Bestsellers this week

greatest zooMatthew Reilly’s latest novel The Great Zoo of China (Macmillan) has debuted in second place on the bestsellers chart and is this week’s highest new entry. It’s behind The Long Haul (Jeff Kinney, Puffin), which is in first place on the bestsellers chart for the second week in a row and is also the week’s fastest mover. Richard Flanagan’s Narrow Road to the Deep North (Vintage) is in third place, continuing its run up the charts following its Man Booker Prize win in October. Other local titles to make the top 10 are Family Food (Pete Evans, Plum) in seventh spot, and Gallipoli (Peter FitzSimons, William Heinemann) in ninth spot—Books+Publishing.

Top stories this week

wbnimage2014nov21This week’s top stories from the Weekly Book Newsletter include:

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BOOK REVIEW: A Short History of Stupid (Helen Razer & Bernard Keane, A&U)

A Short History of StupidA Short History of Stupid is concerned with the rise of Stupidity in a world ruled by ‘fade-resistant individualism’, extreme paternalism, political condescension, conspicuous compassion and ‘the injurious yoga class of the mind’. Your pilots through the increasing idiocy of public debate are Helen Razer and Bernard Keane, prolific columnists and bloggers who are determined to remedy (or at least rail against) the current ubiquity of Stupid. They begin by examining the different ideas and cultural theories that have founded the Western world as we know it. From Descartes to Burckhardt, Marx to Heather Locklear, they discuss whether it was powerful art or powerful market forces that led to the creation of the ‘self’ and its expensively dressed first cousin, the individual. They spotlight the strong correlation between political conservatism and climate denialism, and sail briskly through the popular obsession with ‘personal stories’, which promotes the idea of a person as a narrative. Some chapters, such as the one about holistic yoga and ‘safe spaces’, are less well-referenced than others, but it’s nearly impossible for Razer or Keane to write badly so the writing maintains a consistently entertaining surface. A Short History of Stupid is an excellent, caustic guide to knowing thy Stupid self and liberating thyself from Stupidity by thinking critically.

Hilary Simmons is the assistant editor at Books+Publishing and a freelance journalist.  This review first appeared in the Books+Publishing magazine Issue 4, 2014. View more pre-publication reviews here.

Bestsellers this week

long haulThe Long Haul, the ninth book in Jeff Kinney’s ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ series (Puffin) is at the top of bestsellers chart and highest new entries chart this week. Richard Flanagan’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Vintage) has moved down to second place on the bestsellers chart after two weeks in first place. In third place on the bestsellers chart is The Burning Room (Michael Connelly, A&U), which is also at the top of the fastest movers chart. The 52-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths, Pan) is at fourth place on the bestsellers chart and is followed by Family Food (Pete Evans, Plum)—Books+Publishing.

Top stories this week

wbnimage2014nov14This week’s top stories from the Weekly Book Newsletter include:

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Bibliodiversity: A Manifesto for Independent Publishing (Susan Hawthorne, Spinifex Press)

BibliodiversityIn 2002 I attended the launch of Susan Hawthorne’s Wild Politics: Feminism, Globalisation and Bio/diversity and later used it as an economics text. In that book Hawthorne put the case for new ways of thinking and acting to protect and encourage biodiversity in the face of homogenising corporate globalisation.

In her new work, a ‘manifesto’ for independent publishing, Hawthorne considers the publishing industry within its international social context and finds a similar state of affairs and set of requirements for change: the publishing industry is dominated by ‘global megacorp’ publishers who are determined to maximise profit at the expense of small and localised producers, who must fight back by advancing … not biodiversity in this case but bibliodiversity.

Bibliodiversity, an ideal scenario comparable to Habermas’ ‘public sphere’, is ‘a complex self-sustaining system of story-telling, writing, publishing and other kinds of production of orature and literature. The writers and producers are comparable to the inhabitants of an ecosystem. Bibliodiversity contributes to a thriving life of culture and a healthy eco-social system.’

Hawthorne traces the term to a group of Chilean publishers in the 1990s, although this has been disputed by some of their Spanish colleagues. In any case, bibliodiversity has been advocated by the International Alliance of Independent Publishers since the organisation was founded in 2002.

