Monday, December 31, 2012

Best novels 2012: prominent NZ author Nicky Pellegrino's picks

The year belonged to Fifty Shades Of Grey. Dominating bestseller lists, the return of erotic fiction saw publishers releasing a slew of copycat titles. Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele’s tie me up, tie me down romance was as huge with Kiwi readers as it was across the rest of the western world where it outsold even Harry Potter. Word is author EL James is hoping for a cameo in the upcoming screen version and in the meantime is working on some new love stories.

The rest of the buzz went to bigger, more established names. Marian Keyes published The Mystery Of Mercy Close, her first novel in three years following her epic battle with depression; JK Rowling released The Casual Vacancy, her first adult, non-Potter fiction to mixed reviews and substantially more modest sales; Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth garnered rave reviews, and Hilary Mantel scooped the Booker Prize for the second time with Bring Up The Bodies, the sequel to her previous winner Wolf Hall.

Here in New Zealand the biggest fuss surrounded Emily Perkins skilfully constructed piece of Virginia Woolf fan fiction, The Forrests, and the country’s premier literary prize for fiction went to Paula Morris’ Rangatira.

My pick of the year’s best is hardly exhaustive. Hundreds and thousands of titles have been released without me glancing within their pages. But I have read and reviewed fifty plus books on these pages and this is my selection of the standouts - the novels that thrilled, delighted and gripped me over the course of 2012. I’m prepared to stick my neck out and say you’ll find them great reading too.

Merivel: A Man Of His Time by Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus, $37.99)
A comic and soulful novel that is UK author Tremain’s long-awaited follow up to her bestseller of more than 20 years ago, Restoration. When we are reacquainted with 17th century physician Robert Merivel he is aged, melancholy and struggling to find a purpose for his existence. Fortunately his adventures are far from over. This picaresque tale sees our hero travelling to the French court in Versailles, falling in love, adopting a bear and being challenged to a duel.
Merivel is a delightful literary creation - vain, ridiculous and yet entirely lovable, and this amusing, thoughtful story with its consistently genius writing is my pick for book of the year.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley (HarperCollins, $36.99)
A hilarious and original supernatural thriller that had me hooked from the very first page. It is the story of Myfanwy Thomas who wakes up in a London park with no idea who she is and a note in her pocket that reads: “Dear you, the body that you are wearing used to be mine…” Myfanwy soon discovers a few crucial things. The first that she is a top operative for a secret government agency charged with safeguarding the world from supernatural threats; and the second that someone is trying to kill her. Armed only with the information she finds in letters that have been left for her, Myfanwy is plunged into an extraordinary world. A spoofy, inventive story, that’s entirely bonkers in places. I completely loved it.

Skylark by Jenny Pattrick (Black Swan, $37.99)
Skillfully blending history and fiction, this is Kiwi author Pattrick’s seventh novel and her most entertaining yet. Set in the mid-to-late 1800s, its heroine is the irrepressible Lily Alouette, the daughter of French street acrobats who die trying their luck on the Australian goldfields. Lily survives by becoming a performer in New Zealand’s fledgling entertainment industry, moving from circus to theatre and falling in love with a handsome horseman along the way.
Pattrick weaves many real figures and events into her story, but this is a novel that wears its research lightly and the voice of the irrepressible Lily makes it a joy to read despite the setbacks and tragedies of her life. A winner of a book from one of the country’s most talented storytellers.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Headline, $34.99)
A whimsical fairytale set in 1920s Alaska. Jack and Mable, a childless middle-aged couple, have decided to make a new start in the wilderness. Life is hard and lonely. When the first snow falls the couple build a snow girl, decorating it in mittens and a scarf. The next morning they wake to find the snow girl gone and a childish figure running through the trees, wearing the scarf. Is she real? Are they imagining her? The story has an ethereal quality, and Ivey creates lingering doubts. But gradually the snow child comes closer and they learn her name and something of her story.
Based on a Russian folk tale, this is a magical novel written in shiveringly good prose, with emotional depth and grit to balance out its feyness.
Red Ruby Heart In A Cold Blue Sea by Morgan Callan Rogers (Text, $37)
A wise and wonderful coming-of-age story with a mystery at its core and a flawed, feisty heroine. In 1960s Maine, Florine Gilbert is enjoying an idyllic childhood when her mother disappears without a trace while on holiday. Struggling with grief and the tortures of adolescence, Florine makes her share of mistakes, and suffers more setbacks and losses, battling her way through all of it. This is no depressing read but a warm, engaging novel peopled by memorable characters and it’s not difficult to get lost in its pages. A late-in-life fictional debut for its author Callan Rogers who is 60, the emotional maturity shines through from start to finish. Gorgeous reading.
Nine Days by Toni Jordan (Text, $37)
Aussie writer Jordan’s third novel is a departure from her previous sassy, humorous work. Inspired by a wartime photograph of a woman kissing her sweetheart goodbye at Melbourne railway station, Jordan has constructed a story around several generations of a working class family, telling of one day in each of their lives. It opens in 1939 with Australia on the brink of war and young Kip Westaway forced to leave school to help support the family following the death of his father. The novel reaches the present day, but the chapters skip backwards and forwards between the generations so the reader has to piece things together and work out the connections between each person.
Cleverly crafted and tightly written, with a central message about the fragility of life, this novel is deeply sad at times but leavened with brightness and wit.

