#Whyiread is trending right now on Twitter*, and I've enjoyed reading the varied responses (not surprisingly, many have to do with escape—from a bad day, where you live, ignorance).
A big reason I was excited to see this hashtag is that I've had a "why I read" quote dog-eared for months, just waiting for a rainy day when I think someone needs reminding about, well, why we all read.
From Curtis Sittenfeld's American Wife, first published in 2008:
Oh, how different my life would have been had I not grown up in the same house with my grandmother, how much narrower and blander! She was the reason I was a reader, and being a reader was what made me most myself; it had given me the gifts of curiosity and and sympathy, an awareness of the world as an odd and vibrant and contradictory place, and it had made me unafraid of its oddness and vibrancy and contradictions.
Why do you read? Tell Twitter—then come back and tell us if you can't explain it in 140 characters or less.
*If you don't have a Twitter page, you can still read people's #whyiread answers here.
In the wake of Franzenfreude and the literary prize season, everyone seems to be talking about what it means to be a female novelist. This week, two British papers posed the question to two novelists—Lionel Shriver and Curtis Sittenfeld—and got some interesting answers.
Curtis Sittenfeld told the Guardian, in an interview about American Wife, "I think in general, novels by men tend to be taken more seriously than novels by women. But I also think that novels being taken seriously is kind of a nebulous concept. I mean, what does that mean? Getting multiple reviews in the New York Times? Personally, I have never wished I were a male novelist."
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Shriver's piece in the Independent is, characteristically, a bit more provocative. In an essay written partly as a response to her acceptance of an invitation to read at an all-female literary conference ("I confess that I accepted the invitation to appear in this festival before I realised it was an all-female line-up," she writes. "Had I known, I'd not necessarily have declined the invite, but I'd certainly not have been any more inclined to say yes."), Shriver goes on to admit that she sometimes has trouble including female writers when asked to name her favorites, in part because "The big names in the literary pantheon are repeated over and over again. . . . [I]n the glare of a spotlight and frantic to remember any author's name at all, even women like me are going to remember Philip Roth – just as, asked to name a soft drink, I'm going to remember Coca-Cola. Advertising works."
But she also suggests—with a few caveats—that there's another problem: "contemporary female authors tend to write books, not B-list exactly, but A-. There are wonderful exceptions to this little markdown, many in my personal all-female pantheon above, but they are too few."
As someone who reads and loves many female authors, including Sittenfeld and Shriver, I'm not 100% sure I believe that assertion. (An oversimplification, but I found myself identifying with a comment from 1maia asserting that "Most american men write about being rich but bored and shagging their friend's wife, which i can neither relate to nor find interesting.") Readers, what do you have to say?
Yesterday we posted about a big deal for a post-apocalyptic novel—today I wanted to mention this deal for writer Benjamin Percy, whose first novel The Wilding "speaks of an author with many more tricks up his sleeve," according to BookPage reviewer Jillian Quint. Previously published with Greywolf Press, Percy has sold "a timely reinvention of the werewolf myth set in the American West" to Grand Central. The book is tentatively titled Red Moon.
In an interview with Powells, Percy says he will be turning the manuscript in next month.
It's a literary-genre-hybrid-mash-up — so no compromises with the language, but it's a horror story. . . . I had 90 polished pages by the end of the summer, and a 20-page pitch. My agent sent it off after Labor Day. And on Monday, crazily, these huge preempt offers came in. Then it went to auction on Wednesday, and a bidding war ensued for six hours.
One of the features in the October print edition of BookPage has officially become our most controversial piece of all time, drawing three whole angry emails. The response to the article "Going to the dogs: Life lessons from our furry friends" indicates that the dog memoir backlash has begun.
Apparently dogs are disgusting and heartless:
"Life lessons from furry friends"? Give me a break. I despise these "what can we learn from animals" books. Rose-colored glasses nonsense. How about the stupid and gross stuff pets do? Like pooping in public, humping in public, latching on to any idiot who feeds them, barking at the mail carrier, and losing interest in their offspring as soon as the lactation hormones wear off?
What's with all these dog memoir books?? What's with the "life lessons learned from dogs"? They're just dumb dogs for crying out loud! Mere dogs have been turned into a sort of religion, complete with testmonial books! Gee, move over Jesus, a butt-sniffing turd eater has replaced you!
Enough already with dog books. What's next, "What I Learned about Life from Scooping My Dog's Poop"??
