Monday, February 21, 2011

To read, or not to read?

Reading is a worthwhile habit to pick up; it enriches the mind, keeps us on our toes and generates a sense of empathy towards the people around us, says NG JU ENN

IT IS INDEED STRANGE how we humans avoid doing the very thing we know is beneficial to us. Reading is commonly known to fuel the imagination and increase knowledge, yet we find that most people do not do it regularly. “Many don’t read—even graduates. Students read only what they need to pass their exams,” Malaysian Booksellers Association (MBA) president Cheah Thye Wee told The Star newspaper.

Malaysians only read two books a year on average, according to statistics contained in a Malaysian National Library report back in 2003. It was a discouraging non-improvement from a study done nine years before that. More recent statistics held hope. Malaysians read an average of eight to 12 books a year, according to Deputy Information, Communication and Culture Minister Heng Seai Kie, as quoted in The Star in May 2010. However, the basis of this study has not been revealed, causing people to question the validity of it. Things simply do not add up—train passengers who are seen reading on the way to their destinations are a dime a dozen. And if you were to ask your fellow Malaysian friends if they read, chances are four in 10 of them would look quizzically at you and say, “What kind of a question is that? Of course I don’t! Once in a while, I might flick through a newspaper, but that’s about it.”

What is even more peculiar is that we often witness hoards of people pushing their way among the aisles at book fairs. Many purchase such a huge amount of books at once, that when stacked on the cashier counter, the volume at the top is positioned at the same level as their eyebrows. Six months later, try questioning them on the progress they have made reading those very books and you might laugh. Which brings us to the question: are we becoming a generation of hoarders rather than readers? Like it or not, we live in a culture of instant gratification. We are addicted to anything that gives us what we desire quickly, whether it is a microwave meal or a live streaming video of an EPL match. The same applies to the act of buying—we get what we want instantly, with the mere disposal of cash.

The truth is, reading requires discipline. Even more so when there are a million and one distractions constantly calling out to us, each with the promise of a more entertaining or fulfilling time. As much as modern technologies have helped us in accomplishing our tasks more efficiently, they have also inevitably impacted our attention spans in a bad way. Twitter and Facebook have conditioned us to process information in bits and pieces. Marina Mahathir, in her weekly Musings column in The Star, wrote that “Our attention span has shrunk to, oh say, 140 characters. It has become harder for us to focus on anything that takes longer than a few minutes.”

But it can be done. All that is needed is some practice. Try reading a page a day first. Increase to two pages the following week. Pretty soon, you might even go beyond reading the number of pages you have set for yourself, just because you find it impossible not to give in to your curiosity. What kind of tricks does the author have up his sleeve that might be unveiled in the next chapter? Will your favourite character survive until the end or be killed halfway into the story? The trick is to find a book that appeal to your interests. Do not give up if the first book you pick up makes your eyes glaze over by the second page. Keep searching.

Some lament that reading is too expensive. The complaints normally go along the lines of “public libraries are not well equipped,” “the average price of a book is RM50” and “reading is considered a luxury.” But there are many second-hand bookstores in the country, such as Pay Less Books. And with the opening of BookXcess, which sells overprinted books at cheaper prices, there is really no excuse not to read. The irony is that you would often see people who complain books are expensive are willing to fork out hefty sums on other things, such as food, clothing, cell phones and other gadgets. The double standard is rather bizarre, to say the least.

The importance of reading cannot be emphasised enough, especially as Malaysia is aiming to become a developed country. There is no better means to equip oneself for the competitive, turbulent environment both locally and internationally than to read. Watching news and documentaries on television or listening to the radio might give you some amount of information but usually, the written text offers a more detailed account of what is happening around the world. “We’re so inundated with unreliable information everywhere we go that we have to train ourselves to separate the wheat from the chaff, and the only way to do this is to read widely,” said Malaysian novelist Tan Twan Eng in an interview with Eric Forbes in The Malaysian Insider. Media literacy is a skill that can be acquired not only by reading omnivorously, but by learning to be critical of what we read.

