Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Nicky Pellegrino recommends holiday reads

Books: Your holiday books

Sit back and relax with this wrap-up of great reads to help you while away the hours
Heavenly Hirani's School of Laughing Yoga is one of Sarah-Kate Lynch's best. Photo / Supplied
Heavenly Hirani's School of Laughing Yoga is one of Sarah-Kate Lynch's best. Photo / Supplied
Heavenly Hirani's School of Laughing Yoga
By Sarah-Kate Lynch (Random House)

Heartfelt is the word I'd use to describe the latest novel from New Zealander Sarah-Kate Lynch. She always sets her books in interesting places and this time she takes us to India and all the colour and confusion of the city of Mumbai. Annie Jordan is a middle-aged woman who is going through a tough time. She has lost her mother and her dog, her kids have left home and her husband barely seems to notice her. So when he offers to take her with him on a business trip to Mumbai she thinks, why not? India is daunting and Annie struggles at first. Then she is taken to a laughing yoga class on Chowpatty beach and finds she rather likes it. With the help of kindly guru Heavenly Hirani she begins to see India and her own life in a whole new light. This is one of Lynch's best.

Funny Girl
By Nick Hornby (Penguin)

I've never been a devotee of Nick Hornby's more laddish books but this one isn't blokey and I loved it. Funny Girl is the story of the pop culture of the 1960s, when television sitcoms were beginning to make their mark.

Barbara Parker is a young pneumatic blonde in the mould of Diana Dors (Google her, kids) who wins a beauty contest but surrenders her crown to follow her dream of becoming a comedienne like her heroine Lucille Ball. She moves to London where she lands a role in a long-running sitcom and shoots to stardom. Hornby has a lot of fun sending up cultural snobs and punctuation pedants as well as touching on more serious subjects, such as the reality of being gay. It's a smooth and entertaining read that captures an era in British television that was more naive and immeasurably more glamorous.


Spirited Photos of Authors Getting Boozy

Spirited Photos of Authors Getting Boozy

New Year’s Eve is a time of renewal, hope, and… booze. It’s a time to wash away the sins of the past year (most likely with a bottle of something) and vow to be better in the days ahead. Before you start the countdown to January 1, we’d like to offer you some boozy inspiration in the form of your favorite writers getting their drink on. These authors, so very fond of their libations, knew how to knock one back. Put your party hat and drinking pants on and join literature’s booziest, below. … Read More

Balancing Act review – Joanna Trollope’s expert take on the pressure of combining family and business

Astute characterisation elevates this novel above a simple country-house portrait of family tension

Author Joanna Trollope
Joanna Trollope: 'an admirable facility for storytelling'. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian
If you were only to glance at this novel, you would see that it is almost all dialogue. There is much for a novice novelist, a wannabe bestseller writer, to learn from this: Trollope has an admirable facility for telling her story through conversation, argument and in snatches – this novel, her 18th, would work as radio drama.

The plot concerns four women: a mother, Susie, and her three grown-up daughters – Cara, Ashley and Grace – who run a family business, Susie Sullivan pottery. Their boardroom is designed like a country kitchen: “Natural flooring, display cabinets resembling dressers painted in the trademark duck-egg blue and scarlet, and laden with pottery, walls of framed posters and framed tea towels, conference tables like kitchen tables, proliferations of teapots and rows of mugs on hooks, all of it managing to diminish almost to invisibility the necessary computer terminals and whiteboards.”

So far, so Cath Kidston. Or, I kept thinking, this hugely readable novel, with its cosily upmarket feel, would work beautifully as Waitrose’s own-brand fiction – were such a thing to exist.

The novelist’s art of the tweet is brought to book

It’s a long way from inception to completion, unless you’re artist and programmer Cory Arcangel, and your book is made up of other people’s tweets about writing a book

Cory Arcangel, ebooks
'A mournful echo of the futility of writing': Cory Arcangel's Working On My Novel.
The Inception Button should be used sparingly but when called for, it can be highly effective. Located at inception.davepedu.com, it does one thing: plays the sound from Christopher Nolan’s film Inception, which signifies that a new dream – a new level of complexity – has begun. (The sound is, in fact, a massively amplified and condensed note from Edith Piaf’s Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, suggesting that despite what follows, nothing is truly new.)

