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tv   About Books Kukula Book Review Awards  CSPAN  June 26, 2022 7:30pm-8:03pm EDT

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on about books we delve into
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the latest news about the publishing industry with interesting insider interviews with publishing industry experts will also give you updates on current nonfiction authors and books the latest book reviews and we'll talk about the current nonfiction books featured on c-span's book tv. and welcome to about books. this is book tv's program and podcast which looks at the business of publishing. in just a few minutes, we'll dive into the world of book reviews with a focus on the washington monthly's coca-cola awards. it's the only journalism prize
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dedicated to public affairs nonfiction books. but first look at the numbers behind the us publishing industry. publishers weekly is reporting that book sales fell 5% this week compared to last year and although the drop was the smallest decline in about two months. it was the adult non-fiction category that saw the biggest drop compared to last year. 9% decline but there's also new data out there showing. it's been a solid year of growth. for one particular type of bookseller according to a recent associated press report the american booksellers association the trade grew for independent bookstores has added more than 300 members since last spring. that's the highest total in years and according to the associated press dozens of the newest independent bookstores are owned by people from a wider variety of racial and ethnic groups.
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some of those new bookstores include you and me books in new york city's chinatown modern tribe bookshop in killeen, texas and socialite society, lansing, michigan. the american booksellers association credited some recent initiatives for the growth and independent booksellers, including more diversity on its board and for a time the waving of membership fees. and now on about books. it's a focus on one aspect of the publishing process that can have an enormous impact. on whether a book flies off a shelf or is left to languish. it's the world of book reviews. well joining us now is paul glassris. who is the longtime editor in chief of the washington monthly publication? mr. glastris, where did you come up with the idea of creating a an award for book reviews well
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my wife of 31 years kukula glass dress passed away in august of 2017. she had been for 14 years the books editor of the washington monthly review, you know editing book reviews primarily on nonfiction subjects and it was actually her former boss ralph nader who suggested when he found out she'd passed away that i create some kind of. award or fund or something for a subject she cared about and so i thought that was a great idea. i talked to my children adam and hope they thought it was something we should do and it occurred to me that there we oughta created an award for book reviewing there are very few journalism awards for book reviewing none really for
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nonfiction public affairs based books, which which was the coolest passion. and so it took us a little while to pull ourselves together and you know mourn her her loss but a lot of friends and family across the country pitched in to provide the funds we needed to get this thing going and we've been doing it now three years running. so mr. glastros, tell us a little bit more about cocula's work. she and i were married for 31 years when when we were married she was in working for a public tv. she was a journalism major from indiana university and immigrant from india and a brilliant woman with a wonderful sense of language a passion for politics history and she basically took
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over the editing of the book review section and built herself a stable of writers who loved working for her and she was also the sort of the chief den mother of the young editors who were at the washington monthly would bring great sheets of of food indian food greek food for the for the young people who were working late late at night. and she just was very good at working. you know, we don't pay a lot so writers are who are gonna contribute days and days of their time over multiple drafts to create a beautiful review often needed a good diplomatic treatment, and she was a expert at that too. and the washington monthly is known as a good training ground for writers and interns. mr. glassris, how did you get this award started?
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how did you reach out to the book review community if there is such a thing? well, you know we reached out to the to the publishers and you know, we have good relationship with the publishers of books of this sort of biography politics policy and so forth, but we also reached out to the editors of every publication that we could think of that produced literally went through had long meetings about, you know, brainstorming publications that published nonfiction serious nonfiction reviews and researched it and and built the database of contacts there and really the first year. we had a terrific response. people were excited about it. this is an area of journalism. that doesn't get the attention that it deserves in our opinion.