Naturally, reading from various sources exposes us to different points of view, which give us a more complete picture of any situation or issue. Miss Malaysia and second runner-up Miss World 1998, Lina Teoh, also an avid reader, said in an interview with Forbes in Quill magazine, “Without it [reading], we know nothing about the world or life, and our lives would remain very sheltered.” Reading an article about sex slavery in India or an autobiography of someone who suffered from depression can help you understand the predicaments faced by people other than yourself. This in turn translates into a feeling of sensitivity and compassion towards society in general. Sometimes, you can even learn from the experiences of others before you experience it yourself, which can help you to relate to someone you might meet in the future who is going through a similar situation.

A report released by the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in 2007, as quoted in Reading Today, found that reading for pleasure correlates with strong academic performance. Furthermore, poor reading proficiency has a direct link towards lack of employment, low wages, and less opportunities for advancement. For that reason, parents everywhere need to make the effort by reading to their kids from a young age, as the habit is best instilled during their formative years. This need not be treated like a chore, as reading to your children can be quite an enjoyable bonding experience.

Another thing to consider is the value of reading fiction. The benefits of reading nonfiction are obvious, but fiction should not be relegated to being made-up (or imaginary) stories that have no place in the world. More frequent than not, a work of fiction is at least partially, if not, a large part, based on a writer’s own experiences and observations. Fiction plays with the “what ifs” of a situation. That is why there are sci-fi novels depicting the state of dystopia, which would be the consequence in the event of excessive human greed or power. The late American writer, Jessamyn West, put it this way, “Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.”

All in all, reading is a worthwhile habit to pick up. It enriches the mind, keeps us on our toes and generates a sense of empathy towards the people around us. Those who do not read are in fact losing out a lot. It is ever more necessary in this age of instantaneous endeavours to switch off our electronics for a couple of hours in a day and pick up a book, magazine or newspaper. And as for handling naysayers who claim that people who read are those who live in their own worlds and do not know how to function in real life, take comfort in knowing that reading enables you to do the exact opposite.

Monday, February 14, 2011

2011 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival

DIARIES AT THE READY: the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival has announced its dates for 2011. Those keen to sate themselves at Bali’s sumptuous literary feast must set aside 5-9 October 2011 for the event acclaimed by Harpers Bazaar magazine as one of the top six writers’ festivals in the world.

“The Festival has hopped into the Year of the Rabbit and there’s a spring in our step and a heightened enthusiasm about this year’s program. Our audiences came in record numbers last October and the interest at this early stage is intense,” says Festival Founder and Director Janet de Neefe.

Nandurin Karang Awak—Cultivate the Land Within—is our 2011 theme and is taken from the epic poem ‘Gaguritan Salampah Laku’ by Ida Pedanda Made Sideman.

“Ida Pedanda Made Sidemen is considered one of Bali’s greatest Kawi-Wiku, Poet-Priests, and throughout his lifetime penned numerous significant literary works. Beside composing poems and officiating at religious rituals, he was a respected authority on traditional architecture. He passed away on September 10, 1984, at the age of 126.”

De Neefe continues, “Developing the self in ways similar to cultivating rice fields, by sowing the seeds of truths, cutting down the stalks of desires, and carefully reaping a bountiful harvest for the finest grain, is an important philosophical concept in the spiritual landscape of Bali.

“Ida Pedanda Made Sidemen’s statement reflects the optimism of the survivor, the person who possesses no land, due to choice, poverty or exile, but holds an unwavering personal conviction of his or her own potential and possibilities: the land within.

“At a time in history when disputes over borders, sovereignty, resources, culture and economics are more acute than ever, we must remember that the greatest shared space in the world is in the mind and the heart. The 2011 Festival theme is devoted to redefining the boundaries of consciousness and connection with the vast, rich and mysterious territory within.”

