6 new books to read in August

A former congresswoman’s memoir about her personal experience of misogyny and double-standards in politics, a novel about a deported “Dreamer” who makes his way back to the United States through an arduous and heartbreaking journey, and the one royal biography (of many this summer) to rule them all.

Here are some suggested reads being published in August.

Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Horse Crazy: The Story of a Woman and a World in Love with an Animal by Sarah Maslin Nir

Available August 4

In the decade she has worked for the New York Times, Sarah Maslin Nir has reported from terrorist hot spots in West Africa to wildfire-ravaged California. And as soon as she files each story, she chooses to do one thing before heading home: search for the horses. In Horse Crazy (Simon & Schuster), Nir scoured the world for people as obsessed as she, and uncovered their why. From the British socialite who smuggled rare Indian horse semen, to the erased legacy of the Black cowboy, Nir examined love for these animals in all its forms.

August Books-She Will Rise

Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing

She Will Rise: Becoming a Warrior in the Battle for True Equality by Katie Hill

Available August 11

After resigning from her seat in the House of Representatives amid a controversy in which she was the victim of revenge porn, former Congresswoman Katie Hill shares her experience with misogyny and double standards in politics. But Hill says she does not want women to be discouraged from running for and taking positions of power. On the contrary, in She Will Rise (Grand Central Publishing), Hill argues rampant misogyny is all the more reason for women to lead and to work to change the systems that have prevented women from achieving equality for so long.

August Books-The Lazy Genius Way

Courtesy of Waterbrook Press

The Lazy Genius Way: Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn’t, and Get Stuff Done by Kendra Adachi

Available August 11

A recent work mantra that has emerged is don’t work harder, but rather, work better. But given the state of the world right now, it’s hard to get any work done—even for those privileged enough to work from home. Perhaps then, amid all else combined with the overwhelming heat in the dead of summer, podcast host Kendra Adachi’s new work ethic book The Lazy Genius Way (Waterbrook Press) is perfectly timed for release. Adachi basically encourages readers to live at their own pace in order to establish a routine that works well for them—not to mention scheduling in time for rest. The key is to starting small and asking oneself what is working and what isn’t—and to ruthlessly cut out what isn’t.

August Books-Finding Freedom

Courtesy of Dey Street Books

Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand

Available August 11

In the wake of the dramatic departure of two of the most popular figures in the British Royal Family, there are a slew of books being released this summer about the drama brewing in Buckingham Palace. But if you’re going to choose one to read this summer, make it this one from Harper’s Bazaar editor Omid Scobie and Elle correspondent Carolyn Durand, which has already been sitting at the top of the preorder charts for weeks on Amazon in the U.S. and the U.K. Although Finding Freedom (Dey Street Books) is not an officially authorized biography—the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have said they have not participated in the book—excerpts published in The Times infer the book is the most major account told from the popular couple’s perspective after a turbulent two years of relentless and overwhelmingly negative press in the British tabloids.

August Books-The New American

Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

The New American by Micheline Aharonian Marcom

Available August 18

Inspired in part by interviews with Central American refugees, and told in lyrical prose, Micheline Aharonian Marcom’s novel The New American (Simon & Schuster) tracks the heart-pounding and fictional journey of a dreamer, a term referring to young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, who have lived and gone to school here, and who, in many cases, identify as American. Marcom’s protagonist is a young Guatemalan American college student who is undocumented but was never told this by his parents. He gets deported, but then decides to make the long journey, thousands of miles back home to California.

August Books-Nature of Nature

Courtesy of National Geographic

The Nature of Nature by Dr. Enric Sala

Available August 25

COVID-19 is yet another reminder that conservation is not just a luxury for rich countries or a romantic ideal—it’s necessary for our global survival.  The world has been brought to a standstill by a novel virus that was transmitted to humans from animals. Dr. Enric Sala, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence and leader of the Pristine Seas project, makes a case for why protecting nature is our best health insurance, why it makes economic sense, and why it is our moral imperative.

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Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton create 24 Little Treehouse books

Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton have huge imaginations but right now the world-renowned author and illustrator duo are thinking small.

The creators of the award-winning Treehouse book series have collaborated with Coles to produce 24 pocket-sized books as part of the supermarket giant’s latest collectable campaign.

The Coles Little Treehouse books will be available in stores from Wednesday (July 29) with every $30 purchase.

Griffiths and Denton – who have been using lockdown in Victoria to finalise their 130-Storey Treehouse – said the collectables were a celebration of the soon-to-be 10-book series.

“A lot of the Little Books will feature favourite characters from over the years and give them a chance to really shine,” Griffiths said.


“There will be a couple of feature tours, one through the treehouse, some new episodes, including an elephant on a bicycle which is a sneak peek of a character you will see later in the year when the 130-Storey Treehouse comes out.”

With more than 10 million copies of their books sold in Australia, 80 children’s choice awards and 10 Australian Book Industry Awards, the key to success for this famous pair has been to always allow their inner child to run amok.

“Humour is everything,” Griffiths said. “I’ve always written for my own amusement and as a secondary school teacher in my late 20s, I saw kids struggling with books that weren’t written for their time.

“When you’re beginning reading, we forget how much effort each word and sentence can be to decipher. Fortunately, I met Terry very early on and his drawings were the key to that. With his drawings, it saves me hundreds of words spent on descriptions.”

