Celebrate Independent Bookstore Day
The festivities begin tonight (Friday, August 28) at 4:30 p.m. PDT.
Here, thanks to Book Riot, is a list of events as well as links to a couple of other sites that provide more information.
Celebrate Independent Bookstore Day
The festivities begin tonight (Friday, August 28) at 4:30 p.m. PDT.
Here, thanks to Book Riot, is a list of events as well as links to a couple of other sites that provide more information.
Luckily, books still exist, and can be their own vehicle for connection. And what better reading material for right now than books where the characters are, in some way, alone? None of these are dystopian (at least not in the traditional sense), but are instead characterized by protagonists with complex interior lives who are either isolated (in some way that’s not about a contagion) or fiercely independent, or both.
During this febrile period, I’ve found myself longing for a different kind of timeframe, in which it would be possible both to feel and to think, to process the intense impact of the news and perhaps even to imagine other ways of being. The stopped time of a painting, say, or the dilations of the novel, in which it is possible to see patterns and consequences that are otherwise invisible. Art has begun to feel not like a respite or an escape, but a formidable tool for gaining perspective on what are increasingly troubled times.
In the Paris Review, J. Hoberman looks at cinematic representations of plagues, including The Plague by Albert Camus and Contagion by Steven Soderbergh.
From Homer’s Iliad and Boccaccio’s Decameron to Stephen King’s The Stand and Ling Ma’s Severance, stories about pandemics have – over the history of Western literature such as it is – offered much in the way of catharsis, ways of processing strong emotion, and political commentary on how human beings respond to public health crises.
I live in the greater metropolitan Seattle area, which was the first site of infection of COVID-19 in the United States. This was therefore one of the first areas to cancel in-person classes and move to online education and to encourage remote working for non-essential employees.
With all these additional people online during the day, I’ve noticed a significant increase in the length of time web pages take to load. Of course things were worse back in the first days of modems and dial-up internet, but still . . . . The New York Times reports on this issue with a more national focus.
Molly Odintz, senior editor for CrimeReads, explains why she’s taking refuge in reading Scandinavian thrillers:
Not because thrillers are low-brow. They take immense thought to create. But they don’t—and this is key—take commensurate mental energy to consume. They are the kindest art form, because they do the work for the consumer, allowing us a break from fretting about our very real woes so that we can worry, safely, for the fates of fictional characters instead.
If fantasy is more your choice for light reading, Nicole Hill has you covered with this list.
More suggestions, these from Ken Liu, winner of the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards.
Jonny Diamond reports on how to support local bookstores, which are suffering from lack of sales while people aren’t going out shopping. (See my article Life in an Independent Bookstore Near Seattle.)
“Publishers, bookstores and authors are struggling to confront and limit the financial fallout from the unfolding coronavirus crisis.”
two novelists, Caroline Leavitt and Jenna Blum, are promoting their colleagues with an ambitious initiative called A Mighty Blaze. Anyone can participate in the conversations on A Mighty Blaze on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram about new releases, but for authors wanting their books to be signal boosted on these platforms, there are a few requirements: the book has to be traditionally published for adult readers, and the author’s book tour has to have been canceled.
“As a result of the new coronavirus crisis, sales at downloadable audiobookstore Libro.fm and online Bookshop.org have soared. Both digital stores collaborate with independent booksellers and return a share of the sales back to them.”
“Read and discuss War and Peace with Yiyun Li and A Public Space. Starting March 18, join us for a free virtual book club—a moment each day when we can gather together as a community. #TolstoyTogether.”
This list is from Teen Vogue, but the books are decidedly grown-up (for example, Steinbeck’s East of Eden).
In order to encourage reading and classroom read-aloud experiences, and to support schools and public libraries forced to close by the escalating COVID-19 outbreak, Penguin Random House is permitting teachers, librarians and booksellers to create and share story time and read-aloud videos and live events, according to the following guidelines:
Since such presentations normally violate copyright law, Ron Charles of the Washington Post calls this “a generous offer.” If you plan to take advantage of the offer, be sure to read all the guidelines, including the one about later removing the presentation from the social platform’s archives.
Prolonged travel restrictions and venue closings leave some people craving artistic and cultural stimulation. Many organizations are satisfying those desires.
This article is from 2016, but the links still work.
“The Met’s executives say the coronavirus outbreak makes painful layoffs likely for every cultural institution.”
