Don’t Underestimate Reader Recommendations | Mads Holmen

Reading people

The web has grown to become the main source of information and discovery for many people, and they depend on it to help build their perception of the world. However, at the same time the amount of information available has exploded.

Just think of Spotify’s 30m music tracks – there’s enough content just there to fill hundreds of human lifetimes. YouTube receives more video in a minute than you could ever watch and Facebook must choose from an average of 2600 relevant posts when you fire up your feed.

So, to manage the constant stream of potential information from overloading us, we all daily interact with recommender systems now. Some well-known examples include Facebook and Instagram’s Feed, Spotify’s Discover Weekly, movie and book recommendations on Netflix and Amazon – but recommenders are everywhere, assisting you to do everything from booking your travel to dating or ordering food.

However, there is one problem. Diversity.

The public discourse has now accepted terms like filter bubbles, echo chambers and fake news, but we’ve still done preciously little to consider the systems design that caused this new trend.

I heard a panelist in Amsterdam last week say that he genuinely believed Facebook and Google could incidentally cause the next global conflict by virtue of creating a more polarized media landscape. They didn’t plan to, but by rewarding attention-grabbing content that drives engagement, these companies have created a perverse incentive structure for content creators.

Ev Williams, the founder of Medium and Twitter, often uses the car crash analogy. The current systems rewards extremes he says. Say you’re driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course, you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behavior like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply more of them.

It interprets what we do, as the person we are.

When popularity and engagement drive the publishing industry, we lose sight of what gave the industry its privileged status in society in the first place – trust and human aspiration. So, while it is tempting for businesses to interpret popularity as a signal that people simply want more of that stuff, that would be a mistake. People also want diversity, because it serves a different purpose in our lives – that of our better, future self. In the recommender systems space, we call this problem exploitation vs exploration.

One of the editors on our blog, Sam Lay, wrote beautifully about why diversity is an important counteract to popularity – and why the reason is human aspiration.

“Every Monday my unambitious and unsophisticated musical choices stare me in the face. I can clearly see why Discover Weekly is choosing the songs it does and that’s slightly embarrassing.…My saves, shares and playlist adds on Spotify indicate my aspirational self, the music I would like to be associated with, whilst what I actually listen to often serves a practical purpose or satisfies a guilty pleasure.”

In short, he argues that there is a difference between what our actual self may do in the moment and what future our aspirational self is trying to steer us towards – and that any product that helped him be more of the latter would be worth more to him. Daniel Kahneman calls this the difference between our experiencing self and our remembering self.

The problem is often that aspiration and long-term product satisfaction cannot be measured as easily and immediately as popularity. However, we know from research that users actually tend to be more satisfied with diverse recommendations, i.e. being exposed to a wider variety of content, which can prompt the experience of serendipity — discovering something new when we were not expecting it. Those sorts of discoveries have disproportionate value.

So, if our ugly actual self stares us in the face every time we open Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, the best business opportunity around might be to cater more for our better selves. We know from countless branding studies that aspirational brands can charge a premium on their products and services (think Apple vs Dell), so I see no reason to assume that this shouldn’t be true in the publishing space too.

When speaking to friends about this article, one thing that kept coming back was how bookstores like Foyle’s in London are offering superior value by having diverse staff pick tables and an aspirational store environment. People buy an experience, not just a book. It might feel counter-intutivie when you’re chasing short-term clicks, but that experience will become ever more valuable if it reaches out to our better selves, rather than just re-circulating our current tastes.

***

The original article is here: https://www.thebookseller.com/futurebook/dont-underestimate-readers-when-it-comes-recommendations-642661

11 Reasons The Best Relationships Are With Books

a-woman-reading-a-book

Boyfriends come and go, best friends move away, and family drive you crazy…. but books, unlike people, are always reliable. If you’re a true bibliophile, than books will already have a special place in your life. You constantly surround yourself with them, and unlike your romantic partner’s crap, you never get mad when you find them laying around the house. You make sure that no matter where you go, you go together, and you always go to bed holding onto a book. Even if you’re at work or out with friends, you’re mind constantly wanders back to the same thing: books. You just can’t help it, they’re always on your mind and you miss them when you’re apart. Try as you might, but there’s no denying it: books are your true love, and one of the best relationships you have.

