One-Minute Book Reviews

October 14, 2007

What’s in a Book Cover? New on One-Minute Book Reviews

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When critics get together, they never say, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” If you get more than 500 books a week from publishers — as the editors of major book-review sections do – you know that a cover can tell you a lot. It can tell you whether a book technothriller (look for the metallic Stealth bomber) or a romance novel (look for the bare-chested man with hair longer than yours) and whether a book is a Library of America edition of a classic (black and white) or a “Complete Idiot’s Guide” to the Bible or Tantric sex (orange and white). And covers are becoming more important as the publishing industry becomes ever-more market-driven.

So there’s a new section called “Cover Story” at the end of some reviews on One-Minute Book Reviews that comments on especially strong or weak covers. The first dealt with the cover of Rebecca Gowers’s first novel, When to Walk These occasional remarks follow the reviews — instead of appearing in the text — because authors typically have little or no control over their covers. If the writers are lucky, publishers will listen to their views about them. But often they are unlucky. Do you think that the authors of books marketed to women really like those pink covers that publishers put on so many of them?

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

September 30, 2007

Couldn’t Finish the Sunday Book Review Section … Again? Read the One-Sentence Book Reviews on One-Minute Book Reviews

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What! You couldn’t get through the Sunday book review section … again? Or maybe couldn’t even find it buried in that paper the size of a microwave?

You can always find hundreds of short reviews of new and classic books in many categories on One-Minute Book Reviews, a site that respects your time and intelligence. For reviews you can read in a few seconds, click on the “Books in a Sentence” category at right (just below “Recent Posts” and “Top Posts” ). “Books in a Sentence” has brief, trenchant and often witty summaries of books written by an award-winning critic.You can find reading guides for book clubs and individual readers in the “Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides” category.

Remember: You can always watch the game with a clear conscience if you bookmark One-Minute Book Reviews or subscribe to the RSS feed, the site that doesn’t tank when your team does.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

September 23, 2007

Has the Man Booker Prize Turned Into a Children’s Literature Award? Coming Tomorrow on One-Minute Book Reviews

Tomorrow on One-Minute Book Reviews:
Dumbing down the Man Booker Prize: At least one novel on the short list for this year’s Man Booker Prize is written at such a low level, according to the readability statistics on Microsoft Word, you might think the prize had turned into a children’s literature award. Did J. K. Rowling’s publishers know about this?

Later this week:
Reconsidering Agatha Christie: Does she deserve the scorn she gets from critics?

Classic Picture Books Every Child Should Read #5: Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss.

To avoid missing these and other reviews coming this week, please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed. Thank you for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

September 21, 2007

Dumbing Down the Man Booker Prize for Fiction: Reading Levels of Finalists and Past Winners Exposed on Monday

Which finalist for the Man Booker Prize is written at the same grade level as Mitch Albom’s For One More Day?

The site for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction bombastically declares that the prize is “the world’s most important literary award.” That’s not true — the Nobel Prize in Literature is the most important — but the Man Booker probably ranks second. It carries a cash award of 50,000 pounds (about $101,000 dollars), or ten times as much the top American literary honors, the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, worth $10,000 each. And the Man Booker site says, correctly, that the prize “has the power to transform the fortunes of authors an even publishers,” as the little-known Edinburgh firm of Canongate discovered when its Life of Pie took top honors in 2002.

So why have this year’s Man Booker judges squandered some of the cachet of the prize by shortlisting a book written at the third-grade level of Mitch Albom’s For One More Day

On Monday One-Minute Book Reviews reveals the reading levels of some current finalists for the prize and compares them with that of former winners such as Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All righs reserved.

September 18, 2007

A Small Press That Looks for ‘Gifted Though Unrecognized’ Poets — Coming Thursday

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The “Great Small Presses” series on One-Minute Book Reviews through Friday, when the site will also have a review of and Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guide to Sara Gruen’s novel Water for Elephants, a No. 1 bestseller. Coming this week:

Wednesday, 9/19, Great Small Presses #3: A small press with specialties that include murder mysteries and early novels by famous writers.

Thursday 9/20, Great Small Presses, #4: A publisher that looks for “gifted though unrecognized” poets and others.

Friday 9/21, Great Small Presses, #5: The press that James Joyce might turn to if he were alive today and couldn’t find a major publisher willing to take on Ulysses. Also on Friday: a review of and reading group guide for Water for Elephants.

Saturday Children’s Corner, 9/22: A review of The Summer of the Pike, a novel for ages 9-to-12 from Jutta Richter, one of Germany’s most admired children’s authors, who makes her American debut with the book.

Also coming soon: A review of Lloyd Jones’s Man Booker Prize finalist, Mister Pip, and a reconsideration of Agatha Christie.

