John Updike

For centuries, biographers have relied on letters to bring historical figures to life, whether Gandhi or Catherine the Great. But as people switch from writing on paper to documenting their lives electronically, biographers are encountering new benefits - and new challenges.

Walter Isaacson's authorized biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is based on dozens of interviews. But one of the book's juiciest episodes comes from a string of emails from 2003. That's when Apple launched the iTunes music store. Right away, the company's rivals at Microsoft understood this could be a game changer.

Has J K Rowling has been "snubbed" by a rather dubious literary award? Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy" is not on the shortlist for the Literary Review's Bad Sex award. The "prize" is given to “draw attention to the crude, badly written, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it."

As per The Bookseller:

The judges said that after a “flood” of nominations they had considered Rowling’s book, but: “ultimately concluded that the book’s sins were venal compared with the competition."

—Brian Howard


The National Book Awards ceremony is getting the Oscars treatment, reports the New York Times. In addition to adding a red carpet, hiring a DJ and inviting celebs like, ahem, Molly Ringwald, the awards board appears to be making a push toward higher-profile nominees, noting, as per the report: “Fame or obscurity, small press or large, should have no bearing on your deliberations."

In addition, as per the Times' Leslie Kaufman, the finalists (Junot Díaz, Dave Eggers, Louise Erdrich, Ben Fountain and Kevin Powers) were announced on Morning Joe. —Brian Howard



Amid the arterial cacophony of northern Delaware, the city of New Castle is a quiet outpost of an earlier age. Cobblestone streets laid out during the 17th century offer fine dining, museums, river views and, every October for the last 15 years, Oak Knoll Fest, a celebration of the art of fine press bookmaking. Participants come from around the world to meet master printers, attend panel discussions and browse exhibits from artisans specializing in engraving, binding, papermaking and letterpress. The modern interstate jockey, stumbling upon the town and festival halfway to somewhere else on nearby I-95, might find him or herself disoriented, charmed and—let’s

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