To the Mountains by Abdullah Anas and Tam Hussein – review


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Despite his partiality, Abdullah Anas offers some useful insights into al-Qaida’s roots

Where should we start if we are to tell the story of the violent Islamist extremism that still threatens us today? The question is an important one and its answer has significance that goes well beyond chronology.

Some commentators in the west, usually to the right of the political spectrum, will start in the 7th century AD with the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad or with the first texts of Islam. The implication is obvious: that there is something inherent in the Islamic faith that engenders or at least encourages violence.

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From Columbine to Parkland: how we got the story wrong on mass shootings


This post is by Dave Cullen from Books | The Guardian


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After Columbine, Dave Cullen swore he would never write about a mass shooting again. But over the next 20 years, he realised that he and other journalists had a duty to destroy the deadly myths they had helped create

As I drove down Highway 6 toward the Rocky Mountains on 20 April 1999, hoping to find this high school I had never heard of in Columbine, where shots had been reported but no injuries, I had no conception of what I was about to witness. What was happening inside that high school was unimaginable. What it ignited was far worse.

Who could have known what we were in for? The police weren’t ready: they surrounded the school and waited for demands that never came. There was no active shooter protocol; the “lockdown drill” was still unconceived and inconceivable. Why would we drill kids to hide from gunmen? None of ...

Rosamunde Pilcher obituary


This post is by Felicity Bryan from Books | The Guardian


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Popular and prolific novelist best known for The Shell Seekers and Coming Home whose work was particularly admired in Germany

In 1988 the 14th novel by a little-known 63-year-old British author was published in New York. The Shell Seekers, the 500-page story of a woman, Penelope Keeling, looking back on her life and loves during the second world war, took the US by storm.

The New York Times reviewer wrote: “Rosamunde Pilcher, where have you been all my life?” It sat in the bestseller list for 49 weeks in hardback and then tipped Tom Wolfe off the No 1 spot in paperback. The Shell Seekers was translated into more than 40 languages, selling around 10m copies.

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The Truths we Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris – review


This post is by David Smith from Books | The Guardian


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This memoir by the new darling of the Democrats is aimed more at voters than readers

She has been described as the female Barack Obama. Like the former US president, Kamala Harris is mixed race (her father from Jamaica, her mother from India), spent part of her childhood abroad (in Canada), became a lawyer, and is now running for the White House after two years as a Democratic senator. Just as Donald Trump is the anti-Obama, many hope that Harris can be the anti-Trump.

But whereas Obama’s memoir Dreams from My Father earned praise as an elegant, exceptional work in its own right, Harris’s The Truths We Hold fits more squarely into the category of “serviceable” – not so much a literary event as the book tour as election campaign.

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Young adult author cancels own novel after race controversy


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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Advance copies of Amélie Wen Zhao’s Blood Heir were criticised for its depiction of slavery, for which the author apologised and pulled publication

An up-and-coming young adult author has cancelled the publication of her highly anticipated debut novel, following a flood of online criticism from readers over her depiction of race and slavery.

Amélie Wen Zhao’s novel, Blood Heir, was sold to publishers for a high six-figure sum last January. A fantastical retelling of the Anastasia story involving “a princess hiding a dark secret and the conman she must trust to clear her name for her father’s murder”, it was scheduled to be published in June.

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Dr Seuss’s thank-you letter to man who saved his first book


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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The Cat in the Hat author was going to destroy early story believing it was unsaleable

A grateful letter from Dr Seuss to the former college classmate who stopped The Cat in the Hat author from burning his first children’s book manuscript is set to be auctioned later this week.

Seuss, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel, was an advertising artist who had written his first tale for children, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, in 1936. It had been rejected by dozens of publishers when he bumped into Mike McClintock. As he writes in a 1957 letter to his old friend from Dartmouth College: “You picked me off Madison Ave with a manuscript that I was about to burn in my incinerator because nobody would buy it. And you not only told me how to put Mulberry Street together properly … (as you ...

‘We need to speak truth’: how does Kamala Harris’s 2020 book stack up?


This post is by Lloyd Green from Books | The Guardian


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The Truths We Hold joins books by Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in laying the groundwork for a presidential run

Our quadrennial marathon is on, and nothing says election season better than a campaign-ready memoir. Kamala Harris, who is running, and Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, who may well run, have each released a book to answer the make-or-break question: “Why are you running for president”, also known as WAYRFP. Make no mistake, coming up short in response can put an end to a candidacy.

