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Mass Center for the Book Award Winners

  • Mass Center for the Book Award Winners

Massachusetts Center for the Book is delighted to announce two years of Massachusetts Book Awards, the 18th and 19th awards (for books published in 2017 and 2018 respectively).

Into the Raging Sea

Rachel Slade

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK AN NPR BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR ONE OF JANET MASLIN’S MUST-READ BOOKS OF THE SUMMER A NEW YORK TIMES EDITOR'S CHOICE ONE OF OUTSIDE MAGAZINE’S BEST BOOKS OF THE SUMMER ONE OF AMAZON'S BEST NONFICTION BOOKS OF THE YEAR SO FAR “A powerful and affecting story, beautifully handled by Slade, a journalist who clearly knows ships and the sea.”—Douglas Preston, New York Times Book Review “A Perfect Storm for a new generation.” —Ben Mezrich, bestselling author of The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook On October 1, 2015, Hurricane Joaquin barreled into the Bermuda Triangle and swallowed the container ship El Faro whole, resulting in the worst American shipping disaster in thirty-five years. No one could fathom how a vessel equipped with satellite communications, a sophisticated navigation system, and cutting-edge weather forecasting could suddenly vanish—until now. Relying on hundreds of exclusive interviews with family members and maritime experts, as well as the words of the crew members themselves—whose conversations were captured by the ship’s data recorder—journalist Rachel Slade unravels the mystery of the sinking of El Faro. As she recounts the final twenty-four hours onboard, Slade vividly depicts the officers’ anguish and fear as they struggled to carry out Captain Michael Davidson’s increasingly bizarre commands, which, they knew, would steer them straight into the eye of the storm. Taking a hard look at America's aging merchant marine fleet, Slade also reveals the truth about modern shipping—a cut-throat industry plagued by razor-thin profits and ever more violent hurricanes fueled by global warming. A richly reported account of a singular tragedy, Into the Raging Sea takes us into the heart of an age-old American industry, casting new light on the hardworking men and women who paid the ultimate price in the name of profit.

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These Truths

Jill Lepore

Written in elegiac prose, Lepore's groundbreaking investigation places truth itself--a devotion to facts, proof, and evidence--at the center of the nation's history. The American experiment rests on three ideas--"these truths," Jefferson called them--political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. And it rests, too, on a fearless dedication to inquiry, Lepore argues, because self-government depends on it. But has the nation, and democracy itself, delivered on that promise?These Truths tells this uniquely American story, beginning in 1492, asking whether the course of events over more than five centuries has proven the nation's truths, or belied them. To answer that question, Lepore traces the intertwined histories of American politics, law, journalism, and technology, from the colonial town meeting to the nineteenth-century party machine, from talk radio to twenty-first-century Internet polls, from Magna Carta to the Patriot Act, from the printing press to Facebook News.Along the way, Lepore's sovereign chronicle is filled with arresting sketches of both well-known and lesser-known Americans, from a parade of presidents and a rogues' gallery of political mischief makers to the intrepid leaders of protest movements, including Frederick Douglass, the famed abolitionist orator; William Jennings Bryan, the three-time presidential candidate and ultimately tragic populist; Pauli Murray, the visionary civil rights strategist; and Phyllis Schlafly, the uncredited architect of modern conservatism.Americans are descended from slaves and slave owners, from conquerors and the conquered, from immigrants and from people who have fought to end immigration. "A nation born in contradiction will fight forever over the meaning of its history," Lepore writes, but engaging in that struggle by studying the past is part of the work of citizenship. "The past is an inheritance, a gift and a burden," These Truths observes. "It can't be shirked. There's nothing for it but to get to know it."

