Game of Books has been fully funded via their Kickstarter campaign! Basically, it’s home library/book cataloging system where you earn points/skills/etc. based on the books you read… think Dungeons & Dragons meets LibraryThing. This could be a lot of fun.
You start off as an Apprentice and then level up as your reading progresses:
Apprentice Reader = Level 0+
Journeyman Reader = Level 25+
Craftsman Reader = Level 50+
Master Reader = Level 75+
GrandMaster Reader = Level 100+
At the bottom of their site, there is also a “concept demo” that shows off what your Reader/Character card would look like. Some folks might think it’s hokey (which it may be, we’ll have to see) but many like all of their virtual badges and fake pats on the back for “leveling up” across hundreds of check-in apps. And I think competition can be fun. What I am anxious to see is how well this resonates with the two budding readers in my house… this seems to be the kind of thing that my son would dig.
What do you think? Would you give Game of Books a try?
Over the past week more than a few of my friends have declared “I plan on reading more next year.” It is a New Years reading resolution that I whole heartedly support. Just read more books. Period.
But when asked “what are you looking forward to reading?” or “what book are you going to read first?” my friends were never real sure. Except for the guy who, while admitting to having not read anything long-form in almost two years, wants to start with Moby Dick (“because the classics are important”, he said).
So I wanted to offer three tips for the newly resolved “reading more” coalition:
1. Enjoy reading. While the classics are worthwhile and we should all be well-read in the “issues of the day”, these can be heavy areas for folks trying to “get back into reading books”. So start fun. If you haven’t been able to read a whole novel in a while, start with something fast and easy. I’m thinking genre fiction here. So start there and then pick up something with more meat and literary. Once you see you can read a novel and get in the habit of making time to read, you’ll be ready to dig deeper.
2. Talk about books. I don’t care where. Just talk about them. Meet someone new at the office? At a party? Ask what they’re reading. For some reason everyone seems to talk about movies. I’m not sure why. But I promise, the more you talk about books and reading, the more worthwhile you’re reading will be. Also, once you get your groove back, be sure to check with your local libraries and bookstores about book groups and salons. Read book blogs and leave comments.
3. Join a group. This kind of piggybacks on #2, but really has a different focus. If you’re already online then check out LibraryThing or GoodReads. Both give you tools to catalog books and track your reading. They also help you dive deeper into an author or genre, discovering more hits than misses. If you’re a “connect the dots” kind of person then I also recommend Small Demons, which is cool and really deserves its own post.
Bonus Tip: Learn to read “in the cracks”. I’ve always had a ‘car book’. That is a book that I left in the car so that it was always there if I ever found myself sitting on a bench at the mall or waiting in line at the DMV. But since ebooks, I’ve also been able to read while rocking a baby to sleep, waiting in a movie theater for the show to start,or while sitting still on I-65 for 2+ hours while a wreck was cleared. These were unexpected times where I was able to read via my phone. So if you’re not scared of ebooks, give them a try the next time you find yourself twiddling your thumbs.
On November 29th, at 4:00 p.m., the Alabama Booksmith will host the launch event for Fading Ads of Birmingham, authored by Charles Buchanan. Buchanan is a magazine editor at UAB, overseeing publications like UAB Medicine, as well as contributing to the flagship read UAB Magazine. Buchanan is also a well respected (and collected) print artist. That’s how I first met him years ago, by buying some of his prints. And it is why I was excited to learn that he was the pen behind this new book about Birmingham and some of its curious and historical artwork decorating the city. Spend five minutes visiting with Buchanan, at one of his shows, and he’ll guide you in a budding appreciation and wonder of all of the cool architectural artifacts in Birmingham’s past. No doubt that sense of story, history and place will come through his 168 page book (sporting 88+ photos).
Buchanan was kind enough to take a few minutes and answer do a quick Q & A, via email.
Q: How did the idea for this book come about?
