Seattle librarian Nancy Pearl returns with another set of what she calls “under-the-radar” books — titles you really, really should be reading but haven’t (yet). The latest batch features the story of three royal cousins, tales of wild animal adventures and a pun-filled picture book for younger readers.
The Writer’s Almanac, sponsored by American Public Media and The Poetry Foundation, provides a poem each day, plus literary and historical notes for the day’s date. In addition to reading online, you can also sign up for a daily e-mail or listen to the podcast version.
In 1940, Chicago-based author Richard Wright published a violent first novel called Native Son. It was a huge success, and he spent the next 20 years blazing trails for other African-American writers.
Wright died of a heart attack in Paris in the autumn of 1960, leaving behind an unfinished novel he called A Father’s Law, about a police chief who suspects his son of several murders. That book will finally be published this week by Wright’s daughter.
That’s the question raised by news items such as this:
The action-adventure book Contact Harvest is on the USA Today and New York Times best-seller lists. Author Joseph Staten had never written a novel but was uniquely qualified to write this one.
Contact Harvest is the most recent book in a series of adaptations of the video game Halo, for which Staten has been writing for years.
We’ve already missed the event, but the thought is still commendable. Writer Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries, held, by phone, a journal-writing workshop for teenagers this afternoon at the Boston Public Library. Cabot says that much of the basic material in her books came from her own journals. She also warns teenagers to beware how much sensitive personal information they put in a blog or other online journal. She also stresses the necessity of using proper grammar and writing etiquette when posting online:
“People do judge, especially with e-mailing and when you post on message boards. If you want your post to be read or taken seriously, you have to spell and write correctly,” she said.
Back in late December I reported on the most literate cities in the U.S.
Here’s some more news from the Central Connecticut State University’s report
The bad news:
- One of the most disturbing trends is that while Americans are becoming more and more educated in terms of their time spent in school and their education level accomplished, they are decreasing in terms of literate behaviors. This is particularly obvious in our lack of support of bookstores and the constantly diminishing circulation of newspapers.
- We are also supporting local bookstores far less often.
But there’s also some good news:
- Per capita publication of magazines in the United States increased in 87 percent of the cities studied.
Libraries are staying even, with the number of library buildings, volumes in the collection, and circulation of books and other materials staying about steady in terms of the number of cities advancing and declining.
- The internet explosion has also clearly taken effect with substantial growth of reading online. Almost all the cities have more free internet access points. More people are reading newspapers online and buying books online than in previous years.
In case you missed the rankings, here are the Top 10:
Sorry to be so late with this, but here’s one of those year-end lists that I missed. In fact, there are several lists here, broken down by subject matter. There are readers’ favorites as well as editors’ picks included, so you can get a feel for what books other ordinary readers (not just editors or critics) liked best from last year.
Recently I did a little search to see what else was out there in the biblioblogosphere. I found more challenges (“read X number of books about such-and-such topic in the next Y number of months”) than I could believe. As a full-time student, I don’t have the time for that.
But I did find something that interests me and seems manageable for me right now: Booking through Thursday. This blog poses a book-related question each week, then lets people post their answers or links to their answers. So this is something I’ll be doing from time to time.
This week’s question is:
Last week we talked about the books you liked best from 2007. So this week, what with it being a new year, and all, we’re looking forward….
What new books are you looking forward to most in 2008? Something new being published this year? Something you got as a gift for the holidays? Anything in particular that you’re planning to read in 2008 that you’re looking forward to? A classic, or maybe a best-seller from 2007 that you’re waiting to appear in paperback?
Except for textbooks, the only reading I do now is audiobooks that I listen to while driving, exercising, and doing household chores. Here’s what’s queued on the iPod right now:
- “T” Is for Trespass, Sue Grafton’s new Kinsey Millhone thriller. It’s always a comfort to get reacquainted with Kinsey again, although I’m jealous that she’s aging much slower than the rest of us. (In Kinsey time, it’s still late 1987). I’m nearly done with this book now, and it’s one of the best in the series.
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I read this one a long, long time ago. It’s definitely due for a reread.
- World without End by Ken Follett. I recently listened to this novel’s precursor, The Pillars of the Earth, and loved it. I’m looking forward to the continuation of the saga.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is another one requiring a reread. I recently listened to Nancy Milford’s book Zelda, a biography of Fitzgerald’s wife. After Gatsby I hope to listen to Tender Is the Night, whose female character is heavily based on Zelda.
Associated Press (AP) writer Candice Choi discusses POD publishing. This form of publishing allows writers to get their book into print without having to lay out a lot of money. Under the POD model, each book is printed when someone orders and pays for it. POD publishing differs from vanity press publishing. With a vanity press, the author pays up front to have copies printed all at once, like any other publishing run.
Choi points out that many authors use POD publishing to attract the attention of a major publisher. While there are instances in which a POD book has sold well enough to be taken over by a traditional publishing house, those instances are rare relative to the number of POD books in existence. Choi also says:
Big companies such as Random House Inc. or HarperCollins Publishers can promote authors on a national scale and get titles in major bookstores. Professional editors also polish copy in the traditional publishing world, a step that can transform a manuscript into a best-seller or perhaps a masterpiece.
This is quite misleading. In recent years even the big publishers have quit providing money for publicity except for their major authors (think John Grisham, Danielle Steel, Stephen King, and the like). So, unless you’re one of those authors, you’ll have to underwrite and perform your own publicity even if you do land a traditional publisher.
POD publishing can be a satisfying alternative if you’ve written a book that has a limited audience and if you’re willing to promote the book aggressively. One thing that Choi doesn’t mention, though, is that almost all major book review outlets refuse to review self-published books. So if you’re thinking of POD, understand that you won’t be able to count on reviews in major newspapers or magazines to promote your book. However, if you book fits into a well-defined niche, you may be able to get reviews in magazines, newsletters, or Web sites that serve your subject area.
This opinon piece in the Los Angeles Times takes author J. K. Rowling to task for suing to prevent publication of the Harry Potter Lexicon, “a print version of the fan website hp-lexicon.org.” The piece admits that, while Rowling may be within her legal rights in enforcing her copyright, she’s guilty of bad behavior. Instead of suing, the argument goes, she should be thankful that fans are willing to devote all the time and energy to preserving and further promoting her lucrative literary franchise.
But the lawsuit is not frivolous:
its charge is serious: that an encyclopedia created entirely out of her inventions goes beyond fair use of copyrighted material, does not transform that material to a degree that constitutes new work (as would, for example, parodies or critical studies) and would compete with Rowling’s own long-proposed but never undertaken potterpedia.
This is indeed a serious legal issue, and one we’re likely to hear more about in the future. The recently founded Organization for Transformative Works describes itself as “a nonprofit organization established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms. We believe that fanworks are transformative and that transformative works are legitimate.” The organization proclaims its values as follows:
- We value transformative fanworks and the innovative communities from which they have arisen, including media, real person fiction, anime, comics, music and vidding.
- We value our identity as a predominantly female community with a rich history of creativity and commentary.
- We value our volunteer-based infrastructure and the fannish gift economy that recognizes and celebrates worth in myriad and diverse activities.
- We value making fannish activities as accessible as possible to all those who wish to participate.
- We value infinite diversity in infinite combinations. We value all fans engaged in transformative work: fans of any race, gender, culture, sexual identity, or ability. We value the unhindered cross-pollination and exchange of fannish ideas and cultures while seeking to avoid the homogenization or centralization of fandom.
This Potter brouhaha sounds like something OTW could sink its teeth into.