Griffiths said their books were created to inspire children to break the rules in their imaginations so they wouldn’t in the real world.

“In our books, they’re completely imagination inspired where there are no limits, there are no rules and you can dare yourself to think of the silliest, most dangerous thing and there are no real-world consequences,” he said.

Coles CEO Lisa Ronson said the world-first collectable campaign aimed to encourage a lifelong love of books.

“The original Treehouse book series means so much to Aussie kids… it was an easy choice when looking for stories that would capture the imagination,” Ms Ronson said.

“We all remember the excitement that Little Shop created for customers of all ages and we really wanted to create that same level of excitement for reading – because we know that enjoying books on a regular basis leads to improved literacy skills, better educational outcomes and happier children.”

Coles will also launch its first picture storybook competition on Wednesday, encouraging kids to develop their own fictional book which will attract prizes and book donations to schools and remote Indigenous communities through Coles’ partnership with the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

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The cult books that lost their cool

The Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, 1995

Men have The Game; women have The Rules, a manipulative, oddly heartless bestseller whose slavish followers (they’re said to include Blake Lively) were gluttons for dictums like don’t talk, don’t have curly hair, don’t even think of returning that call. Never mind the feminist critiques – its opinion of men is so low you’re left wondering why any of us would want to land such a catch in the first place. In 2013, the book was updated for the era of internet dating and sexting, but it still seems positively Victorian in the context of a cultural marker like Lena Dunham’s Girls.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, 1970

So, yes, Jonathan Livingston Seagull really is a seagull, but he’s a seagull with aspirations, a non-conformist who yearns to soar above the flock and up into the heavens, just as the book itself conquered the bestseller charts back in the day. Its saccharine idealism isn’t made any more palatable by learning that Richard Nixon’s FBI director, L Patrick Gray, ordered all his staff to read it, and a 1973 movie adaptation, complete with Neil Diamond soundtrack, did it no favours either. Film critic Roger Ebert summed it up: “This has got to be the biggest pseudocultural, would-be metaphysical rip-off of the year”.

Little Red Book by Mao Zedong, 1964

During China’s Cultural Revolution it was essential to own and carry one of these pocket-sized volumes of Chairman Mao’s aphorisms, making it second only to the Bible in terms of copies printed. It was also adopted by Western hippies, becoming a must-have accessory for every blissed-out fellow traveller, but it’s suffered doubly in the decades since. For a start, there’s the matter of Mao’s involvement in torture, mass killings and the devastating famine that resulted from his Great Leap Forward

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Democracy activists’ books disappear from Hong Kong libraries after new law

Publications by outstanding Hong Kong pro-democracy figures have turn into unavailable in the Chinese-ruled city’s general public libraries as they are getting reviewed to see no matter if they violate a new national security regulation, a government division said on Sunday.

The sweeping laws, which came into pressure on Tuesday night time at the similar time its contents have been released, punishes crimes connected to secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with international forces, with punishments of up to lifetime in prison.

Riot police inquiries a gentleman around the US Consulate in Hong Kong on 4 July, 2020.


Hong Kong community libraries “will evaluation whether particular books violate the stipulations of the National Security Legislation,” the Leisure and Cultural Solutions Section, which runs the libraries, stated in a assertion.

“While authorized information will be sought in the approach of the critique, the publications will not be accessible for borrowing and reference in libraries.”

A look for for publications by youthful activist Joshua Wong or pro-democracy politician Tanya Chan on the public libraries site confirmed the textbooks, including “Unfree Speech,” co-authored by Wong, both unavailable or below critique.

“The nationwide protection law … imposes a mainland-type censorship regime on this worldwide fiscal metropolis,” Wong tweeted on Saturday, introducing his titles “are now susceptible to reserve censorship.”

The national-safety legislation has been criticised by professional-democracy activists, legal professionals and overseas governments who dread it would be utilized to stifle dissent and undermine freedoms the former British colony was promised when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

The working day right after the law came into effect, 1 person was arrested for carrying a Hong Kong independence flag.

2 July 2020: Australia drafting program to offer protected haven to Hong Kong inhabitants

On Friday, the community government declared the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” illegal. And a guy who had pushed a motorcycle into police officers throughout a protest and carried a flag with that concept was charged with terrorism and inciting secessionism.

Local and Beijing officials have frequently said the legislation would not curb freedom of speech or the media, nor any other rights in the metropolis. The new law, they said, only targets a couple of “troublemakers.”

It is unclear how several publications are below critique. Two titles by Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-profitable political dissident Liu Xiaobo were nonetheless out there, in accordance to the on-line lookup.

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The best books of the year so far 2020

Our House is on Fire by Greta Thunberg et al

This family account of Greta Thunberg’s Asperger’s diagnosis has been hailed as a must-read environmental message of hope. Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis is co-authored by Thunberg’s mother Malena Ernman, who is the primary narrator, her father Svante, and her sister Beata. It is, “an urgent, lucid, courageous account,” says David Mitchell in the Guardian. “Everyone with an interest in the future of the planet should read this book. It is a clear-headed diagnosis. It is a glimpse of a saner world. It is fertile with hope.”

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Nine anti-racist books you need to read

Wondering how to better educate yourself on the lives of POC? Look no further.

