Category Archives: Harry Potter

What (not) to buy in 2018?

It was the Resident IT Consultant who mentioned it first. He noted that that David Walliams seemed to be everywhere in the top 100 books sold in 2017. I wasn’t surprised, but wish I had been. I’ve not counted the DW books on the list. Daughter did, but reckoned I probably didn’t want to hear how many.

I am pleased that a children’s book came second on that list. (Also pleased that it was – considerably – outsold by Jamie Oliver.) But I really would have wanted it to be a different book. I know; it’s good that children read. Or at least that someone is buying the books, whether or not they get read.

If it was any other book, I’d also be happy for the author who was financially rewarded, along with his or her publisher.

To return to my previously mentioned lesson learned from Random House, we should be grateful these books make money, because they help publish other books that simply don’t sell in great numbers. Well, all I can say is that on the strength of the DW sales, HarperCollins should be able to support an awful lot of ‘smaller’ books. Children’s books at that.

I don’t know this, but how much of such revenue goes to happy shareholders? Instead of being re-invested in more book products. I’m aware that DW has a past of doing charitable things, even if that was a stunt requiring other people to cough up the cash. Does he support any worthy causes with the income from his books?

In the same Guardian there was an article about a businessman who has received rather a large bonus, an amount of money that it was suggested could do a lot of good if used to solve the sad state of the homeless. My guess is he won’t do this. (Although, think of how he’d be remembered for all time – in a positive way – if he did!)

So, DW and publisher: Is there any likelihood of you doing this kind of good deed? We only require so much money for our own needs.

But back to the list. I’ve not read much on it. This is usually the case, as most of the big sellers are generally adult novels I don’t have time for, or recipe books and biographies of or by people I’ve barely heard of.

This year Philip Pullman is in tenth place and I’ve read his book. Of older books there’s obviously Harry Potter, and I have at some point looked at a Where’s Wally and the Wimpy Kids books.

The usual suspects such as Lee Child, Jodi Picoult, John Grisham, Dan Brown, are there; but interspersed with countless DW titles. Jacqueline Wilson and Julia Donaldson, often the biggest contributors to children’s books on the list of bestsellers, are at the bottom end. There is Wonder, which presumably has reappeared because of the recent film.

While horrified in general, I am hoping that this willingness to buy lots of children’s books will continue. And I’m hoping for more diverse purchases, which will be made possible only when publishers don’t only push celebrity titles. I’d like for there to be more excellent children’s titles, but the truth is that there are countless terrific books already in existence. They ‘merely’ need to be sold to the buyers of books. Use some of that money on telling the world about your other writers.

I’d like to mention a few recent HarperCollins books here as examples, but I’ve not been told about many. The new Oliver Jeffers book was ‘sold’ to me. I asked about the Skulduggery Pleasant book myself when I discovered its existence. I was offered an adult crime novel on the suggestion by the author. And someone emailed me to say she was leaving the company. This is not to say there weren’t heaps and heaps of great books. Just that there was no publicity coming my way, and possibly not going to others either.

Happy New Reading in 2018!!!

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The film of the book

Why do newspapers insist on illustrating an article about a book with a still from the film?

Is it because no one thinks about basics like book covers, or is it that much sexier to have a photo of one or several actors? Are readers (of the newspaper, not the book) deemed to be so shallow that they can only be interested in something straight out of Hollywood?

The second half of 2017 offered quite a few written pieces on the much awaited Book of Dust, and invariably I found myself staring at the film still of Lyra* on Yorek’s back. OK, a small girl riding an armoured bear is striking, but so are many of the book covers of the His Dark Materials books.

With Harry Potter you even have two covers for each original Potter book, adult and child version. And with seven books, that’s a good many choices. But you are offered countless film stills when you google Harry Potter, and if you try Hermione Granger it’s pure Emma Watson.

Even the seasonal The Railway Children offers film pictures before you finally come to a few book covers.