A stellar lineup of more than 80 writers representing the gamut of genres and nationalities will converge on Ubud, from 5-9 October, in a lavish celebration of literature, commencing with a tribute to Ida Pedanda Made Sideman. Readings, panel discussions, workshops, lunches, debates and performances will enliven the landscape of this picturesque town. From Ubud’s legendary hotels to its charming cafes, restaurants and temples, the Festival will cultivate the glory of the written word, over four magical, unforgettable days. Participants and program details are tightly guarded at present, but bookmark http://www.ubudwritersfestival.com/ for all updates and ticket details.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Matters of the Heart

EMILY GIFFIN’s novels are marketed as chick lit, but they are really more than that—they dissect complex human emotions and relationships

Photography by Deborah Feingold

EVERYTHING seems to be coming up roses for chick-lit novelist Emily Giffin, best-selling author of such novels as Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Baby Proof, Love the One You’re With and Heart of the Matter. All her novels have been commercial successes. And what’s more, her first novel, Something Borrowed, has been made into a movie starring Kate Hudson, John Krasinski, Ginnifer Goodwin and Colin Egglesfield.

When the Chicago native began working on her first novel in 2004, she had no idea she was writing chick lit. However, she has no hangups about being labelled a chick-lit writer: “Although somewhere deep down I believed in myself, I don’t think I fully imagined my novel would one day be published. So I wasn’t thinking in terms of genre or marketing or the hue of the cover as I wrote Something Borrowed. I was simply telling a story of love and friendship and how complicated both can be.” In fact, the original title of Something Borrowed was ‘Rolling the Dice,’ which her editor felt sounded like a book about gambling. “Since then, my work has often been described as ‘chick lit’ and for the most part the term doesn’t bother me. I think it simply signals to readers that the book is about women, written for women (although many men enjoy my books), about issues that concern women (relationships, careers, etc.).” However, the only thing that bothers her is when the label is used disparagingly to imply that all chick lit is, by definition, superficial fluff because “this is akin to saying that all women are devoid of substance and the issues that concern us are fundamentally trivial. I try not to get too hung up on labels as I think they can be very limiting.”

Giffin, who read law at the University of Virginia and worked as a litigation lawyer for a Manhattan legal firm, has always yearned to be a writer. “Some of my fondest childhood memories involve reading books and writing my own stories. Perhaps because we moved around a lot, characters in books became my constant companions, and keeping a journal provided me comfort.”

So what made her decide to study law? “I’m not sure exactly what happened during college, as I never lost my desire to become a writer. But looking back, I think I had the sense that I had to get a ‘real’ job first—that I couldn’t graduate and promptly sit down to write a novel. I took a lot of history and political science classes—so law school became a logical next stop. I also think I went to school because it felt safer—a more certain path to measurable success. I think it always feels riskier and scarier to go after something you really love and want because the rejection and failure hurt more.” However, she does not regret taking up and practising law: “I don’t think you can ever regret an education—even one that comes with a heavy loan burden. I learned so much—skills and knowledge that I still apply today in a very practical sense. I also feel that I gained real world experience. I learned about office politics and was forced to develop a thick skin while working at a large law firm. Most important, I’m not sure I would have moved to New York City without the safety of my law degree and job offer—and living there was certainly one of the most enriching experiences of my life. And finally, I made so many close friends at law school and my firm, relationships I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