(Image: Crikey)

Here are nine award-winning anti-racist books we recommend you read to help better understand the lives of people of colour. 

The list include both fiction and nonfiction books, so there’s something for everyone. 

Nine anti-racist books you need to read

  1. Me and White Supremacy 
  2. Girl, Woman, Other 
  3. White Fragility
  4. Stay In Your Lane 
  5. What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker 
  6. How To Be Antiracist 
  7. I Am Not Your Baby Mother 
  8. My Place 
  9. Talking To My Country 

Me and White Supremacy 

Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad started as an Instagram challenge in which Saad encouraged followers to think about, and take responsibility for, their often unintended participation in white supremacy and the contributions they may be making against black people, Indigenous Australians and people of colour. Me and White Supremacy: A 28-Day Challenge to Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor is one of the few anti-racist books that includes a workbook; it is designed to bring readers on a journey of understanding their white privilege. The book helps readers to proactively understand their internal perspectives through its cultural context. Expect an eye-opening workbook, anecdotes and real-life examples of racism as it is experienced today. 

Girl, Woman, Other 

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo follows the lives of 12 women in the United Kingdom over several decades. The interlinked stories of the characters raise evergreen questions around both racism and feminism. Girl, Woman, Other speaks to experiences of struggle, marginalisation and hardship, shining a lens on a world that is not often discussed. Where there is struggle and pain, there is also joy and imagination. Where the reader is presented with a world they may not be able to relate to, they are still presented with universal themes — most notably, love. 

White Fragility

White Fragility, a book and term by Robin DiAngelo, who investigates why white people become defensive when the topic of racism arises. DiAngelo, a diversity and inclusion training facilitator, first coined the term “white fragility” in a 2011 article in which she made sense of why white people tend to feel attacked when racism is discussed. In the book, she articulates numerous examples that act as an eye-opening manual for everyone, even those who classify themselves as ‘woke’. Expect historical references mingled with present-day examples of racism in the United States, and proactive steps you can start taking now to break down the bedrock of racism within your own surroundings. 

Slay In Your Lane

Slay In Your Lane by Elizabeth Uviebinené and Yomi Adegoke — who met at university aged 18, and co-wrote this book aged 25 — is part celebration, and part self-help book written by and for black women. Slay In Your Lane is packed with real-life anecdotes and interviews with iconic women of colour to inspire their generation.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker 

What Doesn’t Kill You Make You Blacker by Damon Young chronicles his experiences of racism in the United States, including anecdotes of failures in the healthcare systems to which he lost his mother; expectations around how he should present his masculinity as a black male; and the injustices he faces for being black. The reader is taking on a journey of emotive consciousness. What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker a book that is guaranteed to motivate its readers to do better. 

How To Be An Antiracist 

How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi does exactly what it says on the tin, or book cover. It’s one of the anti-racist books that couldn’t be more relevant and necessary today. Ibram X. Kendi is founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University in Washington, DC. Kendi connects his personal experiences of growing up in Queens with the history of racism in America, up to the present day. Expect an analysis of power structures, culture, class, colour, gender, sexuality and ethnicity. Kendi leads by example by addressing his own ideas in an insightful and all-encompassing discussion on what it means to be black in the United States today. 

I Am Not Your Baby Mother

I Am Not Your Baby Mother is a book by Candice Brathwaite, who was frustrated by the fact that she did not feel represented in memoirs of motherhood. Brathwaite takes her readers through the reality of what it is to be a mother, behind the Instagram feed and magazines that contain glossy imagery of mostly white mothers. I Am Not Your Baby Mother is part memoir, part guide to the modern challenges that Brathwaite faces as a black mother. This is Brathwaite’s personal attempt to create more colour equality in the media around representations of motherhood. 

My Place 

My Place, by Sally Morgan, is an autobiography that unearths political and societal issues contained within Australia’s indigenous culture. Sally Morgan travelled to her grandmother’s birthplace, starting a search for information about her family. She uncovers that she is not white but Aboriginal — information that was kept a secret because of the stigma of society. This moving account is a classic of Australian literature that finally frees the tongues of the author’s mother and grandmother, allowing them to tell their own stories.

Talking To My Country  

Talking To My Country by Stan Grant is an autobiography about Grant’s life as an Indigenous Australian. As correspondent for CNN, Grant travelled to the Middle East, Africa, and Asia to cover stories of conflict. Seeing humanity living on in the face of repression and mass destruction spoke to his own story of sacrifice, endurance, and the undying call of family and homeland. In the lives of other dispossessed people, he saw his own. Talking To My Country is a book that examines the after-effects of colonialism on everyday racism; his main message is that we must not become complacent towards the inequalities that exist today. 

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BBC – Culture – The books that could flourish in this pandemic era

In 1944, a debut novel was published in the US that went on to become the country’s bestselling fiction book of the entire decade. At such a seminal time in history, when World War Two was in its final stages, what literary masterpiece could have caused such a stampede? A period romance called Forever Amber by the now almost-forgotten author Kathleen Winsor, which was also a bestseller in 15 other countries. Set in Restoration England, it follows the story of a 16-year-old girl who grows up to become mistress to Charles II, and set the template for many modern bodice-rippers.  