I think Hawthorne is right to suggest that today’s dominant business practices work against genuine diversity in publishing, and that we should aspire to have the makeup of society properly reflected within our industry. That democratic impulse was part of what gave rise to Australia’s Small Press Underground Network (now Small Press Network) when it was founded in 2006.

Unfortunately, Hawthorne does not have a lot to say about how, precisely, the handful of corporations now dominating publishing around the world make survival and growth difficult for small, independent, locally focused publishers, or about the role of other players—notably governments—within the industry. She seems unsure about the place of digital technology within this process (seen both as a threat and as positively reflecting ‘organic patterns and processes’). And we are left to take the assertion of a diversity of voices being swamped by increasingly dominant corporate players—as with many other assertions in the book—on faith.

Bibliodiversity is a valuable call to action, but such action will require further thinking about the world and research into the dynamics of publishing within it. This book will appeal to members or students of the publishing industry who are interested in the global dynamics within it.

Nathan Hollier is director of Monash University Publishing and a past president of the Small Press Network. This review first appeared on the Books+Publishing website in August 2014. View more pre-publication reviews here.

Bestsellers this week

family foodFamily Food, the latest cookbook from TV-chef and health-food advocate Pete Evans (Plum), is the highest new entry on this week’s bestsellers chart, debuting in third spot. It sits below Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Vintage), which is in first place for the second week in a row, and the film tie-in edition of Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn, Hachette) in second place. Two other titles also debuted inside the top 10: Blood Magick (Nora Roberts, Hachette) in sixth spot and The Escape (David Baldacci, Macmillan) in ninth spot. Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum’s autobiography The Never, Um, Ever Ending Story (A&U), which was among last week’s highest new entries, has climbed to 10th spot to be the week’s fastest mover—Books+Publishing.

Top stories this week

wbnimage2014nov7This week’s top stories from the Weekly Book Newsletter include:

For details on these stories and many more, subscribe to www.booksandpublishing.com.au.

 

Bestsellers this week

Narrow Road to the Deep NorthRichard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North continues its climb up the chart since being awarded the Man Booker Prize. It is up from ninth last week to top spot on this week’s bestseller chart as the week’s fastest mover. Also among the week’s fastest movers are other local titles Kerry Stokes: The Boy from Nowhere (HarperCollins)—Andrew Rule’s authorised biography of the media mogul—and Peter Carey’s latest novel, Amnesia (Hamish Hamilton), while Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum’s autobiography, The Never, Um, Ever Ending Story (A&U) is the third highest new entry. The film tie-in edition of Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn, Hachette) has slipped from top spot to second on the bestseller chart, ahead of Leaving Time (Jodi Picoult, A&U) and The 52-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths, illus by Terry Denton, Pan).—Books+Publishing

BOOK REVIEW: Something Quite Peculiar (Steve Kilbey, Hardie Grant)

something quite peculiarThis memoir from one of Australia’s most gifted songwriters is a lively, anecdotal account of 40-plus years of musicianship. As the frontman of The Church—one of this country’s great rock ‘n’ roll acts—Steve Kilbey gained notoriety for being outspoken, even arrogant: he once declared himself Australia’s best songwriter—to the aggravation of ‘all of Australia’s other best songwriters’, he quips here. All that youthful hubris has mellowed into a narrative voice that’s lightly reflective yet still entertainingly candid. Kilbey recounts (in varying degrees of detail) his teenage beginnings in bands, The Church’s formation and chequered rise to prominence, the obligatory internal conflicts and frustrations with record-label executives, his romances, impressions of contemporaries, and the effects—both salutary and ruinous—of illicit substances on his life, culminating in a heroin habit that would take 11 years to shake. His place assured in the rock firmament, Kilbey is gratifyingly self-deprecating and open about past indiscretions; there’s no self-aggrandising, just plain-speaking, all delivered with Kilbey’s garrulous ‘ol’ cockney geezer’-style charm. Fans of Kilbey’s collaborations with Martin Kennedy may be disappointed to find this partnership is absent from the text.

Gerard Elson is a writer and bookseller who works at Readings St Kilda. This review first appeared in theBooks+Publishing website in August 2013. View more pre-publication reviews here.