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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.

Writer Patricia MacLachlan received a Newbery Medal for her book 'Sarah, Plain and Tall.' (Random House/AP)

Children's author Patricia MacLachlan honors Newtown residents with new book

By Staff Writer / 02.26.13

Children’s author Patricia MacLachlan is writing a picture book she says she was inspired to create after speaking with a friend who lives in Newtown, Conn., said the author.

MacLachlan, who is the author of the book “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” among others, is friends with illustrator Steven Kellogg, who has lived for decades with his family in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown.

The book, called “Snowflakes Fall,” uses the title object to discuss themes like the differences among individuals and how time can heal. It is illustrated by Kellogg, the first time the two have worked together.

“I wrote this book after my dear friend Steven Kellogg told me of his sadness and concern for his community, and children everywhere,” the author told Publishers Weekly. “This is a sadness that the world felt, and that I felt too. What brought us comfort was the idea of renewal and memory and, while writing every word, I thought about all children touched by loss.”

Kellogg told Publishers Weekly that he thought of Sandy Hook and its residents when completing the illustrations for the book.

“It is my hope that this book will celebrate the laughter, the playful high spirits, and the uniqueness of the children of Sandy Hook, and of children everywhere,” he said.

The book will be released by Random House Children’s Books this coming fall. The imprint of Random House will, together with Random House, make donations to an organization of MacLachlan and Kellogg’s selection that benefits Sandy Hook victims as well as to a yet-to-be-decided national organization that centers on children. Random House Children’s Books also plans to give 25,000 books to First Book, a nonprofit which “connects book publishers and community organizations to provide access to new books for children in need,” according to their website.

Three of the Oscar winners for 2013 were Ben Affleck (center), Grant Heslov (l.) and George Clooney (r.), who served as producers for the film 'Argo.' The movie was based on a magazine article first published in 2007. (John Shearer/Invision/AP)

Oscar winners 2013 are dominated by literary adaptations

By Staff Writer / 02.25.13

The Oscars didn’t just honor achievements in filmmaking in 2013. With five of the six winners of the big prizes going to movies that started as books, the Oscars also honored great writing. 

The Best Picture winner of the night, the movie “Argo,” was originally based on an article for Wired magazine by writer Joshuah Berman. The original piece was titled “How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran” and was published in 2007.

Meanwhile, of the four top acting awards, three went to stars who appeared in movies based on books. Actor Daniel Day-Lewis, who won the Best Actor prize, had starred in the movie “Lincoln,” which was based on the 2005 Doris Kearns Goodwin biography “Team of Rivals.” Jennifer Lawrence, who won the Best Actress award, appeared in the film “Silver Linings Playbook,” which was adapted from the 2008 novel of the same name by Matthew Quick. Best Supporting Actress winner Anne Hathaway starred in “Les Miserables,” a musical adaptation of the 1862 Victor Hugo classic.

In addition, director Ang Lee took the statuette for his movie “Life of Pi,” which was based on the 2001 novel of the same title. The movie “Django Unchained,” for which Christoph Waltz won a Best Supporting Actor statuette, was an original work, though the film paid homages to many classic stories, including the 1936 novel “Gone with the Wind.”

Last year, it was a different story. In 2012, only one out of the six winners in the top Oscar categories was awarded to a film adapted from a book. That one was Octavia Spencer, who won a Best Supporting Actress award for her role in the film adaptation of the 2009 Kathryn Stockett novel “The Help.” 

Literary films that took other 2013 Oscars included “Anna Karenina,” based on the 1873 Tolstoy classic, which won Best Costumes, and “Skyfall,” which was based on the character of James Bond first written about in Ian Fleming’s novels, which won Best Original Song and tied for Sound Editing.

“Argo” also won Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing, while “Lincoln” won Best Production Design. “Les Miserables” took home Best Sound Mixing and Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and “Life of Pi” snagged the Best Visual Effects award as well as Best Original Score and Best Cinematography.

Visitors walk through downtown Nashville. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

Nashville turns Poetry in Motion program into contest for local poets

By Contributor / 02.22.13

Each year, the Poetry in Motion initiative puts poems (or excerpts of poems) in place of ads on public transport buses and subway cars in the cities which are participating.

Through the program, which was established in New York in 1992, the Poetry Society of America normally chooses the words of established or emerging poets to grace the walls of a given city’s public transport. From Fresno to Boston and a few places in between, the selected poems have appeared in nearly 30 cities in the past 20 years.

"They are a delight," Susie Estrada told the Poetry Society of America of the displays, according to their website. "I smile every time I find a new one... Please continue to place these signs of humanity in among the monotony of the bus and other transportation."

