Saturday, February 21, 2015

Life-Changing Books

Can a book change your life? Staunch readers will invariably say so. For those people, as well as those who just love lists, comes the crowdranking Ranker, whose various lists include one that does just that: ranks books that “Changed My Life.”

The most life changing books, ranked by the wisdom of the crowd of hundreds of people. If you are looking for books that will change your life, these have the themes, characters and story-arcs to do it. From the courage and determination of Frodo as he ventures into Mordor to the conviction of Atticus as he defends a man a whole town has already condemned, there are countless books to add to your list of books to read to change your life.

Top Ten “Books That Changed My Life”
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
  3. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  4. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  5. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  8. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
  9. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  10. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
See the other 90 here.

New Sherlock Holmes Story Discovered

We’re beginning to wonder what on Earth could be next! First the To Kill A Mockingbird prequel was announced. Then a lost Dr. Seuss manuscript was uncovered. And now… a long-forgotten story by the master himself, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Scottish historian Walter Eliot has discovered a short story written by the Sherlock Holmes creator in support of a rebuilding project for a local bridge. From The Telegraph:
It is believed the story -- about Holmes deducing Watson is going on a trip to Selkirk -- is the first unseen Holmes story by Doyle since the last was published over 80 years ago.
Mr Elliot, a great-grandfather, said: “In Selkirk, there was a wooden bridge that was put up some time before it was flooded in 1902. The town didn't have the money to replace it so they decided to have a bazaar to replace the bridge in 1904. They had various people to come and do things and just about everyone in the town did something.”
What Doyle did was donate “Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, by deduction, the Brig Bazaar” for inclusion in a book of short stories published to conceder with the fund-raising bazaar.

You can read the complete story here.


Friday, February 20, 2015

New Dr. Seuss Book to be Published in July

February 2015 may well be remembered as the month lost works by beloved authors were uncovered. First, of course, the To Kill a Mockingbird prequel, due now to be published this summer. And now a lost (or perhaps discarded) Dr. Seuss book, What Pet Should I Get? has come to light. From The New York Times:
Random House has announced the publication on July 28 of “What Pet Should I Get?,” the story of a brother and sister searching for the newest member of the family. The manuscript had been in a box that was discovered in the home of Dr. Seuss (otherwise known as Theodore Geisel) in the La Jolla section of San Diego, shortly after his death in 1991, and set aside. In 2013, Mr. Geisel’s widow, Audrey, and longtime secretary and friend, Claudia Prescott, went through the box and found the nearly complete manuscript, along with other unpublished work. 
Cathy Goldsmith, the vice president and associate publishing director at Random House’s children’s publishing division, said in a statement that the book seems to have been written between 1958 and 1962, given that the brother and sister are the same as those in “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish,” which was published in 1960.
Are there ethical questions at play here? Probably. Theodore Geisel, who wrote as Dr. Seuss, was a notorious perfectionist. It’s quite possible this is a work he did not think was up to snuff, else why not submit it to his publisher himself? Though when he died in 1991, Geisel had left no specific instructions regarding the fate of What Pet Should I Get, we can’t help but be reminded of the debate which sprung up prior to the publication of the Nabokov novel that was ultimately published as The Original of Laura in 2008.

Whatever the case, a brand new Dr. Seuss book will be published in July, the first one since Oh, the Places You’ll Go! came out in 1990, the year before the author’s death.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

This Just In… Crescent City (An Alec Winters Series, Book 1) by Chariss K. Walker

Alec Winters quietly moves through the streets of New Orleans, the Crescent City, looking for predators -- those who destroy and prey on innocence. Trained in close-hand combat, he uses these skills when necessary to kill the offenders. Sometimes, his military training isn't needed at all. Sometimes, the only thing it takes to end the lives of wicked, evil men is one look at him. 

After two suspicious murders in only a short time, the main problem Alec faces in his quest of redemption is a nosy reporter. Vivien Simon came to the metropolitan area to do a series on the effects of Hurricane Katrina -- with crime rates on the rise, her interests are drawn to the seedier aspects of the city. She’s hoping to get the story that will make her career. When she discovers that both murder victims were pedophiles, Vivien begins a newspaper and blog campaign that frightens parents and turns the city upside down. 