To avoid missing these reviews, please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed. Thank you for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

September 15, 2007

Review and Reading Group Guide to ‘Water for Elephants’ — Coming Friday on One-Minute Book Reviews

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A character in Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants says of the Depression-era traveling circus that provides the setting for the novel, “The whole thing’s illusion, Jacob, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what people want from us.”

Does something similar apply to this No. 1 bestseller? Are the virtues critics and others have found in the novel real or overplayed? Find out Friday when a review of and reading group guide to the novel will appear on One-Minute Book Reviews, which dealt with the first two chapters on Sept. 14 You can find the publishers’ guide to Water for Elephants at

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

September 7, 2007

Thank You All! One-Minute Book Reviews Among Top 10 Book Review Sites on Google

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I don’t thank all the visitors to this site nearly enough, and here’s proof: Just saw that One-Minute Book Reviews is ranked 7th in the world among book review sites on Google I have no idea how Google arrives at these rankings. But to all of you who have helped with your clicks, I need to say immediately (via Sebastian in Twelfth Night):

I can no other answer make but thanks,
And thanks; and ever oft good turns
Are shuffled off with such uncurrent pay …

Bless you all.


(By the way, if you expect to be writing a lot of thank-you notes for wedding or holiday gifts soon, that’s a great quote to save for the moment when your inspiration fails you as you look at that butter dish shaped like a raccoon or — dare I say it? — that book about the history of bungee-jumping in northern Saskatchewan.)

August 26, 2007

Bruna Surfistinha’s Call Girl Diary, Tomorrow on One-Minute Book Reviews

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“SAO PAOLO. She goes by the name Bruna, the Little Surfer Girl, and gives new meaning to the phrase ‘kiss and tell.’ First in a blog that quickly became the country’s most popular and now in a best-selling memoir, she has titillated Brazilians and become a national celebrity with her graphic, day-by-day accounts of life as a call girl here.

“But it is not just her canny use of the Internet that has made Bruna, whose real name is Raquel Pacheco, a cultural phenomenon … “

Larry Rohter in “She Who Controls Her Body Can Upset Her Countrymen,” the New York Times, April 27, 2006.

A review of the American edition of Pacheco’s memoir, The Scorpion’s Sweet Venom, will appear tomorrow on One-Minute Book Review.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

August 15, 2007

If You’ve Got Cancer and You Know It, Clap Your Hands: A Review of Betty Rollin’s ‘Here’s the Bright Side’ Coming Soon to One-Minute Book Reviews

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“Do clouds truly have silver linings?” asks the dust jacket of Betty Rollin’s Here’s the Bright Side: Of Failure, Fear, Cancer, Divorce, and Other Bum Raps (Random House, $14.95) Do books that lead with clichés truly give you more than a bad Mitch Albom impersonation? Find out in a review of the latest book by the author of First, You Cry, coming soon to One-Minute Book Reviews. To avoid missing this review, please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

August 12, 2007

Praise for One-Minute Book Reviews

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I don’t usually do posts about the write-ups One-Minute Book Reviews has received on other blogs or in print. Instead, I list some sample comments on the “Praise” page at right. But in case you’d like to have a post to forward to a friend, here’s one from Condé Nast’s Cookie magazine for parents:

“I know, I know. If you’re a parent, you sometimes don’t have time to read more than the ingredients listed on a breakfast cereal box. But let’s just say you have a whole minute. How do you make those seconds really count?

“The answer is this nifty new site, One-Minute Book Reviews, brainchild of writer, critic and voracious reader Janice Harayda. Author of two terrific books, Manhattan on the Rocks and The Accidental Bride, Harayda’s been the book editor of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, book columnist for Glamour, and vice-president for the National Book Critics Circle.

“One-Minute Book Reviews explores just about every kind of book, a something-for-everyone cornucopia of delights. Yes, says Harayda, you can read the reviews in a minute or less. The site features new releases but also goes back to the classics, and embraces titles other books sections ignore like self-help and poetry.

“Harayda not only aims help you find pleasing reading matter, but also to guide you away from the clunkers, with ‘Books I Didn’t Finish.’ Here, Harayda tells readers where she stopped reading a particular book and why, listing the best and worst lines, and giving readers suggestions for a better book to read …

“Witty, smart, and blisteringly honest, One-Minute Book Reviews can give you hours of reading pleasure. And for more great reads, take a look at the new selections up at Cookie’s Book Forum.”

From Daysitter on the blog for Cookie, March 12, 2007. The direct link seems to have expired, but here’s a link to the main Cookie site Many apologies. For more comments on One-Minute Book Reviews, click on “Praise” in the “Pages” column at right.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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