We need more books to review

We want to read your book

We here at booklytical.com are passionate about the written word and we love nothing more than devouring and review books from across the genre spectrum.

We are looking for more great books to review, specifically those published and promoted by the author themselves, we really love delving into the indie literary crowd.

If you have a book you’d like us to review, or know of someone who does, then please get in touch with us at submitbooklytical@gmail.com.

Or if you have any suggestions on what we should read then let us know in the comments.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding Review

Lord of the Flies cover

During the silent but terrifying Cold War William Golding produced his masterpiece, Lord of the Flies. Not only is it a gripping tale about a group of schoolboys forced to survive on a deserted island after a plane crash, it is also a brilliant allegorical tale about the conflicts between civilization and primal savagery.

This simple and easy to understand symbolism has made Lord of the Flies on of the most popular and beloved books in the world. It is a memorable and chilling tale with characters portrayed with nuance and subtlety.

The novel focuses on a series of events that occur after a plane crash leaves a group of young schoolboys stuck on a deserted island at the height of a nuclear armageddon. It is at its heart a story of those boys shocking survival.

At the beginning the boys feel like their dreams have miraculously come true. They find themselves master of their own domain, without an annoying adult to be found. However, it doesn’t take long for them to realise they need a leader, someone to follow. The books main protagonist, a boy named Ralph, is quickly chosen to lead the group, thanks mostly in part to his popularity.

It isn’t long though before dissent begins to ferment. What appeared to be a dream situation at first quickly unravels and sinister moments quickly sprout up throughout the story.

The Lord of the Flies is a thought provoking and action-packed story of surviving against all the odds, but it’s also deeper than that.

William Golding uses his novel to explore three important aspects of human society. Human’s gravitate naturally towards social and political order, we want and need legislation and governments to have order in our society, hence the boys use of the conch and platform.

Secondly human’s are naturally inclined to being violent and savage if given the chance. This leads to a natural need for a military for defence, as shown by the boys who become hunters and then murderers.

Finally Lord of the Flies shows us that human society is naturally tuned to believe in divine interventions and supernatural beings, as shown in the sacrifices and dances the boys use to appease what they call the “beast”.

If you have never had the chance to read Lord of the Flies before now I heartily recommend you rectify that immediately.

Donations raised to help restore Gaza bookshop destroyed in Israeli airstrikes

$200,000 raised so far to help rebuild Gaza bookstore destroyed by Israeli airstrikes

Money and books have been donated in an effort to help rebuild one of Gaza’s largest bookstores, the two storey Samir Mansour, which was destroyed by Israeli air strikes back in May.

The shop was founded 21 years ago by Palestinian Mansour and since then it has become a beloved part of the local community and housed tens of thousands of books. Sadly it was reduced to rubble on the 18th of May during the latest conflict in the region, a conflict that ultimately killed more than 250 people in Gaza and 13 in Israel.

Now though a fundraiser managed by the human rights lawyers Mahvish Rukhsana and Clive Stafford Smith has managed to raise over $200,000 (£141,000) to help rebuild the shop. Tens of thousands of books have also been donated from around the world to allow Mansour to restock his shelves.

Rukhsana said that the response from around the world has been brilliant.

“Dropping bombs on Samir Mansour’s bookshop is not the worst tragedy to have hit the people of Gaza – but this particular air strike targeted access to books. It was an attack on the knowledge and literacy of this community. Samir lost almost 100,000 books and served schoolchildren and adults alike,” she said. “I knew hospital and roads would receive funding, but secondary cultural institutions such as libraries are often overlooked but equally critical to the community.”

The aim of the fundraiser though is not just to replace all 100,000 lost books and rebuild the store, it also aims to help Mansour with his new project: the Gaza Cultural Centre, a large library Mansour wants to build where people can read books without having to pay.

“[In Mansour’s shop], people were allowed to stay, have tea and read his books for as long as they wanted free of charge without an obligation to purchase … he has decided to use all gently used and some new books to create a true library,” she said.

In a written statement released to the press Mansour said his “heart was burning” when he learnt that missiles had destroyed his beloved bookstore.

“The Israeli airstrikes bombed half of the building and my bookshop was in the other half. I wished they would stop … My feet took me a few steps forward, towards the bookshop. The last missile came and destroyed the building,” he said.