Some say the perpetrator of the murders is an angel while others insist it’s a devil. With contrasting accounts, Vivien wonders if a vigilante is on the loose -- or worse, a serial killer. She’s hell-bent on discovering the truth, but her persistence and stubbornness might bring her closer to death and damnation than she ever imagined. 

No one can stop the Angel of God… and they wouldn't want to get in his way.

You can order Crescent City here. Visit author Chariss K. Walker on the web here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Game of Thrones Fans in for a Surprise

Those who love the oft-bloody Game of Thrones television series, based on the books penned by George RR Martin, are in for a surprise in season five. According to the author, even fans of the books won’t know in advance who will get axed. From Esquire:
While those with novel knowledge were a step ahead of the virgin crowd, their safe days are over. Like Nostradamus, Martin arrived to Sunday night's Writers Guild West Awards with an apocalyptic vision, telling Showbiz411 that characters set to die in Game of Thrones Season Five didn't necessarily die in his original tomes. "Even the book readers will be unhappy," Martin says. "So everybody better be on their toes. [Showrunners] David [Benioff] and D.B. [Weiss] are even bloodier than I am."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, season five will premiere at a red carpet gala at the Tower of London.
The premiere, on March 18, will mark the first time a season of the HBO fantasy series has debuted in Europe ahead of the U.S. Sky is HBO's pay-TV partner in Western Europe and airs Game of Thrones across its markets in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

James Franco to Star in Stephen King Adaptation

A nine-episode adaptation of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 has been announced, with James Franco now tapped to play the starring role. From Vulture:

[Franco will] also be a producer on the project, which is from J.J. Abrams’s Warner Bros. TV–based Bad Robot Productions. Franco will play the central character in the show, a time-traveling English teacher named Jake Epping who heads back to 1963 on a quest to halt President Kennedy’s assassination. 

See the full piece here. January Magazine’s review of the book is here.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fifty Shades Film Opens to Good News

The film adaptation of E. L. James’ 2011 novel will open in time for Valentine’s Day dating, but theatre goers can anticipate more sex than romance. Roughly one fifth of the film is devoted to sex scenes and those who are familiar with the the premise of the book already know that what we’re not seeing in the film will be implied. From The Sunday Times:

Fifty Shades of Grey is set to be the raunchiest film for more than a decade, featuring a dozen erotic scenes that account for a fifth of its running time.
Reports from previews ahead of the film’s launch on Valentine’s Day suggest it features about 20 minutes of sex during its 100-minute running time.

And even prior to its official release, the film starring Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, Marcia Gay Harden and Luke Grimes has been given the nod for two sequels. Both Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed will be adapted for the screen. From MTV news:
The news was announced on Friday morning (February 6), when Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, director Sam Taylor-Johnson, and author E.L. James hit New York’s Zeigfeld Theatre for the “Fifty Shades First” fan screening event. The fans in attendance started freaking out almost immediately, to the point where one might even say their inner goddesses were soaring.


Second Harper Lee Novel Fans Literary Flames

It is unsurprising that, during debates of whether To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee intended her about-to-be-published novel, Go Set a Watchman, to be published or not, the ghost of Truman Capote should raise his head.

There have always been rumors that Capote, a childhood neighbor of Lee’s, actually wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. But those close to Lee scoff.
For Lee’s place as America’s First Lady of letters has been soured by persistent rumours that it was Capote and not her who was largely responsible for the original story about small-town Southern life in the Fifties and a heroic lawyer who tries to save a black man from a terrible injustice. Capote went on to have a long and glittering literary career, but Lee retreated into reclusive obscurity, stating she had said all she needed to say in print.

For sceptics, it has always defied credibility that an unknown writer could produce a single, perfect novel and then pack away her typewriter for good and completely disappear from public life.

