Spotlight on the 2002 Book Sense Book of the Year Adult Nonfiction and Rediscovery Finalists

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There’s little over a month left before the 2002 Book Sense Book of the Year winners are announced on Friday, May 3, at the Celebration of Bookselling at this year’s BookExpo, held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. In the previous two weeks, BTW has reviewed the finalists for Children’s Literature and Children’s Illustrated and Adult Fiction . This week, Bookselling This Week is taking a detailed look at this year’s five finalists in both the Adult Nonfiction and Rediscovery categories.

At present, ballots for Book of the Year are still being accepted. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by April 3, 2002, while the deadline for faxing ballots is April 10, 2002. The 2002 Book Sense Book of the Year ballot was mailed to bookstore members with the ABA Board of Directors ballot. Also, Book Sense Book of the Year ballots can be printed out by clicking here. Ballots can be faxed to KPMG at (212) 872-6750, Attn.: Charlene Laniewski.

The Book Sense Book of the Year finalists in five categories are based on the nominations of ABA member booksellers, and were announced on February 13 by the American Bookseller’s Association (for a full list of finalists, click here).
The finalists are listed in alphabetical order by title within each category:


Ava’s Man, Rick Bragg (Knopf)

Written by the Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Times journalist Rick Bragg, Ava’s Man details the life of his maternal grandfather, Charlie Bundrum. The follow-up to his best-selling memoir, All Over But the Shoutin’, Ava’s Man is an emotional biography of a man and his wife, Ava, living through tough times in rural Alabama and Georgia. Ava’s Man is a well-paced conglomeration of stories culled from a number of relatives, and a book that is deep-rooted in the South’s oral traditions of storytelling.

From the Book Sense 76 Recommendation:
"Bragg does it again! This book made me want to write my own family history, but the emotions I felt while reading Ava's Man made me realize that Rick Bragg has already written every family's story, no matter what generation or circumstance you come from. A perfect follow-up to All Over but the Shoutin' and an absolutely amazing read." --Candy Ailstock, Hawley-Cooke Booksellers, Louisville, Kentucky

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World, Michael Pollan (Random House)

We often hear about how humans exploit plants, but what about how plants exploit us? In Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire, he uses four plants as examples of the symbiotic relationship between humans and plants: potatoes, tulips, apples, and marijuana -- all of which have thrived under human care and, very often, obsession. Pollan supports his vision through interesting anecdotes and detailed histories of these four indispensable plants.

From the Book Sense 76 Recommendation:
"With clarity and wit, Pollan explores our obsessions with four specific plants: tulips, apples, marijuana, and potatoes. Read and be seduced by a book guaranteed to entertain." --Kathy Ashton, The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, Eric Schlosser (Houghton Mifflin)

Eric Schlosser’s book details how fast food has completely revamped the United States, and not for the better. In it he charges the advent of the fast-food restaurant with everything from hastening the "malling of America" to fueling the rampant obesity in America, to even being a catalyst to American imperialism. For better or worse, Fast Food Nation provides good support for these contentions, with interesting and, oftentimes, frightening facts about the fast-food industry. Schlosser is a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly.

From the Book Sense 76 Recommendation:
"The author shines a light on the fact that it is impossible for the average American consumer to experience a transaction that doesn't involve processing of some kind. This book is vital reading for everyone who is fighting the battle against big chains, homogenization, and globalization. This is the most thought-provoking nonfiction I've read in a while." --Juliana Wood, Bibelot, Baltimore, Maryland

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Barbara Ehrenreich (Metropolitan)

Welfare reform prompted journalist Barbara Ehrenreich to do something radical -- she left her writing job and decided to see for herself how anyone could make ends meet on wages of only $6 or $7 per hour. The result is her book Nickel and Dimed. Starting with only $1,000, a car, and a laptop to record her experiences, Ehrenreich worked as a waitress in Florida, a cleaning woman in Maine, and a clerk at mega-store Wal-Mart in Minnesota, where she was constantly watched and harangued by management. A fascinating read that sheds light on how the hard-working poor live, and (try to) survive.

From the Book Sense 76 Recommendation:
"Whatever financial woes the middle class may have, they pale in comparison to the daily breadwinning struggle of America's low wage workers. We expect the dirty work to be done, and Ehrenreich gives us a glimpse into the lives of the people who do it. An important work." --Dan Schreffler, The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, New York

Seabiscuit: An American Legend, Laura Hillenbrand (Random House)

Seabiscuit was a crooked-legged horse that most racing experts assumed could never win a race. But by the late 1930s, the horse’s unlikely track dominance made it an icon and an inspiration to every underdog struggling to make it through the Great Depression. Just as compelling is Hillenbrand’s narrative about the unlikely horseracing legend, which details the story of how owner Charles Howard, trainer Tom Smith, and jockey Red Pollard turned Seabiscuit from an also-ran into a champion. Hillenbrand has been writing about thoroughbred racing since 1988.

