Tag Archives: US

Congratulations, America.

Yeah, even if you didn’t end up with the president you wanted. You deserve congratulations for experiencing the first national election that was truly a global event – not just as spectacle, but from the aspect of influence. The first one that wasn’t just under your control.

The whole world voted for this one – with its eyes. And the world will vote for all the elections in the future, big and small. We’re next, here in the UK. And while I’m no great fan of parliamentary democracy, I can’t help but believe that this degree of scrutiny and passion can only make it better.

Welcome to the future. It’s going to be tough (because the future always is – this ain’t no pulp novel, kids), but a change is as good as a rest, as the saying goes.

The Great Shark Hunt redux – two Brits on the US election campaign trail

This caught my eye at Forbidden Planet the other day, and I’m glad I filed it for further inspection. Basically, a British journalist (Dan Hancox) and a British cartoonist (Tom Humberstone, aka The Vented Spleen) are heading off to the US to cover the forthcoming election.

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding the US election process fundamentally arcane and baffling*. In fact, I know I’m not alone – I’ve had American friends cheerily admit it makes little logical sense to them either.

Everything I know about US politics I learned from Hunter S. Thompson**, and so I’m fascinated by the idea of two British guys aiming to do a Thompson & Steadman style campaign trail trek aimed at reporting back to Blighty on the process.

Not just because this is a pretty important election on a global scale, but because (however unwisely) I actually trust two independent counter-cultural blogger types to give me a better understanding of the process than the mainstream media. If nothing else, I’ll be listening to people I can relate to. Or think I can relate to, at least.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in following, they’ve got their “My Fellow Americans” blog up and running already, posting little preliminary details before the primary race kicks off in the new year.

Hell knows we’re going to be bombarded with information about it whether we like it or not – I figure I might as well stick with a supplier that provides a palatable flavour.

[* I’m not claiming the UK version to be any more logical, by the way. It is, however, vaguely more familiar.]

[** Yes, I know, that’s hardly fair and balanced. Sue me.]

[tags]US, election, politics, blog[/tags]

The decline of reading in the UK and the US

I used to hear it all the time as a public library employee: “People just don’t read as many books these days.”

It’s almost a common-knowledge truism – certainly something that anyone with a love of literature is certain to have heard if not repeated. But a recent study by the University of Manchester suggests that British people actually read more than they did in 1975. [Hat-tip to Ariel]

The research seems to be pretty wide reaching (10-15,000 people surveyed in each country), but as with all statistics we can’t be sure exactly how this all pans out, and what factors are at work.

For example, the statement “in 2000, Brits read on average for five more minutes each day than they did in 1975” comes with a freight of ambiguity; it’s an average. It may be the case that demographics who were heavy readers in 1975 now have more time on their hands (and cheaper access to books), and have increased their reading as a result. But what of the demographics that traditionally read less in 1975? Are they reading more, or less, or the same amount? Has the flux in their reading time been absorbed by the increase of the time- and money-affluent?

And what about age spreads? The Print is Dead blog reports on a survey which suggests that, in the US, kids are actually reading far less than they used to – despite the alleged success of [multi-part YA book franchise I’m already sick of hearing about] as a ‘honey trap’ for the previously book-shy.

The same may well be the case here in the UK; I’m not even sure how one could go about getting figures that will actuially tell the whole story. The explosion of the ‘YA’ fiction bracket (a marketing term that I personally find cynical and degrading to authors and readers alike) suggests that there is plenty of reading going on at the younger end of the age scale. But sales figures aren’t the whole story – they don’t tell us who is buying these books, or who is reading them.

The fact that, overall, more books seem to be sold each year would suggest that reading as a pastime is far from dead. But who are those readers? Can we even find out? And what could we do with that knowledge – as a genre, as authors, as reviewers and critics and bloggers, as an industry – if we found it?

1000 most common books in US libraries

Okay, here’s a post for my fellow bookworms; a list of the thousand books most commonly found in United States libraries. The Bible is at number one, unsurprisingly. But the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy is in there at eight, being way more common than almost all of Shakespeare’s works! I must try to find something similar for UK libraries – a comparison would be interesting.

Link perused at BoingBoing.