TIME Television

“The Book Was Better”: Why Readers of TV Adaptations Need to Let Go

Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, transported from 1945 Scotland to 1743 Scotland in Outlander. Starz

When your favorite read becomes a series, it no longer belongs to you alone. And that's fine.

The battle between books and TV used to be fought by bibliophiles proclaiming that they didn’t even own televisions. Today, the terms of battle have changed, as prestige TV has gotten enough cultural status that there is probably some counter-snob bragging, at a cocktail party somewhere, “Why, I don’t even own a book!”

But the latest point of contention is between readers and watchers of the same story, when an acclaimed, popular work of fiction (e.g., A Song of Ice and Fire) becomes an acclaimed, popular TV drama (e.g., Game of Thrones). If you read a franchise before it was adapted for the tube, is your fandom more true than a newcomer viewer? Does the TV series owe you a faithfulness to the original story? And do you suddenly have to clam up about “spoilers” you read a decade ago?

Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones recently weighed in on that last issue with a directness that would do her character Arya Stark proud, sticking book purists with the pointy end: “I’m so sick of going on the Internet and seeing all the book readers being snobby, spoiling it for other people, then saying, ‘Well, it’s not a spoiler. The books have been out for years.’ Like, couldn’t you just stop being mad for a second and let other people enjoy the show?”

Speaking as a reader of the books, she’s right–up to a point. If anyone that desperately wants to know what’s coming up in the books, nothing’s stopping them from reading ahead, so I’m not taking a vow of silence. On the other hand, I don’t have to be a jerk about it: in my reviews of GoT–which at this point has started diverging from the books in key ways anyway–I pointedly avoid book spoilage, at least without warning anyone. There are plenty of big forums for book readers to discuss the series with other readers–the AV Club has gone as far as publishing separate “newbies” and “experts” reviews.

There’s a similar dynamic going on with The Walking Dead (which has diverged even father from the source graphic novels, or so I’m told). And pretty soon we’ll have a new book fandom entering the TV-space: Outlander, based on a massively popular fantasy-romance-history series by Diana Gabaldon–involving war, sex, time travel and 18th-century Scotland–debuts on Starz August 9. And as with Game of Thrones, its loyal readers will be watching closely. Very closely.

Writing for Vanity Fair online, Joanna Robinson angered some of these Outlanderphiles Tuesday when she posted a critique of the credits sequence that Starz has put online, arguing that the misty-highlands music and the “Ren-meets-Lilith-Fair” visuals suggested that Starz was positioning and marketing the series as a genre romance in a way that might turn off a larger audience, especially men. It was hardly an in-depth review, but it was a legitimate enough subject for a short post about the marketing of a TV series–from a writer who has been an astute critic of series like Game of Thrones. (I’ve seen six episodes of Outlander, which I’ll review later. I think it has crossover potential, and I didn’t exactly think I needed to turn in my Man Card for watching it. But, to Robinson’s concern, the series itself is a good bit less gauzy than those credits and Bear McCreary theme song suggest.)

A slew of commenters, though, took Robinson’s critique of Starz’s marketing of the TV series specifically as an attack on the books, and their genre at large–on them. (Starz, she suggested, was making Outlander look like “Fifty Shades of Plaid,” in a way that might appeal only to “your dear old mum.”) What especially struck me, though, was a repeated refrain in the angry replies from fans: “If you have read Outlander, which I don’t believe you did, you would never make those silly comments.”

Robinson pointed out on Twitter that she actually has read Outlander. But suppose she hadn’t. So what? What’s really going on here is a larger, recurrent argument here about fandom and ownership.

Outlander the TV series is an adaptation, which Starz–like HBO or AMC or any other adapter–is making for an audience that, ideally, will be far larger than the readership alone. Can you not have a legitimate opinion on them unless you have read the source books–and unless you love the source books and are invested in a series you haven’t yet seen? Are the old fans the true fans, the authentic fans, the authoritative fans? Can you truly appreciate and understand an adaption without reading the source–or is it actually a handicap?

