Book Reviews

BookReviews

Reading and Reviewing Every Bestseller Since 1913

For this blog ( http://kahnscorner.blogspot.com/2013/02/100-years-94-books.html ) I plan, among other things, to read and review every novel to reach the number one spot on Publishers Weekly annual bestsellers list, starting in 1913. Beyond just a book review, I'm going to provide some information on the authors and the time at which these books were written in an attempt to figure out just what made these particular books popular at that particular time.

I decided to undertake this endeavor as a mission to read books I never would have otherwise read, discover authors who have been lost to obscurity, and to see how what's popular has changed over the last one hundred years. I plan to post a new review every Monday, with links, short essays, and the like between review posts.

Library Wars: Romantic Comedy That Kicks Ass

Library Wars: Romantic Comedy That Kicks Ass
"When I told my two teens that I could get one manga by using my awesome powers at GeekMom, they both said, “Library Wars! Library Wars! Library Wars!” We had been checking them out from the library before, but it’s a popular series and we often had to wait. Viz Media graciously gave me seven volumes, and then I had to wait for my kids to go through them again before me. Library Wars: Love & War, written and drawn by Kiiro Yumi, is based on the original (non-manga) series by Hiro Arikawa. I did short updates on the series through Comic Book Corner awhile back, but decided it deserved a longer review. It’s that good"

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Buying Your Way Onto The Best Sellers Lists

Good Ol Slashdot has a neat write up on Best-Seller Lists. How Are Some Authors Landing On Best-Seller Lists? They're Buying Their Way .

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The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy

The upswing in self-published books has spawned an industry in which paid reviewers praise them. Todd Rutherford used to make $28,000 a month. Article in the NYT.

Full article

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The Epidemic of Niceness in Online Book Culture

Interesting article from Slate Book Review on the fine line between literary criticism and literary boosterism as experienced on social media.

A Little Friday Frivolity

A slide show via Ellen DeGeneres: Looky looky at this booky!.

A number of surprising titles including a book that I was very proud to work on while at Kane/Miller Book Publishers during the '90's; "The Gas We Pass, the Story of Farts" by Shinto Cho (my boss Sandy Miller did the research, I just proofread it).

What Makes a Critic Tick? Connected Authors and the Determinants of Book Reviews

What Makes a Critic Tick? Connected Authors and the Determinants of Book Reviews
Executive Summary:
The professional critic has long been heralded as the gold standard for evaluating products and services such as books, movies, and restaurants. Analyzing hundreds of book reviews from 40 different newspapers and magazines, Professor Michael Luca and coauthors Loretti Dobrescu and Alberto Motta investigate the determinants of professional reviews and then compare these to consumer reviews from Amazon.com. Key concepts include:

•The data suggest that media outlets do not simply seek to isolate high-quality books, but also to find books that are a good fit for their readers. This is a potential advantage for professional critics, one that cannot be easily replicated by consumer reviews.
•Expert ratings are correlated with Amazon ratings, suggesting that experts and consumers tend to agree in aggregate about the quality of a book. However, there are systematic differences between these sets of reviews.
•Relative to consumer reviews, professional critics are less favorable to first-time authors. This suggests that one potential advantage of consumer reviews is that they are quicker to identify new and unknown books.
•Relative to consumer reviews, professional critics are more favorable to authors who have garnered other attention in the press (as measured by number of media mentions outside of the review) and who have won book prizes.
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'50 Shades' another brick in the wall between fans and critics

'50 Shades' another brick in the wall between fans and critics

While the erudite have derided the best-selling books as poorly written and unimaginative, fans of the soft porn/romance novels don't care about sentence structure, believable dialogue or character development. Not everybody wants a daily dose of Dickens or the latest Robert Caro book on LBJ.

"This stuff we consider 'bad' is considered bad if we look at it in terms of the criteria set for old-fashioned art," says pop culture expert Robert Thompson of Syracuse University. "We also have to recognize that some of this stuff that is 'bad' is really good at being 'bad.' Therefore the word 'bad' kind of ceases to have any kind of meaning."

Confessions of (Another) Book Reviewer

Confessions of (Another) Book Reviewer

I think of the reviewer’s role now as being more about providing context for a book, tracing its lineage in the tradition and locating it in the literary topography of the present, and all that touchy-feely sort of thing. The critics I love these days do something slightly different from what they used to: they don’t just judge, they open up that weird, intense, private dyad that forms between book and reader and let other people inside. They tell the story, the meta-story, of what happened when they opened the book and began to read the story.

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Could the Internet Save Book Reviews?

Could the Internet Save Book Reviews?
The digital age has transformed the physical act of reading and will alter journalistic literary criticism as well. According to a Pew Research study published in 2010, over half of all Americans obtain news and information—including book reviews—on digital platforms: online editions of newspapers like the New York Times, email, Twitter, RSS feeds, etc. (The number is even higher among people with post-graduate degrees and those who are in their 20s and 30s.) The full effect of these changes will have on book reviews isn't clear, but they're already shifting in ways that would both please and alarm Orwell.

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The Lonely Book

Review of "The Lonely Book" by Kate Bernheimer, illus. by Chris Sheban; Schwartz & Wade (Random House).


