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From Harry Potter-style mega-hits to controversy over banned books to hot competition for literary prizes, there is never a dull moment in the book world. Chapter & Verse keeps readers up-to-date on the latest in literary headlines. Check in with us daily to learn about books and their people - those who write them and those who love them.

Gov. Scott Walker signs a bill in Madison, Wis. (Morry Gash/AP)

Scott Walker will pen book – is he another presidential hopeful?

By Husna Haq / 03.27.13

Another political book, another possible White House run?

That’s what folks are saying about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) and his forthcoming book, “Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge.”

Gov. Walker, who made headlines in the last two years for clashing with unions on collective bargaining rights and surviving a bitter recall election, appears to be using his experiences in Wisconsin as fodder for the book that may help launch a presidential campaign in 2016.

In doing so, he’s following a long line of past presidential hopefuls, Mordecai Lee, a professor of governmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, told Reuters.

“Writing a book has become part of the template of US presidential politics," Prof. Lee said. “It's part of the checklist of things you need to do as it apparently gives you credibility."

Most recently, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced she will pen a book, sparking rumors of a presidential run.

GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrote “No Apology” prior to his run last year, President Obama wrote “The Audacity of Hope” before his 2008 run, and John Edwards introduced himself to Americans with his 2003 book, “Four Trials.”

“A book provides an opportunity to personalize Walker and give Americans a sense of who he is,” Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University, told Reuters. "It can also serve as an election pamphlet and help him shape the discussion about him before his opponents can do it."

Walker hasn’t confirmed, or notably, denied, rumors of a 2016 run. Should he decide to run for office, he would join fellow Republicans likely to seek their party’s nomination like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and, possibly, former Secretary Rice.

Back to his book.

According to publisher Sentinel, a conservative imprint of Penguin Group, “Unintimidated... will share the inside story of how the battle for Wisconsin was won – the reforms he enacted, the mistakes he made, the lessons he learned, and how those lessons can help conservatives win the battle for America.”

In early 2011 Walker signed into law a bill that limited the collective bargaining rights of unionized public employees, inciting ire in his Midwestern state. The move made huge waves, leading to mass protests in Wisconsin and a series of recall elections aimed mostly at Republican officials, most notably Walker himself. Despite intense pressure, the governor survived the recall election, becoming the first US governor to survive a recall election.

Helping Walker tell that story will be ghostwriter Marc Thiessen, President George W. Bush's former speechwriter and a Washington Post columnist who once famously defended torture.

The 2016 elections may be years away, but we’re not surprised to see our political reading list – and the 2016 field – getting more crowded by the week.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

'Fifty Shades of Grey' is the first in author EL James' trilogy of books following Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey.

'Fifty Shades of Grey' earns blockbuster sales numbers for publisher Random House

By Staff Writer / 03.27.13

“Fifty Shades of Grey” publisher Random House recently revealed its sales figures for the series – a number high enough to boost the publisher’s operating earnings (before taxes and interest) by 75 percent.

Random House says it sold 70 million copies of the trilogy between the series' March 2012 debut in the US and December of that year. That figure includes print copies, audio books, and e-books sold in English, Spanish, and German.

It would seem that the trilogy was particularly popular in e-book format. According to the Guardian, 50 percent of revenue from sales of the series were from e-book versions – in contrast to the 20 percent which is apparently more typically the share of revenue drawn from the electronic version of a book.

Random House chairman Markus Dohle wrote a letter to employees at the company praising them for their “highly effective execution of our author- and content-centric, and market- and reader-oriented strategy,” according to Publishers Weekly. “With your know-how and passion, and your collaborative and entrepreneurial spirit, you have expertly navigated the new order of publishing, and positioned us well for future opportunities,” Dohle wrote. All employees in the US at the company received a $5,000 bonus because of the success of the series. 

The numbers for “Fifty Shades of Grey” make the trilogy Random House’s fastest-selling series in its history.

By contrast, as the Wall Street Journal noted, the thriller “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn, which has dominated bestseller lists since its June release, has sold 2 million copies in the US and Canada so far, a number which also counts traditional paper copies, e-books, and audio books.

