Fifth Day of Christmas: 20 GO-OLD RINGS!

The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey
One Ring inscription.svg

"Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, 
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, 
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, 
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne 
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. 
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, 
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them 
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie."
-J.R.R. Tolkien's epigraph, The Lord of The Rings

...And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.
Love this pocket edition, with illustrations by Tolkien

"Official Movie Guide" by Brian Sibley (review here)

(US Marines) "Men, it's leadership problems:" The Calamitous Condition of Contemporary Anglicanism


By Roger Salter
Special to Virtueonline
December 30, 2012

If Holy Scripture and Reformational standards are to be our measure the present
state of the Anglican Communion is lamentable. Discounting those rare
exceptions in academy, diocese

Grammarly - Don's Detestations

I was interested in your 'Grammarly' list of solecisms. Here are some of mine from my book 'Milestones':



How I detest the silly fool
Who calls the noble street 'Pawl Mawl'
But I'll make him a lifelong pal
Who, unaffected, says 'Pal Mal'.


Some people in a verbal mix
Will call this star * an asterix
Far better not to take the risk
But properly say 'asterisk'.


'Crèche' said 'craysh' just blows my mind I'd like to kick the sayer's behind While shouting 'Crèche is 'cresh' you fool Were you taught nothing at your school?'


Bought for brought and brought for bought Is trotted out with little thought By teachers and TV presenters, Police, MPs and riot fomenters Proselytisers, red wine swillers - They're all of them just language killers!


Singular, data is datum
So I hand you this stern ultimatum -
If you didn't do Latin at school
You shouldn't use Latin at all.

Don Donovan. Writer & Illustrator.

Facebook Tops 2012 Wikipedia Queries

Facebook Tops 2012 Wikipedia Queries
Fotog/Tetra Images, via Corbis

How do you learn about another culture? Maybe by looking at its Wikipedia searches. On Friday, a Swedish software engineer published a list of Wikipedia's most-searched articles of 2012, sorted by language. 

Facebook tops the English-language site's list of things we care about, with One Direction, 50 Shades of Grey, and The Avengers also showing up in our top 10. Over on the Spanish site, people learned about the Mayan culture, while in Iran, searchers seem curious about homosexuality, sex, and female genitals, which all showed up on the Persian site's top 10. 

Sex made another appearance on Japan's list, where the top search was for a porn actress. The most inexplicable international No. 1? German-language speakers really care about cul-de-sacs.

December 29, 2012 8:52 AM

Bookselling in Dunedin

Otago-based poet David Howard snapped this shot yesterday and shared it with me with the following comment:

A bookseller and, perhaps, a writer as well in George Street, Dunedin, today.

A Collection of Suspiciously Similar Book Covers

By Emily Temple on Flavorwire, 

A Collection of Suspiciously Similar Book Covers
Sometimes, while we’re browsing through book catalogues, or idly pulling things off the shelves in bookstores, as we often do, we are suddenly struck with a sense of deja vu. Haven’t we, um, seen this book before? Of course, there are thousands of examples of different books using the same clip art, which, while lazy, is probably unavoidable, but what about the more nebulous resemblances? After the jump, a few book covers and their suspiciously similar (we won’t say rip-offs, but we sometimes might imply it) pairs. Let us know what you think (or if we missed a particularly egregious one) in the comments! 

