23 fiction books you'll want to read this summer
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Ali Smith wins Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction

At a ceremony in London on Wednesday night, Ali Smith was announced as the winner of the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. Smith took the prize for her innovative novel "How to Be Both."

In "How to Be Both," Smith told two stories: that of a British teenager named Georgia and of the 15th century Italian painter Francesco del Cossa. While a traditional novel might intertwine the two narratives, Smith's book was published in two separate editions, in which Georgia came first, or Del Cossa did.

"That this is a gimmick goes without saying, and yet it is a gimmick that resonates," Los Angeles Times book critic David L. Ulin wrote in his review. "The idea, Smith wants us to understand, is that all stories, all pieces of art, are conditional, dependent on the observer's gaze. ... [T]o call it experimental is to miss the point. Rather it is deft and mischievous, a novel of ideas that folds back on itself like the most playful sort of arabesque."

Smith's book was also shortlisted for the Man Booker...

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Jacqueline Woodson named the new Young People's Poet Laureate

Jacqueline Woodson is the new "young people's poet laureate," the Poetry Foundation announced Wednesday. In 2014, Woodson won the National Book Award for young people's literature for her memoir-in-verse, "Brown Girl Dreaming."

As young people's poet laureate, Woodson will serve two years advising the Poetry Foundation and will engage in projects designed to instill a lifelong love of poetry in children. The poet laureateship comes with an award of $25,000.

Woodson has published 10 picture books, eight books for middle graders and 10 books for young adults.

At the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in April, Woodson explained her choice to combine poetry and memoir in "Brown Girl Dreaming."

"With my writing, I try to do stuff I have not done before," she said. "Each time I sit down, I want to have a new experience and, by extension, I want my readers to have a different experience."

She added: "If you have no road map, you have to create your own."

Robert Polito, the Poetry Foundation's...

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Six Harper Lee letters expected to fetch $250,000 at auction

An "exceptionally rare" collection of letters written by "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee to a friend will be auctioned in New York next week, Reuters reports, and could fetch up to $250,000.

Christie's will auction the lot, which consists of six typewritten letters from Lee to her friend Harold Caufield, an architect, on June 12. The letters were written between 1956 and 1961, and some are signed with "comic pseudonyms" such as "The Prisoner of Zenda" and "R. Bouverie Pusey."

The auction house describes the lot as a "poignant and especially rare" collection written to "one of [Lee's] oldest and closest friends." Four of the letters were written before "To Kill a Mockingbird" was published in 1960, and one of those was written about her father, the inspiration for the character Atticus Finch.

Another letter, written in December 1960, describes her reaction to the success of "To Kill a Mockingbird." "We were surprised, stunned & dazed by the Princeton review ... The procurator...

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Shonda Rhimes' book 'Year of Yes' coming in November

Television showrunner Shonda Rhimes will debut her first book, "Year of Yes," in November. Simon & Schuster, which signed up Rhimes for a book in 2013, announced the title and release date Tuesday.

For the entire year of 2014, Rhimes said "yes" to each opportunity that came her way. The book tells that story.

"Saying yes for an entire year turned out to be one of the most amazing decisions I have ever made," Rhimes said in a statement. "It was also a little insane, a lot terrifying and sometimes wildly embarrassing. So this is not a story I ever planned to share with anyone. However, once Simon & Schuster asked me, I had no choice -- what else could I say but yes?"

Rhimes, one of the successful women in Hollywood, is the creator of "Grey’s Anatomy" and "Scandal" and has executive produced "How to Get Away with Murder" and "Private Practice." Her many awards incude a Golden Globe, multiple NAACP Image Awards, the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal from Harvard University, and the Eleanor Roosevelt Global...

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Lambda Literary Awards laud best gay, lesbian and transgender books

The 27th Lambda Literary Awards were presented in New York on Monday night, celebrating the best gay, lesbian and transgender books of the year. A parade of actors, celebrities and activists presented the awards, which were hosted by comedian Kate Clinton.

Two writers were honored with lifetime achievement awards: Rita Mae Brown, author of "Rubyfruit Jungle," was presented with the Pioneer Award by Gloria Steinem. Filmmaker and author John Waters, who was given the Trustee Award for Excellence in Literature, dedicated his award to the original owners of the Provincetown Bookstore, where he said he worked for a summer when he was young and received his true education.

Among the winners were presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco, whose memoir "The Prince of Los Cocuyos" won the award for best gay memoir, and journalist Charles M. Blow, whose autobiography "Fire Shut Up In My Bones" won the prize for best bisexual nonfiction.

Both books are widely available from major publishers -- HarperCollins/Ecco...

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John Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' survives censorship attempt in Idaho

John Steinbeck's classic 1937 novella "Of Mice and Men" won't be banned from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, classrooms after all. The city's school board voted Monday to keep the book as part of the ninth-grade school curriculum, disappointing community members who wanted it restricted to "voluntary, small-group discussion," reports the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash.

The vote to preserve the book was 4 to 1. School board trustee Tom Hearn praised the decision, saying: "We need to trust the judgment of our English teachers to use this book wisely, as we have since 2002."

The book was challenged last month by community members, including Mary Jo Finney, who said the novella "is neither a quality story nor a page turner." She and others objected to profanity in the book, including "bastard" and "God damn," and found the novella, set in California during the Great Depression, too "negative" and "dark."

Finney addressed the board before the vote, saying: "It has been 10 long years that I have worked...

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