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Category: Books (71-80 of 2007)

Steampunk gears up for a broader audience

Those who watched Doctor Who‘s season premiere this August were confronted with something strange—and it wasn’t just the striking new Doctor, Peter Capaldi. The episode, “Deep Breath,” was set in Victorian England…but there were robots. And not futuristic-looking robots, either—ones full of gears, pistons, and other old-fashioned mechanisms, the sort of technology that actually existed in the 1800s. These robots were patently impossible, far more advanced than anything an engineer could have created back then. They were also peculiarly plausible. They were, in short, steampunk.

As a sensibility, steampunk—a word that evokes old-timey aviator goggles, brass machinery, and, of course, steam engines—is nothing new. It’s trickled into the mainstream on numerous occasions over the years, from the frontier gadgetry of The Wild Wild West (both the ’60s TV show and the ’90s movie based upon it) to 2010’s “Punked,” the steampunk-themed episode of ABC’s hit show Castle. That said, it’s never fully broken through to a broader audience the way, say, epic fantasy has, thanks to The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. (Or the way quirky science fiction has with Doctor Who, for that matter.) But a handful of steampunk writers—some humble, some ambitious—are currently working to change that.


On the Books: Authors United warns Amazon, watch your reputation


The 1,100 member group Authors United posted a letter of direct appeal to Amazon’s board of directors—urging them to end their book-pricing standoff with publisher Hachette, which has hurt some authors’ book sales.

The letter warns the board that their reputation may be at stake: “[I]f this is how Amazon continues to treat the literary community, how long will the company’s fine reputation last?” The appeal continues, noting similar disputes “have a long and ugly history,” and asking, “Do you, personally, want to be associated with this?” For months, Amazon has delayed shipments of books by Hachette authors and removed the preorder option for those titles in an attempt to force Hachette to lower its e-book prices. [NPR] READ FULL STORY

See your favorite 'Harry Potter' and 'Game of Thrones' locations brought to life


Two artists have brought to life of some of the most beloved locales in the magical worlds of fantasy fiction. The exquisite pieces—created in Photoshop by artists Peter and Radu behind the Etsy shop The Green Dragon Inn—offer escapes to King’s Landing, Diagon Alley, Rivendell, and other imaginary places from the Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings series. Because what book and art lover wouldn’t want to deck out their walls with gorgeous renderings of their favorite fictional jaunts?























'Five Weapons' is a comic that's set in a Hogwarts for assassins


Five Weapons, Jimmie Robinson’s recently-concluded comic book series, has an irresistible hook: At a school where children are trained to be assassins, a pacifist vows to make it through the semester without touching a single weapon.

There are several ways a story about 12-year-olds learning to be professional killers could go wrong, even in a world where the most popular young adult franchise in the world is about teens forced to murder each other. But Five Weapons dodges all of them. Though it’s set in a world defined by violence, Five Weapons isn’t lurid or graphic in the least—in fact, it’s an all-ages romp that’s mostly about making friends.

Tyler Shainline is the new kid at the School of Five Weapons, where the children of assassins go to learn their parents’ craft. The school’s name refers to the five clubs that students can join, each focusing on a different instrument: knives, guns, staffs, bows and arrows, and “exotic” (poisons and such). As the son of one of the world’s most revered assassins, Shainline is instantly an object of resentment from his classmates. This only deepens after he refuses to choose a weapon and join a club. Each issue of the comic addresses the same issue: how can Tyler solve a series of impossible challenges without breaking his vow of pacifism? READ FULL STORY

Charles Dickens' writing inspiration? The voices in his head

The creative process of the world’s greatest auteurs has long been been the subject of intrigue and discussion among curious readers and aspiring writers. What was their daily routine? Where did they get their ideas? How did they develop the plots, the settings, the characters that have delighted millions of readers over the centuries?

Some authors say they themselves actually have little to do with it. Authors throughout the ages have described the phenomenon of tuning into a mysterious writers’ muse—the unseen fountain of inspiration that springs words into one’s mind and onto the page.

In Ancient Rome, the word “genius” actually meant a guiding spirit that accompanied a talented artist or writer. Ray Bradbury once said his work was actually produced by “the other me.” Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert gave a TED talk on the subject that went viral. And just this year, Edinburgh International Book Festival and Durham University launched a joint research venture called Writers’ Inner Voices, intended to explore this very topic. The aim of the project is to “understand writers’ and storytellers’ inner speech,” according to the website, “and the role that the inner voice or voices play in the process of literary creation.”

But one author in particular has was recently revealed to have had a fascinating cast of character voices in his head: 19th-century English classics writer Charles Dickens. Last month, English scholar Peter Garratt wrote in The Guardian that Dickens “understood his astonishing writing practice as the summoning of voices.”

