AUTHOR’S BIO

S. (Shannon) A. Chakraborty is an American writer of speculative fiction, whose debut novel, The City of Brass, was published in 2017. Chakraborty was born in New Jersey and now makes her home with her husband and daughter in Queens, New York City, New York.

The City of Brass, the first book in the planned “The Daevabad Trilogy,” takes place in the 18th-century Middle East. The manuscript made news when it was purchased for somewhere in the “high six-figures” by HarperCollins. The publisher admitted to haven been taken by Chakraborty’s ability to create “this wonderfully rich world” of the “Mughal Empire, the Sunni-Shia conflict, and Persian and Indian folklore.” While “relevant to current events … it’s action-packed, delicious escapist storytelling at its best.”

When she’s not pouring over books on Mughal portraiture or Omani history, Chakraborty is active in the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers’ Group as one of its organizers. Hiking, knitting, and cooking “unnecessarily complicated medieval meals” at home, occupy whatever spare time is left.

KIRKUS REVIEW

A rich Middle Eastern fantasy, the first of a trilogy: Chakraborty’s intriguing debut.

On the streets of 18th-century Cairo, young Nahri—she has a real talent for medicine but lacks the wherewithal to acquire proper training—makes a living swindling Ottoman nobles by pretending to wield supernatural powers she doesn’t believe in. Then, during a supposed exorcism, she somehow summons a mysterious djinn warrior named Dara, whose magic is both real and incomprehensibly powerful. Dara insists that Nahri is no longer safe—evil djinn threaten her life, so he must convey her to Daevabad, a legendary eastern city protected by impervious magical brass walls. During the hair-raising journey by flying carpet, Nahri meets spirits and monsters and develops feelings for Dara, a deeply conflicted being with a long, tangled past. At Daevabad she’s astonished to learn that she’s the daughter of a legendary healer of the Nahid family. All the more surprising, then, that King Ghassan, whose ancestor overthrew the ruling Nahid Council and stole Suleiman’s seal, which nullifies magic, welcomes her. With Ghassan’s younger son, Prince Ali, Nahri becomes immersed in the city’s deeply divisive (and not infrequently confusing) religious, political, and racial tensions. Meanwhile, Dara’s emerging history and personality grow more and more bewildering and ambiguous. Against this syncretic yet nonderivative and totally credible backdrop, Chakraborty has constructed a compelling yarn of personal ambition, power politics, racial and religious tensions, strange magics, and terrifying creatures, culminating in a cataclysmic showdown that few readers will anticipate. The expected first-novel flaws—a few character inconsistencies, plot swirls that peter out, the odd patch where the author assumes facts not in evidence—matter little. Best of all, the narrative feels rounded and complete yet poised to deliver still more.

Highly impressive and exceptionally promising.

THE AUDIOBOOK

The audio book is narrated by Soneela Nankani. It is 19 hrs and 35 mins long.

View S. A. Chakraborty on her novel THE CITY OF BRASS YouTube.







AUTHOR’S BIO

• Birth—ca. 1977-78
• Where—Gastonia, North Carolina, USA
• Education—B.A., M.A., University of North Carolina, Ph.D., University of Louisiana
• Currently—lives in Wilmington, North Carolina

Wiley Cash is from western North Carolina, a region that figures prominently in his fiction. A Land More Than Home, his first novel was published in 2012, followed by This Dark Road to Mercy in 2014, and The Last Ballad in 2017.

Wiley holds a B.A. in Literature from the University of North Carolina-Asheville, an M.A. in English from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette (where he studied under author Ernest Gaines).

He has received grants and fellowships from the Asheville Area Arts Council, the Thomas Wolfe Society, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo. His stories have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Roanoke Review and Carolina Quarterly, and his essays on Southern literature have appeared in American Literary Realism, South Carolina Review, and other publications.

Wiley lives with his wife and two daughters in Wilmington, North Carolina. He serves as the writer-in-residence at the University of North Carolina-Asheville and teaches in the Mountainview Low-Residency MFA.