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Its success came despite the fact it was banned in 14 US states, with its titillating content leading the Attorney General of Massachusetts to fume that “the references to women’s bosoms and other parts of their anatomy were so numerous I did not even attempt to count them”. Looking back, it’s interesting to wonder why, at one of the most tumultuous moments of the 20th Century, readers across the world fell for a lascivious romp that has now passed into literary oblivion.

It’s particularly interesting to do so now, given the current turmoil we find ourselves in and the effect that it may be having on our reading habits. Two questions arise: in this age of uncertainty, are we reading more or less than we did before, and what genres and kinds of titles do we really crave? Is it now that we finally dust off our long-forgotten War and Peace, or do we instead take solace in a good bonkbuster?

It’s early days, of course, and on both fronts, as yet, the picture is far from clear. The lockdown across the UK, US and around 100 countries globally has forced bookstores to close their physical premises, though many have continued operations online. The UK’s official book sales monitor, Nielsen BookScan, consequently stopped releasing data following lockdown at the end of March so there is no way yet to tell the true impact of coronavirus on the business in the UK. However print sales have been dropping by 60-70% across the industry since the closure of bookshops, suggested Faber chief executive Stephen Page in a recent interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Across the pond, NPD BookScan is still releasing figures, however, and has shown print sales remaining more stable, perhaps due to Amazon’s bigger share of the market there, though the impact of Covid-19 is expected to be greater in the coming weeks.

A reading boom

However the crucial ability of books to transport us to another world has never been more important, and so, current sales of print books aside, there appears to be a reading boom whilst people struggle with their new restricted reality. According to new research from the UK literacy charity The Reading Agency, almost a third of people are reading more as a result of quarantine. The thirst for books has been particularly strong in the 18-25-year-old bracket, in which 45% of respondents reported increasing their reading, while overall 31% of the 2,103 respondents said they had read more since the restrictions began on 23 March.

People thought we’re going to be in for a time so I’ll make sure I’ve got not just bags of rice but also a pile of books – James Daunt

In the UK, it appears there was a boom in buying books just before lockdown, when many customers were locking down their own coveted reads before the government forced non-essential shops to shut. “We had this enormous, Christmas-like boom in sales [just before lockdown],” confirms James Daunt, chief executive of British booksellers Waterstones.

“[People thought] we’re going to be in for a time so I’ll make sure I’ve got something, not just bags of rice but also a pile of books.”

But if reading is thriving, which books are we turning to?

One noticeable trend is that the comfort of stories as opposed to facts is proving a draw in this particular crisis. According to The Reading Agency research, fiction is dominating readers’ book choices, particularly classics and crime novels, while in the week leading up to lockdown (21 March) 1.09 million fiction books were sold in the UK according to Nielsen BookScan, dwarfing the number of non-fiction books sold by 17%. This unexpected surge bucked a long-held trend: it was the first time fiction sales had been higher than non-fiction sales since July 2018.

And then what particular types of fiction are people picking up? There has been an instant, obvious desire for narratives that reflect our current reality. “Plague fiction is definitely on the up – sales of Albert Camus’ The Plague and Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year have both risen,” the Bookseller’s charts and data editor Kiera O’Brien tells BBC Culture. Camus’ 1947 novel sold 1,504 copies in the UK the week before lockdown – a 252% boost week on week, while in January it was selling around 50 copies a week. (Incidentally, the aforementioned WWII hit Forever Amber is set against a backdrop of mass disease. “What mesmerised me was not the sex, but the bubonic plague,” Elaine Showalter wrote in an article about the book in the Guardian. “Winsor had used Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year as a major source and made the centrepiece of her book Amber’s graphic and metaphoric encounter with the epidemic.”) More generally, as The Reading Agency data suggests, classics have been popular so far. That’s something Daunt has also observed, he says. “There is a thirst for serious, great works of literature and from a bookselling perspective that’s wonderful.”

The solace of historical fiction

However one genre that has been particularly strong of late has been historical fiction – something that can be in large part credited, in the UK at least, to the release of The Mirror and the Light, the final part in Hilary Mantel’s blockbusting Tudor trilogy about Henry VIII’s Machiavellian adviser Thomas Cromwell, which hits a comfort-reading sweet spot, combining period escapism with high literary merit. Historical fiction has shown a huge spike recently in the Nielsen BookScan figures, both in volume (the total of number of books sold) and in value (the total price of books sold). “Historical fiction is currently up 33% in volume sold for 2020 (up to 21 March) and 70% up in value [from 2019],” O’Brien says. Up until Nielsen’s records stopped, The Mirror and the Light had sold 169,378 copies across all editions in the UK, generating around £2.8m in revenue and making it already the most valuable book of the year.  

I think there could be more appetite for more classical storytelling and an emphasis on story and building other worlds, particularly past worlds – Emma Paterson

In the US, meanwhile, the book has spent seven weeks on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestseller list since being published. It is also worth noting that one of the recent biggest sellers in the US is another historical novel – Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, which is partly based around a murder case in 1969. It topped the New York Times Fiction Bestseller list for 30 weeks, and is currently number one on Amazon.com, as well as selling 600,000 copies in the UK according to publisher Hachette.

