Barack Obama: Taking money from 1 percenters compromised my politics

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In last night's Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton defended her enormous super PAC fundraising machine by saying, "President Obama had a Super PAC when he ran. President Obama took tens of millions of dollars from contributors. And President Obama was not at all influenced when he made the decision to pass and sign Dodd-Frank, the toughest regulations on Wall Street in many a year."

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From beyond the grave, Terry Pratchett orders Neil Gaiman to adapt Good Omens for TV

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After several false starts, including one that involved Terry Gilliam and a groat, Neil Gaiman has announced that he will personally adapt he and Terry Pratchett's oustanding, comedic apocalypse novel Good Omens as a six-part TV series. Read the rest

The world of invisible bestsellers

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“I’m a bestselling author!” That’s a statement bound to elicit cheers . . . but what does that mean, exactly? Well, it means that your book sold better than a lot of other books. But in what category? Tracked by whom? Backed by what data?

I am a bestselling author in the usual, traditional sense — on the New York Times bestseller list, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journal, USA Today. But there are a lot of other bestseller lists… and they keep proliferating. Amazon in particular has launched so many esoteric bestseller categories it’s hard to keep track of them. (Like the Steampunk Short Story Collections Featuring Vampires bestseller list. That’s not a real one… at least I don’t think so.)

I am also a publisher, and my mid-sized house, WordFire Press, has released over 300 titles from 73 authors… and as such, I get to look at the actual numbers. One of our WordFire books was a #1 bestseller on the Amazon “holiday anthologies” bestseller list — a #1 bestseller! Wow! In actual numbers, that translated to about 80 copies sold. (But, hey, it’s still a “#1 Bestseller!” if I wanted to call it that.)

But I am also the author, and publisher, of a lot of “invisible bestsellers” — books that actually sell more than many titles on even the major lists, but are released through non-traditional channels and thus are never tracked. Right now, in fact, we have eighteen titles this week alone that have sold enough copies to hit the New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists… but they are tracked by neither. Read the rest

Home – A quirky ode to the many structures we live in across the world

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See more sample pages from this book at Wink.

Home, the quirky triumphant solo debut of Carson Ellis, might look oddly familiar. You’re not mistaken – you’ve seen this charmingly wholesome artwork before. And it’s not because it looks as if it fell out of a Wes Anderson movie set and into your lap. Carson Ellis is the illustrator for children’s classics like Lemony Snickett and The Benedict Society. She’s also well known for her artwork in Wildwood, a children’s fantasy novel written by her husband, Colin Meloy, the lead singer for the Decemberists. You’ll recognize Carson’s contributions on the band’s album covers and merchandise, full of blossoming colors and quaint patterns.

Home is an ode to the many structures across the world that we dwell in, from the messy riotous nest of a sparrow to the peaked roof of the artist's own humble abode. Carson gives a nod not only to the cheerful graffiti and clustered bricks of urban sprawl but also the domed turrets of white marbled eastern palaces and the cozy cottages of the countryside. She indulges in the silly and the fantastic at every turn, with houses fashioned out of shoes that spill mischievous children across the yard or the Spartan spatial quiet of a lunar landscape. Peculiar characters people her pages; knights in armor astride seahorses, a Norse god in a winged, gold helmet, and a Slovakian duchess peeking grimly from beneath her hat while anchoring twins in her iron grasp. The final page is a culmination of the detailed illustrations that have preceded it, with an element from each scene included as a component of the artist’s own studio. Read the rest

The Divide: important new documentary about income inequality based on "The Spirit Level"

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Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson's 2011 book The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger was an instant classic for the way it described the impact of wealth inequality on the lives of both poor and rich people, driving them both to completely unsustainable working lives that destroyed their families and made them deeply unhappy. Read the rest

Feathers – A sublime meditation on the brilliance of the bird feather. Released today!

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

We live in a world of backgrounded miracles, entire worlds of wonder and beauty that we either can’t see or stopped noticing a long time ago. Look closely at the wings of a fly on your window sill, stare into a bisected piece of fruit, or look carefully at a growth of mold on a dish. Millions of such micro worlds surround us, breathtaking examples of design, engineering, and evolutionary artistry. When we bother to look.

Feathers is a photographic examination of one such overlooked natural wonder, the lowly bird feather. A single bird has thousands of feathers, of different types, and there are some ten-thousand species of birds. Feathers takes a broad view of the evolution of the bird and its feathers while focusing its lens on the plumage of 75 or so notable species. Each species gets a few pages, with one or two impressively photographed feather close-ups and a brief explanatory text.

This book reminded me a lot of Rose Lynn Fisher’s BEE (which I loved). Both books are minimal in content and feel, but that only helps to narrow and maintain your focus on the world under examination. The text in Feathers doesn’t try to tell you everything about the species of the bird and feather that you’re looking at, but the bits of fascinating science it does contain are probably far more memorable. Like BEE, I felt like I got to peer into a world I don’t normally see and came away greatly enriched by the experience. Read the rest

Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye: A Novel

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

A gloomy, nine-story mansion, perched on a plateau in a desolate countryside. A trench-coated, top-hatted visitor stands in an illuminated doorway, a tiny, frog-faced boy dwarfed by this imposing figure, as he stands on a checkerboard-tiled floor, the scene ringed by an ornate, circular frame. Taking up two pages, his aunt and uncle sit at a very long dining room table. The boy's aunt accuses him, a black word balloon contains the word "Liar!" in calligraphic script. The boy uses the reflection of an algae-filled basin to read the mysterious page of a handwritten journal, its letters written in ornate, backwards cursive.