In 1872, a literary critic claimed, “Every word said by his characters was distinctly heard by him.”

“[W]hen I sit down to my book, some beneficent power shows it all to me, and tempts me to be interested,” Dickens wrote in a letter to his good friend John Foster, “and I don’t invent it—really do not—but see it, and write it down.”

While writing Martin Chuzzlewit, Garratt points out, the memorable character of Mrs. Gamp—an incompetent, drunken nurse—interrupted Dickens often, “whispering to him in the most inopportune places—sometimes even in church—that he was compelled to fight her off by force,” explained 19th-century American author James Martin Peebles.

Dickens later came to be known as much for the theatricality of his public book readings as he was for the writing itself. He entertained crowds by reading his works using colorful, uncanny voices to animate each character. “It was [always] more than a reading,” wrote the Dickens biographer Edgar Johnson in the 1950s. “[I]t was an extraordinary exhibition of acting that seized upon its auditors with a mesmeric possession.” Ostensibly, Dickens was acting out each character as they sounded when they first entered his mind, uninvited.

We may be used to viewing writing as a strictly solitary activity—but the revelations of literary geniuses like Dickens prove that the writer’s life isn’t so quiet after all.

Read the rest of Garratt’s piece on Dickens and the inner voices that guided his writing at The Guardian

On the Books: Millennials read more than their elders, study finds

A new study from the Pew Research Center has yielded some surprising results on Americans’ reading habits across generations— finding that younger people are actually reading more books than their elders. The data shows that “88% of Americans under 30 read a book in the past year, compared with 79% of those age 30 and older.” The fact that Millennials read more than older Americans contradicts the popular characterization of a generation more interested in social media and the internet than paperbacks and hardcovers.

Another unexpected finding is that Millennials are equally as likely as older adults to have used a library in the past year. Additionally, Pew found that 62 percent of younger people believe there is “a lot of useful, important information that is not available on the Internet,” while only 53 percent of older Americans believe the same. [NPR]

Yesterday, Kindle users were notified by Amazon via email that they were eligible to receive damages from August’s court settlement of the class-action lawsuit filed against Apple for conspiring to fix ebook prices. Users may opt to receive a check or account credit. [Publishers Weekly]

In other Apple news, court papers filed on Sept. 4 disclose that Apple shareholders have sued the company’s executives for their role in “ensnaring Apple in a multi-year anticompetitive scheme to retail price competition… in the electronic book (‘e-book’) market.”

Herbert R. Lottman, the American biographer of influential French figures, died on Aug. 27 at the age of 87 after losing a battle with degenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. He wrote landmark accounts of French artists and intellectuals like Albert Camus, and he served as the European correspondent for Publishers Weekly for over three decades. [The New York Times]

Here are our 100 favorite books, according to Facebook

You’ve probably seen the viral status by now. Last month Facebook users began posting lists of the 10 books they found most influential on their lives. The prompt’s subjective nature, which didn’t call for definitive lists of the “greatest” books, helped it take off. As Facebook writes on its blog, “Favorite books are something friends like to share and discuss. A Facebook meme facilitates this very interaction.”

Seizing the moment, the social network analyzed all the book statuses—by their count, over 130,000—to arrive at the most commonly cited ones. According to Facebook, Americans posted 63.7 percent of the statuses, with women outnumbering men three to one and the average age of respondents hovering around 37. The results of Facebook’s analysis hardly represent the social network’s demographics, or those of our society, but still provide an interesting glimpse into the books we value.

Here are the top 25, along with the percentage of statuses that mentioned them:

  1. The Harry Potter series—J.K. Rowling (21.08%)
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird—Harper Lee (14.48%)
  3. The Lord of the Rings—JRR Tolkien (13.86%)
  4. The Hobbit—JRR Tolkien (7.48%)
  5. Pride and Prejudice—Jane Austen (7.28%)
  6. The Holy Bible (7.21%)
  7. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—Douglas Adams (5.97%)
  8. The Hunger Games trilogy—Suzanne Collins (5.82%)
  9. The Catcher in the Rye—J.D. Salinger (5.70%)
  10. The Chronicles of Narnia—C.S. Lewis (5.63%)
  11. The Great Gatsby—F. Scott Fitzgerald (5.61%)
  12. 1984—George Orwell (5.37%)
  13. Little Women—Louisa May Alcott (5.26%)
  14. Jane Eyre—Charlotte Bronte (5.23%)
  15. The Stand—Stephen King (5.11%)
  16. Gone with the Wind—Margaret Mitchell (4.95%)
  17. A Wrinkle in Time—Madeleine L’Engle (4.38%)
  18. The Handmaid’s Tale—Margaret Atwood (4.27%)
  19. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—C.S. Lewis (4.05%)
  20. The Alchemist—Paulo Coelho (4.01%)
  21. Anne of Green Gables—L.M. Montgomery (3.95%)
  22. The Giver—Lois Lowry (3.53%)
  23. The Kite Runner—Khaled Hosseini (3.67%)
  24. Ender’s Game—Orson Scott Card (3.53%)
  25. The Poisonwood Bible—Barbara Kingsolver (3.39%)

Facebook’s list provides some valuable insights. For one, we love the books we grew up with. Whether they’re English class staples (To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984), childhood classics (Harry PotterA Wrinkle in TimeEnder’s Game), or traditional books like The Bible, most of the books in the list’s top tier are ones many of us read as kids or adolescents.

