Archive for the ‘Review Sources’ Category

Interview with the Interviewer,
Terry Gross

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

terry-04For 40 years, the host of NPR’s Fresh Air, Terry Gross has connected listeners with the people that fascinate her, many of them authors.

In celebration of that anniversary, The New York Times Magazine turns the tables on  Gross, interviewing the interviewer.

In a story enhanced by several photos (our favorite; Gross as a young woman working an enormous 70’s tape deck), writer Susan Burton offers an ode to NPR’s iconic questioner, reviewing her history and career trajectory, and discussing her acuity as an interviewer.

In particular Burton stresses Gross’s depth of knowledge on the subjects she discuses and her ability to create an intimacy with those she interviews, calling her our “national interviewer” and saying:

… think of it as a symbolic role, like the poet laureate — someone whose job it is to ask the questions, with a degree of art and honor. Barbara Walters was once our national interviewer, in a flashier style defined by a desire for spectacle. Gross is an interviewer defined by a longing for intimacy. In a culture in which we are all talking about ourselves more than ever, Gross is not only listening intently; she’s asking just the right questions … she’s deft on news and subtle on history, sixth-sensey in probing personal biography and expert at examining the intricacies of artistic process.”

This American Life‘s Ira Glass, no slouch as an interviewer himself, tells Burton:

There’ve been times when I’ve relistened [to an interview], just to hear the order of the questions and to figure out what was planned and unplanned. Like a magician sitting in on another guy’s act for two nights so he can figure out the trick, to steal it … [it is] not surprising that she loves jazz artists and stand-up comedians so much. She’s their journalist peer.

Being interviewed by Gross is a frequent fantasy of those who eventually make it onto her show and the process of talking to Gross is “a wish not for recognition but for an experience. It’s a wish for Gross to locate your genius, even if that genius has not yet been expressed. It’s a wish to be seen as in a wish to be understood.”

As an example, Burton highlights Gross’s 2011 interview with Maurice Sendak. The conversation turned to his death and Sendak said to Gross “I’ll go before you go, so I won’t have to miss you.’’

The NYT’s New Daily Book Critic

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

We’ve been waiting to hear who would replace daily NYT critic Janet Maslin since she shifted roles from full-time critic to an occasional contributor.

The news arrives in the paper tomorrow, in the form of a sidebar to a review of a nonfiction title currently hot in the media, Becoming Nicole, about a teen who transitioned from male to female, while her identical twin continues to identify as male.

The sidebar reads,

Meet Our New Critic
Jennifer Senior is the new daily book critic for The New York Times. For most of the last 18 years, she was a staff writer for New York magazine, where she wrote profiles and cover stories about politics, social science and mental health. She is also an author herself: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood was published in 2014. You can follow her on Twitter: @JenSeniorNY

9780062072221_cc8dfAccording to a press release by NYT Culture editor Danielle Mattoonon, Senior will focus on nonfiction, which is no surprise, given her background as a journalist writing about politics, social science, and mental health and as the author of the  best selling All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (HarperCollins/Ecco; HarperCollins and Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample).

While the daily NYT now returns to a roster of three full-time book critics, this appointment still leaves a void. Maslin focused on popular fiction and, reflecting her roots as a movie reviewer, made an effort to be the first to review titles she thought would be hits, getting behind books such as  Gone Girl.and The Girl on the Train.

The two other daily NYT critics have different approaches. Michiko Kakutani tends toward literary fiction (even though she reviews J.K. Rowling’s “Grizzly Crime Novel,” Career of Evil this week) and Dwight Garner tends toward nonfiction about popular culture, particularly music, (switching that it up today, with a review of  David Mitchell’s Slade House.)

Coming on the heels of cuts in book coverage by People magazine and USA Today, those looking simply for something “good to read” have fewer places to turn. Here’s hoping that Entertainment Weekly continues to consider books an important component their coverage of popular culture.

Alan Cheuse Dies at 75

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 9.55.48 AMAlan Cheuse, author of Prayers for the Living and NPR’s All Things Considered book reviewer, has died at age 75, from injuries resulting from a car accident.

A creative writing teacher, a working writer, and a beloved voice on the radio, Cheuse inspired a deep appreciation of good writing and rich reading. His daughter, Sonya Cheuse, director of publicity for the publisher Ecco, told NPR that her father passed his love of literature down to her entire family: “My dad is the reason I love reading,” she says. “This is the family business.”

