Birmingham Book Events


Hope your Summer was a good one! I was able to take a sizable notch out of Mount TBR which feels good. I also got to visit a few new-to-me bookstores which I’ll have to share. But up first, what book events are happening in and around Birmingham, AL that you – the ever alert book lover – might enjoy?

Here are three local book events that you may want to add to your calendar:

August 20th at 7 p.m. – prolific thriller novelist James Rollins will be at Books-A-Million at Brookwood Mall signing copies of his novel The 6th Extinction. James Rollins appearance is also in support of his veterans-support efforts. You can read more about this here.

August 23rd from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. – author S.L. Duncan will be at Little Professor Bookstore in Homewood signing his debut novel The Revelation of Gabriel Adam. This book is a YA novel and you can keep up with Duncan on Twitter as well.

August 25th at 4 p.m. - author Michael Pitre will be at Alabama Booksmith signing his new novel Fives and Twenty-Fives.

book sale feature

Book Sale Hoover Library

This weekend there is a massive used-book sale at the Hoover Library. Looks like hardback books will be $1 a piece and paperbacks will run cheaper. Definitely worth checking out.

The sale will be open on Saturday, June 21st, 10:00 a.m–5:30 p.m. and then open again on Sunday, June 22nd, 2:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m.

used book sale

The sale will take place at the Plaza near the Friends of the Hoover Library Bookstore. But be sure while you are there to check out the “extra book room” downstairs. This room is usually full and the books found here are all for sale and always $1. But this weekend it sounds like the $1 fun is spread out through all of their books.


Stephen King’s Money (kind of)

One of my favorite new-to-me blogs is Emily Schultz’s Spending the Stephen King Money, where she is journaling what she buys with the money she makes every time a Stephen King fan accidentally buys her book.  You see Schultz’s book Joyland came out almost 9 years ago and in 2013 Stephen King released a book titled Joyland as well.


King’s book is not available in eBook, but anxious Stephen King fans searched online stores and clicked on the first Joyland title they saw… which was Schultz’s. Whether it was their error or not, a disappointed rabid fan is an irate rabid fan. So after weathering the trolls Schultz decided to have fun with it all and air everything she does with the money she makes. Plus, she weighs in trying to figure out if Stephen would like the purchase.

So check out what Emily Schultz is buying. It is shaping up like she will be having a really fun time with it. It’s just one of those things that reminds us how quirky, weird and fun the book world is.


Cool Book Discussion Event

They are calling it a “Book Hangout with Carrie and Cal“. What it is though is cool! No doubt about it.

Basically you buy a $10 ticket to get in the door at 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 24th. You get eats, coffee and a $10 coupon towards a book. No real loss here is there? But you get to spend that $10 on a book AFTER you’ve sat around and chatted about some of the cool new and old books that are out there. Think about that. When is the last time you got to sit around with smart knowledgeable book folks and talk about books?

Even if you’re in a book club, this event immediately brought to mind the “salons” that were held at Shakespeare & Co. and the discussion groups that F. Scott and Zelda attended all throughout Therese Anne Fowler’s Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. You remember… the ones where Zelda and F. Scott would have their public pouting and shouting matches… anyway…

I’m sure this book discussion will be a little more low key than all that, which is all the more reason I would check this event out, if I were you. Birmingham needs more groups and bookish folks gathering to talk about good books and reading. Kudos to Carrie and the crew at Church Street.

jane austen fragment

New Jane Austen Scrap Discovered

Go ahead and list this discovery in the “could never happen with an ebook” column. Earlier this week the Jane Austen museum purchased a book about Austen that was written by her nephew. Inside the book they found a five inch by one inch piece of paper with writing on it.

Scribbled on the scrap, in Jane Austen’s handwriting, is the following:

“Men may get into a habit of repeating the words of our Prayers by rote, perhaps without thoroughly understanding – certainly without thoroughly feeling their full force & meaning,”

jane austen mansfield parkWhat is so neat about this, is the insight it could possibly give to how the thoughts and development behind now-classic book Mansfield Park came about.

Jane Austen experts say:

  • the scrap was written in 1814, which is the same time Mansfield Park was released
  • the words seem to be from a sermon Jane Austen’s brother was preparing.

So they are not her words, but they certainly echo much of her thinking put forth in her book. So did the whole Austen family feel this way too? How heavily was Jane Austen’s book influenced by her brother? Or (was it the other way around) how heavily did Jane Austen influence her brother’s sermons? Or was Jane writing a note in church and got caught? (Just kidding… I’m no Austen scholar.)

ereader apps

Two eReader Apps You Should Check Out

Here are two iOS ereader apps that I think you should try. Both Readmill and Marvin read ePub files and offer features that iBooks is nowhere close to rolling out.


