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new england literary news

2014 New England Books Award winners

New England Book Award winners

Lily King’s “Euphoria” (Atlantic Monthly), inspired by the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead, has won the 2014 New England Book Award for fiction. “Euphoria,” set in 1930s New Guinea, is based on the love triangle between Mead, her second husband, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson, who became her third husband.

“Euphoria” has a backstory that a bookseller can love. Years ago, King, a resident of Yarmouth, Maine, picked up a copy of Jane Howard’s 1984 biography of Margaret Mead at Casco Bay Books in Portland. She got hooked and started doing her own research on Mead.

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The New England Book Awards honor books by New England authors as well as books that are set in or about the region. A committee of New England Independent Booksellers Association members selects five finalists in three categories. The winners are selected by a vote of the association’s members.

The 2014 award for nonfiction goes to Roz Chast’s illustrated memoir, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” (Bloomsbury), which chronicles the final years of her elderly parents. An only child who lives in Ridgefield, Conn., Chast has contributed cartoons to The New Yorker since the 1970s.

The children’s winner (above) is “Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems” (Candlewick), a compilation of poems for every season selected by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, both of whom live in Maine. Among the contributors are Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, and former US poet laureate J. Patrick Lewis, who wrote the title poem.

Fall calendar highlights

While we’re on the subject of favorites, I asked the event folks at three local independent bookstores to name a favorite author event on their store’s fall calendar. Not surprisingly, the events mentioned by Alex W. Meriwether of Harvard Book Store, Sarah Rettger of Porter Square Books, and Jamie Tan of Brookline Booksmith are expected to draw such large crowds that each is being held at a venue bigger than the hosting bookstore.

Surely one of the most unconventional books of the season will be Stephin Merritt’s “101 Two-Letter Words” (Norton), a collection of his short poems celebrating the two-letter words in the official Scrabble dictionary. Merritt, a singer-songwriter with the Magnetic Fields whom Rolling Stone has called the “Cole Porter of his generation,” will be in conversation with Fields fan (and Boston Globe freelancer) Ethan Gilsdorf at 6 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge. Tickets, on sale Sept. 9, are $22 and include a copy of Merritt’s book.

Rick Riordan, who moved from Texas to Boston last fall, will launch “The Blood of Olympus” (Hyperion), the fifth and final novel in his popular Heroes of Olympus young-adult series, at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 at Temple Ohabei Shalom, 1187 Beacon St., Brookline. Tickets, $5 each, are available at Porter Square Books.

John Cleese of Monty Python fame will be in conversation with Robin Young of WBUR’s “Here and Now” at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Dorchester. (Admission $60, includes a copy of his memoir.) Cleese’s book, “So, Anyway. . .” (Crown), will be released on Nov. 4. Tickets, with a price to be announced, go on sale at Brookline Booksmith on Sept. 2

Coming out

 “Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It” by Ian Leslie (Basic)

 “Private Down Under” by James Patterson and Michael White (Grand Central)

 “The Kitchy Kitchen: New Classics for Living Deliciously” by Claire Thomas (Atria)

Pick of the Week

Joan Warnock of Book Ends in Winchester recommends “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty (Putnam): “Her new novel is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and ex-wives, mothers and their children, schoolyard drama and the dangerous lies we come up with just to survive life.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.
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