So I suppose it makes sense that someone needing an illustration for an article does a search for whatever it is and finds an attractive photo of real people, rather than a painted or drawn book cover.

And then of course, they put the film still on the book as a new fresh cover, and the movie aspect of the book just grows and grows.

J K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

(Book cover by Thomas Taylor)

* I take this back. The Retired Children’s Librarian sent me a cutting from Expressen (Swedish tabloid). It was a review of La Belle Sauvage. This was illustrated by high-rise buildings under attack from massive waves, straight out of the film The Day After Tomorrow…

Doune done

It’s not a bookshop, but alongside all the tea sets and silver and old furniture, they do sell books, as I mentioned yesterday. Last week they had Harry Potter 4 and Harry Potter 5. Both first editions, and reasonably priced. £20 for HP4 and £10 for HP5.

Well, we all have those first editions, but at least no one is trying to demand a fortune.

Before leaving the Antique’s paradise, I just had to go and check on one of the most fascinating items they sell. I’ve seen it there for the last year, at least, and they still haven’t sold it.

I’m not sure they even know what it is, apart from a sort of bookcase. It’s the bespoke bookcase for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, in one of its early editions.

We know this, because we have one just like it, except we also happen to have the actual encyclopaedia on the shelves in ours. And we have tried, and failed, to sell it for £100.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Here they are asking £145 for the bookcase alone. It’s down from £165, and still not selling…

Muggle magic for Christmas

‘Bring a touch of magic to the world of muggles with these movie must-haves.’

What’s wrong with the world? In fact, what’s wrong with Lakeland? This excellent mail order company that can make almost anyone want anything, and especially that which we don’t need, believes Harry Potter is a film.

Well, it is, of course. But it’s mostly a series of books. Still. Even though someone made films about the books.

And I understand that the film company bought all the rights to everything Harry Potter and in many instances they came up with the designs, so us muggles will know what Harry’s stuff looks like.

But still. They are surely not movie must-haves?

When I think of Harry Potter, I continue to – mostly – see my own pictures of the books in my head.

If these magical mugs and cauldrons were to make me weak at the knees, it’s not because of any Hollywood films. It’s because J K Rowling wrote seven fantastic books containing some weird and wonderful things.

Besides, surely Lakeland’s customers are serious enough to approve of mugs inspired by books? Movies aren’t everything in this world. Even if the movie company owns the rights to all that we see.

The embargo

Reading Harry Potter a week after ‘everyone’ else never bothered me. I would hope for no spoilers, but I didn’t feel an absolute urgency. We already bought two copies of the book, and three or four would have been ridiculous. Especially as I preferred to take my time over the book, savouring the adventure, not wanting to hurry, and definitely not being an officially recognised reviewer.

I’ve had today’s date in my diary for months, and suspecting a return to the secrecy Harry got, I enquired a few months ago whether this was likely to happen again. Hard to tell whether I was strung along or misunderstood. I wouldn’t have minded the answer, whatever it was. I merely wanted to know what to expect.

As with Harry Potter, I know full well that a review – by anyone – is not needed. Millions of impatient fans will buy the new book. Most of them today.

I want to savour this book as well, so there’s not going to be a hurried review. It would obviously have been different had I been sent an early copy, in good time. I know there are copies. I know of some people who’ve had one. I’ve seen a photo of one. So not only do I know they are numbered (woe if your number ends up on eBay), but I know who’s got the number I’d have liked…

What I don’t know, at the time of writing this, is if today’s post will bring anything, or if I should put my shoes on and walk to the nearest bookshop. That is another bit of information I’d have appreciated, and I could have ordered online, in advance.

While a reply to my emails would have been nice, no one owes me anything.

Firsts?

We both had the same idea, the bookshop owner and I. At a not terribly well attended event at his bookshop many years ago, the visiting author waved a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone about. It was a hardback, and the visitor was – how shall I describe him? – a bit old-fashioned and naïve. I suspect he didn’t truly grasp how big J K Rowling was. To him, she and her book were merely part of his somewhat unusual topic, which was the many British authors who had been teachers at some point in their lives.

