Book Reviews

Highbrow literature prize to get a $$$ makeover

JET spotted a Guardian Piece on the James Tait Black Memorial Prizes.They say outside the world of the highbrow literary cognoscenti, few have heard of the awards, despite the fact that they are the UK's oldest and, many would argue, most prestigious. Now one man armed with a grand vision and a plan to increase the prize money fivefold is aiming to take them out of the shadows.

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Are literature prizes good for fiction?

JET sent over Eyes on the prizes from The Guardian Books Section. They say Like acting, writing novels is a profession in which not to be very successful is to be very unsuccessful.
Ninety per cent of fiction is crap and deserves no medals. But 90% of everything is crap. In the top non-crap tier, the novel is the only place nowadays where one is likely to find any grown-up discussion of race. In America, that discussion is conducted by writers such as Tom Wolfe (bronze), Philip Roth (silver) and Toni Morrison (gold).

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The origin of book reviews

The origin of book reviews is from The Scotsman archive, in 1879. "THE newspaper book reviewers in 1879 had no time for frivolous literature. Included with the extracts below were ponderous comments on socialism, the elements of dynamics and a student’s commentary on the Bible."

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The Da Vinci Crock

The Noisy Librarian writes "Salon.com provides a scathing indictment of the popular novel, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown:

'A cozy situation for Brown, but it became somewhat less so recently when, in the U.K., a lawsuit was filed against him for "breach of copyright of ideas and research." The complainants, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, are the coauthors, with Henry Lincoln, of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," a bestseller from the early 1980s. Virtually all the bogus history in "The Da Vinci Code" -- nearly everything, in other words, that today's readers' find so electrifying in Brown's novel -- is lifted from "Holy Blood, Holy Grail."'

The site requires membership, but you can get a day pass by watching a short ad. Hey, at least you don't have to surrender your address or birth year!"

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A librarian saves books from bombs

Anonymous Patron writes "A librarian saves books from bombs is a book review of "Alia's Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq" by Mark Alan Stamaty. In 2003, after the United States and its allies invaded Iraq, the National Museum in Baghdad was looted and many ancient art treasures were lost. But in the weeks leading up to the invasion, a different kind of treasure was saved, thanks to a heroic effort spearheaded by an Iraqi woman."

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Last-minute shopping ideas

teaperson writes "The Christian Science Monitor reviews two games for book-lovers: Booktastic, and Trivial Pursuit Book Lover's Edition."

Am I the only one who needs to go shopping or risk sleeping on the couch for the remainder of the year?

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Humor Books to Combat the SAD Season

A very chipper Nancy Pearl tells NPR's Steve Inskeep about some of her favorite books to brighten up what might be a dark part of the season (winter solstice arrives on December 21st). Her list and a click to listen button here.

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Forthcoming Children's Book: The Librarian of Basra

Author/illustrator Jeanette Winters and publisher Harcourt will soon be releasing a picture book based on a true story; about a librarian in Basra Iraq who at the outbreak of war saved books by putting them into hiding.

The real librarian, Alia Muhammad Baker, now hopes with the help of the publisher to put a portion of the funds to use rebuilding the destroyed library. Story from Bookselling This Week.

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Where do bestsellers lists come from?

How do newspapers and magazines compile their bestseller lists? The New York Times' seems to rely more on brick-and-mortar stores, whereas USA Today's might emphasize mass merchants and non-bookstore outlets. Since newspapers' statistical methods are confidential, it's hard to know for certain. The Washington Post explains how bestseller lists are born and why they don't always agree with each other. [BugMeNot] (via)

(Note: none of the BugMeNot logins seem to work. If you don't have your own, try going in via Romenesko [left hand bar])

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NYT: Raucous New Novel, "The Librarian"

Blake first gave us an inkling of this story last Thursday in which the NYT Times reviewer mentioned that "librarians were soon to go the way of blacksmiths and town criers, their chosen field made obsolete by Internet search engines and self-perpetuating electronic databases".

The Sunday New York Times Book Review (now online) has Neil Genzlinger's take on Larry Beinhart's new novel, ''The Librarian,'' in which a "Dewey decimal doofus" holds in his hands nothing less than the fate of the free world. By the author who brought us "American Hero", the novel that became the film "Wag the Dog", Beinhart's latest is also a take-off on a current U.S. President, a certain "Augustus Winthrop Scott" --a man from a privileged family, with a dubious record of National Guard service and rich and powerful business backers. Hmmm.

The book involves a plot in which the incumbent puts into place a "steal the election" plan after he loses a debate and a lot of voter support.

Genzlinger says of the book "The story is outlandish fun, but it carries with it a serious critique of the electoral process, the American power structure and the real-life conduct of both President Bush and the news media." Here's the review.

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