Death of the novel is greatly exaggerated, say UK booksellers

The death of the novel has been pronounced for more than a century, in a series that stretches back from Will Self through VS Naipaul as far as Jules Verne. But the latest rumblings of its demise, which come courtesy of a drop in fiction sales in 2018, have been comprehensively dismissed by the books world, with new books from Margaret Atwood and Philip Pullman expected to drive a return to growth this year.

The Publishers Association’s yearbook suggested this week that sales of fiction dropped in physical formats last year, down 7% to £359m. The fall was not offset by a 4% rise in digital fiction sales, to £229m, with overall fiction sales down 3% in 2018 to £588m.

By contrast, sales for non-fiction rose 1%, to £954m, with digital revenues up 10% and physical sales remaining level. The Publishers Association noted a “standout” performance from non-fiction, which it said had grown by almost 30% in the last five years, as well as the “phenomenal” growth of audiobooks, up 43% between 2017 and 2018.

Stephen Lotinga, PA’s chief executive, said fiction sales had been in decline for a number of years – since 2014, total fiction sales have dropped by 4%. He added: “Out of all the books we produce, fiction is most exposed to people’s leisure time. Whether it’s Netflix or playing computer games or going on social media, they are in competition.”

But he was adamant that Netflix was not killing the novel, noting that book adaptations were driving much of the strongest television programming, such as Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale and the forthcoming BBC/HBO adaptation of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and these adaptations then push up book sales in turn.

“We are one of the primary investors in original stories, and storytelling is key to all our creative industries, with so many conversions from books into theatre, film, television,” Lotinga said. “We find that very encouraging. The adaptations happen and it comes back, so it’s a wonderful virtuous circle.”

Lotinga also said readers had gravitated from fiction to non-fiction over the last five years. Citing the 24% rise in physical non-fiction sales since 2014, Tom Tivnan, at the trade magazine The Bookseller, agreed that “narrative long-form reading habits are switching, in part, from fiction to non-fiction”.

“H Is for Hawk, I think, really kicked this off, but people are looking for those ‘memoirs that matter’,” said Tivnan, “personal stories that can touch a wider complex issue (like grief, dementia, mental health) or the ‘smart non-fiction’ that has an expert explaining wider, universal issues.”

A decade ago, he said, non-fiction was dominated by celebrities such as Sharon Osbourne and Peter Kay, but now bestseller lists were full of “Adam Kay piloting his way through the NHS, the Secret Barrister wading through a broken justice system”.

“People don’t need fiction as much any more as there are so many non-fiction stories that look deep into the human heart and what makes us tick: Raynor Winn’s The Salt Path, Matt Haig’s Notes on a Nervous Planet, and on and on.

“The hottest properties for acquiring editors right now – besides trying to find the next Sally Rooney – are non-fiction authors who can write well, provocatively and become brands,” said Tivnan. “The next Dolly Alderton, the next Yuval Noah Harari, the next Secret Barrister, the next Adam Kay, the next Wendy Mitchell, the next Christie Watson. Non-fiction is where it’s at.”

Kate Skipper, Waterstones’ buying director, agreed that people liked a good story, “whether it’s real or imagined”, but attributed the drop in fiction sales to a lack of titles from big novelists last year.

“It wasn’t a stellar year for fiction by any means,” she said. “Not many of the big fiction-brand authors had titles out.” This year, by contrast, Atwood publishes the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale in September, with new novels from John le Carré and Pullman also expected to drive stronger sales than last year.

“This year publishing is really strong and it’s strong across the categories, books that appeal to different readers, to drive customers into shops,” said Skipper. “We’re very hopeful about Christmas.”

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The Benefits about Reading a Book

As it is shown by a new study of the Yale University from the United States, which concluded that the reading habit improves the hope and quality of life.

In that research published by the Social Science and Medicine magazine, it was discovered that there was a direct relation among the people with a longer longevity and those ones with reading habits.

The information was recently delivered and pointed out that after asking more than three thousands and five hundred participants who were over 50 years old about their reading habits, the related data allowed dividing those readers into some groups: the ones who did not read anything and those ones who used to do it over three hours and a half.

The results of that research, which lasted 12 years, proved that those two groups that used to read surpassed two additional years the group that did not do it.

Canadian researches proved that those who ususally read have a wider vocabulary and that help to get to know the words' pronountiation.

Science unveiled the knowledge about reading and we do see that the scientists of the Emory University compared the readers´ brains and the non-readers´ ones in 2015 and they got the conclusion that those ones who keep the reading habit, while using their imagination for understanding and feeling the characters´ emotions are nicest, according to a published article.