… Read More

Libraries See Opening as Bookstores Close

Tyler Bissmeyer for The New York Times
Vicki Culler shops for discounted books at the Friends of the Public Library in Cincinnati.
At the bustling public library in Arlington Heights, Ill., requests by three patrons to place any title on hold prompt a savvy computer tracking system to order an additional copy of the coveted item. That policy was intended to eliminate the frustration of long waits to check out best sellers and other popular books. But it has had some unintended consequences, too: the library’s shelves are now stocked with 36 copies of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Tyler Bissmeyer for The New York Times
Of course, librarians acknowledge that when patrons’ passion for the sexy series lacking in literary merit cools in a year or two, the majority of volumes in the “Fifty Shades” trilogy will probably be plucked from the shelves and sold at the Friends of the Library’s used-book sales, alongside other poorly circulated, donated and out-of-date materials.
“A library has limited shelf space, so you almost have to think of it as a store, and stock it with the things that people want,” said Jason Kuhl, the executive director of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. Renovations will turn part of the library’s first floor into an area resembling a bookshop that officials are calling the Marketplace, with cozy seating, vending machines and, above all, an abundance of best sellers.
As librarians across the nation struggle with the task of redefining their roles and responsibilities in a digital age, many public libraries are seeing an opportunity to fill the void created by the loss of traditional bookstores. They are increasingly adapting their collections and services based on the demands of library patrons, whom they now call customers. 

Book sales overtake ebook downloads for first time in three years...

  • Booksellers enjoyed their best week in three years in the lead-up to Christmas
  • Celebrity books by Jamie Oliver, Miranda Hart and Jamie Oliver were the most popular sellers
By Harriet Cooke

Printed books made a surprise comeback this Christmas after figures revealed the strongest week of sales in three years.
The autobiographies of TV star Miranda Hart and Olympic cyclist Bradley Wiggins were believed to be key factors in the surge of book-buying in the Christmas rush.
Cookbook: Jamie's 15 Minute MealsPhysical books have seen dwindling sales in recent years due to the increased use of e-readers and tablets, but this Christmas their fortunes were reversed.

Success: Jamie Oliver (left) took the crown of most-popular book this Christmas after his 15-Minute Meals sold 140,155 copies in the UK last week

Book: Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart
Right: Is It Just Me? - the memoirs of Miranda Hart (left) - came second in the UK Christmas book chart
The industry saw takings of £75.4million in the week ending December 22 - up by 20 per cent on the previous week and £1.4million higher than the same period in 2011.
Most popular was Jamie Oliver's 15-Minute Meals, which sold 140,155 copies in the UK last week.
Second was comic Miranda Hart's Is It Just Me?, in which the star looks back on her childhood, followed by Bradley Wiggins's account of his journey through the Tour de France and the Olympics.
The titles sold 64,691 and 59,524 copies respectively.

Full story at The Daily Mail

Stories from Galley Cat

What Is the Happiest Word?

What do you think is the happiest word? A team of mathematicians from the University of Vermont published a paper examining 10,000 of the most frequently-used English words. The group took this information and surveyed people; the collected data was used to rank the words according to happiness. The word "laughter" captured the number one spot and the word "terrorist" finished in last place. Mental Floss writer Arika Okrent picked 25 words that she... read more>>

The Joy of Books

Out of all the videos we posted on GalleyCat this year, "The Joy of Books" was the most popular--watch books frolick inside a closed bookshop. If the video inspires you to support your local bookstore, here are some links: Best Indie Bookstores on Twitter and How to Buy eBooks from an Indie Bookstore. Here's more about the video: "After organizing our bookshelf almost a year ago, my wife and I decided to take... read more>>

Top 10 Most Read Books in the World

Out of all the infographics we featured this year, one literary graphic was by far the most popular (and controversial) among our readers. Follow this link to see a larger image. Designer Jared Fanning created a simple infographic comparing the Top 10 Most Read Books in the World, using a list compiled by freelance writer James Chapman--based on the number of copies each book sold over the last 50 years. Check it out:... read more>>


Have you ever wondered what those "Four Calling Birds" are all about? (Explanation to follow...)  

Are these calling birds?

Definitely not these guys...

Hmmm. [source]

My favorite:
source: Anne Geddes
There's a reason the stanza about "calling birds" doesn't make much sense: the original line in the song The 12 Days of Christmas names four "colly birds", an alternate word for the Common Blackbird. The Blackbird is a common backyard bird in Europe and has a melodious song. It also lives in Asia, North Africa and it has been introduced to Australia and New Zealand. [source:]

In England a coal mine is called a colliery and colly or collie is a derivation of this and means black like coal. 

For a long time in England, blackbirds have been referred to as both blackbirds (as in the nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence) and colly birds as in The Twelve Days of Christmas.

