Best Sellers in Religion

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I’m always fascinated by what other people are reading, especially on the topics of religion, theology, and philosophy.  Library Journal lists the best sellers in religion from April ‘09 to the present.  These are the top 10:

1) The Case for God
Armstrong, Karen
Alfred A. Knopf
2009. ISBN 0307269183 [9780307269188]. $27.95

2) Hindus: An Alternative History
Doniger, Wendy
Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA)
2009. ISBN 1594202052 [9781594202056]. $35

3) Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary
Rubin, Miri
Yale University Press
2009. ISBN 0300105002 [9780300105001]. $35

4) Religion and the American Presidency: George Washington to George W. Bush with Commentary and Primary Sources
Espinosa, Gaston
Columbia University Press
2009. ISBN 023114332X [9780231143325]. $89.50

5) Sin: A History
Anderson, Gary A.
Yale University Press
2009. ISBN 0300149891 [9780300149890]. $30

6) We Are All Moors: Ending Centuries of Crusades Against Muslims and Other Minorities
Majid, Anouar
University of Minnesota Press
2009. ISBN 0816660794 [9780816660797]. $24.95

7) iMuslims: Rewiring the House of Islam
Bunt, Gary R.
University of North Carolina Press
2009. ISBN 0807832588 [9780807832585]. $65

8) Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain
Hutton, Ronald
Yale University Press
2009. ISBN 0300144857 [9780300144857]. $45

9) The Evolution of God
Wright, Robert
Little, Brown
2009. ISBN 0316734918 [9780316734912]. $25.99

10) How To Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror
Aslan, Reza
Random House
2009. ISBN 1400066727 [9781400066728]. $26

Continue list . . .

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Free Apologetics E-Book Library

Chad at Truthbomb Apologetics has a very nice collection of links to free e-books on apologetics and related topics.  Familiar authors include Josh McDowell, R. C. Sproul, Alvin Plantinga, Francis Beckwith, Hume, Kant, and G. K. Chesterton.  A fine repository of helpful titles!

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Lewis on the Joy of Receiving Books in the Mail

How many of us can relate to this?  In a letter to his friend Arthur Greeves, C. S. Lewis wrote,

I quite agree with what you say about buying books, and love the planning and scheming beforehand, and if they come by post, finding the neat little parcel waiting for you on the hall table and rushing upstairs to open it in the privacy of your own room. (Letters of C. S. Lewis, edited by W. H. Lewis, p. 27)

(Via Addenda & Errata)

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Creating a Plot for Your Novel

Daily Writing Tips shares some helpful hints for creating a plot for your fiction work.  The author makes a good point about the interplay between plot and character development, which meld together to carry the story.

Sterlin writes:

My girlfriend says plots are “a dime a dozen,” but I feel different. I am trying to write my story and I am loaded with themes, but no plot, nothing to drive the themes or story. Can you offer any tips or techniques for devising a plot?

In one sense the girlfriend is correct. The writing section of any library houses dozens of books offering ready-made plots.

One plot seems to be enough for many action stories: The hero is attempting to stop an assassination or foil plans to destroy the world. Reversals and disasters occur at predictable intervals before the action-packed climax and spectacular successful outcome.

There’s nothing wrong with stories like that. We all enjoy them, especially as movies, but they’re not especially memorable. If your ambition is to write a novel that will linger in the reader’s mind after the last page, plotting requires a less mechanical approach.

Many writing teachers describe plot as the “skeleton” of the novel, but I don’t think that’s quite the right metaphor.

Picturing plot as skeleton suggests that the other elements of the novel can be hung on it or peeled off. I think that creating the right plot involves combining character and story in such a way that the result is a fused whole. Plot, character, story, theme and setting should bond with one another like the molecules in vulcanized rubber.

What tips or techniques have I to offer? Only what I’m doing myself as I begin my newest fiction project:

1. Read one of the many books about plot, for example 20 Master Plots and how to build them by Ronald B. Tobias.

2. Describe the story you plan to write in one sentence. If you can’t say what your book is about in one sentence, you don’t have a clear enough idea of what you’re trying to do.

3. Decide what the main character wants more than anything else in life. The plot will grow out of this desire.

3. Write a character description of the protagonist that includes appearance, likes, dislikes, fears, childhood trauma, occupation, etc. Plot is behavior. The kind of experiences your character has had in the past will determine how he behaves in the future. What he fears will affect his actions. Plot grows from character.

