Tag Archives: Books

‘Midnight in the Garden’ Goes Multimedia — Now there’s an App for That

John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, book, Savannah, Atlanta, Georgia, Margaret Mitchell House, meatball

John Berendt signs a copy of “Midnight in the Garden of Evil” at an event to promote the new “metabook” version. Photo by Lindsey Wright

A good story will always find new ways to be told, and here’s proof featuring one of the most popular tales of the last 20 years.

First, back in 1994, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” was a book. And not just a book, but a publishing sensation, selling millions of copies and pushing Savannah into the tourism stratosphere.

Then came an audiobook, a lifeless movie by Clint Eastwood, and plans for a Broadway musical.

Now, 21 years after John Berendt insisted on publishing it with no photos of its real-life cast and locations, “Midnight” is the first title of a multimedia iPhone/iPhad app called Metabook. The app is loaded with photos, text, audio clips – even an audio dramatization of the book with Laverne Cox of “Orange Is the New Black” voicing The Lady Chablis.

John Berendt, metabook, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Savannah, Atlanta, Georgia, murder

The new version is for iPad and iPhone.

Berendt spoke Thursday night at the Margaret Mitchell House about the new version of his book, probably the second most-popular Georgia title after Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind.”

He was joined on a panel by audio director Robin Miles and creative director Benjamin Alfonsi. They plan to produce a second non-fiction Metabook soon, augmented again with a tremendous volume of authentic source material. And Alfonsi promised a new novel by a famous American author will follow.

The digital book app includes the “Midnight” text, a 3D rendering of the Bird Girl statue, bios and updates on the characters, and a panoramic view of Bonaventure Cemetery. It also has crime scene photos with Berendt’s commentary and audio recordings of central figure Jim Williams (played, not to Berendt’s pleasure, by Kevin Spacey in the movie).

‘It Will Be a Wholly Different Shape’

Will Metabooks catch on as a way to appeal to younger readers used to more interactive experiences than print or plain e-books? “Midnight” seems a good place to test the waters, given its enduring popularity and the wealth of extras that flesh out the story. It might bring in new readers and please fans who crave even more details about Savannah, Williams and his multiple trials for killing his young lover.

John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, 2015

Berendt at the Margaret Mitchell House. Photo by Lindsey Wright

For Berendt, it now makes sense to add multimedia material (including those photos he objected to originally) because readers today can easily find the real thing online. That wasn’t an option when he wrote the original narrative, and he wanted them to rely solely on his prose for their mental images, rather than on snapshots in the middle of the print copy.

“Midnight” spent 216 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and sold some 5 million copies. Even the awful movie had an upshot: It paid for Berendt’s New York City townhouse.

Could a publishing phenomenon like that happen today, Berendt was asked by moderator Richard Eldredge of Atlanta magazine.

“It will be a wholly different shape,” Berendt replied. “It will never occur in the way it happened back then because bookstores were at the heart of it, and that’s not the case anymore. So I don’t know what the scenario will be, but there will be publishing phenomenon.

“It’ll be much harder for a very small book to break out. On the other hand, there is this incredible digital revolution and the Internet, so something could go break out, something could go viral very quickly from small to big.

“It’ll have to be viral , and I didn’t have any viruses going for me back then, so I can’t tell you.”

Celebrating a Beloved Bookstore’s 25 Years

“We don’t want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods.” — Roy Blount, Jr.

A Capella Books, Atlanta, bookstore, independent, Little Five Points, Inman Park, bookshop, books, out of print books, hard to find books, 25th anniversary, 25 years,

From Kurt Cobain to Flaubert… and lots more.

Like newspapers and the music business, bookstores everywhere have taken an evolutionary hit in the digital age. Many have folded up, including all the Borders chain and Atlanta’s Outwrite.

But A Cappella Books continues to give bibliophiles reason to hope — and to spend money. On Friday, the independent shop celebrated 25 years in business with a reception at The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and a party afterward at Manuel’s Tavern.