Surely she would want to write more. Could her half-century of silence — not to mention her drastic falling out with Capote — have a more extraordinary explanation? The circumstances surrounding the sudden appearance of this new book, Go Set a Watchman, similarly almost defy belief.
Later, Lee and Capote’s estrangement added to the rumors:
While he was boasting of an affair with Errol Flynn and being pals with Greta Garbo, Lee retreated behind a small circle of trusted friends and maintained a wall of public silence.
When Lee helped to promote the acclaimed 1962 film version of her book starring Gregory Peck, Capote sneered: ‘I think it very undignified for any serious artist to allow themselves to be exploited in this fashion.’
Lee told a neighbour: ‘Truman was a psychopath, honey.’
Her older sister, Alice, was more precise, claiming: ‘Truman became very jealous because Nellie Harper got a Pulitzer [Prize, for literary achievement] and he did not.’
The announcement of the summer 2015 publication of Lee’s second novel have fanned the rumor flames.
Some now say that what has been called the ‘Loch Ness monster of the literary world’ — the dispute over this revered book’s authorship — may finally be solved by this second Harper Lee novel. But will it? 
If Go Set a Watchman — being published unedited — is far inferior, does that really prove she must have had help with her later masterpiece?
And if it turns out to be every bit as brilliant, couldn’t a counter argument simply run that Capote might have written both books? No doubt we will learn more later this year.
Perhaps the best approach is simply to be grateful that a story of such elegance and power as To Kill a Mockingbird was given to us at all.
The Daily Mail story quoted above is here.

Innovations in Reading

Let’s get people reading! That is the subtext -- and more! -- of the National Book Foundation’s “Innovations in Reading” program. And the biggest part of the upside? The most innovative individual or foundation out there will take home a $10,000 prize.
The National Book Foundation’s 2015 Innovations in Reading Prize will award $10,000 to an individual or institution—or partnership between the two—that has developed innovative means of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading. In addition, the Foundation will select four honorable mentions. Applicants should be VITAL demonstrating Vision, Ingenuity, Transformation, Achievement & Leadership.
Applications must be in by February 28th, and you can get full details here.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

This Just In… Be a Critical Thinker by Donald L. Karshner

“Donald Karshner offers students and teachers alike practical guidance to developing and applying critical thinking skills in a wide array of common situations, ranging from watching television to parsing political arguments to governing organizations and people wisely. Anyone who seeks to be consciously engaged with the world today will find value in this thought-provoking book.” -- Douglas Rorapaugh, a Pastoral Counselor and Theology teacher 
When reading the newspaper, listening to politicians or discussing current events, how can you determine whether the facts and opinions shared are truthful and accurate or misleading and false?

Donald L. Karshner has had a lifelong interest in developing critical thinking skills. Inspired by his granddaughter, who was open to suggestions as she went off to college, Karshner began compiling his advice on honing critical thinking. This book evolved from the few pages he had written for his granddaughter. 

Be a Critical Thinker offers a clear process for applying critical thinking skills to scrutinize ideas, facts and interpretations, even when they are inconsistent or contradictory.

By applying the skills of critical thinking, you will be better equipped to clarify your thinking process, to intelligently critique what you read and hear, to correct errors, to dispel misunderstandings and ignorance, and to make a positive contribution to a discussion or debate.

You can order Be a Critical Thinker here. Visit author Donald L. Karshner on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


For Sale: JD Salinger’s Writing Retreat

Anyone wanting to create a life as a recluse writer could do worse than Catcher in the Rye author JD Salinger’s New Hampshire estate, currently being offered at $589,000. From Top Ten Real Estate Deals:

The Cornish home where Salinger lived and wrote from the 1950s to the 1980s is now for sale. Cottage-like, charming and ensconced in a lush setting of nature on a quiet road in his quest for privacy, Salinger also bought the land on the other side of the road, ensuring that no other house could be built whose owners could gaze into his personal life. It’s a secluded 12 acres with plantings of foliage and flowers around trees, paths, woodland trails and green lawn with dappled sunlight. There is also a creek and view of Mt. Ascutney over a valley of treetops. The 2,900-square-foot home blends seamlessly with the surrounding woodland and consists of four bedrooms, two baths, a combined family room-kitchen with fireplace, large living room with beamed ceilings and an apartment above the garage where Salinger would escape during marital conflicts. Another interesting thing about the house is the tunnel that connects the basement of the house with the basement of the garage, the purpose of which was never discovered. 

Salinger died in 2010 at age 91. If you feel like it’s been a while since you heard anything about him, get ready for the silence to end.
During his years of seclusion in New Hampshire, Salinger continued to write, but never published, a series of books that expanded on the lives of some of his most popular characters, including The Catcher in the Rye. Before he died, Salinger carefully laid out a directive in his will for a publication schedule of the books beginning in 2015.

