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2014 Pulitzer Prize winners announced; Donna Tartt takes the big fiction prize

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Donna Tartt’s sprawling literary epic that centers on a mysterious little painting has taken the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, besting other lengthy titles, such as The Son by Philipp  Meyer and The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis, both of which received “A” grades from EW. READ FULL STORY

Love 'Reign'? Three British princess books to dive into

Just admit it: you’re head over heels for Reign. Ratings for the racy CW drama have been steadily rising – look no further than Thursday’s lavish wedding episode, which earned its highest viewership of the season – which seem to indicate the market for edgy princess drama is holding its own.

And with good reason. The 16th century, with its corseted dresses, complicated transnational politics, torrid affairs, absurd wigs and class struggles, has long inspired period television drama and film. Hundreds of authors have been similarly inspired, penning a host of deliciously scandalous offerings meant to satisfy your craving for all things bejeweled, lusty and forbidden. So if you’re longing for more after Reign’s last episode, there are plenty of books to choose from. Here’s a look at three of our very favorite princess books, complete with epic romance, sprawling castles, the Queen’s English, and a gripping storyline revolving around a throne at stake. READ FULL STORY

J.K. Rowling has seven books planned for Cormoran Strike series

Using a similar approach as she took with Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling has plans to write up to seven novels in her Cormoran Strike series, according to The Sunday Times. Rowling, writing under the name Robert Galbraith, has already had solid success with the detective genre. Her first book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, was published last April and has sold 600,000 hardback copies and 1 million ebooks. As we announced last week, the sequel The Silkworm is coming out in June 2014.

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'Harriet The Spy' turns 50: A tribute to Louise Fitzhugh's perfectly prickly heroine

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Harriet M. Welsch would eat Anne of Green Gables for lunch.

Not literally, of course: Anne isn’t a tomato sandwich. But if the two went toe-to-toe in some sort of battle royal for 11-year-olds, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s plucky orphan wouldn’t stand a chance. Unlike Anne — and Pippi Longstocking, and Pollyanna, and countless other cheery kid-lit protagonists — Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet isn’t friendly or agreeable. She’s rude, impatient, temperamental, arrogant, and sharp, especially when taking vengeance on the classmates who read her meticulously kept notebook.

Harriet is, in short, a jerk — but a smart, perceptive, lovable jerk, one who’s wholly relatable whether you’re 11 or several times that age. When I’m snaking my way through a crowd of cement-footed commuters, I can hear Harriet’s indignant voice whispering in my ear: “Fast. That’s the way I move, fast. What’s wrong with that?” When I surreptitiously write down snippets of strangers’ conversations — what, doesn’t everybody? — I can sense her silent nod of approval.

Harriet’s edge has won her scores of fans, including novelist Jonathan Franzen. “I don’t know of a better novel about the costs and rewards of being a truth teller,” Franzen says in a cover blurb for Harriet the Spy‘s 50th-anniversary edition, which will be released Feb. 25. “I love the story of Harriet so much I feel as if I lived it.”

I get where he’s coming from. When I first discovered Harriet circa second grade, I had never even heard of her favorite drink (the egg cream) or the contraption she uses to spy on crazy old Mrs. Plumber (a dumbwaiter). She was an only child in 1960s New York; I was the youngest of three in 1990s Pittsburgh. While we both sported glasses, hers were merely cosmetic; she wore them “because she thought they made her look smarter.”

But those surface details hardly mattered. Like Franzen, I identified so fully with Harriet — her emotions, fear of change, frustration, and loneliness — that she instantly felt like an old friend. Inspired by her, I even started keeping a journal in which I carefully wrote mean things about my friends. During a fateful fifth-grade camping trip, that choice came back to bite me…hard. (P.S. Katy, Julia, Whitney, Kate — I’m still sorry.)

Despite that episode, Harriet wasn’t a bad influence. My bond with her was so strong precisely because her faults and virtues mirrored my own. Later incarnations of the character penned by people other than Fitzhugh — the 1996 film that introduced me to fan rage (Ole Golly does not look like Rosie O’Donnell), two wan sequels by Helen Ericson and Maya Gold, a horrific 2010 TV movie called Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars — fail to capture what made the original so captivating because they turn her into someone the real Harriet would find insipid. Thank heavens, then, for this anniversary edition, which I hope will introduce a new generation to my endearingly jerky little heroine.

