And, They’re Off!

A quick look at the best selling authors and books at the start of the new year.

NYT Combined Print & E-Book Fiction Best Sellers

  1. THE PEOPLE VS. ALEX CROSS by James Patterson

34522506Alex Cross is on the wrong side of the law. Serving a suspension from the force while he awaits trial for murder, Cross has been branded as a trigger-happy cop, another bad apple walking the streets with a gun, an accusation that Cross will do anything to refute. To make himself feel useful again, Cross opens a counseling office in the basement of his home. When his former partner Sampson shows up needing his help, Cross jumps at the chance, even if it may end up costing him what’s left of his career. When a string of young, blonde women go missing, the investigation leads Cross and Sampson to the darkest, most depraved corners of the internet. Struggling to prove his own innocence and uncover the truth lurking online, Cross must risk everything to save his most at-risk patient of all…himself. 

  1. TWO KINDS OF TRUTH by Michael Connelly
  2. ORIGIN by Dan Brown
  3. THE WANTED by Robert Crais (NEW)
  4. TWISTED by Helen Hardt (NEW)
  5. DARKER by E.L. James
  6. THE ROOSTER BAR by John Grisham
  7. THE SUN AND HER FLOWERS by Rupi Kaur
  8. THE ALICE NETWORK by Kate Quinn (NEW)
  9. MILK AND HONEY by Rupi Kaur
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2018 Golden Globes Nominees Are Chock-Full of Literary Adaptations

From left to right: Elisabeth Moss in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ © 2016 Hulu; Claire Foy in ‘The Crown’ © 2016 Netflix; Judi Dench in ‘Victoria & Abdul’ © Focus Features; Timothée Chalamet in ‘Call Me by Your Name’ © 2017 Sony Pictures Classics; Reese Witherspoon in ‘Big Little Lies’/Hilary Bronwyn Gayle © 2017 HBO

It is officially that time of the year – awards season is upon us.  As usual, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has kicked things off with the announcement of the 2018 Golden Globe Awards nominees. The literary world is represented in this year’s lineup with a smattering of great adaptations leading the charge in both film and TV. While the slate of nominees is populated with a few of the marquee titles you’d expect – “Game of Thrones” got it’s annual nod, for instance – a few surprises cracked the surface as well. It looks to be another interesting year at the Golden Globes. Let’s have a look.

Starting with the Best Motion Picture Categories – “Drama” and “Musical or Comedy” – “Call Me By Your Name,” based on the 2007 novel by Andre Aciman, joins a field arguably led by Christopher Nolan’s historical epic “Dunkirk,” although “The Post” feels purely calibrated to make some awards season noise. On the “Musical or Comedy” side of the aisle, “The Disaster Artist,” based on the memoir by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, will be contending with likely favorite “Ladybird” for the top spot. In perhaps the oddest bit of news to come out of the nominations, “Get Out” did indeed garner a Best Motion Picture nomination…as a “Musical or Comedy”. While the film did sport a handful of excellent jokes, we find it a bit hard to categorize its depiction of racism – no matter how Jordan Peele presented it – as “Comedy.” Here’s what Peele himself had to say.

The acting categories for a motion picture were anchored by a number of strong performances from adaptations. On the women’s side of the aisle, Michelle Williams picked up her fifth Golden Globe nomination for her performance in “All the Money in the World,” based on the book Painfully Rich by John Pearson. She’s joined by fellow five-timer Jessica Chastain for “Molly’s Game” which is based on the memoir of the same name by Molly Bloom. Dames Helen Mirren and Judi Dench each picked up nominations for their respective performances in “Leisure Seeker” and “Victoria and Abdul” – each film was based on a novel of the same name. Mary J. Blige also snagged a nomination for her supporting performance in “Mudbound,” an adaptation of the novel by Hillary Jordan.

