Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bookmarking 10 - Dolphins

One of my oldest bookmarks, this was purchased for the two leaping dolphins. This bookmark has not had an easy lifetime. Purchased 10 years ago, it has since lost the lacquered nut that hung from the top, much of the wood's shine, and the bottom part of the bookmark has broken off (the jagged edge at the bottom of the photo used to lead to a complete circle around the dolphins). Though slightly impractical (it is fairly thick), this is perhaps one of my favorite bookmarks. No other, I don't think, has quite as good a smell.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Original intentions

In order to fully understand the results of the book blogger survey, one must know the original intentions. See, this project did not begin as a survey but rather as a series of generalizations and assumptions. It began with the simple question: are there more female book bloggers than male ones? This slowly developed into stereotypes and guesses, saying things like, "Well, female bloggers are more likely to..." or "Male bloggers don't really do..." and so on. In general, assumptions are bad. Therein lies the birth of the book blogger survey.

That was the first question: the male/female breakdown. This lead to the first stage of the survey - compiling a list of book blogs and defining them as male written, female, both, or unknown. After collecting several hundred blog titles (in what I suspect is one of the largest book blogger databases in existence, though it is currently closed to the public), I managed to find a rough indicator of male/female percentages. The split came out around 60:20 female to male (with the remaining 20% accounting for unknowns and blogs with multiple writers). This, however, was not enough. It was, as I already pointed out, merely an indicator, seeing as it was entirely unscientific and also not at all concrete - I was guessing genders based on names, hints and personal stories.

It was while collecting book blogs for this database that I realized what's needed is a comprehensive survey. Who are book bloggers on the whole, what do their blogs look like, how do they view themselves? I discovered that there were no such answers online - I found reference to a book blogger survey from almost a year ago, but was unable to find results. It seemed like a suitable project to learn more about the book blogging world and the people behind these excellent blogs.

And so the survey was born. Tune in later this week for the first round of results!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Survey status

It's been several months since the book blogger survey opened. What was meant to last a month ended up getting delayed due to several technical difficulties and a few personal complications. However, in this time just under 300 book bloggers kindly filled out this little form. To all participants - thank you.

But all good things must end (especially ones that were meant to go a long time ago). As of today, the book blogger survey has closed. And, if I may say so myself, it was an astounding success. Obviously we'll know more once the actual numbers are in, but so far I can say that we're going to learn some interesting things about this book-obsessed world of ours.

There are many (many) ways to look at these numbers and I hope to analyze them from every possible direction. So I apologize for what's about to happen, because it's going to take some more time. However, this time I will post results along the way - first, the dry numbers, then delving deeper into the stats (though, again, I know very little of actual statistics). With time, I hope a fascinating tapestry of the book blogging world will emerge.

These statistics are for the book blogging community as a whole and therefore passing the message and statistics along is very much encouraged. Feel free to contact me (the name of this blog at gmail) with any questions, comments, complaints, etc. Once again, a most sincere thank you to all participants. This would have been impossible without all of you.

Now the fun part begins.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Do Not Reshelve!

Note: Bookmarking will return next week after this delay due to the failure of several USB devices and wires (and a volcano eruption). Thank you, technology. Thank you.

Via Combreviations, a photo-list of funny signs found in and around libraries. Most revolve around eating and computers (and eating around computers), but are quite entertaining - from the slightly depressing (yelling children) to the hilarious (below).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bookmarking 9 - Tassels

Sometimes I find myself wondering at how almost all my bookmarks seem to be strips of paper (and, most often, boarding passes). Then I go online and find these elegant, stylish bookmarks to make me even more jealous about not having them in my collection.

Nice designs and a tassel? I should splurge more often. Very nice indeed.

There are a lot of cool bookmarks out there.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Holocaust Memorial Day

It's been 65 years since the end of World War II and the Holocaust. Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel and in certain communities around the world. Of the various memorial days for Holocaust victims, this is probably the best known besides the "official" International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which typically passes with little fanfare.

I've already written much about Primo Levi's well-known works, about Holocaust memoirs, and other topics, but there is much to be said about the wide and varied "Holocaust lit" genre. And I do mean "lit" - literature in the sense of novels and stories as opposed to memoirs or personal accounts.

World War II is one of the most common story settings. The Holocaust similarly so. These are books across the board when it comes to style, intended audience and genre: popular fiction, romance, teen, heavier "literary" fiction... even sci-fi (though this is probably the rarest of the lot). All of these books take the same larger setting, so you'd think all would also sound alike and lack originality (more so than most literature, that is).

What warrants our attention? As I once mentioned in passing, there are too many poorly written Holocaust and World War II books out there that make it big and are even used for teaching. For many years, I avoided "the Holocaust novel" like I might a romance novel or a thriller simply because I was, for lack of a better phrase, sick of it. The last couple of years, I've tentatively begun to return to the field. I've realized that most of the books are still bad (because most books are just bad), but there are a couple of gems. And then the question: do these books even count?

What I mean is this. A book like "The Family Moskat" doesn't seem like a Holocaust book at all. It takes place between the world wars, just ending as tanks roll into Warsaw (spoiler alert?). Even though it seems far from the war, it actually embodies it throughout the work in the subtle references, the exploration of anti-Semitism among Poles and a display of the Polish-Jewish dynamic. Or what of "Brodeck", which neglects to title the fairly obvious war and focuses on the aftermath? Though never named, the Holocaust (imagined or not) is clearly felt throughout the novel.

Definitions aside, all of these books remind us of a world that should not be forgotten. Whether these books are based on real lives or are reality mixed with pure fiction, each story (or even fragment, thread or mention) keeps us one step further from forgetting the horrors that occurred far too recently.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lesezeichen 8 - Rhineland

Maybe six months after traveling Poland with a group, I found myself in a similar (but slightly cheerier) situation with Germany, going along the Rhine.

Friday, on our way to Köln, past the Loreley, the group was given free time to walk around the tourist town of Rüdesheim. Free time to get lunch, enjoy the sunshine and the beautiful day, and spend some money. The small tourist shops displayed many t-shirts, beer mugs, and other novelty souvenirs. "I'll get this as a gift for a friend," I told my travel companions, spotting a display of surprisingly tall, stiff ruffle-edged bookmarks. They laughed. "Yeah right."

Good intentions always go afoul. At least it's a great addition to my collection.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Wor(l)d borders

This interesting video has been going around a bit (hat tip, RobAroundBooks), and while I support its underlying message, I find myself a bit at odds with the method used to drive that message home.

You see, I really like Words Without Borders. I get their message. I understand what the point of this gently mocking video is. And as horrifying as it is to see someone butcher my two main interests (music and books) by confusing Tchaikovsky and Tolstoy, I know the questions are kind of "leading the witness" style. For instance, the fact that someone doesn't read contemporary literature doesn't mean they aren't "well read" (whatever that means). The man who says he reads "foreign" British lit... yes, that says something about the status of world literature in American culture (remember this?). While people say embarrassing things, I can't help but feel that the questioners were being a little too manipulative.

Still, the video's overall point (and the gentler second half) is well taken. A few months ago, I went into an independent bookstore, hoping to find the recently released "The Wall in My Head" and was instead told that "Oh yeah, Words Without Borders published something, like, five years ago, but we don't have that." Oh, thanks. Words Without Borders do good work in raising awareness and, more importantly, in actively helping. Do I blame the readers who in the first half of the video seem so ignorant? Not quite. People have the right to read what they want. Do I hope that someday international literature will be commonplace enough that people won't have to scratch their head to remember the name of a contemporary Russian author or will pick up a Peruvian novel because it looks good and is prominently displayed in bookstore? Yeah, I do. Which is why I'll continue to follow Words Without Borders and will pass their message along.