Archive for the ‘Reading Trends’ Category

The Beck/Oprah Effect

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Two names you may not have expected to hear in the same sentence — Glenn Beck and Oprah Winfrey. Nonetheless, Motoko Rich’s headline in the NYT today says that “Glenn Beck Is Becoming New Oprah.”

But a Beck book is quite different from an Oprah book. Beck likes thrillers, especially ones that reflect his own political stances (Brad Thor, James Rollins, Vince Flynn). He’s also picked some authors who, as Beck delicately puts it, are “on the liberal side of things, which is, you know fine.”

Andrew Gross, for instance, tells Rich that the Beck attention gives with one hand and takes away with the other; conservatives who bought the book based on Beck’s recommendation are angry that they were duped into buying a “bunch of lefty” garbage. Meanwhile, his liberal fans are suspicious of his association with Beck.

Vampire Morality

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Many years from now, some cultural historian will come up with a plausible theory about why vampires are so popular right now.

For now, the Philadelphia Inquirer observes that today’s vampires are quite different from your father’s; once inherently evil, now they can be lovable heroes.The theme of morality runs through many current popular vampire movies and novels.

To fully explore this subject, the article suggests the huge vampire anthology, The Vampire Archives.

The Vampire Archives: The Most Complete Volume of Vampire Tales Ever Published (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
Retail Price: $25.00
Paperback: 1056 pages
Publisher: Vintage – (2009-09-29)
ISBN / EAN: 0307473899 / 9780307473899

Nordic Gore

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Nathaniel Rich, editor of the Paris Review, recently read nearly thirty Scandinavian crime novels, to try to discern “why the most peaceful people on earth write the greatest homicide thrillers” for SlateScandinavian Crime Wave.

Livin’ the Moment

Monday, June 29th, 2009

These days anyone who dares to complain about work adds “But at least I have a job.”

Yet, as evidenced by what we’re reading, Americans are not fulfilled by their work. Alain de Botton’s The Pleasure and Sorrows of Work has been widely reviewed and is on waiting lists in most libraries. Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soul Class, which argues against the white-collar life and for working with your hands, is at #34 on Amazon.

It seems everywhere you turn, you find new books on chucking it all and raising goats (Brad Kessler’s Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese, Scribner, 6/23; featured on Salon today) or leaving a solid career to move as far away from what you know as possible (Waking Up in Eden: In Pursuit of an Impassioned Life on an Imperiled Island, Lucinda Fleeson, Algonquin, 6/16; I spent my weekend enchanted with this book), or staying put, but changing your life completely (Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, Novella Carpenter, Penguin, 6/11).

If you’re hearing echos of the ’60’s, you won’t be surprised to learn that a book called Yeah Dave’s Guide to Livin’ the Moment rose to #14 on Amazon over the weekend (it’s now at #42).

Author Dave Romanelli is co-founder of a Phoenix AZ yoga studio and teaches “Yoga+Chocolate” and “Yoga+Wine” courses. Of the book, PW said, “This lighthearted overview of awareness should provide seekers many ideas; accomplished yogis probably need not apply…”

Yeah Dave’s Guide to Livin’ the Moment: Getting to Ecstasy Through Wine, Chocolate and Your iPod Playlist
David Romanelli
Retail Price: $14.95
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Broadway – (2009-03-17)
ISBN / EAN: 0767929489 / 9780767929486

‘Bad Parent Lit’

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

The Wall Street Journal identified the trend, (Bad Parents and Proud of It), but our friends at Shelf Awareness gave it the moniker, ‘Bad Parent Lit.”

Not only are new and forthcoming books part of the trend, but also Web sites (’s “Bad Parent” — a compilation of essays from it will be pubbed in the fall) and TV (a new ABC sitcom, “In the Motherhood“).

Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace
Ayelet Waldman
Price: $24.95
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Doubleday – (2009-05-05)
ISBN-10: 0385527934
ISBN-13: 9780385527934


Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood
Michael Lewis
Price: $23.95
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co. – (2009-05-18)
ISBN-10: 039306901X
ISBN-13: 9780393069013


It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita
Heather Armstrong
Price: $24.00
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Simon Spotlight Entertainment – (2009-03-24)
ISBN-10: 1416936017
ISBN-13: 9781416936015


True Mom Confessions: Real Moms Get Real
Romi Lassally
Price: $14.00
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade – (2009-04-07)
ISBN-10: 0425226042
ISBN-13: 9780425226049

Romancing the Recession

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

The NYT  just discovered that the romance is hot, at least in books.

