Mar 13, 2013
Michael and I are just back from our sales conference, where we heard about new books that will be published in the late summer and fall. Guys, there are so many great books coming out! We challenged each other to choose just one book to tease you with. I hope you don't mind...
Michael talks about the new book from Marihsa Pessl, who you may know from her previous novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Pessl's new novel is called Night Film. The main character is a disgraced investigative journalist who is drawn into reinvestigating the story of a famously-reclusive film director. Night Film will be published on August 20, 2013.
I haven't been able to stop talking about Alex by Pierre Lemaitre, which will be published by Quercus/Maclehose Press, an independent publisher in the UK that is launching a US office. Alex will be one of their first titles to be published here. If you are a fan of Stieg Larsson, you are in for a real treat. And if you found Larsson to be a bit slow going at the start, you will not have that problem with Alex. When we meet Alex, she is being kidnapped, but from there the book takes a turn like no thriller I've ever read. It is out now in the UK, and will be out in September here in the US.
VIDA, an organization for women in the literary arts, has released its third annual report on gender bias in several major publications. They looked at the number of books authored by men and women, the number of male and female book reviewers, and the number of bylines (published articles). According to the report, in the general media there appear to be more reviews of books written by men, and there appears to be more male book reviewers. But if you listen to the discussion that Michael and I have on the podcast, it's really more complicated. We speculate about some of the reasons that may be behind this perceived bias, and while we don't come up with an answer, I think we had a great time discussing.
One book that I think could be relevant to this discussion, Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, talks about how sometimes women don't put themselves forward. One of the questions I have in relation to this VIDA discussion is how many books are published by women each year? How many are submitted? Does the bias begin at that level, rather than at the reviewer level?.
I thought it only fair to look at our numbers here at Books on the Nightstand. We never discuss if the books we feature are written by male and female, so if there is a bias, it is an unconscious bias. I did a non-scientific count of the final 6 months of 2012 -- I did a manual count, and I counted every book listed in our index whether it was a book we talked about or whether it was recommended by a listener call-in. Our numbers: we talked about 135 books written by men (54%), and 114 written by women (46%). I'm sure there is a substantial margin of error, but Michael and I feel pretty comfortable with them. Michael also points to the most popular books on Goodreads in 2012, most of which were written by women. But, the fact that book-related social media is used primarily by women, means that those numbers are skewed too.
I can't describe how much I love The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore. It's the story of three women in Indiana who in the 1960s were dubbed "The Supremes" by Earl, the owner of the diner where the three hang out. We meet them forty years later when they are gathered in celebration of Earl's life after he passes away. Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean, along with Odette's mother Dora, are characters that you won't want to leave, and that you won't forget after the book has ended. This is a feel-good book that just made me happy. Check it out.
Michael takes on a nonfiction book this week: Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss. Michael (our Michael, not the author) compares it to Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, because the inconvenient truth is that heavily processed convenience food is not healthy. While many already know this on an intellectual level, this book goes into great detail about the lengths that the major food corporations use salt, sugar and fat to make us crave and buy more. This is not a dry, statistics-heavy book; it's entertaining, filled with stories of people who once worked within the food corporations, and it's incredibly readable. This book made Michael angry and it may want you want to take action.