“It was six in the morning. I didn’t know what to do. I started searching among the rubble for anything related to my library. But everything was under the rubble.”

He searched the rubble for hours trying to find anything that he could salvage before returning home. “I sat thinking about why my shop was bombed,” he said. “I did not publish, write, or attack any country or person in my life. I did not spread hatred but spread culture, science and love. I did not find answers to my questions.” But he promised himself that he would “rebuild all over again, no matter what it took from me”.

The UK-based online children’s bookseller Books2Door has donated 1,000 books to the campaign with the company founder Abdul Thada describing the situation as heart-breaking.

“Without any hesitation I knew we could help,” he said. “We were kindly informed by the fundraisers that Samir had a diverse, eclectic collection, so we hope we have done him proud.”

Rukhsana and Stafford Smith have said that all donations will help the bookshop “rise as a phoenix from the ashes”.

“With this kind of support now all we need is some humanitarian cooperation from the Israeli and Gaza authorities,” they said.

Using the Epic of Gilgamesh and Beowulf lets discuss typical elements of the Epic Tradition and its influence on modern fiction

Beowulf

The epic tradition represents a record of heroic actions that were once celebrated through song and folktale. Examples of epic stories that started out as folklore and were then written down are the epics of Gilgamesh and Beowulf.

The epic tradition includes key elements such as the epic hero and the form of an epic poem, which thus provides the rhythm which made it easily able to be sung. The epic tradition has influenced fiction over time, and certain elements can still be found in modern fiction today although altered as times have changed.

A key aspect of the Epic tradition as shown in both Gilgamesh and Beowulf is that of an Epic hero. An epic hero is ‘a brave and noble character in an epic poem, admired for great achievements or affected by grand events: Beowulf, an epic hero with extraordinary strength’ (dictionary.com).

The Epic hero has to be someone of high status, preferable a royal and they must have aspects of greatness and superhuman qualities, such as great strength and courage, and in the case of Gilgamesh, the epic hero has connections to the Gods, showing the hero to be above all others.

The epic hero also has to in some way achieve greatness within the story, Gilgamesh for example changes drastically from being a mean and uncaring king, to becoming great and compassionate by realizing the importance of love and loss and Beowulf begins as a highly regarded prince and by the end he has become legendary by his brilliant courage in defeating the evil of the world.

The epic hero features prominently in mythology, such as in the two Greek poems The Lliad and The Odyssey with the epic heroes, Achilles and Odysseus, both central figures in the Trojan War. These two are key examples of epic poetry in ancient literature.

Gilgamesh

Further aspects of the epic tradition is the fact that stories such as Gilgamesh and Beowulf weren’t written for the purpose of being a novel, but instead were simply a story or folk lore which was told and passed down through generations, and often recited to music until finally being written down. This means that the story has no determinable author and is told as a third person narrative. The story is also not set out as a novel but as more of an epic poem told in a refined manner. As the stories of the epic tradition were primarily for oral transmission they include long speeches and often the story is told through a series of flashbacks.

This means that the stories do lack description and imagery which are fundamental aspects of modern novels, and instead were written as more of a chronology of events and facts and was written as evidence of heroic actions.

The epic tradition has had great impact on modern literature. All novels have a hero, and although they are no longer what one would call epic, as they are not necessarily of high status or do not possess superhuman qualities they are still heroes.

In Shakespearean plays, there are tragic heroes, which contrast to the epic hero, as the tragic heroes usually start off great but through their own flaws they become tragic and fall from their heroic status. Although tragic heroes in Shakespeare’s plays are not exactly the same as the epic heroes, the epic narratives and heroes have greatly influenced the plays as they all centre around one hero, a hero that like that of the epic narratives, is of a high status.

Although the tragic heroes have flaws and at times do bad things, they are essentially good and essentially heroic in the outcome. The tragic hero of Hamlet although different from the epic hero of Beowulf, still achieves a form of greatness by exposing his murdering uncle.

Advertisements

The tragic hero is also represented in the novel of Frankenstein. The influence of the epic tradition on modern literature can also be seen in the story of Robinson Crusoe, as you see a man exert extraordinary courage and strength to survive in a hostile environment, much the same as the epic heroes of the past.

