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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Climate change and the cost of living in the deep waters of the ocean

Are deep-sea organisms more sensitive to environmental change than those in shallow waters?

Learn more at a seminar to be presented by Jim Barry, MBARI

That is, if you can make it to Wellington, New Zealand
Tuesday, 6 December 2011 at 10.30am
Main conference room
NIWA, Greta Point
For further information contact Claire Guy, ext 7491 (

Facebook settles privacy violations

Facebook has settled a privacy complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission.

According to a Tuesday release, the FTC said Facebook has agreed to get consumers' approval before it changes the way it shares their data.

Additionally, the massive social networking engine will have to get period audits of its privacy practices for the next 20 years.

The announcement comes as Facebook reportedly is preparing an initial public offering in the second quarter of next year. Privacy scrutiny by federal enforcement officials has weighed on the company's business prospects, analysts say, and the settlement will clear the way for the projected $100 billion public offering.

Wow.  Is that kind of money still around?

Full story

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A story of hijacking and amazing courage

Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea

I can't resist posting this, because it is such an inspirational story.  Indeed, it would make a terrific book -- and maybe inspire an exciting novel.

Captain Seog Hae-gyun of the Republic of Korea, Master of the chemical tanker Samho Jewelry, has been presented with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea 2011, for his decisive, brave and courageous actions to protect his ship and crew during a vicious pirate attack in the Indian Ocean, which left him with serious and long-lasting injuries.

Captain Seog, accompanied by his wife, was handed the award by IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, during a ceremony held on 21 November 2011 at IMO Headquarters in London. When the Samho Jewelry was boarded by pirates, in January 2011, the crew took cover in the designated citadel but the pirates broke in, detaining them on the bridge.

Over two days, Captain Seog steered the ship on a zig-zag course, so that the pirates would not realize that the vessel was actually heading away from, instead of towards, Somali waters. He contaminated the fuel so the engines would not work normally, pretended the steering gear was malfunctioning and slowed the ship's speed from 14 knots to six, to keep her out of Somali waters for as long as possible, thus maximizing the potential for units of the Republic of Korea Navy to attempt a rescue. However, the pirates became suspicious that some of Captain Seog's actions were intended to outwit them and they brutally assaulted him, causing serious fractures to his legs and shoulders.

While all this was happening, the pirates ordered him to communicate information about the incident to his shipping company in English, via satellite. Captain Seog surreptitiously inserted information in Korean about the true situation - information that proved vital for the Navy of his country to plan, and execute, a rescue operation. On 21 January, as the sun came up, the Republic of Korea Navy destroyer Choi Young launched a rescue operation, which they named "Dawn of the Gulf of Aden". By 06.30 on that day, the attack team had gained full control of the bridge. During this time, Captain Seog, despite his injuries, managed to send out an urgent message via VHF, warning the boarding party that there were three pirates at the steering wheel.

Read the rest of this amazing story

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hunting notice

Discovered on an abandoned hut

It's amazing what you find in the Kiwi Wilderness.  Last weekend we enjoyed a wonderful trek through a corner of Alastair's hunting lodge in mountainous Kawhia, on the west coast of the North Island.  It isn't the first time we have "admired" this abandoned hut, and wondered about its past -- it has remnants of cooking gear, planks that formed a platform for a mouldering mattress, odd bits of tramping stuff, and (believe it or not) a sun umbrella.  The owner, whoever he was, had a sense of humor.  Scroll down to follow our voyage of discovery ...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dead Sea Scrolls mystery may be solved

Plain unadorned linen may provide vital clues

Nearly 200 textiles have been discovered in caves on the West Bank, at Qumran, which may solve the mystery of the creators of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

It appears that they may have been written by a sectarian group called the Essenes.
The authorship of the scrolls has been a matter of debate ever since their accidental discovery by a shepherd.  That mystery, along with the puzzle of how they got to Qumran, may become clearer with the discovery of these fabrics.

All the textiles were made of linen, rather than wool, which was the preferred textile used in ancient Israel. Also they lack decoration, some actually being bleached white, even though fabrics from the period often have vivid colours. Altogether, researchers say these finds suggest that the Essenes, an ancient Jewish sect, "penned" some of the scrolls.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in eleven caves along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea between the years 1947 and 1956.  They are the oldest Biblical writings known, and include material -- such as hymns, rules, and prophesies -- that are not found in the Bible.  They are mostly written in Hebrew, but some are in Aramaic.

