Category: Non-Fiction

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L.A. Times Book Prize Finalists Include Michelle Obama, Tara Westover

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is the largest literary gathering in the country, attracting over 150,000 people to a massive celebration of culture. Categories include First Fiction, Current Interest, Biography, Fiction, Poetry, Graphic Novel, Thriller, History, Science & Technology, and Young Adult Literature. This year, the nominations are as exciting as they are nerve-wracking—not all of them can win! Here’s the conundrum: they all deserve the prize. Don’t believe it? Let’s take a look at some of our most distinguished nominees.


Michelle Obama with book 'Becoming'

Image Via The Chicago Tribune


Michelle Obama’s Becoming has already become a staggering success. Penguin Random House paid over $65 million for the rights to Michelle and Barack’s autobiographies, making it one of the most expensive book deals of all time. This figure is also unprecedented among other presidential figures: Bill Clinton earned an advance of $15 million for his own autobiography, which, as you might have noticed, is less than half of that sixty-five. Critics have called Barack Obama “that rare politician who can actually write,” and The New York Times reviewed Dreams From My Father as a literary masterpiece rather than another ghostwritten memoir. But Michelle isn’t doing so bad—Becoming sold a record-breaking two million copies in only fifteen days, and it went on to become the best-selling book of 2018. (And yes, Barack put his wife’s book on his famous reading list.)

Other titles in the category include Michael Lewis’ incisive The Fifth Risk, which critically examines the Trump administration. Given increased visibility regarding issues of immigration, human rights, and the possible border wall, Francisco Cantú’s The Line Becomes a River is also a timely inclusion.


Michael Lewis' 'The Fifth Risk'

Image Via The International Anthony Burgess Foundation


Though Becoming is a memoir, judges have classified it within the Current Interest category—which means, fortunately, that it isn’t competing against Tara Westover’s Educated, a memoir of triumph, persistence, fanaticism, and violence that earned the world’s attention in 2018. USA Today called it the best memoir in years, and with good reason: it’s been a finalist for just about everything. (Of course, it was also on Barack Obama’s reading list.) The memoir chronicles Tara Westover’s journey from beneath Buck’s Peak, the mountain that looms in her childhood as enormous as the influence of her father’s survivalist views. By the age of seventeen, Westover had never seen a doctor nor set foot in a classroom—in fact, until her teenage years, there was no record of her birth at all. Westover has since received a PhD from Cambridge. While there are other books in this category, this is certainly a contender.


Tara Westover with memoir, 'Educated'

Image Via Bustle


Other titles in the running for various L.A. Times prizes carry serious weight—Elizabeth Acevedo’s YA novel The Poet X is up for a prize after having won the National Book Award. Acevedo’s diverse novel explores poetry as means for personal freedom in an immigrant community with traditional (read: sexist) values. Particularly interesting nominations in other categories include Science & Technology’s Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy, a notable book in the wake of the opioid epidemic.


Elizabeth Acevedo with novel, 'The Poet X'

Image Via Medium


Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage: A Novel, a nomination for the Fiction category, was among Oprah’s 2018 book club picks and also featured on Barack Obama’s 2018 reading list. Of course, it has some fierce competition: Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers, an evocative depiction of the AIDS crisis, is also in the running. Renowned comedian Amy Poehler is currently optioning the novel for a TV adaptation—if that’s not good enough, it’s also one of the NYT‘s top ten books for 2018.


'An American Marriage' by Tayari Jones and 'The Great Believers' by Rebecca Makkai

Image Via Entertainment Weekly


There are too many excellent titles to list: with ten categories and five nominees in each, you could finish reading one by the time we described them all. Take a look at the 2019 finalists, and decide which one would be a winner on your bookshelf.


Featured Image Via The L.A. Times

Stieg Larsson Remembered in ‘The Man Who Played With Fire’

Authors often draw inspiration from themselves or people they know for their characters, and Stieg Larsson, author of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, resembles his book’s protagonist more and more every day. Like the fictional Mikael Blomqvist, Larsson was both an author and a journalist. And, also like Blomqvist, it turns out that he was deeply troubled by an unsolvable mystery.