As to why the person in the song would give his true love a gift of blackbirds, the answer is that this would have been another gift of food. Blackbirds were plentiful and were a common food. [source:]

Mystery solved.  

Top Ten Grammar Peeves - from Grammarly

Handled With Care


I have been here many times before. Not to this particular library but to others like it. Some have been on college campuses, others in private homes. Some have sprawled through many rooms, including the bathroom; others were confined to a single space. One had no windows; another overlooked a lake. Most were crowded. All were dusty.
Illustration by Jon Krause
Each was the domain of a scholar. Each was the accumulation of a lifetime of intellectual achievement. Each reflected a well-defined precinct of specialization. But what they also had in common was that each of their owners had died. And by declaration of their wills, or by the discernment of their families, I had been called to claim or consider the bereft books for my university library.

One of the little-known roles of the academic librarian is bereavement counseling: assisting families with the disposition of books when the deceased have not specified a plan for them. Most relatives know these books were the lifeblood of their owners and so of intellectual value if not great monetary worth. But they remain clueless about how to handle them responsibly. Some call used-book shops. Some call the Salvation Army. Others call a university library. Many allow friends and relatives to pick over the shelves before bringing in a professional.

On this particular day I’m standing in the doorway of a distinguished but forlorn library in South Bend, Ind., ready to perform last rites on the extensive collection of James White, a noted historian and specialist in the liturgies and worship practices of the Christian tradition. I always pause before entering these libraries. Even after the family has shown me to the space, I can’t just barge in. That seems disrespectful. I need to be introduced to the books. I need to become acquainted.

Surveying these rooms, I find myself wishing I had a ritual to invoke, for the study I’m about to disrupt is a private, beloved retreat — an inner sanctum for reading, reflection and writing. And since it is here that someone wrestled with ideas, sought integrity of expression and gave expression to fresh-jacketed voices, the book-­studded room seems sacred. Is there a prayer I can offer? Sometimes I think I should take off my shoes — a physical act to show my respect. 

Jason Books and New Zealand Small Presses

Auckland's Jason Books stock books from The Holloway Press and a number of other small presses. 
A list of titles currently in stock, images and more detailed entries are available on their website.

On becoming illiterate

Author Lynley Hood (above, photo by Reg Graham) has put her paper to the Bibliography Conference held in Dunedin in November up on her  website, together with a related paper on the lack of low vision services in NZ ("An Absence of Vision") - they're in a section headed "Inside of a Dog" - from Groucho Marx's quip "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

Here's the link to "On becoming illiterate":

Author: I'll name character after who finds my dog

Associated Press – Wed, Dec 26, 2012

BROOKLINE, Mass. (AP) — Author Dennis Lehane is offering an unusual reward for the person who finds his family's beloved missing beagle.
Lehane says he'll name a character in his next book after whoever finds Tessa, who disappeared from the family's home in Brookline, Mass., this week.

He says on his Facebook page that Tessa jumped a fence at the home, and even though she has been micro-chipped, she was not wearing her tags.
Lehane says Tessa is "smart, fast, and immeasurably sweet."

Lehane wrote "Mystic River," ''Gone Baby Gone," ''Shutter Island" and other books.

The Top 10 Most Difficult Books

Back in 2009, The Millions started its "Difficult Books" series--devoted to identifying the hardest and most frustrating books ever written, as well as what made them so hard and frustrating. The two curators, Emily Colette Wilkinson and Garth Risk Hallberg, have selected the most difficult of the most difficult, telling us about the 10 literary Mt. Everests waiting out there for you to climb, should you be so bold. If you can somehow read all 10, you probably ascend to the being immediately above Homo sapiens. How many have you read? What books would you add?Let us know in the comments!