It was also a launch of a new book about the shop, featuring some of the city’s top writers, called “A Cozy Infinity.”

‘I Like Seeing the Good Guys Win’

A Capella Books, Atlanta, bookstore, independent, Jimmy Carter, Manuel's Tavern, Inman Park, Little Five Points

Owner Frank Reiss

Throughout the years and changing marketplace, owner Frank Reiss has moved the store to a few locations in the Little Five Points/Inman Park area. He’s adapted nimbly from his original focus on hard-to-find and out-of-print books. Now he has added more online sales, more events with authors, and selling more signed copies.

The first two locations were in the heart of Little Five Points, with heavy foot traffic and lots of stores and restaurants around. Now, he’s in a more isolated spot nearby that’s right up against busy DeKalb Avenue.

“This isn’t the story that everybody thinks of, this romantic haven for reading,” he says. “It is in a way. But it’s been a hustle, a lot of strategic business decisions to survive and do OK. So that’s what the story really is.”

Reiss has built the kind of goodwill that local merchants dream of.

A Capella Books, Atlanta, bookstore, independent, Little Five Points, Inman Park, bookshop, books, out of print books, hard to find books, 25th anniversary, 25 years,

A clean, well-lighted place for books…

“It was a great pleasure to pay tribute to one of the world’s nicest people who, as a bookseller, also happens to be raising the knowledge/intelligence/enlightenment quotient of the greater Atlanta region,” said Hank Klibanoff, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution managing editor and contributor to the book. “From some great authors, you could feel the enormous rush of love for Frank and his support for their work. It was one of those start-to-finish feel good evenings.”

And from a fan on Facebook, Noel Mayeske: “I like seeing the good guys win.  Great job Frank on building a book store Atlanta loves, and enduring through some very changing times over 25 years. Here’s to many more!”

And it’s not just anybody who can score a presidential library and Manuel’s on the same night.

Let Him Tell His Own Story

I could write a recap of the store’s history. But this is really good, from the store’s website:

When A Cappella Books first opened its doors in Little Five Points in 1989, there was no Amazon. For all intents and purposes there was no internet. Barnes & Noble had not even arrived in Atlanta. Oxford Books dominated the local retail book landscape, with another newcomer, Chapter 11, nipping at its heels. Only a few years later, Oxford had succumbed to its newfangled competition. In several more years, Chapter 11 was bankrupt.

A Capella Books, A Cozy Infinit, Atlanta, Inman Park, Little Five Points, Independents bookstore, books, Frank Reiss, Jimmy Carter, Manuel's Tavern

25 Years, 25 Writers

A quarter century–and three re-locations–later, A Cappella is still going strong, and, while still hardly bigger physically than its original incarnation, the little store plays a big role in the local literary scene, presenting important authors and selling books at venues all over town.

To celebrate its longevity, A Cappella is publishing a book: A Cozy Infinity: 25 (Mostly) Atlanta Writers on the Never-Ending Allure of Books and Bookstores. Contributors to the volume include Pulitzer Prize-winner Hank Klibanoff, former Atlanta Magazine editor Rebecca Burns, James Beard award-winning food writer John T. Edge, popular columnist Hollis Gillespie and celebrated local novelists Thomas MullenSusan Rebecca WhiteAnthony Grooms, and Joseph Skibell. The book’s title comes from one of the 25 essays contained in it, penned by Esquire staff writer and Atlanta resident Tom Junod

Reiss ended up writing more of “A Cozy Infinity” than he had planned.

“It’s where I tell the story of how I got into the book business and started the bookstore here in Atlanta and figured out a way to keep doing it for 25 years,” he said.

Smaller Stores Are Doing Better

The American Booksellers Association, which represents independent bookstores, says its membership grew 6.4 percent in 2013, to 2,022. Sales were up 8 percent in 2012, and those gains held last year, The Washington Post reported in an article citing a resurgence of independents.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement, but not everything is doom and gloom for America’s bookstores,” reported The Open Education Database.

