This week! Books!
Lots of links saved up since the last edition of This Week in Books, so let’s get to it.
A controversy erupted over the last few weeks involving Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company creating new editions of Dahl’s children’s novels with updates to some of Dahl’s language with an aim to make them more palatable to modern readers, some of which were real head-scratchers and risk removing the Dahl-ness (re: nastiness) that made the books popular in the first place.
Updating works for modern sensibilities isn’t as uncommon as one might think, and Matthew Walther traces the long history, including the ones that inspired the word bowdlerize. The controversy provoked many #takes, including from no less a luminary than Salman Rushdie, but count me with the likes of Lincoln Michel, who considers this more a case of capitalism run amok than wokeism gone amok. Literary estates (note that the Dahl catalog is owned by Netflix) and publishers take pains to preserve the commercial viability of their gold mines I mean backlists. As if to prove that point, Puffin subsequently announced that it would publish “classic” version of Dahl’s books alongside the new versions. Nothing like a good marketing opportunity!
Next in the crosshairs for an update: Ian Fleming’s James Bond books, which have overt racism that might even make Roald Dahl blush.
Printing, warehousing, and distribution are some of the most under-appreciated elements of what makes print publishing tick, and author Alexandra Bracken got a look at one of Penguin Random House’s warehouses In Maryland, where she signed stock for her upcoming novel Silver in the Bone. Check out her Instagram Reel! It’s one of those things that’s difficult to wrap your mind around until you see it.
The HarperCollins strike is over and the strikers justifiably feel proud of the settlement, which resulted in an agreement on a higher base pay of $47,500 this year, rising to $50,000 in 2025. And now Penguin Random House is following suit and raising their base pay as well. Kudos to the brave workers for lifting the tide.
Amid news that ChatGPT-generated fiction is flooding Amazon and short story submissions, machine learning is now a new frontier for contracts and rights disputes, crystalized by a clause in audiobook distributor Findaway’s Digital Distribution Agreement that grants Apple the right to use audiobooks for machine learning that would facilitate AI training.
Legendary author Charles Dickens and legendary musician Prince would not seem to have much in common, but I enjoyed Burke Nixon’s look at their under-appreciated style of restless creativity, the subject of a new Nick Hornby book.
It’s absolutely crucial that you know what you sign when you are agreeing to a publishing contract, and Writer Beware rounds up some red flag clauses to watch out for.
And Monica Hesse listened to J.K. Rowling’s new podcast The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling so you don’t have to and tries to glean her overall view of trans people. Key takeaways: “If your bar for bigotry requires Rowling to say out loud, “I hate trans people,” then that bar will never be cleared… I do not know what is in Rowling’s heart. But reading her Twitter feed, this is the overall effect: Her Twitter feed does not ask its readers to think. It asks them to fear.”
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:
- Storm Watch by C.J. Box
- Never Never by Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher
- Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
- It Starts With Us by Colleen Hoover
- It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
Adult print and e-book nonfiction:
- The Courage to Be Free by Ron DeSantis
- Spare by Prince Harry
- The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
- I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
- Enchantment by Katherine May
Young adult hardcover:
- Immortality by Dana Schwartz
- Five Survive by Holly Jackson
- Nick and Charlie by Alice Oseman
- She is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran
- The Stolen Heir by Holly Black
Middle grade hardcover:
- Finally Seen by Kelly Yang
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- Refugee by Alan Gratz
- Odder by Katherine Applegate
- Two Degrees by Alan Gratz
This week on the blog
In case you missed them, here are this week’s posts:
- Do not worry about spoilers in a query letter
- It’s not a publishing convention to capitalize character names in a query letter (query critique)
Don’t forget that you can nominate your first page and query for a free critique on the blog:
And keep up with the discussion in all the places!
And finally, it’s just about time for Succession to “F*** off!” as this upcoming season will be the last, alas alas, and I really enjoyed this interview with series creator Jesse Armstrong.
Have a great weekend!
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Neil Larkins says
Loved that look into the book warehouse. Very impressive.
Where you’ll really get your mind blown is the printing facility. Yee-oww!
JOHN T. SHEA says
Thank God Roald Dahl never wrote a James Bond movie! Oh wait…