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  • Brian Boone 5:00 pm on 2018/01/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , ha!, , margaret mitchell, , , , ,   

    6 Classic Books That Almost Had Completely Different Titles 

    Have you ever written a book? It’s very, very hard. Writers have to come up with thousands of perfect words and arrange them just so to create a thrilling and original narrative that also expresses their worldview via memorable and compelling characters. Doing all that requires a set of long-form expression skills, which is quite the opposite of coming up with a title—or encapsulating the entire novel into a handful of well-chosen words. A lot of writers can’t make a book and then also come up with a great title—the latter could and maybe should be up to editors and the marketing department. Here are some beloved classic novels whose authors nearly cursed with a terrible title. 

    Where the Wild Horses Are, by Maurice Sendak
    Where the Wild Things Are is a universally beloved childhood favorite. That’s probably because it’s a lot of fun, but also a little bit scary, and Maurice Sendak never coddles or placates the reader. The friendly monsters called “Wild Things” are so well and mysteriously named that its perplexing that Sendak only called the book what he did to solve a problem. He’d initially planned to write Where the Wild Horses Are. Except that when he sat down to illustrate, he had a really hard time drawing horses. Horses became “Things” and the book’s name changed, too.  

    Tomorrow is Another Day, by Margaret Mitchell
    Let’s get real: Gone with the Wind is a powerful, epic tale of war, love, self-respect, proto-feminism, and believing in onself…but it’s also a bit of a soap opera. As such, Margaret Mitchell nearly stuck her Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War novel with a number of soapy titles, such as Tote the Weary Load, Bugles Sang True, and Not in Our Stars. Still, the book almost went to print under the name Tomorrow is Another Day…even though that’s a total spoiler for the book’s moving final line. Ultimately Mitchell found the best title from “Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae,” a poem by 19th century French poet Ernest Dowson. 

    Something That Happened, by John Steinbeck
    John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is history’s second-best Great Depression novel, second only to Steinbeck’s The Grapes of WrathAs such, it’s a sad tale about desperate men doing desperate things, and Steinbeck reportedly wanted to make sure that the novel didn’t judge the characters one way or the other for the book’s violent conclusion. He tried to express that by going full objective journalism for the title, which is so nonjudgmental that it’s kind of hilarious. He changed his mind when he found some words that said the same thing, that humans are victims of fate, only more poetically. They were in a poem, in fact: Robert Burns’ “Of Mice and Men.” 

    The Last Man in Europe, by George Orwell
    Up until a few months before publication, Orwell was going to call, his novel about a future dystopian totalitarian state in which Big Brother was always watching The Last Man in Europe. At virtually the last minute, Orwell’s publishers asked him to come up something more commercial than what sounds like a book about the last human alive after a zombie apocalypse. His solution: the blunt, ominous far-off futuristic year in which the scary book took place: 1984.  

    Trimalchio in West Egg, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    F. Scott Fitzgerald suggested many high-fallutin’ titles for what ultimately became The Great Gatsby, his book about the rise and fall of the personification of the American Dream in the Jazz Age. Under the Red, White, and Blue was a little too on the nose, as was Gold-Hatted Gatsby. The High-Bounding Lover was just a little-too-1920s. Fitzgerald also really wanted to call his book Trimalchio in West Egg. The latter part reflects the book’s setting; the first part is a literary reference to Trimalchio, a character who enjoys life in obscene excess in the 1st century Roman book The Satyricon. 

    Panasonic, by Don DeLillo
    DeLillo’s meditation on modern life and its many pollutants was titled Panasonic reportedly up to the last round of galleys. But then the Matsushita Corporation, which controlled the trademark of the well-known consumer electronics company, wouldn’t grant permission. So White Noise it was.

    What working titles of classic books are you glad were ultimately revised?

    The post 6 Classic Books That Almost Had Completely Different Titles appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 7:30 pm on 2017/12/12 Permalink
    Tags: ha!, , what it says on the tin   

    How to Judge a Book by Its Cover 

    You’re not supposed to do it, but judging a book by its cover is a skill we all employ from time to time; whether we’re standing in a busy Barnes & Noble or squinting at a screen full of thumbnails, a book’s cover is often all you have time to peruse. Sure, in a perfect world you’d linger over every book, smelling the paper and reading copious swaths of the text in order to figure out if it was written just for you. But in reality, we often don’t have the time.  Therefore, being able to parse a cover to deduce the kind of book you’re dealing with—and judge whether it’s what you need in your life—is a vital skill.

