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Book News: Donna Tartt, Jhumpa Lahiri On Baileys Prize Shortlist

Donna Tartt reads from her novel <em>The Goldfinch</em> at the world book launch in September 2013 in Amsterdam.
AFP/Getty Images
Donna Tartt reads from her novel The Goldfinch at the world book launch in September 2013 in Amsterdam.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • The shortlist for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, the world's most prestigious literary award for women, is out. Worth £30,000 (about $50,000), the prize "celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women's writing from throughout the world." Three of the year's most discussed books — Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri — made the cut. Three less widely read novels, all debuts, rounded out the list: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, The Undertaking by Audrey Magee and A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. In a statement, the head of the judges, Helen Fraser, said, "We feel you could give any one of these books to a friend with the absolute confidence that they would be gripped and absorbed and that maybe their view of the world would be changed once they had read it." The winner is expected to be announced June 4.
  • In The New Republic, Evan Hughes profiles the gaunt, grumpy Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard, author of the six-volume autobiographical series My Struggle – which in Norwegian is "Min Kamp," a title deliberately reminiscent of Adolf Hitler's autobiography Mein Kampf. Hugely successful in Norway and much of the rest of Europe, the books by Knausgaard are controversial because of their unvarnished and painfully detailed accounts of his family life. Hughes describes Knausgaard's guilt for exposing his family to the public eye: "It is too late to shield himself. For all the success of My Struggle, Knausgaard speaks of its impact with more regret than pride. Sitting in his rustic studio across the yard from his modest house, he looked down and said, 'It fills me with sadness every time I talk about it.' "
  • It turns out that one of Harvard's most well-known examples of anthropodermic bibliopegy — that is, the practice of binding books with human skin — is actually bound in animal skin. The book's grim inscription reads: "The bynding of this booke is all that remains of my dear friende Jonas Wright, who was flayed alive by the Wavuma on the Fourth Day of August, 1632. King Mbesa did give me the book, it being one of poore Jonas chiefe possessions, together with ample of his skin to bynd it. Requiescat in pace." But researchers have identified the proteins in the binding as something much more mundane: sheepskin.
  • T.C. Boyle has a two-book deal with HarperCollins imprint Ecco after three decades with Viking Penguin. The first book, The Harder They Come, is described as "exploring the interlocking relationships of three damaged people — an aging ex-Marine and Vietnam veteran, his psychologically unstable son, and the son's paranoiac, much older lover." It's set to be published in March 2015. Ecco hasn't yet released any details about the second novel.
  • Walter Isaacson, the best-selling biographer of Steve Jobs, is coming out with a book in October about the Internet age. (Fittingly, the title, The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, kind of sounds like it comes from this online buzzword generator.)
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    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.

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