This year, however, will be a little different in Tennessee. Submissions from the public for the Poetry in Motion initiative are not usually accepted, but this year, Nashville has introduced a contest to select the poems of local poets for their celebration. Instead of the Poetry Society selecting what they want from previously published works, a panel of local authors and poetry enthusiasts will judge and select submissions from area residents. The submissions must be original works, and the author must have all rights to them. The contest is only open to residents of Davidson County, where Nashville is located.

 Submissions in Nashville will be accepted until March 8. The original poetry will be displayed throughout April, which is National Poetry Month.

Works by more than 50 poets have appeared in past years as part of the initiative. The pieces "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" by Walt Whitman, "Hope is the Thing with Feathers" by Emily Dickinson, "When You Are Old" by William Butler Yeats, and "Let There Be New Flowering" by Lucille Clifton were the first four poems chosen in the program's inaugural year.

To see if your city participates in Poetry in Motion, check here. If you don't see your city on the list, you can contact your local transit authorities and the Poetry Society of America.

Ben Frederick is a contributor to The Christian Science Monitor.

One of the nominees for the award of Oddest Book Title of the Year is 'Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop' by Reginald Bakeley.

Six books compete for the prize of Oddest Book Title of the Year

By Staff Writer / 02.22.13

Authors can agonize for hours over the perfect title with which to anoint their novel or nonfiction work, aiming for drama, emotional resonance, or sometimes humor. And sometimes their efforts can bear unusual fruit, as they did for six authors whose book names are currently competing for the award of Oddest Title of the Year.  

The award, called The Diagram Prize, is given out by the magazine The Bookseller, which writes about matters in the publishing industry. The contest is in its 35th year.

Some of the nominees for the prize include the book “Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop” by Reginald Bakeley, “How Tea Cosies Changed the World” by Loani Prior, and “How To Sharpen Pencils” by David Rees.

The top title is selected by the public online at The winning author will be announced March 22.

Philip Stone, who coordinates the prize for The Bookseller, said he hopes the contest will shine a spotlight on works that otherwise may have gone unnoticed. 

“People might think this prize is just a bit of fun, but I think it draws welcome attention to an undervalued art,” he told the Telegraph.

The Kindle is the official e-reading device produced by Amazon. Three independent bookstores allege that the method in which the bookseller sells e-books is hurting their business. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

Three indie bookstores file lawsuit against Amazon and Big Six publishers

By Staff Writer / 02.21.13

Three independent bookstores are suing online bookseller behemoth Amazon and the publishers known as the Big Six, claiming that the group has created a monopoly in the sale of e-books.

Fiction Addiction, a store based in Greenville, S.C.; Posman Books, a New York City store which has three locations; and Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza of Albany, N.Y., filed the class action lawsuit.

The suit, which was filed in New York, takes aim at Amazon, Hachette, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Random House, and Macmillan.

The stores that filed the suit say that they represent “all independent brick-and-mortar bookstores who sell e-books."

The root of the complaint centers on digital rights management, which makes it difficult for a reader to switch an e-book from one e-reading device to another – for example, to move a book from a Kindle, the Amazon e-reader, to a Kobo, the one sold by indie bookstores.

The indie bookstores are saying that’s hurting their business.

"We are seeking relief for independent brick-and-mortar bookstores so that they would be able to sell open-source and DRM-free books that could be used on the Kindle or other electronic ereaders,” Alyson Decker of Blecher & Collins PC, who is serving as lead counsel for the bookstores, told the Huffington Post.

The suit claims that Amazon entered into confidential agreements with the six publishing houses. E-books sold by all six publishers come with the digital rights management lock that makes it difficult to move them to different devices. 

“Currently, none of the Big Six have entered into any agreements with any independent brick-and-mortar bookstores or independent collectives to sell their e-books,” the plaintiffs write in their suit. “Consequently, the vast majority of readers who wish to read an e-book published by the Big Six will purchase the e-book from Amazon.”

In addition to damages, the three indie bookstores also want an injunction which would “prohibit ... Amazon and the Big Six from publishing and selling e-books with device and app specific DRMs and further require ... the Big Six to allow independent brick-and-mortar bookstores to directly sell open-source DRM e-books.”

Simon & Schuster representative Adam Rothberg told The New York Times, “We believe the case is without merit or any basis in the law and intend to vigorously contest it. Furthermore, we believe the plaintiff retailers will be better served by working with us to grow their business rather than litigating.”

As industry newsletter Shelf Awareness pointed out, the lawsuit is somewhat baffling because the six publishers require digital rights management on e-books no matter who’s selling them – including indie bookstores selling e-books for the Kobo device. In addition, the bookstores state that only e-books sold to users by Amazon will work on Kindle devices, which is not the case – users can read e-books from other sellers on their Kindles. (Transferring books from a Kindle to another device is tricky, though the technically savvy may be working on a solution not sanctioned by the companies.)

Another confusing point, wrote Shelf Awareness, is that while the bookstores charge that "the vast majority" of readers purchase e-books from Amazon, they fail to point out that Kobo, the company that produces the device sold by indie bookstores, also sells e-books obtained from the Big Six publishers.

In addition, Cory Doctorow, a writer for the blog Boing Boing, points out that the bookstores incorrectly used the term “open source” to describe what they want, which is e-books that would work across e-readers. “Open source” is defined as a computer program whose original code is made available to users, allowing them to change the program.

“For some reason, they're using ‘open source’ as a synonym for ‘standardized’ or ‘interoperable,’” Doctorow writes. “Which is to say, these booksellers don't really care if the books are DRM-free, they just want them locked up using a DRM that the booksellers can also use. There is no such thing as ‘open source’ DRM – in the sense of a DRM designed to run on platforms that can be freely modified by their users.... I wish they'd actually bothered to spend 15 minutes trying to understand how DRM works and what it is, and how open source works, and what it is, before they filed their lawsuit.”

The suit from the three independent bookstores follows after the Department of Justice sued several major publishers, stating they had worked with Apple to make e-books more expensive. Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Macmillan and HarperCollins all agreed to settle, leaving Apple as ithe only defendant in the suit. The trial is scheduled for June.

Thanks to publicity surrounding the lawsuit, mystery writer Patricia Cornwell is now also known for her lavish lifestyle, which includes Ferraris, helicopters, and a $40,000-a-month NYC apartment. (Steven Senne/AP)

Patricia Cornwell wins lawsuit against financial firm

By Husna Haq / 02.21.13

It could have been a case ripped from the pages of her bestselling crime novels. Fortunately for Patricia Cornwell, a contentious dispute about mismanaged money had a happy ending when a Boston jury awarded her $51 million in damages in a suit against a Manhattan financial firm she said cost her millions of dollars in lost revenues.

The mystery writer was awarded $50.9 million in a federal lawsuit against financial firm Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP, and its former principal, Evan Snapper, for negligence. Cornwell hired the firm in 2005 to manage her accounts and claimed it mismanaged her fortune, causing her to lose $89 million, with her net worth dwindling to close to $13 million – a record low for the commercially successful author who earns an eight-figure salary most years.

“God bless justice,” Cornwell said after the verdict was announced, according to the Associated Press. “It’s a huge relief and it’s been a huge ordeal.”

The author – who, thanks to the lawsuit, is now also known for her lavish lifestyle, which includes Ferraris, helicopters, and a $40,000-a-month apartment she rented in New York City – said the firm’s mismanagement “caused her to miss a book deadline for the first time in her career when it failed to find her a suitable place to write after renovation work on her house in Concord went on much longer than expected,” according to the Associated Press.

“This was very destabilizing. I really lost my ability to focus and concentrate. I did not know what the book was about anymore,” Cornwell said, according to the AP.

That missed deadline caused her to lose at least one year’s income – about $15 million, she claimed.

The 56-year-old crime novelist is best known for her Scarpetta series starring medical examiner Kay Scarpetta. The books shine a spotlight on the field of forensic science and are even said to have influenced such popular TV series as "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "Cold Case Files."

Cornwell’s books have sold more than 100 million copies. Perhaps, with this real-life happy ending in hand, they will climb higher yet.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

The book 'New School Manifesto' will be released by Grand Central Publishing. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

Ron Paul will pen book advocating a free-market approach to education

By Husna Haq / 02.20.13

Fresh off a presidential primary run and retirement from Congress, Ron Paul is hitting the books.

Actually, he’s writing them. The former Texas GOP congressman is turning his libertarian focus to education with a new book that advocates for a free-market approach to schooling and education.

“New School Manifesto” will be published by Grand Central Publishing Sept. 17, just in time for back-to-school season.

According to the publisher, the book will be “a focused guide to Dr. Paul’s position, which centers on a strong support for home schooling and free-market principles applied to education. He makes the case for individual freedoms as they pertain to educating our children, and nimbly dissects the most pressing issues that need to be addressed from the libertarian point of view.”

In “New School Manifesto,” Paul compares the education system to the postal service, arguing both would benefit from private sector competition, according to Politico. The libertarian author also examines a variety of education policy proposals, says the news site, and advocates that parents should have more leverage in choosing what schooling system is best for their children. 

