Archive for February, 2008

R.A. Clipping File — Mysteries and Fiction

Friday, February 15th, 2008

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The Independent Mystery Booksellers Association has posted their February list of top 5 favorite recent reads, including The Anatomy of Deception by Lawrence Goldstone, calling it a “mystery as compelling as The Alienist.”

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The IMBA’s bestseller list for January is also up on the site. They note that “relative newcomer Julie Hyzy topped the paperback list” with an original mass market paperback, her first in her “White House Chef” mysteries.

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The American Booksellers Association has announced their Book Sense Picks for March. The top choice is Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (“This second entry in the nonstop, frenzied, comedic world of Isabel Spellman, P.I., is both more convoluted and funny than The Spellman Files.”), but my favorite hand-sell line is for The Philosopher’s Apprentice by James Morrow:

“If Plato, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche decided to tie one on, paint the town red, and, then, write a novel, they might be able to come up with something like this. Morrow’s tale of a sarcastic moralist and his unique protege shocks and perplexes, while taking the reader on a marvelous adventure.” –Michael Lyle, Market Street Books, Chapel Hill, NC On sale March 11
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Newsweek’s Malcolm Jones adds his thoughts to the many on “the book of the moment” Beautiful Children, saying that author Charles Brock “knows how to tug at your heart, and he knows how to make you laugh out loud, often on the same page, sometimes in the same sentence. The only thing he doesn’t seem to know is when to quit.”

Learning from Libraries?

Friday, February 15th, 2008

Borders new concept stores

Many years ago, when Borders began to expand their stores beyond Ann Arbor, media reports often commented, with some amazement, that they seemed like libraries. The stores had comfy chairs, encouraged browsing, offered lots of titles and even allowed people to read books they didn’t buy.

This week, Reuters trumpets,”New Borders Stores Combine Literary and Digital Worlds.” Hmm, now that sounds even MORE like a library. USA Today, in comparing bricks and mortar stores to online booksellers, reports, “One of the saving graces for bookstores, say analysts, consumers and industry officials, is they offer people with shared interests a site to gather and socialize.” Hmm, sounds like ALA past president, Leslie Burger, talking about libraries as community centers.

Borders premiered the first of its new “concept stores” yesterday. As USA Today puts it, the chain “hopes to reverse years of sluggish sales by reinventing itself as a hub for knowledge, entertainment and digital downloading.” They plan to open thirteen more stores by the end of the year. Among the new offerings, Borders is working with Internet companies such as Ancestor.com to allow customers to do genealogy searches.

It’s amusing to read about Borders new approaches to merchandising, like displaying cooking magazines and books together. How many different shelving approaches have libraries tried over the years?Borders press release gives full details (with a few ideas worth stealing).

Under Wraps

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

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  • Hardcover: $22.99 (704 pages)
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers (August 2, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 031606792X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316067928

There’s no cover art yet and the publication date is nearly six months away, but Breaking Dawn is already at #10 on Amazon’s bestseller list. This is just further proof, if you needed it, of the popularity of Stephenie Meyer’s series of Y.A. vampire love stories, Twilight.

The series is known for its striking cover art and fans are already speculating on what the cover will be. Some are even creating their own versions (this one gets my vote). Capitalizing on this fervor, the publisher is keeping the cover under wraps until May 31 (the Saturday of Book Expo) when they will release a special hardcover edition of the third book in the series, Eclipse, which will include the cover art and first chapter of Breaking Dawn.

Last week’s announcement of the publication date also brought attention to Meyer’s adult title, The Host, to be released on May 6th. Its Amazon ranking is now #77. Although it is being published as an adult title, it is definitely a crossover title that belongs in Y.A. as well as adult.

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  • Hardcover: $25.99 (624 pages)
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (May 6, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0316068047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316068048

Twilight hits the big screen on Dec. 12, directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown) and starring Kristen Stewart (Into The Wild) and Robert Pattinson (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).

On her web site, Stephenie Meyer says she’s contemplating another book in the series, Midnight Sun, which will tell the Twilight story from the point of view of Edward Cullen (the vampire). The first chapter is posted on the site, but no publication date has been announced.

