National Book Awards Finalists

National Book Awards FinalistsA twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history. In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances. In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the “Phantom Terror,” roamed—many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations, and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection. Together with the Osage, they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history. In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating. Read on audio by actors Will Patton, Ann Marie Lee, and Danny Campbell.

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New releases. Which interests you more: Biography, humor, football?

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman

The Book of DustRenowned storyteller Philip Pullman returns to the parallel world of Lyra Belacqua and His Dark Materials for a thrilling and epic adventure in which daemons, alethiometers, and the Magisterium all play a part. The Book of Dust will be a work in three parts, like His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass). The title and cover of this first story will remain under wraps until a later date, but it can be revealed that the book is set ten years before The Golden Compass and centers on the much-loved character Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon.
Philip Pullman) “I’ve always wanted to tell the story of how Lyra came to be living at Jordan College, and in thinking about it, I discovered a long story that began when she was a baby and will end when she’s grown up. This volume and the next will cover two parts of Lyra’s life: starting at the beginning of her story and returning to her twenty years later. As for the third and final part, my lips are sealed.
Question) Is it a prequel? A sequel?
Answer) It’s neither. In fact, The Book of Dust is . . . an equal. It doesn’t stand before or after His Dark Materials, but beside it. It’s a different story, but there are settings that readers of His Dark Materials will recognize, and characters they’ve met before. Also, of course, there are some characters who are new to us, including an ordinary boy…a boy we have glimpsed in an earlier part of Lyra’s story, if we were paying attention…who, with Lyra, is caught up in a terrifying adventure that takes him into a new world.
Q) Why return to Lyra’s world?
A) Dust. Questions about that mysterious and troubling substance were already causing strife ten years before His Dark Materials, and at the center of The Book of Dust is the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organization, which wants to stifle speculation and inquiry, and those who believe thought and speech should be free. The idea of Dust suffused His Dark Materials. Little by little through that story the idea of what Dust was became clearer and clearer, but I always wanted to return to it and discover more.


Lisa Scottoline Interview

Lisa ScottolineTower Review: When and how did you become a writer? What is your background?

Lisa Scottoline: I began as a writer about ten years ago, when my daughter was just an infant. At the time I was a trial lawyer for a large law firm in Philadelphia, Dechert, Price & Rhoads, and my marriage ended at about the same time my daughter was born. As much as I loved being a lawyer (really), I found that my kid turned my head. I wanted to be able to stay home and raise her, which required me to find another way to make an income. At the time, John Grisham and other male lawyers were writing legal thrillers successfully, and I noticed that no women were. I had majored in English, in the contemporary American novel, at Penn, so I figured why not try? I also thought I could bring a new perspective to the genre as a woman. I think that law school was where I learned to write novels. As a lawyer, you need to sort through the facts, pick out those that are most important and will add to your argument, and then put them on paper in a succinct and persuasive way. Every word counts, and you are trying to create a perspective – a spin, if you will – in the readers’ mind. This is the same way I create a character. And, in order to keep up the pace of a novel, you need to make sure that each line adds to the story, and drives it forward. I write with the thought that every word counts. And every reader.

TR: How was your first novel received? What did that feel like?

Scottoline: Thank God, my first novel was very well received, and all of my novels have shared the same good fortune. My first book, EVERYWHERE THAT MARY WENT, was nominated for the Edgar Award, which is the most prestigious award given to mystery writers. Although my first book did not win, my second book, FINAL APPEAL, was nominated the next year, and did win. When the first good review of EVERYWHERE THAT MARY WENT came in, I made my editor read it over and over to make sure it was true. Then to be nominated for an award, seemed more than I could have ever hoped for. The whole writing experience has been a thrill for me and it gets better and better with each book.

TR: When you get fan mail now, what do most people seem to connect with. What most interests them about your characters?

Scottoline: I try very hard to write characters that are interesting, yet realistic. The thing that I hear the most is that people love my characters because they feel like they can relate to them. Once a reader makes a personal connection to a character, they are naturally more involved in the story. I like that my characters are not super people. They’re just like all of us.


Environment in Crisis: Go Green?

Tim SandersWith hurricanes ravaging the Caribbean and Florida, with astronomical costs, pain, death, and destruction, is there hope? What should one do? Here’s Tim Sanders, environmentalist and solutions speaker. His books are Saving the World at Work, Today We Are Rich: Harnessing the Power of Total Confidence, The Likeability Factor, DealStorming (about sales and marketing) and Love is the Killer App.