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and i think there was a lot of interest among among these publications that you know, you don't make a ton of money publishing reviews. it's hard work the work of a reviewer is to you know, extract from a book information that readers are interested in look there are thousands of books published every year. nobody can possibly read all of them much less, you know the best ones and so we as readers as citizens rely on book reviewers to tell us what it what is being argued in this book. what new these books what new information is available. and it's it's a very important craft a very important corner of journalism. and i think there's just overwhelming sense among publishers and of publications and books that this is a great
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way to celebrate that craft well in just a minute we're going to talk to two of the winners of this year's cucula award, but paul glastros does the washington monthly since the passing of your wife still do book reviews? we very much still do it's become a kind of a group effort and we're very very dedicated to it. really some of the best thinking and writing at the magazine happens in our book review section. and you know when when we are producing these things, uh, cool is very very much on our minds. she set the standard what we do. paul glassdress longtime editor in chief of the washington monthly and author and his own right and a former speechwriter for bill clinton. thanks for telling us about the cocula book awards. thanks peter. thanks for having me. well one of this year's winners
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of the cacula book review award is laura miller of the slate publication ms. miller. congratulations. how did you get into book reviewing to begin with? wow, it's been. but at least 30 years now and i guess i just was so excited about books. i have loved them all my life. i've been always been a big reader and i went into a local weekly newspaper office and talked the editor into letting me review a book every other week and it just kind of slowly built from there, but it was definitely through a big love of reading and also wanting to express my opinion in public and when you express your opinion about a book will you do it critically? yes, of course. i mean part of my job is to let readers know the quality of the book that i'm looking at that i'm that i'm examining for their sake give them a sense of
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whether they'd want to read it themselves, but then there's also the question of addressing any larger issues that the book brings up that make it part of the the bigger conversation that the whole culture is having. could you give an example of one of those larger issues? well in the case of the piece that i wrote that one this particular prize, i went back and looked at a book that had been published years ago a book by a woman who had been raped very brutally and who believed that she had participated in the arrest and conviction of the the perpetrator, but that man was later cleared and it was a question of going back and looking at that book. considering all we know about issues of race, which played into the case and issues of trauma, which also played into the case this this young woman. she's very young and she was
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very traumatized by this very brutal assault and she was misled by the police and the prosecutors into thinking that a sudden fear that she had that a particular man that she saw on the street was the the rapist. you know, they kind of nudged her and urge her when she was unsure to say that she was so what originally seemed like a story about a brave young person. kind of retaking control of her life and her fate after this terrible event when we went back and looked at it with new facts. that had come to light. it became clear that there was a different story behind that. well, laura miller we should at this point mention that you won for your review of lucky by alice siebold. what was it about that book? and what was it do you think about your writing?
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that attracted the reviewers. well, i think the great thing about nonfiction books, is that they enable you to get into a subject or a piece of history very deeply and that is not so common these days when people just make a lot of snap judgments on social media and so when the it the news came out that this man who had been convicted of raping alice sebold was in fact. exonerated there were a lot of snap judgments about why she had believed that he was guilty and what exactly had happened and so it seemed like it was important to go back and look at that book again and get to the to the to what might have really happened. that was not the original version in the book, but that was also not the sort of snap judgment uninformed opinions
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that were coming out all over the place on the internet. now, do you know alice siebold at all? did you ever meet her? no, no, and i don't. review book s that i you know, sometimes i've met them. but not anybody who would be considered a friend. that would be a conflict of interest. well, laura miller you also write essays. how is that different than a review or is it? well, it depends i mean with with a book review your you're looking very closely at one particular book you're again trying to give readers a sense of whether they might want to read that book themselves. and with an essay you're typically looking at a larger question or issue and it might be that you're looking at other media as well as books like if you're writing an essay about say how depictions of sherlock holmes have changed over the years some of that's in the movies and some of that's on tv and some of that's in books,
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even though originally sherlock holmes was a literary character. so i think the essay usually has a bigger question than just the merits of that particular book. you're also an author the magician's book. came out in 2009. what is that about? that book to really just most favorite books. it's really kind of impossible to to saying they were my favorite books as a child is this doesn't really do justice to how important they were to me and then my feelings about them changed a lot in the years that happened since then and so it's a book about about how your experience of reading something changes as you get older. sometimes making complete u turns and then back again, which
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is really what happened to me. now was your book reviewed and what did you think of those reviews? yes, my book did get reviewed and it was reviewed by several different critics some of whom like didn't someone who didn't some of whom engaged with it really deeply and others had a more sort of casual response to it. i think a lot of people think that if you're a book reviewer that it's going to be this very intense experience for you to finally come under the sort of scrutiny that that you've been dishing out over the years, but i think it actually gives you a real sense of perspective you you recognize how subjective reviews are how not every book is for everyone and you know, not every negative review. it means that your work is totally worthless. i think you you don't in a way take it quite as seriously as someone who who doesn't write a lot of book reviews. so it was a nice experience for the most part and when people
