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Book News Roundup: Special fall-of-the-bestseller-list edition

  • We told you yesterday that the New York Times seems to be removing a number of categories from its popular bestseller list feature. Starting early in February, they won't be publishing bestseller lists for graphic novels, mass market paperbacks, and certain lists for middle readers and young adults.

  • This story has developed since then.

  • Alexander Lu at Comics Beat asked the New York Times why this change was happening, and the Times responded that "the discontinued lists did not reach or resonate with many readers." Lu indicates that there may be some anti-comics sentiment inside the Times:

A source indicated to The Beat that Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, was ultimately responsible for the policy shift. A recent tweet [by Paul] about John Lewis’, Andrew Aydin’s, and Nate Powell’s March began with “hey, kids” and called the comic a “children’s book.”
  • That aforementioned tweet is hopelessly ignorant about one of the most powerful autobiographical comics ever written. And it's unbearably condescending to Representative John Lewis, who is a bona fide hero for his civil rights activism:
  • Susana Polo at Polygon makes a great case about why the bestseller list mattered for comics:
Week after week, The New York Times best seller lists revealed that the American comics industry is anything but dominated by young adult men and the superhero comics they shove into plastic bags. Last week’s lists — which could now be the last ones The New York Times ever publishes — were topped with Ghosts, a female-led young adult coming-of-age story from perennial Times best seller Raina Tegelmeier, on the paperback side, and a graphic novel adaptation of science fiction grande dame Octavia Butler’s Kindred on the hardcover side.
  • And Calvin Reid at Publishers Weekly has an overview of how the publishing industry was blindsided by this decision, including lots of reaction interviews with publishers. If you only read one piece on all this, read this one.

  • Look, the newspaper industry is in trouble. Everyone knows it. But I cannot for the life of me figure out why newspaper leadership responds to budget cuts by slashing their arts coverage. The New York Times's Bestseller List is a trusted brand, one that conveys a special status to authors and publishers. It is an asset. For them to cut back on this at the same time that newspapers are trying to emphasize their value is a pretty stupid move.

  • It's obvious that Pamela Paul has no respect for comics as a medium. (In fact, I'm willing to bet that she considers it a genre and not a medium.) If this was her decision, I have no faith in her leadership at the New York Times. I can't for the life of me understand why you'd make your book review section even more elitist and condescending than it already was; it's like she's actively trying to turn readers away from the Times's book reviews. When they inevitably slice away even more books coverage at the Times, I bet they'll blame it on declining readership. And I also bet none of the blame for that declining readership will fall where it belongs: with Pamela Paul.

Book News Roundup: Our dystopian president

Since its initial publication, historians have debunked and raised concerns about numerous claims in Barton's book. In it, Barton calls Jefferson a "conventional Christian," claims the founding father started church services at the Capitol, and even though he owned more than 200 slaves, says Jefferson was a civil rights visionary..."When the concerns came in, from multiple people, and that had weight too, we were trying to sort things out," said Thomas Nelson Senior Vice President and Publisher Brian Hampton. "Were these matters of opinion? Were they differences of interpretation? But as we got into it, our conclusion was that the criticisms were correct. There were historical details — matters of fact, not matters of opinion, that were not supported at all."

Book News Roundup: All the books President Obama recommended

  • Young booksellers from around the country, including a few in Seattle, are launching Indies Forward, which Sydney Jarrard at Bookselling This Week calls "a new volunteer organization dedicated to cultivating, supporting, and sustaining the emerging generation of innovators and leaders in the bookselling industry." Jarrard continues:
Indies Forward, which will focus primarily on development, networking, and mentorship, will provide educational programming specifically tailored to new and emerging booksellers, on such topics as personal finance, management, and the economics of bookstores and publishing. The group plans to set up standalone networking events as well as in conjunction with regular industry gatherings so that younger booksellers will have a greater chance of being able to attend.

Book News Roundup: All the literary updates you need, from Beacon Hill to Bellingham

  • Over at the South Seattle Emerald, Alex Garland examines the impact of the Beacon Hill library's closure on the community. The library will be closed for several months for renovations.