One, known as the "Copper Scroll," lists 64 hiding places where worldly treasure such as gold, and spiritual treasure -- more manuscripts -- could be found.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy birthday Andrew Carnegie

One of the world's greatest philanthropists

Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, on November 25, 1835.  As a child, he migrated to the United States, where his first job was as a factory worker in a bobbin factory. Later on he became a bill logger for the owner of the company, then a messenger boy a his progress up the ranks that led to founding his own steel industry, Pittsburgh's Carnegie Steel Company, which was later merged with Elbert H. Gary's Federal Steel Company and several smaller companies to create U.S. Steel.

With the immense fortune he made, he built Carnegie Hall, founded the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Carnegie Mellon University and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.  His greatest gift to the world, perhaps, was the establishment of libraries, schools and universities to the United States, Britain, and many other countries.  He passed away in 1919.  Current news of cutbacks in libraries is probably setting him spinning in his grave.

"No person will make a great business, who wants to do it all himself, or get all the credit," he wrote.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Banned book seized from Wellington bookstore

Tip-off from mystery informant leads to "indecent" book being seized.

An "indecent” book banned in 1971 has been seized from a Wellington bookstore by government officials.

Bloody Mama by Robert Thom has been listed for sale on Book Haven's website for $8.50 since February, store owner Don Hollander said.

"It got seized today. A very nice chap from the DIA [Department of Internal Affairs] with a fancy badge came by.”

The book is based on a true story about Kate "Ma" Barker who raised her sons to be criminals in the 1930s.

"I had a quick look through for the dirty bits or the nasty bits and it didn't see any,” Mr Hollander said.

The book was deemed indecent and banned by the now defunct Indecent Publications Tribunal 40 years ago, however the ruling still stands. The tribunal was replaced by the Office of Film and Literature Classification in 1993.

According to the Dominion Post, 1304 books are currently banned in New Zealand.  Titles include:

Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture (8th edition)

Death Scenes, A Homicide Detective's Scrapbook

The Giant Black Book of Computer Viruses

Why Was He Born So Beautiful and Other Rugby Songs

Professional Killers, an Inside Look

Improvised Munitions Black Book (volume one)

Can't say I have ever read any of those -- and I suspect I am not missing a thing. 

Unlike Don Hollander, owner of Book Haven in Newtown, Wellington, and past-owner of what sounds to be a very tame biography indeed.

The passing of Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey Has Died
I was really sad to read Jason Boog's report on that the great fantasy/science fiction author has passed away.

I grew up with her short stories, and was then entranced with her wonderful Dragonflight series.  I used them often when teaching English to 14-year-old girls.  One in particular, an uninterested reader and lapsadaisical scholar, was instantly hooked.  She became a reader overnight, and is now a film producer.  It is a success that I attribute directly to McCaffrey.

I was once told a heartwarming story about her by a bookseller on Cape Cod.  She invited her to a launch and Dragonflight festival, and to her amazement Anne McCaffrey consented to come.  Every school child in the district met the plane, all dressed up as dragons or human characters in the books.  When their favorite author came out of the plane, she was wearing black, totally black, and had a long walking stick.  The children were terrified!   Where they had been expecting a dragonrider, here was a witch!  But they fell in love with her, all the same.

 Anne McCaffrey was 85 years old when she died. GalleyCat confirmed the sad news with Random House this afternoon.

McCaffrey’s career began with Restoree in 1967. She went on to earn a dedicated following for her beloved series, Dragonriders of Pern. At her website, McCaffrey answered letters from dedicated fans through November. This GalleyCat editor will never forget reading her books as a middle-school kid. Share your memories in the comments section… here

Happy birthday Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie, inspirational author

Born November 24, 1888, and famously said . . . .

"Do the hard jobs first.  The easy jobs will take care of themselves."

My father kept a cherished copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People, and consulted it often.

He was never very successful, but he certainly had lots of friends, and was excellent company, to boot.  So I guess Carnegie was a good influence.

Read more of his uplifting quotes

Nobel Prize-winner's wife publishes tell-all biography

WARSAW (Reuters) - The wife of Nobel prize-winning Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa describes the loneliness and domestic grind she faced as her husband rose to power in a frank biography that is causing a stir in the country even before its official release.

Danuta Walesa, now 62, was Poland's first lady from 1990 to 1995 when Lech Walesa served as the country's first democratically elected president. He won international acclaim when his Solidarity trade union movement led the fight to topple communism in Poland in 1989.

