How to Submit a Book to Scholastic

by Jayne Thompson

Published on 22 Jan 2019

As the world's largest publisher of books for young readers, Scholastic is at the top of the list for aspiring children's authors whose goal is to get published. The company publishes books from established and new writers, so you don't need a track record to win a book deal. The bad news? Submitting a manuscript will require an agent, unless you're a practicing teacher.

Submit Only if You're a Teacher

Scholastic, like most large publishers, accepts submissions through agents, not aspiring authors. The only exception is if you are a teacher wishing to submit a manuscript in Scholastic's "Professional Books" category. This program publishes 80 to 100 titles a year on specific teaching approaches, often based on research conducted in the author's own classroom. Manuscripts in four subject areas are accepted: Teaching Strategies, Instructor Books, Grades 4-8 Books and the Scholastic Reference Library. The website explains what Scholastic is looking for in each category.

How to Submit a Manuscript

Submit a typed, completed manuscript by mail to the Submissions Editor, Scholastic Teaching Resources, 557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012. Remember to keep a copy of your manuscript as Scholastic will not return your submission. Since the company accepts submissions from teachers and educators only, include a resume, bio or other evidence of your relevant teaching experience.

How to Submit a Teaching Idea

Scholastic also accepts teaching ideas, or pitches, to its Professional Books program. To submit a pitch, compile a typed description of your idea, a sample of the activities you'll include, the grade level the idea is aimed at, and a table of contents outlining the layout of the book. Scholastic would also like to review a sample chapter. Mail the documents in hard-copy form to the Submission Editor with a resume and samples of other published work, if any.

Await a Response

The editor will review your manuscript or pitch based on originality of ideas, how useful your book is to working educators, how well it fits with the Scholastic Professional Books program, and whether the company thinks the book will sell. Don't worry if you don't receive a reply for some time. Scholastic receives an enormous number of manuscripts and can take approximately 24 to 30 weeks to respond.

Literary Submissions

Scholastic does not accept unsolicited submissions from authors. Rather, you'll have to find an agent to represent you, which can be difficult if you have not been published before. As a starting point, consult the current version of the "Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market." This book contains more than 500 listings for literary agents, publishers and children's book markets and is regarded as the bible for children's writers whose goal is to get published. The book retails for around $20 or you should find it in your local library. Once you have found the right person to represent you, your agent will submit the book to Scholastic for you and negotiate the contract if it sells.

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How to Get a Book Published by Scholastic

Scholastic publishes nearly 100 book titles each year. If you are a professional teacher who has written a teaching strategy, activity resource, grade 4 to 8, or a scholastic reference book, then you can submit your ideas to Scholastic to be published. Scholastic accepts unsolicited manuscripts from professionals. Follow these steps to submit your idea. Scholastic doesn't review manuscripts until you've gone through this process.

In your word processing software, type a brief description of the manuscript you want to submit. Clarify the subject matter, and target age range for your book.

Add the "Table of Contents" for your book to the document . Write a brief description under each chapter heading so the editor at Scholastic can get a snapshot of how your book has been developed.

If your book includes projects and activities for students, include a sample in your document. If not, add a sample chapter instead. This allows the editor to get an idea of your writing style and the way you present your topic.

Attach information about yourself. Include a resume, a list of any past published works you've done, and samples of your writing.

Proofread, print, and mail your completed document to: Manuscript Editor Scholastic Professional Books 557 Broadway 5th Floor New York, NY 10012

Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., Robin Coe has reported on a variety of subjects for more than 15 years. Coe has worked on environmental health and safety issues in communities across Ohio and Michigan. Coe holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism with a double-major in international politics from Bowling Green State University. She has also received training and experience as a nurse aide.


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Book reports may be a staple of elementary and middle school education, but they are far less frequently assigned in the higher grades. High school ELA teacher Nancy Barile thinks that should change. Students in 6th grade and above can learn a lot when they are challenged to use higher order thinking skills to understand and interpret the literature they read via a good old-fashioned high school book report template. 

To start, Barile recommends that students choose the books they want to write about themselves—with teacher approval, of course. See the book list at the end of this article for engaging young adult titles and book report ideas, including books with thematic elements that are particularly appealing to older readers. 

