Jane Smiley is a novelist and essayist. Her novel A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992, and her novel The All True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton won the 1999 Spur Award for Best Novel of the West. She has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1987. Her novel Horse Heaven was short-listed for the Orange Prize in 2002, and her latest novel, Private Life, was chosen as one of the best books of 2010 by The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post.
She has contributed to a wide range of magazines and newspapers, including The New Yorker, Elle, Outside, The New York Times, Harper's, The American Prospect, Practical Horseman, The Guardian, The Nation, Real Simple, and Playboy, and she regularly blogged for The Huffington Post between 2005 and 2008.
In addition to novels for adults, she has written several works of nonfiction, including Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, a history and anatomy of the novel as a form, and The Man Who Invented the Computer, an account of the complex and sometimes amazing circumstances that led to one of the most important inventions of the 20th century. She has also published a five volume horse series for young adults. Her most recent novel SOME LUCK is the first volume of a trilogy covering one hundred years in the life of an Iowa family.
This one snuck up on me. The first volume in a trilogy that will follow 100 years in the life of the Langdon family of Denby, Iowa, we follow them now from 1920 to 1953. Each chapter contains one year in the life: from making supper to fighting a war to first love and first child, and Jane Smiley can write the beauty in the ordinary like no one else. Structurally different from anything else I've read, I felt at first like I was simply being dropped into their lives over and over again, but as I approached 1953, I realized how with those drops I had formed a vast ocean of feeling and, yes, love for this family. And I can't wait to meet them again, next year.
Tyler Goodson - Shelves
The Horses of Oak Valley Ranch
I can pretty honestly say that this might be the only children's/young adult series I would still read if I weren't a children's librarian! This series, by the always reliable author, Jane Smiley, is the perfect antidote to Canterwood Crest, Thoroughbred, etc...all of which contain preposterous horse/barn situations coupled with the usual one-dimentional (either all-bitchy or all-good) teenage girls. Abby, the main character, is about as appealing as they come and completely believable as she navigates middle and high school - not a piece of cake, but certainly not the absolute hell most writers would have us believe exists for every kid out there (granted this series takes place in the 70's before "frenemies" and "cyber bullying" were part of the venacular :). And more importantly, Jane Smiley is an actual rider who lives on a ranch and who grew up riding and training horses. Her descriptions of the riding/training life are spot-on and I have actually learned a lot. As a matter of fact, that may be the only weakness of this series - if you're not a rider yourself or else really, really interested in horses, much of it may be lost on you and will probably seem very boring. But if you're familiar with the riding life, it will not disappoint!
Karen Hagerman - Goodreads