A: The “ghost signs”–the old faded painted ads seen all around town–have inspired my printmaking for a while. I like the look and feel of the ads, particularly when several are layered on top of one another, and you see bits of all of them at once. In 2010, Birmingham Magazine asked me to write an article about the city’s ghost signs. Less than a year after it was published, The History Press contacted me, asking if I had ever thought about writing a book on the topic. I had thought about it, but I never expected I would be doing it so soon.
Q: How long did it take you to put it together?
A: It took about a year. The research was the most time-consuming part because there’s no direct way to research the ads. The companies–and in most cases, the people–that painted them are long gone, with no records. The ads weren’t intended to be permanent, anyway. I had to dig through lots of city directories, newspapers, maps, and photographs to piece together the stories of the advertised products and services and the buildings and neighborhoods where the ads hang. I ended up finding far more information than I had expected.
Writing the book presented a few challenges as well. I had better luck writing the first draft using pen and paper rather than a computer. That helped me to avoid editing myself too much in the beginning.
Q: Why is it important to chronicle the types of things your book does?
A: In much the same way that archaeologists can tell how people lived centuries ago from shards of pottery, the ghost signs reveal the history of everyday life in Birmingham from the 1880s through the 1980s. The ads tell us what people spent their money on–what they ate, drank, and smoked; where they worked and played; what products and services they thought would improve their lives; and so forth.
Also, these signs have made a good effort at sticking around, but they won’t be here forever. At least one ad featured in the book has already been painted over, and some others will eventually fade in the sun. In a way, the book (which features photos by local photographer Jonathan Purvis) helps us to hold on to the signs.
Q: When someone puts down the book, what is something you are hoping they take away with them?
A: I hope that the book encourages people in Birmingham to explore their own city. There are so many great details, stories, and opportunities to discover when we really pay attention to the buildings, people, and landscapes around us–and much of our history is so visible and accessible. I’ve listed locations for every ad in the book so that readers can go see the signs for themselves, and hopefully that will inspire them to look for other fading ads around town.
I’d also like the book to bring attention to the work of the sign painters who created these ads. Many of them were very talented artists who worked hard in tough conditions and never received much recognition for what they did. And they did everything by hand. Hopefully readers will think about those guys when they walk or drive by a fading ad in the future.
Q: What’s the coolest thing you ran across while writing the book?
A: The ads opened the door to some fascinating pockets of local history that surprised me. For instance, Birmingham was once full of homegrown soft drink companies making all kinds of crazy colas that got regional, national, and even international distribution–things like Celery Cola, Rye-Ola, and Wiseola, which is my favorite because one of its wall ads remains in town. Another sign, for a piano company, helped to reveal Birmingham’s important role in introducing Southern jazz, blues, and gospel music to the nation. I had no idea about these particular aspects of our history before I began researching the ads, and it felt like I was exploring a whole new Birmingham that I never knew existed.
Q: What’s your day job? On twitter? got a site for people to check in on?
A: On Twitter, I’m @cbprints, and my new web site will be up in the next few days at www.cbuchanan.net. The new site includes plenty of book info, including events and places to buy it, as well as a Google map to help people locate the fading ads in the book. My new blog on the site also will have book and art updates–and eventually it will highlight some other local ghost signs that aren’t in the book.
Q: Any parting shots/something you’d like to mention?
A: If anyone has questions about the fading ads once they’ve read the book, I hope they will e-mail me. I’m happy to share what I know about the signs and what they reveal about Birmingham’s history.
If you miss the launch event on November 29th, don’t despair. He will also be doing a book talk and signing at Homewood Public Library on December 6th at 6:30 p.m. As well as a signing at What’s on Second on the evening of December 7.
I love articles like this one over at The Paris Review where a writer got to go book shopping with Michael Dirda. It is so cool that one of the greatest book reviewers alive and one who has written about “the classics” spends so much time in the SciFi section of used-bookstores. The whole article is worth reading as it shares a love of books, book hunting and the joy of serendipity.
A great quote by the article’s author:
“. . . you don’t get to be the best-read man in America by giving a damn about someone else’s taste.”