Small Press Garners Big Nomination

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

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  • Paperback:$18.00
  • Publisher: Busted Flush Press, (December 3, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 0976715732
  • ISBN-13: 978-0976715733

On Friday, the Houston Chronicle profiled a tiny (a one-man house, you can’t get much smaller than that) independent press that has just received its second Edgar nomination for Best Short Story. The goal of Busted Flush (named after Travis McGee’s houseboat in the series by John D. MacDonald) is to bring back out-of-print mysteries and to publish anthologies of mystery short stories.

The nominated story is “Uncle,” by Daniel Woodrell, which appeared in A Hell of a Woman: An Anthology of Female Noir.

In 2007, Bill Crider’s “Cranked,” from the anthology Damn Near Dead was nominated.

So Nice, They Might Do it Twice

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

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According to Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, the final Harry Potter book, The Deathly Hallows, may be made into two films. Producer David Barron worries that people will see such a move as cashing in on the franchise, but says it would solve the problem of compressing the book into two hours. Filming will begin February next year. Rumors that Steven Spielberg will direct it are being vehemently denied.

Meanwhile, the sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is being shot in Gloucester and is scheduled for a November release.

Pretty Confusing

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

As if it’s not difficult enough to untangle garbled title requests, this season there are three titles, each featuring a variation on a similar theme:

  • Beautiful Children, Charles Bock
  • The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy, Robert Leleux
  • Beautiful Boy, David Sheff

Perhaps the following will help untangle requests:

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Beautiful Children, Charles Bock

  • Hardcover: $25.00
  • Publisher: Random House (January 22, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1400066506
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400066506

So far, this one has received the most attention. The author was profiled by former NYTBR editor-in-chief, Charles McGrath, in the Times Sunday Magazine 1/27. It received a cover review in the NYTBR (unusual for a novel and particularly, for a debut novel). The day after the review appeared, the book went up to #23 on Amazon and stayed in double digits for the next week. It is now at #134. It was also reviewed, far less favorably, by Janet Maslin in the daily Times and has been reviewed by nearly every outlet that still has a book review section, including Entertainment Weekly (where it got a solid B).

In fact, the book has received so much attention that the New York Post got into the act, trying to imply some sort of conspiracy (“Engineering a Bestseller“). The story’s “revelation”? An enthusiastic publicist and a few vintage postcards can do wonders.

An early damning PW review resulted in libraries buying few copies (although, six weeks later, LJ starred it). Check to see if reserves are building.

Short take: the season’s literary darling, a novel about a lost kid in Las Vegas.

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The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy, Robert Leleux

  • Hardcover: 23.95
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (January 8, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0312361688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312361686

Reviewed by Janet Maslin in the daily NY Times, as well as in the Seattle Times, the Rocky Mountain News.

Current Amazon ranking: #16,088

Short take: Funny/sad memoir about growing up gay in Texas with a flamboyant mother (when he tells his mother he’s gay, she replies, “How could you be my child and not be gay?”)

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Beautiful Boy, David Sheff

  • Hardcover: $24.00
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (February 26, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0618683356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618683352

An expansion of Sheff’s 2005 New York Times story, “My Addicted Son,” the book was reviewed, last April in LJ (its pub date was postponed to coincide with its Starbucks pick). It has not been reviewed in the consumer press yet.

Current Amazon ranking: #8,353

Short take: painful memoir of a father dealing with his son’s addiction to meth, set in California

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Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines, Nic Sheff

  • Hardcover:$16.99
  • Publisher: Ginee Seo Books (S&S) (February 19, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1416913629
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416913627

Amazon ranking: #15,498

Although this one won’t be confused with the previous titles, it actually is the memoir of the beautiful boy from the book above. Nic Sheff, David’s son, writes about his addiction. It’s being published as a Y.A. title and has been reviewed in SLJ.

Lost in Production

Monday, February 11th, 2008

You just never know where you’re going to find useful book information. February’s W Magazine examines several titles that have been in “Literary Purgatory.” These are titles for which film rights have been purchased, directors and/or screenwriters hired, and then, nothing.

