Some Love for the Paperback

Portable, affordable and light, what’s not to love?

Compiled by Brian Lampkin

Admit it, you love the paperback. We’re forced to buy hardcovers to stay au courant (typically the paperback comes around about one year after the hardcover pub date), but the soft cover allows for a haphazardness that mirrors the way we actually read: on the train, in the bathtub, at the beach, falling asleep in bed (the pain of a pb falling onto your head pales in comparison to the bruising of a hc collapse into your cheekbone). For February we’ll share the love and highlight new releases in paperback. It hardly needs mentioning that they’re also 30 to 40 percent cheaper than their upper crust doppelganger.

February 5: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah. The Daily Show host shows us that he’s quite a writer in this oddly humorous look at the horrors of South African apartheid. We waited a long time for this one to come out in paperback — the hardcover first published in November 2016. This is how the industry works: If we keep buying the hardcover there’s no incentive for the publisher to issue the paperback. It’s also true that if no one buys the hard shell then we’ll never see a soft wrap.

February 5: The Friend, by Sigrid Nunez. This 2018 National Book Award winner makes it to pb exactly one year after its initial release. One should not necessarily equate awards with sales, which is reflected by the relatively normal schedule of the pb release. Novelist Cathleen Schine says, “Sigrid Nunez creates an irresistible tale of love and an unforgettable Great Dane. A beautiful, beautiful book — the most original canine love story since My Dog Tulip.”

February 19: Startalk: Everything You Ever Need to Know about Space Travel, Sci-Fi, the Human Race, the Universe, and Beyond, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. This is a book you need to keep in your car for the inevitable alien abduction. You’ll want to know where you’re going as you watch the stars fly by out your warp-speed window.

February19: Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, by Alan Lightman. More stars, but this time Lightman merges science with spiritual wonder. One of my favorites from 2018 and highly recommended for the right book club.

February 26: The Hush, by John Hart. A favorite son of North Carolina, this two-time, Edgar Award–winner wrote a moving sequel to The Last Child and continued his run of New York Times best-sellers. Shouldn’t all mysteries be read in the paperback form — preferably with a lurid cover?

February 26: Birthday, by César Aira. We can’t forget the publishing oddity of the “paperback original.” New Directions is the acknowledged literary leader in this field and you can always count on exquisitely curated work from them. “Among the international brotherhood of readers, César Aira is not just one of today’s most remarkable Argentinian writers, he is also one of the most original, most shocking, most intelligent and amusing storytellers in Spanish today,” says Spanish literary critic and editor, Ignacio Echevarría. Translated by Chris Andrews.

And mark your calendars for the 2019 Greensboro Bound Literary Festival May 17–19! Watch these pages for a complete list of authors, but you should know now that on Saturday, May 18, the remarkable Zadie Smith will headline our festival with an appearance at the Cone Ballroom in the Elliott University Center on UNCG’s campus. Her appearance is made possible by the University Libraries at UNCG. Other early commitments include Wiley Cash (The Last Ballad), Astra Taylor (Democracy May Not Exist, But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone), Frances Mayes (See You in the Piazza: New Places to Discover in Italy) and a special performance of Greensboro icon Fred Chappell’s new work As If It Were with puppeteers Marianne Gingher and Deborah Seabrooke. Much more to come!  OH

Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.

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