Some interesting context: Throughout his career, Paul has tried to get the government out of education. During the 2012 presidential campaign, then-GOP nominee contender Paul advocated closing the Department of Education as well as abolishing “No Child Left Behind.” Instead Paul was in favor of giving tax credits and vouchers to parents. That small government, free-market approach is sure to shape his latest book. He has also long opposed federal student loans and has called federal education efforts a “propaganda machine,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

“Ron Paul’s beliefs are always controversial, and even if you disagree with his principles, his arguments will make you think,” his publisher says of the forthcoming book. ”Ron Paul’s ideas and his urgent appeal to all citizens and officials will tell us what we need to do fix America’s education system for future generations.”

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

A meteor streaks across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Feb. 15, 2013. (Nasha gazeta/

Russian meteorite: Not the first strange event in the skies of Siberia

By Randy DotingaMonitor contributor / 02.20.13

Last Friday brought quite the sky show to the Ural Mountains when the apparent explosion of a meteorite spawned tremendous sonic booms, bright flashes of light and hundreds of injuries. But this wasn't the first time chaos rained down from above in the huge chunk of North Asia known as Siberia.

Back on June 30, 1908, something in the sky above Siberia exploded, stunning people who lived dozens of miles away and leaving a scar across the landscape that exists to this day.

Surendra Verma, a science journalist and author based in Melbourne, Australia, wrote about the so-called "Tunguska event" in his 2005 book "The Tunguska Fireball: Solving One of the Great Mysteries of the 20th Century."

In an interview, Verma told me about the theories regarding the Siberian explosion of 1908 (including a wacky one featuring a volcanic eruption and extraterrestrials), his thoughts on what actually happened (sorry, no aliens involved) and the reason why this all matters to us today.
Q: What exactly happened on that day in 1908 in Siberia?
A: An explosion flattened a Siberian forest bigger than metropolitan New York, stripping tens of millions of ancient trees of leaves and branches, leaving them bare like poles and scattering them like matchsticks. A dark mushroom cloud of dust rose to a height of 50 miles over the area, and a black rain of debris and dirt followed.

The explosion lasted only a few seconds, but it was so powerful that it could be compared only with an atomic bomb – 1,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs.

The explosion was even registered by an earthquake measuring station 2,485 miles away in St. Petersburg. Earthquake tremors were also recorded by more distant stations around the world. But at that time no one knew the cause of these tremors.
Q: How far did this happen from inhabited areas?

A: The explosion site was then so remote that it was not even accessible to local inhabitants, the Tungus people. The nearest witnesses to the explosion were at Vanavara, a small trading station some 40 miles from the explosion site.

Several miles north of Vanavara, dozens of nomads and herdsmen were thrown into the air and bruised. An elderly man hit a tree and broke his arm. Another elderly man died of fright. Thousands of reindeer belonging to four separate herds were killed as the pines and cedars around them blazed.
Q: How have theories about what happened evolved over time?
A: In 1908, Russia was a country caught in political unrest and social upheaval. Nothing was [studied] until 1927 when a Soviet scientist, Leonid Kulik, visited the explosion site. After three expeditions to the site, Kulik came to the conclusion that the Tunguska event was caused by a meteorite.

Since Kulik’s death in 1942, numerous scientific expeditions have been conducted to the explosion site, but no crater and no meteorite material from outer space has yet been found.
Q: What if it wasn't a meteorite?
A: The question fascinates scientists and science fiction writers. There are nearly 100 theories.

The lineup of suspects includes a comet, a mini-black hole, an asteroid, a rock of antimatter or a methane gas blast from below. More imaginative explanations include an alien spacecraft that exploded in mid-air and an experiment on a "death ray" which got out of hand.

My favorite theory is that the famous Krakatoa volcanic eruption in August 1883 generated strong radio waves, which were received 11 years later at the star 61 Cygni, 11 light-years away from us.

The Cygnian scientists misread the signal as greetings from a distant civilization and decided to send a return message by laser. Unfortunately, the well-meaning scientists misjudged the Earth’s distance and fired a powerful beam that zapped Tunguska. The "extra strong" Cygnian message was all Greek to the local Siberian people; they did not have the required technology to read their greeting card from the stars.
Q: What do you think happened?
A: I believe – and overwhelming data supports my belief – that the Tunguska explosion was caused by a asteroid that vaporized 3 to 6 miles above Tunguska. The resulting fine debris and gases then dispersed over wide areas in the atmosphere.
Q: This is the "so what" question: So what? Why does this strange event matter to us today?
The Tunguska event matters because the number of victims could have been hundreds of thousands if it had happened over Europe instead of the desolate region of Tunguksa.

