Book of the Week: Under the Pong Pong Tree (by Hal Levey)

No Shelf Required is an ardent supporter of independent authors around the world writing and producing their work on their own terms and with their own resources. In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers around the world), and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews of a wide variety of titles published on BIR’s site each week. Enjoy this week’s pick.


Under the Pong Pong Tree

About Author

LeveyHal Levey is a Boston native and graduate of Harvard University. He spent a year as a visiting professor on the medical faculty at the University of Singapore. This experience gave him some of the background for his novel Under The Pong Pong Tree.

 


 

About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

Wanna write (to make a difference)?

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Friends and colleagues, I have marched into 2017 eager to continue using No Shelf Required as the ultimate outlet of expression for all who advocate free reading and support projects and initiatives that get us a little closer to that world in which we all have equal access to knowledge and the written word. That world in which knowledge flows freely in all directions to all who want and need it — on their own terms (not the terms of those who think they ‘own’ it).

I am in the process of recruiting various contributors (some of whom will become regular columnists) to write about the ways in which we can ALL do our part in making the world a slightly better place by making it possible for people everywhere to read and learn how and when they want to. And not just read and learn, but also write, listen, teach, and watch. Those of us who have the privilege of working with books and other media (this includes writers, editors, teachers, educators, librarians, and publishers, among others) have that responsibility, I believe.

So join me. Let’s put our heads together and educate each other. No shelf is required, but passion is mandatory. Email me at mirelaroncevic@gmail.com with ideas. Start date: NOW.

MR

This week (in the history of) literature and arts

We are pleased to introduce a new (and improved) column for 2017 on No Shelf Required: This Week in (the history of) Literature and Arts. The idea is simple: each week, writer and photographer Michael Rogers (with a long history in book publishing and reporting) highlights what happened in the world of literature, publishing, and the arts that week in his own words (and through his own pictures). It’s a trip down memory lane of sorts, and it’s meant to both inform and entertain. Enjoy this week’s (slightly late) compilation (and do follow Michael’s phenomenal ‘it happened today’ daily updates on Facebook).Ed.


Happy birthday to J.D. Salinger, born in New York City January 1, 1919. Crazy bastard but who doesn’t love the guy.

salinger


January 1, 1953: Hank Williams dies at 29 from drug and alcohol abuse. Terrible waste.

hank-williams


Alright, sci-fi geeks, let’s wish a happy birthday to Isaac Asimov, born January 2, 1920 in Petrovichi, Russia but raised from age 3 in Brooklyn. I think he started growing the sideburns in kindergarten.

asimov


Birthday greetings to J.R.R. Tolkien, born January 3, 1892 in South Africa. Before moving to England at age 3, he received a bite from a large, nasty spider. I guess it stayed with him. Pat yourself on the back if you liked him before it was cool.

tolkien


Happy birthday to Sir George Martin, born in London January 3, 1926. A handful have tried to claim the title of the “Fifth Beatle,” but it only applies to him.

george-martin


January 3, 1841″ Herman Melville, 21, departs on his first whaling voyage aboard the New Bedford whaler “Acushnet.” By the time the bark reached Polynesia, Melville and many of the crew had discovered that whaling was the most disgusting, back-breaking job imaginable and staged a mutiny, fleeing to the jungle and taken in by headhunters (what’s Plan B, boys). The mutineers soon enough were captured and jailed. He recorded it all in his first novel “Typee.”

melville


January 4, 1967: After several years as the house band at LA’s Whiskey-a-Go-Go, The Doors hit the main stream with the release of their self-titled debut album.

doors


Happy 86th birthday to character actor extraordinaire Robert Duvall, born January 5, 1930 in San Diego, CA. Boo Radley, Tom Hagen, Ned Pepper, Dr Watson, Bull Meechum, Mac Sledge, and Gus McCrae, Duvall has played a handful of literary characters—along with countless other types—with equal aplomb. One of the greats, he’s still working (and survived 2016)! Enjoy your birthday , Bob!

duvall


Earlier mentioned Robert Duvall as among the great characters actors, well another fav is Clancy Brown, born in Urbana, OH, this day in 1959. Although he has appeared in numerous films, you probably know his remarkable voice better than his face.