The gentlemen had an equally strong showing on the literary front with Timothee Chalamet snagging a nomination for his role in “Call me By Your Name.” Chalamet, however, will be up against a host of awards season heavyweights with Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, and Daniel Day-Lewis rounding out the best actor in a drama category. Day-Lewis is an obvious favorite for the acting categories anytime he deigns to grace us mere mortals with a performance, and Gary Oldman is said to have turned in a career best performance in “Darkest Hour,” so it will likely be tough going for Chalamet in a particularly crowded slate.

In the “Musical or Comedy” category, James Franco’s performance as Tommy Wiseau in the “Disaster Artist” has finally – if a bit circuitously – given the the bizarre Wiseau the recognition he craves. The Supporting Actor category featured one of the biggest surprises of the morning as Christopher Plummer picked up a nomination for his role in “All the Money in the World.” The role had originally been filmed by Kevin Spacey. Following the myriad allegations of sexual misconduct against Spacey, he was dropped from the role and Plummer stepped in at the literal last minute. All of Spacey’s scenes were refilmed with Plummer. This nomination situates Plummer as perhaps a pinch hitter in film history. Plummer will be up against Armie Hammer’s performance in “Call me by Your Name.”

Now for the Television categories. HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” already a big winner at the Emmy’s, also dominated the Golden Globes nods. The adaptation of the novel by Liane Moriarty picked up nominations for Best Limited Series, Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series (Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon), Best Performance by a Supporting Actress (Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley), and Best Performance by a Supporting Actor (Alexander Skaarsgard). “Big Little Lies” will duke it out with “The Sinner,” based on the novel by Petra Hammesfahr, in the Limited Series category. “The Sinner” star Jessica Biel also picked up a nomination in the best actress category.

In the Best Television series – Drama category, perennial nominee “Game of Thrones” will be up against likely favorite “The Handmaid’s Tale,” based on the novel by Margaret Atwood. However, “The Crown” and “This is Us” are each poised for an upset here. Interestingly, “Game of Thrones” was shut out of each of the possible acting categories despite a couple of strong performances from Lena Headey and Kit Harrington.

To round out the acting nominations for adaptations not called “Big Little Lies,” Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer each pulled nominations in their respective categories for their roles in “The Wizard of Lies” based on the book by Diana B. Henriques. De Niro will vie for best actor against Geoffrey Rush for his performance in “Genius,” an adaptation of Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson. Ann Dowd picked up a nod for her supporting role in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” In the best actress category, Elisabeth Moss is the odds-on favorite for her brilliant turn in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Caitriona Balfe picked up a best actress nod for “Outlander” – based on the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon – and Katherine Langford rounds out the nominations with her performance in “13 Reasons Why,” an adaptation of the novel of the same name.

As is becoming the norm, streaming services and premium networks once again dominated the Television categories. HBO made its usual big showing and Netflix’s latest critical darlings – “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” – appear to have replaced former awards favorites “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards.” The question is whether Hulu will beat its streaming service brethren to the punch and pick up that coveted Best Drama statue as it did at the Emmy’s this year? We’ll have to wait for the January 7th broadcast to find out. Will you be tuning in?

Top Picks for 2018 and a Final Look at 2017

by ,DECEMBER 28, 2017, first appearing on Library Journal

Looking Forward and Back

More “bests of 2017” slide into home plate even as 2018 picks pile up.

The Hollywood Reporter offers its “Best Comics of 2017.”

HuffPost picks “21 Of The Best Feminist Books of 2017” and lists 60 books they are looking forward to in 2018.

Bustle features 19 debut novels to look for in 2018.

Vogue has a list for early 2018.

Briefly Noted


Ron Charles of The Washington Post picks four books to help “understand your place in the cosmos,” including Magnitude: The Scale of the Universe by Megan Watzke and Kimberly Arcand (Black Dog & Leventhal: Hachette), writing that the authors and artist “explain the incomprehensible in delightfully comprehensible images and text.”

Michael Dirda reviews Wonders Will Never Cease by Robert Irwin (Arcade: Skyhorse), calling it an “ingenious historical fantasy” set during the War of the Roses.

