Monthly Archives: March 2013

What Did We Learn from Our Great American Novel Poll?

Gabe Habash -- March 28th, 2013


PWxyz’s Great American Novel Poll closed yesterday, and after nearly 5,000 votes, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was the runaway winner, taking almost 20% of the vote. But what did we learn from the poll? Here are a few observations.

1. We included 60 books in the field, and the last four to tally one single vote were: Sister Carrie, The Naked and the Dead, Go Tell It on the Mountain, and The Known World.

2. At least in our prediction, The Catcher in the Rye would’ve ranked quite high, but it was only able to get 2% of the vote.

3. The most popular beat is Kerouac: On the Road outpaced his contemporary Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, and received 77 total votes. Continue reading

Audio Bestseller Watch: Cussler Reigns, Sandberg Debuts, O’Reilly Stumbles

Adam Boretz -- March 27th, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 3.08.43 PM

For the second consecutive week, Clive Cussler and Justin Scott’s The Striker: An Isaac Bell Adventure (narrated by Scott Brick for Penguin Audio) grabs the top spot on PW’s list of audio bestsellers.

In at #2 is David Baldacci’s The Innocent (Hachette Audio), which is read by long-time narrators Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy, while taking the #3 spot is The Litigators (Random House Audio), written by John Grisham and narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris.

Coming in at #4 is James Patterson’s Alex Cross, Run (narrated by Michael Boatman and Steven Boyer for Hachette Audio), and debuting on our list at #5 is Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, which is narrated by Elisa Donovan for Random House Audio.

And, for those of you keeping score at home, Bill O’Reilly’s mega-selling Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot (Macmillan Audio) drops all the way down to #8.

For the complete list of audio bestsellers from PW, CLICK HERE.

100 Years, 94 Books: ‘Mr. Britling Sees It Through’ by H. G. Wells (1917)

PWStaff -- March 26th, 2013

The following is an excerpt from Matthew Kahn’s project 100 Years, 94 Books–to review the bestselling books of the last 100 years and study what made them essential to their cultural moment.



Herbert George Wells (1866-1946) remains popular to this day, and is best known for his work as one of the fathers of science fiction. Wells was born in the county of Kent in England.  Growing up, his family had considerable financial trouble resulting in Wells’s placement in various harsh apprenticeship programs as a child and teenager, giving him experiences which lent themselves to some of his novels (e.g. Kipps).  He later became a teacher and, in 1895, wrote his first (and possibly most famous) novel, The Time Machine.  Between 1895 and 1901, Wells published three non-fiction books and eight more novels, including The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), and The First Men in the Moon (1901).

Wells wrote prolifically about social and economic issues, and put forth many volumes on better ways to organize the world.  He wrote extensively on the subject of utopias and authored many non-fiction works on popular history. Yet he is remembered for little else than his science fiction, despite having published over fifty novels at the time of his death, and even more non-fiction books.  Wells passed away due to undetermined medical causes in 1946.

So what’s this book about?

Mr. Britling Sees It Through can be best explained by this passage from the novel itself:

“This story is essentially the history of the opening and of the realisation of the Great War as it happened to one small group of people in Essex, and more particularly, as it happened to one human brain” (216).

The titular Mr. Britling is a writer primarily of essays and non-fiction books on social issues of the day and larger aspects of human nature. The novel begins with the arrival of Mr. Direck, an American who has come to ask Mr. Britling to give a lecture in Massachusetts.  Mr. Direck stays at Mr. Britling’s home in Matching’s Easy, along with Mrs. Britling, Mr. Britling’s secretary Teddy, his wife Letty and sister-in-law Cecily (whom Mr. Direck immediately falls for), Herr Heinrich (a German student), the Britlings’ two young sons, and Hugh Britling (Mr. Britling’s older son from his first marriage). The first section of the novel establishes these characters and focuses on the British attitude leading up to the outbreak of World War One. The rest of the novel focuses on how life and attitudes changed (or refused to change) while some characters left for war.

Read the full post on Kahn’s blog.

Making the Grade

Rose Fox -- March 25th, 2013

hostThis year’s shortlist for the Aurealis Awards, Australia’s top awards for science fiction and fantasy, has a surprise in the science fiction novel category: a self-published book, And All the Stars by Andrea K Höst. I believe this is a first for major SF/F awards (unless you count the Andre Norton Award as part of the Nebulas, in which case precedent was set by Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making). It’s certainly a sharp retort to people who sneer at self-published books as being universally terrible. I expect to see more self-published books showing up on various award shortlists in the next few years as self-publishing authors get more sophisticated and increase their reach.