You’ve seen Clancy as the brutal head guard in The Shawshank Redemption as well as the immortal villain in Highlander, also as a brutal bastard, but you’ve also have heard him in countless animated works playing Lex Luthor and others in DC stuff as well as a handful of good/bad guys in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars series, etc., etc., but his piece de resistance is Mr. Krabs in SpongeBob! Have a good one, Clancy!

clansy


Rise, put your hands over your hearts, and wish a happy anniversary to the mighty “Frampton Comes Alive,” released by A&M Records January 6, 1976 (that’s more than—GULP—40 years ago, you broken down old bastards)!

With his abundant curls, Frampton was a heartthrob for many young ladies, but 40 years later he’s as bald as an ape’s ass—initially I thought of posting Peter’s current pic but it would just be wrong. Live with your memories. And to Mr. Frampton, salute!

frampton


Happy 82nd birthday to Elvis, born in a two-room shotgun shack in Tupelo, Mississippi, January 8, 1935.

He went off to hillbilly heaven so young (42) that you have to wonder what path he would have taken had he’d survived. Would he simply have continued as a Vegas act in his white leather jumpsuits performing the same songs over and over by rote like Sinatra? Would he have retired from performing and become minister of his own church?

…would he have been president (“From Graceland to the White House, Make the Big E the Big P!”)? He’s got my vote! Hail to the King, baby!

elvis


Happy birthday to Soupy Sales, born Milton Supman in Franklinton, NC, January 8, 1926. I would have bet my last buck that Soupy was a New York kid. By osmosis, 1-day belated birthday greetings to Frank Natasi (1923), a comic and 1950s kid show staple who joined with Soupy to voice White Fang, Black Tooth, and Pookie.

In the pic below you can see Frank with the White Fang costume, which consists entirely of a long, fuzzy glove tipped with claws cut from black felt. Probably was made in 15 minutes from a buck’s worth of materials, but it worked! Soupy created the White Fang character while serving in the navy during WWII. The legend goes he’d use the PA system aboard the USS Randall to perform quick comedy routines between himself and Fang.

frank

 

 

 

Croatia is the world’s first country to become a Free Reading Zone

croatia-map-books-teal-wide

No Shelf Required is thrilled and honored to announce:

Croatia is the world’s first country to become a Free Reading Zone

No Shelf Required and Total Boox join forces in turning the country of Croatia into an open virtual library accessible via a free application—to residents and tourists alike—without a library card or an access code. The growing collection boasts 100,000 titles by top publishers in several languages.

Zagreb, Croatia — Croatia has just made history by becoming the first country in the world turned into a Free Reading Zone (FREZ), i.e., an open virtual library accessible to all people free of charge regardless of their location. This includes not only Croatian citizens but millions of tourists from around the world who visit the country each year, who may download a free reading app, called Croatia Reads. The app is powered by Total Boox, an ebook service known to publishers and librarians for its revolutionary model which makes ebooks instantly available—with no restrictions—while paying publishers for reading and affording readers a seamless and uninterrupted reading experience.

“As a web site advocating free access to books and knowledge for all people, No Shelf Required is honored to be the first sponsor of this historic project,” said Mirela Roncevic, editor of No Shelf Required and manager of the project. “NSR’s mission is to make access to books a right of every citizen, not a privilege tied to institutions and corporate interests, so it is fitting that we stand behind it. It also holds a special meaning to me personally because this remarkable story of books escaping the confines of book stores and library walls is taking place in the country of my birth.”

Readers in Free Reading Zones may browse Total Boox’ collection of 100,000 titles, which includes books in all categories of fiction and nonfiction; from popular to academic, from professional to practical. Over 250 publishers are participating, including an array of world-class brands, among them, Lonely Planet, Workman, Sourcebooks, Berlitz, Oxford University Press, F&W Media, O’Reilly, Other Press, Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer, New World Library, Marshall Cavendish, Berrett-Koehler, Lerner, and many others.

The goal of the FREZ initiative is to spread reading to public and private spaces and endow them with culture. The ‘zones’ may be sponsored by private and public institutions, corporations or government entities and can be as small as single-buildings (e.g., hospitals, cafes) or as big as entire cities and countries (as in the case of Croatia).  “With all due modesty, this is really a world’s first,” said Yoav Lorch, Founder and CEO of Total Boox. “It’s a general open invitation for all people to follow their interests and curiosities, wherever they are, at no cost and with no limitations. It’s not just about saving money. It’s about making culture and knowledge prevalent, about closing the digital divide, and about allowing the people to enjoy the fruits of the digital revolution.”