  • Here's Yoshiko Yamamoto's poster for this year's Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair, which happens at Seattle Center on October 15th and 16th:

The money, however, has disappeared down a rabbit hole of private bank accounts and apparent shell companies registered to the same address in London. Almost a year since the fund's launch, Yiannopoulos is, for his part, reacting in a manner consistent with previous concerns around the fund's handling: by claiming paperwork for the fund is being processed and that the money will be disbursed at a later date.
  • Medium, the blogging service that has rapidly become both a popular longread supplement to Twitter and blog hosting platform for sites including The Awl and ThinkProgress, announced massive layoffs and office closures today. Seems they still don't know how to monetize words on the internet. And founder Ev Williams says the service is considering new ways to pay writers for their work, but his comments are so vague that they should provide absolutely no consolation for writers anywhere. Williams writes, "It is too soon to say exactly what this will look like. This strategy is more focused but also less proven." I take this as Silicon Valley-ese for "we have no idea what we're doing."

  • Bellingham's terrific independent bookstore Village Books is now officially under new management.

Book News Roundup: Seattle booksellers get bonuses, Penguin Random House employees get the shaft

  • Mary Ann Gwinn at the Seattle Times says that seven local booksellers from University Book Store, Third Place Books, Elliott Bay Book Company, Liberty Bay Books, Village Books, and Eagle Harbor Book Company have won "bookseller bonuses" from ridiculously wealthy author James Patterson.

  • Well, here's a disgusting bit of year-end fuckery: Penguin Random House, the large publisher that formed when Penguin merged with Random House, "has derecognised the National Union of Journalists and Unite for collective bargaining with its management," according to The Bookseller, which reports the move has left staff "nervous." Over 140 authors have signed a letter asking Penguin Random House to rethink this anti-labor position. All readers, authors, librarians, and booksellers should stand with Penguin Random House's union; we need more unions in this world, and if the somewhat civilized leaders of the publishing industry can't recognize the dignity of their employees, what hope does that offer anyone else?

  • E-book news site Tele-Read has recently stopped paying freelancers and so it is now running less news. Publisher David Rothman blames Google and Facebook for "siphon[ing] ads from us and burden[ing] us with bureaucratic requirements" for photos and content.

  • You should read Kevin Nguyen's year-end roundup and complaint about literary whiteness at the Millions. A taste:

...if you think Book Twitter is white, try going to a book event. These are almost exclusively white spaces, and being a person of color in them has become increasingly anxiety inducing. You drink with familiar people and strangers and just wait for someone to say something kinda fucked up to ruin your night. Just because my last name is Nguyen doesn’t mean I want to talk about Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer. I am not interested in hearing you talk about how attractive an Asian-American debut novelist is. And for the last time, as much as I love Ed Park, we really, really do not look alike.

Book News Roundup: The season of lists is upon us

Book News Roundup: It's time to get to know Ted Chiang

  • Seattle-area writer Ted Chiang has long been one of the local sci-fi community's best-kept secrets. Just about every Seattle sci-fi writer worth their salt counts Chiang as one of their favorite writers, but his work has not garnered larger acclaim. That's all about to change: one of Chiang's short stories is about to be adapted into an upcoming film called Arrival starring Amy Adams that is attracting a lot of pre-release buzz.The Wall Street Journal published a great little profile of Chiang yesterday that you should read.
“He’s got a really good mix of humanity and science, unlike some writers,” said Ellen Datlow, the editor who acquired “Tower of Babylon,” the first story of Mr. Chiang’s to be published, for Omni magazine in 1990.
  • While we're talking about Seattle-area writers, Electric Lit published a long interview with Elissa Washuta that you should read.

  • So this is kind of creepy: according to GeekWire, at Amazon's brick-and-mortar bookstore, you're apparently only able to buy books on discount if you're an Amazon Prime customer. If you're not on Prime, you pay full list price.

  • Greta Van Susteren has a bad opinion about the cost of colleges. Rather than cutting the ridiculously expensive stadiums or coaches' salaries, she seems to think libraries are making colleges too damn expensive:

  • On that last item, let's be clear: books are an investment in education, and they are non-negotiable. In fact, eliminating library books from a college would disproportionately harm low-income students who might not have the technology needed for ebooks. This is clearly an idea that was not at all thought through.