But behind the scenes, Danuta faced a daily struggle to bring up their eight children, according to excerpts from her first biography "Dreams and Secrets" obtained by Reuters on Tuesday and due out on Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Michelle Obama reveals student poet program

First Lady Michelle Obama on Monday helped launched a new arts program to pick five student poets from high schools who will spend one year promoting poetry through readings, workshops and other activities.

The National Student Poets program is created by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, of which the first lady is honorary chair, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services through a partnership with nonprofit group, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

"What you learn through reading and writing poetry will stay with you throughout your life," Obama said in a statement. "It will spark your imagination and broaden your horizons and even help your performance in the classroom."

The five National Student Poets will be chosen from a pool of teenagers who have already received a national Scholastic Art & Writing Award for poetry. The selection panel will be comprised of poet Terrance Hayes, "Kenyon Review" editor David Lynn, Alice Quinn of the Poetry Society of America, and the Library of Congress' Robert Casper.

More than 185, 000 students apply annually for the Scholastic Art & Writing Award and since 1923, winners have included teenagers such as Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates and others.
The first five National Student Poets will be announced in summer 2012, and will each receive academic awards of $5,000. They will serve as literary ambassadors in their communities and encourage kids to develop writing and creative skills.

"The National Student Poets work will give greater visibility to the voice and perspective of today's youth," said Virginia McEnerney, executive director of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.
The President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities focuses on increasing creativity in schools and engaging students in being innovative. The Institute of Museum and Library Services makes federal grants aimed at creating strong libraries and museums.
(Reporting and Writing by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Aubrey-Maturin series going digital

Huzzah, huzzah!

Julie Bosnan in the New York Times reveals that Patrick O’Brian’s popular seafaring novels will be released as e-Books in time for the holidays. 
W.W. Norton, their publisher, released the news on Sunday. The 20-book series, set during the Napoleonic wars, includes Master and Commander, Desolation Island and The Commodore.
About 7.5 million copies have been sold in the United States since the first book was published in 1969. “Now that the novels are available digitally, readers who prefer the e-book format can have this collection instantly at their fingertips — as well the enviable pleasure of reading O’Brian’s astonishing series for the first time,” said Starling Lawrence, editor at large at Norton.
O’Brian died in 2000, but his heroes live on.
Goodie, maybe they will now produce another film -- with Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany, of course.

Wellington blown away

The vote has been cast and the public has spoken

I wish all elections were such fun.  Many thanks to all who participated.

From TV One

Blown Away has won the Wellywood sign competition and will take its spot on the Miramar Peninsula by March.

The sign - which says "Wellington" but has windblown letters at the end - will be visible from all flights in and out of Wellington.

Wellington residents were able to choose between three options, Wellywood, Wellington Blown Away and the Eye of the Taniwha and the votes closed on at midnight on Friday.

More than 33,000 votes were placed and Blown Away, designed by Matt Sellars and Ray McKay from advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi Auckland, was the clear winner with 18,862 votes.

The Eye of the Taniwha design was second, but trailed by more than 7000 votes. Wellywood only received 3,104.

Overheard on a plane

The ride into windy Wellington on our 300Q Dash 8 was bumpy

Overheard from the seats behind me:

"Auntie, why are we on a little plane?  Couldn't you afford a big one?"

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Facebook is my agent"

When traditional agents fail, try social networking

Historical fiction author Linda Collison (Star Crossed, Surgeon's Mate) had problems selling her sequel.  Agent and publisher weren't interested.  Desperation reigned.  Then lo, her problems were solved in the most intriguing manner possible.  A post on Facebook worked most unexpected magic, and just like that, she had a new publisher.

As she wrote:

Months pass. A couple of years, actually. And then, miraculously, my prince charming finds me on Facebook. Actually, it’s more like a blind date set-up thing in which a British chap named David Hayes who administers a lively blog and encyclopedic website seeks me out on Facebook. Sees I’m an author of historical nautical fiction. Recommends me to Tom Grundner, editor-in-chief of Fireship Press a small publisher of historical fiction and nonfiction based in Tucson, Arizona. Who loves my work, who gets it, who wants to publish my entire series! I sign the contract and although I get no advance, I don’t care. I get the standard percentage of royalties. I have beaucoup editorial freedom. My editor answers my phone calls and emails. Strike the bell, fire a salute, serve up an extra ration of rum!

Read more about this little miracle HERE.

