Readersforum's Blog

May 20, 2013

Restyling the Classics: Don’t Judge a New Cover by the Old Book

largeBy Jen Doll

There’s been a lot of talk about the new (book) edition of The Great Gatsby, with its movie tie-in cover that’s been dubbed terrible by some and enticing by others. But there’s a whole world of re-imagined book covers for classic novels well beyond those Leonardo Di Caprio editions of Gatsby. Take a look, for instance, at book designer Neil Gower’s new cover for the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of John O’Hara’s Appointment in Samarra, which was released April 30. (It’s the one in red, above, at right, next to the 1934 classic designed by Alfred Maurer.) There are many, many examples of old books done new again, like Drop Caps (see below), the stand-out series from type designer Jessica Hische and Penguin VP Executive Creative Director Paul Buckley. And there’s Coralie Bickford-Smith’s lovely Cloth-Bound Classics series for Penguin, in which she turns books into collectible, cloth-bound artifacts (scroll down to see them; they’re the row of books with spines facing toward you below The Portable Dorothy Parker).

There’s no shame in redesigning a classic. “Given the fact that the classics have been around for many years, it is no surprise to me that they have been re-jacketed numerous times,” Bickford-Smith told me. “I truly admire some of the iconic covers from the past for certain classic pieces of literature, but from a selfish point of view as a designer of books, if the original cover had stuck, I would have never have got to design covers for such a incredible bunch of historic authors.”

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December 19, 2012

The Books We Loved in 2012

BernadetteBy Jen Doll

As with this year’s Y.A. offerings, adult fiction and nonfiction were pretty phenomenal in 2012. We’ve again enlisted the help of some of our favorite writers and book lovers to help recognize those works for the latest in The Atlantic Wire’s Year in Review, this time for the “grown-up reads.” Most of these are books published this year, though we’ve occasionally paid homage to works from previous years that we rediscovered or read for the first time in 2012. In any case, these are all books that moved us greatly in some way or another in the last 12 months.

Of course, no best book list can truly be complete, and there are some fantastic, thought-provoking works we have not included below, like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be?, Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, and Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, to name a few. Rest assured they have not been forgotten — in fact, they appear on many a best-of list, including another one around these parts.

Read on for 34 of our favorite books of the year, in no particular order, and why we loved them — with superlatives!

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December 15, 2012

What Your Email Inbox Count Says About You

largeBy Jen Doll and Rebecca Greenfield

What’s the number of unread emails—right now, at this moment, without changing anything—in your inbox? That would be 3,487 in the case of Jen here; 1 in the case of Rebecca. More about what that means in a second, but first, a bit of backstory: The New Yorker‘s Silvia Killingsworth has embarked on an exploration of what she dubs in her headline as “Zero Dark Inbox,” or having absolutely zero unread emails in one’s inbox. She writes, “I have four e-mails in my inbox right now, but I’m aiming for that number to be zero. Like many practitioners of the ‘Inbox Zero’ system, I treat my inbox like a to-do list, with each e-mail representing a task….” She’s adhering to a method promoted by Merlin Mann, a lifehacker and proponent of Getting Things Done; essentially, it’s the digital version of opening all your letters (what letters?) and bills when you receive them and dealing with them then as opposed to setting them aside and waiting for the bill collectors to start bugging you to pay up (not that we would do that, of course).

Killingsworth took on the pursuit of Inbox Zero for herself, calling it “exhilarating and terrifying”—fortunately, like many a process-and-detail-oriented person, “I am addicted to the gratification that comes from tidying up,” she writes. Inbox Zero is a coping mechanism, a way to move on with conversations throughout the day; on the down side, entire threads may be forgotten, no longer staring you in the face. “And what about when you actually reach Inbox Zero? It doesn’t feel like winning. It feels like staring into the abyss,” she explains. But there are at least many like-minded or attempting-to-be-like-minded commiserators with whom you can share your attempts to get there, so that’s fun, sort of like a support group.

