Archive for May, 2012

Madeline Miller wins the Orange Prize

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

songofachillesFrom the BBC News: Debut US novelist Madeline Miller has won the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction with The Song of Achilles, a story of same-sex romance set in the Greek age of heroes.

… The other novelists on the shortlist were former winner Ann Patchett for State of Wonder, Esi Edugyan for Half Blood Blues, Anne Enright for The Forgotten, Georgina Harding for Painter of Silence, and Cynthia Ozick for Foreign Bodies. … The Orange Prize for Fiction was set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote English-language fiction written by women throughout the world. …

Being an avid reader is good for your brain.

Thursday, May 31st, 2012


From Best Colleges Online: Your Brain on Books: 20 Proven Benefits of Being an Avid Reader

Vatican vs. women

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Religion: Tensions building between women, Vatican leaders

By TERRY MATTINGLY, Scripps Howard News Service

In the beginning, there was the Conference of Major Religious Superiors of Women’s Institutes, which was established with the Vatican’s blessing in 1959 during an era of rapid growth for Catholic religious orders.

Then along came two cultural earthquakes, the Second Vatican Council and the sexual revolution. In 1971, the women’s conference changed its name — this time without the Vatican’s blessing — to become the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). Two leaders in this transformation later wrote that the goal was to become a “corporate force for systematic change in Church and society.”

The rest is a long story, ultimately leading to a blunt April 18 missive from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This long-expected Vatican broadside noted “serious doctrinal problems” in LCWR proclamations, characterized by a “diminution of the fundamental Christological center” and the prevalence of “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Conference leaders offered a terse response, saying they were “stunned by the conclusions of the doctrinal assessment” from Rome.

“Stunned” was the key word for legions of headline writers, whose work resembled this Washington Post offering: “American nuns stunned by Vatican accusation of ‘radical feminism,’ crackdown.” The Chicago Sun-Times went even further, proclaiming: “Vatican waging a war on nuns.”

Truth is, tensions have been building for decades between the LCWR leadership and Vatican leaders. Thus, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith missive stressed that its call for reform was built on a lengthy study of materials created by “a particular conference of major superiors and therefore does not intend to offer judgment on the faith and life of Women Religious in the member congregations.”

This particular investigation began in 2008 and Catholic leaders first discussed some of its findings two years later. The final “doctrinal assessment” document was completed in January 2011. Some of the specific events criticized in the Vatican document took place during the 1970s and ’80s.

It “certainly didn’t help matters” that there has been so much publicity about liberal nuns supporting White House health-care policies and new Health and Human Services regulations that require most religious institutions to include free coverage of all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives in their health-insurance plans, noted John L. Allen Jr., of the National Catholic Reporter.

Nevertheless, “it doesn’t withstand scrutiny for anyone to say that this conflict is about the bishops and Rome being upset about the sisters, [President Barack] Obama and birth control,” said Allen, in a telephone interview from Rome. Also, “no one is upset about all the sisters have done to abolish the death penalty, stand up for immigrants, care for the sick and help the poor. Rome praised them for that. … Frankly, his report could have been written 20 years ago. The real issues in this case are that old.”

For example, the Vatican noted that in 1977 the LCWR leadership openly rejected Catholic teachings on the “reservation of priestly ordination to men.” The women’s conference later published a training book suggesting that it’s legitimate for sisters to debate whether celebrations of the Mass should be central to events in their communities, since this would require the presence of a male priest.

In the ’80s, leaders in female orders backed the New Ways Ministry’s work to oppose Catholic teachings on homosexuality.

A pivotal moment came in 2007, when Dominican Sister Laurie Brink delivered the keynote address at a national LCWR assembly stating that it was time for some religious orders to enter an era of “sojourning” that would require “moving beyond the church, even beyond Jesus.”

With the emergence of the women’s movement and related forms of spirituality, many sisters would see “the divine within nature” and embrace an “emerging new cosmology” that would feed their souls, said Brink. For these sisters, the “Jesus narrative is not the only or the most important narrative. … Jesus is not the only son of God.”