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber, $39.99)
With a strong social message, this is award-wining US author Kingsolvers’ most accessible book yet. It’s the story of dirt poor Tennessee farmer’s wife Dellarobia Turnbow who witnesses what appears to be a miracle on the mountain above her home – the fir trees are blazing and sparking with orange. Rather than a vision, this turns out to be a sign something is out of kilter with the environment. The fir trees are full of monarch butterflies that ought to be over-wintering in Mexico rather than the Appalachian mountains. As word of the phenomenon spreads, Dellarobia becomes a minor celebrity and scientists arrive on the hard-scrabble farm, filling her head with ideas and opening up new possibilities.
There are times when the science overwhelms the story, but for the most part Kingsolver’s sermon on climate change is an involving and powerful read. She writes brilliant, beautiful prose and has a finely tuned sense of people and place. Memorable.

 Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (W&N, $39.99)
The creepiest, most cunning and chillingly sinister story yet about a relationship breaking down. Handsome Nick Dunne and his beautiful wife Amy are celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary and Amy has organised their traditional treasure hunt. But that evening when he gets home, Nick finds the front door open, signs of a struggle and his wife missing. As the days go by with no news of her, he becomes the main suspect with every clue the police find seeming to point his way. But did he really do it? Flynn strings along her readers ingeniously and there is a huge twist in the tale when we discover who isn’t telling the truth.
Flynn has a disturbing understanding of the darker human sides of human emotion and a talent for suspense. This is her third novel and definitely her best yet.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (Text, $37)
A gem of a book fusing the romance of musty old bookstores with the brave new digital world. Clay Jannon is a San Francisco web designer left jobless by the recession. He lands a position as the night clerk in a curious second-hand bookshop run by the enigmatic Mr Penumbra who instructs him to stay away from the odd volumes that line the tall shelves at the back of the shop. Of course, Clay can’t help taking a peek. And along with a posse of successful, eccentric friends he embarks on a quest to solve the mystery behind the bookshop that takes him to the forefront of what technology can offer as well as right to the heart of a centuries old puzzle.
A quirky, fizzy read that’s a little self-conscious about its cleverness but amusing enough to make up for it.