HBO’s Game of Thrones. HELEN SLOAN

I’ve been on both sides of this, and my strict rule about reading the source material is: there is no rule. I’ve read the A Song of Ice and Fire books and I love them–not without reservation–but there are times I wish I could watch Game of Thrones without knowing what’s coming or being tempted to compare. Knowing the general story lets me focus on Thrones‘ themes and characters without getting bogged down in plot speculation. On the other hand, I can never un-read the books and know what it would be like to watch the series from that perspective.

So when I heard HBO was adapting The Leftovers, I decided not to read the book, even though I’m a fan of Tom Perrotta’s other novels. I’ve never read The Walking Dead graphic novels, not because I care about being spoiled but because I don’t have enough interest. Outlander—that’s a lot of books to read in a little time, and I’d just as soon go in without preconceptions. On the other hand, I eagerly read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, long before the BBC announced its upcoming adaption of the fantasy novel, and I can’t wait to see it.

In other words, I’ve been a reader and a non-reader. One experience is not better, purer or more authoritative than the other. Neither experience makes judgment of the visual version of the story more or less legitimate. They are qualitatively different experiences–but they are just that, different, and it’s impossible to have both experiences at once. That’s why I’m glad, for instance, that I can read Game of Thrones reviews both by critics who have read the source and ones who haven’t–I find things in both that I can’t expect to get from the other.

People who came to Game of Thrones years after I read the books are not fandom gentrifiers. Our perspectives aren’t inherently better or worse than the other. And the same goes for books vs. their adaptations. As a reader of ASOIAF, HBO owes me precisely nothing–except in the sense that it “owes” me as a subscriber to make any TV series a good TV series. It doesn’t owe me a reproduction of my favorite scenes and storylines. Our default adjective for adaptations is “faithful,” but there’s no breach of faith inherent in changing a story for the screen. There are things I miss in Game of Thrones, but in many ways the streamlining of the vast, digressive story has been an improvement–and in any case, it’s better suited for TV.

But beyond that, HBO could have turned ASOIAF into a laugh-track family sitcom–That’s My Lannister!–with a wacky space-alien neighbor living next door to the Red Keep, and it would not diminish my reading experience one bit. It would change the larger world’s perception of the story, yes. Any TV or film adaptation is likely to have a much broader cultural reach than the novels it was based on–and there’s another reason for readers to feel anxious about adaptations. But in the end, what other people think of a story you love doesn’t matter. What matters is the individual, and inalienable, bond the story makes with you.

I don’t know how true Outlander will ultimately be to the books, but one way or another Outlander‘s literary fans will soon have to deal with all of this just as ASOIAF‘s have. (If my friend and colleague Lev Grossman’s The Magicians ends up becoming a series at Syfy, so will its readers.) And I recognize that this tension is especially strong among readers of genre fiction, who have learned to expect their favorites to be dismissed as silly stories for Dorito-stained fanboys or doily-clutching old ladies. That may be, for instance, why you don’t hear the same kind of outcry or policing among Perrotta fans over HBO’s Leftovers–literary-fiction readers just don’t have to deal with the same kind of insults. As a genre fan, you become protective. You are The Watcher–or rather, The Reader–on The Wall.

But in the end, the book is the book. The show is the show. I’m glad to accept that I’m going to get different things from one than from the other–and if one of them ends up sucking, it doesn’t diminish the other. It’s just one more reason that it’s a good thing to own both a TV set and a bookcase.

TIME Books

The Gang From Always Sunny Has Written a Self-Help Book

FX Season Premiere Screenings For "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" And "The League"
Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic / Getty Images

Because they're totally the kind of people who should be giving you advice

Dennis, Dee, Mac, Frank and Charlie from Always Sunny have already taught us plenty of things: how to sing a cappella, how to excel at the game of Flip Cup, and how not to act on a first date, for example. Since they’re so good at teaching people how to live their lives, they’ve written a self-help book, which will be released in January. (It’s available for pre-order on Amazon now.)

