Literary Potpourri ~ August 29 and 30

FEATURED BOOKS PREVIEWED

“Barbarian Days” by William Finnegan
“Paper Towns” by John Green
“The Jezebel Remedy” by Martin Clark
“Wicked Charms” by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton
“Crooked” by Austin Grossman
“Oregon Trail” by Rinker Buck
“Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party” by Alexander McCall Smith

INTERVIEW
Patrick Nolan, Associate Publisher and Editor in Chief, Penguin Books

TUNE IN TO THE PROGRAM FOR
A preview of the summer’s hottest books in wide range of genres: fiction, nonfiction, travel and occult. Elaine speaks with Patrick Nolan of Penguin Books about the publishing house’s distinguished 80 year anniversary.

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-book-report/id540205917?mt=2, or at bookreportradio.com, click on Archived Shows

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Argentina Is World Capital Of Bookstores

ARGENTINA IS WORLD CAPITAL OF BOOKSTORES
All across Argentina’s capital, lodged between the steakhouses, ice cream shops and pizzerias, is an abundance of something that is becoming scarce in many nations: bookstores. From hole-in-the-wall joints with used copies of works by Jorge Luis Borges, Miguel de Cervantes and Gabriel Garcia Marquez to elegant buildings with the latest children’s books in several languages, Buenos Aires is filled with locales that pay homage to print.

The city has more bookstores per capita than any other major city in the world, according to a recent study by the World Cities Cultural Forum, an organization that works to promote culture. With a population of 2.8 million people within the city limits, there are 25 bookstores for every 100,000 people, putting Buenos Aires far above other world cities like London, Paris, Madrid, Moscow and New York. The closest is Hong Kong, which has 22 bookstores per 100,000 people.

“Books represent us like the tango,” said Juan Pablo Marciani, manager of El Ateneo Gran Splendid, an immense bookstore in the affluent Recoleta neighborhood where 7,000 people visit each week. “We have a culture very rooted in print.” Behind the high number of bookstores, 734 by last count, is a combination of culture and economics. Culture boomed along with the economy in the early part of the 20th century, and even if the economic path grew rocky, ordinary Argentines embraced and stuck to the habit of reading. To this day, many across the region call the Argentine capital the “Paris of Latin America” thanks to its architecture, wide streets and general interest in the arts. During the Spanish civil war in the 1930s, many top writers fled to Argentina, further cementing the country as a literary capital and powerhouse for printing.

In 2014, there were 28,010 titles in circulation and 129 million books were printed in the country, according to the Argentine Book Chamber, making it one of the most prolific book printers in Latin America. Many stores carry rare books that are hundreds of years old. At Libreria Alberto Casares, bookworms can gaze at a collection that includes a French translation of Spanish poet Garcilaso de la Vega from 1650 and Gregorian chants on papyrus dating to 1722.

In buses and subways, parks and cafes, it’s common to see people flipping pages of whodunits, histories and poetry, or most recently, new books about the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, a case that has rocked the country since he was found shot dead in his bathroom Jan. 18. “I was born with paper books and I’ll die with paper books,” said Aida Cardozo, 65. “Computers are for responding to emails and using Facebook, but not to read a novel,” she said.

Books also receive help when it comes to staving off the digital deluge. There are no sales taxes on books, notable in a country where most products get 21 percent slapped on top of the sticker price. And heavy import taxes on books, and electronics such as e-readers, help keep the local printing industry strong. While Argentines are increasingly glued to their mobile devices, customers who want to use foreign retailers like Amazon have to pay a 35 percent surcharge on their peso-denominated credit cards. The use of e-readers like the Kindle is still relatively low. Less than 10 percent of the 1.2 million people who attended the city’s annual book fair last year said they used electronic devices to read books, according to a fair survey.

Ignacio Iraola, the Southern Cone editorial director for publishing house Grupo Planeta, said the economic factors make printed books an attractive business for bookstores and make books a popular gift in tight economic times. “A book costs 200 pesos ($23) compared to 400 pesos $46 for a shirt,” said Iraola. “And the perceived value of a book is much higher.”

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-book-report/id540205917?mt=2, or at bookreportradio.com, click on Archived Shows

Book Collecting As Popular As Ever

BOOK COLLECTING AS POPULAR AS EVER

Book collecting appears to be alive and well, sustained in part by the very same people who are driving adoption of smartphones, tablets, and e-readers.

Dealers such as Strand Bookstore near New York’s Union Square and Freebird Books on the Brooklyn waterfront are counting on passionate collectors, as the rise of digital media and higher commercial real-estate prices decimate other corners of the bookselling business.

