Polpo is Waterstones Book of the Year

30.11.12 | Lisa Campbell - The Bookseller

A “beautifully designed” debut cookery book by London restaurateur Russell Norman has been announced as the Waterstones Book of the Year.
Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook (Of Sorts), published by Bloomsbury, was revealed as the winner of the inaugural Book of The Year at an event in Waterstones’ newly refurbished Kings Road store in London this evening (29th November).

Norman was presented with a case of champagne and will be granted “full backing” of his book from Waterstones staff in the month leading up to Christmas.

James Daunt, managing director of the chain bookseller, said that the winner represented a “wonderful” physical buy in the world of increased digital reading.
He said: “We wanted our first Book of the Year to stand out for many reasons, and Polpo absolutely does. It is a reaffirmation of everything I believe a book can and should be. Not just for its obvious merits as a cookery book - of which it is a first class example from an absolute expert - but it is a book that, for all the bytes and eInk in the world, can only be properly appreciated in its printed form. It is a joyous creation, as beautifully designed as it is elegantly written and illustrated and, of course, a wonderful Christmas gift."
The winner was picked by Daunt and a panel of judges from Waterstones. Polpo beat off competition from shortlisters Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure by Artemis Cooper (John Murray); The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane (Hamish Hamilton); On The Map: Why The World Looks The Way It Does by Simon Garfield (Profile Books); and Laurent Binet's HHhH, published in translation by Harvill Secker.

Good news for NZ author following Frankfurt Book Fair

Carl Nixon's novel Rocking Horse Roadwas published in Germany this year and he went to the Frankfurt Book Fair to promote it.This week Carl was advised that it has made a list of the top 10 crime novels of 2012 in Bucher Magazine as voted by a jury.

His Germany publisher tells him that" this is pretty hot stuff and there are some big international hitters on the list"..

The same publisher, Weidle Verlag is bringing out Settlers' Creek in 2013.

Excellent news, congratulations Carl.

‘Big Data’ opens new-look National Library

A suitably immense subject is the opening public programme for the newly refurbished National Library building on Wellington’s Molesworth Street.

The Library reopened to the public this week after a three year closure to renovate and future-proof the building, which houses a vast catalogue of the nation’s treasures, including the billion-dollar collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library.

One of the many resources the public are being invited to view in the revitalised building is ‘Big Data – Changing Place,an exhibition curated by Richard Simpson of the International Society for Digital Earth. It considers the vast volume of information digitally available, and its potential uses in all areas of life. In particular, ‘Big Data’ looks at how humans can use technology as a super-sense, making the invisible visible and the intangible tangible. 

“‘Big Data’ is a technical term for referring to volumes of data too large to be processed by a single system,” explains Richard. “Sixty years ago, digital computers made data readable. Twenty years ago, the Internet made it reachable. Ten years ago, the first search engine crawlers made it a single database. Now Google and like-minded companies are sifting through the most measured age in history, treating this massive corpus as a laboratory of the human condition.

“Big Data is not just for big business,” says Richard. “It is redefining our lives and the way we see the physical and social places around us, ourselves and the wider universe.”

The exhibition features an interactive 3D digital landscape that shows Thorndon in the1840s (recreated from actual paintings made at that time) and projecting forward to what the area could look like 100 years from now.

 ‘Big Data – Changing Placecan be viewed during the National Library’s normal open hours: 10am-5pm, Monday to Saturday. 

Polpo cookbook beats Hilary Mantel to Waterstones prize

A recipe book from the team behind Polpo restaurant is judged Waterstones Book of the Year.

Polpo cookbook beats Hilary Mantel to Waterstones prize
Polpo cookbook beats Hilary Mantel to Waterstones prize
Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook (Of Sorts) features recipes for pizzette, meatballs and the perfect Bellini.
The author, Russell Norman, opened his no-bookings Polpo restaurant in London’s Soho in 2009, offering small, tapas-style plates based on the menu of a Venetian bacaro.
The cookbook was a surprise winner of the inaugural prize, which featured a shortlist of fiction and non-fiction nominated by Waterstones staff.
Nominees included Bring Up The Bodies, which won the Man Booker Prize last month.
The other contenders were Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure by Artemis Cooper, The Old Ways: A Journey On Foot by Robert Macfarlane, On The Map: Why The World Looks The Way It Does by Simon Garfield and HHhH by Laurent Binet.
James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, said: “We wanted our first Book of the Year to stand out for many reasons.
Polpo absolutely does - not just for its obvious merits as a cookery book, of which it is a first class example from an absolute expert, but it is a book that, for all the bytes and e-ink in the world, can only be properly appreciated in its printed form.” 
Full article at The Telegraph