Writing the Report

To structure the book reports, Barile recommends eight sections of analysis that will “require students to provide evidence of their choices and reasoning, which helps them think more deeply about what they have read.” For each section, students should give examples from the book to back up their analysis. The below book report template can help. 

If your students need to review the elements of fiction before beginning this assignment, Teaching Powerful Writing is a great resource. This collection of personal narratives and writing activities highlights different writing techniques and covers literary elements such as voice, using flashback, and point of view.

Book Report Breakdown

Students should identify the setting of the novel and explain why the setting is important.

  • How are the time and place significant to the events of the story?
  • How does the setting contribute to the overall meaning of the novel? 


Beginning with the protagonist and then moving on to the supporting characters, students should discuss the characterizations in their novel. 

  • Is the character well-developed, or are they a stock or stereotypical character? 
  • Is the character static (unchanging throughout the story) or dynamic (changes by the end of the novel)? 
  • What personality traits does the character possess, and how does this affect the outcome of the novel? 
  • Do the character's inner thoughts and feelings reflect their outward actions? Explain. 


Students should identify the novel’s point of view and why it is significant.

  • What advantages does telling the story in (first person/second person/third person) have? Why?
  • Why do you think the author chose this point of view? 


What is the primary conflict in the novel? Is it human vs. human, human vs. nature, human vs. society, or human vs. themselves? Your students should delve into conflict much more deeply than they may have in the past. If their story has more than one major conflict, they should detail the additional conflicts as well.

  • Explain the conflict and how the protagonist deals with it. 
  • Does the protagonist overcome the conflict? Or do they succumb to it?

Students should identify the theme of the novel and the specific meaning of the book they chose. They should avoid stock themes such as “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and think more critically on their author’s message.

  • What was the author’s purpose in writing the book?

What are the symbols in the novel and how are they significant?

  • How do the symbols help develop the story and contribute to the overall meaning of the book?


Students should identify the foreshadowing in their novel and give examples from the text.

  • Did you know what was going to come? Why? 
  • Were there any hints as to what might occur? 
  • Why do you think the author chose to use or not use foreshadowing? 

Finally, students should evaluate the ending of the book.

  • Was the ending justified? (Was the ending viable and believable?) 
  • Was it a satisfactory ending that fit the rest of the novel? 
  • Was there a catharsis of some kind? Explain.

If your students follow this structure in their book report, it will help them explore each of the elements of fiction in a very specific way. As Barile discovered in her decades of teaching: “Students who explain, interpret, and synthesize what they have read gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of literature.”

Shop great classroom titles for book reports below! You can find all books and activities at The Teacher Store .

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Scholastic last promoted 'Conversations with God' book in early 2000s | Fact check

how to write books for scholastic

The claim: Scholastic book fairs are selling the book ‘Conversations with God’

A Nov. 9 Facebook post ( direct link , archive link ) claims a children's book publisher is selling a book at its school fundraisers.

“We want to alert and warn parents and grandparents about this series of books ‘Conversations with God’ being sold through Scholastic Book Fairs,” reads the start of the post.

The post goes on to make an array of other claims, including that the book contradicts biblical teaching, that evangelical author James Dobson warned his audiences about the book twice in the previous week and that child actor Kirk Cameron was also criticizing Scholastic for supposedly offering harmful material to children.

It received more than 2,500 shares in less than a week. Another version of the claim was shared more than 100,000 times in one month on Facebook. 

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Our rating: False

Scholastic said an edition of the book geared toward teens was included in one of its book clubs during the 2001-2002 school year. It has not been featured in its book clubs or book fairs for more than two decades. There is no basis for several of the post's other claims.

Book hasn't been in clubs or fairs for more than two decades

"Conversations with God" is a three-book series written by Neale Donald Walsch and first published in the 1990s . Claims about its supposed inclusion in Scholastic Book Fairs have been circulating for decades and appear in blog posts dating back as far as 2003 .

It does not appear on Scholastic Book Fair lists  for fall 2023 , and Scholastic said claims to the contrary are false.

“Conversations with God for Teens was offered through Scholastic’s Inspiring Words Book Clubs during the 2001-2002 school year,” Scholastic spokesperson Anne Sparkman said. “Since that time, Scholastic has not offered the title through its book clubs or book fairs.”

Fact check : Amanda Gorman's book restricted in one school, not banned county-wide

While Cameron has criticized Scholastic and is a board advisor for SkyTree Book Fairs, which presents itself as an alternative that provides "wholesome and trustworthy" books , there is no basis for several of the post’s other claims.