Miniseries Based on Rowling Novel Set to Air

For those who just can’t get enough J.K. Rowling, a miniseries based on her novel, A Casual Vacancy, will air in the UK on the BBC mid-February and then on HBO in North America in late April.
EastEnders’ Sarah Phelps is writing while In the Flesh’s Jonny Campbell is directing the series, which will focus on a seemingly picturesque English village with a lot of tension underneath the surface. Michael Gambon, Keeley Hawes, Rory Kinnear, Monica Dolan, and Julia McKenzie star.
Entertainment Weekly has more here.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Harper Lee’s Controversial Second Novel

Her debut novel won a Pulitzer Prize in 1960. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most beloved books in the English language. It sells in excess of three quarters of a million copies each year. And yesterday’s announcement that a second novel by Harper Lee would be published this coming summer nearly broke the Internet.

Go Set a Watchman will be published July 14. HarperCollins will come out of the gate with two million copies and we no longer have to wonder what the top selling book of 2015 will be.

Lee announced through her publisher that she wrote what will be her second published novel before the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. She said the book, “features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel from the point of view of the young Scout.”

The announcement, as well as the author’s quotes regarding publication of the book, came entirely through her publisher.

“I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn’t realized [the original book] had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”

Since Lee is now 88 and somewhat infirm, suspicions of foul play have been loud and pointed. “Be Suspicious of the New Harper Lee Novel,” a Jezebel headline advised.
Tonja Carter, Harper Lee’s attorney since Alice Lee retired at the age of 100, acknowledges that the author—who was left forgetful and nearly blind and deaf after a stroke in 2007—often doesn't understand the contracts that she signs. "Lee has a history of signing whatever's put in front of her, apparently sometimes with Carter's advice," Gawker reported last July. 
“The existence of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ was unknown until recently, and its discovery is an extraordinary gift,” said HarperCollins publisher Jonathan Burnham in a statement.
But was the gift willingly given?
But in an interview with Vulture, Lee’s editor, Hugh Van Dusen, asserts his confidence that all is as it should be.
Vulture: It’s easy to be skeptical about her willingness to publish a book that had been forgotten for 55 years.  
Van Dusen: You mean was she unwilling to have it published? No, no, no, no. We would never do that. She’s too valuable an author to fool around with that way. It would never happen. We wouldn’t dare do that.
Further, Van Dusen seemed confident that there would be no breaking news on the topic. “I don’t think anything there's going to be anything more revealing than what's in the press release,” he told Vulture.

Considering Lee’s reclusive reputation, her advanced age and just how venerated Mockingbird has been, it seems unlikely we will ever truly know if Lee had intended for this lost manuscript to be found and published.

What we do know: those of us who have loved To Kill a Mockingbird are going to enjoy seeing Lee’s vision of a fully grown Scout. And those of us who love books can rejoice, as well. Any time a book-related announcement can raise so much dust we are reassured that reading and book culture are alive and well.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2015

James Franco Puts Together All Star Cast for Steinbeck Adaptation

Variety reports that James Franco will direct and star in an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s sixth novel, In Dubious Battle from 1936.
James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vincent D’Onofrio, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris, Bryan Cranston and Danny McBride will star together in the adaptation of John Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle,” which Franco is also directing, 
AMBI Group is financing the film and producing with Rabbit Bandini Productions and That’s Hollywood Pictures Productions.
The original novel portrays the struggle between labor and capital in 1930s America as close to all-out warfare. Published in 1936, “In Dubious Battle” is considered Steinbeck’s first major work. Set in a fictionalized valley in California, the story explores themes Steinbeck later continued to develop: group behavior, social injustice, man’s inhumanity to man. A labor conflict between migrant apple pickers and the local growers’ association is the backdrop against which Jim Nolan (Franco) becomes involved in the labor movement and rapidly matures as he learns what it means to do organizational fieldwork.
You can see the full piece here.


This Just In… Anne Frank 80 Years A Memorial Tour in Current Images by Ronald Wilfred Jansen

Anne Frank 80 Years A Memorial Tour in Current Images: Frankfurt am Main, Aachen, Amsterdam, Camp Westerbork, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen by Ronald Wilfred Jansen

“I want to go on living, even after my death!” -- Anne Frank, Diary, March 25, 1944.

Anne Frank 80 Years Photographic Impressions. A memorial tour in current images including historical photos Anne Frank.