Giffin, who was miserable practising law, decided to quit the profession in 2001 to pursue writing. “Although I enjoyed law school, I loathed the actual practice of law—at least the big firm culture. And I discovered that misery can be quite motivating.” So very early on, she devised a plan to pay off her law school loans so that she could write full-time. Meanwhile, she began writing a young adult novel in her free time—and sometimes while at work! Four years later, in 2001, her loans were paid off and her book was completed. She managed to secure an agent, but over the next several months, she received a dozen rejection letters from publishers. At that juncture, she seriously contemplated throwing in the towel and keeping her nose to the legal grindstone, but instead, she quit her job, moved to London and decided to start all over again. It was then and there that she began writing Something Borrowed, got hitched, landed a two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The modern-day Jane Austen is especially adept at exploring and capturing the complexities of love, relationships and human emotions in her novels. Much of her inspiration comes from her relationships and the issues and concerns that arise among her family and friends. “It’s amazing how universal certain themes are, such as whether there are deal breakers when it comes to true love; the idealization of a past relationship and a fixation on the ‘the one who got away’; or complicated, if not downright toxic, female friendships.” She finds it gratifying to write books that resonate with readers of all ages the world over. Also, her characters are often people who are not perfect. She finds flawed characters especially interesting, and enjoys the challenge of making the reader root for them despite their shortcomings and the dumb choices they make in their lives. “Life is about the grey areas. Things are seldom black and white, even when we wish they were and think they should be, and I like exploring this nuanced terrain.” She believes most people are basically good and sincerely try to do the right thing. “Yet we are all capable of missteps and of hurting the people we love, and we all have had to grapple with the guilt and regret that come from these mistakes and weaknesses.”

And like all writers, Giffin, who now lives in Atlanta with her husband and their three children, constantly grapples with the frustration of not writing her best. “Pretty much every day is filled with at least a few moments of frustration in which I’m staring at a blank screen—or a screen filled with sentences I loathe. To me, writing is about overcoming those moments, fighting through them, getting to the other side. More than anything, I write for that feeling of accomplishment and relief.” Her publicist once said to her about another writer: ‘She only had one book in her.’ “That is always my fear—that I’ve reached my limit. But I’ve discovered that nearly every author—no matter how accomplished—has this feeling on occasion. And ultimately, I believe that writing is mostly about hard work, perseverance, and keeping faith in yourself—which is true of most things in life worth pursuing.”

Reproduced from the January-March 2011 issue of Quill magazine

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Publishing Your Own ebook

Curious about ebook writing? ELLEN WHYTE chronicles the decision-making process that convinced her to take the plunge and publish a romance ebook

I STARTED WRITING full-time back in 1996 because I fell in love. As we planned to travel, we decided that one of us should follow the formal career path and the other would take on an occupation that would stand being uprooted at regular intervals. He is the academic; I decided to try freelance writing.

We moved to Sarawak and I started with some tiny test pieces for the local paper. Then I took the plunge and decided to branch out. I approached Lim Chong at the Computimes with a series of six articles. He took the lot and asked me to write more. Under various pen names, I wrote about 1,000 education articles on information technology (IT) and I got four books out of it too.

When the IT market started to cool, I ventured into science and feature writing for children. I approached newspapers overseas and got 47 rejections and three new clients. I also moved into telling other people’s stories for women’s magazines like Women’s Weekly and Her World. But it wasn’t enough. I craved to write fiction.

Plunge Into Fiction
My modus operandi is to test small, then go big. I started with some short stories. Beware the Knight and Pearl Takes a Chance were snapped up by the Malaysian Women´s Weekly and Singapore Women’s Weekly for their 5-Minute Fiction series. Deciding to move on, but unable to make up my mind about two storylines that appealed, I wrote two romance novels: Blackmail Bride and Wildcat in Moscow. It took me about a year, as I had to sandwich it in between other work.

I was cheered when Jilly Cooper’s agent liked my letter and asked for the first three chapters. I was delighted when she asked to read the rest, but I came down to earth with a thud when she said no thanks but call us when you write more.

Of the 50 or so other agents, about 45 have ignored me, and five have told me they’d like to talk to me—when I move to their country. And sadly that has been the bottom line ever since.

It drives me nuts that I can’t get into mainstream romance publishing in the United Kingdom or North America because I know that my work is up to standard. Worse, some of the stuff on sale is so incredibly lacking in character and plot that I wonder how on earth these stories ever got into print.

Writing is a hugely personal affair, which makes submitting work to editors and publishers a nerve-wracking experience, especially if you happen to be shy. Luckily I am very confident, arrogant my friends tell me happily and often, so I’m not too down when my work is rejected. I just bounce back and move on.

