MAILING LIST: I just started a mailing list for my publishing company. Will mail out every 2 months and will include excerpts from my Robert’s Roundup columns and other random stuff. MASTADON: https://booktoot.club/@nagletx
Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited, and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint.NYP means “Name Your Price” (that’s an option on Smashwords and other booksellers). If you’d like to submit an ebook to me for review or mention in this column, see my instructions here.
My Personville Press has published two ebooks in the past 2 weeks: Boxes of Time by Jack Matthews and Pre-Pulitzer Poetry by Robert Hillyer. Yes, I’ve been working like a dog on those two ebooks for the last 3 months. For both books, I had to do a lot of editing and material selection. For both ebooks, the author’s had been doing lots of amazing things before their contributions were really recognized. I wrote a nice introduction to the Matthews book noting that Matthew’s trademark wit and satirical edge were missing in stories he wrote during this period of life. His stories were more earnest and melodramatic.
Perspicacious readers might notice that I rarely italicize book titles. This is just laziness, not a deliberate stylistic choice. I usually end italicizing everything in one fell swoop, but only after the month is over.
Also James the wonderful artist from GoOnWrite (who produced the cover for the Hillyer title and a future ebook of mine) designed a logo for Personville Press. Here it is:
Indie Author Spotlight
Under the Radar
Trotsky’s Sink: 98 Short Essays about Literature by Peter Nash and George Ovitt. 4.99 These are random and bloggy essay-reviews — not too formal, but the selection of books is amazing. Most of these originally appeared in a short-lived blog called Talented Reader.
Delighted to rediscover Rudolph Kerkhoven, a prolific Canadian who wrote several maze stories, one of which I had already read and finished (and enjoyed). I enjoyed/recommend Adventures of Whatley Tupper but never got around to reading the rest of the series and didn’t even know that he had written several others to boot. Apparently he’s gotten a sizable response to Most Boring Book Ever Written . He has written several conventional sci fi stories and today published The Sacrificed . which is on sale for 99 cents. Here’s his website, Amusingly he’s a high school math teacher and you can watch his trig and algebra tutorials on Youtube.
Light of Joy by Julie Morton.
Meet Me in Montana by Liz Gordon. Second chance romance.
21st century Prose (a series of prose fiction released by U of Michigan Press.
Blink and It’s Gone
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi. National Book winner about high school students at a performing arts school. Interestingly it takes place in Houston (modeled after HSPVA?) where Choi grew up.
Win Every Argument: The Art of Debating, Persuading, and Public Speaking by Mehdi Hasan.
MIND Diet by Maggie Moon. Diet book which spends more time talking about dementia than about the actual diet.
DASH Diet for Dummies by Sarah Samaan, Rosanne Rust and Cindy Kleckner. I normally don’t go for the Dummies series, but this book is pretty great and written by doctors. Recommended.
On Animals by Susan Orlean. New Yorkeresque long form essays about everyday animals. Wow, I thought I had already bought another essay collection by Orlean, but I was wrong.
A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke.
Glad News of the Natural World by T.R. Pearson. This is a sequel to his widely beloved A Short History of a Small Place. Pearson is a North Carolina based author who also dabbles in mysteries and crime fiction under the name Rick Gavin. Here’s his Wiki page and a TV profile of the author
Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty. (National Book Award winner).
Thinking: The New Science of Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, and Prediction in Life and Markets (Best of Edge Series). Edited by John Brockman. I enjoy the Edge discussion series. Here are some highlights from social scientists who gave a talk at one such conference.
His Name Is George Floyd (Pulitzer Prize Winner): One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa. $1.99 This terrific book looks not so much at the tragedy of his death — but the totality of his life — how he grew up, his family, etc. Two prize-winning journalists try to tell Floyd’s personal story, and what it reveals about our society.
Never Pay the First Bill and other ways to fight the health care system and win by Marshall Allen. Longtime ProPublica reporter dispenses practical advice about how to deal with the mess that is the US health care system.
Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse by David Goulson. I care immensely about the biodiversity problem, and this reports on how it’s affecting the insect world.
How to Stand Up to a Dictator by Maria A. Ressa (Nobel Prize winner from the Philippines). Fun fact: Ressa was born in the Philippines, but grew up in NJ and even attended Princeton!
Library Purchases/Printed books
Oxford Book of American Poetry, Edited by David Lehman. I browsed through this enormous book at the library and realized that I really liked it despite its heft. Not cheap, but used print copies are available.
Ten Years in the Tub by Nick Hornby. I don’t think I had ever read one of Hornby’s novels, but this longish reading diary (available only in printed edition) was fun to read. I call it “free association book talk” rather than genuine literary criticism.
Fortitude: D-Day Deception Campaign by Roger Hesketh. Apparently this book is the definitive source for all things about the campaign to deceive the Nazis about when D-Day was coming.
Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics. Edited by Bill Blackbeard. 1977 collection of really really old comics in an oversized book. Only contains a few examples of each strip, mostly dailies, but the earliest seem to be for magazines.
Yellow House (Memoir) by Sarah M. Broom.