When Your Favorite Book Follows You

By Julianna Haubner    |   Monday, December 29, 2014
For many, the question “What’s your favorite book?” elicits feelings of terror, dread, and exhaustion. Racking your brain for that semi-impressive title that will show you pay attention, that you’re intellectually evolved, that you’re interesting, you might say you don’t have one, that there are too many to count. For a small period of time, I took this approach. Then, when I was fourteen, I found it. The elusive “life-changing, best-of-all-time, can’t-put-down-and-never-want-to” book. Now, whenever someone asks me “the question,” the answer is immediate: Richard Russo’s 2002 novel Empire Falls.

Empire Falls is the Pulitzer Prize–winning story of Miles Roby, a lifelong resident of the titular small town, who manages the crumbling Empire Grill and is in the midst of a divorce from his wife, Janine. He has a pot-selling, former alcoholic for a brother, an introverted but incredibly bright teenager for a daughter, and a wealthy family slowly buying out the town as an antagonist. The book flashes between Miles’ present and past, revealing things about his family life, the town’s descent into bankruptcy, and the relationships between people who have never known anyone or anywhere else but this old mill town. I can’t really say much more about it, because the beauty of the book is in its details and last-minute twists, but it’s a phenomenal representation of small-town life, family dynamics, and the decline of the American Dream.


Children's author Jill Harris dies on Christmas Day

Mākaro Press in Wellington is sad to announce that author and friend Jill Harris passed away on Christmas Day in her 76th year. Her novel for young adults The Red Suitcase is an exciting time-slip story with a powerful war theme, which launched on Anzac Day this year. 

Into its second print run, The Red Suitcase has been well-reviewed, with the ODT reviewer declaring that in this year's rash of war novels you can't get better than TRS, John McIntyre of the Children's Bookshop calling it a 'really, really good read', and an upcoming NZ Books review saying TRS is 'plain-spoken, engrossing and moving'.

Jill has written three other novels for children: At the Lake, Missing Toby and Sil, which won an Honour Award in the NZ Post Book Awards and was a Notable Book. Author Raymond Huber says, 'Sil, which dramatises the natural life of a tui, is a remarkable creation which ranks alongside Philip Temple's kea novel, Beak of the Moon, in NZ fantasy.' 

Mākaro Press is working on Jill's final book: The Ephesus Liturgies, to be published early next year. It is a collection of services for Christians that are based on a contemporary understanding of the world, with a reflective essay by Lloyd Geering, and an introduction by Jill's husband and Ephesus Group founded Ian Harris.

Mākaro Press publisher, Mary McCallum, says, 'We are so very proud of Jill and glad we got to work with her. We'll miss her.' 

Photo credit Dompost.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A heart-warming twist in the tale of the books industry

New research shows that the book-buying universe – both digital and printed – is expanding, not contracting

Chris Hadfield
Astronaut Chris Hadfield and his book You Are Here. Handsome, glossy and sumptuously illustrated books are surviving in triumph. Photograph: Rex
The most fascinating and, in many ways, cheering story of 2014 is almost wholly counterintuitive: the survival of the printed book. Turning pages back from digital grave shock! Legacy longform wins fight for life! Robert McCrum told part of the tale a couple of weeks back as he chronicled Waterstones’ battle into renewed profit. But you – the reader – seem to be writing new chapters month by month and Christmas by Christmas.

Nothing, of course, is settled as the broadband revolution rushes on. There is no conclusion, because there is no end to technical change. But one can, at least, reach an interim verdict. Five or so years ago, as Kindles, Nooks and the rest rode a surge of sales, you could find plenty of pundits and publishers shrugging despondently. Here we go again… We knew that conventional newspapers were supposed to be dying, like the forests they depended on. We knew that magazines were on the critical list. Who’d suppose that hard and soft covers would be any different?