Dinner At Rose’s by Danielle Hawkins (A&U, $35)
Chick lit doesn’t usually make it into anyone’s “best of” lists but I’m breaking the unwritten rule for this one because it's a spirited and very Kiwi book written with energy and lots of love. Set in a fictional King Country town it's the story of physiotherapist Jo Connelly who has fled back to her hometown to escape the ruins of a relationship. Between her eccentric Aunt Rose and her childhood mate, hunky dairy farmer Matt, there’s plenty to keep her busy. A classic will they, won’t they romance develops between Jo and Matt but what lifts this book above the rest is its heart and humour. With a wonderful cast of rural Kiwi characters, plenty of pathos and loads of funny banter this is a reader-pleaser of a debut for Otorohanga vet Hawkins.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Grace: A Memoir - review by Nicky Pellegrino

Fashion stylist Grace Coddington was the surprise star of 2009’s The September Issue, the hit documentary film about the inner workings of American Voguemagazine. Feisty, passionate about her job, with a wild mane of orange hair and skin that’s never seen Botox, she even managed to upstage Vogue’s infamous editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Since Coddington’s past is as remarkable as her present; she was a sitting duck for a best-selling autobiography.
Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington (Knopf, $49.99) is beautiful, fascinating and quite frustrating. It’s a lovely-looking book with a cover decked out in Hermes orange and pages enlivened by wonderful archive pictures and Coddington’s own comedic sketches.
She has a fund of stories to share and no end of famous names to drop. But she is, as it turns out, almost heroically cagey about her emotions and so this is a memoir that offers the barest details of how its subject felt about the losses and tragedies in her life.
The death of her sister from a drug overdose, the end of a marriage, the loss of a baby – all are dealt with in a few workmanlike lines and then Coddington moves on quickly to the subject she’s more comfortable with: clothes and the people who work with them.
You might think her a cold fish but there are a few chinks where her feelings show through – when she’s talking about her beloved cats, for instance, or in the chapter that deals with the death of her close friend, magazine editor Liz Tilberis.
This is a pretty straightforward read. After an intro that recaps on The September Issue, Coddington takes us back to her upbringing in the 1940s and ‘50s in seaside a hotel run by her parents on the Welsh island of Anglesey.
Enchanted by the glamour of the movies and the fashions in her older sister’s copies of Vogue, at 18 she escapes to a London modelling school, dreaming of beautiful clothes and interesting people.
Coddington’s period as a 1960s It-girl, posing for legendary photographers and racing round with rich young men in sports cars, faltered when her left eyelid was sliced off in a crash. She was never going to be happy simply wearing the clothes anyway. Fascinated by style, she began to carve out a career on the other side of the camera, as a fashion editor.
Now 71, and Vogue’s creative director, Coddington has seen a lot of fashions come and go. Her insights into how the industry, and the magazines that record it, have changed are honest and interesting. If readers are hoping she’ll dish the dirt on Anna Wintour, however, they’ll be let down, as she doesn’t tell us much we don’t already know.
Neither has she gone into detail about how her own creative process works.
So there are no big surprises – aside from the revelation that Coddington relies on a pet psychic to help with her cats – and no great depth. And yet there’s enough to interest any reader with a passion for fashion or magazines. Grace: A Memoir is a pleasantly entertaining book, a hopscotch through 50 years of the fashion world and the inspirational woman who has lived at its centre for all that time.

Nicky Pellegrino,(right), an Auckland-based author of popular fiction, is also the Books Editor of the Herald on Sunday where the above feature was first published on Sunday 30 December, 2012.
Her latest novel When In Rome is set in 1950's Italy and was published in September 2012.

Read ahead for 2013

Sydney Morning Herald - December 29, 2012

Which literary delights are due in 2013? Jane Sullivan has done the research so you can peruse the offerings at your leisure.

Stock photo of person reading on the beach. Photo: ThinkStock

What are the new sensations in the book world this coming year? Feel-good yarns about guys with Asperger's, amazing true-ish stories from history, and a monster apocalypse.
That's what you might deduce from the dramatic debuts of two Australian authors and some hopefuls overseas. The local stars are Graeme Simsion, whose ''classic screwball romance'' The Rosie Project (Text, March) has been sold into more than 30 countries; and Hannah Kent, who scored a seven-figure offer for Burial Rites (Picador, May), a novel about the last woman to be beheaded, in Iceland in 1830.
Meanwhile, in the wake of Justin Cronin's vampires, monsters stalk the earth in Ben Percy's Red Moon (Hodder & Stoughton, May) and Max Brooks's World War Z (Bloomsbury, April), a cult novel first released in 2006 and given new zombie life by the film tie-in edition.