Emily's Picks
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes - Dylan Thomas called Nightwood "one of the three greatest prose books ever written by a woman,” but in order to behold this greatness you must master Barnes' tortuous, gothic prose style. In his introduction to the novel, T.S Eliot described Nightwood’s prose as “altogether alive” but also “demanding something of a reader that the ordinary novel-reader is not prepared to give.” Nightwood is a novel of ideas, a loose collection of monologues and descriptions. What will keep you going: The cross-dressing Irish-American "Dr. Matthew-Mighty-grain-of-salt-Dante O'Connor," who, when not wandering Paris, drinking heavily, or dressing in nighties, rouge, and wigs of cascading golden curls, is expounding great rambling sermons that fill most of the book. These are funny, dirty, absurd, despairing, resigned—even hopeful in a Becketty I-can't-go-on-I'll-go-on kind of way.

A Tale of A Tub by Jonathan Swift - The first difficulty: The superabundant references to obsolete cultural squabbles (some obscure even in Swift’s eighteenth-century England) and then there’s the narratorial persona: an impoverished, syphilitic madman who cuts pieces out of his manuscript and his fellow citizens remorselessly. His compulsive digressiveness is deliberately baffling, but more baffling still is that this satire, aimed at “the Abuses and Corruptions in Learning and Religion” and written by a conservative, Anglican clergyman, ends finding nothing sacred. If you can bear it (and the 100s of footnotes you’ll need to understand its historical context), it’s the ultimate expression of cultural alienation and despair.

The Phenomenology of the Spirit by G.F. Hegel - Do you enjoy a good intellectual gobsmack every now and again? If so, Hegel’s your man and this book, a classic of German idealism and unquestionably one of the most important works of modern philosophy, is a fine place to start. Hegel’s refutation of Kantian idealism, history of consciousness, and quintessential explanation of the process of the dialectic is hard to understand and harder still to retain (“goes through you like lentils,” as one Stanford professor described it to me), due first and foremost to the breadth of its subject and its terminology. The book’s nearly impenetrable without a good edition and guide or two: The Oxford UP edition is widely considered the best (and don’t skip the notes and foreward) and the Routledge Philosophy Guidebook’s commentary by Robert Stern makes good warm-up reading; also good (and free) are J.M. Bernstein’s lecture notes for his UC Berkeley graduate course on the Phenomenology, available at

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf - In its intermingling of separate consciousnesses, Virginia Woolf’s fiction is both intellectually and psychically difficult. Not only is it hard to tell who’s who and who’s saying or thinking what, it is also disconcerting—even queasy-making—to be set adrift in other minds, with their private rhythms and associative patterns. It feels, at times, like being occupied by an alien consciousness. Some readers don’t ever find their sea-legs with Woolf. The trick is to surrender yourself (true with other high modernists too), to let the prose wash over you and take you where it will—not to worry too much about understanding a dogmatic way.

Full article at PW

Book Sales Had Strong Christmas Week in the US

Book sales had a strong showing in the week leading up to Christmas with sales rising 24% over the prior week at outlets that report to Nielsen BookScan. The 27.3 million print units sold during the week ended December 23, moreover, was a 5% increase over the last week before Christmas in 2011 when 26.1 million units were sold.
Gains were driven by the children’ categories with nonfiction up 19% and fiction ahead 7%. The adult categories had more modest gains with fiction sales increasing 2% and nonfiction up 1%.

Sales through retail and clubs rose 6% in the most recent week over 2011, while sales through mass merchandisers and other retails were 3% down compared to last year. Frontlist and backlist titles performed about the same with frontlist up 5% in the week and backlist units ahead 4%. Sales in BookScan’s South Atlantic region had the biggest gain in the week with sales up 12%, while sales were weakest in the Middle Atlantic where they were flat with 2011.

Jeff Kinney’s The Third Wheel was the top selling title in Christmas week at outlets that report to BookScan, though its 186,214 units sold was actually 4% behind the sales volume in the previous week. Bill O’Reilly took second and third place in the week with Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln. The Racketeer and Proof of Heaven rounded out the top five bestsellers. 

And how did the book of the year do as a Christmas present? Fifty Shades of Grey landed in ninth place in Christmas week, selling a shade under 65,000 units.