(In defense of our piece, I would like to note that my grandmother called to tell me she enjoyed it.)
A few weeks ago I blogged about the "summer slide"—the learning loss that sometimes occurs in children during summer break—because a professor at the University of Tennessee has found that giving low income kids access to books during the summer can decrease the learning gap. Several media outlets have reported on this study (we cited an article from the Christian Science Monitor) and now the New York Times is weighing in.
Tara Parker-Pope (author of the just-published For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage, reviewed in the June issue of BookPage) begins her Health column with a provocative question: "Has your child cracked a book this summer?"
Her advice is to allow your kids to choose their own books.
“A child’s interests are a door into the room of reading,” said Ms. Galinsky [president of the Families and Work Institute], who said her own son turned away from books during grade school. Because he liked music, she encouraged him to read music magazines or books about musicians. Her son later regained an interest in reading and has a Ph.D.
“If your child is turned off by reading, getting them to read anything is better than nothing,” she said.
If you've got some time to kill online, or you'd like to join an interesting conversation about the impact of books, follow the "books that changed my life" thread on Twitter. (I'd say, at this moment, people are responding via Twitter at a a rate of about 5 tweets a minute.)
All you have to do is click here and read the tweets, all marked with the #booksthatchangedmylife hashtag. (And, if you have a twitter page, tweet your own response!)
Publishers, book bloggers and readers everywhere are getting into it, and answers range from classic novels to reference texts to picture books.
If you're not into tweeting, feel free to leave your answer in the comments right here on The Book Case.
Update: #booksthatchangedmyworld is also a popular topic on Twitter.
Speaking of bloggers (thanks again, Rebecca!) -- news recently broke of a big book deal for The Bloggess, aka Jenny Lawson. Jenny will write Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir ("Little House on the Prairie, but with more cursing," according to Publisher's Marketplace) for Amy Einhorn Books.
Do you read The Bloggess, or any of her columns ("Ask the Bloggess," "Goodmom/Badmom," "Sexis Funny")? Will you check out her memoir?
If you had to make a prediction, which blog will become the next book deal?
If these covers are any indication, we're going to be starting at the backs of a lot of people's heads this fall.
At least this brunette beauty is letting her locks flow free! Probably because she's an unconventional woman for her time, just like Cleopatra. The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove (Crown, August) is the second novel from Susan Gregg Gilmore, and it's set in Nashville! We're looking forward to giving it a read.
No one does "wistful" like an Anita Shreve heroine, and this photograph evokes that emotion perfectly. It's possible that Shreve's novels kicked off this back-of-the-head trend; her last book, A Change in Altitude, featured this motif as well.
And last but not least, a debut novel about a ballerina, Russian Winter (Morrow, September). Her chignon is lovely, but the low back on her top (leotard?) combined with the backwards necklace is giving me an Exorcist flashback.
Have you noticed this trend? Do these covers spark your imagination, make you curious or set a mood? Or would you rather see a person's face on the cover of your book?
One of the most time-tested ways of generating reader interest is asking a question (and yes, we're guilty of it at this blog!). Lately we at BookPage have noticed some doozies leading off the back cover copy of a few soon-to-be-released novels, and we have a question of our own: given a book's cover and title, can you guess which question it promises to answer? Share your score—or your favorite flap copy question—in the comments.
Publishers are always looking for innovative ways to promote books, and it seems that Sarah Mlynowski has found a winning idea to spread the word about Gimme a Call, a teen novel about a high school senior whose phone can only call her freshman self.
First, Mlynowski tweeted, Ever wonder what YA authors would tell their high school selves? (If they had magic cell phones that could call the past?) #gimmeacall.
And over the next few days she posted follow-up tweets ("What @sarazarr would tell her high school self: You are NOT FAT. You will be, but you're not now, so enjoy it. #gimmeacall") and the concept went viral. In the last week, Mlynowski has contributed essays to the Huffington Post and Publisher's Weekly about the #gimmeacall phenomenon, and today—the book's pub date—the trend is still going strong. (Just search #gimmeacall on Twitter.)
I became familiar with Gimme a Call when Emily Booth Masters gave it a great review in BookPage, writing:
Sarah Mlynowski’s Gimme a Call is chick lit for teens, but the focus on a very pertinent life lesson makes it more than just a fun read. Readers will think about their own past mistakes in a new light as they see what can happen when the present is informed by the future.