Author Elizabeth Gilbert. Author Elizabeth Gilbert. Photo: Getty Images
And if you're looking for the next J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury claims to have found her: Samantha Shannon, signed on for six dystopian novels with film rights sold while she was still an Oxford undergraduate. The first book, The Bone Season, is out in September.
Below are more highlights in adult books for 2013.

Poet and children's writer Lisa Gorton. Poet and children's writer Lisa Gorton. Photo: Roger Cummins
Publishers are constantly looking for the next big thing, but in literature it's often longevity that counts. On the eve of the 50th anniversary of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold comes a new novel from John le Carre, A Delicate Truth (Viking, May) described as ''a furiously paced story of moral dilemma, personal guilt, bold action and unexpected love''.
Ever wondered what happened to that poor terrorised psychic boy in The Shining? After 36 years, Stephen King has a sequel, Doctor Sleep (Hodder & Stoughton, November). Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert has her first novel for 12 years, The Signature of All Things (Bloomsbury, October). And in Australia, Blanche d'Alpuget has her first novel out for 20 years: The Young Lion (HarperCollins, September) is about intrigue and passion in the royal court of 12th-century France.
Indeed, there's a strong trend towards novels based on the lives of real people. Australian novelist Steven Carroll has the second book in his T.S. Eliot series, A World of Other People (Fourth Estate, May). Kate Manning's My Notorious Life by Madame X (Bloomsbury, July) is about a scandalous New York abortionist. Kate Forsyth's Wild Girl (Random House, April) is a story of the girl who loved Wilhelm Grimm. Therese Anne Fowler's Z (Two Roads, March) is a novel about Zelda Fitzgerald. There are Australian novels about Miles Franklin (Maggie MacKellar's Miles, Random House, September) and the bushranger Ben Hall (Trevor Shearston's The Game, Allen & Unwin, August).
Overseas highlights include Margaret Atwood's final novel in the Oryx and Crake trilogy, MaddAddam (Bloomsbury, September); a third novel from The Kite Runner author Khaled Hosseini, and The Mountains Echoed (Bloomsbury, May); Lionel Shriver's Big Brother (Fourth Estate, May); Kate Atkinson's Life After Life (Random House, May); and a new Julian Barnes work (Random House, no date yet).

Read more:

Fiction for spring – preview

Tim Adams looks forward to long-awaited novels by JM Coetzee and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and two books from a mother-daughter fiction double act

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Grosvenor Square
Long-awaited: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's new novel, Americanah, comes six years after she won the Orange prize with Half of a Yellow Sun. Photograph: Richard Saker for the Observer

It is six years since JM Coetzee's last novel, a long pause by the South African-born Nobel laureate's standards. The Childhood of Jesus (Harvill Secker, Mar) is the semi-mythical tale of a young refugee encountering new worlds and the obstacles of officialdom; written with all of Coetzee's penetrating rigour, it will be an early contender for an unprecedented third Booker prize for the author of Disgrace.
There are more migrants in search of promised lands in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah (Fourth Estate, April), which follows teenage lovers from the author's native Nigeria as they try to make a new life together but are separated by the forces of homeland security. Adichie won the 2007 Orange prize for her Half of a Yellow Sun; this is her first novel since then.
Equally anticipated is any new fiction from Claire Messud, whose wonderful The Emperor's Children was the most haunting of all post-9/11 books. She returns with The Woman Upstairs (Virago, May), a novel of Massachussetts, where she now lives, about a teacher in mid-life who looks for transcendence in the art she makes in secret.
Rachel Joyce made the 2012 Booker shortlist with her surprise bestselling debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Her second novel, Perfect (Doubleday, July), is another lyrical meditation on the workings of fate, as two young boys marked by the same catastrophic event follow very different paths through life.
Patrick McGrath grew up in Broadmoor hospital, where his father was director, and he has mined a particular fiction of psycholgical extremes in books such as Trauma and Asylum. His new novel, Constance (Bloomsbury, May), watches a literary marriage unravel as the past returns to haunt it.
There haven't been that many mother and daughter fiction double acts, but this spring the Moggachs threaten to extend the dynasty begun by Deborah's mother, Charlotte Hough. First, Deborah Moggach follows the film success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with a version of that genteel comedy transplanted to Wales. Heartbreak Hotel (Chatto, Feb) is set in a B&B in the valleys with a sideline in "courses for divorces". The debut novel by her own daughter, Lottie, called Kiss Me First, was the subject of intense bidding by rival publishers. Picador will publish the tale of online deception and romance in July.
Other likely book group favourites include Curtis "The American Wife" Sittenfeld's Sisterland (Doubleday, June), a story of estranged twins with a shared gift for clairvoyance, and Nadeem Aslam's The Blind Man's Garden (Faber, Feb), set in Pakistan and Afghanistan at the outbreak of the war on terror, another story of intimate survival from the author of Maps for Lost Lovers.
James Hamilton-Paterson is among the most singular and eclectic craftsmen in contemporary fiction; he follows his recent nonfiction elegy to British aviation, The Empire of the Clouds, with Under the Radar (Faber, May), a fictional account of a practice raid by British pilots flying nuclear-armed Vulcan bombers at the height of the cold war.

