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Amazon picks best books of 2014 so far

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2014 is about half over, and the Amazon team has already chosen their top 10 books of the year so far, just in time for you to make a few additions to your summer reading list before the avalanche of prestige titles hits in the fall. There are already books here that will likely make plenty of top 10 lists at the end of the year, including Redeployment by Phil Klay, as well as some books that should have been a bigger deal: Red Rising by Pierce Brown, anyone?

In case you’re wondering, none of the books in Amazon’s top 10 is a Hachette title, although a few made the top 20: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (#11), The Fever by Megan Abbott (#14), and Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta (#19). See below for Amazon’s list: READ FULL STORY

Stephen Colbert gives Amazon the finger

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“I’m not just mad at Amazon, I’m mad prime,” said Stephen Colbert on his show last night.

That was just the first in a barrage of zingers against Amazon, which is currently in a legal battle with Colbert’s publisher Hachette Book Group over sharing profits. Colbert put Amazon and CEO Jeff Bezos on blast for what many see as bullying tactics to make Hachette titles difficult to order, such as eliminating discounts and delaying shipments. “If you ordered Hachette’s 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart, by the time it arrives, you’re still fat,” Colbert joked. The rant culminated in Colbert pulling two middle fingers out of an Amazon package and declaring, “Watch out, Bezos, because this means war.”

Joking aside, Colbert is taking real action against the corporation by encouraging readers to slap “I didn’t buy it on Amazon” stickers on books. And after plugging debut novel California by Edan Lepucki, the title shot to number one at the indie bookstore Powell’s in Portland.

Watch the video below: READ FULL STORY

Two chapters of J.K. Rowling's upcoming novel 'The Silkworm' released

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Amazon may be making it impossible to pre-order The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling), but Rowling is drumming up anticipation for the book on her own by releasing two chapters on robert-galbraith.com. In the excerpt, Cormoran Strike reckons with the disappearance of novelist Owen Quine, who has made enemies of many people he knows by characterizing them in unflattering ways in his books. The chapters also include references to phone hacking, an issue Rowling has addressed in real life.

If the excerpt — found here — has piqued your interest, you can still preorder it on bn.com, or, you know, wait until in comes out on June 19 and buy it at a real bookstore.

Oprah Winfrey to Narrate 'What I Know For Sure' Audiobook

Today, Macmillan Audio announced that Oprah Winfrey will narrate the audiobook for her forthcoming book What I Know For Sure. 

What I Know For Sure, due out Sept. 2, is a collection of columns Winfrey has written in O, The Oprah Magazine, and shares its name with Winfrey’s column. This is the first time that her columns have been revised updated and collected. For the past 14 years, Winfrey has written one column each month and has used the experience as an opportunity to “take stock of her life.” She was inspired to write the column after film critic Gene Siskel posed her the question, “What do you know for sure?” READ FULL STORY

On The Books: Hachette Amazon feud escalates, affecting Rowling and Connelly

The feud between Hachette Book Group and Amazon has intensified. The Los Angeles Times reports that Amazon has taken the pre-order buttons off of big Hachette titles, like The Burning Room by Michael Connelly and The Silkworm by Richard Galbraith, the pen name for J.K. Rowling. This is in addition to allegedly extending back order times for popular books, like Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. Hachette has issued a statement saying they are “sparing no effort and exploring all options” to resolve this conflict, but Amazon has declined to comment. Hachette author James Patterson has been very outspoken about this battle. “What I don’t understand about this particular battle tactic is how it is in the best interest of Amazon customers,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “It certainly doesn’t appear to be in the best interest of authors.” READ FULL STORY

Former EW editor Jeff Giles writing YA series 'The Mercy Rule'

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Former EW deputy managing editor Jeff Giles, who oversaw the magazine’s coverage of movies and books and edited plenty of Hunger Games cover stories, has a new young-adult series of his own coming soon. Bloomsbury Children’s has acquired the global rights to two books by him: The Mercy Rule, a fantasy novel about a teen girl trying to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance who meets a bounty hunter trying to escape the Lowlands (a.k.a. hell), and an as-yet-untitled sequel. Giles is represented by literary agent Jodi Reamer, who also represents John Green and Stephenie Meyer.

