Books All Georgians Should Read

Authors of the Month: December

About Contact

Subscribe to our mailing list


Archive for March, 2013

Goblinproofing And Other Books

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

I love peculiar book titles. Remember “Ship Building for Couples” and “Bombproof Your Horse?What was that about anyway?

And now we have some new entries, courtesy of the Diagram Prize from Great Britain, awarded to the oddest book titles of the year. The winner, you’ll be thrilled to know, is what surely is destined to become a classic, and I kid you not: “Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop.” Yes, who hasn’t been worried sick over how to be absolutely certain none of these little creatures disturbs the chicks? It’s not enough to worry about cats, rats, hawks, foxes and snakes — it’s the goblins that will get ya.

The administrator of the prize, Horace Bent, says this of the book: “It is perhaps no coincidence that in these austere times that a book aimed to assist members of the public frugally farming their own produce proved the most popular title on our six-strong shortlist. It also illustrates that the public at large is afflicted by an incredible amount of paranoia regarding the threat foreign invaders pose to their property.” I couldn’t have put it better myself. The book strikes a signal blow against the dangers posed by the fairy kingdom to our fowls.

Of course, if “Goblinproofing” was the winner, who came close but failed to win the prize? The shortlist includes these appealing (or is it appaling?) titles:

“How Tea Cosies Changed the World”

God’s Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis”

“How to Shaepen Pencils”

“Was Hitler Ill?”

“Lofts of North America: Pigeon Lofts”

That’s a strong list, to be sure — who couldn’t profit from reading those? — and they join a list of quasi-distinguished previous winners and nomnineers that includes “Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers,” “Highlights in the History of Concrete” and “A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian.” And yes, those are all real books. Look ’em up.

And you thought there was nothing good to read out there ……





Selling E-Books

Monday, March 18th, 2013

If you had any doubts about the rise of the e-book — and you didn’t really, did you? — Publishers Weekly has come up with some statistics that are pretty solidly convincing. The magazine has completed a survey that uncovered the information that more than 1,000 e-books published in 2011 and 2012 sold at least 25,000 copies (or whatever you want to call e-books). That’s a heap o’ digital, folks.

It is no surprise — publishers tell us that the popularity of e-books has been on the rise for the last five years — but it documents a higher degree of bestsellerdom for the digitally produced books. And it probably goes a long way in explaining why mass markets paperbacks — the least expensive and traditionally the biggest selling paperbacks — have seen declining interest and sales over the last couple of years.

[It doesn’t however, go quite far enough to explain why the prices for the e-book versions of those mass market paperbacks remain so high — high enough that for many purchasers, still, it makes no sense to pay a similar, higher or perhaps only slightly lower price for the electronic version of the costly-to-produce paper edition.]

The e-book bestseller list contains the usual suspects. In fact, you could probably come up with your own guesses and be pretty much spot-on. The biggest selling e-book with over 15-million sold has been the “50 Shades of Grey” trilogy written by the British author E.L. James (evidence, as if we needed it, that not everything the Brits write is deserving of a Man Booker Prize). Next is “The Hunger Games” followed by Nora Roberts, James Patterson and more very familiar names. In other words, the majority of readers of e-books aren’t straining their brains any more than their print-paperback colleagues.

So, does it make any difference? The short term answer is likely nope, none. You want to buy a paperback, it will be there. Prefer the e-book version? It’s there, too. I can’t imagine that landscape getting altered much over the next several years. After that? Well, anyone’s guess is a pretty good one. My only surmise is that the industry won’t disappear; readers aren’t going anywhere, in spite of the lures of the internet, television, NASCAR, twitter, sequestration, and all the other things that want to seize our attention spans these days.

Award winners and Philip Roth

Monday, March 4th, 2013

What did you think of the National Book Critics Circle Awards announced late last week? They seemed to me representative of the rather self-conscious choices the NBCC board makes nearly every year. As a former member of that august body, and probably its least member, I recall that deliberations tended to be focused on what titles weren’t getting awards anywhere else and whose favorites had been ignored.  The higher up you were on the literary ladder of prominence, the more your choices counted (and conversely how little they mattered when the lowest rung on the ladder spoke up, which was more often than some preferred). However, that begins to sound rather whiny on my part, and I don’t intend that at all. Whatever might be said about their final decisions, the board members, I can attest, took the deliberations with the utmost seriousness and occasionally with considerable tension in the discussion. I respect them all.

This year’s winners were “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” by Ben Fountain (fiction), “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity” by Andrew Solomon (nonfiction), “The Passage of Power” by Robert A. Caro (biography), “Swimming Studies” by Leanne Shapton (autobiography), “Useless Landscape, Or a Guide for Boys” by D.A. Powell (poetry), and “Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights” by Marina Warner (criticism). Interesting choices which for the most part eschew bestellerdom, as might be expected from the NBCC. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that few of you have read more than one of those titles if any. For the record, I have read only one, Caro’s fourth volume of his biography of President Lyndon B. Johnson.


And on the subject of literary things you might have missed recently, a poll of some noted writers reported in the British newspaper The Manchester Guardian found that more 77% thought the greatest living American writer is Philip Roth. And the largest number of writers polled — 24% — thought “Sabbath’s Theater” is Roth’s best book. runner-up was Don DeLillo with 7% of the votes.

Cormac McCarthy? Out of the running. Salman Rushdie? He was one of the voters. Nicholas Sparks? Just wanted to se if you were paying attention.

Feel free to add your own choice to the short list.