The book is called It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today. Based on the description, it’s actually a bit hard to tell if it’s really a self-help book, or if it’s simply a book outlining the story of the gang writing a self-help book:

The Gang may have finally found their golden ticket. Left alone to close down Paddy’s Pub one night, Charlie Kelly inadvertently scored himself, and his friends, the opportunity of a lifetime—a book deal with a real publishing company, real advance money, and a real(ly confused) editor. While his actual ability to read and write remains unclear, Charlie sealed the deal with some off-the-cuff commentary on bird law and the nuances of killing rats (and maybe with the help of some glue fumes in the basement with an unstable editor on a bender). While The Gang is stunned by the news, and the legally binding, irrevocable contract left on the bar, they are also ready to rise to the task and become millionaires—and of course, help Charlie actually write the book.

But further details suggest that the book will indeed include some real advice:

In their own inimitable voices, Charlie, Mac, Dennis, Sweet Dee, and Frank weigh in on important topics like Relationships, Financial Success and Career, Fashion and Personal Grooming, Health and Diet, and Survival Skills, providing insane advice, tips, tricks, and recipes (Rum Ham anyone?) as only they can.

We already knew they were crab people — now we also know they’re book people.

TIME Business

The Suburbs Will Die: One Man’s Fight to Fix the American Dream

The End of the Suburbs
The End of the Suburbs Courtesy Penguin Press

Engineer Charles Marohn worked his whole life trying to make his community better—until the day he realized he was ruining it.

If you looked up “Minnesota nice” in the dictionary you might see a picture of Charles Marohn. Affable and mild-mannered, Marohn, who goes by Chuck, grew up the eldest of three sons of two elementary school teachers on a small farm near Brainerd, the central Minnesota city best known as the backdrop for the movie Fargo. Marohn (pronounced “mer-OWN”) graduated from Brainerd High School, entered the National Guard on his seventeenth birthday, and went on to study civil engineering at the University of Minnesota. He now lives with his wife, two daughters, and two Samoyeds in East Gull Lake, a small city north of Brainerd. Marohn, forty, likes the Minnesota Twins, reads voraciously, and is a proud Republican. He’s the friendliest guy you’re likely to meet. He’s also a revolutionary who’s trying to upend the suburbs as we know them.

After graduating from college, Marohn went to work as a municipal engineer in his hometown and spent several years working with the small towns around the greater Brainerd area, putting projects together that would build roads, pipes, storm drains, and all kinds of infrastructure. It was the mid-1990s, the area was booming, and Marohn was laying down the systems that helped the area grow. “I built sprawl,” he now says.

Often his work required him to knock on the doors of residents, many of whom he knew from growing up, and tell them about changes that might impact their property. In order to make the town’s roads safer, he would explain, engineers were going to have to widen the road in front of their house or cut down a tree in their yard. When his neighbors would get upset and ask why or try to protest—the roads were hardly trafficked at all, and sparse enough to almost be rural, they would point out—he’d explain that the town was required to make these changes in order to comply with the book of engineering standards to which it had to adhere. The code, put in place by the town but derived from state and national standards, dictated that roads must have an ample “recovery zone,” or a wide berth to accommodate cars that veer off the road, and that drivers have improved “sight distance,” the distance a driver needs to be able to see in order to have enough room to be able to react before colliding with some- thing in the roadway. When residents pointed out that the recovery zone was also their yard, and that their kids played kick ball and hopscotch there, Marohn recommended they put up a fence, so long as it was outside the right-of-way. He was sorry, he told them, but the standards required it. The trees were removed, the roads widened, the asphalt paved and repaved. “I never stepped back from my own assumptions to consider that I wasn’t making anything safer,” Marohn says. “In reality, I was making their street more dangerous, and in the process, I was not only taking out their trees, I was pretending I knew more than them.”

In 2000, Marohn found himself assigned to fix a leaky pipe in Remer, a small town north of Brainerd. It was a routine project, but it would ultimately lead him to an epiphany. A sewer pipe that sat under a highway had a leak that was allowing clean groundwater to flow in. That meant that the clean water was getting pumped out to sewage treatment ponds, which were exceeding their capacity and would soon overflow. It was easily fixable, but it would cost $300,000, a hefty sum considering the town’s total budget for such projects was $120,000 a year; sure enough, the town said no. But the pipe was going to cause the sewage ponds to overflow, undermine the dike, knock down its wall, and pour into the neighboring river “in like a catastrophic way,” Marohn says. So he decided to find a federal grant to pay for it.

