Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas. May You Receive and Give Lots of Books!!

Just a quick post to wish all Feed Your Reading Habit blog followers and readers the very best festive season for 2011. I've really enjoyed being more proactive with the blog this year and hope to keep up the good form in 2012. I'm really excited to see what bookish treasures are under the Christmas tree for me this year. No doubt my first blog post of 2012 will focus on just that. I hope that you receive lots of great booky gifts yourself, but if not I hope that you find some time to relax and curl up with a good book just a little more than usual. Best wishes, Amber!!

Friday, 2 December 2011

December Book Giveaway - Enthralled (Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong)

Courtesy of our friends at Harper Collins, this month we have a copy of Enthralled edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong to giveaway.

Enthralled is a collection of fourteen original teen paranormal short stories from some of today's bestselling YA talent, united with the common theme of road trips, and edited by bestselling authors Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong. Whether they're writing about vampires, faeries, angels, or other magical beings, each author explores the strength and resilience of the human heart. Authors featured include Rachel Caine, Claudia Gray, Ally Cordie, Kami Garcia, and Margaret Stohl. 

To enter our book giveaway just leave a comment on our blog. And don't forget to increase your chances by checking out how to gain bonus entries!!

Bonus Entries
+1 Entry = Follow our Blog
+1 Entry = Liking the Reading Habit Page on Facebook (Click here to do so)
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+2 Entries = Provide a Link to our Giveaway on Your Blog
+2 Entries = Join the Reading Habit Community Network (Click here to do so)
NB: If you're eligible for bonus entries, make sure you let us know when you leave your comment!!

Entries are open until 5pm EST on Saturday 31st December 2011. The competition is open to residents of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and the UK. The winner of the competition will be announced on Monday 9th January 2012. Good luck to everyone!!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Reading Habit's Top Five: Reasons to Buy Second Hand Books as Christmas Gifts

Even though the climate change debate has changed our shopping habits somewhat, the mere thought of buying second hand goods as Christmas gifts is still a little on the nose to most. As a second hand book dealer I’ve never really understood this. There are so many advantages to buying used goods, books in particular, that it just seems ridiculous to always buy new. Pride has a lot to do with it I think. We equate new with value and with personal status, so we buy new. We don’t want to be seen giving a ‘scabby’ present. Never mind that buying new requires new resources, that buying new is money in the pocket of a multinational rather than a human being, that buying new requires only a flippant flick through the latest sales brochure rather than any real thought. Now, I’m not saying don’t buy new. All I’m suggesting is that in some cases buying second hand makes more sense than buying new. So, in an effort to reduce the stigma attached to purchasing used books as Christmas gifts, and to be honest used goods in general, I’ve come up with five reasons to buy second hand this Christmas. 

#1 Save Money - More Bang for Your Buck

When is it more important to be price conscious than at Christmas when you’re already digging deep into your pockets for food, holidays, festive season parties, and activities to keep the kids entertained. Buying a second hand book as a gift rather than buying new means saving money. A new book will set you back anywhere between $15 and $40, whereas a good quality second hand novel can be purchased for between $5 and $20. Or, seen in a different light, buying second hand books means you can get more for your money. Rather than buying your loved one the latest John Grisham in hardcover for $35, wouldn’t it make more sense to buy three of his titles for the same price? I know which I’d prefer if I was the receiver.

NB: A good used book dealer should be offering books in ‘good’, very good’ and ‘as new’ condition, so don’t make the mistake of assuming that second hand equals poor quality. It’s not uncommon to be able to purchase a pre-loved book that looks like it has barely been read.

#2 Conserve Resources – Get An Environmental Gold Star

Not only does buying second hand books’ keep them from going into landfill, but it requires the use of no new resources. Consider this. In total, approximately 15 million copies of Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth have been sold since it was first published in 1989, and on average about 100,000 new copies are produced each year. That’s a lot of copies of one book and you can imagine how many of them have either gone to landfill, or are sitting in a second hand bookstore just waiting to be purchased. Do you really need to purchase the 15,000,001th new copy of this book? Wouldn’t it be better for Mother Earth if you purchased a used copy? The choice is yours, but if you want to earn yourself an environmental gold star, second hand is the option. It’s the fun kind of recycling!