Our most beloved books also have an intimate relationship with cinema. Fourteen of the top 25 have been adapted for the silver screen in the last 15 years, a number that grows when you include classic film adaptations like To Kill a Mockingbird and Gone With the Wind. This could be a chicken or the egg type of scenario: Do movie producers zero in on our favorite books when pitching films, or do we draw reading inspiration from what’s showing at the theaters? It’s hard to tell—but the list reveals that these are stories that deeply resonate with many people.

The rest of the list is a similarly scattershot collection of literary tomes, youthful touchstones, and modern hits. Nerds will appreciate the inclusions of Good Omens (#47), American Gods (#50), and Watchmen (#87), and people of all ages will approve of The Giving Tree (#41), Charlotte’s Web (#81), and Where the Wild Things Are (#100). The only people who might dislike the results are non-fiction junkies; the genre is frustratingly underrepresented on the list, and even true stories like Night (#62) are works of memoir, not history or science.

Check out the rest of the list below:

  1. Lord of the Flies—William Golding (3.38%)
  2. The Eye of the World—Robert Jordan (3.38%)
  3. The Book Thief—Markus Zusak (3.32%)
  4. Wuthering Heights—Emily Bronte (3.26%)
  5. Hamlet—William Shakespeare (3.22%)
  6. The Little Prince—Antoine de Saint-Exupery (3.21%)
  7. Sherlock Holmes—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (3.15%)
  8. Fahrenheit 451—Ray Bradbury (3.15%)
  9. Animal Farm—George Orwell (3.12%)
  10. The Book of Mormon (3.08%)
  11. The Diary of Anne Frank—Anne Frank (3.05%)
  12. Dune—Frank Herbert (3.02%)
  13. One Hundred Years of Solitude—Gabriel Garcia Marquez (2.98%)
  14. The Autobiography of Malcolm X (2.83%)
  15. Of Mice and Men—John Steinbeck (2.78%)
  16. The Giving Tree—Shel Silverstein (2.72%)
  17. The Fault in Our Stars—John Green (2.68%)
  18. On the Road—Jack Kerouac (2.68%)
  19. Lamb—Christopher Moore (2.58%)
  20. Slaughterhouse-Five—Kurt Vonnegut (2.54%)
  21. A Prayer for Owen Meany—John Irving (2.53%)
  22. Good Omens—Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (2.52%)
  23. The Help—Kathryn Stockett (2.45%)
  24. The Outsiders—S.E. Hinton (2.44%)
  25. American Gods—Neil Gaiman (2.42%)
  26. Where the Red Fern Grows—Wilson Rawls (2.41%)
  27. Stranger in a Strange Land—Robert Heinlein (2.39%)
  28. The Secret Garden—Frances Hodgson Burnett (2.38%)
  29. Little House on the Prairie—Laura Ingalls Wilder (2.35%)
  30. The Count of Monte Cristo—Alexandre Dumas (2.31%)
  31. The Pillars of the Earth—Ken Follett (2.31%)
  32. The Da Vinci Code—Dan Brown (2.29%)
  33. Brave New World—Aldous Huxley (2.24%)
  34. A Tale of Two Cities—Charles Dickens (2.21%)
  35. Les Miserables—Victor Hugo (2.21%)
  36. Great Expectations—Charles Dickens (2.16%)
  37. Night—Elie Wiesel (2.12%)
  38. The Dark Tower series—Stephen King (2.12%)
  39. Outlander—Diana Gabaldon (2.07%)
  40. The Color Purple—Alice Walker (1.92%)
  41. A Thousand Splendid Suns—Khaled Hosseini (1.89%)
  42. The Art of War—Sun Tzu (1.88%)
  43. Catch-22—Joseph Heller (1.85%)
  44. The Bell Jar—Sylvia Plath (1.85%)
  45. The Perks of Being a Wallflower—Stephen Chbosky (1.83%)
  46. The Old Man and the Sea—Ernest Hemingway (1.78%)
  47. Memoirs of a Geisha—Arthur Golden (1.76%)
  48. Tuesdays with Morrie—Mitch Albom (1.75%)
  49. The Road—Cormac McCarthy (1.73%)
  50. Watership Down—Richard Adams (1.72%)
  51. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—Betty Smith (1.72%)
  52. Where the Sidewalk Ends—Shel Silverstein (1.68%)
  53. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—Stieg Larsson (1.65%)
  54. A Song of Ice and Fire—George R. R. Martin (1.65%)
  55. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret—Judy Blume (1.65%)
  56. Charlotte’s Web—E.B. White (1.64%)
  57. The Time Traveler’s Wife—Audrey Niffenegger (1.63%)
  58. Anna Karenina—Leo Tolstoy (1.62%)
  59. Crime and Punishment—Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1.62%)
  60. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—Mark Twain (1.61%)
  61. The Shack—William P. Young (1.58%)
  62. Watchmen—Alan Moore (1.56%)
  63. Interview with the Vampire—Anne Rice (1.55%)
  64. The Odyssey—Homer (1.54%)
  65. The House of the Spirits—Isabel Allende (1.54%)
  66. The Stranger—Albert Camus (1.63%)
  67. The Call of the Wild—Jack London (1.63%)
  68. The Five People You Meet in Heaven—Mitch Albom (1.63%)
  69. Siddhartha—Herman Hesse (1.63%)
  70. East of Eden—John Steinbeck (1.50%)
  71. Matilda—Roald Dahl (1.50%)
  72. The Picture of Dorian Gray—Oscar Wilde (1.49%)
  73. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance—Robert Pirsig (1.47%)
  74. Love in the Time of Cholera—Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1.45%)
  75. Where the Wild Things Are—Maurice Sendak (1.45%)

