Fifty books that deserve a wider readership

Kim of Reading Matters blog draws attention to an article in the Daily Telegraph about how the organisers of World Book Day asked publishers to submit titles that they thought "deserved a wider readership" (don't publishers think that about all their books? I would!). From these submissions, the World Book Day people created a list of 50 fiction and non-fiction books, and invite readers to "vote for your favourite book on the list, so that we can find The Book to Talk About 2009".  As Kim points out, this is going to be hard if hardly anyone has read the books. Kim (who is a reading marvel) has reviewed only one, which I take it means that she's read only one. I haven't read any.

The full list is here.

World Book Day page, with voting details.

Writing reviews of novels

I received an email from Mack Lundy of Mack Captures Crime (previously Mack Pitches Up), which asks the questions:

On average, how long does it take you to write a book review of a novel? Do you take notes as you read? Again for a novel.

I thought I would share the answer that I sent him:

I draft a review in an hour or so, but I go back to it about five more times to read through, edit etc before sending it off or posting it- sometimes I change substantially or add things. Sometimes I take notes or bookmark pages, sometimes I just write general impression at the end. If I come across things in the book that I especially like I bookmark or note them. I don't have any general rule, though – sometimes I have a strong impression from a book while I am reading it and it is very clear to me what I think, so I won't take notes. Other times I am less sure so I do – but not to the extent that it spoils "the reading experience".

Just a few interesting posts

Just a few interesting blog posts I've read in the past week or so:
 
"America suffered from a wasting disease, he wrote — a kind of sickness that didn’t exist in the hard times of his 1930s youth. “There were wishes but no wants. And underneath it all the building energy like gases in a corpse. When that explodes, I tremble to think what will be the result. Over and over I thought that we lack the pressures that make men strong and the anguish that makes men great. The pressures are debts, the desires are for more material toys and the anguish is boredom. Through time, the nation has become a discontented land.” "
 
"Sir Sean is the latest in a distinguished line-up of world figures who have posed for Leibowitz to promote Louis Vuitton's 'Core Values' campaign, which is benefitting The Climate Project, spearheaded by Al Gore."
 
"While his running mate’s statements have been ambiguous, John McCain has set his position on climate change firmly on the record. “I believe that climate change is real,” he said at a Wisconsin rally (Chicago Sun Times), “I believe that greenhouse gasses are a threat to our planet.” However, according to the Sun Times “some in the very partisan crowd” booed him for this statement."
 
I really like this post. It is fascinating how much more interesting newspapers, blogs etc are *when there is something to report and to have an opinion on*. Makes a change from the usual "making things up", media hype and spin, and blog hysteria over petty details. We may all be going to hell in a handbasket but at least it is interesting reading about it. 
 
"Recently the New York Times announced that it will be syndicating content from three well-known blogs, Read/Write Web, Giga Om and Venture Beat. The New York Times is using these blogs as an extra-sensory organ; they can dial into what is happening in the tech sector (and particularly the West Coast with this trio) without allocating a lot of internal resources to it. Smart move. As newspapers are locked in a desperate bid for survival I get the sense that we are watching the business equivalent of A Star is Born. In this case the iconic, shaggy-maned newsman falls for a feisty blogger with a horrific perm. Two strangers meeting in life's stairwell; One headed down – the other headed up… Let's hope this pairing has a better ending."
 
Just one of many reasons why I can't deal with Twitter.
 
"O'Reilly argues that Silicon Valley has strayed from the passion and idealism that fuel innovation to instead follow what he calls the "mad pursuit of the buck with stupider and stupider ideas." Flush with money and opportunity following the post-dot-com resurgence, he says, some entrepreneurs have cocooned in a "reality bubble," insulated from poverty, disease, global warming and other problems that are gripping the planet. He argues that they should follow the model of some of the world's most successful technology companies, including Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp., which sprang from their founders' efforts to "work on stuff that matters." "

Films (too) inspired by books

Thanks to Clare Dudman, who has a good memory, here is a site that lists films by almost any category you could care to think of: science and scientists, for example, nuns with guns and women cops. Whether you are interested in the top-grossing movies of a particular year, or amputation and body parts, there is something here for you.

