- Renowned American poet Galway Kinnell died of leukemia last week at the age of 87. Kinnell received numerous accolades throughout his career, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for 1982’s Selected Poems—as well as a MacArthur genius grant, a poet laureateship in Vermont, a chancellorship at the American Academy of Poets, and, most recently, the 2010 Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement. The World War II vet, anti-Vietnam War activist, and civil rights champion infused his verse with the gritty social issues pervading the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. The Los Angeles Times writes that the Kinnell is celebrated for his “forceful, spiritual takes on the outsiders and underside of contemporary life,” and how he “blended the physical and the philosophical, not shying from the most tactile and jarring details of humans and nature.” His work reflects the influence that Walt Whitman and friend W.S. Merwin had on him. Kinnell—who also taught at New York University, Sarah Lawrence College, and Reed College before retiring in 2011—is survived by his wife, two children from a former marriage, and two grandchildren.
Tag: Dan Brown (1-10 of 18)
We’re starting the week with a round-up of the best-selling books, news on a possible book by “celebrity” Lindsay Lohan, as well as a forthcoming actual celebrity self-help book that’s (gasp!) not by Gwyneth Paltrow. Read on for today’s top headlines: READ FULL STORY
Random House Inc. and Penguin Group have completed a planned merger that creates the world’s largest publisher of consumer books.
Parent companies Bertelsmann and Pearson said they signed the final contracts on Monday to combine the global activities of the two publishers and create Penguin Random House. Random House parent Bertelsmann will hold 53 percent of the new company and Penguin owner Pearson 47 percent.
Penguin Random House will include top-selling authors such as Dan Brown and Ken Follett and a vast back catalog ranging from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.
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This morning, Today revealed the art for Brown’s next mystery, entitled Inferno, which will see the return of serial protagonist, symbologist, and long-haired dude Robert Langdon, last seen in The Lost Symbol.
The cover art features an image of the Italian writer Dante, which is no coincidence: The book was inspired by his 14th-century poem and will take place in Italy. (Can we guess Florence? Because you can totally see Florence peeking through the cover.)
“With this new novel, I am excited to take readers on a journey deep into this mysterious realm … a landscape of codes, symbols, and more than a few secret passageways,” Brown said in a statement — and a world of symbol- and secret passageway-loving fans rejoiced.
Take a look at the cover after the jump. What do you think?
Antiquity meets modern-day mystery once again in Dan Brown’s upcoming novel Inferno. Doubleday announced this morning that the Da Vinci Code and Lost Symbol author’s next novel, coming May 14, will feature Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon’s return. The action will take place in Italy, and at the heart of the mystery will stand the literary classic Dante’s Inferno.
“Although I studied Dante’s Inferno as a student, it wasn’t until recently, while researching in Florence, that I came to appreciate the enduring influence of Dante’s work on the modern world,” said Brown in a press release. “With this new novel, I am excited to take readers on a journey deep into this mysterious realm… a landscape of codes, symbols, and more than a few secret passageways.”
Inferno will get a first printing of four million copies in the U.S. and Canada.
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They say never to judge a book by its cover, but no one said anything about its title. And when the title of the book I’m about to read tells me absolutely nothing, I judge. If only I had discovered Better Book Titles sooner! Dan Wilbur, a comedian and writer, started his Better Book Titles blog to “cut through all the cryptic crap” and tell the readers what the books are really about. Genius, right?
Examples: Still, Not Worse Than Child Touching AKA The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. My personal favorite? Way Easier to Watch Than Read which is, of course, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. But you’re now warned. Some titles are NSFW.
I keep thinking this blog could have been useful when I read Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor. I’d like to suggest Grotesquely Confusing to Wilbur’s repertoire. And as a matter of fact, I can. Wilbur posts a new title every weekday and a reader submission each Friday. So get to rewriting history, people. And maybe with a new title, you’ll inspire someone to NOT read a literary classic.*
What improved book titles would you suggest? Head to the comments with your best ideas.
*Note: Here on Shelf Life we are NOT recommending that you quit reading. Instead, we are insisting you get a good laugh out of these silly, new titles.
Though it didn’t sell as strongly as The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol moved more than 5.5 million copies to dominate Publishers Weekly‘s just-unveiled list of the best-selling hardcover books of 2009. A few other expected author names populate the Top 15, including John Grisham (No. 2 and No. 6), James Patterson (No. 5), and Patricia Cornwell (No. 12 and No. 14). Stephenie Meyer landed in the ninth spot with her 2008 sci-fi novel The Host, but the lack of a Twilight book was evident, particularly in the ascendancy of two entries from P.C. Cast’s Twi-lite House of Night series, which rose up to fill a vampire-shaped hole. The real surprise, though, is Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, which itself was helped by tremendous word of mouth to become the fourth best-selling fiction book of the year with 1.1 million copies sold. On the nonfiction side, it was politics, mainly conservative, that got the cash register ringing. Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue capped the list, but books by Glenn Beck, conservative radio host Mark Levin, and the late Edward Kennedy all made it into the top five.
Whereas sales of albums and movie tickets are tallied virtually in real-time, the figures for the publishing industry are often as closely guarded as the Colonel’s secret recipe, so PW’s yearly ranking offers one of the best snapshots of the literary marketplace. And while the top contenders on both the fiction and nonfiction lists sold millions of copies, the overall list reveals a far less rosy picture of book sales. The number of titles that sold at least 100,000 copies is down by significant double-digit percentages from 2008 in both fiction and nonfiction.
E-book sales figures weren’t included this year (they will be for 2010), but since digital editions rarely exceed 5 percent of a book’s total sales it’s unlikely that the 2009 sales list would have received a big boost from their inclusion. Here are the top selling books of 2009 (since some publishers did not provide PW exact sales figures, several titles’ rankings are based on estimates or sales figures provided in confidence for the purposes of ranking):
1. The Lost Symbol: A Novel, Dan Brown (5,543,643 copies)
2. The Associate: A Novel, John Grisham
3. Tempted, P.C. Cast (1,141,818)
4. The Help, Kathryn Stockett (1,104,617)
5. I, Alex Cross, James Patterson (1,040,976)
6. Ford County, John Grisham
7. Finger Lickin’ Fifteen, Janet Evanovich (977,178)
8. Hunted, P.C. Cast (931,219)
9. The Host: A Novel, Stephenie Meyer (912,165)
10. Under the Dome, Stephen King
11. Pirate Latitudes, Michael Crichton (855,638)
12. Scarpetta, Patricia Cornwell (800,00)
13. U Is for Undertow, Sue Grafton (706,154)
14. The Scarpetta Factor, Patricia Cornwell (705,000)
15. Shadowland, Alyson Noel (609,355)
1. Going Rogue: An American Life, Sarah Palin (2,674,684 copies)
2. Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment, Steve Harvey (1,735,219)
3. Arguing With Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government, Glenn Beck
4. Liberty & Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, Mark R. Levin
5. True Compass: A Memoir, Edward M. Kennedy (870,402)
6. Have a Little Faith: A True Story, Mitch Albom (855,843)
7. It’s Your Time: Activate Your Faith, Achieve Your Dreams, and Increase in God’s Favor, Joel Osteen
8. The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow (610,033)
9. Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs, Greg Mortenson (515,566)
10. Superfreakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (487,977).
11. Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child (487,228)
12. Master Your Metabolism: The 3 Diet Secrets to Naturally Balancing Your Hormones for a Hot and Healthy Body! Jillian Michaels (486,154)
13. The Yankee Years, Joe Torre and Tom Verducci (397,954)
14. Open, Andre Agassi (383,722)
15. Time of My Life, Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niem
The Lost Symbol has lost ground. According to Amazon’s best-sellers list, Dan Brown’s blockbuster novel has slipped quietly down to third place. At both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the top two spots are occupied by pre-orders for the recently moved-up memoir by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (Going Rogue: An American Life is now due in stores Nov. 17, well before its initial spring 2010 release) and Arguing With Idiots by lachrymose talking head Glenn Beck.
