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  • This looks superb: Best European Fiction 2010, edited by the excellent Aleksandar Hemon (author of The Lazarus Project and The Question of Bruno):

    Historically, English-language readers have been great fans of European literature, and names like Franz Kafka, Gustave Flaubert, and Thomas Mann are so familiar we hardly think of them as foreign at all. What those writers brought to English-language literature was a wide variety of new ideas, styles, and ways of seeing the world. Yet times have changed, and how much do we even know about the richly diverse literature being written in Europe today?

    Best European Fiction 2010 is the inaugural installment of what will become an annual anthology of stories from across Europe. Edited by acclaimed Bosnian novelist and MacArthur "Genius-Award" winner Aleksandar Hemon, and with dozens of editorial, media, and programming partners in the US, UK, and Europe, the Best European Fiction series will be a window onto what's happening right now in literary scenes throughout Europe, where the next Kafka, Flaubert, or Mann is waiting to be discovered.

  • Winner of the 2009 Costa Children's Book Award Winner, Patrick Ness's The Ask and the Answer was described by the Sunday Times as both "accessible and sophisticated, handling big subjects -- terrorism, feminism, genocide, love -- in prose that is simple and heart-stopping." This could well become the cross-over, kidult book of the next year. Without a doubt, it is already an absolute must for the kids themselves:

    We were in the square, in the square where I'd run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her. But there weren't no safety, no safety at all, there was just him and his men. Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced t learn the ways of the Mayor's new order.

    But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode. The Ask and the Answer is a tense, shocking and deeply moving novel of resistance under the most extreme pressure. This is the second book in the "Chaos Walking" trilogy (following the superb The Knife of Never Letting Go).

  • Noah's Compass is the latest novel from the truly incomparable Anne Tyler. It might be a new year, but that doesn't mean you can't start it with an old friend!

    As you'll probably know to expect from Tyler, Noah's Compass is a "wise, gently humorous, and deeply compassionate" read. It tells the story of a 61-year-old schoolteacher who has been forced to retire and who now must come to terms with the final phase of his life:

    Liam Pennywell, who set out to be a philosopher and ended up teaching fifth grade, never much liked the job at that run-down private school, so early retirement doesn't bother him. But he is troubled by his inability to remember anything about the first night that he moved into his new, spare, and efficient condominium on the outskirts of Baltimore. All he knows when he wakes up the next day in the hospital is that his head is sore and bandaged. His effort to recover the moments of his life that have been stolen from him leads him on an unexpected detour. What he needs is someone who can do the remembering for him. What he gets is -- well, something quite different. We all know a Liam. In fact, there may be a little of Liam in each of us. Which is why Anne Tyler's lovely novel resonates so deeply.

  • Aah, a new year... And a new decade! Inevitably, then, our thoughts turn to new year's resolutions. And what are resolutions but small steps towards living better?

    A nobleman, public official and wine-grower, Renaissance writer Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-92) wrote free-roaming explorations of his thought and experience, unlike anything written before. How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer "relates the story of his life by way of the questions he posed and the answers he explored."

    My advice? Make reading this your new year's resolution and learn how to live from Montaigne himself!

    How to get on well with people, how to deal with violence, how to adjust to losing someone you love -- such questions arise in most people's lives. They are all versions of a bigger question: how do you live? How do you do the good or honourable thing, while flourishing and feeling happy? This question obsessed Renaissance writers, none more than Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-92), perhaps the first truly modern individual.

    A nobleman, public official and wine-grower, he wrote free-roaming explorations of his thought and experience, unlike anything written before. He called them 'essays', meaning 'attempts' or 'tries'. Into them, he put whatever was in his head: his tastes in wine and food, his childhood memories, the way his dog's ears twitched when it was dreaming, as well as the appalling events of the religious civil wars raging around him.

    The Essays was an instant bestseller, and over four hundred years later, Montaigne's honesty and charm still draw people to him. Readers come to him in search of companionship, wisdom and entertainment -- and in search of themselves.

    This book, a spirited and singular biography (and the first full life of Montaigne in English for nearly fifty years), relates the story of his life by way of the questions he posed and the answers he explored. It traces his bizarre upbringing (made to speak only Latin), youthful career and sexual adventures, his travels, and his friendships with the scholar and poet Etienne de La Boetie and with his adopted 'daughter', Marie de Gournay. And as we read, we also meet his readers -- who for centuries have found in Montaigne an inexhaustible source of answers to the haunting question, 'how to live?'

  • Director Spike Jonze has, many critics argue, done something very special with his film-adaption of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. And Heads on and We Shoot: The Making of "Where the Wild Things Are" is a fantastic accompaniment to Jonze's film. A beautifully produced, double-spined hardback that fans of the film absolutely need to get hold of... Oh, and the book is edited by the McSweeney's crew and is as stylish as everything they produce. A lovely, lovely book:

    Maurice Sendak's classic book Where the Wild Things Are follows the adventures of Max, a headstrong young boy who leaves home after having a fight with his mother, only to find himself in a mysterious forest bordering a vast sea. Misunderstood and rebellious, Max sets sail to the land of the Wild Things, where mischief reigns. But how do you turn one of the world's favorite children's books into a movie?

    This film incorporates the most dynamic elements of voice performance, live-action puppetry, and computer animation into a live-action adventure story that captures the magic of the book -- and takes it to a new dimension. In order to preserve the realistic nature of the film, the Wild Things are not created digitally. Instead, Spike Jonze brings these characters to life in the form of physical suits built by the Jim Henson Company. These creatures, operated by a suit performer, interact with the live actor playing Max on set in front of the camera. After principal photography is finished, CGI is being used to make the creatures completely lifelike and convincing.

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