As film crews have quickly shut down in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, a domino effect has befallen Hollywood’s working class. A range of people from actors to lighting directors, drivers and grips to administrators, painters, hair stylists and caterers, now suddenly find themselves out of work.
From film critic Richard Brody:
I’m picking up on a search for substance, for movies that have the settled and solid quality of classics (despite the narrow assumptions on which such classicism is based)—movies serious enough for the mood, compelling enough to provide ready distraction, and confident enough to look beyond the troubles that they evoke. Here are some of the movies that I’ve been grateful to watch in the past few stressful days.
“Here are some suggestions from New Yorker writers and artists to ease the stress of isolation.”
Recommendations for TV, movies, podcasts, books, and streaming content to keep yourself occupied.
A look at how quarantine helped prevent disease in these 19th century novels, when there were no other options for handling epidemics.
Because sometimes all you can do is laugh. Example:
Pride and Prejudice
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be hoarding toilet paper.
© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown
I live in Tacoma, WA, about 30 miles south of Seattle, the epicenter of the coronavirus influx into the United States. This article in Slate therefore caught my eye and seems appropriate to pass on since it’s about books.
Laurie Swift Raisys, owner of Island Books in Mercer Island, WA, points out a fear that all business owners must face when nobody is going out shopping:
As a business owner, you rely on the community and the people that come in and shop at your store in order to pay your bills and pay your employees. Last week was incredibly stressful, and this week has been very stressful, and I don’t really see an end in sight right now.
But what pulled at my heartstrings even more than the purely economic complications of this medical emergency is the community impact:
We’re a community gathering place. Our slogan is “Real people, real books, real community,” and we’ve been around 46 years. My husband grew up on the island, and I worked part time for a number of years as a contractor. My contract ended one year and I decided I was going to do something different. I’d always wanted to own an island business, because I love this community. Everyone knows your name. They know your kids.
Raisys explains that several of her customers are over 60, the demographic most at risk from this particular virus. These people have been ordering by phone or email, and she has been dropping off books at their homes.
Further, “People are hibernating, and it makes it hard for us as a place of community. You cannot be in the business of social distancing, as they’re calling it, when you are a place that people come to for book clubs.” Often, book club represents the sum total of people’s social life, especially older people’s.
It’s easy to lose sight of aspects like this when we’re focused on more immediate health concerns. “It’s a small town, and they [residents] support when they can,” Raisys writes, but this disease is bound to have severe long-term effects after the immediate crisis is over.
© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown
This article summarizes research into how we read differently on screens than in books. Of course not all screens are the same: A smartphone screen is much smaller than a laptop or desktop computer screen, a Kindle is different from an iPad. “But many researchers say that reading onscreen encourages a particular style of reading called “nonlinear” reading—basically, skimming.”
Research by Ziming Liu, a professor at San Jose State University, has found that “sustained attention seems to decline when people read onscreen rather than on paper, and that people also spend less time on in-depth reading.” When we read on a computer, hyperlinks, ads, media (such as videos), and other text draws our attention away from the material we’re reading.
Any discussion of the difference between electronic devices and books must take into consideration the kind of material being read:
Nonlinear reading might especially hurt what researchers call “deep-reading”—our in-depth reading of text that requires intense focus to fully understand it, like the works of James Joyce or Virginia Woolf.
I find reading nonfiction online much easier than reading fiction, particularly if the content I’m reading has been maximized for on-screen reading with headings dividing the sections.
One thing most researchers on this topic agree on is that “the screen-reading vs. traditional reading question has nuances that scientists have yet to fully understand.”
Ultimately, it may be that both print and screen have unique advantages, and we’ll need to be able to read equally well on both—which means keeping our distracted habits onscreen from bleeding into what we read on an e-book or paperback.
If you click on the link to this article, you’ll see that it contains two animated gifs comprising lines moving across the screen. Many commenters at the end of the article asked why these annoying distractions were included. Any content producer interested in actually exploring the question of how well we can read on screen surely would not have included these. For an article claiming to examine the science, this trick is disingenuous.
If you choose to read printed books, Amy Sachs assures you that, when you go to the bookstore, you’ll find these seven types there as well:
The article illustrates each of these categories with an animated gif. Unlike the annoying distractions in the article above, these at least pertain to the article’s content and are amusing to boot.
According to the introduction, “Mixed in there are many superb books on journalism, film criticism, and literary theory.”
