Best Books for Book Clubs in 2021

It's been a challenging year on a number of levels and we hope you've managed to keep your book club going strong as we all rethink and rework the way we live our daily lives. The end of the year is a great time to take stock of your book group and make plans for the future. In this roundup, we recommend a dozen books for your book group in 2021, all of which are newly released in paperback or will be available in paperback soon. The list features books by award-winning and tremendously popular authors like Elizabeth Strout's Olive, Again and Ann Patchett's The Dutch House, along with some debut novels such as The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner. We also have two young adult recommendations, two mysteries and a good splash of... [More]

The Best of Culture Corner

For almost six months, we've posted a weekly "Culture Corner" blog sharing cultural experiences you can access from home during the pandemic--such as online concerts, theater and art. This has been great fun, actually almost too much fun, I've spent way too much time going down internet rabbit holes researching what to recommend! Although clearly the pandemic is still very much with us, I'm drawing the weekly posts to a close for now as we're getting close to the end of the year and will have a number of "best of year" posts to share. Plus, in a few weeks we'll be releasing the findings from our October 2020 "Book Clubs in Lockdown" survey. We're working hard to get this finished so we can share it wit... [More]

Culture Corner: The Early Days of Photography

An extraordinarily moving photo essay in the Guardian based on pictures from Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love from 1850s-1950s got me thinking about this week's "Culture Corner" topic which focuses on the early days of photography. Photography as we know it began in the 1820s when French inventor Nicéphore Niépce created a light sensitive surface that could record a permanent image (albeit a poor quality one) in a process that was more akin to a photocopy than a photograph. A few years later, he and Louis Daguerre collaborated on a process that led to the first publicly available photographic process using mercury vapor to set a permanent image on a sheet of silver-plated copper. Henry Fox Talbot invented his ... [More]

20th Century American Playwrights

Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Miller and Tennessee WilliamsEach week in "Culture Corner" we're sharing cultural experiences you can access from home during the pandemic, such as online concerts, theater and art. This week we look at three of the most respected American playwrights of the 20th century: Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill: [More]

Effective Ways to Encourage Quiet Book Club Members to Speak Up

Book clubs can be such a wonderful space for people to share their ideas; diverse viewpoints can lead to deeper and more valuable discussions that help us grow, both as individuals and as a society.  But what do you do when people don't speak up? How do you encourage quiet members to contribute? According to BookBrowse's research report, The Inner Lives of Book Clubs, 16% of people currently in a book club say their group has one or more members who rarely participate in the discussions. In most cases, the respondents express sadness and frustration saying that they would like to hear from these quieter members because their opinions and experiences are of value. After all, it's the active participation and communication of ideas ... [More]

Jan Morris, historian, travel writer and trans pioneer, dies aged 94

Jan Morris, the historian and travel writer who evoked time and place with the flair of a novelist, has died aged 94.

As a journalist Morris broke monumental news, including Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's ascent of Everest, and the French involvement in the Israeli attack on Egypt in the Suez war. As a bestselling author of more than 30 books, she was equally lauded for histories including Pax Britannica, her monumental account of the British Empire, and for her colourful accounts of places from Venice to Oxford, Hong Kong to Trieste. But she was also well-known as a transgender pioneer, with Conundrum, her account of the journey from man to woman, an international sensation when it was published in 1974.

Douglas Stuart's debut novel Shuggie Bain wins Booker Prize

Scottish-American author Douglas Stuart has won the Booker prize for his first novel, Shuggie Bain, a story based on his own life that follows a boy growing up in poverty in 1980s Glasgow with a mother who is battling addiction.

Dan Rather is this year's Indies First spokesperson

Author, journalist and former national evening news anchor Dan Rather is this year's official Indies First spokesperson, the American Booksellers Association announced, noting: "In recent weeks, legendary news anchor Rather has been promoting independent bookstores via his Twitter account. In a range of social media assets and accompanying text created to promote Indies First, Rather encourages everyone to visit their local indie bookstores on November 28 in honor of Indies First/Small Business Saturday. Rather will be tweeting in the days leading up to the celebration as well as throughout the day on Small Business Saturday."

First-day sales of A Promised Land Set Penguin Random House record

Sales of A Promised Land (Crown), the first volume of Barack Obama's presidential memoirs, totaled more than 887,000 in the U.S. and Canada in all formats on Tuesday, November 17, the book's pub date. Penguin Random House said these sales, including preorders, "represent the largest first-day sales total for any book ever published by Penguin Random House."

National Book Awards announced

The National Book Awards have been announced. See them all at BookBrowse.

Bookstore sales dropped 28% in September

Bookstore sales fell 27.7% in September, dropping to $609 million from $842 million a year ago. For the first nine months of 2020, sales were down 31% compared to 2019.

Barack Obama's 'Promised Land' playlist

To celebrate today's release of his new book, Barack Obama shared his A Promised Land playlist, saying: "Music has always played an important role throughout my life--and that was especially true during my presidency.

News Corp., and Penguin Random House leading bidders for Simon & Schuster

News Corp. (which owns HarperCollins) and Penguin Random House are the leading bidders for Simon & Schuster, according to the New York Times, which cited "three people familiar with the process." S&S was put up for sale in March by ViacomCBS, which characterized the publisher as "not a core asset."

At least one bid is for more than $1.7 billion--above ViacomCBS's minimum, which in March was estimated to be $1.2 billion. The Times wrote that "several financial firms" have dropped out of the bidding, and that final bids are due before Thanksgiving. A sale could be announced soon thereafter or "a deal may not materialize."

Lockdown named word of the year by Collins Dictionary

Lockdown, the noun that has come to define so many lives across the world in 2020, has been named word of the year by Collins Dictionary with a 6000% increase in usage compared to 2019.

Other pandemic-related words such as coronavirus, social distancing, self-isolate and furlough were on the dictionary's list of the top 10 words. The abbreviation BLM, for Black Lives Matter, also made the shortlist.

Mary Wollstonecraft honored with controversial statue after 200 years

A Sculpture of Mary Wollstonecraft has been made by one of Britain's most important and sometimes controversial artists, Maggi Hambling (and the statue has already raised considerable controversy.) The unveiling on Tuesday follows 10 years of trying to raise the £143,000 required to achieve it. The campaign was launched in 2010 by volunteers keen to have Wollstonecraft's legacy remembered close to where she lived and worked, setting up a girl's boarding school in Newington Green, aged 25.

Wollstonecraft was an important philosopher and educationalist best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, published in 1792. But her reputation was "annihilated" by misogyny, said writer Bee Rowlatt, who led the campaign. The suffragist Millicent Fawcett helped restore Wollstonecraft's reputation, a century after her death in 1797 aged just 38, shortly after giving birth to her daughter Mary – the novelist Mary Shelley.