If you’ve been wondering how likely some big-name titles will make it to the screen, below is the rundown.

Quite possibly:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon

Maybe:

The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen

Unlikely:

Geek Love, Katherine Dunn

This cult classic just cannot get off the ground as a film.

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

The Secret History, Donna Tartt

A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers

It seems Eggers is more interested in adapting Where the Wild Things are, which is scheduled for October.

The Week’s Nonfiction Bestsellers

Friday, February 8th, 2008

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It was amazing and gratifying (full disclosure — I am a Harper fan) to see that the CBS Sunday Morning segment on Charley Harper sent the $200 (discounted to $120 on Amazon) Illustrated Life to #11 on Amazon’s list. It stayed in the Top 150 for most of the week and is now at #169. It’s running neck and neck with Harper’s Beguiled by the Wild, ($49.95, discounted to $29.97) which is now at #168.

The mystery business book, Compassionate Samurai, which showed up at #1 on the Wall Street Journal business list last week, has now disappeared from the list as quickly and mysteriously as it appeared. A call to the publisher revealed they are as mystified as we are. The business list has returned to normal, with no surprises.

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  • Hardcover:$25.95
  • Publisher: Hay House (January 29, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1401917453
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401917456

Appearing on both the WSJ Nonfiction list (#13) and the USA Today Top 150 list (at #84) is Temples On The Other Side, subtitle: “How Wisdom from Beyond the Veil Can Help You Right Now” by Sylvia Browne. The WSJ list shows it selling at the same rate as Deceptively Delicious (Jessica Seinfeld), I Am America (Stephen Colbert), and (Jonah Goldberg). Those titles, have been on the list for many weeks, so they are falling off in sales. Browne is about to begin her “Farewell Tour” (is this the first author farewell tour?)

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  • Mass Market Paperback: $7.99
  • Publisher: Dell (May 11, 1998)
  • ISBN-10: 0440226198
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440226192
  • Trade Paperback: $15.00
  • Publisher: Dell (May 11, 1999)
  • ISBN-10: 0440508835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440508830

At #13 on the USA Today top 150 list is The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. The author appeared on Oprah two weeks ago (he’s a regular on the show) and the book instantly went to #1 on Amazon. The mass market paperback is now at #28 and the trade paperback is at #129.

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  • Paperback:$16.95
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill; 1 edition (December 26, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 0071496661
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071496667

On Amazon, Zero to One Million rose to #2 on Feb. 6th and is now in the 30’s. It has not yet shown up on any print lists and has not been reviewed.

Why “Twelve”?

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

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Ever wonder why publishers keep creating new imprints and what their names signify?

Earlier this week, NPR’s All Things Considered took a look at Twelve, an imprint launched last year by Grand Central (formerly Warner Books, part of Hachette, which was formerly Time Warner Book Group). It’s worth listening to the piece (don’t rely on the overview; it manages to miss the best bits) for insights on the publishing process.

It’s useful to get to know imprints and their characteristics. To see how an independent bookstore buyer uses such knowledge, check out this post on the blog “Kash’s Corner.”

As NPR points out, Twelve has had a remarkable ability to publish bestsellers (6 out of 9 of the titles they’ve released became bestsellers. By contrast, NPR says the industry average is one book in ten becoming a hit. I think that figure is high).

NPR also quotes the Bowker statistic of 290,000 new titles published a year. I always grind my teeth when I hear this figure quoted. It includes on-demand titles, every new edition, technical manuals, and titles from extremely small publishers (83,000 publishers are represented). A large percentage of those titles will never reach the radar of bookstores and public libraries. My own guess (which I checked out with some knowledgeable industry observers, so it’s not completely out of thin air) is that the number of commercially viable titles is more like 30,000 to 50,000 each year.

NPR also featured a Twelve title that’s about to be released:

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Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee

  • Hardcover: $24.99
  • Publisher: Twelve (March 3, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0446580074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446580076

It received a starred review (a “delightful first book on the origins of the customary after-Chinese-dinner treat by New York Times reporter Lee…There are satisfying minihistories on the relationship between Jews and Chinese food and a biography of the real General Tso”) in Publishers Weekly, 12/3/07. the author was also interviewed in PW (but no explanation of her middle initial).