There’s a lot to choose from here, although some of them are more in the “must read” category than others.
Michael Grothaus writes that reading War and Peace during a downturn in his life “changed something in me. It’s almost impossible to explain why, but after reading it I felt more confident in myself, less uncertain about my future. I became more assertive with my bosses. I got back on the horse, so to speak.”
For an explanation of how this happened, he turns to Dr. Josie Billington, deputy director of the Centre for Research into Reading at the University of Liverpool:
“Reading can offer richer, broader, and more complex models of experience, which enable people to view their own lives from a refreshed perspective and with renewed understanding,” says Billington. This renewed understanding gives readers a greater ability to cope with difficult situations by expanding their “repertoires and sense of possible avenues of action or attitude.”
And, according to Billington, the subject of the book doesn’t have to mirror one’s own life situation for this effect to occur. “People who read find it easier to make decisions, plan, and prioritize,” she says.
Grothaus also talked with Sue Wilkinson, CEO of The Reading Agency, a U.K. charity that develops and delivers programs to encourage people to read more.
“Reading for pleasure in general can also help prevent conditions such as stress, depression, and dementia,” says Wilkinson. “Research has shown that people who read for pleasure regularly report fewer feelings of stress and depression than non-readers. Large scale studies in the U.S. show that being more engaged with reading, along with other hobbies, is associated with a lower subsequent risk of incidents of dementia.”
To encourage yourself to read more and take advantage of the benefits of reading, Billington and Wilkinson offer these suggestions:
In my younger days I used to think that I had to finish every book I started. But about the time I turned 40 I realized that my reading life was nearly half over and I no longer had time to waste reading a book that wasn’t working for me. Admitting that it’s OK to put a book aside was tremendously liberating. Life is too short, and there are too may other books waiting to be read. I do, however, believe that I shouldn’t review a book I haven’t completed, although I do reserve the right to say I didn’t finish the book and to explain why.
Joanna Scott writes “Complex literary works demand an effort from the reader that is becoming harder to justify, given the sink-or-swim pressures to make profitable products for a global marketplace.” But, she contines, fiction gives us knowledge: “This is the case that must be made for fiction if the genre is going to survive as an art.”
For support of this assertion, Scott turns to Virginia Woolf:
When we read actively, alertly,opening ourselves to unexpected discoveries, we find that great writers have a way of solidifying “the vague ideas that have been tumbling in the misty depths of our minds.” For Woolf, fiction provides an essential kind of knowledge that can only be acquired by careful reading.
And, Scott warns, “serious reading is in serious danger of being lost to future generations.” Although we may seem to be reading more, she writes, “The surprising problem arising in our culture is that good, active, creative reading is on the decline.”
In making her argument, Scott refers to the following books:
Finally, Scott reaches this conclusion: “Let’s not give up on the intricacies of ambitious fiction. Let’s not stop reading the kind of books that keep teaching us to read.” We should continue to challenge ourselves as readers by spending the time necessary for slow reading, for immersing ourselves in complex fictional worlds.
To end on a light note, I give you Emma Oulton, who believes that no hobby holds more potential pitfalls and perils than reading:
there are a ton of things that can go wrong when you’re reading. You might find out how the book ends. You might fall in love with a character who dies and breaks your heart so badly you can’t leave your room for weeks. You might have your nose so stuck in your book that you don’t look where you’re going, and then you trip over and a bookcase lands on you.
To avoid coming to such harm, do not commit these common reading mistakes:
And, to lighten the mood even more, the article illustrates each one of these points with—you guessed it—an animated gif.
Because I am currently in the process of leaving my heart in San Francisco, this week’s Monday Miscellany is short.
Barnes & Noble will always be there with a stack of bestsellers, and Half Price Books is likely to have the novel you’re looking for in a pinch. But for travelers, little will beat the act of stepping inside a small, local bookstore, being greeted by the owner and guided through the collection by an employee who actually loves literature as much as you do. Maybe it’s their independent spirit (reading, after all, is a form of freedom), or maybe it’s that they’re connected with local authors, but the independent bookstore manages to live on in an era of Kindles and chain resellers. So, if you’re like us, and agree that a good trip deserves a good book, then just for you, here are 10 of our editors’ favorite independently owned bookstores throughout the United States.
Are you lucky enough to have one of these stores nearby?