Book News Roundup: Subscribe to Moss, get book club advice, and prepare for the dark and gritty funny papers

Penguin wrongly lost confidence in the power of the printed word and invested “unwisely” amid the rise of eBooks, one of the company’s bosses has admitted.
  • Novelist Brit Bennett, whose new novel The Mothers is one of the most buzzed-about books of the fall, wrote a guest post for Seattle Public Library about the importance of libraries in her life.

  • Speaking of the Seattle Public Library, librarian Misha Stone was on KING 5 the other day talking about book clubs. — what makes book clubs work, what books book clubs are reading these days, and so on It's definitely worth your time:

Book News Roundup: Is Amazon getting into the convenience store business?

  • Jean Riley wrote a great roundup of the state of independent bookselling in Seattle for Seattle Magazine.
The past few decades have been challenging for independent bookstores, with each decade seeming to bring on a new threat: First, there were the huge chains that dominated the retail landscape. Then, there was the shift to online shopping, followed by the invention of electronic–reading devices. And now, the entry of Amazon into brick-and-mortar territory with its first store in Seattle. Yet despite some trepidation expressed by area booksellers leading up to Amazon’s store opening last year, the indie scene here is undergoing a quiet renaissance, as evidenced by the spring opening of Third Place Books in Seward Park, bookstore buyouts and one of the most successful Independent Bookstore Days the city has experienced.
  • Speaking of Amazon and brick-and-mortar stores: is Amazon really getting into the convenience store business? Apparently, the online retailer is planning on shops that would function like the"bodegas and convenience stores found in larger cities, offering customer the ability to quickly purchase both perishable and non-perishable products, like milk, meats, peanut butter, and other items." It's unclear if they'd carry books, too.

  • Here's a time-lapse video of the New York Public Library's Reading Room as staff prepare it for its grand re-opening after renovations:

Book News Roundup: The publishing industry is changing too slowly

  • Flavorwire reports on a Publishers Weekly report on the publishing industry. The bottom line: "Publishing Makes 'Little Progress' in Diversity, Remains Extremely White." This is not good enough.

  • And there's more bad news in the PW report, including the fact that women in publishing are still paid less than men. Boo.

  • This came in too late for me to add to the readings calendar this week, but you should be advised that the Words West reading series will take place tomorrow night at C&P Coffee Company in West Seattle. The very special guests at this reading will be Tod Marshall, Washington State's Poet Laureate, and City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who will share her favorite poem.This reading will also debut "a new library featuring a book by every author who has read at WordsWest." This is a super-cool idea.

  • Do you know any teenagers who love making comics? You should direct them to the All City Comics Club, which is hosted by local comics superstar David Lasky and which takes place at the Bureau of Fearless Ideas. Here, have a flier:

Book News Roundup: Bruce Springsteen's book tour is coming to Seattle

  • Bruce Springsteen is doing a reading tour for his new memoir, and he'll be reading at Elliott Bay Book Company on October 1st. Expect a madhouse. Tickets are here.

  • Wordstock, Portland's annual literary festival, has announced their 2016 lineup, which will take place on November 5th. Highlights include Seattle authors like Maria Semple, Lindy West, and Sherman Alexie, along with national authors like Colson Whitehead, Yaa Gyasi, and Nicholson Baker.

  • I interviewed director Jeff Feuerzeig onstage at SIFF this summer about his new documentary Author: The JT LeRoy Story. One of the questions I asked had to do with the many phone calls in the documentary: Laura Albert, who pretended to be an author named JT LeRoy for years, recorded all her phone calls, seemingly without the other callers' permission. Many of those recordings are in the film. I didn't record the onstage interview so I don't have Feuerzeig's response handy, but he stood by his film and his treatment of the recordings. This New York Times story indicates that others are unhappy with the very existence of the tapes:

For some people who reviewed transcripts from “Author” provided by The New York Times, the revelation years after the fact that Ms. Albert had been covertly recording phone calls was yet another deception in a trail of mendacity that extended to the late 1990s and early 2000s, when JT LeRoy published “Sarah,” a novel about a 12-year-old truck-stop prostitute, and “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things,” linked short stories about an abused boy.