The Daily Routines of Famous Writers


“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
Kurt Vonnegut’s recently published daily routine made we wonder how other beloved writers organized their days. So I pored through various old diaries and interviews — many from the fantastic Paris Review archives — and culled a handful of writing routines from some of my favorite authors. Enjoy.

Ray Bradbury, a lifelong proponent of working with joy and an avid champion of public libraries, playfully defies the question of routines in this 2010 interview:
My passions drive me to the typewriter every day of my life, and they have driven me there since I was twelve. So I never have to worry about schedules. Some new thing is always exploding in me, and it schedules me, I don’t schedule it. It says: Get to the typewriter right now and finish this.
I can work anywhere. I wrote in bedrooms and living rooms when I was growing up with my parents and my brother in a small house in Los Angeles. I worked on my typewriter in the living room, with the radio and my mother and dad and brother all talking at the same time. Later on, when I wanted to write Fahrenheit 451, I went up to UCLA and found a basement typing room where, if you inserted ten cents into the typewriter, you could buy thirty minutes of typing time.

Joan Didion creates for herself a kind of incubation period for ideas, articulated in this 1968 interview:

Full article here.

Books in 2012: Review of a year in literature

It has been a great year for invention and experiment, both in the content of books and their form, says Gaby Wood.

Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith Photo: Rex Features
If the year in fiction could be said to have belonged to anyone in 2012, it’s a novelist who has resurrected the past. The two Man Booker Prize-winning volumes of Hilary Mantel’s projected trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell – Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies – have made the 16th century so familiar to us that it’s easy to forget the extent to which their author has remodelled the English language. As she put it wryly when speaking at this year’s Telegraph Hay Festival, Mantel “learnt to talk Tudor” by giving just “a flavour” of the way people spoke then. Documented texts and resonant letters are joined seamlessly with jocular, everyday figures of speech, resulting in something suggestive and true to its own logic – but you’d hesitate to claim it was anything so gauche as “authentic”.

Although Mantel has entertained the idea of parallels with modern day Britain (and suggested that we might welcome Cromwell back to fix the banking crisis), overall she has said that “I’m not just writing a giant parable of today. We have to respect those people’s stories in their own right. They are no less people for being dead.”
None the less, three very distinct novelists have attempted to deal with the present – and more particularly, with the question of class. Martin Amis’s latest book,

Lionel Asbo, which carried the subtitle “State of England”, is set in Diston, an abbreviated dystopia where the titular lager lout has won the lottery. But its main narrative discomfort stems from the apparent positioning of the narrator as high enough above the working class anti-hero to spell out his pronunciation for the benefit of presumably equally snooty readers. (Cynthia is “Cymfia”, Lionel’s own name is pronounced “Loyonoo”.)

When I quizzed Amis about this at Hay he replied, more or less, that some of his best friends were working class, which did little to explain the archness of tone.