4. Make a timeline for the events of the novel. This will give your plot anchor points.

5. Make a map that shows where all the action will take place. This will help you gauge distances and figure the length of time necessary to move your characters from one place to another.

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2009 Denver Christian Retail Show (ICRS)

For those who follow Christian publishing, some news about ICRS  (International Christian Retail Show) 2009, held July 12-15 in Denver.

Publishers Weekly reported,

A lot of cards got exchanged as people got down to business at the 60th annual show for the Christian publishing and retail industry, despite a 20% drop in attendance from 2008. Professionals (non-exhibitors) in attendance numbered 1,903; international attendees from 56 countries totaled 534, down 28% from last year.

Next year ICRS will be held June 27-30 in St. Louis. [CBA president Bill] Anderson said the Midwestern location would make it more accessible for a majority of Christian retailers; he also estimated that 40 to 50 companies not at this year’s show would attend next year; this year’s dates conflicted with a gift show in Atlanta. And at least one publisher exhibitor plans to increase space next year. “We are planning our biggest year ever in 2010 and will need a larger presence to showcase our upcoming products,” Rolf Zettersten, publisher at FaithWords, told PW in a post-show e-mail. “The Denver show was a positive experience and encourages me about the future.

For authors and potential authors, these observations by literary agent Rachelle Gardner are informative:

– In fiction, regardless of genre, almost every editor told me they’re looking for strong female protagonists. This is particularly true in historical and historical romance. No wimpy women!

– Also in fiction, they seem to want characters in interesting locations and unique occupations that will add to the story.

– In non-fiction, the platform issue is important to all publishers but they don’t all treat it the same. Some look at platform as the primary consideration; others are more willing to consider an author with a beginning platform if they have a terrific concept and great writing.

– In fiction and non-fiction, many publishers are actively looking to publish more “fresh voices” which means new authors.

– It looks like the CBA is finally opening up to more memoir (catching up with the general market). I had great response to a couple of the memoirs I’m representing, which makes me really happy because I love memoir!

– While the ICRS show (like BEA) is shrinking, the atmosphere seemed really positive across the board. All the publishers I met with are eager to see new projects. While they seem to be acquiring slightly fewer projects than, say, two years ago, they’re still excited about whatever’s next.

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7 Ways to Market Your Book (or Build a Platform)

Novels
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Unless you’re a successful author who can sell thousands of copies of a book, most publishers won’t invest a great deal in marketing your work.  As Writer’s Digest points out,

In general, publishers spend less than $2,000 on 85 percent of their titles—and that won’t even make a dent in getting the word out about your book.

So as a new or even mid-level author, it’s essential for you to take an active role in marketing your book.  Writer’s Digest lists the following seven ways to take the bull by the horns and get the word out about your magnum opus.  (If you have a book in progress or you’re thinking of starting one, most of these elements also apply to building a platform before your book is published.  Having a platform makes your manuscript more attractive as publishers consider its sales potential.)

1. CREATE A STRONG WRITER’S WEBSITE (MANDATORY) AND BLOG (OPTIONAL).

2. GET INVOLVED WITH SOCIAL NETWORKING.

3. CREATE A VIDEO TRAILER FOR YOUR BOOK AND GET IT IN FRONT OF YOUR READERS.

4. DO A BLOG TOUR.

5. GET REVIEWS OF YOUR BOOKS POSTED ONLINE.

6. PODCAST.

7. BECOME A COMMENTER.

See the article for the details and helpful links for each category.

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Why We Read

summer reading
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The L.A. Times has an interesting collection of quotes by authors and journalists on why we read.  I still resonate with the proposal from the movie Shadowlands:  We read to know we’re not alone.

A sampling:

There’s a book I don’t remember well, though I can remember precisely where I found it in my elementary school library — three yards to the right of the door, in the middle of the third shelf from the floor.

I was, and remain, a compulsive reader. Back then, I read on the school bus, at the bus stop in the cold, at the dinner table, beneath the sheets and for hours sometimes in the only room with a door that locked, the bathroom, despite my sister’s pounding. This book was about a solitary little boy who, as I did, had a nervous habit of tapping everything he touched, and counting the combinations of taps. One day, he tapped a wall of stone. A door appeared. Behind it was a different world, not better really, but brighter and less dull. I read for the same reason that he tapped: to look for doors, to push through walls.