On the Books: Long-lost Dr. Seuss stories hit shelves


A new Dr. Seuss book was published Tuesday, 23 years after the writer’s death. Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories is a collection of four previously unpublished short stories that Seuss wrote for Redbook magazine in the 1950s. The stories, discovered by Seuss biographer Charles Cohen and published by Random House, feature both familiar faces like The Grinch and Horton the elephant, as well as new characters like the titular Kwuggerbug. Theodor Geisel, the man behind the legendary pseudonym, died in 1991. [The Telegraph]

British fantasy novelist Graham Joyce died Tuesday at the age of 59 after a yearlong battle with lymphoma. Joyce’s publisher Gollancz, confirmed the news via Twitter: “Graham Joyce was a writer of huge heart. He loved people and his writing celebrated the magic of them. His books are a fitting legacy.” The multiple-time British Fantasy award winner was mourned on Twitter by fans and fellow authors including Stephen King, who tweeted, “Very sad to hear that Graham Joyce, a truly great novelist, has passed away. Too soon. Far too soon.” [The Guardian]

The nation’s largest bookstore, Barnes & Noble, experienced a 7-percent loss in revenue in its first quarter, ending in August—but managed to cut its net losses from $87 million to $28.4 million in the first period of the fiscal year. Retail CEO Mitch Klipper said that part of the reduction in declining sales is due to the ongoing dispute between retailer Amazon and publisher Hachette, as well as the popularity of movies adapted from young-adult books. B&N’s future revenues will in part be determined by its Nook Media ebook business and a new joint venture with Google, a book delivery system, currently being piloted. [Publishers Weekly]

Celebrity television judge-turned-author Judge Judy Sheindlin is giving away her new book for free. What Would Judy Say?: Be the Hero of Your Own Story is downloadable on Sheindlin’s website a PDF or e-book, free of charge.  On the site, Scheindlen—who collects a bigger paycheck than any other celebrity on TV, earning nearly a million dollars per workday—describes her book as “an honest conversation with women about what it really takes to get what you deserve out of life.” [Los Angeles Times]





Ursula Le Guin honored with National Book Foundation award

Every year, the National Book Foundation awards the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to an author “who has enriched our literary heritage over a life of service, or a corpus of work.” Since the medal’s inception, authors spanning all genres have been honored, from David McCullough’s historical nonfiction to Ray Bradbury’s science fiction and everything in between.

This year, the foundation has awarded the medal to Ursula Le Guin, whose body of sci-fi and fantasy work spans dozens of novels, short stories, and poems.


See inside the official 'Sons of Anarchy' book, and read the Tara chapter


As Sons of Anarchy fans rev up for the start of the final season (premiering Sept. 9 at 10 p.m. ET on FX), creator Kurt Sutter has revealed the cover of the show’s forthcoming companion book, Sons of Anarchy: The Official Collector’s Edition, for which he penned an introduction. It’ll hit shelves Dec. 10, the day after the FX drama’s series finale airs.

EW has an exclusive first look inside at the chapter on Tara (Maggie Siff), a map of SOA charters, the SAMCRO family tree, and more. Click on the images for a fuller size. READ FULL STORY

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