But this is a human story. It involves human beings doing what they, often cussedly, do. And so all of the graphs and growth charts don ’t really matter – because, after a while, they reached a plateau. The rise of the ebook paused at around 30% of total customer sales, and stayed there. More, if you examine the underlying figures for, say, 2012 and 2013, stripping out the exceptional impact of Fifty Shades of Grey, then it is quite possible to conclude that the book-buying universe – digital and printed – is expanding, not contracting. It isn’t a question of either/or. It is a question of both: and a topic for particularly acute recent research from Enders Analysis.

Poet Claudia Rankine: 'Racism works purely on perception' in America

The Jamaican writer’s latest collection tackles race. She explains how she’s using poetry to make sense of one of the most fraught times in recent US history
Claudia Rankine: “There’s something very moving about having so many people step into a subject that I have been consumed with for so long...”
Claudia Rankine: “There’s something very moving about having so many people step into a subject that I have been consumed with for so long...” Photograph: John Lucas/John Lucas
In August Claudia Rankine, the lyric poet and playwright, visited Ferguson, Missouri, only weeks after Michael Brown’s death.

She had been invited to visit St Louis months before Michael Brown was killed to deliver a reading while she was finishing up her latest work, Citizen: An American Lyric, a book-length poem and her fifth collection. She spoke to people who lived in Brown’s neighborhood, just as she had with her black male friends whom she interviewed and asked about their experiences of racism in America for the collection.

Now her work, which had started as a re-telling of personal experiences of racism, as well as a general view of the country and race, had inadvertently become a companion to one of the most volatile moments in recent US history.

2015 Predictions for Publishing - Russell Blake

I’ll be on the road much of next week, so I thought I’d do my annual predictions about the publishing game a little earlier than usual this year, mainly so I can loaf through the holidays and dip into more eggnog than I ought to. So for whatever they’re worth, here they are:

1) Subscription services will make it much harder to sell books. The voracious readers who are most likely to try an indie with a “WTF purchase” will instead tend to borrow instead of buy. This will result in drastic reductions in author take-home pay, all assurances of “increased exposure” aside. A whole group of readers are being conditioned to believe that books have little or no value/should be free/should only be read if virtually free. This will continue. For an idea of where this progression ends, look at music. Musicians can’t earn decent money anymore by having a hit, or even several hits. The economic model is broken in such a way that the artist sees virtually nothing, with the intermediary company that enables the download taking the lion’s share of the revenue. Musicians now earn their livings by touring, by selling merchandise (shirts, hats, etc.), by selling virtually anything but music. Alas, authors don’t have the option of filling coliseums at $50 a ticket or being cool or mainstream enough to hawk $22 concert T-shirts with their likenesses on them, so expect things to get much harder.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hilary Mantel on grief

How does grief work? Your former life still seems to exist, but you can’t get back to it. You feel panic, guilt, bewilderment. Hilary Mantel reflects on a universal process, examined in many books, among them a classic by CS Lewis

Henry Peach Robinson's <em>Fading Away</em>, 1858.
Henry Peach Robinson's Fading Away, 1858. Photograph: Henry Peach Robinson/Royal Photographic Society
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” With his first line, CS Lewis’s A Grief Observed reacquaints his reader with the physiology of mourning; he brings into each mouth the common taste of private and personal loss. “I know something of this,” you think. Even if you have not experienced a “front line” bereavement, such as the loss of partner, parent or child, you have certainly lost something you value: a marriage or a job, an internal organ or some aspect of mind or body that defines who you are.

Perhaps you have just lost yourself on your way through life, lost your chances or your reputation or your integrity, or chosen to lose bad memories by pushing them into a personal and portable tomb. Perhaps you have merely wasted time, and seethe with frustration because you can’t recall it. The pattern of all losses mirrors the pattern of the gravest losses. Disbelief is followed by numbness, numbness by distraction, despair, exhaustion. Your former life still seems to exist, but you can’t get back to it; there is a glimpse in dreams of those peacock lawns and fountains, but you’re fenced out, and each morning you wake up to the loss over again.