This app has quickly become my favorite app to read in. The design of Readmill is fantastic and they have pioneered many of the highlighting-type features that kindle and iBooks have adopted.

readmill ereader appsWhat really makes Readmill great is the community and sharing aspects. Basically, (if you turn on the features) it turns any book you’re reading into a book club. You don’t necessarily “follow people” (though you can), but while in a book other people’s highlights and comments pop up, just as if they were scribbled in the margins of a paper book. In Readmill you can reply to their marginalia or highlights and then others can respond to you, etc. You’ll have a full blown discussion before you know it… all centered on this shared experience of that very book you are reading. Of course, you can also ‘@’ people not reading the book to help promote the book or spur interest/discussions among your friends, but the idea of a group of people gathering around the shared reading of a book is fantastic. I really like the notion of discovering people to follow based on their ideas and observations alone.

readmill ereader appsI have always read business books in paper. I need to scribble and make notes in non-fiction books. But I recently gave Readmill a go for a business book and can honestly say I was better for it. I stumbled on a few people, in the Readmill community, who had read it before me and made some fantastic connections inside that book. These were ideas that  I may never have come up with on my own. It was a cool experience.



Marvin is a fun app to read in as well, but for totally different reasons. You do have amazing controls over the color, brightness, etc. and the design is solid. Plus, they have some nifty features to help folks with dyslexia or near-blindness. Marvin also allows one-click downloads from free eBook sites, Dropbox, Readmill, ODPS, and Calibre integration.

marvin ereaderBut my favorite feature of Marvin is the Deep View. Once you click ‘OK’ the Marvin app will quickly read your whole book in about a minute. It will then offer you a list of every name in the book with external links and how the names appear to be related in the book. It will also offer you a summary of the book (free Cliffs Notes!) if you’d like one. It will also compile a list of articles about that book, article about the author, and other internet content related to the book. It’s like setting your own private wiki-pedia for the book you happen to be reading.

marvin appOnce you integrate that with IMDB, etc. it gets to be very very fun. I’ve found I enjoy reading older books in this app as I’m always amazed at how many author “from the days of yore” knew each other, hung out together, berated each other, or mentioned each other in their books and reviews.

For every Brat Pack in Hollywood, there were at least 10 groups of authors paying attention to each other.


While neither Readmill or Marvin have direct access to a robust bookstore like iBooks or kindle, these two ereader apps are worth the extra two clicks to getting an ePub side loaded to read. Check them out. I’d love to know what you think.


Romance Readers & Writers Event

Tickets for the 2014 Romance Readers Luncheon, Birmingham, AL, are on sale now. The Romance Readers Luncheon isn’t until November 1st, 2014, but with the line-up the SouthernMagic crew have put together you’ll want to mark your calendar.

Romance Readers Silvia DayAuthor Sylvia Day is the 2014 Keynote Speaker. Day is a #1 New York Times bestselling author. She also has written more than 20 novels which have been translated into many languages.

Day is best known for her Crossfire series of romance books.

Romance Readers Naima SimoneSouthern Magic‘s own President  and author Naima Simone has
already been slated to deliver the open remarks. Simone writes erotic romance and romantic suspense.

It sounds like there is limited seating, so click through the links to see about getting tickets at the Early Bird rates, if you’d like to go. And romance writers take note – they also have opportunities for published authors to get their books seen at the event.

You can follow Southern Magic on Twitter as well.


Judge a Book by Its Lover – Book Review

Lauren Leto’s book Judge a Book By Its Lover is one of the fastest reads I’ve read this year… And it’s all about books.


The book feels like it’s collected from a bunch of blog posts, which it may be I haven’t checked. The first half of the book focuses on the “social” part of books and reading. Lots of pieces in the vein of “how to pick someone in a bookshop” kind of thing or “what you’re reading says about you”.

It felt like it was aimed at female readers and I was close to putting it down and giving it a 2-star review, but I stuck it out and am glad I did.
Once I hit the single largest section of the book “How To Fake Reading An Author” the book really got good. Leto is very well read and funny as well.

That section alone of How to Judge a Book By Its Lover was worth my time with the book. It was crammed with smart conversational observations about well-known authors and their works. And then I got to the essay about leto’s family and her grandmother. It was fantastic. (Ms. Leto, if by chance the Google long-tail-search-algorithmic-gods every bring you to this site, my choppy review can be summed up simply – more like this essay please. I’d buy that.)

