This week! Books!
Huge news dropped before Thanksgiving that ViacomCBS has agreed to sell Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House’s Berteslmann. Assuming the deal survives antitrust scrutiny, it would essentially turn the Big 5 into one mega-publisher (whatever Penguin Random House + S&S ends up being called) and three major publishers (HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Hachette).
The move accelerates a trend toward consolidation in the book industry that has been well underway for over thirty years, and as Franklin Foer points out in The Atlantic, while the deal would create a publisher that sells roughly 33% of new books, it’s worth remembering that Amazon sells roughly 49% (counting a considerable chunk of that 33%). More to come on what all this means.
A nice 1920s-era house in England is up for sale, which used to belong to an Oxford professor. You can purchase it for roughly £4.7 million, though some popular actors are organizing a crowdfunding drive to turn it into a museum. Oh. Did I forget to mention the professor was J.R.R. Tolkien?
Who is America’s first science fiction writer? Many people believe it’s John Cleves Symmes, the author of a very strange 1813 novel. But was the John Cleves Symmes who wrote Symzonia: A Voyage of Discovery really John Cleves Symmes?
The end of 2020 is nigh (RAPTUROUS APPLAUSE) and the best-of lists are kicking into gear. Here are the top 10 books of the year from the New York Times, the best books New Yorker writers read, and I always like this feature from LitHub: the 89 best book covers of 2020, chosen by book designers.
I love, love, love this writing advice from YA author Justina Ireland, who advocates giving a great deal of thought to the physical movements of your characters within a scene. Particularly given how many novels I read these days that are far too reliant on dialogue, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that you think of the way your characters move through physical space.
And this is just an incredible interview with legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Just read it.
This week in bestsellers
Here are the top five NY Times bestsellers in a few key categories. (All links are affiliate links):
Adult print and e-book fiction:
- Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
- Deadly Cross by James Patterson
- The Awakening by Nora Roberts
- The Return by Nicholas Sparks
- Daylight by David Baldacci
Adult print and e-book nonfiction:
- A Promised Land by Barack Obama
- Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
- Dolly Parton, Songteller by Dolly Parton and Robert K. Oermann
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
- Modern Warriors by Pete Hegseth
Young adult hardcover:
- One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
- Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- All This Time by Mikki Daughtry and Rachael Lippincott
- A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
Middle grade hardcover:
- The Ickabog by J.K. Rowling
- Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Adventure by Jeff Kinney
- The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen Kids
- The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen Kids
- The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate
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:
- Don’t ever ask somebody whether you should keep writing
- Will you ever buy mostly e-books? (14th annual poll)
- Avoid convoluted phrasing in query letters (query critique)
And keep up with the discussion in all the places!
Comment! of! the! week! goes to Jane Kirk for a lovely comment on how for a physical book the words are only part of the appeal:
Like many bibliophiles I own more than one copy of my favourite books, these days it is simply extended, so in addition to the hardback, one or two tattered paperbacks I have the digital version invaluable when on holiday or as I am now older when arthritis makes the weight of my beloved hardbacks too much, I can simply reach for the kindle…. it is not the same. A book you have read to tatters over 20, 30 or 40 years is more than the sum of its parts, every smudged thumb print or drop of rain that marked the page becomes part of the story. The words the author gave us are just the foundation. The physical book holds a thousand additional memories of its own.
And finally, I’m missing Japan a lot during the pandemic, and I loved this article about a thousand-plus-year-old mochi shop in Kyoto. What can keep a business open that long? Timeless principles and focusing on doing one thing very well.
Have a great weekend!
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