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Across the country, Indie Bookstore Day is a hit

Independent bookstores across the country have declared Independent Bookstore Day, which took place for the first time Saturday, a hit. Publishers Weekly reports that several booksellers compared the booming business they did to having Christmas in May.

Green Apple Books in San Francisco reported sales up 75% over a typical May Saturday. Green Apple spearheaded last year's California Bookstore Day; its success led to taking the project national.

Like Free Comic Book Day, which it coincides with, Independent Bookstore Day has special products that are only available in independent stores. This year's swag included a broadside by Stephen King, an original print of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey, a new collection of essays by Anne Lamott, James Patterson, Yiyun Li and more, a onesie celebrating reading, a mini collection of works by Roxane Gay, a literary map of the seas, and a stencil of a quote from Margaret Atwood.

Four hundred bookstores across the country participated in the first-ever...

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At PEN gala, Charlie Hebdo editor calls for free expression and debate

If the PEN American Center’s mission is to promote free expression and lively discourse, the literary group accomplished that with its decision to honor the French magazine Charlie Hebdo at its annual Literary Gala on Tuesday night.

Even before the attack on a Texas event lampooning the prophet Muhammad, PEN's decision to award Charlie Hebdo a freedom of expression citation had stirred controversy.

As the publication’s editor, Gerard Biard, and its film critic, Jean-Baptiste Thoret, went to the stage to accept their award, though, there was no sign of the tensions preceding the event, which included a boycott by some PEN members. Biard and Thoret received a standing ovation, and Biard urged writers to work together to “disarm” enemies of free speech.

“They don't want us to debate. We must debate,” said Biard, who lost eight staff members in a January terrorist attack sparked by Charlie Hebdo's mockery of Muhammad. “We must disarm them.”

Days before the ceremony got underway, under tighter-than-usual...

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Best Translated Book Awards announces shortlist

The shortlists for the 2015 Best Translated Book Awards were announced Tuesday at Three Percent, the website of the program in international literature at the University of Rochester in New York. Ten works of fiction and six books of poetry were named finalists for the awards.

The fiction finalist list is led by "Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay," a bestseller by Elena Ferrante, a mysterious Italian author who writes under a pseudonym. Also making the cut from the longlist is Valeria Luiselli's "Faces in the Crowd," which took the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction at the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes last month.

The winners of the Best Translated Book Awards -- both the original authors and their translators -- will each receive $5,000. The winners will be announced at an event at the Book Expo publishing conference in New York City on May 27.

The complete list of finalists, their translators and the works' countries of origin are below.

Fiction:

"The Last Lover" by Can Xue (China),...

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'The League of Outsider Baseball' looks at sport's weird history

What I love most about baseball is its weird history, the oddities and misfits who give flavor to the sport. When I was a kid, I used to pore through “The Baseball Encyclopedia” looking for the one-line careers, those players who only made it to the majors for a single year, or even a single game.

Some of these figures linger with us now for other reasons: Sparky Anderson, for instance, who played the full 1959 season at second base for the Philadelphia Phillies and then disappeared for a decade before emerging as a Hall of Fame manager in Cincinnati and Detroit. My favorite of them remains Moonlight Graham, who threw one inning for the 1905 New York Giants and was never heard from again.

Graham resonates for another reason: I first heard about him in the pages of W.P. Kinsella’s 1982 novel “Shoeless Joe,” which imagines a baseball afterlife for him, tracing his life as a small-town physician called back to the field of dreams.

Now, Graham has shown up again, in the pages of Gary Cierdkowski’s ...

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Lost Mark Twain stories recovered by UC Berkeley scholars

Scholars at UC Berkeley have tracked down 110 early newspaper columns written by Mark Twain that, up until now, had been considered lost. The Associated Press reports that the Mark Twain Project at Berkeley, which unearthed the columns, plans to publish them in a forthcoming book.

In 1865 and '66, Twain wrote a six-day-a-week column about San Francisco for the Territorial Enterprise of Virginia City, Nev. Both cities were mining boom towns -- Virginia City with silver, and San Francisco with gold -- taking hold on the Western frontier. Twain's column took the form of a "letter from San Francisco" about life there.

Twain, then 29, wrote humorously about miners, cops and corruption. It was early in his career, and the letters show him finding his voice.

"This is a very special period in his life, when he's out here in San Francisco," Bob Hirst, general editor of the Mark Twain Project, told the AP. "He's utterly free, he's not encumbered by a marriage or much of anything else, and he can...

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Parents want 'Of Mice and Men,' 'Kite Runner' removed from high schools

If parents get their way, John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" and Khaled Hosseini's "The Kite Runner" could be banned from their children's high school classrooms in Idaho and North Carolina, respectively.

The critically acclaimed novels are the targets of challenges in two cities: "Of Mice and Men" in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and "The Kite Runner" in Asheville, N.C.

In Coeur d'Alene, four members of a committee dedicated to curriculum review have urged the city's school district to ban Steinbeck's famous novel from being taught in classrooms, reports the (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review. The book would still be allowed "on a voluntary, small-group basis."

Mary Jo Finney, a parent who has previously raised objections about books in the school district's curriculum, declared that the book "is neither a quality story nor a page turner." She and other committee members have a problem with coarse language in the book, such as "bastard" and "God damn," and allege that "the teachers actually had...

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