This is my week, apparently, to gush about the Indiana Authors Award.
I do most of the communications for the Award as part of my job, assist with the Award Panel and things. I do not select the winners. Most of us on staff read one of the books from each of the Award winners and finalists since we’ll be spending a day with them.
Here were my picks from the works of this year’s finalists:
Graham Greene: The Enemy Within, Michael Shelden
It’s been years since I picked up a biography but of Shelden’s work, I figured his volume on Greene was my best choice since I like Greene’s works so much. Shelden’s a heck of a researcher and writer, putting together a compelling read about Greene. It was a disappointing read, not because of Shelden’s writing, but what I learned about Greene that I would have been happier not knowing. The book was aptly titled and even though Shelden didn’t write much about Greene’s “The End of the Affair,” as I read that one in August for book club, I saw the themes Sheldern had talked about elsewhere in Greene’s life and writing come through.
Catholic Boy Blues, Norbert Krapf
If it’s been years since I picked up a biography, it’s been even longer since I read a book of poetry (try that paper about Yeats I wrote in AP English my senior year of high school). Catholic Boy Blues is about the sexual abuse Krapf suffered from a Catholic priest and his healing from that experience. Powerful pieces, but I had to read in short spans because it was too gritty to do a lot at once.
Letters from Skye, Jessica Brockmole
In her blog post for the Award, she talks about loving epistolary novels like “Dear Mr. Henshaw” and “Griffin & Sabine.” Me too, Ms. Brockmole. Me too. I will never not love a novel told in letters and was quickly hooked into the voices of the different letter writers. The mystery of the plot lends itself to the format as the reader has to wait on the post for news and updates and clues. This is the one book from this year’s bunch that I’m trying to convince Stacie to read.
What the Zhang Boys Know, Clifford Garstang
Back in graduate school, I had this idea that someday I’d write a collection of short stories all set in the same apartment building and while I don’t think I told anybody that idea, Clifford Garstang stole it right out of my head! His interwoven collection features the residents of a former tenement building in DC — the Chinese man with two sons who lost his wife in an auto accident, the painter, the sculptor, the writer, the building owner and others — as they deal with the big and small upheavals in life, love lost and found. Reading quickly made me suffer from some character whiplash, but I didn’t want to leave the building to wait between stories.
Where am I Wearing, Kelsey Timmerman
Truth, I read this last year because Timmerman was a finalist in 2013. I stand by everything I said then. I have all kinds of good intentions to get to “Where am I Eating?” before the Award Dinner day, but in reality, if my current TBR pile toppled over on me, it would probably be fatal and Timmerman’s second book would then never get read and I’d be leaving my colleagues short-staffed for the event.