A new study out of Stony Brook University employs a complex statistical model to figure out what makes a book successful. Judging books on the basis of Amazon sales, awards won and Project Gutenberg downloads, the scientists determined that successful books have a higher-than-average ratio of self-references, prepositions and coordinating conjunctions. Unsuccessful books, on the other hand? A high ratio of adverbs and location markers.
What’s the one question you should never ask a writer starting a new book: how’s the writing going? “Nothing can damage a novel in embryo as quickly and effectively as trying to describe it before it’s ready,” Mark Slouka writes. Follow his advice for how to keep your writer friends.
Madhu Kaza, a “writer, artist and educator,” has a possible solution for you. She’ll come into your home 15 minutes before bedtime and sit in a chair beside your bed and read to you from your favorite books until you fall asleep. Then she’ll let herself out and lock the door behind her. The free service is called Here Is Where We Meet, the title of a 2005 novel by John Berger. The only requirement is that you fill out a short questionnaire and make an appointment — and get ready to say goodbye to the sheep and the warm milk.
Out this week: Per Petterson’s latest to hit American shores is I Curse the River of Time. Also newly released is Mona Simpson’s My Hollywood. Mary Roach has another work of quirky non-fiction out, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. Young readers can now get their hands on the seventh book in the Artemis Fowl series, The Atlantis Complex. And grammar mavens have a new edition of the Chicago Manual of Style to add to their reference shelf.
New this week: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood; Gold, Fame, Citrus, by Claire Vaye Watkins; Vertigo by Joanna Walsh; Syllabus of Errors by Troy Jollimore; The Good Story by Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee and Arabella Kurtz; I Must Be Living Twice by Eileen Myles; and The Complete Works of Primo Levi. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview.
How has a spirit legally defined as being “without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color” flourished in today’s economic climate? Victorino Matus‘ Weekly Standard article explores the history and ubiquity of vodka. Perhaps this article is best paired with something from NPR‘s list of “Great American Writers and Their Cocktails.”