Cheese reviewed a wide range of books from the Dan Winslow’s best seller, The Cartel to t Booker nominees,  Marilynn Robinson’s Lila and Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island:His family joined him at the end of last year for “The Perfect Family Book List” for gift giving.

Susan Stamberg of All Things Considered has posted a remembrance.

Yardley: Favorites from
A Lifetime of Reading

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Yardley, Critic

Many are assessing their favorite books of the year right now, but imagine summing up your favorites from an entire lifetime?

Jonathan Yardley, long-time Washington Post book critic takes on that task in his final, farewell column before retiring.

Only one of the total of 30 titles was published this year, Ward Just’s American Romantic (HMG), which Yardley counts as “perhaps his best, though the competition is fierce” (he also lists Just’s 1990 novel, The Congressman Who Loved Flaubert).

In nonfiction, one author gets three mentions, Rick Atkinson for his “magisterial World War II trilogy,” An Army at Dawn, (Macmillan/Holt, 2002), The Day of Battle, (Macmillan/Holt, 2007) and The Guns at Last Light (Macmillan/Holt, 2013),

In a separate column, Yardley looks back on his career with the Washington Post.(many of you will recognize the headshot, above, that once ran above his column), and resolves to “make one last attempt to read Ulysses, the gargantuan novel by James Joyce that was admitted to this country by my great-great uncle, federal Judge John Woolsey, whose famous opinion authorizing its admission I regard as considerably more engaging, witty and intelligible than the novel itself.”

A critic to the end!

Yardley Retires from
The Washington Post

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Jonathan Yardley, the nonfiction book critic for the Washington Post since 1981, is retiring. Known as an iconoclast (if you’re not a fan of Salinger’s, you’ll enjoy his reassessment of Catcher in the Rye as “a maladroit, mawkish novel” that is suffused with “cheap sentimentality”), he also won a Pulitzer for criticism.

On Monday, it was announced that Carlos Lozada  will replace Yardley, leaving his current job as editor of the paper’s Sunday opinion section, Outlook.

Interviewed by yesterday, Lozada talked about his plans, which are focused on “building a digital audience,” by using “author interviews; short posts that highlight key nuggets from new books; deep dives on trends in nonfiction,” such as his piece, “The End of Everything” and adds, “while I know that lots of people use reviews to help them decide which books to buy and read, lots of them also see reviews as a substitute for reading the book. I certainly do – there isn’t enough time to read everything, right? And I want to respect those readers and their needs, too, which is where I hope these other forms can help.”

Asked whether he will cover book selling (the interviewer notes, “I can think of a company that might be really interesting to cover!”), he says that he’ll leave the business used to the paper’s “great business/financial writers.”

Diminishing Book Coverage

Friday, September 5th, 2014

cbf1b1a89bd7289b824adb27388bc12c_400x400Just as we welcomed USA Today‘s annual fall books forecast, with Bob Minzesheimer’s roundup of bookseller predictions of which ones will be hits, we learned that, after 17 years on the newspaper’s book beat, Minzesheimer is one of the victims of a new round of layoffs. This follows on the heels of the loss last year of Deirdre Donahue and Carol Memmot to early retirement packages.

At that time, USA Today made the following statement to Publishers Weekly;

“While we’re sorry to lose Deirdre and Carol, USA Today‘s commitment to books coverage remains unwavering. Later this year we’ll celebrate the 20th anniversary of our famous book list with a host of new coverage, both print and online. Books editor Jocelyn McClurg and reviewer Bob Minzesheimer remain committed to books coverage and, with senior editors, will be actively recruiting new book reviews both inside the staff and outside.”

Bob tweeted the following yesterday:

On day my kids begin high school, I’m among 25 staffers laid off at USA Today. I’ll keep reading & writing. New

Follow him on Twitter: @bookbobminz

As a form of protest, click as many times as you can on Bob’s Booksellers pick potential hits for fall

PEOPLE Magazine’s Book Picks

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

jimmy-fallon-300As we noted last week, People magazine’s redesign under new Editorial Director, Jess Cagle, subsumes book reviews into the new upfront “People Picks” section.