Grief is like fear in the way it gnaws the gut. Your mind is on a short tether, turning round and round. You fear to focus on your grief but cannot concentrate on anything else. You look with incredulity at those going about their ordinary lives. There is a gulf between you and them, as if you had been stranded on an island for lepers; indeed, Lewis wonders whether a grieving person should be put in isolation like a leper, to avoid the awkwardness of encounters with the unbereaved, who don’t know what to say and, though they feel goodwill, exhibit something like shame.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Janet Evanovich: By the Book - NYTimes.com

Shared by
www­.nytimes.com - The author, most recently, of “The Job” is a big fan of Scrooge McDuck. “I still aspire to have a money bin like Scrooge and push my spare change around with a bulldozer.” The books are not only on...    MORE  

Friday, December 26, 2014

Bestselling books of 2014: did the booksellers get it right?

 - s.

In an attempt to monitor the Christmas market, we asked seven leading UK retailers – which included large chains and independents – plus the industry journal the Bookseller to predict the season’s bestsellers, and we’ve been monitoring their predictions through the autumn.

One finding is that books seemed relatively immune to theme-day hype: only 47 of the 116 titles that were nominated sold equally or better in the week of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Previous leaders, such as David Walliams’s Awful Auntie, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Jamie’s Comfort Food all sold only between 1% and 10% more in Black Friday week compared to a regular week.

But there was one overwhelming exception: Guinness World Records 2015 sold 43,000 copies in the week of Black Friday, compared to a weekly average of 16,000 since it was released in September, and the annual Christmas favourite has now sold a total of 310,642. It was second only to the children’s hit Awful Auntie, which, with 481,000 sales, remained the best-selling book out of the predicted titles sent to us by booksellers every single month. Other good performers this month included the Minecraft Blockopedia, which has sold 38,119 since being published on 4 December, while the internet’s favourite astronaut Chris Hadfield’s December book tour paid off as You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes sold 36,012 (up from 5,493 in November).

Book prizes definitely affected Christmas sales: Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist sold 25,000 copies in December after the debut author was awarded Waterstone’s Book of the Year; it has now sold 66,757 copies (compared to 41,806 between July and November). Richard Flanagan’s Man Booker winner The Narrow Road to the Deep North has sold a healthy 65,692 copies, while Samuel Johnson prize winner H is For Hawk doubled its sales in a month, up to 49,653 from 26,645 in November.

TV also affected buying choices: the two Pointless books have performed consistently well, with one doubling its weekly sales average from 2,275 to 4,693. Once Attenborough’s tie-in documentary series aired, Life Story sold over 11,000 copies in a month, while Tom Kerridge’s recipe book peaked at 10,015 copies sold the week of Black Friday, since selling 58,000 just in December. Brian Cox’s Human Universe has sold 50,833, almost doubling sales since November, as has chat show host Graham Norton’s autobiography The Life and Loves of a He Devil, up to 43,654 from 24,113.

Comparing the sales of the books predicted to sell by the booksellers, with the UK’s overall bestsellers of the year reveals some interesting titbits about our book buying habits during the rest of the year. The top 20 overall bestsellers in 2014 were (predicted Christmas titles in bold):
  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (854,262)
  2. Minecraft: The Official Construction Handbook (520,363)
  3. Awful Auntie by David Walliams (481,662)
  4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (467,485)
  5. Minecraft:The Official Combat Handbook (442,511)
  6. Minecraft: The Official Redstone Handbook (388,906)
  7. Minecraft: the Official Beginner’s Handbook (368,935)
  8. Inferno (Robert Langdon Book Four) by Dan Brown (338,719)
  9. Guinness World Records 2015 (310,642)
  10. The Long Haul (Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book Nine) by Jeff Kinney (309,255)
  11. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (289,966)
  12. There’s Something I’ve Been Dying to Tell You by Lynda Bellingham (265,263)
  13. Mary Berry Cooks by Mary Berry (261,954)
  14. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (239,932)
  15. Divergent (Divergent Book Three) by Veronica Roth (233,958)
  16. Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding (231,008)
  17. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (225,825)
  18. The Rosie Project (Don Tillman Book One) by Graeme Simsion (222,050)
  19. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (213,439)
  20. Gangsta Granny by David Walliams (206,596)   

There Are Way Too Many ‘Best Of 2014′ Lists

They’re everywhere. You can’t escape them. You can even set your watch by them. Every year, as the air begins to chill and radio stations begin flipping the Christmas music switch, the inevitable comes: the annual year-end “best of” lists.
These lists of course tell us which books, movies and TV shows the critics liked best. But a closer look also reveals which cultural products critics agreed upon most this year — for books, it was Marilynne Robinson’s “Lila”; for movies, Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood”; and for TV, Amazon’s “Transparent.”
These titles appeared so frequently on 2014 “best of” lists that it made me wonder about the whole year-end enterprise. If the lists basically agree, do we really need so many of them?


