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Nobel-prize-winning author Nadine Gordimer dies at 90

Author Nadine Gordimer died peacefully at her Johannesburg home on Sunday, at the age of 90. The South African writer’s novels and stories depicted the drama of human life in a society troubled by racial segregation. She won the Nobel prize in 1991.

Gordimer’s works were highly controversial. The Guardian reports, “she had three books banned under the apartheid regime’s censorship laws, along with an anthology of poetry by black South African writers that she collected and had published.” The banned titles include A World of Strangers and Burger’s Daughter.

The Guardian shared some memorable quotes from the author on censorship, writing, and life in general:

Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever.

Writing is making sense of life. You work your whole life and perhaps you’ve made sense of one small area.

Nothing factual that I write or say will be as truthful as my fiction.

Books don’t need batteries.

Power is something of which I am convinced there is no innocence this side of the womb.

Nadine Gordimer leaves behind an epic legacy of literature, including several short story collections, essays, and 15 novels. Several signed books are available.

Novels by Nadine Gordimer

The Lying Days (1953)
A World of Strangers (1958)
Occasion for Loving (1963)
The Late Bourgeois World (1966)
A Guest of Honour (1970)
The Conservationist (1974)
Burger’s Daughter (1979)
July’s People (1981)
A Sport of Nature (1987)
My Son’s Story (1990)
None to Accompany Me (1994)
The House Gun
The Pickup (2001)
Get a Life (2005)
No Time Like the Present (2012)


Bill Gates reveals his favorite business book & AbeBooks sells every copy of forgotten title from 1969

**UPDATE – The new edition of Business Adventures by John Brooks is now available.**

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal printed an interesting article written by Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates about this favorite business book – Business Adventures by John Brooks. It is a long forgotten out-of-print book published in 1969 containing 12 essays about business that had originally appeared in The New Yorker magazine.

Thanks to this article, Business Adventures by John Brooks was the top search term on AbeBooks.com on Friday and Saturday. This morning (Sunday), there are no copies left on the site.

Brooks – the Michael Lewis of his day – was a long-time contributor to The New Yorker. The essays include Ford Motor Company’s epic failure with the Edsel, the rise of Xerox, and scandals at General Electric and Texas Gulf Sulphur.

Gates discovered Business Adventures after fellow tycoon Warren Buffett lent him a copy in 1991 (I hope Gates returned it!). In the WSJ article, Gates writes:

Unlike a lot of today’s business writers, Brooks didn’t boil his work down into pat how-to lessons or simplistic explanations for success. (How many times have you read that some company is taking off because they give their employees free lunch?) You won’t find any listicles in his work. Brooks wrote long articles that frame an issue, explore it in depth, introduce a few compelling characters and show how things went for them.

Brooks died in 1993. His obituary in the New York Times reveals a little about the breadth of his writing:

Mr. Brooks was known for his ability to give Wall Street trends, history and personalities a narrative flavor far beyond standard financial reportage. He wrote three novels, all published by Harper: The Big Wheel (1949) about a news magazine resembling Time; A Pride of Lions (1954), and The Man Who Broke Things (1958). He was also the author of 10 non fiction books on business and finance, including Once in Golconda: A True Drama of Wall Street, 1920-1938 (Harper, 1969); The Go-Go Years (Weybright, 1973), a history of the speculative 1960′s on Wall Street, and The Takeover Game (Dutton, 1987), about the epidemic of mergers in the 1980′s. A collection of his work, Business Adventures (Weybright, 1969), included his most famous New Yorker article, ‘The Fate of the Edsel.’

Copy of Das Kapital sells for $40k just as Dow Jones hits record high

On Thursday,  the day that the Dow Jones index closed at an all-time high of 17,068 points, AbeBooks.com sold a first edition of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital for $40,000.

Published in 1867 by Otto Meissner with German text, this copy of Das Kapital was the only one published in Marx’s lifetime (he died in 1883). The book is housed in a slipcover with cloth wrapping.

Das Kapital famously attributes the growth of capitalism to the exploitation of labor and the book became the basis for Marxism, which influenced many subsequent political systems and labor movements, including Communism. Marx lived in London from 1849 until his death. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery.

It’s not the first time that a copy of Das Kapital has sold for a high price via AbeBooks. In November 2011, a very rare copy in three volumes sold for $51,739. Interest in Marx’s book, which arguably did indeed help change the world, remains as strong as ever.

The $40,000 sale is AbeBooks’ second most expensive sale of the year. A collection of French Art Nouveau posters sold for $43,450 in March.

On a bumper day for the stock markets and used bookselling, a copy of the first ever Rupert the Bear annual from 1936 sold for $8,497 on Thursday. The first edition, illustrated by Alfred Bestall, was unmarked with the “Belongs to” box left empty, a rarity for this children’s favorite.

Louis Zamperini Dies at 97


Louis Zamperini, the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller Unbroken, died on July 2 at the age of 97.