#3 Find that Hidden Treasure – And Earn Brownie Points at the Same Time

Without much thought and with very little effort, almost anyone can buy a copy of Bryce Courtenay’s latest Christmas instalment as a gift. However, if you’re looking for something less generic, something that requires thoughtfulness beyond a brief browse through the Target Christmas catalogue, a second hand book might just be the answer. Let’s say your dad is a real Bryce Courtenay fan. Why not find him a signed first edition copy of The Power of One? It’ll certainly get more ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ than the brand new book. Remember that extra effort in the search will gain you extra brownie points in the giving. How great would it be if you found that elusive title that completed your mother’s Agatha Christie Crime Collection? You’d be in the good books with your mum for at least a month I’d say! When you’re goal is to make the receiver go a little misty-eyed, think second hand, rare, antiquarian books and I reckon you’ll be on a winner. There’s also a benefit to the buyer with this one - it’s called the thrill of the find and it’s the ultimate warm fuzzy feeling.

#4 Support Local People – Build a Relationship with Your Book Dealer

Used book sellers are just like your local butcher, grocer or hardware store. Their very survival is based on the support and custom of local people. Buying the latest Nora Roberts from Big W does little for your local community. Sure, the staff might get a little of the profit in their pay packet, but let’s face it, the majority goes straight into the coffers of the company itself. Buying from your local antiquarian book dealer is an investment in your community, because money in their pockets will inevitably circulate right back through. Money arguments aside, you’ll also get customer service. Remember that! It’s old-fashioned I know, but I’m a sentimental kind of girl. If you’re really lucky you might even strike up a Helene Hanff 84 Charing Cross Road style relationship with your second hand book dealer. Wouldn’t that be nice?

#5 Buck the System - Be a Trailblazer Not a Follower

Just because it’s not the norm, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Be a pioneer, buck the trend, set an example for others. Hell, why not have a complete second hand Christmas with no new gifts at all, just pre-loved all the way. This may seem like a fairly flimsy reason to buy used books (stemming from a desire to reach the number five), and you could be partially right, but I prefer to see it as something bigger than that. Buying second hand is all about ethical consumption. It’s about being socially conscious. We could all do with some role models where these moral arguments are concerned, so why not put your hand up and be one.

To close, I want to acknowledge that there are arguments against buying second hand as well. The most obvious is that buying second hand takes money away from the publishers and the authors themselves. You could argue that buying new ensures that there is a future for writing and it’s a valid argument that as a true bibliophile I’m not immune to, particular when considering the specific case of the Australian literary scene. In my defence, I’m only trying here to balance the argument a little for second hand goods as they are generally un-championed. Poor diddums!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Xmas Special - 20% off All Stock - Reading Habit Bookstore

Second hand books are a great option for Xmas gifts. You certainly get more bang for your buck! To celebrate the beginning of the Xmas season, we are offering 20% off all stock on our Reading Habit Online Second Hand Bookstore. Terms and conditions do apply. Please see the bottom of this post for the details. To claim your discount just enter the coupon code XMAS2011 in the coupon section when checking out. To start browsing now click through to the Reading Habit website. 

Terms and Conditions: Please note that a minimum spend of $30 AUD is required to use the discount coupon. Discount does not apply to the postage portion of an order. Offer ends Monday 19th December 2011, 11.59pm EDST.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Head to Head: Harry Potter Series vs The Chronicles of Narnia

Today I thought I'd introduce a new series of blog posts that will force you to choose between some of your favourite authors and books. Ardent book lovers, like myself, always enjoy a good discussion and they're generally pretty opinionated, so this new series is designed to fuel the passionate debater in all of us. The series will be titled "Head to Head" and first up I'm asking you to decide between two of the most well loved classic young adult fantasy series ever written - the Harry Potter series and The Chronicles of Narnia - books only, not the movies. To participate, just leave a comment with your vote and a brief reasoning behind your choice. I'll be posting my vote shortly, so make sure you follow the comment thread. This round of "Head to Head" will wrap up at the end of November, so make sure you cast your vote before then. I'll announce the results in early December. It's just a bit of harmless fun, but we hope it gets the blood boiling.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Rememberance Day Special Offer: 10% Off All Reading Habit Stock

In honour of Rememberance Day 2011, our Reading Habit Online Second Hand Bookstore is offering a 10% discount on all of our stock. What better way to remember the sacrifices of our brave soldiers than to purchase a book from our Military/War catalogue. To collect your discount just enter the coupon code - REMDAY11 - when going through the check out process on our website - Reading Habit Online Second Hand Bookstore. We hope you find something to interest you. Lest we forget.

