Also: John Hodgman on Ayn Rand; J.K. Rowling to donate proceeds of new novel to charity; Fox News defends anchor's interview with the author of Zealot.
The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
The smell of chocolate boosts book sales, according to a study by Belgian researchers published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. The researchers, led by Lieve Douce of Belgium's Hasselt University, spent 10 days observing customers in a Belgian bookstore. For part of each day, a subtle chocolate scent was released into the air. Customers were 40 percent more likely to buy romance novels and cookbooks, and about 22 percent more likely to buy books in other genres when the chocolate scent was present. Customers also spent more time browsing, researchers found. Pleasant smells have long been known to trigger spending: A 2008 study concluded that the smell of chocolate chip cookies made women more likely to make impulse purchases.
The London law firm that inadvertently leaked J.K. Rowling's identity will be making a "substantial" donation to charity after Rowling took legal action against leakers Chris Gossage, a partner at the Russells law firm, and his wife's friend Judith Callegari. Rowling announced that all the royalties from her latest book, The Cuckoo's Calling, which she wrote under the name Robert Galbraith, will be given to the same charity: the Soldiers' Charity, which supports soldiers and war veterans. Rowling said, "This donation is being made to The Soldiers' Charity partly as a thank you to the army people who helped me with research, but also because writing a hero who is a veteran has given me an even greater appreciation and understanding of exactly how much this charity does for ex-servicemen and their families, and how much that support is needed." Rowling's lawyer said in court that the author was "very much aggravated by repeated speculation that the leak had, in fact, been a carefully coordinated publicity stunt by her, her agent and her publishers designed to increase sales."
Salon's Prachi Gupta argues that The New York Review of Books has "a woman problem": A miserable 1 out of 27 of the contributors in the latest issue were women, which Gupta notes makes the publication nearly as bad as The London Review of Books.
Fox News is defending Lauren Green's now-infamous interview with Zealot author Reza Aslan. On Wednesday, Fox anchor Shannon Bream brought on L. Brent Bozell III, the head of the conservative Media Research Center. Bozell said: "I'll be the first one to stand up and applaud Lauren Green for the question that she asked. It was the exact, correct question that needed to be asked." Bream added: "We know that there are a lot of folks out there who are happy to criticize Christian viewpoints and faith." Green's interview last week sparked such a furor that the book became Amazon's top seller, and a publisher in the U.K. is rush-printing the book to come out ahead of schedule.
John Hodgman imagines what it would be like if Ayn Rand wrote a Parade column: "My moral philosophy is founded on the idea that there is an objective reality, and that man's senses can perceive this objective reality. This faculty, which is man's reason, is paramount above all else. He takes for evidence only his own experience, his own judgment, and that is why I do not hesitate to say, objectively, definitively, that 'Caddyshack' is the year's best movie."
The New York Times published the text of George Saunders' commencement speech at Syracuse University: "What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded ... sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly."
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