I soon realised that writing two full-length novels had made me more confident about tackling big jobs. So I decided to write a new book, a detective story with a strong romantic line, set in Malaysia. I have outlined it and the book will be ready by the end of February. It’s got black magic, cunning murders, sultry sunsets, and lots of heavy breathing so I’m hoping it will be a huge hit.

I was planning to start hawking the new book around to the agents, and holding Blackmail Bride and Wildcat in Moscow in reserve for later. However, in October I got an intriguing email.

Into Ventures New
Gemma Thomas, founder of a new company Ink-Slinger.com, wrote to me to ask if I’d consider putting my two books, Katz Tales: Living under the Velvet Paw and Logomania: Where Phrases Come From and How to Use Them, into ebook format and selling them via her ebook portal.

My first impulse was to say thanks but no thanks. Then I hesitated.

In the US and UK, high street bookshops are now slowly losing out to online book portals. Part of this is because Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the like demand huge discounts from publishers, and then undercut traditional bookshops. Supermarkets are now doing the same. Plus, in 2009, ebooks outsold hardbacks at Amazon.

At the moment, the ebook business is still in its infancy. However, it has huge potential.

I was also intrigued because I had two books that were just sitting there eating grass. Putting one out there would give me an introduction to the business of e-publishing, get me some feedback from readers, and maybe also help me build a base for future publications. If I got lucky, I might even make some money!

From talking to friends in the US who were excited about e-publishing after the Kindle sales last year, I was aware that some ebook publishers were vanity publishers in disguise.

In my mind the distinction between a real publisher and a vanity publisher is very clear. When the serious publisher takes on your book, it’s a partnership. You provide the book and they do the editing, artwork, paperwork, promotion, and use their distribution network or a subcontractor to get the book out in the shops. They collect the money and at the end of the year the author gets a share.

The vanity publisher is a printer. The ebook variety charges a fee of RM1,000 or more to convert your text, and put it up on their portal, and then take a percentage off the top too. They make their money up front, whether your book sells or not. Vanity publishing is not my scene. Ink-Slinger, however, sounded okay. They do the converting and the hosting for free, process sales, and pay 70 per cent royalties. They also help push the book, but Gemma was up front about depending on authors pushing their work too.

I decided to take the plunge and offered Gemma Blackmail Bride. As Ink-Slinger applied for an ISBN, the only thing they charge is a fee of £5 or RM25, I was plunged into a frenzy of preparation.

Emanar Alyana, mixed media artist extraordinaire, designed the front cover in return for future favours as yet unspecified. As 10 per cent of all my books go to Friends Furry Farm, a no-kill animal shelter in Selangor, I contacted the cat blogging community and asked them to help publicise it. I wrote press releases and made lists of all the people to write to once Blackmail Bride was up for sale.

Then I called my mum to tell her I’d be using her name because Normanda Whyte sounds so much more romantic than Ellen Whyte. She said she should have thought of that when she named me.

Five days after Blackmail Bride was launched, more than 10 people have featured it on their blogs, and others have tweeted and clicked the Share button on Facebook for me. I was totally overwhelmed when the Zoolatry cat secretary gifted us with a special logo featuring my cats Au and Target as advocates for the book.

Gemma tells me that in that time Blackmail Bride has had 182 page hits (I think 175 of those are mine!) and four sales. More encouragingly, there have been 90 or so sample downloads of the first chapter.

In addition, it makes a nice gift. Blackmail Bride retails at RM7.50 and as buying a copy for a friend is easy, quick and doesn’t involve postage, I’m hoping there will be a lot of last-minute sales from people who forgot to buy something for cousin X or those who feel it’s too expensive to post something to pals currently overseas.

I’m very cautious by nature but Gemma is optimistic. “In 2010 ebook sales were roughly trebble hardback sales. With the sale of electronic readers forecast to double in 2011, I expect the growth in ebooks to rocket, with the margin between paperbacks and ebooks further narrowing, and to become level with paperbacks in the next three to five years.”