    Here are our helpful guidelines for judging books by their covers.

    Cover Design Element: All Text—whether it’s just the title and author’s name or a few sentences of type, the cover is 95percent words.

    What It Means: Whatever the genre, the publisher considers this book to be a prestigious work. This cover design can cross genres—it’s sometimes used in non-fiction, often in literary fiction, and can even be found now and then in other genres. No matter what the subject matter of the book, a cover of all-text means you’re supposed to be prepared for some life-changing stuff.

    Example: I Can’t Breathe, by Matt Taibbi; Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison.

    Cover Design Element: Silhouette of Man with Gun—there might be other elements on the cover, but the primary focus is a faceless man holding a gun.

    What It Means: It’s a thriller, it’s action packed, and the characters may not be the most unique or interesting because their main function will be to kick a lot of butt while saving the world. Something about the “silhouette man with gun” just screams determination and heroism to graphic designers for some reason.

    Example: Manhunt, by James Patterson and James O. Born.

    Cover Design Element: Man in Hooded Cloak with Staff—standing either in the midst of an ancient forest, a huge hall in a castle, or possible floating in the air.

    What It Means: This is an epic fantasy, and there is an ancient wizard involved. This is a little different from the next item on this list, in that the focus on the wizard instead of a warrior means this is probably more of an old-school fantasy with a focus on ancient magic and lore rather than a grimdark focus on “gritty” fantasy realism.

    Example: Wishsong of Shannara, by Terry Brooks.

    Cover Design Element: Swords—pile of Corpses Optional.

    What It Means: This isn’t your grandfather’s fantasy; this is a brutal slaughter-fest in which the forces of darkness are really dark. There might be magic and elves, but there will also be blood, buckets of it, as well as lingering descriptions of realistic details of war. You can practically hear the Black Metal soundtrack this book rocks to.

    Example: Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence.

    Cover Design Element: Lady in a Dress.

    What It Means: Depends a bit on the dress, and if the lady is alone. If there’s a buff-looking gentleman with her, it’s probably considered a romance. If it’s an old-fashioned dress that nevertheless anachronistically shows a lot of cleavage, it’s also probably a romance. On the other hand, if the lady is facing away from the camera and is dressed in a very demure manner or is wearing a simple white cult-like dress, it’s probably a work of straight ahead fiction with a female-centric vibe and a soapy thriller or mystery aspect. Or possibly a romance.

    Example: The Duchess, by Daneille Steel.

    Cover Design Element: Shirtless Dude.

    What It Means: Romance. A steamy slab of beefcake-lovin’ romance. There’s a 10 percent chance it’s an urban fantasy about werewolves; see color codes below.

    Example: Heart Sight, by Robin Owens.

    Cover Design Element: Vintage Photo.

    What It Means: Likely a memoir or biography of someone who lived long ago. 10 percent  chance it’s a work of historical fiction. If it’s a photo of a child, the story will be heartbreakingly sad. If it’s a celebrity, they’re more than likely dead.

    Example: Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt.

    Cover Design Element: Photo of a Child, with a Childlike Font.

    What It Means: This book was written from the get-go to be the saddest damn thing ever. The kid on the cover has a 50 percent chance of dying at the climax.

    Example: Literally anything by Cathy Glass.

    Cover Design Element: Spaceships, Monsters, Aliens, People with Glowing Stuff Around Them.

    What It Means: We don’t need to explain sci-fi and fantasy to you, do we? Here’s your quick-reference decoder ring:

    SPACESHIP—Probably military sci-fi. ASTRONOMY IMAGE—Hard sci-fi. ALIEN CREATURE—Big-idea sci-fi. WOMAN IN LEATHER PANTS WITH SWORD—Urban fantasy.

    Example: Leviathan Wakes, by James S.A. Corey, Dante Valentine Series, by Lili Saintcrow, or Artemis, by Andy Weir.

    Cover Design Element: Color Coding.

    What It Means: If you’re really in a rush, you can often tell what kind of book you’re dealing with simply by the overall color palette of the cover (there are always exceptions; these rules are more like guidelines). Here’s your decoder ring: BLACK/RED—Urban fantasy. BLUE/ORANGE—Mainstream fiction. YELLOW—Historical fiction. PINK/PURPLE—Women-oriented fiction. BLACK/WHITE: Serious literchure. BLACK/WHITE/RED—Serious sci-fi, fantasy, or horror.

    Examples: A Conjuring of Light, by V.E. Schwab, All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, A Column of Fire, by Ken Follett, , by , and A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara.

    These aren’t hard and fast rules If you grab a blue book from the shelf and it turns out to be a space opera, well, don’t say we didn’t warn you. But if you’re in too much of a hurry to read back cover copy, you’ll do pretty well judging books by these cover guidelines.

    The post How to Judge a Book by Its Cover appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 4:00 pm on 2017/10/26 Permalink
    Tags: beauty and the beast, ha!, , , , spooky costumes   

    Your Bookish Halloween Survival Guide 

    Gather ‘round the Cauldron, because Halloween is almost here! From costume inspiration and hosting tips to party-appropriate chit-chat, we’ve got your bookish Hocus Pocus survival guide right here.

    1. Playing Dress Up on a Dime

    The most intimidating thing about Halloween is by far the costumes. Some people go ALL OUT! But when inspiration fails, you can always turn to books (and your own closet) for the perfect part to play. Got black pants and a black polo shirt? Braid your hair to the side and buy a cheap Mockingbird pin…voila, you’re Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games! (Bonus: this same costume works for Tris from Divergent—just add some combat boots and a temporary tattoo!)

    Pair a long black coat, a bright colored scarf, some white gloves, and an umbrella for an easy turn as Mary Poppins! (Bonus points if you bring her magic overnight bag filled with goodies for the party, see below for suggestions.) Another classic book character just needs a white button down, black skirt, black flats and some knee high socks—tease your hair and top with a pink bow to dazzle the crowd as Eloise!

    Let’s not forget the guys, who, let’s face it, always have it easier. Got a nice black suit you never wear? The costume options are endless: splash some fake blood on your face for a look from American Psycho; buy some black-rimmed glasses for Clark Kent and hide a superman T shirt underneath; buy a deerstalker hat online and you’re Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes.

    1. Cast Spells…I Mean, Play Party Games

    Every party needs some quality games! Using books as inspiration, write down the names of famous book characters on index cards. (You can even keep it Halloween themed and stick to magical ones.) Then, have someone select a card and place it on their forehead facing out, so they can’t see who they are. Then, it’s a classic game of twenty questions to find out whether they are Severus Snape, Frankenstein, Jamie Fraser, or Wonder Woman! (You can also play this game as charades, because who doesn’t want to see their friend’s best Edgar Allen Poe impression?)

    Murder mystery parties are always popular, and there are kits online you can buy to get started! And last but certainly not least, once you have a few literary-themed libations inside you, telling ghost stories will be equally horrifying and hilarious.

    1. Let Them Eat Cake (or Chocolate Frogs)

    It’s impossible to survive Halloween without snacks. As they always say, you can’t go wrong with Harry Potter-inspired snacks: some chocolate frogs, golden snitch cake pops, and butterbeer ice cream will do the trick! Throw a tea party by way of Alice in Wonderland, with tea sandwiches and cookies decorated like playing cards, or go full Regency Jane Eyre style with seed cake, trifle, white soup, and poached salmon. Finally, you could always serve wedding cake with the Game of Thrones wines, but be careful there are no Lannister loyalists present.

    1. Be Our Guest (and always bring a gift)

    If you’re not hosting the party, but attending instead, it’s always polite to bring a gift. If the party is bookish-themed, why not bring your favorite tome? For witchy parties, Practical Magic is perfect. For horror bashes, some vintage Goosebumps books would be fun! If Disney is the theme of the day, the Beauty and the Beast DVD is a great choice.

    1. Staying In Can Still Be Spooky

    If Halloween parties aren’t your thing, but you still want to celebrate, go all out! Buy some classic horror movies like Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, and Hocus Pocus and go to town (and still get to bed before the moon is full.)

    Happy Halloween, bookworms!

    The post Your Bookish Halloween Survival Guide appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 3:30 pm on 2017/08/24 Permalink
    Tags: , cat on a hot tin roof, , , darkness and light, , , , , ha!, , , , , , ,   

    The Gothic Novel Survival Guide 

    So, you’ve found yourself in the 18th or 19th century, stuck in a gothic—or Southern Gothic!—novel. Surrounded by mysterious settings, dangerous characters and a bit of romance, these novels can prove fatal, but nothing you can’t survive, if you follow these instructions:

    1. First, are you in Europe or America?

    The Gothic genre originated in Medieval Europe with The Castle of Ontranto, the story of a man who undoes his life while trying to prevent a prophecy from coming true (think Macbeth meets Oedipus Rex) while Southern Gothic novels like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil are the American response to the popularity of this genre, and deals with the South’s blood-tainted history as a result of slavery. So, depending on where—and therefore, when— you are, you play by different rules.

    2. If you’re in Europe, figure this out first and foremost: if there’s magic, hide on the sidelines.

    Look, I’m not saying Dracula isn’t kind of sexy (especially the Gary Oldman movie version), but in the Gothic genre, magic and mystery almost always spell death. The people who survive are the ones who don’t get mixed up in it. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, wishing for eternal youth has horrific, murderous consequences when a man decides to trap his youth inside a painting, but ultimately damns his soul. (The servants survive though, so probably best to stick to the downstairs parts of the great, gothic houses.)

    3. Are you a woman? Then decide: villain, or victim?

    There are two types of women in gothic literature. There’s the mysterious, often off-the-page villainess (such as Rebecca, in the classic gothic novel about a woman unraveling the truth about her new husband’s dead first wife) and Jane Eyre (whose romantic anti-hero Rochester keeps his mentally unstable wife locked in an attic until she tries to burn their house down). But there are characters like Jane, who is in many ways a victim of circumstance—an orphan, abused, forced into a life of servitude—and Nelly, in Wuthering Heights, the narrator of the story and servant to the family. She isn’t culpable for the tragedy that ensues as a result of Catherine and Heathcliffe’s romance, but she witnesses it, and lives to tell the tale. As I said before: villains usually have a tragic end, but as far as gothic literature goes, they’re usually the most infamous (and interesting) characters.

    4. If you’re in a Southern Gothic novel, outrun your past—fast.

    In books like The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, and plays like Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the characters are obsessed with events that happened in the past that they cannot undo. If your past is haunting you, it can be almost as powerful as the magic present in the European gothic novels. For the characters in The Sound and the Fury, three brothers fixating on what happened to their youngest sister, Caddy, caused the ruin of their entire family; and in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Brick’s inability to confront the truth about his sexuality led to tragedy both for his marriage, and a close friend. If you’re going to survive the Gothic South, either make peace with the past, or invent yourself a new one.

    On second thought, these books may be much more fun to read than they are to live through, but with these steps, you’re primed to make it to the 21st century intact. Unless, of course, I’m one of those gothic villainesses haunting you from the shadows of your past, waiting to take you down.

    What tips would you offer someone who’s just trying to live through a gothic novel?

    The post The Gothic Novel Survival Guide appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 2:53 pm on 2017/07/19 Permalink
    Tags: be the book club you wish to see in the world, , , , ha!, , into the water, , , the jane austen book club, , wine   

    The Introvert’s Guide to Being a Book Club for One 

    Reading is usually a solitary activity (unless you live in New York City and ride the subways, in which case you have been subjected to either some deranged person reading out loud from a book or someone reading along with you over your shoulder on a packed train). That’s one reason reading remains a powerful experience—you’re not part of a hive mind audience, you’re all alone, just you and the words someone else created, crossing space and time to find you.

    Sometimes that solitude gets to be a bit much, and naturally we all have the urge to discuss the books we’ve read, to share our insights and be exposed to someone else’s (or, possibly, just to make fun of the author’s penchant for ellipses or their dreadful Marty Sue addiction). Which is fine if you’re someone who enjoys being with other people—you can join or start a Book Club. A few friends, a bottle of wine, and a book and you’re set to go.