“With the launch of Croatia Reads, we have created a circle in which all segments of Croatia’s society benefit: culture, education, and tourism,” added Roncevic. “We have begun the next big revolution in the story of the book—the one where the potential of the digital medium is finally used to disperse knowledge to all who want it, when they want it, and how they want it. Croatia today stands as an example of what is possible with the book in the 21st century, and what is possible looks a lot like the democratization of the written word we’ve never seen before—the kind that will finally give books in digital format the chance to show their true potential.”

See also

This week in (the history of) literature and arts

We are pleased to introduce a new column on No Shelf Required: This Week in Literature and Arts. The idea is simple: each week, writer (and photographer) Michael Rogers (with a long history of book reviewing and reporting) highlights what happened in the world of literature, publishing, and the arts that week. It’s a trip down memory lane of sorts, and it’s meant to both inform and entertain. Enjoy this week’s (slightly late) compilation (and do follow Michael’s phenomenal ‘it happened today’ daily updates on Facebook).Ed.


November 21, 1931: Universal Studios releases “Frankenstein.” A star is born.

franken


Happy birthday to Voltaire, born Francois-Marie Arouet in Paris November 21, 1694. He wrote “Candide” in only three days. THREE FUCKING DAYS!

marie-o


November 22, 1955: After a hefty dinner and enjoying the fights at Hollywood Legion Stadium with friends, Shemp Howard, 60, dies of a massive coronary while riding in the back of a cab. Shemp had dropped a one-liner cracking up pals Al Winston and Al Silverman and was lighting a cigar (he was a heavy smoker off screen) when he slumped over without making a sound.

That’s the official account and no doubt 100% accurate, but, frankly, it’s boring. How much better would it be if after cracking up his buds and contentedly puffing away on a fresh Havana Shemp suddenly went “eeb…eeb…eeb…ebee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee-bee!” and THEN dropped dead! Come on, it’s a thousand times better!

three-stoges


November 22, 1968: The Beatles release the “White Album.”

beatles-white-album


Happy birthday to Harpo Marx, born in New York City on November 23, 1888. The second of eventually five children, his parents named him Adolph, but he never liked it and changed to Arthur in his 20s.

If you’re a fan but have never read any of Harpo’s memoirs (“Harpo Speaks,” etc.) they’re very charming.

harpo-marx


November 23, 1942: “Casablanca” opens. The beautiful friendship.

casablanca2


November 25, 1970: Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima disembowels himself after he and his followers took over a government building where he then stood on the balcony and delivered a speech about restoring the emperor or some such nonsense to whoever would listen. Those who did laughed at him. After he cut his own guts out, Mishima’s follower made several attempts to lob off his noggin but they failed.

He’s an excellent writer, but there’s always someone in his books sticking a knife into his own gizzard to save his honor, so it seems fitting that he went out this way himself. The root of his discontent was his belief that society had gone to hell. Get your swords out, folks!

japanese

 

Book of the Week: The Solution: Repairing Our Broken Political System by Michael M. Stockdell

No Shelf Required is an ardent supporter of independent authors around the world writing and producing their work on their own terms and with their own resources. In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers around the world), and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews of a wide variety of titles published on BIR’s site each week. Enjoy this week’s pick.

The Solution: Repairing Our Broken Political System


About Author

stockdellMichael M. Stockdell was born in Richmond, VA, and graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in English. He has worked as a systems analyst, data processing manager and management consultant, including three years in the federal government. Stockdell spent years researching politics and considering viewpoints from both sides of the political spectrum in order to write The Solution.

 


 

 

About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

Book of the Week: The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen; Volume II by Collins Hemingway

No Shelf Required is an ardent supporter of independent authors around the world writing and producing their work on their own terms and with their own resources. In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers around the world), and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews of a wide variety of titles published on BIR’s site each week. Enjoy this week’s pick.


The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen: Volume II

 

About Author

collins-hemingwayCollins Hemingway notes that his approach to fiction is to “dive as deeply into a character’s heart and soul as possible, to address the root causes of their behavior rather than to describe superficial attitudes and beliefs.” He also notes that “his sentiment regarding the importance of literature is only slightly mellower than that of Jane Austen, who observed that the gentleman or lady who fails to find pleasure in a good novel must be ‘intolerably stupid.’” Hemingway lives in Bend, Oregon. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas and has a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Oregon.


 

About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

 

This week in Literature and Arts

We are pleased to introduce a  new column on No Shelf Required: This Week in Literature and Arts. The idea is simple: each week, writer Michael Rogers (with a long history of book reviewing and reporting) highlights what happened in the world of literature, publishing, and the arts that week. It’s a trip down memory lane of sorts, and it’s meant to both inform and entertain.