However in the case of Robinson Crusoe, the hero is a sailor and not someone of noble birth or high status. This represents the changes in society at the time the novels are written. In modern times an average man or ‘underdog’ achieving great things is considered more epic than someone of a privileged status. However although Gilgamesh was a noble who was two-thirds God he himself much like the tragic heroes had flaws which meant that he was not very liked and could even be viewed as a villain at the beginning of the story.

But whereas the tragic heroes begin as respected and then are brought down by their mistakes, Gilgamesh learns from his mistakes and after a heroic quest he becomes a hero worthy of the name. The way in which the heroes are represented and the journeys they take determine the differences between the epic hero and the tragic hero.

Hilary Mantel repeats Walter Scott Prize success

The author takes top prize for the grand finale of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy

Cover of The Mirror and the Light

Hilary Mantel has managed to bag herself the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction for a second time.

The novelist won the award for her novel The Mirror and the Light, the final instalment in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, the first book in the series, Wolf Hall won her the first award 11 years ago.

The author said she was “amazed and delighted2 to once again win the £25,000 prize.

Mantel will also be taking part in the Borders Book Festival later this year to celebrate her win and mark the 250th anniversary of Walter Scott’s birth.

The Walter Scott award was set up in 2010 when Ms Mantel won the inaugural award for her brilliant novel Wolf Hall.

The award is normally announced at the Borders Book Festival in June however that has been moved back to November in the hopes that it will be able to go ahead with fewer Covid restrictions.

Judges said that Mantel had “achieved the almost unachievable” with a novel which closed a trilogy but could also stand “magnificently alone”.

“With consummate technical skill married to the keenest ear for dialogue and the sharpest eye for rich and telling detail, Hilary Mantel resettles the reader at Thomas Cromwell’s shoulder for a psychodrama that begins and ends with a blade,” they said.

“The finale is both well-known and inevitable and yet – as the judges long pondered with astonished admiration – the suspense never fades.”

The author said that the prize will bring “great hope” to historical fiction authors.

“I’m so happy personally that The Mirror and the Light has won this recognition,” she said.

“It was certainly the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I know the author isn’t always the best person to judge, but it seems to me to be the strongest of my trilogy of novels about Thomas Cromwell.

“It launched the trilogy in fine style when the first volume Wolf Hall won the Walter Scott Prize, and now this rounds off the many years of effort.”

Michael Wolff will publish a third exposé of Donald Trump, covering his last days in office

Michael Wolff’s final book on Trump, Landslide, will cover his ‘tumultuous’ last months in the White House

Cover of Landslide

The American journalist Michael Wolff has announced that he will be publishing a third book about Donald Trump, this time focusing on his final days as US president. The book is set to be released in July and has the wonderfully provocative title: Landslide.

Trump lost the 202 election to his Democrat rival Joe Biden by more than 7m votes and by 306 – 232 in the electoral college, a result he himself called a landslide when it was in his favour against Hillary Clinton back in 2016.

Trump, never the one to admit defeat, has continued to spout the lie that Biden’s victory was the result of electoral fraud, a speech on this topic helped fuel the deadly attack on the US Capitol on 6th of January.

Wolff published his first book on trump’s presidency in 2018, rocking the White House and Trump’s administration.

We think you’ll enjoy…

Trump attempted to block publication of the book, titled Fire and Fury, calling Wolff “a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book”. The public however ignored the president. The brilliantly explosive exposé went on to sell some 1.7m copies in just three weeks.

Wolff found himself marginalised and stripped of privileges by the White House press team, but that didn’t stop him publishing his next book, Siege, in 2019 which looked at a “presidency under fire”. The book tackled topics like Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and possible ties between Trump and Moscow. He even managed to produce another bombshell by exposing the fact that Mueller and his team had shelved an indictment against the president on three counts of obstruction of justice.

While Wolff said that he has obtained documents relating to this revelation from “sources close to the Office of the Special Counsel”. The special counsel itself rejected his claim, saying: “The documents that you’ve described do not exist.”

Advertisements

Due to this controversy, and a number of competiting Trump focused books, Siege did not sell as well as Fire and Fury.

According to his latest books publisher Wolff managed to interview the former president for an inside looks at what have been described as Trump’s “tumultuous last months at the helm of the country”.

Trump himself recently claimed to be writing “the book of all books” and according to the former president he has already “turned down two book deals, from the most unlikely of publishers”, adding: “I do not want a deal right now. I’m writing like crazy anyway, however.”