But the reason Clare sent me the link is because of its comprehensive listing of books into film. Last year we discussed "movies better than the books that spawned them", suggestions including The Graduate, Brokeback Mountain, Farenheit 451, The Election, The Birds, Children of Men, and more. (Someone even had the temerity to suggest Harry Potter!) Now, those interested in identifying titles for the honour can indulge to their hearts' content, with what seems to be about 100 entries for "books to film" for a wide range of authors. Enjoy! And thank you again, Clare.

Reading the Booker

Further to my earlier post about the Booker shortlist's lack of readers (thanks to the non-selection of popular authors on the longlist such as Salman Rushdie) Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies (John Murray) has had 9,646 lifetime sales to date —27.5% of the six shortlistees' combined sales, according to the Bookseller blog. The Bookseller notes that "Linda Grant's The Clothes on Their Backs (Virago) proved the most popular purchase through the market last week with a sale of 1,008 copies, more than double the amount of its nearest rival, Philip Hensher's The Northern Clemency (Fourth Estate), with a sale of 519 copies. Combined sales of all six shortlisted titles through the market to date total 35,096—some 90,096 copies less than Katie Price's latest work of fiction, Angel Uncovered (Century)." The prizewinner is announced tonight.

Someone who has read most of the shortlist is Dovegreyreader scribbles, so if you want a quick summary, see here for a post about that (and Cliff Richard). We shall hear the results of the £10 bet in due course.

A vote for science

Via The Great Beyond, I learn of “A Vote For Science”, in which scientists video themselves explaining who they will be voting for in the US election next month. Daniel Cressey writes: "So far only one video is available on their YouTube site, but it’s a big fish: new Nobel laureate Martin Chalfie (as featured in a Nature interview published yesterday). Chalfie has previously announced that he will be backing Barack Obama. In his new video he says: 'I’m a scientist and I am voting for Barack Obama'. Hear why in the video" [Video embedded in the Great Beyond post.]

Platform for art at London Underground

Via Dave Lull, from Britannica Blog:

Tube3 Peter Blake "In honor of the 100th birthday of London’s famed “Roundel” (shown below), symbol of the city’s famed Underground (”Tube”) subway system, the Transport for London has commissioned 100 artists to produce 100 “brand new works of art that are inspired by the Roundel as a contemporary symbol for a world class transport system.”  Two prints will be made of each work: the first print will go into the Underground archive of famous art, by such artists as Man Ray, and the second will be offered to the public through an online auction.  The new works are on display through October at the Rochelle School in Shoreditch, London, and many of them will also appear as posters throughout the Underground system." The Britannia Blog will be posting one of these new works of art per day during this month.

Art on the Underground will be presenting other exciting activities to coincide with the exhibition, including artists’ talks and events in collaboration with London Transport Museum.

Sunday Salon: A Killing Frost and award news

TSSbadge3 My review of A Killing Frost by R. D. Wingfield is out at Euro Crime today, to coincide with the UK paperback publication. From my review: "I loved this crackingly paced book, which follows the same formula as the previous five novels in the series. Inspector Jack Frost is messy, disorganised and impulsive, incapable of looking after himself, yet totally dedicated to his job. He's also hilarious. He is one of those cops whose work ethic has nothing to do with external factors, which is just as well, as he is in a grade beneath his natural ability and his superiors are out to get him: specifically, to transfer him to nearby Lexton, a dump compared with the (not particularly nice) town of Denton, where Jack is stationed." Continue reading here

Today's other new Euro Crime reviews include Kate Atkinson's When Will There be Good News, Frank Tallis's Fatal Lies, Manda Scott's A Crystal Skull and Val McDermid's A Darker Domain. 

Some award news:

Katherine Howell's Frantic has won the Davitt award for best crime novel by an Australian woman writer in 2007. 

Barry awards BEST THRILLER The Watchman by Robert Crais (Simon & Schuster); BEST FIRST NOVEL (Published in the U.S. in 2007) In the Woods by Tana French (Viking).