No matter how great your girl gang is or how wonderful the new love interest in your life may seem, you can’t escape the truth: your relationship with them will never be the same as your relationship with your books. Not sure if you believe me? Then here are 11 reasons that the best relationships are with books.

1. You Prefer Going to Sleep With A Book Over A Person.

While your partner hogs the blanket and snores in your ear, books never do that to you. Sure, they may leave lines on your face when you fall asleep reading, but can you really blame the books? You’d much prefer waking up to find yourself surrounded in novels than in your partner’s drool.

2. Books Are Always There To Catch Your Tears.

When books make you cry, which they do often, they are also the ones there to catch your tears, and they do it without complaining about how you look when you cry, or telling you to blow your nose.

3. The Bookstore Is Your Regular Date Spot.

If you spend your Friday nights cruising the fiction aisle with a few new books in your arms, then chances are you have a better relationship with books than you do the friends you ditch on weekends to stay home and read. Hey, no judgement here.

4. You Go Everywhere Together.

Whether it’s on the train to work, on vacation, or just out to the bar, you and books go everywhere together. You’d never dream of leaving the house without one, unlike your partner who you don’t mind leaving behind for some alone time with your new novel.

5. They Give You Butterflies In Your Stomach.

From the subtle romance to the hot-and-heavy sex scenes, books always find a way to give you all the good feelings. Can you still say that about the partner who shamelessly burps and farts in your presence? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

6. You Spend A Lot Of Alone Time Together.

You can truly tell if you like someone (okay, something) if you find yourself having a lot of one-on-one time together. In the case of books, there’s plenty of that.

7. Even Though You See More Than One At Once, No One’s Feelings Get Hurt.

Your books understand they aren’t the only one, and unlike your romantic partners, they never get jealous when you’re juggling multiple books at once. They understand your unquenchable need for good storytelling, and they never judge.

8. No Matter How Much You Yell At Your Books, You’re Books Never Yell Back.

You can get as mad at you want at your books for having terrible plot twists or for killing off your favourite characters, but yell as loud as you can, and books will never raise their voice to you. They’re here for you, to let you vent, and isn’t that what we all want in a relationship?

9. You’re Constantly Talking About Them To Friends.

At brunch, when you’re out shopping, or on a girl’s night out, the story is always the same: you cannot shut up about the book you’re reading. Whether you’re friends asked or not, you can’t help but gush over your current selection, and you don’t even care if anyone is listening. You won’t hide your love, no matter how many eye rolls you get.

10. They Are Always There For You At The End Of The Night.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, or who with, books are always happy to see you at the end of the night. Because the best relationships are the ones you can count on, always.

11. You Can’t Get Them Off Your Mind.

Whether you’re at work or out with friends or even laying around with your partner, you can’t help but let your mind wander back to the same thing: books. They’re always on your mind. True love? I’d say so.

Via: https://www.bustle.com/articles/11-signs-books-are-the-best-relationships

19 YA Books Everyone Should Read 

YA-novels

I saw this article on BuzzFeed, which asked members of the BuzzFeed Community for the young adult novels they’d recommend to anyone, regardless of their age. I really loved it, as I’ve never thought of myself as a YA reader, but there are a number of suggestions here that I’m really interested in picking up. Here’s what they said…

1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

“It’s a beautifully, tragically relevant book for young adults and adults alike. Unarmed, 16-year-old Khalil is fatally shot by a police officer, and his friend Starr, who is with him at the time, deals with the aftermath and the struggles of feeling like a second-class citizen her own country. It’s very engaging, and when I finished the book, I felt that I had learned something important.”

2. I’ll Give You The Sun and The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

“Her books are so beautifully written, I couldn’t pick between the two. Her characters are relatable she deals with topics like grief, sexuality, family, and coming to terms with who you are. Read her books. You will not regret it. I wish she would write more!”

3. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

“It affected me emotionally more than any other book has in years. It’s beautifully quirky, with life lessons that are both nostalgic and currently relevant. I recommend it to everyone that asks me for a book recommendation.”

4. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

“It’s about a Latino boy who doesn’t know his place in the world and discovers it in a truly beautiful way. As an LGBT Latinx teen it meant the world to me when I read it and changed a lot in my world. It helped in accepting who I was and I fell in love with its beautiful characters.”

5. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

” I’ve read it annually since I was 14, which is about 12 years now. It’s a beautiful, slightly eerie story set in the early 20th century about a girl who craves and seeks a career and education, despite familial and societal pressure to become a wife and caretaker, against the backdrop of a real-life murder. It’s as poignant as ever, definitely changed my life, and set me on a path of self-care and feminism.”

6. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

“It’s about a young Native American boy who deals with health issues due to being born with hydrocephaly, and is a budding comic book artist. He ends up going to a high school in the wealthier part of his town where he is the only Native American (besides the school mascot). It’s mostly about him overcoming his struggles. Heads up: There’s mentions of alcohol, drugs, death, and slurs.”

7. The His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman

“The main character, Lyra, is charming, and the adventures are captivating. The books ask a lot of philosophical questions about the nature of the universe and of ourselves. It’s good reading for any age, and I get more out of it every time I re-read the series.”

8. Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes

“It was one of my favourite YA books growing up, and still is to this day. It covers love, death, friendship, and does so in an eloquent way that doesn’t feel like the rehashing of the same story you read in every other book.”

9. Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

“It tackles the issue of being transgender in middle school and finally accepting who you really are. Some people accepted Grayson, some didn’t.”

10. The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater

“It’s a beautiful series about the way age, socioeconomics, gender, race, and a world of other factors complicate the relationships we have with the people we love. It mixes fantasy and historical fiction with some hints of horror to tell the story of four teenagers on a quest to find the tomb of an ancient Welsh King. They have to work with psychics and a magical forest and ghosts and cars, it’s just amazing. It lifts my heart no matter how many times I read it.”

11. The Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

“It’s amazingly well written and it’s a one-off, so you don’t have to worry about a whole series. It follows a genderfluid person named Riley and their struggles being genderfluid and having anxiety. The book is immensely captivating – I’m not going to lie, it made me cry. I’ve read it through 3 times in the year and a half it’s been out and it’s gotten better each time.”

12. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

“It should be required reading in life. I’ve read it for myself and with students several times and the story itself has moved me to tears, but it truly is a wonder to see the empathy the kids learned from the novel. An absolute must read.”

13. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

“Hands down my favourite book ever. It’s one of those books that straddles that strange line between modern YA and what we think is children’s literature. The writing is simple enough a younger reader can understand and, other than swearing and content that generally comes with the setting of WWII Germany, it’s fine for some younger readers.”

14. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

“A story about a rich and distinguished family and a group of four friends who spend their summer at a private island where everything is not what it seems to be. Full of complex characters and mystery, that will suck you in from the first page. Both the adults and the teenagers are struggling with darkness within their own selves. The ending will definitely shock you and keep you wondering why you didn’t figure things out sooner. A must read.”

15. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

“The premise may seem corny at first, but the excellent characterisation and lovely prose will pull you in. It grapples with some very deep and intense themes, and creates a fantasy world that manages to feel both familiar and truly unique.”

16. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty Queens is the answer to that ‘Lord of the Flies but with women’ movie – it was one of the first super-intersectional feminist novels I read in high school, and it holds up.”

17. Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

“World War II historical fiction written with astounding poignancy and poetry. This is a pair of books that will never leave my bookshelf.”

18. Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

“I finally got around to reading these recently and now I won’t stop talking about them to anyone who’ll listen. You’ll love Six of Crows for its fast-paced plot, but more so for its characters – the representation in these novels is seriously incredible, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy despite the fact that it’s about a band of criminals. The only bad thing about these books is that there’s only two of them.”

19. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

“A beautiful, completely gut-wrenching story about three friends in a small town looking toward their futures and how they will both escape their past and stay in touch in the future. I love this book so damn much.”