I hope she’s right, and that Blackmail Bride will be one of the world’s first ebook romance best-sellers. Once the market matures, I should be able to write four books a year. I’ve got plenty of ideas, and I’m dying to get started.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

February 2011 Highlights

Novels
1. The Last Brother (trans. from the French by Geoffrey Strachan) (Graywolf Press, 2011) / Nathacha Appanah
2. Jubilate (Arcadia Books, 2011) / Michael Arditti
3. Haunting Jasmine (Berkley, 2011) / Anjali Banerjee
4. Open City (Random House, 2011) / Teju Cole
5. A Palace in the Old Village (trans. from the French by Linda Coverdale) (Penguin, 2011) / Tahar Ben Jelloun
6. The Champion (Picador, 2011) / Tim Binding
7. The Meeting Point (Faber & Faber, 2011) / Lucy Caldwell
8. Jamrach’s Menagerie (Canongate, 2011) / Carol Birch
9. When the Killing’s Done (Viking Adult, 2011) / T.C. Boyle
10. A Red Herring Without Mustard: A Flavia de Luce Mystery (Delacorte Press, 2011) / Alan Bradley

11. The Illumination (Pantheon, 2011) / Kevin Brockmeier
12. The Emperor’s Body (W.W. Norton, 2011) / Peter Brooks
13. Georgia Bottoms (Little, Brown, 2011) / Mark Childress
14. Silent Voices (Macmillan, 2011) / Ann Cleeves
15. Solo (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) / Rana Dasgupta
16. The Old Romantic (Riverhead, 2011) / Louise Dean
17. Bleakly Hall (Chatto & Windus, 2011) / Elaine di Rollo
18. West of Here (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2011) / Jonathan Evison
19. The Cookbook Collector (Atlantic Books, 2011) / Allegra Goodman
20. Lasting Damage (Hodder & Stoughton, 2011) / Sophie Hannah

21. Great House (Viking, 2011) / Nicole Krauss
22. Portraits of a Marriage (trans. from the Hungarian by George Szirtes) (Knopf, 2011) / Sándor Márai
23. Invisible River (Bloomsbury, 2011) / Helena McEwen
24. The Paris Wife (Ballantine Books, 2011) / Paula McLain
25. Night Waking (Granta, 2011) / Sarah Moss
26. Ghost Light (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011) / Joseph O’Connor
27. The Guardians (Orion, 2011) / Andrew Pyper
28. Half of the Human Race (Jonathan Cape, 2011) / Anthony Quinn
29. The Folded Earth (Maclehose Press, 2011) / Anuradha Roy
30. Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer (Picador USA, 2011) / Wesley Stace

31. Enough About Love (trans. from the French by Adriana Hunter) (Other Press, 2011) / Hervé Le Tellier
32. More Than You Can Say (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2011) / Paul Torday
33. The Quiet Twin (Bloomsbury, 2011) / Dan Vyleta
34. Last Dance with Valentino (HarperCollins, 2011) / Daisy Waugh
35. Or the Bull Kills You (Chatto & Windus, 2011) / Jason Webster
36. The Warsaw Anagrams (Corsair, 2011) / Richard Zimler

First Novels
1. The Sweet Relief of Missing Children (W.W. Norton, 2011) / Sarah Braunstein
2. The Cry of the Go-Away Bird (Harvill Secker, 2011) / Andrea Eames
3. The Adults (Scriber, 2011) / Alison Espach
4. Hate: A Romance (Faber & Faber, 2011) / Tristan Garcia
5. A Discovery of Witches (Headline, 2011) / Deborah Harkness
6. The Oracle of Stamboul (HarperCollins, 2011) / Michael David Lukas
7. The View From Here (Soho Press, 2011) / Deborah McKinlay
8. Snowdrops (Doubleday, 2011) / A.D. Miller
9. Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End (trans. from the Swedish by Paul Norlen) (Doubleday, 2011) / Leif G.W. Persson

