Thursday, December 31, 2015

What Causes the Smell of New & Old Books?

Aroma Chemistry - The Smell of New & Old Books v2

Everyone’s familiar with the smell of old books, the weirdly intoxicating scent that haunts libraries and second-hand book stores. Similarly, who doesn’t enjoy riffling through the pages of a newly purchased book and breathing in the crisp aroma of new paper and freshly printed ink? As with all aromas, the origins can be traced back to a number of chemical constituents, so we can examine the processes and compounds that can contribute to both.

A Most Hilarious, Judgmental, Neurotic, Heartbreaking Collection of Essays

Off the Shelf

By Chris Delaney    |   Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Naked is a breathtaking (and I mean that in a literal sense) collection of hilarious and touching essays that will creep up behind you. It will pull at your heartstrings and tickle your feet when you least expect it. READ MORE

Paula Hawkins, From Struggling Author To Literary Sensation

Book2BookTuesday 22 Dec 2015

A year ago, the ex-journalist was nervously awaiting the publication of her make-or-break novel, The Girl on the Train. Within weeks it had topped the UK and US charts


Bestselling Books 2015

Book2Book Tuesday 29 Dec 2015

Books by women make up seven of the top 10 most bought this year, while colouring-in is more popular than TV tie-ins


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Why we still need bookshops !!


We’re more than confirmation numbers: What I learned selling books to strangers

I forswore Amazon and took a job at a local bookstore to make rent; it became something much more than a paycheck

(Credit: tunart via iStock)

The week before Christmas last year, the bookstore I worked for ran out of “All the Light We Cannot See,” the most buzzed-about book of the holiday season. It was backordered, and we couldn’t get it in the store until December 29th.

“What am I supposed to get my wife?” a man demanded. “That’s what she wanted.”
Get her another book, I wanted to suggest, but instead I apologized from my perch behind the counter, explaining that the publisher hadn’t printed enough copies.
“I want to support local bookstores, but you people are really making me want to go to Amazon,” he said.
“The book is backordered on Amazon too,” I told him, as politely as I could. “They can’t get it to you before Christmas either.”

Nothing about this conversation was unusual. Customers regularly threaten booksellers with Amazon, like it’s a weapon they can deploy to get what they want from us. “I could get this much cheaper on Amazon,” people tell me when checking out.

Forget ‘Auld Lang Syne’: A Brief, Depressing Tour of New Year’s Literature



Here are just a few drab examples of literary disregard for our most capricious day of celebration. In with the old, out with the new! …Read More

11 Delightful Tales Set in Our Favorite Place—Bookstores!

Off the Shelf

By Emma Volk    |   Tuesday, December 29, 2015
My happy place is Twelfth and Broadway, in the stacks of $1 used books outside Strand Bookstore. Hours blur by as I dig through the piles, flipping through the pages of jacketless hardcovers and battered paperbacks. Half treasure hunt, half meditative experience, time spent in a bookstore is never time wasted. So if you’re looking for the perfect place to unload some of your recently acquired holiday cash, pay homage to the bibliophile’s paradise and pick up one of these eleven books set in bookshops. READ MORE

