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Mansfield Reads! Archives & Awards
Peter Heller, author of The Guide:
Peter Heller is a longtime contributor to NPR, and a former contributing editor at Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal, and National Geographic Adventure. He is an award winning adventure writer and the author of four books of literary nonfiction. He lives in Denver. Heller was born and raised in New York. He attended high school in Vermont and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire where he became an outdoorsman and whitewater kayaker. He traveled the world as an expedition kayaker, writing about challenging descents in the Pamirs, the Tien Shan mountains, the Caucuses, Central America and Peru. He was the first man, with a Kiwi paddler named Roy Bailey, to kayak the Muk Su River in the High Pamirs of Tadjikistan. The river was known as the Everest of Rivers in the Soviet Union, and the last team that had attempted it lost five of their eleven men. The run was 17 days of massive whitewater through a canyon inhabited by wolves and snow leopards.
At the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he received an MFA in fiction and poetry, he won a Michener fellowship for his epic poem “The Psalms of Malvine.” He has worked as a dishwasher, construction worker, logger, offshore fisherman, kayak instructor, river guide, and world class pizza deliverer. Some of these stories can be found in Set Free in China, Sojourns on the Edge. In the winter of 2002 he joined, on the ground team, the most ambitious whitewater expedition in history as it made its way through the treacherous Tsangpo Gorge in Eastern Tibet. He chronicled what has been called The Last Great Adventure Prize for Outside, and in his book Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet’s Tsangpo River.
The gorge — three times deeper than the Grand Canyon — is sacred to Buddhists, and is the inspiration for James Hilton’s Shangri La. It is so deep there are tigers and leopards in the bottom and raging 25,000 foot peaks at the top, and so remote and difficult to traverse that a mythical waterfall, sought by explorers since Victorian times, was documented for the first time in 1998 by a team from National Geographic. The book won a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, was number three on Entertainment Weekly’s “Must List” of all pop culture, and a Denver Post review ranked it “up there with any adventure writing ever written.”
In December, 2005, on assignment for National Geographic Adventure, he joined the crew of an eco-pirate ship belonging to the radical environmental group the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as it sailed to Antarctica to hunt down and disrupt the Japanese whaling fleet.
The ship is all black, sails under a jolly Roger, and two days south of Tasmania the engineers came on deck and welded a big blade called the Can Opener to the bow—a weapon designed to gut the hulls of ships. In The Whale Warriors: The Battle at the Bottom of the World to Save the Planet’s Largest Mammals, Heller recounts fierce gales, forty foot seas, rammings, near-sinkings, and a committed crew’s clear-eyed willingness to die to save a whale. The book was published by Simon and Schuster’s Free Press in September, 2007.
In the fall of 2007 Heller was invited by the team who made the acclaimed film The Cove to accompany them in a clandestine filming mission into the guarded dolphin-killing cove in Taiji, Japan. Heller paddled into the inlet with four other surfers while a pod of pilot whales was being slaughtered. He was outfitted with a helmet cam, and the terrible footage can be seen in the movie. The Cove went on to win an Academy Award. Heller wrote about the experience for Men’s Journal.
Heller’s most recent memoir, about surfing from California down the coast of Mexico, Kook: What Surfing Taught Me about Love, Life, and Catching the Perfect Wave, was published by The Free Press in 2010. Can a man drop everything in the middle of his life, pick up a surfboard and, apprenticing himself to local masters, learn to ride a big, fast wave in six months? Can he learn to finally love and commit to someone else? Can he care for the oceans, which are in crisis? The answers are in. The book won a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, which called it a “powerful memoir…about love: of a woman, of living, of the sea.” It also won the National Outdoor Book Award for Literature.
Heller’s debut novel, The Dog Stars, was published by Knopf in August, 2012. It was the Apple iBooks Novel of the Year, Hudson Booksellers top fiction pick of the Year, and an Atlantic Monthly and San Francisco Examiner Best Book of the Year. It was critically celebrated and a breakout bestseller, and has been published in eighteen languages.
His second novel, The Painter, (Knopf, 2014). Publishers Weekly, in its Starred review, called it “masterful”. It won the Colorado Book Award and the prestigious Reading the West Book Award, shared in the past by western writers such as Cormac McCarthy and Terry Tempest Williams. It was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Hudson Books’ top fiction pick of the year, and an Amazon Top Twenty.
Celine, a novel, came out from Knopf in March, 2017. Prepublication, it was an Entertainment Weekly top ten most anticipated book of 2017, and a Library Journal editor’s pick.