A year later, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith opened its investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The Brink address, noted the resulting doctrinal assessment, “is a challenge not only to core Catholic beliefs; such a rejection of faith is also a serious source of scandal and is incompatible with religious life. … Some might see in Sr. Brink’s analysis a phenomenological snapshot of religious life today. But pastors of the Church should also see in it a cry for help.”

(Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Contact him at or

Pratchett gets Wodehouse

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

From The Telegraph: Author Terry Pratchett has won the Wodehouse Award for his book “Snuff” and will have a pig named in his honor.

Books for summer

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012


Janet Maslin at the New York Times suggests “books for basking.”

USA Today’s summer books preview

NPR’s complete list of summer book suggestions

NPR: Indie booksellers pick summer reads

NPR also takes a Literary Look Ahead

MORE: From Flavorwire — 10 highbrow books to read on the beach

From JSOnline: 99 summer book recommendations


Wednesday, May 30th, 2012


From The Learning Network, a New York Times blog:

What’s on your reading list this summer? Whatever you’re planning, and whatever your thoughts on the notion of “summer reading” in general, take to Twitter on June 7 and tell the world. Post [your] lists, recommendations, thoughts and ideas with the hashtag #summerreading that day.

The blog will be following and re-broadcasting their favorite posts. They offer ideas for topics and even tips on using Twitter.

From ‘Hiding Places’

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

“For two years I had lived under this terror that the Russians would send us to Siberia. So after living like that for so long, I thought — and many people did — that maybe it would be better under the Germans … Once the Germans took over, it was complete chaos. They were constantly issuing decrees. Every day, there was a different order. Jews couldn’t go here, couldn’t go there, couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that. There was no more school. There was an ordinance that whenever a Jew passed a German on the street, he had to take off his hat and get off the sidewalk.”

— From “Hiding Places: A Mother, a Daughter, an Uncovered Life”
by Diane Wyshogrod
(a true story set in eastern Poland during World War II)


Monday, May 28th, 2012

wuthering-heightsFrom Flavorwire: 10 epidemically overrated books. Or are they?

Guess the book title from the cover

Friday, May 25th, 2012

phantom5From Publishers Weekly. I hope these links works, because this is really fun!

Guess the classic book titles from their phantom covers.

This is the second edition of the quiz, so here’s a link to the first one.

Questions about Austen

Thursday, May 24th, 2012


From The Guardian: 10 questions for Jane Austen fans.

How a book is born

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012


How fun is this? Click on the image from for an amusing sequence demonstrating how an idea becomes (or doesn’t become) a published book.

Orange Prize losing its color

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

The Orange Prize for fiction is awarded annually to a woman writing in English. According to the BBC News, the mobile services provider Orange, which has sponsored the prize since its inception 17 years ago, is pulling its sponsorship.

From ‘Why I Left the Amish’

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

amish dolls large

“The choice that many people, looking in from the outside, think Amish young people have about whether they leave or stay in the community is a myth, at least in my experience. I certainly did not feel like I had a choice. It was as if I was being led down a long corridor, in which there was light ahead of me and darkness behind me, with someone representing the church firmly guiding me down that corridor in the direction of ‘joining church.’ To choose not to join, I would have had to wrench my elbow away from that someone, and run back into the darkness of the unknown.” …

“Not only are they not taking into account that times have changed, but they are denying that they have changed, which sometimes makes their way of life so restrictive that it becomes punitive. Much focus is put on punishing wrongdoers, as opposed to finding harmony in the community.”

— Saloma Miller Furlong in “Why I Left the Amish”

Ideas for your dream loft

Monday, May 21st, 2012


From Buzzfeed: Cool photos with ideas for creating your dream loft.

Separate from the world

Friday, May 18th, 2012


Here’s a link to the latest “One for the Books” column on people kept separate from the rest of the world.


