If someone approaches you with a book today, take it. That's because it's World Book Night -- which, to be accurate, takes place all day long. It's a massive international book giveaway that this year is making its U.S. debut.
The idea behind World Book Night is that devoted readers are great proselytizers. Each is asked to distribute 20 copies of a book they like or love, for free, to strangers or acquaintances who are unlikely readers. With the power of the giver's enthusiastic endorsement and the free book in hand, the recipient is, hopefully, converted into a book-reading and -buying junkie who craves more.
Really, is a book junkie such a terrible thing?
In Britain, the scheme has worked. World Book Night sparked a boost in book sales in 2011. That's probably why publishers have signed on to participate in this year's first American giveaway -- and bookstores have too. Some local participating bookstores include Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach, Diesel in Brentwood, and Los Feliz's Skylight Books. The best places to find the free books might be in the neighborhoods where readers who shop there spend their free time.
There are 30 titles being given away for free today, in various genres, for various age groups, award-winners and bestsellers, in fiction and nonfiction. One book, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," is being distributed in English and Spanish. The complete book list is after the jump.
Food for the gut and for the ears: Gustavo Arellano explores the popularity of Mexican cuisine in his latest book "Taco U.S.A." while Ken Caillat gives readers a glimpse into the studio when Fleetwood Mac recorded the classic 1977 album "Rumours." Both authors discuss their books at Southland events this week.
No interest in the success story behind ballpark nachos? Or who argued during the recording of "You Make Lovin' Fun"? Want something more serious?
Far more sober fare will be served Tuesday night when religion scholar Jack Miles sits down with Marxist theorist Slavoj Zizek and theologian Boris Gunjevic to discuss their new book "God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse" as part of the L.A. Central Library's "Aloud" series.
Zizek and Gunjevic are interested in examining the nature of Christian fundamentalism, what Islam says about religious belief, and the contradictory impulses troubling some atheists, as Zizek explains:
The modern atheist thinks he knows that God is dead; what he doesn't know is that, unconsciously, he continues to believe in God. What characterizes modernity is no longer the standard figure of the believer who secretly harbors intimate doubts about his belief and engages in transgressive fantasies. What we have today is a subject who presents himself as a tolerant hedonist dedicated to the pursuit of happiness, but whose unconscious is the site of prohibitions -- what is repressed are not illicit desires or pleasures, but prohibitions themselves.
It's a discussion far more daunting than the evolution of tacos, to be sure, but Miles is a formidable scholar with a knack for clarity and just the right person to helm this conversation.
Also in town this week are Carol Higgins Clark, Christopher Moore and A.J. Jacobs, among others. As always, we recommend that you check with the bookstore or venue for any time or event changes.
4/24 7 p.m. Vroman’s presents Julia Alvarez discusses and signs "A Wedding in Haiti" at All Saints Church in Pasadena.
4/24 7 p.m. Hammer Readings presents "New American Writing" featuring Aimee Bender and Etgar Keret at UCLA's Hammer Museum.
4/24 7 p.m. Carol Higgins Clark signs and discusses “Gypped” at Book Soup.
4/24 7 p.m. The Aloud Series at the Central Library in Los Angeles presents Slavoj Zizek and Boris Gunjevic ("God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse") in conversation with Jack Miles, distinguished professor of english and religious studies at UC Irvine.
4/25 7 p.m. Gustavo Arellano presents and signs “Taco U.S.A.” at Book Soup.
4/25 7 p.m. A.J. Jacobs discusses and signs "Drop Dead Healthy" at Vroman’s.
4/26 6 p.m. Ree Drummond presents and signs "The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier" at Vroman’s.
4/26 7 p.m. The Aloud Series at the Central Library in Los Angeles presents Javier Sicilia -- "Poetics of Protest: Giving Voice to Mexico's Movement for Peace" -- in conversation with Ruben Martinez, author and professor at Loyola Marymount University, with translation by Betto Arcos.
4/26 7 p.m. Ken Caillat presents and signs “Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album” at Book Soup.
4/26 7:30 p.m. Writers Bloc presents Arab Israeli author Sayed Kashua in conversation with UCLA professor Arieh Saposnik.
4/27 6 p.m. Willard Poetry Recital & Art Exhibit at Vroman’s.
4/27 7:30 p.m. Zocalo Public Square presents "What Will Digital Medicine Look Like?" a lecture by The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care").
