Author Focus: Bill Bryson

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by Louise Hilton.

Bill Bryson is an American writer best known for his travel memoirs such as the best-selling A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, a hilarious recounting of his ill-fated attempt to hike the famous trail. His other travel books include Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe with each chapter devoted to a different country, Notes from a Small Island about his many years spent living in England, and I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after 20 Years Away.

Travel writing not your thing? Check out his books on everything from the curiosities of the English language (Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way and Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States) to history (the excellent At Home: A Short History of Private Life) to science (A Short History of Nearly Everything). A final highlight from his bibliography is The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, his memoir of growing up in 1950s Iowa.

The common denominator in Bryson’s books is of course his wit. His writing is often laugh-out-loud funny and irreverent but always engaging and accessible. To learn more about the author and his works, visit his official website at

Notes from a Small islandA Walk in the WoodsAt Home

Author Focus: Jen Lancaster

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by Louise Hilton

Jen LancasterNeed a break from holiday preparations? Curl up with one of Jen Lancaster’s books for a good laugh. Covering everything to adjusting to life in the big bad city (Chicago, for the record) to her hilarious year-long attempt to introduce culture into her life (think a little less Real Housewives and a few more nights at the opera), her memoirs are not to be missed.

Try Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, or Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office, her cringe-inducing true-life account of how she went from earning a six-figure salary to being evicted from a low-rent apartment in a span of two years.

Her other books include Bright Lights, Big Ass:  A Self-Indulgent, Surly Ex-Sorority Girl’s Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, or Who Are All These Idiots and Why Do They Live Next Door to Me? and My Fair Lazy; One Reality Television Addict’s Attempt to Discover If Not Being A Dumb Ass Is the New Black; Or, A Culture-Up Manifesto, as well as a novel called If You Were Here.

Her latest memoir, Jeneration X; One Reluctant Adult’s Attempt to Unarrest Her Arrested Development; Or, Why It’s Never Too Late for Her Dumb Ass to Learn Why Froot Loops Are Not for Dinner, is another hit. She also has a new novel, Here I Go Again, coming out in January, so be sure to check your local library for it.

I recommend Jen Lancaster for fans of Celia Rivenbark, Jenny Lawson, and Laurie Notaro.

For more on Lancaster, visit her at

Jeneration X My Fair Lazy Pretty in Plaid

Author Focus: Zadie Smith

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by Louise Hilton

If you’re looking for a fresh literary voice, look no further than Zadie Smith, a British novelist best known for her debut, White Teeth, an engrossing novel that spans the decades-long friendship of an Englishman named Archie and his best friend Samad, a Bangladeshi who immigrated to England after World War II. Smith’s gift lies in her rich character development and absorbing portrayals of the immigrant experience. Life in the rich melting-pot of cultures (and the inevitable culture clash that ensues) in London, and, in the case of her novel On Beauty, Boston, is a recurring theme in Smith’s novels.

White Teeth won numerous awards, including the Guardian First Book Award, the Whitbread Prize, and the Overall Commonwealth Writers Prize. Smith’s third novel On Beauty was shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize and won Britain’s prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction (awarded to the best English-language novel written by a woman of any nationality). Most deserving of these accolades, Zadie Smith is an author not to be missed.

Smith’s novels are White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, and her long-awaited latest offering, NW; she also wrote a collection of essays entitled Changing My Mind. NW just hit shelves this fall and is a captivating read, focusing on the lives of four young residents of the Northwest part of London (hence the title) – check your local library for a copy.

Author Focus: Clive Barker

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It’s hard to imagine that the master of the macabre who wrote the novella The Hellbound Heart and its subsequent movie adaptation Hellraiser, would also be a successful teen author. This is a gap that Barker has easily bridged. Through all his written works and creations as an artist, what comes through strongly in his visions is his deep passion for the fantastical and for worlds hidden within our own. Here is a selection of fiction titles available at the Library, but you will also find him popping up with short stories in a variety of anthologies. To see a complete list of his books and to find more information, please visit the author’s website

The Books of Blood
The Damnation Game
The Great and Secret Show (Book of the Art #1)
The Thief of Always (teen)
Everville (Book of the Art #2)
The Essential Clive Barker
Coldheart Canyon
Abarat: The First Book of Hours (Abarat #1) (teen)
Days of Magic, Nights of War (Abarat #2) (teen)
Absolute Midnight (Abarat #3) (teen)

Notable Nonfiction:

Clive Barker’s A-Z of Horror
Clive Barker Visions of Heaven and Hell
The Painter, the Creature, and the Father of Lies

Author Focus: Emily Giffin

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by Louise Hilton

Emily Giffin is the bestselling author of five novels including Something Borrowed, its sequel Something Blue, and Heart of the Matter. Giffin worked as a litigator in Manhattan for several years before leaving the practice of law and moving to London where she tried her hand at writing contemporary fiction. It paid off – her debut novel Something Borrowed was a runaway hit, and her other novels have followed suit, consistently landing on the New York Times bestseller list. Known for making her characters relatable and human and putting them in complex situations, Giffin’s books are worth checking out. Her latest book, Where We Belong, comes out this summer.

Visit Giffin’s website for reading guides, her blog, and a hilarious author timeline.