WORLD BOOK DAY, April 23. Organized by UNESCO, World Book Day is celebrated in many countries. At Aotearoa Affair, we bring you this special post with links, photos, quotes and notes, all about books and their readers and writers.
Also included: our own readers and writers Mike Crowl, Susan Gibb, Michael Arnold and notes from Bangalore’s Wordsmith and Words Without Borders with blog posts about BOOKS FROM OTHER PLACES. Plus: Poetry from another place – Enjoy!
Old Library, South Germany, with book cupboardS
The Internet and the Books
Every other day, a news article announces the general death of literature and printed books and blames the internet. A survey now pieced together the numbers. The death of literature? It’s an urban myth. Alexis Madrigal, senior editor at The Atlantic, put an article on books and our memory of the “golden old book times” together, chart included.
The conclusion: “All this to say: our collective memory of past is astoundingly inaccurate. Not only has the number of people reading not declined precipitously, it’s actually gone up since the perceived golden age of American letters. “
Here’s the full article; it’s worthwile to browse the comments: The Next Time Someone Says the Internet Killed Reading Books, Show Them This Chart
Let’s go back to the golden age of books for a moment. Back then, the roles were simple: there were authors, publishers and readers. And mostly, the readers were on the quiet end of the table. The web changed all this: many readers now share their reading experience online and connect with other readers, and even with the authors. There’s an abundance of book blogs out there, with a wide range of themes: from current prize winners to crime and science fiction, and from books in translations to historic books to newcomers.
Here a list of the Top 50 Book Blogs. This list is based on 20 ranking factors and includes Bookslut, Booking Mama, Bookgeeks, and many other book blogs / book websites (scroll for the various ranking lists).
In New Zealand, everyone knows Bookman Beattie, who blogs daily about the bookworld, both at home and abroad. Former Managing Director/Publisher of Penguin Books NZ Ltd., and Scholastic NZ Ltd., Beattie keeps Kiwis well informed about the literary scene. And the latest interview with him, at Flash Frontier, is here, where he talks about the state of the book, the book review, art and inspiration.
Meanwhile, Tania Hershman has assembled a round up of the short story collections featured at The Short Review over the last four and a half years. Here you’ll find reviews of anthologies such as Best European Fiction 2012, The Book of Istanbul, Loud Sparrows: Chinese Contemporary Short-shorts, Passport to Crime, Paris Metro Tales and Qissat: Short Stories by Palestinian Women, plus reviews of collections by authors as diverse as German/Swedish author Alex Thormählen, Mexican writer from Jalisco Juan Rulfo, Cuban/Italian enchanter Italo Calvino Hungarian novelist, short story writer and journalist Gyula Krúdy, and Russian national treasure (whose work was suppressed for many years) Ludmilla Petrushevskaya.
Reading books from other places: Mike Crowl on Chinua Achebe (& More)
Mike Crowl lives in Dunedin, New Zealand. He says: “Many of the books I’ve read have been from England or America. So what books from other places have really changed my perceptions? I think one of the strongest was Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. I’d come across a list of books that someone wrote about in a magazine; they were books that had influenced him greatly. Set in Nigeria, here was a world in which humans appeared, and behaved like humans, but everything beyond that was alien.” Here’s Crowl’s blog entry with more notes and titles: Books from other places.
book table, frankfurt book fair: “PICTURING Change”
The World in 7 Books
This isn’t news: the world population is now in the range of 7 billion persons. The continent with the largest population is Asia. What might come as a surprise, though, is the proportions of the population in relation to continents. If you put Asia in one hand, and all the other continents in the other hand, Asia still would be largest:
Looking at the world from this angle, if you want to read around the world in 7 books, you actually would have to go and look for 4 books from Asia and 1 book from Africa – and then for 2 anthologies that cover the rest of the world in their pages.
Chinese PubliCation (Frankfurt Bookfair)
Reading books from other places: Susan Gibb on Italo Calvino
Susan Gibb is a lifelong resident of New England and likely to be buried there someday as she is inextricably woven into the changing settings of the seasons. A book she recommends is Italo Calvino’s stories within story, If on a winter’s night a traveler, “because that book really wowwed me – it is a writer’s book, a book for writers. I’ve posted several entries while reading it, the final entry sort of sums it up: LITERATURE: If on a winter’s night a traveler – Finale.” You can find all of Susan’s reading notes (the most recent including Murakami and Lahiri) at Spinning/Literature (note: and when you click the image, you arrive at a second reader’s book review).
Global Reading Challenge
To read around the world: that’s the idea of the global reading challenge, to read books from each continent of the world, and blog about each. There are different levels, beginning with the Easy Challenge: “Read one novel from each continent in the course of 2012″. Links to the blog entry are shared in a Global Reading Challenge 2012 post. The host for this year is Kerrie, a crime reader who reads around the world in thrillers.
Each reader blog is a world journey in itself:
Canadian Bookworm – Canada (librarian)
life as a journey – Germany (editor)
Personallitararybookfrenzy – Minneapolis, USA
Lizzy’s Literary Life – 21st century bookworm (UK)
Petrona – intelligent international crime fiction
an extra-links: Lizzy recently co-hosted a German Literary Month
more Reading Challenges: Ebook Challenge, European Challenge...
