The International Booker Prize Shortlist Has Been Announced!

Since 2004, the International Booker Prize has served as a complement to the Booker Prize. Celebrating translated international literature, the award committee selects a longlist, which is then narrowed to a shortlist. From the shortlist, a winner is selected. Last year, the winning book was Celestial Bodies, by Jokha Alharthi, translated from Arabic by Marilyn Booth. This year, the International Booker Prize shortlist features five authors, five different languages, and a vast variety of themes.

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The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, by Shokoofeh Azar. Click for catalog link.

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, Shokoofeh Azar, trans. by Anonymous (Farsi)

Set in Iran, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree follows a family as they live through the fallout and chaos of the Islamic Revolution. Through magical realism and traditional Persian storytelling, Azar weaves a heartfelt tale of love and sorrow, life and death, and politics and religion.





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The Adventures of China Iron, by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara. Click for catalog link.

The Adventures of China Iron, Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, trans. by Iona Macintyre and Fiona Mackintosh (Spanish)

Cámara’s novel follows the journey of Mrs. China Iron as she travels across the Pampas (South American lowlands). Traveling by wagon, she finds a companion in Liz, who exposes her to the injustices of the world as they move through beautiful flora and fauna. Their adventures bring them to new cultures and peoples, languages, and, unfortunately, political strife. This postcolonial novel is a delightful romp through the Argentinian landscape, while also exposing the effects of British Colonial efforts.



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Tyll, by Daniel Kehlmann. Click for catalog link.

Tyll, Daniel Kehlmann, trans. by Ross Benjamin (German)

Tyll Ulenspiegel is a traditional German folktale, reimagined by Daniel Kehlmann in Tyll. Kehlmann’s novel follows the trickster as he runs across battlefields, goes on quests for royalty, witch-hunters, and nobility, and exposes the wisdom of fools and folly of kings. Placing the German legend in the context of the Thirty Years’ War, Tyll is humorous-yet-dramatic retelling that will certainly entertain readers.




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Hurricane Season, by Fernanda Melchor. Click for catalog link.

Hurricane Season, Fernanda Melchor, trans. by Sophie Hughes (Spanish)

Hurricane Season begins with the death of a local witch, who had been helping citizens of La Matosa, a rural Mexican village. The novel explores the events leading up to the woman’s death from multiple perspectives. Though it appears to be a typical mystery, the novel is so much more. Instead of wondering who killed the woman, the book focuses on the why. Brutal and beautiful, Hurricane Season is Melchor’s first novel to be translated into English.



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The Memory Police, by Yoko Ogawa. Click for catalog link.

The Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa, trans. by Stephen Snyder (Japanese)

Things disappear. People are forgetting. On an unnamed island, a group called the Memory Police make sure that anything that disappears is forgotten. Most islanders don’t remember the objects that disappear, but there remains a select few who live in fear of the Memory Police. Who fear what would happen if it was discovered that they can still remember forgotten things. When a young novelist learns that the Memory Police are after her editor, she hides him in her floorboards, risking both of their lives. Emotional and thought-provoking, The Memory Police is a stunning exploration of a police state.


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The Discomfort of Evening, by Marieke Lucas Rijnveld. Click for catalog link.

The Discomfort of Evening, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, trans. By Michele Hutchinson (Dutch)

When Jas, daughter of a devout family, finds herself angry at her brother for leaving to go on a ski trip, she makes a devastating plea to God. When her brother never returns, the family is devastated. While they grieve their loss, Jas descends into darkness, imagining disturbing fantasies that threaten the very core of her family. Raw and moving, Rijneveld’s debut novel is striking and unforgettable.

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The Organs of Sense, by Adam Ehrlich Sachs

Posted on behalf of Raka Bhattacharyya

The Organs of Sense: A Novel by [Sachs, Adam Ehrlich]

The Organs of Sense, by Adam Ehrlich Sachs. Click for catalog link.

Where to begin with such an absurd, surreal tale that defies logic, physics, and all concept of sense?

We all must begin somewhere, and I will begin by saying that this is the sort of book that somehow makes enough sense to not make any sense, or it doesn’t make enough sense in order to make actual sense. 

It is the inexplicable tale of an astrologer, who, without eyes, predicted some of the most important and ground-breaking astrological discoveries. To see whether or not the aforementioned astrological events were predicted accurately, young Gottfried Leibnitz braves through the desert to meet with the astrologer. 

