November 2008 Archives

Would you pay $100,000 for a book?

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

You'd need a pretty sturdy coffee table to house the New York Public Library's latest acquisition: a 62-pound, velvet- and marble-bound volume on the life and work of Michelangelo.

The handmade book -- Michelangelo: La Dotta Mano, which took six months to make and is valued at more than $100,000 -- was donated by Italian publisher Marilena Ferrari this week and will go on display next Tuesday. About 20 have been sold.

Michelangelo Book
Michael Inman (left), curator of rare books, and Myriam deArteni, exhibition conservator, turn the pages of Michelangelo: La Dotta Mano during a press
preview at the New York Public Library.
(Bebeto Matthews/AP)

''I love books,'' Ferrari told the Associated Press. ''Books are being destroyed by the Internet, they're losing their identity -- it's the modern, Internet version of burning books. Today, things last so little before they disappear."

The book is filled with photographs of Michelangelo's sculptures and plates of his drawings, plus images of other creations, from the Sistine Chapel ceiling to his personal poetry. The text is by Michelangelo biographer Giorgio Vasari, with an essay by the director of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci.

Laura Bush to write memoir; W will wait

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)


First lady Laura Bush confirmed to The Associated Press that she is planning a memoir and has met with publishers.

''I've been talking to some publishers, but nothing has happened yet -- just a few visits,'' she said in a telephone interview Tuesday to discuss her upcoming special about the White House on cable's History channel.

Earlier this month, the AP reported on Bush's proposed book, citing three publishing executives with knowledge of the discussions who asked not to be identified because talks were in the early stages and highly confidential. The executives said that Bush is being represented by Washington attorney Robert Barnett, whose many clients include former President Clinton, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Barnett, who worked with Bush when she and daughter Jenna collaborated on a children's book, declined comment Tuesday when contacted by the AP.

A memoir from Laura Bush could be the political version of ''Garbo Speaks.'' The public has long been fascinated by the first lady, if only because she has said so little about herself, and her life is already a best seller in fictional form, in Curtis Sittenfeld's novel,
American Wife.

While Nancy Reagan famously settled scores with old foes like former White House chief of staff Donald Regan in My Turn, one publishing executive with knowledge of the meetings with Laura Bush said the current first lady has vowed to write a positive book, with a minimum of criticism. The executive asked not to be identified, also citing the confidentiality of the discussions.

Publishers have a much higher regard for the first lady, a former schoolteacher known as a passionate reader, than for President Bush, and a book deal -- even during a dire economy -- would likely be worth at least as much as Hillary Clinton's $8 million for the memoir Living History. Books by recent first ladies, including Laura Bush's mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, have had more dependable commercial appeal than those by former presidents.

President Bush said recently that he, too, wants to write a book, but has yet to shop a proposal. Publishers, noting his poor approval ratings, have urged him to wait.

Publishers are betting that the market for a memoir by Laura Bush is much greater than for her children's book, Read All About It! -- published last spring by HarperCollins with an announced first printing of 500,000. Although the book was launched by a mother-daughter appearance on the "Today" show, only 77,000 copies have sold so far, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70 percent of industry sales. American Wife, released in September with an announced 100,000 printing, has sold 66,000 copies, according to Nielsen.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Read All About It! ranked 19,975 on; ''American Wife'' was 586.


2008 National Book Awards announced

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)

National Book Awards
National book award winners, from left; Mark Doty for poetry; Annette Gordon-Reed for nonfiction; Judy Blundell for young people's literature and Peter Matthiessen for fiction. (Robin Platzer~AP)

Though several Chicagoans were nominated for the National Book Award, none came home with the prize. But as the Oscar hopefuls always say: "It's an honor just to be nominated." Very true, but someone has to win.

In the fiction category, Peter Matthiessen -- who beat out our own Aleksandar Hemon -- won for Shadow Country, a revision of a trilogy of novels originally released in the '90s.

''This book was quite a trial for everybody, including me,'' Matthiessen said at the awards ceremony last night in New York. ''[The original books] weren't best-sellers. They didn't make a lot of money.''

The 81-year-old Matthiessen, founder of the Paris Review, also won a National Book Award in 1979, for his nonfiction book The Snow Leopard.

Other awards included:

Nonfiction: Annette Gordon-Reed for The Hemingses of Monticello.
Young People's Literature: Judith Blundell for What I Saw and How I Lied.
Poetry: Mark Doty for Fire to Fire.
Honorary awards: Maxine Hong Kingston and Barney Rosset.

Each winner received $10,000.

Stephen King gets a million hits

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

Stephen King is a video star.

The animated video adaptation of the horror master's short story ''N.'' has been viewed more than a 1 million times on the Internet and on mobile phones since its release in July, according to publisher Simon & Schuster.

Stephen King

King has well demonstrated his digital appeal before; his e-novella Riding the Bullet was a sensation in the early years of the Internet.

''Stephen King has once again lured his readers to try a new way to enjoy a story,'' Susan Moldow, executive vice president and publisher of Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, said Thursday in a statement.

The print version of King's short story, in which a psychiatrist fatally absorbs the madness of one of his patients, is included in the collection Just After Sunset, released this week.


See for yourself: Check out all the video installments of "N."

