How Well Do Books Compete with Your TV set?

As Covid-19 struck, did the amount of books Americans buy go up or down? The options in this pop quiz are a) down 10%, b) flat, no change from 2019, and c) up 10%

The correct answer to this week’s quiz is number 3) because sales rose 8% compared to 2019 book sales.  That’s the “good news,” as people were generally stuck at home while the pandemic raged. The bad news, if you’re a bookstore owner or employee, is that bookstore sales were down 23% versus 2019 given that they were either shuttered or often had limited operations. The bigger picture “bad news” for the book industry is that the percentage of people who read a book on a typical day has declined from 26% to 19% from 2003 to 2017. In comparison, TV / streamed viewing is an activity consuming 10x more of people’s time than cracking open a book. The fear that books may become less relevant in a world driven by TV et cetera was, Joanna Scott says, one of the underlying concerns motivating her latest book, a collection of short stories about the often blurry line between fact, fiction, and the fantasies that play in our heads.

Released today: a pair of podcasts. Episode #56 of my podcast series “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” features Joanna Scott, the author of Excuse Me While I Disappear. Click here to get to the new episode. While on the web site, slide over into the Biography channel to listen to my episode with author Nelson Johnson regarding his book Darrow’s Nightmare: The Forgotten Story of America’s Most Famous Trial Lawyer.

Joanna Scott is the author of 12 books, including Arroganceand Various Antidotes, both PEN-Faulkner finalists, and The Manikin, a finalize for the Pulitzer Prize. Her awards include a MacArthur Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She teaches at the University of Rochester.  

Nelson Johnson is a retired New Jersey Superior Court Judge and the author of four previous books including Boardwalk Empire, which inspired the HBO series about Atlantic City.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc. His latest book, available on Amazon is Blah, Blah, Blah: A Snarky Guide to Office Lingo.

Restoring the Statue of Liberty

An image of this Q&A-  Q: Does the Statute of Liberty celebrate: 1) immigration or 2) Emancipation? A: As originally conceived, #2.  Source: Berry & Gross, A Black Women’s History of the United States

When the French abolitionist Edouard de Laboulaye and designer Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi unveiled their concept for the Statute of Liberty in 1871, the monument include a broken shackle at Liberty’s feet and a chain in her left hand. By 1886, however, the tide had turned. Jim Crow—and Jane Crow—laws were being cemented into place across the South. So a new version of the statute was dedicated instead, leaving black women bereft of their rightful place in the country’s iconography. Since 1886, has there been progress? Yes, but sometimes just barely. Why did black women working as domestic servants in the South join the Great Migration north? Often to escape the risk of rape in their masters’ homes. It’s been a long road forward to commanding figures like Kamala Harris and Serena Williams, among others, leading the charge.

Released today: episode #48 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Kali Nicole Gross, the co-author along with Daina Ramey Berry of A Black Women’s History of the United StatesCheck out the audio link below to get oriented or click on  https://newbooksnetwork.com/category/special-series/dan-hills-eq-spotlight to get to the new episode.

Kali Gross is Acting Professor of African American Studies at Emory University. Her previous books include Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso, winner of the 2017 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in nonfiction.

News Items

My interview on Cynthia Farrell’s podcast “This Is How We Lead” aired this week. Check out “Emotions & Facial Coding in Leadership” by clicking on any of these links below:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3fCztHJ
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/31w0SCw
Google Podcasts: https://bit.ly/3ctGiZS
iHeart Radio: https://ihr.fm/31x6exq
Pandora: https://bit.ly/3cwVIg0
Amazon Music: https://amzn.to/2PHb5K4

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc. His latest book, available on Amazon is Blah, Blah, Blah: A Snarky Guide to Office Lingo.

Celebrating Up-Tempo Blues Music

The record producer Sam Phillips is quoted in Memphis Mayhem as saying that “Rock and roll is the blues with a mania. Tempo is the main difference.”

Musical tourism in Memphis was a $4 billion annual industry prior to Covid-19 and is likely to be even bigger once the pandemic subsides. Memphis has seen such troubles before. Yellow fever epidemics after the Civil War caused wealthy whites to flee in large numbers, leaving the city open for the rise of the South’s first millionaire: an African-American businessman named Robert Church. The two local heroes on which the local music tourism depends, however, consist of W. C. Handy, the father of the blues; and Elvis Presley coming along 45 years later. It was in Sam Phillips’ legendary Sun Studios on a hot July evening in 1954 that Presley recorded “It’s All Right Mama” and rock and roll took off. For a decade starting in the 1960s, Memphis became the 3rd largest center for recording music in America. No wonder Dusty Springfield came to town to record Dusty in Memphis; you had to be there!