After major figures in the publishing world said they would not touch a Trump memoir he insisted “two of the biggest and most prestigious publishing houses have made very substantial offers which I have rejected”.

“That doesn’t mean I won’t accept them sometime in the future,” he said. “… If my book will be the biggest of them all … does anybody really believe that they are above making a lot of money?”

Mike Pence, Trump’s vice-president, has himself landed a seven-figure two book deal with Simon & Schuster, despite a staff rebellion at the publishing house.

Jared Kushner, the former presidents son in law, has already bagged himself a publishing contract with his book slated for release sometime in 2022, the details of this deal are not known.

Clearly there is still an insatiable appetite for books about the divisive Trump administration.

UK museums and libraries join forces to save ‘astonishing’ lost library from private buyers

Friends of the National Libraries aims to raise £15m to save “once in a generation” library from falling into private hands

The Brontë family copy of Thomas Bewick’s “A History of British Birds. Photograph: Sotheby’s

A huge consortium of libraries and museums across the UK have come together in an “unprecedented” attempt to raise £15m to save an “astonishingly important” collection of literary manuscripts for the nation.

This consortium includes the likes of the British Library and the library of Scotland Museum and was announced last month after the lost Honresfield library was put up for auction at Sotheby’s. This library was put together by industrialists William and Alfred Law in the early 1900’s and has been inaccessible since 1939. When it was announced that this literary jewel would be going on sale experts warned that action needed to be taken to prevent it being sold off piece by piece to private individuals.

The initiative to purchase these manuscripts on behalf of the nation is being led by the charity Friends of the National Libraries (FNL), which includes institutes such at the British Library, the Bodleian, the National Library of Scotland, the Brontë Parsonage Museum and many other smaller libraries and museums.

The FNL is currently in discussions with both private philanthropists and public funders as it desperatly seeks to raise the £15m it believes would be necessary to secure the entirety of the Honresfield library. It will also be launching a crowdfunding appeal.

The Honresfield library contains a veritable treasure trove of rare items, including a handwritten manuscript of Emily Brontë’s poems, once thought by experts to have been lost to time. It was also revealed on Thursday that the collection includes two “hugely significant” letters written by Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra, one of which deals with the reception to her novels Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. The other letter meanwhile was written on the eve of a ball as Austen humorously anticipates the end of a love affair: “At length the day is come on which I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy, and when you receive this it will be over. My tears flow at the melancholy idea.”

The complete manuscript for Rob Roy. Photograph: Sotheby’s

All in all the collection contains more than 500 manuscripts, first edition novels and letters, including the working manuscript of Sir Walter Scott’s famous novel Rob Roy.

While the FNL attempts to raise the funds the vendors and Sotheby’s have graciously agreed to postpone the auction for the first part of the library which had been due to take place in July. The FNL has stated that once the library is purchased individual items will be passed to the appropriate institute across the UK.

“Once in a generation, a collection of books and manuscripts appears from almost nowhere that is met with a mixture of awe and stunned silence, followed by concerted action to bring it into public ownership,” said John Scally, chief executive of the National Library of Scotland. “The UK-wide consortium is determined to raise the funds to ensure we can save the Honresfield library for everyone to share and enjoy.”

Charles Sebag-Montefiore, trustee and treasurer of FNL, described the charity’s plans as “a crucial national endeavour to raise enough funds to keep this unique treasure trove in Britain”.

The alliance of libraries and museums was first formed after the Brontë Society raised a call to action about the upcoming sale, describing the auction as a “calculated act of heritage dispersal”. As more institutions got involved, the FNL was approached to spearhead the campaign.

Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s historical manuscripts specialist, said the auction house was “pleased to play our part in this potential outcome for this great library”.

“This proposed acquisition is a fitting tribute to the Law brothers’ voracious literary interests and their family’s excellent care of this material for over a century. The unprecedented initiative is testament to the continued power of literature to inspire the public so many years after these writers first put pen to paper,” he added.

Trump says he’s writing ‘book of all books’ but it’s unlikely to find a big publisher

Figures at major publishing houses say it would be ‘too hard to get a book that was factually accurate’

Donald Trump has revealed he is writing “the book of all books”, this despite major figures within the US publishing industry saying it was unlikely that any big publishing house would touch the memoir of the 45th president as it may cause a “a staff uprising”, and that it would be difficult “to get a book that was factually accurate”.

