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.

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

On the 1st Anniversary of George Floyd’s Murder

Photo from Exhibit 17 from Derek Chauvin’s trial was a still-frame image of the police officer glaring at onlookers while his knees rested on George Floyd’s throat. What was Chauvin’s facial expression saying? The answer is both anger (tense lower right eyelid, wide open right eye and lowered eyebrows) as well as fear (eyebrows raised, creating a large wrinkle across Chauvin’s forehead) and Disgust  (curled upper lip and protruding lower lip)

This week marks the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death under the knee of Derek Chauvin. Much has been written about that tragedy, including an article a month ago by John Blake of CNN.

The thrust of Blake’s article—about the harm that indifference to injustice causes—I agree with. As an expert in analyzing facial expressions, however, I couldn’t disagree more with how Blake describes the look on Chauvin’s face as being “one of bored disinterest,” with the “only flicker of emotion” being “annoyance at the crowd” gathered to plead for Floyd’s life. This still-frame image (Exhibit 17 in Chauvin’s trial) actually tells a far different story. There isn’t just annoyance on display; there’s very real anger in how strongly Chauvin is glaring at the crowd. There’s fear, too, as at some level Chauvin must have known that having video bear witness to what was transpiring could put him in legal jeopardy. 

Finally, there’s a hint of a third emotion as well, namely disgust given how Chauvin’s upper lip curls a bit while the lower lip pushes down slightly. Disgust with the victim his knee is suffocating? Disgust with the crowd? With the idea that anybody would dare contest a policeman’s actions? Who’s to say. Disgust is an emotion Chauvin certainly won’t own up to as he appeals a guilty verdict as it would reveal a repugnance for the very people he was sworn to protect and serve.

What inspired you to write the book?

Released today: episode #55 of my podcast series “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” on the New Books Network. The episode features Carla Diana, the author of My Robot Gets Me: How Social Design Can Make New Products More HumanClick here to get to the new episode.

Carla Diana is a robot designer responsible for the creative aspects of Diligent Robotics’ new hospital service robot named Moxi. She created and leads the 4D Design masters program at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, wrote the world’s first children’s book on 3D printing, Leo the Maker Prince, and she cohosts the Robopsych Podcast.

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

Image of New Books network and Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight podcast logo

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

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.

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

Not a Fair Fight

Quote from Germinal by Emile Zole: “I’ve got enough coal inside this carcass of mine to keep me warm for the rest of my days.”

In America, since 1900, over 100,000 coal miners have died in industrial accidents. Lately, though, Appalachia has been seeing far worse. The opioid crisis hit the region hard. Black lung, a disease that Congress tried to curb in 1969 by passing legislation meant to force coal barons to do a better job protecting the miners’ health, has increased. Pitting the miners’ pride and fear against the greed of wealthy coal barons, this is a story about a hard-pressed region struggling to stay afloat.

Released today: episode #37 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Chris Hamby, the author of Soul Full of Coal Dust: A Fight for Breath and Justice in Appalachia.  Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Image of Pulitzer Prize author, Chris Hamby, and his book:  Soul Full of Coal Dust, A Fight for Breath and Justice in Appalachia for Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight podcast. Digging In: Coal Barons, Injustice, and Resistance

Chris Hamby is an investigate reporter at the New York Times. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting in 2014 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting in 2017. A native of Nashville, he lives and works in Washington, D.C.

This episode explores the experiences of a workforce, primarily male, that has long been exploited by those in power in West Virginia’s near-feudal economy. King Coal rules, and miners’ health and lives have been shortchanged in the process. Hamby documents how a few good-hearted people have fought for justice against mine owners, lawyers, and doctors only too eager to dismiss the miners’ legitimate health claims. It’s a parable that fits our era of looming economic inequality.

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