The River, was published with Knopf in March, 2019. It’s the story of two college students on a wilderness canoe trip–a gripping tale of a friendship tested by fire, white water, and violence. The River is a National Bestseller, an Indie Next Pick, and has been included on many “Best Of” lists for 2019. The Guide followed in August, 2021 – it’s a heart-racing thriller which returns to Jack (from The River), who is hired by an elite fishing lodge in Colorado, where he uncovers a plot of shocking menace amid the natural beauty of sun-drenched streams and forests. Find Peter on Facebook and Goodreads.
PAULETTE JILES is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of the novels News of the World, a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award, Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, and Lighthouse Island, and the memoir Cousins. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, Texas. For more information please visit: www.paulettejiles.com
News of the World-Mansfield READS 2021 Selection
A New York Times best seller and a major motion picture. News of the World cover picture
"It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.
In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.
Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.
Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself. Exquisitely rendered and morally complex, News of the World is a brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust." -Harper Collins Publishers
The Last Child
John Hart is the author of six New York Times Best selling novels and his title, The Last Child has been announced as Mansfield READS 2020 selection. Hart has been the only author in history to win the Edgar award for consecutive novels and has won numerous other awards for his work.
"Thirteen year-old Johnny Merrimon had the perfect life: a warm home and loving parents; a twin sister, Alyssa, with whom he shared an irreplaceable bond. He knew nothing of loss, until the day Alyssa vanished from the side of a lonely street. Now, a year later, Johnny finds himself isolated and alone, failed by the people he’d been taught since birth to trust. No one else believes that Alyssa is still alive, but Johnny is certain that she is---confident in a way that he can never fully explain.
Determined to find his sister, Johnny risks everything to explore the dark side of his hometown. It is a desperate, terrifying search, but Johnny is not as alone as he might think. Detective Clyde Hunt has never stopped looking for Alyssa either, and he has a soft spot for Johnny. He watches over the boy and tries to keep him safe, but when Johnny uncovers a dangerous lead and vows to follow it, Hunt has no choice but to intervene.
Then a second child goes missing . . .
Undeterred by Hunt’s threats or his mother’s pleas, Johnny enlists the help of his last friend, and together they plunge into the wild, to a forgotten place with a history of violence that goes back more than a hundred years. There, they meet a giant of a man, an escaped convict on his own tragic quest. What they learn from him will shatter every notion Johnny had about the fate of his sister; it will lead them to another far place, to a truth that will test both boys to the limit.
Traveling the wilderness between innocence and hard wisdom, between hopelessness and faith, The Last Child leaves all categories behind and establishes John Hart as a writer of unique power." -Macmillian Publishing
Before We Were Yours
Before We Were Yours by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Wingate was the 2019 Mansfield Reads! Selection.
The library offered many programs during the month of Mansfield Reads and patrons were encouraged to pick up their own copy at the library to read.
This book had spent 52 weeks on the bestseller list, has been optioned for a movie, and has touched everyone who has read it. Based on one of America's most notorious real-life scandals - in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country - Lisa Wingate's riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.
On Texas Backroads, Stories Found Along the Way
Mansfield visited all around Texas when we read this year's Mansfield Reads! book, Texas Backroads, Stories Found Along the Way. Carlton Stowers, renowned sports journalist, true crime writer, and essayist visited Mansfield and took us on a guided tour with his personal anecdotes about the stories in the book.
The Evening with the Author event had the library at overflowing capacity and the crowd talking about how much fun the journey had been. Two months of related programming leading up to the event included bluebonnet planting, a Texas photography workshop and a Texas Cuisine cooking class. Mansfield citizens certainly enjoyed the pleasures of such an entertaining "road trip."
Thanks to Mr. Stowers, to all our sponsors and especially to the Mansfield community for making the 15th annual Mansfield Reads! such a great ride.
With flawless narrative instinct and a boundless sympathy for her irrepressible characters, in Oleander Girl Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni brings us a perfect treat of a novel - moving, wise, and unforgettable. As The Wall Street Journal raves,
Divakaruni emphasizes the cathartic force of storytelling with sumptuous prose. . . . She defies categorization.
Divakaruni charmed Mansfield with her humor, intelligence and warmth on April 28, 2017. She discussed how she got started as a writer, Oleander Girl and her latest novel, Before We Visit the Goddess. The lecture, considered by many long-time Reads attendees among the best in the program's long history, is available for viewing on the city's YouTube channel or at the Friends of the Mansfield Public Library website.