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disagreed with me, it was interesting because i understood well what it was like to disagree with a book that other people agreed with i mean, that's that's what makes a horse race. there's there's a lot of different opinions out there and it's fascinating to see them all interplay with each other. so after 30 years of reviewing books how many of you reviewed and can you read for pleasure anymore or do you look at a book and think about oh i have to review this. i have no idea how many everybody i think it would be terrifying to know that sometimes i look in my computer my old documents and i think oh that many or i come across. you know some book that i know i reviewed and i can't remember anything about it or what i said about it because it was so long ago. i do need for pleasure, but i think my favorite way of reading for pleasure now is really using audiobooks because i can go for a walk i can get out of the house. i can maybe do the dishes or
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cook dinner at the same time, and i'm not sort of stuck sitting in a chair, which is what i spend most of the day doing for my work and that is really the pure pleasure for me just that the chance to sort of get out and move around and then also be listening to a narrator doing a great interpretation of a great great book. laura miller of slate congratulations on winning the book review award from the washington monthly and thanks for being with us on about books. well another winner of the kakula book review award given by the washington monthly is professor aden forth of mcewen university up in edmonton, alberta, canada professor fourth. your full-time job is not a book reviewer. but how many books have you reviewed over your career? oh, i've probably reviewed in in a published sense, maybe 10 to
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15 books book reviewing is an important component of academia. how did you get chosen to review darren byler's two books dealing with china? well, i i think that the reason i was asked to do it the la review of books approached me and and i commissioned me to do it and i think the reason they were interested in me is that i'm actually not a historian of china darren beiler has written about the the internment of the week of people's in western china, which is something that i don't know a whole lot about but something that i do know a lot about is the history of concentration camps. i'm currently writing a book called camps mask confinement in the modern world, which is a sort of long jury history of the camp from it's early origins in the 19th century all the way up until today. and so i think they were looking for someone outside the the field of chinese history and
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indeed they were looking for historian rather than anthropologist and ethnography which is what the author of the books being reviewed is so they were looking i think for an outsider who could provide a new perspective to rephrase to reframe some of the arguments of the two books under review in perhaps a new way and your first book is barbed wire imperialism. is it does is your upcoming book a follow-up to that at all? it is. yes, so my first book was about what i call the invention of the concentration camp and i look for the the origins of the concentration campaign in actually as a someone unusual place, which is the british empire. and the argument of that book is that in the 19th century colonial officials were involved in rounding up suspects unwanted undesirable largely racialized
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populations and incarcerating them in barbwire accounts. this is something that happened in india as well as in southern africa. that was kind of a monograph based on original primary source research my current book which hopefully will be out in 2023 is a much broader overview of camps throughout history starting again in in the 19th century with empires and then moving throughout the 20th century and looking not only at the sort of usual suspects of you know, totalitative regimes created concentration camps, but going further afield to look at certainly the camps of nationalist and communist china as well as camps. where in post-colonial africa and southeast asia and so on and aiden forth winning review was a review of darren byler's two books in the camps.
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china's high-tech penal colony and terror capitalism uieger dispossession and masculinity in a chinese city. i want to i want to quote from your review and have you expand on it a little bit though symbols of chinese totalitarianism uighur camps intersect in troubling ways with the colonial histories capitalist economies and security practices of the anglo-american west. yes, so i think that what's going on in china is on the one hand china is a totalitarian state, which is a placing certain minority populations under intense surveillance and scrutiny, but the practices happening in western china do map on to things that we see in in other empires and in other historical moments, and this is something that darren byler
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himself argues and it's something that i is sort of a historian of western empires could could certainly could could certainly sort of understand. so i think that what's happening in china is sort of a combination of maybe three strands of of history that we see in north america on the one hand the indigent the week of people and being treated as an indigenous population that needs to be removed the race from the land to make way for chinese settlers who are kind of in endowed with this frontier pioneer spirit moving out to the west. this is something that we saw with the western settlement of the united states on the other hand. i think that the week once they removed from their land at once they're concentrated in but not in reservations like indigenous peoples of the new world, but once they're concentrated in camps then mandated to perform
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heavy labor often on cotton plantations or producing cash crops for the global economy. and so in that way, they're almost treated as if they are african slaves and then on top of all of that we have the security concerns of a post 9/11 world china has launched what it calls the people's war on terror very much in emulation to certain degree of america's war. and so the week of people who are largely a turkic speaking muslim minority population. i deemed a as suspected terrorists and an entire state security accurateus has been mobilized to contain them to enclose them and and to control them and so these sort of three elements are coming together in china to create really one of the most menacing systems of mass confinement that we've seen in human history.