But if Killingsworth and her ilk, wholeheartedly and diligently attempting to get to Zero, are one example of an email-lifestyle, what are the others? We undertook a brief investigation of the staff of The Atlantic Wire to find out What Our Inbox Numbers Say About Us (and therefore, perhaps, you too; remember our book readers diagnostic?). As for our unread email counts, here’s what we found.

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August 14, 2012

The Best of the Young Adult ‘B-Sides’: Suzanne Collins, Markus Zusak, and More

AP Photo/Victoria Will

By Jen Doll

The term “B-side” is an old-fashioned record-speak way of distinguishing the big hit or hits of an artist or band from their more obscure work. In the old, old, old days, you might get a two-sided vinyl single or a cassette tape: The “A-side” featured the mainstream, popular song; the “B” had tunes you might not have even heard on the radio, but when you gave them a listen, often you found you quite liked them, maybe even better than the billboard hits on side A. Sometimes such songs were compiled into entire B-side albums, which superfans of a band could add to their comprehensive collections. Inspired by that turn of phrase, we have sought out the best “B-sides” of some of your favorite Y.A. and children’s authors.

Often these are also successful, award-winning books in their own right, but for whatever reason they simply haven’t achieved quite the same level of fame as some of their authors’ other works. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth reading, or even, in some ways, better than the more popular books.

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October 13, 2011

Here Are the 2011 National Book Award Finalists

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By Ray Gustini

\ Today in literature: the National Book Award finalists are announced, an excerpt from Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography explains the origins of his trademark blackturtleneck, and HarperCollins is giving Dennis Lehane his own imprint.

The finalists for the 2011 National Book Awards were announced on a special live broadcast of the Oregon Public Broadcasting show Think Out Loud. The five finalists in the Young People’s Literature category are: My Name is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson, Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai, Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin, Shine by Lauren Myracle, and Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. The final five for poetry includes: Tonight No Poetry Will Serve by Adrienne Rich, Head Off & Split by Nikkey Finney, The Chameleon Couch by Yusef Komunyakka, Devotions by Carl Smith, and Double Shadow by Carl Phillips. In the non-fiction category, the finalists are The Convert by Deborah Phillips, Love and Capital by Mary Gabriel, The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable, and Radioactive by Lauren Redniss. The five finalists in fiction include: The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak, The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht, The Buddha in the Attic by Julia Otsuka, Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman, and Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. One title notably absent from the fiction category was Jeffrey Eugenides’ new novel The Marriage Plot.

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September 28, 2011

Assange Publishes Phone Calls with ‘Unauthorised’ Publisher

  By Uri Friedman

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has already called for a boycott of Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Autobiography. Now he’s published transcripts of phone calls (or, as WikiLeaks puts it, “contemporaneous records”) between him and Jamie Byng of the book’s publisher Canongate in June to prove that the manuscript was published without his permission. Assange, perhaps not surprisingly, must have taped the conversations. In one call, Assange says he would like to scrap plans for his memoir because of the legal and financial issues he’s facing. Byng appears to be understanding, saying at one point, “It seems you don’t want to write that book and you don’t want it to be published.”

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July 19, 2011

Casey Anthony Signs a Book Deal at Her Peril

Filed under: Publishers — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 12:10 pm

By John Hudson

Casey Anthony is in a bit of a bind. The 25-year-old Florida woman acquitted of murdering her 2-year-old daughter has almost no money and is estranged with her family (according to court records, she left jail with $537 in her inmate account). The best way for her to get back on her feet is a book or TV deal. But because many still view Anthony as guilty, any potential deal faces a wave of public scorn toward her or a potential publisher. “Her story is worth millions,” says imaging and self-branding consultant Candace Bradfield. “Trident would be interested,” said Robert Gottlieb, the president of Trident Group book agents in an interview with USA Today. “I do believe people are entitled to write books and sell their stories.” But here’s a glimpse the pressure Anthony and her publishers face if they engage in a deal:

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