That will be why two of us suddenly thought ‘what if that’s a first edition Harry Potter he’s got?’ We maneuvered ourselves into position to check, as discreetly as possible.

But no, it wasn’t. Phew. Probably.

J K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

One night recently when I wasn’t sleeping as soundly as I would have liked, I spent some time thinking about Harry Potter first editions. As you do. I have already mentioned that I know an author who appeared at the Edinburgh Book Festival alongside J K Rowling, and how the two new authors exchanged copies of their books with each other.

It struck me that there must be other categories of people who’d have [had] a first in their possession. Other than the lucky book buyers who actually did what one is supposed to do with books, which is find them and buy them and read them.

I’m guessing J K’s editor has one. Whether a publicist would hang on to a copy of a book they work on is less certain. And did she even have an agent? I think maybe not.

Thomas Taylor, the illustrator of the cover design, probably?

Then there are the reviewers. I wonder how many copies were sent out to them, back in 1997?

Libraries. Did they buy copies, and when Harry Potter went crazy, did they do anything with those books? They could have been worn out by then, of course.

Friends and family of the author?

How many of the above first editions ended up at Oxfam?

Then I must have fallen asleep again.


Our first two Harry Potter books were paperbacks, and I let them become Son’s (Daughter was too young at the time), but by book three I realised I’d need copies of my own, so quickly set about getting the first three books for me. I have just looked up Harry Potter first editions, and discovered that my catch-up edition is somewhat more respectable than I knew.

Takes a witch, I suppose.

Series – to abandon or not to abandon

That is the question.

As has become clear over the Bloody Scotland weekend, there are series everywhere. Not only do the long – and medium – established writers have series. The debut authors are also planning several books. Even the unpublished ones pitching their first novel, spoke of series.

If you are free to read whatever you like, whenever you can, with no blog commitments, you can probably keep up with lots of series.

I no longer know what to do. I tend to wait and see what happens. Because I can’t actually make the decision. It has to be made for me. I will – temporarily – abandon a series of books I love, if there is something else, equally loveable out there. Maybe something that is noisier when looking for attention.

And that first abandoning was never intentional. It just happened. It’s not you; it’s me.

In the last maybe fifteen years I have read and thoroughly enjoyed the crime novels by Kate Ellis and Stephen Booth. I read every one up to a certain point. I read about Mma Ramotswe. I read these usually in the right order, moving backwards to catch the odd earlier book, and then waited in real time for the next one to be published. It seemed like a long wait, until it wasn’t so bad, and then until the next two books were here and I didn’t know how to fit them in.

I discovered Sara Paretsky, whose books I still read when a new one comes along, and slowly reading the older ones.

Among my new people, as you know, are James Oswald and Vaseem Khan. I don’t know how long I can keep going. I want to. But I wanted to with the others as well.

With Sophie Hannah I grew too scared to continue, so that was an easier decison to make. And thankfully we have the new Poirots.

Or there is Harry Potter, but we knew how many books to expect. Knew there would be an end. As we did with Skulduggery Pleasant, at least until Derek Landy decided to keep going a bit longer. With Lockwood you might not have known for certain, but unless something changed, the characters would eventually be unable to do what they did because of their [lack of] years.

Which books do you keep? Will I ever reread the abandoned series? Will I restart one day? Which ones will I regret once I have ditched my copies? When we moved, we parted with about half our Dorothy Sayers. That seemed OK. Many of Agatha Christie’s books I’ve never owned as I borrowed them from the library.

And then I looked at my shelves for inspiration, and considered Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh. Those books I read slowly over a long time, and I don’t claim to have read all. But the thought that I might get rid of the books made me want to cry. They are staying. Campion is like a crazy older brother, and Alleyn some benevolent uncle. Yes, I know I have now bypassed them in age, as far as most of the stories are concerned.

So what to do about those just starting out? Not read at all, just in case? Read one and be hooked? Have nervous breakdown?