The genre could continue to flourish through troubled times, some commentators think, because it can help to anchor anxious readers with its strong sense of place and often quite traditional storytelling structure. “I think there could be more appetite for more classical storytelling and an emphasis on story and building other worlds, particularly past worlds,” says Emma Paterson, literary agent at Aitken Alexander. “There is a comfort in a beginning, middle and end.” Immersive and expansive historical backgrounds also provide much-needed escape: despite the arguable differences in literary merit between The Mirror and The Light and aforementioned WW2 hit Forever Amber, there are also parallels between these 900+page doorstop novels and their level of detail. Just as Mantel is known for the zeal of her historical research, so Winsor reportedly read 365 books on the Restoration ahead of Forever Amber, during her husband’s five-year wartime absence.

Equally, though, historical fiction can also provide a lens through which to view society with the benefit of distance, which is helpful when we are renegotiating societal shifts. As Showalter noted, Forever Amber’s plucky eponymous heroine helped inspire readers in the aftermath of the war at a time of great unrest. “[It] was published at a time of social upheaval in Britain, the beginnings of the welfare state and the erosion of an ethic of social and marital deference… Winsor’s readers, the majority of them women, identified with Amber’s calamitous life and admired her fortitude in times of hardship.” Author and critic Alex Preston believes that at times of great societal turbulence, we reach back into past worlds partly to learn lessons. “In the 2008 recession [for example, because] we wanted to see how people had thought about the kinds of challenges we were facing in different times, there was this renaissance of Trollope’s The Way We Live Now [first published in 1875] which is a magical, extraordinary work [that thinks] about the way a culture is taken over by greed and drive for financial gain.”

Post-recession fantasies

In the recent past, crime fiction has also proved a durable source of comfort in tough times. After the 2008 recession, the genre particularly boomed: annual sales in the UK rose by around 12% between 2007 and 2010, according to O’Brien, with mega-hit chart-toppers including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, as well as Kate Atkinson’s When Will There Be Good News.

The psychological thriller trend suggested your home was now a dangerous place – and I think that chimed with people who were afraid about their mortgages – Tom Tivnan

“What I think benefitted [during the recession] was a lot of crime which at its heart had overarching conspiracies or corporate malfeasance like the Stieg Larsson books,” says the Bookseller’s managing editor, Tom Tivnan. “I think the psychological thriller trend that [then] followed a few years later was as direct result of [it]: at the heart, what ‘grip-lit’ was all about was that your home was now a dangerous place – and I think that chimed with people who were suddenly literally afraid about their mortgages.” But above all, there is something about the classic crime structure that can provide solace during times of uncertainty. “Though it can be dark and gritty, it (usually) ends with justice done, the killer identified and punished and peace restored,” as O’Brien puts it.

Another niche genre that it will be interesting to track in the near future is gothic romance: some believe that the similar mega-success of the Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey series in the wake of the last recession was driven by a desire for dark fantasies that acted as a distraction. “I think the rise in Twilight and paranormal romance YA was a sign of adult readers wanting escapism and to regress back into childhood/teenage years,” says O’Brien. It may not seem a total coincidence, therefore, that Stephanie Meyer has just announced a new book in the Twilight series 13 years on, with Midnight Sun to draw on the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone. Meanwhile, looking further back again, the bestselling novel in the US in 1946 was Daphne du Maurier’s The King’s General, not only a historical fiction set during the English Civil War – not long before Forever Amber’s setting – but also a gothic romance inspired by the real-life discovery of a ‘Cavalier’ skeleton in 1820 in Du Maurier’s home.

And what about the kinds of books that may be written in the years ahead? This crisis after all is not going to vanish overnight and its legacy will be far-reaching. “Short-term, I think that the thing that people turn to in crisis [as usual] will be escapist genre fiction. But long term, what will come out of this is interesting to think about,” says the Tivnan. “Maybe like in the 1930s that there will be a big split. The Depression brought us both the golden era of pulp fiction, and big serious realist novels.”

I think people will be looking to read about things in a different way and I think it will add credence to the notion of a pamphlet, longer than a short read and shorter than a book – Robert Caskie

However it may take a number of years for any really great novels directly inspired by the coronavirus to be written and published, in part because of our collective need for a psychological buffer as we come to terms with what we have lost. “When considering how people will look back on this, I think about the films [that came out] after the First World War. For the first 10 years people just didn’t want to read about it,” says social historian David Kynaston. “And then about a decade afterwards, you got memoirs like Siegfried Sassoon’sMemoirs of an Infantry Officer and Goodbye To All by Robert Graves and [Erich Maria Remarque’s] All Quiet on the Western Front.”

Will our understanding of literature change?

Beyond the particular genres of stories we may gravitate towards as writers and readers in the coming era, will our very understanding of what literature is change too?

Author and president of the Royal Society of Literature Marina Warner believes the step away from ‘office culture’ towards an internet-driven workplace could help democratise the historically elitist world of publishing – and therefore broaden the range of novels readers are offered. “We are all cooped up in our fenced-in homes while the internet is absolutely borderless and that’s a huge contrast that will help.”

When it comes to non-fiction, meanwhile, literary agent Robert Caskie thinks the desire for answers to a global challenge could also see a resurgence of the pamphlet, which first sprung up in times of political unrest of the 16th Century. “I think people will be looking to read about things in a different way and I think it will add credence to the notion of a pamphlet, longer than a short read and shorter than a book.”

