March 2008 Archives

Book deal for Massachusetts governor

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Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, his state’s first black governor and a close ally of presidential candidate Barack Obama, is writing a memoir that will be published by Broadway Books in 2010.

Gov. Deval Patrick

The deal is worth $1.35 million and nine publishers competed for the book, currently untitled, according to agent Todd Shuster of the Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency. Patrick will donate some of his royalties to A Better Chance, a nonprofit educational organization that helped Patrick attend the Milton Academy, south of Boston.

‘‘Drawing upon his extraordinary journey from Chicago’s Wabash Avenue to the Massachusetts State House on Boston’s fabled Beacon Hill, Gov. Patrick will offer in his book a series of lessons and insights on life and leadership,’’ according to a statement released Friday by Broadway Books, an imprint of Random House, Inc.

‘‘Among the subjects he will address are self-truth, grace, faith, courage, and compassion, as well as the importance of forgiveness, and embracing optimism and hope to make good outcomes possible.’’

Obama, a black Illinois senator who wrote Dreams From My Father and Audacity of Hope, is similar to Patrick in several ways: Both are Democrats who graduated from Harvard Law School, have Chicago ties and ended up seeking elective office on the strength of their backgrounds.

Patrick, 51, was out of state last week when his casino gambling plan, a cornerstone of his economic program, went down to defeat, leading to speculations about his whereabouts: He was in New York, shopping his book.

Patrick briefly became an issue in the presidential campaign when it was discovered that Obama had been using some of his lines, saying that while words matter, actions mean more, leading Obama’s rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, to call him the candidate of ‘‘change you can Xerox.’’

Patrick, one of Obama’s strongest supporters, dismissed the charges as ‘‘sort of a tempest in a teapot.’’


Oddest Book Title award chosen

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I can't tell you how thrilled I was to learn that there's an award out there for the Oddest Book Title. Who knew? I did not, but it kind of goes along with my Book of the Day idea that whatever catches my eye might get featured on this blog.

The 2007 Diagram Prize for the oddest title of the year goes to: If you Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start WIth Your Legs.


"The winner makes redundant an entire genre of self-help tomes,’’ said Joel Rickett, deputy editor of The Bookseller, a British magazine. ‘‘So effective is the title that you don’t even need to read the book itself.’’

The author, Big Boom (no kidding, that's the author) calls it a ‘‘self-help book, written by a man for the benefit of women.’’ It’s a book, he writes, that is ‘‘raw, honest and about you,’’ distilling ‘‘the sweat off my back, the wrinkles in my forehead from anger and thinking all the time.’’

Second and third place, respectively, went to I Was Tortured by the Pygmy Love Queen and Cheese Problems Solved. (I might mention here that neither these titles nor the winning title came through my Book Room. If they had, they most certainly would have warranted their own blog entries.)

Past winners include: Weeds in a Changing World (1999), The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (2003); Bombproof Your Horse (2004); and The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification (2006).

Contributing: AP

Kids get a vote: Pick your favorites

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Young readers are the judges in the Children's Book Council's first annual Children's Choice Book Awards, a program created to help motivate children to read more and to develop their own reading lists. Votes may be cast online at until May 4. The winners will be announced at a gala during Children's Book Week (May 12-18).

The finalists in the five categories are as follows:

Favorite Book, grades K-2
Dino Dinners by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom
Five Little Monkeys Go Shopping by Eileen Christelow
Frankie Stein by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Kevan Atteberry
Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark by Ken Geist, illustrated by Julia Gorton
Tucker Spooky Halloween by Leslie McGuirk

Favorite Book, grades 3-4
Babymouse: Camp Babymouse by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Big Cats by Elaine Landau
Monday WIth a Mad Genius by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Sal Murdocca
The Richest Poor Kid by Carl Sommer, illustrated by Jorge Martinez
Wolves by Duncan Searl

Favorite Book, grades 5-6

Beowulf: Monster Slayer by Paul D. Storrie, illustrated by Ron Randall
Encyclopedia Horrifica by Joshua Gee
Ghosts by Stephen Krensky
The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley by Amy Lissiat and Colin Thompson
When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger with Susan Katz, illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden

2007 Author of the Year
Anthony Horowitz, Snakehead (Alex Rider Adventure)
Erin Hunter, Warriors, Powers of Three: The Sight
Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Titan's Curse
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

2007 Illustrator of the Year
Jan Brett, Three Snow Bears
Ian Falconer, Olivia Helps with Christmas
Robin Preiss Glasser, Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy
Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Mo WIllems, Knuffle Bunny too: A Case of Mistaken Identity

Finalists in the Favorite Book categories were chosen by children's votes from a pool of entries submitted by publishers. Author and Illustrator finalists were selected from a review of best seller lists by the Children's Book Council.

Beam me up!

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Physicist Michio Kaku writes about antimatter — it's what powered spaceships in "Star Trek" — in his new book, Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration Into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel (Doubleday, 352 pages, 26.95).

Physics of the Impossible_

"A professor at the City University of New York, Kaku appears to have read every major tract by Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg and Kurt Godel, plus a mountain of comic books and science fiction novels," writes Jeffrey Tannenbaum in a review for Bloomberg News. "His own book assesses whether phasers, teleportation and other technologies used by Flash Gordon and Captain Kirk could really be developed."

Because of his ability to explain complex scientific issues in easy-to-understand terms, Kaku has created a following on TV news shows, documentaries and radio programs, talking about the same subjects he covers in the new book.

Greed, intrigue, Lawrence of Arabia

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T.E. Lawrence told his version of the Arab revolt, building the legend of Lawrence of Arabia and the intrigue of that time.

In Setting the Desert on Fire: T.E. Lawrence and Britain's Secret War in Arabia, 1916-1918 (W.W. Norton & Company, 352 pages, $27.95), James Barr tells a wider but no less fascinating tale of the revolt and the present-day consequences for the Middle East.

Setting the Desert on Fire

The Turks jumped into World War I on the side of Germany. Their leader declared jihad against the British and their allies. The Turks had controlled much of the Middle East and North Africa for 400 years and expected the Arabs to follow their lead.

Instead, Sharif Hussein, ruler of Mecca, used the moment as an opportunity to curry favor with the British. Hussein wanted more than good will, however, he had a list of demands that he presented to British commissioner Henry McMahon. McMahon in turn assured Hussein that in return for their aid, the British would make sure the Arabs were independent and grant them land stretching across much of the modern middle east.

In Setting the Desert on Fire, Barr shows it was a lie that brought disastrous effects that are still resonating today.

Monica Seles: First I dance, then I write

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Former tennis champ Monica Seles — who can currently be seen dancing with the stars Monday and Tuesday nights on ABC-Channel 7 — is working on a memoir, to be published in 2009. She hopes ‘‘to share how I found balance, strength and happiness in my life after a rollercoaster ride of exhilarating accomplishment and sometimes overwhelming tragedy,’’ she said in a statement Wednesday.

Seles, 34, was the top-ranked women’s player for three years in the early 1990s. In 1993 she suffered a setback when a man attending a tournament in Hamburg, Germany, climbed out of the stands and stabbed her in the back. She came back two years later to reach the U.S. Open finals and in 1996 won the Australian Open. She officially retired last month.

TV Dancing with the Stars
Monica Seles with her
"Dancing With the Stars"
partner Jonathan Roberts.

(AP photo)


A gossipy book by two ex-concierges at Chicago’s luxurious Four Seasons Hotel has been pulled by Three Rivers Press because the authors were legally banned from writing about their experiences.

‘‘Despite previous and repeated inquiries made by Three Rivers Press, we recently learned that Abigail Hart and Nancy Callahan did not disclose that they had signed confidentiality agreements with their former employer, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts,’’ publicist Katie Wainwright told The Associated
Press on Thursday.

The book, Great Reservations: Two Concierges Dish About Outrageous Requests, Celebrity Encounters, and Guests Behaving Badly at a Luxury Hotel, had been scheduled for a June release. It featured anecdotes on such celebrities as Madonna (who had a ‘‘phobialike aversion’’ to air conditioning) and Sir Anthony Hopkins (who asked that he simply be called ‘‘Tony’’).