    But what if you don’t like being with other people all that much? What if the thought of offering up an opinion on a book in front of other people makes you nervous? Well, you can still get the benefits of a Book Club all on your own. Here’s our step-by-step guide to setting up an Introvert’s Book Club.

    Step One: Choose a Book

    Obviously you can’t have a book club without a book to discuss. And you might be tempted, out of efficiency or laziness, to choose a book you’ve read already, but we advise you to read a new book for this endeavor. Reading a book knowing you’re going to Book Club it is a different experience, because you’ll be reading with a slightly sharper focus, you’ll be keeping an eye out for discussion points. And, most importantly, you won’t have the option of being lazy and assuming you’ll remember a book you read five years ago. So, pick a new book, like Into the Water by Paula Hawkins.

    Step Two: Choose a Bottle of Wine

    The biggest mistake people make when setting up a Book Club is assuming that the book is the most important aspect of the Club. This is provably false. Book Clubs are all about the free exchange of ideas and the vigorous debate concerning the artistic merit and success or lack thereof regarding a work of art. Alcohol is a helpful lubricant here, a way of loosening you up so you don’t hold back about your opinion of the flashbacks. Choose the wine (or beer or whiskey or whatever) wisely. Of course, books can help here, too; why not read up on wine in Wine by Andre Domine?

    Step Three: Make Notes
    Reading a book with an eye towards discussing it formally is different from just reading it for pleasure. Make notes as you go, circle passages that affect you, scribble insults to the author in the margins, tear out whole pages and pin them to a corkboard—whatever works for you. This isn’t just an exercise; making notes as you go will force you to read thoughtfully instead of passively. You won’t just be enjoying the flow and surprise of the story, you’ll constantly be reading between lines and making connections. Which you’ll need because of…

    Step Four: Locate Discussion Questions

    While some Book Clubs, we’re sure, become mere excuses for some friends to sit around and drink with an air of literary sophistication, the point is supposed to be to expand your understanding of the work (if you’re not certain how Book Clubs work, you can read about them in novels like The Jane Austen Book Clubextra Meta Points if you choose that for your first Book Club read). That’s where the questions come in. Some books come with Book Club Discussion Questions already worked up in the back, and many more have Book Club questions available at the author’s or publisher’s website.

    If there are no prepared questions for you to use, make your own! There are plenty of suggestions for generic Book Club questions (here’s one link), but of course since this is a One Person Book Club, you can do whatever you want, so we have a few suggestions:

    SUGGESTED GENERIC BOOK CLUB QUESTIONS

      • Did you ever experience the urge to throw this book across the room? Did you? Actually throw it, we mean? If you had the urge, but did not follow through, what restrained you?
      • At any point while reading this book, did you find yourself weeping uncontrollably? Were you on public transportation at the time? Did everyone get up and move away from you?
      • On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to anonymously leave this book on someone’s desk at work with a note suggesting they would enjoy it?
      • If this book were adapted into a film, would you totally go to that theater downtown that’s always empty at one in the afternoon, sit all the way in the back, and watch it unless some kids came in and sat near you?
      • How likely are you to a) name pets after the characters in this book; b) begin dressing like a character from this book; c) use familiarity with this book as a way of judging new people?

    Step Five: Start a Blog

    The key to a Book Club is the expression of ideas and the debate thereon. If you don’t actually comment on the book you’ve read, there really isn’t a club, not even a club of one. So, set up a blog—anonymously if you wish—to be the repository of your bookish thoughts. It doesn’t matter if anyone actually reads it. You don’t have to promote it or send out links to everyone you know. It’s just going to be where you formally organize your drunken thoughts about a book. If you keep it anonymous and turn off comments, you won’t ever even know what other people think, so you won’t have to worry about arguing with people who turn out to be tireless 15-year old trolls whose idea of fun is to argue anonymous with people until they burst into tears. Not sure how to start a blog? Luckily, there’s a book for that.

    Book Clubs can be raucous, fun gatherings of like-minded people seeking to elevate their conversation. Or, they can be one-person efforts to be more mindful of your reading. What do you say—will you start a One Person Book Club?

    The post The Introvert’s Guide to Being a Book Club for One appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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