Fun Reads for Friday: BTBA Finalists / 100 Great Books for Kids

25 Days of the BTBA (Three Percent)

As you may remember, Three Percent recently announced this year’s long list for the Best Translated Book Award (BTBA). Leading up to the announcement of the short list of ten titles on April 10, 3P is running a daily series of posts explaining why each of the 25 books on the long list should win the award. All of the posts are archived here, and many are rather compelling. (I’ll actually be writing one of these myself for the only book on the list that I’ve read–Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?) Chad Post’s pithy one-liners on why each book should win are also pretty fun. Some of the more amusing examples:

On Upstaged by Jacques Jouet, translated by Leland de la Durantaye:

Why This Book Should Win: Oulipians have the most fun.

On New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani, translated by Judith Landry [Ed: and this book sounds awesome]

Why This Book Should Win: Because Marani invented Europanto, a “mock international auxiliary language.”

On Funeral for a Dog by Thomas Pletzinger, translated by Ross Benjamin

Why This Book Should Win: Two reasons: 1) during Thomas’s reading tour, three consecutive events were disrupted by a streaker, a woman passing out and smashing a glass table, and a massive pillow fight amid a Biblical thunderstorm; 2) the phone number. [Ed: Not sure about this reason…]

On Lightning by Jean Echenoz, translated by Linda Coverdale

Why This Book Should Win: Tesla, duh. And Linda Coverdale. But mostly Tesla.

Scholastic’s Parent and Child Magazine’s “100 Greatest Books for Children”

A friend who works at Scholastic brought this list–which actually includes Young Adult titles, as well as those for children–to my attention on the evening of St. Patrick’s Day. While drunken faux-Irish bar patrons sloshed about around us, we had quite a nice time of guessing books which were included on the list. I was happy to have guessed several in the top twenty, and was surprised at some of the omissions (Ed Young’s Lon Po Po; anything by J.R.R. Tolkien, but mostly The Hobbit). Since authors were only represented once on the list, some of the representative selections were also a bit suprising (Green Eggs and Ham over Cat in the Hat, even though I like the former better; Matilda for Roald Dahl over James and the Giant Peach or The Witches; The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik instead of Wonderstruck; The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks over basically any other Magic School Bus book…)

Of course, the question of what makes something a “great” book for kids is a big and incredibly vague one. P&C attempts to clarify their selection process here, although I think there is still some ambiguity. But here’s the gist:

“To create our list, we asked several highly respected literacy experts, educators, and parents for suggestions. (See “Contributors” on our bookshelf.) They came through in a big way — nearly 500 books were in the running. We used a variety of criteria to narrow down to 100 and then rank our titles, including diversity of genre, topic, format, ages and stages, authorship, and cultural representation. Factors such as literary and/or illustration excellence, popularity, and longevity or innovative freshness were all qualities of books in the final round.

Along the way, a few familiar and well-loved titles made way for fresh, unique books that children today know and love. Some authors’ secondary works stepped aside to allow for a greater variety of names and faces who may be new to you. We also included nonfiction, a rarity among these kinds of lists, but a must, given the high demand for it in schools today and the great quality of these works. In the end, we came up with a diverse range of timeless titles, classic and new, that children of all ages will learn from, grow through, and enjoy.”

And here’s the top 10:

  1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  2. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown / Illustrated by Clement Hurd
  3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  4. The Snowy Day written/ illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats
  5. Where the Wild Things Are written / illustrated by Maurice Sendak
  6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling / Illustrated by Mary GrandPré
  7. Green Eggs and Ham written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
  8. Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  9. The Giving Tree written / illustrated by Shel Silverstein
  10. Frog and Toad Are Friends written / illustrated by Arnold Lobel

See any glaring omissions/terrible choices? Especially happy about a selection? (I was thrilled that The Phantom Toll Booth and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH were included, myself.) Discuss…

Another Day, Another Contest: Jen Campbell’s “Weird Chat-Up Lines”

Hugging Book design by Thomas Keeley (found on Blurberati Blog)

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! (Or, if you will: Happy My Little Sister’s Birthday Day, everyone! Let’s hear it for turning 11!)

