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Book News: Authors Rip U.K. Ban On Sending Books To Prisoners

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright is defending the U.K.'s controversial policy that bans people from sending books and some other items to prisoners, following a ferocious backlash sparked by an op-ed published this weekend. "The notion we are banning books in prisons is complete nonsense," he said in a statement. "All prisoners can have up to 12 books in their cells at any one time, and all prisoners have access to the prison library. Under the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme, if prisoners engage with their rehabilitation and comply with the regime they can have greater access to funds to buy items including books." A Change.org petition started Monday has already gained more than 12,000 signatures, as well as support from prominent U.K. authors. Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, wrote on Monday: "Surely we can get every writer in the UK publicly opposed to this by tea time." Philip Pullman, author of The Golden Compass, called the move "one of the most disgusting, mean, vindictive acts of a barbaric government" in a comment to The Guardian, adding, "Words nearly fail me on this."
  • A new short story by National Book Award winner Louise Erdrich has, among other things, some very evocative descriptions of snoring: "The real snoring hit with abrupt ferocity. The orderly, mechanical regularity of the metalworking shop had been abandoned. Now it was more like a pack of wolves snarling over a kill. I closed my eyes. On my mental screen I saw lions driving the wolves — or hyenas, maybe — into the veld. On a hill overlooking the bloody feast, a baboon whooped."
  • The New York Public Library has teamed with Bookish, the website owned by ebook retailer Zola Books, to launch a book-recommending tool that uses an algorithm to suggest titles. "Discovering a new book is essential to further a love of reading, " Mary Lee Kennedy, the New York Public Library's Chief Library Officer, said in a statement. "Working with Bookish, the Library is able to offer our users with a unique resource that supports their interests and fosters the joy of discovery,"
  • The New York Timesprofiles author Leila Aboulela: "Ms. Aboulela, 49, now lives in Britain and her background makes it difficult to categorize her fiction: does she write primarily as an African, Arab or British writer who is Muslim? The compound modifier that many readers and critics have settled on to describe Ms. Aboulela's work is Sudanese-British, which leaves plenty of room for criticism in a world of relentless categorization. 'Sudan is not Arab enough for Arabs and not African enough for Africans,' she said, laughing at the thought."
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.