Amis’s grisly vision is not so very far from that of JK Rowling, whose The Casual Vacancy shocked many of her loyal fans. The “X” on the book jacket – standing for a ballot paper in a local election – might just as well have been a rating. Self-harm, heroin, sudden death, suicide: if the real world looks like this to Rowling, no wonder she came to invest in the magical one with such vigour. The pages of this first book for adults burst with everything she couldn’t say to children, and although she evidently meant it to represent a left-wing political view, her characters are all so monstrous as to obscure it. 
Full article at The Telegraph

Libraries And E-Lending: The 'Wild West' Of Digital Licensing?

by NPR Staff - December 27, 2012 

About three-quarters of public libraries offer digital lending, but finding a book you want can be frustrating — every publisher has its own set of rules.
About three-quarters of public libraries offer digital lending, but finding a book you want can be frustrating — every publisher has its own set of

Have you ever borrowed an e-book from a library? If the answer is no, you're a member of a large majority. A survey out Thursday from the Pew Internet Project finds that only 5 percent of "recent library users" have tried to borrow an e-book this year.
About three-quarters of public libraries offer e-books, according to the American Library Association, but finding the book you want to read can be a challenge — when it's available at all.

Brian Kenney is the director of the White Plains Public Library in New York. He tells NPR's Audie Cornish about a library patron who wanted to check out a digital copy of Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs.
"It was a middle-aged guy, you know, had a high techno-comfort zone, he was carrying his iPad, and he approached the desk carrying the Isaacson bio and said, 'How do I download this,' " Kenney recalls. "And it was the classic case where I had to explain to them, 'Well, sir, actually, you can't download that from here.' And then ensues the discussion why, as though somehow or other the library was stupid or failing in its job."
In fact, Kenney says, it's not a failure on the part of the library — Simon and Schuster, which published the book, would not license it to the library for download.

You might think about all this as the Wild West of digital licensing — a frontier environment where every publisher has its own set of rules. Among the six biggest companies, Simon and Schuster currently licenses none of its e-books to libraries. The company says it simply hasn't found a model that works.

Full article at NPR

A Pleasure to Read (and Even Reread)

Left and center, Patricia Wall/The New York Times; right, Alessandra Montalto/The New York Times
EACH year at this time the daily book critics for The New York Times make lists of favorite books. Favorite is not synonymous with best, so this process can be painful. Brutal honesty is required. We pick what we actually liked, not what we only admired, although ideally our favorites fit both descriptions. But if any of us had fallen for the “Fifty Shades of Grey” books, we’d have to say so. We didn’t, so we don’t.
A lot of soul searching goes into these lists. So does a little protocol. Each of us — Michiko Kakutani, Dwight Garner and I — has drawn only from the group of books he or she reviewed. Since none of us review work by fellow writers for The Times or by friends, there are necessary and notable omissions. (A glaring one: “The Signal and the Noise” by Nate Silver). Since the daily editions of The Times can’t review everything, there are omissions by happenstance too.
In the midnight hour these 10 Favorites — not 10 Bests — call for a gut check. Bottom line, for each of us: Is this a book I’d give to a friend? Aside from “The One,” there are three music books I did give to friends and regret not including here. The Leonard Cohen twofer, “I’m Your Man” by Sylvie Simmons and “The Holy or the Broken” by Alan Light, are transfixing for Mr. Cohen’s admirers, this one included. But they are detailed and specific, best suited to devotees. And there wasn’t space for Rod Stewart’s memoir, even though it’s a ton of fun. Michiko Kakutani wound up listing Oliver Sacks’s “Hallucinations” rather than Junot Díaz’s “This Is How You Lose Her.” Dwight Garner chose “Spillover” rather than Gil Scott-Heron’s memoir, “The Last Holiday.”
Anyway, after too much deliberation, we recommend these. Each list is in descending order, top favorite first.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Grammarly - Don's Detestations

I was interested in your 'Grammarly' list of solecisms. Here are some of mine from my book 'Milestones':



How I detest the silly fool
Who calls the noble street 'Pawl Mawl'
But I'll make him a lifelong pal
Who, unaffected, says 'Pal Mal'.