***

Via: https://www.buzzfeed.com/eleanorbate/young-adult-at-heart

Stephen King’s Reading List For Writers

Stephen-Kings-Everything-You-Need-to-Know-About-Writing-Successfully-in-Ten-Minutes

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools)
to write. Simple as that.” 

― Stephen King

In the afterword to his acclaimed guide On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King shares the following reading list of 96 books, covering a diverse range of fiction and non-fiction titles.

Accompanying the list is this explanation:

These are the best books I’ve read over the last three or four years, the period during which I wrote The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Hearts in Atlantis, On Writing, and the as-yet-unpublished From a Buick Eight. In some way or other, I suspect each book in the list had an influence on the books I wrote.

As you scan this list, please remember that I’m not Oprah and this isn’t my book club. These are the ones that worked for me, that’s all. But you could do worse, and a good many of these might show you some new ways of doing your work. Even if they don’t, they’re apt to entertain you. They certainly entertained me.

  1. Peter Abrahams, A Perfect Crime
  2. Peter Abrahams, Lights Out
  3. Peter Abrahams, Pressure Drop
  4. Peter Abrahams,Revolution #9
  5. James Agee, A Death in the Family
  6. Kirsten Bakis, Lives of the Monster Dogs
  7. Pat Barker, Regeneration
  8. Pat Barker, The Eye in the Door
  9. Pat Barker, The Ghost Road
  10. Richard Bausch, In the Night Season
  11. Peter Blauner, The Intruder
  12. Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky
  13. T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Tortilla Curtain
  14. Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods
  15. Christopher Buckley, Thank You for Smoking
  16. Raymond Carver, Where I’m Calling From
  17. Michael Chabon, Werewolves in Their Youth
  18. Windsor Chorlton, Latitude Zero
  19. Michael Connelly, The Poet
  20. Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Free eBook – Gutenberg / Kindle)
  21. K.C. Constantine, Family Values
  22. Don DeLillo, Underworld
  23. Nelson DeMille, Cathedral
  24. Nelson DeMille, The Gold Coast
  25. Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (Free eBook – Gutenberg / Kindle)
  26. Stephen Dobyns, Common Carnage
  27. Stephen Dobyns, The Church of Dead Girls
  28. Roddy Doyle, The Woman Who Walked into Doors
  29. Stanely Elkin, The Dick Gibson Show
  30. William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
  31. Alex Garland, The Beach
  32. Elizabeth George, Deception on His Mind
  33. Tess Gerritsen, Gravity
  34. William Golding, Lord of the Flies
  35. Muriel Gray, Furnace
  36. Graham Greene, A Gun for Sale (aka This Gun for Hire)
  37. Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana
  38. David Halberstam, The Fifties
  39. Pete Hamill, Why Sinatra Matters
  40. Thomas Harris, Hannibal
  41. Kent Haruf, Plainsong
  42. Peter Hoeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow
  43. Stephen Hunter, Dirty White Boys
  44. David Ignatius, A Firing Offense
  45. John Irving, A Widow for One Year
  46. Graham Joyce, The Tooth Fairy
  47. Alan Judd, The Devil’s Own Work
  48. Roger Kahn, Good Enough to Dream
  49. Mary Karr,  The Liars’ Club
  50. Jack Ketchum, Right to Life
  51. Tabitha King, Survivor
  52. Tabitha King, The Sky in the Water
  53. Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
  54. Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air
  55. Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
  56. Bernard Lefkowitz, Our Guys
  57. Bentley Little,  The Ignored
  58. Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories
  59. W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence (Free eBook – Gutenberg)
  60. Cormac McCarthy, Cities of the Plain
  61. Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
  62. Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes
  63. Alice McDermott, Charming Billy
  64. Jack McDevitt, Ancient Shores
  65. Ian McEwan, Enduring Love
  66. Ian McEwan, The Cement Garden
  67. Larry McMurtry, Dead Man’s Walk
  68. Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, Zeke and Ned
  69. Walter M. Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz
  70. Joyce Carol Oates, Zombie
  71. Tim O’Brien, In the Lake of the Woods
  72. Stewart O’Nan, The Speed Queen
  73. Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
  74. Richard North Patterson, No Safe Place
  75. Richard Price, Freedomland
  76. Annie Proulx, Close Range: Wyoming Stories
  77. Annie Proulx, The Shipping News
  78. Anna Quindlen, One True Thing
  79. Ruth Rendell, A Sight for Sore Eyes
  80. Frank M. Robinson, Waiting
  81. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  82. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban
  83. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  84. Richard Russo, Mohawk
  85. John Burnham Schwartz, Reservation Road
  86. Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy
  87. Irwin Shaw, The Young Lions
  88. Richard Slotkin, The Crater
  89. Dinitia Smith, The Illusionist
  90. Scott Spencer, Men in Black
  91. Wallace Stegner, Joe Hill
  92. Donna Tartt, The Secret History
  93. Anne Tyler, A Patchwork Planet
  94. Kurt Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus
  95. Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
  96. Donald Westlake, The Ax