— Ben Ehrenreich is the author of the novel “The Suitors.”

Confession: I am an abuser of books. I break their spines; I underline passages with felt-tip pen. Once, on vacation, I actually dropped Joyce Maynard’s delectable “Where Love Goes” — a beach-book “Anna Karenina” that I like to re-read every three years — into the Jacuzzi. For my books, it’s spring break at Ft. Lauderdale and they’re scared. This is all to the horror of a fusty male friend who keeps his British first editions in a humidity-controlled room, as though they were wine. I see now, though, that my 7- and 8-year-old daughters have caught their mother’s bad habit. Across the back seat of our filthy wagon are capsized or spread-eagled “Goosebumps,” Jenny B. Joneses, “Beastmasters.” They are smeared in juice and Cheetos, and, to my horror recently, I saw this terrifying pink thing called “The Puppies of Princess Place” covered in ants. But, as my girls pointed out, ants like a good read too. Indeed.

— Sandra Tsing Loh is the author of “Mother on Fire.”

When I was a kid, the greatest thing about reading was that it made the world so much more sympathetic. The bully around the corner, the mouthy girl in class, the recluse nobody talked to — I understood them all as composites of characters who lived in the stories of Louisa May Alcott, Beverly Cleary, Charles Dickens, Norman Juster, Aesop, the brothers Grimm. Every two weeks, my mother took me to a library to stock up on a new set of books, and I looked forward to those visits the way I looked forward to parties or social engagements. The library was where I made my best friends.

There’s a genuine community of reading out there that transcends a lot of differences. Even if you’re into James Baldwin and somebody else is into William F. Buckley, you can always argue ideas. Curiosity and critical thinking put you in the same house, if not always the same room.

Much is made about the cultural relevance of books, about whether they speak to a child’s background or view of the world. I understand the concern. But books are ultimately about stimulating imagination and broadening a worldview. In my South-Central neighborhood, Dickens more than did the job.

— Erin Aubry Kaplan is a Los Angeles journalist.

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Free, Unabridged Textbooks Online

Image representing Flat World Knowledge as dep...
Image via CrunchBase

Flat World Knowledge is a new company that offers professional-quality textbooks that are free to read online.  They summarize their business as follows:

We preserve the best of the old – books by leading experts, rigorously reviewed and developed to the highest standards. Then we flip it all on its head.

Our books are free online. We offer convenient, low-cost choices for students – softcovers for under $30, audio books and chapters, self-print options, and more. Our books are open for instructors to modify and make their own (for their own course – not for anybody else’s). Our books are the hub of a social learning network where students learn from the book and each other.

Flat World Knowledge. Because great minds are evenly distributed. Great textbooks are not. Until Now.

Currently, the site has textbooks in the categories of Accounting and Tax, Communications, Economics, Finance, General Business, Information Systems, Management, and Marketing.


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C.S. Lewis Gets a New Look from HarperOne

In other C. S. Lewis news, Publishers Weekly reports that HarperOne,

the publisher of Lewis’s adult books since 2001 (of which they have sold 3.7 million copies), [has] decided to repackage the nine Lewis books it publishes to give them “a look that’s in keeping with the classic magisterial image of C.S. Lewis, but also to make it more contemporary,” according to Claudia Riemer Boutote, v-p and associate publisher of HarperOne. These nine books—including Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters and A Grief Observed—are widely considered to be among the major works of 20th-century Christian thought.

HarperOne redesigned both the paperback and hardcover editions of the books. The paperbacks of all nine books received a smooth, simplistic look featuring a black-and-white drawing for each title and a band with Lewis’s signature cutting across the cover. For the hardcovers—of The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, A Grief Observed and, for the first time, The Great Divorce—are all off-white, with the title in bold black letters, and Lewis’s name in gold foil; each features a small black icon. Boutote said, “I think this look has more of a cool factor than our previous look, and I think it’s more likely that young browsers who haven’t read Lewis before would just pick these books up.” HarperOne will also offer boxed sets of both the paper and hardcover editions, the latter of which will be available for Christmas, as well as a single-volume paperback edition of all nine books. The new editions went on sale on in early March.

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