Although advance copies had been sent to the media, the book had not yet been shipped to stores and a print run had not been determined, Wainwright said.

Three Rivers Press is an imprint of Random House, Inc., which is owned by Bertelsmann AG.


Note: Here's what the book would have looked like had it made it to store shelves:

Great Reservations

Literary Idol

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Chicago author Dwight Okita is one of 10 finalists in an "American Idol"-type competition for the literary set — and you can help him win by voting online. Okita's book, Prospect of My Arrival, is a science fiction story set in Chicago in the near future: 2025.

Dwight Okita

There were nearly 5,000 submissions for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, which is sponsored by, Penguin Group (USA) and HP.

Voters can download, read, rate and/or review excerpts of all the finalists' work by logging on to Voting ends March 31 and the winner will be unveiled in New York on April 7. The finalist with the most votes wins a publishing contract worth $25,000.

Check out Okita's Web site for more information about the author and the contest.

High stakes adventure

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I chose today's entry because of my fascination with mountain climbing. I have never been mountain climbing, nor do I plan on ever mountain climbing. I'm simply fascinated by those who risk their lives for a thrill.

Certainly it is more than the thrill that motivates some climbers — not to mention skydivers, racecar drivers and extreme hot-air balloonists like Steve Fossett, who not too long ago was declared dead after he and his 'round-the-world balloon disappeared. There are still folks out there who take pride in setting a goal and accomplishing it.

But according to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Kodas, getting to the summit of Mt. Everest has turned ugly, and more dangerous due to commercialism and greed.

In High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed (Hyperion Books. 357 pages. $24.95), author Kodas recounts, from personal experience, a once pure pastime muddied by misguided motivation.

High Crimes

Read a review of the book ...

Medill prof takes a look at the news biz

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Author Michele Weldon, an assistant professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism takes a fresh look at the changing face of newspapers in her latest book, Everyman News: The Changing American Front Page (University of Missouri Press, 280 pages, $39.95).

You might remember Weldon from a few years ago when she appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," with her 1999 memoir, I Closed My Eyes: Revelations of a Battered Woman.

Michele Weldon
Michele Weldon at work. (Keith Hale~Sun-Times)

Here's a review of Everyman News:

Jim Dale to participate in short story tribute

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jim Dale, the Grammy Award-winning reader of the Harry Potter audiobooks, will be among the performers participating in a celebration of Hemingway, Chekhov and other short story masters.

‘‘Short-Short Stories From Around the World’’ will be held the afternoon of March 28 at Saint Peter’s Church in midtown Manhattan and will feature readings by Dale and actors Brian F. O’Byrne, Tammy Grimes and Frances Sternhagen.

The free event is sponsored by TIPA (Toward International Peace through the Arts), a nonprofit organization.

Editor's note: Dale is the voice behind the American version of the Harry Potter books. Stephen Fry reads the British version of the series.

Jim Dale
Harry Potter book reader Jim Dale
will turn his attention to the classics
this month.
(Akira Ono~AP)

PEN/Faulkner award announced

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NEW YORK (AP) — Kate Christensen’s The Great Man, a novel about a celebrated painter and the three essential women in his life, has won the PEN/Faulkner award for fiction, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation announced Wednesday.

Kate Christensen

Christensen, author of three previous novels, will receive $15,000. The four other finalists, each of whom will receive $5,000, are: Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees, David Leavitt’s The Indian Clerk, T.M. McNally’s The Gateway and Ron Rash’s Chemistry and Other Stories.

Previous winners of the award, established in 1980, include Philip Roth, E.L. Doctorow and Don DeLillo.

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit organization ‘‘committed to building audiences for exceptional literature and bringing writers together with their readers.’’


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — A message on a postcard from Ernest Hemingway to his father foreshadows the life-changing experiences that would become the foundation for one of the author’s most beloved stories, A Farewell to Arms.

The words on the postcard, dated June 9, 1918, are simple, yet ominous. Hemingway would be shot a month later while serving as an ambulance driver during World War I in Italy. ‘‘Everything lovely. We go to the front tomorrow,’’ he wrote. ‘‘We’ve been treated like kings.’’