This particular book has spent a lot of time at the library, but it still has a lot to look forward to. Fresh off the presses, a beautiful green book is sent to a busy library, quickly devoured by adoring young readers. The book is happy to be checked out often and loved by so many children. Time goes by, and newer books take its place. Gradually, it gathers dust and is taken out less and less often. Then, one day, when it thought it has been abandoned, a little girl named Alice discovers it where it has been left carelessly on the floor. It’s love at first sight for the little girl, and she takes the book everywhere. Once again, the book is happy and content.

But when Alice, in a moment of forgetfulness, neglects to renew the lonely book, it is again relegated to a dusty shelf. Stay tuned for more...

Author faces six figure legal bill after unfavourable Amazon reviews case is struck out

Author faces six figure legal bill after unfavourable Amazon reviews case is struck out
An author who tried to sue a father of three from the West Midlands over comments made in a series of unfavourable reviews on Amazon is facing a six figure legal bill after a judge struck out his case.

The judge ruled that although a small portion of Mr Jones’ words might be deemed libellous by a jury if it went to a full trial, there was little point pursuing that avenue because the potential damages would be slight compared to court costs and time.

Why Won’t They Listen?

Article in the NYT Sunday Book Review: Why Won’t They Listen? Book discussed in the article: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Bird books US/UK

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Birdbooker Report 214Compiled by an ardent bibliophile, this weekly report includes books about human evolution, wildflowers, polar bears and much more that have been newly published in North America and the UK http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/grrlscientist/2012/mar/25/1

‘Riveting!’: The Quandary of the Book Blurb

NYT "Room for Debate" piece -- ‘Riveting!’: The Quandary of the Book Blurb

“A Faulkner for our time!” “Can’t put it down!” “An up-all-night thriller!” At some point, you have to wonder: if so many books are being commended, are they all commendable? It’s the perennial question of whether the blurbs on book covers are still meaningful or have become just background noise. After all, Kindle Singles are doing just fine without covers — and cover blurbs.

Do book blurbs serve readers? Do they help writers?

Stephen King and others weigh in on this topic.

Daily Dispatches from the Internet's Worst Book Reviewers

Daily Dispatches from the Internet's Worst Reviewers
LeastHelpful.com collects the worst book reviews the internet has to offer!
[Via Mefi]

Review of "Free Ride"

Book by author Robert Levine - FREE RIDE: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back

Review by Jeffrey Rosen in the NYT

Excerpt: “The real conflict online,” Levine writes, “is between the media companies that fund much of the entertainment we read, see and hear and the technology firms that want to distribute their content — legally or otherwise.” By delivering content they don’t pay for, or selling content far below the price it cost to create, Levine says, information and entertainment distributors like YouTube and The Huffington Post become “parasites” on the media companies that invest substantially in journalists, musicians and actors; the distributors drive down prices in a way that sucks the economic lifeblood out of those who create and finance the best achievements of our culture. The result is a “digital version of Wal-Mart capitalism,” in which free-riding distributors reap all the economic benefits of the Internet by cutting prices, and culture suppliers are forced to cut costs in response. This dynamic, Levine argues, destroys the economic incentive to create the kinds of movies, television, music and journalism consumers demand, and for which they are, in fact, quite willing to pay.

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Dewey Decimal: a science fiction mystery

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Nathan Larson’s The Dewey Decimal System is a sublime, dark, near-future mystery is set in Manhattan, when The Occurrence (a series of Valentine’s Day disasters, including a market crash, a super flu, and city-wide bombings) has reduced all five boroughs to a combined population of less than 800 thousand. <!--break--> Novel published in April 2011, not previously noted in LISNews. Reviewed in <i>Mystery Scene</i>, http://www.mysteryscenemag.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2144%3Athe-dewey-decimal-system&catid=26%3Abooks&Itemid=185.

BookExpo America Loves Librarians

...and here's the 'official' BEA Librarians blog. Why does BEA love librarians? Hmmm, probably because there are fewer and fewer bookstores around :(. [birdie's request: please support your local bookstores and partner with them whenever possible].

This month's entry includes YA, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction and Fiction favorites and asks librarians...what do YOU like? Check it out.

Writers Write About Censorship

Excerpt from "Places I Never Meant To Be" Original Stories By Censored Writers; Edited and Introduction by Judy Blume. Blume tells the story of how she circumnavigated the naysayers to read her first book by John O'Hara. Not a new title (2001), but definitely one worth reading.

From the Introduction: When I was growing up I’d heard that if a movie or book was “Banned in Boston” everybody wanted to see it or read it right away. My older brother, for example, went to see such a movie -- The Outlaw, starring Jane Russell -- and I wasn’t supposed to tell my mother. I begged him to share what he saw, but he wouldn’t. I was intensely curious about the adult world and hated the secrets my parents, and now my brother, kept from me.

A few years later, when I was in fifth grade, my mother was reading a novel called A Rage to Live, by John O’Hara, and for the first time (and, as it turned out, the only time) in my life, she told me I was never to look at that book, at least not until I was much older. Once I knew my mother didn’t want me to read it, I figured it must be really interesting!

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