Monday Miscellany

Feeling Bookish?

The big book event of the last week was the arrival of Bookish. “We know books,” the site declares. Its announced purpose is to allow readers to search, discover, read, and share information about books. Created by publishing giants Penguin, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster, the site will work with USA Today to integrate its content into the paper’s book coverage.

I haven’t had much time to check out the site myself, but others in the publishing world have. Here’s some coverage:

  • Bookish Goes Live: Publishers Weekly’s coverage of the launch.
  • Review of Book Riot’s Jeff O’Neal concludes “Bookish is an attractive online bookstore with an above-average recommendation engine and the promise of compelling supporting editorial content. I think many book buyers will prefer the experience of browsing Bookish to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, but I’m not sure that is enough to change readers’ buying habits.”
  • Bookish, New Book Recommendation Website, Gets Mixed Reviews : HuffPost Books aggregates the critical response

Have you registered as a Bookish user? What do you think of the new site?

English literature’s 50 key moments from Marlowe to JK Rowling

In other book-related news, U. K. newspaper The Guardian announced its list of “the hinge points in the evolution of Anglo-American literature.” The list covers the death of Christopher Marlowe (1593) through JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997).

The list concludes:

This catalogue, in conclusion, is highly partisan and impressionistic. It makes no claim to be comprehensive (how could it?). Rather, it aims to stimulate a discussion about the turning-points in the world of books and letters from the King James Bible to the present day.

Over to you.

Read on to see how two writers have picked up the gauntlet.

50 Great Women Writers — how many have you heard of?

Dear Guardian newspaper,

We note that your books editor, Robert McCrum, has published a ‘partisan list’ of 50 turning points in literature, and that comments have remarked on the low numbers of women (7).

To begin redressing the gender balance, here is another list – even more partisan, in that it consists entirely of influential women writers. (McCrum’s original choices are in red.)

Here are those 50 great, pioneering women.


Kathleen Taylor (science writer) & Gillian Wright (senior lecturer in English literature)

Their list covers Julian of Norwich: Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love (c. 1393; thought to be the first book written in English by a woman) through Hilary Mantel: Bring up the Bodies (2012; women can win prizes. Even the Booker. Twice.).

There are only seven entries common to both lists, which Taylor and Wright highlight in red.

The Author Himself Was a Cat in the Hat

All over Dr. Seuss’s beloved children’s books, his characters sport distinctive, colorful headwear — unless they are the kinds of creatures that have it sprouting naturally from their heads in tufted, multitiered and majestically flowing formations.

So it’s no surprise that the real Dr. Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel, was a hat lover himself. He collected hundreds of them, plumed, beribboned and spiked, and kept them in a closet hidden behind a bookcase in his home in the La Jolla section of San Diego. He incorporated them into his personal paintings, his advertising work and his books. He even insisted that guests to his home don the most elaborate ones he could find.

To keep the Seuss brand current, the Dr. Seuss publisher, Random House Children’s Books, has mounted an exhibit that will for the first time display some of his hats in public:

The show, timed to the 75th anniversary of his book “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins,” will open Monday at the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street and then travel to 15 other locations over the course of the year.

What really made Mary Ingalls go blind?

Dr. Beth Tarini has finished a project that began 10 years ago, when she was a medical student:

“I was in my pediatric rotation, and we were talking about scarlet fever,” says Tarini. She remembers commenting that scarlet fever can make you go blind. “The professor said, ‘No …,’ and I said, ‘But Mary Ingalls went blind!’ … So I got on a detective mission of sorts.”

Now an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan, Tarini and coauthors have published an article in the journal Pediatrics claiming that not scarlet fever, but viral meningoencephalitis, an inflammatory disease that attacks the brain, caused Mary Ingalls’s blindness.

Besides settling a 10-year score with a med school professor, Tarini says the purpose of the paper is to remind physicians that their perception of a disease is often very different from their patients’ perception. Even today, Tarini says, if she tells parents their child has scarlet fever, they get really worried: “They look aghast! And in my head, I’m thinking, scarlet fever today is no different than strep throat with a rash. But they say, ‘Oh, scarlet fever! That’s deadly!’ And I’m like, it’s the 21st century!'”

Prison and Libraries: Public Service Inside and Out

Library Journal reports on how libraries are moving to serve the 1.6 million people in federal or state prisons in 2011 (according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics):

What is changing is a growing realization that more public, prison, and jail libraries can better identify and serve the often significant needs of inmates or those prisoners who are returning to their communities. Not only are some libraries providing books, they are providing innovative programs and services, helping inmates and returnees to learn about work and employment opportunities, the arts (see sidebar, “Arts on the Inside“), and to develop job-seeking skills.

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