That’s a lot of recommendations. How many on this list have you read? If you’re anything like me, you’ve got an even bigger TBR pile now – best get cracking!

Via: http://www.aerogrammestudio.com/2014/03/04/stephen-kings-reading-list-for-writers/

The Sleeping Beauty Fairy Tale | Interesting Literature

I found this very interesting, being a ‘child of Disney’ I only knew half of this fairystory, and believed Sleeping Beauty’s tale came to an end upon waking and falling in love with the Prince – and they all lived happily ever after – but apparently not! The tale goes on and a whole new saga unfolds with the Queen Mother and her children.

Read this and see how much of the story (which version) you know and love from your childhood:

‘Sleeping Beauty’ is, depending on which version of the story you read, called Sleeping Beauty, Talia, Little Briar Rose, Rosamond, or Aurora. This is because, like many other classic fairy tales, the tale of Sleeping Beauty exists in numerous versions, each of which is subtly – or, in some cases, quite strikingly – different from the others. In the Italian version published in the Pentamerone, an Italian collection of fairy tales published in 1634, the heroine is named Talia. Charles Perrault, in his version published later in the century, calls her the Sleeping Beauty. The Brothers Grimm call her Dornröschen or ‘Little Briar Rose’, which is sometimes adapted as ‘Rosamond’. In the Disney film, the adult heroine is named Aurora. For the purposes of clarity here, we’re going to call her ‘Sleeping Beauty’ or ‘the princess’.

Nevertheless, the overall plot of these different versions of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ remains broadly the same, so it might not prove entirely impossible to offer a short plot summary. A king is protective of his beautiful daughter, the princess. An evil fairy curses the princess, pronouncing that she will die when she is pricked by a spindle. However, a good fairy manages to intervene so that the prophecy is softened: the princess will not die if she is pricked with a spindle, but she will fall unconscious for a hundred years. The king bans flax and spinning equipment from his palace, so as to protect his daughter from such a fate. 

However, around fifteen or sixteen years later, when the king and queen were away from the palace, the princess was exploring many rooms when she came upon an old woman with a spindle, who knew nothing about the spinning ban. The princess asked if she could have a go, and the old woman let her – you can guess what happened next. The princess pricked her finger on the spindle, and dropped down unconscious. The old woman fetched help, and everyone tried to revive the princess, but to no avail. So there was nothing for it but to let the princess sleep for a hundred years. The good fairy cast a spell that essentially protected the princess in the palace, with trees grown up around the building and all of the princess’s servants, attendants, and pets made to sleep for a hundred years too.

After the century had elapsed, another king (of a different royal family) sits on the throne. His son, the prince, heard tales of the palace where the princess slept, and became interested in what he’d find if he ventured there. So he cut a path through to the palace and at length came upon the sleeping form of the princess, falling to his knees at the sight of her beauty.

His timing couldn’t have been better. For at that moment, the hundred years came to an end and the spell was lifted; the princess woke, and seeing the prince she fell in love with him, and they talked a great deal (well, after all, the princess had missed out on a hundred years of news). The whole of the palace then woke up – the servants and animals that had been put under the spell by the good fairy – and the prince and princess lived happily together, having two children, a daughter and a son whom they called Morning and Day respectively.

