Shelf Life

In the running

John W. Dower’s new book draws parallels between US-Japan relations during WWII and US-Iraq relations following 9/11. John W. Dower’s new book draws parallels between US-Japan relations during WWII and US-Iraq relations following 9/11. (Illustration from "Cultures of War" (Norton/ Free Press))
By Jan Gardner
Globe Correspondent / October 24, 2010

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Books by professors from MIT and Brown University — a historian and a poet, respectively — are among the National Book Award finalists this year.

In “Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq” (Norton), John W. Dower, a retired professor of Japanese history and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, draws parallels between US-Japan relations during World War II and events of the last decade. “When patriotism bleeds into nationalism and intolerance — whether in wartime Japan, today’s America, or among Islamic fundamentalists — it suffocates understanding,” Dower told The Boston Globe in an interview earlier this fall.

Poet C.D. Wright’s “One With Others: A Little Book of Her Days” (Copper Canyon) will be released on Nov. 1. Wright’s book-length poem encompasses the experiences of a self-taught friend in the Arkansas Delta during the civil rights movement. A native of Arkansas, Wright lives in Barrington, R.I., and teaches at Brown University. A former poet laureate of Rhode Island, she was awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2004.

The National Book Foundation will announce the winners in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young-adult literature on Nov. 17.

With the yearly National Book Awards a fixture since 1950, the National Book Foundation in 2006 launched “5 Under 35” to recognize young fiction writers. Among this year’s honorees are Sarah Braunstein and Paul Yoon. Braunstein, a resident of Portland, Maine, teaches fiction writing at the Harvard Extension School. Her debut novel “The Sweet Relief of Missing Children” (Norton) will be published in February. A mother herself, Braunstein has said she views her fiction as a way to explore some of the hopes and fears she has for her child.

Yoon’s debut story collection, “Once the Shore” came out last year. The title story, involving an American widow, a Korean waiter, and a shared sense of loss, was published in the 2006 edition of “The Best American Short Stories.” PEN New England three years ago honored Yoon as an emerging writer.

Look who’s the speaker
Longtime congressman Barney Frank may not be on track to be the first Jewish speaker of the House, as the late Tip O’Neill once hoped. But he’s in demand as a speaker elsewhere. On Nov. 16 he and his biographer, Stuart Weisberg, will address a crowd as part of the 16th annual Jewish Book Month in Marblehead. The Jewish Community Center of the North Shore is sponsoring four other events, including appearances by actor Louis Gossett Jr. and Joyce Antler, author of “You Never Call! You Never Write! The History of the Jewish Mother.” Details at

Coming out
■ “Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage” by Hazel Rowley (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)

■ “The Peanuts Collection: Treasures from the World’s Most Beloved Comic Strip” by Nat Gertler (Little, Brown)

■ “You: Raising Your Child: The Owner’s Manual from First Breath to First Grade” by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz (Free Press)

Pick of the week
Kathleen Kaczor of Titcomb’s Bookshop in East Sandwich recommends: “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating” by Elisabeth Tova Bailey (Algonquin): “I was charmed by this little book. During a long illness, the author was gifted with a snail in a pot of violets. At first she wasn’t too thrilled but over time she discovered that she and the snail had much in common. Their pace of life was slow and they were both nocturnal. So begins the study of her companion throughout their year together.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at

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