Since NSR is the portal that celebrates all things related to human creativity in digital format (and this includes books and various media) and since it’s also become an advocate for free access to all forms of human creativity online, it is only fitting that we embrace a column which celebrates literary and cultural accomplishments through the ages. It’s a great way for us all to refresh our memory and learn something new. And when Michael is writing, we are sure to learn. We are also sure to laugh. Enjoy this week’s compilation (and do follow Michael’s phenomenal ‘it happened today’ daily updates on Facebook).Ed


November 13, 1850 — Birthday wishes to novelist, poet, traveler, and musician Robert Louis Stevenson, born in Edinburgh, Scotland, this day in 1850. In addition to his literary endeavors, Stevenson was an accomplished musician, playing numerous instruments and composing more than 100 scores. Too brief a life; he died of a cerebral hemorrhage at 44 while living in Samoa.

If it’s been a few years since you read Stevenson, take a break from the cookie-cutter mysteries and NY Times bestseller-list crap and reread Kidnapped or Treasure Island. Read them aloud to your kids; you’ll have as much fun as they do.

stevenson

 


 

November 14, 1851 — Moby Dick is published in America after debuting in Britain several months earlier. The book mostly was panned by critics (like Ahab, they found the narrative didn’t have a leg to stand on—NyukX3!), but in the ensuing now 165 years, controversy has arisen over whether those who lambasted the work at the time actually had read it or simply cribbed from British reviews.

If the critics indeed based their opinions on previous criticisms without reading the book it’s all the more sad because Moby Dick‘s financial failure in large part lead to Melville’s demise as an author, forcing him to find employment as an inspector of ship cargoes at South Street and other locales around New York harbor.

Since the novel’s renaissance in the 1920s, oceans of ink have been spilled on it’s true meaning, blah, blah, blah, and while the symbolism is there, books like it and Ulysses tend to be so over-dissected that their intrinsic beauty becomes a casualty, and instead of being read with great joy, people become afraid and avoid them. Silly. Moby Dick is beautiful.

melville


November 17, 1942 — Happy birthday to New York’s own Martin Scorsese, born in Queens this day in 1942. His parents relocated to Manhattan’s Little Italy when Marty was a kid. I think everybody has a favorite Scorsese movie or two. Hopefully, he’ll get that last gangster picture with De Niro and Pesci up and running. Have a great one, Marty!

scorcese


November 17, 1919 — The great Sylvia Beach opens Shakespeare and Company at 12 Rue de l’Odéon in Paris. The combination bookstore and lending library was frequented by James Joyce, Ford Maddox Ford, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Andre Gide, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Janet Flanner, Kay Boyle, and other artistic Olympians.

Beach adored Joyce and published Ulysses when no one else would touch it. Writer or not, she is a hero of 20th century literature.

beach


November 18, 1928 —  An empire is born as the fledgling Walt Disney Studios releases “Steamboat Willy,” the first synchronized sound cartoon (technically, the initial talkie toon) featuring early incarnations of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

Decades later, Disney would be the invisible force behind the Copyright Term Extension Act, which added generations of time before copyrighted works entered the public domain. At the time, industry insiders referred to the legislation proposed by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and signed into law by President Clinton as the “Steamboat Willy Law.”


Michael Rogers is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He was also Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

Ebook sales continue to decline in 2016. That’s very good news (for those who advocate free reading).

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NSR is not big on sharing statistics and reports on its site, since numbers released in them are often used to promote and encourage the status quo as opposed to encourage publishers (and all who work with books) to transform and go beyond traditional sales and marketing methods; to take the lead as opposed to rely on reports to justify reinforcing old practices. This report, just released by the Association of American Publishers today, in and of itself isn’t all that surprising (or newsworthy), telling us that in the first half of 2016 book sales were down ‘slightly’ when compared to book sales in 2015. We do, however, want to draw  attention to one statistic in this document: that in the first half of 2016 vs. 2015, sales of ebooks were down 20 percent (to 579.5 million).

This is actually GOOD news. At least for those of us advocating free reading and free access to books online, regardless of geography, status, and membership. Why? Because numbers like this do not confirm that people don’t want to read and access content in digital format. Instead, they confirm that they simply do not want to pay for it. Readers are already used to consuming massive amounts of information for free online, and their expectations will gravitate in the direction of ‘free’ even when it comes to books (including fiction and all types of nonfiction).

