Book Reviews

BookReviews

How Amazon’s team of old-school book reviewers influences what we read

In a company driven by engineers and run by algorithms and metrics, Amazon’s small group of book editors is an anomaly of sorts. But through the Amazon Book Review and other methods, it’s trying to build Amazon’s presence and influence in the world of literary culture.
From How Amazon’s team of old-school book reviewers influences what we read | The Seattle Times

Robert Dawson's Photographs of America's Public Libraries

His subjects are as diverse as the places they serve. There is a one-room “free library” shack in California’s San Joaquin Valley, then the polished marble floors of Chicago’s hangar-sized central branch. There are stately Carnegie Libraries, glassy modern edifices by Koolhaas and Safdie, strip-mall outposts, and steel-sided bookmobiles. The photographs are mainly architectural, but there are moving interior shots as well. In San Francisco, a grown woman learns to read. Visitors browse Chinese-language books in Queens. “Tool librarians” lend out hammers and clamps in Berkeley. And in towns large and small, oil-painted heroes of U.S. history peer over readers’ shoulders.
From Robert Dawson's Photographs of America's Public Libraries - CityLab

LitHub Launches Book Marks, a Rotten Tomatoes for Books

“Book Marks will help readers find books they will love by giving them access to the critical discourse that is an essential part of our ecosystem,” LitHub executive editor John Freeman said in an announcement. The book reviews come from over 70 outlets—when a book garners more than three reviews, they are aggregated on the site. The Book Marks staff assigns letter grades based on the criticism, which are then published as an average score.
From LitHub Launches Book Marks, a Rotten Tomatoes for Books | | Observer
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The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu

JOSHUA HAMMER’S new book, “The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu”, traces the story of hundreds of thousands of medieval texts as they are rescued in 2012 from near-destruction by jihadists linked to al-Qaeda in Mali. It is at once a history, caper and thriller, featuring a superherolibrarian, Abdel Kader Haidara, as the saviour of an entire culture’s heritage.
From Paper trail | The Economist
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Rethinking Knowledge in the Internet Age

This would be a source of pure despair if the internet were not also enabling us to see that before it existed we never agreed about anything either. Before the net, what we read and saw was so tightly controlled by cartels of well-intentioned professionals that dissenting voices were barely heard. True, many of those dissenting voices were wrong and sometimes they were spouting lunacy, but we marginalized all but the one percent of the epistemically privileged. We achieved great science but at a high price throughout the rest of the cultural landscape, and sometimes within science, too. This fragmentation of knowledge is a fact that knowledge cannot overcome. How, then, do we best live with it? How do we flourish now that we can’t reason ourselves back together?
From Rethinking Knowledge in the Internet Age - Los Angeles Review of Books

How Shakespeare Lives Now

Shakespeare’s death on April 23, 1616, went largely unremarked by all but a few of his immediate contemporaries. There was no global shudder when his mortal remains were laid to rest in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. No one proposed that he be interred in Westminster Abbey near Chaucer or Spenser (where his fellow playwright Francis Beaumont was buried in the same year and where Ben Jonson would be buried some years later). No notice of Shakespeare’s passing was taken in the diplomatic correspondence of the time or in the newsletters that circulated on the Continent; no rush of Latin obsequies lamented the “vanishing of his breath,” as classical elegies would have it; no tributes were paid to his genius by his distinguished European contemporaries. Shakespeare’s passing was an entirely local English event, and even locally it seems scarcely to have been noted.
From How Shakespeare Lives Now by Stephen Greenblatt | The New York Review of Books
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Bill Gates: The Billionaire Book Critic

"For years, Mr. Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft who now focuses on the philanthropic work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, had been scribbling notes in the margins of books he was reading and then emailing recommendations to friends and colleagues. Then he began to post these recommendations and critiques on the blog. “A few years ago I started thinking it would be fun to share some of these notes with the public...” Mr.

