One-Minute Book Reviews

January 8, 2008

Backscratching in Our Time — Gina Kolata and Jerome Groopman

The latest in a series of posts on authors who praise each other’s work in a way that may have financial benefits for both

 

I usually post these examples of backscratching without comment, but this one is bad on so many levels, I’d like explain why. A pillar of journalistic ethics says that reporters should avoid not just conflicts of interest but the appearance of conflicts. Gina Kolata is a science writer for the New York Times who has used Groopman, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a bestselling author, as a source. As the comments below make clear, she accepted a favor from Groopman — the blurb for Rethinking Thin — that could put money in her pocket if, say, you bought the book based on his recommendation or if a paperback or overseas publisher paid more for the reprint rights because of the quote (and quotes can affect the amount offered). Kolata has compounded the problem by selecting one of Groopman’s essays for Best American Science Writing 2007, a decision that has almost certainly put money in his pocket, given that contributors to anthologies typically receive an up-front fee or a percentage of the royalties or both. She also used on the cover of the paperback edition of her earlier Flu a quote from Groopman that appeared in the Boston Globe, which is owned by the New York Times. It gives me no pleasure to say any of this because I enjoy Kolata’s work for the Times and regard it as far superior to that of her colleague Jane Brody, who writes the Personal Health column. I also admired much about Flu, Rethinking Thin and Groopman’s How Doctors Think www.oneminutebookreivews.wordpress.com/2007/12/28/.

 

Jerome Groopman on Gina Kolata

“Kolata is a seasoned reporter, and knows how to craft a riveting tale … a masterly recounting of medical history.”

Groopman in a review of Kolata’s Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic (Touchtone, $15, paperback) in the Boston Globe, Dec. 12. 1999. “A masterly recounting of medical history” appears on the cover of the paperback edition of Flu.

 

“An incisive, thought-provoking examination of a subject that concerns us all. This book will educate and illuminate those seeking solid information about the struggle to lose weight.”

Groopman in a blurb on the cover of Kolata’s new Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss — and the Myths and Realities of Dieting (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24)

Gina Kolata on Jerome Groopman

“I also liked Jerome Groopman’s New Yorker article, ‘Being There.’ It raises an issue I had never considered, and in an unforgettable way …”

Gina Kolata on why she choose Groopman’s article as one of the best of the year, in her introduction to Best American Science Writing 2007 (HarperPerennial, $14.95, paperback), edited by Kolata and Jesse Cohen.

One-Minute Book Reviews welcomes suggestions about authors should be in “Backscratching in Our Time,” a series in inspired by “Logrolling in Our Time” in the old Spy magazine.

© 200X Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

December 14, 2007

One-Minute Book Reviews 10 Best Books of 2007 – The Year’s Top Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry

10 Best Books of 2007
The Year’s Top Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry
Source: oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com

Yes, this was the year of The Secret and The Manny in the U.S., and the year On Chesil Beach was longlisted for a Bad Sex in Fiction Award in Britain. So which books won’t leave you feeling like a patient in a literary burn unit? Here are the 10 best books reviewed on One-Minute Book Reviews:

The Birthday Party: A Memoir of Survival (Putnam, $24.95), by Stanley Alpert. A former federal prosecutor who was kidnapped on a Manhattan street, then held at gunpoint for 25 hours, writes about his abduction in one of the best true crime books of the decade. us.penguingroup.com

*The Year of Magical Thinking (Vintage, $13.95, paperback), by Joan Didion. One of the country’s finest prose stylists recalls the sudden death of her husband and its aftermath in a memoir that won a National Book Award. www.randomhouse.com

*Every Eye (David R. Godine/Black Sparrow, $23, by Isobel English. The first American publication of a novel that is an elegant minor classic, which involves a piano teacher born with “lazy eye” that affects her view of the world long after surgery has corrected the problem. www.blacksparrowbooks.com

Literary Genius: 25 Classic Writers Who Define English and American Literature (Paul Dry Books, $18.95, paperback), selected and edited by Joseph Epstein. Wood engravings by Barry Moser. Scholars and critics of high distinction write about vanished titans in stylish literary essays. www.pauldrybooks.com

Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance (Holt/Metropolitan, $24.95), by Atul Gawande. A surgeon and medical writer for The New Yorker reflects on his art in a book that has a particularly enlightening section on childbirth. www.gawande.com

