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Back To Literature, Past
A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Carolyn Offers Up her Seventh Annual Noble (Not Nobel!) Prize For Literature

Some of us who love to read were English majors. Some not. Some of us thrived on Shakespeare. Some said phooey. All of us have heard that we should read. It's good for our careers and good for our souls.

I'm going to take it a step farther than that. I think we should also read great books. Classics, if you will. Yes, fiction, too. Not necessarily all the time but often enough to inspire us to stretch just a bit in terms of developing our literary taste. To learn something from a theme or sample a voice we haven't tried. Or even to develop a turn of phrase, a metaphor, or a simile we can use in our writing or in our speech.

Newsweek ran a list in 2009 of the greatest books ever written. Their choices may be arguable, but one can not argue with their intent. I thought it might be fun for you to see how many you've read. Gauge your relative success on your age. If you're a senior you may have read more than if you are fifteen.

Actually, how many you've read is not nearly as important as how many you're going to read. Or your motivation to set a goal. For the ambitious, how about a resolution to reread one you've already read and a pledge to read three more in the next year.

I hope you'll use my Noble (Not Nobel!) prize list for suggestions, too. It appears every January in this column. And my columns are archived. The Noble is awarded for literary excellence in use of the English language. Winners should present themes or premises that might help readers recognize and curtail bigotry or explore the human condition in other important ways.

The contest is free except for the cost of the book. Authors or readers who would like to nominate a book may reach me at for instructions on where to mail it. I'm also happy to let you know in advance if a particular book fits my parameters, just in case there are doubts. Because we don't want to waste even one good book. On the other hand, I don't want to miss seeing one I might give an award to!

I also want to thank Leigh Johnson, my daughter-in-law and an avid reader of new great literature. I am pleased to receive nominations from other readers, too, but they must be willing to send me a book or to contact the publisher or author and ask them to send one.

The address is:
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
PO Box 1101
La Canada Flintridge, CA 91012-1101

Back to those reading goals. For most of us—we busy ones—how about a commitment to read just one great book in 2010. C'mon. Just one.

Choose from this list or choose from Newsweek's. But do choose! Now let's enjoy the 2009 winners of my Noble Prize for Literature. That's "Noble," not "Nobel." Here they are:


Carolyn's 2009 Noble List for Reading in 2010

These books are in no particular order.

Hellie Jondoe
by Randall Platt
ISBN 9780896726635
Texas University Press
A young adult novel about a tough kid, a story that softens the heart.

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
by Wells Tower
ISBN 978-0374292195
Farrar Straus Giroux
A collection of short stories nominated by Leigh Johnson for its high literary quality.

Marrying George Clooney: Confessions from a Midlife Crisis
by Amy Ferris
ISBN 978-1580052979
Seal Press
Simply the finest new voice in decades.

The White Tiger
by Aravind Adiga
ISBN 978-1416562603
Free Press
The New Yorker says the book has an "appealingly sardonic voice and acute observations of the (Indian) social order. And though I usually try to find books that haven't already won major awards this one was nominated by Leigh Johnson, a reader extraordinaire. There are times we shouldn't discriminate against the already famous.

Speed-B-B-B-Bumps and Other Poems for Kids and Families
by Darrell House
ASIN: 0615318533
(DBTB Productions)
This is the first time I've honored writing for children but House's work is professional, tender and has so many gently-presented (so kids won't know they're being taught) lessons, I couldn't resist. Find him at

From the Ruins
A Daughter, A Refugee and an American Soldier
by Aida Osmani
ISBN 978-0982317402
Book and Writing, LLC
Author Geraldine Ahearn calls it a "chilling true story."

The Brightest Moon of the Century
A Novel
by Chrisopher Meeks
ISBN 978-0615249148
White Whisker Books
If the world is just Christopher Meeks is destined to be widely read.

Smalley's Sampler
by Lenora Smalley
ISBN 9780978698867
Hazel Street Productions
Smalley's Sampler, Hazel Street Productions, is a lovely little book of poetry that is available from the poet. It was originally published by Hazel Street Productions.

Sleep Before Evening
by Magdalena Ball
ISBN 978-1904492962
Bewrite Books
Sleep Before Evening by Aussie Magdalena Ball, Bewrite Books, is a novel that defines a different kind of courage.

Tips and Tidbits

(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will help authors write or promote better. She will also include a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)

Writers' Tidbit:
Writers of all patterns and stripes will enjoy the quick tips and questions and answers format of my blog, The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor. Guidelines for submitting questions are in the left column of the blog. It is inspired by The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success which won USA Book News Best Book 2007 Award, Reader Views Literary Award and was a finalist in the New Generations Indie Award. It is also available for Kindle.

Readers' Tip:
A poetry chapbook that I coauthored with Magdalena Ball was recently named finalist by USA Book News. I thought followers of this column might be interested. It is
She Wore Emerald Then: Reflections on Motherhood and is a perfect gift for all mothers who enjoy poetry—for any occasion.

2010 Past Columns


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