4/28 Christopher Moore discusses and signs "Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art" at Vroman’s.
In a lot of ways, Sunday's Festival of Books panel "Los Angeles, 20 Years After the Verdict," was a sequel to Saturday's interview by Patt Morrison with Rodney King, whose beating by L.A. police officers 21 years ago was the first in a series of steps that culminated in the 1992 riots.
And in another sense, the panel was a reunion for some of the players in that tragic moment in Los Angeles history.
Moderator Warren Olney, now a KCRW radio host, was a Los Angeles TV reporter at the time. He was joined by Jim Newton, L.A. Times columnist and editor at large, who was covering the Los Angeles Police Department for the L.A. Times when the riots began.
Connie Rice was a civil rights activist and lawyer, and later a co-founder of The Advancement Project, and the recent author of "Power Concedes Nothing: One Woman's Quest for Social Justice in America, From the Kill Zones to the Courts." The fourth panelist was Gil Garcetti, who at the time was mounting a campaign for Los Angeles County district attorney.
One aspect of Los Angeles hasn't changed in the 20 years since the 1992 riots: Traffic tie-ups. Rodney King, whose March 1991 beating by L.A. police officers was the first link in the chain of events that culminated in the 1992 riots, was a half-hour late Saturday for his interview with Times columnist Patt Morrison.
So, in a sense, the session ran in reverse. With Morrison, who also anchors a radio show on KPCC, as the moderator, Angelenos spent a half-hour talking about their own experiences during and after the riots as they awaited King's arrival. The general consensus: The LAPD has changed for the better, but the socio-economic conditions that set the stage for the riots have worsened. And the racial divides are still chasms.
"I'm surprised at how white we are here," said one white woman, looking around at the crowd of more than 500 people in a basement auditorium at USC's Ronald Tutor Campus Center, about four miles north of where the riots began near South Central's Normandie and Florence Avenues. The woman said she lived in South Central, in a neighborhood in which she is the rare white resident. "The riots can certainly start again, until we have socio-economic changes, and in how we view other people."
King, for his part, arrived out of breath, and spoke of forgiveness for the officers involved in his videotaped beating after a high-speed chase. With his history of substance abuse, he said, he has been in need of some forgiveness. "I am a forgiving man," he said. "That's how I was raised, to be in a forgiving state of mind. I have been forgiven many times. I am only human. Who am I not to forgive someone?"
The 2012 Festival of Books is almost upon us: Panel sessions get started Saturday at 10 a.m. Before that happens, though, the Los Angeles Times' Book Prizes will be presented Friday night at USC's Bovard Auditorium. There are a number of ways to get prepared.
Want to attend the Book Prizes event? For the first time in a while, you can. Prizes will be awarded in 10 categories: biography, current interest, fiction, poetry, first fiction, graphic novel, science and technology, mystery/thriller, and young adult literature, with special awards being given to Rudulfo Anaya and the collaborative teen-writing project Figment. Tickets are $10 and available until 5 p.m. via Evenbrite; the Book Prize ceremony begins at 7:30 p.m.
Can't come? Follow the official @LATimesbooksTwitter feed for news of the award winners as they are announced. I'll be working the feed's levers, so keep an eye out for behind-the-scenes photos and whatever insights I might be able to share -- if, say, for example, I find an ice-cream truck -- throughout the entire festival. (For the occasional aside -- if, say, I eat too much ice cream -- you can follow me @paperhaus.)
Have you gotten panel tickets yet? The Festival of Books is presenting more than 100 panels and with more than 400 authors. Entry is free, but you can reserve tickets online with a $1 (each) processing fee in advance. Getting in line at the day of the festival usually works just fine, but some panels have already sold out.
Of course, there are lots of events that do not require tickets, including hundreds of booths with books, book-related activities and organizations, poetry readings, a food court, and celebrities at the L.A. Times Stage. You might want to arrive early to get a front-row seat to see John Cusack talk about "The Raven," the upcoming movie in which he plays Edgar Allan Poe, Saturday at 2:30 p.m., or for Sunday at 1:20 p.m., when Betty White talks about being Betty White -- her book is "Betty and Friends: My Life at the Zoo."
Of course, the festival has its own Twitter feed, @latimesfob, which is staffed by the event organizers who are helpful and knowledgeable. Follow to learn about sold-out panels, scheduling changes or any other need-to-know tidbits.