Daunt, on the other hand, believes people may plump for poetry to provide a more detached contemplation during times of stress, given sales of poetry sales having already soared over the last few years, increasing by over 12% in 2018 for the second year in a row. “People will look for books that are reflective at this point – we saw it after 9/11 and other points of stress, poetry seems to get a boost and generally books that encourage or support contemplation.” This is also supported by Page, who suggested Faber has already recorded a growth in poetry sales in his recent Today interview. A spokesman for the publisher subsequently told BBC Culture it has seen a particular surge in interest for poetry classics with sales of Sylvia Plath’s 1965 collection Ariel up 59% in the last fortnight.

While predicting the long-term literary future is all well and good, however, the most pressing concern right now, of course, is to keep bookshops and the publishing industry afloat. The hope is that, by continuing to buy books, whether online or otherwise, readers can provide support to the book business just as it has provided comfort for them.

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BBC – Culture – The week’s best film, TV, books and art

Classic film – Airplane (1980)

The first film from Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker is one of the purest comedies ever made, dedicated as it is to nothing but jokes, jokes and more jokes. The trio lifted the plot – and the exclamation mark – from Zero Hour!, a disaster movie released in 1957, and then packed it with an unrivalled number of gags-per-second. Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty are adorable as the traumatised Air Force pilot and Bambi-eyed flight attendant who have to land a jumbo jet when the crew gets food poisoning. But it was Leslie Nielsen who became a superstar, delivering every ridiculous line as if he was in a heavyweight drama. All together now: “Surely you can’t be serious.” “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.” Streaming on Prime Video, Starzplay, Now TV and more (NB)

Books – The Big Book Weekend 

Literature lovers should look no further than The Big Book Weekend, an online literary festival founded by authors Kit de Waal and Molly Flatt and supported by BBC Arts and the Arts Council England. Running from Friday 8 – Sunday 10 May, it aims to capture the flavour of a host of now-cancelled UK literary festivals, with events broadcast as-live over the three days. Highlights include an interview with 2019 Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, Neil Gaiman on 100 years since the birth of sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury, Luke Jennings on the inspiration for the characters that inspired the hit TV series Killing Eve, and a conversation between Maggie O’Farrell and Damian Barr on the joy of book festivals. There are several events for children, plus sessions on crime fiction, politics and history and the 200th anniversary of Anne Brontë’s birth. (RL)

New TV – A Secret Love

Netflix’s latest talking-point documentary is less sensationalist than many of its others – and that’s all for the good. Telling the story of a Canadian lesbian couple who were forced to keep their relationship hidden from society for many decades, before finally coming out, it is a true three-hanky tearjerker. Available on Netflix (HM)

Classic TV – Schitt’s Creek (2015)

This gentle, feel-good Canadian sitcom written by Dan and his father Eugene Levy (Best in Show), follows the ostentatious Rose family whose lavish lifestyle comes to an end when their business manager is convicted of fraud. Faced with the fallout, video-store magnate Johnny (Eugene Levy) and former soap star Moira Rose (Catherine O’Hara) along with their spoiled adult son David (Dan Levy) and socialite daughter Alexis (Annie Murphy), are forced to up sticks to the titular town purchased as a joke present. Here, the Roses get a dose of reality – and eventually, redemption – when they take up residence in a rundown motel run by sarcastic clerk Stevie Budd (Emily Hampshire). Largely overlooked during its early series run, its following has grown over 80 bingeable episodes, thanks to a Netflix deal and word-of-mouth – as well as masterful comic moments from Chris Elliott as the yokel town mayor Roland Schitt, and O’Hara in the role of a lifetime as matriarch Moria Rose, the flamboyant mother with an unidentifiable accent. Available on Netflix, Pop TV and CBC (EM)

New film – Onward

Pixar’s latest cartoon is set in a parallel world where unicorns, dragons, fairies and other mythical creatures are alive and well in modern-day America. No one bothers with magic any more, though, because it’s so much easier to use an electronic gadget than it is to cast a spell. But when two teenage elves (voiced by Chris Pratt and Tom Holland) learn that some witchcraft and wizardry could bring their father back from the dead for 24 hours, they set off in search of an enchanted crystal. Onward may not be as inspired as a top-tier Pixar film, but it’s sweet and funny, and its heartfelt treatment of bereavement and brotherly love brings real magic to the screen. Available on Prime Video, Apple TV and Sky Store (NB)

Art – Art recreations at SFMOMA

Recreating famous works of art has become a popular lockdown pastime, with innovative art aficionados using whatever items are at hand to interpret seminal works. The results are then being posted on social media, with a #BetweenArtandQuarantine hashtag. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has gathered together some of its favourites, “from the impressive to the purposefully comical” on its website. Proving that you can find inspiration from a museum’s collection – but from a distance –  the recreations include a reworking by Natalie Campbell of Matisse’s famous 1905 painting Woman with a Hat (pictured). You can also learn more about each original artwork on the gallery’s Artwork Guides.