In 2013, Publisher’s Weekly ranked Georgia as 18th among states for book sales. The state had 252 independent bookstores.

Others that have made the most of their niche include Charis Books & More in Little Five Points, with a focus on women, and Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, which sells children’s books.

Let me know about others, and share your stories and support for A Cappella and other independent bookstores. At this time of year, when we’re all out there shopping, it’s good to keep local independent merchants of all kinds in mind.

(Click on a photo to see it bigger. Mouse over for captions.)

A Cappella Books, 208 Haralson Ave. N.E., 404-681-5128, Sunday noon to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. acapellabooks.com


‘Everybody Writes’ in the Content Age

Ann Handley, Everybody Writes, content, content marketing, brand journalism, book on writing better, how to write better, improve your writing, public relationsShe had me at “learnings.”

That’s when content-marketing expert and author Ann Handley won my heart. About halfway through her newest best-selling book, “Everybody Writes,” Handley lists the business jargon terms she most dislikes.

I was enjoying her choices, since they mirror mine. The “Yeah, yeah — what she said” admiration I’d been developing through the book warmed as the list progressed.

And when Handley concluded with “learnings” … well, that was it. I have a new girl-crush.

Or in Twitter parlance, Handley is my first #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday).

“Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content” is:

  • A leading addition to the growing canon of books on content marketing/brand journalism/storytelling.
  • A snappy guide to help people write better in the Strunk & White vein.
  • And an endlessly valuable resource for anyone wanting to improve his or her communications skills, learn more about writing in today’s marketing context, and make sense of the various social media channels.

ALSO READ… ‘Epic Content Marketing’ … and ‘Tweet Naked,’ 2 More… 

It’s also ideal for browsing, dog-earing and highlighting phrases, experts and websites. It’s the kind of book you go back to and say, “Ooh, where was that thing…” and flip around till you find it. (Buy a printed copy, instead of the Kindle version I read.)

Handley’s helpful, no-nonsense approach seeks to demystify writing, and she breaks it down into endless useful tips — from the basics to a wide range of content creation.

As she points out, in today’s business world, “writing matters more… not less” and it’s a skill to be learned, not a rare talent that alights only the inspired. Her book will be a solid refresher for seasoned writers; helpful to print veterans navigating their way into digital; and most useful to non-writers who realize — or accept or admit — that  they really do need to develop writing skills.

Now that would be a learning.

RELATED: Read ‘Epic Content Marketing’ book

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9 Times Truman Capote Inspired Me to Reach for the ‘Inner Music that Words Make’

Truman Capote, journalism, writer, "In Cold Blood," "Music for Chameleons," "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

Capote in the “In Cold Blood” years

This week marks the 30th anniversary of Truman Capote’s death. He was just 59, but the decades of drinking and drugging made him look much older and pathetic when you’d see him on The Johnny Carson Show, silly and chatting away in that nasal, high-pitched voice.

That’s all I knew of him until I was old enough to discover his talent as a writer and aim to emulate it – or, at least, a lot of it. I wanted to become a journalist, and Capote was one of the generation of great American writers to merge a poet’s precision with a reporter’s eye – and a novelist’s sweep, most successfully, of course, with “In Cold Blood.”

That book showed reportage as art. And one of his later books, “Music for Chameleons,” further jazzed me with Capote’s first-person tenderness and uniquely vivid descriptions.

To celebrate the great words Capote left, here are nine segments and quotes that have stuck with me over the decades. And if you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and read “In Cold Blood,” “Music for Chameleons” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (and no, the Audrey Hepburn movie doesn’t count).

1. “To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make.”

2. “You know those days when you’ve got the mean reds…. the blues are because you’re getting fat or maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re sad, that’s all. But the mean reds are horrible. You’re afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Except something bad is going to happen, only you don’t know what it is.”

~ Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”


Truman Capote, In Cold Blood, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Music for Chameleons, journalist, writing, writer

His masterwork

3. “The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there.’ ”

~ The opening of “In Cold Blood”

4. “I thought that Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat.”

~ Perry Smith from “In Cold Blood”

5. “… he called after her as she disappeared down the path, a pretty girl in a hurry, her smooth hair swinging, shining – just such a young woman as Nancy might have been. Then, starting home, he walked toward the trees, and under them, leaving behind him the big sky, the whisper of wind voices in the wind-bent wheat.”

~ The closing lines of “In Cold Blood”

Truman Capote, Marilyn Monroe, In Cold Blood, Beautiful Child, Music for Chameleons

Capote with Marilyn Monroe

6. Marilyn: Remember, I said if anybody ever asked you what I was like, what Marilyn Monroe was really like—well, how would you answer them? (Her tone was teaseful, mocking, yet earnest, too: she wanted an honest reply.) I bet you’d tell them I was a slob. A banana split.

TC: Of course. But I’d also say…

(The light was leaving. She seemed to fade with it, blend with the sky and clouds, recede beyond them. I wanted to lift my voice louder than the seagulls’ cries and call her back: Marilyn! Marilyn, why did everything have to turn out the way it did? Why does life have to be so rotten?)

TC: I’d say…

Marilyn: I can’t hear you.

TC: I’d say you are a beautiful child.

~ from his memoir of Marilyn Monroe in “Music for Chameleons”

7. “She sounds like banana tastes.”

~ from a profile of a cleaning woman in “Music for Chameleons”

8. “More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.”

~ from “Answered Prayers — The Unfinished Novel”

9.”That’s not writing; that’s typing.”

Capote about “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac

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Friends Weigh In: How to Choose Which Book to Read Next — PLUS: 3 Quick Recommendations

How do you decide what to read next, books, reading, novels, Believe Me, Michael Margolis, a storytelling manifesto, Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch, ask Facebook friends

So many books, so little time… Sometimes I just go to one of my shelves and find something I haven’t picked up yet.

Tony blames it all on “The Goldfinch.”

For me, Donna Tartt’s divisive novel deserves only half the fault.

But we’re both in the same place, stalled in trying to figure out what to read next.

My friend and I are good, steady readers with broad interests, usually going from one book to the next. But lately we can’t find our groove. We both realized this when we tried to read “The Goldfinch” at the same time, after some positive early buzz but before the Pulitzer. We are fans of literary fiction, and I had enjoyed Tartt’s debut, “The Secret History.”

But each of us sheepishly admitted we weren’t enjoying this one, and we eventually gave up before page 200, or about a quarter of the way through. It was just such a slog, almost unreadable – and then we heard from more friends who had the same response.

How do you decide what to read next, books, reading, novels, Believe Me, Michael Margolis, a storytelling manifesto, Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch, ask Facebook friends, from gutenberg to zuckerberg, John Naughton

Micro-reviews of some of what I have been reading lately….
From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: Disruptive Innovation in the Age of the Internet, by John Naughton. Sort of like a Malcolm Gladwell book, this traces the history of innovation, starting with that famous Bible all the way up to the most famous social network. Naughton draws fascinating parallels and shows how changes in communications lead to profound changes in everything.

How do you decide what to read next, books, reading, novels, Believe Me, Michael Margolis, a storytelling manifesto, Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch, ask Facebook friends, Tweet Naked

Tweet Naked: a bare-all social media strategy for boosting your brand and your business. Levy’s an engaging writer and this is a highly readable primer on getting started. The faux provocative title just means: Be transparent.


How do you decide what to read next, books, reading, novels, Believe Me, Michael Margolis, a storytelling manifesto, Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch, ask Facebook friends

Believe Me: a storytelling manifesto for change-makers and innovators. By Michael Margolis. Short, smart, thought-provoking. And free online. Get it, read it over a cup of coffee, talk about it with a friend or colleague over a couple more.

