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Book News: Isabel Allende To Be Awarded Presidential Medal Of Freedom

Isabel Allende has earned laurels for her work in both Chile and the United States.
Peter Morgan
Isabel Allende has earned laurels for her work in both Chile and the United States.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

In less than two weeks' time, Isabel Allende will add to her storied career as a storyteller — and she'll do so as part of a group of honorees who are no less illustrious. The Chilean-American author has been selected one of 19 recipients of this year's Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S.

The White House announcement also named Meryl Streep, Stephen Sondheim, Stevie Wonder and Tom Brokaw — himself a best-selling author — on the list of those to be honored.

President Obama explained the selections in a statement:

"From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world."

Allende's 21 books have been translated into 35 languages, according to Monday's announcement. And she has already received Chile's National Prize for literature, as well as induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Many of her novels display a distinctive style that laces the realistic with elements of fantasy. Recently, though, Allende tested new waters with a straight-up mystery novel, an experiment that drew behind it a fair amount of controversy.

The 19 medals are to be awarded in a Nov. 24 ceremony at the White House. In the meantime, descriptions of all the honorees can be found here.

Prize Roundup: The year's end finds awards season in full bloom. From above the border to between a graph's axes, here's a rundown of some of the notables:

Music journalist Sean Michaels won Canada's biggest fiction award, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, with his debut novel, Us Conductors. The book focused on the life of the Russian-born inventor of the theremin, succeeding, according to the judges' citation, "at one of the hardest things a writer can do: he makes music seem to sing from the pages of a novel." As for Michaels himself, he told Publisher's Weekly: "What's that expression when you are a scuba diver? I have a bit of the bends." An accurate diagnosis, given his reaction on Twitter.

If the win came as a shock to Michaels, the winner of the 2014 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award was perhaps significantly less surprised. Thomas Piketty's best-selling Capital in the Twenty-First Century took home the award at a ceremony in London.

And on Monday, Mark Miodownik's Stuff Matters won this year's Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books. Miodownik's close inspection of the science behind seemingly mundane materials, from concrete to porcelain, can be previewed here.

Amazon Books .Book: Amazon has won the rights to run the .book domain name, beating out eight other applicants — including Google — in a private auction, according to The Register. The paper reports that the top-level domain is just one of 16 domain-name extensions to auctioned by Nov. 19. Domain Name Wire reports that Amazon also bought the rights to .pay, but was beat out for .cloud by Italian-based hosting company Aruba S.p.A.

Tales Grimm And Gory: "It is time for parents and publishers to stop dumbing down the Grimms' tales for children," scholar Jack Zipes tells The Guardian. The statement is something of a manifesto, guiding Zipes' English translation of the tales written by the Brothers Grimm. The translation brings together the original 156 stories published in their first edition, many of which were rendered more pleasant or dropped altogether in subsequent editions. And some of the originals are grim indeed.

" 'How the Children Played at Slaughtering,' for example, stays true to its title, seeing a group of children playing at being a butcher and a pig," writes Alison Flood. "It ends direly: a boy cuts the throat of his little brother, only to be stabbed in the heart by his enraged mother."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.
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