Why I Left the Amish

Hiding Places

I Am Forbidden

Andrew Carnegie Medal finalists

Friday, May 18th, 2012

From Publishers Lunch:

The new Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction announced the finalists for the two awards:

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, by Robert K. Massie
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, by James Gleick
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, by Manning Marable

The Forgotten Waltz, by Anne Enright
Lost Memory of Skin, by Russell Banks
Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell

The inaugural winners will be named at ALA in Anaheim on June 24. Karen Russell just won the Young Lions’ Award and was a Pulitzer finalist (and tied for 11th on the Publishers Lunch Best of the Best of 2012 Fiction list).

Marable won the Pulitzer for history, was nominated for a National Book Award and a NBCC, and tied for fifth on the Publishers Lunch Best of the Best of 2012 Nonfiction list. Massie was tied for seventh on the PL compilation list, and an Indie Choice nominee, and Gleick was an NBCC nominee. Enright is also in contention for the Orange Prize, and Banks was a PEN/Faulkner Award finalist.

Christopher Robin’s house for sale

Thursday, May 17th, 2012


A.A. Milne’s house, where Christopher Robin grew up, site of the House at Pooh Corner and the 100-Acre Wood (below), is for sale.


Top 100 books, but revised

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Modern Library released its editors’ choices for a list of the 100 best novels in 1998 (with a side list of readers’ choices and a similar set of lists for the 100 best nonfiction books).

Now, staff members at Publishers Weekly have come up with their ideas for “fixing” the list of novels by adding a few of their own favorites (and telling why) and deleting some of the books they despise, or that simply make them yawn.

This is REALLY good stuff!

Most read

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012


From Visual News: The Top 10 Most Read Books in the World

Southern authors

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

JesmynWardFrom Flavorwire: “10 contemporary Southern authors you should be reading.” Shown: Jesmyn Ward

Reading hunger

Monday, May 14th, 2012


“Sometimes reading a book leads to another book. Did you not experience that? I am sure you did. I discovered that rather quickly. Monsieur Zamaretti let me roam about the rows in his shop. I even climbed up the ladder to reach up higher. You see, … there was a new hunger within me, and on some days I can assure you I felt fairly ravenous. The need to read took over me. A delicious and exhilarating hold. The more I read, the hungrier I became. Each book seemed promising, each page I turned offered an escapade, the allure of another world, other destinies, other dreams.”

— from “The House I Loved” by Tatiana de Rosnay

More beautiful bookstores

Friday, May 11th, 2012


From Flavorwire: More beautiful bookstores from around the world. Above: Baldwin’s Book Bark, West Chester, Pa.

Books inspire house designs

Thursday, May 10th, 2012


From Flavorwire: 10 beautiful houses inspired by books.
Shown: The Hobbit Motel in New Zealand

Cook up some awards

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

The James Beard Foundation Book Awards have been announced.

Also, click here for a list of winners and finalists for the 2012 Children’s Choice Book Awards.

So many winners, so little time

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

The Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs) for 2012 have been announced. And there are MANY.

Tired Troops

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012


This awesome photo was in a PPS sent to my e-mail address. I call it “Tired Troops.” If you know the originator, please let me know so that I can give the photographer credit. Just look at these faces.

Memoirs about moms

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012


From Flavorwire: 10 of the best memoirs about mothers

Forest Songs — Spring

Monday, May 7th, 2012



New leaves like yellow lace
filter late-day sunlight gently,
letting through a fragile glow.
This is no sacrifice for them.
As they drink in
the light becomes them.

Our serendipity!
We drink it, too.


Tiny tender new leaves shimmer
when the breeze comes by —
their first experience at ecstasy?
And then as one they sigh,

Some trees bow, bare still —
jealous? or just waiting.
The bluebird will come.

— Mary Louise Ruehr

Copyright 2002 Mary L. Playfair; Copyright 2012 Mary Louise Ruehr

A street of literary houses

Friday, May 4th, 2012


Here’s a link to the latest “One for the Books” column on A Street of Literary Houses.



The House at Tyneford
The House I Loved
The House at Sea’s End

Medals to be bestowed

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Author Toni Morrison will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a ceremony in the White House in the late spring. She is among 13 people who will be so honored. Among the others are John Glenn, Madeleine Albright, Bob Dylan, Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low, and basketball coach Pat Summitt.