The Benefits about Reading a Book

Other researchers proved that reading increases the capacity about detecting and understanding other people's emotions that is an essential skill for the complex social relations.

According to the research by Ph.D. Davis Lewis, who is the pioneer in the field of the neurology, reading reduce the stress levels up to a 68 % and it deeply reduces the heart rhythm in comparison with an outdoor walk as it reduces the stress levels up to a 42%.

Researchers, Alice Sulivan and Matt Brown from the Education Institute (OIE), could verify that children who used to read for pleasure achieved much better marks at the school than their classmates even in subjects such a mathematics. This was because of reading increases the skill about acquiring and processing information. The results were more visible among children who were from 10 to 16 years of age.

International studies also proved that the elderly people who often read and carry out mental exercises have a lesser chance to develop the Alzheimer disease, taking into account that an active brain improves its functions and the answer quickness.

Reading provides other important benefits that include improving the spelling, taking advantage of the free time and forgetting worries as well as providing a higher knowledge about the mother tongue.


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The Award House

From Monday 15 to Thursday 25, Casa de las Americas invites to different proposals as part of the 59th edition of its Prize, the oldest and most permanent literary gathering in our continent.

A special moment will take place on January 24, when Casa de las Americas will be honored with the UNESCO/UNAM Jaime Torres Bodet Award in Social Sciences, Humanities and Art in its second edition.

Dialogues among the public and the members of the jury, launch of magazines and the winning books in 2017, as well as the inauguration of an exhibition make up the collateral program of the Prize.

On Thursday 25, at 7:00 pm, the jury will announce the awarded works in the following categories in contest this year: short-story, theater, essay on artistic-literary theme; as well as works in Brazilian literature, with non-fiction books written in Portuguese.

The jury will also award books in Caribbean literature written in English or Creole.

Moreover, the literary institution has also called to the Women’s Studies Award.

And on Monday 15, it will set up the jury made up by more than twenty prestigious writers and personalities from twelve countries. Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez will deliver the speech of jury’s setting up. Thus, there will begin the tributes to take place this year, the five decades of the first concert that brought together on February 18, 1969 at Casa de las Americas three founding pillars of what was called later the New Trova (Song) Movement: Silvio, Pablo Milanés and Noel Nicola.

Later, the jury will work in the city of Cienfuegos, located on the central-southern coast of the island. On Saturday 20, at 11:00 am, the aforementioned city will house the launch of the winning books of the 2017 Casa de las Americas Award, as well as such magazines as “Casa de las Americas”, “Conjunto” and “Anales del Caribe”.

Then, in the evening, local “A Cuestas” Theater will stage “Zone” piece, by “La Fortaleza” Theater Company.

And on Monday 22, the collateral program of the Prize will kick off at Casa de las Americas headquarters in El Vedado, once the works of the judges have finished in the city of Cienfuegos. From 3:00 pm, the “Manuel Galich” Room will house the works of such panels as:

“Literary creation, editorial circulation and translation in the Caribbean”, with the judges of the Caribbean literature in English and Creole category, as well as “Saved pages or which ones would I take to the desert island”, a dialogue with members of the jury in the short-story genre.

That same Monday, at 6:30 pm, plastic arts will have their space within the program of the Literary Award with the inauguration of the “Digital Art Pioneers in the Art Collection of Our America” exhibit, at the Galería Latinoamericana of the literary institution.

On Tuesday 23, the panels will continue their work, always in the afternoon with two others. The first will be “Out of the canon: the other side of Brazilian literature”, with the judges of the Brazilian Literature Award; and the second “Critical experience”, a dialogue with the judges of the Prize in essay genre of the artistic-literary theme.

Moreover, the program includes the presentation of the winning books of the 2017 Casa de las Americas Prize and the latest edition of Casa de las Americas magazine.

On Wednesday, January 24, at 3:00 pm, the “Theater of the real and the social thing: 2018 Latin America” panel will take place, with the awarding judges in theater genre; and at 6:00 pm, the “Che Guevara” Room will feature the ceremony to hand over the UNESCO/UNAM Jaime Torres Bodet Prize to Casa de las Americas.

That award acknowledges the efforts of a person, group of people or international institution that has contributed to the development of knowledge and society through art, teaching and research in social sciences and humanities.

In the case of the House, it rewards its contribution to a better world, not only through its links with intellectuals of the region, but also for the narrow links it keeps with institutions and organizations, like UNESCO. The renowned Cuban cultural institution had previously been awarded with the UNESCO Simon Bolivar Prize in 2004.

The winners of the 2018 Casa de las Americas Prize will be announced on Thursday, January 25, at 7:00 pm.