The prince returned to his parents, the King and Queen, but said nothing about the princess whom he had fallen in love with, because the Queen was part ogress and there were rumours that she had ‘ogreish’ tendencies – in other words, she wanted to eat people. The prince married Sleeping Beauty in private, without his parents’ knowledge.

A couple of years later, the King died and his son, the prince, became King, and brought his wife publicly to the court. But shortly after this he had to go to war with the emperor of a neighbouring country. In his absence, his mother, the Queen Mother, sent away Sleeping Beauty to the country, and sent the cook to kill Morning, the young daughter of the King and Sleeping Beauty, and cook her so that the Queen Mother could eat her with a nice sauce. But the cook was a kind man, who instead slaughtered a lamb and dished it up for the Queen Mother to eat. (She couldn’t tell that it was Lamb and not Little Girl that she was eating.) Meanwhile, the cook sent away Morning to be kept safe by his wife in their chambers in the palace.

But the Queen Mother was soon hungry again, and wanted to have Day for her dinner this time. Once again, the cook sent away the little boy and served up a young kid or baby goat for the Queen Mother to feast upon instead. But the Queen Mother’s appetite was insatiable, and next she wanted to eat the Queen, Sleeping Beauty, herself. The cook despaired of being able to deceive the Queen Mother a third time, so he went up to Sleeping Beauty’s chambers with the intention of slitting her throat. When the Queen saw him, she told him to kill her, so she might join her children, whom she feared dead. The cook told her that her children were alive and well and of how he had tricked the ogreish Queen Mother, and he took her to where his wife was looking after the Queen’s children. Then the cook dished up a hind for the Queen Mother to eat, thinking it was Sleeping Beauty.

But soon after this, the evil Queen Mother heard Sleeping Beauty and her children in the palace, where they were concealed, and she realised she had been tricked! She set about plotting her revenge, ordering that a huge tub be placed in the courtyard and filled with vipers and venomous toads and other dangerous creatures, so that Sleeping Beauty, Morning, Day, the cook, his wife, and his maid, might be thrown in there the next day, and suffer a horrible death. Next day, the prisoners were brought out for the sentence to be carried out – but just as they were about to be thrown into the tub, the King returned, and, angry that her plan had been foiled, the ogreish Queen Mother threw herself in the tub and was killed by the snakes and toads. The King was reunited with Sleeping Beauty and his children, and they all lived happily ever after.

This summary of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is based on the tale that the Opies include in their The Classic Fairy Tales; there are some minor differences between the various versions of the tale, which has been told by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, among others. Indeed, the only reason the Brothers Grimm didn’t throw out ‘Sleeping Beauty’ from their catalogue of fairy tales for being too French was the tale’s suggestive affinities with the myth of Brynhild in the Völsunga saga, which was the inspiration for Wagner’s Ring Cycle among other things. (Brynhild was imprisoned in a remote castle behind a wall of shields and doomed to sleep there in a ring of flames until a man comes along, and rescues and marries her.)

It was Charles Perrault, however, who first made the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty famous, when he included it in his landmark 1697 collection of fairy stories. Yet as we remarked at the beginning of our summary and analysis of this, one of the most famous of all fairy tales, the basic story predates Perrault, and a similar version can be found in the 1630 Pentamerone. Yet even by this stage, the story of Sleeping Beauty was a few centuries old: one of the stories in the anonymous fourteenth-century prose romance Perceforest features a princess named Zellandine who, like Sleeping Beauty after her, is cursed to end up being pricked by a spindle, an accident which prompts her to fall asleep until – you’ve guessed it – a dashing prince, in this case a chap named Troylus, arrives to wake her up. (Unfortunately, this important medieval collection of tales remains criminally out of print and in need of a good translation/edition: Oxford University Press or Penguin, please commission one!)

‘Sleeping Beauty’ features many of the common tropes of classic fairy tales: the beautiful princess, the evil stepmother figure (the evil Queen Mother), the handsome prince, the good fairy, and the patterning of three (the Queen Mother’s planned meals of Morning, Day, and Sleeping Beauty respectively). Throw in a palace and a bit of suspended animation, not to mention a cunning servant (that enterprising and kindly cook) and you have all of the ingredients of a classic.

