Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Books that changed your life

Open Culture points us to NPR Radio's "This American Life" and their recent episode on life-changing books, then offers their own list. (What is it that is so compelling about lists?)

OC: It’s a good program for book lovers, but don’t expect to hear about Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, or Salinger. This American Life doesn’t quite do things that way. They have their own unique take on things. More...

How to get a job in publishing

When I started out, there were probably ten times as many jobs in publishing as there are today. I do not envy today's job hunter, like Marian Schembari, writing on Publishing Trends.

MS: I really wanted to get into publishing. Like, a lot. Never mind that the industry is slowly dying, the economy sucks, I had zero experience and the pay is (and always will be) crap. No, I’m a book lover, and in my naïve—but enthusiastic—mindset, I thought that was all I needed. More...

From the NY Times, an announcement of Disney's latest foray into books, this time online.

NYT: The Walt Disney Company hopes an ambitious new digital service it plans to unveil on Tuesday will transform how children read its storybooks. In what it bills as an industry-defining moment — though rivals are sure to be skeptical about that — Disney Publishing plans to introduce a new subscription-based Web site. For $79.95 a year, families can access electronic replicas of hundreds of Disney books, from “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too” to “Hannah Montana: Crush-tastic!” More...

The Best Southern Novels of All Time

From Oxford American, a diverse list of important (and good) novels. And the page links to the raw data, and plenty of other material worth arguing about. (via)

Incorporating nonfiction into fiction

From Electric Literature, a musing from Jim Shepard on fiction writers working nonfiction into their stories.

JS: The first worry writers have when they consider working with something like historical events has to do with the issue of authority: as in, where do I get off writing about that? Well, here’s the good and the bad news: where do you get off writing about anything? More...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Beast Books

We certainly follow The Daily Beast, a source of very interesting online journalism. Now the site is expanding into books, and fast books at that.

From the NY Times: In a joint venture with Perseus Books Group, The Daily Beast is forming a new imprint, Beast Books, that will focus on publishing timely titles by Daily Beast writers — first as e-books, and then as paperbacks on a much shorter schedule than traditional books. On a typical publishing schedule, a writer may take a year or more to deliver a manuscript, after which the publisher takes another nine months to a year to put finished books in stores. At Beast Books, writers would be expected to spend one to three months writing a book, and the publisher would take another month to produce an e-book edition. More...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Banned books

We love to find out what the schools are up to at any given time. The range of allowed and challenged is extraordinary. This is the week we get to see exactly who's doing what, from an article in the L.A. Times.

LAT: We're smack in the middle of Banned Books Week, an event sponsored by the American Library Assn., the American Publishers Assn. and others. This year, they've launched an interactive map that shows which books were officially banned or challenged, and where, in 2008. More...

The unquotable Mark Twain

(Via) Mark Twain. We quote him all the time. And a lot of other people, too. And quite often, these people we're quoting didn't say what we're crediting them with. How does this happen?

From That Mark Twain was something else, wasn’t he? He said so many memorable things, like “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes” and “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” What a writer, what a guy. Unfortunately—even though Twain is the great American humorist—he didn’t say either of those things... More.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The most influential book of our time?

It's Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, according to a recent survey reported in the Guardian.

Guardian: Gabriel García Márquez's seminal novel One Hundred Years of Solitude is the piece of writing that has most shaped world literature over the past 25 years, according to a survey of international writers... "[It] taught the west how to read a reality alternative to their own, which in turn opened the gates for other non-western writers... from Africa and Asia. Apart from the fact that it's an amazing book, it taught western readers tolerance for other perspectives." More...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Interview with author of Hitchhiker's Guide

The continuation of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, that is. Eoin Colfer is interviewed on Amazon pre-publication of And Another Thing, his extension of the late Douglas Adam's series.

EC: The story wrote itself nice and sweetly- but I was plagued by all sorts of doubts as soon as I finished it and re-entered the real world. This is not the sort of decision where you just say yes and are 100% confident that you have made the right life changing decision. It's not like will I accept the lottery cheque or not... More.

