Archive for books

The Book Booth: A Midsummer Edition


Book Hammock

Image: The Daily Mail

Baseball's mid-season classic is over with the American League prevailing and marking (sort of) the half season mark. The summer days seem sweetly long. And temptation lures us to sit under a tree, or on a bench with a book in hands, transporting us to other worlds and times. Summertime, oh, yes.

Earlier this week a memoir by Marja Mills concerning the author Harper Lee and titled The Mockingbird Next Door was released. And to quite a bit of controversy. Although not quite as reclusive as, say, Thomas Pynchon, Ms. Lee does keep to herself. And she is not happy with this book.  More here.

But not so fast, says Ms. Mills. Both Harper Lee and her sister Alice knew that a book about them was in the works and both Ms. Mills and her publisher, Penguin Press, stand by the book.

The whole affair opens up other, old, controversies. Did Harper Lee, who has published only one book in her life, really write Mockingbird, or did her friend Truman Capote have a hand, maybe a heavy hand, in its composition? Frankly, anyone who has ever read Capote and Mockingbird shouldn't have any doubts. To Kill a Mockingbird reads NOTHING like a Capote story or novel. That he may have made a suggestion or two, sure. The folks over at LiberaLand have this take on the whole can of worms here. H/T to Lucian! Harper Lee: You Don't Know Me.

That authors, like Capote and Lee, should seek each others company and advice shouldn't be any surprise. Literary history has many such examples and Claire Fallon at HuffPo examines a few of them here.  Author Friendships

The world being such as it is, and because we all need a chuckle from time to time, Jason Diamond has put together a list of 25 books that will make you laugh out loud. There are some missing here....

Which the staff at Publishers Weekly makes up for with this list that includes both James Thurber and Catch-22.  PW's Funny Book Staff Picks.

Fortunately, humor is not a verboten area for writers. At least not yet. But are there still taboos in the world of publishing and subject matter. Francine Prose and James Parker ponder the question at the New York Times.  The Last Literary Taboos.

As a kid, I was much more of a DC comics guy. I liked Superman, Batman, the Flash, Green Lantern. All those guys. But once I exhausted the monthly issues of those super-heroes, I would catch up on Riverdale's own Archie Andrews and wonder what did he ever see in Veronica. Alas, Archie has grown up and is scheduled for a noble death, saving the life of his best friend.

On a sadder note, the South African novelist and Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer passed away this week at age 90. The Guardian had this appreciation of both her life and her work here.

And to top of this fine summer day's post, and for those of us taking a staycation this year, take a gander at this list from Eilsabeth Donnelly at Flavorwire detailing a non-fiction tour of the US of A with an eclectic and delightful selection of books.

Enjoy your day in the sun and please let us know what you are reading these days. We'd love to hear from you.


The Book Booth: Fifth of July Edition



The Book Booth is a weekly feature at The Political Carnival, relating news, notes, and reflections from the world of books and publishing. SeattleDan, along with his wife, SeattleTammy, are operators of both an on-line bookstore, as well a brick and mortar in small town Washington State. Both have been in the book business since shortly after the Creation, or close to 6000 years now.

I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday yesterday with magnificent pyrotechnic displays and that your eardrums are not shattered, there were no cinders in your eyes and that you ended the day with as many digits as you began the day with.

It being a holiday weekend, I'm sure many of you may be heading to the beach to soak some rays. In our little town, not far from the ocean, we are seeing a lot of RVs and surfboards as the tourists pass through. And I'd think many of them have reading material with them. The beach read is now a long tradition, as MentalFloss points out. And it is nice to see the all-too forgotten Ring Lardner appear on the shortlist. Beach Reads From 100 Years Ago

The busy folks at MentalFloss also picked the most favorite novels set in all the states. They ask if you agree or not. For my state, they picked Twilight, which takes place about 100 miles north of us. I'd hate to think that title is representative of the great state of Washington. I might have gone with something by Tom Robbins (pick one). At least something without vampires with angst. Most Famous Book Set In Each State

I learned long ago that an author may not copyright a title. If I so wished, I could write a novel and title it Gone with the Wind if I so chose. Not that I would. I'd go with Treasure Island or The Great Gatsby, or something I liked better. It seems that duplicate titles are something of a problem and the Guardian asks if writers are running out of titles.

Maybe decisions about titles are a matter of writers block. Andrew Lewis Conn, who has recently published a novel O Africa, a title I have not seen used before, suggested seven ways to get past the tyranny of the blank page. How To Get Past Writer's Block

Or you could go with Brian Eno's whimsical and fun Oblique Strategies.

