Talking About Books . . .

According to the folks at Audible their members listened to over one billion hours of “spoken word entertainment” during 2017.  Furthermore, Tuesday is the most popular listening day; the most popular time when people begin listening is between 4:oo p.m. and 5:00 p.m.; and the most popular genre this year is self-improvement.

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On Writing

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one in your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day… fifty the day after that… and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s — GASP!! — too late.”

The above is a quote by Stephen King about the use of adverbs by writers.  It is from his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.  You can find more of King’s thoughts on what constitutes good and bad writing here.

Is King correct or incorrect about the use of adverbs (-ly adverbs in particular)?  In their book Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal about the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing, authors Ben Blatt and Vikas Adam delve into the adverb issue and many other issues in an attempt to scientifically explain what makes a book a bestseller.  There are numerous graphs and charts, and it’s a very enlightening read.

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The Long Read is one of the many wonderful features provided by The Guardian.  It also includes podcasts and photo essays.  Check it out.  The subjects are quite diverse, so you’re sure to find numerous pieces that you’ll enjoy.

And don’t miss the list of The Best Long Reads of 2017 from The Guardian.

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While browsing the NPR website recently I ran across a series called In Character which was broadcast many years ago.  Its stated purpose was to explore the great characters of American fiction, folklore, and pop culture.  Some of the many characters spotlighted include Ricky Ricardo, Willie Stark, Auntie Mame, Charlie Brown, Norman Bates, and Nancy Drew.  Click on the title that interests you, and you will be taken to a page that  provides the audio of the segment as well as a written version of it complete with interesting photos and drawings.

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The Story of America

Jill Lepore is a history professor at Harvard, the author of a number of books, and a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine.  One of Lepore’s best books is The Story of America: Essays on Origins which is composed of 20 essays on America and notable Americans that she wrote originally for The New Yorker.  The title is a bit too broad since the book only contains 20 essays, but her choice of topics and her writing style make each essay worth reading.  Be sure to read the essays about Benjamin Franklin (“The Way to Wealth”) and Charles Dickens (“Pickwick in America”).

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Robert McCrum is the author of six novels, and the co-author of The Story of English. He was the editor-in-chief of the British publishing house Fabre & Fabre for almost 20 years, and the literary editor of the Observer for 12 years.  He has also been a contributor to the The Guardian since 1990.  Mr. McCrum has recently completed a two year project to create a list of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time – or at least the ones he thinks are the best.  I could argue with some of his choices as well as some of his omissions, but every list of this kind is subjective, so why bother.  It provides a wonderful list of books you might want to read.

In 2015 McCrum completed a list of the 100 best novels written in English.  Again, you have a list that is definitely subjective and definitely worth perusing.

Be sure to check out the associated articles referenced at the top of each list.

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I’ve got a great idea for the new year: Make miniature paper sculptures from the pages of old books.  You can see some examples of what Malana Valcarcel has created at boredbanda.  Caution: If you explore this website you might find yourself there for hours.

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Gulliver’s Travels, which was published in 1726, is sometimes considered a children’s book, but Jonathan Swift definitely didn’t have children in mind when he wrote it.  A Smithsonian magazine article lists some surprising things you probably don’t know about the book.

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