Dumb Poetry Is a Good Tumblr

Gabe Habash -- March 21st, 2013


If you’re looking for a new literary Tumblr to go along with SlushPile Hell and Life in Publishing, look no further than Dumb Poetry, which is exactly what you think it is. Head over to check out the terribleness, because Dumb Poetry is the only place you’ll find the line: “Baby boy, please come to my party in the sky?” Please, indeed.

This Is the Worst Book Cover Ever

Gabe Habash -- March 14th, 2013


About a month ago, I was searching for something Stephen King-related to put on this fantastic blog. Scrolling down through rows and rows of Google images for The Shining, most of them screengrabs of Nicholson and the pre-chopped-up girls in the hallway, I saw, in thumbnail size, the above cover for O Iluminado. It looked strikingly similar to an 80s Pantene ad.

kelly lebrock pantene

I saved the cover on my desktop, knowing I wanted to share it with you all in some way, but not sure how. For weeks, I’d open the file and stare into O Iluminado‘s eyes, and then into her smaller set of eyes. I would look at it for so long it would change; I named the mysterious woman Flavia; she became strange to me and then familiar in her strangeness. I had so many questions.

Who is Flavia? In what public place is she on the cover? Why is she also in a little window? Continue reading

100 Years, 94 Books: ‘Seventeen’ by Booth Tarkington (1916)

PWStaff -- March 13th, 2013

The following is an excerpt from Matthew Kahn’s project 100 Years, 94 Books–to review the bestselling books of the last 100 years and study what made them essential to their cultural moment.Booth_Tarkington_cph.3b27121



Booth Tarkington (1869-1946) appears twice on the list.  The first time was for 1915’s The Turmoil. While he had great commercial and critical success with serious and mature novels (garnering two Pulitzer prizes in the process), he was also well known for his comedic fiction starring children and teenagers.   Penrod (1914), which followed the eponymous twelve-year old, was one of his bestselling books in terms of numbers of copies sold. Both Seventeen and Penrod and Sam (the sequel to Penrod) were published in book form 1916.

So what’s this book about?

Seventeen was originally published serially in ten parts in Metropolitan Magazine beginning in January, 1915, before being published as an individual novel by Harper in 1916.  It tells the story of seventeen year old William Baxter and his summer spent trying to woo Lola Prat, the girl from out of town who he, and a number of his friends, have immediately fallen for.  William treats the situation with all the subtlety and rationality one would expect of a love-struck seventeen year old.  His wildly over the top responses to the rest of the world are hilarious and, as anyone who did not grow up in a cave can attest, embarrassingly true:

“He walked in his own manner, using his shoulders to emphasize an effect of carelessness which he wished to produce upon observers. For his consciousness of observers was abnormal, since he had it whether any one was looking at him or not.”

The cast includes bizarre and amusing characters like William’s ten year old sister Jane, the adventurous, free-spirited bane of William’s existence.  And of course, the love interest, the exasperating Lola Pratt, whose refusal to speak in any fashion other than ‘baby talk’ straddles the line between humorously annoying and cringe-worthy.

Read the full post on Kahn’s blog.


What is the Great American Novel? (VOTE)

Gabe Habash -- March 7th, 2013


It’s time to cast your lot: what is The Great American Novel? Cather or Fitzgerald? Lee or Bellow? Stephen King?

To help make this impossible question less impossible, we’ve decided to limit each great writer to one book apiece–that means if you’re looking for As I Lay Dying, you won’t find it, but you will find The Sound and the Fury. You only get one vote, so make it count. We’ve tried to include as many deserving books as we could, but if your vote is for a book not included, let us know in the comments. If you fill in your pick through the “Other” field, we’ll be sure to update the books we see there, below the poll.

Books receiving votes through the “Other” field: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand; It by Stephen King; The World According to Garp by John Irving; The Cider House Rules by John Irving; Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey; The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen; Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty; Plainsong by Kent Haruf; Call it Sleep by Henry Roth; Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis; American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis; Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson; The Octopus by Frank Norris; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith; East of Eden by John Steinbeck; American Gods by Neil Gaiman; Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner; The Help by Kathryn Stockett; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer; True Grit by Charles Portis; The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck; Bel Canto by Ann Patchett; Dune by Frank Herbert; Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe; The Origin of the Brunists by Robert Coover; From Here to Eternity by James Jones; Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson; Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller; So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell; Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen; The Godfather by Mario Puzo; The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings; Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein; A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley; JR by William Gaddis; The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor; The History of Love by Nicole Krauss; Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany;