The Books 2014 Forgot

It is my constant lament that great books go unread while trite, unimaginative and poorly-written pablum rockets to the top of the charts. It is even worse when those bestsellers are scientifically illiterate and lack any basis in reality or common sense (see The Real Meal Revolution) or lacking any foundation in fact or originality (anything by Malcolm Gladwell) or just the same old crime thrillers by the same old names, with the same grizzled detectives solving superficially interesting crimes (like half of the NYT bestseller list).

Some of the books I’ve mentioned below did well overseas but not in South Africa, and that kills me because some of these are local and deserve better. And in my constant, never-ending and admittedly ill-fated mission to promote excellent (and sometimes slightly inaccessible) books, I would like to promote some books that everyone should read or buy as gifts for people like me who are difficult to please. Where possible, I have added links and reviews.

Onwards!

71QTSFmYk6L._SL1500_The Three by Sarah Lotz

Read my full review

Elevator pitch: Four planes drop out of the sky at the exact same moment. Three children survive. The world freaked out in 2014 when MH370 went down – imagine 4 planes, at once, across the world. A tightly-written, utterly compelling thriller of the highest order anointed by the High Writer of Horror Stephen King.

Sold at a massive auction off a manuscript fragment, this locally-authored book did spectacularly overseas, but I was saddened by poor local support.

10352275_637546756336934_2894595274120220687_nBroken Monsters by Lauren Beukes 

Read my review here

Elevator pitch: Detroit, rotting corpse of America’s dreams, is being stalked by an imaginative and terrifying serial killer. This is not your bookclub’s crime thriller: it is a superb mix of every genre, with literally dozens of ideas bursting off every page.

Also locally authored, with excellent international support but not enough local readership. Can we all get over our cultural cringe, please? Also anointed by the Dark Lord Stephen King.

books24f-2-webThe Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

My review here

Elevator pitch: A young girl is married off to a rich merchant in Amsterdam. The marriage is strained from the beginning, and he attempts to appease her with a cabinet containing a miniature version of their household. But when the cupboard’s contents start to predict household events, all that is hidden is forcibly revealed.

I loved this for its immense historical detail, crisply and deeply detailed characters and lyrical prose, as well as its gorgeous setting.

Awards: Waterstones Book of the Year 2014

9781594633171_custom-72d13cb6685ce632b975840ffc997395a0f5e4e7-s6-c30In Paradise by Peter Matthiessen

Review by the Washington Post
Review by The Guardian

Elevator pitch: It is 1996, and strangers gravitate to Auschwitz, sleeping in the guard’s quarters, meditating in the snow and listening to apologies from clergy and congregation. They attempt to make sense of the madness, but can anybody? A lyrical take on survivor’s guilt, religious guilt and Holocaust voyeurism.

It is a shortish little book, but it is weighty and challenges the  facile idea of closure and healing around such a cataclysmically monstrous event.

DW_full coverDark Windows by Louis Greenberg

Review by the Mail and Guardian

Elevator pitch: What if Joburg suddenly knew peace and harmony? When a New Age government takes control, a wave of calm sweeps through the country. But the Transformation is not complete, and requires the blacking out of windows in rooms where violent acts have taken place. Why?

A quick-thinking, provocative piece on Joburg, the legitimacy of hippie thinking and the causes and costs of violence. The ending alone is worth the read.

Gordon Torr -  Kill Yourself & Count to 10 HRKill Yourself and Count to 10 by Gordon Torr

My Sunday Times review here

Elevator pitch: What happened to all the soldiers who didn’t suit the Calvinist apartheid government? They were sent to Greefswald, a camp for the broken toys of the sociopathic Dr Levine. A rage-inducing, haunting look at a hidden and shameful chapter in South African history.

This is a tremendously difficult read at times due to the weight of its history and suffering, but it should really be taught in schools.

the-collected-works-of-a-j-fikryThe Collected Works of AJ Fikry

My review here

Elevator pitch: This is a bookseller’s book, a tribute to the life and times of a little bookstore and its owner, and the girl he finds abandoned in it. It is a wonderful, quirky read and a love song to literature.

I especially loved the reading list suggestions by Mr AJ Fikry himself, broad and fascinating and uploading.