The handwritten postcard is part of a collection of 100 telegrams, letters and other correspondence from Hemingway acquired by the Penn State University Libraries from the author’s nephew, Ernest Hemingway Mainland. Some of the material is on display at the university’s Paterno Library.

Hemingway Letters
William Joyce (left), special collections library head, and Sandra Spanier,
general editor, Hemingway letters project, look over a rare Hemingway
book In Our Time, a collection of 18 vignettes published in 1924,
at the Paterno Library at Penn State University in State College, Pa. (Pat Little~AP)

The items represent the last known sizable collection of Hemingway letters still in private hands, said William Joyce, head of the Special Collections Library. Neither the university nor Mainland disclosed terms of the acquisition.

Besides Italy, the dispatches originate from, or prominently mention, other places familiar to Hemingway buffs, such as Pamplona, Spain, which figures in The Sun Also Rises, and Key West, Fla., where Hemingway lived in the 1930s.

One postcard with a picture of the cathedral of Milan, Italy, was addressed to ‘‘Dr. C.E. Hemingway’’ — Hemingway’s father, Clarence Hemingway. A month later, the writer suffered more than 200 wounds to his legs from mortar shrapnel while attending to Italian soldiers in trenches. Hemingway recovered at a hospital in Milan, where he fell in love with a nurse.

‘‘To see the postcard he sent home, just pinning down the day he goes to the front is very exciting,’’ Penn State English professor Sandra Spanier said with a smile. ‘‘This is the material that got transformed into A Farewell to Arms.’’

Has anyone seen my keys?

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How many times have you asked yourself that question before leaving the house, or worse, when returning home? How many times a day do those of you in your 30s or 40s forget what you were going to say, or find yourself grasping for a word you know but can't quite pluck off the tip of your tongue?

Martha Weinman Lear ponders these and other troubling memory issues in her new book Where Did I Leave My Glasses? The What, When, and Why of Normal Memory Loss (Wellness Central, 245 pages, $22.99).

Where Did I Leave My Glasses?

National Book Critics Circle Awards announced

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NEW YORK — Stories from the island of Hispaniola were winners Thursday night at the National Book Critics Circle awards: Dominican-American Junot Diaz took the fiction prize for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Edwidge Danticat of Haiti was cited in autobiography for Brother, I’m Dying.

The general nonfiction prize went to Harriet A. Washington’s Medical Apartheid, while the winner in biography was Tim Jeal’s Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa’s Greatest Explorer. The poetry award went to Mary Jo Bang for Elegy, and the criticism winner was Alex Ross’ The Rest is Noise.

Books Book Critic Awards
Winning authors (from left): Tim Jeal, Mary Jo Bang, Alex Ross, Edwidge
Danticat , Emilie Buchwald, Sam Anderson, and Harriet Washington.
Not pictured is Junot Diaz.
(Seth Wenig~AP)

Diaz, whose novel tells of a young, obese Dominican immigrant and his tragicomic quest for love, was on his way to Venezuela on Thursday night for personal reasons and his award was accepted by Sean McDonald of Riverhead Books. He joked that ‘‘some distinct shouting’’ could probably be heard all the way from Caracas, or at least the muffled sounds of ‘‘the vestigial part of his brain being blown.’’

Danticat — known for such fiction as The Dew Breaker and Krik? Krak! — said she was a bit out of place in nonfiction, telling her fellow finalists that ‘‘I feel like I’m visiting your category’’ and promising ‘‘to speak well of this world’’ when she got back to writing fiction.

Jeal spoke of the many years working on his book about the famed explorer Henry Stanley, a process he described as ‘‘mammoth’’ and ‘‘irksome.’’

Bang offered a more personal memory. She recalled a sixth-grade play in which she was to portray the season of spring and ‘‘slink across the stage in diaphanous scarves.’’ The play was canceled after a parent protested, thinking Bang would only be wearing scarves. So, on Thursday, she thanked the critics for ‘‘restoring my moment on stage.’’