The 25 Best Book Covers of 2014

The 25 Best Book Covers of 2014

By on

Look, I’m no design expert. But I’ve talked to enough designers to know one thing: it’s hard to create a cover for a bad book. And, knowing good books from bad, it just happens that I come across a variety of excellent cover designs in a given year. Here are the best of the best from… Read More

Michael Morpurgo brings war horse Joey home to Ypre

Newsflash: The puppet star of War Horse goes to Belgium to mark the centenary of the Christmas truce in the first world war
Joey war horse trail
Michael Morpurgo: “you feel very moved, because [Joey] seems to have come to represent all victims of war, be they animal or human.” Photograph: Simon Annand/Premier PR
War horse coverIf you’ve heard of Michael Morpurgo, you probably know about his world famous bestseller turned National Theatre production, War Horse. Perhaps the most famous horse on earth; Joey has been seen on stage by six million people worldwide and is now coming home to Belgium.
Morpurgo is bringing the life-size puppet to two commemorative locations in Ypres today, marking the centenary of not only the first world war, but the famous Christmas truce that took place. We were lucky enough to interrupt his day to talk to him about bringing Joey home. 


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Argentina's La Bestia Revives English Authors in Spanish

Today's Feature Story:

Argentina's La Bestia publishing house brings previously untranslated top English titles, from authors such as Kurt Vonnegut, into Spanish translations.

Founded in 2012, Chile's Edicola publishes new Chilean and Italian authors in Spanish, Italian, and English in both print and ebook formats.

Time Out Shanghai offers a top 10 list of new Chinese books that defy cliché, while Bruce Humes lists the most influential translations of 2014.

Treasures of the Bodleian Library - in pictures

The Guardian - Monday 22 December 2014

Literary treasures from around the world feature in the first of a series of postcard collections from Oxford’s Bodleian Library. From the slaying of a unicorn in a medieval English Bestiary to the incarnation of an 18th-century Thai Buddha, each image is chosen to represent a letter of the alphabet

Osprey Is Sold to Bloomsbury

Publishers Lunch

The unwinding of Osprey Publishing is complete with the announcement Monday that the company has been sold to Bloomsbury for £4.6 million in cash and stock. (Of that, £3.2 million is in cash, paid to private equity owners Alcuin Capital.) Bloomsbury says the business had sales of £7 million in 2013, over half of which comes from outside of the UK -- mostly in the US -- with almost no profit. Bloomsbury was considered a leading candidate to buy Osprey, mentioned along with Hachette UK in October.

In June Osprey closed their Strange Chemistry Exhibit A imprints and the company was engaged in a "strategic review" to evaluate selling parts or all of the company. In October, they sold off Watkins, Angry Robot and Nourish to investor Etan Ilfeld.

Bloomsbury's Richard Charkin says in the announcement, "Osprey is an ideal fit for our strategy of publishing for well-defined special interest markets. We look forward to working with our new colleagues in Oxford to build on this highly successful business in USA, UK and throughout the world." Their program includes Old House and Shire, and their lists focus on military history, natural history and heritage publishing.

Remembering Margaret Scott (1928-2014)

Paul Diamond writes:

Following on from the post on your blog by Karl Stead about Margaret Scott, I’ve been meaning to email about a display the Turnbull Library has put together about Margaret and her work.  

The display is in one of the Turnbull Reading Rooms which close later today, and re-open on Saturday 3 January.  People can see the display if they are in Wellington 29-31 December, when the Library is running a programme of events (http://natlib.govt.nz/events).  