In the second week of the new design, “The Best New Books” rate a bit higher than last — they are now at #6, up from #9, and feature 3 titles that are slightly more below the radar than last week’s, plus three books by “celebrities” (including “Twitter phenom” Jenny Mollen’s book of essays, I Like You Just the Way I Am; former Days of Our Lives star Alison Sweeney’s’ novel, Scared Scriptless and Fox News anchor Bret Aailer’s memoir about dealing with his son’s congenital heart disease, Special Heart).

But you can’t keep books out of popular culture; they sneak into some of the other picks:

#2 MovieHow to Train Your Dragon 2. Book Connection: Based on the kids series by Cressida Cowell, the movie opens this week (see our roundup of tie-ins). Variety calls it, “DreamWorks Animation’s strongest sequel yet — one that breathes fresh fire into the franchise, instead of merely rehashing the original. Braver than Brave, more fun than Frozen and more emotionally satisfying than so many of its live-action counterparts, Dragon delivers.”

#3 TV Drama: PBS Masterpiece Mystery miniseries, The Escape Artist. Book Connection: Show creator David Wolstencroft wrote two spy novels, Good News, Bad News and Contact ZeroWorldCat shows copies are still in many library collections.

#5 Pop Single: Rita Ora I Will Never Let You Down.  Book Connection: This one is admittedly very tenuous. Ora plays Mia, Christian’s sister, in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie.

#8 TV Series: Episode 10 in the new season of Game of Thrones. Book Connection: Obvious.

The actual books, at #6 are:

I'm Having So Much Fun 9780374141042_36437  Euphoria

I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, Courtney Maum, (S&S/Touchstone) — This debut is a LibraryReads pick for June and People’s “Book of the Week.”

Do Fathers Matter?: What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked, Paul Raeburn, (Macmillan/Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux) — We’re guessing that the answer is “Yes.” This is one of the issue’s many nods (including the cover story) to Father’s Day.

EuphoriaLily King, (Grove/Atlantic, June) —  Librarians have buzzed this one on GalleyChat, recommending it for fans of Horan’s Loving Frank and McLain’s The Paris Wife. It’s loosely based on Margaret Mead’s journals (if a novel based on the anthropologist’s life doesn’t sound like a promising readalike, consider that it involves a love triangle). People calls it “transporting.” Early readers we trust say, “King’s language is as lush as the landscape.”

When GriefBooks also sneak into the features features, in the form of an interview with  Mary Rockefeller Morgan, the twin of Michael Rockefeller, who disappeared in New Guinea in the early sixties. She recently updated her book about the loss, an eBook from a devision of Open Road Media, When Grief Calls Forth the Healing.

Open Road ebooks are available for library lending.

Another book on the story (which Morgan say prompted her to update her book), Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman, (HarperCollins/Morrow), was published in March.

PEOPLE Reviews Disappearing?

Friday, June 6th, 2014
Books now subsumed into "People Picks"

Books now subsumed into “People Picks”

When opening the new issue of People magazine, you may wonder where the Books section is.

Unfortunately, along with the other reviews sections, it is gone. Books, movies, TV and music will now be combined in an upfront section, “People Picks,” where they will also have new competition from apps, games, viral video and other entertainment.

In the inaugural “Picks” section, books appear towards the end (ahead of the DVD of the HBO series, True Detective and the streaming musical, Side Effects), with just three new hardcovers, all of them by well-known authors — Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes, Diana Gabaldon’s Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, and Lisa See’s China Dolls — as well as three paperback reprints, also from big names.

The last issue with a Book section

The last issue with a Book section

This is the first major change to the magazine under the new Editorial Director, Jess Cagle who took over in January. It seems his predecessor, Larry Hackett, had considered making changes to the sections, but kept them to support upfront fractional advertising pages.

The book business has had to suffer the diminishing, or closing, of many book review sections. Given People magazine’s extensive reach, this may be the worst blow of them all.

New Editor for the NYT Sunday Book Review

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
Pamela Paul

Pamela Paul, new editor of the NYT Book Review

What do we want from the NYT Book Review? Often discussed, that question takes on added interest now that Sam Tanenhaus is leaving his post as Editor after nine years.

He will be replaced by Pamela Paul, who has been the children’s books editor and the features editor for the Review. She is only the second woman to hold that position (Rebecca Sinkler was the first, from 1989 to 1995).