Some people in a verbal mix
Will call this star * an asterix
Far better not to take the risk
But properly say 'asterisk'.


'Crèche' said 'craysh' just blows my mind I'd like to kick the sayer's behind While shouting 'Crèche is 'cresh' you fool Were you taught nothing at your school?'


Bought for brought and brought for bought Is trotted out with little thought By teachers and TV presenters, Police, MPs and riot fomenters Proselytisers, red wine swillers - They're all of them just language killers!


Singular, data is datum
So I hand you this stern ultimatum -
If you didn't do Latin at school
You shouldn't use Latin at all.

Don Donovan. Writer & Illustrator.

Facebook Tops 2012 Wikipedia Queries

Facebook Tops 2012 Wikipedia Queries
Fotog/Tetra Images, via Corbis

How do you learn about another culture? Maybe by looking at its Wikipedia searches. On Friday, a Swedish software engineer published a list of Wikipedia's most-searched articles of 2012, sorted by language. 

Facebook tops the English-language site's list of things we care about, with One Direction, 50 Shades of Grey, and The Avengers also showing up in our top 10. Over on the Spanish site, people learned about the Mayan culture, while in Iran, searchers seem curious about homosexuality, sex, and female genitals, which all showed up on the Persian site's top 10. 

Sex made another appearance on Japan's list, where the top search was for a porn actress. The most inexplicable international No. 1? German-language speakers really care about cul-de-sacs.

December 29, 2012 8:52 AM

Bookselling in Dunedin

Otago-based poet David Howard snapped this shot yesterday and shared it with me with the following comment:

A bookseller and, perhaps, a writer as well in George Street, Dunedin, today.

A Collection of Suspiciously Similar Book Covers

By Emily Temple on Flavorwire, 

A Collection of Suspiciously Similar Book Covers
Sometimes, while we’re browsing through book catalogues, or idly pulling things off the shelves in bookstores, as we often do, we are suddenly struck with a sense of deja vu. Haven’t we, um, seen this book before? Of course, there are thousands of examples of different books using the same clip art, which, while lazy, is probably unavoidable, but what about the more nebulous resemblances? After the jump, a few book covers and their suspiciously similar (we won’t say rip-offs, but we sometimes might imply it) pairs. Let us know what you think (or if we missed a particularly egregious one) in the comments! 

… Read More

Libraries See Opening as Bookstores Close

Tyler Bissmeyer for The New York Times
Vicki Culler shops for discounted books at the Friends of the Public Library in Cincinnati.
At the bustling public library in Arlington Heights, Ill., requests by three patrons to place any title on hold prompt a savvy computer tracking system to order an additional copy of the coveted item. That policy was intended to eliminate the frustration of long waits to check out best sellers and other popular books. But it has had some unintended consequences, too: the library’s shelves are now stocked with 36 copies of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Tyler Bissmeyer for The New York Times
Of course, librarians acknowledge that when patrons’ passion for the sexy series lacking in literary merit cools in a year or two, the majority of volumes in the “Fifty Shades” trilogy will probably be plucked from the shelves and sold at the Friends of the Library’s used-book sales, alongside other poorly circulated, donated and out-of-date materials.
“A library has limited shelf space, so you almost have to think of it as a store, and stock it with the things that people want,” said Jason Kuhl, the executive director of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. Renovations will turn part of the library’s first floor into an area resembling a bookshop that officials are calling the Marketplace, with cozy seating, vending machines and, above all, an abundance of best sellers.
As librarians across the nation struggle with the task of redefining their roles and responsibilities in a digital age, many public libraries are seeing an opportunity to fill the void created by the loss of traditional bookstores. They are increasingly adapting their collections and services based on the demands of library patrons, whom they now call customers. 

Book sales overtake ebook downloads for first time in three years...