For those of you looking for new and off-the-beaten path books, you might want to take a look at the New York Times' article on new and young African authors. Africa seems to be going into a literary renaissance that only the post-colonial scholars have been aware of.

SeattleTammy and I are regular users of our local library. Ours is staffed by some fine and knowledgable librarians and it is always a delight to browse the shelves. The folks at Pew recently conducted a survey on library usage and discovered some interesting facts about them. It would seem most people think libraries are a good thing! Even if they don't use them much.

Finally, are you stuck at home? Not going to the beach or your local cafe to take in the ambience? You could be dreaming about going to one of these places and luxuriate in a book-friendly world. Via BuzzFeed. Places Bookworms Would Rather Be Right Now

Have a great weekend, enjoy yourselves and please let us know what you've pulled off the bookshelf to enjoy.


Bill Clinton Death Wish: To Die For Hillary



Well, when you're an author with inside connections, you will sometimes shine a light on some amazing stories. And today was no exception over at Fox News. Among the highlights was an interview with author Ed Klein, reported on by Raw Story:

"An author who Fox News hosts insisted had “impeccable” sources told the network on Tuesday that former President Bill Clinton had considered using his own death to help Hillary Clinton win the presidency.

That's some pretty big news. Sourcing is important if you're going to make claims like that.

Host Steve Doocy reiterated that Klein’s “sources are impeccable,” and that he had even talked to the household help after one of the Obamas’ vacations at Martha’s Vineyard.

Talking to the household staff after a vacation stay does sound pretty impeccable. I'm sure the Clintons felt comfortable revealing everything to strangers who were making their beds and doing their dishes.

Let's dig a little deeper and take a look at Ed Klein's bona fides. He's a previous author on the Clintons with his 2005 book, The Truth About Hillary, which was panned by critics for being “poorly researched, poorly written, poorly sourced.”

In that explosive expose of a book, Klein suggested that Hillary Clinton was a lesbian and that she was raped by then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton (D) when they conceived their daughter Chelsea. Now you can see where the 'poorly researched, poorly written, poorly sourced' label comes from.

Letting you decide the accuracy of those claims, let's look at Klein's  latest revelations. First Bill Clinton, upon being told he has a progressive heart disease was actually quite happy on two fronts. First, he thought "progressive" meant liberal (the author's way of making a joke). But secondly he felt good about his passing because of what it could mean for Hillary.

“And he’s discussed with Hillary, according to people who were in the room with them when he did it, what would happen if he died,” Klein said. “What should Hillary do? And what is said is, ‘Hillary, you should put on widow’s weeds, dress in black, and it would be worth a couple of million votes.”

This is all too delicious just to read.You gotta see it to believe it. The most amazing thing to remember is that just yesterday the hosts had been skeptical of Klein's assertions. What turned them around? See for yourself:


The Book Booth: June is Here Edition


Fox affiliate wants you to know that Maya Angelou will not be in Houston today.

The Book Booth is a weekly feature at The Political Carnival, relating news, notes, and reflections from the world of books and publishing. SeattleDan, along with his wife, SeattleTammy, are operators of both an on-line bookstore, as well a brick and mortar in small town Washington State. Both have been in the book business since shortly after the Creation, or close to 6000 years now.

It was quite a week in the world of books. Foremost, we lost one of America's great literary lights in the passing of Maya Angelou, whose works will endure. The New York Times had this appreciation which is well worth your time: Maya Angelou

USA Today featured these quotes from Ms. Angelou as well as some other links about her life and work.

In much happier news, LaVar Burton has begun a Kickstarter campaign to revive Reading Rainbow, and it seems to have been very successful, and something of which I'm sure Maya Angelou would have approved. Check out his video here, and for some of you of a certain age, it just might bring a tear to your eyes.

Still in search for books to read this summer? The New Republic has some interesting selections. And any list that include Haruki Murakami can't be all bad.

If there are books you've missed in the past that you've been meaning to get to, BuzzFeed has these suggestions for Summer reading, including some short novels like Death in Venice or The Lover, all worthwhile reading.

If your tastes are more literary, Claire Fallon at HuffPo has a list of some fine younger writers you could check out here.

