The UK incarnation of World Book Night will be undergoing some changes for its 2014 celebration.
In the UK, where World Book Night was launched in 2011, the number of books that will be produced to be given away by volunteers will be halved from 500,000 to 250,000, according to industry newsletter Shelf Awareness.
Instead, WBN UK is hoping to attract more volunteers with a new rule: volunteers will now be able to give away any book they choose rather than just the titles specified by World Book Night staff.
According to the Guardian, 20,000 volunteers participated in the UK celebration of World Book Night this past year but WBN had to turn some volunteers away. With the new rule allowing volunteers to supply their own books, everyone who shows up may participate. WBN staff hope to increase the number of volunteers for the event to 100,000 by 2017.
Volunteers who distribute books they supply themselves will be known as Community Book Givers, while those who are handing out titles from World Book Night staff will be called World Book Night Edition Book Givers.
In addition, volunteers in the UK could now be given more than 20 books to hand out (the previous limit) if they reside or work in certain areas. Places like community centers and prisons that have distributed titles in the past could also get more than 20.
Another big change: Up until now, all participants have been allowed to vote to help select the books that would be distributed for World Book Night. But the selection process has now changed and a committee will make the decision on its own instead.
The UK World Book Night also recently announced that the event will now be conducted by The Reading Group, a charity that works to support libraries and starts programs to encourage people of all ages to pick up a book. Previously, WBN was a charity that operated on its own.
World Book Night is scheduled to be held April 23.
This Halloween, as readers search for ghost stories, they can find one in an unlikely place: a new collection of letters written by George Orwell.
Although Orwell was famous for forecasting the horrors of totalitarianism in groundbreaking novels such as “1984” and “Animal Farm,” he wasn’t known as a master of the macabre.
But in “George Orwell: A Life in Letters,” published earlier this year by Liveright in hardcover, editor Peter Davison reminds readers that Orwell once reported seeing a ghost. Orwell’s claim was especially surprising since he also claimed to have no belief in the afterlife.
In an Aug. 16, 1931 letter to friend Dennis Collings, Orwell said he’d seen a ghost in England’s Walberswick cemetery. Orwell was so shocked by the incident that he included a detailed diagram of his walking route in the letter, charting out the geographical impossibility that a figure he had just seen would have been able to walk away so quickly.
“I happened to glance over my shoulder, & saw a figure pass ... disappearing behind the masonry & presumably disappearing into the churchyard,” Orwell told Collings. “I wasn’t looking directly at it & so couldn’t make out more than that it was a man’s figure, small & stooping, & dressed in lightish brown; I should have said a workman. I had the impression that it glanced towards me in passing, but I made out nothing of the features. At the moment of its passing I thought nothing, but a few seconds later it struck me that the figure had made no noise, & I followed it out into the churchyard. There was no one in the churchyard, & no one within possible distance along the road – this was about 20 seconds after I had seen it; & in any case there were only two people in the road, & neither at all resembled the figure.... The figure had therefore vanished. Presumably an hallucination,” Orwell concluded.
But 82 years after Orwell’s curious experience near an English cemetery, what he saw – and how he saw it – remains a mystery.
Danny Heitman, a columnist for The Advocate newspaper in Louisiana, is the author of “A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House.”
“Autobiography” by Morrissey was published Oct. 15 in the UK and is topping sales charts there, according to publisher G.P. Putnam’s Sons, which will be releasing the book in America.
“Few artists have had the kind of creative staying power as Morrissey and we are thrilled to be his American publisher,” G.P. Putnam’s Sons said in a statement.
Putnam president David Held noted their haste to get the book out as soon as possible in the US, with the book scheduled to hit US shelves on Dec. 3.
“That’s about as quick as you can do it and get proper distribution,” Held told The New York Times.
American readers who wanted the book had been ordering copies from the UK before now. Simon Key, who works at the Big Green Bookshop in London, told the Guardian of the unusual demand the store was receiving from US readers for the book.
“People have been getting in touch by email and Twitter,” Key said. “It is unusual, as an independent London bookshop. We don't generally sell a lot of books in America.”