  • Booksellers enjoyed their best week in three years in the lead-up to Christmas
  • Celebrity books by Jamie Oliver, Miranda Hart and Jamie Oliver were the most popular sellers
By Harriet Cooke

Printed books made a surprise comeback this Christmas after figures revealed the strongest week of sales in three years.
The autobiographies of TV star Miranda Hart and Olympic cyclist Bradley Wiggins were believed to be key factors in the surge of book-buying in the Christmas rush.
Cookbook: Jamie's 15 Minute MealsPhysical books have seen dwindling sales in recent years due to the increased use of e-readers and tablets, but this Christmas their fortunes were reversed.

Success: Jamie Oliver (left) took the crown of most-popular book this Christmas after his 15-Minute Meals sold 140,155 copies in the UK last week

Book: Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart
Right: Is It Just Me? - the memoirs of Miranda Hart (left) - came second in the UK Christmas book chart
The industry saw takings of £75.4million in the week ending December 22 - up by 20 per cent on the previous week and £1.4million higher than the same period in 2011.
Most popular was Jamie Oliver's 15-Minute Meals, which sold 140,155 copies in the UK last week.
Second was comic Miranda Hart's Is It Just Me?, in which the star looks back on her childhood, followed by Bradley Wiggins's account of his journey through the Tour de France and the Olympics.
The titles sold 64,691 and 59,524 copies respectively.

Full story at The Daily Mail

Stories from Galley Cat

What Is the Happiest Word?

What do you think is the happiest word? A team of mathematicians from the University of Vermont published a paper examining 10,000 of the most frequently-used English words. The group took this information and surveyed people; the collected data was used to rank the words according to happiness. The word "laughter" captured the number one spot and the word "terrorist" finished in last place. Mental Floss writer Arika Okrent picked 25 words that she... read more>>

The Joy of Books

Out of all the videos we posted on GalleyCat this year, "The Joy of Books" was the most popular--watch books frolick inside a closed bookshop. If the video inspires you to support your local bookstore, here are some links: Best Indie Bookstores on Twitter and How to Buy eBooks from an Indie Bookstore. Here's more about the video: "After organizing our bookshelf almost a year ago, my wife and I decided to take... read more>>

Top 10 Most Read Books in the World

Out of all the infographics we featured this year, one literary graphic was by far the most popular (and controversial) among our readers. Follow this link to see a larger image. Designer Jared Fanning created a simple infographic comparing the Top 10 Most Read Books in the World, using a list compiled by freelance writer James Chapman--based on the number of copies each book sold over the last 50 years. Check it out:... read more>>

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Top Ten Grammar Peeves - from Grammarly

Handled With Care


I have been here many times before. Not to this particular library but to others like it. Some have been on college campuses, others in private homes. Some have sprawled through many rooms, including the bathroom; others were confined to a single space. One had no windows; another overlooked a lake. Most were crowded. All were dusty.
Illustration by Jon Krause
Each was the domain of a scholar. Each was the accumulation of a lifetime of intellectual achievement. Each reflected a well-defined precinct of specialization. But what they also had in common was that each of their owners had died. And by declaration of their wills, or by the discernment of their families, I had been called to claim or consider the bereft books for my university library.

One of the little-known roles of the academic librarian is bereavement counseling: assisting families with the disposition of books when the deceased have not specified a plan for them. Most relatives know these books were the lifeblood of their owners and so of intellectual value if not great monetary worth. But they remain clueless about how to handle them responsibly. Some call used-book shops. Some call the Salvation Army. Others call a university library. Many allow friends and relatives to pick over the shelves before bringing in a professional.

On this particular day I’m standing in the doorway of a distinguished but forlorn library in South Bend, Ind., ready to perform last rites on the extensive collection of James White, a noted historian and specialist in the liturgies and worship practices of the Christian tradition. I always pause before entering these libraries. Even after the family has shown me to the space, I can’t just barge in. That seems disrespectful. I need to be introduced to the books. I need to become acquainted.

Surveying these rooms, I find myself wishing I had a ritual to invoke, for the study I’m about to disrupt is a private, beloved retreat — an inner sanctum for reading, reflection and writing. And since it is here that someone wrestled with ideas, sought integrity of expression and gave expression to fresh-jacketed voices, the book-­studded room seems sacred. Is there a prayer I can offer? Sometimes I think I should take off my shoes — a physical act to show my respect.