The World of the ‘Well-Read’ and the Dangers of Book Lists

Q: Have you read the latest Hilary Mantel?

A: No. I prefer her earlier work…

It’s easy to imagine two cavemen standing at the foot of a rock painting and grunting softly over the irony of using mammoth blood to draw a wounded deer. Readers, like all passionate art lovers, tend to argue over the merit of works at the drop of a hat.

All arguments over books boil down to one common point. How is one book ‘better’ than another?

Is Dan Brown’s latest novel really worse than Green Eggs and Ham? Is a blockbuster hit really better than a self-published thriller?

Occasionally book lovers will come up with a list of books, saying you must read these books to call yourself well-read.

I ask these people, on behalf of all readers, to please, please not do this.

Debate is a wonderful thing. For my part, is Green Eggs and Ham better than Dan Brown’s latest novel? Absolutely.

But that’s only my opinion, and you certainly don’t have to have read it to be called well read. Dr Seuss famously wrote it as a bet with his publishers that he couldn’t write a book with just fifty different words.

Only a few days ago one of my friends (an intelligent chap, though a non-reader) told me he had read my review for Dan Brown’s Inferno, and wanted to know if he should read it. I unequivocally replied ‘yes’.

Well-read 2Would I have rather recommended Jane Austen? Or Ernest Hemingway? Or George Elliot?

Of course, but that’s just my opinion. Will he enjoy Inferno? Yes.

Will he read another book because of it? Yes.

And my job, as a preacher of the word of the book, is complete.

If you finish a book and think to yourself – I enjoyed that – that’s all that matters. Yes, in my opinion there many wonderful books that don’t contain wizards and werewolves. But that’s just me, and my opinion.

Putting together a list of books someone must read is helpful.

Saying someone must read all of these books to be called well-read is silly, and ignorant of the diversity, not just of human beings, but of centuries of literature.

Author Maude Casey once said ‘I was born with a reading list I will never finish‘. Embrace that thought, and read what you want. Feel no pressure to read what people tell you. Only then, can you find yourself immersed in the magic of books.

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Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He learned to read on a two hour bus trip to school every day, and learned to write in lecture halls and cramped tutorial rooms. He sometimes wins things for the lecture hall stuff.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

Tom Hanks and Ron Howard On Board For Film Adaptation of Inferno

Earlier this morning Columbia Pictures announced it had set a December 18, 2015 release date for an adaptation of Dan Brown’s Inferno, his latest Robert Langdon story, but there was no word on who would star and direct.

Previously Tom Hanks had starred as the Harvard symbologist in the Ron Howard-directed The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, but when Howard opted not to return with The Lost Symbol there was a belief the series would end, or at least Hanks would not reprise his character again.

This afternoon however, after frenzied blogging and reporting from Hollywood, it now appears that The Lost Symbol has been pushed to the side, and Hanks and Howard are getting back together for Inferno.

Inferno is the biggest selling book of the year so far, with critics giving the novel better reviews than its divisive predecessor.

You can check out our own review of the book by clicking here.

Click here to buy Inferno from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Inferno by Dan Brown – A Review from Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach

Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach has thrown himself into Dan Brown’s latest blockbuster. Read what he thought of all the hype .

(Scroll to the bottom to see the three lucky people receiving copies signed by Dan Brown).

How peculiar a world that seems content to throw billions of dollars at Adam Sandler dressing up as a woman to play his twin sister, yet derides an author because they offer more substance than style.

As an author Dan Brown has made no secret of being an excellent maths teacher. Where other writers of similar ilk go on speaking tours and blog about their genius, Dan Brown has chosen a life away from his millions of fans. To the outsider he appears nearly embarrassed at the juggernaut he’s created, one of the few authors without the names “E.L” and “James” to constantly be a hot topic of mainstream media everywhere.

Continue reading

Cover for Dan Brown’s upcoming blockbuster ‘Inferno’ revealed

UPDATE: Now that the book is out, read our review here.

Publisher Random House has promised “…the most thrilling secrets remain locked inside”.

Exciting news for Dan Brown fans today as the cover for his early anticipation new novel Inferno was unveiled today.