How to Publish a Movie Tie-In Edition in Five Easy Steps (Steps in Reverse Order)

by Matthew Quick  - Work in Progress
Step 5 - You are going to need a lot of people to purchase your novel -- and I do mean a lot! Like, more than you can even imagine. 
Yes, your father will buy copies for all of his business associates; your mother will tell (in great detail) every single person who comes within a twenty-foot radius all there is to know about you and your work; you will even be contacted by the caretakers of your late grandfather, and they will say he proudly pitched your novel to every doctor and nurse he saw until his last dying breath; your siblings and friends will do everything they can to support you, making signed copies of your movie tie-in edition the standard go-to birthday and holiday gift; but all of this will never be enough -- even if your family is enormous and you have impossibly generous friends. 

You will need complete strangers to buy your work, to fall in love with your words and encourage others to do the same. Sometimes these strangers will write beautiful e-mails that make you ache and believe that maybe you really are on your way, but mostly these strangers will never ever contact you, as you pretend you’re not obsessively checking Amazon numbers and Goodreads reviews. 

 You will have woefully minimal control over the millions of potential book-buyers in the world, even if you tour around; give many TV, radio, and print interviews; speak often; and maintain a healthy web presence. (Even if you miss spending your birthday with your wife for the first time since 1993, so that you can promote the film and MTI.) It’s like trying to control the weather with your hopes and dreams.

Read on...

Rare Books & Photography - Bethunes at Webb's

Sat 1 & Sun 2 Dec: 11am - 3pm
Mon 3 Dec: 10am - 5pm
Rare books, historical documents and photography

Highlights of the sale include first editions of Janet Frame’s important early works, an extensive collection of historical
letters and documents relating to Arthur William Follett Halcombe and a series of gelatin silver prints by Laurence Aberhart, Les Cleveland, Bruce Connew and Brian Brake.
Webb’s are pleased to announce the appointment of Ben Ashley as the Head of the Rare Books department.
Ben brings with him an academic background, having studied New Zealand literature at the University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington and the International Institute of Modern Letters. His varied skills and knowledge together with over ten years experience in high end retail provide a fresh, pragmatic approach to book sales and appraisals.
Contact Ben Ashley

09 524 6804

Image above - Robin Morrison - Funeral Director

The Art of Gift Giving

Shelf Awareness

Giving the right book to a child at the right time can convert him or her into a lifelong reader. We put together a list of what we believe could well be those books. For families with a preschooler, Maisy is a household name. This year, Create with Maisy: A Maisy Arts-and-Crafts Book by Lucy Cousins (reviewed below) presents safe, age-appropriate project ideas just right for youngest children to make and give to others.
We sat down with Lucy Cousins when she visited the U.S. recently from her home in Britain. How does she hit her target time after time, yet keep her Maisy books so fresh? For one thing, she explained, she works out the colors and where things will be on the page ahead of time, so that when she draws, it looks and feels spontaneous. She believes this approach apes the attitude of her young audience: "The way children think and do things are spontaneous," Cousins said. She uses pure Pantone colors (straight out of the tube) for her artwork: "The simplicity of those colors and their combinations work," she explained. "It's not about subtlety--it's about immediacy." Cousins also worked on the storyboards and scripts for the Maisy TV series and noted that they did all 104 episodes "in one shot." It takes 7,000-8,000 drawings to make just five minutes of animation.
Cousins studied graphic design in college, and her background has served her well. In addition to writing and illustrating her books, she also designs the type and the pages. "I love being able to do a whole book. It's really satisfying," said the author-artist. For Create with Maisy, Cousins tried to make the crafts look as if Maisy had done them. "I want people to feel like, 'I could do that!' " --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Create with Maisy: A Maisy Arts-and-Crafts Book

by Lucy Cousins

Who better to guide children on a creative adventure than Maisy, early childhood's most colorful mouse?
Cousins pulls off something that is very difficult--presenting enticing projects in a way that appeals both to pre-reading browsers (bright colors, great photography, bold graphics) and to the adults that have to pull the project together (clear directions, simple tools, not too messy, stuff we have at home). After an opening note to parents, the book invites young readers right in. "Maisy loves making things... You can make things too." With a range of traditional art activities, nature crafts, construction, pretend play and a mix of projects sure to appeal to both girls and boys, this book will supplant many fancier books for its sheer flexibility and dependable content.
From the first ("Beady Butterfly") to the last ("Colorful Cookies"), every one of this book's 17 projects pops with age-appropriate possibility. --Kristen McLean, former head of the Association of Booksellers for Children, founder & CEO of Bookigee
Discover: A first book of crafts tailor-made for preschoolers, with clear instructions and photos, using stuff you already have.