The Mercy Rule daringly straddles the line between realistic fiction and fantasy — the kind of book that takes hold of you and never lets go,” Cindy Loh, Publishing Director for Bloomsbury Children’s Books, says in a press release. “Jeff is an incredibly gifted storyteller and we knew from page one that this was a project to support in a big way. We have ambitious plans for Jeff and his stunning new series.”

The Mercy Rule is slated for publication in early 2016.

Take a first look at Jason Segel's first novel 'Nightmares!'

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We always knew that Muppet lover and Dracula musical writer Jason Segel was a giant kid at heart, and now he’s planning to tell stories directly aimed at a very young audience. The first novel from the former How I Met Your Mother star will hit shelves Sept. 9, and EW has the exclusive first look at the cover of Nightmares!. Read on for more on Segel’s own weird nightmares, the first screenplay he ever wrote, and his experiences reading Infinite Jest while preparing to play David Foster Wallace in an upcoming biopic. READ FULL STORY

You can now read Jonathan Safran Foer and Toni Morrison on Chipotle cups

How very high-low. Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, was in Chipotle one day and he was quite miffed that he had nothing to read while he munched on his burrito. “I really just wanted to die with frustration,” he told Vanity Fair.

The author was so riled that he emailed the Chipotle C.E.O. Steve Ells directly: “I bet a s—load of people go into your restaurants every day, and I bet some of them have very similar experiences, and even if they didn’t have that negative experience, they could have a positive experience if they had access to some kind of interesting text…Wouldn’t it be cool to just put some interesting stuff on it? Get really high-quality writers of different kinds, creating texts of different kinds that you just give to your customers as a service.”

Ells knew a good thing when he saw it, so he gave Foer the green light to select writers and edit their stories for Chipotle’s cups. Foer composed a short called “Two Minute Personality Test” and then asked Malcolm Gladwell, Toni Morrison, George Saunders, Judd Apatow, Sarah Silverman, Bill Hader and others to contribute pieces. “I tried to put together a somewhat eclectic group, in terms of styles,” he said. “I wanted some that were essayistic, some fiction, some things that were funny, and somewhat thought provoking.” READ FULL STORY

On The Books: Drink your books, a water safety manual doubles as a water filter

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Some people think of everything, like the folks over at humanitarian group WaterisLife. They wrote a book on water quality, but went the extra mile and made the pages actual water filters that can be torn out and used to treat contaminated water. My first question was: what languages are they printing this in because chances are the people who need this speak only a local dialect. Sure enough they covered that: “Each page of the book is divided by perforation into two squares. The top half has information printed in English, while the bottom half is printed in a locally spoken language. The first run was printed in English and Swahili to be distributed in Kenya, but the goal is to expand printing for languages spoken in all 33 countries where WaterisLife operates.” [Slate] READ FULL STORY

On The Books: Author of Faked Holocaust Memoir Ordered to Pay $22.5 million

In an almost mythological tale of hubris, Misha Defonseca, author of the best-selling Holocaust memoir Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years, has been ordered to pay her publisher $22.5 million after it was discovered that she faked her entire life story. Before the truth about her past came to light, Defonseca sued her publisher for $32.4 million for “breach of contract for hiding profits from the author.” While researching the book during the trial, the publisher realized that none of the facts checked out and Defonseca ended up confessing that she made the whole thing up. The $22.5 million is Defonseca’s portion of the $32.4 million judgement she won years ago and now must return. By now, the wild tale of a 7-year-old girl who trekked through the snowy wilderness after her parents were taken by Nazis has already been translated into 18 languages and made into a movie. [NY Post]

American teens are reading for pleasure way less than they used to. According to a study conducted by Common Sense Media, almost half of 17-year-olds say they read for pleasure no more than one or two times a year. This decline is happening despite the expanding number of platforms that are available to readers. The study does not link this to the internet directly, but researchers think the distractions from smart phones, infinitely streaming television and the k-hole of YouTube are a likely factor. [NPR]

Freakonomics fans can read an excerpt from Think Like a Freak, the authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s newest book about how to problem solve like…a freak. Sample advice: “It’s much better to ask small questions than big ones. Small questions…are virgin territory for true learning.” [Guardian]

Walter Isaacson, the best-selling author and president of the Aspen Institute, will deliver the Jefferson Lecture at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. tonight at 7:30 pm ET. Mr. Isaacson has written biographies of Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs, and he will be discussing the lives of all three men during his lecture on “The Intersection of the Humanities and the Sciences.” You can live stream the sold out lecture at the National Endowment for the Humanities website.

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