Collectors of his previous bestsellers The Lost Symbol, Angels & Demons and the record-breaking The Da Vinci Code won’t be left disappointed, with Inferno carrying much the same design as the rest of his catalogue.

A clue to the city where long-time protagonist Robert Langdon will match wits is featured prominently, along with the mysterious outline of a face at the top of the cover. What links the haunting image has to the story we can only guess, but it’s sure to have some huge twists and turns to the very last page.

It’s Dante’s famous work Inferno that is at the center of Brown’s latest novel of the same name.

“Although I studied Dante’s Inferno as a student, it wasn’t until recently, while researching in Florence, that I came to appreciate the enduring influence of Dante’s work on the modern world,” Brown said in a statement. “With this new novel, I am excited to take readers on a journey deep into this mysterious realm … a landscape of codes, symbols, and more than a few secret passageways.”

You can check out the details of the book here.

And go to Dan Brown’s author page here

BREAKING NEWS – Dan Brown’s new novel Inferno due for release on May 14. Pre-order from Booktopia today.

UPDATE: Now that the book is out, read our review here.

Click here to pre-order Dan Brown's new book 'Inferno'

FROM RANDOM HOUSE:

Dan Brown’s new novel, the eagerly awaited follow-up to his No.1 international blockbuster, The Lost Symbol, will be published on the 14th of May this year.

The new book features renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon and is set in the heart of Europe. There, he is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces.

The announcement was made today in London by Bill Scott-Kerr, Dan Brown’s long-term publisher at Transworld who said:

“I’ve been working with Dan Brown for over a decade now and every time he delivers a new novel, he never fails to surprise. As a storyteller, he has the great gift of being able to take you on a breathtaking rollercoaster ride at the same time as offering a fresh perspective on what he’s showing us along the way. This brilliant new Robert Langdon thriller is no exception – in Inferno he returns to the heart of old Europe and to the territory so compellingly occupied by The Da Vinci Code. It’s another star turn from start to finish.”

Dan Brown said, “Although I studied Dante’s Inferno as a student, it wasn’t until recently, while researching in Florence, that I came to appreciate the enduring influence of Dante’s work on the modern world. With this new novel, I am excited to take readers on a journey deep into this mysterious realm…a landscape of codes, symbols, and more than a few secret passageways.”

Brett Osmond, Marketing and Publicity Director at Random House Australia said, “There’s no better guarantee of reading enjoyment than a new Dan Brown novel and the breaking news of Inferno is going to be sweet music to the ears of his legion of Australian fans. On 14 May we all get to re-ignite our passion for his thrillers as we join Robert Langdon, once again, on another unforgettable and relentless journey of intrigue and mystery. “

Click here to pre-order Dan Brown’s new book ‘Inferno’.

The Da Vinci Code is one of the bestselling novels in paperback in Australia since records began. The book spent more than a year on the bestseller lists and sold 1.7 million copies.

The Lost Symbol is one of Australia’s bestselling adult hardcover novels since records began, with current sales in excess of 650,000 copies (in both hardcover and paperback). There are 190m copies of Dan Brown’s books in print worldwide. Dan Brown’s novels have been translated into 51 languages.

Following the publication of The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown’s earlier novels, Digital Fortress, Deception Point and Angels and Demons have all gone on to become multi-million copy international bestsellers.

Click here to pre-order Dan Brown’s new book Inferno from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Simon Toyne, author of Sanctus, answers Ten Terrifying Questions


The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Simon Toyne,

author of Sanctus,

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in an out-of-the-way, seaside town called Cleethorpes in the north east of England. I lived there until I was 9 then began a gradual migration south, ending up at Goldsmiths College in London where I studied English and Drama.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At twelve, I wanted to be an actor because it seemed glamorous and exciting; at eighteen I wanted to be a film director for the same reasons; at thirty I wanted to be married to a beautiful woman and have a couple of fantastic kids. (Only one of these dreams came true).

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That England would win the world cup in my lifetime.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back – the definitive popular cultural works of my generation. (I’m counting these as one choice as you can easily watch them back-to-back with enough caffeine and sugar and a wee break in the middle).