Up until his untimely death, Larsson had been actively researching the 1986 assassination of Swedish prime minister, Olof Palme. Journalist Jan Stocklassa discovered this research—boxes upon boxes of it—in 2014 through Larsson’s former employer, Expo magazine.


Jan Stocklassa


Stocklassa used the research to write a true crime story titled The Man Who Played With Fire: Stieg Larsson’s Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin. The book was originally published in Swedish in November of 2018, and, after much ado, Amazon Crossing will publish the English translation on October 1st, 2019!

Larsson’s life has been a hot topic of late; a film titled The Man Who Played With Fire (also co-produced by Stocklassa) premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and focuses on Larsson’s research into far-right, neo-Nazi groups, rather than on Palme’s assassination.


The Man Who Played With Fire



Though Larsson passed away in 2004, he remains influential in both literary and social justice circles. Stocklassa’s new book will give readers a chance to be mesmerized by the life and works of Larsson one more time.




Behrouz Boochani, author in exile

Detained Asylum Seeker Wins Australia’s Biggest Literary Prize, Remains Imprisoned

The winner of Australia’s most esteemed literary prize could not attend the ceremony.

Today, Kurdish Iranian writer Behrouz Boochani won the Victorian Prize for Literature for his book, No Friend But the MountainsComposed one text message at a time from an offshore detention center in Papua New Guinea, the novel has won a $25,000 and $100,000 prize in a country that denied this author refuge and continues to detain him.  One of Behrouz Boochani’s greatest achievements should highlight what many perceive as present-day Australia’s greatest shame.


Boochani looks out through a fence towards the open ocean


The experimental format of Boochani’s book was not an artistic decision—it was a necessity. While seeking refuge in Australia, the author was detained on Manus Island, a notorious offshore detention facility. Since he feared for his safety and the safety of his work, he wrote his novel entirely over WhatsApp messenger—and over the course of five years. He was right to be afraid: during his time at the detention center, he witnessed suicide attempts, riots, and murders. His phone was taken twice. “Imagine if I had written this book on paper,” Boochani said, “I would definitely have lost it.”


Boochani's novel, 'No Friend But the Mountains'


Boochani might have won a significant sum, but money was never his aim in writing the book. Instead, he sought to share his experience of immigration and detention:

My main aim has always been for the people in Australia and around the world to understand deeply how this system has tortured innocent people on Manus and Nauru in a systematic way for almost six years. I hope this award will bring more attention to our situation and create change.


Image Via MO MAgazine


Although the detention camps have been legally closed, their continued existence bodes ill for Australia as a nation and for the people still left inside. LGBT+ people particular have suffered in these camps: in Papua New Guinea, homosexuality is still a crime. Gay men in the immigration detention facility can face up to fourteen years in prison. Boochani describes the camps as “barbaric.”

Boochani may have written the book to spread awareness of these cruelties, but, he admits, there was also another reason. Writing helped him to keep his humanity, his identity, he said. Writing was the thing that allowed him to survive.


Featured Image Via The Guardian

The Nominations For The 91st Academy Awards Have Been Announced and Book Adaptations Take the Lead!

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences just released the nominations for this year’s Academy Awards, and book and graphic novel adaptations received their fair share of nominations.


Here are the literary adaptations that were nominated:


1. Black Panther – 7 nominations including Best Picture


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Image Via The Wrap


One of the highest-grossing and most popular films of 2018, this Marvel Comics film has become the first comic book adaptation to be nominated for Best Picture. It was also nominated for Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design and Best Costume Design.


2. BlacKkKlansman – 6 nominations including Best Picture


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Image Via The New York Times


Spike Lee’s latest “joint” is based on the memoir by Ron Stallworth, and tells the story about how he became the first black police officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department and used his position to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. This is the first time Spike Lee has ever been nominated for Best Director. The film was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Adam Driver, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score and Best Film Editing.