I’m recommending this book to my female friends who like books and reading. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

book festivals 2014

Four Southern Book Festivals

If you live in the South then you know the value of sweet tea and front porches. It’s those values that the following four book festivals, no matter how big or small they are, has in spades. Plus, you get to meet authors, listen to readings, buy books, and get your books signed. Did I mention there are books there? Check out what these four Southern book festivals have to offer in 2014:

Alabama Book FestivalAlabama Book Festival  Saturday, April 19, 2014 – for its 9th year, it will be held in Montgomery, AL’s, beautiful Old Alabama Town . It’s a wonderful venue, with walking paths between period buildings filled with authors giving talks and books to be bought. The Alabama Book Festival also has a great Children’s area with costumed characters and free books for kids. All those front porches in Old Alabama Town also mean that you never have to fear the rain as there’s always a place to gain cover.

Decatur Book FestivalDecatur Book Festival August 29th – August 31st, 2014 – this is a pretty large event, in Decatur, GA, and worth making the trip, if you don’t mind crowds. They have yet to publish a schedule or list of authors who will be attending, but they always have a list of big names that are fun to see (and have sign copies of your books!).

Southern Festival of BooksSouthern Festival of Books October 10th – October 12th, 2014 – this is another big event, in Nashville, TN. They always have 250+ authors, plus the added bonus of hosting a special venue for readings, literary performances and music (hey, it’s Nashville). I’ve heard that the hotel rooms are already all booked up. But they’re also planning an Authors in the Round Dinner, where you can buy a ticket to eat and chat with 40 visiting authors. That sounds kind of neat.

Mid-South Book FestivalMid-South Book Festival September 27th, 2014 – this one is a bit of a dark horse… a start up… a black swan, maybe? Held in Memphis, TN, this will be the inaugural year for Literacy Mid-South’s new book festival.  I don’t know what to expect, but I’m excited, because the folks organizing sure seem excited. It’s 2014, everyone should be in start-up mode, right!? I can’t wait to see what these folks put together to promote books and a life-long love of reading.

strahov library

Largest Photo Is of the Inside of a Library

One of the largest indoor photos ever posted online comes in at over 40 gigapixels and is a fly-around-the-room tour of a library! How awesome is this place?

strahov library largest photo

This single image is made up of more than 3,000 images stitched together. If they were printed out the site claims the photo would be 78 feet long!

strahov largest library photo

This gargantuan gigapixel image has been online since 2011, showing the world the largest and smallest details of the Strahov Library. The Strahov Llibrary is in Prague inside the Strahov Monastery.

largest photo of a library

I could just watch this image all day checking out all of the spines in such detail. What an amazing library. This 40 gigapixel image is very cool, but I bet this place is something else when seen in person.

250 words business books

New Site Focuses on Business Books

Simon & Schuster has launched, which professes to be a “publisher agnostic” site focused on business books.

Staffed by five folks from with in S&S’s ranks, they report they will deliver daily a short single 250-word single post sharing some business wisdom or inspiration gleaned from a business book. bookshelf

At launch, the seem to already have dozens of posts written. No doubt there will be no shortage of topics and titles to discuss. It’s amazing how many business books get published every year.

This year book publishers are aggressively going after “verticals” or “niches” or “silos” or “walled gardens”, etc. This is a tactic to answer the way people search and buy books these days. It’s something that has been refined by (one of my favorites) and, plus a few others.

I’m anxious to see what the folks at Simon & Schuster make of They are also on Twitter and Facebook, if you want to check them out there.

If doesn’t fit the bill for you, I would recommend you check out:

  1. 800CEOread – a blog about business books that I really enjoy. It’s certainly one of the most consistent ones out there
  2. Todd Sattersten – he’s a consultant for writers of business books, but his posts and twitter feed are always on my “to read” list
Amor Towles Rules of Civility

Amor Towles Talks Writing

Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility was one of my favorite books I read in 2012. It’s such a good book and so well written. I just ran across this very short interview with Towles asking about his writing and writing habits. I was surprised that Rules of Civility was written in just a year! And it was intentionally done so:

I gave myself one year to write that first draft because I wanted to maintain the brightness, the lightness, the nice poetic urgency that is part of the first draft.

You see, that makes sense to me. That’s actually encouraging. In the interview, Towles also offers some thoughts on inspiration and finding time to write (he had two young kids when he wrote Rules of Civility).

Amor Towels

But I also like what he had to say about revising his work:

I revised Rules of Civility from beginning to end three times in three years. All of that revision work was driven by the goal of economy.

It wasn’t about just the poetry or turn of a phrase, though if you read Towels’ book you’ll see he nailed those as well. I like the idea of writing with economy in mind. That has a very ‘newspaper’ feel to it. A feel that a reader would find useful and appreciate when reading a long novel.

Go read the full article. It’ll only take you a few minutes, but it’s packed (economically so) with wonderful insights that are immediately applicable to your own writing. And Amor Towels pulls no punches when it comes to “being a writer”:

Writing is a craft. It’s not a mystical state. It’s not a single emotion. It is craft.

And a craft can be learned. Very insightful and encouraging!

Books, Publishing and Birmingham