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The Third Hotel

Laura van den Berg

"[A] future cult classic." —The New York Times Book Review "There’s Borges and Bolaño, Kafka and Cortázar, Modiano and Murakami, and now Laura van den Berg." —The Washington Post An August 2018 IndieNext Selection. Named a Summer 2018 Read by The Washington Post, Vulture, Nylon, Elle, BBC, InStyle, Refinery29, Bustle, O, the Oprah Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Harper's Bazaar, Conde Nast Traveler, Southern Living, Lit Hub, and Vol. 1 Brooklyn In Havana, Cuba, a widow tries to come to terms with her husband’s death—and the truth about their marriage—in Laura van den Berg’s surreal, mystifying story of psychological reflection and metaphysical mystery. Shortly after Clare arrives in Havana, Cuba, to attend the annual Festival of New Latin American Cinema, she finds her husband, Richard, standing outside a museum. He’s wearing a white linen suit she’s never seen before, and he’s supposed to be dead. Grief-stricken and baffled, Clare tails Richard, a horror film scholar, through the newly tourist-filled streets of Havana, clocking his every move. As the distinction between reality and fantasy blurs, Clare finds grounding in memories of her childhood in Florida and of her marriage to Richard, revealing her role in his death and reappearance along the way. The Third Hotel is a propulsive, brilliantly shape-shifting novel from an inventive author at the height of her narrative powers.

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Everything Here Is Beautiful

Mira T. Lee

‟A tender but unflinching portrayal of the bond between two sisters.” —Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere “There's not a false note to be found, and everywhere there are nuggets to savor. Why did it have to end?” —O Magazine “A bold debut. . . Lee sensitively relays experiences of immigration and mental illness . . . a distinct literary voice.” —Entertainment Weekly “Extraordinary . . . If you love anyone at all, this book is going to get you.” —USA Today A dazzling novel of two sisters and their emotional journey through love, loyalty, and heartbreak Two Chinese-American sisters—Miranda, the older, responsible one, always her younger sister’s protector; Lucia, the headstrong, unpredictable one, whose impulses are huge and, often, life changing. When Lucia starts hearing voices, it is Miranda who must find a way to reach her sister. Lucia impetuously plows ahead, but the bitter constant is that she is, in fact, mentally ill. Lucia lives life on a grand scale, until, inevitably, she crashes to earth. Miranda leaves her own self-contained life in Switzerland to rescue her sister again—but only Lucia can decide whether she wants to be saved. The bonds of sisterly devotion stretch across oceans—but what does it take to break them? Everything Here Is Beautiful is, at its heart, an immigrant story, and a young woman’s quest to find fulfillment and a life unconstrained by her illness. But it’s also an unforgettable, gut-wrenching story of the sacrifices we make to truly love someone—and when loyalty to one’s self must prevail over all.

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The Unmade World

Steve Yarbrough

Set against a backdrop of the current political and cultural upheaval in the US and Eastern Europe, The Unmade World is a thoughtful, scope-y literary novel with a dose of suspense that moves from Poland to California to the Hudson Valley and back to Poland. It covers a decade in the lives of an American journalist and a Polish small businessman turned petty criminal and the wrenching aftermath of an accidental, tragic encounter between these two on a snowy night in 2006 on the outskirts of Krakow. The accident costs the lives of the American journalist Richard Brennan’s wife and daughter, an event that colors the rest of his life. It also leads to a downward spiral for Bogdan Baranowsk, leaving emotional scars as he suffers the seemingly inevitable loss of his business, his home, and his wife. The Unmade World is a story of ordinary, otherwise decent people from various backgrounds and circumstances who must learn how to live with the personal grief, sense of guilt, and the emotional consequences of violence. Along the way, the novel grapples with a spectrum of cultural and political issues. It includes a murder mystery wrapped around the corruption of major college sports, the pressures on immigrants and refugees in both the US and Poland, the fallout of political change, economic upheavals and armed conflicts--including the horrific destruction of Luhansk, Ukraine in 2014. It also references the 2016 presidential campaign, cultural politics in the American university, and the demise of print journalism, etc., though never in a dogmatic or overtly partisan way.

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Fault Lines in the Constitution

Cynthia Levinson, Sanford Levinson

Many of the political issues we struggle with today have their roots in the U.S. Constitution. Husband-and-wife team Cynthia and Sanford Levinson take readers back to the creation of this historic document and discuss how contemporary problems were first introduced―then they offer possible solutions. Think Electoral College, gerrymandering, even the Senate. Many of us take these features in our system for granted. But they came about through haggling in an overheated room in 1787, and we're still experiencing the ramifications. Each chapter in this timely and thoughtful exploration of the Constitution's creation begins with a story―all but one of them true―that connects directly back to a section of the document that forms the basis of our society and government. From the award-winning team, Cynthia Levinson, children's book author, and Sanford Levinson, constitutional law scholar, Fault Lines in the Constitution will encourage exploration and discussion from young and old readers alike.