In addition to the Evening with the Author event and Ms. Divakaruni's two high school visits, the Friends had a record 16 related programs at the library and around the city with community partners Mansfield Commission for the Arts, Mansfield Parks and Recreation Department, Mansfield Historical Society, Mansfield Rocks, and Ben Barber Innovation Academy.
The Same Sky
Riveting, heartrending, deeply affecting, socially conscious, the timeliest book you will read this year...
All of the above have been used to describe The Same Sky, the thirteenth annual Mansfield Reads! selection by Amanda Eyre Ward. The Texas author visited Mansfield and shared the heart wrenching story of how she came to write this book with a capacity crowd at the Evening with the Author event in the newly reconfigured library. Art work, submitted in a contest sponsored by the Friends of the Library, called Paint Your Sky was displayed throughout.
Savvy's Bistro from Ben Barber Career Tech Academy provided delicious hors d'ouevres and desserts based on themes in the book. Ms. Ward also visited three Mansfield Independent School District high schools, touching students at each one with her own story and the stories of the families in the book. Ms. Ward's publisher says
The Same Sky illustrates what great fiction can do: enable readers to walk in another's shoes; to truly understand the heart of a stranger. Mansfield citizens who read the book and met Ms. Ward certainly found this to be true.
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion
Fannie Flagg Book CoverWhen the hugely popular, highly regarded and very funny Southern actress, comedienne and bestselling author Fannie Flagg agreed to be a part of Mansfield Reads! The Friends of the Library knew we were going to have a hit on our hands. Her book, The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion, had Mansfield citizens filling up on laughs, adventure and a little bit of history. Since Ms. Flagg is also the author of the beloved Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Historic Downtown Mansfield and the Farr Best Theater joined the Friends in presenting a showing of that movie early in April.
Book clubs began reading the chosen book and then everyone in town was talking about it! Ms. Flagg kept us happily entertained when she told of how she came to write the book, of it's connection to Texas and then read a favorite passage at the Evening with the Author, held for the first time at the beautiful Mansfield Independent School District Center for the Performing Arts. The record-breaking crowd, which had braved thunderstorms and even tornado warnings, enjoyed a delicious hors d'oeuvre reception provided by Savvy's Bistro, which is operated by Ben Barber culinary arts students, then had coffee and sweet southern desserts while waiting to meet the author.
Ms. Flagg, ever the gracious Southern lady, stayed until the very last book had been signed and the last fan had smiled for a photo with her, even though her day started at 7 a.m. talking about Mansfield Reads! on a local television show, then continued on to Mansfield High School and Timberview High School meeting with students in English, Creative Writing and Theater classes, before ending her visit with the Evening with the Author. The twelfth annual Mansfield Reads! program was a phenomenal success. Fannie Flagg and The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion had the whole community talking! We are sharing good books! The Friends wish to thank Ms. Flagg, our sponsors, MISD and the Center for the Performing Arts, the City of Mansfield and most importantly, the citizens who support this program.
The Informationist by Taylor Stevens
The Friends of the Mansfield Public Library ventured into new territory with the book chosen for the 11th annual One City, One Book community reading event. Taylor Stevens’ The Informationist took us on a pulse-pounding quest with protagonist Vanessa Michael Munroe that left us wanting to know more.
The thriller genre provided a very popular book and Ms. Stevens, by sharing her own personal story of being raised in a cult, denied an education and then making her way to the United States and a successful writing career, proved to be very popular as well. The Evening with the Author continues to be one of the most anticipated events in the city.
What Dogs Teach Us & What Cats Teach Us by Glenn Dromgoole
Mansfield Reads! Celebrates Ten Years! The Friends of the Mansfield Public Library knew they would have to do something really big to celebrate ten years of Mansfield Reads! so they let the dogs (and cats) out! Mansfield citizens read What Dogs Teach Us and What Cats Teach Us by Abilene author Glenn Dromgoole. These delightful life lesson books with gorgeous photographs were shared all over town and read by families, teens, avid readers and even some non-readers!
Mansfield area veterinarians sponsored a free, expo type “Pet Day at the Library”, Mr. Dromgoole came to town and spoke to high school students, then he attended the highly popular Evening with the Author Event at the library. The Friends wish to thank Mr. Dromgoole, our sponsors and the citizens of Mansfield for a spectacular month!
Rainwater by Sandra Brown
Warm, nostalgic, satisfying… That is how People magazine described the book Rainwater by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sandra Brown. Those same words could apply to the Evening with the Author event at the Mansfield Public Library for the 9th annual Mansfield Reads! program. Guests at this highly popular event would likely add “exciting, fun and very special” to their descriptions of the time spent with Ms. Brown.