Conditions: This offer ends at midnight on 11th November 2011 and is open to international customers as well as Australian residents. Please be aware that the 10% discount applies only to the book portion of orders, not the postage component.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Reading Habit's Top Ten: Influences on the Value of a Second Hand Book

As a second hand bookstore operator I often get asked to value a book. In most cases, the book in question isn’t worth much more than $10 or $20 and I watch as a wave of disappointment creeps across the customers face. This disappointment generally stems from the common misconception that if a book is old it must be worth something. There are two glaring problems with this assumption. The first is the customers’ perception of what defines old. In book collecting terms, a book is not old if it was printed in the 1950s, yet most customers perceive it to be old and therefore valuable. In collecting terms a book must have been around more than 100 years to even begin to be considered old and preferably more like 200 years. The second problem with this perception is that people equate age with value. This is a complete falsehood. Whilst age can contribute to the value of a book, the most important indicator of a book’s value is its rarity. And even this statement needs further elaboration because the truth is that second hand book selling is just like every other global marketplace. It’s controlled by the forces of supply and demand. So whilst a book might be scarce and the only one of its kind in the world, if nobody wants to read it then scarcity means nothing. The book is worth nothing. For a book to be considered rare it must be more than scarce. It must be scarce relative to the demand for it.

All that considered, let’s look at what different characteristics can make a book rare and thus influence its value. I have listed what I consider to be the top ten influences on value below, in no particular order.

Book/Dust Jacket Condition
In real estate its location, location, location. In the second hand book trade its condition, condition, condition. The closer a book is to its original state the more value it will carry. This refers just as much to the dust jacket as it does to the book itself. A book in very good condition is worth little if its’ dust jacket is missing. It’s also important to understand that a very, very old book is worth little if it’s falling apart. The second hand book industry has developed its’ own grading terminology to help describe the condition of a book. This information is usually presented in the form of VG/VG, Fine/Good, VG/--, etc. The first part refers to the condition of the book, whilst the second refers to the dust jacket condition. If a "/--" is present, it usually means that the dust jacket is not present. The terminology used is as follows. 

New - Unread, in print, perfect condition with no missing or damaged pages.
As New – The book is in the same condition it was published.
Fine – Close to the condition of ‘As New’, but without being crisp and has no defects.
Very Good - The book shows some signs of wear, but has no tears or defects noted.
Good - The average used worn book that has all pages intact and defects are noted.
Fair – A worn book that has all pages intact but may lack endpapers, half-title etc. Binding or jacket may also be worn and defects are noted.
Poor - Describes a book that is sufficiently worn to the point that its only merit is as a reading copy. This copy may be soiled, scuffed, stained or spotted and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc. Defects should still be noted. 

NB: Despite this industry standard terminology there will always be discrepancies between people and their perception of the condition of a book. Where possible you should see the book for yourself and when buying over the internet we suggest you ask to see photos.  

Generally speaking, if a book has been signed by the author or the illustrator then this will add some value to your book, but don’t get too excited. If no-one has ever heard of the author or no-one wants to read the book then a signature can mean absolutely nothing. Further to this, contemporary authors are known for their book junkets when their latest novel is released. This means they sign many copies of their books at public events in an effort to promote sales. This makes their signature fairly common and adds little to the market value of the book.  Also be careful of the printed signature because this is not the same as a penned signature. A printed signature is one that is printed in every copy of the book using the same process as printing the text. A penned signature is added to the book personally by the author after publication. A printed signature is worth nothing, whereas a penned signature can add value. I will also make note here of inscriptions by authors. An inscription generally has more wording than just a signature and can add a little more value. Where inscriptions can really affect the value of a book is when they have been presented to an important associate, friend or family member. These inscribed book copies are often referred to as as presentation or association copies and they can often demand a high price.

NB: Signatures can be a tricky thing to authenticate, particularly if the authors signature is a squiggle and resembles nothing like their name. Do your homework and try and authenticate the signature. There are websites, like TomFolio, that archive scans of author’s signatures just for this purpose, so take the time to check them out.