NOVELS
The Last Ballad 10-03-17
This Dark Road to Mercy 01-28-14
A Land More Kind Than Home 04-17-12

KIRKUS REVIEW

Inspired by the events of an actual textile-mill strike in 1929, Cash (This Dark Road to Mercy, 2014, etc.) creates a vivid picture of one woman’s desperation.

Ella May Wiggins works long, grueling hours in a mill, but it still isn’t enough to keep her children fed. The year is 1929, and fed-up workers are fighting for rights like a standard wage, a five-day work week, and equal pay for equal work. Ella’s curiosity about the union leads her to attend a rally in a neighboring town, but when she gets up on stage to sing a song that she wrote, she becomes an unexpected star of the labor movement. Her prominence makes her a target for those who view union members as communists, and Ella’s belief that African-Americans should be included in the union places her in even more danger. But Ella’s voice isn’t the only one Cash explores—there are multiple points of view, including Ella’s now-elderly daughter Lilly, an African-American porter named Hampton, and several others whose lives intersect with Ella’s. Cash vividly illustrates the difficulties of Ella’s life; her exhaustion and desperation leap off the page. She faces extreme hardship in her fight for workers’ rights, but it’s always clear that she keeps going because of her love for her children. Although it is initially a bit difficult to keep so many points of view straight, it is satisfying to see them all connect. It’s refreshing that Cash highlights the struggles of often forgotten heroes and shows how crucial women and African-Americans were in the fight for workers’ rights.

A heartbreaking and beautifully written look at the real people involved in the labor movement.

THE AUDIOBOOK

The audio book is narrated by Karen White and Elizabeth Wiley. It is 14 hrs and 6 mins long.

View Wiley Cash on his novel THE LAST BALLAD YouTube.







AUTHOR’S BIO

Gabriel Tallent grew up in Mendocino, California, thrashing through the underbrush in search of anything awesome. He attended the Mendocino Community High School and spent a lot of time backpacking, re-reading Greek tragedies, and trying to figure out Moby Dick. Tallent received his BA from Willamette University and wrote his thesis on the discursive construction of pleasure in Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, which is more interesting than it sounds. He has worked as a crew leader for Northwest Youth Corps, as an extremely bored and distracted checker at Target, as dining room staff at the Alta Lodge, and as a food runner and server at The Copper Onion. He lives in Salt Lake City, where he can be found climbing or futilely trying to identify plants in Little Cottonwood Canyon. His stories have been published in Narrative and in the St Petersburg Review. His debut novel, My Absolute Darling, was published in August 2017 by Riverhead Books.

KIRKUS REVIEW

A 14-year-old girl struggles to escape her father’s emotional and physical abuse in this harrowing debut.

Turtle (born Julia) lives with her father, Martin, in the woods near the Mendocino coast. Their home is equipped like a separatist camp, and Martin opines officiously about climate change when he isn’t training Turtle in gun skills or, at night, raping her. Unsurprisingly, Turtle is isolated, self-hating, and cruel to her classmates. She also possesses the kind of strength that suggests she could leave Martin if she had help, but her concerned teacher and grandfather are unsure what to do, and once Martin pulls her out of school and her grandfather dies, the point is moot. Can she get out? Tallent delays the answer to that question, of course, but before the climax he’s written a fearless adventure tale that’s as savvy about internal emotional storms as it is about wrangling with family and nature. Turtle gets a glimpse of a better life through Jacob, a classmate from a well-off family (“she feels brilliantly included within that province of things she wants”), and her efforts to save him in the woods earn his admiration. But when Martin brings another young girl home, Turtle can’t leave for fear of history repeating. Tallent often stretches out visceral, violent scenes—Turtle forced to sustain a pull-up as Martin holds a knife beneath her, homebrew surgery, eating scorpions—to a point that is nearly sadistic. But he plainly means to explore how such moments seem to slow time, imprinting his young characters deeply. And he also takes care with Martin’s character, showing how the autodidact, hard-edged attitude that makes him so monstrous also gives Turtle the means to plot against him. Ultimately, though, this is Turtle’s story, and she is a remarkable teenage hero, heavily damaged but admirably persistent.

A powerful, well-turned story about abuse, its consequences, and what it takes to survive it.