There’s information about the display and Margaret’s work on the Turnbull Library’s Facebook page here:

E-books 'damage sleep and health,' doctors warn

Reading under the sheets

If you curl up under the duvet with an e-book for a bedtime read then you are damaging your sleep and maybe your health, US doctors have warned.
A team from Harvard Medical School compared reading paper books and light-emitting e-readers before sleep.
They found it took longer to nod off with a back-lit e-reader, which led to poorer quality sleep and being more tired the next morning.
Original Kindle readers do not emit light so should be fine, say experts.
Experts said people should minimise light-exposure in the evening.
Whether you are perusing the Man Booker shortlist or leafing through Zoella, the impact of reading on your sleep is probably the last thing on your mind.

But there has been growing concern about the dangers of light before bedtime.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Tuesday Poem

For the last Tuesday Poem of 2014 P.S. Cottier (Penelope) has chosen 'No Coward Soul is Mine' by Emily Brontë: 

The Tuesday Poem will be back sometime in January (middish I expect). I hope you all have fantastic Christmasses and New Years and holidays.

The Roundup with PW

Readers Shun Celebrity Memoirs: Sales of autobiographies and memoirs are down compared with 2013, writes the 'Guardian.'

Books That Would Make Great Gifts: The 'New York Times' has nine titles that work equally well as conversation sparkers and thought-provoking gifts.

Wood's Picks for 2014: James Wood at the 'New Yorker' highlights his favorite books of the year.

Zoella's Fall From Grace: Teen fans feel betrayed by a YouTube star whose bestselling novel was revealed to be ghostwritten.

Maddow 'Insulted' Indie Booksellers: At the Huffington Post, Book Passage co-owner William Petrocelli weighs in on comments Rachel Maddow made in a segment about Sony's decision to cancel 'The Interview.'

JK Rowling ‘unnerved’ by girls who fall for Hogwarts bully Draco Malfoy

Girls are quick to romanticise anti-heroes, says Harry Potter author, as she shares her vision for the future of the boy wizard’s school enemy

Harry Potter author JK Rowling
JK Rowling has been revealing more Harry Potter insights on her Pottermore website. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

JK Rowling says that “girls are very apt to romanticise” the antihero, and reveals that she had been forced to pour “cold common sense” on the startling number of readers who fall for the arrogant, unscrupulous bully Draco Malfoy in her Harry Potter books.

Rowling has been providing new snippets about the world of Harry Potter on her website Pottermore for the past 10 days, giving fans insights into everything from a “ghost” storyline that she didn’t include in the final story, to the history of the Leaky Cauldron pub. She has now unveiled her lengthiest piece of writing yet, offering a glimpse into the future of Harry Potter’s arch enemy Draco, and her own thoughts on the character.

“Draco remains a person of dubious morality in the seven published books, and I have often had cause to remark on how unnerved I have been by the number of girls who fell for this particular fictional character,” writes Rowling, with a nod to the actor Tom Felton, “who plays Draco brilliantly in the films and, ironically, is about the nicest person you could meet”.

Are we seeing the death of the celebrity memoir? Poor sales of autobiographies putting major publishers off expensive big-name titles

  • Chief executive of HarperCollins says books written by stars have 'peaked'
  • Claims profits are now 'hit and miss' and publishers reluctant to buy them
  • Books from Stephen Fry and John Cleese failed to match high expectation

Celebrity memoirs are no longer popular as the genre has already 'peaked', according to one of Britain's leading publishers.
Charlie Redmayne, UK chief executive of HarperCollins, has slashed the number of books written by the rich and famous that his company buys up.
He claims their profits are now 'hit and miss' - and says even those expected to do well, written by some of the country's biggest names, are failing to match expectations.  

Undersold: Memoirs written by Stephen Fry and John Cleese both sold 60,000 copies - far less than what was expected from two of Britain's most popular comedic actors
Mr Redmayne, older half-brother of actor Eddie Redmayne, told the Evening Standard: 'We're moving away from big celebrity hit-and-miss stuff.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2881571/End-chapter-celebrity-memoirs-Autobiographies-rich-famous-no-longer-sell-says-publishing-house.html#ixzz3MeBnOxs8