If you had to guess which president was being described in those words . . . would you guess George Washington?
Maybe not, but the real man, not the legend, is who Ron Chernow is said to describe in Washington, out on October 5. Though this is also the angle Joseph Ellis took in 2004's His Excellency, Penguin representatives say that Washington is both a "landmark biography" and a "fabulous read." Since, like Ellis, Chernow is one of America's foremost biographers—he won the National Book Award in 1990 for The House of Morgan, his first book—this is likely. But given the high, high volume of "Founding Fathers" biographies published in the last few years, is there anything new to say about Washington? We'll find out when the galleys arrive . . .
I had to smile when I noticed a deal for a book called Hold Me Closer Necromancer in a recent edition of Publisher's Lunch. Lish McBride, you have set the bar high for the title of the sequel, which was also sold to Henry Holt for Young Readers.
Since the book won't be appearing until fall, there's no cover art to share, but here's a plot summary from McBride's agent's website:
A Seattle fast-food worker discovers that he is a necromancer, exposing a supernatural world of harbingers, werewolves and satyrs and sets off a showdown with a local necromancer who makes his living raising dead celebrities and politician for cash.
As the week comes to a close, there have been a couple of news items about President Obama and books. On the 15th, the President made his tax returns public, and turns out he and Michelle earned $5.5 million in 2009—most of it from the sales of Dreams from my Father and The Audacity of Hope.
On Sunday, the Washington Post will run a story about U.S. Presidents and their book choices, and how reading shapes "policies and perceptions" (the story's already available online). As the health care battle escalated last month, Obama was quoted as saying, "We've been talking about health care for nearly a century. . . I'm reading a biography of Teddy Roosevelt right now. He was talking about it."
Talk about the President's books is nothing new. You may remember news outlets reporting Obama's reading list for his August vacation to Martha's Vineyard—Richard Price's Lush Life, Kent Haruf's Plainsong and others. Not long ago he sent fan mail to Yann Martel. Also, George W. Bush and Karl Rove were famous for having annual reading competitions, and Bill Clinton loved mysteries.
For fun, here's a video of Obama talking about a book that many of us love: Where the Wild Things Are. This is an excerpt from a 2007 speech he made to the American Library Association.
What interesting book blog posts have you read this week? Share in the comments. Here are some of my favorites. . .
The Top 100 Children's Novels Poll (#1-100)
Posted by Betsy Bird/A Fuse #8 Production
On Tuesday popular KidLit blogger Betsy Bird posted her complete list of the top 100 children's novels (based on a reader poll), with links to individual posts about each book. At BookPage, we had fun guessing the top 10 books and puzzling over why certain books were so high and others absent from the list. And the #1 spot goes to. . . you'll just have to click the link. (But here's a hint: "Some Pig.")
Newspaper Blackout Ode to Betsy-Tacy
Posted by Jennifer Hart/Book Club Girl
Inspired by Austin Kleon's Newspaper Blackout, Jennifer Hart at Book Club Girl created her own poem in honor of the Betsy-Tacy books:
The Betsy-Tacy books
follow the adventures of
no ordinary girl
torn between two young Lotharios
By the way, Newspaper Blackout was published on Tuesday. How cool is this book trailer?
Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark
Posted by Natalie/Book, Line and Sinker
I discovered this blog earlier in the week and have enjoyed the reviews, photos, links and overall organization—especially in this post about Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (long on my TBR list). Also check out this review of Wendy Burden's Dead End Gene Pool, which we featured in this morning's Book of the Day.
One positive side of the volcanic ash that's shutting down airports around Europe? Beautiful sunsets. Flickr recently blogged about a collection of images taken over the past few evenings, and I couldn't resist sharing the one below, since it has a literary angle. It was taken from Chesil Beach, Portsmouth, in the UK, where an unfortunate honeymoon takes place in Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach. Perhaps if Edward and Florence had had a sunset like this to admire, things would have turned out differently?
Way back in October, we posted about Fall of Giants, the first in Ken Follett's Century Trilogy, which sold for big bucks at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The novel is still set for a worldwide, one-day laydown on September 28, 2010.
At 1,000 pages, this is another big book for Follett fans. And the price tag of $36 is almost as hefty. Though we know retailers will probably be discounting this one, how much for a hardcover is too much? Would you pay $36 for a new release from your favorite author?
Related in BookPage: a Q&A with Follett about World Without End, the sequel to Pillars of the Earth
Yesterday the ALA released the top 10 list of most frequently challenged books. Lauren Myracle, the author of the "ttyl" YA series, topped the list. Since then, her twitter page has been abuzz with notes of congratulations! (She's in good company, since the list also includes two Pulitzer Prize winners, a National Book Award winner, a Printz winner and numerous mega-bestsellers.) This year is notable because Stephenie Meyer made the list for the first time.
How many of the challenged books have you read?
Click here to see the top 100 banned books from 2000-2009.