There is no reference to the book on websites for Dobson or Focus on the Family , the evangelical organization he founded in the 1970s.

The book is not currently on The New York Times bestseller list . The first book in the series entered the list in 1996 and “came and went for the next few years,” said Melissa Torres , a spokesperson for The New York Times. 

It spent a total of 139 weeks on the list, but it last appeared on Sept. 10, 2000, Torres said. The second book spent 19 weeks on the list until Sept. 29, 1997 , and the third spent 16 weeks on the list until March 14, 1999 . 

Walsch told USA TODAY quotations from the book included in the post as proof of its supposed lack of biblical grounding were taken out of context.

"('Conversations with God') was never represented as a Christian book, and the text itself tells readers not to believe anything found on its pages, but to simply explore its ideas if it serves one to do so," Walsch said. "The books explore and expand on all the world's faith traditions."

USA TODAY has debunked an array of claims surrounding books, including that a video shows books being removed from a Florida school after being deemed “inappropriate” and that an image shows a list of books banned from schools and libraries in the state. 

USA TODAY reached out to Focus on the Family and users who shared the post for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Our fact-check sources:

  • Neale Walsch , Nov. 16, Email exchange with USA TODAY
  • Anne Sparkman , Nov. 15, Email exchange with USA TODAY 
  • Melissa Torres , Nov. 15, Email exchange with USA TODAY 

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or e-newspaper here .

USA TODAY is a verified signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network, which requires a demonstrated commitment to nonpartisanship, fairness and transparency. Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Meta .

State Of The Union

State Of The Union

Kirk Cameron Calls Out Scholastic Books For Glamorizing Gender Transitioning

Posted: November 13, 2023 | Last updated: November 13, 2023

Kirk Cameron criticized Scholastic Books for promoting gender transitioning and sexually explicit material in books, calling the publisher a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

He shared excerpts from books that he found inappropriate and encouraged parents to download a document from SkyTree Book Fairs to share with school leaders.

“MUST READ! Ever wondered how all the sexually explicit, morally disgusting, and dangerous books get into our children’s schools, classrooms, and libraries?” Cameron said. (Trending: Meet The Ultra Rich Megadonors Behind Democrats)

“[SkyTreeFairs] and I did a deep dive and discovered who the real wolf in Grandma’s clothing is. We see you [scholastic]!”

“Some assume that because [Scholastic] is a world-renowned children’s publisher, these books we’ve highlighted are the exception,” he added.

“That is incorrect … [Scholastic] has published a list of their 100+ LGBTQIA+ books on their website. (This list is not exhaustive as we found many other LGBTQ-themed books not on it.)”

“For many years, [Scholastic] has been championed by educators as a trusted publisher of children’s content,” he continued.

“This should no longer be the case. Scholastic is pushing sexualized and gender-confusing content for minors into schools and libraries.”

Cameron is partnering with the company to counter the influence of Scholastic’s books, which he believes are harmful to children and families.

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The post Kirk Cameron Calls Out Scholastic Books For Glamorizing Gender Transitioning appeared first on State of the Union .

Kirk Cameron Calls Out Scholastic Books For Glamorizing Gender Transitioning

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Will The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes get a sequel?

Well, other than the original Hunger Games trilogy

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Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow, dressed in the crisp uniform of a Peacekeeper in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

Blockbuster movies seem guaranteed to produce sequels, and The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes naturally falls into that category.

The prequel to the already established Hunger Games movie franchise, starring Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, and Josh Andrés Rivera, is already tracking for a successful opening weekend, igniting fan activity , and even reviewing well . So it’s easy to imagine Lionsgate producers looking down the calendar for an opening. But…

Will The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes get a sequel?

Lucy Gray standing in a ruined arena in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

Technically, the four original Hunger Games movies and three Hunger Games novels are all sequels to Songbirds & Snakes . But in a more literal sense, no: Suzanne Collins, author of the Hunger Games books, hasn’t written another book in the series since Songbirds & Snakes .

Collins explained why she returned to the Hunger Games setting for one more book in an interview with Scholastic in 2020.

“I have two worlds, the Underland (the world of The Underland Chronicles series ) and Panem (the world of The Hunger Games). I use both of them to explore elements of just war theory. When I find a related topic that I want to examine, then I look for the place it best fits.”