Sculpture lovers, meanwhile, may be interested in a major exhibition at the UK’s Salisbury Cathedral, which can currently be viewed online. The show includes works by Antony Gormley, Henry Moore and Shirazeh Houshiary, among other big names. Stairway, a monumental glass sculpture by US artist Danny Lane (pictured) is a highlight. The exhibition comes eight centuries after the first foundation stones of the cathedral were laid. (LB)

Design – Digital Design Calendar

Design fans can enjoy a new series of online content being offered by London’s Design Museum. Digital Design Calendar enables the audience to explore design history, virtually visit the studios of designers, and also join learning sessions, including fashion starter packs and lunch-time sketching with leading architects. Among the designers who can be seen in conversation with the museum’s Tim Marlow are Stella McCartney and Anya Hindmarch. Also offered are articles and activities for children and young adults, including design projects to create at home, activity worksheets, the graphic-design story behind children’s animation Hey Duggee (pictured), and a product-design mini challenge. (LB)

Photography – Deutsche Börse Prize

While London’s Photographers’ Gallery remains closed, the work of four nominees for this year’s Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize can be viewed online. The winner was originally set to be announced next week, but that has now been moved to September – in the meantime, videos and photos reveal the range of approaches. Made over three years with the farming community in Brittany, France, Mark Neville’s project Parade (pictured) looks at new models and ways of being with animals, and is accompanied by a call to action urging for a kind of ‘ecotopia’ and an end to factory farming. Algerian photographer Mohamed Bourouissa’s images subvert common stereotypes of youths living in Parisian banlieues, while Clare Strand explores a 1936 study of how we might transmit images via telegraphic communication. And 1,078 polaroid photos by Anton Kusters show an upward view of a blue sky shot at the last known location of every former Nazi-run concentration or extermination camp across Europe during World War Two. (FM)

Theatre – Antony and Cleopatra

The latest archive offering from the National Theatre is the most irresistible yet: Simon Godwin’s 2018 production of the Shakespeare tragedy boasts, in Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo, a central pairing of both heat and light, as well as a spectacular design from Hildegard Bechtler. And then best of all, there’s a crucial cameo from a live snake. To 14 May. (HM)

As chosen by Lindsay Baker, Nicholas Barber, Rebecca Laurence, Fiona Macdonald, Hugh Montgomery and Eddie Mullan

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BBC – Culture – TV, films and books to binge in lockdown this weekend

New film – Jojo Rabbit

Taika Waititi’s Oscar-nominated World War Two comedy stars Roman Griffin Davis as Johannes, a 10-year-old German boy who is so taken in by Nazi propaganda that his imaginary friend is none other than Adolf Hitler (Waititi at his silliest). But Johannes’ conviction is chipped away when he discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish refugee (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. Jojo Rabbit is a one-off: both a sweet-natured, feelgood family farce, and a drama about the degradation of war, the cruel absurdity of extremist dogma, and the possibility of redemption. Available on Prime Video and SkyStore (NB)

New TV – Never Have I Ever

While it might not get points for originality in terms of theme, Netflix’s newest teen comedy, Never Have I Ever, is still a refreshing look at the genre. Despite containing many of the tropes of adolescence on screen – the protagonist betrays her lifelong friends in pursuit of a pretty boy whom she won’t eventually end up with, as she learns the value of deep human connections – this series by Mindy Kaling gets points for finally nailing what diversity should look like. Protagonist Devi is of Indian descent and while being all-American, her heritage is still very much part of her life without taking centre-stage or making her a caricature. She’s an insolent teen of her own accord and because she is struggling with the loss of her father, not because she is trying to break out of a repressive culture – and the same treatment is given to the East Asian, black and disabled supporting characters. Narrated by John McEnroe for no obvious reason, it’s a heartwarming show perfect for a weekend watch. (LW)

Art – The Line

While projects like the Isolation Art School on Instagram or Art UK’s Home School offer tips and activities for those stuck at home, images created in response to coronavirus have appeared outside all over the world. They include street art thanking health workers as well as artist-designed public safety announcements and messages of hope and solidarity – like those featuring in a citywide campaign recently launched in New York. And now an outdoors initiative can be viewed online for the first time: London’s first dedicated public art walk, The Line, has just launched an interactive map allowing browsers to take a virtual stroll along the three-mile-long sculpture trail. With works by artists like Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley and Alex Chinneck (A Bullet from a Shooting Star, pictured), it offers a guided tour through a range of striking installations – as well as the history and wildlife of London’s docklands. (FM)

Classic TV – Detectorists

Take in the sights and sounds of glorious summers in the beautiful English countryside in this warm-hearted but very droll comedy from 2014. Two friends – Andy (Mackenzie Crook) and Lance (Toby Jones) – try to balance their hobby of metal-detecting with their sometimes messy personal lives. Over three series and a Christmas special, the pair dream of finding Saxon gold while bantering with each other in the corner of an Essex field – but the real treasure to be found here is in following their relationship ups-and-downs, which feel truly genuine. That’s largely due to Crook’s beautifully-crafted script of subtle comedy, which is a rare find indeed. Available on Britbox, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video. (EM)

Classic film – My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

This is the cartoon that introduced Studio Ghibli’s hand-painted enchantment to the world beyond Japan. Directed by Hiyao Miyazaki, it’s a bucolic, 1950s-set fairy tale about two young girls who are befriended by some magical woodland creatures, including the enormous, cuddly, rabbit-eared Totoro. The girls have moved to the countryside because their mother is sick, so My Neighbour Totoro captures how worrying sickness can be for children. But it also reassures them of the joy to be had from playing and dreaming… and riding in a bus that happens to be a giant cat. Available on Netflix and HBO Max (NB)