Book Christmas Tree Building

By Jason Boog on Galley Cat, November 30, 2012

What book will you put on top of your book Christmas tree this year? Last year dedicated readers around the country built holiday book trees to celebrate the season (gallery embedded above)

Email GalleyCat a photograph of your book tree this year and we’ll add it to our annual gallery of literary trees. Building a tree of books is a simple but powerful way to show your support for print books and bookstores in this digital age.

Our first Book Christmas Tree Farm was created after we discovered this inspiring picture.

The Top 10 Charles Dickens Books

By Robert Gottlieb |   PW - Nov 30, 2012

Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens is an outstanding biography of the writer with an eye toward his children, including the scandalous possible existence of an 11th child, born to Dickens's mistress. Robert Gottlieb, former Knopf editor, New Yorker editor, and lifelong Dickens reader, gives us the 10 best books from the master. 
For more on the book, check out our Q&A with Gottlieb.

Charles Dickens left us fifteen novels, and in an ideal world everyone would read all of them. (Well, maybe not – Barnaby Rudge is a tired and tiresome historical novel that the young Dickens kept putting off writing until contractual obligations forced him to finish it.) His first published book was Sketches by Boz – a collection of short pieces that brought him considerable attention. By the time he was finished with his second book – The Pickwick Papers, serialized between March, 1836 and October, 1837 – he was, at twenty-five, the best-known writer in England, and such he remained until his death, at fifty-eight, in 1870. The energy, the fun, the power, the compassion of his work is unmatched in English literature, with the obvious.

How do you rate works of genius? Partly by personal inclination, partly by accepted wisdom, partly by popularity. Perhaps his most widely known works are A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities, and both are wonderful, but they don’t make my own top ten list. Instead:
1. Great Expectations - With its thrilling story that is also a profound look at the moral education of a boy who has been persecuted and deceived but whose essential goodness of heart eventually rescues him from snobbery and delusion. Everything is in harmony in this almost perfect novel: the character of Pip himself, and his interaction with the immense figures of the convict Magwitch, the embittered and half-mad Miss Havisham, and the beautiful, cold Estella. This is Dickens’s most finely crafted book, and his most moving.

2. Our Mutual Friend - His final complete novel, with its vast panoply of characters, its emotional generosity, its violent drama, its rich humor – and its author’s most likeable (because imperfect) heroine, Bella Wilfer. I’ve actually read this book aloud twice, and still find it irresistible.

3. David Copperfield - Of course – the book closest to Dickens’s heart (it’s not by accident that the hero’s initials reverse Dickens’s own). The first-person narrative sweeps you along, and the characters -- from the wicked Murdstones and conniving Uriah Heep to the warm-hearted if feckless Micawbers, from Aunt Betsey Trotwood, Little Em’ly, and Steerforth, her seducer and betrayer, to the stout-hearted Peggoty and the silly lovable Dora, whom David marries – are indelibly printed on our literary consciousness. (Among its greatest admirers: Tolstoy, Kafka, and Virginal Woolf.)

4. Bleak House - With its vastly complicated plot and its immense cast of characters swirling around the case of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce that has been grinding away in the Court of Chancery for decades, Bleak House is for many readers Dickens’s greatest novel. An assault on the legal system, a satire on foolish philanthropy, a gripping melodrama, and an interesting use of point of view (told in both the third and first persons), it is a perpetual fascination.

5. Little Dorrit - In some ways Dickens’s most personal if not autobiographical novel, it has an autumnal quality, given its aging hero and quiet, staunch heroine. Its central characters not only prevail but mature, and its situations – even its comedy – resonate for its readers in countless affecting ways.

The rest at PW

We Love This Book

David Nicholls' version of Dickens' classic opens in cinemas this week. Read the chilling opening passage here
My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip.
So I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip. I give Pirrip as my father's family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister—Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like were unreasonably derived from their tombstones.



