One of Jane Austen’s earliest buyers revealed as Prince Regent – who she ‘hated’

Archives reveal that the future King George IV had a taste for fiction, and bought Sense and Sensibility two days before it was first advertised in 1811

In an irony worthy of the great novelist herself, a PhD student has discovered that one of the first purchasers of Jane Austen’s debut novel Sense and Sensibility was the Prince Regent – a man the author despised.

Nicholas Foretek, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, was delving through Windsor Castle’s Royal Archives as part of his research into 18th-century printing and publications when he came across a bill of sale revealing that the future King George IV bought a copy of Sense and Sensibility for 15 shillings from his booksellers, Becket & Porter. The purchase was made on 28 October 1811 – two days before the first public advertisement for the novel appeared. Published anonymously, Sense and Sensibility was not ...

Haruki Murakami’s new novel declared ‘indecent’ by Hong Kong censors

Ruling says Killing Commendatore must be wrapped with warnings of unsuitability and restricted to an adult readership

The latest novel from Haruki Murakami, Japan’s most celebrated literary export, has fallen foul of censors in Hong Kong, where it was ruled to be indecent by a tribunal and removed from display at a book fair.

Hong Kong’s Obscene Articles Tribunal announced last week that the Chinese-language edition of Murakami’s Kishidancho Goroshi, or Killing Commendatore, had been temporarily classified as “Class II – indecent materials”, according to the South China Morning Post. This means that it can only be sold in bookshops with its cover wrapped with a notice warning about its contents, with access restricted to those over the age of 18. The ruling has also seen the novel pulled from booths at the Hong Kong book fair, where a spokesperson said the novel had been removed proactively after last week’s ...

First edition of Ada Lovelace’s pioneering algorithm sold for £95,000

Rare book by ‘world’s first computer programmer’ contains a groundbreaking method for calculating Bernouilli numbers

An “extremely rare” leather-bound copy of Ada Lovelace’s pioneering computer program has been sold at auction for nearly £100,000.

First published in 1843, the book contains Lovelace’s translation of paper from the Italian mathematician LF Menabrea discussing Charles Babbage’s plans for a computing machine. It also includes her reflections as well as explanatory notes featuring a groundbreaking algorithm, considered by some experts to be the first computer program.

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Man Booker prize 2018 longlist includes graphic novel for the first time

Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina, which explores the disappearance of a young woman, ‘does just what good fiction should do’ – and will compete with Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight

A graphic novel about a vanished young woman and a thriller about a vanished mother have elbowed their way on to a giant-slaying Man Booker prize longlist that “capture[s] something about a world on the brink”.

Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina, the first graphic novel ever to reach the Booker longlist, explores the chilling effect of 24-hour news after a girl has disappeared. Judges picked it as a contender for the £50,000 prize ahead of titles from former winners including Pat Barker, Julian Barnes, Peter Carey and Alan Hollinghurst, describing it as “oblique, subtle [and] minimal” and saying the “changing shape of fiction” meant it was only a matter of time before a ...

Gabriel Tallent: ‘I follow my inspiration, however difficult’

The US novelist talks about the genesis of his gripping debut and his willingness to lay bare the dark, morally abject corners of life

Gabriel Tallent grew up on the Mendocino coast, California, with two mothers. My Absolute Darling, his debut novel, is the story of an isolated teenage girl who is being abused, physically and sexually, by her survivalist father. Set on the wild coastline where Tallent grew up, and following the feints towards freedom made by Tallent’s heart-piercingly courageous heroine, Turtle, it drew waves of praise when it was published in hardback and became the only literary debut novel to enter the bestseller lists in the US and the UK simultaneously last year.

Was My Absolute Darling always going to be centred on Turtle, your 14-year-old protagonist, or did she come to life in the process of writing?
My initial project was a much more academic, idea-driven ...

Thrillers review: Give Me Your Hand; The Cabin at the End of the World; An Unwanted Guest; The Ruin

A dark secret between rival scientists, apocalypse in the woods, an Agatha Christie-style chiller in a snowbound hotel – our pick of July’s thrillers

A line from Marie Curie echoes through Megan Abbott’s searing, fierce novel of female friendship and ambition, Give Me Your Hand (Picador): “My head is so full of plans that it seems aflame.”

Kit Owens and Diane Fleming meet as teenagers in chemistry class. Diane is brilliant and Kit is inspired to emulate her and focus single-mindedly on science. Together, the girls fly above their peers (“I was thinking so much, so fast, so hard, that sometimes I dreamed about ionic compounds”) and become close friends – until Diane shares a secret with Kit and nothing can be the same again.

