Camilla Grebe. Taking place in Stockholm, the novel follows a group of investigators unraveling the threads of a brutal murder that is eerily similar to an unsolved killing from a decade previous. It is an ingeniously plotted and twisting thriller.

 

The cover of the book Faceless Killers

Faceless Killers

Henning Mankell

This first installment of the Kurt Wallander series sees the gruff and somewhat misanthropic detective investigating the grisly bludgeoning death of an elderly farmer whose wife was also left to die. It is an excellent introduction to one of Nordic noir’s most iconic characters as well as the style of Henning Mankell, an author often thought of as the dean of Nordic noir.

 

The cover of the book I'm Traveling Alone

I’m Traveling Alone

Samuel Bjork

This American debut for Norwegian author Samuel Bjork is a chilling thriller centering on the hunt for a vengeful killer targeting children in disturbing fashion. The novel follows Investigators Holger Munch and Mia Kruger – a brilliant and haunted detective with her own unnerving past – as they delve into a case with increasingly personal implications.

 

The cover of the book The Keeper of Lost Causes

The Keeper of Lost Causes

Jussi Adler-Olsen

With The Keeper of Lost Causes, bestselling author Jussi Adler-Olsen introduces Carl Morck, one of Denmark’s best homicide detectives. Morck is in charge of a growing pile of cold cases, left to him following a career blunder. Though expectations are low for new developments, Morck is drawn into one particular case centering on a missing politician presumed dead but who may be, for the moment at least, anything but.

The cover of the book ROSEANNA

ROSEANNA

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

This one is a true classic that heralded the Nordic noir genre. Originally published in 1965, Roseanna is the first of the Martin Beck Police Mysteries and inspired an entire generation of writers. It follows beleaguered detective Martin Beck as he investigates the mysterious death of a young woman who appears to have been strangled and tossed overboard during a cruise. In a lot of ways, it laid the template for what has come to be known as Nordic noir.