From the Book Sense 76 Recommendation:
"This is the story of America's obsession with one of the greatest racehorses of the 20th century. The descriptions of the races and spills are magnificently vivid, and I felt like I was emerging from 'black-and-white' time and space when I put the book down. It's suspenseful and engrossing; a wonderful read." --Karen Robertson, Twenty-Third Avenue Books, Portland, Oregon


Enchantress From the Stars, Sylvia Louis Engdahl (Walker)

Winner of the Newbery Honor in 1971, when it was first published, and the Phoenix Award in 1990, Enchantress From the Stars tells the tale of Elana, who stows away aboard a space ship that’s on a mission to the medieval planet Andrecia. There, she finds out that a far superior civilization is planning to invade the planet. She wants to help the Andrecians, but how can she without revealing the fact that she is an alien, thereby damaging the planet’s natural evolution? To Georyn, a poor Andrecian woodcutter who believes there is a dragon on the other side of the forest that he must slay, Elana is an Enchantress from the Stars.

From the Book Sense 76 Recommendation:
"I read this in one day and loved it. I can see why it was an award-winner years ago, and I am glad that it has been re-released so we can all enjoy it again." --Thea Nichols, Copperfield & Co. Booksellers, Macomb, Illinois

Freddy the Detective, Walter R. Brooks, illustrated by Kurt Wiese (Overlook/Penguin)

Walter R. Brooks published his Freddy books -- all of which center around a rather talented pig -- from 1927 up until his death in 1958. In Freddy the Detective, there’s trouble on his upstate New York farm -- Prinny the Dog’s dinner is stolen, and then Egbert the Rabbit disappears. Fortunately, Freddy’s been reading Sherlock Holmes and is prepared to investigate Bean Farm’s mysteries. Was Jinx the Cat framed? You’ll have to read the book.

From the Book Sense 76 Recommendation:
"The Library Journal says: 'Freddy is simply one of the greatest characters in children's literature!' And I agree. Freddy is a multi-talented pig: detective, editor, magician, and more. He is sassy and sagacious, a lover of language and a true wit, like his creator Walter Brooks, who served on the editorial board of The New Yorker in the 1930s." --Bobby Tichenor, Annie Bloom's, Portland, Oregon


Handling Sin, Michael Malone (Sourcebooks)

Malone, a North Carolina-based author, creates a hilarious and gripping tale of love and redemption in Handling Sin. It is the story of a forgetful, but prosperous insurance salesman, Raleigh Whittier Hayes, who learns that his father, along with a young black female mental patient, has left the mental hospital, withdrawn all his money, and disappeared in his Cadillac convertible. During his adventures, Hayes runs into the KKK, delivers a baby, and gets a little help from some renegade nuns.

From the Book Sense 76 Recommendation:
"This early book by Malone is one of my all-time favorites. I decided to reread it to see if it is as funny as I remembered, and it is. I laughed away and couldn't stop … and I haven't even gotten to the part I remembered being funny!" --Christine Stanley, Bay Street Trading Co., Beaufort, South Carolina

My Father’s Dragon, Ruth Stiles Gannett, illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett (Random House)

Written in the late 1940s, soon after Gannett graduated from Vassar College, My Father’s Dragon was a Newbery-winner. The narrator is a boy telling the story of his father, Elmer Elevator, who, as a child, ran away to rescue a mistreated baby dragon on a faraway island. Gannett’s writing is childishly nonsensical, and very amusing. Also included in the 50th anniversary edition are two sequels to My Father’s Dragon: Elmer and the Dragon, and The Dragons of Blueland.

From the Book Sense 76 Recommendation:
"This has been a bestseller here for 17 years! This book's gentle fantasy, complemented by charming illustrations, is equally engaging as a first chapter book read-aloud or as a self-read by newly independent readers. These words and pictures still enchant new generations." -- Darlene Daniel, Pages: Books for Children and Young Adults, Tarzana, California

Time Stops for No Mouse, Michael Hoeye (Putnam)

Hoeye’s first novel is about Hermux Tantamoq, an unassuming mouse who makes watches for a living, and who likes to spend peaceful evenings at home … with his pet ladybug. Then Linka Perflinger, best described as an adventuress, enters his shop, and, when she disappears, the mouse tries to find her, only to be thrust into a mystery that forces Hermux to be brave and daring.

From the Book Sense 76 Recommendation:
"I cannot rest until the world knows about this self-published gem! This is possibly the most delightful book I have ever fondled and perused. The plot might be described as Wind in the Willows meets Carl Hiassen! Hermux, the village watchmaker, is smitten by Linka, adventuress, daredevil, and a fine looking mouse to boot. When she disappears, the action takes off. I am just so excited about this book. Once people pick it up and begin to read, they cannot resist it." --Bobbie Tichenor, Annie Bloom's, Portland, Oregon