Free podcast of Iain Banks novel

Cory Doctorow, on Boing Boing, points us to the free audio serialization of Iain M. Banks's novel, Transition. Says Doctorow: "I'm a huge fan of Banks's thrillers; I like them even better than his science fiction." Check it out for yourself. Link.

Ellroy's Favorite Crime Reads

The Daily Beast posts author James Ellroy's favorite crime stories. Here's what he says about John Gregory Dunne's True Confessions:

JE: The most raucous and profane humor ever expressed in a major work of American fiction. A time machine back to an L.A. that never—but should have—existed. More..

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

L. Frank Baum biographies

A profile of the creator of Oz, derived from some recently published biographies, over at Slate. This strikes a chord with me personally. When my daughter was young, I read every single Oz book aloud to her (including Oz books not by Baum, and a lot of other non-Oz Baum books as well). I enjoyed every minute of that experience.

Slate: The story of the orphaned Dorothy Gale, whisked by a tornado away from gray, impoverished Kansas to the magical land of Oz, captured the hearts of children and adults who had lived through an economic crisis but saw all around them the thrum of invention and change. As a young country abuzz with "progress," the United States needed a different kind of fairy tale. A truly American myth could not merely invoke Celtic wraiths or Bavarian dark forest goblins. It would have to include the drive to innovate that launched the Gilded Age and made America the archetypal modern industrial nation during the very decades when Baum's imagination was formed.... More.

The return of a newspaper book section

This has to be good news, from the Greensboro, NC, News & Record. More journals reporting similar news would be better still.

NR: One week from today, the News & Record's book page will be back in its rightful place, as part of the Sunday Ideas section. When we eliminated the section more than a year ago, you told us you missed it -- and you kept on telling us until ... well, what time is it right now? You told us we are a community of readers. You told us you not only like to read but you like reading about reading. And you were right. More...

David Foster Wallace on YouTube

There are a number of YouTube videos of the late author, including this one on wordiness. (Via)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Podcast of Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut reads from Breakfast of Champions. (Via—the source link worked better for us). As the 92nd Street Y reports, this was "his very first public reading of the classic Breakfast of Champions, three years before it was published, on May 4, 1970..." More.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The news from Lake Wobegon

Garrison Keillor suffered a mild stroke recently. The good news is that he is now back hard at work on the Prairie Home Companion radio show, among other things. But he is looking forward, and Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune (via ArtsJournal) reports that things may change.

ST: The news from Lake Wobegon: In "a couple more years," there probably will be no more news from Lake Wobegon. "A Prairie Home Companion" host Garrison Keillor said Wednesday that he is "not counting on doing it [hosting the show] more than a couple more years." He added that he would like to see the show continue with more of a musical focus, and that he would love to serve as that show's producer... More.


Publishers Weekly reports that Barnes and Noble has relaunched its SparkNotes study guide site. We took a quick look and found, among the expected book material, a blog that looks interesting for teens. You might find it worth checking out.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Joyce Carol Oates on Shirley Jackson

Oates is interviewed for The New York Review of Books in this podcast. They talk about the author of, of course, the story "The Lottery," and the novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yeats exhibit online

Open Culture points us to an online exhibition of the work of William Butler Yeats, from the National Library of Ireland.

OC: When you enter the tour, you can scan through 200 artifacts & manuscripts and “attend” three in-depth tutorials exploring the evolution of three major poems (‘Sailing to Byzantium’, ‘Leda and the Swan’ and ‘Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen’). You can also listen to Yeats, one of Ireland’s towering poets, reciting his famous poem ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree.’ More...

Use the internet to help write your novel

Putting one word after the other isn't easy, and making it good is even harder. Still, in this day and age, there is some help out there. The tech site Mashable has some hints for writers.