On Monday, Ann Patchett shared her love for libraries from a reader and author's point of view and yesterday we talked to Neil Gaiman about his role as Honorary Chair of National Library Week . Today, we hear from another perspective: a librarian!
In 2008, Laura Amy Schlitz won the Newbery Medal for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, and her latest book, The Night Fairy, was released in February. (Read an interview with Schlitz about the book.) Schlitz has another passion besides writing, though: her work as Lower School librarian at The Park School of Baltimore. Below, Schlitz tells us why physical books will always have a place in the library.
What makes a great school library?
A collection of magnificent books—plus some bad ones thrown in for variety—and impassioned readers: students, teachers and librarians.
What do you think of schools, like Cushing Academy in Massachusetts, that are getting rid of books in favor of digital-only libraries?
I don't know what factors caused the people at the Cushing Academy to consider such a drastic step. I can only assume that their reasons were compelling. But if someone wanted to get rid of the books at my school library, I'd throw a fit. I'd be screaming things like "short-sighted" and "criminal" and "the death of civilization." I'm 54-years old—not really the best time in life to turn to violence—but I imagine myself shrieking and gesticulating and standing in front of the shelves with my arms flung out.
Will there always be a place for physical books in the library?
Yes. I know that people are very worried about this just now. It's almost as if they expected a new order to be imposed overnight, against their will: NO MORE BOOKS. And yet I don't know one single person—including people who swear by their Kindles—who doesn't want there to be tangible, portable, non-electronic books. It's going to be up to us, after all—to the world of readers, and readers find reading a physical, as well as an intellectual pleasure. So long as we are unwilling to be deprived of that pleasure—and so long as we are willing to pay for books—publishers will continue to make books.
When people wag their heads and predict a bookless future, I'm reminded of my sixth-grade teacher, who told us to hold onto our twelve-inch rulers, because by the time we were in college, they would be obsolete, and worth money as antiques. I also remember being told that by the year 2000, there would be no real food; we would all be sucking nutritious paste out of tubes, like the astronauts. But people like real food, and people like books. I'm not saying that nothing will change—but I think we will always have books to cradle in our hands and read in the bathtub.
Do you have a favorite childhood memory of spending time in a library?
My memories are good, but there is no specific one that stands out. Every week, I searched the shelves for new books and old favorites. Every week, I walked out of the library with a stack of books so high that I had to steady it with my chin. I don't remember a single nasty librarian.
If you were trapped in a library overnight, how would you spend your time?
Talking to the ghosts, of course. All good libraries have ghosts.
I'm a few days late on this, but since National Library Week (and the magic of children's books) is on the brain, I think many of you will still appreciate the news.
Monday, April 12, was Beverly Cleary's 94th birthday. Every year, the date is commemorated as D.E.A.R. Day, which stands for Drop Everything and Read. In Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Ramona's class celebrates D.E.A.R. Day, and now schools and libraries all over the country host events.
I wanted the film to be called Ramona Quimby or Ramona Q, because it’s about a little girl, but the movie people were very concerned about their teenage audience and made Beezus older. They included Henry, which I did not want and even had them kiss. I asked to have that scene removed and at this point I don’t know if they did. I expect to get letters saying, “It wasn’t like that in the books.” The little girl who plays Ramona is excellent. She likes my books and was eager to play the part. I’m very pleased with the cinematic Ramona.
Has anyone participated in D.E.A.R Day? In elementary school, my favorite day of the year was read-a-thon, when we'd get to bring books, pillows, blankets and snacks and spend the entire day reading on the floor.
Related in BookPage: Read an interview with Beverly Cleary.
Neil Gaiman has long been on record as a fan of libraries, sometimes even calling himself a "feral child" raised by librarians among the stacks. So it should come as no surprise that the American Library Association chose Gaiman to be the Honorary Chair of this year's National Library Week. As both a librarian and a fan of Gaiman, I was thrilled to be able to interview him about National Library Week and what libraries have meant to him.
Neil Gaiman: I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t be the person that I am, I’m very very certain that without libraries I wouldn’t have the career that I have. I had a fairly decent local library, I used to get my parents to drop me off there on the summer holidays on their way to work, and I would just read my way through the children’s library and as an adult I would read my way through the adult library. I was much more selective in the adult library; in the children’s library I would just read everything: you know, start with the A's. . . . They had a wonderful subject index, like an old card index, I would go to that and I’d look up robots, or ghosts, or something, and it would list all the books they had, all the fiction works they had with robots or ghosts or whatever, and I would go and read them.
The school that I went to in Sussex as a young man had obviously—you could sort of tell when they’d had money for books. They’d definitely had a big batch of money in sometime around 1920. Nice big bequest, because they had an incredibly solid collection of Edwardian, late-Edwardian literature, people like Edgar Wallace and so forth. And then they’d got another batch of money in in the fifties, so there was, you know, lots of nice old hardback novels and the works of people like Baroness Orczy and so forth. But what was fascinating about that is it wasn’t until I was in my twenties and talking to academics that I discovered that I accidentally had a fairly encyclopedic knowledge of Edwardian popular fiction. I didn’t set out to have that.