Then there is the Young Men’s Literary Club of Cheyenne, still going after an incredible 112 years.
Established in 1902, the capital city’s organization is something of a relic and only one of a handful of literary clubs from that era that survive today.
It is an elite men-only organization with 30 active members who must be invited to join.
The rules of the club state that its purpose is “to provide benefits from the training of the mind in literary pursuits and the advantage to be gained by the interchange of ideas and discussion of topics of public interest.”
But isn’t it too bad that no one has realized, during those 112 years, that women read and discuss literature, too? See how the exclusive members reacted to a couple of different attempts to incorporate women into the group.
Shel Silverstein—the late cartoonist, singer, songwriter, playwright, and mega-selling author of such classics as The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends—didn’t like children’s literature. Spoon-feeding kids sugar-sweet stories just wasn’t his style. Fortunately for generations of young readers, someone convinced him to do something about it—namely, break the mold himself. Using edgy humor, clever rhymes, and tripped-out drawings, Silverstein achieved the impossible. He bridged the worlds of adult and children’s art, while becoming wildly popular in the process.
More of the usual good stuff from Metal Floss.
In this interview with The New York Times, the author of the wildly successful thriller Gone Girl reveals what books she’s currently reading, who is her all-time favorite novelist, what makes a great thriller, and how she’s faring with the self-imposed project of reading every Pulitzer Prize-winning novel in chronological order.
Author Gabrielle Zevin, whose most recent novel is The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, confesses that she has sometimes lied when asked what her favorite book is. In fact, just about everybody does. (And yes, we all know she’s not lying about this.)
And why do we do this? It’s probably a matter of the image of ourselves that we want to present:
I don’t mind when people “lie” about what they read. I think the lie itself is revealing and the more I consider the matter, I’m not even sure it’s a lie. On some level, I think we want our reading self to represent our best self.
Unable to find a copy of a work by Samuel Beckett, Arifa Akbar discovers that some authors’ books are routinely stolen from bookstore shelves:
There are , famously, certain authors and titles that are prone to getting stolen – William S. Burroughs, Italo Calvino, Raymond Chandler, Jack Kerouac, et al. Terry Pratchett, a refreshing departure from the usual, über-trendy suspects above, has joked about being the most stolen author in Britain. I knew Charles Bukowski always featured highly on America’s most pilfered – but I didn’t know he was a big-hitter here too. Yeah, the women at Waterstones said, there was a time when they couldn’t put him on the shelves. He’d have to be sold behind the counter, like contraband. It sounded outlandish, like something from a Woody Allen film.
. . .
The women at Waterstones didn’t think it had anything to do with price. They reckoned that certain authors were cooler to steal than to buy.
Most avid readers probably have their own list of favorite books about books and reading, but here’s The Irish Times‘s list of 10.
Most novels come, have their day, and are gone. For ever. Most deserve their “do not resuscitate” label. Every so often, though, a novel rises from the grave to claim its belated fame. On 5 July last year, addressing the nation on the Today programme, Ian McEwan did a revival job on Stoner – a novel published to modest praise in 1965 and long out of print. John Williams’s bleak, but exquisitely written, chronicle of a second-rate prof in a third-rate American university went on to become the 2013 novel of the year.
What other dead and forgotten works would one dig up from the dusty vaults of the British Library? Everyone will have their own overdue for resurrection list: here’s my top 10. Not all of them are what the critics would call “great novels” (a couple most certainly are) but they are, I can guarantee, great reads. And what more do you want from a work of fiction?
I have to admit that I had only heard of one of the novels on this list, and I haven’t read any of them.
Despite rumors about the death of the literary novel, there’s never been more fantastic literary fiction and non-fiction being produced. As readers, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the flood of well-crafted books demanding our attention.
Don’t despair, however; in celebration of HuffPost’s 9th birthday, we’ve compiled a list of 9 truly brilliant contemporary authors who shouldn’t be missed. Each of these authors has a book out this spring, but many have a larger oeuvre to explore, and all are must-reads for literature lovers today.
And I’m doing only slightly better with this list. At least I’ve bought Leslie Jamison’s essay collection The Empathy Exams.
There’s been a lot of discussion in the press recently about whether reading fiction makes us more moral or more empathetic. Some of the research into these areas is open to criticism because its terminology and methodology are too vague and ill defined. But a recent study “Changing Race Boundary Perception by Reading Narrative Fiction,” led by Dan Johnson of Washington and Lee University, focused on a specific question: Could the reading of a fictional narrative change the perception of racial stereotypes?
