A Summer Reading Forecast

One can be assured of very few things these days. But I will hazard three certainties for the next three months. Tomatoes will ripen. People will think about sex. And articles about how no one reads anymore will be published.

The "death of reading" march goes across our browsers, but in the publishing world, books still needs to be sold. Hence Book Expo America, the yearly meet-and-greet in the cavernous New York City Javitz convention center. The past two years of BEA were deemed "grim," as publishers worried about the internet and declining sales. But this year, the consensus seemed to be that things are "not as bad as we feared." In these recessed times, that counts for something.

I attended BEA for the first time and with great enthusiasm, but, as always when I am surrounded by thousands of strangers, I found myself seeking quiet corners to read instead of packed author breakfasts starring Barbra Streisand. From the aisles upon aisles of publishers, I gleaned certain things. Among them:

1. People are still reading. And they bucking every prognostication by choosing to read really, really long books. The buzziest book of BEA-the book advertised on the badges we all wore around our necks, in fact-is Justin Cronin's The Passage. The novel features vampires, a post-apocalyptic America, some secret government conspiracy, and viruses. It is just shy of 800 pages and pre-publication word is that it delights all the brows: high, middle, and low. We will probably all be pretty tired of The Passage by August (and certainly by the time the Ridley Scott movie comes out). And yet I feel certain that many of us will lose at least a few days inside Cronin's universe; this one will be a hit.

2. Literary novels continue to have both buzz and cache. Leading the pack is Julia Orringer's The Invisible Bridge. In a Los Angeles Times review of the book, Tim Rutten writes, "If you're still looking for a ‘big' novel to carry into the summer holidays-one in which you can lose yourself without the guilty suspicion that you're slumming-then Julie Orringer's "The Invisible Bridge" is the book you want. " Orringer's novel about Hungarian Jews during World War II will not only be great, it will also class up your beach towel.

3. It can be hard to find the independents. Where do you get the lowdown on that quirky book you know you would love, if only you knew about it? Not at Expo. Thanks, then, for, a lively literary webmagazine, has rolled out a new book club that offers a monthly selection of great lesser-touted titles and a chance to talk about the books with like-minded folks.

4. The book form is still unwieldly for many types of writing. Poems need not be bound into the slim volumes they are now, and when it comes to short stories, why do we need 10? One great short story could stand on its own on, say, your iPhone. Long-form journalism needs venues other than the disposal daily news or the deathly-for-sales anthology. Until we invent the best delivery vehicle for these not-really-booky types of writing, though, paper between two covers will have to do. I am excited about The Fiddler In The Subway: The Story of the World-Class Violinist Who Played for Handouts…And Other Virtuoso Performances by America's Foremost Feature Writer by Gene Weingarten. Wiengarten is a brilliant feature writer for the Washington Post, and the title story, about the famous violinist Joshua Bell playing in the DC Metro, is rapidly becoming a classic of narrative non-fiction.

5. We are publishing way, way too many books. At BEA I felt this viscerally for the first time something I have suspected for awhile. We could pulp a few hundred thousand without losing any of our lively book culture. I would love to attend another BEA that advertises itself as featuring "the fewest books ever!"

So there you have it. In the meantime, let those "no one reads anymore" articles keep popping up on my search engine. I can handle them. Because for this summer at least, I will also have tomatoes to eat, sex to think about and great books to read.

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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