Released today: episode #47 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring David Less, the author of Memphis Mayhem: A Story of the Music That Shook Up the WorldCheck out the audio link below to get oriented or click on the image below to go directly to the new episode.

David Less has studied Memphis music for over 40 years, including work done for the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Gibson Guitar Foundation. He’s been published in Rolling Stone and DownBeat, among other places.

News Items

On May 7, 2021, Omnivore Recordings is releasing Boogie Shoes: Live on Beale Street. The CD/LP features Memphis legend Alex Chilton (The Box Tops, Big Star) backed by the Hi Rhythm Section that backed Al Green, Ike & Tina Turner and others. The liner notes come from David Less. To learn more, visit the OmnivoreRecordings.com web site.

Logo of Faces and Places Tours has an image of the Statue of Liberty
Circle October 7-9, 2021 on your calendar, please! Those are the dates for the inaugural Faces & Places tour to be held in Memphis. This highly customized, unique tour will be a mashup of history, biography, music, and EQ insights that will offer attendees a transformative experience in the city of Memphis. David Less will be one of two guests that all tour participants will meet in person during the tour. To learn more details, contact dhill@sensorylogic.com – thanks.

Of Daddy Wounds & Oil-Patch Drifters

When does 2% become 100%? The answer can be found in Michael Smith’s riveting book about working the oil boom in Williston, North Dakota. There he encounters The Williston Hello. Two short sentences kick off most initial meetings between the guys drifting into town. The first is “What kind of work you do?” The second is “Man, my dad whipped my ass!” Smith goes on to write: “That scar, that hole in a man’s soul the shape of his father, was a defining feature of every man I met in Williston. Men had built their lives around it. Like a tree growing around a hatchet,” as physical and psychological wounds meshed in guys taking on some of the toughest, coldest jobs in the world.

Released today: episode #45 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Michael Patrick F. Smith, the author of The Good Hand: A Memoir of Work, Brotherhood, and Transformation in an American BoomtownCheck out the audio and video link below to get oriented or click on the image below to go directly to the new episode.

Michael Patrick F. Smith is a folk singer who has shared the stage with luminaries such as Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. He’s also a playwright, whose works include Woody Guthrie Dreams and Ain’t No Sin. The Good Hand is his first book.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc. His latest book, available on Amazon is Blah, Blah, Blah: A Snarky Guide to Office Lingo.

A Tale of Forbearance & Resiliency

The 2018 movie Green Book won an Academy Award for Best Picture. The real deal, however, is Taylor’s book, which involved scouting over 10,000 Green Book sites where black motorist found safe places to refuel their cars, eat and sleep while on the road. Today, under 5% are still in operation and 75% have ceased to exist since The Green Book was published (1936-1967). Some establishments were the victims of decay over time. But often there are other explanations: “urban renewal” that meant new highways plowing through black communities, laying waste to black-owned businesses; redlining bank practices; or to a lack of anti-monopoly enforcement, whereby white-owned businesses seized unfair advantages. Add in a staggering 700% rise in America’s prison population since Bill Clinton’s crime bill and the reasons why African-American commercial centers are no longer as resilient as they once were are clear.

Released today: episode #43 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Candacy Taylor, the author of Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in AmericaListen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Candacy Taylor is an award-winning author, photographer and cultural documentarian. She’s been a fellow at Harvard University under the direction of Henry Louis Gates Jr. and her projects have been funded by organizations ranging from National Geographic to The National Endowment for the Humanities. Her work has received extensive media coverage in places like the PBS Newshour and The New Yorker

Events & Tips

Candacy Taylor was instrumental in helping the Smithsonian create the special traveling exhibit “The Negro Motorist Green Book.” First stop is the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. For the other, future stops of the exhibit, check out the Smithsonian’s web site.

A friend of mine, David Perry, has released a book Diary of a Successful Job Hunter on the App Sumo to help get the country back to work. It costs merely $1.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc. His latest book, available on Amazon is Blah, Blah, Blah: A Snarky Guide to Office Lingo.

Did the Civil War Ever End?

Quote by the American novelist William Faulkner who wrote about how the past shapes the present in Requiem for a Nun  "The past is never dead."