As The Hobbit is released next month, we look at Bilbo's special journey
The Hobbit is a tale of adventure. It is also a story of personal growth. At the beginning of the tale Bilbo is a conventional, unadventurous, comfort-loving hobbit, but as the story progresses he grows in courage, wisdom and self-confidence. The Hobbit is similar in this respect to The Lord of the Rings; both are tales, J.R.R. Tolkien informs us, of the ennoblement of the humble. Both are stories of ordinary persons – small in the eyes of the 'wise' and powerful – who accomplish great things and achieve heroic stature by accepting challenges, enduring hardships, and drawing on unsuspected strengths of character and will.

The film adaptation of Elsa Lewin's thriller opens this week
There is something I’m trying to remember. It keeps slipping away, gliding in and out of my consciousness, like the moon tantalising the clouds. It shows itself, glittering cruelly, beautiful and evil, and then slips furtively away, out of sight, leaving darkness and confusion. Leaving fear. Maybe if there was someone to talk to…   
It’s Sunday. I’m not sure I know why I’m talking into this tape recorder. It belongs to my daughter Emmy. Maybe I just want to talk to someone, and there is no one. I don’t have any women friends anymore. Maybe I never did. It doesn’t matter. You lose your friends when you lose your husband.  

5 Ways to Find an Agent for Your Book

By Jason Boog on Galley Cat, November 30, 2012

Every week we receive emails from aspiring writers looking for guidance about publishing a book on the traditional publishing route. We always offer the same advice: find the best literary agent for your manuscript.
Every aspiring writer needs to make a list of literary agents they would like to pitch. If you are looking for an agent, there are five simple steps that everybody should follow (whether you are a small town writer or a business leader with a great story or a GalleyCat editor).
We’ve collected five foolproof methods for finding the best agent to pitch with your book–any suggestions to add?

5 Ways to Find the Best Agent for Your Book

1. Follow agents on Twitter. We’ve created a vast directory of literary agents on the social network, you can find lots of intriguing prospects on the list and learn what kind of books they like to represent.

2. Look in the back of your favorite books. In the acknowledgements section of the book, authors often thank their literary agent. Find out what agent represented your favorite author and find them online.

3. Google your favorite authors. Many times writers will talk about their agents in news articles, essays or GalleyCat interviews. This is great writing intelligence.

4. Ask your friends. If someone you know has taken the traditional publishing route, ask them for suggestions. They can provide you with some promising leads.

5. Subscribe to Publishers Lunch. This free email newsletter will keep you updated on daily deals around the publishing world and help you find agents that have similar literary tastes.
(Image via Bill Ward’s Brickpile)

2012 Books Gift List


A list from The Daily Beast for those who need some ideas.

Hitler’s Strange Afterlife in India

Nov 30, 2012- The Daily Beast

Hated and mocked in much of the world, the Nazi leader has developed a strange following among schoolchildren and readers of Mein Kampf in India. 
Dilip D’Souza on how political leader Bal Thackeray influenced Indians to admire Hitler and despise Gandhi.

My wife teaches French to tenth-grade students at a private school here in Mumbai. During one recent class, she asked these mostly upper-middle-class kids to complete the sentence “J'admire …” with the name of the historical figure they most admired.
Adolf Hitler speaks in 1936. (AP Photo)
To say she was disturbed by the results would be to understate her reaction. Of 25 students in the class, 9 picked Adolf Hitler, making him easily the highest vote-getter in this particular exercise; a certain Mohandas Gandhi was the choice of precisely one student. Discussing the idea of courage with other students once, my wife was startled by the contempt they had for Gandhi. “He was a coward!” they said. And as far back as 2002, the Times of India reported a survey that found that 17 percent of students in elite Indian colleges “favored Adolf Hitler as the kind of leader India ought to have.”

Full article at The Daily Beast

Nick Hornby Will Write the Screenplay for Wild

Back in March, Reese Witherspoon and her production company optioned Cheryl Strayed's memoir, Wild. Now Nick Hornby is onboard to write the screenplay, according to Deadline. In Wild, Strayed recounts her months-long solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, a trip she set out on in the wake of her mother's death, the end of her marriage, and a burgeoning heroin habit. (You might also know Strayed from her formerly anonymous, supremely moving advice column, Dear Sugar.) Hornby's not the obvious choice, but maybe all Wild needs to make the leap to the big screen is a little bit of punchy Britishness.

