Bookbanter’s Best Reads of 2017

 

Reviews:

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Paradox Bound by Peter Clines

The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Agents of Dreamland by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Darkness of Evil by Alan Jacobson

Change Agent by Daniel Suarez

“Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by David Grann (Doubleday, 2017)


David Grann fans have been waiting for his next book – much as I have – impatiently for some time. After the both fascinating and adventurous Lost City of Z (with the movie coming close to release), and the entertaining and thrilling collection of articles, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, Grann turns to a new subject, the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI in Killers of the Flower Moon, a story that is both sobering and compelling. Few may be completely familiar with this unique story, but by the end of the book, will be unable to forget.

As a New York Times staff writer, David Grann is used to diving very deep into a story, and not coming up for air until he’s gleaned every detail and piece of evidence he can from it. In the 1920s, the people of the Osage Indian Nation of Oklahoma were among some of the richest on the planet because vast amounts of oil was found on their land. For the oil tycoons to get at that oil, the Osage had to be paid and paid well. And then, strangely, hauntingly, members of the Osage began to disappear one by one; bodies turned up, dead, mutilated, horribly murdered. And for those that chose to investigate, they often met an unexpected end; the local law enforcement were not required to do anything about it, choosing to turn a blind eye.

The fresh and new Federal Bureau of Investigation, run by a young director, J. Edgar Hoover, wanted to put a stop to this, to end these horrific killings, and make the bureau look like the shining beacon of law enforcement and protection that Hoover wanted it to be for the American people. Hoover tapped the shoulder of a former Texas Ranger, one Tom White, to try to get to the bottom of the mystery. What follows is the riveting story of how this was done, how the perpetrators were found, how the murderers were eventually, finally brought to justice, and how those of the Osage nation were able to find some peace in all this death.

Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon is one of those books that goes beyond a story, to something greater and more important. The reader is left wondering why we don’t all know this story, why it isn’t taught in history classes, why more hasn’t been done for those who have already suffered so much. One hopes Grann will receive some weighty awards for this moving book, as it will serve to get many others across the world to read it and learn of this incredible and tragic story.

Originally written on July 23, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Killers of the Flower Moon from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

Bookbanter Column: “Thank You Borders” (September 16, 2011)

Borders 1Window signs for Borders Roseville store #130 at the beginning of liquidation

I started working for Borders in October of 2005; last October I had my fifth-year anniversary working for the company; by the beginning of October this year Borders Books, Music and More will no longer exist.  It is estimated that around 10,700 people will lose their jobs when Borders closes its doors for good.  The original Borders bookstore opened in 1971 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  At its height in 2003, Borders had 1,249 stores; five years later it announced its intention to sell.  Two years of doubt and uncertainty followed, mainly for the Borders employees, knowing that the end would come and it was merely a case of when.  A revolving door of CEOs and constant changes to upper management couldn’t stem or slow the tide of inevitability.

It is truly the end of an era, not just with all of us losing our jobs, but as a community venue that so many people have attended over the years.  Whether it was for books, DVDs, music, coffee, Paperchase stationary items, or somewhere to enjoy a music performance or a signing on the weekend; Borders to many was a place to go and have fun.  And now there will just be a series of big empty locales across the country.

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Employees putting up liquidation signs

Borders prided itself on carrying a wide variety of authors, especially during the better years when it wasn’t just bestsellers, but a large number of midlist authors that readers couldn’t find at Barnes and Noble, and wouldn’t be able to ever discover at Amazon.com.  Independent bookstores do their best to carry many of these authors, but they don’t have the spread and range that Borders used to carry.  In a recent interview with bestselling author George R. R. Martin, he indicated that a number of these authors will have a lot of trouble selling their books, what with the small publishers already owed millions by Borders, as well as not having such a large retailer to carry their titles anymore.  The next few years are going to be interesting as readers, publishers, writers and booksellers look at what happens to this big hole in the book world.  Will Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble automatically fill it?  Will new independent bookstores begin to flourish across the country?  Will eBooks fill this great void?  Only the future will tell.