To be fair that fear is not without merit. When Trump exited the White House for the final time in January the Washington Post reported that he had made 30,573 false or misleading claims while President.

It is common practice for former presidents to write their own memoirs when they leave office, Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land” was a roaring success. Trump’s announcement therefore is not unexpected.

Advertisements

In a statement last week the 75 year old former president said he had already “turned down two book deals, from the most unlikely of publishers”, which he of course did not name. “I do not want a deal right now,” he said. “I’m writing like crazy anyway, however, and when the time comes, you’ll see the book of all books.”

The New York Times recently reported that a two-book deal Mike Pence landed with Simon & Schuster was “grating” on Trump, this was denied by a Trump spokesman. The Pence deal however caused problems for the publishing company, with many of its staff saying the company should not promote bigotry. Other rightwingers have run into publishing problems since the attempted coup on the 6th of January.

Simon & Schuster itself dropped a planned book on antitrust written by the Missouri senator Josh Hawley, a man who encouraged the rioters and objected to the electoral college results. His book was eventually picked up by rightwing publisher Regnery and will still be distributed by Simon & Schuster.

Any Trump memoir looks likely to be published in a similar manner, outside of the mainstream. Politico has reported that senior figures at Harper Collins, Penguin Random House, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster have said they would not touch a Trump penned memoir. “It would be too hard to get a book that was factually accurate, actually,” one was quoted as saying. “That would be the problem. If he can’t even admit that he lost the election, then how do you publish that?”

Another senior figure said he was “skeptical” about Trump’s claim to have had two offers, saying: “He’s screwed over so many publishers before he ran for president none of the big five would work with [him] any more.”

Keith Urbahn of Javelin, an agent who has represented numerous Trump books told Politico: “It doesn’t matter what the upside on a Trump book deal is, the headaches the project would bring would far outweigh the potential in the eyes of a major publisher.

“Any editor bold enough to acquire the Trump memoir is looking at a factchecking nightmare, an exodus of other authors and a staff uprising in the unlikely event they strike a deal with the former president.”

Advertisements

Trump hit back by once again insisting that “two of the biggest and most prestigious publishing houses have made very substantial offers which I have rejected”. Once again he wouldn’t name them.

“That doesn’t mean I won’t accept them sometime in the future, as I have started writing the book,” he added. “If my book will be the biggest of them all, and with 39 books written or being written about me, does anybody really believe that they are above making a lot of money?

“Some of the biggest sleezebags [sic] on earth run these companies.”

Trump’s personal worth has plummeted since his first year in office, and now he faces extensive legal proceedings. The fact that memoirs written by his predecessor sold for $65m may have given him some idea on how to raise some more funds.

A Hunter Biden memoir about his drug addiction to be published

Hunter Biden will be publishing a memoir in April that explores his struggle with drugs.

Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden recently announced that his memoir, titled Beautiful things, will be published in April.

The focus of the memoir will firmly be on the lawyer’s struggles with drug addiction and his path to sobriety. The title is taken from an expression he and his brother Beau would use after Beaus fatal brain cancer diagnosis, it allowed them to emphasise what was important in life.

In a brief extract published alongside the announcement, Hunter Biden writes; “I come from a family forged by tragedies and bound by a remarkable, unbreakable love.”

The book is already receiving glowing praise from the likes of Stephen King.

“In his harrowing and compulsively readable memoir, Hunter Biden proves again that anybody, even the son of a United States president can take a ride on the pink horse down nightmare alley,” King writes. “Biden remembers it all and tells it all with a bravery that is both heartbreaking and quite gorgeous. He starts with a question: Where’s Hunter? The answer is he’s in this book, the good, the bad and the beautiful.”

Hunter Biden is the oldest surviving of the president, who sadly lost both his wife and one year old daughter Naomi in a 1972 car accident, and his son Beau to brain cancer in 2015.

Books by presidential family members are nothing new. During the Trump presidency his son Donald Trump Jr released two books, Triggered and Liberal Privilege, though the contents are somewhat different.

The memoir will be published by Simon & Schuster who have previously released book by Trump supporter Sean Hannity, and anti-Trump bestsellers such as national security adviser John Bolton’s The Room Where It Happened and Too Much and Never Enough by the former president’s niece Mary Trump.

