Books All Georgians Should Read

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Archive for August, 2011

Celebrating the AJC Book Festival

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

For the sixth time, the AJC Decatur Book Festival is upon us! It’s a time to celebrate, certainly, and briefly, to reflect. There are lots of folks who deserve the credit for making it happen for the first time. These days you don’t always hear the name of Alice Murray and the Georgia Center for the Book connected with the beginnings, but they had critical roles. Alice was among the earliest visionaries; she knew that the AJC should play a big part in it, and she helped make that happen. Without the AJC, I don’t know how the festival would have endured. And the Georgia Center for the Book was right in the middle of the creation, imagining (along with Alice and others) the great things that could happen if Decatur got a book festival. (And Alice has been the festival’s life-saving president ever since its inception; no one merits more gratitude.)

That, of course, is how it started. What matters now is what’s going to happen over this Labor Day weekend. I think I can maker a few guarantees. First, there will be another crowd of 60,000 people enjoying the festival. Second, nearly all of them are going to have a blast. And third, parking will be a mess unless more folks decide to walk or use MARTA.

There will be well over 150 authors plus a stage full of “emerging writers” and no lack of wonderful things to do and hear on Saturday and Sunday. That’s a credit to the festival planners, who put together an event that is stocked with attractions in spite of serious budget considerations. Thanks, too, go to the sponsors who year after year have supported the festival and ensured its survival in an economy not always friendly to such activities.

So, how will you plan your weekend? You an go online ( to find an author you’d like to see and when that author is appearing. There’s also a printed guide which has some good information, but it lacks biographies of the writers and can be a bit difficult to search for a specific event during the weekend. I’d suggest taking some time to do your planning before the weekend gets here. There are so many terrific programs that you don’t want to miss one by accident. And please note that this year’s festival is probably more kid-friendly than ever before; the number of programs designed for everyone from the youngest readers to teens should draw enthusiastic responses. Don’t hesitate to bring the entire family.

We’ll see you there!


Stealing Books

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

In the wake of news about the arrest of historian and author Barry H. Landau on charges of stealing valuable historical documents from libraries, I came across an interesting web article about the five most stolen books from bookstores. The list might surprise you.

First was anything written by Charles Bukowski. Hard for me to believe that, but the prolific Bukowski — he wrote over 60 books and hundreds and hundreds of other things before his death in 1994 — is a favorite of thieves, at least in some big-city bookstores where his books are kept behind the counter for safety’s sake.

Second is anything by William S. Burroughs (making this seem like something of a counter-culture observation, I suppose). Burroughs, who died in 1997, was a major figure in the Beat Generation (remember that?) probably best known for his book “Naked Lunch” (1959). Again, I’m guessing thefts of his books surface only in selected cities.

Three, Jack Kerouac (seriously, are you not detecting some unifying themes here?). This one makes a little more sense to me from a strictly literary standpoint. The web article says the thief is most likely a young male “someone who wants to commit a reckless act (and) is most interested in reading about reckless acts.”

Fourth is a living author, Paul Auster, generally described as an existentialist writer, and to be perfectly honest about it, a writer whose work I don’t know at all. Steal away.

Fifth is anything by Martin Amis, the British author, whose presence on the list seems — after the ones before him — quite unexpected. Amis is a highly regarded, living writer, but there are, after all, many others, so it’s hard to account for his exalted position.

And what about libraries? The DeKalb library system doesn’t have any meaningful numbers about specific stolen books, but NPR media critic Brooke Gladstone — who spoke at the Center for the Book a few weeks back — says that library thieves in general tend to go for how-to books. Anything on witchcraft, sex manuals, astrology, etc. And Bibles.

Yep, don’t forget Bibles. Thieves do go after that, in obvious disregard of the commandment that says something about not stealing. The best thought might be to hope that once home with his prize booty, the thief might find something in the Bible to arouse his guilt, something that might make him repent, change his ways, at least return the Bible.

Don’t hold your breath, however.