Artist's review of TUPAIA

Review from acclaimed artist David Stones

It is always a huge delight to get an unexpected review from a reader, and this one had the bonus of being from a well regarded artist.  David has a hideaway studio in the backwoods of beautiful Nelson, in the sunny top lefthand corner of the South Island of New Zealand.  You can see a gallery of his work on his website.

David very kindly gave me permission to publish his letter.

Hello Joan

I have enjoyed reading 'Tupaia' so much I felt I must contact you and thank you for the experience. It is a most beautiful book to look at and feel. Saskia Nicol's design is extraordinarily beautiful-the book feels nice to hold. The typeface is perfection, the shape of the page is lovely. The illustrations compliment the story but also have a beauty of their own. The cover is one of the best I have seen anywhere.

Quite apart from the professionally and sensitively produced publication, you have created a thoroughly researched and deeply considered work on Tupaia and his interaction to and impact on the professional sailors and 'enlightenment' research 'team' of the Endeavour. Perhaps it is the impression of Tupaia on the New Zealand Maori of 1769 that is so interesting. Tupaia's mana and knowledge seemed to have lasting consequences on all who met him and heard what he had to say.

Do you think the history of the Pacific could have been somewhat different, if the 'Endeavourists' had realised the quality of the man, on board, in Tupaia?

Congratulations Joan on this most professional work, also Random House and your whole team.

Kia kaha

In answer to David's question, I think Tupaia's genius was too easily dismissed back then, just as it has been since.  If he had survived the Endeavour voyage and gone on to the Resolution with Cook, the history of European/Polynesian contact would have been different, and the life of James Cook could very possibly have been saved.
And thank you, David, for writing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Authors Guild and the Kindle Lending Library

In a strongly worded memo issued Monday afternoon, the Authors Guild took issue with Amazon's Kindle Lending Library for Prime customers, in particular those titles available without express permission from publishers and authors.

"How can Amazon get away with this? By giving its boilerplate contract with these publishers a tortured reading," the Guild said, adding that permission appeared to be dispensed with "because, as Amazon apparently sees it, its contracts with these publishers merely require it to pay publishers the wholesale price of the books that Amazon Prime customers download."

 The reasoning is "nonsense", from the AG's understanding of Amazon’s standard contractual terms: "publishers did not surrender this level of control to the retailer. Amazon’s boilerplate terms specifically contemplate the sale of e-books, not giveaways, subscriptions, or lending." In other words, the Guild asserts Amazon "appears to be boldly breaching its contracts with these publishers."

The way I see it, the Kindle Library is lending out books that haven't been purchased.

No regular library lends out books that have not been paid for, first.

The Authors Guild recommends that authors who find that their publishers have given the Kindle Lending Library permission to lend out their works without consulting with them first should be asking them some probing questions.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wellywood spoof sign blows up hill

Spoof news clip blows Wellywood away

Airport unimpressed with dummy stunt

An explosive new video has entered the Wellywood fray, depicting a fake attack on the controversial sign.

(The sign has not actually been erected yet, so you are safe to land here, if you are on the way.)

This new YouTube video by Dignan88 uses computer graphics to place the controversial "Wellywood" sign on Wellington Airport land in Miramar, claiming it was erected secretly, at night, by the airport powers-that-be.

As a fake news reporter, William Plinkerton, prepares to discuss the controversy with a "representative from Wellington Airport", the sign is rocked by a series explosions scattering letters into the sky.

Two dark figures can be seen scuttling away as the Wellington Airport man is squashed by a giant E.

A Wellingon Airport spokewoman described the video as " very creative and funny ".

"Get voting Wellington," she said.

The clip's maker works for Weta Digital but the spoof was completed as a personal project in his own time and had nothing to do with the company.

A poll to decide what sign will go on the hillside closes on Friday November 18.  VOTE NOW.

A new New Zealand book venture -- in Manhattan

Holiday Pop-Up Bookshops: Love & Care in Manhattan

New Zealand publishing house PQ Blackwell is opening a pair of Love and Care pop-up shops in Manhattan for the holiday season. In addition to the publisher's own list of titles, the shops will carry books from Abrams and Chronicle at 50% off retail or more. Love and Care shops will also offer free gift wrapping and free same-day shipping within Manhattan on purchases totaling over $100.

The first pop-up opened this weekend in the Meatpacking District at 344 West 14th St., and the South Street Seaport location at 12 Fulton St. will open November 18.

Geoff Blackwell began with bookstores in the rural (but very trendy) Wairarapa, east of the ranges out of Wellington.  Now, he is truly international, with a reputation for producing newsmaking biographies and beautiful books.