The publisher had also been planning to release a book by vocal Trump supporter and US senator Josh Hawley later this year. That book deal however was cancelled in the wake of his supporter for the attempted coup by Trump supporters on the 6th of January.

Waterstones has said that paying furloughed staff minimum wage ‘would not be prudent’

While Waterstones staff struggle to pay their bills Waterstones won’t increase their wages until shops reopen.

Waterstones recently told staff that any furloughed workers would not be seeing any increase to their wages until shops are able to reopen. This statement comes after a petition was launched calling on the book seller to help workers who are being paid under the minimum wage thanks to the furlough scheme.

The petition has thus far been signed by more than 1,500 people, including more than 100 Waterstones workers, it is also backed by the author Philip Pullman. It is addressed to the companies managing director James Daunt and its chief operating officer Kate Skipper, it says that as many of the companies staff are employed at or very near to minimum wage being put on the furlough scheme has now “plunged [them] beneath this line and into financial uncertainty”.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme allow a company to furlough a worker and the government will ensure that employee gets 80% of their wage, however it does not protect an employee from falling beneath the minimum wage.

You may also enjoy…

The petition claims that some Waterstone employees are therefore “struggling to pay bills, borrowing money to make ends meet, turning to charity just to survive”. Testimonies from some anonymous staff include a senior bookseller who has worked for the company for over 18 years and who know finds themselves turning to food banks in order to survive after their monthly earnings have dropped £170 beneath the minimum wage threshold.

“I have a partner and two small kids to keep on that, and we’re struggling,” they wrote.

Another employee has said they won’t be able to make their rent payment this month, while another said they’ve had to turn to friends and roommates to help cover their bills.

The petition stresses that Waterstones’ owners, the hedge fund Elliott Advisors, paid out over £93m to just 107 staff members at the end of the 2019 financial year.

“We understand the impact that Covid has had on the business and that the high street is in a precarious position. We are not asking for a full top-up, not that we are paid a great deal above minimum wage – simply that incomes are made back up to this safety line,” the bookseller who organised the petition said in a statement to the Guardian.

“It is not our intention to damage or attack our company. We are dedicated to our jobs and adore our colleagues, hold great belief in the product we sell and love the people and customers that we encounter daily. Rather we set up the petition with the aim of raising awareness of … the real and immediate need many of our booksellers, as well as millions of other low-paid workers in various sectors, are experiencing.”

Advertisements

In response to this petition Kate Skipper told staff in a mass email that furlough had been “the lifeline which has prevented mass redundancies” for their business.

“I say this in no way to diminish the stress and strain that being on furlough creates, nor to ignore the financial hardship that accompanies it,” she wrote, adding that the chain planned a 2.75% pay rise from 1 April 2021 – or from when it can reopen the majority of its shops. This follows a pay rise last April.

She said that petitions “provoke considerable social media and other reporting on Waterstones, much of it damaging. We regret this, and regret especially also if any bookseller feels unable to discuss their concerns, whether with their HR representative, anyone from the retail team, myself or any of the management team. I realise this is an unbelievably tough and desperate time for so many people but to continue to protect the business, and thereby importantly to deliver our aim to pay more, we need to survive – and ultimately to prosper. Please consider how best that can be achieved.”

Skipper also said that the company has “we have great sympathy” with the petition. “Only the extreme circumstances of prolonged, enforced closure of our shops, with no certainty of the timing of their reopening, has caused the furlough of our booksellers in this manner,” she said.

“It would be much better if we were in a position to pay our booksellers their full salaries, even as we keep our shops closed. With no clarity for how long this crisis will last, this would not be prudent. We look forward to reopening and bringing our booksellers back to work. Then we will have certainty and are pleased that we will be able to give well deserved pay rises.”

Despite stores being closed however online sales of book have remained steady during the various UK lockdowns. Last month the industry monito Nielsen Bookscan reported that the volume of print books actually grew by 5.2% to 202m in 2020.

Amanda Gorman tops bestselling lists after beautiful inaugural poem

Amanda Gorman’s debut poetry collection tops Amazon’s bestsellers list.

Amanda Gorman’s star has continued to rise following the presidential laureates beautiful poetry recital on Wednesday’s US presidential inauguration.

Within hours of her Wednesday delivery the 22 year saw two of her books reach the top of Amazon’s bestsellers list.

“I am on the floor. My books are number 1 and number 2 on Amazon after day 1,” the poet wrote on Twitter.

