This week’s book news, collated and brought to you by Windmill (the most interesting bits, anyway).
Tuesday January 14th
If you’re a fan of Scandi noir (and who, with the plethora novels and box sets available currently, isn’t?), then you’ll be thrilled to hear that Jo Nesbo is going to be tackling Macbeth for The Hogarth Shakespeare initiative. The list, which will launch in 2016 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, will see contemporary authors retelling the Bard’s plays in prose for a 21st century audience. Nesbo, author of the bestselling Harry Hole thrillers, will join illustrious literary names such as Jeanette Winterson, Margaret Atwood and Howard Jacobson.
Nesbo said: “Macbeth is a story that is close to my heart because it tackles topics I’ve been dealing with since I started writing. A main character who has the moral code and the corrupted mind, the personal strength and the emotional weakness, the ambition and the doubts to go either way. A thriller about the struggle for power, set both in a gloomy, stormy crime noir-like setting and in a dark, paranoid human mind.
“No, it does not feel too far from home. And, yes, it is a great story. And, no, I will not attempt to do justice to William Shakespeare nor the story. I will simply take what I find of use and write my own story. And, yes, I will have the nerve to call it Macbeth.”
Bets on BBC4 picking up the rights and commissioning a series?
Monday January 13th
If your New Year’s Resolutions include a choice of trying out new authors, or finally getting round to reading the classics, then the Guardian has both options covered for you. Their list of 2014’s brightest and best debuts includes everything from a detective story about dementia to a feminist tale set in 17th Century Amsterdam. Read all about it here.
Find out how many of the 100 Greatest Novels you’re still to savour. We might break ourselves in gently with a re-reading of No. 24, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, complete with illustrations by Sir John Tenniel, of course. Illustrator and political cartoonist Chris Ridell reveals why he’s still an inspiration now.
Thursday January 9th
Voting is still open for the Costa Short Story award – you can download all the entries, or listen to the six shortlisters on audio to make up your mind. Get your vote in by the 17th January – go to the Costa site for all the details.
If you’re a budding author aiming for next year’s Costas, then the place to start may be with Random House’s first interactive online creative writing course.
The 10-week Creative Writing for Beginners course starts on 31st March, which will cost participants £499, and will include videos, podcasts and texts from Random House authors and editors, including Audrey Niffenegger, S J Watson and Julie Myerson. Find out more via the Bookseller.
Turning a novel into a play is always tricky: even more so in the case of Hilary Mantel’s two prize-winning books, Wolf Hall and Bringing up the Bodies. The Guardian‘s Michael Billington, though, reckons that Mike Poulton has done ‘an outstanding job in turning the books into two epic three-hour plays that, in Jeremy Herrin’s RSC production, make for a gripping piece of narrative theatre…. But the success lies in the fact that we feel this is both a piece of living history and a guide to the early modern world. These plays are about class, passion, conscience, religious freedom and the danger of living in a society where power goes unchecked. And, while they can’t precisely reproduce the dream-like richness of Mantel’s prose, they show that novels can sometimes be made into very good plays.’
The production runs till the 29th March – read the full review here.
Tuesday January 7th
Kate Atkinson, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Michael Symmons Roberts, Chris Riddell and Nathan Filer have won prizes at this year’s Costa awards.
Atkinson’s Life After Life scooped the Costa Novel Award. The judges described Atkinson’s latest novel – which also won the writer UK Author of the Year at the 2013 Specsavers National Book Awards in December – as “astonishing”, saying: “This book does everything you could ask for in a work of fiction and so much more.” The five Costa Book Award winners will each receive £5,000 and will compete for the 2013 Costa Book of the Year award.
And if one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to read more novels – perhaps the Costa winners – then this piece of research should encourage you that it really is good for the mind, suggesting that it can stimulate the brain for days.
The study, conducted at Emory University, focused on the lingering effects of reading a narrative. Twenty-one Emory undergraduates took part in the experiment over 19 days, reading thriller Pompeii by Robert Harris (Arrow). The book was chosen for the experiment for its strong narrative and page-turning plot.
The study was led by neuroscientist Gregory Berns, who is the director of Emory’s Center for Neuropolicy. He explained that the neural changes associated with physical sensation and movement systems “suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist. We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”
Tuesday December 17th
For anyone whose New Year’s Resolution is to self-publish their book, then rest assured, you’ll be in good company. Who knew that Beatrix Potter was so ahead of the curve? If you want one of her original copies of Peter Rabbit, mind, it’ll cost you £35,000. Which might be a tad steep for a Secret Santa gift in a recession.
Friday December 13th
If you’re curious as to which book received the most picks in the annual round-ups, then wonder no more. A diligent statistician has established that Hermione’s Lee’s biography of Penelope Fitzgerald (Chatto) was the most chosen book in the national newspapers’ Books of the Year features. Six hundred and sixty books were included in the annual pre-Christmas round-ups, with biography one of the most popular genres, making up six of the top 35 books. See the full list here.
Christmas – a time of goodwill to all men (and women)? Seemingly not – the Guardian has a round-up of the year’s most intriguing literary spats. Jonathan Franzen took on Amazon and social media, whilst Bret Easton Ellis just took on, well, everyone really.