With its literary contest, Casa de las Americas begins, like every year, its program in 2018, days for the intercrossing of the literature and the art that are born from the deep rivers of our America.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

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CRITICAL ZONE: Books for children

Some still continue to understimate those who write for children, but that literature has excellent exponents in Cuba.

Good literature for children and youngsters do not need complementary defenses or labels: it is just good literature. Those who think that child readers must be treated from the affability and superiority of the adult who spoils and scolds are wrong. Authors like José Martí showed that it is possible to write for that public without making concessions before the alleged “inferiority” of children’s understanding.

The Golden Age (La Edad de Oro), for example, was a children’s magazine. There are no stylistic complexities or doctoral analyses. Its prose and verse are diaphanous; its metaphor is lavished with simplicity and without affectations… But be careful, it does not renounce to the language and depth of the discourse. That’s why, those articles, poems, stories… have mesmerized readers from all ages and times… Starting, of course, from children.

In Cuba, right now, there are excellent writers writing for children and youngsters. Some of the classics are still active and followed by very young creators. For some time the thematic field is broad and children’s stories not include princesses, wolves and little toads. And nobody should think that I am against the ever fairy tales and fables. But it’s very healthy to show the beginning reader the complexities of the world, of course, without forgetting the characteristics and specificities of that public.

Children’s stories from centuries ago could be frightening, but modernity helped them become simpler, less aggressive, so they had more to do with the conceptions prevailing in the education and formation of children.

But that process led to one extreme: the empire of foolishness, that spoiling and silly literature, which is too simple in its form, with very little aesthetic language and reduced conceptual and philosophical horizon.

Fortunately, many writers rebelled and rebel at present. And in Cuba, for example, excellent short story books, poetry books and novels are published every year… In general, the catalogs of the publishing houses are good. Gente Nueva, for example, has several collections for different ages and offers interesting novelties every year.

However, we need more effective promotional plans; reading campaigns in schools that reach the family, theoretical sessions and workshops for writers; contests and festivals…

The publishing industry is not living its best years… and some books (the book as an object) do not have the required quality. But the literary basis is solid.

There are books for our children to learn, but they need to be encouraged.


Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

UK Publishing House Celebrates 20 Years of First Harry Potter Book

London, Jun 6 (Prensa Latina) London's publishing house Bloomsbury celebrates today with a special collection the 20 years of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the first of seven fantastic novels written by J. K. Rowling.

Since May 31st, readers in the United Kingdom can choose a copy of the book according to the color of each house of the Hogwarts School of Magic and Witchcraft, which became one of the main sites of the books.

The new editions are available in red for Gryffindor fans, yellow for Hufflepuff fans, blue for Ravenclaw fans and green for Slytherin fans, as well as other character profiles and illustrations for important students who have stayed in each house.

In June 1997, when it was still a small publishing house, Bloomsbury agreed to publish a first and small print run of 500 copies of Rowling's work, which had been rejected by 12 other publishing houses.

By mid-2013, some 450 million copies of the seven books had been sold and translated into more than 65 languages.

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Cultural Center Pabellon Cuba, A Space for Books in Havana

Havana, Jan 26 (Prensa Latina) The cultural center Pabellon Cuba, in one of the most central streets in this capital, will be the second venue to the International Book Fair (IBF), a place especially devoted to young people, according to reports today.

According to Provincial Book Center Director Dulce Maria Dominguez, more than 700 literary new works will be for sale for the first time at Pabellon Cuba, starting from February 19, and there will be auctions of used and rare books.

There will be new printings of books by great Cuban writers, such as 'Paradiso,' by Jose Lezama Lima and 'Versions,' by Eliseo Diego, she said.

As usual in the IBF, there will be presentations of sought-after books at the central area of Pabellon Cuba and in the afternoons, there nwill be concerts and other artistic programs, she explained.

The cultural center La Pergola will be a space for Cuban music by singer-songwriters and jazz, besides gatherings with poets and other musicians.

This time, the IBF will be dedicated to Armando Hart Davalos, revolutionary writer that established guidelines in the development of the country, said Dominguez. Thus, several books by that author will be sold during the event.

There will be several activities for Canada, the honorary guest country, including the exhibition of a cycle of films produced in that country, such as 'Blindness,' 'Copenhagen' and 'Popeye's Voyage.'

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Wide literary program at Habanarte 2015

The literary program of Habanarte 2015 Festival will start this September 4 with the presentation of Joao Fariñas’ book El largo y tortuoso camino de los Beatles (The Long and Winding Road of The Beatles) at Fayad Jamís bookstore.

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