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And Then There Were Four

Nancy Werlin

New York Times bestselling author Nancy Werlin returns to YA suspense with this page-turner mystery for fans of Lauren Oliver, Neal Shusterman, and Lois Duncan Let’s not die today. Not even to make things easier for our parents. When a building collapses around five teenagers—and they just barely escape—they know something strange is going on. Little by little, the group pieces together a theory: Their parents are working together to kill them all. Is it true? And if so, how did their parents come together—and why? And, most importantly, how can the five of them work together to save themselves? With an unlikely group of heroes, sky-high stakes, and two budding romances, this gripping murder mystery will keep readers guessing until the last page. From the Hardcover edition.

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The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole

Michelle Cuevas

"Eleven-year-old Stella Rodriguez finds herself in possession of a strange new pet that swallows up everything in sight when a black hole decides to follow her home"--

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Said Not Said

Fred Marchant

“Fred Marchant teaches and awakens the soul.” —Maxine Hong Kingston someone in Benghazi with a hose in one hand uses his free one to wipe down the corpse water flows over the body and down a tilted steel tray toward the drain what washes off washes off —“Below the Fold” In this important and formally inventive new poetry collection, Fred Marchant brings us into realms of the intractable and the unacceptable, those places where words seem to fail us and yet are all we have. In the process he affirms lyric poetry’s central role in the contemporary moral imagination. As the National Book Award winner David Ferry writes, “The poems in this beautiful new book by Fred Marchant are autobiographical, but, as is always the case with his poems, autobiographical of how he has witnessed, with faithfully exact and pitying observation, the sufferings in the lives of other people, for example the heartbreaking series of poems about the fatal mental suffering of his sister, and the poems about other peoples, in Vietnam, in the Middle East, written about with the noble generosity of feeling that has always characterized his work, here more impressively even than before.” Said Not Said is a poet’s taking stock of conscience, his country’s and his own, and of poetry’s capacity to speak to what matters most.

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In the Still of the Night

Dara Wier

""Wier is a poet concerned with capturing the fluidity of thought and experience-and not diminishing its forward charge in doing so. Wier's lines have always had a wild whitewater crash to them, overwhelming any vessel she pours them into." -Boston Globe "That's how one human leaves us" ends the first poem of Dara Wier's direct and powerful new collection, a raw and fluid exploration of grief. Wier records her thoughts with intelligence, clarity, honesty, and immediacy, showing us the unraveling of her world and her new consciousness after a great loss. it would not be sufficient to stop the bleeding grief absence is for these words would have such life in and so of them they would burn in ways so present we would begin to smell smoke and think fire Dara Wier is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including You Good Thing, Selected Poems, Remnants of Hannah, Reverse Rapture, Hat On a Pond, and Voyages in English. Also among her works are the limited editions (X In Fix) in Rain Taxi's Brainstorm Series, Fly on the Wall, and The Lost Epic, co-written with James Tate. She teaches workshops and form and theory seminars and directs the MFA program for poets and writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and co-directs the University of Massachusetts' Juniper Initiative for Literary Arts and Action. She is the co-founder of Factory Hollow Press in North Amherst, Massachusetts"--

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Noon Until Night

Richard Hoffman

Poetry. "In Richard Hoffman's long, complex title poem, which anchors his concerns throughout the book, he says with characteristic lucid candor, '...now when longevity itself begins to seem at once / the only wealth worth having and the booby prize.' It should be noted that NOON UNTIL NIGHT is not a book about noon until evening. Yet the darkness that night suggests has its rays of hope in it, as Hoffman artfully meditates on how we live and, without sentimentality, manage to go on."--Stephen Dunn

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The True Flag

Stephen Kinzer

The bestselling author of Overthrow and The Brothers brings to life the forgotten political debate that set America’s interventionist course in the world for the twentieth century and beyond. How should the United States act in the world? Americans cannot decide. Sometimes we burn with righteous anger, launching foreign wars and deposing governments. Then we retreat—until the cycle begins again. No matter how often we debate this question, none of what we say is original. Every argument is a pale shadow of the first and greatest debate, which erupted more than a century ago. Its themes resurface every time Americans argue whether to intervene in a foreign country. Revealing a piece of forgotten history, Stephen Kinzer transports us to the dawn of the twentieth century, when the United States first found itself with the chance to dominate faraway lands. That prospect thrilled some Americans. It horrified others. Their debate gripped the nation. The country’s best-known political and intellectual leaders took sides. Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and William Randolph Hearst pushed for imperial expansion; Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington, and Andrew Carnegie preached restraint. Only once before—in the period when the United States was founded—have so many brilliant Americans so eloquently debated a question so fraught with meaning for all humanity. All Americans, regardless of political perspective, can take inspiration from the titans who faced off in this epic confrontation. Their words are amazingly current. Every argument over America’s role in the world grows from this one. It all starts in The True Flag.