It may sound odd, but it actually makes sense. If ebook sales continue to decline, it just may be the signal publishers need to consider opening books online for free consumption while still being able to gain from it (by relying on ebook models that support free reading through sponsorship, like Free Reading Zones, instead of opting for business models that require people or ebook services to purchase publishers’ ebooks in advance). Publishing industry has always been reactive to change, rather than proactive in its efforts to transform itself. Seeing ebook sales decline year after year will not make ebooks go away—their power to eliminate unequal (and unbalanced) access to knowledge (in all forms) is too real to be denied—but it may lead publishers to consider (and reconsider) other options. We look forward to that. Below full press release.—Ed.


Washington, DC; Nov. 16, 2016 – Publishers’ revenues (sales to bookstores, wholesalers, direct to consumer, online retailers, etc.) were down 3.4% for the first half of 2016 vs. the same period in 2015. The greatest percentage gains from the first half of the year came from Religious Presses, up 10.4%.

While revenue for Trade Books grew 6.7% in June, the gains were not enough to counter declines from earlier in the year, and the overall category declined 1.1% in the first half of 2016.

“After a tough first quarter — with trade sales down 7.4% from the prior year — second quarter sales have bounced back with 4.6% growth. Sales of adult, children’s and religious books all increased in the second quarter due to a mix of factors including movie tie-ins, a diversity of titles from small and midsize presses, and religious presses recovering from a tough 2015,” said Tom Allen President and CEO of AAP.

Overview

  • For the first half of the year, sales in all tracked categories were down 3.4% to $5.37 billion vs. the same six months in 2015. Tracked categories include: Trade – fiction/non-fiction/religious, PreK-12 Instructional Materials, Higher Education Course Materials, Professional Publishing, and University Presses.
    • Publishers’ book sales for June 2016 in all tracked categories were $1.46 billion, down 4.7% from June 2015.
  • In the first half of 2016, compared to the first half of 2015, trade sales were down 1.1% to $3.03 billion:
    • Adult Books had $2.11 billion in sales, down 2.8%
    • Childrens/YA Books had $689.3 million in sales, up 0.9%
    • Religious Presses had $222.4 million in sales, up by 10.4%

Trends for Trade by Format

  • In the first half of 2016 vs. 2015:
    • Paperback books grew 8.8% to $1.01 billion
    • Downloaded audio grew 32.3% to $126.7 million
    • Hardback books grew 0.9% $989.7 million
    • eBooks were down 20.0% to $579.5 million
  • Interesting trends in June:
    • June 2016 had an unusually high percentage of growth in religious presses’ Paperback Books, which are up 54.6% compared to June 2015; the whole category has grown 16.8% over the past half year vs. 2015.
    • June was also a month of incredible growth for downloaded audio, with 51.7% more revenue than June 2015.
    • In June eBooks had their slightest monthly decline in over a year, down only 9.7%.

Below is a chart that shows the market share of various Trade Book formats for the first half of the year from the past six years. Of note, eBooks have around the same percent of market share in 2016 as they did in 2011, while audiobooks doubled their share. The most consistent category has been hardback books, which has ranged from 33.0% to 36.4%.

20161115aappressreleasechart

Educational Materials and Professional Books

  • Educational Materials had a revenue loss of 2.1% for K-12 Instructional Materials and 5.9% for Higher Education Course Materials, in the first half of 2016 vs. 2015.
  • Professional Publishing was down 23.1% in the first half of 2016 vs. the first three months of 2015. These categories include business, medical, law, scientific and technical books. University presses were down 1.7% in the first half of 2016 vs. 2015.

 

Book of the Week: Hesterwine, Texas 1943 by Dot Ryan

No Shelf Required is an ardent supporter of independent authors around the world producing their work on their own terms and with their own resources. In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers), and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews of a wide variety of titles published on BIR’s site each week. Enjoy this week’s pick.

Hesterwine, Texas 1943

About Author

dot-ryanDot Ryan is a fifth generation Texan. Her first novel, Corrigans’ Pool, was named a finalist in the prestigious Indie Book Awards, The International Book Awards and was the winner of Foreword Review’s 2011 Book of the Year,  judged by the American Library Association.

 


About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

 

Portal on all aspects of ebooks and digital content and for all creating, reading, publishing, managing, curating, and distributing the written word and other content in digital format, including publishers, writers, editors, content developers, distributors, educators, librarians and information science professionals. Managed by Mirela Roncevic, with contributions from professionals and thought leaders in the United States and around the world.