You may want to add Hilary Clinton's new memoir Hard Choices to your reading list. The book will be published on June 10th and deals in the main with her years as the Secretary of State. She will also be doing an author tour (which can be pretty grueling) and some signings. USA Today suggests that this could be step one for her in the 2016 campaign.

John Dickerson at Slate had these thoughts on the memoir, and does see the book as part of a campaign launch. Dickerson Slate article.

Perhaps you loved a book in the past and wish there had been more. MentalFloss has a list of sequels you may not have known existed, and to which you can add to your summer reading. Though you wont catch me reading any sequels to GWTW. Life is too short.

Hey, maybe that Tory government in England isn't so American-Friendly! Ari Shapiro at NPR has this story of three American works now dropped from the curriculum, including To Kill a Mockingbird. Harumph! I say.

Here is yet another BuzzFeed quiz for you. It asks how many of the listed 99 titles you have read. But the really cool thing about this quiz has to be the original dust jacket art! Take a gander.

Our weekend forecast here is for splendid weather for our little town, and I hope you have the same. Read lots and by all means, tell us what books you are enjoying.


The Book Booth: Meteor Show Edition


book Meteor Shower

The Book Booth is a weekly feature at The Political Carnival, relating news, notes, and reflections from the world of books and publishing. SeattleDan, along with his wife, SeattleTammy, are operators of both an on-line bookstore, as well a brick and mortar in small town Washington State. Both have been in the book business since shortly after the Creation, or close to 6000 years now.

For those of us lucky enough to have clear skies this weekend, we may (or may not) be in for a big treat as the Camelopardalid (phew) showers will strew the evening skies. Of course, having read Day of the Triffids, and watched the movie, these events always worry me a bit. So be careful, if you do go out to watch the skies.

Dystopian futures have become a big staple in both young adult and adult fiction these days. Sarah Ang at Mashable suggest, however, that there may be some good works out there that are not so reliant on what has become formula writing. Read their thoughts here.

There was some great news for J.R.R. Tolkien fans this week as it was discovered that a reel-to-reel tape of a speech that he made to some Danish fans in the late 1950's has been unearthed. The details were posted here at HuffPo.

In the Irony is not Dead Department, it seems that Edward St. Aubyn's novel Lost for Words, a book that mocks literary prizes, has one an award for best comic novel. NPR has the story here.

In other good news, it seems the short-story is not only alive and kicking, but thriving. We love good short stories. Currently I am waiting for SeattleTammy to finish up a collection by musician Ry Cooder entitled LA Stories, published a couple of years ago. Sam Baker at the Telegraph has a good essay on the genre, with suggestions of good collections from the past and some contemporary writers to look out for.

Then again, there is the sub-genre of literary fraud. I remember well the controversy surrounding Clifford Irving's "autobiography" of Howard Hughes in the early 1970's. Unfortunately for Irving, Hughes was still alive and denied any involvement. But there are others as well, as the CBC notes here.

Then there are authors who feel that they have perpetuated frauds on their readers and disown their own works. io9 has ten such authors. And I'd agree, Ian Fleming's The Spy Who Loved Me, does pretty much suck.

If a writer does plan on committing fraud or a hoax, it might be best to adopt a pen name. There is fine literary tradition in doing so; witness Boz, George Eliot or George Orwell. Jonathan Wray at the New Yorker had these observations on the use of the pseudonym.

Some writers do not go gentle into the good night. It is good to see Larry McMurtry out there, alive and kicking, and featured in this Grantland article.

A new documentary movie, Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia, is soon to be released. Salon has a very interesting article on Vidal's career as writer and public intellectual, highlighting many of the contradictions in his life and attitudes.

With the long weekend ahead of us, we should find time to do some reading and Flavorwire has some handy suggestions for doing so in style and comfort.

Please enjoy your days off and let us know what's good in your pile of books!


Book Booth: Getting Ready for Summer Edition.



The Book Booth is a weekly feature at The Political Carnival, relating news, notes, and reflections from the world of books and publishing. SeattleDan, along with his wife, SeattleTammy, are operators of both an on-line bookstore, as well a brick and mortar in small town Washington State. Both have been in the book business since shortly after the Creation, or close to 6000 years now.

It is the weekend once again and a good time to dream about summer vacation. I've posted several travel ideas the past couple of weeks, but Buzzfeed has come up with more places to consider. Or consider them all. Summer Vacation Travel Destinations

Of course some of us just wont be able to travel this summer and will be having staycations (I think I don't really like that word). Author Emma Straub at Publishers Weekly has some ideas on books to read while you stay at home.