On January 6th, a participant in the mob storming the Capitol was seen inside the building carrying a Confederate flag defiantly. The ghost of novelist William Faulkner might have smiled at such a sight, not in support of the Rebel cause but because Faulkner believed the past gets repeated endlessly—that what was is never over. That reality applies to nations and individuals alike.

Released today: episode #38 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Michael Gorra, the author of The Saddest Words: William Faulkner’s Civil WarListen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

The author of Portrait of a Novel, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Michael Gorra is the Mary Augusta Jordan Professor of English Language and Literature at Smith College and the editor of the Norton Critical Editions of As I Lay Dyingand The Sound and the Fury.

This episode touches on two of William Faulkner’s novels in particular: The Sound and the Fury as well as Absalom, Absalom! It considers the role of memory and history, Faulkner’s alcoholism, the sexual exploitation practiced by plantation owners, and the greater presence of Nathan Bedford Forrest over Robert E. Lee in Faulkner’s fiction writings. Ties to today’s reckoning for racial justice is a part of the episode, too.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Working up a Sweat

Quote: Between 1965 and 2009, the amount of time Americans sit around increased by 43%. Daniel E. Lieberman

It’s a typical New Year’s resolution: you’re going to get in better shape. To do it, you’ll eat less or healthier and you’re also going to exercise more. Here’s the math. For the average adult American weighing 180 pounds, total daily energy expenditure is about 2,700 calories. Maintaining our body, i.e., our resting metabolism, will cover only 1,700 of those calories.

Where can you “pick up the slack” by expending another 1,000 calories each day? You might still be growing. You might be sexually active. You might be otherwise physically active, i.e., exercise. Those are your options. Otherwise, that extra 1,000 calories will go towards storing energy, i.e., getting fatter.

Human beings have not evolved to use up extra calories through exercise, even though that would be healthier. We inherited a survival strategy based on reserving our extra calories, a trait that has helped us stay alive and reproduce in the past. If we have not inherited an instinct to help us work up a sweat, what will motivate us? The answers is making it fun, including: exercising with friends, doing so while entertaining yourself, as part of a game, in a nice setting, and adding variety to exercise routines. Finally, set realistic goals in order to stay with it. Use those tips to make your life span and health span overlap.

Despite Not Evolving to Exercise, It’s Healthy

Released today: episode #35 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Daniel E. Lieberman, the author of Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and RewardingListen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Photo of Author Daniel E. Lieberman and a photo of his new book: Exercised Why Something We Never Evolved to Do is Healthy and Rewarding. Episode 35 of Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight podcast "Despite Not Evolving to Exercise, It's Healthy"

Lieberman is the Lerner Professor of Biological Sciences in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. He received degrees from Harvard and Cambridge Universities. This episode isn’t about how to exercise (more) but, rather, why exercise is important and the myths that surround it. A key part of the conversation is a comparison between Westerners and non-Westerners, especially in Africa, to offer insights of what kind of historic lifestyle patterns Americans now run the risk of violating.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Nature vs. Nurture

It’s a debate that’s been around since Sir Francis Galton, a relative of Charles Darwin, coined the term “nature versus nurture.” Does one factor matter more than another? In my interview with IQ scholar Russell Warne, he couldn’t say precisely how much each factor contributes. 

Nevertheless, a couple of other statements from his book give guidance. First, as we age, the degree to which our environment (nurture) influences our development and behavior recedes in favor of what we inherited though our genes (nature). Second, with adults in positive environments in industrialized countries (typically the West), the heritability of intelligence is about 80%. In other words, ultimately, nature wins for many of us in America.

It’s the holiday season at the end of a very bleak year. The chances are higher than usual that you haven’t been gathering with your parents this gift-giving season. But if you are, this might prove an opportunity to reflect on what you inherited from them: one’s IQ level to a fair degree, no doubt, but personality traits and behavior and habits as well. Here’s to wishing everyone well, and a better 2021!

An Accessible Guide to Being Smart about IQ

Released today: episode #34 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Russell T. Warne, the author of In the Know: Debunking 35 Myths about Human IntelligenceListen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Warne is Associate Professor of Psychology at Utah Valley University. He earned his PhD in education psychology from Texas A&M in 2011. Dr. Warne has published two books and nearly 60 scholarly articles. The publisher of In the Know is Cambridge University Press. This episode covers the specific ways in which IQ can be bolstered (mostly physical factors) versus hyped interventions. The episode also touches on how “intellectual meritocracy” is unfortunately contributing to the country’s polarization.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.