Reading Round-Up

You would think the book industry is a pretty straight forward one, but we're constantly flooded with news about new books and better reading strategies, interviews with our favorite authors and fun quirks of the literary world.  It's a lot to process.  To help you along, we present the Reading Round-Up, some of our favorite things on the web this week regarding all matters of reading. 

Bedtime stories?  These are some of the best (not to mention classics).

Time to clear the literary skeletons out of your closet. Which books should you probably have read by now (read: only pretended to read in high school)?

How to read poetry, because it can be a little overwhelming

How many of BBC's 100 Greatest Books have you read? ...not that it's a competiton.

How to help boys love books (podcast with one of our favorite authors, Ann Cannon!)

Become someone else while reading.  

With that being said, where do you find your reading news?

How many authors get their own adjective?

Franz Kafka was a German novelist, considered by his contemporaries to be one of the best writers of the 20th Century.  In fact, the term "Kafkaesque" is widely known throughout the English language as "something that is horribly complicated for no reason." Sounds intriguing, no?  

Kafka was an interesting character: his dying wish was that all of his literary works be burned;  it's speculated that he had schizoid personality disorder; he wrote from the middle of his notebooks to the front; and he had a fondness for Yiddish theater. The best part?  He wasn't a starving, demented artist like his works might suggest, instead he was a minor clerk in a German insurance firm.  His life was startlingly ordinary, considering the nature of his writing.

Kafka's works are dark and twisty and a little overwhelming (psychologically) for beginners. Even so, this book, The Complete Stories, is a great place to start and includes both his short stories and more evolved works. 

A short review from a student employee in our General Book Department:

"One of Kafka's shortest stories was a single sentence in one of his notebooks: 'A cage went in search of a bird.' This is a small example of Kafka's ability to evoke the horror that hides within everyday life. These stories are all masterpieces from one of history's most creative minds. Although some are frightening, within each of them is an attempt to find meaning out of the most meaningless discouraging aspects of life. If you've never visited Kafka's universe, this book will give you a great tour."
Not too many writers earn their own adjective, that's saying something. 

When Books Become Movies

Some people love them, some people hate them.  Either way, I think most would agree it's a fine line between capturing the essence of a novel and completely butchering a literary treasure.

What makes the good ones good and the bad ones awful?

How do you capture the development of a story in a two-hour (give or take) film?

I think back to personal favorite and failures.  I loved reading Anna Karenina, but on an especially dreary afternoon a few weeks back I made it through approximately seven minutes of a film version on Netflix before watching another episode of 30 Rock instead.  On the other hand, I would rather watch Anne of Green Gables back to back to back before trying to read one of those books...again.  Of course, some fall in the middle and manage to tell an enjoyable story both through film and paper, the Lord of the Rings trilogy instantly comes to mind.

What's the key to getting it right?
New Zealand backdrop?

I think the secret is in the details.  It's been my literary experience that true development, character and plot-wise, all happens in the details.  These details make-up the essence of a story, filling the pages in between the sudden plot twists and climax(s).  These details are usually when you find yourself becoming attached to characters and invested in the story.  For myself, seeing a loss of these details from a book to movie translation always hurts a little, and I feel cheated of the experience I had reading the book.

My most anticipated movie of the summer?  The Help.  It's not just because I'm a female and happen to secretly love Civil Rights historical fiction, either.  Having finally read the book after planning to do so for months, I loved it and couldn't wait to see how the movie would adapt the novel.  Naturally, I thought it was perfect.  I loved the way the movie stayed true to the book, through the details.  The small conversations that happened on paper and somehow made it into the movie as well.  Even better, the way those details were abbreviated for the movie, and yet somehow also elaborated by being able to see them happen.

All in all, it was a great book and a great movie, and I was reminded that sometimes film adaptations are just another way to live out a great story, even after you've finished the last page.

Which book-turned-movies are your favorites?  And which do you wish had never been made...let alone found their way into your DVD player?

BYU Bookstore Marketing

Find The Help at the BYU Bookstore

EXPOSED: The Bookstore and its textbooks

In an institution perpetuated by goodwill and wholesomeness, sometimes the BYU Bookstore is cast in a negative light; or rather, an overpriced, money-hungry light.  It's okay, we know you've thought it before, "Why is the bookstore so expensive?"  "How did I  just spend $400 on texbooks?"  "I could get this cheaper on Amazon/some shady website with no return policy."  Reputations are earned, and those of university bookstores usually fall under the "less-than-loved" category.

That's the way things are and while everyone is entitled to an opinion, there are a few misconceptions out there, particularly regarding...


In a recent sit-down with our textbook manager, some of those textbook-related issues, the ones that have students picketing and hate-blogging, were addressed. 

Falsehood #1:  The Bookstore marks up textbooks and makes an obscene profit on poor, vulnerable students.  It should be noted by anyone under the aforementioned impression, only 5% of textbook sales revenue remains after paying expenses, making it one of the most thinly margined departments in the store (read: We make hardly any money on textbooks. It's true).  A nice example: if the Bookstore pays $75 for a textbook from the publisher, we sell it for $100. Of that 25% mark-up, 20% is spent simply getting it to the students’ hands.  What's left, %5, is the amount that the university receives.  In other words, five dollars. 

