Sunday, December 25, 2005

Gotta read, Gotta be informed

Gotta read!
Gotta read!
Gotta read!
Gotta be informed!
Gotta read!*

Martha and Shirley here.
Condensing and compiling.
Condensing and compiling.
Oh my.

We're the Price Waterhouse of the community, tabulating the votes and announcing the winners.

Here's the deal, the books cited by members are winners. Every last one. Anyone who tooks the time to read a book that spoke to them is a winner as well.

A small number of e-mails (47) were from members citing fiction and wishing their could be more of a focus on that.

Shirley: As a constant reader of poetry, I can certainly relate to those who expressed sentiments that some very strong works could use additional attention. As Rachel pointed out, with the closing of A Winding Road, a voice in the community who regularly noted fiction, Folding Star, is missing and there's a void, in many way. But the e-mails citing fiction were a small minority. Martha and I both suggest that members interested in fiction coverage compose their own entry either for this site or for the gina & krista round-robin.

Martha: That is a way you can spotlight fiction. Of the novels cited, Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire was the most cited. Brenda's strong e-mail on this novel just needs the salutation removed and it is already an entry. Of those noting fiction, Folding Star was mentioned in every e-mail. While A Winding Road was up, I hope those of you noting Folding Star today e-mailed your appreciation. (I did.)

If one book speaks to the community, judging by the e-mails, it is Amy and David Goodman's The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them. 64% of all the e-mails, noting books that spoke to them, noted this book. Sometimes it was on a list of books that they noted, sometimes it was the only book they noted. The second most cited book was noted in 39% of the e-mails. A note on the links. Many websites offer books for sale. Some are sites providing news, some are sites created just for the book, some are the sites of the book publisher. To be fair, we've used Amazon throughout unless the book was not available at Amazon.

Here is the top ten:

1) Amy Goodman and David Goodman's The Exception to the Rulers
2) Dave Zirin's What's My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States
3) Christian Parenti's The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq
4) The W Effect: Bush's War On Women (various contributors, edited by Laura Flanders)
(You'll see an alternate title at Amazon, The W. Effect: Sexual Politics in the Bush Years and Beyond. We both have this book and the title printed on our copies is The W. Effect: Bush's War On Women.)
5) Norman Solomon's War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us To Death
6) Studs Terkel's And They All Sang
7) Jennifer K. Harbury's Truth, Torture, and the American Way: The History and Consequences of U.S. Involvement in Torture
8) Dilip Hiro's Secrets And Lies: Operation "Iraqi Freedom" and After
9) Stop The Next War Now (various contributors, edited by Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans)
10) Angela Y. Davis' Abolition Democracy : Beyond Prisons, Torture, and Empire Interviews with Angela Y. Davis

Biographies and memoirs were noted often enough to include their own list.

1) Jane Fonda's My Life So Far
2) Tariq Ali's Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties
3) Thai Jones' A Radical Line: From the Labor Movement to the Weather Underground, One Family's Century of Conscience
4) Matthew Greenwald's Go Where You Wanna Go: The Oral History of The Mamas & The Papas
5) Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking

Moving beyond the most cited, some members wrote at length about their favorite book. We felt any book that someone wrote from the heart about was worth noting regardless. So here is a list of books that have moved someone in the community and might speak to you as well.

Billie: Howard Zinn's On History
Gore Vidal Is God: Gore Vidal's Imperial America
Krista: Robert Parry's Lost History
Dominic: Naomi Klein's No Logo
Pru: Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others
Lyle: Seymour M. Hersh's Chain Of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib
Molly: Arundhati Roy's War Talk
Liang: Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States
Colin: Greg LeRoy's The Great American Jobs Scam
???: Noam Chomsky's Chomsky on Anarchism
Gina: Globalize Liberation: How to Uproot the System and Build a Better World (various contributors, edited by David Solnit.)
Gareth: Sonia Shah's Crude: The Story Of Oil
Durham Gal: All Hands On: a The2ndHand Reader (various contributors, edited by Todd Dillis).
Cindy: Laura Flanders' Bush Women
Kara: Kathy Kelly's Other Lands Have Dreams: From Baghdad To Pekin Prison
Charlie: Robert F. Williams' Self-Defense, Self-Respect & Self-Determination (as told by Mabel Williams) (audio CD)
KeShawn: Robert W. McChesney's The Problem Of The Media
Lynda: Si Kahn and Elizabeth Minnich's The Fox In The HenHouse
Eli: Bruce Watson's Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants And The Struggle For The American Dream
Tori: Barbara Kingsolver's Small Wonder
Markus: Hunter S. Thompson's Generation of Swine
Kyle: John Cronin and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s The Riverkeepers: Two Activists Fight to Reclaim Our Environment as a Basic Human Right
Sally: Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber's Weapons Of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq
Eddie: Frances Moore Lappe and Jeffrey Perkins' You Have The Power: Choosing Courage In A Culture Of Fear
Tim: James Weinstein's The Long Detour: The History and Future of the American Left
Third Party: Nancy Chang's Silencing Political Dissent: How Post-September 11 Anti-Terrorism Measures Threaten Our Civil Liberties
West: Jon Stewart's Naked Pictures of Famous People
Travis: Time On Two Crosses: The Collected Writings Of Bayard Rustin (edited by Devon W. Carbado and Donald Weise)
Marcia: Alice Walker's In Search Of Our Mothers' Gardens
Heath: Noam Chomsky's Media Control
Erika: Marilyn French's The War Against Women
Zach: Joshua Frank's Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Re-Elect George Bush