He discovered that the project was too small; grant agencies didn’t seem to be interested in a $300,000 renovation, he found, presumably because it wasn’t worth the time in administration costs. So he expanded the project, proposing the government pay not just to fix the pipe but also to extend the sewers, expand the size of the pumps, and more, at a cost of $2.6 million. The grant agency gave the green light; the state and federal government put up all the money except for

$130,000, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture financed at below-market rates over a forty-year time period. Marohn was hailed a hero. “Everybody was super thrilled with me because I got this project approved out of nowhere,” he says. And since the project would connect more homes, it would allow the town to promote the fact that it was creating capacity for the city to grow.

But over the next several years, as Marohn went back to Remer to do additional work—he had by then gotten a degree in urban planning—and saw that the town was in the process of doing a similar project with their water system, he realized he had created an unsustainable financial situation. Thanks to the leaky pipe he fixed, the town now had to bear the maintenance costs of a system that was double the size of the one it had before. “I bought them time,” he says, “but I gave them a giant unfunded liability.”

Marohn started questioning the rationale of this kind of system. The government paid the up-front costs of the massive project, but there was no accounting for the significant cost to maintain the system. The town’s property taxes wouldn’t come close to covering those costs, which meant the city would ultimately need to take on more debt. And the system was likely to need replacing well before forty years were up—the duration of the financing he’d procured—which would require an investment of equal or larger size. Marohn began to wonder whether all the work he’d been doing to supposedly help the city grow was really necessary or whether it was going to end up hurting it and, on top of that, whether the roads he was helping to “improve” were designed to accommodate the way people lived or were that way simply because the planning books said that was the way they had to be built.

He connected with a few friends in the local planning community who shared his concerns. In November 2009 they started a Web site called Strong Towns to start raising questions about America’s approach to land use and the financial impracticalities suburban sprawl encourages. Rich in case studies and educational materials, Strong Towns lobbies for communities that are financially productive and grow responsibly. But it’s also a screed against what Marohn sees as development patterns that go against the logic of design, finance, and the best interests of residential communities and everyday Americans.

One night soon after he started the Web site, Marohn wasn’t sure what to write about, so he composed a blog post on his experience tearing down trees in his neighbors’ yards, an idea that had been bouncing around in his head for a while. Declaring his work “professional malpractice,” he described how the wider, faster streets he was sent to build weren’t only financially wasteful but unsafe. “In retrospect, I understand that it was utter insanity,” he wrote in the essay, which he called “Confessions of a Recovering Engineer.” “Wider, faster, treeless roads not only ruin our public places, they kill people,” he wrote, referring to statistics of traffic deaths each year that, in his view, were a direct result of poor design. He penned the piece in less than an hour and went to bed. When he got up, his in-box was full of comments from people in the planning community with whom his words had resonated.

The Web site soon became a nonprofit, which became a series of podcasts, videos, and live neighborhood events around the country called the “Curbside Chat.” A local nonprofit threw in three years’ worth of funding, and in mid-2012 Marohn quit his job to focus on Strong Towns, which is now a robust site packed with in-depth articles, podcasts, a Curbside Chat companion booklet for public officials, and a “Strong Towns University” section with instructional videos featuring Marohn and his partners discussing things like the ins and outs of wastewater management. Marohn’s work has brought him attention within the planning community; he now travels all over the country speaking at conferences, hosting Curbside Chats, and spreading his message. But all, he says, for the greater good. “We’re not bomb throw- ers,” he says. “We like to think of ourselves as intellectual disruptors.”

Marohn primarily takes issue with the financial structure of the suburbs. The amount of tax revenue their low-density setup generates, he says, doesn’t come close to paying for the cost of maintaining the vast and costly infrastructure systems, so the only way to keep the machine going is to keep adding and growing. “The public yield from the suburban development pattern is ridiculously low,” he says. One of the most popular articles on the Strong Towns Web site is a five-part series Marohn wrote likening American suburban development to a giant Ponzi scheme.