But Borders will not be quickly forgotten.  Many of the employees in the history of Borders – as well as current ones – have had many fond memories of working for this institution.  Many customers also have their own recollections of shopping at Borders, in fact at the beginning of the liquidation a customer came into the Folsom Borders asking if they could have a piece of the carpet once the store closed as it was there that she was proposed to; sadly she was not granted her wish as the carpet is needed for future tenants.  Shortly after the liquidation announcement, Sourcebooks publisher Dominique Raccah created a special Twitter hashtag, #ThankUBorders, where everyone and anyone could share their fond memories and happy times with Borders; each and every day there are many new entries under this hashtag.

I could go on for paragraphs and paragraphs, reminiscing about my job and experiences at this place called Borders that I will never forget.  I know on that last day, we’re going to need a lot of tissues.  For now, I invite you to read what a variety of authors and one publisher have to stay about the end of Borders . . .

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Letters and messages received from caring customers

“I am saddened by the demise of any book purveyor, though of course there must be a sadness hierarchy — with the defunct independents outranking the bankrupt chains.  I long ago forgave Borders for shelving Stiff under Medical Reference, because they also chose the book for their Original Voices program, and that program was a nice a leg-up for a first-time author… “ – Mary Roach is the author of the bestselling Stiff, and most recently Packing for Mars.

“Borders was a wonderful chain, with terrific stores.  It’s a huge loss to all of us.  We mourn when a single bookstore closes, and rightly so — but when 700 close, it almost defies imagination.  Countless communities will have no local bookstore at all.  I’m truly sorry to see them go.” – Robert J. Sawyer is an award winning author; his most recent book is WWW: Wonder.

“Well, my thoughts aren’t particularly complicated. It’s a shame, even though we all sort of saw it coming. Fewer book stores – whether it’s a chain or an indie going bust – is bad for readers, and bad for writers. Fewer books available means fewer books sold. And for that matter, it means a number of (often) book-loving people are out of a job.  Perhaps the Borders closings will open an opportunity for independent stores to rise up and fill the void – particularly in some of the markets where Borders was the only bookstore in the area. I’m not sure how viable or likely that is, but a girl can hope.” – Cherie Priest is the author of the bestselling Boneshaker.

“I can only talk about our local Borders, which was always wonderfully supportive of our books and events. I think the loss of any brick-and-mortar store is bad news. I do know that in later years I had several conversations with people in the book business who didn’t understand some of Borders’ business practices. Unnecessary expenditures, including over-production of author interview videos (when a lot of people are just using a hand-held flip camera, for example). I don’t know what I think really. ” – Jeff VanderMeer is the author of Booklife and Finch.

“I think it sucks.  Leaving aside the fact that I still enjoy browsing real live bookshelves and this cuts down on my options for doing so, there’s the terrible economic impact this is going to have on the entire book industry.  We were already facing an economic system dangerously denuded of “retailer ecodiversity” — and now the few remaining apex predators, no longer impeded by competition, are free to ravage anyone they see as lower on the food chain:  namely, book producers and book lovers.  It’s already happening, and now will get worse.  Still, at least there’s one hope from the liquidation:  Borders might finally be able to pay back the millions of dollars in unpaid-for books it’s owed to publishers and authors for years now.” – N. K. Jemisin is the author of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms.

“Any bookstore closing, chain or independent, is a cause for regret. We may enjoy our e-readers of all kinds, but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of walking into a bookstore and wondering what you’ll discover today, just by being among books, picking them up, sharing that space.” – Guy Gavriel Kay is the bestselling author of Tigana and Under Heaven.

“As both an author and a reader, the news of any bookstore closing is a tragedy. But when I learned about Borders closing I was particularly saddened. Borders was instrumental in making my first book, The Lost City of Z, a success. Borders employees were some of the most devoted readers, who recommended books and passed them on to customers. I did a reading at a Borders in Westchester, New York, near where I live, and was so struck by the extraordinary staff. And so when I think about those people who worked there losing their jobs, and all the readers and authors who will lose such a great place to gather and share their love of books, I’m left without words.” – David Grann is the writer for the New Yorker and the author of the bestselling Lost City of Z.

“First of all, my heart goes out to all the hardworking Borders salespeople and managers who have lost their jobs. The demise of Borders is a sad day for them, for us authors, for publishing houses, for the reading public — and indeed for our country. Fewer bookstores mean fewer books sold. It’s that simple. And that impoverishes us all.” – Douglas Preston is the bestselling co-author of Cemetery Dance and Gideon’s Sword.