Q: What are a few things people can do at home to be greener? Personally, I’ve switched out incandescent bulbs for CFCs, and cut way back on television in favor of audiobooks. A radical act, some would say, but it saves us from about a million commercials for things we don’t really need.
A: CFLs are a big start. Half of all electricity is devoted to lighting, so increase efficiency there makes a huge difference. Reducing your auto usage or emissions is big too. Combine less driving with high MPG and you move the needle. Besides your personal usage issues, influence is a big way to make a difference. Require green-ness from all your suppliers, from dry-cleaner to grocery. They will respond to customer requests. That way, you can go beyond being less bad.
Q: Any thoughts on cutting back on beef consumption, bottled water, soda, and its relationship to pollution and rising health care costs for companies? What can CEOs do to encourage more responsible habits at the workplace that may translate to people adopting those practices in their private lives?
A: Beef consumption is tied to pollution, global warming, water waste and heart disease. Bottled water is the new Hummer. With respect to companies, the magic bullet may be wellness programming. For a small fee, you can bring in trainers to teach your employees diet, exercise and smoking cessation. For every dollar you spend, you’ll save three in health care claims and increased productivity. You’ll also teach people how to take care of their bodies, which leads to an increased respect for the planet. That’s what Adam Werbach (former Sierra Club president) found out when he was hired to teach eco-sensibility to Wal Mart employees.
Q: Efficiency is the watchword for tomorrow’s cars, but this extends to appliances, homes, and buildings too. Thomas Friedman, in his book “Hot, Flat and Crowded,” made the scary point that the world will add another six USAs in the sense of consumption of natural resources worldwide, due to rising standards of living. This is unsustainable without a radical shift, not just in values, but in innovation. Of course Dubai is now constructing buildings that are partially self sustaining, but they have the advantage of capital to finance their architects. Do you share Friedman’s optimism that solutions will come, even for us, in this so-called “post-American world?”
A: We all need to dramatically reduce our requirements of the planet to create a sustainable world. We need to, as a global community, help struggling nations reduce their birth rate too. I’m an eternal optimist and believe that we can find new ways to increase the supply of resources and make this planet big enough for a few billion more people. Why? Because our next generation is wired for it. They consider it their legacy (as opposed to independence, which was the boomers Ayn Rand driven goal). In the meantime, here’s the way to think about it all: The planet is like a start up company that is running out of money. The product team is working night and day to find a breakthrough product that reverses the trend and brings precious money in the door. Meanwhile the rest of the company needs to save money to cut the burn rate and give the product team some extra time. We are the rest of the company and the eco-innovators are the product team. We need to innovate, buckle down and buy them some time to come up with solutions that preserve the environment.
Q: One final question. You narrate your own book on audio. What was the experience like for you, and how is it different than getting up on the podium in your lecture circuit?
A: It’s pretty hard. You have to read in a studio for several days, get it all absolutely correct and maintain energy and passion. On the lecture circuit, I’m not reading off a script or a teleprompter!

Is IT the End of the World?

The End of the World

Fear and horror makes headlines. From Kim Jong-un to the IT movie. So what about it? World leaders and the news hunt for viral videos with extreme events, extreme weather, and Stranger Things which may generate the most clicks, (so that they can get votes or sell soda and junk food, along with prescription drugs.) We have a rubberneck culture looking for escape. But what are the real dangers? Driving while drunk, sitting too long in a chair watching TV while ignoring health, not reading enough to get the full picture. (Twitter is dumbed down reading into polarized belief reinforcement.) The answer is audiobooks, listened to on the road or while exercising, and without eyestrain. Here are a couple new entries…
—In the new audiobook FantasticLand a hurricane has ravaged Florida, and a group of teens fight for survival at a theme park cut off from civilization. Meanwhile, in The End of the World Running Club, Edgar Hill is thirty-five and caught in his own headlock. Overweight slob, under-performing husband, and reluctant father-—for Ed, the world may as well have already ended. So when it does end in a catastrophic asteroid strike and Edgar and his family find refuge in an Edinburgh army barracks, it comes as something of a relief. But nothing’s ever that simple. Returning from a salvage run in the city, Edgar finds his family gone, taken to the south coast for evacuation by an international task force. Suddenly he finds himself facing a grueling journey on foot across a devastated United Kingdom. Edgar must race against time and overcome his own shortcomings, not to mention hundred-mile canyons and a heavily flooded west coast, to find the people he loves before he loses them forever. This is a vivid, gripping story of hope, long-distance running, and how we break the limits of our own endurance.
Tired of playing the watcher or victim? New non-fiction includes The Last Arrow. (Shades of The Hunger Games?) When you come to the end of your days, you will not measure your life based on success and failures. All of those will eventually blur together into a single memory called “life.” What will give you solace is a life with nothing left undone. One that’s been lived with relentless ambition, a heart on fire, and with no regrets. On the other hand, what will haunt you until your final breath is who you could have been but never became and what you could have done but never did. The Last Arrow is your roadmap to a life that defies odds and alters destinies. Discover the attributes of those who break the gravitational pull of mediocrity as cultural pioneer and thought leader Erwin McManus examines the characteristics of individuals who risked everything for a life they could only imagine. Imagine living the life you were convinced was only a dream. We all begin this life with a quiver full of arrows. Now the choice is yours. Will you cling to your arrows or risk them all, opting to live until you have nothing left to give? Time is short. The Last Arrow is about the quest for life.