See more background of this amazing venture on BeattiesBookBlog

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Secret of Self-Publishing - Prior Success

Try traditional, or be daring?

In the Wall Street Journal, Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg shares very interesting thoughts on the pros and cons of self publishing, in this new ePublishing Age.

As he very pertinently points out, self-publishing these days is increasingly "a tale of two cities."

There are established authors who are doing better by going the ePublishing route than by staying with traditional publishers.  Trachtenberg cites romance novelist Nyree Belleville, who says she's earned half a million dollars in the past 18 months selling direct rather than through a publisher.

But already having a following makes a big difference.

Witness new author Eve Yohalem. More than a month after self-publishing, she has grossed about $100 in sales— after incurring costs of $3,400. She said she's in no rush, though.  There's plenty of room for optimism -- look at the runaway success of Darcie Chan's self-published debut novel, The Mill River Recluse.

As Trachtenberg also points out, the current situation has changed.  "Vanity" publishing was considered just that, a reflection of a rejected writer's ego.  But now, self-publishing is perfectly respectable.  The question that taxes would-be self-published authors is not whether they'll be viewed as literary outcasts, but how to go about it and what it will cost.

And there is the huge advantage that eBooks are not remaindered, and they aren't pulped after a short six-month shelf life.

"One of the big differences between e-books and print is the sales cycle," says Ms. Yohalem. "It's almost inverted. A chain store buyer makes a decision as much as six months before the book is published, and then it has no more than six months on the shelf. At that point your sales cycle is over. But with e-books, it's completely the opposite. It's often six to nine months before your book takes off, and you never take it down."

Blogger's Rena postings shut down

Blogger Antipodean Mariner blogs about the sea. 

He also works on salvage ships.  He is currently a crew member of the Go Canopus, a multi-purpose tug recovering oil from the Rena.

Until recently, he was posting behind-the-scenes insights into the frustrations and occasional sheer hell of the job.  Part of the nasty work was coping with the stench and maggots from the contents of ruined freezers.  His posts were being followed from all over the world.

According to a report by Geoff Cumming, the blogger has been banned from posting about his work, because of a non-disclosure clause in his contract.

Meantime, the blog is being updated by others.

Friday, November 11, 2011

An unexpected result

Well, here is a new way to boost sales -- be outed by your publisher for lifting others' material

As I reported earlier, Q.R. Markham's debut thriller, Assassin of Secrets, was pulled by its publisher, Little, Brown, for apparently quite blatant use of passages from other authors' novels, including the James Bond series.

And what happened?  Sales zoomed.  Before it was pulled the novel was about 62,000 in the popularity stakes.

And now:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#4 in Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Spy Stories & Tales of Intrigue
#67 in Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Suspense

Good figures, but not as good as in 2008

NEW YORK (AP) — The conclusion to Christopher Paolini's "Inheritance" fantasy cycle sold nearly 500,000 copies on its first day of release, one of the year's best openings, but a drop from Paolini's previous book.

Random House Children's Books announced Thursday that the combined hardcover, audio and e-books sales for Paolini's "Inheritance" was 489,500. The fourth and final book of his million-selling series came out Tuesday. The third "Inheritance" novel, "Brisingr," was released in 2008 and sold 550,000 copies on its first day. Random House spokeswoman Judith Haut attributed the decline to the downfall of the Borders superstore chain, which went out of business earlier this year.

As of Thursday afternoon, "Inheritance" was No. 1 on's best seller list, displacing the long-running leader, Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sales up, profits down

Interesting figures

Hachette Book Group reports that eBook sales are up 134%

And net sales are down 5.2%

To elaborate:  Lagardère’s global publishing division, the company that owns the Hachette Book Group, reported €601 million in net sales for the third quarter of 2011, which was down 5.2 percent compared to the same period in 2010.

Yet they sold thousands more eBooks than the year before.  So how did that dip in profit come about?

Because eBooks are cheaper than print books, of course.

Read more from Dianna Dilworth at GalleyCat

Whoops -- yet another copyist

Q.R. Markham‘s debut spy novel Assassin of Secrets has been removed from their list by Little, Brown’s Mulholland Books.
Publisher Michael Pietsch had this comment: “[I]t is with deep regret that we have published a book that we can no longer stand behind … Our goal is to never have this happen, but when it does, it is important to us to communicate with and compensate readers and retailers as quickly as possible.”
The author’s bio has also been removed from the Mulholland Books website, but you can read his biography at his UK publisher’s site: “Markham has been a parks department employee, laundry-truck driver, door-to-door knife salesman, telemarketer, rock ‘n’ roll bassist, literary scout, book-reviewer, small business owner, and consultant. His writing has appeared in the Paris Review, Bomb Magazine, Witness, The New York Post, and more.”