You can order Anne Frank 80 Years A Memorial Tour in Current Images here. Visit author Ronald Wilfred Jansen on the web here. ◊

This Just In...
 is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.


Amazon Might Hit the Bricks

Amazon is considering picking up part of the beleaguered RadioShack chain in order to “bolster its brick-and-mortar operations,” according to Bloomberg:
Amazon has considered using the RadioShack stores as showcases for the Seattle-based company’s hardware, as well as potential pickup and drop-off centers for online customers, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the deliberations are private. 
The possible move, discussed as part of RadioShack’s looming trip to bankruptcy court, would represent Amazon’s biggest push into traditional retail. Amazon joins other potential bidders, including Sprint Corp. and the investment group behind Brookstone, in evaluating RadioShack stores, people familiar with the situation said. RadioShack has more than 4,000 U.S. locations and is moving toward a deal to sell a portion and close the rest, according to some of the people. Sprint has discussed buying 1,300 to 2,000, they said.
The implications of such a move are far-reaching:
Retail locations would put Amazon on more of an even footing with Apple Inc., which has hundreds of stores in choice shopping districts. While Amazon’s Kindle has been a breakthrough success, some of its other devices haven’t connected with consumers. Its Fire smartphone didn’t sell well and contributed to a $170 million inventory writedown in the third quarter of last year.
See the full piece here.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Natural Food Trends Altering Consumer Habits

When over 60,000 people flock to Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim next month, they will, in part, be looking for the next big thing. If that’s the case, they’ll be in luck. New Hope Natural Media, who put on these Natural Product Expos, have done some of the homework. Together with NEXT Trend, an out fit that provides business intelligence for the natural products industry, they’ve identified what they figure will be 2015’s biggest trends.

1. Protein power: Protein is the star again -- with food, beverage and supplement products featuring new, innovative protein sources and higher levels of protein per serving. From pea protein to cricket protein to products containing a mixture of both plant and animal protein, these ingredients are hot.

2. Paleo on parade: The paleo trend continues to gain momentum, with the emergence of a new paleo certifications, and more packaged foods made with simple, whole food ingredients that follow the paleo doctrine of no grains, processed sugars, dairy or legumes.

3. Mission matters: More and more natural products companies are starting with a philanthropic  mission and building a suite of natural, organic and healthy products to support and grow that mission and create a positive social impact.

4. Heritage to hipster: “Old school,” traditional ingredients long known for their nutritional benefits such as apple cider vinegar and turmeric are popping up in new ways in foods, beverages and even dietary supplements.

5. Coconut reimagined: Coconut has been a hot ingredient for several years now, but now we are seeing the debut of new healthy packaged products featuring coconut in imaginative, new ways that provide the health benefits of coconut—often in place of less-healthy ingredients.

6. Probiotics pop: Probiotics also continue to be hot, showing up in new supplement formulations, cosmetics, greens powders, snacks and even fresh-pressed juice.

7. Clean, simple ingredients rule: Innovation is showing up as simplification, as the ingredient lists for products continue to get shorter and cleaner. There are many new food and beverage offerings that include only high-quality, whole food ingredients. The move to cleaner, food-based ingredients could also be seen in supplements and personal care.

8. Vegan on the down low: The number of vegan foods and beverages is once again on the rise, but this year many vegan brands choose to emphasize the quality ingredients, delicious taste or mission of their products more so than their vegan positioning. The end result is a much more accessible offering for mainstream audiences.

9. Back to the source: “Local” is for more than just the farmers market, with a growing number of exhibitors touting the sourcing stories behind their products. From ketchup made with only New Jersey grown tomatoes to an entire supplement line featuring only ingredients grown in Nepal, the farm-tofield movement is taking on more local flavor.

10. Water 3.0 : The success of coconut water -- which is now almost a $1 billion beverage category since its emergence on the scene in 2006 -- has everyone on the hunt for the next healthy billion dollar beverage concept. Emerging are numerous product concepts that are based on healthy, natural, lowcalorie waters taken directly from plants. Examples include maple water, birch water, almond water, artichoke water, cactus water, olive water and watermelon water. Innovations in extraction processes and packaging are creating new opportunities for these types of plant water products. The fact that these offerings also tend to be minimally processed and made with only a few ingredients also position them well for the growing number of “Wholegrarian” consumers who seek out nutrient-dense foods and beverages made with real food ingredients.