Reporter Dan Zak reviews Hellfire Boys: The Birth of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service and the Race for the World’s Deadliest Weapons by Theo Emery (Little, Brown: Hachette; LJstars), saying “Here is a book that will burn your nostrils and make your throat close. Its main characters are asphyxiants and vesicants—mustard gas, chlorine and other chemicals deployed in World War I…it brims with shock and surprise.”

Staff writer Ian Shapira calls The Saboteur: The Aristocrat Who Became France’s Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando by Paul Kix (HarperLuxe) “thrilling … gripping … completely engrossing and elegantly told.” Vanity Fair has an interview with Kix.

The NYT reviews The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis (Twelve: Hachette), calling it “a fun and exhausting recap of the LSD proselytizer Timothy Leary’s efforts to outrun Richard Nixon and the American law.” In other nonfiction coverage, the paper evaluates books on energy and nuclear war.

USA Today reviews The Man Who Made the Movies: The Meteoric Rise and Tragic Fall of William Fox (Harper), giving it “4 out of 4 stars” and reviews Ursula K. Le Guin’s No Time To Spare, which only gets three stars but is deemed “witty, often deeply observed.”

Vanity Fair looks at Eliot Ness’s classic memoirThe Untouchables.

Costco’s influential book buyer, Pennie Clark Ianniciello, picks We Were the Lucky Ones (Penguin), calling it “just the kind of story I love.”

LitHub is up to #21 in their literary news stories countdown, American authors infiltrating the Man Booker Prize.

2017—This Year in Books: Amazon Charts

by Adrian Liang, December 13, 2017, first appearing on Omnivoracious

This Year in Books - ChartsWant to know what your fellow readers are fascinated by?

Each week, Amazon Charts refreshes its Most Read and Most Sold lists, giving insight into which fiction and nonfiction books are flying into readers’ hands. Powered by the reading choices made by print book readers, Kindle book readers, and Audible audiobook listeners, Amazon Charts provides a rare glimpse into the real reading trends of thousands of book lovers.

Most Listened To

This week, however, Amazon Charts takes a wider view and looks back at the books that shaped the year in This Year in Books.

With colorful graphics and joyful facts, Charts highlights the 10 Most Read fiction books of 2017 and the 10 Most Read nonfiction books of 2017. (No spoilers here—take a guess and then go see for yourself.) Then learn which books were “unputdownable,” the most highlighted, and the most listened to on Alexa.

Golden Eyes

Take a journey back through the literary world of 2017, month by month, and then see which cover design trends caught readers’ eyes.

And, finally, be inspired to read more in 2018.

Isn’t that always a marvelous New Year’s resolution?

Books to Film: January Releases

The Hostage (Book #1 of the Stratton series) by Duncan Falconer

Image result144738Movie: Stratton
When it comes out: January 5
What the book is about: When an undercover operation monitoring the Real IRA goes horrifically wrong, British Intelligence turns to the one man who can get their agent out: Stratton, an SBS operative with a lethal reputation. It’s a dangerous race against time: if the Real IRA get to the Republic before Stratton gets to the Real IRA, his colleague is as good as dead.

Freak Show by James St. James

Image result434631Movie: Freak Show
When it comes out: January 12
What the book is about: Billy Bloom is gay, but it’s mostly theoretical, as he hasn’t had much experience. When he has to move to Florida, he can’t believe his bad luck. His new school is a mix of bible belles, amberzombies, and football heroes — none of which are exactly his type.

Rehepapp ehk november by Andrus Kivirähk

Image result6347735Movie: November
When it comes out: January 12
What the book is about: The story is set in a pagan Estonian village where werewolves, the plague, and spirits roam, but the villagers’ main problem is how to survive the cold, dark winter. And, to that aim, nothing is taboo. People steal from each other, from their German manor lords, and from spirits, the devil, and Christ. They steal even if their barns are already overflowing. To guard their souls, they’ll give them away to thieving creatures made of wood and metal called kratts but their greed makes the villagers more and more like the soulless creatures they command.

Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton

Image result4645750Movie: 12 Strong
When it comes out: January 19
What the book is about: Horse Soldiers is the dramatic account of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who secretly entered Afghanistan following 9/11 and rode to war on horses against the Taliban. Outnumbered forty to one, they pursued the enemy army across the mountainous Afghanistan terrain and, after a series of intense battles, captured the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which was strategically essential to defeat their opponent throughout the country.