The Friends of the Mansfield Public Library would like to extend a special thank you to Ms. Brown and also thank our sponsors and all of the citizens who participated this year.
Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie & Clyde by Jeff Guinn
In April 2011 Mansfield read the real tale of two kids from a filthy Dallas slum who fell in love and then willingly traded their lives for a brief interlude of excitement and, more importantly, fame. In Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde bestselling author Jeff Guinn combines exhaustive research with surprising, newly discovered material to tell the real story of Bonnie and Clyde and their troubled times.
Publisher's Weekly raved in its starred review of Go Down Together, that "Guinn's richly detailed history will leave readers breathless until the final hail of bullets" and that was certainly the case in Mansfield. Author Guinn visited the library for the 8th annual Mansfield Reads! Evening with the Author. The library was filled to capacity and guests were treated to a lively interview of Mr. Guinn by another esteemed Texas writer, and Friends member, James Ward Lee.
Mr. Lee even prompted Guinn to tell the story of his re-enactment of the shoot out scene in the book. On Saturday Guinn returned to the library for a Writer's Workshop where he led "the best constructed, most practical and informative, and enjoyable workshop ever" according to one participant. Mr. Guinn also visited Mansfield high schools to speak with students about writing as a profession.
Other Reads! events included book club discussions all over town, a create your own story raffle giveaway in honor of the theme of National Library Week and a Barnes and Noble Book Fair weekend sale. People all over Mansfield, from the barbershops to the civic clubs, were talking about Bonnie and Clyde and Go Down Together. The Friends of the Mansfield Public Library are proud to bring this award winning program to the community.
The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl
With The Last Dickens, Matthew Pearl reopens one of literary history's greatest mysteries in his most entrancing novel yet, a tale filled with the dazzling twists and turns, the unerring period details, and the meticulous research that thrilled readers of bestsellers The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow. Pearl took the Mansfield community along on the journey when he visited the Mansfield library as part of the seventh annual Mansfield Reads! program. Guests at the Evening with the Author event listened enthralled as Pearl shared his account of writing the book. Mr. Pearl also shared his first edition volume of The Mystery of Edwin Drood and his Dickens action figure (yes, there is one of those!) with the packed house.
The next morning the author delved even further into the experience of becoming a writer at the writer's workshop. Students at Mansfield high schools heard about Mr. Pearl's days at Harvard and Yale while visitors to the library studied comparisons of literary greats in a Shakespeare display from Humanities Texas. The award winning Mansfield Reads! program is reaching citizens across the city and even into neighboring communities. The Friends of the Mansfield Public Library are proud to showcase our library and our city with such inspiring and enlightening books and authors.
I'm Proud of You, Life Lessons from My Friend Fred Rogers by Tim Madigan
The sixth annual Mansfield Reads! program visited Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. It was certainly a beautiful day in our neighborhood on the Friday the author visited all four high schools then the library for the Evening with the Author. When Mr. Madigan shared his story as told in the book, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Mr. Rogers' simple philosophies and extraordinary friendship affected the author and everyone who read the book.
The author also shared his personal memorabilia in a display that allowed patrons a glimpse of the iconic Mr. Rogers as a real person. Kids got in on the fun when Storytime at the library included books on friendship and a screening of the television show Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Book clubs had discussions and people all over town were telling their friends that they just had to read this book!
Mr. Madigan presented a writer's workshop on Saturday morning that gave aspiring writers insight into the process of writing a book to finish a month filled with reading, talking with neighbors and friends and visiting the library. Mansfield Reads! is making a difference in the lives of Mansfield citizens!
The Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF), a division of the American Library Association, has named The Friends of the Mansfield Public Library winners of the Best Friends Award in the category of Program Publicity for Mansfield Reads 2008: Friday Night Lights. These awards are given annually to recognize outstanding publicity and marketing materials created by Friends groups.
Friday Night Lights by H. G. Bissinger
For the fifth Mansfield Reads! program the Friday night lights came on in April. When this book was chosen it met one of the goals of the Mansfield Reads! program right away; people were definitely talking about it! By the time April was proclaimed Mansfield Reads! month by the mayor, the library book club was talking about it, the citizens who attended the screening of the major motion picture based on it were talking about it and the lucky patrons who were part of the Evening with the Author were most certainly talking about it!
The Pulitzer Prize winning author of Friday Night Lights, H. G. Buzz Bissinger, came to town and brought one of the main characters in his book with him. Mr. Bissinger and James Boobie Miles kept students at all four Mansfield Independent School District high schools enthralled when they visited and talked about the book with creative writing, journalism, and English classes as well as members of the football teams. Then a standing room only library audience was treated to a discussion that was both interesting and touching.