First Edition
The term ‘edition’ as taken directly from The ABC for Book Collectors (Carter, 1997, p84) refers to “…all copies of a book printed at any time or times from one setting-up of type without substantial change.” Usually, information about editions is included on the copyright page of the book. In cases where this information is not provided you will need to do further research to determine whether a book is a first edition or not. First editions are one of the most collectable types of book and therefore their market value in fine condition can be at a premium. Though, as with all items on this list, just because a book is a first edition doesn’t make it valuable, as there has to be demand for it at the same time. I will also note here the importance of limited editions. This term is used for editions where there is a limitation statement. A limitation statement usually gives the total number of copies and then assigns an individual number to each specific copy (e.g. No 53 of 1000). Limited editions can in some cases derive a high value.

First Book
A first edition of an author’s first book will generally be worth more than their subsequent books. The underlying reasoning here is that in most cases the print run of an author’s first book is generally quite small in comparison to the print runs of their later works. The perfect example of this is J.K. Rowling. The first instalment of her Harry Potter series only had a print run of 500, whereas the last in her series had a print run of around 12 million. Needless to say first edition copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone are valued in the tens of thousands, whereas a first edition Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows carries little value unless signed by Rowling herself.

Association with Previous Owner
The association of a book with a previous owner can add value to a book where that person is either famous or important, or if that particular book held special significance. Here’s an example. Let’s say you found a book inscribed to a friend by Hemingway’s wife. This would add value to that copy of the book. 

NB: There are pirates in every trade and the book dealing trade is no different. Forged signatures and other distinctive markings like bookplates and ownership stampings are more common than you think. So make sure that any association with a previous owner has been authenticated. A quality book dealer should be able to provide you with the correct documentation.

As I’ve already touched upon, age by itself is not enough to make a book valuable. The importance of the text, the condition of the book, and demand for it will determine the value of an old book. However, certain age categories of books are more sought after. As a general rule, most books printed before 1501 are rare and there is normally value attached. If we are being specific to certain countries, it’s also fair to say that English books printed before 1641 are prized, and books printed in America before 1801 are also highly collectible.

Materials Used
In the era of mass market paperbacks and e-books, book binding is fast becoming a dying art. So much so that many people will never set eyes on a finely crafted book. Leather bound books, bamboo folded books, limp vellum, wooden boards - you name it and there’s probably been a book made out it. There are even books that have been bound in human skin! Techniques used include Coptic binding, Ethiopian binding, long-stitch book binding, Bradel binding, secret Belgian binding, Japanese stab binding – the list goes on. Suffice to say, books that have been published using some of the older and more traditional styles and materials of book binding can often command a high premium.

Importance of the Text
People value books either because of their contents or because of their physical characteristics. First editions of important literary or historical works and initial reports of scientific discoveries or inventions are prime examples of books that are important because of their contents. Illustrated books that give a new interpretation of a text or are the work of an esteemed artist are also valued. Books that were suppressed or censored can be considered both important and scarce, since few copies may have survived. Physical characteristics, such as a special binding, an early use of a new printing process, or an autograph, inscription, or marginal annotations of a famous person, may also contribute to a book's importance and its market price.

By themselves, the influences I have listed so far add a certain amount of value to a book, but found in combination these characteristics can add a whole lot more. Let’s consider. A first edition of a popular author in good condition might be worth OK money, but a signed first edition of a popular author in good condition will be worth more money. And, a signed first edition of a popular author in fine condition will be worth even more money. You see where I’m going with this. Essentially, the more characteristics listed here that you can find in combination with the one book, the rarer it becomes, and more value is placed upon it.

It might seem like a cop out to finish off with this one, but it’s actually really quite important. So far, this list refers only to the collecting value of a book. It makes no attempt to address any sentimental value that one might have attached to a particular book. The most valuable books I have in my collection are not signed, nor are they first editions. They are made up of the books that my parents read to me in childhood, were given to me by special friends, or include the characters I admire or fell in love with. It may sound a bit cheesy, but sentimentality does add value to a book and the memories we attach to books can often make them seem priceless.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Reading Habit's Top 10: Fictional Male Literary Characters

Just as certain books leave an indelible mark on our lives, so do particular literary characters, and in some cases these characters leave more of an impression than the book itself. Heroes, villains, mischievous scallawags, action men, and romantic protagonists, are just some of the traditional male fictional character profiles that endear us and enrich our reading experience. Putting a list together of my own top ten male fictional characters was difficult. At first, my list looked like that of a lovelorn romantic, but after some further thought and rationalisation, I’m really happy with the final result. Though the dashing heart throb is well represented, so are the evil villains, the father figures, the lost boys, and the heroes. In no particular order, I’ll get started.

Owen Meany (of A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving)
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving is one of my favourite books of all time. The fact that I fell in love with little Owen Meany probably has a lot to do with it. Owen Meany is anything but your typical teenage boy. He’s puny, undersized and has a weird pale luminescent skin. Whilst other boys his age, including his best friend John, are struggling to find themselves, Owen is sure of his destiny in life and intends to follow it. He has a powerful religious faith and believes himself to be god’s instrument. What I remember most about Owen Meany is his weird high pitched nasal voice, which John Irving represents in capitals whenever Owen speaks. His voice may only be words on paper, but to this day I swear I can hear Owen Meany in my head. Owens’ unwavering faith is what I admire most about him as a character. I envy his belief, bravery and conviction. Owen Meany is a unique character, dwarf-like in size, but big in heart.

Captain Frederick Wentworth (of Persuasion by Jane Austen)
When we first meet Captain Wentworth he is a man slighted by love several years earlier who is now determined to settle down and find a wife. However, he soon finds that despite his best efforts to suppress his former love for Anne Elliott, it is slowly rekindled. Wentworth is a gentleman wrapped up in a sailor’s uniform. He is distinguished and his person demands respect. Not surprisingly, he is the target of many a young woman, but in the end it is the steady character of Anne that once again wins his heart. I love Wentworth because he represents the constancy of love and the beauty of second chances.  Wentworth’s letter to Anne at the end of the novel always brings a tear to my eye. It’s a love letter that effuses such passion for, and devotion to, Anne that you can’t help but wish the letter was written for you.

Kevin Khatchadourian (of We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver)
Let’s get one thing straight. When I declare that Kevin is in my top ten fictional characters of all time it’s not because I love him, it’s because I hate the very idea of him. So why put him in my list? We don’t have to love a character for them to impact upon us, and Kevin certainly made an impression on me. The mere thought of him frightens me. Unlike the imagined monsters of horror novels, Kevin is the human manifestation of evil incarnate, and thus is infinitely scarier. In truth, it is not the character of Kevin himself that has stayed with me, but what he represents. Kevin’s existence gives weight to the theory that evil is born, not bred, and that’s not a very comforting thought. I don’t want to spoil the ending of the book for anyone who hasn’t read it, but I do want to say that the last scenes are some of the most chilling I have read. For me, Kevin is one of the most confronting villains in literature. He could be any young troubled boy and he is society’s worst nightmare – a cold blooded killer. 

Gilbert Blythe (of Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery)
I apologise sincerely to my husband, but Gilbert Blythe was my first love. He was charming, gallant, intelligent, handsome, and the desire of all the teenage girls on Prince Edward Island. He was perfect husband material - steady, kind and constant. Back when I still believed that boys who teased you actually really liked you, Gilbert gave me hope that the popular guy in school would one day turn around and realise that you were the love of his life. It’s completely ridiculous, believe me I know, but I was only 13. Having said all of that, I think the real reason I admired Gilbert so much was because despite her carrot top, fiery temper and ability to find herself in scrapes, Gilbert loved Anne. I loved Anne, therefore I loved Gilbert. 

Samwise Gamgee (of The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J R R Tolkien)
While everyone usual pats whinging Frodo Baggins on the back for destroying the ring, I prefer to give Samwise Gamgee a big hug. In my eyes, Samwise is the chief hero of J R R Tolkiens masterpiece. Frodo is the chosen one, he bears the weight of the ring for most of the journey, and he does eventually destroy the cursed thing, but it’s Samwise that gives Frodo the strength to do it. Tolkien once wrote that he modelled Samwise on the English soldiers he knew in 1914, and you can definitely see the resemblance. Samwise is courageous. He is willing to die for the cause and above all protect Frodo from harm, displaying the kind of brave loyalty that all covet, but few have the strength to follow through with. Samwise represents the most important qualities in a best friend. For me, Samwise is the good mate that we’d all choose to have by our sides in a spot of bother.

Atticus Finch (of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)
Atticus Finch is one of the most admirable characters in literary history. He is a man of high morals who walks the path of reason in a society gone crazy with hatred. As a father figure, he tries his best to set a good example for his two children and instils in them the importance of living without racial hatred or prejudice.  Atticus is all about strong character, dignity and goodness. His most famous line in the novel, spoken to Scout, probably sums his personality up best – “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Some may argue that if there is any fault to be found with Atticus Finch it’s that he is almost too perfect and is not a realistic portrayal of the average father. This may be true, but I look at it differently. I see Atticus as the shining example of what we all should aspire to be.

Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy (of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)
Do I even need to explain? Fitzwilliam Darcy, of Pride and Prejudice fame, might be a too obvious choice, but I couldn’t seriously compile a list without him in it. I tried very hard not to put two Jane Austen heroes into the same list, but to quote Darcy himself, “In vain I have struggled. It will not do.” Yes he’s hot, in a 19th century kind of way, but what I love most about Darcy is his recognition of his flaws and his determination to become a better man. This comment probably reflects the nature of all women to want to change a man, but it’s definitely what hooked me. Darcy’s passion for Elizabeth despite his pride and internal struggles endears him to the reader and I, for one, came away just as in love with him as Elizabeth herself. Darcy in all his manifestations, on screen and off, and even as a vampire, has certainly endured the greatest test of all – time. His popularity is booming and as a leading heroic protagonist he is only rivalled today by a bespectacled youth who I think you’ll find next on the list.

Harry Potter (of the Harry Potter novels by J K Rowling)
In my estimation, there is something extra special about Harry Potter. He is one of only a handful of fictional literary characters that have managed to capture the hearts of both children and adults alike. For this reason, I have a real soft spot for the boy wizard. Harry is a reluctant hero who has expectation thrust upon him, but bears it with a courage and determination beyond his years. Many dismiss the importance of Potter in a literary sense, because he’s just a kid who does magic in some young adult novels, but that’s the beauty of Harry and fantasy in general. Harry is consumable for children and teenagers. He is warm, emotional, tough, forgiving, brave, and honest. In terms of role models for the youth of today, he outshines most. There is one last thing that makes Harry Potter stand out for me and it has nothing to do with the character himself, but rather the revolution he caused. Quite simply, Harry Potter charmed a world of young boys and girls into actually becoming readers, and as a bookseller I will always thank him for that.

The Man (of The Road by Cormac McCarthy)
Picking a character that doesn’t have a name may seem a little curious, but his anonymity is the main reason I included him in this list. The man in Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel is a father, but because we don’t know his name McCarthy enables us to see him as everyone’s father – yours and mine. The man is the ultimate protector of his son and embodies the notion that parents would do anything to keep their children from harm, including forsaking their own moral code. He is a man of action, not words, who in a bleak world where death seems inevitable represents the fierceness of a father’s love. At one stage, the man thinks the best thing he can do is kill his son and put him out of his misery, but his love is so intense that he knows he can’t bring himself to do it. What I find most touching about the man is that throughout the whole novel he knows he is destined to leave the world very soon, but he’s determined not only that his son will survive, but that his son still understands the importance of hope and belief. 

Rhett Butler (of Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell)
Swoon. Rhett Butler is the classic anti-hero, the bad boy of the American civil war, the very definition of a dashing scoundrel, and the only man to put Katie Scarlett O’Hara in her place. This is all true, but what I love about Rhett Butler the most is the soft underbelly he shows in his devotion to his children, his kindness to Mammy, and his all-consuming passion for a woman that is seemingly unrequited. I like the action hero Rhett Butler as he rescues Scarlett from the Yankees, but I simply adore the broken man who is eaten away by love and who eventually finds the strength to let it go. Now, I love Scarlett dearly, but she was a twit to pine away for boring Ashley Wilkes when she could have had Rhett Butler. What was the girl thinking? In a love story that for once doesn’t have a happy ending, Rhett eventually sets Scarlett straight just like we all wanted him to, and as a result scores the best line in the novel, “My dear, I don’t give a damn.” Clark Gable added the ‘frankly’ for the movie, and I admit that for me it’s hard to separate the on paper Rhett Butler from Clark Gable’s on screen version. I will never forget Gable standing at the bottom of that sweeping staircase, elbow resting on the banister, with eyes glinting dangerously at Scarlett under a furrowed brow. Swoon again.