We have a simple (which is NOT synonymous with “easy”) request: do what good librarians do, approach books with passion and excitement:

Every week, make people say, “I gotta read that!”

Don’t be afraid to show your hand and champion certain titles (like the NYT Magazine did for George Saunders’ book of short stories, Tenth of December, with their cover declaring it “the best book you will read this year“)

NYT Book Review cover from 2004

A NYT Book Review cover from 2004

Make people look forward to each issue, wondering, “What’s going to be on the cover?”

Develop reviewers that people actively follow

Surprise us with a range of titles and don’t be afraid of the popular

There are reasons to think Pamela Paul may be up to that task:

She is a passionate reader — in an essay on YA books, she went way beyond the cliché of being so engrossed in a book that she missed her subway stop; she admitted to nearly ignoring her new-born because she was in the midst of The Hunger Games.

She appreciates a wide range of authors — her weekly Q&A column, “By the Book,” ranges from authors like Edward St. Aubyn to household names like Jackie Collins (who would have guessed that her favorite genre is ” tough male fiction”?)

She enjoys controversy — She stirred the waters by publishing a much-talked-about piece by Meg Wolitzer on the status of womens fiction

And, she clearly has stamina. In addition to her duties on the Book Review, she  has written for many other sections of the NYT, as well as other publications, and writes a weekly column on children’s books for the daily newspaper. She has also written three books and is raising three children.

She will need that strength. Previous editors have complained that it is a thankless job. When Chip McGrath left that position on 2003, he admitted to The New York Observer, “I have too thin a skin for this job … A lot of people feel that part of their job is to let you know in various ways how unhappy you’ve made them. That’s wearing.” John Leonard, the editor in the early 1970’s, often regarded as the “golden age” of the publication, chimed in, saying, “The job wears you out. I lasted five years. It’s not so much that the books keep coming, but the complaints keep coming.”

Pamela Paul begins that thankless job in May.


Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Small hatchet2Winning an award for a hatchet job may not sound like a good thing. The Ominvore (not to be confused with Omnivoracious, Amazon’s book blog) begs to differ. They created “The Hatchet Job of The Year” award in 2011 for the year’s most scathing book review, in an effort to “crusade against dullness, deference and lazy thinking. It rewards critics who have the courage to overturn received opinion, and who do so with style.”

So, congrats to one of EarlyWord‘s favorite reviewers, the Washington Post‘s Ron Charles, who is one of eight nominees for the “Hatchet Job 2012” for his review of Martin Amis’s Lionel Asbo. His review is one of just two that appeared in American publications (the other is Zoë Heller’s review of  Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie in the New York Review of Books).

Here’s hoping that Ron wins a well-deserved year’s supply of potted shrimp (supplied by The Fish Society, the “UK’s premier mail order and online fishmonger,” which sponsors the award — we leave it up to you to speculate on why).

Rotten Tomatoes for Books

Monday, July 16th, 2012

A new site called I Dream Books is being called “Rotten Tomatoes for Books,” a reference to the movie site that rounds ups critics responses to movies.

The founders tell Publishing Perspectives that although there are several other book review aggregators, their site is different because their user interface is better, “it’s made for discovery: there’s an emphasis on covers and images. The site is like looking in a shop window.”

After examining it, we’ll stick with our favorite aggregators; Bookmarks magazine’s web site, which lists the reviews for the week from 25 publications, as well as the most-reviewed titles for the past 8 weeks and the subscription service Publishers Marketplace ($20/month, which includes a host of other services). The latter indexes reviews from over 40 publications, with a brief excerpt and a simple indicator of whether each review is “Generally positive” or “Generally negative”.

In comparison to those sources, I Dream Books is not as timely. The latest reviews we could find are from May; no reviews are listed for Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies (published by Macmillan, one of the Big Six publishers that I Dream Books is currently focused on). Bookmarks shows 14 reviews for the title and Publishers Marketplace, 13. In addition, some of the information is perplexing; several titles are listed by their paperback release dates, with no mention of the hardcover.

I Dream Books has an advantage in the number of sources they coverincluding several book blogs. As print coverage of books shrinks, this could be very useful. However, since many book blogs are by genre fans, they skew the listings. For instance, Jinx, a new graphic novel version of the Archie Comics, is listed as the #2 Top Rated fiction title of the year.