Books That Will Inspire You to Be a Better Person in 2013

Books That Will Inspire You to Be a Better Person in 2013

By Emily Temple on Flavorwire -

The holiday season is traditionally a time for charity and warm fuzzy feelings, but sometimes we need a little extra inspiration. That is, a captivating read that will also make us want to be a better person — whether because of the sterling example of a character, some choice lines of world-wisdom, or something a little more nebulous. After the jump, try out ten books that will inspire your better self to make an appearance — we’ve veered away from self-help books of any kind, though we’ve allowed for a mix of fiction and non – and let us know if we missed your personal go-to good-guy read in the comments. … Read More

Photos of Famous Authors Playing in the Snow

Photos of Famous Authors Playing in the SnowThough we’ve been having an astoundingly mild winter here in our native New York City, we managed to eke out a white Christmas, and the snowy season seems to have begun in earnest. Possibly. We hope. But there’s no reason to stay indoors — when the seasonal flurries appear, even that most indoor-cattish breed, the author, sometimes comes out to play. In celebration of the long months of winter ahead, we’ve put together a little collection of famous authors out in the snow — skiing, playing with their dogs, or just wandering about. So yes, we’re taking a rather wide interpretation of “playing,” but bear with us. Check out some chilly writers after the jump, and if we missed a favorite photo, add it to our collection in the comments. … Read More

Pearson Invests $89.5 Million In Nook Media, After Disappointing Holiday

 Publishers Lunch
Nook Media--the entity formed in 2012 that owns Barnes & Noble's Nook business and their college bookstores--has its second major strategic investor, joining Microsoft: As of December 21 Pearson agreed to invest $89.5 in cash for a 5 percent equity stake. The bookseller paired an announcement about that investment with a preview of holiday sales that indicates "results will be below expectations" and Nook in particular will not meet their previous projections for the fiscal year.

Perhaps because of that performance, Pearson is buying in to Nook Media at essentially the same the valuation given to the company when Microsoft paid $300 million for a 17.6 percent stake (which was $1.7 billion) plus the value of Pearson's cash, for a "post-money valuation of approximately $1.789 billion." That leaves Barnes & Noble with a 78.2 percent share and Microsoft with a 16.8 percent stake in Nook Media. Pearson also will get warrants to purchase up to an additional five percent "under certain conditions," at the same valuation. Perhaps just as importantly, "at closing, Nook Media and Pearson will be also entering into a commercial agreement with respect to distributing Pearson content in connection with this strategic investment." (No further details are provided; that likely refers primarily to digital textbooks, but could also apply to print textbooks through the BN College stores.)

News of this new partnership, however, is balanced by a warning of weaker than expected performance over the holidays, for Nook in particular and potentially the entire Barnes & Noble business. The warning was contained in the company's SEC filing about the investment, but was not mentioned in the press release: It says they will announce holiday sales on January 3 and "based on preliminary sales results to date in the holiday period and sales trends, the company expects its holiday sales results will be below expectations and that the Nook business will not meet the company's prior projection for fiscal year 2013." When BN reportedquarterly earnings in late November, Nook segment sales of $160 million were well below analysts expectations of $191 million and raised fresh concerns about the growth trajectory of the Nook business in the face of intensifying competition.

With the Pearson alliance you see the value and intention of pairing the college bookstores with the digital reading business--which has significant potential when allied with the world's largest textbook publisher. (And yes, this investment is about the core business that drives Pearson, rather than the trade publishing interest in Penguin that is slated to become part of a jointly-owned company with Bertelsmann.) Pearson North America ceo Will Ethridge says in the announcement, "With this investment we have entered into a commercial agreement with Nook Media that will allow our two companies to work closely together in order to create a more seamless and effective experience for students. It is another example of our strategy of making our content and services broadly available to students and faculty through a wide range of distribution partners."