Bestselling horror author R.L. Stine will be bringing back his “Fear Street” young adult series.
Stine is best known for his bestselling “Goosebumps” series. The author published his first book in the “Fear Street” series in 1989.
The “Fear Street” books followed teenagers living in the fictional town of Shadyside who dealt with strange occurrences that were sometimes paranormal and sometimes perpetrated by human adversaries.
The new book in the “Fear” series, titled “Party Games,” will be released next October, according to the New York Times.
Stine said in a statement that he looks forward to “explor[ing] new horrors” with the new book.
On his Twitter account, the author wrote, “Because so many of you asked for it – FEAR STREET RETURNS!” with a link to the NYT story.
Whether it’s multiple movie adaptations or new works that imagine what happened to Elizabeth Bennet and her Mr. Darcy, it seems readers can never get enough of Jane Austen’s classic novel “Pride and Prejudice.”
And a new book based on “Pride” has arrived, with “Longbourn,” which was released Oct. 8, looking at the well-known story from the point of view of the Bennet family’s servants. (Longbourn is the name of the Bennets’ home.)
One of the main characters is Sarah, a scullery maid who at one point provides a tart commentary on the famous scene where Elizabeth arrives at a neighbor’s house with her petticoats covered in mud. “If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them,” Baker writes.
The book’s tagline: "'Pride and Prejudice’ was only half the story.”
So what are reviewers saying? The Monitor selected the book for our list of the 10 best October releases.
New York Times reviewer Diane Johnson called the book “delightfully audacious” and said that “Longbourn” is “original and charming, even gripping, in its own right.”
Meanwhile, USA Today writer Carmela Ciuraru gave the book four stars out of four.
“It isn't necessary to have read 'Pride and Prejudice' to savor the rich drama of 'Longbourn,' which stands on its own as a fine work of fiction, exposing the troubling and often painful aspects of the class divide in Regency England,” Ciuraru writes.
Ciuraru notes that the book is “much more than a frothy, 'Downtown Abbey'-like twist on Austen. This novel is moving, filled with suspense, and impressive for the sympathy with which it explores the drudgery of the servants' lives, as well as their heartaches.
Guardian writer Hannah Rosefield was similarly impressed, predicting that “Longbourn” will “please Austen fans and novices alike.”
“Baker favours excess over subtlety in her descriptions as well as her plotting, and sometimes 'Longbourn' feels oversaturated,” Rosefield notes. “Yet there are lovely moments, where she inhabits the mind of a girl whose entire experience is domestic.”
Telegraph reporter Holly Kyte discussed how difficult an Austen homage is to do successfully. “What a relief, then, that Jo Baker’s confidence is justified,” Kyte writes. “To twist something so familiar into something quite fresh is impressive. Notwithstanding the odd cheekily lifted phrase, Baker takes ownership of this world without mimicking Austen’s style, asserting instead her own distinctive, authentic voice.”
As the release date of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” on Nov. 22 quickly approaches, another trailer for the film has been released.
Though comparatively shorter than the film's other previews, this new promotion for the movie showed some of the dangers heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), love interest Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and the other tributes will face during the new Hunger Games.
The beginning of the trailer shows Katniss climbing a tree and firing an arrow at the sky as President Snow (Donald Sutherland) watches.
“You fought very hard in the arena,” Snow tells Katniss in voiceover. “But they were games. Would you like to be in a real war?”
The quick images that flash afterward show Katniss’s sister Prim (Willow Shields), Katniss and Peeta arriving for the Games in outfits that are lit with fake flames, and the tributes facing down dangers in the arena such as jabberjays, birds who torture the tributes by recreating the screams of their loved ones.
Check out the full trailer.
Talk about starting them young.
The newest trend in children’s board books, it seems, is literary classics adapted for the under-three set. Think “Sense and Sensibility,” “Les Miserables,” yes, even “Anna Karenina” and “Moby-Dick” for babies and tots.
All with bold shapes and colors, and highly chewable corners, of course.
As more and more parents are reading early to their children – some parenting guides suggest starting in infancy – publishers are responding with more substantial fare.
