Wednesday News: Anna Quindlen on happiness, more ebook data, another study on reading habits, and a revisioning of Snow White
A Short Guide to a Happy Life: Anna Quindlen on Work, Joy, and How to Live Rather Than Exist – This may be the most famous college commencement speech never delivered. When Anna Quindlen was asked to deliver the commencement speech to the Villanova class of 2000, protests led her to decline the invitation. However, her speech ended up making the rounds on the Internet, and has recently been expanded into a book, A Short Guide to a Happy Life. I think a lot of the sentiments here work perfectly for college graduates, who have already acquired enough social capital to make actual choices about their vocational futures. And I’d also like to point out that while not working too much (if you can help it) is a good thing, so is having meaningful work (if you can get it). For example, books are important and have many different kinds and levels of value attached to them. Let’s not get to the point where the entire measure of a book’s success is how much money it earns.
It’s ironic that we forget so often how wonderful life really is. We have more time than ever before to remember it. The men and women of generations past had to work long, long hours to support lots and lots of children in tiny, tiny houses. The women worked in factories and sweatshops and then at home, too, with two bosses, the one who paid them, and the one they were married to, who didn’t. . . . Our jobs take too much out of us and don’t pay enough. –Brain Pickings
The secret e-book market: 8 months of digital rankings – Speaking of book earnings, here’s a piece from The Bookseller that takes a look at the variability in the ebook market over the past eight months. June was “rogue month,” July (vacation month) a peak, and December (gift month) a valley. However, December was “the biggest month for combined sales of the ranking titles, followed by November, and then July.” No real surprises there, right? Still, I was struck by the first eight words of the last line of the article, which may be the best assessment of the market I’ve seen thus far:
There’s no simple way of analysing this market, and I am inclined to take a lead from Faber chief executive Stephen Page who spoke at last week’s Publishing Scotland conference. He described the e-book market as akin to a souk, one that will “get more crowded and less governable.” –The Bookseller
England ‘divided into readers and watchers’ – Considering the fact that mass printed books emerged in tandem with the growing middle class, it makes perfect sense that reading is still economically stratified. Of course it’s also incredibly frustrating, given the importance of literary to social and economic mobility, let alone the inherent pleasures and pragmatic benefits in reading. This recent survey by Booktrust found a disturbing trend of stratification among readers, and the title to a long thread on reddit honed in on one of the problems with this, namely that happiness and success tend to build on themselves.
“More frequent book readers tend to live in areas of lower deprivation with fewer children living in poverty, while respondents who never read books tend to live in areas of higher deprivation and more children living in poverty,” the study says.
It adds that adults from the highest socio-economic background own twice as many books on average as those from the lowest backgrounds (376 compared with 156).
And 83% of adults from the richest group feel that reading improves their lives, compared with 72% of those from the poorest group. –BBC News
‘Boy, Snow, Bird’ Takes A Closer Look Into The Fairy Tale Mirror – I am already in love with this book and I haven’t even read it yet. Although I bought it, and I’m hoping it breaks the spell of my own recent reading malaise. In Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi refigures the Snow White fairy tale, sets it in 1950’s New England, and focuses on race, and in particular, on the way skin color shapes self-identity and social standing. A short interview, but rich and relevant to all the ways in which we in the U.S., especially, do — and don’t — think about the complexities of race.
On playing off of fairy tales
I think that they’re the purest form of story that you can get. They sort of strip down human behavior to the absolute basics. So with Snow White you have this story about envy and what the consequences of those are. And I suppose that when I’m reading a fairy tale I find it easier to rescue the characters than with other stories.
And I wanted to rescue the wicked stepmother. I felt that, especially in Snow White, I think that the evil queen finds it sort of a hassle to be such a villain. It seems a bit much for her, and so I kind of wanted to lift that load a little bit. –NPR