Via A Summary and Analysis of the Sleeping Beauty Fairy Tale — Interesting Literature

Top 10 Plot Twists In Fiction | The Guardian 

Gone Girl Film Shot

The word “twist” exerts a strange power over crime fiction addicts like me. Publishers know this all too well, which is why the promise of a twist is often used to advertise books that don’t have twists at all. “You’ll never see the breathtaking twist coming!” screams the press release. Well, no, you won’t, because it doesn’t exist. And so many people think a brilliant resolution is the same thing as a twist. It isn’t. Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express offers the most impressive puzzle solution in all of detective fiction. But, however ingenious and surprising, it’s not a twist ending.

So what is a bona fide twist? In my view, it has to be something that overturns or negates an already drawn conclusion or a firmly entrenched and reasonable assumption (Orient Express overturns an unreasonable assumption on the part of the reader, which is why I wouldn’t call it a twist).

Writing a twist isn’t an exact science, but part of what makes the brilliant ones so attractive in fiction is that feeling of having everything you thought you knew reversed, inverted or demolished; the fictional equivalent of being on a rollercoaster that suddenly turns upside down, leaving everything looking and feeling very different for the rest of the ride. And the new picture created by the shake-up of the twist has to be one that makes sense and is not risible. For example, if you find out at the end of the novel that the murderer is not the person whose fingerprints were on the knife, but rather his long-dead second cousin who developed marvellous fingerprint-forging technology unknown to science or the reader – that’s not a twist, it’s a travesty.

It’s going to be very hard to do this without spoilers, but I will try. In my opinion, these are 10 excellent examples of novels with genuine twists:

1. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
A moving, complex moral-dilemma story about a girl who takes her family to court in order to win the right to refuse a life-saving bone marrow transplant to her dying sister. What’s great about the twist is that you were neither waiting nor hoping for it – the story feels totally satisfying and complete without it – and yet when it arrives, you realise that there was a carefully and subtly carved space all throughout the novel for that perfect twist to fit into.

2. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
A psychological suspense classic about a woman who marries a man she adores, only to discover that he, his home and his staff are apparently still obsessed by his far more charismatic first wife, to whom our heroine fears she can never measure up. Without revealing anything that’s gone before to be a lie, the twist changes the meaning of everything we’ve seen so far and provides the novel with an exemplary and memorable resolution.

3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Not all superb twists need to come at the end. There’s a twist in the middle of this classic novel that takes it to another level of passion, intrigue and excitement. There are hints before the big reveal, but not even the most imaginative reader would dare to imagine the truth. Twists in the middles of stories rather than at their ends tend to say: “And what do we all think now?” rather than, “So THIS is what we’re supposed to think!” – and this one does that brilliantly.

4. Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson
An unputdownable novel about a woman who loses her memory every night as she sleeps, and wakes each next morning remembering nothing. The author expertly leads the reader to assume that there is a binary choice in terms of who and what to suspect, and then reveals at the last moment that there is a third and even more terrifying possibility…

5. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
You can tell when a twist is brilliant, because copycats spring up all over. The twist at the end of Lionel Shriver’s masterpiece about a school shooting and a difficult mother-son relationship is one that literally takes your breath away. I’ve read two novels since that have copied and pasted Shriver’s twist as if it hadn’t been done before (or perhaps they simply hadn’t read Kevin!). Either way, neither of the copycats used the twist with Shriver’s panache.

6. Innocent Blood by PD James
I know I don’t have to choose a No 1 – this is, after all, a top 10 – but this novel contains my favourite twist in all of crime fiction. Halfway through this story of an adopted young woman determined to trace her biological parents, there is a twist that made me leap up off my sun-lounger and yell at random holiday makers that they needed to read this book urgently. I won’t say any more – just, please, read it.

7. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
This novel about a US Marshal trapped on an island, trying to find an escaped murderer in a sanatorium, has a twist of such audacity, I’m not sure I’d have dared, but I’m very glad Lehane did. It’s so bold and all-encompassing, it’s perfect.

8. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This brilliant thriller contains a meta-twist, devised and inflicted by a central character within the novel rather than by the author herself. It’s a middle-twist rather than an end-twist, and the character responsible spends much of the novel afterward boasting about it. It works exceptionally well.

9. The Secret House of Death by Ruth Rendell
A brilliant crime novel by one of the UK’s finest crime writers, in which the murder itself is the twist. You won’t understand what I mean by that – so you must read the book! The last line, which underscores how profoundly the reader has been fooled, sent a shiver down my spine.

10. Behind Closed Doors by BA Paris
I’m not sure all readers would recognise that this is a twist-based story, but it is. It twists our expectations of the entire psychological thriller genre. The novel begins as a portrait of a marriage in which the wife seems to be a little nervous around her husband… What could possibly be going on? Is he abusive? Does she have a guilty secret? I liked this novel from the start, but a few chapters in, one of the main characters provides information that’s so startling, it shakes up all of the reader’s expectations about the genre they think they’re reading, making the rest of the story all the more exciting.

So there you have it – I hope these have whetted your appetite. If you haven’t yet read them, add them to your TBR pile immediately! Happy reading 🙂

Via: https://amp.theguardian.com/books/2017/aug/16/top-10-twists-in-fiction

The Weird Things Librarians Find In Books

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As readers, we have all flipped through books for various reasons. Maybe you like that new book smell, or maybe, you are a librarian and flipping through books is an everyday process. When it comes to collection development, we must constantly assess our library’s collection and make important decisions about properly weeding material to keep our collections current. The last thing you need is to house a book highlighting MS-DOS when most computers are running Windows 10. That’s a disservice to patrons and it just shows a lack of respect for the profession (I have known some of these lazy librarians).

While flipping through thousands of books over the years, librarian’s have found some very weird things hidden in between the pages. Some of the things found have not been shockers but others have been weird. Before you ask: yes, condoms have been found inside books. Don’t people use wallets and purses anymore? Anyway, here are some librarian insights of the weirdest things they have found inside books. They range from the not too weird to complete NSFW moments:

“I once opened a book and found a tin can lid inside. I did not want to cut myself so I walked the book over to the trash can and slid the lid off the book to dispose of it. I thought it was some kind of brujeria (witchcraft)!”

“One time I found $100 in 20s. It was quite a large amount of money to be hidden in a book. I located the patron who last checked out the book and after some questioning, I verified he was indeed the one who left the $100 behind.”

“As I was going through book donations, I noticed one book had a large amount of papers sticking out of it. I pulled the papers out and after reading through some of them, I quickly realized they were either sexual letters written to a woman or someone was working on some serious erotica for a future book. The details were pretty graphic so I had to toss them in the trash pretty quickly.”

“A patron returned some damaged books in our book drop once. The books had been chewed on by a dog and as I was flipping through the pages to verify the extent of the damage, hairs (possibly pubic, possibly from the dog) fell out of the book onto my lap. I just about puked on myself. I ran to the bathroom to wash my hands about 10 times before I felt like I got the nastiness off of me.”

“One time I opened a donated book and there was a letter in there from a woman to a family thanking them for helping her learn to play music. The letter was very old so I decided to research the name of the woman who wrote the letter. It turns out she became a famous musician! I thought it was the coolest thing. I am tempted to reach out to her to let her know I found her letter.”

“A coworker and I were checking in books at the circulation desk when we noticed one book looked odd. The pages were spaced apart in a weird way. Upon further inspection, we noticed there was hair taped to multiple pages throughout the book. It was gross and creepy so we decided to discard that book right then and there.”

“All I can say is I have found unmentionables that include condoms (wrapped and unwrapped), tampons and other nasty things.”

I have to say that finding weird and nasty things inside books is not an every day occurrence for librarians but it does happen. I admit that I have multiple hand sanitizers in my desk drawer and I use them often if handling library books. I mean, I don’t know where some of those books have been! What are some weird things you have found in books?

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Via: https://bookriot.com/2017/08/15/things-librarians-find-in-books/