Of course, it’s not the first example of exposing young ones to sophisticated material, as Linda Bubon, an owner and children’s book buyer at Chicago bookstore Women & Children First, told the The New York Times.
“If we’re going to play classical music to our babies in the womb and teach them foreign languages at an early age, then we’re going to want to expose babies to fine art and literature,” she said. “Now we know there are things we can do to stimulate the mind of a baby.”
Cozy Classics and BabyLit, which was conceived when Suzanne Gibbs Taylor, a creative director at a small Salt Lake City publishing house realized no one had ever “taken Jane Austen and made it for babies,” are among the series of literary board books.
BabyLit uses such classics as “Wuthering Heights” and “Romeo and Juliet” as a springboard to explain counting, colors, or opposites, while Cozy Classics illustrates such heavyweights as “Moby Dick” and “Les Miserables” with needle-felted pictures of Captain Ahab and Jean Valjean.
“People are realizing that it’s never too young to start putting things in front of them that are a little more meaningful, that have more levels,” Ms. Taylor, of BabyLit, told the Times. “It’s not so simple as, ‘Here’s a dog, here’s the number 2.’”
It’s a trend that’s catching on. BabyLit has sold more than 300,000 books so far, and if science and retail trends are any indication, it’s a genre that has room for growth.
That’s because children’s books are one of the few genres that have escaped the digital revolution unscathed. Few parents want to read pixels rather than pages when putting their little ones to sleep with “Goodnight Moon,” for example. As such, children’s books are doing relatively well.
What’s more, as more research on early childhood development encourages early reading and early interactions, parents – and publishers – are listening.
And that’s why board books, traditionally seen as cheaper, less attractive fare in the books biz, are getting literary makeovers.
As one publishing exec told the NYT, “A board book was [once] little more than a teething ring.”
Now, it seems, they’re canvases for the likes of Shakespeare, Melville, and Tolstoy.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
The influence of books on the American presidency has a long and distinguished history, as this autumn’s readers are learning in three new biographies of the nation’s commanders-in-chief.
In The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence (St. Martin’s Press, $26.99), author Robert Klara documents Truman’s oversight of a drastic renovation of the presidential mansion. In guiding the massive project, Truman drew on his extensive knowledge of history, a body of wisdom he’d accumulated as an avid reader since childhood. Klara recalls that as a boy, Truman was advised by his doctor to avoid outside sports to protect his eyes, which were considered delicate because of a structural astigmatism. “Petrified into staying indoors, Truman discovered the Independence Public Library,” Klara writes. “By the time he turned fourteen, the story goes, he had devoured all three thousand books in it.”
In The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism (Simon & Schuster, $40), author Doris Kearns Goodwin notes that Roosevelt also found comfort and instruction in books as a child. Often confined because of childhood asthma, TR turned to books for consolation. “His voracious reading gave him a rich cache of ideas for stories of his own to entertain his younger brother and sister,” Goodwin tells readers. TR’s enthusiastic reading is a continual theme throughout “The Bully Pulpit” ; she notes, for example, that on a trip out West, young Roosevelt carried Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” along for the ride.
Goodwin reports that President William Howard Taft’s literary taste leaned toward the novels of Anthony Trollope. “Trollope is a great favorite of mine because of the realistic every day tone which one finds in every line he writes,” Taft observed in a letter.
In Wilson (Putnam, $40), a new biography of President Woodrow Wilson, author A. Scott Berg tells readers that even though Wilson was a professional academic, he also used light reading to relieve the pressures of the presidency. Shortly after taking office, Berg writes, Wilson asked “the Librarian of Congress to keep him supplied with detective novels.”
Taken together, the new books by Klara, Goodwin, and Berg give ample evidence that reading is a vital part of leading.
Danny Heitman, a columnist for The Advocate in Louisiana, is the author of “A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House.”
With a population of only 300,000, Iceland is home to fewer people than Wichita, Kans. But it makes up for its tiny population with a stunning reputation when it comes to book-writing and book-loving.
Maybe it has something to do with the island nation's history of Nordic sagas or chilly winters that inspire Icelanders to curl up with a hardback or tablet.
Whatever the case, the BBC reported earlier this month that Iceland has more writers, more books published, and more books read, per capita, than anywhere else in the world. In fact, statistics indicate that one in every 10 Icelanders will publish a book.
On the international front, however, Iceland hasn't developed a reputation like the other Scandinavian countries as a hot spot for modern mysteries. But two new mysteries are reason enough to give Iceland a second look.
One is by an Icelander and about Icelanders but mostly set in Greenland. Another, by an Australian, creates a vivid picture of 19th-century Iceland. They'll both give readers a chill.
"The Day Is Dark," by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir
The Iceland of "The Day Is Dark" isn't as exotic as it might sound. Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, an attorney, deals with the usual hassles of the Western world – a quarrel with the ex over who'd get the flat-screen TV, cell phone calls, e-mail.
Greenland is another matter entirely. Gudmundsdóttir gets sent there on a case and must reconstruct what happened at a remote snowbound outpost where Icelandic employees have disappeared. The local townspeople are utterly unhelpful and there are whispers of danger in the woods.
Part mystery and part thriller, "The Day Is Dark" manages to be both exciting and enlightening. Sigurdardóttir, who works as a civil engineer, gets bogged down at times in a complex geological subplot. But at her best, she reveals a fine understanding of both human character and the unique struggles of Greenlanders, who have high rates of alcoholism and suicide.
Readers learn about how the native Greenland culture and even the local language suppressed discord, apparently to avoid the risk of dividing small communities. But trouble came anyway and stayed – both in the fictional plot book and in the troubling real life it exposes.
"Burial Rites," by Hannah Kent
The luxuries of the modern world haven't yet reached the remote northern stretches of Iceland in the 1820s: Peasants can only dream of glass windows, let alone fine foods and lush carriages.
But they aren't entirely isolated from humanity. They have a king in Copenhagen who reigns over this Danish territory. They have bureaucrats and ministers. And they have a trio of accused murderers.
One of them, a woman named Agnes, faces death. But first she's sent to live with a peasant family to await execution. "Burial Rites," based on a true story, begins before she's taken to her toward her temporary home.
"I imagine, then, that we are all candle flames, greasy-bright, fluttering in the darkness and the howl of the wind, and in the stillness of the room I hear footsteps, awful coming footsteps, coming to blow me out and send my life up away from me in a gray wreath of smoke. I will vanish into the air and night. They will blow us all out, one by one, until it is only their own light by which they see themselves. Where will I be then?"
The haunting elegance of this passage from the prologue is a sign of things to come. Hannah Kent, an Australian who's only in her 20s, has produced a remarkable first novel which is an intense exploration of a young woman's mind, an insular community's fears, and the destructive power of those who can entrance others.
There are other threads, too: the fate of women who are thought to think too much, the treatment of those damned to die, and the cost of judgment. At the heart of the mystery: What heat could have wreaked so much coldness?
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.
“Of Mice and Men” – based on John Steinbeck's classic 1937 novel – will be returning to Broadway with actors James Franco and Chris O’Dowd starring, according to Franco.
Franco discussed the project during a question-and-answer session at Santa Monica’s Aero Theatre earlier this week and named O’Dowd as his co-star as well as “August: Osage County” director Anna Shapiro as the director for their production, according to the website Broadway.com.
According to The New York Times, Franco will play George, while O’Dowd will portray Lennie. Both Franco and O’Dowd would be making their Broadway debuts.
Franco did not mention a premiere date for the show, but NYT writer Patrick Healy posited that the show could start previews in March and debut officially in April.
Shapiro won a Tony Award in 2008 for her work on “August” and directed the 2011 production of “The Mother------ with the Hat.”
Franco recently starred in the movies “Oz the Great and Powerful” and “This Is the End,” while O’Dowd appeared in “Bridesmaids” and starred on the TV series “Family Tree,” which aired on HBO in the US.
Previous Broadway productions opened in 1937 and 1974, with actor James Earl Jones portraying Lennie in the 1974 version.
A film adaptation was released in 1939 starring Lon Chaney, Jr. and Burgess Meredith and a 1992 version was directed by and starred actor Gary Sinise, who played George alongside John Malkovich as Lennie.