News stories:

Huffington Post — iDreamBooks Review Site: Rotten Tomatoes For Books? Is Like Rotten Tomatoes For Books – AppNewser

Publishing PerspectivesiDreambooks Promises “Rotten Tomatoes-like” Site for Books

Demo video:

New Book Review

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

A new online book publication with an unfortunate acronym is in the midst of a launch, the Los Angeles Review of Books, or LORB. It is supported by the U. of Cal Riverside, where editor Ton Lutz is on the faculty, and other donors. The publication has an impressively long roster of contributing editors, including James Franco (we’re assuming that is the same James Franco as the author, actor, film director, screenwriter, painter, etc.)

Today, LORB released its first sample, which includes an essay on Nancy Mitford by Jane Smiley, Buster Keaton and the World of Objects by Geoff Nicholson, and The Death of the Book by Ben Ehrenreich.

Under “Further Information,”  the editors outline ambitious goals:

The LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS is the first major, full-service book review to launch in the 21st century, and is designed to exploit the latest online technologies in ways that respond to a significantly transformed publishing world.  We are still working on the coding for the full site, and offer this ‘preview review’ in the meantime.

The great tradition of the American comprehensive book review, in magazine and newspaper form, has been in its death throes for years, replaced in partial and inadequate ways by crowd-sourced or user-generated forums for book talk on the web. There are numerous blogs, some quite excellent (and we will have deep linking relationships with the best of them), but very little in the way of full-range book reviewing—rigorously edited, carefully curated, deeply informed discourse by experts in their respective fields—has been mounted to take the place of the dwindling print reviews. The disappearance of the newspaper book review supplement … has been accompanied by an explosion of titles in the book market. The net result: twenty times as many titles are published each year than were in 1980, and we have one twentieth of the serious book reviews.

Unfortunately, none of the books published recently get serious attention in the currently available sample (in fact, the Keaton piece makes passing reference to just a single book; Keaton’s autobiography, which he dictated, but never read).

We’ll be watching to see how LORB develops. The list of forthcoming articles, however, promises more of what’s in the sample.

The NEW Newsweek

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

The latest incarnation of Newsweek, under the editorship of Tina Brown, arrives on newsstand today. In her introductory editorial, Brown makes a valiant effort to explain why a print weekly still matters today.

Our focus is more narrow; what about books? In recent years, the weekly news magazines have cut back their review sections. On the other hand, Brown’s online publication, The Daily Beast, launched a book section early in 2009. We heard that the new Newsweek would include a book section in each issue, so we had hopes.

We haven’t gotten our hands on the print version yet, but in the online version, the book section is rather meager and buried. The only book feature is “Bookbag: Jodi Picoult’s Picks,” in which the bestselling author shines her light on three novels;  Allison Pearson’s I Think I Love You (Knopf; Feb), Benjamin Hale’s The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore (Twelve/ Grand Central; Jan) and Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures of You (Algonquin; Jan).

Picoult calls Leavitt an “undiscovered jewel.” While not exactly “undiscovered” (Pictures of You was a Costco Pick and it was on the extended NYT Paperback Fiction list), Leavitt does deserve a broader audience (check out Carolyn See’s review in the Washington Post).

Pictures of You
Caroline Leavitt
Retail Price: $13.95
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Algonquin Books – (2011-01-25)
ISBN / EAN: 1565126319 / 9781565126312

OverDrive; Adobe EPUB eBook
Highbridge Audio; UNABR; 9781615736553; Library Edition, 9781611741025

NYT BR Expands Picture Book Reviews

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

The New York Times Book Review will post an additional, online-only picture book review each week. The first one is for Il Sung Na’s book about the change of seasons,  Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit.

Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons
Il Sung Na
Retail Price: $15.99
Hardcover: 24 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers – (2011-01-11)
ISBN / EAN: 0375867864 / 9780375867866

Also available in library binding

NYT Expands Best Seller Lists

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Get ready for 14 NYT best seller lists, rather than the usual 8.

The Feb. 13 lists expand to include E-Books (adult Fiction and Nonfiction), as well as Combined Print and E-Books lists.

Also, there are new combined paperback and hardback lists in both fiction and nonfiction.

The only revelation from the new lists is that people buy the same titles in eBooks as they do in print — James Patterson’s Tick Tock tops the fiction in both formats and Lauren Hillenbrand’s Unbroken leads in nonfiction.