The Benefits of Poetry for Professionals

by John Coleman | Harvard Business review - November 27, 2012

This lyrically inclined insurance executive was far from alone in occupying the intersect of business and poetry. Dana Gioia, a poet, Stanford Business School grad, and former General Foods executive, notes that T.S. Eliot spent a decade at Lloyd's Bank of London; and many other poets including James Dickey, A.R. Ammons, and Edmund Clarence Stedman navigated stints in business.
I've written in the past about how business leaders should be readers, but even those of us prone to read avidly often restrict ourselves to contemporary nonfiction or novels. By doing so, we overlook a genre that could be valuable to our personal and professional development: poetry. Here's why we shouldn't.
For one, poetry teaches us to wrestle with and simplify complexity. Harman Industries founder Sidney Harman once told The New York Times, "I used to tell my senior staff to get me poets as managers. Poets are our original systems thinkers. They look at our most complex environments and they reduce the complexity to something they begin to understand." Emily Dickinson, for example, masterfully simplified complex topics with poems like "Because I could not stop for Death," and many poets are similarly adept. Business leaders live in multifaceted, dynamic environments. Their challenge is to take that chaos and make it meaningful and understandable. Reading and writing poetry can exercise that capacity, improving one's ability to better conceptualize the world and communicate it — through presentations or writing — to others.
Poetry can also help users develop a more acute sense of empathy. In the poem "Celestial Music," for example, Louise Glück explores her feelings on heaven and mortality by seeing the issue through the eyes of a friend, and many poets focus intensely on understanding the people around them. In January of 2006, the Poetry Foundation released a landmark study, "Poetry in America," outlining trends in reading poetry and characteristics of poetry readers. The number one thematic benefit poetry users cited was "understanding" — of the world, the self, and others. They were even found to be more sociable than their non-poetry-using counterparts. And bevies of new research show that reading fiction and poetry more broadly develops empathy. Raymond Mar, for example, has conducted studies showing fiction reading is essential to developing empathy in young children (PDF) and empathy and theory of mind in adults (PDF). The program in Medical Humanities & Arts (PDF) even included poetry in their curriculum as a way of enhancing empathy and compassion in doctors, and the intense empathy developed by so many poets is a skill essential to those who occupy executive suites and regularly need to understand the feelings and motivations of board members, colleagues, customers, suppliers, community members, and employees. 
Full article here.

The Case of the Missing O.E.D. Words

November 28, 2012 - The New Yorker - Posted by
The very first part of what became the Oxford English Dictionary, published in 1884 and covering the range from A to Ant, did not include the word “African.” It did, however, include “American.” One might conclude from this evidence that the O.E.D., generally written by and for Victorian gentlemen, was biased against Africans.

But the real reason “African” was left out was rather different, and much less nefarious: James Murray, the dictionary’s first editor, made an early editorial decision that the O.E.D. would not include any proper nouns—this was regarded as the province of the encyclopedia, not the dictionary—and that words formed from proper nouns would likewise be excluded. This was a poor policy, which was quickly rescinded: “American” was duly entered when editorial work progressed deeper into the letter A, but by then it was too late to make changes in the “af-” section. It wasn’t until 1933, when Oxford University Press published “The Oxford English Dictionary: Being a Corrected Re-issue with an Introduction, Supplement, and Bibliography of a New English Dictionary on Historical Principles” (now referred to as the “1933 Supplement”), that this omission was rectified.

The linguist Sarah Ogilvie, a former director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre who herself worked as an editor for the O.E.D., has gained considerable attention for her new book, “Words of the World: The Global History of the Oxford English Dictionary.” An article about the book in the Guardian—excerpted on Gawker and many other places, and widely retweeted—highlighted the claim that Robert Burchfield, the editor of the four-volume “Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary” published from 1972 to 1986, “covertly deleted thousands of words because of their foreign origins.”

This claim is completely bogus.

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/11/the-case-of-the-missing-oed-words-solved.html#ixzz2Djs82sd3

Publishing Perspectives

In her keynote address from the "YA: What's Next?" publishing conference, author Beth Kephart makes an impassioned case for YA books that are heartfelt, authentic and empowering.
Read more »
Young adult publishing is evolving, making predicting the future tricky, but several top industry professionals shared their insights on what's next for the category.
Read more »
More News from Publishing Perspectives:
Berlin-based startup txtr has recently launched a Danish e-book store, with special promotions from two Danish publishers set to begin on December 3rd this year.
Read more »
Amazon's Jeff Belle announced in a letter to literary agents that Amazon Publishing will begin building a European publishing division in 2013. Hiring will begin in January.
Read more »
From the Archives:
Sourcebooks Associate Editor Aubrey Poole reports from the German Book Office Editors’ Trip about the state of children’s digital publishing in Germany.
Read more »

Moving mountains in Middle Earth: Hobbit lands with baggage

| Nov 30, 2012  - Crikey Weekender

Blockbuster movie premieres don’t get any bigger than the opening of Peter Jackson’s first Hobbit movie. But the road to get here has been anything but smooth.