Among the most common questions festival-goers have are, "Where is this panel I'm trying to find?" and "Where is the food court?" No need to ask if you're carrying a smartphone. For the second year in a row, the Festival of Books has a free app, for both iPhone and Android. If you downloaded last year's, it will just update. This year's app has even more features than last year's, including a social media tool to share your photos in a Facebook album and includes a super-handy scheduling tool.
If for some reason you can't make it to USC but want to keep up with the festival as it happens Saturday and Sunday, check in right here on Jacket Copy.
Some new parents have more than just the usual parenting titles on their shelves; there’s a good chance that they also have Anne Lamott’s memoir of motherhood, “Operating Instructions.” That candid little record of her experiences with her baby son Sam has been a reassuring companion for many people in those wondrous, stress-filled early days of life with a baby.
Her new book, “Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son,” which Times book critic David L. Ulin wrote about recently, now continues the story as she watches Sam cope with first-time parenthood. Lamott visits the L.A. area this week with a book signing and discussion about "Some Assembly Required" sponsored by Vroman’s Bookstore and held at All Saints Church in Pasadena. See below.
Other highlights of the week also include an appearance by former Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson at Skylight Books in Los Angeles to discuss his elegy to Kurt Cobain "Letters to Kurt," a lecture and discussion of the art of biography at the Huntington Library in San Marino and a visit by poet Glyn Maxwell, who reads his work as part of UCLA’s Hammer Reading series.
A novelist as well as an award-winning poet, Maxwell is a master of understatement who's well worth hearing in person. What kind of "master of understatement" is he? Just consider, for example, the way he puts the poet’s mighty, lofty vocation into the following humble terms in his poem "Tale of the Mayor's Son":
will pile up in my world, and someone’s hat
will find its way to me and I will wear it.
For event times and dates, as always, check directly with bookstores and other venues in case of any changes or cancellations.
3/26 7 p.m. Joe R. Lansdale signs "Edge of Dark Water" (hardback) and "Devil Red" (paperback) at Dark Delicacies.
3/26: 7 p.m. Friends of the Signal Hill Library presents a macabre double bill with a talk and signing by Kenneth McKenzie (co-author of “Mortuary Confidential”) and Steve Goldstein (“L.A.’s Graveside Companion”) at the Signal Hill Park Community Center.
Passes to attend the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, taking place April 21 and 22, go on sale today at 10 a.m. While the event is free, enthusiasts who want to reserve tickets to see their favorite authors, purchase valet parking, and get a discount on tickets to the L.A. Times Book Prizes can do so by buying the $30 panel pass. Panel passes can be purchased through the Festival of Books website.
The Festival of Books is the nation's largest book fair, with more than 500 authors participating. Noted writers scheduled to appear include children's book author Judy Blume, bestselling novelist T.C. Boyle, mystery writer Robert Crais, and young adult author John Green. A complete list of authors who will be coming to the festival is now online.
Times columnist Patt Morrison will interview Rodney King about his forthcoming memoir, “The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion to Redemption,” written with Lawrence J. Spagnola. The acquittal of the four police officers charged in King's videotaped beating sparked the L.A. riots 20 years ago. Talking about the civil unrest, and the change it brought to the city, will be radio host Warren Olney, civil rights attorney Connie Rice, former L.A. Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, and Times' editor-at-large Jim Newton.
Those who purchase panel passes can select up to eight conversations and panels for which they'll be ensured entry. The ticketed events take place in various buildings across the campus of the University of Southern California, including the historic Bovard Hall. This is the second year that the Festival of Books will take place at USC.
Pass-holders will also get a free copy of the festival poster, designed by illustrator Bob Staake, and access to purchase tickets to the L.A. Times book prizes on April 20 for half the regular $10 ticket price. Valet parking tickets will be available to pass-holders for $30.
Celebrities appearing at the festival's stages, which don’t require tickets, include Julie Andrews, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Florence Henderson, Ricki Lake, Sugar Ray Leonard, Henry Winkler, Michael Ian Black, and John Cusack, who portrays Edgar Allan Poe in the upcoming film “The Raven.”
Joan Didion, who was scheduled to appear April 14 at UCLA Live, has canceled her visit, it was announced Tuesday. In an email, UCLA Live wrote that the cancellation was "due to injury."
[Updated, 5:30 p.m. March 20: Her publisher, Knopf, has confirmed that Didion fractured her patella. She was at lunch and "banged her leg," said Paul Bogaards, Knopf's executive director of publicity and marketing. She is wearing a brace and was advised by her doctor to take it easy.]