Twelve’s Web site announces titles through August, and also lists those coming in the more distant future, from authors such as Christopher Buckley, Po Bronson and Ted Kennedy.

“Iron Man” & “Prince Caspian” Coming to Theaters; “Inkheart” Postponed

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

I was watching the Puppy Bowl on Sunday. I understand some other Bowl was on at the same time and that it is famous for its half-time show and its ads. Personally, I was blown away by the Puppy Bowl ads for the Bisell Pet Hair Eraser vacuums and, particularly, by the Bisell Kitty Half-time Show, but it’s the ads on the other Bowl that got the media attention.

Evidently, I didn’t miss much.  Ad Age called it “a performance Madison Avenue will not soon live down.” Variety was a bit more charitable and mentioned two movies based on books (one of the comic persuasion) — “Disney successfully whetted appetites for its Chronicles of Narnia sequel Prince Caspian,” but “Paramount’s Iron Man whizzed by so rapidly it was hard to make out much about the lesser-known Marvel character, and the special effects looked slightly unfinished.”

Both movies are coming in May. I’ve just posted previews of upcoming books to movies by month in the “Pages” section.

For those looking for the movie of the Inkheart trilogy in March, Variety reports that it has been postponed to Jan. 2009, “in part because the studio believed it couldn’t adequately market the pic in light of the hit television is taking from the writers strike.” So, they don’t want to run ads against reruns? We’ll keep you posted on whether a writers strike settlement changes this decision.

“Good Reads”?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

In a laudable effort to bring more attention to books (and combat declining space given to reviews in newspapers), the National Book Critics Circle introduced its “Best Recommended” list last year. They asked their members to name the books of 2007 they truly loved. From the 500 responses, a list of the Top Five in Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry was created. The idea seemed good, but the results were hardly surprising. All of the titles (with the exception of the poetry) were well-known to anyone who reads book review sections.

When the list was announced in November, the NBCC also announced its intent to do monthly lists. The new lists have just gone up on the NBCC site. They’ve changed the name from the awkward “Best Recommended” to the surprisingly non-literary “Good Reads.” It looks like they’ve scaled back the monthly idea, since the list is now called “The NBCC’s Good Reads — Winter List.” The NBCC is also sponsoring Good Reads discussions in various cities (all held in bookstores).

Again, the titles on the Top Five lists are not surprising (several, like Tree of Smoke, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Brother, I’m Dying and The Shock Doctrine are even repeated from the previous lists). All (again, with the exception of poetry) have been widely reviewed. I guess it’s what we should expect. This is, after all, the National Book Critics Circle, the folks who run the review media.

Unfortunately, I just don’t feel this does much for the effort to get people to read. The NBCC says they hope these lists will become “an alternative for bestseller lists.” What they’re missing is that people pay attention to bestseller lists because they want to learn what other general readers like, not what the critics think they should read.

I think the ABA has it right with their BookSense picks. Independent booksellers choose their favorites each month, including the literary and the commercial. Each book is listed with a quote from a bookseller. The better quotes read like one-minute handsells, rather than prescriptions, such as this one from the January list:

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BEGINNER’S GREEK, by James Collins
(Little, Brown, $23.99, 9780316021555 / 0316021555)

“This is the best boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl novel I’ve read in ages. The writing is fantastic, and the characters are truly engaging. Beginner’s Greek rivals Jane Austen for an intelligent romantic read.”
Lisa Sharp, Nightbird Books, Fayetteville, AR

Coming on Oprah

Monday, February 4th, 2008

As if The Secret needed more attention. Wednesday’s Oprah Show is dedicated to it.

On Thursday, “clutter expert” Peter Walsh claims you can lose weight by decluttering (personally, I prefer the ideas in Sleep Away the Pounds):

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Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?:

An Easy Plan for Losing Weight and Living More

  • Hardcover: $25.00
  • Publisher: Free Press (February 5, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1416560165
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416560166

Lloyd Boston is scheduled for an unspecified date this month.

