Man Booker Podcast

The official Man Booker Prize Long List came out this week. A few names are new to me and certainly many, of the 13 authors, I don’t know. And just like previous years, the 2015 Man Booker podcast has launched and it’s off to a GREAT start.

You can get the Man Booker podcast on iTunes or you can listen on your computer via Soundcloud.

This is one of my favorite podcasts and like good locally grown food – it’s only available one season of the year. So subscribe and check out what’s going on as there are only a few episodes put together each award season.


The first full episode was fun and hops around a lot.  They chat about the prize, what it’s like being a judge, as well as a “man on the street” segment where they went to a local bookstore in the U.K. to catch a midnight release party of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. It was pretty neat to hear how folks ‘across the pond’ regard Lee’s new book as well as To Kill a Mockingbird. This episode was like popping around a room during a dinner party where every grouping of people is discussing some aspect of books and publishing.

The Prize and the Man Booker podcast as gotten a lot more fun since the prize has gone global and is open to authors of any nationality. For much of the Man Booker Prize history it was only open to authors from the British Commonwealth & interests.

So check it out and get caught up as the BIG announcement of the winner will be made October 13, 2015.

Do you pay attention to the Man Booker Prize?






Armada by Ernest Cline

Title: Armada
Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Crown, 2015
Where I heard about this book: I received this book directly from the publisher.

Armada blasts through the haze of the past couple of decades and gives us a look back to the sci-fi stories of the 1980s. Just about every page of Cline’s book drips with tropes, cliches and plot lines of well known movies and stories. You’ll find yourself smiling as characters in Armada quote lines and rally behind battle cries heard first from Activision and Atari games.


Armada follows the plight of a soon-to-be high school graduate to the moon and back as he helps defend the Earth from alien invasion. An invasion that is the result of 40 years of US government secrets and black ops. An invasion that will end life on Earth. An invasion that can only be defeated by the best video gamers on the planet as the military has been secretly training Earth’s population on how to control military drones through video games.

The Last Starfighter was one of my favorite movies growing up, which this book certainly mirrors. The same can be said for Ender’s Game which matches pretty close plot-point to plot-point. So you’ll get a kick out of Armada if you enjoyed those two stories. But if you don’t then there’s not much else here for you.

While I really enjoyed Cline’s first book Ready Player One, this book, while making use of all the same vintage hooks, nods and winks that enjoy, lacks a freshness that RPO has. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but the characters in Armada spend too much time making fun of classic sci-fi plot holes and being aware of how their world mimics it all. It never quite goes all out “meta” but it’s darn close.

I’m giving this book two out of five stars, though if you’ve ever called yourself a sci-fi geek it’s one you’ll want to read just for all of the memories. And it’s also worth picking up, in the book store,  just to check out the cover.


Will Staehle nailed it. Just like every good video game there is an easter egg even in the cover… open it up for schematics of the drones. Something every hardcore sci-fi fan appreciates. Kudos to Staehle and team.



I hope you find yourself this weekend with a book in hand a tall ice cold drink. And some air conditioning or maybe at least shady tree and a hammock.

If you do decide to get out and brave the heat, here are three Birmingham book events and author appearances that you may want to attend over the next 10 days:

Saturday, July 18th starting at 4:00pm – award-winning children’s book author Lou Anders will be signing Nightborn the newly released second book in the Thrones & Bones kids fantasy adventure series, at the Summit location of Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, July 26th at 2:00pm to 4:00pm – the Bessemer Hall of History will be hosting author Ken Boyd as part of a new exhibition. Boyd will be signing his book The Art of the Locomotive.

Monday, July 27th starting at 4:00pm – Carla Jean Whitley will be at the Alabama Booksmith signing her newest book Birmingham Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Magic City.

Comparing Harper Lee’s Two Books

Go Set a Watchman is out and in the hands of readers around the globe. It’s been interesting to see how people respond to the story in the book, but it’s been absolutely fascinating watching how people respond to the story of the book itself.

A quick snapshot of the evolution of the book:

Harper Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman first back in the 1950’s. Her editor said something like ‘I’m more interested in the backstory’. So Harper Lee wrote the prequel which became To Kill a Mockingbird published in 1960.

I’m not sure Lee ever expected Go Set a Watchman to ever be published.

Taking this path to life into account and realizing how books are written the folks at Quartz ran both books through their computers to compare the texts to see if there were any similarities. What author wouldn’t take awesome passages from a finished manuscript and re-use them in a newer, updated book of another title? Especially if they never thought the original had a shot of seeing the light of day.

You can click through and read the passages that Lee and her editor copied over verbatim and where the revisions are. What is interesting is that all of the ones Quartz shares appear later in To Kill a Mockingbird than they do in Go Set a Watchman. You begin to get a sense of how Lee constructs each story when you realize that so many descriptive and background passages appear up front on the newly released book, but appear much later in the earlier released novel. It sheds some light on what the priorities of each book are.


Honestly, I was surprised there isn’t more recycling going on. Harper Lee truly did the work and created a new book back in the 1950’s.

Harper Lee’s new book is already a huge success commercially and people will be debating its authenticity and providence for years to come (so many conspiracy theories!).  But no matter how you feel about Atticus and Scout, this one (and any future books – conspiracy alert!) is a wonderful and rare look at Harper Lee’s methods for readers, researchers and students of storytelling.

Books, Publishing and Birmingham