Book News Roundup: Featuring Patton Oswalt, Hillary Clinton, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and a whole lot of writing opportunities

Book News Roundup: The latest children's book controversy is a doozy

  • Thinking about moving to Tacoma to save on rent? Wondering if you should wear the polka dots or the stripes? Curious about whether you'll be alone for the rest of your life? If you have a question you'd like to have answered on stage at Bumbershoot, you should tweet it at Hugo House with the hashtag "#Oracle". Your question might be addressed by Garth Stein, Ijeoma Oluo, or Kristiana Kahakauwila; they will be divining responses from their published writings.
Part of what is disturbing about the reception of the book is the unexplored idea of the mother’s brief attempt to seat the slave laborers at the kitchen table as a great act of bravery and resistance, a sufficient antidote to the evil which is not even alluded to in the rest of the story.
  • Seth Grahame Smith, the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, is being sued by his publisher for breach of contract because he reportedly turned in a remixed public-domain work and they expected an all-new work.

  • This bomb-throwing story at comics news and commentary site The Outhousers is certainly a little aggro, but it makes a good point: it's very weird that the comic book industry entirely relies on pre-orders. No other industry builds their entire business model on the idea that customers pre-order their products, sight unseen. Books can live and die before readers even get to check out the first issue. There must be a better way to run the industry, right?

Book News Roundup: How to talk to a woman reading a book

Book News Roundup: Looking for work?

  • Looking for a book-related job? Seattle-based publishing industry news organization Shelf Awareness is hiring a full-time publishing assistant "responsible for email newsletter ad trafficking with our book industry advertisers; direct work with the newsletter CMS; physically managing new book galley receiving, handling and shipping to book reviewers; managing other administrative tasks as assigned." They also promise unlimited free books.

  • Looking for an arts-related paid internship? The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture is hiring "a junior or senior college intern to assist the Communications and Outreach team in all aspects of managing the Office's events and communications, including preparation and dissemination of print and online marketing materials, pre-event planning and logistics, day-of-event onsite work and planning."

  • It's too late to attend the event discussed in this South Seattle Emerald profile, but you should still read about Seattle poet Natasha Marin's Reparations project.

  • If you like the maps in the front pages of fantasy novels or role playing games, this fantasy map generator will provide hours of entertainment.

  • This tweet from Books to Prisoners just won't get out of my head. Please support Books to Prisoners whenever you can; they do excellent work, and as you can see from this photo, they have to jump through some ridiculous hoops every day.

Book News Roundup: G. Willow Wilson reads from her new novel, Roxane Gay to write a Marvel Comic

  • San Diego Comic Con is happening right now, and most of the stories coming out of the convention could just as easily be press releases. But when you get that many creative people in one space at one time, interesting things will happen. For instance, Seattle author G. Willow Wilson gave the first public reading from her upcoming second novel, The Bird King. Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool writes:
Wilson treated her audience to a reading of the first chapter of The Bird King. The first chapter follows the young concubine Fatima as she slips out of her harem quarters to visit her friend Hassan. Fatima has become obsessed with an outdated map, and longs to see the world outside of the palace walls. Willow takes great care in describing her world, inviting her captive audience into the detailed and vibrant world she has created. The Bird King has no set release date.

Book News Roundup: David Sedaris, Lesley Hazleton, Tatiana Gill, and more

  • I'm already getting excited to introduce David Sedaris when he reads at Benaroya Hall on Wednesday, November 16th. (Here's last year's introduction.) If you're at all interested in attending this reading, you should know that tickets are on sale now, and they usually sell out very early. I attend a lot of readings, and I can tell you that Sedaris is the best reader I've ever seen. He also sticks around and signs everyone's books before and after the reading, taking the time to have a personal conversation with everyone in line. I hope to see you in November.

  • Video of Lesley Hazleton's TED Talk about soul isn't available online yet, but this account of her recent talk certainly has us intrigued — especially the bit where she describes fundamentalists:

“It’s not that they have no soul, it’s that something in them seems to have shriveled. They’ve hunkered down and built a wall inside themselves. afraid of the unknown. They live walled off from the world.”
  • Seattle cartoonist Tatiana Gill just published an autobiographical comic titled "My Body Positive Journey" to her website. It's all about the long journey of coming to peace with yourself. I reviewed a few of Gill's autobiographical comics back in November; if you like this comic, you should consider buying one of her published works.