The Liesure Seeker by Micahel Zadoorian

Image result3431124Movie: The Liesure Seeker
When it comes out: January 19
What the book is about: The Robinas have shared a wonderful life for more than sixty years. Now in their eighties, Ella suffers from cancer and John has Alzheimer’s. Yearning for one last adventure, the self-proclaimed “down-on-their-luck geezers” kidnap themselves from the adult children and doctors who seem to run their lives and steal away from their home in suburban Detroit on a forbidden vacation of rediscovery.

Eddie Krumble Is the Clapper by Dito Montiel

The Clapper Poster852316Movie: The Clapper
When it comes out: January 26
What the book is about: Meet Eddie Krumble. He’s a relatively happy guy. Content-ish. Fresh to Los Angeles, Eddie and his friend Chris Plork land their first gig: clapping as paid audience members for infomercials and sitcoms so heinous that tourists won’t even attend. Eddie spends long days clapping, laughing, and hissing — on cue, of course — and his life slowly begins to take shape as a relationship with Judy, a gas station attendant, begins to brew. Suddenly his life is turned on its head. In one of his nightly rants, Jay Leno scrutinizes the state of late night TV and ends up unveiling two stills of Eddie as audience members for two different infomercials. Eddie is singled out as clapper-for-hire, Eddie’s career comes to a halt, and Leno turns his discovery into a segment on his show: “Who is THE CLAPPER?”

The 10 Best Book-to-TV Adaptations of 2017, Ranked

2017 was the year that television adaptations become at least as good as film adaptations. And why not? In many ways, TV is an ideal medium for bringing books to screen, for the episodic format enables us to to dig deep without throwing babies out with the bathwater. Many of the year’s strongest TV adaptations strayed from their source material in fascinating ways, and this was how it should be. A book worth its salt deserves a reincarnation that honors its essence as well as its new medium.

The cover of the book Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies

Liane Moriarty

#10. “BIG LITTLE LIES”

It’s been confirmed that the HBO series based on Liane Moriarty’s best-seller has been picked up for a second season, and while not everyone is convinced there’s more story to tell, fans of the beachside psychological thriller are ecstatic. In addition to its central whodunnit, the HBO series spearheaded by Jean-Marc Vallée (“Wild”) investigates all kinds of excellent questions about female communities and competition–perhaps because stars Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman took an active hand in producing as well.

The cover of the book A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones

A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One

George R. R. Martin

#9. “GAME OF THRONES”

I can’t pretend that HBO’s megapopular adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy book series is my favorite cup of tea— the sexual politics leave something to be desired–but neither can I deny its spectacular wallop. This seventh season is as steeped in gorgeous, blood-stained wintry visuals as ever, and ties up some plot points admirably.

The cover of the book Mozart in the Jungle

Mozart in the Jungle

Blair Tindall

#8. “MOZART IN THE JUNGLE”

Fewer than ever are watching Amazon’s series about a fictional New York symphony, and that’s a shame. This improvement on Blair Tindall’s woe-is-me memoir stars Gael García Bernal in manic-pixie-dreamboy mode and offers a gimlet glimpse into classical music’s rarified pleasures and economic disparities. As a bonus, much of Season 3 takes place in Italy at its absolute swooniest.

The cover of the book I Love Dick

I Love Dick

Chris Kraus

#7. “I LOVE DICK”

Co-created by “Transparent” showrunner Jill Soloway, this outré Amazon series doesn’t just expand upon Chris Kraus’s experimental novel about disappointed creatives and obsessive love. It highlights the female gaze and desire in ways television has never seen before, with a optical splash that is an art installation unto itself.

The cover of the book Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables

L. M. Montgomery

#6. “ANNE WITH AN E”

This post-modernist, PTSD-addled take on L.M. Montgomery’s beloved young adult classic is created by “Breaking Bad” writer Moira Walley-Beckett and matches its red-headed orphan’s “tragical, romantical” nature with windswept coastal landscapes and gritty backstories. Like our heroine, the bracing, smart Canadian import is more loveable than likeable, just what the 2017 doctor ordered.