What unfolds when the astrologer tells Leibnitz the tale of his life is one of the most surreal, nonsensical tales that you may ever come across. It’s a complex tale of confusion, love, hate, and madness that makes less and less sense the more that you read yet continues to grow on you. The astrologer, being one of the most confounding characters in the stories, continues to grow more and more intriguing despite making less and less sense throughout the story.

Sachs has a skill of endearing us to the human condition, which is clear in this nonsensical story and how it appeals to its readers. While the story is exaggerated, it is this exact quality that I personally admired very deeply. The shared madness of the prince and the king, the loneliness of the astrologer and his strange, disillusioned relationship with his son- all of these interactions have a profound sense of emotion attached to them purely due to their strange nature.

And this is something that humans all have in common- that we all experience things and form inexplicable relationships with one another that we cannot fully comprehend. And this is an aspect of the human nature that Sachs elaborates on and capitalizes on with all of the experiences and interactions of the characters in the story; reassuring the readers that these strange occurrences or bonds that we form need not be completely understood and instead enjoyed. 

Sachs’ work encourages readers to enjoy the bits of life that appeal to us yet never make any sense. 

If you’re looking for the type of book that makes little to no sense but somehow teaches you more about yourself and the other humans around you, look no further, because Adam Ehrlich Sachs’ The Organs of Sense has it down to a T.

Photo by Lulu Liu

Adam Ehrlich Sachs, photo by Lulu Liu. Click for author website.


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The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Reviewed by Zoe Stein 

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. Click for catalog link.

Location: Uni High New Books (temporarily shelved)
Call number: Fiction At96te

Location: Residence Halls Illinois Street SciFi/Fantasy
Call Number: 813 At96te

Margaret Atwood’s latest novel, The Testaments, is on hundreds of to-read lists and has been shortlisted for the 2019 Man-Booker Prize. A sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, the book is yet another foray into the horrific world of Gilead, following three all-new perspectives. Surprisingly, though, Offred barely makes an appearance. Instead, Atwood gives voice to the vicious Aunt Lydia, Agnes, a child of Gilead, and Daisy, a Canadian child who finds herself embroiled in a plot to take down Gilead.

While all three women are represented in the chapters of the novel, the most compelling ones are those of Aunt Lydia. During and after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, Aunt Lydia was seen as an agent of Gilead—a woman destined to spend the rest of her life enforcing the misogynist laws of the new country. The Testaments, though, provides depth to the previously one-dimensional character. Her past, present, and innermost thoughts are explored as the reader learns that everything is not quite as it seems. Every chapter is compelling and utterly addictive.

The Testaments is a departure from the plot structure of The Handmaid’s Tale. While the latter is an exploration of Offred’s past and the world around her, The Testaments reads more like a thriller. It is action based and plot heavy most of the time and character exploration is at a minimum, with the exception of Aunt Lydia. Though the novel is certainly entertaining, it’s undoubtedly a different reading experience than that of The Handmaid’s Tale. 

While certainly a compelling read, it is unfair to compare The Testaments to Atwood’s earlier exploration into the world. This new book is an entirely different experience, and I urge readers to go in with an open mind.

Margaret Atwood. Photo by Jean Malek. Click for author’s website.

Read other reviews:

New York Times

Kirkus Reviews 

Publisher’s Weekly 

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Junk by Tommy Pico

Reviewed by Sybil Mahone

Junk by Tommy Pico. Click for Catalog link.

Location: Main Stacks
Call Number: PS3616.I288 J86 2018

Location: ResHalls FloridaAvenue Circulating Coll
Call Number: 811 P588ju

Are these tweets or texts or a poem? Read this book-length gay breakup epic by Native poet Tommy “Teebs” Pico and decide for yourself. “I’m not going to just turn down a donut unless sex in the derriere is comin,” Teebs declares. Same, Teebs. Same. Imperialism is junk. Consumption is junk. Love is junk. *Junk* declares and questions and makes penis jokes about all of it. I love this book. It’s *Junk*.

Author Tommy Pico, photo from personal website.