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Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.

Danielle Allen

So tender yet courageous is this fierce family memoir that it makes mass incarceration nothing less than a new American tragedy. In a shattering work that shifts between a woman’s private anguish over the loss of her beloved baby cousin and a scholar’s fierce critique of the American prison system, Danielle Allen seeks answers to what, for many years, felt unanswerable. Why? Why did her cousin, a precocious young man who dreamed of being a firefighter and a writer, end up dead? Why did he languish in prison? And why, at the age of fifteen, was he in an alley in South Central Los Angeles, holding a gun while trying to steal someone’s car? Cuz means both “cousin” and “because.” In this searing memoir, Allen unfurls a "new American story" about a world tragically transformed by the sudden availability of narcotics and the rise of street gangs—a collision, followed by a reactionary War on Drugs, that would devastate not only South Central L.A. but virtually every urban center in the nation. At thirteen, sensitive, talkative Michael Allen was suddenly tossed into this cauldron, a violent world where he would be tried at fifteen as an adult for an attempted carjacking, and where he would be sent, along with an entire generation, cascading into the spiral of the Los Angeles prison system. Throughout her cousin Michael’s eleven years in prison, Danielle Allen—who became a dean at the University of Chicago at the age of thirty-two—remained psychically bonded to her self-appointed charge, visiting Michael in prison and corresponding with him regularly. When she finally welcomed her baby cousin home, she adopted the role of "cousin on duty," devotedly supporting Michael’s fresh start while juggling the demands of her own academic career. As Cuz heartbreakingly reveals, even Allen’s devotion, as unwavering as it was, could not save Michael from the brutal realities encountered by newly released young men navigating the streets of South Central. The corrosive entanglements of gang warfare, combined with a star-crossed love for a gorgeous woman driving a gold Mercedes, would ultimately be Michael’s undoing. In this Ellisonian story of a young African American man’s coming-of-age in late twentieth-century America, and of the family who will always love Michael, we learn how we lost an entire generation.

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The Written World

Martin Puchner

"The story of literature in sixteen acts, from Alexander the Great and the Iliad to ebooks and Harry Potter, this engaging book brings together remarkable people and surprising events to show how writing shaped cultures, religions, and the history of the world"--

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A Memory of Light

Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson

In the conclusion to the "Wheel of Time" series, all of humanity is in peril as Rand al'Thor moves forward to break the seals on the Dark One's prison and the Last Battle will determine the fate of the world.

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Little Fires Everywhere

Celeste Ng

Soon to be a Hulu limited series, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington eBook includes special materials for book clubs: a Q&A with Celeste Ng and John Green, a letter from Celeste Ng, and book club discussion questions. Named a Best Book of the Year by: People, The Washington Post, Bustle, Esquire, Southern Living, The Daily Beast, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Audible, Goodreads, Library Reads, Book of the Month, Paste, Kirkus Reviews, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and many more! "I read Little Fires Everywhere in a single, breathless sitting." –Jodi Picoult “To say I love this book is an understatement. It’s a deep psychological mystery about the power of motherhood, the intensity of teenage love, and the danger of perfection. It moved me to tears.” - Reese Witherspoon “I am loving Little Fires Everywhere. Maybe my favorite novel I've read this year.”—John Green "Witty, wise, and tender. It's a marvel." – Paula Hawkins From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster. Perfect for book clubs! Visit celesteng.com for discussion guides and more.

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The Chalk Artist

Allegra Goodman

"Collin James is young, creative, and unhappy. A college dropout, he waits tables and spends his free time beautifying the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his medium of choice: chalk. Collin's art captivates passersby with its vibrant colors and intricate lines--until the moment he wipes it all away. Nothing in Collin's life is meant to last. Then he meets Nina"--Amazon.com.

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