Isolation book – The End of October

A staff writer for The New Yorker, Lawrence Wright has published 10 books of non-fiction, including Going Clear, a fascinating insight into the relationship between Scientology and Hollywood, which was made into a film by Alex Gibney in 2015. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Wright’s latest is non-fiction too, but in fact it’s a thriller, whose protagonist is Henry Parsons, an epidemiologist for the World Health Organisation. Sent to investigate the breakout of a deadly disease at an internment camp in Indonesia, Parsons leads a team in a race against time to stop the virus as it spreads across the US. The New York Times describes the novel as “a real if solemn entertainment, a stay against boredom and a kind of offered prayer for the best in us to rise to the surface”, while the New York Post calls it a “page-turner that has the earmarks of an instant bestseller”. (RL)

Design – Fashion and Textile Museum

Fashion fans keen to keep up sartorial standards during the lockdown can be inspired by the Fashion and Textile Museum’s blog, which features some fascinating articles and images. A highlight is a history of the pyjama, which originated during the Ottoman Empire, the word deriving from the Hindi word ‘pae jama’. The garments were adopted as sleepwear in Britain in the late 19th Century, then worn as glamorous beachwear and daywear in the roaring ‘20s. Silk Pyjamas were later favoured by chic stars such as Marlene Dietrich. In the late 1960s, Halston debuted ‘pyjama dressing’, and the pyjama as sleek eveningwear was born. For those wanting to remain elegant at home – while also keeping comfortable – it makes for an inspiring read. (LB)

Podcast – Homo Sapiens

Set up as an LGBTQ+ answer to the BBC radio programme Woman’s Hour, this podcast exploring queer lives and issues amid lots of amusing chit-chat now returns for a fourth series with a new co-presenter in the form of puckish actor Alan Cumming, alongside original host Chris Sweeney. And they’ve got a particularly stellar line-up of guests for this run: upcoming episodes will feature rock legend Patti Smith, comedian Hannah Gadsby, and Sex and the City star turned political contender Cynthia Nixon, while this week they’ve kicked off with a conversation with Britain’s favourite polymath Stephen Fry. (HM)

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Chocolate, grass clippings and old socks — why do old books have such a distinct smell?


April 26, 2020 11:00:19

When you step into a second-hand bookshop, how do you describe the scent that instantly overwhelms you, filling your nose with the nostalgic smells of stories past?

Key points:

  • Chemicals in the paper as well as the ink and glue contribute to a book’s aroma
  • In Japan, the smell of bookshops is listed in the official 100 Most Fragrant Landscapes
  • Common descriptors for the smell of old books include musty, vanilla, grass clippings and even old socks

Some will turn straight to the word “musty”, while others are more creative with their descriptions.

Words like chocolate, leather, grass clippings and vanilla are widely thrown around, while others describe the feeling and memories the scent evokes.

In fact, the smell of old books was deemed so valuable that, in 2001, Japan’s Ministry of Environment listed the smell of the Kanda Old Bookstore Town, near Tokyo, in its 100 Most Fragrant Landscapes.

“People were invited to say what they think were the most wonderful smells, which would then be protected,” science commentator Karl Kruszelnicki said.

“Of these scents there is the sake distilleries, the sea breeze, ancient woods and, wait for it — a street lined with bookshops. What cultured people they are.”

Books are degrading with time

Books have been around for more than 4,500 years and, originally, they were written on papyrus in scrolls before evolving through time to the paperbacks and the ebooks we have today.

Dr Karl said the smell of old books was caused by the chemicals used in the paper, ink, and glue degrading and emitting gases.

“The smell of books, well they range from slightly acidic to musty,” he said.

“There is a whole bunch of people describing how books smell and they come out with things like chocolatey and old and burnt and of rotten socks.”

“You have the inherent paper, then the chemicals that were used at each stage, some of which remain in the paper and haven’t been properly taken out.

“Then the chemicals will each break down at rates and emit gas at different rates.”

He said the scent of books relied on the different papers and chemicals used, as well as the era they were made in.

A glossy coffee table book would smell a lot different to a cheaply made black-and-white paperback.

The era and methods used at the time also determined the survivability of the books.

“You can read a book from 150 years ago and you can read a book from 1,000 years ago,” he said.

“But a lot of the pulp fiction from the early 1920s you cannot read because they were just coming up with cheap paper for the masses.

“So to make it easy they just left the acid in the paper, so many of those books are dying, they are actually degrading away.”

Why do old books bring back memories?

For many, the smell of an old book will flood the brain with nostalgia and comfort.

Dr Karl said the rush of memories from the smell of an old book was created by our most basic instincts.

He said smell was not wired in the forebrain, or the motor cortex, but in the basic central brain.

“Smell is really important to us, because every living creature down to a single bacterium has a sense of smell,” he said.

“It [smell] is wired in at such a fundamental level.

“A smell from your past can bring back memories like the smell of a car that you got a ride in with your family sometime, or your mother’s perfume she wore on days for special.”


































































First posted

April 26, 2020 10:59:19

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