THE AUDIOBOOK

A brilliant and immersive, all-consuming audiobook about one 14-year-old girl’s heart-stopping fight for her own soul, read almost perfectly by Alex McKenna,
it is 15 hrs and 47 mins long.

Watch the PBS News Hour interview, writing My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent YouTube.








AUTHOR’S BIO

Author Background

• Birth—December 2, 1958
• Where—Amarillo, Texas, USA
• Raised—suburbs of Chicago, Illinois
• Education—B.S., Colorado School of Mines; M.A., Syracuse University
• Awards—4 National Magazine Awards; PEN/Malamud Award; World Fantasy Award; Story Prize; Folio Prize, Mann Booker Prize (2017)
• Currently—teaches at Syracuse University

George Saunders is an American writer of short stories, essays, novellas and children’s books. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, McSweeney’s and GQ. He also contributed a weekly column, American Psyche, to the weekend magazine of The Guardian until October 2008.

A professor at Syracuse University, Saunders won the National Magazine Award for fiction in 1994, 1996, 2000, and 2004, and second prize in the O. Henry Awards in 1997. His first story collection, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1996), was a finalist for that year’s PEN/Hemingway Award. In 2006 Saunders received a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2006 he won the World Fantasy Award for his short story “CommComm”. His story collection In Persuasion Nation was a finalist for The Story Prize in 2007. In 2013, he won the PEN/Malamud Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. His Tenth of December: Stories (2013) won the 2013 Story Prize for short-story collections, inaugural (2014) and the Folio Prize.

Early Life

Saunders was born in Amarillo, Texas. He grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago, graduating from Oak Forest High School in Oak Forest, Illinois. In 1981 Saunders received a B.S. in geophysical engineering from Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. In 1988, he obtained an M.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University.

Of his scientific background, Saunders has said,
Any claim I might make to originality in my fiction is really just the result of this odd background: basically, just me working inefficiently, with flawed tools, in a mode I don’t have sufficient background to really understand. Like if you put a welder to designing dresses.

Career

From 1989 to 1996, Saunders worked as a technical writer and geophysical engineer for Radian International, an environmental engineering firm in Rochester, New York. He also worked for a time with an oil exploration crew in Sumatra.

Since 1997, Saunders has been on the faculty of Syracuse University, teaching creative writing in the school’s MFA program while continuing to publish fiction and nonfiction. In 2006, Saunders was awarded a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship. In the same year he was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was a Visiting Writer at Wesleyan University and Hope College in 2010. His nonfiction collection, The Braindead Megaphone, was published in 2007. While promoting The Braindead Megaphone, Saunders appeared on The Colbert Report and the Late Show with David Letterman.[citation needed]

Saunders’s fiction often focuses on the absurdity of consumerism, corporate culture and the role of mass media. While many reviewers mention the satirical tone in Saunders’s writing, his work also raises moral and philosophical questions. The tragicomic element in his writing has earned Saunders comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut, whose work inspired Saunders.

Saunders is a student of Nyingma Buddhism.

Works

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel Feb 14, 2017
CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: Stories and a Novella Apr 26, 2016
The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip Nov 24, 2015
Tenth of December: Stories Jan 7, 2014
Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness Apr 22, 2014
Fox 8: A Story Apr 9, 2013
The Braindead Megaphone Sep 4, 2007
In Persuasion Nation Mar 6, 2007
The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil Sep 6, 2005
Pastoralia Jun 1, 2001

KIRKUS REVIEW

Short-story virtuoso Saunders’ (Tenth of December, 2013, etc.) first novel is an exhilarating change of pace.