Oh to bump into Michael Dirda, who says he has about 10,000 books and is “a sucker for pretty books”, in a book store aisle. Over the course of the article Dirda declares Joseph Mitchell’s Up in the Old Hotel as “. . . the greatest book ever”. So that one is now on my ‘books to read’ list.
I also took the time to make a list of the books that Dirda recommends or buys throughout the story. So if you’re looking for something worthwhile, these might be worth looking up. What’s fun is that not all of them are “stuffy”. There are spaceships and sailboats too!
Rick Brant’s ‘Electronic Adventure’ series
anything by Tom Swift
Arnold Bennett’s The Card
Pym (the edition edited and annotated by Harold Beaver)
M.F.K. Fisher’s Two Towns in Provence
Joseph Mitchell’s Up in the Old Hotel
Alberto Manguel’s Black Water: The Book of Fantastic Fiction
Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man
Dorothy Sayers’s Omnibus of Crime
Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time
Harry Kemelman’s The Nine-Mile Walk
Ross Thomas’s Chinaman’s Chance
Two Alabama bookstores are featured in the soon-to-be-released book My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop. Both the Alabama Booksmith and Fairhope’s Page & Palette made the cut! The book, published by Black Dog & Levanthal, hits bookstore shelves on November 13th and is a collection of essays written by famous authors about their favorite bookstore haunts. You can get a preview of the book over on Scribd where the publisher is sharing some essays. Be sure to check out the publisher’s own site as well so you can check the map and add your own favorite bookstore and share your story.
It looks to be a great read of not only some of nation’s neatest local bookstores that writers enjoy, but also dives into WHY they enjoy them. Rick Bragg wrote the feature on the Alabama Booksmith while Fannie Flagg wrote about Page & Palette (where the rumor is she got locked in a closet!?) I hear the book is indeed a true celebration of the impact bookstores have on their communities and the creative readers that pass through the doors. This is one book I am really looking forward to.
Here is a complete listing of all the bookstores and the author’s that wrote about them:
- Fannie Flagg—Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL
- Rick Bragg—Alabama Booksmith, Homewood, AL
- John Grisham—That Bookstore in Blytheville, Blytheville, AR
- Ron Carlson—Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, AZ
- Ann Packer—Capitola Book Café, Capitola, CA
- Isabel Allende—Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
- Mahbod Seraji—Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park, CA
- Lisa See—Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, CA
- Meg Waite Clayton—Books Inc., San Francisco, CA
- Daniel Handler and Lisa Brown—The Booksmith, San Francisco, CA
- Dave Eggers—Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA
- Pico Iyer—Chaucer’s Books, Santa Barbara, CA
- Laurie R. King—Bookshop Santa Cruz, CA
- Scott Lasser—Explore Booksellers, Aspen, CO
- Stephen White—Tattered Cover Book Store, Devner, CO
- Kate Niles—Maria’s Bookshop, Durango, CO
- Ann Haywood Leal—Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT
- Florence and Wendell Minor—The Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot, CT
- Rick Atkinson—Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, DC
- Les Standiford—Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL
- Robert Macomber—The Muse Book Shop, Deland, FL
- David Fulmer—Eagle Eye Book Shop, Decatur, GA
- Abraham Verghese—Prairie Lights, Iowa City, IA
- Luis Alberto Urrea—Anderson’s Bookshops, Naperville, IL
- Mike Leonard—The Book Stall Chestnut Court, Winnetka, IL
- Albert Goldbarth—Watermark Books, Wichita, KS
- Wendell Berry—Carmichael’s Bookstore, Louisville, KY
- Edith Pearlman—Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
- Mameve Medwed—Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA
- Henry Louis Gates, Jr.—Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, MA
- Simon Winchester—The Bookloft, Great Barrington, MA
- Nancy Thayer—Mitchell’s Book Corner, Nantucket, MA
- Elin Hilderbrand—Nantucket Bookworks, Nantucket, MA
- Jeanne Birdsall—Broadside Bookshop, Northampton, MA
- Martha Ackmann—Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA
- Ward Just—Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, Vineyard Haven, MA
- Ron Currie, Jr.—Longfellow Books, Portland, ME
- Nancy Shaw—Nicola’s Books, Ann Arbor, MI
- Katrina Kittle—Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, MI