  • What common thread unites Man Booker Prize winners? You can filter out the winners using this interactive infographic, but the answer, unfortunately, is "they're men writing books about men."

  • I often use the New York Times Book Review as an example of the kind of stodgy, establishment-friendly book reviews that we don't try to write at the Seattle Review of Books. So it's only fair that I share a NYTBR piece that absolutely knocks it out of the park: Jennifer Senior's review of serial plagiarist Jonah Lehrer's A Book About Love is that rarest of reviews: the generous takedown. You get the sense in reading the review that Senior gives Lehrer multiple opportunities to prove himself, but he disappoints her at every opportunity. Senior's review is intelligent, dramatic, funny, and never cruel for cruelty's sake. It's the best review I've read at the Times in years. You should read it.

  • The intense-sounding Computational Story Laboratory has pulled apart and analyzed novels and identified the "Six Basic Emotional Arcs of Storytelling." This is intrinsically interesting stuff, although one can picture Hollywood immediately turning it into a shitty formula for screenwriting, the way the work of Joseph Campbell has been twisted into a bad story factory. Anyway, those six arcs are:

A steady, ongoing rise in emotional valence, as in a rags-to-riches story such as Alice’s Adventures Underground by Lewis Carroll. A steady ongoing fall in emotional valence, as in a tragedy such as Romeo and Juliet. A fall then a rise, such as the man-in-a-hole story, discussed by [story-mapper and novelist Kurt] Vonnegut. A rise then a fall, such as the Greek myth of Icarus. Rise-fall-rise, such as Cinderella. Fall-rise-fall, such as Oedipus.

Book News Roundup: Where will Amazon open their next bookstore?

What does pull her away from her books and laptop are the boats. Like the 205-foot Lady Lola “superyacht” she started following online. Oh, and the Fremont Avenue brawl for which she called 911. And the much-appreciated cellphone call she gets from the bridge operator every time the bridge is raised (a safety check to make sure she’s not on — or under — the bridge, since her tower affords access to its underbelly.)
  • Seattle author Matt Ruff has had a good idea: if you have any questions about his amazing new book Lovecraft Country, he's putting together a Frequently Asked Questions page on his site. Feel free to ask him anything, from book-club-friendly questions to specific plot points. It strikes us that very book should have a FAQ page.

  • The New York Post — ugh, sorry for the link — reports that Amazon is planning to open its first east coast Amazon Books brick-and-mortar store in Manhattan.

  • A reminder: please don't read Jonah Lehrer's new book. The fact that he's publicly failed so many times and yet is still being published by major presses is a serious indictment of the publishing industry.

  • I very much liked Ben Winters' Last Policeman Trilogy, about a detective on an Earth that's facing down an apocalyptic asteroid strike. I haven't read his new book, Underground Airlines, but the below tweet from BuzzFeed's Saeed Jones accurately dismantles the publishing industry's breathless coverage of the book. Don't just operate under the assumption that an idea is new, or else you'll look like an uncultured ass, or a racist ass, or a racist uncultured ass:

Book News Roundup: Diversity and white supremacy in literature

  • Samantha Pak at the Seattle Globalist has written a great report on diversity in Seattle's bookstore scene. It's a must-read.

  • Seattle cartoonist Seth Goodkind discovered that someone plagiarized his artwork in order to win a contest put on by a music festival. When confronted, the artist apologized, but Goodkind wrote a wonderful letter explaining why plagiarism and contests for "exposure" harm artists. It's publicly posted on his Facebook wall and it's worth your time to read the whole thing. A taste:

Try asking several car dealerships if they will let you drive their vehicles around for a couple of weeks, and, if you like one, you might pay them for the mileage, and in the meantime, it’ll be “great exposure.” Considered this way, spec-work is simply a way of taking an artists work for little or nothing. In essence, theft.

Book News Roundup: Octavia Butler predicts Donald Trump, bookstore sales climb almost 10 percent in April

In the book, despite being down in the polls, Jarret is elected and his supporters feel empowered to declare martial law, enslaving people who are not Christian Americans. Jarret starts an ill-fated war with Canada, and is not ultimately re-elected.