The bardo is a key concept of Tibetan Buddhism: a middle, or liminal, spiritual landscape where we are sent between physical lives. It’s also a fitting master metaphor for Saunders’ first novel, which is about suspension: historical, personal, familial, and otherwise. The Lincoln of the title is our 16th president, sort of, although he is not yet dead. Rather, he is in a despair so deep it cannot be called mere mourning over his 11-year-old son, Willie, who died of typhoid in 1862. Saunders deftly interweaves historical accounts with his own fragmentary, multivoiced narration as young Willie is visited in the netherworld by his father, who somehow manages to bridge the gap between the living and the dead, at least temporarily. But the sneaky brilliance of the book is in the way Saunders uses these encounters—not so much to excavate an individual’s sense of loss as to connect it to a more national state of disarray. 1862, after all, was the height of the Civil War, when the outcome was far from assured. Lincoln was widely seen as being out of his depth, “a person of very inferior cast of character, wholly unequal to the crisis.” Among Saunders’ most essential insights is that, in his grief over Willie, Lincoln began to develop a hard-edged empathy, out of which he decided that “the swiftest halt to the [war] (therefore the greatest mercy) might be the bloodiest.” This is a hard truth, insisting that brutality now might save lives later, and it gives this novel a bitter moral edge. For those familiar with Saunders’ astonishing short fiction, such complexity is hardly unexpected, although this book is a departure for him stylistically and formally; longer, yes, but also more of a collage, a convocation of voices that overlap and argue, enlarging the scope of the narrative. It is also ruthless and relentless in its evocation not only of Lincoln and his quandary, but also of the tenuous existential state shared by all of us. Lincoln, after all, has become a shade now, like all the ghosts who populate this book. “Strange, isn’t it?” one character reflects. “To have dedicated one’s life to a certain venture, neglecting other aspects of one’s life, only to have that venture, in the end, amount to nothing at all, the products of one’s labors utterly forgotten?”

With this book, Saunders asserts a complex and disturbing vision in which society and cosmos blur.

THE AUDIOBOOK

The audio book is comprehensively read by a full cast including Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, George Saunders, Carrie Brownstein, Miranda July, Lena Dunham, it is 7 hrs and 25 mins long.

Watch the PBS News Hour interview, writing Lincoln in the Bardo YouTube.








AUTHOR’S BIO

He was born in Haifa, Israel, in 1976. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Oxford in 2002, and is now a lecturer at the Department of History, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

He specialized in World History, medieval history and military history. His current research focuses on macro-historical questions: What is the relation between history and biology? What is the essential difference between Homo sapiens and other animals? Is there justice in history? Does history have a direction? Did people become happier as history unfolded?

Prof. Harari twice won the Polonsky Prize for Creativity and Originality, in 2009 and 2012. In 2011 he won the Society for Military History’s Moncado Award for outstanding articles in military history. In
2012 he was elected to the Young Israeli Academy of Sciences.

He has published several book, among which are: Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2016) and Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014).

KIRKUS REVIEW

In an intellectually provocative follow-up to Sapiens (2015), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) looks to the future.

Throughout history, humans prayed for deliverance from famine, disease, and war with spotty success. For centuries, prophets agreed that all of the suffering was “an integral part of God’s cosmic plan.” Today, obesity kills more humans than starvation, old age more than disease, and suicide more than murder. Having reduced three horsemen of the apocalypse to technical problems, what will humans do next? Harari’s answer: we will become gods—not perfect but like Greek or Hindu gods: immortal and possessing superpowers but with some foibles. Although an atheist, the author does not demean religion. “Up until modern times,” he writes, “most cultures believed that humans play a part in some cosmic plan…devised by the omnipotent gods, or by the eternal laws of nature, and humankind could not change it. The cosmic plan gave meaning to human life, but also restricted human power.” Even without this agency, this belief gave our lives meaning: disasters happened for a reason, and everything would work out for the best. Deeply satisfying, this remains a core belief of most humans, including nonchurchgoers. Since the Enlightenment, the explosion of knowledge has produced dazzling progress but limited the influence of God. Many thinkers—if not the general public—agree that there is no cosmic plan but also that humans are no longer humble victims of fate. This is humanism, which grants us immense power, the benefits of which are obvious but come at a painful price. Modern culture is the most creative in history, but, faced with “a universe devoid of meaning,” it’s “plagued with more existential angst than any previous culture.” As in Sapiens, smoothly tackles thorny issues and leads us through “our current predicament and our possible futures.”

A relentlessly fascinating book that is sure to become—and deserves to be—a bestseller.

THE AUDIOBOOK

The audio book is well read by Derek Perkins, it is 14 hrs and 54 mins long.

Watch his lecture on The Future of Humanity on YouTube.



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