We all know that, but it is amusing to read the article to see how difficult it can be to get real figures in this business.

Recession Fuels Readers’ Escapist Urges, by Motoko Rich

Ann Patchett on Readers, Libraries, Books

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Ann Patchett is a “dutiful member” of the Nashville Public Library Foundation Board, as she admits in the opening line of her Wall Street Journal piece on Saturday, The Triumph of the Readers. After presenting a “dismal report” on the state of the library’s endowment, Director Donna Nicely announces that the library’s new customer survey shows that the #1 reason people come to the library is not for the computers, not to check out videos, but for books.

She goes on to point out that, in the recent NEA study, the biggest increase in reading of fiction is among 18 to 24 year olds,

But doesn’t it make sense? This is the first crop of newly minted adults who were raised up on Harry Potter novels. They came of age attending midnight release parties at their local bookstores [EarlyWord Ed. Note; and libraries!] and then faking mysterious illnesses the next day for the absolute necessity of staying in bed to read.

As part of a litany about what to do to encourage reading, Patchett says, ” If you’ve got a little extra money you might think of giving it to your public library as most of their operating budgets have been trimmed beyond recognition.”

Questions about NEA’s “Reading on the Rise” Report

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Already, questions are being raised about whether the new NEA study, which shows a rise adult reading of literature, is truly comparable to the 2002 study. Michael Cader in the online newsletter, Publisher’s Lunch suggests that the outgoing head of the NEA, Dana Gioia, is using the report to show that under his leadership, the NEA’s efforts (such as The Big Read) have had been successful. Cader indicates that the rise is more likely due to the fact that the new study includes reading online. He quotes the report,

…eighty-four percent of adults who read literature (fiction, poetry, or drama) on or downloaded from the Internet also read books, whether print or online. Nearly 15 percent of all U.S. adults read literature online in 2008.

According to the NYT report, Gioia discounts the impact of the change in the study,

Mr. Gioia said that Internet reading was included in the 2008 data, although the phrasing of the central question had not changed since 1982. But he said he did not think that more reading online was the primary reason for the increase in literary reading rates overall.

The text of “Reading on the Rise” is downloadable here.

Fiction Reading Increases

Monday, January 12th, 2009

A report released today by The National Endowment for the Arts indicates that the 25-year decline in fiction reading has reversed. The report,  titled “Reading on the Rise: A new Chapter in American Literacy,” is based on a survey conducted by the  Census Bureau. 

Adults reporting that they read at least one novel, short story, poem or play in the previous year declined from a high of 56.9% in 1982 to 46.7% in 2002. The 2008 figure moved up  a notch to 50.2%.

The story is being reported by several news agencies, including The New York Times, Washington Post and the AP.

Teens and Urban Fiction

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

On Monday, the Boston Globe looks at teens and urban fiction: Urban fiction gains teen fans and adult critics. Among those quoted in the article is Amy Pattee, assistant professor at Simmons Library School, who recently spoke at the New England Library Association conference on the subject.

A more insightful look at why urban fiction appeals to teens appeared recently in BookList’s “Book Group Blog” — Real World, Teen Fiction

Video Games and Libraries

Monday, October 6th, 2008

The NYT Times has discovered that video games are being used as teaching tools (Using Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers),

Increasingly, authors, teachers, librarians and publishers are embracing this fast-paced, image-laden world in the hope that the games will draw children to reading.

Spurred by arguments that video games also may teach a kind of digital literacy that is becoming as important as proficiency in print, libraries are hosting gaming tournaments, while schools are exploring how to incorporate video games in the classroom.

It’s one of those frustrating “on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand” articles that makes sweeping statements about what educators on various sides of the argument say, with very few actual quotes. 

But at least it shows how libraries are using video games; the article notes that in the first half of the year, NYPL hosted over 500 game tournaments, drawing 8,300 teenagers. Libraries in Columbus OH and Ann Arbor, MI are also mentioned.

One of the few experts quoted is James Paul Gee, author of What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy; “Games are teaching critical thinking skills and a sense of yourself as an agent having to make choices and live with those choices.” 


What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy

Second Edition: Revised and Updated Edition 

 James Paul Gee

  • Paperback: $16.95; 256 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 2nd edition (December 26, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 1403984530
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403984531

More Books on NPR’s Web Site

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

This may refute Steve Jobs’s assertion that Americans don’t read anymore; producer Joe Matazzoni recently told Publishers Weekly, “Books are among the top three topics attracting traffic to the NPR site.”

As a result, is expanding its coverage by adding Web-only content, including three to four book reviews a week. They’ve hired six new reviewers, among them Bookslut founder, Jessica Crispin and graphic novel reviewer Laurel Maury.

Reading for Gen X, Y and Z

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

NPR news show, “The Bryant Park Project” was launched Oct ’07. The goal of the daily two-hour show is to “combine the authority and intelligence of NPR with the tone and sensibility the next generation of Public Radio listeners demand.”

Since they’re trying to appeal to the younger portion of their audience, as are many libraries (Maricopa County PL just completed a marketing study of 24 to 40 year olds), it’s worth a look at the books they cover.

Yesterday, Robert Powers, the author of You Are a Miserable Excuse for a Hero talked about his book, the first in the “Just Make a Choice! Series”. Powers uses humor to illustrate his theory that most people avoid making decisions, and thus, fail to become heroes because they prefer to keep their options open.

The book is owned by just a few libraries; it looks like it wasn’t reviewed prepublication.

You Are a Miserable Excuse for a Hero

Book One in the Just Make a Choice! Series

  • Paperback: $13.95
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (May 27, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0312377347
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312377342

The show also features a monthly book club with regular online discussions. The titles that have been covered so far are:

Petropolis, Anya Ulinich, Viking — current selection

Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman, Morrow– May

The God of Animals, Aryn Kyle, Scribner — April

In The Country of Men, Hisham Matar, Dial — March (first selection)

“The Bryant Park Project'” is currently carried by a limited number of stations (you can check here to see if it’s in your area. You can also listen to it online).

Take That, Steve Jobs!

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

It’s tough to say what’s the best line from today’s NY Times Op/Ed piece by Timothy Egan, “Book Lust.” In it, Egan challenges Steve Jobs’s recent comment that people don’t read any more.

I vote for this one as the most inspiring line:

Reading is… an engagement of the imagination with life experience. It’s fad-resistant, precisely because human beings are hard-wired for story, and intrinsically curious. Reading is not about product.

But the “Oh, snap!” moment is this one:

The latest Harry Potter book sold 9 million copies in its first 24 hours – in English. “The DaVinci Code,” a story of ideas even with its wooden characters and absurd plotting, has sold more than 60 million copies.

By contrast, Apple reported selling a piddling 3.7 million of the much-hyped iPhones through 2007. Is the iPhone dead? Of course not. But what should be dead are foolish statements about how human nature itself has changed because of some new diversion for our thumbs.

NEA Study — Just Poor Timing?

Friday, January 25th, 2008

I just wanted to do a Friday shout out to Richard Reyes-Gavilan, for making one of the best points I’ve heard about the N.E.A. report on the decline in reading of creative literature in America. In response to the New Yorker two-part series “Twilight of the Books,” he points out that the survey was conducted in August, 2002; “Speaking for myself — and countless readers at the New York Public Library, where I worked at the time — the twelve-month period beginning in September, 2001, was not a particularly good one by which to measure reading habits.” He quotes Ian McEwan, who said that post-September 11th, he found it “wearisome to confront invented characters.” (The study only reported on “literary reading” which excludes nonfiction).

Naively, after the N.E.A report, “Reading at Risk” was published, I thought it was counterproductive to argue with the results. Surely, pointing out this “national crisis” would bring a multitude of efforts to solve the problem? The NEA created “The Big Read.” And, on the other hand, we get responses like Steve Jobs casually declaring the Kindle a failure because “people don’t read anyway.” Thanks, Richard Reyes-Gavilan, for standing up for readers.