The topic that inspired The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes was, according to Collins, the Enlightenment-era debate of the “state of nature,” and the way in which societies form and create laws and customs. It’s easy to see how that concept led to the idea of a book about how the Hunger Games transformed from a totalitarian tool into entertainment. In the same interview, Collins also noted that the story allowed her to dive deeper into the history of Panem that her original trilogy had to brush lightly over, where Katniss Everdeen knows there have only been four Hunger Games victors from District 12 in the Games’ history, but doesn’t seem to know anything about Lucy Gray Baird, the District 12 hero in Songbirds & Snakes .

Could there be a sequel eventually, though?

Collins has no stated plans to write another Hunger Games book — but who knows whether she’ll find inspiration again? There are 75 Hunger Games in the history of the franchise, and so far, Collins has only written about three of them, so there’s still plenty of fictional ground to cover. Songbirds & Snakes itself ends on an open note, with plenty of Coriolanus Snow’s backstory left to explore.

And without another Collins story to adapt, producer Nina Jacobson, who has overseen all five Hunger Games films, is uninterested in continuing the film franchise.

“If [Collins] had a story in this world with something she wanted to talk about, something to explore, then great,” Jacobson told Polygon this summer . “But if not, better to leave a franchise as something people feel fondly about rather than crank out a sequel for the sake of a sequel.

“Suzanne, the originator and North Star of everything that we try to do with these books, she doesn’t write just to make money,” Jacobson says. “She writes when she has something to say.”

So with a decade of time between Collins writing the first book of the Hunger Games trilogy and writing Songbirds & Snakes , we wouldn’t expect a further prequel installment any time soon.

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Pop musician Pink announced her plan to give away 2,000 banned books at her coming Florida concerts.

She teamed up with PEN America and the Florida bookstore Books & Books to combat book bans, especially those targeting authors who write about race and sexual identity, according to a news release .

“Florida overtook Texas during the last school year with more books banned in public school classrooms and libraries than any other state in the union,” according to newly released data , PEN America said.

Book bans documented by the organization show that books about race, racism and LGBTQ identities are disproportionately affected, as are books by Black and LGBTQ authors.

In a statement, Pink said she is "unwilling to stand by and watch while books are banned by schools."

“It’s especially hateful to see authorities take aim at books about race and racism and against LGBTQ authors and those of color. We have made so many strides toward equality in this country and no one should want to see this progress reversed. This is why I am supporting PEN America in its work and why I agree with them: no more banned books," she said.

Pink announced the decision in an Instagram live Sunday with the poet, activist and author Amanda Gorman and the CEO of PEN America, Suzanne Nossel.

She plans to give away four books Tuesday in Miami and Wednesday in Sunrise as part of her 2023 Trustfall tour. The books are “The Family Book,” by Todd Parr, “The Hill We Climb,” by Gorman, “Beloved,” by Toni Morrison, and a book from the movement “Girls Who Code,” founded by Reshma Saujani. 

There has been a 33% spike in book bans nationally, and Florida accounts for more than 40% of all documented ones, according to PEN America.

"While Florida is in the lead, its speech-constricting laws and policies have become a national template, helping to fuel a movement that has led to nearly 6,000 instances of book bans by PEN America’s count since 2021," it said.

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Paul Auster.

‘This might be the last thing I ever write’: Paul Auster on cancer, connection and the fallacy of closure

As he was finishing his latest novel, the writer became seriously ill. He talks about making sense of his life through fiction, the secret of sustaining love and how his new book took him by surprise

E arly in Paul Auster’s latest novel, Baumgartner , his eponymous lead character is speaking to a grief counsellor in the immediate aftermath of losing his wife in a freakishly violent swimming accident. “Anything can happen to us at any moment,” he tells her. “You know that, I know that, everyone knows that – and if they don’t, well, they haven’t been paying attention.”

When we meet Sy Baumgartner, it is 10 years after Anna’s death. Now 70 and a retired Princeton philosophy professor, we find him enduring a darkly comedic and somewhat lower stakes set of unexpectedly escalating domestic vicissitudes. In rapid succession he is frustrated in the simple task of calling his sister, scalds himself on a hot pan and tumbles down the stairs during an unnecessary visit to his basement.