Gorman was born with a speech impediment that she was able to overcome and became the first US national youth poet laureate in 2017. She has now joined the ranks of other inaugural poets such as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.

Alongside the honour of being the youngest poet in US history to mark the transition of executive power, the Harvard University graduates poetry collection, titled, The Hill We Climb, has debuted at the top of Amazon’s sales charts.

Another project being undertaken by Gorman is geared towards a younger audience and is titled Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem. This new project is due to be released in September.

According to the New York Times, Gorman said she had struggled to write the inaugural poem. It was the 6th of January assault on the US Capitol that gave her the motivation and inspiration to pen the final piece.

“Being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it,” Gorman read, just two weeks after the attempted insurrection.

The performance was an instant hit across both the country and the political spectrum, including from the likes of former president Barack Obama and the Republican-backed Lincoln Project

“Wasn’t [Gorman’s] poem just stunning? She’s promised to run for president in 2036 and I for one can’t wait,” tweeted Hillary Clinton, the former US secretary of state.

Amazon and the ‘Big Five’ publishers are accused of ebook price-fixing

Amazon and five of the major publishing houses are being sued for the alleged price fixing of ebooks.

Amazon Kindle

Amazon and what have been termed the “Big Five” publishers – Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster – have recently been accused of colluding with one another in order to fix ebook prices. This accusation comes in a class action suit filed by a law firm that successfully sued Apple and the Big Five on the same charge 10 years ago.

The lawsuit was filed in a New York District Court on behalf of consumers in several states. It names the retail giant as the sole defendant but has called the publishers “co-conspirators.” The suit alleges that Amazon and the publishers use a clause known as “Most Favored Nations” to keep ebook prices artificially high, and therefore force consumers to pay more for ebooks purchased through retail platforms that are not Amazon.

The lawsuit alleges that almost 90% of all ebooks sold in the US are done so on Amazon. The lawyers also say that ebook prices dropped in 2013 after Apple and the publishers were successfully sued for the same charge, but that they rose again when Amazon renegotiated their contracts in 2015.

“In violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, Defendant and the Big Five Co-conspirators agreed to various anti-competitive MFNs and anti-competitive provisions that functioned the same as MFNs,” the complaint states. “Amazon’s agreement with its Co-conspirators is an unreasonable restraint of trade that prevents competitive pricing and causes Plaintiffs and other consumers to overpay when they purchase ebooks from the Big Five through an ebook retailer that competes with Amazon. That harm persists and will not abate unless Amazon and the Big Five are stopped.”

Advertisements

The suit is seeking compensation for consumers who purchased ebooks through competitor websites and aims to force Amazon and the publishers to “stop enforcing anti-competitive price restraints.”

This lawsuit came a day after the state of Connecticut announced it was launching an investigation into Amazon for possible anti-competitive behaviour in its sale of ebooks.

Amazon has thus far not released a statement in response to the New York lawsuit.

L.A. teen gives thousands of books to young readers

A teenager from LA. has made it her mission to get books into the hands of young children.

Advertisements

Alana Weisberg has always been an avid reader, she enjoys nothing more than escaping into a good book. So when the pandemic hit and her school was forced to close, she found a lot more free time on her hands, free time she was happy to fill with her insatiable appetite for reading.

But this also got her thinking about other children, children who were not quite as fortunate as herself. With libraries closed many children would not have access to the books Alana herself could enjoy, that did not sit well with the 16-year-old sophomore from Los Angeles.

Thus she founded Bookworm Global, a brilliant charity that Weisberg started to last spring and has so far collected and distributed over 22,000 new or used books to children in need.

Alana Weisberg and a garage floor full of books

Bookworm Global began small but has grown rapidly over the last year. Now the organisation even trains Girl and Boy Scout troops on holding their own book drives in their local communities. Any books collected are sent on to Weisberg or organises getting them into local schools or non-profits around her area. Bookworm Global has even branched out of California and donated to an orphanage in Mexico.

Yet the focus is still on her local community. Weisberg says her goal is still to get books into the hands of L.A. children with little means.

“I wanted to get books to kids living below the poverty line,” she said. “The children that are getting these books have never owned a book before.”

Los Angeles has a homeless problem, particularly amongst youths. The city has a lot of students and English learners who are struggling to read at the states average standard, that is according to state data, this is not acceptable to Weisberg.