People always want to know who just missed out, so I apologise to Alexander Portnoy (of Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth) who made me roll on the floor laughing out loud, Peter Pan (of Peter Pan by J M Barrie) who embodies the human desire to hold onto youth, Mr John Thorntorn (of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell) who made me swoon just as much as Rhett Butler, Mr Edward Rochester (of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte) whose disfigured person I’d fight Jane for, Hannibal Lector (of The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris) who would give Kevin a run for his money, and Huck Finn (of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain) whose grand adventure down the Mississippi brightened my otherwise dull high school reading experience. 

I’d love to know what you think of the list. Who do you think is missing and who do you think shouldn’t be there? Lists are designed to divide, so comment away!!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

November Book Giveaway - Carrier of the Mark (by Leigh Fallon)

Courtesy of our friends at Harper Collins, this month we have a copy of Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon to giveaway.  

Carrier of the Mark is a young adult novel featuring a new heroine, Megan Rosenberg. When Megan moves to Ireland everything in her life seems to fall into place. She makes close friends with the girls in her class, her relationship with her dad is better than ever, and she finds herself inexplicably drawn to gorgeous, mysterious Adam DeRis. Adam is cold and aloof at first, but when Megan finally breaks down the icy barrier between them, she is amazed by the intensity of their connection. Then Adam reveals a secret about the magical destiny that will shape both of their lives but also threatens to tear them apart. 

To enter our book giveaway just leave a comment on our blog. And don't forget to increase your chances by checking out how to gain bonus entries!!

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Entries are open until 5pm EST on Wednesday 30th November 2011. The competition is open to residents of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and the UK. The winner of the competition will be announced on Thursday 1st December 2011. Good luck to everyone!!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Reading Habit’s Five Best Selling Historical Naval Fiction Authors

On a recent book purchasing spree I was lucky enough to purchase a whole stack of different nautical fiction titles to boost our online second hand bookstore catalogue. It got me thinking about how a niche genre had maintained such a fanatically dedicated reader base for over a century. The naval fiction genre is littered with writing superstars who show unusual longevity and are incredibly prolific in terms of the number of titles they have penned. With my interest peaked I set out to find an online list of the top 10 best selling naval fiction authors of all time, but came up empty. I contemplated putting together a list of my own, but thought my selections might get crucified by the die-hard fans. Let’s face it! With such a rich catalogue of authors and works to choose from, I’ve no doubt naval fiction fans could argue forever about who the top ten authors of all time are. What I can write about with authority are the authors that sell the most consistently through our online bookstore. Accordingly, this piece will shine a brief light on five of Reading Habit’s best selling naval adventure fiction authors.

Let’s start with one of the definite front runners for best nautical author, Patrick O’Brian, an English novelist who is best remembered for his 20-novel Aubrey-Maturin series set in the Napoleonic wars. O’Brian was born in Buckinghamshire in 1914, the eighth of nine children. He lived a sheltered life with only sporadic education, but began writing from the age of 12. After the war, O’Brian lived a quiet life in the Wales countryside living off the small income he earned from his fledgling writing career and his work translating French texts into English. His early writings were published under his birth name, Richard Patrick Russ, before he changed his surname to O’Brian in 1945. O’Brian hit the big time in the early 1970s when the first books in the Aubrey-Maturin series were published. O’Brian’s work in this series was well researched showing an attention to detail and historical authenticity that still holds his work in high regard today. So much so, that the series was re-released in the 1990s to popular reception, and in 1995 O’Brian was awarded the inaugural Heywood Hill Literary Prize for his life work. O’Brian lived to the age of 86, passing away in Dublin in the year 2000 with a 21st instalment in the series partially finished. Unfortunately, he did not live to see his Aubrey-Maturin characters come to life on the big screen in Master and Commander, starring Russell Crowe, released in 2003. Click here to view our current catalogue of Patrick O'Brian titles.