Mashable: Writing a novel is an ambitious endeavor, but one that the web is making a lot easier to accomplish. Though you’ll still have to do your writing using the old fashioned method — one word at a time — web applications and social media have made the process of writing a novel considerably easier and arguably more enjoyable. Here is a toolkit for using the web to write a book. More...

Dan Brown

This isn't a link to somewhere else, just a simple observation. We have seen a number of reviews now of Brown's new blockbuster, The Lost Symbol, which, I will point out, we will not be using in Select Editions, so we have no business interest in it. The thing is, what makes us happy is that the reviews have been positive. Sometimes it is so easy for people to smugly attack something everybody else likes simply because everybody else likes it. Dan Brown is that kind of target. He doesn't need us to congratulate him on having done a good job—his accountant will do that for him for some time to come—but we'll do it anyhow. We would not want to have written one of the biggest selling novels of all time and then have to follow it up somehow. But Brown has done it, and it seems that he has done it well. Kudos.

Kid's stuff

If you're interested in kid's books, you should probably follow Amazon's blogs directly to get their Kid-Lit Roundup. If you're not already familiar with it, here's a link.

If book fans were baseball fans...

They would wear these literary-themed shirts, profiled in the NY TImes.

NYT: The shirts, created by David Bukszpan and Michael Kravetsky, are advertised as a way to “wear your read” and support the real heroes of American culture. Each one features a vaguely symbolic number on the back and an insignia on the front — a tell-tale heart or raven for Edgar Allan Poe, a patch of grass for Walt Whitman, a circle with a slash through it for Bartleby the Scrivener, who would prefer not to. More...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fictional politics

I mean, a lot of what politicians say is fiction, but they're often pretending it isn't. Then again, sometimes they tell stories and it's clear that they're making it up. The Daily Beast offers a quiz matching the politico—or politico relative—with the prose. Try your luck!

TDB: The political novelist set is a surprisingly large clique, a caucus that knows no partisan standard—nor any real literary one. Look at it this way: their shared membership gives Dick Cheney’s wife, Al Gore’s daughter, Jimmy Carter, Newt Gingrich, and now Ralph Nader something else to argue about. In honor of Nader’s newest venture, The Daily Beast challenges you to match the following excerpts with their authors. More...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Backpacker classics

I like this list from Bookride. What are the books you bring with you when you're going to hike from, say, Beijing to Dublin?

Bookride: A backpacker classic should have an element of profundity, preferably mystical—if not it should have cult status or be a statement about who you really are. There is an element of self discovery in setting off—the path to enlightenment, the journey inwards... More.

Q&A with Diana Gabaldon

The ever-reliable Powells has a fun piece to mark publication of Gabaldon's latest.

DG: There are people like the woman who stood in line for four hours in order to be first in line at a booksigning — for the express purpose of whipping off her shoe and sock in order to show me the tattoo of the running-stag brooch (from the cover of one of my books) she'd had done on top of her foot. [ow!] She then presented me with a photograph of said foot — why, I couldn't tell you. Perhaps so I could prove it to people when telling them this story... More.

Friday, September 11, 2009

E. A. Poe collection

Open Culture pointed us to this Edgar Allan Poe collection. If you're a fan, you'll want to check it out.

The digital collection incorporates images of all Poe manuscripts and letters at the Ransom Center with a selection of related archival materials, two books by Poe annotated by the author, sheet music based on his poems, and portraits from the Ransom Center collections.... More.

Other author's characters

Mostly we have mixed feelings on the subject of one author taking up another author's characters. I mean, it does happen all the time, but there's no way that the follow-ups are the original. They could be better, they could be worse, but they are unquestionably different. The Guardian reports on some big name sequels in the works.

Guardian: This autumn, eight years after Douglas Adams died, Arthur Dent and friends will be hitching across the galaxy once again, Bram Stoker's Dracula will be stalking the pages of a book for the first time in more than a century, and Winnie the Pooh will be returning to the Hundred Acre Wood in the first official sequel to AA Milne's much-loved children's books. Such continuations of the work of popular authors, who have inconveniently interrupted their output by dying, are big business for the literary world these days. Authors are being roped in left, right and centre to continue or complete legacies... More.