Traditional versus Self-Publishing

Let it be said that the current publishing model, as a whole, doesn’t work perfectly. Great writers don’t make it, mediocre ones do, and the idea of nurturing an author into a bestseller is a part of the past. With eBooks, agency pricing and antitrust cases and debacles around author rights, the system is far from perfect. On some days, it barely functions. As a bookseller I am on the receiving end of a number of publisher fuck-ups, whether it is non-existent stock or ridiculous price-fixing or jacket treatment so abysmal that no one will pick up the book. (A notable example is the impending awful re-jacketing of the incredible Song of Achilles). As a reader, I am appalled at the number of spelling errors and formatting issues that are in final, proper copies.

But there’s still a great deal to be said for the publishing industry’s worth. It is a system of checks and balances, where there are proofreaders and graphic designers, editors and marketers. This is the machine that an author gets access to when a publishing house selects their work. Granted, the machine works better for the AAA authors, but once upon a time they all were bottom-list authors, the ones that the book reps advise booksellers to take 5 of. Very few get massive coverage and support from day one. The only example I can think of from last year was Erin Morgenstern and The Night Circus. It paid off: it was one of the very few books to enjoy a number one slot longer than 7 weeks on the 2011 bestseller list. It still sells well through word of mouth.

But it is hard to get published. Its nearly a full-time job in and of itself. It is very much like a job: compile a CV (the book itself, because outside of non-fiction no one will accept anything less than a full manuscript) and write a cover letter. Research all the publishing houses to find the right person and the right imprint. Then send those cover letters according to the specification of the website. (If they will even accept an unsolicited manuscript or directly from the author and not an agent.)

Each publisher will want a different set of things. Some will want a blurb and first 3 chapters. Some will want the whole manuscript, a blurb, a synopsis and any other qualifications one may have. Then there’s the usual three to six month wait for an answer, if one comes at all. Mostly, it doesn’t. Mostly, the work will sit on a slush pile amongst thousands of other manuscripts. Or it will get rejected immediately because the formatting is wrong, or they aren’t looking for any new authors or the cover letter was terrible.

Getting published is hard, and a lot of work for anyone who doesn’t have an agent or a contact inside a publishing house. Sure, lots of people get published every year. This year, 342,975 books have been published so far. It sounds like a lot, but there are 7 billion people on the planet. A little rudimentary maths tells us that is about one book per 20,490 people. Then consider how many of those might be from more than one person. There some authors that produce hundreds of books in their lifetimes. Patterson currently publishes two titles a month, for example. 24 books a year is no mean achievement. Compare that to the prolific Corín Tellado, who published more than 4000 novels and novellas in 63 years.  That’s roughly 62 works a year. (Which should make us all feel incredibly lazy.)

Given that, self-publishing starts looking easier. There’s no mean editor to say “this isn’t good enough. Rewrite it.” There’s no one stopping the aspirant author from getting a book out there. There are vultures that will help them do it. Vanity presses abound, and sites like Createspace make that author dream come true. And I suppose that, if the intentions are pure, then that should be enough. The book exists, friends and family and unfortunate denizens of the social media continent can be led to it by bribed bloggers and aggressive tweeting. Mission accomplished, said George Bush, and now we can all go home.

But after the work it takes to produce a novel, some money would be nice. Prestige would be too. And this is where the gates of self-published hell open and consume the will to live of the poor sod that thought it was worth a try. Sure, anyone can give it a try. Look at Amanda Hocking. Look at EL Grey. And…that’s about it, really. Yes, there is the select club of rich self-published authors, but there are maybe a handful of them. The way I see it, if one is willing to put in the nearly back-breaking work required to produce a top-notch manuscript, then why not put in a little more and get the support of a publisher? Sure, great content will produce its own fans by itself, but the self-published have to be their own publicists and life is busy enough without the pain of cultivating a substantial online presence. As it is, most publishers won’t consider an author who doesn’t already have a website and a Twitter following. Establishing that, as outlined by this interesting BubbleCow article, is relatively time-consuming. An aspiring author, published or self-published, will have to develop this web presence to start, but the self-published author will have to work much, much harder to sell books that way. Also, consider that there is no advance for the self-published author. An advance may not always be much but it is something solid.

All in all, both are tough, but I still would rather polish a manuscript until its good enough to be accepted by one of the Big Six than try flog my work in the giant trough of shit that is the Internet. I would rather have the help of experienced people at 7% of the book’s profits than strike out on my own for a tiny chance to make 70% off my novel.

V for Vendetta Retrospective

As the world watches the growth of the Occupy movement and its often attendant V-masked protestors, it is a good time to look at and discuss the V for Vendetta graphic novel, and whether it is still relevant nearly thirty years after its publication. (There’s a fascinating article here in which David Lloyd discusses the meaning of the mask in further detail.)

In short, V, the eponymous character, sets out to cripple and destroy the government of his day. Voted in by a terrified public after a nuclear war, the fascist Norsefire runs the country in an ongoing battle against anyone who isn’t white, heterosexual, Christian and obedient to the invasive machine. With the Eye, Ear, Mouth, Nose and Finger working as branches of the government in the constant surveliiance and abuse of the citizens, V begins his vendetta against the people who started this terrible regime. Along the way he rescues Evey, and she becomes complicit in his work. An orphan who has been battered by the regime, she becomes more than just V’s stray; she becomes instrumental.

I consider V for Vendetta to be a triumph of the potential of the graphic novel to convey themes and ideas as complex as any novel. I read it at least once a month, and each time I find something new or horribly relevant to today. Whether its priests who survey the death camps or the protestors being gunned down, the novel continues to resonate through to today. As discussed by the Guardian,

But even so, there’s no doubt that the evils of the British Tory party and Thatcherism were preying on Moore’s and Lloyd’s minds when they created the book – as they’ve both often confirmed in interviews. Here is Moore in conversation with a comic fan around the time of the release of the V for Vendetta film: “They were talking less about annihilating whichever minority they happened to find disfavour with and more about free market forces and market choice and all of these other kind of glib terms, which tended to have the same results as an awful lot of the kind of fascist causes back in the 1930s, but with a bit more spin put upon them. The friendly face of fascism.”

No doubt, V for Vendetta is compulsory reading for anyone who has ever felt disillusioned by government or pushed around by propaganda. Its more than just a call to action; it is the exploration of freedom, of choice and personal growth.

I don’t think the movie nearly approaches the level of meaning the graphic novel does; Evey’s choices and growth are very poorly handled in the movie and the ending is changed for the worse. Alan Moore has tried to distance himself from movies made out of his projects and added in another interview that he would spit venom all over the Watchmen movie when it was released. If one looks at the Watchmen and V for Vendetta movies as plain action flicks, then they deliver well. Its not the worst way to pass two or so hours (I suspect that Sex and the City 2 might be). But for those who love the novels, its very much like seeing a delicious cake, handcrafted lovingly by one’s mom, being enthusiastically stomped on by a schoolyard bully. I found this especially true with Watchmen, which was a brilliantly complex and difficult novel. The movie was just so…tawdry. Even though the actors looked exactly like their characters (which is fairly impressive), the only one who even approached the complexity of their character was Rorschach, as played by Jackie Earle Haley.

But a poor adaptation of a book is much more common than a good one, alas. (Fight Club, Sherlock and all the Roald Dahl books being exceptions to this rule.) It is especially bound to happen when trying to capture the complexity of works done by the inimitable Alan Moore. V for Vendetta has four major interlocking stories (V, Evey, Detective Finch, Creedy) as well as minor characters with substansial side stories. All of them come together in the graphic novel and each influences the other. The movie, on the other hand, was noisy and bombastic and mostly missed the point. Perhaps the Wachowski brothers felt that their work of torturing movie goers was not yet complete with the abortive failure of The Matrix Movies That Dare Not Speak Their Names. So they punished V instead.

Still. Hugo Weaving made an excellent V, which is the most redemptive thing about that film. If an audio book was an option, then he would be my first choice.

Amazon.com is eating up the book world

As someone who works between the publisher, author and reader, articles like this bode poorly for my industry. The article discusses how Amazon is directly snapping up authors instead of sourcing their books from the publishers, and how this might affect the publishing industry.

It has set up a flagship line run by a publishing veteran, Laurence Kirshbaum, to bring out brand-name fiction and nonfiction. It signed its first deal with the self-help author Tim Ferriss. Last week it announced a memoir by the actress and director Penny Marshall, for which it paid $800,000, a person with direct knowledge of the deal said.

Publishers say Amazon is aggressively wooing some of their top authors. And the company is gnawing away at the services that publishers, critics and agents used to provide.

So what does this mean for booksellers? For authors? For publishers? It means a hundred things, but the most important thing is that the book industry is going to fundamentally change, and soon. Once upon a time, eBooks and eReaders were slated to be the biggest white elephants in technology. Now their sales are booming (Kindle sales are estimated at 3 million units) and last year it was estimated that Americans alone spent $440 million dollars on eBooks. This sounds like great news for publishers and authors, and it is. People are reading more than ever before and across more genres. Once upon a time fantasy and science fiction were the red-headed stepchildren of the publishing industry, and now we’re seeing massive interest thanks to shows like Game of Thrones, miniseries like Colour of Magic and movies like I, Robot. Young adults are reading like crackmonkeys and the word in the industry is that there’s money to be made in writing for them. Readers enjoy instant and sexy novels and there’s always online shopping for those who don’t want or have an eReader.

Rosy thus far, but the last year has seen the closure of entire book chains, such as the 400 Borders stores that closed this year. 22 independent books stores are on sale in the UK, including the famous store in the Notting Hill movie. And as many of my friends delight in telling me, why wait for a book when they can get it immediately on a Kindle? There’s always the complaint that new books are expensive, but if one considers that the price of printing books has doubled, that the books have to be shipped here, the publishers paid and the rent of the store settled, its no surprise that bookstores are feeling the weight of import duties and exchange rates. We buy books in dollars and pounds, and you can imagine how hard it is on the booksellers when the Rand is down. With theft being endemic and many stores losing money through endless shoplifting and book piracy, it is a damned hard industry to stay afloat. I think one of the saving graces for us is that people over 30 tend to buy proper hardcopies. I know I prefer a real, delicious book but I know not everyone doesn’t.

And now with Amazon taking on authors directly, there are two things that I think will happen. Publishers, in an effort to recoup losses caused by defecting authors, are going to increase the price of books. This will directly affect the booksellers and make it even harder to sell books. So more people will turn to Amazon, who can buy in absolutely ridiculous bulk and command the best prices.

I do believe that Amazon has a phenomenal business model, and one has to admire them for it. They see a hole in the market and they fill it with melted Kindle goodness. And for authors, this may be the best news in the world. With publishers too scared to take on any title that may be a little controversial or too highbrow to do well, Amazon might be the best bet for a fledgling author. If they don’t require agent representation, then that’s another foot in the door. Sure, they’ll probably have slush pile ten feet high, but at least they have the kind of money to hire a fleet of editors and agents. Publishers don’t have that option anymore.

I can’t pretend to know what will happen in a year or five’s time, but I do have this awful feeling that Amazon is chewing up and spitting out all of its competitors in the Western world. With South Africa being a little behind in terms of bandwidth and wireless availability, the bookstores have managed to keep ahead. But with incomes shrinking there will definitely be less money for shiny new books. And if there’s a massive company that will send a cheaper eBook to you immediately, then why go to a bookstore?

The future might lie in bespoke bookstores, or in appealing to the idea of personal interaction with books and booksellers. But for now, all we can do is watch, and like the executives say at Amazon, to not be so hyped on demise.

Amazon executives, interviewed at the company’s headquarters here, declined to say how many editors the company employed, or how many books it had under contract. But they played down Amazon’s power and said publishers were in love with their own demise.

“It’s always the end of the world,” said Russell Grandinetti, one of Amazon’s top executives. “You could set your watch on it arriving.

EDIT: Today The Daily Maverick released this fascinating article that further explores the price structure Amazon is offering authors and more specifically where they will beat out publishers.  In essence, I think Kevin Bloom has nailed the potential upshots and downfalls of this situation quite nicely:

The contract was cancelled and Davenport was forced to pay back the $20,000 advance. She took it philosophically, stating that Cannibal Nights was some of her best writing, and that she had Amazon to thank for finally presenting it to the world. “Sleeping with the enemy?” she wondered. “Perhaps. But now I know who the enemy is.” It was a line read by thousands, as evidenced by the 159 comments under the blog, many from writers railing against the well-known bully tactics of the Big Six.

Which is where the upside to the current turmoil can possibly be found. If Amazon can act as a ballast to the dominant publishers without putting them out of business, if it can break the oligopoly and force better terms for writers as an industry standard, the good guys win.

If, on the other hand, Amazon guts traditional publishing until it’s the last player standing, only Jeff Bezos wins.

For further reading, please visit The Publisher’s Weekly article All Eyes on Amazon Publishing and the Davenport Dialogue blogpost directly dealing with her experience with Penguin.

Sorry, straights only

Unfortunately, we often forget that the publishing industry is as much a gatekeeper as it is a place of rebellion. It can be both, but it is sad when it is the former.

Two authors wrote about their book being rejected because they would not change a gay character into a straight one. Mail and Guardian reported on it further, noting that it isn’t an isolated case and that the publishing industry doesn’t see YA with gay elements being publishable. While there are books being published with gay characters at the centre and doing well (Song of Achilles being a case in point), there are no YA books that approach this issue. With gay teens already so maligned by their schools and communities in a very straight, religious world, there should be books that have gay characters in them so that they have something to relate to.

I cannot pretend to understand the persecution so many gay teenagers must undergo at some point in their lives. Society is generally heteronormative and Christian, and sometimes that means that there is aggressive legislation against gay rights in some countries. (For further info, please read Adrienne Rich’s “Compulsory Heterosexuality” to really get the meaning of that term.) In the States it is not new news that gay students are often denied the opportunity to form support groups. Now they don’t have the choice of literature starring gay heroes. Just as women still have to sit through movies where the heroine ends up being saved by a guy at the end anyway, gay readers don’t get to see a character that isn’t hetronormative, white and typical.

I am glad that there is some author backlash against these decisions. I just hope that the appearances of gay characters doesn’t become token. Look at JK Rowling and her post-publishing announcement that Dumbledore was gay. Never mentioned in the books because it might hurt sales, but its safe now that the books have been published. It reeks of tokenism because let’s be honest, all the heroes are white and straight. It’s a bit late to throw in a gay character once the money is banked. I know it started as a children’s series but it most certainly became too dark for that around the fourth book. So why not announce then that there was a gay headmaster who was powerful, intelligent and kind? The religious groups were upset anyway, so that wasn’t a factor. Is it just such anathema to have a gay character anywhere? In any case, I am glad that the announcement was at least made, and for as long as Harry Potter stays in the public domain, Dumbledore will be gay. (And in a sidenote to the above article, I am proud of the kids who were excited about it. Pity about the sanctimonious Christian mother, but she’s only one person and the fans are truly legion.)

Albus Dumbledore

The obvious answer is to write and publish more gay-themed YA books, but it should always be done tastefully. How to do that is a discussion for another day, but it is also the place of authors to be the vanguards in shifting perceptions and trends. We don’t have to, but we should when we can. After all, being able to write well is a gift, one that should never be used to further the status quo when it is already so unfair. Besides, it would be a great challenge to write a gay character that isn’t an awful stereotype.

Forbes Top Ten Authors and the South African Top Ten

It is a slightly old article, but the results of the Forbes Top Ten authors list is as interesting as the authors are (in my opinion) mostly mainstream. The list taken from this page includes a surprising number of authors who write for children or YA markets.

The list encourages one to draw the following conclusions about the book market:

  • Kids are reading more and more than ever before, especially if authors like Kinney are writing exclusively for young kids and others are branching out into the younger readers market. The first article mentions the advantages tech-savvy authors have when they tap into the massive eBook market. I wish I could remember where I read it, but the YA market is possibly the fastest-growing market. It makes sense to write for it. And judging by the books that I see in the subs with the book reps, there is a desperate need for someone to write better YA that doesn’t involve emo vampires or sad fallen angels or hairball-hacking werewolves. Or mermaids. (Why mermaids? That is a question that speaks to some very deep-seated issues.)
  • Writing crime pays, apparently. Judging by the high earnings of Patterson, Evanovich and Steel, writing about or involving crime in one’s books seems to be successful. However it is a highly saturated market with far too many authors competing for one of the most unforgiving markets. Crime readers tend to follow one author just because the selection is so overwhelming. If anyone wants to break into the book market, crime and romance are definitely the hardest to crack. Fantasy and sci-fi readers are much more likely to pick up new authors.
  • Writing for women is more likely to pay off (Steel, Evanovich, Sparks and Meyer are prime examples) and it has long been established in the publishing industry that men don’t read, or at least not enough to matter. (An unfortunate conclusion but that’s how the numbers roll.) Now that I have been meeting with reps for about six months, I have been able to piece together a great deal about the industry. Women do read a great deal more and across more genres, and while I don’t doubt that men read, they don’t read enough to dictate to many markets. From what I gather, non-fiction tends to be more unisex but there is a growing trend in what is unofficially called ‘dick-lit’. Its chick-lit with a male protagonist who too is unfulfilled and seeking love. It sounds a lot rougher than it really is.
  • Mainstream works. None of the authors on the list are particularly challenging or even controversial. Meyer with her necrophilia and bestiality is so bodice-ripper and hetronormative to be puke-inducing, so that puts her firmly in the heart of the mainstream.