Barnes & Noble ceo William Lynch adds in the release, "We welcome their partnership in Nook Media, and look forward to working with them and Microsoft to deliver great digital experiences for our shared customers." Pearson shares were down slightly in early trading in London Friday morning. While the investment has significant strategic potential for both partners, it's a small sum for Pearson (just as Microsoft's investment was small for them). 
After a steady decline since early December, Barnes & Noble's shares moved higher in early trading, up oer $1 a share in the first hour--though as we noted, the disappointing holiday forecast was not highlighted in the press release. And even with that movement, investors still value the bookseller far less than the partners in Nook Media--Barnes & Noble says its stake in that entity alone is still worth $1.4 billion, but the parent company's entire market capitalization remains about $900 million.

Pearson to take on Amazon by buying stake in e-reader venture Nook

Financial Times owner looks to tap into student market by taking 5% share in digital book venture in a deal worth $89.5m

Pearson has taken a 5% stake in Nook, Barnes & Noble’s digital books venture, in a deal that values the business at $1.79bn Photograph: Richard Drew/AP

Financial Times-owner Pearson is to take on Amazon with a move into the e-reader market by purchasing a 5% stake in Nook, Barnes & Noble's digital books venture, in a deal that values the business at $1.79bn (£1.1bn).

Pearson has acquired a 5% stake in Nook Media – a new company that houses Barnes & Noble's e-reader and tablet operations, digital bookstore and 674 college bookstores in the USA – for $89.5m.
The deal, which includes the option for Pearson to up its stake in Nook to 10% in the future, values the business at $1.79bn.

Following the deal, Barnes & Noble will hold a 78.2% stake in Nook Media, with Microsoft holding 16.8%.

The deal will put Pearson in competition with Amazon's market-dominating Kindle e-reader –Jeff Bezos's company enjoys 95% of sales in the market – with the Nook currently only available in the US.

Pearson said the aim of the strategic investment is to boost its north American learning division by better tapping into the student market with digital products.

"Pearson and Barnes & Noble have been valued partners for decades, and in recent years both have invested heavily and imaginatively to provide engaging and effective digital reading and learning experiences," said Will Etheridge, chief executive of Pearson North America.

"With this investment we have entered into a commercial agreement with Nook Media that will allow our two companies to work closely together in order to create a more seamless and effective experience for students".

In 2011, Pearson's north American education business reported revenues of £2.58bn, 44% of total group sales. Adjusted operating profits were £493m, 52% of total group adjusted operating profits.

Microsoft invested $300m in Nook in April.

A Bookish Christmas!

This year I gave lots of books for Christmas. And I make a list of which ones were given, and received. Pretty amusing and enlightening! Here is the full list for your perusal.

To my younger son:
Pym by Mat Johnson (A wacky satire involving Poe, Little Debbie snack cakes, a bag of bones and a seafaring journey)

To my eldest son who teaches history in China and travels all over:
When America First Met China by Eric Jay Dolin ("An exotic history of tea, drugs, and money in the age of sail")  ***check out the incredibly gorgeous book cover above
China in Ten Words by Yu Hua (a humorous, honest, sometimes shocking portrait of China from the 60s on)
Cambodia's Curse by J. Brinkley (portrait of a country haunted by poverty, corruption and the Khmer Rouge-solutions going forward)

To my friend who loves history & art:
Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean ("True tales of love, madness and the history of the world, from the Periodic Table")
Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut (a satire of the artworld)

To one of my writing students:
The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History by Jonathan Franzen (pieces about Franzen's childhood)

From my writing student to me:
Seven Days in the Artworld by Sarah Thornton (snapshots of the weirdness that is the artworld)

To my sister-in-law, interested in psychology and biology:
An Age of Madness by David Maine (a novel about an analyst and her estranged daughter)
Riddled with Life by Marlene Zuk (why and how we symbiotically embrace parasites!)

From my younger son to me, knowing I love DeLillo:
The Angel Esmirelda by Don DeLillo (nine stories about astronauts, nuns, terrorists and travelers, in settings from the South Bronx to outer space)

From my younger son to his older brother:
Nero by Edward Champlin (a reevaluation of the callous emperor who fiddled while Rome burned)
At Day's Close, Night in Times Past by A. Robert Ekirch (Crime, fire, theft and the supernatural: illuminating events that happen in the dark)

To me, from me!
The Twelve by Justin Cronin (Sequel to his blockbuster speculative novel The Passage) and Girl of Nightmares (sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood--unfortunately, the sequel isn't nearly as good as the first book!)