The experience left Tony and me both oddly unable to get back on track with something new. Tony says he’s baffled by reviews now, and I admit my attention span seems shot – challenged, at least – by my focus on digital communications and social media.

(I have been reading books about those topics, though, as they relate to content, storytelling, branded journalism and such – just for different reasons and with different rewards.)

So I asked Facebook friends, How do you decide what to read next? Is it reviews? Cover art? Oprah?

The result has been a lively discussion, an edited version of which I want to share. Please join in, through the link at the top of this post. Let me know what works for you and what you’ve been reading lately, especially if it’s good. Or even “The Goldfinch.”

Stephen Bell Miller: I troll bookstores, take suggestions from reviews or interviews I hear on NPR; I look to biographies and mystery series; and the classics are always on my list.

Priscille Dando: Recommendation from someone I trust is the biggest influencer–friend, librarian, independent bookseller, reviewers at Booklist, publishing reps that know my taste. I do pay attention to Buzz books and awards but a book jumps the line if someone I know loves it.

Scott Pierce: My latest was The Circle by Eggers. I got it at Church Street Coffee & Books (in Birmingham, Ala.) for two reasons: I’d read Eggers before and loved him, and I trust Carrie to stock great reads.

Peter Rubin: I read a lot. They are cotton candy for the brain type books. If there is a CIA black ops, political intrigue, super spy thriller then I read it. If I like the author — then I binge read all his/her books. I know people who like the same types of books and ask them if I have run out of new ones to read. So, in essence, word of mouth from a trusted source.

Kelly Pierce: I mostly pick books up and flip to a random page. If I like that passage, I buy the book. Not very scientific. Sometimes I get heads up from friends or hear or see an author interviewed that sounds interesting.

Connie Ogle: Sometimes it’s something so simple as the cover or the description. … I read Fourth of July Creek recently and ended up reviewing it bc a colleague had suggested it. I do read reviews, too, of course, though I never trust Amazon reviews (what if it’s the author’s sister???) I get ideas from Twitter #fridayreads, too, and just looking at hashtags for books to see what people are talking about.

Michael Van Ausdeln: For me, it’s reviews. NYT Book Review plus Amazon Best of the Month.

Question: What was the problem with Goldfinch? I liked it thru the lens of grief. It was the reaction of seeing your mother die. It worked for me.

Connie again: It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read, The Goldfinch, but I only got about 200 or so pages through and was annoyed throughout. I swear, a book is set in NYC, and all the NYC literati lose their minds. Good grief. When I heard how it ended I was even more glad I bailed out.

Nunzio Michael Lupo: Nyt book review. Sometimes being interested in a subject and hunting around for it. Like right now I’d like to find a good one on the politics of the Second Vatican Council and one on the 1968 Democratic convention

Phil Kloer: Goldfinch seems divisive. I thought it was amazing, Dickensian. Franzen is also divisive but I have loved his last two, I go by reviews (NYT, NPR, even sometimes Amazon), FB word of mouth, but in most cases the author’s track record.

Cara Neth: My neighbors put up a little library across the street so I tend to wander over and grab whatever looks good when I want something new. I just read “Great Expectations” for the first time because it was there. Otherwise, I focus on working my way through the stacks of books that I’ve bought over the years and never got around to reading…I want to get through those before I read the latest hot novel. I thought “Secret History” was overrated, so I haven’t had any interest in “The Goldfinch”…but if it shows up in the little library, I’ll probably pick it up.

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11 Ways to Keep Balance in Your Life

balance, maintaining balance in life, wellness, how to live a balanced life, einstein, quoteI’ve been thinking about balance lately, and it’s come up several times in conversations at work, at home and on social media.

