Always Looking Forward (and a Happy Birthday to Matt Mullenweg)

First up, a big Happy Birthday to Matt Mullenweg! Matt is the creative spark behind WordPress and the open-source movement it remains a founding pillar of. He won’t remember, but Matt and I met once when he came to a WordCamp here in Birmingham, and we’ve traded a comment online a couple of times over the years. His work is impressive, and he has an incredibly reassuring worldview that will help you enjoy the internet (and the people sharing) a little more. If you run across an interview with him, it will be worth a read or listen. Cheers to you, Matt!

For his birthday, Matt asked, “Publish a post. About anything! It can be long or short, a photo or a video, a quote, or a link to something interesting. Don’t sweat it. Just blog.” Matt’s birthday wish highlights something I’ve been thinking about… blogging. I started this blog many years ago because I wanted to talk about books and publishing, and I live in Alabama (not exactly the center of the publishing universe).

Twice during the last holiday season, I was asked something along the lines of “You blog? Why on earth would you blog?” In this day of near-single-button-push online publishing, I can see where they were coming from. But while the difference between blogging and social media may seem like just a sliver, it’s much wider.

I have zero data here, but it’s been my experience that most folks on social platforms just stay busy saying, “Look at me” and “Let’s just make noise.” Meanwhile, the bloggers I keep up with are more about sharing their interests and are focused on their passions. We tend our blogrolls like gardens. They feel like real endorsements and not just raw numbers to show off follower counts (that sounds snarkier than I mean it). It’s nice “owning” your own space outside of most algorithms, though Google changes can feel heavy at times. Though maybe I’m just old?

I have no idea why all of the above feels so true to me. I’m sure Matt Mullenweg knows and has already given a couple of talks on it.

There are a few new newsletter options that seem to be in the spirit of WordPress and blogging, but there are still issues with the service providers, discoverability, etc. So far, blogging still best straddles the fence of ‘easy to do’ yet having just the slightest amount of friction to keep most of the super bad guys out of the space. Of course, maybe all this only pertains to book bloggers. I dunno.

No matter… you should blog. Whatever you’re passionate about. And if that happens to be books, then leave a comment. I know we’d get along. So, Happy New Year! Here’s to looking ahead and another fun year of blogging. As Mullenweg says, “Don’t sweat it. Just blog.” Have fun!

Looking ahead to 2024

I hope your holiday season has been book-filled and restful and that 2024 shines brighter than 2023. I mean, no matter how things are, sometimes just hoping that things “are better next time around” is good enough. 2023 had its rough patches, but there’s a new year just around the corner.

I’ve never been much of an Auld Lang Syne kind of person (though New Year’s Eve is absolutely my favorite holiday), and I don’t get very nostalgic, but it is fun to look over a stack of books you have read.

My 2023 stack is 25 titles tall, which LibraryThing tells me is taller than a garden gnome but shorter than a tennis net. I am also reading more contemporary books, with all of my 2023 reads having been published since 1990. I am running about 50% fiction and 50% non-fiction. That sounds healthy, doesn’t it?

book stack height

My favorite fiction reads of 2023 were: Erasure by Percival EverettHow I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely, and Trust by Hernan Diaz.

My favorite non-fiction reads of 2023 were: This Isn’t Going to End Well: The True Story of a Man I Thought I Knew by Daniel WallaceMonsters: A Fan’s Dilemma by Claire Dederer, and Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country: Traveling through the Land of My Ancestors by Louise Erdrich.

graph of the categories I read

There are so many books I am looking forward to reading in 2024! Already in the queue are: The Fraud by Zadie SmithThe Book at War: How Reading Shaped Conflict and Conflict Shaped Reading by Andrew PettegreeThe Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa, and Everyone on This Train Is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson.

I think I am going to have to pick up the Stevenson first. Writers, trains, and a locked room murder seems like a wonderful way to spend the New Year’s weekend waiting for 2024 to arrive.

So, a BIG happy New Year’s to you all! Thank you for stopping by the blog, and I look forward to hearing what you are reading in the new year.

Elizabeth George is Coming to Hoover, AL, in 2024

Elizabeth George Cover

The excellent speaker series Southern Voices festival held at the Hoover Public Library has announced that British crime novelist Elizabeth George is headlining the 2024 event. This annual event is always a good time if you enjoy hanging out with bookish folks and meeting authors. You can find out more about next year’s conference at the Southern Voices site.

The Hoover Sun has all the good details and wonderful author biographies, but the basics are:

  • January 11, 2024 at 10am – tickets go on sale on their site. Tickets for “An Evening with Elizabeth George” are $40, while tickets for Saturday’s Authors Conference are $45. 
  • Sunday, February 18, 2024 – the Southern Voices Festival kicks off its 31st year with two John Waite concerts. One at 3pm and the other at 7pm
  • Tuesday, February 20, 2024 – artist Katie Baldwin lecture and reception
  • Friday, February 23, 2024 – “An Evening with Elizabeth George” at 7pm
  • Saturday, February 24, 2024 – the Southern Voices Author Conference starts at 9am and ends at 4pm.

It’s always fun to see who Southern Voices organizers can get to speak in Hoover, AL, each year. It’s always a thrill when it is someone of Elizabeth George’s caliber. 

There are other authors as well, including Kate Quinn, Yasmin Angoe, John Archibald, Kim Cross, and more. So be sure to click over and read that Hoover Sun article. Then mark your calendars to buy your tickets on January 11, 2024. It’s shaping up to be another great event at the Hoover Library.

Little Professor in Homewood, AL

I found time to swing by the new bookshop for Little Professor in Homewood, AL. It was a beautifully bright & sunny day, which the new book shop is built for. The inside is roomy and Instagram-ready, with high walls and sparse tables. There is also a great seating area along the front window where you can sip your coffee.

They’ve only been open a couple of weeks, and it’s exciting to think about what’s possible in their new space and location. Little Professor has also launched a new podcast at the same time they opened their doors. It’s called A Little Bookish with new episodes dropping on Tuesdays. I recommend episodes one and three if you’d like a good peek behind the scenes of what it takes to open a bookstore.

While I (am old enough) to still miss the tasty sandwiches from the Crepe Myrtle’s restaurant that was attached to a previous location years ago, the new one is easier to access from nearby hotels and restaurants and is clearly built for community. You can check out their old location (up the street here) and you can check out their Little Professor Pepper Place location here.

Little Professor in Homewood, AL only sell new books and also have some stylish sidelines and merch. They also have an annual membership that offers some perks on discounted books and coffee. Their hours are:

They are now located at:
2783 18th St. S., Homewood, AL   35209
Phone:   (205)870-7461

Their hours are:
Monday-Friday 8:00am – 6:00pm
Saturday 8:00am – 6:00pm
Sunday 10:00am – 5:00pm

Books, Publishing and Birmingham