Falsehood #2: The Bookstore's prices are a total rip-off, just compare them to Amazon's. Something important to remember when comparing used book prices, like those on Amazon, it's different than comparing two competing stores.  Think of used Amazon prices as a "garage sale" price, so to speak.  It's a peer-to-peer price and transaction, not the same as buying it from a store. Naturally, these used prices are often much cheaper than the Bookstore's, but if you keep in mind that distinction, the discrepancy in price makes sense. 

Falsehood #3: The Bookstore is all about money. Perhaps the biggest misconception of them all.  The money the Bookstore makes is used to cover costs and the profit remaining goes back to the University.  Essentially, money spent at the Bookstore benefits students.  The Bookstore still has the same intent it did when it opened in 1906: to provide students with all of their academic needs.  In fact, we've even taken measures to ensure all of your textbook options are available for you.  If you use MyBooklist, you'll find all the textbooks needed for your courses, as well as alternative prices and options listed, including Amazon's.
Textbooks are expensive, alarmingly so, but in a lot of ways, they really are an investment in your education and your future.  Those steep prices hurt now, but they'll pay off later.  

click here to shop for textbooks online

Reader Evolution – part 1

I have always found it interesting how different age groups are more entertained by certain books.  Actually, a more accurate explanation is that I have been fascinated as to why different generations enjoy hearing the same stories and plots told in different ways.  Let me explain:

I would wager that if you really considered it, you could find an adult equivalent to most children’s books.  Even though we get older, our reading material tends to teach the same morals: families are important, be a good person and you will be happy, believe in yourself, treat others with respect, always to what is right even if it’s hard, anything is possible, you can change the world, etc.

But it isn’t the similarities between books that interest me most; it’s the subtle differences between them.  I realize that my thoughts may be an overgeneralization and I don’t intend to mention every way in which stories differ from generation to generation.  But I do wish to bring to light some of my most favorite observations.  Today, I will mention one – scene description.

You will find that as a book’s intended audience matures, the author will spend an excessive amount of time describing more and more details (whether or not they are important to the plot).  What was merely a ball in children’s book becomes (when writing for an older demographic) a tattered soccer ball with a crackling surface and an ever so slight air leak which causes a small puff of air to emit from it upon striking it.  Now that I am older, I find that an author’s descriptive abilities know no bounds. I often find myself thinking, “Enough already. Was it really necessary to use up the last three pages to describe the clouds in the sky? It’s cloudy! I get the picture now let’s move on!”

But my question is why?  Why do children not require as many details?  Are their attention spans too short? Maybe younger readers can’t process as much information. Or maybe they don’t have the patience to read all the extra fluff.

It’s possible, however, that the problem may lie with the older readers and not with children at all.  Perhaps young readers’ imaginations are so strong that lengthy descriptions are too stifling.  It could very well be that it’s the more elder readers who need a picture painted for them while a youthful audience can sculpt its own masterpiece.

I don’t pretend to know the real reason.  I hardly know enough about human development to even begin to answer that quandary. But it’s certainly fun to think about.

BYU Bookstore Marketing

When a book becomes a "Bestseller" (...and what that really means)

Did you know The New York Times Bestseller List has its own Wikipedia page?  It's a real thing, the bestseller list and widely considered "the preeminent list of best-selling books in the United States" (for the record, that comes from the wikipedia page too).

Still, what does that really mean?  Certainly not that every good book makes it, and not that every book on the list is worth reading (Snooki's book It's a Shore Thing made the list at #24 on January 30) (No offense, Snooki).

Is the list compiled from solely from sales?  No one knows for certain, the entire process is considered somewhat of a trade secret.  But from what is known, the process goes something like this
  1. The Times prepares of a list of expected best sellers, then sends this list to bookstores. 
  2. Bookstores then rank the books on the list, with room to add in titles they consider to be "big movers" (What bookstores report back to the Times? "The names of booksellers used for our lists are kept as secret as the keys to the crown jewels," said William Adler in a 1991 interview )
  3. The Times takes the data, tabulates, and gets things ready to go for the week's list.  
There are surely more steps in the process, including how a list of "expected bestsellers" comes about.  Even so, the list often brings about much-deserved attention to little known authors, helping them gain exposure and publicity.

No matter how weirdly secretive the process, making it on the list is an incredible accomplishment for an author and even more so, making it to No. 1 truly shows a book has promise and deserves merit.  Brandon Mull, a BYU graduate and author, made it to the very top of the list earlier this year with the latest book in his young adult series, Fablehaven.

At the end of the day, the bestseller list is at the heart of the book business, always keeping things interesting and admittedly, perpetuating sales.  That being said, don't put too much trust in best seller lists. Instead, watch for reviews and if there's ever any doubt, always talk to a bookseller.  They're experts.

Have titles from the Bestseller list ever pleasantly surprised you? ...or maybe mislead you down a treacherous 400 page road?   

Brandon Mull's Fablehaven series here
Learn more about the Bestseller list and their secrets here