Thursday, December 17, 2009

December Author Birthdays - Part 2

Guest blogger Lara is finishing up her term at the library. She was kind enough to offer up one last post. Thanks Lara!

Time for Part Two of this month's author birthdays. Sometimes I wonder what it's like to have a birthday in late December, what with so much non-birthday celebrating going on in many places. Maybe if you know someone lucky enough to celebrate their birthday later this month you can think about thoughtfully giving them a book by an author with a similarly late-in-the-year birthday. Here are some ideas!

Shirley Jackson, the popular author of short stories who specialized in psychological suspense, has a birth date of December 14th. Her story "The Lottery" has been turned into a film three times, most recently in 1997. Credited with a major contribution to the style known as American Gothic, Jackson was a contemporary of Sylvia Plath and Flannery O'Connor.

Moving back a little more than a century to another major author credited with influencing at least one genre, Jane Austen's birth date is December 16th. Austen is well known for writing Georgian period gentrified romances such as Pride and Prejudice (1813), but did you know that her posthumously published novel Northanger Abbey (1817) is also a clever mock-gothic work? It's a lot of fun and really showcases Austen's awareness of her literary contemporaries and her sense of humour.

A contemporary author celebrating a birthday on December 16th is Canadian childrens and young adult author Karleen Bradford. Bradford has written a number of fantasy novels for young adults as well as fun stories for younger readers, and won stacks of awards across Canada for works such as Angeline (2004) and Dragonfire (1997). She has also tackled some stories from Canadian history, writing about historical events from a child's point of view, such as the title With Nothing But Our Courage: the loyalist diary of Mary MacDonald (2002) and A Desperate Road to Freedom: the underground railroad diary of Julia May Jackson (2009).

Douglas Coupland is another contemporary Canadian author celebrating a late December birthday on the 30th. His latest book, Generation A (2009) has proven to be a very popular science fiction story based on the premise that bees around the world have become extinct - until five people are mysteriously stung and become famous almost instantly for this bizarre shared experience. On the author's website, a description notes that "A charismatic scientist with dubious motives eventually brings the quintet together on a remote Canadian island." I have to admit I'm intrigued and want to know what happens next! Coupland writes compelling fiction about contemporary society and our relianceon technology as a way to understand ourselves; his 2007 work The Gum Thief and 2006 novel jPod are also going on my to-read list.

Also with a birth date right at the end of the month is Rudyard Kipling on the 30th, whose Jungle Book (1894) and Just So Stories (1902) are perennial family favorites. Did you know that nearby Dalhousie University has a very special Kipling collection here in Halifax?

I'll put this segment to rest with Nicholas Sparks, born on December 31st. I first encountered the author when traveling in Italy with friends about ten years ago and one of them had a copy of The Notebook (1996). We all passed it around very quickly because it's a fast and captivating read, perfect for traveling with. Sparks has written a number of other popular novels, most recently The Last Song (2009) and The Lucky One (2008) that would also be great companions on your holiday travels this month.

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