I find that I’m happiest when I am able to manage several aspects of my life in a well-rounded way. But if I try to do everything all the time, it’s an unrealistic expectation and I end up struggling and frustrated.

So I’ve accepted a key realization about priorities and personal time management. I have seven life categories that are most important to me. They are necessary for one reason or another, bring me pleasure or support my values, etc. Of those seven (such as career, family, hobby, etc.) , I can realistically handle five of them at a time, over the period of, say, a week. Then, I have to make sure that I rotate them all in on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, so that I don’t go too long without giving each plate a spin, so to speak.

For example: I like to eat right and exercise. But if work is really busy AND friends need my time AND I’m fighting a little flu bug… well, then it’s fine to skip the gym.

Or, since I’m also a big reader, if I go too long without starting a new book, I feel like I’m missing out on receiving the important nutrients that books give me — and I pick something up, even if it’s just for an hour.

I asked friends on Facebook for their thoughts on maintaining balance. Another friend, blogger Jessica Rossi, wrote about it in an excellent post. Here are 11 of their tips to keep balance in life. Send me yours and let’s keep the conversation going!

1. Alan: “For me, it starts with a very understanding and supportive spouse. She makes everything possible.”

2. Moe: “It’s all about doing some things with people. For example, if I didn’t have a gym partner that I have to meet right after work, I’d never leave work. Having a mini book club with friends or colleagues forces you to do your recreational reading during lunch, so that you’re also not working during the time and still reading a good piece of fiction to break up your day.”

3. Jenn: “It is about making sure to also take time for me. Because if we are not taken care of by us the we cannot have balance with others.”

4. Chris: “Balance sounds great on a self-help book cover but impossible to practice in my real life . My reality — only way to balance when life gives you inevitable extra weight is to take something off the scale or everything suffers . Life is defining priorities for me.”

5. Liz: “My husband says that sometimes the most romantic thing he can do for me is to take the child and leave the house. A few hours of alone time can right the scales pretty quickly. I have to schedule (as in put on the calendar weeks in advance) time with friends, dates with hubby, and time at the gym or it doesn’t happen.”

6. Diana: “By remembering that a job is a paycheck and a family is people. Spend your time with people.”

7. Charles: “League pinball on Tuesday nights. Drinks with my closest friend at an Irish bar on Saturday afternoons. Family and work fill the other time. Works for me.”

8. Russ: “Nothing is more important than family. It all flows from there…”

9. Trish: “Someone must be the flexible one in a relationship… to keep balanced life. He knows I’m watching out for him. Right now, it is too much work/not enough exercise, but family is good — even with the work travel.”

10: Elizabeth: “Try to say no more at work and yes more to family and friends.”

11. Jessica:It’s helpful to consistently re-evaluate how I’m spending my time. Simplify.”

Little Free Library: Love of Books, Sense of Community

Little Free Library, Decatur, Atlanta, Georgia, books, reading, map, locations, where can I find a free library, free books, Eddie's Attic, Decatur City Hall

Josh and Rebecca recently put this Little Free Library in front of their house.

Friends joined the Little Free Library movement recently and they love the interaction they’re getting with neighbors and fellow book-lovers. Just this morning, they pointed me in the direction of a handful more within a few miles of their Decatur home (including one in front of Decatur City Hall). And another friend told me about one closer to home, near Piedmont Park.

The little libraries aren’t just adorable. They’re also a great way to encourage reading (of actual books!) and build community. After all, what could be friendlier than sharing books among neighbors? It’s like social media before the Internet, and way more homey.

What is a Little Free Library?

It’s a ‘take a book, return a book’ gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories. In its most basic form,  a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share. You can, too!

That’s from littlefreelibrary.org, the excellent website of the excellent organization that started in Wisconsin a few years ago and has led to the creation of some 15,000 LFLs around the world — including a few dozen in metro Atlanta. Check out the site for more information, how to start your own LFL, a photo gallery and a searchable map of LFL locations.

Happy reading!