Poetry from other places: Jenny Powell in Viet Nam
In her poetry collection Viet Nam: a poem journal, Jenny Powell forms a cultural and literary bridge between Viet Nam and New Zealand as the result of a visit from a Vietnamese music teacher, Hao, who lived with Jenny during his New Zealand stay. Three poems from the collection are online in an extra Aotearoa Affair highlight: “Indigo Lady”, “With Hao Overlooking Bac Ha” and “Marble Mountains”: “Here you will find / your answers — How did he know / I had questions?” Find them here: With Jenny Powell in Viet Nam
Books Published Around the World
It’s difficult to find global book statistics online, but Worldmapper has a diagram that looks at the world from the angle of books published. According to their data, the sum of all new book titles published worldwide in 1999 was 1 million. The map shows the distribution of the new books worldwide.
The countries in the map are re-sized according to the amount of new books published there. Western Europe dominates this map due to the high number of new books published there. The most new titles were produced in the United Kingdom (pink), China (green), and Germany (darker pink). On the other end of the scale is Africa – the map tells its own red story of how the stories of almost a whole continent are lost.
A number that is included in their page: “The world rate of new titles is 167 books being published per million people per year.” That would make it 1.6 books per 1000 persons. It will be interesting to see how the map changes in time. (Note: If Worldmapper is all new to you, here’s the diagram explanation in a nutshell: Worldmapper is a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest. There are now nearly 700 maps. To learn a little more about this and other map projections read this: Worldmapper and map projections.)
Average Readers + % of Non-Readers
How many books does the average person read per year? The answer to that question is a bit easier to find, at least as long as you stay on a national level. There have been two large reading surveys, one in the USA, one in Germany. The surveys come with a surprise parallel: in both countries, the average number of books read is around 9. Also, in both counries, the group of people who didn’t read a book in the past year is 25%.
A number that is painful, yet also similar in both regions: the percentage of functional illiterates: 14%.
Here’s more on this: books published, books read, and 25% non-readers
Reading books from other places: A Wordsmith on David Almond
Bangalore is home to 3 readers who run a joined international bookblog named “Wordsmith”: This blog is an attempt to compile some of the words floating here in this vast sphere of life. Literature, some call it. This blog though, will call such inspiration the Life Wordsmith.” One of the books recently reviewed there is David Almond’s “My Name is Mina“. The Wordsmith notes: “There should be a genre for that, surely. There should be a dictionary for words like destrangification, limplessness, claminosity, and the sheer strattikipiness of it all…” – For more strattikipiness, stop by at the Life Wordsmith.
POD, E-Books + How To Do This Yourself
The digital revolution changed the way books are produced, and also the way they are read. Print on Demand (POD) makes it possible to create single copies of books, which allows to publish books for smaller and special audiences. Parallel, e-readers make it possible to read e-books in a new, paper-free way. The physical creation of a book: it doesn’t take a publisher anymore, not even a printer. Which doesn’t mean that things have become easier: writers who take the POD-way need to learn a good deal about formats, files, marketing and photo editing first — topics that can make you feel like entering another world without map. Some helpful links:
- A quick guide to book publishing services (POD + E-books)
Reading and Surviving in other places: Michael Arnold in Shenyang
West Aucklander Michael Arnold spent his first winter teaching English and immersing himself in the culture and nightlife of Shenyang. His essay about it was first published in the New Zealand publication brief. In his blog ‘Reading the Maps’ brief’s editor re-publishes Michael Arnold’s essay with an introduction that points out that Arnold’s darkly descriptive piece was one of the most memorable pieces in brief‘s pages. Here you can read the essay in full, and be transported into a decidedly un-romantic Chinese winter landscape.
“Bücher” (“Books”) – Bookshop in Essen, Germany
Reading books from other places: Rosamund Hunter on Friedrich Christian Delius
Words without Borders is an online magazine that translates, publishes, and promotes contemporary international literature, and to serve as online location for a global literary conversation. The magazine features an ongoing series of international book reviews. Recently, Brookyln-based author Rosamund Hunter wrote about a German book: “Portrait of the Mother as Young Woman“, a book that challenges the readers and offers no easy answers.
A New Diversity
There we are, with a growing range of publishing formats and publishing services, and with a growing number of small presses and individual authors. With so many new books that it is impossible to keep track of them. And with different suggestions as to how to deal with it: from university journal editorials that plea to “rescue public discourse from the blogosphere” (Virgina Quarterly: The Death of Fiction) to blogging and online book publishing enthusiasts. No matter how you look at it, a new age of diversity and of fresh voices has arrived, and this is Just Plain Good, as pointed out by Jessica Powers in New Pages: “You have this whole crop of writers from incredibly diverse backgrounds. The possibility of finding something there, something raw, something that isn’t out of a polished school of literature or thinking, is a really wonderful thing.”
Official World Book Day Website
World Book and Copyright Day (also known as International Day of the Book or World Book Days) is a yearly event on 23 April, organized by UNESCO to promote reading, publishing and copyright. The Day was first celebrated in 1995.
The official theme for World Book Day 2012 is: “Books and Translation”