Warren, a peculiar-looking child with a toad-like face and a luxurious head of hair, is the 13th descendent of the founder of the now-decrepit hotel where he lives with his lazy uncle and mean aunt. Hidden within the walls of the rundown hotel is the All-Seeing Eye, a mythical treasure. Rumors of its existence brings untold numbers of treasure hunters to his family's hotel, including a mysterious lodger covered in bandages. The nine-story-high mansion begins to be ransacked by these new guests, its furniture toppled, its floorboards pulled up, its carpets unraveled, all in the search for the treasure. A pale spectral girl lurks in the hedge maze, and a strange tentacled creature dwells in the boiler room. Warren's only friends are Chef Bunion, and his tutor, Mr. Friggs, but his circle of new friends begins to grow in unexpected ways. Read the rest

Explore a life without consequences in 'My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday'

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Jason Ayres' My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday is a unique time travel novel that spun my head! Ayres' lead, Thomas Scott, lives his life backwards and experiences no consequences for his actions.

Waking up on his death bed with no memories, Thomas Scott expects to be ending his life. The next day, however, he wakes again! Only to find out that he's now living the day previous to his last, things start to get interesting. Scott discovers he is living life backwards, and hopes the actions he is taking lead to a better future for his friends and family, but he'll never find out. Scott never experiences the consequences for his actions, which leads him down paths one might not anticipate.

My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday is certainly a unique and fun approach to time. This is a fresh take on the genre.

My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday by Jason Ayres via Amazon Read the rest

Motel owner spent 30 years spying on his guests' sex lives, considered himself a "researcher"

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In 1980, New Yorker stalwart Gay Talese received a handwritten note by special-delivery: it was from Gerald Foos, a Colorado motel owner, and he revealed that he had been spying on his customers' sex lives for decades and taking meticulous notes, which he offered to share with Talese for his upcoming book, Thy Neighbor's Wife, a now-classic investigation into the hidden sex lives of Americans. Read the rest

Outliers: the statistical mysteries that hold the key to understanding

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John Johnson and Mike Gluck's new book, Everydata: The Misinformation Hidden in the Little Data You Consume Every Day is a tour-de-force of statistical literacy. This excerpt, a chapter on understanding statistical outliers, is as clear an explanation of what an outlier is, and what it means, and why it matters, as you're likely to find.

Rare Shakespeare's First Folio found in Scottish isle

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A rare copy of Shakespeare's First Folio turned up on a Scottish island, reports the BBC. Only 230 copies are known to exist, or thereabouts, and the last to be sold fetched £3.5m (about $5m) in 2003 and £2.8m in 2006. Countless fakes are knocking around, too. This copy of the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, published in 1623, was found at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute. Academics who authenticated the book called it a rare and significant find. ... Emma Smith, professor of Shakespeare studies at Oxford University, said her first reaction on being told the stately home was claiming to have an original First Folio was: "Like hell they have." But when she inspected the three-volume book she found it was authentic.

The folio represents the first legitimate compendium of Shakespeare's work; we wouldn't have much of Macbeth were it not for its publication, among many other works preserved in it. Read the rest

The Nameless City: YA graphic novel about diplomacy, hard and soft power, colonialism, bravery, and parkour

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Faith Erin Hicks (Zombies Calling, Friends with Boys, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong) is back with the first volume of a new, epic YA trilogy: The Nameless City, a fantasy adventure comic about diplomacy, hard and soft power, colonialism, bravery, and parkour.

Parent Hacks: illustrated guide is the best kind of parenting book

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The latest incarnation of Parent Hacks is the best yet: Parent Hacks: 134 Genius Shortcuts for Life with Kids, with illustrations from Craighton Berman.

Garden: XKCD's latest maddening, relaxing webtoy

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The latest XKCD is Garden, a webtoy that invites you to position lamps, adjust their spectrum and focus, and wait while your garden grows. Read the rest

Sex Nun of Dune

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Posted without context or comment. Read the rest

An early peek at 'The Jungle Book,' new Disney live-action remake of Kipling classic

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Disney today released two new clips and a new little featurette from the studio's upcoming live action film “The Jungle Book.” I'm also loving the stunning poster art for the new film by Vincent Aseo, shown above in detail and below in full.

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Among a Thousand Fireflies: children's book shows the sweet, alien love stories unfolding in our own backyards

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Rick Lieder -- painter, illustrator, photographer, husband of the brilliant novelist/playwright Kathe Koja -- waits ever-so-patiently in his suburban Detroit back-yard with his camera, capturing candid, lively photos of bees, birds, bugs, and now, in a new book of photos with a beautiful accompanying poem by Helen Frost, fireflies.

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