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

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

I think we should read great books. Hardcovers. Paperback. New. Used. E-books. I especially think we should read Classics. 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.

I hope you'll use my Noble (Not Nobel!) prize list for reading 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. They 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


Carolyn’s 2010 Noble List for Reading in 2011

A Purrfect Love To D. K. Abbott for A Purrfect Love. Illustrated by Shelley Patten-Forster.  Most of us feel different in one way or another. Here's a little book for preschool children about a kitty who is a different color from his siblings and makes a very unkitty like sound when he mews. It is sure to teach youngsters (subtly, of course!) acceptance--of others and of themselves.

ISBN 97814450543477



wild is the heartTo Sona Ovasapyan for her new chapbook wild is the heart. Tender, inspired poetry and essays. A travelogue of sorts, mixed with what appears to be a new artform. Let’s call it the Ovasapyan Haiku. Learn more at

ISBN: 1453633138





The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A NovelTo Aimee Bender for The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. Aimee was an instructor at Summer Semesters I attended in St. Petersburg Russia where I fell in love with her style when I read stories from The Girl in the Flammable Skirt: StoriesThe Girl in the Flammable Skirt. She also teaches at my alma mater, Universit of Southern California (USC). I’ve broken the rule for giving the Noble to authors  who haven’t won major prizes here. What can I say. She’s won many prizes including the Pushcart, but I reserve the right to be prejudiced toward great writing.

ISBN: 9780385501125



To Antoine de Sain-Exupéry for The Little Prince. I know, I know. Another departure The Little Prince Pop-Up  from my rules. But this edition is new and I’ve always felt that sad as this story is, we should read it to our children; they will naturally absorb a knack for language in the hearing of it. This new edition is a popup book, but it does include the complete original text.

ISBN: 9780547860693



Abyssinia, Jill Rush To David Herrle for Abyssinia, Jill Rush, a book of poetry from the editor of the online  journal Subtle Tea. An image in every poem that will make you cry to shake your fist in rage.

ISBN: 9781568092358



To Life! To Love!: In Poetry and Prose, A Spiritual Memoir  To Rolf Gompertz for To Life, To Love, In Poetry and Prose:  A Spiritual Memoir. His poem says it all:

Now in the winter of my life, I ask myself
Menachem ben Shimshon v’Sarah,

Rolf, son of Oscar and Selma Gompertz,

What did you do, as a survivor?
What was your transformative answer

To Hitler, Kristallnacht, and the Holocaust?

And I reply:

I lived as a Jew,

I wrote books, about Love,

I bore witness.

Click . . . click . . . click . . .
ISBN-13: 978-0595355594


Music Magic To Carolyn Allen for Music Magic, the story of Mari, a thirteen-year-old lover of music  who explores her world through adventures with music, family, friendship and community. In doing so, she builds a multi-ethnic group of friends. [eBook]



Healey's Cave To Aaron Paul Lazar for Healey’s Cave. A mystery has never made my Nobel list before but this one deserves the description “literary mystery.” It’s been called “lush,” “lyrical,” and “absorbing.” It is a fine example of how genre fiction can cross the line from entertaining to fine art.

ISBN: 1933353082.


Leigh Johnson nominated Sarah Waters for The Little Stranger. She says it is “a story of the British class system and how it changed following World War II. A very unreliable The Little Stranger narrator befriends a formally rich upper class family who once employed his mother. Nothing is quite as it seems as the story unfolds. The suspense and dread builds until the very final page.” She also said that after reading it, she read all Waters’ earlier books, The Nightwatch, Affinity,  Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet after she finished The Little Stranger and loved them all.  

ISBN-13: 978-159448446


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.)

A Tip for Writers: :

Writers interested in their craft know that last-minute edits can mean the difference between success and failure. My new booklet, Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers, will help all writers, from those who write business letters to those who pen poetry. Find it on Amazon.

A Tip for Readers' Tip: Carolyn is reworking her Web site. Find lots of reading suggestions on the Resources for Readers pages at

2011 Past Columns


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