Or so it says. 

According to Sarah Weinman, Q.R. Markham is actually Quentin Rowan, one of the owners of Spoonbill and Sugartown Bookstore in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Maybe we should blame the cat ...

Story from Jason Boog.  Read more at MediaBistro.

That Wellington International Airport sign ..

A public competition was launched on August 31, after public outrage over airport plans to put a Wellywood sign on the hillside.
More than 300 entries were sent in and a panel of prominent Wellingtonians selected five finalists. A first round of voting in which more than 18,500 people voted determined the two finalists that would go up against Wellywood in the final vote.

Wellington – Blown Away was the clear winner of the first stage of voting with a whopping 46 per cent of the votes.

Second with 21 per cent of the votes was The Eye of the Taniwha, which shows the giant eye of the mythical beast gazing across the harbour.

These two designs now go head-to-head with the Wellywood concept in a final vote.

The vote closes on Friday, November 18 and the winner will be announced on Monday, November 21.

So, what sign would you like to see as you fly into the coolest little capital in the world?


And Amazon's top twenty ...

The mega-company produces its mega-list for 2011

Amazon have named their Top Ten Books of 2011, with Chad Harbach's debut novel THE ART OF FIELDING as their No. 1 pick.

Interestingly, the list does not seem to include a single self-published book, or one that came out first as an eBook -- unless that enigmatic "FSG" means something that escapes me.

1. The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach (Little, Brown)
2. 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami (Knopf)
3. What It Is Like To Go To War, by Karl Marlantes (Atlantic Monthly Press)
4. The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides (FSG)
5. In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson (Crown)
6. Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown Young Readers)
7. Before I Go To Sleep, by SJ Watson (Harper)
8. Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster)
9. Lost in Shangri-la, by Mitchell Zuckoff (Harper)
10. The Tiger's Wife, by Tea Obreht (Random House)
11. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday)
12. Bossypants, by Tina Fey (Reagan Arthur Books)
13. Blood, Bones & Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton (Random House)
14. We the Animals, by Justin Torres (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
15. Moonwalking with Einstein, by Joshua Foer (Penguin Press)
16. The Lover's Dictionary, by David Levithan (FSG)
17. The Greater Journey, by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster)
18. Lost Memory of Skin, by Russell Banks (HarperCollins)
19. Maphead, by Ken Jennings (Scribner)
20. The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt (HarperCollins)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Pacific by steamboat

Image of book cover for Oceania under steamOceania under steam

Sea transport and the cultures of colonialism, c.1870–1914
Frances Steel

The age of steam was the age of Britain’s global maritime dominance, the age of enormous ocean liners and human mastery over the seas. The world seemed to shrink as timetabled shipping mapped out faster, more efficient and more reliable transoceanic networks. But what did this transport revolution look like at the other end of the line, at the edge of empire in the South Pacific?

Taking history offshore, Oceania under steam argues for a reinvigorated scholarship of empire and the maritime world. It places human stories at the heart of this industrial subject, unsettling smooth narratives of the transformative power of steam.

Through the historical example of the largest and most important regional maritime enterprise – the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand – Frances Steel eloquently charts the diverse and often conflicting interests, itineraries and experiences of commercial and political elites, common seamen and stewardesses, and Islander dock workers and passengers. By connecting the intimate details of shipboard life with the high politics of imperial ocean space, Oceania Under Steam presents a wealth of new insights into the significance of shipping and the sea in the everyday life of colonialism.

Drawing on a variety of sources, including shipping company archives, imperial conference proceedings, diaries, newspapers and photographs, this account is a finely researched and lively study of empire in the age of steam. It will appeal to cultural historians and geographers of British imperialism, scholars of transport and mobility studies, and historians of New Zealand and the Pacific.

Top books of 2011 -- Publishers Weekly picks

PW have named their Top 10 books of 2011:

The Marriage Plot
by Jeffrey Eugenides (FSG)
The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock (Doubleday)
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (HarperCollins)
After the Apocalypse by Maureen McHugh (Small Beer)
There but for the by Ali Smith (Pantheon)

Bossypants by Tina Fey (Reagan Arthur Books)
Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie (Random)
Hemingway's Boat by Paul Hendrickson (Knopf)
One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina (Graywolf)
Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens (Twelve)

"Slumdog Millionaire" plans huge library

"We're happy of course but mostly we're just really stunned."