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Before You Put That On:

365 Daily Style Tips for Her

  • Hardcover:$27.50
  • Publisher: Atria (October 4, 2005)
  • ISBN-10: 0743281691
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743281690

R.A. Clipping File — Memoirs

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

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What does it say about our national psyche that we seem to have an unending appetite for memoirs that feature dogs? Entertainment Weekly give this one an B+.

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And then there’s all the memoirs that feature food. The Wall Street Journal‘s Jeffrey Trachtenberg interviews Sara Roahen about her new book, Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table. He says it “makes you want to spend a week — immediately — in New Orleans. This collection of essays, which W.W. Norton & Co. publishes on Monday, would wreck any diet if it had recipes. Ms. Roahen charitably refrains.”

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Newsweek reviews a memoir of a much different sort (admittedly, this is more sociology than memoir and it is in the 360’s, but it is also a very personal story), that “gives readers a window into a way of life that few Americans understand.” On Slate, Venkatesh and Alex Kotlowitz (There Are No Children Here & The Other Side of the River) are are involved in a fascinating discussion of the book on “The Book Club: New Books Dissected Over E-mail.”

It’s also been reviewed in the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Charley Harper on CBS Sunday Morning

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

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  • Hardcover: $200
  • Publisher: AMMO Books (July 23, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 0978607651
  • ISBN-13: 978-0978607654

CBS Sunday morning featured a profile of Cincinnati artist, Charley Harper. Designer Todd Oldham became aware of him when he found some of his illustrations in a thrift shop. He looked up Harper and became friends with him. The friendship resulted in a show at the Cincinnati Art Museum last year. The two also collaborated on the above book. Sadly, just before the show open, Harper, 84, died.

Unfortunately, CBS hasn’t posted the video from the show, but you can watch Oldham’s tribute to Harper on YouTube.

If you are scared off by the$200 price tag of the above title, there are other choices available:

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  • Hardcover:$49.95
  • Publisher: Flower Valley Press (January 1995)
  • ISBN-10: 0962054372
  • ISBN-13: 978-0962054372

Flower Valley Press is an independent publisher in Maryland. Their catalog is worth checking out.

There are also two forthcoming titles from Ammo Book, an independent publisher in L.A.:

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  • Hardcover:$27.95
  • Publisher: Ammo Books (April 1, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1934429058
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934429051

The second is a board book

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  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Board book: 62 pages
  • Publisher: Ammo Books (April 1, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1934429074
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934429075

R.A. Clipping File — Fiction

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

The following titles are widely held in libraries, so I haven’t included bibliographic information.

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The LA Times profiles Lydia Millet, author of “witty and uncomfortable novels.” Her new novel, How the Dead Dream was pubbed by Counterpoint this month. It is also reviewed in the Seattle Times.

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The Barnes and Noble Review features a column by Eloisa James (An Affair Before Christmas) on “romances in which the heroines start out as naïve — and grow up as they fall in love.” The article features backlist as well as new titles (Skinny Dipping is pubbed this month).

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Entertainment Weekly reviews Celebutantes (which rates a C+. The book’s videos are not mentioned or rated) and Oscar Season (which gets a B).

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The Monsters of Templeton, “a multilayered saga [that] both thrills and delights with its poignant, breathtaking prose” goes to the head of EW‘s class, with an “A” rating.

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The LA Times reviews Meg Rosoff’s What I Was and notes that her books have been published both in YA and adult. The reviewer says she doesn’t “pretend to understand” these “publishing strategies.” But one has to wonder, if this book had been published as YA, would the Times be reviewing it?

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USA Today’s Bob Minzesheimer, praises one of my favorite debut books of the season, Beginner’s Greek. The Washington Post excoriated it last week. I guess one man’s “charming” is another’s “avalanche of annoying plot devices.” I always thought Bob had a superior eye for popular fiction. He calls it “a literary love story for grown-ups.”

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From the online New York Inquirer, which bills itself as “he hottest Alternative Weekly on the web,” a story by Andrew Bast, Editor-in-Chief, and former NY Times reporter, that looks at the book the 8-time Oscar nominated There Will Be Blood was loosely based upon.