“I’d wanted to try my hand at a short story,” explains Auster, 76, speaking from his home in Brooklyn, New York. “Something I have done almost none of in my career. I’d always written modestly sized books and then with 4321 and Burning Boy” – his 2017 Booker-shortlisted novel of close to 1,000 pages and his 2021 800-page biography of Stephen Crane – “I’d written two door-stoppers. It really wasn’t intentional. If you dropped those books you could break both feet, so I wanted something shorter and this older man came to me, sitting in his house and looking out the window at robins pulling up worms. I wrote a story called Worms, but then didn’t want to drop him. There was more there and so I started up again, knowing that underneath this almost Buster Keaton opening was something darker lurking.”

The bleak humour, if not the slapstick, persists through the book as Auster explores the darker material of Baumgartner’s decade-long relationship with loss and grief. Sy has an ultimately ridiculous relationship, complete with awkwardly botched marriage proposal, with a woman he imagines might be a replacement for Anna; he delves into Anna’s journals; he publishes and promotes her previously unpublished poetry and recalls incidents from his own childhood, life and family history, which, in a very Auster-ish way, imperfectly coincide with incidents in Auster’s own childhood, life and family history. But mostly Sy returns to that day on Cape Cod when Anna “encountered the fierce, monster wave that broke her back and killed her, and since that afternoon, since that afternoon – ”.

In the last two years, Auster has himself been subject to two traumatic events. Firstly, an appalling family tragedy, with widespread press coverage, saw the death of his baby granddaughter, while in the care of his son. His son, from his first marriage to the short story writer Lydia Davis, died subsequently from a drug overdose. Then in March this year Auster’s wife, the writer Siri Hustvedt, alerted the world on Instagram to the fact that Auster was being “bombed with chemotherapy and immunotherapy” and the couple were now living in what she dubbed “Cancerland”.

It was around the end of last year, when Auster was finishing Baumgartner, that he began to encounter “mysterious fevers which would hit me in the afternoon”. He was first diagnosed as having pneumonia before going down some “blind alleys’’ about long Covid and eventually receiving a cancer diagnosis. “And since then the treatment has been unrelenting and I really haven’t worked. I’ve been through the rigours that have produced miracles and also great difficulties.” As for Cancerland, he says there are no maps and no idea if your passport is valid to exit. “There is, however, a guide who gets in touch right at the beginning. He checks he’s got the name right and then says, ‘I’m from the cancer police. You’ve got to follow me.’ So what do you do? You say, ‘All right.’ You have no real choice in the matter, as he says if you refuse to follow he’ll kill you. I said, ‘I prefer to live. Take me where you will.’ And I’ve been following that road ever since.”

Auster says his fascination with the notion of a life-changing moment came from a childhood incident that provided the starting point for 4321. At a summer camp, a boy standing next to him was killed by a lightning strike. “It was the seminal experience of my life. At 14 everything you go through is deep. You are a work-in-progress. But being right next to a boy who was essentially murdered by the gods changed my whole view of the world. I had assumed that the little bourgeois comforts of my life in postwar suburban New Jersey had a kind of order. And then I realised that nothing had that sort of order. I’ve lived with that thought ever since. It’s chilling, but also liberating. It keeps you on your toes. And if you can learn that lesson then certain things in the world are more bearable than they would have been otherwise. I guess the impulse to write and tell stories is different for each writer. But I think this is the essence of what I’ve been up to all these many years.”

In a recent interview, Auster described the American obsession with “closure” as being “the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard of. When someone who is central to your life dies, a part of you dies as well. It’s not simple, you never get over it. You learn to live with it, I suppose. But something is ripped out of you and I wanted to explore all that.” In Baumgartner, Sy reflects for a long time on phantom limb syndrome, describing himself as “a human stump” and yet the “missing limbs are still there, and they still hurt, hurt so much that he sometimes feels his body is about to catch fire and consume him on the spot”.