Literary Articles and Essays
Here’s a tribute I wrote for my favorite literature prof Colleen Grissom. Wow, Trinity U. posted a great obituary for the woman, and so did Houston journalist Andrew Dansby.
Paul March-Russell wrote a listicle about the best books by Arthur C. Clarke with lots of titles I haven’t heard of. (I ended up buying A Fall of Moondust which was on sale).
Here’s what I wrote in response to a request for how to read good criticism.
One of the problems is that mainstream outlets that do publish decent criticism (Slate, New Yorker, New Republic, NYROB, Salon, the Nation, etc) end up publishing it about mainstream books by the Big 5 or academic books (something NYROB seems to do a lot of). NPR books is better than most of them though in covering some forgotten works, especially poetry.
I love Midwest Book Review if only because what it covers is so wide. Also, there’s a ton of people on blogs and substack. I think probably the most interesting crit is coming from the essays on the annotated book lists on fivebooks.com . Social media can have a high level of discussion as long as you find the right conversation to drop into.
Aha, here’s a great link. Critical Notes contains links to book reviews by members of the National Book Critics Circle. (Silly me, I totally forgot to keep up with them). There’s even a mailing list which I presume will email the latest blogpost.
Finally, I think lithub.com goes for the latest flavor of the month from the Big 5 (I think it’s run by the Atlantic) , but the comment section is great and polite. Speaking of which, NYT book coverage is what it is, but their comment section is phenomenal — probably more interesting than the essays themselves.
Capsule Book Reviews
Personville Press Deals
I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. Prices normally appear highest on Amazon, Apple, Kobo and BN, somewhat lower on Google Play Books and lower on the two DRM-free stores which are Smashwords and Payhip. Personville Press is committed to selling DRM-free ebooks and audio files directly from the Personville Press payhip store or from Smashwords. The prices listed here are the non-discounted price on Amazon. Check the links to see if they are discounted at the moment (it happens often).
- Existential Smut 1: Youthful Indiscretions by Hapax Legomenon. These artsy erotica stories are published on one of Personville Press’s imprints (Ripe Mango Take Two Press). You can buy it on Payhip | Eden Books | Kobo |Google
- Boxes of Time (Stories) by Jack Matthews. 2.99 Stories about messy emotions, troubled families and damaged personalities. 11th Story Collection. Payhip | Google | Kobo |Smashwords | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Apple | BN
- Minor Sketches and Reveries by Alberto Balengo. ($2) Introspective tales involving animals, allegories and the melodrama of everyday life. Payhip | Amazon | Smashwords |Google | BN | Apple | Kobo.
- My Heart For Hostage by Robert S. Hillyer. This tender love story between a young American lieutenant and a French girl in Paris after the first World War was published by poet (and Pulitzer Prize winner) Robert Hillyer in 1942. Out of print for several decades, this novel will be re-released for the first time as a low-cost ebook. A New York Times critic called it a “superbly written book, written perhaps as only a poet with and expert in the discipline of verse could write it.” Includes a critical essay by Robert Nagle. Free download from the publisher’s site, but also available at a nominal price from ebook stores: Payhip | Smashwords | Google Play | BN | Apple | Kobo | Amazon | Amazon UK. You can also read the whole thing online!
- Pre-Pulitzer Poetry by Robert Hillyer. This new poetry collection contains six of Hillyer’s pre-Pulitzer books in their entirety, including a longer narrative poem (Carmus) that is a haunting fairy tale for adults. Amazon US || Amazon UK | Amazon CN || Amazon AUS || Amazon IN || Google Play || Smashwords || Payhip
- Second Death of E.A. Poe and other Stories by Jack Matthews. $2.99. Did Edgar Allen Poe fake his death? That’s what a Baltimore doctor needs to figure out in the title tale for this 11th story collection. Payhip| Smashwords | Google Play |BN | Apple | Kobo | Amazon US | Amazon UK |
- Interview with the Sphinx. By Jack Matthews. ($1.50). Hyperintellectual Tom Stoppard-like play which reads like a novel about a strange interview with the ancient Sphinx character. Freud and Florence Nightingale show up too. I loved this play and even produced an audio version of it which you can buy for $2 on payhip (mp3/m4a) but the script reads well too. The audio book is available from most audiobook streaming services like |Audible $6 | Apple $3 | Google Play $3 |
- A Worker’s Writebook by Jack Matthews . $2.25 Matthews distributed a photocopied version of this writing guide to his Ohio U. creative writing students over the decades.
- Soldier Boys: Tales of the Civil War by Jack Matthews. $1.50 Philosophical Stories Taking place during the US Civil War.
- Abruptions: 3 Minute Stories to Awaken the Mind by Jack Matthews. Flash Fiction. $2.25
- Hanger Stout, Awake (50th Anniversary Edition). by Jack Matthews. Coming of age novel. $3.00
- Three Times Time Story Sampler by Jack Matthews (Always Free!) US Amazon customers can sometimes get it for free, but to make things easier, you can down these files directly without having to register: Epub, Mobi.