Read other reviews:

Los Angeles Review of Books 

Kenyon Review

Publisher’s Weekly

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Ghost Of By Diana Khoi Nguyen

Reviewed by Corey Van Landingham

Cover art URL to catalog

Ghost Of, by Diana Khoi Nguyen. Click to view catalog entry.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3614.G85 A6 2018

Ghost Of may be one of the most successful—and surely the most intriguing—recent books of elegy. Nguyen takes on the liminal spaces of grief after a brother’ suicide and translates them not only into the linguistic field of these poems, but also the visual. Included here are family photographs with the brother cut out, and the shape of that cutting pasted onto new pages, collage-like, where that void is populated with new language. And the book is unflinching in its approach to this sudden loss: “Let’s get on with it,” Nguyen writes in “I Keep Getting Things Wrong.” “When I return to that house, I eat the food / left out for my dead brother. I don’t waste much.” This is a remarkable debut collection from a deeply wise poet.

To learn more about Corey Van Landingham, please read her collection of poetry entitled Antidote.

Author portrait with link

Photo of author Diana Khoi Nguyen. Click to visit website.

Read other reviews here:

Kenyon Review

Jet Fuel Review


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So Far So Good by Ursula K. Le Guin

Reviewed by Sebastián Maldonado-Vélez

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So Far So Good: Final Poems 2014-2018, by Ursula Le Guin

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3562.E42 A6 2018

Location: ResHalls FloridaAvenue Circulating Coll
Call Number: 811 L526so

You might recognize Le Guin’s name from an impressive number of science fiction and fantasy books that she wrote throughout her lifetime. A somewhat more understated aspect of her literary life includes poetry, this collection being the last that was edited shortly before her death in 2018. Le Guin’s poetry attempts and achieves a precision that comes from a respect the poet had toward all subjects: “All earth’s dust/has been life, held soul, is holy.” Her language reminds us how words and concepts we might think of as mundane just need a slight nudge to be revolutionary, revealing. I especially recommend this book to readers who feel uneasy when reading poetry, afraid that the poet is trying to deceive them in some way. Le Guin is open and honest about her intentions. In this collection she wishes us to meditate on the small to better understand the big.

Ursula Le Guin. Photo by Marian Wood Kolisch. Click to see website.

Read other reviews:

Portland Review

Publisher’s Weekly

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Magdalene by Marie Howe

Reviewed by Jessica Tanck

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Magdalene: Poems, by Marie Howe. Click to view catalog.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3558.O8925 A6 2018

Marie Howe’s Magdalene (2017) imagines the Biblical figure of Mary Magdalene as a woman in the present-day. Brilliant and sensual, yearning and thoughtful, Howe’s Magdalene is dignified, human, and cut with want. This is a book for those with a taste for the biblical and sensual, those who long for complexity, depth, and revelation, who cherish the plainspoken over the ornate. Howe’s seemingly unadorned verse presents thought, feeling, and scenes in a way that is somehow both intimate and mythical, delivering statements and descriptions that resound with both emotional truth and the lightning of revelation:

“Years holding on to a rope/ that wasn’t there, always sorry/ righteous and wrong.”

“The pills were the floorboards/ and the bright lights that made what’s what possible.”

“I liked Hell, I liked to go there alone/ relieved to lie in the wreckage, ruined, physically undone./ The worst had happened. What else could harm me then?/ I thought it was the worst, thought nothing worse could come. / Then nothing did, and no one.”

Whether you are a first-time reader of poetry or a long-time lover of it, whether you have much or little time to spend reading, you will burn through this book of poems.

Read other reviews:

The Boiler Journal

The Rumpus

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The Balcony by Jane Delury

Posted on behalf of Karen M. Huck, Library Specialist

The Balcony by Jane Delury

The Balcony by Jane Delury. Click the image to see it in the Library catalog.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3604.E44765 B35 2018

A dream of a novel, Delury begins her book with what appears to be an autobiographical account of being an au pair in a house in the outskirts of Paris for a family with “une jeune fille,” that simply sucks you in. The au pair is given the larger, upper room with the balcony to stay in. The double entendre of the term “between two” follows all of the accounts of the myriad people who dwelled in the house. Each story does somehow intertwine with other stories and eventually a history of a magnificent house and its inhabitants comes to the fore, but ultimately the stories illuminate what happens between couples, siblings, parents and children and all manner of relations people have. The Balcony witnesses all. The prose is elegant and smooth, enjoy this story as you would a meal, slowly yet with gusto.

