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.

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

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

The Internal Rhythms We Live By

Sharon Olds from Arias, quote: “My mother beat me to the meter of “Onward, / Christian Soldiers.” She speeded up / the tempo which dragged, in church.”

Among all the damage the Biden administration inherited and is now trying to un-do is its efforts to reunite the children separated from their parents at the country’s southern border. How long will the affected children’s psychological wounds endure? If the writing of Pulitzer-prize-winning poet Sharon Olds is an indication, the answer is forever. In interviewing Sharon nothing struck me more than learning about her use of enjambmentof words spilling over line-by-line so urgently, as a way of wrestling control over the very rhythm of her life and craft.

Released today: episode #40 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Sharon Olds, the author of AriasListen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode via the New Books Network website.

Photo of poet Sharon Olds, and the cover of her book "Arias" for Dan Hill's EQ Podcast episode 40, titled Intimate Truths about Embodying Joy & Pain"

Sharon Olds is the author of 12 books of poetry, including recently Arias (2019), which was short-listed for the 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize. Her 2012 collection Stag’s Leap won both the Pulitzer Prize and England’s T.S. Eliot Prize. She’s the Eric Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing at New York University’s Graduate Creating Writing Program.

Dan Hill, Ph.D., 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.