Amazon can sell whatever it chooses to

Last week there was a bit of “uproar” over Amazon’s decision to no longer sell certain books on its platform. Several US Senators had sent a letter requesting additional information regarding this decision. Amazon’s lengthy response stated rather clearly that the company would no longer sell books that label LGBTQ identity as mental illness.

Personally speaking, this is another great move within the book industry. Knowing books like that are being written reminds me of where we were as a society a hundred years ago when seemingly every ailment or condition was treated as a mental illness.

But that’s also not the point. The point is Amazon is a retailer. Retailers decide what they will or won’t sell on their platform. Every retailer makes this decision. So it should come as no surprise that Amazon made a decision about products listed on its site, though many would have you believe this is akin to censorship. If I own a bookstore down the street and decide to only sell romance novels or audiobooks or erotica, that’s my choice. Just like it’s Amazon’s choice here.

Dr. Seuss did what kind of sales numbers last week?

Last week it was announced almost out of nowhere that several books published by the prolific author would no longer be published because of racist stereotypes. I remember reading an article the following day that showed his books taking half the top 50 slots on Amazon’s charts. That’s insane.

Now I’ve just read an article that says his book sales quadrupled last week. I mean, what? It seems many people think there’s a possibility that this may happen to some other titles, so they’re buying and buying and buying his books before it happens. People can spend their money however they’d like, but this comes across as a bit tone deaf. Rather than acknowledging that he likely has other titles that may be problematic, it seems everyone is just buying the books as quickly as they can.

Call me Unimpressed

EL James is best known for her Fifty Shades trilogy. It ended several years ago. More recently, she has published (and will be soon) the same stories from Christian Grey’s perspective.

We all know about the nature of capitalizing on successful franchises is to keep them going or relevant as long as possible to keep the dollars coming in. But this just comes across as lazy and lacks creativity. Maybe I’m in the minority here. Her name is more than enough to make an instant bestseller, so why not write something completely new?

On Not Reading…Again

I could search through the archives on here and find several posts about not reading. I started the year on an all-time high. I’d finally reached my goal of 50 books in a calendar year. There was no stopping me. Fast forward two months and I haven’t read a single page since mid-January.

At first I was pacing myself. No need to fly through every book in sight. Then life happened. February gave me some phenomenal memories. Then things fell apart. I became distracted by every possible thing, besides my books. But I’ve made a recent decision that will hopefully give me lots of free time in the coming days, weeks, and months. What better to do than get back into a reading groove?

Just have to round the corner and get back into it.

What’s happening with Dr. Seuss?

This morning when I opened Twitter I read multiple articles from different sources about Dr. Seuss. What’s being reported is that several of his works will no longer be published because “they portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong”.

One might think this is just cancel culture at its best, but this is coming directly from the company responsible for his catalog of work. This isn’t the internet or the media. The decision is a good one, but one must wonder why Dr. Seuss is so revered at all when you look at his work prior to becoming the household name we all know. Spoiler alert: it isn’t pretty.

This is a decision that should be applauded, but of course that won’t happen from everyone. What do you think?

Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

My intention when I finished this book a month ago was to do a video on it. I’ve now changed my mind due to the delay and the fact that I have other things to deal with now. The review was written immediately upon finishing the book.

Lale Sokolov is the tattooist of Auschwitz. He meets Gita Furman one day during the course of his work tattooing the incoming prisoners, and over the following three years builds a loving relationship in hell on earth.

I have several issues with this book. Most notably is that its depiction of life in Auschwitz borders on misinformation. The book makes Auschwitz seem livable and hardly focuses on any of the negative. Sure this is meant to be the story of Lale and Gita, but in telling the story through this lens there is almost no mention of the brutality and horror of life in the camp. It seems extremely disingenuous to write a story set in Auschwitz in this manner. When reading I thought of Elie Wiesel’s Night. The books are polar opposites. One aims to give the reader the true experience of life in the camp. This book does not.

The book lacks any depth or detail. It spans more than three years and is written in the span of roughly 260 pages. Again, this tells me the author made no attempt whatsoever to tell an accurate account of life in the camp. It’s a nice love story found in the absolute worst place on earth, but a love story isn’t reason enough to gloss over every other detail that could provide insight into the camp.

This fails on so many levels and should not be considered historical fiction. 1 star.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Snow Day Reading

Much of the US is in the midst of a cold snap right at the tail end of winter. Houston is no different. Today is the third time I’ve gotten to see snow in person. But it’s the first time it hasn’t melted away almost immediately.

Do you have any preferred snow day reads?

Puzzles, puzzles

This likely won’t be a revelation to some, but just last night I started working on a jigsaw puzzle I recently bought. I have very limited experience with puzzles. I can really only remember completing one in 2017 and none since. Well circumstances are always changing.

I’d previously purchased a 1000 piece puzzle of A Starry Night. I still think it’s a great one, but there was little chance I’d actually be able to finish it with my experience. More likely I’d throw the pieces at the wall and give up. So I downsized. I found a 300 piece puzzle of bookshelves I like. I started working on it last night.

I can imagine you reading this far and wondering how this relates to books in any way. Well it does and it doesn’t. What I realized last night after devoting about an hour to making progress on it is that I felt the same feelings of relaxation and calmness that I do when I read. When reading it’s difficult to multitask. Either you’re focused on the book or you aren’t. It’s similar with a puzzle. It’s not something you’ll finish if you’re mind is occupied by 5 other things.

Debut novel sells for how much?

First, it’s always great for a debut author to be given the chance to publish their work. It’s not a chance many are given.

Last week it was reported by multiple outlets that TJ Newman had agreed to a publishing deal for her debut novel and an additional book. It isn’t often that this would be newsworthy. But the difference here is it was a 7 figure book deal. Before a single reader has read a page (the first book is forthcoming) a bidding war began for the right to adapt the debut novel. Not one copy has been sold. Not one review written. But an unproven author gets this kind of money and media treatment. My curiosity took over. I looked her up on Twitter. Less than a thousand followers, so no one can say she has a large following expected to increase sales.

When reading about the author it made me wonder if any of this happens for the same person who is Black or Hispanic. I think we know the answer. Publishing has been one of the slowest institutions to improve diversity among its ranks. It’s great that this author will experience the joy of her books being published. The idea of an unknown and unproven author getting this type of publishing deal just doesn’t make much sense. But what do I know?