On a bright and sunny day in Wellington, a giant billboard moves across the blue sky, flying as low as 300 metres above the ground.
The Boeing 777-300 is emblazoned with images promoting The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of three mega-budget Hobbit movie adaptations from blockbuster director Peter Jackson. The 73-metre canvas took six days and 400 hours to apply. The exhibitor of this gargantuan flying advertisement, Air New Zealand, claims it is the largest graphic ever applied to an aircraft.

On the ground below, tens of thousands of fans — some camped out overnight — gather around Embassy Theatre and its long red carpet. A 9.4-metre tall sculpture of Gandalf, which took contractors more than 12 hours to erect, looms like a frozen Greek god above the entrance.
Some have in their pockets commemorative Hobbit-themed coins, which they can use to purchase jewellery and merchandise at the Hobbit Artisan Market. In days leading up to the event some will have sent letters and postcards to friends and family using Hobbit-themed stamps.
Those who have recently landed by plane would have seen a four-minute airline safety video starring elves, dwarves, hobbits and a famous wizard. They would have walked past a 12-metre sculpture of Gollum, which cost some $250,000, and picked up their luggage from “Baggins Services”.

Nearby the Embassy, overlooking Wellington’s harbour, figures of 13 giant dwarves — reportedly the world’s tallest — and one Hobbit cast shadows on the water below. They stand on the fifth story of a 12-floor office building, designed to withstand winds of up to 178 kilometres an hour.

The city, New Zealand’s capital, has been temporarily renamed “The Middle of Middle Earth”.
This is a movie premiere that has, you might say, stopped the nation. Predictably, the international press relished the spectacle from afar. The cost has been colossal, the profits likely to be greater. And the road to get here has been anything but smooth.
The ribbon cutting of The Hobbit #1 signifies a tale of many things: laws and business models circumvented, a federal government bending to the whims of a film crew, a production that spiralled out of control and a director who raised his already titanic profile to levels of power and responsibility befitting a king — and on the way attempted nothing less than changing the way movies are created.

Full story at Crikey Weekender

Pete Townshend: By the Book

Published: November 29, 2012 - The New York Times

The musician and author thinks Ozzy Osbourne wrote the best rock memoir. “It made me think I should chuck my memoir manuscript away and throw a party during which I jump out of the window but don’t quite kill myself.”

Pete Townshend - Illustration by Jillian Tamaki
What book is on your night stand now?
Martin Cruz Smith who wrote “Gorky Park,” has created a Russian detective, Arkady Renko, and I am now reading “Wolves Eat Dogs,” partly set in Chernobyl. I’m learning a lot about how radiation doesn’t always kill people. Not if they drink lots of vodka. I also have “Hemingway’s Boat,” by Paul Hendrickson — he seemed to use the sea as an inspirational tool, a retreat and an escape very much as I do. I also have a copy of “Discourses,” by Meher Baba; this is a throwback, relatively new for me these days. I am trying to reconnect with this Indian master that I adored so much when I was a young man, and I’m finding this book challenging: these discourses were written for his close disciples, and I don’t think I could ever live as pure and disciplined (and obedient) a life as seems to be required.

What was the last truly great book you read?
“Les Misérables.” Somehow I’d missed it, despite it launching a grand theater musical. I was so surprised at how readable it is, how well the characters are drawn and how gripping it is. A really great modern book? I think William Boyd is doing wonderful work. His set of short stories “The Dream Lover” is one of the most evocative books I’ve read — full of clear images and emotions conveyed with few words and from the very natural points of view of each narrator or leading character. His masterpiece is “Any Human Heart.” As I write this I realize I tend to set male and female novelists in different parts of my brain. So I want to add a female great book — and so many come up in a tumult that I can’t fix on a single one. If I push myself I come up with a truly great modern book, but a bit of a stereotype, I’m afraid: Margaret Atwood — “The Handmaid’s Tale.” 

You once worked as an acquisitions editor at the British publisher, Faber & Faber. Do you miss anything about that job?
Are you kidding? That was the best job I ever had. I had lunch with the old chairman, Matthew Evans, this week, and we both went dewy-eyed about the old days. He’s in the House of Lords trying to stay awake, and I’m pounding stages like an aging clown. I loved the way the Faber editorial committee was driven as much by gossip and rumor as ideas. It was fun. Not what you expect in such an esteemed publishing house.