Jalees Rehman, M.D., reports on this study in The Huffington Post. His conclusion:
This study is the first to systematically test the impact of reading literary fiction on an individual’s assessment of race boundaries and genetic similarity. It suggests that fiction can indeed blur the perception of race boundaries and challenge our stereotypes.
In addition to information on this study, Rehman offers a summary of, with links to, reports on other research about how reading fiction affects us.
Amazon’s secret campaign to discourage customers from buying books by Hachette, one of the big New York publishers, burst into the open Friday.
The uneasy relationship between the retailer and the writing community that needs Amazon but fears its power immediately soured as authors took to Twitter to denounce what they saw as bullying.
Top-notch mystery writer Laura Lippman discusses “the 10 best books about mysterious disappearances”:
And while most missing person stories centre on those left behind, the “disappeared” have their stories to tell as well. These are often crime stories, and always love stories.
In fact, the most satisfying ones are those in which a bereft loved one becomes determined to track down the missing person, at any cost.
Not surprisingly, at the top of her list is Gillian Flynn’s recent run-away best seller, Gone Girl. See what other books made the list.
SEATTLE — A love of books and bookstores runs deep in the sinews of this city, where gray skies and drizzle can drive a person to drink, or read, or both. A long-running annual survey ranks Seattle the country’s second-most literate big city, behind Washington, D.C., as measured by things like the number of bookstores, library resources, newspaper circulation and education.
Amazon.com Inc. also calls Seattle home. And in recent years, as many small independent bookstores here and around the nation struggled or closed their doors, owners often placed blame for their plight on the giant online retailer’s success in delivering best sellers at discount prices, e-readers and other commodities of the digital marketplace.
The New York Times reports on the irony that “local bookstore owners have seen a surprising new side of the company they loved to hate: Many Amazon employees, it turns out, are readers who are not shopping at the company store.”
Punk began in the mid-1970s as a total rebellion against rock music of the time. Rock had become overdone, with long complicated guitar solos that were accompanied by full orchestrations; the rock stars were flying in private jets with the Queen; and fans had to pay a fortune to squint at the act from the back of a stadium. Punk aimed to bring the music back to the people. To play punk all you needed was to, as Sid Vicious said, “just pick a chord, go twang, and you’ve got music.”
Unfortunately, that lack of emphasis on expertise has caused many to regard punk as not the most intelligent of genres-yet that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Aside from the advanced political attitudes that punk came to represent, the genre is bursting with literary influence.
Read how writers as diverse as George Orwell and William S. Burroughs have influenced punk rock.
The 75th anniversary of the publication of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath on Monday April 14 is a reminder of the potentially key role of literary spouses. Steinbeck didn’t like his own ideas for the title, so when his wife Carol proposed a phrase from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” he adopted it at once.
This set us thinking about the impact of other partners on the history of literature. As the following examples show, though usually either dismissed as humble helpmeets or complained about as posthumous image-protectors, they can sometimes decisively shape a book or career.
There’s nothing unexpected in Alexandra Israel’s list:
More interesting is the concept of anti-heroine she discusses:
By definition, an anti-heroine is “a female protagonist, as in a novel or play, whose attitudes and behaviors are not typical of a conventional heroine.” Flavorwire had a more up-to-date definition, inspired by author Leslie Jamison: “Fairy tales introduce us to certain standard breeds of heroine: beautiful innocents, homely martyrs, and plucky tomboys. These heroines aren’t those ones… they make it hard to look away.” This definition is true; anti-heroines are sometimes what keep us going in long novels.
Be sure to click through to the Flavorwire piece Israel references to see more of Leslie Jamison’s definition and her longer list of literary anti-heroines.
And what other female fictional characters would make your list?
Hackers have stolen credit card information for customers who shopped as recently as last month at 63 Barnes & Noble stores across the country, including stores in New York City, San Diego, Miami and Chicago, according to people briefed on the investigation.
If you shop at Barnes & Noble, you might want to check if your location is on the list.
Alexandria, VA, tops Amazon’s list, with Richmond, VA, rounding out the list at #20. In between are, well, a lot of other cities, including my own current hometown, St. Louis, at #18.
Berkeley, CA, residents bought the most travel books, while Cambridge, MA, can boast the most entrepreneurs.