The cover of the book Mindhunter

Mindhunter

John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker

#5. “MINDHUNTER”

This Netflix series based on John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker’s true crime book may be set in 1977, but it’s perfectly timed for this #metoo cultural moment. Created by David Fincher and starring Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany in a classic buddy-cop pairing, the show zooms in on the FBI’s discovery of serial killers just as women’s liberation was being mainstreamed. Sharp-toothed and soft-eyed, it forsakes the genre’s standard female objectification to place the full spectrum of sexism and male sexuality under a microscope.

The cover of the book Alias Grace

Alias Grace

Margaret Atwood

#4. “ALIAS GRACE”

Margaret Atwood’s books may not necessarily translate well to the big screen, but the feminist Canadian author is having her moment in terms of TV adaptations. Based on the true story of an Irish-born servant accused of killing her male employer and his housekeeper mistress, this one comes with stunning feminist credentials of its own: screenwriter Sarah Polley, director Mary Harron, and the unflinching Sarah Gadon in the titular role. Adapted from Atwood’s 1996 novel and set in 1840s Canada, it offers insight into the intersection of gender, sex, and class that still applies today. “Guilty until proven innocent,” indeed.

The cover of the book American Gods

American Gods

Neil Gaiman

#3. “AMERICAN GODS”

The long-anticipated adaptation of Neil Gaman’s 2001 novel finally hit STARZ this year, and lo! it was worth the wait. Part social commentary, part fantasy series, it’s set in a (slightly) alternative America in which slaves and refugees bring individual gods who take myriad, technologically savvy forms. Co-created by “Hannibal” showrunner Bryan Fuller (oh my!) and starring such character actor luminaries as Ian MacShane as Odin, it’s as psychedelic as it is psychological, and defies us to resist its lessons, let alone describe it coherently.

The cover of the book The Leftovers

The Leftovers

Tom Perrotta

#2. “THE LEFTOVERS”

Based on Tom Perrotta’s spare, philosophically interrogative novel in which two percent of the population has suddenly disappeared, this HBO series may be co-created by the author along with “Lost” showrunner Damon Lindelof, but it ventures into places never covered in the book. At times David Lynch-like, at times wryly comic, at times a mystery cop thriller, at times existentialist sci-fi, the brilliant show costars Regina King, Justin Theroux, Ann Dowd, and Amy Brenneman, and reimagines continents, decades, and worlds. This third and final season offers a looking glass we may never glimpse anywhere else.

The cover of the book The Handmaid's Tale (Movie Tie-in)

The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood

#1. “THE HANDMAID’S TALE”

Hulu’s most talked-about series updates Margaret Atwood’s beloved dystopian feminist novel without sacrificing any of its impact. As the book is written, Gilead, the uber-conservative religious nation that supplants the United States of America, is all-white. But making an all-white television show in this day and age, even to demonstrate extreme racism, would be deeply problematic; the last thing we need right now is the visual normalization of an Aryan nation. Instead, showrunner Bruce Miller’s “slightly futuristic,” racially integrated Greater Boston keeps its focus on the erosion of women’s rights – an issue that becomes more relevant by the day (not that racism does not). Produced by and starring Elisabeth Moss, this is 2017 television’s most powerful testament.

Best Books of the Year: Science and Nature

by Jon ForoDecember 08, 2017, first appearing on Omnivoracious

A few of our selections for the best science and nature titles of 2017, along with some thoughts about why we liked them. See all 20 picks, or browse all of our Best Books of the Year across 15 categories.

