Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Economist has a reading list on cities. (Thanks to Null Space.)

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Chris Briem has a (unofficial) book club.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The New York Times laments the decline of the newspaper book review and the rise of the literary blog. As I've said before, much of what is online is an imperfect substitute for thoughtful newspaper book reviews. But thoughtful newspaper book reviews are rarer than what that article would have us believe. And quite frankly I'd think you can write meaningful criticism on the web just as easily as anywhere else.

The Times quotes novelist Richard Ford--who is so open-minded that he's never read a lit blog--who kvetches "that he wanted the judgment and filter that he believed a newspaper book editor could provide. 'Newspapers, by having institutional backing, have a responsible relationship not only to their publisher but to their readership,' Mr. Ford said, 'in a way that some guy sitting in his basement in Terre Haute maybe doesn’t.'”

That reminds me of the pilot episode of "Studio 60", in which a character--no doubt expressing the thoughts of series creater Aaron Sorkin--complains about the influence of bloggers and says that he prefers "credentials." It's elitism, pure and simple. Other words for bloggers in these contexts are "viewers" and "readers". Why would a writer have so much disdain for them?

(Thanks to Pinky's Paperhaus.)


Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont is holding its Festival of Mystery this Monday, May 7.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Best-selling crime novelist Michael Connelly joins the chorus of voices urging newspapers to save their book review sections. Connelly writes that his popular Harry Bosch novels never would have found an audience without favorable newspaper reviews, and that he’s no exception: Newspaper book reviews allow many new authors to gain a foothold with readers. Connelly also argues that book review sections encourage people to read books, and people who read books also read newspapers. Thus, cutting book review sections is self-defeating for newspapers.

Both arguments are compelling. Certainly, I love reading book reviews, and I agree it’s lamentable to see newspapers cut back on their reviews. I’d have fewer objections if I saw newspapers pouring the resources they save by cutting book reviews into beefing up their local news coverage. You need to give people some reason to read the paper—they won’t do it merely out of civic obligation.

As for the impact on new authors, I’ll certainly have to concede that Connelly—whose writing I enjoy—knows a lot more about the publishing industry than I do. However, I’m optimistic that there are still places to find good book reviews, especially online. Yes, I am including the customer-written reviews on Amazon and other online retailers. From a cultural standpoint, they are no substitute for professionally written reviews. But in terms of generating sales, I have to think they have an important role, as do the recommendations from Amazon. I’ve discovered plenty of decent books and music that way.

It’s just hard for me to believe that people who like reading books are going to read less of them—or revert to reading only established authors—because newspapers stop reviewing books.

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