a-song-of-ice-and-fireIn possibly the most bizarre book news this week, George R. R. Martin is offering lucky Song of Ice and Fire fans a chance of a lifetime . . . albeit a tragically cut-short lifetime. The author will be giving two readers the opportunity to be in the books, and then be subsequently killed off in a (probably) visceral and gory way. To have this amazing honour of Thrones fame, the fans have to cough up $20,000 (just over £10,000). This money will go towards charities of the author’s choice: one for a Wolf sanctuary and the other a Food Depot. The winners will also get to choose their role in Martin’s world – they could be a knight or a lowly peasant. What if the winner wants to be a dragon?

Harvard librarians have confirmed without a doubt that a nineteenth-century book in the U.S. University’s library has a cover made of human skin. Analysis reports have eliminated other animals from the equation and established that a note found inside the cover – purporting that the skin was from the back of a female mental patient – is true.

Michael Gambon – otherwise known as Professor Dumbledore – will be starring in a new J. K. Rowling adaptation. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy will star the former Hogwarts Head as the Parish Council leader of fictional Pagford, Howard Mollison, when it airs on the BBC.

Margaret Atwood’s sci-fi post-apocalyptic novel MaddAddam is also getting the TV treatment, courtesy of Darren Aronofsky for HBO.

Hachette’s battle with Amazon in the USA has escalated to protest-by-banners and badges now. Independent booksellers have begun a campaign against the retail giant with badges stating ‘I didn’t buy it on Amazon’. Sounds like a hipster’s tagline, but far more important. Amazon caused ire by delaying deliveries for Hachette titles and deliberately stopping pre-order options for their forthcoming books.

In competition news, Eimear McBride won the Bailey’s Prize for Fiction with her debut novel A Girl is a Half-formed Thing. The Irish author beat bookie’s favourite and critical darling/cult icon Donna Tartt to the win.

Finally, Shortlist have a list of the twenty best ever dystopian novels, from the obvious and classic entries (George Orwell’s 1984) to the more recent additions to the genre (Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series).