Jen Campbell over at This is Not the Six Word Novel and author of the just-about-published Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops is running a contest today. Says Ms. Campbell, “I want to hear the weirdest/worst chat up lines you’ve ever heard.” Two lucky winners will receive a signed copy (each) of  her forthcoming book. (Based on some of the ‘weird things’ that she’s posted about–which I re-posted here–this book is going to be hilarious. And sad. But in a funny way, you know?)

Honestly, I’ve heard a lot of weird ‘chat-up’ lines in my day (I have one of those faces that seems to encourage strange people and stranger conversation), but since she’s looking for best literary-themed chat-up lines as well, I thought I’d submit one of my more memorable reading-in-public encounters in the last few years. My submission is below; you can enter yours via Twitter, Facebook, or the in the post’s comment section, here.

“Even though it tends to bring out the weirdos, I still often like to take a book to a bar with me and enjoy a beer while reading. On one such occasion, I sat down with a copy of Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives. A man sat down next to me and asked, “What’s your book about?” and silly me, I thought he was actually curious. So I tell him that it’s about poets in Mexico and launch into a long and complex description of what is, after all, a long and complex book. Several minutes in, he interrupts me to tell me that the book sounds dumb because “there are no good Mexican poets.” He then offered to buy me a beer. I left.”

Icelandic Week at Three Percent

So, I’m catching this a bit late, but Three Percent has officially declared it Icelandic Week, in honor of Iceland’s status as the Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair (happening this week). Chad Post and co. have a variety of fun/interesting/edifying posts about Icelandic culture, food, music, and oh yeah–books, too. Check out the lot–including discussions of Brennevin, the goal celebrations of Icelandic soccer team Stjarnan, YouTube music videos, and an excerpt of Children of the Reindeer Woods by Kristin Ómarsdóttir (Trans. Lytton Smith) which Open Letter will be releasing in April–here.

Also, one last bit of good news: Amazon Crossing (Amazon’s new press) will be releasing ten Icelandic titles “in the near future.” Amazon Crossing had previously promised  to release four Icelandic novels, which was also great, but ten! Very exciting news for Icelandophilic (not a word, but you get the gist) readers of English.

Fun Reads for Friday

One Book on the Shelf

After moving to London and discovering that the Travel Bookshop (of Notting Hill fame) had closed, a “new-Londoner and ex-bookseller” decided that she’d visit every bookstore in London (with a few caveats). As she explains:

“It’s a way for me to see more of London, spend more of my time around books and, perhaps, help the bookshops in some way.

I’m still working on my grand plan and questions seem to arise quicker than I can answer them, a nowhere-near-exhaustive list being:

What counts as a bookshop? (Not sure)   What counts as London? (Zones 1-3)   Will booksellers want to talk to me? (Hopefully!)   Will I have to visit the naughty bookshops of Soho? (Yes…)   Will I embarrass myself in some uber-cool comic bookshop? (Probably)   Does Waterstone’s count? (As an ex-W’stones, I think they may have to!)   Will I have to visit those super intimidating posh ones near St James’ Park? (Yes)”

She’s also got a Tumblr blog (that’s a photo-based blog for you uninitiated) on the same project, if you’re more visually inclined:


For those of you who routinely Win the Internet, you’ve probably already seen this fun feature from BuzzFeed:

Awesome Stacks of Books Found in Offices

This is exactly what it sounds like. Here are some of my personal favorites:

Our friends at The L:

And from NPR‘s “Fresh Air” Office:

A nicely thematic shot of the bookshelves at Archie Comics:


Library Thing Catalog for The People’s Library (created by librarians taking part in the Occupy Wall Street protest)

This continues to fascinate me. Not only did they create an outdoor, all-donation, volunteer-run, topically-relevant library on the fly, they created a catalog for it. When I bookmarked this link, they were just short of 1,000 books. Now, they have 1,185. Even if they don’t have a lot of details for each title, that’s a ton of books to catalog that fast. And honestly, Library Thing is a bit clunky: I was going to create a catalog for my home library and gave up because I found the interface unwieldy. So kudos to the librarians and catalogers of TPL. Even if the protesters had been evicted today as planned, I think that (aside/apart from the protest itself) these library volunteers would have accomplished a pretty impressive feat.


Free Samples of the National Book Award Finalists (via Galley Cat)

Free samples of nominated titles in all genres: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and young people’s literature.

