Sunday Links, February 17, 2013

The Buzzard TableThe nominees for the Agatha Award have been announced. These awards are given to mysteries known as “cozies”; there is no explicit sex or violence, and sometimes there isn’t even a murder. Think Agatha Christie (for whom the awards are named) or, if you’d like a contemporary writer, Margaret Maron (whose The Buzzard Table is nominated for best novel).

Did you know that the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling was rejected by publisher after publisher until one smart editor finally had his child read the book? When that child came to her father wanting more, the sale was a done deal. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone isn’t the only book publishers repeatedly rejected, as this Cracked article makes clear. It’s a nice lesson about how fundamentally we can disagree about what makes a book “good.” Or at least about what will sell.

godel escher bachI aspire to read more nonfiction, even though the piles of novels always look more enticing to me when it’s time to choose a new book. These 22 science books as exciting as genre fiction would be a good place to start, wouldn’t they? I’ve been wanting to read Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid for years now, and it has been waiting patiently on my shelf for a good 20 years. (I just picked it up, paged through its browning and fragile pages, and put it back on the shelf. Maybe next year.)

Here’s something that’s more likely to get my eye tracks on it: foodie fiction. The Dinner by Herman Koch sounds especially delicious. I can vouch for The Epicure’s Lament by Kate Christensen; it’s sublime.

How do you figure out what to read next? That’s never a problem for me; I already own more books than I can possibly read in this lifetime, and have a huge long list of other books that I’d like to get my hands on as well. I’ve never understood people who have difficulty finding their next book. But apparently it’s a considerable problem for some people, and the Internet has come to their rescue. Apparently recommendation search engines are all the rage, whether it’s at GoodReads or Amazon. I just joined GoodReads yesterday; I have a feeling my “to be read” piles and lists are going to grow.

magicians-coverLev Grossman’s The Magicians was touted as “a Harry Potter for grown-ups,” and I enjoyed it greatly. Grossman followed up with The Magician King, which I haven’t gotten to yet, but which was also something of a surprise success. Someday we’ll also have The Magician’s Land, which Grossman tells a little about in this Omnivoracious interview. Sounds good!

British writer Terry Deary says libraries have had their day, and should now be phased out. As one who visits her public library weekly, I couldn’t disagree more. Nor could the crowds who are always gathered there, so far as I can tell. Public libraries were critical to my developing as a constant reader when I was a child; riding my bike to the library was one of my favorite activities when I was 10 to 12 years old or thereabouts. Read Deary’s reasoning and see if you agree.

Ursual LeGuinIf you’re in or around Berkeley, California, on Tuesday, February 26, you might want to check out this event featuring Ursula K. LeGuin. The first critical paper I ever wrote about fantasy was on LeGuin’s first Earthsea trilogy, so I’m trying to persuade my husband that we need to get to Berkeley next week. Alas, it seems unlikely, but it sure would be a lovely way to spend an evening. Leguin is one of the true visionaries of our time, and one of our best writers.

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