Category Archives: Fiction

A Non-Traditional Award List for Teens Living in the Margins of Society

homeless-youthOne of the most amazing aspects of reading is the ability to discover and empathize with any and every experience you can possibly imagine. You can read up on people who are exactly like you, you can step into the skin of a being who has never existed in our world, or you can visit a place that once existed and now only continues to do so in ruins and fossilized records.The point is, you get to choose your own experiences. And they’re endless.

Sometimes we want to read about people who are similar to ourselves; it’s a way to understand the world and how we relate to it. After a while, though, you may want a change. I know that lately I’ve been craving stories that aren’t about lives similar to mine, but feature, in fact, a very different set of circumstances. Again, it’s a way to understand the world and how we relate to it. Maybe it’s a type of voyeurism. Maybe it’s a form of consolation. More likely, it’s genuine interest. It’s a desire to stretch my empathy; to expand my sense of experience (even though I’m not actually experiencing it. Thought to discuss at a latter date: what is the difference between reading about or watching an experience as opposed to living through it directly? What can indirect experiences teach us? What is the benefit?). Some have said it’s a form of self-punishment; the desire to dive into dark holes of despair and hopelessness. But there again, is the beauty: each of us gets to choose our own experiences. We may not be able to control much about our “real” lives, but we can sure choose the types of lives we want to explore in books.

For some of you, the following book list, which speaks to “teens living in poverty, on the streets, in custody, or a cycle of all three” will offer experiences you’re completely unfamiliar with or perhaps don’t care to read about. That’s fine. For those of you who sense something interesting, pursue it. Lists like this are important in that they allow all of us to see a group of people who, while facing significant and difficult challenges, are often invisible in everyday society. They help those of us who are familiar with the subject matter (teen incarceration, custody, poverty, homelessness) to work through our own experiences. They remind us that we’re not alone. At the same time, these lists help those of us who have (luckily) never had to deal with such experiences that there people out there not only facing them, but having to live with all of these challenges, daily. And whenever you step outside of your comfort zone, there’s valuable wisdom, experience, or insight to be gained.

The ASCLA has a Library Services for Youth in Custody group which advocates for youth who have been detained in various types of correctional institutes.These books are recommended for anyone who is interested in teens living in the margins of society. Check out their website for the complete list of 25 titles.

The 2014 top ten (of which Mill Valley Library carries 6) are:

An excellent resource for incarcerated youth, the Beat Within is a non-profit organization that works with juveniles in detention facilities to express their thoughts and feelings through words and art. Check out some pretty powerful and amazing work created by teens in the program on the Beat Within’s Facebook page.

There Be Monsters!

monsters

Reality with a Twist: Magical Realism

magical_realism

Steampunk!

steampunk“In three short words, steampunk is Victorian science fiction. Here “Victorian” is not meant to indicate a specific culture, but rather references a time period and an aesthetic: the industrialized 19th century. Historically, this period saw the development of many key aspects of the modern world (mechanized manufacturing, extensive urbanization, telecommunications, office life and mass-transit), and steampunk uses this existing technology and structure to imagine an even more advanced 19th century, often complete with Victorian-inspired wonders like steam-powered aircraft and mechanical computers.” ~Tor.com

 

Coming of Age Fiction

coming_of_age

Italian Mysteries

classic-venice From Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series to Steig Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, from Roslund & Hellstrom’s Ewert Grens series to Jussi Adler-Olsen Department Q series, and my personal favorite (particularly when listened to in audiobook form, narrated by the warm, husky voice of Robin Sachs) Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole mysteries, Scandinavian crime novels have been all the rage for the past few years. If you haven’t checked out Jussi Adler-Olsen or Jo Nesbo and you enjoy  perceptive, troubled detectives and extremely dark, psychologically twisted mysteries, do yourself a favor and pick up a book or two of their work. However, if you’re tired of the cold Scandinavian gloom and are looking for something similar, why not try heading south to the romantic and occasionally dangerous locale of Italy? To whet your appetite for fine Italian crime, consider the following:

  • The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri. The first book in the Inspector Salvo Montalbano series, set in a fictional Sicilian town. Touches of optimism peek through the gritty atmosphere.
  • Bandit Love by Massimo Carlotto. Set in Padua, Carlotto introduces hard-boiled noir detective, Mario Burratti, aka, the Alligator. A tale of corruption and revenge.
  • A Walk in the Dark by Gianrico Carofiglio. A legal thriller set in Bari, featuring defense attorney Guido Guerrieri. 2nd in the Guido Guerrieri series. Unexpected plot twists merge with clever, sharp writing.
  • Ratking by Michael Dibdin. The first in the Commissoner Aurelio Zen mystery series, set in Perugia. (Dibdin was born in Britain.) World-weary, cynical detective is balanced out with patches of dry humor.
  • The Crocodile by Maurizio de Giovanni. A noir detective novel featuring Sicilian Inspector Giuseppe Lojacono and set in Naples. Grim with memorable, lovelorn characters.
  • Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon. Queen of the Italian detective novel with a strong sense of place, Leon introduces Venetian police Commissario Guido Brunetti in the first of a long-running series. Exquisite descriptions and a world-weary, honest Detective.
  • Carte Blanche by Carlo Lucarelli. The first in the Commissario de Luca Trilogy, set in Italy as the tail-end of WWII. Gritty noir.
  • Death of an Englishman by Magdalen Nabb. The first installment of the Florence Inspector Marshal Guarnaccia series. (Nabb was an expatriate living in Italy.) Compassionate, self-effacing hero faces significant social and political troubles.
  • A Private Venus by Giorgio Scerbanenco. Scerbanenco has been called “the Godfather” of Italian Crime; here he introduces disbarred doctor Duca Lamerti, the anti-hero of the series set in Milan. Bleak with unforgettable characters.
  • To Each His Own by Leonardo Sciascia. An anti-hero mystery which provides an inside look at Sicilian life. A quick read with spare prose which delivers a powerful critique on Sicilian society.

 

Man Booker Prize

manbookerawardMan Booker Prize Winners

Awarded to the finest fiction written by a citizen of the U.K., the Commonwealth, or the Republic of Ireland.

 

Nebula Awards (Sci-Fi/Fantasy)

nebulaawardsNebula Award Winners

Awarded by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Inc. for Outstanding Science Fiction and Fantasy.

 

Hugo Awards (Sci-Fi/Fantasy)

hugoawardHugo Award Winners

Awarded annually to the best book in Science Fiction and Fantasy. The awards are given in multiple categories, but only Best Novel is listed here unless otherwise noted.

Gold Dagger Awards for Mystery

golddaggerawardGold Dagger Awards

Awarded by the Crime Writer’s Association for the best crime novel of the year.