At age 19, Zamperini participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games as a long-distance runner. When WWII broke out, he joined the US Army Air Forces and served as a bombadier in the South Pacific. In April, 1943, his plane crashed in the Pacific, killing eight of the eleven crew members on board.

One of the three survivors, Francis McNamara, died after 37 days at sea. Fourteen days later, Zamperini and fellow survivor, Russel Allen, landed on the Marshall Islands and were immediately captured by Japanese forces. They remained in captivity, enduring sevedevilre mistreatment, until the war ended in August, 1945.

Zamperini went on to become an inspirational speaker and wrote two memoirs detailing his experiences, both titled Devil at My Heels. The first was published in 1956 and as of this writing, is still available. The second, published in 2003, was completely rewritten and contains a significant amount of new material.

In 2010, Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand, published a biography of Zamperini called Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. An international bestseller, copies of Unbroken signed by Zamperini still regularly appear on AbeBooks Bestselling Signed Books list. A movie based on the book, adapted by Joel and Ethan Coen and directed by Angelina Jolie, is set for release in late 2014.

Monochromatic book covers

A monochromatic color scheme is black, white and all the variations of a single color. The most famous monochromatic book cover is George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four but the first edition dust jackets of Tropic of Cancer and Midnight’s Children are not far behind. You’d think using just one color would limit the creativity of book designers, but it’s actually inspired them to produce many memorable covers. See our selection of monochromatic book covers

The contenders for book of the summer

Lev Grossman at Time Magazine asks how exactly does a book become a summer smash-hit. He also makes some recommendations for books that could become summer bestsellers. He remembers American Psycho‘s huge impact in the summer of 1991 and Gone Girl from two summers ago.

Here are his predictions for this summer’s summer reading sensation:

Odds: 2-1
The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
Pros: Single mom plus nerdy millionaire equals unlikely romance. And there’s a road trip!
Cons: Very few killer sharks.

Odds: 2-1
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Pros: Blind daughter of a locksmith meets reluctant Nazi engineering whiz! What more do you want?
Cons: Complex, lyrical historical fiction may not have the necessary mass appeal.

Odds: 3-1
The Fever by Megan Abbott
Pros: Small-town girls hit by mystery syndrome. Tense, erotically fraught, has Gillian Flynn blurb.
Cons: Much adolescent angst. Are the stakes high enough?

Odds: 4-1
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Pros: Rich people on an island; sharp, funny-sad writing; a head-snapping fourth­quarter reveal.
Cons: It’s a YA novel, so some adults might pass.

Odds: 4-1
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Pros: Keen psychological insight, irrepressible humor and a supernatural twist: a woman can call her husband in the past.
Cons: Relative lack of violence, perverse sex.

Odds: 5-1
One Kick by Chelsea Cain
Pros: Child kidnapping victim grows up to become ass-kicking vigilante looking for other missing children. Boom.
Cons: A thriller but maybe not a rule breaker.

Odds: 6-1
The Quick by Lauren Owen
Pros: Set in lovely, lush Victorian London. Plus: vampires, vampires, vampires.
Cons: Owen’s pacing is slow and artful—maybe too slow for some.

I would add to this list The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée – you can have non-fiction summer hits too! Here is The Guardian’s review from last week.

Signed copy of Robert Galbraith’s Silkworm sells for $1,720

One day, that’s all it took for The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith to become a collectible book. Yesterday, the day of the novel’s release, a signed copy of The Silkworm written by JK Rowling under the Galbraith pen name sold for $1,720 on AbeBooks.

The book was sold shortly after being listed for sale on the marketplace. It had been signed on the title page by ‘Robert Galbraith’ with a JK Rowling hologram attached to the opposite page. It appears a small number of signed copies were distributed to certain bookstores in the UK.

The Silkworm is Rowling’s second novel writing as Galbraith. The book is a crime mystery starring Cormoran Strike – a one-legged ex-military policeman. The sale confirms that the Rowling magic has not dimmed and that book collectors are still interested in anything that carries her signature. There are currently five signed copies for sale on AbeBooks ranging from $1,600 to $2,100 in price.

Yesterday, AbeBooks also sold a first edition of The Cuckoo’s Calling – the first Robert Galbraith novel – for $1,206. The book was not signed. It appears only a small number of first editions of The Cuckoo’s Calling were printed, perhaps 1,500.

The most expensive Rowling book to ever sell on AbeBooks was a rare first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which sold for $37,000 in 2005.

Flowers for Algernon author Daniel Keyes dies at 86

Daniel Keyes, the author of Flowers for Algernon, died on Sunday at the age of 86. Flowers for Algernon was published in 1966 but it originally appeared as a short story in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1959.

Flowers for Algernon is a bitter-sweet story about Charlie Gordon (32 and working in a bakery), who undergoes an experimental surgery to increase his intelligence. Keyes won a Hugo Award for best short story in 1960, and a Nebula Award in 1966 for best novel. Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom starred in the 1968 movie adaptation (called Charly), which won an Academy Award.