Here’s what he means. The way suburban development usually works is that a town lays the pipes, plumbing, and infrastructure for housing development—often getting big loans from the government to do so—and soon after a developer appears and offers to build homes on it. Developers usually fund most of the cost of the infrastructure because they make their money back from the sale of the homes. The short-term cost to the city or town, therefore, is very low: it gets a cash infusion from whichever entity fronted the costs, and the city gets to keep all the revenue from property taxes. The thinking is that either taxes will cover the maintenance costs, or the city will keep growing and generate enough future cash flow to cover the obligations. But the tax revenue at low suburban densities isn’t nearly enough to pay the bills; in Marohn’s estimation, property taxes at suburban densities bring in anywhere from 4 cents to 65 cents for every dollar of liability. Most suburban municipalities, he says, are therefore unable to pay the maintenance costs of their infrastructure, let alone replace things when they inevitably wear out after twenty to twenty-five years. The only way to survive is to keep growing or take on more debt, or both. “It is a ridiculously unproductive system,” he says.

Marohn points out that while this has been an issue as long as there have been suburbs, the problem has become more acute with each additional “life cycle” of suburban infrastructure (the point at which the systems need to be replaced—funded by debt, more growth, or both). Most U.S. suburbs are now on their third life cycle, and infrastructure systems have only become more bloated, inefficient, and costly. “When people say we’re living beyond our means, they’re usually talking about a forty-inch TV instead of a twenty-inch TV,” he says. “This is like pennies compared to the dollars we’ve spent on the way we’ve arranged ourselves across the landscape.”

Marohn and his friends are not the only ones warning about the fix we’ve put ourselves in. In 2010 the financial analyst Meredith Whitney wrote a now-famous report called The Tragedy of the Commons, whose title was taken from the economic principle that individuals will act on their own self-interest and deplete a shared resource for their own benefit, even if that goes against the long-term common good. In her report, Whitney said states and municipalities were on the verge of collapse thanks in part to irresponsible spending on growth. Likening the municipalities’ finances and spending patterns to those of the banks leading up to the financial crisis of 2008, Whitney explained how spending has far outpaced revenues—some states had spent two or three times their tax receipts on everything from infrastructure to teacher salaries to libraries—all financed by borrowing from future dollars.

Marohn, too, claims we’ve tilled our land in inefficient ways we can’t afford (Whitney is one of Marohn’s personal heroes). The “suburban experiment,” as he calls it, has been a fiscal failure. On top of the issues of low-density tax collection, sprawling development is more expensive to build. Roads are wider and require more paving. Water and sewage service costs are higher. It costs more to maintain emergency services since more fire stations and police stations are needed per capita to keep response times down. Children need to be bused farther distances to school. One study by the Denver Regional Council of Governments found that conventional suburban development would cost local governments $4.3 billion more in infrastructure costs than compact, “smart” growth through 2020, only counting capital construction costs for sewer, water, and road infrastructure. A 2008 report by the University of Utah’s Arthur C. Nelson estimated that municipal service costs in low-density, sprawling locations can be as much as 2.5 times those in compact, higher-density locations.

Marohn thinks this is all just too gluttonous. “The fact that I can drive to work on paved roads where I can drive fifty-five miles an hour the minute I leave my driveway despite the fact that I won’t see another car for five miles,” he says, “is living beyond our means on a grand, grand scale.”

Marohn is one of a growing number of sprawl refugees I encountered during my reporting—people who at one point helped enable the building of modern-day suburbia but now spend their days lobbying against it with the zeal of religious converts. Some, like Marohn, focus on the unsustainability of the financial structure. Others focus on the actual physical design of the suburbs and point to all the ways it’s flawed. Most of them argue for the development of more walkable communities closer to public transportation. But their unifying criticism is that our spread-out development pattern was manufactured, packaged, and sold to Americans as part of an American Dream that fails to deliver on its promises.

Leigh Gallagher is an assistant managing editor at Fortune and a frequent guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, among other national television and radio news shows. She lives in New York City. This article is excerpted from Gallagher’s book, The End of the Suburbs, out now in paperback.