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Outstanding debut novel

PictureNot Our Problem
by Ian Cowan

As a radiologist, Dr Ian Cowan probably does not wield a scalpel in his everyday work, but he has certainly done so in his outstanding debut novel Not Our Problem. The title is the first stroke of the scalpel, for it encapsulates precisely the dismissive, careless and reckless approach to problems created by the most self-centred of administrators for the most ignoble of reasons – saving a buck.
   The background to Cowan’s story is the late eighties and early nineties, a time that vies with Cromwell’s Commonwealth for the title of ‘The world turned upside down’. In little more than a decade, New Zealand turned its back on a century of social progress based and founded upon that concept of fairness so dear to immigrant societies to become a land in which people mattered much less than profit. This occurred through the willingness, first of the Fourth Labour Government and then the gleeful connivance of the next and National administration in embracing the unrestrained Friedmanite free-market theories aimed at saving money that emerged from Thatcherite Britain and Reaganite America to become New Zealand’s ‘Rogernomics’.
    Cowan’s hero, Dr Stephen Cassidy, is introduced as a surgical registrar driven by his marked professionalism to doubt his readiness to complete his journey to consultancy. At his lowest, physically and mentally, he seizes the chance of becoming involved in the heralded restructuring to which the NZ health system is about to be exposed and temporarily shelves his surgical career to become a liaison officer between ‘change managers’ (none of whom, by design and intent, know anything about health or medicine) and the clinicians of the fictitious Paxton Hospital.
    Beginning from an acceptance that the ‘old’ system did in fact contain an amount of waste that was probably remediable, “I think I could make a real difference to these stupid mismanagement things…”, Cassidy fails to grasp the root-and-branch determination of the free-marketers that nihilism and not adaptation is the desired aim, and the book is dedicated to his journey through progressive stages of disillusionment set against the growing despair of his fellow clinicians. 
     During the journey he comes to hear patients classified as Revenue-gathering units or RGUs, and Revenue-losing units or RLUs, and Cowan cleverly captures the jargon of outcomes-focused management to etch his Friedmanite characters in all their unlovable glory, viz the “…downward flexibility in workforce numbers…” that euphemises cuts in nursing staff; the question asked of Cassidy “Does our scenario resonate with your agenda?” and perhaps the finest of all, “Steve, helicopter above your micro issues and see the bigger picture. Once we get the ducks in a row it’s going to be sensational…” which quite overlooks the fact that the main reason for getting ducks in a row is their easier slaughter.
     As witnessed in the educational restructuring taking place at the same time in real-life New Zealand, however, the free-marketers never grasp the distinction between business and the social services, nor that the only way money can be saved with regard to the latter is to slow down its expenditure. When the difficulties overlooked in the initial free-market fanaticism become apparent, many of the apostles of change decide to do so elsewhere, bailing out to leave behind only chaos and mistrust for the free-marketers.
    Cowan is at his most biting here, and properly so, for this reviewer underwent the same experience with the proponents of ‘market forces’ as they applied to education in the same period, so Cowan’s scenario certainly “…resonates with (my) agenda…” to bring back the doubt, uncertainty and lack of trust in leadership that turned so easily to despair in those days of knowing that the master-plan, if there was one, was seriously flawed.
   Ian Cowan’s book is 267 pages of incisive social comment reminding us that we neglect at our peril the context of our daily concerns, and even evokes Edmund Burke’s aphorism that “In order for evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men to do nothing." References are carefully selected and very well laid-out to provide a convenient path through the story of those times that the author has recounted so very well.
     As noted above, this is an outstanding debut novel.

Review by M J Burr
MA; MEd Admin.
A  Flaxflower Review
Title: Not Our Problem        
Author: Ian Cowan   
Publisher: Mary Egan Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-473-32696-8
Available: bookshops;

How to...make a book and fill it with stuff

Sophy Henn, author of the Pom Pom books and Where Bear?, is here to rouse you out of the post-Christmas slump with her amazing guide to making your very own book and turning it into something cool - think sketchbook or scrapbook or ‘zine!

Sophy Henn - The Guardian - Monday 28 December 2015 

Instructions here.

The New York Times Best Seller Lists


  1. ROGUE LAWYER, by John Grisham
  2. THE MARTIAN, by Andy Weir
  3. CROSS JUSTICE, by James Patterson
  4. ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, by Anthony Doerr
  5. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, by Paula Hawkins

Poem of the week

Poem of the week: The Three Rs by Kelly Grovier - The Guardian

A consideration of changing worlds, personal and planetary, with appropriately shifting registers

The Three Rs

The world always begins
with a phrase – instinctive,

unthinking – an utterance
from which meaning

follows only gradually, if ever,
conjugating itself in water, heat,

and the reactions trigger
further reactions: the angle

of one’s heart, long divisions
of suffering. Somewhere,

a girl is holding a sign: the name
of a passenger whose train

will never arrive. Meanwhile
I am here, talking to you,

banging on about the effing
ineffable, never knowing

whether a stranger
in another world, waiting

on a platform, is ever going
to spell my name right.


Which 2015 Book Should You Read While Your Favorite TV Show Is on Hiatus?


