This week. Books.
Can reading make you happier? The New Yorker has an awesome article about bibliotherapy and the extent to which books can improve happiness. This isn’t an opinion, it’s science. Studies have shown that reading activates the same regions of the brain as if the reader were experiencing those activities, people who read fiction are better at empathizing with other people, and people who read literary fiction are better able to guess what other people might be thinking or feeling.
But wait, there’s more:
Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.
But if you’re reading this blog you probably already knew that.
There was a Twitter dustup a few weeks ago as bestselling author Angie Thomas of the fantastic The Hate U Give (read my interview with Angie) made a pretty basic request of book reviewers: don’t tag authors with bad reviews. A very vocal minority of book reviewers proceeded to flood her with abuse, some of it flat out racist. Shaking, as they say, my damn head.
Jane Friedman updated a pretty cool chart showing different publishing paths, from traditional to self-publishing and everything in between.
I love a good marketing case study, and BookBub has an excellent one analyzing Brenda Novak’s marketing efforts for her novel Face Off. There are some really good ideas in there.
The “rules” for submitting memoirs are somewhere in between novels and nonfiction, which can be quite confusing for authors. Literary agent Jessica Faust has a post breaking down how to submit memoirs.
Author Jennifer Hubbard has a great post on how the things we seemingly discard may be useful later.
And very sad news, as legendary bookseller Michael Seidenberg, creator of the magical “secret bookstore” Brazenhead Books in New York City, passed away this week. Here’s a New Yorker profile of him from a few years back. He will be missed.
This week in bestsellers
Here are the top five NY Times bestsellers in a few key categories. Let me know if you would like me to add any:
Adult print and e-book fiction:
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
- Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand
- The Reckoning by John Grisham
- Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
- Backlash by Brad Thor
Adult print and e-book nonfiction:
- Educated by Tara Westover
- The Pioneers by David McCullough
- Unfreedom of the Press by Mark R. Levin
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Young adult hardcover:
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott with Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis
- The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen
- Ghosts of the Shadow Market by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, Kelly Link and Robin Wasserman
- Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun by Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke
Middle grade hardcover:
- Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid by Jeff Kinney
- PopularMMOs Presents Enter the Mine by Pat and Jen from PopularMMOs
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- Refugee by Alan Gratz
- Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
This week on the blog
I’ve been very hard at work updating, revising, and expanding some of my key posts. Please check these ones out and share widely if you find them helpful!
And in case you missed them, here are this week’s posts:
- Why it works: “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson
- How to write good jacket copy
- How much does the author of a book matter to you?
- Caring about quality in a flash in the pan world
Comment! of! the! week! goes to Charlotte, on the post about whether the author’s identity matters, who notes that arguments like George Packer’s (who warned against conflating authors, politics, identity, and art) often come at the expense of authors of color:
I have seen arguments very similar to George Packer’s made as a way of diminishing works by diverse authors, as well as the continued need for diverse voices. The basic premise is usually that the success of a POC or female or queer author is undeserved and just due to “political correctness.” It’s deeply patronizing and rooted in a very myopic, monochrome view of what Real Literature is.
Publishing is a mostly-White industry in which POC and LGTBQ authors are still routinely denied entry because “oh, we already have a Black/Muslim/trans book,” and in which female and POC authors are reviewed far less often than their White male counterparts in non-trade pubs. (Pubs like, ahem ahem, The New Yorker.) Suggesting that a diverse author’s work has value only inasmuch as it functions as some sort of leftist virtue signal is incredibly arrogant and dismissive.
And finally, readers of a certain age may remember the debacle that was New Coke way back when. Well, Mother Jones posted a deep dive about what happened that shows to extent the pretty dumb (and mostly fake) backlash was a harbinger of our modern times: New Coke Didn’t Fail. It Was Murdered.
Have a great weekend!
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JOHN T. SHEA says
Bibliotherapy!? So, can I get my health insurance to pay for my books? Or is bibliomania a pre-existing condition?
Last night I read all of Robert Zubrin’s ‘MERCHANTS OF DESPAIR’, the first book I’ve devoured (not literally!) in one sitting in a good while. I wouldn’t quite call it a meditative experience, more enervating and challenging to many beliefs, not least my own.
A big AMEN to Angie Thomas! Sometimes there’s too much insistence on authors growing a thick skin, or maybe donning a suit of armor too! There’s still a fallible feeling human being inside. I buy and read a lot of books but that gives me no special claim on their authors. Likewise regarding excessive feedback. Nobody can please everybody all the time or be all things to all people.
Amen also to Jennifer Hubbard. I NEVER throw ANYTHING away. So, when I’m eventually found mummified under a huge pile of books, blame her…
Congratulations to Charlotte on her very interesting comment!
But Mother Jones is defending the indefensible. Hell is not hot enough, nor eternity long enough, for people who actually LIKED New Coke!