“I nearly called the book Phantom Limb,” Auster says. “It’s such a powerful idea. That connection we have with other people and how vital they are to our lives. The importance of love. It can be hard for us to talk about it the way it deserves to be talked about. Long-term, ongoing, lifelong love and all the possible twists and turns it will take.” He believes “the brilliant Siri” puts it best when she says people make the mistake of using a machine model to think about love and attempting to maintain the machine in its original state. “You have to think of love as a kind of tree or a plant,” Auster says. “And that parts are going to wither and you might have to cut off a branch to sustain the overall growth of the organism. If you get fixated on keeping it exactly as it was, one day it will die in front of your eyes. For a love to be sustained it has to be organic. You have to keep developing as it goes along so everything is all intertwined, even the sheer strangeness of it all.” The fact is, he says, that we never really know our partners completely. “There are mysteries we will never be able to answer. But I think this applies also to ourselves. There are so many things about my own life that I don’t understand. My actions over the years. Why did I do that? Why that impulse? People spend years in analysis trying to figure out the answers. I’ve never done that so I’ve been more or less on my own, trying to figure things out, and I honestly have to report that I don’t think I’ve made a lot of progress.”

Baumgartner is Auster’s second book to be published this year. In January he tackled a national, as opposed to personal, trauma in the form of American gun control. Auster wrote the text for a photographic book by his son-in-law, Spencer Ostrander. Bloodbath Nation captures the locations of mass shootings in the US. “I took a year to write those 80 pages. I wanted to be as concise and precise as I could and for it to have the feel of an old-fashioned political pamphlet. No other so-called advanced country in the world is anywhere close to America in terms of numbers. But Americans, as time goes on, look less and less to countries abroad for inspiration about how to act. We are so smug. We have such feelings of superiority to the rest of the world. Even the stupidest things we do are considered good because they’re American , underlined six times.”

He says the book was well received but provoked little action. “Of course it’s depressing, as it’s one of the biggest failings in our culture and also one that is emblematic of the kinds of erroneous thinking that have been driving us in recent decades. But maybe people are just sick of the subject. The debate is just not happening. No one beyond a very few politicians dares to pick it up. And that will surely continue into an election year.”

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Baumgartner is set between 2016 and 2018, and there is allusion to “the deranged Ubu in the White House”. “I didn’t want to wrestle with Trump directly but of course he was lurking in the background of American life, an everyday presence.” As for the next election, Auster says he understood many Democrats’ initial lack of enthusiasm for Joe Biden. “He was certainly not my first thought for 2020. But he has surprised me immensely. I think he’s been quite extraordinary. And maybe in these few years, he’s been one of the best presidents that I can remember in my lifetime. He understands that government has an important role to play in our mental, moral and economic health. That the programmes he has proposed are an advance over what we’ve been getting from the last 40 or 50 years.”

While the right wing attempts to paint Biden as a “kind of doddering old, incompetent man, it’s far from the truth”, says Auster. “He is perfectly capable and knows more about government than just about anybody in Washington. He’s made his blunders, we all know that, but he’s not a bad choice at the moment and I can’t think of anyone better than him today. So I’m praying that he manages to squeak through next year because this is going to be a very, very close and incomprehensibly weird election. And we can’t even begin to predict how the other side is going to be if they don’t get the votes.”

As for himself, Auster is not looking much beyond his treatment and recovery, but he has been gratified by the initial responses to Baumgartner. “I do things in a very old-fashioned way,” he says. “I write my novels on a typewriter and my assistant then has to put it on a computer to send to the publisher. She’s been with me for a good 15 years and has rarely said much about the manuscripts beyond something bland like ‘good job’. But this time she told me to ‘march on’ as she couldn’t wait to read the next chapter. Siri, for over 40 years my first reader, also had no comments beyond ‘keep going’. Even my agent of 40 years, who again rarely comments, was so encouraging.”

Auster says he still can’t quite explain where this book came from. “There was just this guy growing inside me who became more comprehensible as the book advanced. So in the face of these responses, I simply smile and offer thanks. I feel that my health is precarious enough that this might be the last thing I ever write. And if this is the end, then going out with this kind of human kindness surrounding me as a writer in my intimate circles of friends, well, it’s worth it already.”

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Crime & Mystery

‘Murder’s Easy. We Did Something Much Worse.’

Our crime columnist recommends four newly published books.

Credit... Pablo Amargo

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By Sarah Weinman

  • Published Nov. 19, 2023 Updated Nov. 20, 2023

There’s a mordant theme to this month’s column; in three of the four books, dark humor undercuts despair and sardonic wit compensates for failure. Nowhere are these traits more on display than in DEATH OF THE RED RIDER (Pushkin Vertigo, 396 pp., paperback, $16.95), the second appearance of Yulia Yakovleva’s Stalin-era detective, Vasily Zaitsev, who goes about the ordinary business of solving murders while communities around him in 1930s Russia are purged and exiled en masse.