- Ann Patchett—Mclean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI
- Kathleen Finneran—Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO
- Barry Moser—Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS
- Jack Pendarvis—Square Books, Oxford, MS
- Jill McCorkle—Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC
- Carrie Ryan—Park Road Books, Charlotte NC
- Laurent Dubois—The Regulator Bookshop, Durham, NC
- Lee Smith—Purple Crow Books, Hillsborough, NC
- Angela Davis-Gardner—Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh, NC
- Ron Rash—City Lights Bookstore, Sylva, NC
- Ian Frazier—Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, NJ
- Joan Wickersham—The Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, NH
- Carmela Ciuraru—Community Bookstore, Brooklyn NY
- Matt Weiland—Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
- Kate Christensen—Word, Brooklyn, NY
- Mick Cochrane—Talking Leaves Books, Buffalo, NY
- Caroline Leavitt—McNally Jackson Books, New York, NY
- Arthur Nersesian—St. Mark’s Bookshop, New York, NY
- Francine Prose & Pete Hamill—Strand Bookstore, New York, NY
- Chuck Palahniuk—Powell’s Books, Portland, OR
- Larry Kane—Chester County Book & Music Company, West Chester, PA
- Ann Hood—Island Books, Middletown, RI
- Mindy Friddle—Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC
- Adam Ross—Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN
- Douglas Brinkley—BookPeople, Austin, TX
- Terry Tempest Williams—The King’s English Book Shop, Salt Lake City, UT
- Robert Goolrick—Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA
- Howard Frank Mosher—Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, VT
- Jon Clinch—Northshire Bookstore, Manchester, VT
- Jonathan Evison—Eagle Harbor Book Co., Bainbridge Island, WA
- Tom Robbins—Village Books, Bellingham, WA
- Sherman Alexie—Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA
- Garth Stein—Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA
- Ivan Doig—University Book Store, Seattle, WA
- Lesley Kagen—Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, WI
- Liam Callanan—Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI
One of my favorite things about Birmingham is the book culture. Looking online I know the local book scene is not “in your face” like the football fans or as scary as all of the “weather geek” updates, but man we have some cool people in Birmingham doing cool things to promote books, authors and reading. I have to admit to being a fanboy of some of them. There are some that you know you’d enjoy chatting with if you ever just bumped into them at the grocery store or bar. Here are three local Birmingham bookish bloggers that I always look forward to seeing updates from. Even if they are talking about books that I’ll never read, their passion for books is addictive and fun to follow.
So if you enjoy discussions with fellow book-folk, be sure to check these out:
Church Street Coffee & Books – the bookstore crew over in Mt. Brook keep the Postscript updates coming regularly with guest posts, book reviews and insights into the world of “running a bookstore”.
Medusa’s Library – this blogger works over at another great local bookstore the Little Professor in Homewood. If you like book-related conversation the posts here are fun. If you’re into paranormal books and sci-fi fiction you are going to be very very happy.
Oh My Godwin! – this local tumblr is dripping with bookish goodness. Some posts are humorous and some elevate books. My favorite updates are the photos. All of which will have you smiling wondering “can I have a room like this in my house”?
So those are three of my favorites. Who am I missing?
Yes, I know. It is Banned Books Week here in the states. But it is also the last Buy A Friend A Book Week of 2012, which I think is much cooler. While it doesn’t carry the emotionally charged fear of being told what not to read, it’s a great idea that encourages you to match up the right book with the right friend and make it happen. That’s it. It’s that simple.
Pick a friend. Pick the book. Buy from a local bookshop. Deliver said book. It is the best of all worlds.
I have my friend picked out this time (BAFAB week happens four
times a year) and the title list narrowed down to three possible books. I just need to see what’s in stock around Birmingham. The next BAFAB week isn’t until the first week of January 2013. Until them you can follow BAFAB Twitter, though as you can tell from their tweet stream they are really only active during BAFAB weeks.