Did you give books this holiday? Did you receive books? 
Your favorites?

Third Day - 3 French Hens and 3 French Books

Noel comes from the French phrase "les bonnes nouvelles"
translated "Good News", and refers to the Gospel.
On the Third Day of Christmas, my True Love Gave to Me
    Three French Hens...

My daughter and her husband lived in France for nine months, and they brought home the gastronomy of that culture to share with us.  Highlighting our Christmas dinner this year was a capon - which admittedly is not a hen, but a rooster - quite delectably roasted by my son-in-law...
accompanied by brussels sprouts, tartiflette (french scalloped potatoes with Camembert and bacon), and good old American "stuffing".

Our table, ready for Christmas Dinner

After-Christmas-dinner-silver-and-crystal-washed-and-dried by my husband!

Three French Books:
1. BABAR AND FATHER CHRISTMAS (BABAR ET LE PÈRE NOËL) by Jean de Brunhoff. King Babar's children in Celesteville hear of the wonderful Father Christmas who brings toys to all the children in Man Country on Christmas Eve. The children write a letter to Father Christmas in the hopes of inviting him to Celesteville but when their letter goes astray, King Babar goes into Man Country to search for him personally...

2. ADELE & SIMON by Barbara McClintock. Adele cautions her brother not to lose anything on their way home from school...well, you can guess what happens! Gorgeous illustrations of neighborhoods and landmarks bring to life a simple story, set in early 20th century Paris. Not to be missed! (Note: with careful searching each of Simon's lost items can be found!)

3. MIRETTE ON THE HIGH WIRE by Emily Arnold McCully. Mirette was always fascinated by the strange and interesting people who stayed in her mother's boarding house. But no one excited her as much as Bellini, who walks the clothesline with the grace and ease of a bird. Mirette on the High Wire is a great book to explore fear and bravery. First, the definition of bravery is presented in different ways throughout the book. Mirette and Bellini perform dangerous and potentially scary acts by walking the high wire. Mirette has no fear of the wire, and Bellini does, even though he has done it many times. So, this questions whether bravery is the absence of fear or the over-coming of fear. (1993 Caldecott Medal Winner)

A Year in Publishing: Secret Meetings and the Powerful Threat of Digital

“Publishing is dead.” Reputable news sources like USA Today, The Huffington Post and The Guardian have all printed stories with this headline. And everyone points to digital innovation as the culprit. Are eReaders the funeral song of publishing?

“t is always painful to see a familiar business model go away, but the publishing industry has no choice.”
The iPad, the Kindle, the Nook and the Sony Reader, the strongest players in the eReader market, are four of the biggest threats to the print publishing industry. Digital books, otherwise known as eBooks, make up an increasing percentage of overall book sales in the U.S. — 8.3% in 2011, up from 3.2% the previous year, according to industry reports from IBISWorld, a market research firm. Publishing houses are scrambling to determine how to cope with the rise in digital reading. With everyone reading on a screen, how do publishers make a profit?

Losing Control
Once upon a time, when books were printed with ink and on paper, publishing houses charged an average of $26 for a crisp, new hardcover., the world’s largest online retailer, prices most of its new eBook releases at $9.99, according to The New York Times. With such competition, publishing houses can no longer control book pricing as they once did.
Apple, resenting Amazon’s reign over the eBook market, in the past few years arranged secret meetings with the major players in publishing, known as the Agency Five — Hachette, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and HarperCollins — to disrupt the online retailer’s power. These meetings were used as evidence in a lawsuit brought against these corporations in May 2012 when they were charged with conspiring to fix prices, which is a violation of U.S. anti-trust law.
Anti-trust laws protect competitive markets and prevent monopolies from gaining power over an industry by making it illegal for companies to collude or fix prices. According to a release from the attorney general of Connecticut, George Jepson, Apple and the Agency Five “conspired and agreed to increase retail eBook prices for all consumers” and “agreed to eliminate eBook retail price competition between eBook outlets, such that retail prices to consumers would be the same regardless of the outlet patronized by the consumer.”