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Only 1% of children’s books have BAME main characters – UK study

Research finds that of 9,115 titles published last year, only 4% featured BAME characters

Only 1% of British children’s books feature a main character who is black or minority ethnic, a investigation into representations of people of colour has found, with the director calling the findings “stark and shocking”.

In a research project that is the first of its kind, and funded by Arts Council England, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) asked UK publishers to submit books featuring BAME characters in 2017. Of the 9,115 children’s books published last year, researchers found that only 391 – 4% - featured BAME characters. Just 1% had a BAME main character, and a quarter of the books submitted only featured diversity in their background casts.

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The Alternative Nobel: vote opens for a surprising new literature prize

Swedish librarians have drawn up their longlist for the New Academy’s take on the world’s biggest books award. And it really is new

Sweden’s librarians have spoken: a wonderfully eclectic lineup of authors has emerged on a long-ish longlist for the New Academy’s alternative to the postponed 2018 Nobel prize for literature.

Traditionally awarded in autumn by the opaque and austere Swedish Academy, the Nobel was called off in March due to an ongoing sex scandal – and swiftly replaced when a group of the country’s cultural figures decided that the “world’s greatest literature prize” should still be awarded. “In a time when human values are increasingly being called into question,” the New Academy’s solemn opener read, “literature becomes an even more important counterforce to stop the culture of silence and oppression.”

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Yes, he can: Obama debuts as Sherlock Holmesian detective

Along with Watsonian sidekick Joe Biden, the former president has embarked on a crimefighting career in Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer

Step aside Holmes and Watson; back off Poirot and Hastings. A new pair of amateur sleuths are hitting town this month: Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Andrew Shaffer’s Hope Never Dies opens as Biden, his narrator, mopes around the house shortly after the 2016 presidential election. Obama is “on the vacation to end all vacations”, and his former vice president is scrolling through old text messages they sent each other, feeling left behind as he watches paparazzi videos of the 44th president kayaking with Justin Trudeau and base jumping with Bradley Cooper. Then, in a satisfyingly noirish scene, he hears “flint striking metal”, and sees “a slim figure in his black hand-tailored suit” in the trees:

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CockyBot flies to the rescue in literature’s trademark wars

Recent bids to claim ownership of terms used in books and their titles include ‘dragon slayer’, ‘cocky’ and even ‘big’. A canny bot is keeping watch

Despite the fact that dragon slayers have thronged the pages of fantasy novels ever since Smaug was brought down in The Hobbit in 1937, an application to trademark the term “dragon slayer” was filed in the US just a few weeks ago.

The trademark was filed in connection with a series of books by Michael-Scott Earle. The application cites an Earle novel featuring a gold-tattooed Chicago firefighter starring in a “pulp fantasy harem adventure”. This is something we’re obviously keen to see – but as Cory Doctorow points out at Boingboing, this is an audacious attempt to trademark a generic phrase widely used in fantasy (more than 600 novels, by Doctorow’s count). Earle’s attempt comes hot on the heels of Faleena Hopkins’s much-disputed ...

Royal Society of Literature admits 40 new fellows to address historical biases

The 40 Under 40 initiative has chosen a diverse set of fresh fellows to reflect the ‘bold expressiveness’ of a new generation in institution that has been ‘overwhelmingly’ white and male

Nearly 200 years after it was founded, the venerable Royal Society of Literature is stepping away from its “overwhelmingly white, male, metropolitan and middle class” history, with the appointment of 40 new writing fellows under the age of 40, ranging from the award-winning Jamaican poet Kei Miller to the bestselling English novelist Sarah Perry.

The RSL’s 40 Under 40 initiative saw publishers, literary agents, theatres and author organisations put forward an array of names to a panel of RSL fellows, who were looking to honour “the achievements of Britain’s younger writers” with the selection of a new generation of fellows. Prior to the initiative, only three of the 523 fellows were under 40, with none under 30 and the ...

American librarians defend renaming Laura Ingalls Wilder award

Professional body the ALA says the Little House on the Prairie author’s ‘complex legacy’ of racist attitudes was not consistent with its values

The American Library Association (ALA) has stressed that its decision to drop Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from its children’s literature award due to racist sentiments in her books is not “an attempt to censor, limit, or deter access” to the Little House on the Prairie author’s books.

The organisation announced on Sunday that the board of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) had voted 12 to zero in favour of changing the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder award to the Children’s literature legacy award. The prize was first awarded in 1954 to Wilder herself, and has been won by some of America’s best-loved children’s authors, from EB White to Beverly Cleary.

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American librarians defend renaming Laura Ingalls Wilder award

Professional body the ALA says the Little House on the Prairie author’s ‘complex legacy’ of racist attitudes was not consistent with its values

The American Library Association (ALA) has stressed that its decision to drop Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from its children’s literature award due to racist sentiments in her books is not “an attempt to censor, limit, or deter access” to the Little House on the Prairie author’s books.