Keyes taught at Ohio University and wrote a number of other books including The Fifth Sally, The Touch, The Minds of Billy Milligan and Unveiling Claudia. His memoir is called Algernon, Charlie, and I: A Writer’s Journey. The power of the mind often featured in his writing.

“Here was a story which struck me so forcefully that I was actually lost in admiration . . . for the delicacy of his feeling, for the skill with which he handled the remarkable tour de force involved in his telling the story,” wrote Isaac Asimov about Flowers for Algernon.

With Flowers of Algernon being one of the key novels of the 1960s, first editions are collectible particularly if they have been signed.

#ThisBook campaign seeks powerful female authors


The Year of Reading Women (or, 2014, as some of you may know it) just keeps getting better. Last month the folks over at Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction launched #ThisBook, an exciting social media campaign to find the novels written by women that have most impacted readers. Nineteen influential women kicked off the #ThisBook conversation and shared the book by a woman that most impacted, shaped or changed their life. To make it an even 20, I’ve added my pick at the end.

Baroness Amos – Beloved by Toni Morrison

Zawe Ashton – The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Mary Beard – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brönte

Edith Bowman – The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Saffron Burrows – I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Shami Chakrabarti – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Gwen Christie – I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

Grace Dent – The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

Katherine Grainger – Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

Tanni Grey Thompson – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Martha Lane Fox – Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

Caitlin Moran – Twopence to Cross the Mersey by Helen Forrester

Kate MosseWuthering Heights by Emily Brönte

Dawn O’Porter – Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Susanna Reid – We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Jennifer Saunders – Dust by Patricia Cornwell

Sharleen Spiteri - To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Sandi Toksvig – Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Joanna Trollope - The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay

And lastly, my vote is for Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. But really, how can I pick just one? I’d also add Paradise by Toni Morrison, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

Tweet using #ThisBook to take part and cast your vote for the book (by a woman) that most impacted, shaped or changed your life. The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction team will collect your votes and reveal a Top 20 list in July.

25 Years On: Rare Photographs of Tiananmen Square Protests Go on Sale

Twenty five years after the Tiananmen Square massacre, a remarkable collection of photographs documenting the events surrounding the government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters has been listed for sale on AbeBooks.com.

Sixty-five photographs from the student-led protests in Beijing are for sale from Upper Valley Books & Paper in Ascutney, Vermont, for $6,500. The collection includes 12 black and white photographs, and 53 color photographs.

The images were taken between late April and June 1989. The photographer, or photographers, are unknown. The photographs were formerly the property of Wang Dan, one of the student leaders of the pro-democracy movement. Photographs and other materials relating to the Tiananmen protests have been suppressed by the Chinese government.

These photos shows marches, rallies, banners, hand-made posters, signs and cartoons, as well as memorials to the dead after the protests were crushed by the Chinese government on June 3 and 4.

“Most of these photographs were printed in December 1990, and stamped thus, long after the protest movement was smothered,” John Waite of Upper Valley Books & Paper wrote in an email. “This indicates the film likely was smuggled out of China and later processed in the US or another English-speaking nation.”

The protests began in April following the death of Hu Yaobang, a leading proponent within the Chinese Communist Party for reform.

Wang Dang was arrested and held without trial for nearly two years. After his trial, he served another two years in prison before being expelled from China. He later studied at Harvard and now lives in the United States.

The images can be divided into four general categories:

  • Marches and gatherings of protesters in Tiananmen Square;
  • Posters, banners, signs, cartoons, and open letters displayed by the protesters;
  • Protesters taking action against military or police vehicles prior to the crackdown on June 4;
  • Marches and demonstrations by students, teachers, and government employees in the city of Hefei (Anhui Province) shortly after the crackdown in Beijing.

There is also one black and white press photo of Wang Dan addressing the crowd in Tiananmen Square.

The hand-made banners document student groups from various universities and technical schools. The posters, banners, signs and cartoons show a range of political expressions and demands made by the student groups. These particular images are rare examples of the enormous amount of political ephemera generated by the various  protest groups for the demonstrations.

The actions taken by protesters, either to defend themselves or provoke authorities, are not well-known in the West due to the Chinese government’s suppression of documentation relating to the events. Photographic evidence that some protesters acted violently and the varied nature of the actual politics of the protest groups is rare.

The crackdown by the government began on the night of 3 June with lethal violence against civilians in various locations around the city. Hundreds of protesters died that evening even before soldiers began to clear Tiananmen Square in the early hours of 4 June. The collection includes several photos of armored personnel carriers burning amid crowds of people, and images of an armored personnel carrier that has been commandeered by protesters.

By 5 June, the news of the events had spread to the West and the media began trying to piece together the events of the previous 48 hours.

Crowds and burned vehicles

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