One thing we noted as we went through the e-mails was that some books came out this year (in first printings, in paperback versions or in new versions) and some didn't. We see this is as a snapshot of what this community was reading in 2005, what books spoke to them.

One thing that came through loud and clear in the e-mails was that choices are influenced by who cites them. If an author is interviewed by Amy Goodman or Laura Flanders, for instance, that book tends to register. If a book's discussed at The Third Estate Sunday Review or at any of the community websites, that tends to register.

On the biography list, for instance, Jane Fonda's My Life So Far was the most cited book. That's not surprising considering this community. When the book came out, it was noted at all the community sites. In addition, it was publicized in a variety of media. If Fonda's book were included in the nonfiction listing, it would be third behind Dave Zirin and Amy & David Goodman's books.

Dave Zirin's strong showing results from being interviewed by Amy Goodman, being interviewed by Deepa Fernandez (WBAI's Wake Up Call, cited in nine e-mails), being reviewed by The Third Estate Sunday Review, his columns being cited and Wally and Mike's repeatedly mentioning the book. Zach wrote, "After Mike mentioned the book for, I'm guessing, the fiftieth time, I thought, 'Okay, I guess I better check out."

Or take Sam who wondered if we knew the book that the wife of an actor mentioned on WBAI?
Sam remembers it was a morning program. He remembers that either before or after the segment there was a parody version of Marilyn Monroe's "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend."
He can't remember the show, the host, or the guest. We've passed that on to Ruth and she'll try to figure out what the book was and who the author was.

But Sam's dilemma underscores a point. He heard an author discussing a book that he was interested in. He was in his car and couldn't write down the title or the author. He told himself he'd remember and then, as he didn't hear the book noted elsewhere, he forgot.

The eleventh most cited nonfiction book? It came out in 1991. We haven't heard or seen the author this year. How did it make the list? The book, as Beth has pointed out in her ombudsperson column in the gina & krista round-robin, is the most cited book at this site:
Susan Faludi's Backlash. As George wrote in his e-mail, "Okay, I finally picked it up."

Some people make a point to visit a library or a bookstore for a specific book. Others don't.
Still others go to the bookstore only to find that the book they went for isn't there and end up grabbing something else. (15 e-mails complained that they could not find Dave Zirin's book at their local Border's.) (14 of the 15 complained that they were offered no help in special ordering it but told "We don't carry it" and it was left at that.)

"So do you have a point?" as Beth is found of asking in her colum. Yes, we do. A number of you cited reading an article at CounterPunch and seeing a mention of a book by the author at the end of the column. You noticed things like that and you remembered it when you were in a bookstore or a library or ordering online. Our sense of the community, based on the e-mails, is that we're not made up of a huge number of impulse readers. A book, purchased or checked out of a library, is using selected after some thought and consideration.

We've spoken to Gina and Krista and they're more than happy to run a column or e-mail on a book. They said if there's enough submissions, they'll create a special space just for books. So you can share here, or you can share there, or you can put make suggestions to The Third Estate Sunday Review for their book lists (warning on that, Dona and Ava say the list is very long -- the list of suggested books that at least one participant in the book discussions has moved over to the "we'll get to it, be patient" list). But we were surprised by the wide range of books and often found ourselves thinking, "Oh, I heard about that book and meant to pick it up." Like Sam, something came up and we forgot about it.

If a book really spoke to you, chances are it would speak to others in the community. Probably not everyone because the community's large and diverse. But if it spoke to you, find a way to get the word out so that we all have the chance to know about it. Mike and Wally's delight over Jon Stewart's Naked Pictures of Famous Men is the reason West cites for picking up that book. He was at Target, saw the book and remembered Mike and Wally's "For the hour!" Larry King riffs.

So find a way to get the word out on the books that you've enjoyed reading.

[Note: Martha and Shirley's "Gotta . . ." opening is a riff on "Broadway Rhythm Ballet" by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed which can be heard in the film Singing In The Rain.]