I loved libraries when I was starting out as a young writer. The most valuable thing to me, in some ways, both valuable in terms of what I was doing with it and also valuable as a morale thing, was my British library card. I had a card to the British Library, which at that time was in the Reading Room of the British Museum, and I would go, and I would research whatever it was that I was trying to write there. And just the knowledge that I was in a place that—Karl Marx was here! All these people, and you could list the people who wrote or researched in the British Museum Reading Room, and going, I’m part of them.
I remember the joy as a small child, I would have been about nine or ten years old, of the interlibrary loan. I’d wanted to read a W.S. Gilbert play, and they didn’t have the plays of W.S. Gilbert, and the librarian explained to me they could do an interlibrary loan, because there was a library in the system that had this book. And the amount of power was so exciting. And after that I started doing interlibrary loans all the time, because—it was like nothing could stop me. I’d go up to them and I’d say, you know, “Alfred Hitchcock, The Three Investigators. You only have one book in the series, but it says on the jacket there are 29 of them. How do we get the rest of them?” And they’d say, “Well, there’s a library in London that has them”—“Good!” It was great.
KP: Do you have a favorite library?
NG: My very favorite library of all is fictional, because it’s the one that I made up in The Sandman. That’s the library of all the books that people dreamed of writing but never wrote, all the sequels that never happened, all that kind of thing.
KP: Do you remember what the first book was that you checked out of the library?
NG: I remember the first book I ever took home from a school library. It was an Enid Blyton book. Enid Blyton was a very odd English writer. She never caught on in America. She has very very little in the way of redeeming literary value, it’s all about the story. And she’s somebody who is almost unreadable when you are past her target age, which I find fascinating. To the point where, by the time you’re seven, it’s hard to go back and reread the Enid Blyton books you liked when you were three or four. But it was an Enid Blyton book, I think it was called The Book of Wonder, and it was just a bunch of short stories about elves and fairies and little animals all having misunderstandings. Lots of little evil wizards casting spells that then rebound on them terribly. So that would have been the first book. I remember the pride of taking it home and the terror that something awful might happen to it.
I think the first book that I remember taking out from the library, my local library, was a book called The Winter of Enchantment, by Victoria Walker. I’m pretty sure. And it was the kind of book that I remember just reading and reading and reading and reading and taking back to the library and then checking out again and taking home again.
KP: I think a lot of readers and writers have had that experience with libraries, taking it back only to take it out again.
NG: One of the sweetest things that any librarian ever said to me was a librarian from the Appalachians, and she was talking about how the Sandman books, they got through a lot of them because they went out and they didn’t come back. And I said something apologetic, and she said, “No no, it’s okay, because sometimes a book finds its person.” And she said, “And then I guess we don’t want it back.” And I thought that was so sweet.
KP: There’s been a lot of talk in the library world about the future of libraries: Do they have a future? How can they stay relevant? What do you think the future holds for libraries?
NG: For most of the human race, pretty much all of the lifespan of the human race, information was currency. Information was like gold. It was rare, it was hard to find, it was expensive. You could get your information, but you had to know where to go, you had to know what you were looking at, you had to know how to find your information. It was hard. And librarians were the key players in the battle for information, because they could go and get and bring back this golden nugget for you, the thing that you needed.
Over the last decade, which is less than a blink of an eye in the history of the human race, it’s all changed. And we’ve gone from a world in which there is too little information, in which information is scarce, to a world in which there is too much information, and most of it is untrue or irrelevant. You know, the world of the Internet is the world of information that is not actually so. It’s a world of information that just isn’t actually true, or if it is true, it’s not what you needed, or it doesn’t actually apply like that, or whatever. And you suddenly move into a world in which librarians fulfill this completely different function.
We’ve gone from looking at a desert, in which a librarian had to walk into the desert for you and come back with a lump of gold, to a forest, to this huge jungle in which what you want is one apple. And at that point, the librarian can walk into the jungle and come back with the apple. So I think from that point of view, the time of librarians, and the time of libraries—they definitely haven’t gone anywhere.
In other ways, we’re in a time of economic difficulty. Libraries are the best place to go to start getting information. They’re the place where most Americans who do not have Internet access go to get Internet access. And we’re in a world now in which jobs are applied for online, jobs are advertised online. You need to be able to know which social services to connect to, you need to know how to retrain, you need information, and all of that information—the focal point for it is your library. So from my perspective, libraries are as important as they have ever been, and they may be more important than they have ever been.
KP: In American Gods you expanded on the idea that there are gods and spirits everywhere in our world, not just in temples but in places like roadside attractions, and so I wondered if you had any thoughts about what kind of gods or spirits might live in libraries.
NG: I have no idea, but I do know that I’d like them. There’s a wonderful kindred spiritry of the library, people who like being in libraries, people who are comforted by books, people who like being around the ideas of the departed. And I know that whatever gods or spirits are in libraries, they’re my kind of people.