ICEF Inglewood Elementary Charter Academy has received around 5,000 books from Bookworm Global, something that will help many of its students according to the community relations coordinator Jhonathon Gonzalez. According to Gonzalez these books will be the only physical ones many of his students will have access to.

Advertisements

The school does not have its own library and has been forced to photocopy pages from numerous books just so their pupils can have access to the written word. Almost ninety percent of the schools pupils live below the poverty line, though Gonzalez says that number is now likely higher thanks to people losing their jobs during the pandemic.

“Getting books into the hands of students is critical so that children can momentarily step away from the harsh realities of their COVID-19 living conditions and travel to new worlds through reading,” Gonzalez said.

“It’s an opportunity for them to escape what they’re currently going through and go to a magical land,” he said. “A lot of our students don’t have that opportunity. It’s up to us to provide them a different world through the lens of a reader.”

Bookworm Global has also placed an emphasis on books whose protagonists are people of colour, in an attempt to appeal to as broad a range of readers as possible.

Weisberg hopes that this philanthropic organisation can help many new children develop as deep a passion for reading as she has.

“Reading is really important to me because it’s my escape. When I’m bored, I go and read,” she said. “I want kids to be able to engage in a book and really enjoy it and foster a love of reading.”

Publisher cancels book by senator Josh Hawley following Capitol Hill riots

Josh Hawley’s rhetoric has cost him his book deal.

The Tyranny of Big Tech cover

An upcoming book by US senator Josh Hawley has been cancelled by its publisher after the senator backed baseless claims that the US election was stolen. Hawley helped enflame an already tense situation which ultimately led to the insurrection and attempted coup at the US Capitol last week. The Missouri Republican has called the publishers decision “Orwellian” and has vowed to fight them in court.

The books publishers, Simon & Schuster, released a statement on Thursday: “After witnessing the disturbing, deadly insurrection that took place on Wednesday in Washington, DC, Simon & Schuster has decided to cancel publication of Senator Josh Hawley’s forthcoming book, The Tyranny of Big Tech.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” the publisher added. “As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints: at the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.”

Hawley is considered a rising star within the Republican party and is seen by some as a future presidential candidate. His book, which was originally scheduled for June, would have focused on one of his favourite themes, the undue power of the tech giants.

Shortly after the news broke that his book deal had been cancelled Hawley took to Twitter: “I was representing my constituents, leading a debate on the Senate floor on voter integrity, which they have now decided to redefine as sedition.”

“This could not be more Orwellian… Let me be clear, this is not just a contract dispute. It’s a direct assault on the First Amendment… I will fight this cancel culture with everything I have. We’ll see you in court.”

Simon & Schuster were quick to hit back with another statement which said that they were “confident that we are acting fully within our contractual rights.”

This is not the first time Simon & Schuster has clashed with right wing supporters of Donald Trump. It called off a deal with right wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos while publishing a number of best-selling anti-Trump tomes, including his niece Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough, and The Room Where It Happened by former National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Indie bookshop numbers rose again in 2020

Despite a challenging year the number of independent bookshops increases.

The Booksellers Association

According to the Booksellers Association for the fourth consecutive year the number of independent bookstores in the UK and Ireland has grown.

The number of independent bookstores with membership to the BA has increased from 890 shops in 2019 to 967 by the end of 2020. There have of course been some independent bookstores that have had to sadly close over the previous year thanks to hardships brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, but overall it appears to have been a good year for indie stores.

Meryl Halls from the BA, said; “It has been an incredibly difficult year for booksellers, and the high street as a whole, so it is fantastic to see the number of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland increase for a fourth consecutive year.

“Covid-19, national lockdowns and shifting tier systems have had a huge impact on bookshops across the country, with footfall significantly reduced, the supply chain affected, and competition from tech giants more unfair than ever. Thankfully, booksellers were able to adapt quickly to the new realities of 2020, pivoting their services online and finding new ways to reach their customers and continue operating.”

Yet despite the overall good number Halls did warn about future hardships that many stores will have to face, adding; “2021 is likely to be another challenging year for booksellers, as the full impact of the pandemic on the high street becomes apparent. However, this year has proven the resilience, resourcefulness and dedication of booksellers, and we will do everything we can to support them as they look ahead and plan for a post-pandemic future.”