Anyone else going to give this a try this week?
These kinds of things are always fun… check out this flowchart to the Universe of Stephen King books. I had no idea that so many elements and references threaded through his books. These kinds of easter eggs are exactly what fans like. You can go see the original post (and future updates) over on Gillian’s blog or click the image below to see the huge flowchart/info-graphic:
Here’s one I haven’t read yet (it comes out August 7th, William Morrow/Harper Collins), but I’m pretty excited about it. Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing is a collection of pieces by Neal Stephenson. Much of Stephenson’s new book is non-fiction, but I’ve heard there a couple of short stories as well. In the book Stephenson talks about his geek travels where he travels to far off places just to witness the installation of fiber optic internet connections in some remote pocket of Asia. He also tries to make a case for “modern Jedi knights”, chats metaphysics and technology/freedom vs. the Chinese. So it’s all over the place. Should be fun!
If this book is as detailed and accessible as his fiction, I know it’s one I am going to enjoy.
Anything new coming out that you’re looking forward to?
Over the past couple of days it has become apparent that the folks running GoodReads are hiding some book reviews. While this initially sounds really really bad, it seems to be an effort to help their members “play nice”. It’s the classic story of a few bad apples ruining it for everyone else. I’m not going to link specifically to all the posts, forums, blogs, etc. that spawned all of this, as I don’t want to join the flame wars, but I do think it’s important that we all know what and how GoodReads is changing.
The impetus for the changes in policy has to do with GoodReads allowing both authors and readers to be active on the site. Authors get blogs. Readers don’t. Readers can leave reviews. Author’s can’t (but they can have secondary “personal” accounts to do reviews with, but that’s another issue). So what’s been happening with a few passionate (and not so mature) authors is:
1. A reader pans a book on GoodReads, gives it a one star rating and maybe adds it to their “Readers to Avoid” shelf.
2. The author stumbles upon this and blogs about the negative review on their GoodReads blog, often making observations of the reviewer’s “lack of a brain”.
3. The author’s fans see this post and flock to the reviewer’s profile spewing forth bad stuff.
4. The reviewer’s friends start reviewing the author and the author’s fans’ activities (rather than reviewing the books), and things escalate.
5. The reviewer and a couple of friends get fed up and quit using GoodReads.
So what GoodReads has started doing is letting users know that their review has been hidden, if it doesn’t meet GoodReads criteria of a book review. So now, if you bash an author for their stance on importing bananas from Brazil, your review will show on your profile page and in your shelves, but not on the curated community book page, because your ‘review’ had nothing to do with the book. Also, your GoodReads friends will be able to see it, but that’s it.
This seems to ‘kind of’ fix the problem as it removes the match strike that sets these immature authors and fans off. But there is really nothing to stop these bad apples from harassing readers. I am not sure if more changes are on the way or not. We’ll have to see how all of this evolves.
I dabble on GoodReads (if you want to say ‘hi’ please do, it’s always fun chatting with other readers). But I check in on LibraryThing every day, so come join the fun over there if you haven’t already.
Blogs I Like
- B’ham Public Library
- Book Chase
- Book Patrol
- Bookshelf Porn
- Exile Bibliophile
- Fine Books Blog
- Loud poet
- Nathalie Foy
- Oh My Godwin!
- Reed Next’s Next Read
- Turn the Page
- AL.com Books
- AL.com Books Forum
- Alabama Center for the Book
- Alabama Writers' Forum
- Bham Wiki
- Book TV
- Menasha Ridge Press
- The Literacy Council
- Book Art
- Book Collecting
- Book Column
- Book Covers
- Book Design
- Book Reviews
- Book Sale
- Book Talk
- Bookstore Ideas
- Digital Publishing
- Free Books
- Friday Finds
- Gifts for Book People
- New Releases
- On the TV
- On the Web
- Publishing Industry News
- Site News
- Tools for Readers
- Upcoming Titles