BOTY-ApolloApollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 50 years since NASA’s Apollo program first landed a man on the moon. Since passing decades tend to filter out everything save the highlights, that epic effort has been boiled down to a couple of missions: Apollo 11’s triumphant landing, and the near calamity of Apollo 13, which we might not remember were it not for Tom Hanks and Ron Howard. Lost is all (or most) of the daring preamble, when the United States and the Soviet Union repeatedly swapped positions in the Space Race, recklessly shooting manned aluminum cans – packed with all the computing power of a scientific calculator – into orbit. You won’t have to be a rocket scientist to enjoy Jeffrey Kluger’s Apollo 8 (though it’s pure candy for aficionados). Kluger – who previously documented the Apollo 13 crisis with Commander Jim Lovell, also the pilot aboard Apollo 8 – recounts the first manned mission to orbit the moon, marrying technological and historical perspectives with eyewitness accounts to spin a brisk, thrilling, and informative tale. Kluger writes, “The Saturn V engines had only one speed, which was full speed.” So does this book.


BOTY-Learn-Better.jpgLearn Better: Mastering the Skills for Success in Life, Business, and School, or, How to Become an Expert in Just About Anything by Ulrich Boser

I recently tested my family’s patience for weeks as I announced during dinner, “I discovered something today,” and then related a new technique for learning I’d read in Learn Better. What my family didn’t realize at the time was that by teaching them what I’d learned, I myself was absorbing the lesson better than I would have if I’d just reread it again. That was only one of dozens of methods I’d consumed in Learn Better to help me understand, retain, and connect information better than through the old (and less effective) systems of highlighting and rereading. Boser’s smart and approachable writing style engaged me at once as he laid out six methods for becoming an expert at whatever you like, whether it’s basketball, parenting, or quantum physics. Experiments, data, and anecdotes back up his techniques, but almost as important, he explains learning in such a clear way that aha! moments abound. “Learning does not have a comfort zone,” he says, following up later with: “To develop a skill, we’re going to be uncomfortable, strained, often feeling a little embattled.” He emphasizes that expertise is not the most important quality of an effective educator: “We need instructors that know their subject—and know ways to explain their subject.” Boser even puts himself of the spot, suggesting that readers should question whether they believe an author’s arguments in order to bring analytical thinking to a subject, which will cement that knowledge (or their rejection of the author’s thesis) deeper in their brains. There’s a lot to absorb here, but happily you have an expert teacher guiding you now on your own path toward effective learning. –Adrian Liang


BOTY-Upstream.jpgUpstream: Searching for Wild Salmon, from River to Table by Langdon Cook

A few years back, Langdon Cook wrote The Mushroom Hunters, an unusual book about the underground economy of fungi foraging and the weirdoes and outsiders who fuel it, which we leveraged for this little boondoggle. His latest, Upstream, does the same for salmon, following the paths of these essential fish from spawning grounds and hatcheries to the tables of exclusive restaurants – a voyage spanning history, culture, adventure, politics, and commerce. [Full disclosure: Lang is a former colleague who occasionally pulls Chris and me out to the river for some tortured attempts at fly fishing. It’s not that he’s a bad teacher.]


BOTY-Gene-Machine.jpgThe Gene Machine: How Genetic Technologies Are Changing the Way We Have Kids–and the Kids We Have by Bonnie Rochman

As the father of a preteen boy, I’ve seen enough Godzilla movies to understand that our capability often outpaces our foresight, and genetic manipulation opens the door to unimaginable possibilities. Where once parents could choose to know the gender of their unborn baby, our understanding the human genome can now forecast disabilities and predisposition for particular diseases later in life, including cancer. The science is complex and confusing, and the ethical dilemmas are self-evident. Bonnie Rochman has witnessed the advance of gene technology first-hand – as both a journalist and a mother – and her recent book, The Gene Machine, expertly unravels this brave new world of family engineering, from both scientific and human perspectives.


BOTY-Big-Chicken.jpgBig Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats by Maryn McKenna

Ever wonder where all the chicken is coming from? I do, and as I always suspected, I’m not sure I feel better knowing. In Big Chicken, McKenna – a journalist who who reports on public health and food policy – tracks the path of this most common fowl and food source from backyard coops to the (let’s face it, horrible) antibiotic-soaked “industry” that fuels our hunger for cheap wings and nuggets. Bwok-bwok.