Nothing to Envy: A lecture from Barbara Demick

BYU's Kennedy Center announced its book of the semester.... Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, and she will be giving a lecture today at 11:00.

Demick is a Beijing correspondence journalist for the LA Times. She followed six North Korean citizens for over fifteen years who left the country eventually. She wrote their stories of surviving famine and living through a totalitarian regime. 

An Wall Street review said about Demick's book,

"Ms. Demick has written a deeply moving book. The personal stories are related with novelistic detail ..."Nothing to Envy" depicts a society in chaos, where people have lost confidence in their government but don't yet have the will or the tools to rebel. Ms. Demick doesn't offer a view of what the future holds for the totalitarian regime that has oppressed North Koreans for six decades. But the growing discontent can't bode well for the regime's long-term health.

With the difficulty it takes to acquire information about North Korea's government and society, Demick's book should be a insightful read for sure.

"Nothing to Envy" is available at the BYU Bookstore in the General Books section.

Abraham Lincoln and Vampires

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to visit England. As I was touring by Big Ben, Birmingham Palace, and the Parliament buildings, I noticed a statue that seemed slightly out of place...
That's right, President Abraham Lincoln.

If there is anything I have noticed lately about honest Abe honestly it's the fact that he keeps showing up in odd places. 

Although Abe is in England as a symbol for slavery abolition, Abe has confronted more unusual frontiers in literature and film: vampire hunting.

Seth Grahame-Smith, author of the notorious Pride and Prejudice and Zombies strikes again. 

New York Times has Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter  as number 15 on its list of bestsellers in fiction, while its movie has gotten a terrible score of 35% on Rotten Tomatoes.

So why did the movie flop and the book fly?

Well, there's always the classic saying: the book was better than the movie.

But judging by the reviews of the movie from the book, the movie decided to take the humor out of the vampire hunter concept. The movie is rated R and falls under the category of horror.

Perhaps it was the author's creativity and humor in mashing up the idea of abolitionism and superstition.

As a LA Times review put it:

" a time when the market is flooded with vampire titles, most of them young adult romances, a writer who can transform the greatest figure from 19th century American history into the star of an original vampire tale with humor, heart and bite is a rare find indeed."

Either way, Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter leaves a compelling interest and looks like a pretty entertaining read at the least. If you're looking for Abraham in different contexts, this book will fulfill that need.

What do you think about this book, is it inappropriate for the U.S. president? Have you read Grahame-Smith's works? Does abolitionism have anything to do with vampire hunting?


A New Perspective: "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon

This book was incredibly eye opening. I wasn't sure what exactly it was about when I opened it up and started reading. It was written in such a way that I've never seen done before, it had charts, graphs, and drawings thrown right in the middle of text. Some chapters were so randomly out of context. I felt humored at first.

And then the realization came to my mind, "This book is about autism." And I started to see the world with new eyes.

This writer does a great job and making an autistic person feel approachable, and even more importantly relate-able. Coming from a background where I had no siblings with autism, I will admit being completely ignorant. But when I pulled this book out, I was immersed into a new mentality.  I felt his fears, his thoughts and his frustrations. 

This book was never predictable, in fact at times it was very random and almost irrelevant, yet it held my attention. 

Thanks to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, I watch people who deal with Autism and it makes me wonder what must be going on in their minds right now, instead of just feeling sympathy for their state. They don't scare me like they used to, but rather I wish I could sit down and talk to them about what they like to do, what their hopes and goals are, and what they think about certain aspects of life.

Life changing, really.


BYU Symposium's Books for Young Readers

The BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS SYMPOSIUM sponsored by BYU’s Conferences and Workshops is at the Provo Library this week with some sessions on campus.  If you can’t manage the time or funds to attend two full days of fun and informative sessions with the authors you can share in the symposium by browsing titles written and illustrated by symposium guests as well as Spotlight titles picked by children’s book experts at BYU Bookstore. 

Jack Gantos is this year’s Newbery Award Winner.  DEAD END IN NORVELT is funny and about a dysfunctional family that works.  I personally love books that have quirky characters that are not stereotypical in anyway with a charm that allows us to ease up on humanity and the “shoulds and oughts” we are so quick to impose on ourselves and others.  This book does that for me, helps me to smile a little more and judge a little less.

Nic Bishop has photographed some of the best non-fiction available.  His books are popular with fans of all ages.  Whether it is the award-winning, KAKAPO RESUE : SAVING THE WORLD’S STRANGEST PARROT; FROGS; LIZARDS or one of his many other titles your eyes will want to linger and revisit.  Nic Bishop’s books are great as gifts for adults as well as children and successfully appeal to many who thought they didn’t like books.

Ally Condie is local and the New York Times bestselling author of MATCHED, CROSSED, and the upcoming REACHED, eagerly awaited and scheduled for release November 13, 2012.  This series is dystopian and so popular that it hardly needs explanation.  If you have not heard about MATCHED you must pick up a copy and read for yourself.

Jeanette Ingold is the author of many Young Adult titles, including her latest, PAPER DAUGHTER.   Fantasy writing is in its glory but if you are ready for realistic fiction try any of Jeanette Ingold’s titles.  She believes that “Books let us live more than one life,” and then she writes so it can be true.

Tom Lichtenheld’s art is clever and creative and always humorous.  Also a New York Times bestselling author / artist, you are probably familiar with GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE; SHARK VS. TRAIN; and DUCK! RABBIT!   But have you seen WUMBERS written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld?  WUMBERS is what happens when you combine numbers and letters and is delightful fun.

“Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a person who likes to make things.” declares her website homepage and we are so glad that includes children’s books.  Along with WUMBERS, Amy has given us THIS PLUS THAT: LIFE’S LITTLE EQUATIONS using the symbols of math outside of the usual numeric use with a more conceptual view: “I’m sorry + Hug = sincere apology”; “1+1= us.”  AL PHA’S BET is one of my favorites, with a series of funny events that lead to the creation of the alphabet.

Every year children’s book experts spotlight their favorite titles at the symposium.  They include many of my favorites this year and I always find a few I would have missed without the spotlight shout out.


For Young Readers' Symposium schedule, follow this link.

Summer Reads - Connie Brown

Connie Brown in the BYU Bookstore office shared with us her favorite summer read.

Joyce DiPastena’s book “Dangerous Favor”:
"His grasp tightened on the ribbon as he turned back to Girard.  'Your lady sister has honored me with her token.  I’ll not surrender it until I’ve achieved a victory or two for her on the field.'  

“The thing is, deBrielle, the ribbon was not my sister’s to give.  ‘Tis my lady’s token, granted to me before we left Rouen.  I promised her I’d wear it in her honor this day.'

Mathilde twisted in D’Amville’s grasp.  He was back on his feet but she felt him stagger, still unsteady on his undoubtedly throbbing thigh.  But despite her struggles, his clasp about her waist remained strong.  She screamed, not in fear this time, but in rage.

She could not break free.  Perhaps he needed some incentive to release her.  She threw down the torch at their feet.  Flames crackled and leapt, fanned by the dry, autumn grass and the night’s breeze.  D’Amville flinched away from the surging blaze.  Mathilde jerked free of his slackened hold, but she didn’t run.  She turned, furious, and slammed the club into D’Amville’s shoulder.

She thwacked the club into his leg, just as Etienne had.  D’Amville dropped to the ground with another howl of pain."

Loved this book!  Tales of knights and ladies.

-Connie Brown