Massachusetts Book Awards

>In a switch from fall to spring, the 10th annual Massachusetts Book Awards were announced last night at a ceremony celebrating a decade of literature by Massachusetts authors or about Massachusetts. To download the complete list of this year’s must-reads in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and children’s/young adult, visit the Massachusetts Center for the Book.

Fiction Winner
Woodsburner by John Pipkin (Random House, 2009)
In this debut novel, the author takes an actual incident in the life of Henry David Thoreau (an accidental fire that consumes 300 acres of the Concord woods) and weaves it into a richly satisfying tale.

Check Old Colony Library Network for availability of Woodsburner.

Nonfiction Winner
American Passage: The History of Ellis Island by Vincent J. Cannato (HarperCollins, 2009)
A clarifying and enlightening account of Ellis Island that is not only a history of the Island itself but also a study of the process of the entire Ellis Island experience and an invitation to contemplate openings and closings of the gates in our nation of immigrants.
(At the awards ceremony, the author did rub it in that he was a New Yorker receiving a MassBook Award for a book about New York, but he is a professor at U. Mass., Boston, so can be forgiven.)
Check Old Colony Library Network for availability of American Passage.

Poetry Winner
This Is the Red Door by James R. Whitley (Ironweed, 2009)
A wonderful collection of lyrical poems about love, loss, and moving on.

Children’s/Young Adult Winner
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (Little, Brown, 2009)
A young girl named Minli takes an epic journey seeking fortune and wisdom in this beautifully designed and illustrated novel blending Chinese folktales with the Wizard of Oz.

Check Old Colony Library Network for availability of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

Land of Marvels by Barry Unsworth

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Land of Marvels by Booker Prize-winning author Barry Unsworth happens to be another book about an archeologist, but this short work of historical fiction digs deep into the worlds of politics, finance, and military might. John Somerville, an English archeologist accompanied by his wife and assistants, is digging in the Mesopotamian desert just before the outbreak of World War I. Though he feels on the verge of a discovery that will salvage his career, his money is running out. This time pressure is embodied by the approach of a German-funded railroad line that will run right through his dig. While the ill-fated Somerville digs to unearth a valuable piece of human history, others are taking an interest in another kind of treasure lying below the surface in this region —immense oil fields.
This novel starts off slowly, but the last half will blow you away.
Check for availability in the Old Colony Library Network here.
Read The New York Times review here.

The Ancient Egyptian Connection

If Greek gods are pop culture now, can an Ancient Egypt fad be far behind? Here are three reading suggestions to suit different readers or different moods.

The one that got me started was The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, in which time-traveling tourist and Samuel Taylor Coleridge expert Professor Brendan Doyle visits England in the poetic heyday of Lord Byron, Coleridge, and William Ashbless and interrupts the plans of the ancient Egyptian sorcerer who has traveled there at the same time. An L.A. Times blogger wrote last fall about Tim Powers’ 1997 book On Stranger Tides being the basis for the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie starring Johnny Depp. The Anubis Gates is a literary romp replete with magic, science fiction, and a touch of ancient Egyptian legend.

A River in the Sky, a new Amelia Peabody mystery (#18) by Elizabeth Peters was released yesterday. I was curious, so I downloaded the first book in the series, Crocodile on the Sandbank, and listened to the audio version. Narrator Susan O’Malley perfectly embodies the bossy but kind-hearted bluestocking Amelia Peabody with ideas about archeology, ancient Egypt, and the rights of women. A fun romantic comedy with a mystery and archeological tidbits thrown in.

The Lost Army of Cambyses by Paul Sussman, a journalist and field archeologist, is an action-packed adventure with the most actual archeological information about ancient Egypt of the three. Like an Indiana Jones movie without the wacky, tongue-in-cheek stuff, it has professors, government officials, Egyptian and German villians, an Egyptian archeologist turned policeman, a handsome young archeologist, and a stubborn young woman — all in pursuit of a murderer and/or the greatest archeological discovery in Egyptian history. It’s bound to become a movie!

Check for The Anubis Gates in the Old Colony Library Network catalog here. Put a hold on A River in the Sky in the OCLN catalog here. Click here to request The Lost Army of Cambyses from the OCLN catalog.

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