Anonymous Book-Loving Book Artist Leaves Sculptures in Libraries All Over Scotland

I think every country needs to have a bibliophilic book artist to brighten up our libraries…

Mysterious Paper Sculptures Pop Up in Libraries and at Book Festivals All Over Scotland (via Central Stn)

I just love this. Starting in March, an anonymous, book-loving book artist started secretly dropping off incredibly intricate and absolutely lovely paper sculptures in libraries and at book-related events all over Scotland. They were left with messages stating the artist’s “support of libraries, books, words, ideas” first at the Scottish Poetry Library, then at The National Library of Scotland, then at the Filmhouse, then the Scottish Storytelling Center, then the Edinburgh International Book Festival, then the Central Lending Library.

Never once did the artist name him/herself, although various media outlets claimed to have figured out the person’s identity. The original post at Central Stn has many more pictures, so check it out. You’ll also find links to The Guardian‘s coverage, as well as links to the sources that say they figured out who the artist is. I for one, do not want to know. Leave it a mystery for me!

Vikings: The First Gumshoes

Over at Detectives Beyond Borders, Peter Rozovsky continues an interesting series of posts about the thematic connections between Icelandic sagas and contemporary crime fiction. He’s posted about this a few times, noting that Icelandic crime authors like Arnaldur Indriðason find inspiration in the sagas, and quoting a passage from Czech author Josef Škvorecký’s Two Murders in My Double Life, in which a character suggests that Dashiell Hammett also drew from them.

The Trouble with Harald

‘I’ve posted from time to time about elements of the Icelandic sagas and other world literature that would be at home in crime fiction.  Few, if any, are as noir as a short section from the middle of King Harald’s Saga. Here are a few chapter titles from that section: “Murder.” “The Mission.” “Death in Denmark.”‘


Fun Reads for Friday

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops

A must read for anyone who interacts with customers or patrons of any stripe. This six-part blog post (see the continuation at the bottom of the 1st post) was compiled by Jen Campbell, a London-based writer who works at the Ripping Yarns children’s bookshop. A sampling of some of the better gems:

on the phone
Me: Hello Ripping Yarns.
Customer: Do you have any mohair wool?
Me: Sorry, we’re not a yarns shop, we’re a bookshop.
Customer: You’re called Ripping Yarns.
Me: Yes, that’s ‘yarns’ as in stories.
Customer: Well it’s a stupid name.
Me: It’s a Monty Python reference.
Customer: So you don’t sell wool?
Me: No.
Customer: Hmf. Ridiculous.
Me: …but we do sell dead parrots.
Customer: What?
Me: Parrots. Dead. Extinct. Expired. Would you like one?
Customer: What?
Me: Parrots. Dead. Extinct. Expired. Would you like one?
Customer: Erm, no.
Me: Ok, well if you change your mind, do call back.


Woman: Hi, my daughter is going to come by on her way home from school to buy a book. But she seems to buy books with sex in them and she’s only twelve, so can I ask you to keep an eye out for her and make sure she doesn’t buy anything inappropriate for her age? I can give you a list of authors she’s allowed to buy.
With all due respect, would it not be easier for you to come in with your daughter?
Woman: Certainly not. She’s a grown girl, she can do it herself.


Customer: I read a book in the eighties. I don’t remember the author, or the title. But it was green, and it made me laugh. Do you know which one I mean?

Swedish Education Minister Pushes for Chinese Instruction in Primary Schools

“I want to see Sweden become the first country in Europe to introduce instruction in Chinese as a foreign language at all primary and secondary schools,” said Jan Björklund, who heads the Liberal Party, a junior member of the centre-right ruling coalition.”

A short article, but certainly one of note. Interesting–although not surprising, perhaps–that the decision to push for Chinese language education as well as English, French, and Spanish is motivated by economic factors. As Björklund is quoted, “Not everyone in the business world speaks English. Very highly qualified activities are leaving Europe to move to China. Chinese will be much more important from an economic point of view than French or Spanish.”

Man Booker International vs. Translated Literature

An article by freelance journalist, editor, and translator Ángel Gurría-Quintana published on Three Percent regarding the frankly surprising limitations of the Man Booker International Prize, which aspires to the same prestige of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The winner of the Man International Booker Prize 2011 will be announced in Sydney on May 18th. Though still a relative newcomer to the world of literary awards –it is only in its fourth edition—the £60,000 prize has already acquired some heft. Unlike the Man Booker, given yearly to an outstanding work of fiction by a British, Irish or Commonwealth author, this biennial gong aims to celebrate “one writer’s overall contribution to fiction on the world stage.”