--Sushil Kumar, a poorly paid government clerk who won 50 million rupees (about $800,000 US) on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? echoing the plot of the 2008 Oscar-winning movie.

I've been carrying this newsclipping around for so many days I have forgotten where it came from, but I have thought of it often because I found it quite inspiring, really.

Sushil Kumar, 26, used to watch Who Wants to be a Millionaire? at a neighbor's house, because he could not afford a television.  Those neighbors were so impressed by his knack at answering the questions that they persuaded him to have a go.  And lo, he made an epic journey to Mumbai -- his first ever trip in a plane.

Until his win, Kumar was earning 6500 rupees a month as a government computer worker in the northeastern state of Bihar, one of the country's most disadvantaged regions.  Now, he is an Indian millionaire.

He plans to use the money to pay debts, buy a house for his extended family (he is only recently married), and build a library.

"I love reading," he said. "Before winning this amount, I couldn't buy many books, but now I will make a huge library."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Alternatives to the Wellywood sign

The final vote is nigh

Will Wellingtonians be blown away by the winning alternative to Wellywood?

The public vote has been counted and the sign dubbed Wellington – Blown Away is the clear winner of the first stage of voting with a whopping 46 per cent of the votes.

Designed by a team from advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, the sign depicts the word "Wellington", with the last few letters appearing to be whipped off the hill by the wind.

Second with 21 per cent of the votes was The Eye of the Taniwha, which shows the giant eye of the mythical beast gazing across the harbour.

These two designs will now go head-to-head with the Wellywood concept in a final vote that opens on Wednesday, and closes on November 17, with voting via

More than 18,500 votes had been cast on the alternative options by late last night. Wellington's Lost Umbrellas was third with 16 per cent, while Taniwha gained 10 per cent and Te Capital 7 per cent.

Let's hope the interest remains intense.  And I see no reason why the international audience shouldn't vote -- after all, it is an international airport.

From the Dominion PostRead the full story

Friday, November 4, 2011

How many bookstores have their own cat?

Time Out Bookstore in Auckland, New Zealand, does

Time Out began 23 years ago in Auckland’s Mount Eden shopping strip with a conscious attempt to be different. One of the first boutique bookstores, it also sold music and kept daringly late hours.  While shop space is for those who are slim enough to enjoy browsing through a huge choice in a small area, above the store is an airy brick walled space used for book launches and promotions.  And owner for the past nine years, Wendy Tighe-Umbers, doesn't charge a cent.  All she wants is for those who are coming to let her know ahead, for catering purposes.

The last time I sat up there on one of the comfy couches to chat about books with Wendy's super-enthusiastic staff, I was honored with a rub about the ankles by the resident cat, Oscar.  Now, sadly, Oscar has passed on to kitty-heaven.  Lucinda, his successor, is no stray, but a pedigree Tonkinese, named after a Peter Carey novel.  And her personal taste in literature?  No one knows.  She is definitely too ladylike to reveal anything so personal ...

Spoonbill and Sugartown in Brooklyn has a cat, too.

His name is Hayes.  Hayes is an unusual cat, as unusual as his bookstore's name. 

Hayes is a tripod.  Surgery to remove a cancerous leg cost $1000, but much of it was donated by adoring bookstore patrons.  "Come for the books, and stay for the synth musik," the staff say, but it seems sure that some folk come to see the cat.

And in Madison Avenue, Manhattan, there is another

This is the Corner Bookstore, whose cat is the grandly named Hampton.

He was named after that domain of the super rich because he was rescued from there.  Appropriately, he has developed very particular tastes.  When he was small, he used to get stuck behind any old bookshelf, but now he favors the travel section.

Especially China and India.

To read more about New York City bookstore cats, try this link

Bad news from UK libraries

UK library visits fall by 7.5 million

From the BBC.

The number of visits to UK libraries dropped by more than 7.5 million to 314.55 million in 2010-2011, annual figures show.
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy data, covering the year to 31 March 2011, shows a drop in the number of static and mobile public libraries from 4,612 to 4,579.

And they show a 2.9% drop in the number of book loans to 300.22 million.
Campaigners say more than 400 public libraries are threatened with closure.
A number of local councils plan to close them to save money after being given a 27% cut in central government funding over four years.