The holidays are upon us, and unless you really love spending time with your family, you’re probably in need of a distraction. Especially since that greatest of contemporary cultural distractions — television — will be a wasteland of reruns and ’80s Christmas movies until January, why not pick up a new book that touches on the same themes as your favorite on-hiatus show?
…Read More

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Observer's obituaries of 2015 - Jackie Collins remembered by her sister, Joan

The bestselling novelist was a generous champion of equality, whose raunchy, page-turning books gave readers access to life in Hollywood

Read the Observer’s obituaries of 2015 in full here 

Jackie Collins, New York, 2008
‘Hollywood’s own Marcel Proust’: Jackie Collins in New York in 2008. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

She was more than a sister to me. I considered her a true and wonderful friend (whose advice I didn’t always listen to, unfortunately, and to my disadvantage). She and I understood and empathised with each other more than practically anyone I know and I felt her loyalty to me was unbounded and her love was unconditional. We shared so many of the same memories and confided in each other without fear. We gossiped and giggled when we were together and loved to go see the latest movies at weekend morning showings at our favourite Los Angeles shopping centre.

My sister always believed that truth is much stranger than fiction. This is why she became one of the most successful and top-selling novelists in the world. There were many imitators, but only Jackie Collins could tell you what really went on in the fastest lane of all. From Beverly Hills bedrooms to glittering rock parties and concerts, from stretch limos to the mansions of the power brokers, Jackie’s books chronicled the truth, which she knew from the inside looking out.

The Observer's obituaries of 2015 - Ruth Rendell remembered by Valerie Amos

17 February 1930 – 2 May 2015
The writer’s colleague in the House of Lords remembers a loyal and generous friend, who was also a committed political campaigner

Read the Observer’s obituaries of 2015 in full here

Ruth Rendell
‘Ruth relished political gossip, and we sometimes spent hours discussing the ins and outs of Labour’: Ruth Rendell. Photograph: Felix Clay/Observer

Sunday 27 December 2015  The Observer

Ruth is best known for her writing, but for over 17 years she was a valued and committed member of the House of Lords. She used her considerable knowledge, talent and influence to draw attention to areas of social injustice as she abhorred any form of inequality, prejudice or discrimination and wasn’t afraid to say so.

I first met Ruth in 1997 when we were both made Labour peers after the election. We were an interesting group that included the largest number of women, at that time, to come in on one list. Most of us had not expected to be there and we found it strange at first. We constantly broke the rules because we didn’t know what they were and we didn’t take it well when we were told off! And we took delight in sharing information such as the fastest route to somewhere in the rabbit warren that is the parliamentary estate, finding hidden gems like the archives or something basic but crucial, like the location of the hairdressing salon. And in answer to the frequently asked question: “What is the collective noun for a group of baronesses?”, the answer “a beauty of baronesses” was coined. I can’t remember who first came up with it, but I like to think it was Ruth. It sounds like her.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

The New York Times Best Seller Lists


  1. ROGUE LAWYER, by John Grisham
  2. THE MARTIAN, by Andy Weir
  3. CROSS JUSTICE, by James Patterson
  4. ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, by Anthony Doerr
  5. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, by Paula Hawkins

Friday, December 25, 2015

Morning Briefing from The Bookseller

Tim Godfray
The Booksellers Association chief executive Tim Godfray has said it has been "really heartening" to see the creativity and entrepreneurship of booksellers in 2015, with industry sales figures bucking the high street footfall trends.
Two Weidenfeld & Nicolson titles and the Desmond Elliott Prize winner are among the eight novels to have made it onto the Waterstones New Year Book Club, commencing in January.
New Bookshop
Cumbria booksellers are open for business in spite of the area seeing three bouts of flooding in less than a month. 
Marlon James
In our final review of the year, we look at the big stories from September to December. See our reviews for January to March, April to June, and July to December.

Fans of Cassandra Clare will be able to watch the TV adaptation of her bestselling series The Mortal Instruments (Walker Books) next month, as Netflix has announced a global release date, excluding the US, of 13th January.
Nothing by Janne Teller
Glyndebourne will next year stage an opera based on Nothing, a YA novel by Danish author Janne Teller released in the UK by Scottish independent publisher Strident.
London indie Influx Press has opened its submission window for three months, looking in particular for novels from BAME writers.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Latest news from The Bookseller overnight

The Ladybird Book for Grown-Ups title How it Works: The Husband (Michael Joseph), by Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris, has become one of the more unexpected Official Christmas number ones.
Creative Scotland
The board of Scottish arts development body Creative Scotland has said it will not pass on the 3.6% funding cut planned by Scottish government for 2016/17 to its regularly funded organisations.
Qatar Foundation
The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) is launching its own publishing house, bringing its partnership with Bloomsbury Publishing to an end.
In the third part of our review of the year, we look at the big stories from July to September.

Kate Mosse
Dulwich Books has announced its live events programme for 2016, featuring international bestselling novelists such as Kate Mosse and Helen Dunmore.
Michael Bond and Paddington
Michael Bond’s literary estate is asking fans to send videos and photos of themselves wishing him a happy birthday to celebrate his 90th next month.
Deborah Rogers
The deadline for the submissions for the inaugural £10,000 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers' Award is fast approaching. 
Government proposals to fast-track changes in copyright legislation have prompted "Santa" to write the UK Intellectual Property Office, according to IP blog IPKat, which has published a tongue-in-cheek "rare letter from Santa Claus" on its website.

The Roundup with PW

Print Books Having Good Finish to Solid Year
Unit sales of print books were up 2.8% through the week ended December 20, 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. The gain in 2015 follows a 2.4% increase in unit sales in 2014. The most popular book of the holiday season is almost certainly to be 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School,' which sold over 187,000 copies last week. more »

Japan's One-Book Bookstore: Yoshiyuki Morioka, owner of the bookstore Morioka Shoten, says selling one book at a time adds up to a dedicated exhibition for each volume sold.

Bookselling Lessons of 2015: Here are four takeaways drawn from the bestselling books of 2015, including, "The movie tie-in is still gold."

A 'Gilmore Girls' Reading Quiz: Find out how many of the books mentioned on The CW's 'Gilmore Girls' you have read.

Poems Favored By Celebrities: Katie Couric, Alan Cumming, Lena Dunham, and more reveal their favorite poem and why.

Saudi Bookstore Pulls Trump Books: In response to an online campaign to boycott Trump, Jarir bookstore has withdrawn books by the controversial 2016 presidential candidate.

One in eight children never been given a book as a present

One in eight children have never been given a book: Study also finds pupils who read outside of school are five times more likely to be above expected level for their age

  • Study is based on survey of 32,000 people aged between eight and 18
  • It finds books not top candidates for Christmas presents in many families
  • Experts warn of potential ‘Matildas’ being discouraged from reading 

Read more:

Kim Dotcom May Have to Stand Trial in the U.S. for Copyright Crimes

Kim Dotcom

MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom and three executives from his company will be extradited to the United States to stand trial for crimes for facilitating illegal copyright infringement and other crimes, a New Zealand court ruled on Tuesday.
…Read More

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Morning Briefing - The Bookseller

Pottermore, big publisher office moves, Waterstones removing kindle devices from its stores and the recent Paris attacks feature in the Top 10 most-read stories on The Bookseller in 2015.
Bloomsbury Publishing is set to acquire LexisNexis and Jordan family law publishing assets from RELX, subject to approval, for £1.4m.
Matthew Williamson
Laurence King Publishing has commissioned a designer colouring book by “iconic” British fashion designer Matthew Williamson.
Senior commissioning editor for fashion at Laurence King, Camilla Morton, acquired world rights for the new concept book.
Matthew Williamson: Fashion Print and Colouring is intended to give readers an “exclusive window” into his creative process. It will combine his  catwalk archive with hand-rendered prints for the readers to colour in.
Karin Slaughter
In the second part of our review of the year, we take a look at the big stories from April to June.
HarperCollins Children’s Books UK is publishing a gift edition of Dr. Seuss' What Pet Should I Get? today in time for Christmas.
Publishers must participate in the evolution of metadata standards, improve the accuracy of inputting that data, and broaden the access to companies outside of their customer base, according to industry experts.