Thursday December 12th
Being a Man Booker Prize judge must surely be one of the toughest jobs in publishing – the sheer volume of reading required is daunting, especially with the new rules for next year’s prize. Taking up the challenge for 2014 are Chair, philosopher and writer, AC Grayling, together with Jonathan Bate, Oxford Professor of English Literature and biographer; Sarah Churchwell, UEA’s Professor of American Literature; Dr Daniel Glaser, neuroscientist and cultural commentator; Dr Alastair Niven, former Director of Literature at the British Council and at the Arts Council, and Erica Wagner, journalist and writer.
Tuesday December 3rd
Good news for comeback kids everywhere – Stoner, by the late US author John Williams has been named the Waterstone’s Book of the Year 2013, forty-eight years after it was first published. The story of an unassuming literary scholar who hits career and marriage problems, Stoner was first published in the US in 1965 but had fallen out of print by the following year. The chain said it had received multiple nominations for the Book of the Year accolade from booksellers across the country. Read more about the list of nominees here.
Friday November 29th
Penguin Random House’s chair, Dame Gail Rebuck, has been judged the most influential person in the British book trade in The Bookseller’s 2013 selection. Industry stalwarts such as Tim Hely-Hutchinson (Hachette) and James Daunt are joined this year by authors such as Neil Gaiman and Malorie Blackman. MP Margaret Hodge is also a new entry on the list, for her role in tackling Amazon’s tax avoidance. Find out more from the Bookseller.
Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart has won the Guardian First Book Award, which pits fiction against non-fiction and poetry. One of the judges, Lynda Mountford, has written an interesting article on the judging process:
‘About halfway through our deliberations it emerged that one of the most important criteria for judging this year’s Man Booker prize had been how far the novels on its shortlist offered up new insights on re-reading. I determined to use this as one of my own criteria, since it seemed to me that it could apply equally to fiction, non-fiction and poetry. On reflection, however, it does have some drawbacks. In particular it can prejudice the chances of “genre” fiction. One of the novels on the longlist, Gill Hornby’s The Hive, was a rather frothy mixture of romantic comedy, satire and farce. It was an enjoyable one-off read, but I would never want to read it again. So is there, perhaps, a difference between a good book and a good read? And is being a good read a sufficient qualification for winning a literary prize?’
Read the full article on the Guardian.
Wednesday November 27th
We’re celebrating the news that William Heinemann has had two titles shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards. Sathnam Sanghera’s brilliant Marriage Material was one of four titles shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, whilst Thomas Harding’s wonderful Hanns and Rudolf was named as one of the titles for the Costa Biography Award. Check out the shortlists for all the categories here.
Next year’s World Book Night titles have been revealed, including four Quick Reads, five young adult titles, three non-fiction and two short story collections. The aim is to more directly target young people and men, who are two of the groups least likely to read for pleasure. For the first time, the event, on 23rd April – the UNESCO International Day of the Book – will be run by The Reading Agency.
Explore the full list of books and how to become a volunteer through their site.
Wednesday November 20th
Philip Larkin’s hometown, Hull, has been chosen as 2017’s UK City of Culture. Hull’s bid was delivered on two artist-designed bicycles, and promises a £15m programme with a cultural event every day of the year. This includes an outdoor aerial spectacular honouring Larkin, built around his line “what will survive of us is love”. Find out more on the Larkin Trail, a tour around a perhaps unfamiliar literary locale.
Are ebooks too pricey for 16-24 year olds? A recent survey, in which more than 62% of the respondents said they preferred print books and 70% had not spent any money on e-books during the previous month, suggests this might be the case. When asked how much e-books should cost, 17% of respondents said they should be as much as 75% cheaper than physical books. Another 28% thought e-books should cost half as much as print books and only 8% said the two should cost the same. The Bookseller has more on the report.
Tuesday November 19th
Great news – Sathnam Sanghera’s brilliant debut novel Marriage Material has been nominated for the South Bank Sky Arts Literature Award. David Bowie, Broadchurch , and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa are amongst the nominees which is the only awards ceremony to to celebrate the UK’s achievements across all genres of the arts.
Monday November 18th
Tributes have been flooding in for Doris Lessing, who has died aged 94. From groundbreaking novels to memoir and science fiction, there were few areas of the written word to which Lessing had not turned her hand. The Guardian have picked their 5 favourite novels, from The Grass is Singing (1950), right up to 2008’s Alfred and Emily. The Bookseller have a round-up of praise from all corners of the publishing world, including her most recent editor, Nicholas Pearson, at Fourth Estate, who said in a statement that Lessing’s career has been “a great gift” to the literary world. He said: “She made an enormous cultural impact. Probably she’ll be most remembered for The Golden Notebook which became a handbook to a whole generation, but her many books have spoken to us in so many various ways.”
He added: “[Lessing] wrote across a variety of genres. Even in very old age she was always intellectually restless, reinventing herself, curious about the changing world around us, always completely inspirational. We’ll miss her hugely.”
Friday November 8th
American writer Claire Vaye Watkins has scooped the £30k Dylan Thomas prize for writers under 30 with her collection of stories, Battleborn. Despite the name and location, the prize has never been exclusively for Welsh writers, but has always been an international competition that was way ahead of the Booker in allowing Americans to join in from the outset. This year’s hopefuls came from Australia via Sudan, India via Missouri, South Africa, Nevada, England and Wales. The award’s focus on youth is an acknowledgment of Thomas’s own gifts, which saw many of his most famous poems written well before he was 30. The Guardian has more here.