The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris. The textbook for the modern thriller. Beautifully written, so well put together. I read it when it first came out and re-read it when I was writing my first novel to see how he dealt with the mechanics of things like suspense and action. I’m about a third of the way through book two of the Sanctus trilogy and just read it again to keep myself honest. I think this may become a small ritual.

Hamlet, William Shakespeare. I studied it at school and still find myself referencing it. It’s also the one play I’ve seen performed more than any other and it still manages to deliver a great night out.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I had carved a pretty successful career as a TV executive, but was feeling Continue reading

Huge savings on The Lost Symbol – only a few hours left

lostsymbol-tileI can’t tell you the number of pre-orders we have but let me say its HUGE .

In the meantime, The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown goes on sale tomorrow at 9am (and not a minute before).

So here’s the story.

If you order today you pay $19.95 for a book that should retail for $49.95. If you order tomorrow, you’ll pay $29.95.

Click on an image of The Lost Symbol to order Dan Brown’s new book at only $19.95 and save 60%. And if you already have, send this link to your friends, pronto.

A big thank you for yesterday

indigenousliteracydaytileRegular readers of the blog will know that I was really pushing for a big day in the sales department yesterday, in order to support Indigenous Literacy Day as much as possible. To that end, we scheduled the September issue of Booktopia Buzz, in the hope of irresistibly tempting you all.

Well, sad as it is at 6 in the morning, I’ve just had a look to see how we went. First of all, we had a huge number of orders – so many thanks to the people all over Australia who voted with their wallets.

And what generated the most interest? Well there were a few surprises.

The most viewed item in the Buzz yesterday was the limited edition of Carl Jung’s recently discovered magnum opus, The Red Book, and that translated into many, many orders – great news because we are talking about a book that retails for $320 (although of couse, we don’t charge that much).

Next most popular was 50 Books You Can’t Put Down campaign – so a lot of people were searching the guide to take advantage of the delightful free books.

People we pre-ordering Five Greatest Warriors (Matthew Reilly) in droves, tempted presumably by the chance to win a signed set of platinum editions of his backlist. Continuing with block busters, a lot more orders came in for Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol. September 15 is going to be a very busy day for us. And why would you want to pay $49.95 when you can pick it up for $19.95 from us?

There was a lot of interest generated in Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). Its a cult thing.

And rather amusingly, we had just as many people clicking on The Poo Pop-Up Book as Richard Dawkins The Greatest Show on Earth, but in a merciful show of good taste, it was The Greatest Show on Earth that translated into sales, and so to more books for people in remote communities.

You can support the indigenous literacy project at any time of the year by clicking here. Meanwhile, thank you for getting behind us, so we could get behind THE big day.

Indigenous Literacy – it all happens tomorrow

indigenousliteracydaytileHere is an easy way to get involved in a simple, effective and meaningful community activity.

Simply buy a book tomorrow (September 2) from any of the booksellers supporting the Indigenous Literacy Project.

Booktopia is donating 5% of its sales tomorrow to this fantastic organisation. Of course, we trade 24 hours a day, go for it, any time from midnight tonight.

We have a huge range, all the latest releases, great bargains, the books that no one else can be bothered chasing for you. You can even order your copy of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol for a world-beating price.

I am sending out my newsletter, Booktopia Buzz, tomorrow as well because I really want to get the most out of this opportunity to support reading in remote communities.

So what is it all about? Basically it is a really well thought out, well run industry-wide initiative to raise literacy levels in isolated regions. This is done by providing books and literacy resources to indigenous communities. The Indigenous Literacy Project is a partnership between the Australian book industry and the Fred Hollows Foundation and its patron is Therese Rein who is  passionate about the project. It is supoprted by the Australian Publishers Association and the Australian Booksellers Association.

Of course, you can support it directly by donating at any time. But if you buy a book from us tomorrow, (September 2),  the project will be getting a whole lot more.

The Lost Symbol…all will be revealed tomorrow night

TLS-160x600-animatedExcitement is building for Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, the 9780593054277sequel to The Da Vinci Code.

The jacket image has been a huge secret but all will be revealed at about 10pm (eastern standard time) tomorrow night.

In the meantime, you can pre-order your copy for $19.95 – yes, you read it correctly. That is a mighty 60% off rrp of $49.95. (conditions apply).

The world-wide release date is September 15.

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