Bill Gates: The Billionaire Book Critic

For years, Mr. Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft who now focuses on the philanthropic work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, had been scribbling notes in the margins of books he was reading and then emailing recommendations to friends and colleagues.

Then he began to post these recommendations and critiques on the blog. “A few years ago I started thinking it would be fun to share some of these notes with the public,” Mr. Gates wrote in a recent email interview. “I have always loved reading and learning, so it is great if people see a book review and feel encouraged to read and share what they think online or with their friends.”

From Bill Gates: The Billionaire Book Critic - The New York Times

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A History of Punctuation for the Internet Age

Does knowing that history make seeing the outdated usage today less irritating? Maybe, maybe not—but it is interesting. “Language is for everybody,” Crystal said. “Human beings, homo loquens, the speaking animal. I’ve never met anybody who isn’t profoundly interested in language.”

From A History of Punctuation for the Internet Age - The New Yorker

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The Best Books I Read in 2015 | Bill Gates

I just looked over the list of books I read this year, and I noticed a pattern. A lot of them touch on a theme that I would call “how things work.” Some explain something about the physical world, like how steel and glass are used, or what it takes to get rid of deadly diseases. Others offer deep insights into human beings: our strengths and flaws, our capacity for lifelong growth, or the things we value. I didn’t set out to explore these themes intentionally, though in retrospect it make a lot of sense since the main reason I read is to learn.

From The Best Books I Read in 2015 | Bill Gates

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Is it too early for ‘best books’ lists? Nope

Seattle Times book editor Mary Ann Gwinn scanned the best-books picks from Publishers Weekly, Amazon Books and Library Journal and mined a little data: out of 30 books, only three made more than one list. Reviewers are an eclectic bunch.

From Is it too early for ‘best books’ lists? Nope | The Seattle Times

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The Hawaii Project Book Recommendations

Welcome to The Hawaii Project
The Hawaii Project brings you books and book news you'd never have found on your own. We track what the web's leading tastemakers and book reviewers are writing about, uncovering things that match your favorite authors, personal interests and current events, and bring them to you daily.

From The Hawaii Project Book Recommendations

The 10 best books of 2015 - Washington Post

In our annual roundup of best books, you’ll find 10 that we think are exceptionally rewarding and 100 more you shouldn’t miss. In addition to our usual recommendations for lovers of mysteries, graphic novels and audiobooks, we’ve added lists drawn from our new monthly columns in romance, poetry and science fiction and fantasy.

From The 10 best books of 2015 - Washington Post

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Behind ‘King Lear’: The History Revealed by Fintan O'Toole

King Lear cannot end because authority cannot be restored. This impossibility results from Shakespeare’s greatest act of opportunism. James’s interests have given him the opportunity to write a play about the collapse of all political order and that in turn gives him the opportunity to show what authority really looks like when it is not propped up by power. In King Lear, it is the old king himself, speaking to the viciously blinded Gloucester, who utters the most savage attack on all authority:

From Behind ‘King Lear’: The History Revealed by Fintan O'Toole | The New York Review of Books

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New Title: Biblio Tech by John Palfrey

Review of a new book entitled Biblio TECH on how to keep libraries relevant in the digital age. John Palfrey’s lucid, passionate account of the state of American libraries reminds us both how important public libraries are to a healthy democracy and how close they are to going the way of the dodo bird. The author is the Head of School at Phillips Academy, Andover.

We are in the midst of a tectonic societal shift from print to digital and without a concerted effort to transform the library into its 21st century equivalent we just might lose these hubs of democracy for good.

The disconnect is huge; survey after survey remind us how important libraries are to their communities while in budget after budget funding for libraries continues to get slashed.

A Hearty Laugh for Work Weary Librarians

After a long day of answering questions and serving up information to the public (students, etc), a librarian could use a laugh. So pick up a copy of Roz Warren's OUR BODIES, OUR SHELVES: A COLLECTION OF LIBRARY HUMOR (HOPress, 2015) and see what might be between the covers that tickles your funnybone.

