The Atlantic published A Reading Guide for Those in Despair About American Politics. It’s a list worth looking through, and of course, reading…
- Americanah By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- The New Jim Crow By Michelle Alexander
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian By Sherman Alexie
- Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom By Ryan T. Anderson
- The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism By Edward Baptist
- Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith By Francis Beckwith
- The Coming By Daniel Black
- The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism By Pascal Bruckner
- Between the World and Me By Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics By Cathy Cohen
- Evicted By Matthew Desmond
- Roads to Dominion: Right Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States By Sara Diamond
- Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America By Tamara Draut
- Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America By Martin Gilens
- The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion By Jonathan Haidt
- The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements By Eric Hoffer
- Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right By Arlie Russell Hochschild
- Book of Judges
- In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in the 20th Century By Alice Kessler-Harris
- The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism By Yuval Levin
- The Possessive Investment in Whiteness By George Lipsitz
- Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class By Ian Haney López
- A Canticle for Leibowitz By Walter Miller
- Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 By Charles Murray
- Dreams From My Father By Barack Obama
- The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America By George Packer
- Citizen: An American Lyric By Claudia Rankine
- Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty By Dorothy Roberts
- The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown By Paul Taylor
- Because of Sex: One Law, 10 Cases and 50 Years That Changed American Women’s Lives at Work By Gillian Thomas
- Habibi By Craig Thompson
- Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! By Mo Willems
- American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America By Colin Woodard
Via Mark Carrigan
Online friendships afford a similar bounty: instantaneous, often hilarious adventures in debate, discussion, dialogue. The ties are strong enough to sate the social urge, but their gossamer threads never bind us tightly, rarely ask for the commitments and cohabitations of our closest relationships.
Damon Young “Distraction” pg 154
The book market is a mess and the second hand book market is even weirder. As a buyer the second hand books on Amazon are amazing as many hardcover, good condition books are listed at a penny $0.01 of course the shipping is added to this but at $4 a book this is still a sweet deal. After buying the 5 volume History of Private Life and having it shipped to my house for a total of $20 dollars I tried to figure out how it was even possible.
The massive set consisted on Volume I: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium, Volume II: Revelations of the Medieval World, Volume III: Passions of the Renaissance, Volume IV: From the Fires of Revolution to the Great War, Volume V: Riddles of Identity in Modern Times. Its authors are respected historians and the weight alone makes this an impressive purchase.
Naturally it made no sense and I was at a loss to how it worked. Finally, after Googling, I came across this thread. Its from 2012 but it throws some light on how the whole thing works.
A seller lists a book for $.01
Amazon collects $3.99 from the buyer and gives $2.66 ($.01 + $2.64 shipping allowance) to the seller. (The $1.35 ‘closing fee’ is subtracted from the shipping allowance by Amazon)
The seller is a ProMerchant, so doesn’t pay the $.99 fee (but does pay $40 per month to be a ProMerchant).
The 15% fee on 1 cent is zero.
The seller pays $2.38 or $2.88 in postage for a 1 or 2 pound package (or less, if it is very light weight and can go First Class. Much less if the penny seller is high volume and uses Bulk Mail).
The seller cost for the book is zero, because he got it for free somehow.
The seller used recycled packing materials, so those cost nothing, too.
The seller ends-up with $.27 (if it’s 1 pound media mail) in a domestic shipment (a bit more if it’s mailed using Bulk Mail).
The seller is happy with his “profit”.
Amazon ends up with $1.35 from the shipping.
Amazon is even happier than the seller.
Its not exactly big bucks but it does explain a little more how 1penny books can be sold at a (sort of) profit.
Most reviews are mildly helpful. The problem is that if something is reviewed and it has less than 3/5 it’s interpreted as being bad. Like not even worthy of attention. And as we all know reviewers are biased. Or incompetent. Or they just look at stuff that isn’t important. I don’t mean individual reviewers. I am a reviewer on some sites. I mean as a collective. A… Wait! what is the collective noun for reviewer?? probably something boring… Anyway an embarrassment of reviewers are usually generally bad. Taken together we all hate different aspects of the same thing, making it less helpful for the reader to decide what it all means.
But there is one type of review that is fantastic and that is the snarky, hilarious review. Take for example this review for Veet for Men Hair Removal Gel Creme by A. Chappell:
Initially all went well and I applied the gel and stood waiting for something to happen. I didn’t have long to wait. At first there was a gentle warmth which in a matter of seconds was replaced by an intense burning and a feeling I can only describe as like being given a barbed wire wedgie by two people intent on hitting the ceiling with my head.
And the review just gets funnier and funnier.
Or what about this review for Haribo Gummi Candy Gold-Bears, 5-Pound Bag by Douglas Pope:
The animal noises broadcasting from my pelvis were an ominous warning of the violent acts that were to follow. I shouldered my way into the bathroom, clawing at my belt, moaning with pain. The smell came first. It started sweet, almost tangy. That was quickly overpowered by a cloying chemical perfume.
And its not only on Amazon that people are creative. Tripadvisor has over 250 reviews
for The Grand Budapest Hotel
in The Republic of Zubrowka. Naturally neither the hotel, nor the republic exist as they are both fictional creations from a recent Wes Anderson movie called The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Much of my enjoyment was due to the kind attention of M. Gustave, the heavily perfumed concierge. I was amazed that he seemed to be there ALL THE TIME, always ready and delighted to help me! Case in point: On the plane ride over from the States I somehow lost my front row isle seat to the opera ‘Toscana’. When I mentioned this to M. Gustave, he told me that he’d be able to get me another ticket with just one day’s notice. And he did. Incredible. That in and of itself was worth a million klubecks to me.
Coming across reviews like these makes me happy. But I also wonder – what kind of literature this is? Should this be seen as a type of fan fiction? Maybe this works for the hotel but for the gummi bears? So is it just humor writing? Journalism? It is definately creative writing! The what is it that drives people to spend time and energy writing wholly or partly fictional reviews? Or even reviews for things that do not exist?
Maybe this should be the basis of a small research project? Or maybe I should just enjoy reading what people write and not worry too much about the rationale.
There is something compelling about lists. That’s why they are often used as clickbait and some of them are amusing. But there is something about book lists. The 10, 50, 100 books you should read always makes me wonder why the list is there. Is it to make those who have read them feel better? Or is it designed to make those who haven’t read feel inferior? Or maybe they are designed to rank our cultural capital? If you read 80 out of 100 on the list you have a solid B. Its good but you must try harder. Oh, dear only a C- well then…
This usually doesn’t bother me but then I came across the list of 80 Books Every Man Should Read with the tag line: ” An unranked, incomplete, utterly biased list of the greatest works of literature ever published. How many have you read?”
What does it mean? How many must I have read to be considered a man?
In the last weeks there has been a new buzz about a speed reading software called Spritz. The idea is that too much time is spent scanning sentences while reading. So if the reader can keep her eyes steady and the words can fly past then reading speeds can increase. HuffPost reports that with Spritz a reader should be able to clear 1000 words per minute, which would mean that you could read a Harry Potter book in under 90 minutes.
Naturally this is not really a new thing. There is other software aimed at increasing reading speeds (Spreeder, Quickreader, Read Quick, and add ons for Firefox).
Viewed in this way applications like these are great for efficiency. But isn’t that the problem? Do we really read Harry Potter for efficiency? If we take software like this and add it to the numerous lists-of-books-to-read-before-you-die (Goodreads, 1001 books to read before you die, Amazon’s 100 books, 50 books before you die) you get a very odd relationship to literature and reading.
Efficiency is for washing, not for literature. Yes, there are too many books. No, you will never read them all. Even Erasmus complained of there being too many books in the 15th century.
Is there anywhere on earth exempt from these swarms of new books?
But the problem with an (almost) infinite number of books is not resolved by increasing our stress in reading so as to grab a larger part of the pie.
There is an interesting connection between ebooks and memory. There are comments on this in many places (Scholarly Kitchen, Time, Scientific American) but Verlyn Klinkenborg sums it up nicely:
I finish reading a book on my iPad — one by Ed McBain, for instance — and I shelve it in the cloud. It vanishes from my “device” and from my consciousness too. It’s very odd.
This is familiar to those who read ebooks but it is really not that strange. Despite being different contents the ebook text lacks dimensions and differences that help our memories. Books have different covers, fonts, layouts, graphical elements, paper quality and more. They are marked by use: Old books are creased and sometimes stained. There may be a coffee stain on a page in your favorite book that will evoke a memory of the reader spilling coffee while reading. While attempting to find a passage in a paper book we can remember how far in the book the text appeared, that it was on the left or right and whether it was at the top of the page or not.
These dimensions are not available in ebooks. Most readers have only one font. Layouts barely vary, and if you have a stain on the screen, it appear on every page. All the ebooks weigh the same, look the same and smell the same. Only the text (not the font) varies. Because of this we struggle to remember texts we read in ebooks and this also effects our ability to understand new texts.
While I recognize the issue when it comes to ebooks. Does it really have the same effect with other e-reading? Many of us spend most of our days reading of screens. Blogs, emails and Wikipedia. Not to mention all the time we spend on online news and reading/re-reading our own writing. Are these more or less forgetful, compared with their physical counterparts? Or does the geography and variation of the web enable us to remember these more.
Is it not e-reading in general that makes us forget, but rather the poor design & format of the medium that hinders our memory? It could be that the screen based format is not the optimal for longer continuous texts.
I came across the “world culture score index” of “readers around the world”. It was part of an infographic showing the results of a survey asking 1600 Russians what they read. While knowing what Russians read may be interesting I was far more intrigued by the World Culture Score Index and the amount of time people spend reading.
Hours reading per week per person
1. India — 10 hours, 42 minutes
2. Thailand — 9:24
3. China — 8:00
4. Philippines — 7:36
5. Egypt — 7:30
6. Czech Republic — 7:24
7. Russia — 7:06
8. Sweden — 6:54
8. France — 6:54
10. Hungary — 6:48
10. Saudi Arabia — 6:48
12. Hong Kong — 6:42
13. Poland — 6:30
14. Venezuela — 6:24
15. South Africa — 6:18
15. Australia — 6:18
17. Indonesia — 6:00
18. Argentina — 5:54
18. Turkey — 5:54
20. Spain — 5:48
20. Canada — 5:48
22. Germany — 5:42
22. USA — 5:42
24. Italy — 5:36
25. Mexico — 5:30
26. U.K. — 5:18
27. Brazil — 5:12
28. Taiwan — 5:00
29. Japan — 4:06
30. Korea — 3:06
The source of the data was a bit tricky but I found this, which included a note on methodology:
Eventually I found this:
About NOP World Culture Score(TM) …
The Culture Score Index Series is based on further analysis of the NOP World Roper Reports Worldwide(TM) survey, which includes in-depth personal interviews with more than 30,000 people age 13 and older in 30 countries between December 2004 and February 2005. The data are weighted to the sampled population in each country. For more information about the Culture Score Index series.
Wait! What? “in-depth personal interviews with more than 30,000 people”. Really? A short in-depth interview would be 20 minutes. That would mean it took 10 000 hours to interview 30 000 people. A whole year only has 8760 hours!
Then there is the problem of reading. What is reading? Are you reading now? When you glance at Facebook are you reading? Does this fit in to your number of hours reading? Ok, ok so I have many questions about the survey. It’s still a cute list. The problem is that all attempts to define reading are about excluding some form of reading. This exclusion is all about making a value judgement as to what should be – and shouldn’t be – read.
Are we to assume that the Indians in this list are spending over 10 hours on the classics? While the Koreans are so technologically oriented that all they do is dumbly stare at screens?
Paper books are nothing more than the corpses of dead trees and other cool one-liners abound. But why do people chose to prefer one version over another?
Fatbrain asked around and created this infographic.
What are the top reasons for choosing a real life, lo-fi, analogue, hardcopy book over the digital option? In a recent poll we asked 1,000 Fatbrainers just that. Here’s what they told us.