Its organisers hope that such a global remit might eventually make MIBP a rival to the prestigious Nobel. But is this aspiration compromised by the rule that the award is given to an author writing fiction in English, or whose work is “generally available” in English language translations?

Australian writer and publisher Carmen Callil, one of this year’s judges, admits that the translation requirement can undermine the prize’s claim to rewarding the best of world literature. “There are many writers who haven’t been translated and who are very important. But we agreed that, to be considered for our list, authors needed to have at least three books in translation.”

And also via Three Percent:

The Booker Prize’s International Embarrassment

Oh, the literary drama, delightfully remarked on in caustic British fashion by Robert McCrum at The Guardian. As it begins:

“The latest Man Booker International prize, awarded on Tuesday to the absent figure of Philip Roth, has been a car crash. Or rather, an unfortunate series of avoidable collisions between the Booker limousine and the oncoming traffic on the four-lane highway to the top of Mount Parnassus.

First, there was John le Carre’s refusal to co-operate: the author of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold asked to be removed from the shortlist, on hearing he was in contention for the prize. The London book specialist Rick Gekoski, who was chairing, handled that pretty well.

More embarrassingly, this was followed by one of the three judges, the ex-publisher Carmen Callil, withdrawing from the panel in an outburst of literary road rage after Philip Roth was named as the 2011 winner.

Finally, Jonathan Taylor, chair of the Booker Prize Foundation, proceeded to throw kerosene on the smouldering wreck by claiming, in the course of some snooty and ill-judged remarks to the diners in the London ceremony held in Roth’s absence, that the prize he’s been in charge of for the past several years was now the world’s premier literary trophy, superior in fact to the Nobel.”

And lastly:

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Shortlist

Head’s up from Mystery Fanfare on the shortlist of a crime novel award I was previously unaware of. The delightfully named prize also includes a delightful award:

“The winner will receive a £3,000 cash prize, as well as a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by Theakstons Old Peculier.”

Barbara Fister Interviews Quentin Bates

Nordic crime enthusiast (and fellow librarian) Barbara Fister has a nice long and interesting interview with Quentin Bates on her Scandinavian Crime Fiction blog. Among other things, they discuss how Iceland has changed since Bates first lived there in the 70s, the 2008 economic Crash, Arnaldur Indriðason, and writing from a female prospective. I won’t spoil the highlights for you, but I will pass along my hearty agreement with Bates’ assessment of “the mighty Bernard Scudder,” the translator of record for oodles and oodles of Icelandic literature–everything from sagas to the English subtitles in the film version of Jar City. Says Bates:

“Arnaldur and Yrsa both had the tremendous good fortune to be translated into English by the mighty Bernard Scudder, who did a magnificent job – to the extent that their books are as good, if not better, in English than in Icelandic.”

Here, here. Scudder’s translation record is inspirational and staggering, and I’m delighted that he is still receiving due credit, even if he isn’t around to enjoy it.

The Babysitters Club: Where Are They Now?

I don’t think this really needs any preamble. Just too much fun: The Babysitter’s Club: Where Are They Now? Ten points to anyone who can remind me who this Shannon is, though…

This is also an excellent excuse to draw your attention to What Claudia Wore, which is (was? it hasn’t been updated in awhile) one of the best ideas for a blog ev-er.

Awful Library Books

I must draw your attention to a blog called “Awful Library Books,” which is run by two public librarians at a small branch library in Michigan. The blog is “a collection of public library holdings that we find amusing and maybe questionable for public libraries trying to maintain a current and relevant collection.” Skimming the posts, there are some real gems:

  • Disco Roller Skating (1979)
  • Childbirth with Hypnosis (1968): which apparently speculates that “…women who do not want children are usually psychosexually immature and generally reject to some degree the feminine role.”
  • The Family Foot Care Book (1983)
  • The Musical Atari (1984)
  • How to Be a Reasonably Thin Teenage Girl (1986): which includes chapters called “How’d you get so fat anyway?” “It’s Called Exercise, or, Get Off Your Duff and Do Something” and “Fifty Ways to Lose Your Blubber.”

Anyway, splendid blog–do check it out.