Scientists expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years. And we must not forget that it was an asteroid that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

And by comparison, the Russian meteor that exploded [last week] about 15 miles above the Earth packed energy equivalent to only 30 Hiroshima atomic bombs as compared to the 1,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs of the Tunguska event.
Q: Are there possible connections between 1908 and the event last week? Or is it purely a coincidence that these things both happened in Siberia?
A: It's pure chance. Incidentally, the 2013 meteor blast was 3,000 miles west of the Tunguska blast.
Q: If all this worries me, should I go outside with an umbrella? Build a meteorite-proof building? Move to Mars? Or just stop worrying and learn to love the asteroid or meteor or whatever?
A: Don’t worry. Scientists are exploring ways of nudging, pushing, crushing, covering, nuking or burning rogue large space rocks that may threaten good readers of The Christian Science Monitor.

Until then, the best strategy is to work on early warning systems.

Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.

Murakami's most recent novel, '1Q84,' was translated into 40 languages and has sold millions of copies around the world. (Elena Seibert/Knopf)

A new work by Haruki Murakami is arriving in April – but only in Japanese

By Husna Haq / 02.20.13

Haruki Murakami fans, rejoice – and learn Japanese, if you haven’t already.

Murakami has a new book coming out in April, according to Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun. The only problem? His Japanese publisher Bungeishunju, as well as US publisher Knopf, have not indicated when the book would be translated into English.

“There is nothing in the pipeline at the moment,” said Knopf publicity director Nicholas Latimer. “We have not yet commissioned a translation.” 

US readers, hang tight. Not only is it unclear when the new novel will be translated or released in the US – his previous novel “1Q84” took two years to be translated into English and released in the US – Murakami’s Japanese publisher is tight-lipped on details about the forthcoming book.

Other than the publication date, no details, not even the title, were released – all of which only drew more excitement and anticipation, of course. And speculation.

“I bet it will contain ear porn, a lonely man, a teenage/under-age girl, the war in Manchuria [and] some cooking,” opines one reader, according to the UK’s Guardian.

“It’s safe to bet that there will be cats (that may or may not talk) and probably some awkward sex, too,” posits the NY Daily News.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal wonders if it’s a fourth volume to Murakami’s famous “1Q84.”

The 925-page “1Q84” was released to wide acclaim in Japan before being translated to English and released in the US. It went on to be translated into more than 40 languages and sell millions of copies around the world.

This latest mystery novel can only serve to boost Murakami’s appeal and ensure he’ll land, yet again, on the favorites list for a Nobel Prize in Literature. But for now, only Japanese readers will enjoy his latest work.

James Bond is currently portrayed by actor Daniel Craig in the film series. (Francois Duhamel/Sony Pictures/AP)

New James Bond novel will arrive this fall

By Staff Writer / 02.19.13

Following the phenomenal success of the most recent James Bond movie installment – November’s “Skyfall” – the famous spy will be appearing in an all-new print adventure.

Writer William Boyd will be penning a new Bond novel, which is scheduled to come out this September in the UK (published by Jonathan Cape) and early October in the US and Canada (released by HarperCollins). Boyd was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for his 1982 novel “An Ice-Cream War.”

According to a statement from the estate of original Bond author Ian Fleming, the book will be “a return to the classic Bond era,” with a 45-year-old Bond living in 1969.

Any other information on a title or plot details is being kept secret for now.

Taking on a Bond novel is a “fantastic, exciting challenge,” Boyd told Reuters.

The author had criticized how some adaptations had handled the spy in the past during an interview with Radio Times in December.

“In the films Bond is a cartoon character,” Boyd said. “But in the novels he is far more troubled, nuanced and interesting... Bond’s father was Scottish and his mother was Swiss so he didn’t have a drop of English blood in him. He’s not the suave Roger Moore-type English toff at all.”

Boyd, who was asked to pen his Bond novel by the Fleming estate, is only the most recent author requested to take on spy-writing duties. After Fleming died in 1964, authors including Kingsley Amis, John Gardner and Raymond Benson have written new Bond works for the Fleming estate. “Birdsong” writer Sebastian Faulks published one in 2008 titled “Devil May Care,” while writer Jeffery Deaver of the Lincoln Rhyme series wrote “Carte Blanche” in 2011.

“Skyfall,” the newest Bond movie, became the highest-grossing movie in the series last year and was also well-received critically, currently holding a grade of 81 on the review aggregate site Metacritic.

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