Strand, an 88-year-old purveyor of new and used books, says business has been good lately, helped in part by the popularity of its rare-book room, where a signed first edition of “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle can be had for $5,000 and where a book edited and signed by Jackie Kennedy recently sold for $900.

Last year “was one of the strongest years in Strand history,” says Strand marketing manager Brianne Sperber, 25, who insists it’s “wrong” to think people in their 20s and 30s don’t want to switch back and forth between digital and print. “I know a lot of people my age who read the way I do,” she says.

Sperber says demand for rare and collectible books has been more or less stable over the past few years, an assessment echoed by Freebird owner Peter Miller, whose specialty is books about New York, and Thomas A. Goldwasser, a veteran rare-book dealer in San Francisco.

“I don’t think demand for rare books has diminished as a result of digital platforms,” says Mr. Goldwasser, 62, whose office houses more than 4,000 rare volumes. At the same time, Mr. Goldwasser says he hasn’t noticed prices appreciating greatly over the past 10 years or so, either.

Annette Campbell-White, the founder of a California venture-capital firm says collectors should be driven by their interest in books, not by the prospect of financial gain. “I wouldn’t encourage anyone looking for a quick profit to turn to book collecting,” she says. “If you make money, it is incidental.” Campbell-White says she got hooked on book collecting in 1973 when she was 25 and over the years amassed collections of poetry from the World War I era, as well as copies of books included in literary critic Cyril Connelly’s “The Modern Movement, 100 Key Books from England, France and America, 1880-1950.” She sold two-thirds of her Modern Movement collection in a private auction at Sotheby’s in 2007. “Yes, I made money, about a 40% profit over 30 years,” she says. “Not a good investment.”

Darren Sutherland, manager of the rare-book room at Strand, advises collectors to “always buy the best combination of condition and edition that you can afford, and buy what you love, not because you have a suspicion it might go up in value.” First editions can command higher prices, as can books with unusual inscriptions by the author. Original manuscripts are often valuable, too.

Like everything else, he says, book values are “driven by supply, which is largely stationary, and demand. So on a smaller scale, some prices can be affected in the short term by cultural events, the death of an author, a new biography or film. But in the longer term, the demand will be set by larger forces, a long-standing cultural reassessment of an author’s work and their effect on our history, or a cultural shift in terms of what we consider to be important.”

Dealers note that a book doesn’t have to be old to be collectible. Honey & Wax Booksellers, an online dealer founded by Strand veteran Heather O’Donnell, offers a 1990 edition of Maira Kalman’s “Max Makes A Million” for $125. The popularity of the author and the book, as well as the quality of the art and production, can drive the value of newer works. Says Mr. Goldwasser: “Many younger collectors are drawn to books for their decorative or atmospheric quality.” Illustrated books and graphic novels are popular today, he says, while demand for photography books has leveled off.

Prices for collectible books can fall, too—sometimes significantly. The first editions of books by some late 20th century authors went through a bubble in the late 1990s, only to fall some 50% from their peak a few years later, Mr. Goldwasser says.

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-book-report/id540205917?mt=2, or at bookreportradio.com, click on Archived Shows

New Book On Donations To Clinton Foundation

NEW BOOK ON DONATIONS TO CLINTON FOUNDATION

Hillary Clinton has dismissed an upcoming book that will reportedly outline favorable treatment from her State Department in exchange for foreign donations to her family foundation.

“We are back into the political season and there are all kinds of distractions and attacks,” Clinton told reporters in New Hampshire. “And I am ready for that. I know that that comes, unfortunately, with the territory. It is, I think, worth noting Republicans seem to be talking only about me. I don’t know what they would be talk about if I wasn’t in the race. But I am in the race, and hopefully we will get onto the issues and I look forward to that.”

“Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” by Peter Schweizer, comes out May 5. But some of her potential Republican presidential opponents have already been briefed on its contents. Sen. Rand Paul has said the book will make Americans “question” Clinton’s candidacy.

Clinton’s spokesman also dismissed the New York Times report as focusing “on attacks rather than ideas. It appears this book is being used to aid this coordinated attack strategy, twisting previously known facts into absurd conspiracy theories,” Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon. “It will not be the first work of partisan-fueled fiction about the Clintons’ record, and we know it will not be the last.”

According to the Times, Schweizer outlines a number of examples in which he alleges foreign governments that contributed to the Clinton Foundation or paid Bill Clinton high speaking fees got a boost from the State Department while Clinton was secretary of State.

“We will see a pattern of financial transactions involving the Clintons that occurred contemporaneous with favorable U.S. policy decisions benefiting those providing the funds,” Schweizer writes in the book.