The internet never ceases to amaze. We came upon Shelfari via a link to Neil Gaiman's library. Shelfari is a book-lover's site; you might want to check it out. And the link to Gaiman's library? Well, if you want to see a load of books, this is the place to go.

Shelfari: We thought it would be fun to take a look at what’s on the bookshelves of some of our favorite authors. What books do they love, or consider to have been particularly enlightening, informative or just plain fun? What books do they keep? So we asked one of our all-time favorites, Neil Gaiman, if he’d be willing to give us a peek into his personal library, and he graciously agreed... More.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The library without books

This school is replacing the old with the new. We'll reserve judgment; you can decide for yourself what it all means. From the Boston Globe.

BG: Cushing Academy has all the hallmarks of a New England prep school, with one exception. This year, after having amassed a collection of more than 20,000 books, officials at the pristine campus about 90 minutes west of Boston have decided the 144-year-old school no longer needs a traditional library. The academy’s administrators have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks - the classics, novels, poetry, biographies, tomes on every subject from the humanities to the sciences. The future, they believe, is digital... More.

"Bonnet books"

Romances are popular. We know that. And here's a new sub-genre of clean and very special tales within that genre, described by the Wall Street Journal.

WSJ: Rachel Esh, owner of an Amish dry-goods store here, was giddy as customers kept arriving. Cars spilled out of the dirt parking lot onto the hay and potato fields, crushing a few of her neighbor's potatoes. She ushered the crowd of 40 people swarming in front of her cash register into a line that snaked out the door of Rachel's Country Store. The cause of the commotion: novelist Cindy Woodsmall, who had stopped by to autograph books. The plot of 'When the Heart Cries,' revolves around Hannah, a young Amish woman who falls in love with a Mennonite and hides her plans to marry him from her strict parents. The lovers kiss a couple of times in 326 pages. Ms. Woodsmall writes "bonnet books," or Amish love stories, which are a booming new subcategory of the romance genre... More.

On E. L. Doctorow

We've made no secret of our love of Doctorow; we recently posted a piece on Ragtime. Now Eric Alterman at the Daily Beast lets us in on his creative process and his new book, Homer & Langley.

EA: [Doctorow asks,] Didn’t your mother demand that you clean your room, lest it “turned into the Collyer brothers in there?”... The book is inspired by their incredibly odd lives, but quickly loses sight of the facts of the case and goes on a journey of, um, boundless imagination. As Edgar [Doctorow] explains over coffee and a shared muffin at the bright new cafe outside Alice Tully Hall—that’ll be $10, Tina—he did no research. “This is an American myth, and a myth has to be interpreted, not researched.” More...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Readers' Guides Jump the Shark (almost literally)

The New York Times Arts Beat reports on the readers' discussion guides for...Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters?????

NYT: Is Monsieur Pierre a symbol for something? Name three other well-known works of Western literature that feature orangutan valets. Are those characters also slain by pirates? More...

James Patterson is amazing

Well, we publish Patterson often at Select Editions, but still, we marvel at his output, even with co-writers. Publishers Weekly reports.

PW: While sales of titles by some brand name authors have slowed in recent years, that hasn’t been the case with James Patterson and the prolific author has just inked a new 17-book deal that will keep him with publisher Hachette through 2012... More.

Reading in the subway

As a former NYC person myself, I'm glad to see that this is still true: New York's subways are for reading!

NY Times: Reading on the subway is a New York ritual, for the masters of the intricately folded well as for teenage girls thumbing through magazines, aspiring actors memorizing lines, office workers devouring self-help inspiration, immigrants newly minted — or not — taking comfort in paragraphs in a familiar tongue. These days, among the tattered covers may be the occasional Kindle, but since most trains are still devoid of Internet access and cellphone reception, the subway ride remains a rare low-tech interlude in a city of inveterate multitasking workaholics. And so, we read.... More.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

James M. McPherson on Lincoln

Author McPherson is one of our favorite historians. In this podcast at the New York Review of Books, he discusses Abraham Lincoln.

Where the Wild Things Are: The movie

The NY Times profiles director Spike Jonze this coming Sunday. We've seen the coming attractions of this film of Sendak's classic, and we were intrigued. Reading this piece, we're even more intrigued.

NYT: Most kids’ movies are brightly, mouthwateringly colorful; Jonze favored a mushy-vegetable palate of greens and browns. Most kids’ movies have a clearly defined plot and an unambiguous moral lesson; Jonze’s film has about as much plot as an episode of “Jackass.” Most kids’ movies crackle with one-liners; in “Where the Wild Things Are,” the characters talk over one another and spend a lot of time stumbling over their own words as they try to articulate their feelings. Jonze told me that one of his models for the dialogue was the work of John Cassavetes... More.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Profile of Sheila Lukins

To those of us for whom The Silver Palate Cookbook was nothing less than the kitchen bible, the passing of Sheila Lukins is a sad moment. Sara Nelson profiles her friend over at The Daily Beast.

SN: When you went out to dinner with Sheila, you could count on getting the star treatment. Chefs, owners, waitstaff–everybody knew the sprite with the springy hair. One after another, a guy in white would slip into a booth or squat down by our table, and pay homage to Sheila. And while she didn’t lack for self-regard about her knowledge of food, she wasn’t a snob... More.

Kerouac—the quintessential Beat writer—is Canadian?

From the you-learn-something-new-every-day file, ArtsJournal points us to an article in the Canadian magazine The Walrus. It turns out that Jack Kerouac is, well, not exactly the sort of all-American I thought he was.

Kerouac’s given name wasn’t Jack; it was Jean-Louis. His mother tongue wasn’t English; it was French. He was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the son of immigrants from Quebec; on his mother’s side, he was related to René Lévesque. ... Kerouac grew up speaking the burly, colloquial idiom of a hardscrabble people... a bilingual identity that for much of his life Kerouac chose to hide. More...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Essential rock reads

L. A. Times posts this list of classic books about rock music. I admit that I read exactly one of them, when I was in college, which is about the end of my personal interest, but then again, if you asked me if I owned music by any of these people, I'd have to say a goodly precent of them. Which means, I guess, that reading about rock and listening to it are two different things. To each his own...

LAT: Do rock and books go together? That's a question we asked in August, and after a month's worth of posts on books and music, we think, hells yeah. Here's our list of 46 essential rock reads, in alpha order by author. They'll rock your books off... More.

Isak Dinesen's Seven Gothic Tales

Dinesen is, as Powells blogger Joanna Scott says, on the wane these days. Yet at one time, she was an international star. An interesting piece.

JS: Seven Gothic Tales established Dinesen as a literary giant, a reputation that would be sustained throughout her life. Eudora Welty said Dinesen's fiction embodies "the last outreach of magic." Carson McCullers reported that she would reread Dinesen's memoir Out of Africa for comfort. When he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1954, Ernest Hemingway said with uncharacteristic humility that it might have gone to "that beautiful writer Karen Blixen." More...

The latest thrillers

Need a thriller fix? The latest edition of The Big Thrill is just the ticket. News, articles, interviews, and a great list of new titles (including Heaven's Gate by William Kent Krueger, an SE selection coming soon).

The September Big Thrill showcases over 38 brand new thrillers from some of your favorite authors as well as 4 new names. Our debut authors for September include Sharon Potts, John J. Le Beau, Gaylon Greer and Norb Vonnegut. And like old friends coming for a visit, there's Rick Mofina, William Bernhardt, Clive Cussler, Kathy Reichs and many more. So as you say goodbye to summer, say hello to an exciting batch of new thrillers for September... More.