Friday News: Looking back and thinking ahead
The Most-Read Adult Book Reviews of 2016 – This list from Publishers Weekly wasn’t precisely what I expected – although to be honest, I’m not sure what I expected. Still check out this list of their ten most-read adult book reviews for the year and let me know your thoughts. In no particular order, the authors included are Alan Moore, Emma Cline, Martin Seay, Jade Sharma, Joe Hill, Donald Ray Pollock, Neil Gaiman, Noah Hawley, Andrew Michael Hurley, and Richard Russo. Keep in mind that they review more than 8,000 books a year (and that “most-read reviews” doesn’t necessarily correlate with “most popular books”). – Publishers Weekly
The most popular books at US public libraries this year, mapped by city – Quartz reached out to metropolitan libraries across the US and fourteen libraries provided them with information about their most popular (aka checked-out) books in the categories of fiction, non-fiction, and children’s fiction. There don’t appear to be any midwestern libraries represented, and given the overall self-selected group of respondents, this is hardly a scientific survey. But the results are still intriguing, and not completely unpredictable.
Some books’ popularity were driven by library initiatives. For instance, the San Francisco Public Library’s “One City One Book” program encouraged its patrons to read Season of the Witch by David Talbot, shooting it to the top of its most popular book list.
Other books’ popularity are driven by adjacent corners of culture. Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton was the most borrowed nonfiction work in Baltimore. The book was the basis and inspiration for the Tony-award-winning play Hamilton. – Quartz
After Brexit, Will the Novel Suffer? – A predictably provocative essay from Tim Parks about the question of Brexit’s affect on “literature,” in which he drills down to some of the unspoken assumptions underlying the titular question — including the pessimism embedded in the inquiry (as those in the creative arts had overwhelmingly voted against Brexit). Funding would dry up and political instability might lead to war. But what about the possibility that the conflict and drama of Brexit might actually fuel the collective creative imagination? Not to mention the cultural assumptions underlying the fearful scenarios.
Antoine Laurain — a Parisian novelist in his 40s, splendidly droll and noncommittal — declined to take up the melodramatic scenario. He really could not see, he said apologetically, or not yet, how Brexit might affect literature. Nor did he suppose that British literature would suddenly cease to influence European writers or vice versa. Since he was struggling to say more, I interrupted and wondered how on earth a nation’s political decision to leave a trade organization could affect the literary scene. Had the European Community as such made any significant contribution to literature or the arts over its 60-year history? Not that I knew of. Had British readers become “European” in their tastes during the country’s 40-year membership? Hardly. Why would literature decline as a result of this development?
No doubt my intervention betrayed my impatience with this kind of conversation, although, looking back, the more pertinent question would have been: Why would we suppose that literature and political liberalism are mutually sustaining, the implication being that only a “healthy” or well-behaved nation produces and consumes good literature? Can that possibly be true? – New York Times
In 2017, publishing really needs a blockbuster – Carolyn Kellogg channels a mantra that publishing is likely repeating in the presence of a million burning abundance candles. From the reader perspective, of course, a blockbuster is exciting, because it gives us something we didn’t even know to want. From a publisher perspective, it’s the gift that keeps on giving, because of the merchandising, translation, and adaptation possibilities. And from a cultural perspective, it helps create conversation and, ideally, reflection. And yet, we’re starting to see so many other avenues for storytelling, are we really going to get this blockbuster story in native book form, or will it be a multimedia performance, a melding of media platforms and a synesthetic presentation?
What publishing needs is one book, one big book, that comes out of nowhere and takes America by storm. You know what I mean: You hear people talking about it in line at the grocery store. Your grandmother asks if you’ve read it and the same day your college roommate does. It’s the book you see people reading on subways and on planes, that you hear about on the radio and on TV talk shows, that seems to be everywhere at once. . . .
What these breakthrough books share is that they came out of nowhere to top bestseller lists. They each established a real and meaningful presence in our culture. They told us something, reflected back something or encouraged us to imagine something that was fresh and new. – Los Angeles Times