Did someone say Hornblower? Horatio Hornblower is quite possibly one of the most beloved of all naval fiction characters and we have none other than C. S. Forester (and British ITV) to thank for that. Born Cecil Louis Troughton Smith in Cairo, Egypt, in 1899, C.S. Forester was an English novelist who wrote many nautical novels, but was most noted for his 11-book Horatio Hornblower series, set once again in that golden age of sail, the Napoleonic era. Forester was writing from an early age and was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his two novels A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours in 1938. Throughout his career Forester also wrote many novels of the non-nautical kind several of which were made into movies. The best known of these was The African Queen starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. Forester lived most of his life in England before moving to the United States during World War II. While living in Washington he met a young Roald Dahl and is said to be the person who encouraged Dahl to write his first book. Forester died in California in 1966.  Thirty seven years later a lost Forester manuscript titled The Pursued was sold at auction. Just recently Penguin Books announced they would be publishing the book in early 2012 much to the delight of Forester fans everywhere. Click here to view our current catalogue of C S Forester titles.

Given that Dudley Pope was inspired by the works of C S Forester and has often been compared to Patrick O’Brian, it seems fitting that he is next on the list. Pope was born in Kent in 1925 and though he wrote many history texts, he was most famous for his nautical series featuring Lord Ramage as the central hero. Like many naval writers, Pope gained first-hand knowledge of his genre when he faked his age to join the Home Guard at 14 then joined the merchant navy at age 16. After just one year at sea, Pope’s ship was torpedoed in 1942 and he was lucky to come away with his life, spending two weeks in a lifeboat with a small group of other survivors. On being rescued he was discharged and went to work in newspapers as a naval correspondent. Writing naval history was his first love and he published his first title, Flag 4, in 1954. He tired away at this subject for almost 20 years before moving into nautical fiction after some encouragement from his mentor, C S Forester. And so it was that in 1965 the world was introduced to Pope’s first instalment in the 18-novel series featuring Lord Ramage, aptly titled Ramage. Pope spent most of his later life living onboard vessels where he did most of his writing. He was taken from us in April 1997, but has left an incredible legacy of both fiction and non-fiction titles. Click here to view our current catalogue of Dudley Pope titles.

On the home front, J. E. MacDonnell flies the flag as Australia’s most prolific and best loved novelist of the sea. As a boy, MacDonnell dreamed of becoming a seafarer and entered the Royal Australian Navy at age 17 where he spent 14 years. MacDonnell began writing in 1942 whilst still on active service and his first novel, Fleet Destroyer, was published in 1945 by The Book Depot. MacDonnell was also a staff member for The Bulletin between 1948 and 1956 for whom he wrote short stories. In 1956, MacDonnell began writing for Horwitz full-time and often churned out upwards of 10 novels a year. In total, MacDonnell wrote over 200 novels in at least 7 different series under various pen names. His most popular fictional characters were Captain ‘’Dutchy” Holland, Captain Peter Bentley, Captain Bruce Sainsbury, and Jim Brady. The Horwitz Naval series is what MacDonnell was most famous for but he also dabbled in the crime, medical, juvenile and espionage genres as well. MacDonnell passed away in Queensland in 2002, aged 84. Click here to view our current catalogue of J E MacDonnell titles.

Until I began trading in used books I’d never heard of Douglas Reeman, nor had I heard of Alexander Kent. I’m a little ashamed to say that even after becoming familiar with their work it took me quite a while to discover they were both one in the same. Douglas Reeman is another of those British naval authors. Born in 1924 he joined the Royal Navy at just 16, serving in both World War II and the Korean War. Not surprisingly, Reeman drew on his first-hand naval experience to write historical nautical fiction set mainly in World War II and the Napoleonic era. Reeman’s debut novel A Prayer for the Ship was published in 1958, but it is Reeman’s Napoleonic series featuring the central character of Richard Bolitho, written under the pseudonym of Alexander Kent, that is his most popular. It is interesting to note that the pen name of Alexander Kent was actually the name of Reeman’s fellow naval officer and friend who was killed in World War II. There are currently 30 novels in the Bolitho series including the most recent published in 2011, In the King’s Name. With Reeman still writing novels at age 87, Bolitho fans will be sated for some time to come. Click here to view our current catalogue of Douglas Reeman titles. Click here to view our current catalogue of Alexander Kent titles.

There are, of course, many other historical naval fiction authors, both past and present, that could have been included, but these five represent the bulk of purchases our customers make within the genre. There are also many popular authors who I haven’t touched on, like Tom Clancy and Patrick Robinson, who straddle many different genres. Suffice to say, the naval fiction genre is in a healthy state.

If you are interested in browsing through our online catalogues of second hand naval fiction books just click through here to our bookstore search page and look under Action/Adventure Fiction.