ITV3 Thiller awards. Author of the year Ian Rankin for Exit Music (Orion); international author of the year accolade was awarded posthumously to Stieg Larsson for his début novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Quercus).

Banking crisis 0, US election 1

Hugo Rifkind in his Times column yesterday What did you do in the great banking crisis? took the line that it doesn't really matter to the great majority of people: "I'm not trying to sell my house, and I have barely any savings, Icelandic or otherwise. I don't mean to sound callous, but financial disaster hasn't changed my life one bit. I bet a lot of other people's lives haven't changed much either. And yet, apparently we are all going to hell in a handcart anyway. It's getting tiring. It's like being constantly told that you have a terrible disease. Only there aren't any symptoms."

I disagree. Hugo Rifkind and many others like him lucky enough not to be affected already may not experience any symptoms for a good few months or even years. But when they come to try to live off their pensions, or have children (one parent may wish a career break, or a larger house might be required), or to pay for those children's education, or try to climb the greasy pole for that next job, etc – that's when they'll notice that the disease has not, in fact, passed any of us by. (And I've outlined the least nasty possibilities. They could yet be a lot worse.) Mr Rifkind is much more on the money in this endpiece to his column, I think:

"Zoo time

Only another month, thank God, and the US election will finally be over. Already, it has lasted far, far too long. Civilisations have risen and fallen. Wars have come and gone. Angelina Jolie has had at least two babies. And still the candidates pontificate and debate, and their supporters bicker about nonsense in the comments bit under videos on YouTube.

It's the videos that are killing me. There are just so many of them, and they are all about nothing. Barack Obama will appear at a Wichita high school, say, and be filmed telling a little girl that his favourite zoo animal is a penguin. Then, two days later, an older video will emerge, perhaps from 1995, in which he tells another little girl that his favourite zoo animal is a tiger. Cue uproar.

“OMG!!!!” a thousand people will write underneath. “OBARMA is a LAIR!!!” And then people will e-mail it to each other and right-wing bloggers, without the merest twitch of humour, will dub it “Zoogate”. Then somebody will ask John McCain about his favourite zoo animal at a press conference, and he'll say a cheetah, and somebody else will splice all these videos together under a headline that says “ZOOGATE: HERO VS A HIPPOCRATE!” and you'll see it and laugh, even though it probably isn't a joke at all."

Why we neeed good subedtiors and riters

The Guardian has reproduced a strongly worded email which was sent by a senior staff member to subs and writers on the Sunday Express, pointing out mistakes in an edition of the paper. The article is priceless and should be read in full by anyone who cares about language.

"P2 – The lead begins with a name but the surname is not capped up. The stupid phrase 'ahead of' appears three times in the copy. We are then told 'fewer than one in five voters were happy with Brown's premiership'. That means none. The GCSEs story said 'almost six in 10 pupils'. So is that five or four? Voters and pupils don't come in fractions.

P3 – Why wasn't there a drop cap start to the story? Those weekly paper staples 'local residents' and a 'local fan' put in an appearance.

P4 – The splash turn says Maddie was kidnapped. Really? I thought nobody knew what happened to her.

P5 – Someone is described as an 'ex-pat'. At the very least that's amateurish. Look, let's make it really simple; if you don't know what a word means or how it's spelt, don't f***ing use it.

P6 – The caption says 'rail-soaked' instead of rain-soaked.

P9 – The conflict in Georgia provides us with some classic bollocks. What is a 'battle tank'? Does this mean wars now have referees who decide whether or not a tank is allowed to go into battle?"

And so it goes on, right up to: "P84 – Neil Hamilton writes: 'See Venice and die, the saying goes.' Er, no it f***ing doesn't, as our angry reader was quick to tell the editor. Stop writing this drivel and subs, stop letting it through."

I thank Nature's Chief Subeditor, a noble gentleman, for drawing my attention to this article.

Giles Coren has recently had some trouble with the Times subs (strangely, his frustrations erupted in The Guardian, aka The Grauniad, not in his own organ). His Downfall is here (video, but even I watched half of it, admittedly with the sound off).