MONEY freebies

Marvel Comics or The New Yorker: Choose Your Binge-Reading Bargain

To celebrate Comic-Con and the makeover of a literary journal's website, fans can binge on cheap (or free!) all-you-can-read deals.

If you’re looking to escape summer’s swelter by binge-reading about alternate universes, bizarre worlds, and fascinating people you’ve never heard about and didn’t think could exist in real life, man, are you in luck!

Not one but two binge-reading bonanzas have recently made their debut. First, The New Yorker announced that it is opening the entirety of its archives to all, free of charge, for the entire summer, to celebrate the makeover of its website. (Normally, much of the archive is accessible only for paid subscribers.)

Then, in a deal coinciding with this week’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, Marvel Comics is offering a special “Marvel Unlimited” package, with one month’s access to more than 15,000 digital comics for just 99¢. (New subscribers must use the promo code SDCC14 when signing up for the service, which usually runs $9.99 per month or $69 per year.)

What might you read? Wired suggests that Marvel subscribers should check out some of the Infinite Comics that have been specially designed for the digital experience, such as the six-issue Captain America: The Winter Soldier (inspiration for the recent film). Meanwhile, BuzzFeed, Vox, Digg, and Slate are among the many publications that have weighed in with recommendations for New Yorker reading while the archive door is wide open.

The suggested free New Yorker readings from Business Insider are heavy on gripping but grisly tales of war, genocide, and evil, such as Seymour Hersh’s “Torture at Abu Ghraib” and Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” the latter about the trial of the infamous Nazi officer Adolph Eichmann. After reading some of these stories, it might be time to turn one’s attention back over to Captain America.

TIME Culture

5 Things to Do While You’re Waiting for 50 Shades of Grey to Come Out

Unleash your inner goddess with these recipes, books and vacations

+ READ ARTICLE

The trailer for the new Fifty Shades of Grey film dropped Thursday, leaving fans to count the days until it’s released on Valentine’s Day 2015. For those who can’t possibly wait that long, here are five ways to get your 50 Shades fix before next February:

Try on some Grey-inspired lingerie

Designed in part by 50 Shades author E.L. James, this collection of bras, briefs, negligées and stockings comes in a variety of colors: Black, red and (of course) gray. Customers can also purchase the title-inspiring gray tie that Christian wears in the book and a black mask to take things to the 50 Shades of Grey level.

Drink a glass of 50 Shades of Grey wine

E.L. James has created an entire industry around tiding over her impatient fans. The business-savvy author (who has already made an estimated $100 million from the trilogy) teamed up with California winemakers to blend a collection of wines specific to 50 Shades of Grey. The collection has both red and white, and the red “has flavors of black cherry, cocoa powder, creamy caramel and vanilla, leather and clove spice.” Leather? Well, at least one flavor stays true to the book.

Cook up a recipe from 50 Shades of Kale

“What’s the sexiest handful of foliage? A fistful of Kale battles cancer, inflammation, and low moods,” the 50 Shades-inspired cookbook’s website reads. It features 50 recipes centered around the sensual vegetable, fit for vegans and gluten-free fans alike. And for those fans worried that a cookbook won’t help them get their 50 Shades of sexy fix, the authors assure, “50 SHADES OF KALE is a fun and sexy romp powered by kale.”

Take a 50 Shades of Grey vacation

Seattle is so beautiful this time of year. Why not enjoy the city by staying at the Hotel Max, which previously offered guests a special package featuring perks from billionaire Christian Grey’s lavish lifestyle? Don’t forget to drink a bottle of Bollinger Rosé (Anastasia Steele’s drink of choice) before taking a helicopter tour around the city (unfortunately not piloted by Christian Grey).

Just reread the books

It never gets old reading a dozen different descriptions for Christian’s copper-colored hair while Anastasia continually insists that she isn’t pretty. You should have a refresher on which sex scenes come when anyway, so you’re ready to critique the film for its accuracy. After all, there’s a pretty high standard to uphold.

