This week in Amazon! I mean books!
There were dueling Jeff Bezos profiles in two of our finest print institutions. First up, The New Yorker, which looks at Amazon through the lens of its overall impact and potentially monopolistic practices.
And while the profile in The Atlantic covers much of that ground, it also takes a slightly more personal look at Bezos himself, connecting a great deal of his ambition to his love of science fiction and especially Star Trek.
Science fiction is some powerful stuff.
The National Book awards finalists were announced! Congrats to the nominees:
- Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
- Sabrina & Corina: Stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
- Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
- The Other Americans by Laila Lalami
- The Need by Helen Phillips
- The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
- Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom
- What You Have Heard is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance by Carolyn Forché
- The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer
- Solitary by Albert Woodfox with Leslie George
- The Tradition by Jericho Brown
- I: New and Selected Poems by Toi Derricotte
- Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky
- Be Recorder by Carmen Giménez Smith
- Sight Lines by Arthur Sze
- Death Is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa (translated by Leri Price)
- Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming by László Krasznahorkai (translated by Ottilie Mulzet)
- The Barefoot Woman by Scholastique Mukasonga (translated by Jordan Stump)
- The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (translated by Stephen Snyder)
- Crossing by Pajtim Statovci (translated by David Hackston)
Young people’s literature:
- Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
- Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds
- Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
- Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby
- 1919: The Year That Changed America by Martin W. Sandler
Meanwhile, the Nobel committee announced the Nobel Prizes for Literature for 2018 and 2019: Olga Tokarczuk, which was somewhat expected, and Peter Handke, which sparked immediately outrage in part because of his 2006 appearance at Slobodan Milošević’s funeral. Given the recent, uh, problems at Nobel you’d think take a little breather from being wildly controversial for a spell, but nope!
Publishing industry consultant/sage Mike Shatzkin had a great post on some near-term changes to expect in the publishing industry in the next few years. Definitely give it a read.
Ever wonder what name you should publish your book under? What if you’re known as, like, Casual-T? Agent Janet Reid says: go for it.
Machine learning is some powerful stuff, spawning new industries with all its imperfections. But can a machine write for The New Yorker? They put it to the test. And, um, wow. In addition to the uncanny ability of the AI to write at least passably well, the article also includes this nugget, which I hadn’t seen before:
[Lotze] found that professional writers relied on a region of the brain that did not light up as much in the scanner when amateurs wrote—the left caudate nucleus, a tadpole-shaped structure (cauda means “tail” in Latin) in the midbrain that is associated with expertise in musicians and professional athletes. In amateur writers, neurons fired in the lateral occipital areas, which are associated with visual processing. Writing well, one could conclude, is, like playing the piano or dribbling a basketball, mostly a matter of doing it. Practice is the only path to mastery.
This week in bestsellers
Here are the top five NY Times bestsellers in a few key categories:
Adult print and e-book fiction:
- Bloody Genius by John Sandford
- The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The Institute by Stephen King
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
- The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Adult print and e-book nonfiction:
- Blowout by Rachel Maddow
- The Book of Gutsy Women by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton
- Inside Out by Demi Moore
- The United States of Trump by Bill O’Reilly
- Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
Young adult hardcover:
- The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
- The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
- Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel by A.W. Jantha
Middle grade hardcover:
- A Tale of Magic… by Chris Colfer
- Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid by Jeff Kinney
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
- Alien Superstar by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver
This week on the blog
Don’t forget that you can nominate your first page and query for a free critique on the blog:
In case you missed them, here are this week’s posts:
- 5 ways to make a character more sympathetic
- Why it works: “Go Tell It on the Mountain” by James Baldwin
- Don’t establish a mystery without giving us a reason to care (Page critique)
- Pre-order alert: New edition of my guide to writing a novel!
Comment! of! the! week! goes to Wendy, who reflects more on the spiritual struggles in Baldwin’s work:
James Baldwin is an author deeply aware of his character’s spiritual struggle between surrender to the Divine and the sensual world of physicality and is able to express it in a unique and profound way. The character’s current perspective and imaginative response seems ephemeral, though, as there’s been no real connection to a spiritual reality, so it’d be a fascinating read as James takes the character down that ‘long, dark road’.
And finally, the “Wagatha Christie” scandal lit up the internet as (wife of Wayne Rooney) combined a fake scandal and some Instagram sleuthing to unearth the person who was tipping her stories to the tabloids. What a world.
Have a great weekend!
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