3. Mary Poppins Returns – 4 nominations


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Image Via The Hollywood Reporter


P.L. Travers’ timeless classic was remade last year with Emily Blunt filling in for Julie Andrews as the title role. The musical received four nominations for Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Production Design and Best Costume Design.


4. First Man – 4 nominations


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Image Via Variety


This biopic about Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 mission to the moon is based on the biography First Man: The Life of Neil Armstrong by James R. Hansen. The film is up for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design and Best Visual Effects.


5. Can You Ever Forgive Me – 3 nominations


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Image Via The Atlantic


Melissa McCarthy earned her second Oscar nomination for this biopic based on the memoir of the same name by Lee Israel, which follows her life as she begins to make money forging letters from deceased actors and playwrights. The film was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and co-star Richard E. Grant was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.


6. If Beale Street Could Talk – 3 nominations


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Image Via Slate


Based on the James Baldwin novel of the same name, this drama film from the director of Moonlight follows a couple struggling to stay together when the man is falsely accused of a crime. It was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score, but Regina King’s performance as the mother of the accused has garnered the most attention and she is now the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress.


7. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – 3 nominations


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Image Via The Hollywood Reporter


This Netflix film from the Coen Brothers isn’t actually based on a novel, but rather on a series of short stories that the brothers wrote but never published. An anthology of six different Western stories, the film was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design and Best Original Song.


8. Mary Queen of Scots – 2 nominations


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Image Via Daily Express


Saoirse Ronan is the star of this biopic based on the biography Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart written by John Guy. Though it missed out on Best Picture, the film will be competing for Best Costume Design and Best Makeup and Hairstyling.


9. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse – 1 nomination for Best Animated Feature


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Image Via Rolling Stone


A new take on the classic Marvel Comics character, this animated superhero film tells the origin story of Miles Morales as he interacts with an older Peter Parker and a number of other “Spider-People” from various dimensions. This film has emerged as the frontrunner for Best Animated Feature


10. Border – 1 nomination for Best Makeup and Hairstyling


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Image Via Variety


This Swedish fantasy film about a customs officer with an unusual sense of smell was selected as Sweden’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film. While it wasn’t nominated in that category, it did receive one nomination for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. The film is based on a short story of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist. The story can be found in his collection Let The Old Dreams Die.


11. The Wife – 1 nomination for Best Actress


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Image Via Variety


Glenn Close is the frontrunner to win the Best Actress award for her role in The Wife, about a woman who confronts the sacrifices she has made in her life when her husband receives a literary award. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Meg Wolitzer. Catch our interview with Meg Wolitzer below!



12. Avengers: Infinity War – 1 nomination for Best Visual Effects


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Image Via Polygon


The biggest Marvel Comics movie yet was only able to secure one nomination, but it seems fitting that it would be for Best Visual Effects.


13. Christopher Robin – 1 nomination for Best Visual Effects


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Image Via Hollywood Reporter


This new take on A.A. Milne’s classic characters takes them into the real world so they can help a grown-up Christopher Robin find his sense of imagination again. The CGI-versions of Pooh and his friends were nominated for Best Visual Effects.


14. Ready Player One – 1 nomination for Best Visual Effects


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Image Via CLTure


Steven Spielberg’s latest adventure film, which takes place almost entirely inside a video game, is based on Ernest Cline’s novel of the same name and was nominated for Best Visual Effects.



Which adaptation do you hope wins?



Featured Image Via Awards Daily

Chelsea Clinton to Release New Book About Endangered Animals

Chelsea Clinton’s next step as a children’s author is to promote the plight of endangered animals.


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The daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton is the author of It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!, She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World and Start Now! You Can Make a Difference.


Image Via Amazon 


Image Via Amazon


Image Via Amazon


Penguin Young Readers have announced that she will be collaborating with illustrator Gianna Marino. The book is titled Don’t Let Them Disappear and is to be released on April 2nd. The book will feature a variety of animals like elephants, whales, tigers and many more and how to contribute to saving their lives.



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