The figures show a drop of 22.77 million over five years in the number of visits to UK libraries to 314.55 million in 2010-2011.
That figure represents a 6.7% drop.

The total number of books held by libraries dropped by about a million from the previous year to 98.24 million while there was also a drop in the stock of CDs, DVDs and other materials.
There was, however, a rise of about 300,000 in the number of loans of children's fiction books - to 81.57 million.  And there was an increase of about 180,000 - to 17.65 million - in the number of children's fiction books available for loan.
But, for once, we can't blame the digital age

The number of visits to library websites fell from 120.4 million in 2009-2010 to 114.77 million in 2010-2011 despite rises in previous years.
Read more

Kindle Owners' Lending Library Launched by Amazon

A new way to borrow a book

This new service from Amazon lends out selected, mostly backlist titles, with promoted books coming from publishers including Scholastic, Norton, Bloomsbury, Grove/Atlantic, Workman/Algonquin, F+W Media, Lonely Planet, and Amazon's own publishing imprints.

Rosetta Books tells the WSJ they alone are contributing about 200 titles. None of the six largest publishers are participating.

The program is available only to Amazon Prime members, and titles can be browsed and checked out only through Amazon ereading devices. Users can "borrow" only one title at a time, and only one title a month.

While Amazon boasts the collection includes "over 100 current and former NYT bestsellers," Publishers Lunch observes that the emphasis is very much on "former." Browsing for titles on the device will be an impediment to discovery for many users (and incentive to upgrade to Fire, on which that will be easier). But general Amazon product pages prominently announce to Kindle Device Owners that they can "borrow this book for free, with no due dates."

According to publisher gossip, Amazon offered "a lot of money" to participate in the program. Amazon says in the announcement that most publishers have received "a fixed fee" for the included titles (apparently for a two-year agreement--and any additional titles added during that period would yield further licensing fees.) But "in some cases, Amazon is purchasing a title each time it is borrowed by a reader under standard wholesale terms as a no-risk trial to demonstrate to publishers the incremental growth and revenue opportunity that this new service presents."

Where Amazon leads, will Kobo follow?
Kindle Owners Lending Library

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Assange to face charges

 WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has lost his appeal against extradition to Sweden to answer sex crime allegations, the Associated Press reports.

In a judgment Wednesday, Judges John Thomas and Duncan Ousely said that Assange, who was in court to hear the verdict, should be sent to Sweden to be questioned over the alleged rape of one woman and the molestation of another in Stockholm last year.
The 40-year-old has denied wrongdoing, and insists the case is politically motivated by those opposed to the work of his secret-spilling organization.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thomas Friedman scooped for 2012 NZ International Arts Festival

Renowned US writer to visit as Kennedy Fellow
Internationally renowned American author, reporter, and columnist Thomas Friedman will lead a top-shelf literary line-up at the 2012 New Zealand International Arts Festival’s Writers and Readers Week in March, as a John F Kennedy Memorial Fellow.

One of the planet’s most influential public intellectuals, Thomas Friedman is a foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times, the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes and the author of six bestselling books. In being recognised by Fulbright New Zealand with a John F Kennedy Fellowship, he joins a list of eighteen eminent American thinkers including Thurgood Marshall, Harlan Cleveland, Paul Volcker and Joseph Stiglitz, who have visited New Zealand for speaking and teaching engagements in honour of President Kennedy since a memorial fund was established in his name following his death in 1963.

From the Fulbright New Zealand Quarterly

Read the full story

Borders metamorphoses into Whitcoulls at 226 Lambton Quay

A mysterious something has happened in Lambton Quay

Up until the last time I looked, 226-256 Lambton Quay was a big Borders store.

Lambton Quay is one of Wellington's premier shopping streets, so its situation, opposite iconic department store Kirkaldie & Stains, and cheek-by-jowl (almost) with a Farmers Department store, was enviable.

The only fly in the ointment, I guess, is that the Wellington flagship store of the Whitcoulls book chain was just a short gallop down the street.

As we all know, both chains were bought by David and Anne Norman.  I wondered what would happen to this particular Borders, and was assured by a polite young man at the checkout counter that it was going to become Whitcoulls.

And, he has been proved right.  As I passed in the bus yesterday, the store was sporting natty new signs and lots of enticing advertising.

It is now definitely a Whitcoulls store.  So far, the Whitcoulls store down the street is still intact and running.  Long may it stay that way.