The organisation announced on Sunday that the board of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) had voted 12 to zero in favour of changing the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder award to the Children’s literature legacy award. The prize was first awarded in 1954 to Wilder herself, and has been won by some of America’s best-loved children’s authors, from EB White to Beverly Cleary.

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How well do you know your fictional bookshops? – quiz

To mark the end of Independent bookshop week, a celebration of booksellers across the UK and Ireland, test your knowledge of fictional literary havens

What is Arthur Geiger’s bookshop on Hollywood Boulevard a front for in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep?

Pornography

Drugs

Human trafficking

Alcohol

“Before him lay a long, narrow room, the back of which was lost in the half-light. The walls were lined with shelves filled with books of all shapes and sizes. Large folios were piled high on the floor, and on several tables lay heaps of smaller, leather-bound books, whose spines glittered with gold.” What is the name of the owner of the bookshop in Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story?

Bastian Balthazar Bux

Carl Conrad Coreander

Dirk Dastardly Diggly

Edmund Earl Erasmus

What is the name of the bookshop in Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s ode to reading, The Shadow of the Wind?

The Cemetery ...

‘Xenophobic and racist’: Elena Ferrante warns of danger to Italy from Matteo Salvini

In her Guardian column, author of the bestselling Neapolitan novels makes rare intervention in politics to voice fears of interior minister’s ‘racist fists’

The Italian novelist Elena Ferrante has made a rare foray into the political arena, warning of the dangers of underestimating the “xenophobic and racist” new interior minister Matteo Salvini who heads up Italy’s far-right League party.

Writing in her column for the Guardian’s Weekend magazine, the reclusive Ferrante, who has kept her identity hidden, said she had never been politically active, and while she has “feared for the fate of democracy” in Italy, she has more often “thought our worries have been deliberately exaggerated”.

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‘Wilful misreading’: Lionel Shriver replies to critics in diversity row

Novelist responds to the reaction against her comments on diversity in publishing, accusing her critics of ‘malicious misinterpretation’

Lionel Shriver has responded to the vituperative row that followed her recent comments about Penguin Random House’s diversity scheme, saying that it was not diversity but quotas that she was objecting to and calling out what she described as the “malicious misinterpretation” of her original essay.

In a piece for the Spectator this month, Shriver objected to the publisher’s goal for its staff and authors to represent UK society by 2025. “Drunk on virtue, Penguin Random House no longer regards the company’s raison d’etre as the acquisition and dissemination of good books,” she wrote. “Rather, the organisation aims to mirror the percentages of minorities in the UK population with statistical precision.”

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‘The evil was profound’: Fanny Burney letter describes mastectomy in 1812

Letter, which has been digitised by the British Library for the first time, recounts the novelist’s agonising experience of surgery in an age before anaesthesia

Fanny Burney’s graphic account of her mastectomy without anaesthetic in 1811, in which the novelist writes to her sister how she “began a scream that lasted unintermittingly during the whole time of the incision – & I almost marvel that it rings not in my Ears still! so excruciating was the agony” – has been fully digitised and placed online for the first time by the British Library.

One of more than 300 manuscripts, letters and first editions from the Restoration and 18th century collection digitised for the library’s Discovering Literature venture, Burney’s 12-page letter sees the author of Evelina explain to her sister that she was eventually persuaded to go ahead with the operation by her doctors after her breast cancer diagnosis a year ...

Listen and weep: ‘Audiobooks outdo films in emotional engagement’

UCL study backed by Audible finds unconscious responses to the same book scenes, witnessed in adaptations across different media, are strongest in the auditory format

As Arya Stark watches from the crowd, tears streaming, King Joffrey toys with her father Ned Stark before executing him in front of a baying crowd. This scene from Game of Thrones is harrowing in any medium – but a new University College London study has found that audiobooks are more “emotionally engaging” than film and television adaptations.

Related: We’re all ears for audiobooks – and here are some of the best

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Preti Taneja’s ‘awe-inspiring’ reimagining of King Lear wins Desmond Elliott prize

Debut novel We That Are Young takes £10,000 award after early struggles to find a publisher

Preti Taneja’s debut novel We That Are Young, a reimagining of King Lear set in contemporary India that was rejected by multiple major publishers as commercially unviable, has won the £10,000 Desmond Elliott prize.

Judges for the award, which is named after the late literary agent and publisher and is intended to reward a first novel that is “both vividly written and confidently realised”, described We That Are Young as “awe-inspiring” in its “scope, ambition, skill and wisdom”. Chair and author Sarah Perry said that after reading it, she and her fellow judges “sat together shaking our heads, saying, ‘If this is her first novel, what extraordinary work will come next?’”

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