Is Symbol’s slip to be expected? Are we experiencing a Brown-out of sorts, in which everyone who was going to buy the book has already bought it or borrowed it from a friend? The novel will likely see a resurrection in sales once the holiday season rolls around and gift purchases start up, but for now at least its iron grip on the best-seller charts has slackened.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, a bookstore in Chicago is reporting that the latest Windy City-themed issue of Granta, a quarterly literary magazine, has been outselling Symbol. I never thought I’d see the day that Wole Soyinka, whose work is included in the issue, would be more in demand than the author of The Da Vinci Code. Maybe Chicagoans really do have something going for them, and I should start reconsidering my position on deep-dish.
If the mind-over-matter science on display in his newest novel is to be believed, Dan Brown must be thinking really hard about selling books. Over two million copies of The Lost Symbol flew off bookshelves in the first week alone, and it looks like the rising tide is lifting some other boats with it.
Only a couple days after Symbol‘s release, Barnes & Noble told Entertainment Weekly that it was already seeing “a lift in sales of books about Freemasonry and secret societies, followed closely by those about early Christianity (Gnostic Gospels).” And now also basking in the reflected glory is The Intention Experiment by Lynne McTaggart, which Brown name-checks (website and all) early on in his novel. According to figures from Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70 percent of all U.S. book sales, McTaggart’s self-help work sold 402 copies in the week ending Sept. 27, compared to 227 copies for the week ending Sept. 20. That’s a 77 percent increase! The boost came as a surprise to publisher Martha Levin, who said she only found out about the shout-out when one of her colleagues who was reading Symbol called to tell her the news.
The Intention Experiment is a book about noetic science, a field of metaphysics that champions the power of human thought to affect the external world. Mostly low-key stuff, like influencing the formation of ice crystals or encouraging plant growth. No Scanners-like head explosions just yet. Brown discusses the quasi-science extensively in Symbol.
Brown’s previous blockbuster, The Da Vinci Code, provided a similar lift to books on the Holy Grail and the Knights Templar. It also slipped in an in-text reference to Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh’s 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, partially anagramming the authors’ surnames to christen the novel’s villain, Leigh Teabing. Unfortunately, that honor did not stop the writers from suing Brown for copyright infringement, a case they eventually lost.
Levin, on the other hand, is grateful for the recognition. “We’re thrilled,” she said, “I mean, what fun!”
Forget the expanding congressional divide. Literature is seeing its own structural breakdown, thanks to an increasingly petty argument between two integral types of authors: highbrow and lowbrow. Nearly one month ago, Time book critic and The Magicians author Lev Grossman was criticized for his commentary in The Wall Street Journal in which he dissed high-minded “Modernist” authors: “The Modernists felt little obligation to entertain their readers…Conversely they have trained us, Pavlovianly, to associate a crisp, dynamic, exciting plot with supermarket fiction, and cheap thrills, and embarrassment…If you’re having too much fun, you’re doing it wrong.”
Then there is the latest dustup over the lowbrow book of the hour: Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol. British novelist Philip Pullman took the intellectual approach while talking to a U.K. paper: “All the usual literary things [Brown] just doesn’t know how to do, but he’s not interested in those and nor are his millions of readers…It is not great writing.” The Firm author John Grisham then responded to Pullman’s criticism of Brown by knocking classic literature as a whole: “I’ve read literature in the classic sense. We’ve all got those type of books on the shelves at home…I admit that I didn’t like them much. I couldn’t understand why they were said to be so good.”
I’m not sure which side I take, but I do know one thing: We seem one step away from a Twitter fight of Speidi-Ryan Seacrest proportions here. And it seems the debate will rage on. After all, sales for lowbrow lit only seem to increase (Hello, Stephenie Meyer and James Patterson!), while highbrow lit still garners all the accolades (not to mention an occasional endorsement from the big O). But since I would say a majority of us avid readers enjoy dipping in both reading pools, can’t we all just get along?
So tell me, Shelf Lifers: Which side are you on? Team highbrow? Team lowbrow? And are you, like me, feeling uncomfortable with the fact that Grisham knocked hundreds of years’ worth of amazing reads?
Photo Credit: Maki Galimberti
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