During Clinton’s four years at State, the Foundation banned all donations from foreign governments to avoid any conflicts of interest. After she stepped down in 2013, however, the Foundation again began collecting donations from foreign governments — a practice it’s said will continue during Clinton’s run for president.

The Times reports that members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — including Paul and Sen. Marco Rubio, who have both officially launched their bids for the GOP presidential nomination — have been briefed on the contents of the book, and some of the campaigns have copies of it.
GOP outside groups are sure to pounce on an issue the GOP sees as potentially disqualifying for Clinton in her second play for the White House. The donations drew added scrutiny earlier this year when a number of media reports raised questions about the very issue outlined in Schweitzer’s upcoming book.

Republicans have already begun using the donations to question whether she can be trusted to treat foreign governments fairly if elected president, and are certain to launch further attacks along that line going forward.

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-book-report/id540205917?mt=2, or at bookreportradio.com, click on Archived Shows

Einstein’s Theory Of Relativity A Best Seller?

A book explaining Einstein’s theory of general relativity seems an unlikely contender for a bestseller. But in Italy, Sette Brevi Lezioni di Fisica (Seven Brief Lessons in Physics), written by a physicist who spends most of his time grappling with the unsolved problem of quantum gravity, took many by surprise recently when it became the highest selling book for two straight months, sharing shelf space in bookstores with Cinquanta Sfumature di Grigio (Fifty Shades of Grey).

The book’s success – it has sold 140,000 copies in six months – has left its author, 58-year-old Carlo Rovelli, “a bit overwhelmed”. “It has gone much, much beyond the readership that I imagined. I think that what people like is that it is relatively simple, but there’s a lot of poetry in it – in the sense of trying to show the beauty of nature.”

The book, published in Italy, is as straightforward as its title implies. Rovelli explains scientific theories and concepts that were discovered in the 20th century, including quantum mechanics and black holes. He also describes the problems that have yet to be solved in the 21st century. In his explanation of the most “beautiful theory” – Einstein’s theory of general relativity – Rovelli writes of space curving, bending and stretching all around us. “I recount the emotion I went through as a student when I started visualising it, and suddenly things started to make sense, like the Earth going around the sun,” he said.

Rovelli believes that sales of the book – which will be published in English later this year– have benefited from the popularity of recent science-themed films such as “The Theory of Everything” and “Interstellar.” Rovelli said science had often been viewed with suspicion in Italy because of the influence of the Catholic church, and more broadly in Europe because of “leftwing” arguments that suggest that knowledge based on the study of humanities – philosophy, art, and literature – is superior to scientific knowledge. “I am from that generation that, when I was a kid, there was much more fascination and much less fear about science. I think people are tired of science-bashing,” he said. “Science is beautiful. It is just knowledge.”

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-book-report/id540205917?mt=2, or at bookreportradio.com, click on Archived Shows

FLORIDA BOOKSTORE NAMED BOOKSTORE OF THE YEAR

Since it’s opening in 1982 in a 500 sq. ft. space in Coral Gables, Fl., Books & Books has grown. Its flagship store moved across the street into a 9,000 sq. ft. location, which is on the Register of Historic Places, added a full-service café, and now hosts more than 60 events a month. In 1989, owner Mitchell Kaplan added a second store on Lincoln Road in South Beach. After the opening of a third store in 2005 in the Bal Harbor Shops, an upscale mall that boasts the highest dollar per sq. ft. ratio in the world, Books & Books began leveraging its brand. In 2007, it opened a store in the Cayman Islands. Three years later it opened an affiliate store in Westhampton Beach, Long Island. Books & Books also partners on stores in Miami International airport, at the Southeast Financial Center in downtown Miami, and at the Coral Gables Museum. In addition, the bookstore developed a publishing arm five years ago and has released close to a dozen titles.

Books & Books head Kaplan helped found the Miami Book Fair more than 30 years ago, and he serves on the steering committee of the Florida Center for the Literature & Writing, Miami-Dade College’s literary center, the umbrella organization for the book fair. He is a former president of the American Booksellers Association and serves on the board of the American Booksellers for Free Expression. In 2011, Kaplan received the National Book Foundation’s “Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.”

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-book-report/id540205917?mt=2, or at bookreportradio.com, click on Archived Shows

Stephen King Calls On Maine Governor To Apologize

Gallery

Stephen King is calling on Maine Gov. Paul LePage to “man up and apologize” for accusing the famed novelist of leaving the state to avoid paying income taxes. LePage made the accusations during a weekly radio address. King is a … Continue reading