In terms of other series, “Harry Potter,” published in the US by Scholastic, has sold more than 450 million copies all over the world since 1997, when the first book was released in the US. But this past August, the first book in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy – with sales of 5.3 million books in all formats – surpassed “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” to become the highest-selling book ever in Britain.

Two of the genre's most popular authors are Beverly Lewis and Wanda Brunstetter.

'Bonnet rippers'? Amish romances are only gaining in popularity

By Husna Haq / 03.26.13

What do you get when you cross bodice rippers with Amish fiction?

That’s right, bonnet rippers. In a fascinating exploration of the rise of Amish romance novels, the LA Review of Books coined that apt term that encapsulates the realization of the wildly popular genre.

At a time when most bestsellers lists would have one believe that readers are far more interested in handcuffs and bondage than demure glances and first kisses, bonnet rippers are, well, tearing up the charts. (See our recent piece on the enduring appeal of Amish fiction in the era of “Fifty Shades.")

Their popularity is astounding. According to the LA Review of Books, a new Amish romance novel hit the market every four days in 2012. “Sixty more were published in 2012 than in 2009, and 83 more than in 2002,” writes the Review. It turns out the top three Amish-fiction authors – Beverly Lewis, Wanda Brunstetter, and Cindy Woodsmall – have sold more than 24 million books combined.

And folks are paying attention. Media outlets from the Wall Street Journal to Salon to ABC’s Nightline have covered the phenomenon. 

Publishers have taken notice, too.

“If you put a head covering on the woman on the front, you’re going to sell a lot more copies,” Steve Oates, vice president of marketing for Bethany House, told Salon in a September 2012 article. “It’s that simple. Even if the book isn’t about the Amish – maybe it’s about a Mennonite girl or even a young woman living in John Bunyan-era Europe – if you put some sort of bonnet or hat on her, it’s almost like magic.”

One of Bethany House’s authors “made the switch over to bonnet books and doubled her sales,” he said.

Who, exactly, is reading these bonnet rippers?

Not the Amish, it turns out. Most Amish people find the books bemusing at best and disgusting at worst, according to the LA Review. That’s because most of the books are written by evangelical Christian, not Amish, authors. That quickly becomes apparent to any Amish readers in small blunders like the use of bicycles by a character, mistakes in the Pennsylvania German lingo, even book covers depicting a character with her dress on backward.

The Amish also tend to discourage undue attention to their culture, which the books certainly invite, and some may disapprove of the romantic messages implicit in the popular bonnet rippers – especially when the romance is between an Amish character and an English, or non-Amish, one.

Rather, it’s evangelical Christians who are driving the impressive sales of this genre. They’re looking for chaste romantic fiction replete with family values and such wholesome morsels as quilting bees, canning days, and Sundays filled with church and family. 

For some, it’s a heartening reminder that not all readers of romance are pining for erotica and S&M.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

Bill O'Reilly (r.)'s book 'Killing Jesus,' which will be the basis for the National Geographic adaptation, is due out this September from publisher Henry Holt. Left: Actor Billy Campbell portrays Abraham Lincoln in the adaptation of O'Reilly's book 'Killing Lincoln.' (L: National Geographic Channels R: Reuters)

National Geographic teams with Bill O'Reilly again for 'Killing Jesus' adaptation

By Staff Writer / 03.26.13

National Geographic is teaming up with TV personality and author Bill O’Reilly again to adapt his newest book for television.

O’Reilly’s forthcoming book “Killing Jesus,” which is due out this September, will be adapted for television by National Geographic, the channel which also took on adaptations of O’Reilly’s previous books “Killing Lincoln” and “Killing Kennedy.” National Geographic will be working with director and producer Ridley Scott’s company, Scott Free Productions.

The book and TV adaptation will tell the story of Jesus “as a beloved and controversial young revolutionary brutally killed by Roman soldiers" and will also recount "the seismic political and historical events that made his death inevitable and the changes that his life brought upon the world for the centuries to follow,” according to National Geographic.

Scott, whose production company has worked with O’Reilly and National Geographic on the previous two adaptations, told TheWrap.com that he is “privileged” to be teaming up again with National Geographic to adapt O’Reilly’s work. 

“O'Reilly has proven with ‘Killing Lincoln' and ‘Killing Kennedy' that the public is fascinated with the tragic tales of these renowned historical figures, and this is one of the most dramatic stories ever told," Scott said. 

The book version of “Killing Jesus,” for which O’Reilly is teaming up again with his co-author Martin Dugard, is due out Sept. 24. The televised adaptation has a projected air date of 2014.

“Killing Lincoln” aired this February on the National Geographic channel and set a ratings record for the channel, with 3.4 million viewers tuning in – the biggest audience the channel has ever had. "The Killing" and "The Rocketeer" actor Billy Campbell portrayed Abraham Lincoln and actor Tom Hanks narrated. The adaptation of “Killing Kennedy” is currently in preproduction.

“This is the big one," O'Reilly said of “Killing Jesus” in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter. "We really like working with Nat Geo and Scott Free because the B.S. component is very small. These guys are right on my wavelength. We get a good screenplay, we shoot it, and we put it on.”

Author Jodi Picoult's literary agent said sales of Picoult's book 'The Storytellers' had been negatively affected by the debate between Barnes & Noble and Picoult's publisher, with B&N choosing to order fewer copies than expected.

Looking for a Simon & Schuster title? Barnes & Noble might not be your best bet

By Staff Writer / 03.25.13

Book retailer Barnes & Noble has reportedly reduced the amount of titles it stocks by Simon & Schuster authors and lowered the number of S&S books on display as it continues to be embroiled in a debate with the publisher.

Neither the chain nor Simon & Schuster would specify exactly what is being negotiated, but sources cited as “familiar with the disagreement” by The New York Times told the newspaper that Barnes & Noble wanted more funds for displaying S&S titles in coveted spots in the store and to pay lower costs for the books themselves. The bookstore chain also wants more money for events promoting Simon & Schuster titles, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Also on the table, according to the Journal, is the question of who will cover the costs of e-book discounting, a point now back in contention since Simon & Schuster and other publishers settled their price-fixing case with the Department of Justice.

A Wall Street Journal walk-through conducted in one of the book retailer’s locations found that while high-profile Simon & Schuster titles like “The Soundtrack of My Life” by Clive Davis were available, works like a S&S paperback version of “The Book of Lost Fragrances” by M.J. Rose were out of stock and a store search showed that “Fragrances” was also unavailable at three other Manhattan Barnes & Noble stores.

“As a matter of policy, we do not comment on relationships with individual publishers,” Barnes & Noble spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating said in a statement. “However, we do support publishers who support our digital and retail book businesses.”

Simon & Schuster chief executive Carolyn Reidy told the Times that a changing publishing industry means more questions for everyone.

“In this new world, it is just getting more complicated,” she said in a phone interview. “There are more factors involved. They get more fraught. Terms have to work for both sides, and obviously we have not agreed yet.”

However, Reidy said she was hopeful that everything would be resolved.

“We expect ultimately there will be an agreement,” she said.

Simon Lipskar, president of literary agency Writers House, said the focus should be on writers who are losing out in the dispute.

“Without pointing fingers, authors are being hurt by this, and I think it is despicable,” he told the Times.

One of Simon & Schuster’s biggest releases, “The Storyteller” by Jodi Picoult, was found in a Barnes & Noble store by the Journal, but Picoult’s literary agent, Laura Gross, said sales had been negatively affected by the fray.

“[Barnes & Noble has] taken limited orders, limited placement, and did not do the normal outreach to their customers online, which really hurt.... This must be hitting smaller authors hard,” Gross told the Times.

Writer Jamie Mason says that yes, it is. Her first novel, “Three Graves Full,” was supported by Barnes & Noble before publication, Mason told the Journal, but she says that she found out before its February release that store promotion she had been planning on wouldn't be happening. “It's frustrating," she said. "I'm a debut novelist. I don't have name recognition.”

Authors, including Picoult, have done their best to get word of the dispute out on the Internet. Picoult posted on her Facebook page, “There has been an ongoing dispute between B&N and Simon and Schuster that has really hurt some great authors. In some cases B&N hasn't even stocked their new books. Who loses out? Readers. Here is a list of some of the books you may have missed that were casualties in this dispute. Please consider supporting some of these writers!” 

Other Simon & Schuster authors posted a note which alerted readers to what was going on but they were careful not to blame either party.

“Have you seen these books?” the note reads, with cover images of Simon & Schuster titles. “If you've been browsing for books in B&N chances are you haven't seen these acclaimed books. Why? They're missing due to an ongoing negotiation between the publisher and the book store chain. Not pointing fingers here.... we all love our publisher and we love all bookstores including B&N!.... here are links where you can discover more about each of these books and buy them from any store of your choice (including BN.com).”

'Goblinproofing' captured the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year.

'Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop' wins strangest title of the year contest

By Contributor / 03.22.13

"Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop" by Reginald Bakeley won the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year with 38% of reader votes. "Goblinproofing" beat out other nominees like "How Tea Cozies Changed the World" by Loani Prior and "Was Hitler Ill?" by Henrik Eberle.

The magazine The Bookseller and the Diagram Group, which supplies graphics and other information to publishers, have awarded the prize to oddly-named books since 1978. "Goblinproofing" will join previous winners such as "Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice," "Madam as Entrepreneur: Career Management in House Prostitution," and "Managing a Dental Practice: The Genghis Khan Way" in the halls of odd glory. Entries that are intended to be funny or odd don't count.

The odd title book award, said prize administrator Philip Stone, is about celebrating names that grab the attention.

"Publishers and booksellers know only too well that a title can make all the difference to the sales of a book," Stone said in a statement when the shortlist of nominees were announced.

Stone pointed out that previous winner "A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" has sold almost a million copies to date.

When the winner was announced today, Stone lauded the fact that publishers were still willing to release more unusual works.

"The kind of niche, off-beat publications that often appear on the Diagram Prize shortlist might not make their writers or publishers rich beyond their wildest dreams, but the fact writers still passionately write such works and publishers are still willing to invest in them is a marvellous thing that deserves to be celebrated," Stone said in a statement.

Clint Marsh, Bakeley's editor, told The Bookseller that his and Bakeley's "campaign against the fairy kingdom continues."

"Reginald and I take this as a clear sign that people have had enough of goblins in their chicken coops," Marsh said.

Chinua Achebe at his home in Rhode Island. Mike Cohea/Brown University/AP

Chinua Achebe is remembered as the 'father of modern African literature'

By Contributor / 03.22.13

The history of Nigeria cannot be told without author Chinua Achebe's voice. The man whom fellow author Nadine Gordimer called the "father of modern African literature" died this morning at the age of 82.

Born in Nigeria in 1930, Achebe spent his childhood in colonial schools. Interested in stories from a young age, he traveled the country with his parents, who were early Christian converts and evangelists. Achebe's fascination with stories led him to read colonial literature like "Allan Quatermain" in school. In an interview with the Paris Review, he said, "I instinctively took sides with the white people. They were fine! They were excellent. They were intelligent. The others were not... they were stupid and ugly. That was the way I was introduced to the danger of not having your own stories."

His idea of Africans not having their own stories or literature became a driving force in Achebe's life. In 1958, after graduating college, he published "Things Fall Apart" (the title is a line from a Yeats poem, "The Second Coming"). His first novel depicted the struggles of a traditional African society, the Igbo, with white Christian colonists.

His publisher, not confident in its marketability, only printed 2,000 copies, but his novel is now required reading in countless high schools and colleges, serving as an example of early post-colonial literature. "Things Fall Apart" is one of, if not the, most famous and important pieces of modern African literature.

In the 1960s, Achebe joined the Biafran Ministry of Information during the Nigerian Civil War. In 2012, he wrote a memoir of this time called "There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra."

Achebe's voice never left the Nigerian political arena after their civil war ended in 1970. He developed a reputation as a frank and outspoken critic of corruption and abuse. He told the Paris Review, "I think writers are not only writers, they are also citizens... My position is that serious and good art has always existed to help, to serve, humanity. Not to indict... Art should be on the side of humanity."

He went on to publish five books, including "Things Fall Apart": "No Longer at Ease," "A Man of the People," "Arrow of God," and "Anthills of the Savannah," as well as works of poetry, short stories, children's books, and literary criticism.

His most notable criticism was of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." Achebe noted Conrad's use of an ethnic slur in the story, writing that "his inordinate love of that word itself should be of interest to psychoanalysts," and said that Conrad's story deprived Africans of their humanity and language.

In 2007, he won the Man Booker International Prize for fiction. It was for this award that he was hailed as the "father of modern African literature" by Gordimer. He taught literature in universities in Africa and America, most recently at Brown University in Rhode Island.

His crusade against his own nation's political corruption, which he discussed an interview with the Monitor in 2012, led him to reject multiple awards from the Nigerian government. 

The Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan said of the author in a statement, "Prof. Achebe’s frank, truthful and fearless interventions in national affairs will be greatly missed at home in Nigeria because while others may have disagreed with his views, most Nigerians never doubted his immense patriotism and sincere commitment to the building of a greater, more united and prosperous nation that all Africans and the entire black race could be proud of."

Achebe told The Africa Report that he would keep speaking out about the hope for change in Nigeria.

"Sometimes I do feel, maybe that I've said everything I need to say, but I don't think so," the writer said. "I will keep attempting to speak in the hope that if the first time it didn't work, maybe the second time, it will work. But as I said, I have no other profession or interest in any other profession [writing]. So you must assume that I'll keep working at it to the­ last day." 

An empty frame which used to contain the painting 'The Concert' by Vermeer hangs in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. (Josh Reynolds/AP)

Gardner heist: Journalist Ulrich Boser discusses the history behind the famous theft

By Randy Dotinga / 03.22.13

Ordinarily, there are just two ways for members of the public to enter the most remarkable small art museum in America for free: Buy a membership or be named Isabella like its founder. (And yes, they require an ID to prove the latter. Don't ask me how I know this.)

But 23 years ago this week, two visitors made their way into the museum without a ticket, a pass or the proper first name. Over 81 minutes, a pair of men ripped paintings out of frames and tore a gaping hole into Boston's heart.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has recovered from the shock of the massive theft that robbed it of an estimated $500 million worth of artwork, including pieces by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Manet, and Degas. As I discovered during a visit on St. Patrick's Day this week, the museum in an Italian-style villa remains an intimate wonderland of paintings, tapestries, drawings and more – antique chairs, ancient knickknacks, a medieval knight's tomb and even a deliciously naughty Greek sarcophagus.

But the stolen artwork remains missing, the thieves remain uncaught, the $5 millon reward remains unpaid, and empty frames remain on walls at the museum. The FBI announced this week that it thinks it knows who did it, but it's not naming names.

As we noted earlier this week, many books have been written about the case or inspired by it, even novels. The best may be 2009's "The Gardner Heist" by journalist Ulrich Boser.

I reached Boser this week and asked him to describe the heartache spawned by the theft, outline his theory about what happened and predict whether we'll ever see these fantastic works of art again.
 
 Q: As you write, some fans of the museum can still remember where they were when they heard about the heist. Why does this theft has such resonance on an emotional level?
 
 A: It has a lot to do with the intimacy of the museum, where you really feel Isabella Gardner's presence.

The museum never changes. [This was required in the will of Gardner, a rich and fabulously eccentric art lover.] People have often told me of the experience they've had with the museum: They went as a child, and then they brought their own kids there and their grandkids. It feels like a little bit of amber. Then you go back to something you remember as a child and see a painting as beautiful as the Vermeer is ripped out, the frame hanging there empty.
 
 Q: Do people see the theft as a violation?

A: They do. A number of people seem to see it as a very personal violation, that it affected them.

If you were to imagine a theft at a more impersonal museum, like the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, I don't think people would speak about it in that way.
 
 Q: Has the theft been romanticized?
 
 A: People have this Hollywood view of art where the art thieves wear black turtlenecks and rappel through the windows. They think there's a "Dr. No" or "Mr. Evil" who commissioned this heist. But there's really no evidence of that.
 
 Q: As you write, the thieves stole the Rembrandts in a potentially damaging way, and they ignored even more valuable paintings while taking interesting but less spectacular knickknacks. What's with their strange shopping – or stealing – list?
 
 A: I think they had a list, but that seems to imply that there is someone out there who commissioned art thefts like this. There's no evidence of that. And if you really wanted to make money as an art thief, you wouldn't steal a Vermeer that's so recognizable.

I think they thought that they would figure out what to do with these things later, that they'd find this "Dr. No" and make money off of the artworks.
 
 Q: What about the security, which consisted of a couple of young security guards who were easily overpowered by the thieves? Was it lax?
 
 A: I don't think it was so terrible for that time and place.
 
 Q: Does anything tie the stolen artworks together?
 
 A: People have speculated in all sorts of ways, that there might be  someone who really loves horses because some of the paintings feature horses. You can draw these outlandish conclusions, but there doesn't seem to be anything on the face of it that draws them all together.
 
 Q: It just seems odd. A couple career criminals rob the Gardner – you theorize about their identities – and plan to figure out later what to do with their stolen goods? Why wouldn't they take everything that was most expensive and most fabulous?
 
 A: There are lots of mysteries within the Gardner case. One of them is why were they in the museum for so long and stole so little. You could have committed that robbery in 15 minutes. Why'd they spend so much time on it? I don't have a great answer to that.
 
 Q: Why do you think the case is still so fascinating?
 
 Mysteries fascinate because we wonder what happened.

Vermeer himself created mysteries within his paintings, making his work rise above so many other beautiful works of art.

Consider "The Concert." It seems like such a such simple painting. [It was one of the stolen paintings. You can see it here; click to enlarge it.]

But when you look up in the right corner, you see a painting which features a man and two women, and the man is soliciting one of the women for sex. On the left side is this nice landscape.

You feel like this painting is about the beauty of the world. But at the same time, he paints a very rude painting within the painting and presents it as a balance between the two. That's one of the reasons his paintings are so powerful: You wonder what really is going on, what is happening within this that's happening. It is very much an unanswered question like the theft itself.
 
 Q: What do you make of the FBI's belief that it knows who did it?
 
 They said they know the identities of the thieves, and they aren't going to share them. And they believe that the paintings are in the Philadelphia and Connecticut regions and were offered for sale in those areas.

I see no reason to disbelieve the investigators on this case. It's been over 20 years, and they've had a lot of leads to run down. Clearly they see it as a priority right now and are doing a great job of publicizing this case.

That's what will lead to the return of this art. Ultimately, I believe this case rests with the public. Somebody knows where the paintings are today.
 
 Q: Do you think the paintings will be returned?
 
 Yes. When it comes to art theft, hope springs eternal. It often takes years, decades, or centuries for artwork to be returned. I do believe they will come back.
 
 Check out this list for nine more recent Monitor interviews with authors of books about true crime.

Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.

Condoleezza Rice speaks at the Republican National Convention. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Condoleezza Rice plans new book – is it a prelude to a presidential run?

By Husna Haq / 03.22.13

Exactly ten years to the day after American troops invaded Iraq, President Bush’s former national security adviser and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice has delivered another major announcement.

The former Iraq war proponent announced Tuesday that she is writing a book. As yet untitled, the book, to be published by Henry Holt sometime in 2015, will be “an examination of democracy at home and abroad.”

“My travels both at home and abroad have underscored the promise and the challenges of democracy,” Rice said in a news release issued by Henry Holt. “The task of building it is never done. I look forward to further exploring these ideals and working with Holt to convey those messages.”

The book will include stories from Rice’s life and career and explore the challenges of governance, including “essential questions of contemporary democracy, including the centrality of education, immigration, free enterprise, and civic responsibility,” according to the publisher. “She will also address American’s destiny as a beacon for global freedom."

The announcement of Rice’s new book doesn’t just come ten years after the onset of the Iraq war. As many political hounds have pointed out, it comes four years before the next presidential election. More importantly, it’s set to be released in 2015, a year before the 2016 presidential election.

You know what that means. Rumors are already building that Rice may run in 2016, with her forthcoming book as her ticket back on the national stage. (Those rumors only intensified after a particularly strong speech at the Republican National Convention last summer.) She was repeatedly mentioned as a likely candidate in 2012, only to become a key supporter for GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

Does this book mean Condi’s running in 2016? Of course, it’s a little too soon to tell, and the former secretary of state has repeatedly said she’s not interested. Nonetheless, it does open the door for speculation. 

Now, of course, this isn’t the first book Rice has penned. The former secretary of state has written three books, all memoirs, including her most recent, the 700-page “No Higher Honor,” about her time as Bush’s foreign policy adviser. In it, Rice defended the Iraq war and outlined tensions in the Bush White House in the lead-up to and following the conflict. 

This latest book project might be an attempt to move the conversation, and the nation’s memory of Rice’s participation in the Bush administration, forward from the unpopular war to democracy-building. And it might just be a pitch for future office.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

The data from a recent study shows a downward trend in the use of emotional language by both British and American writers since 1900. The only exception is a sharp uptick in fear (the red line).

Are books becoming less emotional?

By Contributor / 03.21.13

A study published on Wednesday in Public Library of Science journal PLOS ONE discussed the results of a project in which British researchers searched five million digitized books provided by Google – about 4% of all books published since 1900 – to analyze the use of emotional language in books.

The surprising conclusion they reached: There has been a marked decrease in the use of emotional words that fall in six categories (anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise), with the exception of an uptick in fear since the 1970's.

Within that downward trend the researchers found that American authors use more emotional language than British authors.

The six categories had been used in an earlier study to analyze the public mood through U.K. Twitter accounts. That study showed that the frequency of mood-word usage on Twitter corresponded to real-life events like natural disasters.

This more recent study found evidence that mood-word usage seemed to respond to significant historical events as well. For example, words that correspond to sadness increased during the 1940's and throughout World War II. (On the other hand, World War I didn't seem to register)

According to this new study, there has been a definite split between British and American authors and their use of emotional language since the 1960's. Americans use more mood-words than the British, although both groups use fewer than they have historically.

The researchers say that they don't know exactly what happened in the 1960's, but that decade marks the period of a definite separation, both stylistically and emotionally, between British and American English.

“This relative increase [with respect to British usage] of American mood word use roughly coincides with the increase of anti-social and narcissistic sentiments in U.S. popular song lyrics from 1980 to 2007, as evidenced by steady increases in angry/antisocial lyrics and in the percentage of first-person singular pronouns (e.g., I, me, mine), with a corresponding decrease in words indicating social interactions (e.g., mate, talk, child) over the same 27-year period,” says the study. Information about changes in US song lyrics comes from a previous study done in 2011.

“We interpret this as a genuine decrease in the literary expression of emotion, but an alternative explanation could be that mood words have changed, rather than decreased in usage, through the century," explains the study. However, researchers said essentially, because the mood-words they used were more modern, they would have expected the data to skew towards an increase, which it didn't. 

"While it is easy to conclude that Americans have themselves become more ‘emotional’ over the past several decades, perhaps songs and books may not reflect the real population any more than catwalk models reflect the average body."

As we've reported before, more and more scientists are using the tools and databases available to them to conduct massive studies of data, including studies of works of literature. 

The British study concluded by praising the merits of big data analysis, and calling for more massive in-depth studies of sites like Twitter, Google, or blogs to study cultural evolution.

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