On The Books: Let's hope you don't win a book prize

You better hope you haven’t been nominated for any book prizes this year. (No, not really. Let’s hope you have.) A new study coming out in the March issue of Administrative Science Quarterly finds that prize winners face a backlash from readers. According to The Guardian, Amanda Sharkey and Balázs Kovács looked at 38,817 reader reviews on GoodReads.com. They compared the reviews of books that had won an award to reviews of books that had not. Apparently the reviews of the award winners took a notable nose dive after their authors’ accolades were announced. Sharkey and Kovács hypothesized that “many readers who are drawn in by prize-winning books tend to have tastes that are simply not predisposed to liking the types of books that win prizes.” That sounds like a circumspect way of calling us superficial social climbers for reading a book because it won an award. Doesn’t everyone presume something award-winning must be particularly outstanding and therefore worthy of our time? That doesn’t mean every book that wins a Booker Prize or every movie that wins an Oscar or every restaurant that wins a James Beard Award is going to be your favorite thing ever, but still it’s worth a shot. Also, checking Goodreads.com for your case study seems pretty amateur. What do you guys think? [The Guardian]

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On The Books: Harper Lee settles lawsuit against Alabama museum

Harper Lee settled her federal lawsuit against the Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville, Alabama. As we reported in October, the reclusive author sued her hometown museum for selling souvenirs of To Kill A Mockingbird without compensating her. She was also embroiled in a lawsuit against her former literary agent last year over the copyright to her book. Those charges were dismissed after the parties reached an out of court settlement. [AP] [ABC News] READ FULL STORY

On The Books: Murakami's new novel; plus, audiobooks with Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, Bill Bryson

Haruki Murakami’s new novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, will be published in the U.S. on August 12th. The book has been out in Japan since last April and sold more than a million copies in its first week. The Guardian writes that the story “hinges around Tsukuru Tazaki, an isolated 36-year-old man struggling to overcome the trauma of rejection by his high-school friends years earlier. Like its title, the novel’s opening line might not sound like obvious best-seller material: ‘From July of his sophomore year at college to January next year, Tsukuru Tazaki was living while mostly thinking about dying.’”

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BREAKING -- New Stephen King novel 'Revival' announced!

The brilliant mind of Stephen King is still churning out nightmares and twisted fantasies. The author just announced on his official website that he will be releasing Revival on November 11, 2014. He posted this description:

A dark and electrifying novel about addiction, fanaticism, and what might exist on the other side of life.

In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs—including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.

Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of 13, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties—addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate—Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that ‘revival’ has many meanings.

This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It’s a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe.

This will be King’s second novel for 2014. In June, he will be releasing a hard-boiled detective novel called  Mr. Mercedes, which will be a new frontier for the 66-year-old author. What are your thoughts on the new book?

On The Books: Washington DC reads more than you do

You read that right. Apparently the nation’s capital is the most literate city in America for the fourth year in a row. News to me. I thought everyone in DC was on the phone with donors all day. The study was conducted by Central Connecticut State University, and it takes into account the number of bookstores, library resources, Internet use, educational levels and newspaper circulation of 77 of the largest cities in America. And coming in at 77th is Bakersfield, CA. Poor Bakersfield. They also took the gold medal in worst air quality in 2013. Let’s show them some love in 2014 please. [USA Today]

Today the Folio Society announced its shortlist of nominees for their inaugural Folio Prize, which honors English-language fiction from around the world that is published in the UK, regardless of form, genre or the author’s country of origin. The prize is £40,000 and a ticket to the “glittering ceremony at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel.” Sounds like luxury!  The authors in the running are Anne Carson, Amity Gaige, Jane Gardam, Kent Haruf, Rachel Kushner, Eimear McBride, Sergio De La Pava, and George Saunders. The biggest surprise is the heavy representation of Americans, who make up five of the eight nominees. Saunders was listed for his latest short-story collection Tenth of December. [Folio Prize]

Great news from Dreamworks this morning. The studio is opening a book publishing unit that will put out titles based on their animated films, like Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda. The books will be available in print and digital formats, which is great, but I hope that they offer audiobooks of Madagascar read by the lemurs. Or better yet, classics read by the lemurs. Tuck Everlasting would be so much easier to choke down if it were read by the lemurs. [Wall Street Journal]

Author David Grove talks 'On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday the 13th'

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Given the fulsome tributes which followed the recent death of Lou Reed many folks may now feel well informed about the rock icon. But did you know Reed lived right next to where director Sean Cunningham shot his horror film Friday the 13th?

“He did,” confirms author David Grove, whose new book On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday the 13th features this nugget of information, among many others. “They filmed at Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco in Blairstown, New Jersey, and the property was owned by a man called Fred Smith. He kept talking to the crew about his neighbor, Lou. And the crew said, ‘Who’s Lou?’ And they discovered it was Lou Reed. He came by during filming and he sometimes played some music.”

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