11. The Fates Will Find Their Way (William Heinemann, 2011) / Hannah Pittard
12. Someone Else’s Garden (Harper Perennial, 2011) / Dipika Rai
13. Swamplandia! (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011) / Karen Russell
14. The Intimates (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / Ralph Sassone
15. Pub Walks in Underhill Country (Penguin/Fig Tree, 2011) / Nat Segnit
16. The Gospel of Anarchy (Harper Perennial, 2011) / Justin Taylor
17. The Collaborator (Viking, 2011) / Mirza Waheed
18. The Terror of Living (Little, Brown/Simon & Schuster, 2011) / Urban Waite

Stories
1. Lying Together (Tindal Street Press, 2011) / Gaynor Arnold
2. The Mother Who Stayed (Free Press, 2011) / Laura Furman
3. Saints and Sinners (Faber & Faber, 2011) / Edna O’Brien
4. Nobody Ever Gets Lost (FiveChapters Books, 2011) / Jess Row

Poetry
1. Money Shot (Wesleyan University Press, 2011) / Rae Armantrout
2. Lovely Asunder (University of Arkansas Press, 2011) / Danielle Cadena Deulen
3. Head Off & Split (Triquarterly, 2011) / Nikkey Finney
4. Tokaido Road (CB Editions, 2011) / Nancy Gaffield
5. Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / Elizabeth Gilbert
6. Morning Knowledge (University of Notre Dame Press, 2011) / Kevin Hart
7. Dreamlife of a Philanthropist: Prose Poems and Sonnets (University of Notre Dame Press, 2011) / Janet Kaplan
8. Talking About Movies with Jesus (Louisiana State University Press, 2011) / David Kirkby
9. Sleeping it off in Rapid City: New and Selected Poems (Faber & Faber, 2011) / August Kleinzahler
10. News of the World (Knopf, 2011) / Philip Levine

11. One Thousand Nights and Counting: Selected Poems (Picador, 2011) / Glyn Maxwell
12. Torchlight (Carcanet Press, 2011) / Peter McDonald
13. Complete Poetry, Translations and Selected Prose (ed. Peter Robinson) (Bloodaxe, 2011) / Bernard Spencer
14. Tropicalia (University of Notre Dame Press, 2011) / Emma Trelles
15. The Book of Ten (University of Pittsburg Press, 2011) / Susan Wood

Nonfiction
1. Prose (ed. Lloyd Schwartz) (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / Elizabeth Bishop
2. The Anatomy of a Moment (trans. from the Spanish by Anne McLean) (Bloomsbury, 2011) / Javier Cercas
3. The Foremost Good Fortune (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011) / Susan Conley
4. Townie: A Memoir (W.W. Norton, 2011) / Andre Dubus III
5. My Father’s Fortune: A Life (Metropolitan Books, 2011) / Michael Frayn
6. The Language Wars: A History of Proper English (John Murray, 2011) / Henry Hitchings
7. Sex and the River Styx (Chelsea Green, 2011) / Edward Hoagland
8. The Two Kinds of Decay (Granta Books, 2011) / Sarah Manguso
9. A Widow’s Story: A Memoir (Ecco, 2011) / Joyce Carol Oates
10. Bird Cloud (Simon & Schuster, 2011) / Annie Proulx

11. The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011)/ Ben Shephard
12. Edgelands: Journey Into England’s True Wilderness (Jonathan Cape, 2011) / Paul Farkey & Michael Symmons Roberts
13. The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death (W.W. Norton, 2011) / David Shields & Bradford Morrow (eds.)
14. A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family (Voice, 2011) / Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
15. To a Mountain in Tibet (Chatto & Windus, 2011) / Colin Thubron
16. Morning, Noon, and Night: Finding the Meaning of Life’s Stages Through Books (Random House, 2011) / Arnold Weinstein
17. The Magnetic North: Notes from the Article Circle (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / Sara Wheeler