Didion's nonfiction writing includes the National Book Award-winning "The Year of Magical Thinking," 2011's "Blue Nights," and the seminal essay collections "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" and "The White Album." Her novels include "Play It As It Lays," set it in Los Angeles, and "Run, River," set near her hometown, Sacramento. Didion, 77, lives in New York.
In February of last year, Didion broke her collarbone in a fall, canceling a speaking appearance in Minnesota. "Maybe if I hadn't made myself so tired, I would have not gotten so physically worn down," she told David Ulin in October, discussing the stresses -- and necessity -- of going on a book tour:
I've been trying to fight my way through this because of the book tour. I don't actually want to do the book tour, because it's tiring and ... it's a book tour. Then I keep thinking: If you didn't go on the book tour, you would have failed, and so this question of doing the thing -- going to the airport, getting on the airplane, going to Toronto, where you don't want to go ever in your whole life -- is on some level necessary. Otherwise you have failed yourself.
UCLA Live ticket holders are instructed to seek refunds from their point of purchase.
Update: information about Didion's injury has been added.
With his sword and black mask, the dashing outlaw known as Zorro has become a part of Southern California's fictionalized history ever since appearing in a pulp magazine story in 1919. He's a romantic Robin Hood-like figure who has inspired numerous movies and books, including Isabel Allende's novel "Zorro."
Allende visits Southern California this week to discuss her book as part of Long Beach Reads One Book, an annual event sponsored by the Long Beach Public Library Foundation. Allende's visit is a highlight of this year's focus on "Zorro," but the program offers many other events (see the foundation website and other events listed below) as well.
Other highlights of this week's author events in L.A. include appearances by U.S. ice skater Kristi Yamaguchi, poet Lewis MacAdams and novelist Mark Salzman.
As always, check bookstores and organizations for any venue or time changes to the events listed below.
Mon. March 19: 11 a.m. Kristi Yamaguchi presents and signs “It’s a Big World, Little Pig!” at Vroman’s.
Mon. March 19: 5 p.m. John Gertz, president and chief executive of Zorro Productions Inc., presents a viewing of his production “The Legend of Zorro” (starring Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones) and a discussion as part of the Long Beach Public Library Foundation’s Long Beach Reads One Book series celebrating Allende’s novel “Zorro.” The screening will be at CSULB, William Link Theatre (UT-108), 7th St. and East University Dr.
Mon. March 19: 7 p.m. Lüc Carl discusses and signs “The Drunk Diet: How I Lost 40 Pounds ... Wasted: A Memoir” at Book Soup.
Mon. March 19: 7:30 p.m. “Mothers (and a Dad) Who Write” features Gayle Brandeis, Samantha Dunn, Leslie Schwartz and Susan Straight with moderator Antoine Wilson at Skylight Books.
Tue. March 20: 7 p.m. James Scurlock discusses and signs “King Larry” at Vroman’s.
Tue. March 20: 7 p.m. Joshua Knelman discusses and signs “Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art” at Book Soup.
Tue. March 20: 7 p.m. The Times' editor at large Jim Newton discusses his book “Eisenhower: The White House Years” with A. Scott Berg as part of the Aloud Series at the Los Angeles Central Library.
Tue. March 20: 7:30 p.m. Jorja Leap discusses and signs her book “Jumped In: What Gangs Taught Me About Violence, Drugs, Love and Redemption” at Skylight Books.
Tue. March 20: 7:30 p.m. “Who Says L.A. Has No Culture?” Slate critics Dana Stevens and Stephen Metcalf, and Julia Turner talk with with "30 Rock" and "The Hunger Games" actress Elizabeth Banks as part of a Slate/Zocalo Public Square event.
What can you expect from Jonathan Safran Foer's event in the Los Angeles area tonight? Something like his appearance on "The Colbert Report," maybe, but without Stephen Colbert asking, "So you think you can improve on Moses?"
Instead, it will be the L.A. Times' David L. Ulin asking Foer about "The New American Haggadah." That's the book that tells the story of Passover, which Foer has edited in a new edition, translated by novelist Nathan Englander. It includes essays and commentary by Jeffrey Goldberg and Lemony Snicket (a.k.a. Daniel Handler) and other contemporary Jewish American writers.
Presented by Writers Bloc, the event will be held at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills. Tickets are $20.