Read reviews from:

Kirkus Reviews

Publisher’s Weekly

The New York Times

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Celebrate African American History Month with Natasha Trethewey’s Monument: Poems New and Selected

Posted on behalf of Matthew Roberts, English Librarian

The Literatures and Languages Library celebrates African American History Month with Natasha Trethewey’s retrospective volume, Monument: Poems New and Selected. The monograph, which features poems from Domestic Work (2000), Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002), and the Pulitzer Prize winning, Native Guard (2006), introduces readers to Trethewey’s unflinching ability to observe how the remnants of both personal and historical traumas live on in the American landscape and imagination.

Cover art for Monument

Cover art for Monument., by Natasha Trethewey. Links to Catalog record.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3570.R433 A6 2018

In this work, the reader will confront a complex poetic engagement with the topic of memory, as Trethewey’s poetry poignantly observes how the past and future survive contemporaneously in the present. This feature of Trethewey’s work appears explicitly throughout Native Guard, a collection that, among other things, examines the legacy of the all black Louisiana Native Guard, which protected the Union fort on Ship Island during the American Civil War. For instance, the poem “Theories of Time and Space,” informally addresses the reader, and offers some direction as to the roads that one might take while reading the collection:

You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one—
by—one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion—dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on a mangrove swamp—buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry—tome of memory
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:

the photograph—who you were—
will be waiting when you return

This photograph of who you were will be waiting for you, waiting for you in some future time and some future place. And yet, the past always waits, waits for one to return to it. But insofar as it waits, the past is not solidified, not set in stone like a monument. In this regard, the subjects of Trethewey’s poetry—for instance slavery, miscegenation, the Civil War, or socio-economic disparity—do not capture who ‘we’ as a nation were, but rather portray who ‘we’ as a nation are. Rather than a reference to the past and a symbol of completion, Monument waits for its readers, sending them on a journey from which there is no return.

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New Arrivals – Books to Break the Ice

Posted on behalf of Karen Huck

Hope this chilly season is treating you well! Here are some books on our new arrivals shelf that you might enjoy.

1. The Winter Solder – Daniel Mason

Winter Soldier Cover art

The Winter Soldier cover. Links to Catalog record.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3613.A816 W56 2018

When WWI breaks out in Austria, 3rd-year medical research student, Lucius, is sent to the front to treat wounded soldiers, not knowing anything practical about how to care for them.  Under the tutelage of a young nun who has no medical training, but who has gleaned necessary procedures on the fly from Lucius’ predecessor, Lucius slowly learns the intricacies of casualty care.  Shell shock, however, a new phenomenon to this medical team, remains a mystery that the two struggle to relieve.  The ramifications of war and medicine clash in ways never imagined in this atmospheric novel that will draw you in and keep you rooting for young Lucius and his nun.

Headshot of Daniel Mason

Author Daniel Mason, Photo Credit Sara Houghteling

You don’t have to take our word for it. Here are reviews in:

The Washington Post

The New York Times

Publisher’s Weekly

2. America for Beginners by Leah Franqui

Cover art for America for Beginners

America For Beginners cover. Links to Library Catalog entry.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3606.R422578 A78 2018

Planning a reconciliatory trip to America to see her son, Pival Sengupta, a newly widowed Bengali from Kolkata embarks on her first foray into the world against the unwanted advice from her servants. Her journey is guided by a Bangladeshi twenty year old and an American “companion” who take her to sights she has only heard of and ultimately to the home of her son’s lover, Jake. All parties learn about the intricacies of human interaction and relating in ways none of them would have imagined. A darkly humorous story of love. You will not be disappointed.

Photo of author Leah Franqui

Photo by Priyam Dhar.

Read more reviews here:

USA Today

Broad Street Review

The Washington Times

3. Stella: A Play for Lovers by Goethe

Cover art for Stella

Stella, a Play for Lovers cover. Links to Catalog record.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PT2026 .S813 2018

A shocking new translation of a love triangle in 1776, the year The United States of America was born! When a young woman and her mother travel to escape from poverty and enter the service of a young woman who’s been left by her husband three years prior, the three bond quickly over lost love stories and the plight of women in that age. The story remains suspenseful throughout, and the denouement surprises with all of the force no doubt originally intended.

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