Related: Who will run in 2020? The full list of Democrats vying to take on Trump

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‘We need to speak truth’: how does Kamala Harris’s 2020 book stack up?


This post is by Lloyd Green from Books | The Guardian


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The Truths We Hold joins books by Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in laying the groundwork for a presidential run

Our quadrennial marathon is on, and nothing says election season better than a campaign-ready memoir. Kamala Harris, who is running, and Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, who may well run, have each released a book to answer the make-or-break question: “Why are you running for president”, also known as WAYRFP. Make no mistake, coming up short in response can put an end to a candidacy.

Related: Who will run in 2020? The full list of Democrats vying to take on Trump

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Guillermo del Toro leads drive to save horror bookshop Dark Delicacies


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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Pan’s Labyrinth director joins Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow and other readers in crowdfunding rescue of ‘amazing quarter-century institution’

A horror bookshop in California has been saved from closure after a host of high-profile fans including Neil Gaiman, Guillermo del Toro and Cory Doctorow offered their support.

Dark Delicacies in Burbank, California, has been running since 1994, but co-owner Del Howison said the business had been put under enormous financial strain over the last few years, thanks to “skyrocket[ing]” rents. The store’s lease was up in May, and he and his wife Sue had “resigned ourselves to the fact that we would be forced to close, just shy of our 25th anniversary. We were heartbroken,” he wrote on GoFundMe, where he launched an appeal last week to raise $20,000 (£15,000) to move the shop to a new location around the corner.

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Porn, opioids and a freezer full of cigarettes: what one cleaner saw in America’s homes


This post is by Sian Cain from Books | The Guardian


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As a single parent caught in the welfare trap, Stephanie Land got the only job she could, tidying homes for the comfortably well-off. Now she has turned her experiences into an acclaimed new book

At first glance, it’s not immediately obvious that the toddler in the video I am watching is taking her first wobbly steps in a homeless shelter. Watching the tiny girl babble to her mother behind the camera, I am distracted by how spotless the floor looks. Yet in the eyes of Stephanie Land, the person who cleaned it, it was appalling: “Years of dirt were etched into the floor. No matter how hard I scrubbed, I could never get it clean.”

People such as Land are perhaps the biggest threat to the myth of the American Dream: someone who worked hard, yet found her very country pitted against her success. Her new book, Maid: ...

Team of Vipers review: Conway and Kelly bitten in loyalist tell-all


This post is by Lloyd Green from Books | The Guardian


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Cliff Sims criticises staffers including Sarah Sanders, who ‘didn’t press as hard as she could for the rock-bottom truth’

Cliff Sims, a former aide in Donald Trump’s White House, reportedly received a seven-figure advance for dishing dirt on his ex-boss. If Sims actually banked a million dollars, his agent deserves a round of props. As for Sims’ publishers, they may have overpaid.

Related: John Kelly shocked staff with speech 'hostile' to Trump, tell-all book reveals

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Stonewall defends ‘vital’ LGBT children’s books after spate of ban attempts


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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In the last week, separate moves in Canada and the US threatened to restrict young readers’ access to LGBT-themed illustrated stories

UK campaign group Stonewall has warned that children’s books depicting LGBT people are vital for the wellbeing of young people exploring their sexual orientation and gender identity, following a spate of attempts around the world to remove titles depicting gay or transgender characters from library shelves.

Earlier this week in Canada, the Ottawa Catholic School Board was reported to have pulled Raina Telgemeier’s acclaimed graphic novel Drama from the shelves of primary schools, moving it to middle and high schools where it would “more appropriately target 13+ students”. Aimed at children aged 10 and older, the book follows a girl who wants to help with her school play, and features a side story in which two boys kiss. It has proved controversial in the US in the past, with ...

Casey Gerald: ‘Trump may be the most American president we’ve ever had’


This post is by Nosheen Iqbal from Books | The Guardian


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From a traumatic childhood in Dallas to Yale, Harvard, Wall Street and beyond, the businessman and author exemplifies the American dream – the very myth his new book sets out to dismantle

Casey Gerald knew he was special from a young age. Not in a conceited or entitled way – being poor, black, gay, “a damn near orphan”, and from the wrong side of Dallas meant he would often be told otherwise – but special because his mother insisted he was. “And she was the most magical creature I ever knew,” he says, “like something from the movies.”

Gerald’s mother was, he later recognised, a manic depressive – “with big, crinkly, burnt-blond hair [that] made her look like a high-yellow Whitney Houston”. She left home and disappeared when he was 13. Some time before, Gerald’s football star father, the son of a renowned Texas preacher, became hooked on heroin ...