As Buzz and Boobie recalled their experiences with this book people really saw for themselves what an impact a book can have. The Friends of the Mansfield Public Library are proud to showcase our library with such highly esteemed books and authors.
Partner in Crime by J. A. Jance
The fourth Mansfield Reads! program hit the big time! The big time New York Times bestseller list, that is. Bestselling author J. A. Jance was coming to town. Mansfield Reads! chose her book Partner in Crime and everyone in town got in on the mystery. There was even a crime scene in the library. The murder scene from the book was recreated so everyone could follow the clues in the book in their own library.
The Friends sponsored a Clue tournament, book clubs held discussions, and writers attended a workshop with the author. Ms. Jance spent a day at Mansfield High School where students asked questions and got their books signed. The highlight of the program was an evening with Ms. Jance. She shared stories from her life, insight into her writing and even her poetry. Mansfield citizens were treated to a truly special evening. The Evening with the Author event packed the library and has become one of the most talked about and enjoyable events in the city!
Presidential Anecdotes by Paul F. Boller, Jr.
The Friends of the Mansfield Public Library soon realized that Mansfield Reads! had become a part of the community. Once the book was chosen this year, it was decided to get as many people as possible in on the fun. In cooperation with the Mansfield News Mirror a six week presidential trivia contest was held. Each week questions were posed in the News Mirror. Contestants sent in their answers to become eligible to participate in a live trivia game with Mr. Boller himself at the Evening with the Author.
The library book club and even the high schools were all talking presidential trivia. People all over town were reading their own copy of the book. Mr. Boller is a preeminent national presidential historian who has appeared on the Today show, National Public Radio, and is a professor emeritus at Texas Christian University. Not only is he smart and witty, he has written many books on the Presidents as well as their inaugurations and their wives.
He was bound to be a tough judge at the live contest but one Mansfield citizen did prevail and was awarded a trip to Washington D.C. to do his own presidential research! During the month, the library also sponsored a Teddy Roosevelt exhibit in conjunction with the Texas Council for the Humanities that included photographs and his personal writings. This year we were able to proclaim "We know our Presidents!" Next year? Stay tuned. You never know what mystery might be around the corner.
The Friends of the Mansfield Public Library were given the Best Friends Award by Friends of the Library USA, the national Friends of Libraries group, for Outstanding Publicity Materials for a Special Project in the large public library category in recognition of this project.
Had a Good Time, Stories from American Postcards by Robert Olen Butler
The big question this year was how can this year ever be as good as last? The answer was invite a Pulitzer Prize winning author and choose a great book. Had a Good Time is a series of short stories Mr. Butler wrote based on turn of the century postcards in his personal collection. The book was both entertaining and interesting and the author proved to be the same. Jeff Guinn has called him the best living American writer, period. Mr. Butler, who won the Pulitzer Prize for another of his books of short stories titled Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, regaled the crowd at the Evening with the Author event and had them all in stitches with a reading from one of the humorous stories.
He had done a simulcast with all three high schools via their new distance learning labs then met with select groups of students in each high school library earlier in the day. By the time he conducted his writer's workshop at the library the next morning, all of Mansfield had indeed had a good time. In addition to the lucky people at these events, the people who participated in the book discussions, those who came to enjoy the Turn of the Century Carnival, and those who visited the library to see Mansfield's own American Postcards from the collection of Della Icenhower all agreed that the second annual Mansfield Reads! was simply outstanding.
This program was the winner of the Library Project of the Year Award from the North Texas Regional Library System.
The Good Old Boys by Elmer Kelton
The first Mansfield Reads! was a big celebration. The Friends even gave away a diamond in honor of the library's birthday. The library showed the movie version of The Good Old Boys complete with popcorn. There was a brown bag lunch, a book discussion with the library book club and throughout the library there were many displays on the Old West. Then Mr. Kelton came to town! What a treat for all the citizens of Mansfield.
Mr. Kelton was voted the All-Time Best Western Author by the Western Writers of America. He was the winner of seven Spur Awards and Governor Rick Perry said he was truly a Texas legend. Mr. Kelton certainly lived up to that description in the eyes of Mansfield. He entertained the high school seniors at Mansfield High during the day then mixed and mingled at the first Evening with the Author event.
He was interviewed by Jeff Guinn, book editor of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, then answered questions from the crowd and signed books until the last person in line was happy. The next day was the Big Birthday Bash. Mr. Kelton cut the cake then signed more books while the citizens celebrated. The first Mansfield Reads! was indeed a big success.