Happy Anniversary Holly Golightly

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

Today Vintage Books releases a 50th anniversary edition of Breakfast at Tiffany's, arguably Truman Capote's best-loved book. The 1958 novel, which took place in the '40s, followed the eccentric call girl Holly Golightly through the eyes of the young, unnamed narrator Holly refers to as "Fred."

Breakfast at Tiffanys

Many more of you will likely remember the 1961 film version of the book, starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard. It's a lovely and classic film, which also can boast one of cinema's best party scenes of all time. But the film doesn't reflect the novel entirely, so I encourage fans of the film to go back and read this classic story.

Letters to Obama

| | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)

The editors over at Skyhorse Publishing are looking for a few hundred good letters to include in new book coming out next spring, titled Letters to President Obama: Americans Share Our Hopes and Dreams with the First African-American President. Look, they already have a book cover:

Letters to President Obama

The editors claim that Americans of age and every race and from all corners of the country will be represented in the book, so if you want to add your stamp to history and see your letter on the printed page, go to and submit your letter for consideration.

Victory boosts Obama books

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

Audacity of HopeDreams from my Father

As expected, Barack Obama's memoirs, The Audacity of Hope (2006) and Dreams From My Father (1995), were given a sales boost immediately following the Illinois senator's historic victory in this presidential campaign. As of noon today, the two books ranked 3 and 8, respectively, on's best seller list.

A paperback that outlines the president elect's vision for America -- Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama's Plan to Renew America's Promise (Three Rivers Press, $13.95), which includes a foreword by Obama -- is at No. 23.

Here's a whole other pile of Obama-related books that have come through the Book Room in the last couple months:

Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics
(Paradigm, 228 pages, $23.95) by Paul Street. Street, a journalist, policy adviser and historian was formerly vice president for research and planning at the Chicago Urban League.

The Rise of Barack Obama (Triumph Books, 160 pages, $27.95), photographs and text by Pete Souza. Photojournalist Souza worked as an official White House photographer for President Ronald Reagan.

Yes We Can: A Biography of Barack Obama (Feiwel & Friends, 224 pages, $6.99) by Garen Thomas. This book for young readers (10-16) covers Obama's childhood up through his historic speech on March 18 of this year.

Say It Like Obama: The Power of Speaking With Purpose and Vision (McGraw Hill, 212 pages, $21.95) by Shel Leanne. One thing we've learned during this campaign is that presentation counts. This book examines the lessons to be learned from Obama's oratory skills.

The Faith of Barack Obama (Thomas Nelson, 158 pages, $19.99) by Stephen Mansfield. New York Times best-selling author Mansfield takes readers inside the church that is Obama's spiritual home and how it has shaped his politics.

Michelle (Simon & Schuster, 200 pages, $25) by Liz Mundy. Washington Post staffer Mundy talked to Michelle Obama herself, plus about 100 others before writing this biography of the future first lady of the United States of America.

Election day fun

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Both presidential candidates have been pretty good humored during the campaign. You saw John McCain on "Saturday Night Live" last weekend and Barack Obama dancing on "Ellen" a couple weeks ago. So, today, in a nonpartisan effort to gets some laughts today, before anything is decided, I offer up the following little paperbacks. Neither author appears to be taking a stand on the candidates either way; they merely seem to be poking gentle fun.

In a previous "Saturday Night Live" appearance back in May, John McCain said, "I have the courage, the wisdom, the experience, and most importantly, the oldness necessary." True, if elected, McCain, at 72, will be the oldest first-term president in history.

According to blogger/author Joe Quint, there are 72 Things Younger Than John McCain (Fireside, 113 pages, $9.99), including two-ply toilet paper: "In the year before John McCain was born, the Northern Tissue Paper Company proudly proclaimed its toilet paper to be 'splinter free' -- but it wasn't until he was out of diapers for about four years that the world was treated to the miracle of a second layer of paper."


Paging through the book, here are a few more things younger than John McCain (who knew?): Geritol, turn signals, Social Security, duct tape, Scrabble, area codes and zip codes, Spam, Alaska and Hawaii, Scientology, McDonald's, the ball point pen, Mount Rushmore, Bugs Bunny and Jerry Mathers as the Beaver.

Check out Quint's Web site.


Matthew Honan first started putting together his humorous little collection of odd statements as a commentary on his wife's obsession with Barack Obama, which quickly overtook her other obsession: bicycling. So, Barack Obama is Your New Bicycle: 366 Ways He Really Cares (Gotham, 192 pages, $12) has become a calling out of many Americans' love affair with the young, charismatic candidate from Illinois.


Honan first started a Web site that flashes random phrases explaining Obamamania and it took off in popularity -- enough for him to put it in booklet form. Here are some of my favorites:

Barack Obama listed you as his emergency contact.
Barack Obama ...
...picked up the spare on league night.
...covered for you when you were late for a meeting.
...showed you how to tie a full Windsor.
...made you a mixtape.
...changed out the kitty litter for you.
...held your hair when you were sick.
...climbed Kilimanjaro and wrote your name in the logbook.
...shelled an enormous bagful of peas for your picnic.
....counted all your pennies and rolled them up in paper.
...sucked all the poison out of your snake bite.

About this Archive

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

October 2008 is the previous archive.

December 2008 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.