With summer coming soon, many of us think about grilling. And then grilling some more. For this summer, you might want to consider this handy book for your BBQ needs.

For folks looking for a good read this weekend, Shane Parrish at The Week makes the argument for staying off the bestseller grid. There are book delights out there that don't make lists. (And apparently Mr. Parrish has discovered the 25th hour of the day and says he read 161 book last year. Color me envious.) Here's the list.

One anomaly on current bestseller lists is Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century, The Report on income inequality. I haven't read it, but I don't doubt its importance. Thomas Frank had this assessment at Salon and suggests one major lacunae in its analysis. The Labor Union. Read about Thomas Piketty's Capital here.

In this week's cautionary tales, be careful what celebrities you choose to use in any particular novel you happen to be writing this weekend. And certainly don't think of Scarlett Johansson, who gets easily pissed off.

Then there are writers who enjoy appearing on the silver screen. MentalFloss has 25 such examples. A couple that were left off the list include E.L. Doctorow in Robert Altman's Buffalo Bill and the Indians (Altman was the original pick to direct Ragtime, but replaced by Milos Forman) and Dennis Lehane who appears waving to the crowd in the parade that ends Clint Eastwood's film version of Mystic River.

In our search for great book cover art, the Shortlist offered up their 50 coolest jackets. And they are pretty cool.

My hope is that the art of reading is not a lost cause, but after perusing this article from HuffPo, I begin to wonder.

Maybe our hopes for better readers resides in the generations to come. Daniel Dalton gives us some, well, interesting reviews of contemporary young adult fiction over here at Buzzfeed.

Have a magnificent weekend and please let us know what


The Book Booth: Mothers Day Edition



The Book Booth is a weekly feature at The Political Carnival, relating news, notes, and reflections from the world of books and publishing. SeattleDan, along with his wife, SeattleTammy, are operators of both an on-line bookstore, as well a brick and mortar in small town Washington State. Both have been in the book business since shortly after the Creation, or close to 6000 years now.

A Happy Mothers Day to all our fine readers. Either you are a mother or you have a mother, (or both) and fine reasons for celebration. And, remember, books make great gifts for moms everywhere.

We are still observing the 450th birthday of the Bard of Avon and recently The Millions asked five Shakespeare experts what they thought was his greatest play. The scholars came up with some interesting answers and make compelling arguments for their choices. They are all wrong, of course. Not one picked The Tempest, Shakespeare's most mature and poetic play. You can find the expert choices here.

It is May and while the Derby has already been run, the Preakness and Belmont are coming up. Mothers Day is Sunday. Memorial Day isn't too far ahead. So you might want to start making your Summer vacation travel plans. With the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Grapes of Wrath, you may want to consider Steinbeck country. Monterey is a beautiful locale and there is much to see there. (HT to Lucian for finding this one).

If travel sparks the imagination, perhaps you may want to read about some adventurous travelers. Mary Miller at Publishers Weekly listed her favorite road novels and, oddly, Kerouac doesn't make the list. L. Frank Baum does.

Visiting foreign lands has its intrigue as well and perhaps there is no more intriguing city in Europe than Berlin. Rory MacLean recently offered his top ten Berliners in literature over at the Guardian.

Of course London can be quite lovely this time of year and Buzzfeed has twelve literary locales book lovers will enjoy.

If armchair travels into the past is your cup of tea, you wont need Wells' time machine to do so. Here are some suggestions from the Telegraph and its top 15 great works of Classical literature.

If you've been thinking of venturing into the realm of graphic novels, Brie Hiramine at Flavorwire believes these 25 titles to be essential. I haven't read all these myself, but I do highly recommend Persepolis, V for Vendetta and Maus, all richly imagined and well worth your time.

Ah, the aroma of old books! Here are some great quotes about being surrounded by musty volumes of lore and wisdom.

The New York Times Book Review recently took on the question of whether literary critics could make good novelists as well. It is an interesting question and I have no firm opinion myself. Susan Sontag's name comes up in both responses and while I admire her fiction, I do tend to remember her criticism with more admiration.

Sadly the news came this week of the passing of the splendid Canadian author Farley Mowat at age 92. His Never Cry Wolf had a profound influence on my attitudes about nature (and nature writing). The CBC has this remembrance.

A Happy Mothers Day to everyone. I will remember my mother who was a voracious reader and nurtured my love of books and reading this weekend. Please let us know what books you've got piled up and are enjoying!