This time Zaitsev is dispatched to Novocherkassk, a Soviet cavalry school in the south of Russia, to investigate the horrifying death of a famous rider and his horse midrace. Soon he’s given an assistant he didn’t ask for, Comrade Zoya Sokolova, who arrives with her own agenda. The events — aided by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp’s nimble translation — unfold slowly, but hold the reader’s attention.

how to write books for scholastic

Yakovleva captures the futility of living and working in such a blighted society, picking up the torch from Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series. “Murder’s easy,” a man tells Zaitsev. “We did something much worse, all of us. To each other — Russians, Germans, English, French. Not just murder. Extermination — that’s what we did. We learnt that life was worthless. Worth less than a penny. That is a terrible thing.”

A coincidence ties together Yakovleva and August Snow, the Detroit-based private detective who returns for a fourth time in Stephen Mack Jones’s DEUS X (Soho Crime, 352 pp., $27.95) : The former lives in Oslo and also writes in Norwegian, while Snow now spends a chunk of the year in Oslo with his partner, Tatina.

Snow is there as the novel opens, “babysitting an inbred, clearly psychopathic bastard son of obscure Norwegian royalty,” when he learns of the sudden retirement of a Franciscan priest back home who is also a lifelong friend. The circumstances make Snow so suspicious that he heads to Detroit to investigate. It becomes clear to him that Father Grabowski is hiding something, but only when an armed squad arrives from the Vatican — and the body count climbs — does August learn the whole sordid truth from the priest.

As in previous installments, Jones’s action sequences move at a whip-quick pace, and his observations are endlessly quotable. For instance: “What’s really annoying about amateur killers is they either show up at the murder site too early, adrenaline pumping prematurely, and by the time the action goes down they’re exhausted and paranoid, increasing the odds of collateral damage. Or they show up late after one too many nerve-settling bourbons.”

Behold, a milestone: The last of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s noir novels has been translated into English. I’m already on record saying that I’d rather read the French noir writer — even one of his less-than-successful efforts — than most contemporary genre writers, and SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET (NYRB, 168 pp., paperback, $16.95), originally published in 1976 and newly translated by Alyson Waters, is up there with his brutal best.

Readers first met the wily, caustic private detective Eugène Tarpon in “No Room at the Morgue,” published as “Morgue Pleine” in 1973. (Think Dashiell Hammett with a strong sense of the absurd.) Here, pursuing corruption, he’s caught up with dirty police officials, drug runners, kidnappers and an abundance of guns.

With the help of two friends, Charlotte Malrakis — who hems and haws about sleeping with him — and the journalist Jean-Baptiste Haymann, Tarpon, as usual, realizes the only way out of a violent situation is by bulldozing through its messy, bloody center: “Under normal circumstances, you’ve got to take seriously someone who’s aiming a gun at you. But on this occasion, I giggled; I must have been slightly wound up.”

Finally, for a complete change of pace, pick up the new Juneau Black novel. The gentle humor in TWILIGHT FALLS (Vintage, 272 pp., paperback, $16) befits the winsomeness of the anthropomorphic animal characters who populate the village of Shady Hollow.

Vera Vixen, the intrepid reporter, and Orville Braun, the newly minted police chief, are picnicking together on a day date when they witness a local man named Shelby Atwater go over Twilight Falls. They soon learn he was last seen arguing with the young woman dating his son, a match he vehemently opposed. That woman, Anastasia von Beaverpelt, seems the likeliest suspect and Orville arrests her — but Vera is convinced of her innocence. The investigation will upend Shady Hollow and, possibly, her romance with Orville.

Black, the joint pseudonym of Jocelyn Cole and Sharon Nagel, again leans heavily, and successfully, into earnestness. These authors believe so fervently in their characters and world that readers, too, find it easy to buy into their vision of community and harmony — one that’s altered, but never destroyed, by violent death.

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The political artist Edel Rodriguez drew some of the most provocative images of the Trump presidency. His new graphic memoir skewers the powerful once more .

Barbra Streisand’s 970-page memoir, “My Name is Barbra,” is a victory lap past all who ever doubted or diminished her, our critic writes .

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