Watch out for 'summary books' sold onlineFebruary 15, 2019 6:31pm

Feb. 15--Yet another caveat emptor for online customers: Fake "summary books." They're shorter than the real versions but unlike books such as CliffsNotes, they often look much like them -- except for a "summary" label at the top of the cover.

Authors and publishers say they've recently seen a marked increase in such books, and are concerned because they're much cheaper and cut into legit sales. The Wall Street Journal analyzed the problem and reported, "Summaries of top-selling self-help and business titles appear at or near the top of recent searches for the books on Amazon," at times as sponsored results. The Journal said summary books typically are self-published using Amazon tools.

Examples include books by Marie Kondo ("The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up"); Timothy Ferris (author of "The 4-Hour Workweek"); Angela Duckworth ("Grit"); Ryan Holiday ("The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph"); and Steven R. Gundry ("The Plant Paradox").

Responding to the Journal, Amazon said it would remove titles that violate its rules, and pulled several summary titles. (WSJ)

Cliff Sims, a former White House aide whose book "Team of Vipers" is just out, has sued the president after Trump's lawyers filed for arbitration; they said the book violated a nondisclosure agreement. Sims says the White House is trying to use the nondisclosure pact to punish and silence him. (Washington Post)

Chipping in: In San Diego, an indie bookshop was in trouble when one of its owners underwent emergency heart surgery and its one full-time staffer came down with bird flu. Eight booksellers in San Diego and L.A. volunteered to keep The Book Catapult open while everyone mends. (What about the other owner? She's taking care of owner No. 1, her husband.) (Publishers Weekly)

Events: Sarah Norkus will sign her novel "The Wildflower Gazebo" at 10 a.m. Saturday the 23rd. In it, a teenage couple are making college plans when circumstances tear them apart. Years later, he becomes a murder suspect and she works to clear his name. William & Mary Bookstore, Merchants Square, 345 Duke of Gloucester St., Williamsburg. 757-221-1651.

Awards: Jimmy Carter won his third Grammy in the best spoken-word album category for "Faith: A Journey for All." At 94, he's the third-oldest winner in history. (L.A. Times)

Obituaries: Rosamunde Pilcher, who wrote "The Shell Seekers" and nearly 30 other romance and women's fiction titles starting in 1949, was 94. ... Patricia Nell Warren, a novelist who was "an inspiration to a generation of gays and lesbians who were venturing out of the closet" because of her 1974 book "The Front Runner," was 82. That book, said LGBTQ Nation, "told the story of an out young Olympic athlete in love with his closeted older coach" and led to LGBTQ running groups nationwide calling themselves Front Runners." (BBC, Shelf Awareness)

new and recent

Elizabeth McCracken's "Bowlaway" is her first novel in nearly 20 years (Ecco, 384 pp.); she tells the story of three generations of a New England family, with the bowling alley of the title being almost a character in itself (it reflects "the vicissitudes of history that determine prosperity or its opposite," Publishers Weekly said). The Millions highlights some reviewer praise together with an excerpt.

"We Cast a Shadow" by Maurice Carlos Ruffin (One World, 336 pp.). In a Southern city, a black lawyer goes to desperate lengths to protect his biracial son from racism; in their city, relations between the wealthier white majority and poorer blacks are deteriorating. The signs of racism are everywhere and every day, with some instances being futuristic but not far-fetched. "Ruffin skewers institutional racism with style and wit. But he also reveals the insidious nature of racism and the complex psychology of the marginalized: the narrator is so obsessed with whiteness that he begins expensive skin treatments for his own son." (Shelf Awareness)


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