Here's an excerpt from one story: Freeze! It's the Library Police [a librarian's fantasy of recovering stolen books]

"Open up bitch! It's LIBRARY SQUAD!

Library Squad! A group of enraged middle-aged librarians. We're brainy, we're relentless. We'll hunt you down. We'll never give up. We know the Dewey Decimal Sysytem and we're not afraid to use it. And we always get our book.

And if you resist? We'll shush you. Permanently."

In addition to her library duties at the Bala Cynwyd Library right outside Philadelphia, Roz Warren writes forThe New York Times, The Funny Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Jewish Forward and The Huffington Post. And she‘s been featured on the Today Show. Our Bodies, Our Shelves is her thirteenth humor book. Years ago, Roz left the practice of law to take a job at her local public library “because I was tired of making so damn much money.” She doesn't regret it.

Our Bodies, Our Shelves, ISBN 9780692406465

When Google is Your Librarian & Starbucks Your Wifi, Do We Need Libraries?

Book Review of the title Biblio Tech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google (nice title!!) http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/book-party/wp/2015/04/23/when-google-is-your-librarian-an...

In his new book, author John Palfrey, former head of Harvard Law School Libraries writes about the necessity of maintaining public libraries as one of the essentials of society.

Libraries are repositories of books, music and documents, but above all of nostalgia: the musty stacks, the unexpected finds, the safety and pleasure of a place that welcomes and shelters unconditionally.

John Palfrey shares these memories, but he is also wary of them. After all, fond recollections of pleasant reading rooms can cloud our judgment of what libraries offer us — and need from us — today. In an era when search engines, online retailers and social media are overtaking some of libraries’ essential tasks, “nostalgia can actually be dangerous,” Palfrey warns. “Thinking of libraries as they were ages ago and wanting them to remain the same is the last thing we should want for them.”

Harsh Children's Book Reviews

From Quartz.

"One hundred years before post-millennial parents were deeming Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs inappropriate for young vegans, the children’s librarians of the New York Public Library kept a card catalog of hand-typed kids’ book reviews.

“There’s about a billion card catalogs in the library,” says Lynn Lobash, who oversees reader services at the NYPL. “But these are special in that they were used as a tool for collection development, for the staff to evaluate the children’s collection.”

Fave comment written in 1975 on an index card is "Just what we've been waiting for. A DIRTY TEENAGE NOVEL" about Judy Blume's Forever.

The World's Strongest Librarian Redux

The New Yorker reviews Josh Hanagarne’s new memoir about growing up with Tourette's Syndrome and becoming a librarian at the Salt Lake City Public Library. Worth a read, especially if you didn't catch our earlier review.

LibraryThing Offers Free Accounts through this Sunday, March 31

In reaction to the recent purchase of Goodreads by Amazon.com, LibraryThing announced the following:

In the wake of Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads, we’ve had some blow-back on the fact that LibraryThing charges for a membership to add more than 200 books. In fact, when you go to pay, it’s pay-what-you-want. The money helps pay for the site, and keeps us advertisement-free for members. Also, we believe customers should be customers, with the loyalty and rights of customers, not the thing we sell to our real customers.

However, some people don’t like it. And we want everyone. So, as a test and a welcome, we’re giving out free year’s accounts to everyone who signs up through the end of Sunday. We’ve also upgraded everyone who signed up since 4pm yesterday.

More on their site.

They neglected to mention however that they too are part-owned by Amazon.com (40% due to previous small business purchases by Amazon). This was referenced in the NYTimes article about Amazon's purchase of Goodreads.

"The deal is made more significant because Amazon already owned part or all of Goodreads’ competitors, Shelfari and LibraryThing. It bought Shelfari in 2008. It also owns a portion of LibraryThing as a result of buying companies that already owned a stake in the site. Both are much smaller and have grown much more slowly than Goodreads."

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