TIME Books

Read George R.R. Martin’s Thoughtful Letter to a 13-Year-Old Game of Thrones Fan

George R.R. Martin at the "Game Of Thrones" Panel - Comic-Con International 2013
Wrtier George R.R. Martin speaks onstage during the "Game Of Thrones" panel during Comic-Con International 2013 on July 19, 2013 in San Diego, California. Albert L. Ortega—Getty Images

The Song of Ice and Fire writer makes a donation in the boy's name

Anyone who has read A Song of Ice and Fire (or seen the HBO TV show Game of Thrones) knows that author George R.R. Martin has a thing for wolves. So it was no surprise when Martin started a Prizeo-powered crowdfunding campaign for a wolf sanctuary: Fans who donated $200,000 or more were eligible to get characters named after them in his next book. Martin promised that two supporters would get a bloody death in one of the chapters. The campaign has raised over $450,000, and two people have already bought the “martyr” roles.

But that didn’t stop one teenage fan from writing Martin about his dream of working in wolf conservation and asking to be considered as a character. Here’s 13-year-old Jack’s letter (courtsey of Prizeo):

Jacks Letter

Jack, who hails from the United Kingdom, included £153 ($260) as a donation to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in his letter. Though the spots had already been filled, Martin was touched by Jack’s letter and offered to make a donation to the U.K. Wolf Conservation Trust on his behalf:

Dear Jack,

Thank you so much for your heartfelt, touching note.

I’ve heard that you donated all your £153 pocket money savings to my Prizeo fundraiser on behalf of the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. I cannot tell you how much that moved me. It pleases me no end to know that my novels, and the TV series based on them, have inspired readers as young as yourself to rally to the support of these majestic and too often stigmatized animal.

Alas, I cannot promise you a grisly death in THE WIND OF WINTER. Those spots have already been filled by some very generous donors, and there’s a limit to how many people even I can kill.

However, inspired by your example, my friends at Prizeo and I would love to follow your lead with a $10,000 in your name to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust. That’s a wonderful organization that I’ve heard much about, and they are lucky to count people like you as supporters.

I wish you the best of luck in your future career as a wolf conservationist, and hope that you inspire many others to follow your lead

Yours,

GRRM

TIME Books

U.S. Authors Snag 4 Spots on Man Booker Prize Longlist

Simon & Schuster

But Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch didn't make the cut

The longlist for the 2014 Man Booker prize was announced Wednesday and in the first year the prestigious British award changed its criteria to consider writers from all over the world, a whopping four novels by American authors made the cut.

Previously awarded to English-language works written by citizens of the Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland or Zimbabwe, this year marks the first time the judges of the literary prize were able to consider works from writers across the globe, so long as they’re written in English and published in the UK.

The four American books to make the cut — We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris and Orfeo by Richard Powers — make up nearly a third of the 13-title longlist. Somewhat surprisingly, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch wasn’t selected, though it won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

When the new criteria for the Booker prize were announced last September, it caused a minor controversy as some literary insiders complained that the rule change could lead to an American domination of the prize.

“Although it appears to let in lots more good fiction, it risks diluting the identity of the prize,” John Mullan, a former Booker Prize judge, told the BBC last year. “It’s going to be Toni Morrison versus Hilary Mantel, or Jonathan Franzen against Ian McEwan, and I think that’s really unfortunate.”

American authors didn’t dominate the longlist — the Brits still hold that claim with five titles making the cut — and the final winner will be announced on Sept. 9.

The 2014 Man Booker Prize longlist:

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, Joshua Ferris (US)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan (Australia)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler (US)
The Blazing World, Siri Hustvedt (US)
J, Howard Jacobson (UK)
The Wake, Paul Kingsnorth (UK)
The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell (UK)
The Lives of Others, Neel Mukherjee (India)
Us, David Nicholls (UK)
The Dog, Joseph O’Neill (Ireland)
Orfeo, Richard Powers (US)
How to be Both, Ali Smith (UK)
History of the Rain, Niall Williams (Ireland)

TIME Books

Chuck Palahniuk Breaks First Rule of Fight Club by Announcing Comic Book Sequel

Fight Club

Will pick up a decade after the original left off

Almost 20 years after the publication of his novel Fight Club, author Chuck Palahniuk announced Monday that he is releasing a 10-issue comic book sequel in 2015.