‘The drought is over’: mass expiration of US copyright sees books, film and art enter public domain


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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Legislation in 1998 extended copyright by 20 years, so this year marks the first time in two decades that the pool of freely available work has been added to

Robert Frost’s haunting little poem, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, entered the public domain in the US on 1 January alongside thousands of works, by authors from Agatha Christie to Virginia Woolf, in an unprecedented expiration of copyrights. Unprecedented because it has been 21 years since the last major expiration in the US: the passing of the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act added a further 20 years to existing copyrights, meaning that the swathe of 1922 works which passed into the public domain in 1998, after a 75-year copyright term, are only now being followed by works first published in the US in 1923.

“The drought is over,” proclaims Duke Law School’s Center for the Public ...

‘We’ve informed you’: New York Times defends running Alice Walker’s David Icke recommendation


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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After outrage, Book Review editor Pamela Paul says it would not edit authors’ answers and ‘the public deserves to know’ if they hold ‘dangerous or immoral beliefs’

The editor of the New York Times Book Review has stressed that the paper does “not issue a verdict on people’s opinions” following the “outrage” that ensued after it ran an interview with Alice Walker, in which she recommended a book by an author who has been accused of antisemitism.

Walker, the Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Color Purple, cited the controversial British writer David Icke’s And the Truth Shall Set You Free when asked by the New York Times which books were on her nightstand. “In Icke’s books there is the whole of existence, on this planet and several others, to think about,” said Walker. “A curious person’s dream come true.”

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‘Terrible times are coming’: the Holocaust diary that lay unread for 70 years


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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Jewish teenager Renia Spiegel was executed in Poland days after her 18th birthday. Decades after her diary resurfaced in America, it is finally set to read by the world

Seventy years after writing her final entry, the diary of Polish teenager Renia Spiegel, who has drawn comparisons to Anne Frank for her moving account of life as a Jew during the Nazi occupation of Poland and who was shot on the streets days after her 18th birthday, appeared in English this week for the first time.

Running to almost 700 pages, Spiegel’s diary begins in January 1939, when she was 15, and ends on the last day of her life, 30 July 1942, when she was executed by German soldiers. The last lines in the journal are written by her boyfriend, Zygmunt Schwarzer, who ended it with his account of her death and that of his parents: “Three shots! ...

Don DeLillo on Trump’s America: ‘I’m not sure the country is recoverable’


This post is by Xan Brooks from Books | The Guardian


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He has spent half a century dissecting America’s dreams and nightmares. Now the great novelist is imagining what his ‘deluged’ country will be like three years from today

Whenever he’s able to separate himself from the distractions of daily life, from family obligations and the rolling thunder of 24-hour news, Don DeLillo taps out a few pages of his latest book. He writes out of habit and because he’s in the grip of an idea that won’t let him rest. He’s constructing a story set around the next corner, in an America he may not live to see. Obliquely, unavoidably, he’s writing about Donald Trump.

Or as he puts it: “I’m working on a piece of fiction set three years in the future. But I’m not trying to imagine the future in the usual terms. I’m trying to imagine what has been torn apart and what can be put back ...

To Kill a Mockingbird voted top ‘Great American Read’ in US poll


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Millions of American readers voted Harper Lee’s renowned story about racism as their favourite novel in six-month PBS poll

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s renowned coming-of-age story about racism and injustice in the American south, was voted the US’s best-loved novel by millions of readers as part of a national poll.

The Pulitzer prize-winning book, first published in 1960, topped the US public service broadcaster PBS’s Great American Read survey, the results of which were announced on Tuesday. More than 4 million votes were cast in the six-month long poll.

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Full Disclosure by Stormy Daniels review – duck, Donald…


This post is by Peter Conrad from Books | The Guardian


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Daniels’s book reveals her to be a defiant survivor, with an eye for scabrous detail

“OK,” says the all-knowing Stormy Daniels halfway through her book, “so did you just skip to this chapter?” Yes, I did: she is well aware of a male tendency to climax prematurely. The chapter I read out of sequence chronicles her evening with Donald Trump after a California golf tournament in 2006 – three hours listening to his self-puffery, then a scant two minutes enduring “the least impressive sex I’ve ever had”.

Afterwards, Trump lavished praise on his own performance; Stormy shrugged “yeah”, meaning “whatever”, and fled. Quite apart from his clumsy kissing, his feeble attempt to talk dirty, his lack of finesse when astride her and the mess he made on her stomach by not rubbering up, he didn’t even provide the dinner he’d promised when he invited her.

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