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa (Little, Brown, $24.99), by Peter Godwin. A former correspondent for the BBC refracts the terrors of Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe through the prism of tragedies that struck his family and friends. www.hachettebookgroupusa.com

Baseball Haiku: American and Japanese Haiku and Senryu on Baseball (Norton, $19.95), edited and with translations by Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura. More than 200 poems that transcend baseball, many by some of the finest living haiku artists. www.wwnorton.com

Four Days to Glory Wrestling With the Soul of the American Heartland (HarperCollins, $24.95), by Mark Kreidler. Two high school wrestlers prepare to compete in the Iowa state championship in a book of masterly reporting that offers a fascinating portrait of a little-known social and athletic subculture. www.markkreidler.com and www.harpercollins.com

Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories (Random House, $22.95), by Katha Pollitt. Personal essays by the poet and columnist for the Nation, who writes with bite, depth and often wit about topics that include her discovery that her former boyfriend had been cheating on her almost the whole time they lived together. www.kathapollitt.blogspot.com and www.randomhouse.com

*Living Things: Collected Poems (Steerforth/Zoland, $15, paperback), by Anne Porter. Foreword by David Shapiro. All of the poems from Porter’s An Altogether Different Language, a National Book Award finalist, and 39 new ones, which together attest to what Shapiro calls “her Franciscan joy in created things.” www.steerforth.com

* Books with an asterisk came out in 2006. One-Minute Book Reviews was launched late last year and could not review some 2006 books until 2007. The “10 Best List” includes the 2006 books when they were better than 2007 books in their category. You can find reviews of all books except The Year of Magical Thinking by entering the title in the search box. You can find reading guides to The Birthday Party, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun and Learning to Drive in the “Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides” category at right.

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation. It is also for people who dislike long-winded weasel reviews that are full of facts and plot summary but don’t tell you what the critic thought of the book. Posts on the site generally appear daily. When no review appears, the site often has a quote of the day from a book, which may include commentary. One-Minute Book Reviews is the sixth-ranked book-review site in the world on the Google Directory of “Top Arts and Literature” blogs:

www.google.com/Top/Arts/Literature/Reviews_and_Criticism/.

Jan Harayda is editor-in-chief of One-Minute Book Reviews. Jan has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book critic for the Plain Dealer and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle www.bookcritics.org. She does not accept free books, galleys, catalogs, print or electronic press releases or other promotional materials from editors, publishers, agents or authors. For this reason, she does not see all the worthy books in a year. This list has the best new books she read in 2007. It does not include books written by her friends, published by her current publisher or represented by her literary agent.

One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the finalists for its annual Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books on Feb. 29 and the winners on March 15, 2008. Thank you for visiting this site.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

December 9, 2007

One-Minute Book Reviews 10 Best Books of 2007 — Coming Friday

The New York Times Book Review has named its 10 best books of 2007, right after one of its 10 best of 2006 got shortlisted for a Bad Sex in Fiction Award. Want a list of books that don’t have writing, on sex or any other topic, that will test your gag reflex?

By Janice Harayda

Are you sore that your favorite novel didn’t make the list of the 10 best books of 2007 published in the New York Times Book Review today www.nytimes.com/2007/12/09/books/review/10-best-2007.html?

Or did you give up on the Times’s list after Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children made it last year? (Memo to the editors of the NYTBR: Read this and tell us if you still think the novel deserved its spot www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/03/16/. Maybe it’s not too late to publish a retraction?) Or are you skeptical of the NYTBR list now that another of the 10 best of 2006, Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan, made the shortlist for a Bad Sex in Fiction Award for the writing you can read here http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,2217735,00.htm?

Okay, now you have an alternative list.

One-Minute Book Reviews will publish its first “10 Best Books of the Year” on Friday, December 14. This post is sure to be as controversial as its annual Delete Key Awards, partly because some of the best books may not even be 2007 books. (One-Minute Book Reviews didn’t begin until late last year, so I may have to grandfather in a couple of 2006 books that I didn’t get to until 2007 … and think how good those must be if they KO’d all the 2007 books.) You know how David Letterman said that traffic signals in New York are just rough guidelines? We’re applying a similar standard this year to the publication dates of the best books.

Other links: In addition to its “10 Best” list the New York Times has published a list of “100 Notable Books of 2007″ at this site www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/books/review/notable-books-2007.html

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

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