Word of Fight Club 2 spread when Palahniuk broke the epic first rule of Fight Club—that you don’t talk about Fight Club, per the 1996 novel and its 1999 movie adaptation—at New York’s Comic-Con last year. “I messed up and said I was doing the sequel in front of 1,500 geeks with telephones,” Palahniuk told USA Today. “Suddenly, there was this big scramble to honor my word.”

Jokes about the broken golden rule have been running rampant on social media since Palahniuk made the first graphic novel’s April 8 release known:

The series will be produced by Dark Horse Comics, and illustrated by Cameron Stewart. According to USA Today:

Fight Club 2 takes place alternately in the future and the past. It picks up a decade after the ending of his original book, where the protagonist [Tyler Durden] is married to equally problematic Marla Singer and has a 9-year-old son named Junior, though the narrator is failing his son in the same way his dad failed him.

Most of the original characters will be brought back, the newspaper reports.

 

TIME Books

J.K. Rowling to Write a Lot More Cormoran Strike Novels

J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling at an appearance to promote her book "The Casual Vacancy," at The David H. Koch Theater in New York, Oct. 16, 2012. Dan Hallman—Invision/AP

The crime series could become the Harry Potter author's other legacy

If you thought J.K. Rowling’s recent short story about the Harry Potter gang was putting her on the path back to the wizarding world, guess again. The beloved author says she’ll likely write more than seven Cormoran Strike novels, outnumbering the series she’s best known for.

Rowling has published two novels about the military-veteran-turned-private-eye , The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm, under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

“I really love writing these books, so I don’t know that I’ve got an end point in mind,” Rowling said at a crime-writing festival, the BBC reports. “One of the things I absolutely love about this genre is that, unlike Harry, where there was an overarching story, a beginning and an end, you’re talking about discrete stories. So while a detective lives, you can keep giving him cases.”

Rowling says she’s halfway through the third Cormoran Strike novel and has already begun planning the story of the fourth. The series is not her first post-Potter release — that would be 2012’s The Casual Vacancy — but Rowling said at the festival that she wrote it under a fake name to see if she could “get a book published on the merits of the book.”

[BBC]

TIME Amazon

Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited Is Worth It If You Read This Many Books

Random House Publishing And Penguin Books Ahead Of Merger
The logo of the Penguin publishing house, part of Pearson Plc, is seen on a Kindle Fire HD e-reader at a bookstore in London, U.K., on Friday, April 5, 2013. Bloomberg/Getty Images

Amazon on Friday announced Kindle Unlimited, a new all-you-can read e-book service allows customers to read as many titles as they want for $9.99 per month. Kindle Unlimited has a library of over 600,000 books, including well-known titles like Harry Potter and Life of Pi. If you’re a voracious reader, the Unlimited program could be a good way to save money while feeding your reading habit. Let’s break down the math to see whether you plow through enough books regularly to justify the cost.

At $9.99 per month, Kindle Unlimited costs about $120 per year. E-books on Amazon can vary wildly in price, from $0.99 to hundreds of dollars. During 2013, e-books on the Digital Book World best-sellers’ list mostly sold for between $7 and $8 on average (the price in the most recent recorded week in 2014 was $7.52). If we say that the typical e-book best-seller costs $7.50, a customer would need to read more than 16 books per year to derive a greater value from Kindle Unlimited than buying the books individually.

This doesn’t necessarily mean avid readers should dive head-first into Kindle Unlimited. Customers lose access to Unlimited’s library of books if they end their subscription, whereas readers can typically hold on to purchased books forever. Also, books from major publishers such as Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette so far don’t appear to be part of the service.

Think of Kindle Unlimited more like Netflix, which has a spotty selection of movies for its streaming library (especially during its early days) rather than Spotify, which typically gets new album releases the same day they go on sale in physical stores. Either way, Amazon is offering a 30-day free trial of Kindle Unlimited, so you can test your binge-reading capabilities before committing to pay for the service.

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