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The Roundup: October 15, 2021

Literary freedom certainly was of importance to Ralph Ellison. Even though Invisible Man continues to be celebrated as one of the most powerful and complex works in American fiction, some black scholars deride him for wanting his work to stand solely on artistic merit rather than as a political statement on racism.

In this week’s issue, writers sound off on why women playwrights remain underproduced, why literary freedom is an essential human right, how mystery stories are being shaped by 2020 events, and why your book may not be available for purchase in time for Christmas; the New York Times Book Review invites you to celebrate its 125th anniversary; the 25 most iconic book covers of all time; and why school librarians need to unionize.

Cover design by Edward McKnight Kauffer, for the first print edition of Ellison’s Invisible Man issued in 1952, as featured in LitHub‘s “25 Most Iconic Book Covers in History.”

The Great Book Shortage of 2021, Explained
Between a paper shortage, a labor shortage and increased demand for books from Americans bored of hearing about how COVID-19 has changed everything, your book may not be available for readers to buy in time for the holiday season.

A Racial Reckoning Is Underway in Theater. Where Is the Gender Reckoning?
The New York Times
Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Theresa Rebeck pens a powerful op/ed on why the works of women playwrights get produced far less often than men.

Stephen Cha on Choosing the Best of Mystery and Suspense During an Unprecedented and Harrowing Year
Literary Hub
Stephen Cha, the long-time anthology editor of Best American Mystery Stories, talks about how crime and suspense stories have changed over the years and what impact the dramatic events of 2020 may have on the mystery genre.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Literary Freedom as an Essential Human Right
The New York Times
The esteemed professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University and author of Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow and The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song, publishes an essay adapted from remarks he gave upon receiving the 2021 PEN/Audible Literary Service Award about literary freedom.

It’s Official: Book Publishing Sales Held at $25 Billion in 2020
Publishers Weekly
Despite canceled book signings and readings, delayed publications, and falling incomes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) report says that 2020 industry sales held steady at $25.7 billion, down just 0.2% over 2019. Adult trade sales rose 9.6% with children’s/YA up 3.5%. The AAP also reported that 2020 was the first time that online book sales, dominated by Amazon, account for more than 50% of all trade sales.

School Librarians Must Treat the Fight for Their Future Like the Political Campaign It Is
Publishers Weekly
This op/ed by a lobbyist for public school libraries highlights the challenge of ensuring that all public schools have school librarians given that many districts are re-assigning librarians to teach classes or support other pandemic-impacted learning needs. The article calls for school librarians to unionize and act at the local level.

The 25 Most Iconic Book Covers in History
Literary Hub
From Austen’s Pride & Prejudice to Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, the managing editor of LitHub reflects on the significance of book covers and what they mean to us culturally and as writers/readers.

The Best of the Book Review: A Virtual Event Celebrating 125 Years
The New York Times
Which classics did the Book Review once get wrong? What beloved authors have sent irate letters to the editor? And how much do you know about the section’s storied past? Subscribers can register to attend the Book Review’s 125th-year online celebration with starry performances, unexpected letters, trivia, etc., on October 25 at 1:00 pm eastern.