Monday, 2 October 2017

The Grumpy Norfolkbookworm

A week which has left the Norfolkbookworm grumpy and bewildered.

I think that regular readers of this blog (waves at all three of you!) know that I love books from all genres and that as long as people read I have no snobbery as to what it is being read, however this past week has really challenged me three times.

Irritation number one – poorly edited books

This week I have picked up two new space books from the library with a view to buying them for my nephew later. However both of them have had major errors within the first 60 pages making me doubt the content of the rest of the book.

The first book (Apollo by Zack Scott) lists the wrong Apollo astronaut as part of a mission.
The second book (Beyond the Sky by Dara O’Briain) describes in really easy to understand terms how a solar eclipse occurs but then in big, bold, fancy text calls it a lunar eclipse. #facepalm

To be fair the publishers of Apollo have come back to me an apologised and assured me that this will be corrected in subsequent reprints and Dara O'Briain has tweeted me to say that he'll get his book corrected in reprints too.

Irritation number two – World Book Day 2018

The titles that children can swap their £1 vouchers for next March were announced this week and at first I was really pleased as there are 10 titles to pick from this time – surely this will mean there is something for everyone…

However of these 10 books
·         4 are by celebrities who are supposedly writing these books themselves
·         1 book is all about the Avengers and so not necessarily by any particular author
·         2 books feature well established characters (Paddington and the Mr Men)

This leaves just three books by ‘real’ authors.  Now I know that any book in the hands of a child is better than no book *but* why aren’t publishers using this opportunity to promote new authors to readers?  There are hundreds of great authors out there who go undiscovered because all of the press coverage goes to celebrity writers – why not use this promotion to widen reader experience rather than celebrity profile?

Before people call me out on this I’m not particularly questioning the quality of the books or the promotion as a whole. Free books give people the chance to try something new and I think a big opportunity is being missed here. Infrequent book buyers recognise celebrity names and brands and are more likely to buy these familiar books whereas they are less likely to try unknown authors and potentially ‘waste’ their money – WBD gives people the chance to try new things without spending anything…

Irritation number three – book reviews in the press

We’ve recently started buying a Saturday paper on a regular basis and I am enjoying the review section a lot as a rule. However this week I was just left fuming.

In the book section this week 20 books were reviewed. Of these just two were written by women and even these didn’t get full reviews, just short paragraphs.  A further two books were featured in more chatty articles – these were also by men. One book was about a woman but this too was written (and reviewed) by a man.  Three of the reviewers were female which is slightly better…

My rant on Twitter lead to some interesting chat with other readers, one said that she wasn’t bothered by the gender of the writer just the quality of the book which was a fair point but it goes back to my thoughts on World Book Day – if books/authors  don’t get the coverage how do casual readers (who don’t go in bookshops and libraries to browse) find them?

I confess that I was tired and grumpy as I read the paper yesterday and so to be fair I dug through the recycling to find last week’s paper to do the same counting exercise…

21 books were reviewed last week and 8 of these books were by women. There were also another four featured authors – 2 of whom were female. 

It is possible that I just overreacted this week but I will be watching this closely – and don’t get me started on the lack of children’s books or those in translation…

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