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Publishing is a notoriously risky business.

A publishing house might give a first-time author a six-figure deal, only to see the book flop. It's always been hard to predict what will sell. Now publishers are getting some help from data that tells them how readers read — and that makes some people nervous.

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Jul 17, 2016

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From Mexico City's Zócalo to Rome's Piazza Navona, public squares have always been a vibrant part of urban life. After visiting Italy a few years back, editor Catie Marron began thinking about the different roles these public spaces have played. She asked some well-known writers to share their thoughts about famous squares around the world, and the resulting essays are gathered in a new book called City Squares.

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When Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman was published earlier this year, readers learned that this much anticipated "second book" by Lee was actually a first draft of what would later become the beloved To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee radically revised this early version of the book on the advice of her editor, Tay Hohoff. That made us wonder: How much do editors shape the final book we read?

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The 1920s had Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The '60s, Norman Mailer, Philip Roth and James Baldwin. More recently, J.K. Rowling defined a generation. And now, there's ... PewDiePie?

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Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk loves Istanbul. But he is a creature of the affluent corners of the city where he grew up and now lives, and he has written many times about the lives of Istanbul's secular upper class. His latest novel, A Strangeness in My Mind, is the story of a street peddler, one of the millions who began immigrating to Istanbul in the 1950s from small villages in the country.

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Every so often, a genuine publishing phenomenon emerges. The latest one is no Harry Potter, but the reason for its meteoric rise to the top of Amazon's best-seller list is self-evident. On the cover of Carl- Johan Forssen Ehrlin's self-published The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep there's a sign that reads, "I can make anyone fall asleep" — and that's a promise sleep-deprived parents can't resist.

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