“This is one chapter we hoped would never be written. But today’s business climate doesn’t take a sentimental approach. There are so many forces that conspired to effect Borders’ demise, but it boils down to the fact that the business model changed. Borders didn’t. I feel bad for all my friends and terrific booksellers who are losing their jobs, and the readers who lose their neighborhood bookstore. Borders was more than just a store…in its heyday, it was a community’s social pulse…a happening place where people gathered for book signings and musical concerts. It’ll be sorely missed.” – Alan Jacobson is the bestselling author of Crush and Inmate 1577.

“I’m crushed and shocked.  The loss of Borders will have a resounding and lasting impact on the publishing market.  Worst of all, it leaves fewer outlets for readers to easily browse, purchase, and explore new books.  And the effect will reverberate throughout the economy as well:  from the dumping of the 400 stores’ retail spaces into an already fragile marketplace to the 11,000 employees seeking new employment during these tough times.  There is not a silver lining in any of this.”– James Rollins is the bestselling author of The Doomsday Key and The Devil Colony.

“Well, it’s funny, I remember when Borders was “cool.”  —Before they became intent on opening a location next to every indie in town and running them out of business. I was so sorry to see their business model change; they really became the opposite of how they started.  Borders was “sex-positive,” and gay-friendly in their infancy; back when it was considered risky. They were out front with graphic novels and comics.  Whereas some prominent booksellers were saying: “No title with the word SEX in it will be allowed to have a signing in our store!”— Borders would welcome me.   I think I first went to one in Chicago, that was fun. I also remember very well being in their Wall Street location a few months before 9/11. They had such a jolly time inviting me to “invade” the suits and have a reading there.  I wish I could remember names better, because obviously, the good times were all about the great individuals I met, who in many cases, had been booksellers for years, at every kind of store. I hope I keep seeing them in the future!” – Susie Bright is the bestselling author of Big Sex Little Death, as well as the editor for The Best American Erotica.

“For any trade publisher the loss of Borders means that print runs will drop, in some cases by quite a lot for some categories in which Borders did well, which will then put pressure on unit costs and retail prices and profit margins. The knock-down effect would include loss of employees, fewer output, and more. And if this is the direction of chain stores, with indications that B&N will soon follow in five years, at least with attrition, as leases expire, then we could see a situation where publishers are either put out of business entirely or transitioned to ebook business models in order to save themselves. It’s a brave new world, but it’s anyone’s guess how brave and new it’s going to be.” – Sean Wallace is the editor and publisher for Prime Books.

“I think it’s a sad day when thousands of people lose their jobs and the ability of the consumer to browse through books in person becomes even more limited.” – Amber Benson is the author of Death’s Daughter and starred as Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

“The closing of Borders leaves an enormous void in the book world, not only physically but also spiritually. The professional implications to the publishing industry aside, there’s something about the experience of stepping into a book store that can’t be duplicated by browsing books on Amazon.com. If the other brick-and-mortar stores suffer the same fate as Borders, then we will have lost a fundamental piece of our culture.” – S.G. Browne is the author of Fated and Breathers.

“I’ll miss Borders.  The closest bookstore to me right now is a Borders.  It’s in a local shopping center that has a movie theatre, and nearly every time I go to the movies I go in there to shop.  But that’s just the tiny little sliver of my personal regret.  Thousands of people are losing their jobs.  Big shopping centers will have massive empty real estate that will be hard to lease, and the cities and towns won’t be getting the taxes those businesses generate.  Of course, even that is only one aspect of the loss taking place with Borders flaming out.  Doubtless it will hasten the rush toward digital books as people have a harder time finding a bookstore.  The long term picture–what publishing will look like a decade from now–is unclear.  Perhaps once the conversion to digital is complete, or nearly so, that will create jobs and opportunities for writers.  But in the short term, we’ll have to navigate carefully as the industry continues to undergo its metamorphosis.” – Christopher Golden is the author of numerous books including The Myth Hunters and The Map of Moments with Tim Lebbon.

“Borders was the only new book store near my house when I was a kid.  I spent so many hours there.  Borders was the bookstore that always had the book I wanted, that always had the people who knew what I was talking about.  When I started publishing my own books, Borders was the bookstore that happily invited me in to sign and read and be a part of the bookstore dream.  I miss my local stores so much.  I can’t believe the whole chain is going away.  It’s a loss to me as a writer, to me as a reader, and to me as a little girl who just wants to walk into a bookstore and be amazed.” – Seanan McGuire is the author of Late Eclipses and Feed under Mira Grant.

“The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession” by David Grann (Doubleday, 2010)

The Devil and Sherlock Holmesstarstarstarstar

After the runaway success of David Grann’s first book, The Lost City of Z, he returns with a collection of some of his most fascinating articles that he has published in various publications over the last decade.  Like The Lost City of Z, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes is just as compelling and fascinating, as Grann delves into some of the most unusual minds and stories you’ve never heard about.

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes runs the gamut – which is always a good thing with a collection – with the first story about the mysterious death of the world’s foremost Sherlock Holmes expert, to what a daredevil New Zealander is doing to discover more about one of life’s most unknown creatures: the giant squid.  There is the incredible story of Frédéric Bourdin, known as “The Chameleon,” with an ability to be anyone he chooses to be.  The water system of New York isn’t in great shape with two giant pipes built long ago that are in much need of repair, while the new tunnel being built by sandhogs is not scheduled to be completed until 2020; meanwhile either of the two old tunnels could give at any moment, depriving the people of New York with water.

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes is really a study of the human psyche, as these seemingly unbelievable stories reveal the extents to which some people will do certain things to achieve a desired result.  This book will astound you, but also keep you hooked to every single page.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on April 14 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

Bookbanter Episode 26 with David Grann

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In this new episode of Bookbanter, I had the chance to interview David Grann. Grann is a staff writer for the New Yorker and last year published his first book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, about one of the world’s last explorers, Percy Fawcett, and his expeditions into the Amazon in search of a lost civilization. In the interview, you learn of David Grann’s history: how he became an article writer, how he ended up working for the New Yorker, and how he comes up with his incredible ideas for articles. Grann also talks about his new book due out in March 9th, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, collecting a number of his articles. We concluded the interview with discussion on whether Grann ever plans to return to the Amazon in light of some recent evidence of archaeological excavations that are being made there.

This episode also features my reviews for The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins, Altar of Eden by James Rollins, and The Lost City of Z by David Grann:

This episode of BookBanter is brought to you by East Bay and Footlocker, leading world suppliers of athletic footwear, apparel and sports equipment, featuring top athletic brands such as Adidas, Reebok, Converse, and Nike.  Go to East Bay.com and use the code AFBOOK15 to receive 15% off your order, or the code AFBOOK20 to receive 20% off your order of $75 or more.  Or go to Footlocker.com and use the code AFBOOKFL to receive 15% off your order.

For more updates and news, as wells as thoughts and comments about books and writing, be sure to check out the BookBanter Blog.

Please join me next time, in Episode 27 on March 1st, where I will hopefully be interviewing Seth Grahame-Smith, author of the bestselling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and his new book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

See you next time,

Alex C. Telander.

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“The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon” by David Grann (Doubleday, 2009)

Lost City of Zstarstarstarstarstar

In 1925 one of the world’s last explorers, Percy Fawcett, traveled into the heart of the Amazon jungle with his son for his last expedition in search of a lost civilization.  It was a worldwide publicized event, with Fawcett writing journal entries and having a messenger take them to the nearest large town to be sent via telegraph to the rest of the world.  Then the entries suddenly stopped and Fawcett was never heard from again.  Expeditions were made to discover what happened to them; nothing was ever found, while some more people were lost to the Amazon.  The Lost City of Z is the story of Percy Fawcett, his life and how he became a great explorer, and where his obsession for the Amazon came from.  It is also the story of the mystery of this doomed last expedition, and all the efforts – some ending in tragedy – that have been made since then.

David Grann is a staff writer for the New Yorker who first found out about Percy Fawcett while researching an article on the mysterious death of the world’s foremost Sherlock Holmes expert.  The Lost City of Z takes Grann all over the world, from visiting Fawcett’s great granddaughter and seeing some of his original journal entries, to putting together his own expedition to find out what really happened to Percy Fawcett.  The Lost City of Z is the incredible story of one of the last explorers, but it is also the story of the strength of the human spirit and it’s drive to never give up.  Percy Fawcett was a real life Indiana Jones and this is his fascinating story.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on February 9th 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with David Grann check out BookBanter Episode 26.