Bookends #10 Oct 2018

This week’s Bookends post features an author whose books about a fictitious community in Quebec, Canada have become a favourite. I’m also giving you a challenge to name which author you would choose if you could read only one author for the rest of your life.

Book: Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

Louise PennyI’ve posted multiple times in the last few years about Louise Penny and how much I enjoy her series featuring Armand Gamache, Head of Homicide at the Sûreté du Québec.  There is another Gamache novel due out from Little Brown on November 27.

Kingdom of the Blind takes us back to the community of Three Pines, a village so small it barely features on a map. Gamache is called to an abandoned farmhouse outside the village where he discovers that an elderly woman, a stranger, has named him as an executor of her will. The bequests are so wildly unlikely that he suspects the woman must have been delusional – until a body is found, and the terms of the bizarre document suddenly seem far more menacing

But it isn’t the only menace Gamache is facing. In the last novel Glass Houses he was suspended from his role as Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, pending an investigation. That investigation has dragged on, and Armand is taking increasingly desperate measures to rectify previous actions.

One thing you can be sure of with  Louise Penny is that this novel will have a strong plot. What interests me far more than that however is the way she has developed the character of her protagonist. He’s a very thoughtful man with a good understanding of human nature (how many other detectives do you find quoting Marcus Aurelius?). He makes mistakes but also has the humility to accept when he is wrong.

Blog Post: Which author could you read for the rest of your life

I wish I could get to the book club meetings that Anne at Cafe Society talks about on her blog because they have such interesting and thought-provoking discussions. In one recent meeting she says “someone asked whom we would choose if we could only read the works of one author for the rest of our lives.” Some choices were inevitable: Dickens and Trollope.

In her recent post, Anne reflected on the criteria for her own selection.

I’ve been thinking about this on and off since I saw her post. It’s not an easy question at all. I have many authors I consider favourites but if they were the only author I could read, would they be enough to sustain me? I’m coming around to putting Emile Zola as my choice – his novels are strong on plot but they are even stronger on ideas. There are 20 of them in his Rougon-Macquart series covering multiple aspects of life in 19th century France – from alcoholism, prostitution, industrial disputes and poverty to the birth of the department store. Plenty of variety to keep me engaged.

Now my challenge to you all – what would your choice be? And of course, why?

Article: Facing down a book Goliath

A couple of days ago I heard of a rumpus involving Abe Books which is an online book re-seller owned by Amazon. Apparently Abe decided it would no longer list booksellers from the Czech Republic, South Korea, Hungary and Russia. The company didn’t really explain its decision beyond the fact it was changing to a new payment service provider.

What they never anticipated was the reaction. Hundreds of secondhand booksellers around the world united in a flash strike against Amazon. More than 400 booksellers in 26 countries not affected by the decision retaliated by marking any of their stock listed on Abe as being “temporarily unavailable”.

Such was the strength of opposition that Abe has now backed down. I suspect that the senior management at Amazon stepped in when they saw what was happening.

Read about the issue here and  here . 

What struck me about this scenario was that it was all completely unnecessary. The objectors didn’t question the right of Abe to make a commercial decision about how to operate its business. But they did object to the way this was implemented. Little warning given to the booksellers who would, as a consequence, see their business severely impacted. Little consideration given to the fact this would mean a loss of jobs.

If Abe had been less high-handed and insensitive they would not have faced a protest that has damaged their reputation.

It’s a lesson that all big companies need to understand. Treat your customers and business partners with respect and they will remain loyal. Disregard them at your peril.

 

And so that’s a wrap for this episode of Bookends. Have you found anything new exciting and to read this week that might entice me?

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on November 9, 2018, in Bookends, world literature and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. I recently read Still Life, the first in this Penny series and while I found it enjoyable, there are so many other series I enjoy much more. I have a good friend who absolutely adores it! Ugh! Amazon owns Abe, too? Good for those who stood up to the Bezos behemoth! Only one author? Nope. Could never do that! There are too many who are “at the top of my favorites list”! 🙂

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  2. Hello there. I read a good novel last month. I Am The Clay, by Chaim Potok. It’s set in Korea during the Korean War. Spare, powerful writing.