I understand that reading is always going to be escapist and simple for 98% of the world’s literate people. That’s why none of these authors write anything that is particularly stimulating. And I can respect that most people are not interested in reading challenging and mind-rearranging material that inspires debate and anger. The list is interesting for many reasons, but mostly for me because it serves as a handy shorthand for what people want to read more than what booksellers want to sell. If I had a book store I know it would be very much like Black Books, with really interesting but badly selling titles. This is why I have a blog and not a book store.

The most important thing to take away from this is that people are still reading, and while a large part of me wishes they were reading more interesting things I’m just glad that kids are still loving books and that people haven’t given up books for reality TV.

While I’m on the topic of top ten lists, it is always interesting to get the Top 50 books sold here at Exclusive Books. While I cannot share numbers with you, I can share the top sellers, and it fascinates me that the local top 10 this week is 90% South African non-fiction. This may change when all the big international Christmas titles come out (Night Circus, Language of Flowers and the Freddie Mercury biography, for example) but for now it is good to see South Africans supporting South African literature, especially non-fiction.

 

 

 

 

For the love of the (e)Book

An interesting article on the potential change that eBooks will bring to reading:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/aug/14/kindle-books

I truly enjoy digital reading. If one is to be fussy about the format of the book, then that is to be selective about reading altogether. I am currently working my way through all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, of which there are 48 short stories and four novels. I am about two-thirds through, and dreading running out until House of Silk, Anthony Horowitz’s authorised contribution to the canon.

I am reading it my iPad 1, and I love that I can read it in any light, under the covers and on my side without having to hold the pages open. I can annotate passages, highlight them and call up a dictionary on the odd occassion. While it is an occasionally distracting medium with the errant hand movement flicking the page, the pages move as quickly as they would if they were paper.

But at the end of the day, I am still reading. There are the hundreds of thousands of Gutenberg press titles, as well as the hundreds of thousands of books that will not be converted or published as eBooks. What many publishers see in eBooks is less money on printing and more for marketing. Yes they can be pirated, but haven’t we all got a loaned book that the owner has forgotten to reclaim? With eBooks there is far less risk in publishing new authors, and a little more of the profit can go to the author. A new author currently earns about 3% on the book price, depending on the publishing house. Of course there are titles like The Language of Flowers, which the subject of a nine-publisher bid. But most authors have to have day jobs, and it is only the super stars that can live off their writing.

eBooks may also be the best chance we have of mass-distributing academic texts that are expensive and often hard on student and school budgets. One day eReaders will be cheap, and children will have access to thousands more books, both fiction and non-fiction. Isn’t this a wonderful thing?

Of course I love paper books; that much will not change. And many places in the world don’t even have stable electricity or food, never mind eReaders. For them, a paper book will still be precious. Perhaps, when the rich West gets tired of paper books, we should give them all away to anyone who wants them. Language barriers aside, it would be a fine use for all those books that have been replaced by their coded friends.

Bring on the eBook, I say, but let’s never forget the joy of a fresh book or the comfort of our most dog-eared friends.

Delicious Books, and the Reading Thereof

In the land of books the reader is king, or so it is said.

I know there are hundreds of blogs out there about books, whether it is writing or reading them. But I have begun this blog alongside my other because I feel that there are hundreds of books that deserve recognition, and many which deserve as much rotten tomatoes hurled at them as I can fit into my small, plucky car.

No book should be burnt because that is ugly and a terrible use of fire, but I am a firm believer in book money not being wasted on disappointing books. With the economic climate being what it is, no one should have to give up books. It is my firm belief that there should always be money for books, and that it should never be wasted on boring, cliched or offensive books.

To clarify, I don’t consider books containing scenes of violence or sex etc inherently offensive. But pornographic levels of either, or blatant misogyny, racism or homophobia will definitely put a book in the bigot bin.

Ultimately, I love reading, and I love discussing books. Books have been my friends for as long as I can remember, and are as much a part of my life as to be sorely missed when they’re not around. I currently work in the book trade as a content writer, having studied English literature up to Honours Level. I will also be doing my Masters next year, so there will be some academic titles appearing on this list over time.

I hope you will enjoy your stay here, and I look forward to receiving your feedback on your favourite titles. If you think I am wrong, I’m happy to listen to your comments and maybe reeavulate my view. I don’t often shift on a book, but often a second or third read makes it more rewarding. (I experienced this with Jane Eyre and Nervous Conditions.)

Welcome to the Ruthless Book List, and I look forward to sharing my reading experiences with you.