Two honorary awards also were presented. Literary critic Sam Anderson of New York magazine received the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, and Emilie Buchwald, co-founder of the Milkweed Editions publishing house, won the Ivan Sandrof Life Achievement Award.

The National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974, has about 500 members. There were no cash prizes.


Laura Bush: To think, we must read

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NEW YORK — In brief remarks Wednesday to publishing executives, first lady Laura Bush called books her ‘‘greatest love affair’’ and warned that a ‘‘nation that does not read for itself cannot think for itself.’’

Bush, a former librarian whose advocacy of books and literacy have long made her popular in the publishing industry, cited such fictional characters as the Brothers Karamazov and "an intriguing man named Gatsby" and worried that many Americans had never heard of them.

Books Laura Bush
First lady Laura Bush speaks
at the Association of American
Publishers annual meeting on
(Seth Wenig~AP)

"A nation that does not read for itself cannot think for itself and a nation that cannot think for itself risks losing both its identity and its freedom," said Bush, who called the passion for reading "learned behavior that should be taught at home and at schools."

Bush spoke at the annual meeting of the Association of American Publishers, held at the Yale Club in midtown Manhattan. The first lady and daughter Jenna Bush have co-authored a children’s book, Read All About It!. It will be published in April by HarperCollins.


O.J. book debacle stings Judith Regan again

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NEW YORK — Judith Regan, the publisher fired amid the controversy of releasing O.J. Simpson’s hypothetical confession If I Did It, was sued for legal fees Monday by the firm that prepared her lawsuit against HarperCollins LLC.

In court papers, Dreier LLP says Regan reneged on a retainer agreement she signed and then fired the law firm ‘‘in a transparent and calculated effort to avoid paying petitioners the agreed-upon fee.’’

After Dreier prepared and filed the lawsuit, court papers say, Regan hired Los Angeles lawyer Bertram Fields to negotiate a settlement with HarperCollins, which had fired her. The terms were not disclosed.

After the settlement was final, Regan fired Dreier and refused to pay the firm, court papers say.

The lawsuit names Fields as a defendant and accuses him of interference with the business relationship between Dreier and Regan.

Fields said he had not seen Dreier’s complaint but the claims were ‘‘utter hogwash’’ and had ‘‘absolutely no truth in them whatsoever.’’

‘‘I was called in to help settle the case, and I helped get it settled,’’ Fields said. ‘‘I did not replace them as litigation counsel. I had nothing to do with their being fired.’’

Regan’s current lawyer, Joseph Cotchett, did not return a telephone call seeking comment Monday.

Judith Regan
Judith Regan (AP file photo)

Regan, 54, sued HarperCollins (owned by News Corp.) in November for $100 million for defamation, claiming the publishing company’s employees falsely accused her of anti-Semitism. She said that was one of the company’s bogus excuses for firing her.

Regan, who worked for HarperCollins for 12 years and was known for provocative best-sellers such as Jose Canseco’s Juiced and Jenna Jameson’s How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, and the company settled in January with Fields as her lawyer.

Dreier’s lawsuit says Regan and the firm agreed in August 2007 that if she and HarperCollins settled before the company replied in court, Dreier would get $125,000 plus 20 percent of any amount she got over $6.5 million.

However, court papers say, the retainer agreement also stated that if Regan and the publisher settled after the defendants responded, then Dreier would get 25 percent of Regan’s recovery, plus reimbursement for costs of preparing the case.

Dreier agreed to give a second law firm, Redniss & Associates, an agreed-upon percentage of whatever Dreier earned in the case. Redniss is named with Dreier as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Regan, who never signed the August agreement, sent Dreier a check dated Jan. 30, 2008, for $125,000, ‘‘which Regan mischaracterized as legal fees paid in full,’’ court papers say. The firm returned Regan’s check, they say.


Life's a gamble

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Round about the time America's love affair with Texas Hold 'Em took hold, writer Martha Frankel had already dived in, head-first, hit bottom and lived to tell the tale in Hats & Eyeglasses: A Family Love Affair With Gambling (Penguin, 240 pages, $23.95).

Hats & Eyeglasses

Here's a review...

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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