Full article.

Thanks to Gordon Dryden, commentator and educational publisher, for bringing this story to my attention.

Fiona Kidman's Favourite Book of 2012

From: Fiona Kidman

A new book by Canadian writer Alice Munro is always a cause for celebration. Her publications span the past forty-five years. Each time one appears, roughly every three years, it is hard to believe that it will be as good as what has gone before. But at eighty-one years of age, Munro has delivered Dear Life¸ another collection of short stories that astound with their wisdom and insights into the human condition, the mysterious working of the heart, the way love rewards and bewilders her characters.
            These fourteen stories come with a difference from previous collections. The last four are not quite stories, she tells us, for they are autobiographical, in her words ‘the first and last – and the closest – things I have to say about my own life.’ This section is called “Finale” and from this we must take it that she is bidding some kind of farewell.
Do these four stories surprise us then? Yes and no. Throughout them runs the narrative thread that has illuminated so many of her stories from the past: growing up in rural Ontario, the daughter of a silver fox fur farmer who loses his money and a mother who would like a better station in life, but succumbs early to Parkinson’s Disease, the revelation of sexual secrets, the shameful beatings she received for misbehaviour from her father. All of these elements have appeared before, particularly the beatings, but until this story, they were administered by someone else; for instance, in The Beggar Maid, by the narrator’s stepmother. But here, she says, this is the unvarnished truth, it was my father who beat me, he thought it for the best, and I don’t hold it against him. These personal stories end in her childhood. What are we to make of this? The coded message would appear that if the reader can find this Alice in stories of childhood, it is reasonable to assume that it is the same grown up Alice who informs us in stories about an older and more worldly narrator. Read the stories – that is where you will find me.
Some of the earlier ten stories show unevenness in their structure, although none fail to draw the reader on and surprise. Memory is the key to each of them, the story of what went before, the place where our history takes us. My favourite three stories are “Corrie”, “Train” and the title story “Dear Life”.  “Corrie” is a plain woman deceived by her lover, for most of her life. She pays a monetary price for keeping a secret that in fact never existed, a story invented by the man to extract regular money from her.  If there is a surprise, it is that Corrie, the character, old and ready to abandon sex, still sees it as money well spent.  There may be a price of one kind or another for love, but what would life have been without it at all? “Train” is a sympathetic account of a young man returning from World War 11 and never making it home. He jumps the train before he reaches his destination and drifts through a series of relationships before moving on. The dénouement, in which we discover why he didn’t return, makes perfect sense of what has gone before.
And so to the title and final story “Dear Life”. Alice, for this is the autobiographical writer narrating, is an infant in her pram, outside the house where the family lives, when a woman with a reputation for strangeness approaches. The mother snatches the baby, runs inside and locks the door, while the demented woman knocks and bangs at the windows. Finally she goes away. When she is an old woman herself, the narrator discovers that the woman had once lived in the house and was perhaps looking for a past that she had forgotten at the time. One can never know everything all at once, she is saying. Nor could she, herself, have recognized as a girl, that the mother who had embarrassed and driven her away as her illness progressed, was the same woman who had protected and loved her. She understands now. ‘We say of some things,’ she concludes, ‘that they can’t be forgiven, or that we will never forgive ourselves. But we do –we do it all the time.’
I am grateful for Munro’s own dear, sweet life, the stories she has given us, and the simple stark beauty of her language. This doesn’t have to be the end, but if it is, it is a beautiful conclusion.

Dear Life, by Alice Munro, Chatto & Windus 2012

The Paris newspaper Liberation commissioned twenty foreign writers to write short appraisals of their favourite books for 2012. The contributors included John Burnside, Salman Rushdie, Hideo Furukawa and Thomas Jonigk. The English version of mine is attached.  For your French speaking followers who might like to see this special edition in full, the link is: