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Posts Tagged ‘lists

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking”*…

 

Books hopper

As the year draws to a close, some of us like to look forward, and some of us backward—and some way backward. Last month, while working on the not-at-all-controversial Books That Defined the Decades series, I was often surprised by the dissonance between the books that sold well in any given year and the books that we now consider relevant, important, or illustrative of the time. I repeatedly regaled my colleagues with fun and interesting facts like: “Did you know that in 1940 the best-selling book of the year was How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn? That was also the year The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Native Son came out!” They made me stop eventually, and so I compiled all my comments into this very piece…

Some general takeaways:

1. The biggest bestsellers of any given year are not necessarily the books we remember 20, 30, 50, or 100 years later. (Something to remember when your own book goes on sale.)

2. Sometimes books take a little while to work themselves onto the bestseller list. Books suspiciously absent from the list of the year they were published sometimes show up in the next year, likely due to paperback releases and/or word of mouth (or they may have simply been published too late in the year to compete with the spring books).

3. People like to read the same authors year after year.

4. John Grisham owned the 90s.

5. There are so very many books, and we have forgotten almost all of them.

Here’s to remembering (the good ones, at least)…

A century of best-seller lists, compared with the books published in the same years that are well-remembered today: “Here are the biggest fiction best-sellers of the last 100 years (and what everyone read instead).”

* Haruki Murakami

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As we turn the page, we might spare a thought for Henry James III; he died on this date in 1947.  The son of philosopher and psychologist William James and the nephew of novelist Henry, he was an accomplished attorney, administrator (manager of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research and Chair of TIAA), and diplomat (e.g., a member of the Versailles Peace Conference).

But like his famous elders, he also wrote– in his case, biographies, for one of which (a life of Charles W. Eliot) he won the Pulitzer Prize.

HJ III

Henry James III holding his sister, Mary Margaret, in his lap (source)

 

Written by LW

December 13, 2018 at 1:01 am

“If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered”*…

 

Perhaps understandably, most people tend to ignore scraps of paper they see lying on the ground. But Sydney-based artist Laura Sullivan has always found herself intrigued by the promise of scrawled handwriting, and has been picking up stray to-do lists, IOUs, poems, and angry letters for the past twelve years.Now, a selection of the 400 notes she has collected in public spaces around the world will be exhibited in a gallery show that puts the intimate concerns of anonymous strangers on display for all to see…

The serendipitous story in full at “Turns out, Other People’s Shopping Lists Are Oddly Poignant.”

* Edgar Allan Poe

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As we celebrate chance, we might send thrilling birthday greetings to Ross Thomas; he was born on this date in 1926.  The author of 20 novels under his own name, and another six as “Oliver Bleeck,” Thomas specialized in building yarns around the machinations of professional politics and the intrigues of global corporations– so successfully that he is considered by many to be the Len Deighton or John Le Carre of the U.S.– only funnier. As the Village Voice put it, “what Elmore Leonard does for crime in the streets, Ross Thomas does for crime in the suites.”  His debut novel, The Cold War Swap, won the 1967 Edgar Award for Best First Novel; Briarpatch earned the 1985 Edgar for Best Novel; and in 2002, he was honored with the inaugural Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award, one of only two authors to earn the award posthumously (the other was 87th Precinct author Ed McBain in 2006).

 source

 

Written by LW

February 19, 2017 at 1:01 am

“One can never read too little of bad, or too much of good books”*…

 

Just in time for summer reading…

Goldman Sachs: financial giant, hotbed of enthusiasm for subprime mortgages, and hapless recipient of your hard-earned money. Who better to tell you what to read?

Well, now they are telling you what to read, in the form of a recently-published recommended book list. We’re talking about people who incurred $550 million in fines for schemes to turn a profit on the civilization-threatening financial crisis they themselves had helped create, and the line between genius and chutzpah is notoriously hard to draw, so, yeah, I’d like to know what’s on these folks’ bedside tables.

First things first, and no big shock: they’re really into capitalism…

More at “Don’t know what to read? Let Goldman Sachs tell you.”  The list is here.

[Image above, sourced here]

* Arthur Schopenhauer

As we pack for the beach, we might recall that it was on this date in 1937 that Sylvan Goldman introduced the first shopping cart in his Humpty Dumpty grocery store in Oklahoma City.

 source

 

Written by LW

June 4, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The human animal differs from the lesser primates in his passion for lists”*…

 

Our friends at Public Domain Review have gone all Buzzfeed on us, creating a collection of lists that runs from “7 types of drunkard” through “114 proved plans to save a busy man time” and “9 types of newspaper adverts with a sexual purpose,” to “162 recorded sightings of sea serpents from 1522 – 1890.”  Enjoy them all at “17 Numbered Lists from History.”

“17 numbered lists that will restore your faith in humanity, specifically in its ability to make numbered lists.”

* H. Allen Smith

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As we enumerate, we might pause to celebrate the founding of Boston Latin School, both the first public school and oldest existing school in the United States.  As the town records of Boston report:

On the 13th of the second month, 1635…At a Generall meeting upon publique notice…it was…generally agreed upon that our brother Philemon Pormort shall be intreated to become scholemaster for the teaching and nourtering of children with us

Formally opened in April of that year, the school has produced four Harvard presidents, four Massachusetts governors, and five signers of the United States Declaration of Independence.  Benjamin Franklin and Louis Farrakhan are among its better-known dropouts.  Current students aver that Harvard College, founded a year later in 1636, was created for Boston Latin’s first graduates.

 source

 

Written by LW

February 13, 2015 at 1:01 am

Now let us praise famous men (and women)…

 source

From Aitken’s to Zipf’s— some of them coined by their namesake (e.g., Parkinson’s); others, based on their work or publications (a la Moore’s): consider the rules, adages, observations, and predictions that make up The List of Eponymous Laws.

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As we take the oath, we might spare a thought for Persian polymath Omar Khayyam; the philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, epigrammatist, and poet died on this date in 1131.  While he’s probably best known to English-speakers as a poet, via Edward FitzGerald’s famous translation of the quatrains that comprise the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Omar was one of the major mathematicians and astronomers of the medieval period.  He is the author of one of the most important treatises on algebra written before modern times, the Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra, which includes a geometric method for solving cubic equations by intersecting a hyperbola with a circle.  His astronomical observations contributed to the reform of the Persian calendar.  And he made important contributions to mechanics, geography, mineralogy, music, climatology, and Islamic theology.

 source

Written by LW

December 4, 2013 at 1:01 am

“So many books, so little time”*…

What’s a reader to do?  The disciplined Matt Kahn has a plan:  he’s reading– and reviewing– every one of the novels that reached the number one spot on Publishers Weekly annual bestsellers list, starting in 1913. All 94 of them.

Check out the list, and follow Matt’s progress at Kahn’s Corner.

On a related note, readers who followed last year’s Tournament of Books, might want to check in on this year’s.

* Frank Zappa

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As we renew our library cards, we might send wistful birthday greetings to Douglas Noel Adams; he was born on this date in 1952.  A writer and dramatist best remembered as the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Adams surely, by merit, belonged on Kahn’s list.  That will never be; Adams passed away in 2001.  Still, one can honor his memory in a couple of month’s time by celebrating Towel Day.

[bookshelves photo sourced here; Douglas Adams, here]

Written by LW

March 11, 2013 at 1:01 am

Listing…

 

From The New Yorker, The Hundred Best Lists of All Time.

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As we rankle at the rankings, we might note that this was the Feast Day of the Ass in ancient Rome.  The festival honored Vesta, the daughter of Chronos (Time) and Rhea (Earth), and legendary founder of the Vestal Virgins, a cult of six virginal women priestesses who were charged with keeping alive the flame burning in their temple at the center of Rome.  The celebration was named as it was in honor of the donkey that saved Vesta’s honor:  As told by Propertius, the young Vesta was being sought by the “horned” Priapus, who approached one night as she lay sleeping.  Her ass’s loud braying awakened her in time to defend herself from his advances.

 source

 

Written by LW

January 15, 2013 at 1:01 am

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