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no one that i think has echoes with america, but also goes far beyond what western empires have done now even forth you mentioned at the beginning you're not a chinese historian necessarily, but you have a deep knowledge of a similar topic. does that make it more difficult to review a book where you kind of know? quite a bit about the the background. yes, i i i think that is it's it's more difficult to review book when you are. when you're sort of deeply saturated in in the content, i think that in this case this this was actually i'm not going to say it was an easy review to write because i had to learn a great deal about chinese history. so it wasn't it wasn't necessarily easy, but i think that my kind of outside perspective allowed me to make
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connections that perhaps a scholar of chinese history might not have immediately seen. so so i i think that i kind of had an ideal background in knowing about similar phenomena elsewhere, but not knowing a whole lot about the phenomena in china. that was a nice combination to approach these two books. well, congratulations professor aidan forth of mcewen university on your book review award. we appreciate your time on about books. well, thank you. it's always nice to win an award particularly one that honors a woman is inspiring and as interesting as kukula a couple of classes. i'm honored to receive the award and it's been a great to talk to you peter. thank you, sir. thank you. and this is about books. this is book tv's program and podcast which looks at the business of publishing. new books are usually released on tuesdays and here some that
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came out this week. in created equal clarence thomas in his own words authors, michael pack and mark paelletta trace justice thomas's early life and judicial career through personal interviews and documents. and laurie garver reflects on her career and work at nasa in escaping gravity my quest to transform nasa and launch a new space age. markley gardner pens a dual biography of two native american leaders in the earth is all that lasts crazy horse sitting bull and the last stand of the great sioux nation. another book that's coming out. this week is investigative. journalists. marie brenner's the desperate hours one hospital's fight to save a city on the pandemics front lines. it chronicles how covid affected and transformed new york presbyterian hospital? now all of these books and authors you will see featured on book tv in the near future.
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well each week major newspapers and publications across the nation come out with reviews of newly released books. here's a sampling. jennifer harper of the washington times who writes a daily politics section called inside the beltway offered her take on the new book created equal clarence thomas in his own words. she called it timely and important with 90% new material compared to the eponymous documentary. in the wall street journal stephen regal's finding judge crater is described as a jazz age story about the still unsolved 1930 disappearance of new york state supreme court justice joseph crater. it was a mystery that touched off a nationwide and highly sensationalized search. and in the new york times this week professor and author penile. joseph describes the new book
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his name was george floyd as a quote thorough account of a little known life. now all of these books as well you will see featured on book tv in the near future. well one monthly program on book tv is our deep dive author interview in depth. our guest in july will be author and emory university professor carol anderson. she will talk and take calls about voting rights gun regulation and race in america. her books include white rage one person no vote and most recently the second race and guns in fatally unequal america. it's about the history and impact of the second amendment on african americans. here's a preview of professor anderson's thoughts. it really emerged out of the killing of philando castile. because here you had a black man in minnesota who was pulled over by the police and the police
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officer asked to see his id. following nra guidelines philando castile alerted the officer that he had a license to carry weapon with him, but he was reaching for his id as the officer had asked. the police officer immediately then put five bullets into philando castile not for brandishing a weapon not for threatening him. but for merely having a weapon and then the nra went silent. now the nra the defender of the second amendment goes silent win a licensed gun owner is gunned down for no other reason than having a gun the nra that called federal officers jack booted government thugs after ruby ridge and after waco go silent and so the question was do black people have second amendment rights. that's where this book came from. and what's the answer to that question? no. and that was emory professor and author carol anderson who will be live on book tv at noon on
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july 3rd. well, thanks for joining us on about books of podcast and program produced by c-span's book tv. you can listen to it and the entire library of c-span podcasts on the c-span now app or wherever you get your podcast. you are
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