    Neil S.

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  3. If I had to read one author for the rest of my life, it would be Zora Neale Hurston. Even though I’ve read some of her stories repeatedly, there is so much to rediscover that I could read her again and again. She’s also got loads of stories, novels, plays, and letters. Her style is unique and funny. All benefits!

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  4. Right now I’m leaning towards Ursula K. Le Guin, Talking of variety, she has science fiction, fantasy, historical speculative fiction, essays, poetry … among them many of my favorite books, and I still have a lot left to read. Plus translations, does that count?

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  5. I’m also waiting for this book by Penny! An author I could read to the end of my life? Well, IF they produced a lot of books, right now, I would answer Michel Bussi. I’m on a binge. All his plots are unbelievable. A few weeks ago, I would have answered Fred Vargas. And my answer may be different next month, lol

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  6. Someday I must read Louise Penny. I am glad to hear that Abe books backed down! Booksellers around the world I salute you! Only one author? That is hard. My instant reaction was Margaret Atwood because I would happily reread her novels, I have not read her short stories or her poetry. But my second thought was Murakami because I have only read one of his and I want to read them all and there are plenty including some long ones.

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  7. I read that post about choosing one author, and I really don’t think I could. I have too much of a grasshopper brain, and I like so many different types of book and author that it would pain me beyond belief. Nope. Not happening…. 😉

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  8. I love Louise Penny’s books, but have only read her first three. I do want to read more.

    There is no way I could choose only one author to read for the rest of my life! There are so many favorites, and each one suits whatever mood I’m having at that moment.

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  9. Release day of a new Louise Penny novel is a holiday for me. I’ll pick it up from the bookstore in the morning and enjoy reading it throughout the day. This year, I might visit various bakeries and enjoy some treats while reading. As for what author I’d chose if I could only read one for the rest of my life…I’d normally say Willa Cather but I feel like I know here work so well that maybe I’d choose a less familiar to me prolific author. But that’s a risk–being stuck with a bunch of books by an author that doesn’t really inspire reading. Hmm. Maybe I’ll stick with Willa. There are some short stories of hers I’ve yet to read. And her poetry…perhaps I’d come to appreciate it if I were stuck with it.

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  10. Hmm, I’m not sure that I agree that AbeBooks has the right to do business as it pleases. Amazon has taken over/put out of business competitors around the world, and if it then blocks the right of remaining businesses to operate, in what’s left of the marketplace, then that’s really not fair, either to the business owners in niche markets or the consumers who want to buy from them.
    We’ve seen this happen in the hardware business here in Australia. Bunnings is a behemoth that has obliterated all the family-owned competitors, and people support them because the economies of scale make their products cheaper. But having seen off the competition, Bunnings is now not stocking products that they can’t sell in bulk and at a profit. This means that there’s nowhere to buy certain products. (For example, my local Bunnings has stopped stocking the jars and lids and rings for my preserving kit, and it’s a nightmare trying to replace them.)
    Consumers ought to think carefully before they support cheaper products because they nearly always lead to less choice in the end.

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    • I understand your point Lisa. My dad has a bakery/confectionary business for years but by the end he was frustrated that the big supermarkets were undercutting him with inferior prices. I think the point the objectors were making was that if Abe wanted to change its payment system suppliers they were within their rights to do so, but they needed to give their partners more time to understand the impact and work with them to lessen the effect.

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      • Yes, I hear them. But if changing their payment system means cutting out particular countries, then it’s not an ok payment system – and what’s more, Amazon has the clout to demand that the new system does cover those countries.

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  11. If I could read only one author for the rest of my life it would be Iris Murdoch – but then anyone who knows me knows that! 26 rich and full books, full of cross-references and themes and Murdochian situations, with more to find in each book as you re-read it. I’m already on my fourth reading of most of her novels in this readalong I’m in the middle of at the moment, so it wouldn’t be much of a hardship!

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