Thursday, December 2, 2010

Guns Vs. Books, Transitioning into the New York Times Book Review Top Ten

Yes, there is life beyond the bookshop, though not much of it. I sit here, waiting for our new water heater to be installed, knowing that I don't have that much time on the computer, as I left my power cord at work, where I was processing our lovely book fair at St. John's yesterday. We have two more, on December 13th at Eastcastle and December 16th at the Milwaukee Catholic Home, from 2-4. If you are planning on visiting familiy or friends at either center, it might be a fun way to shop. And yes, I gift wrap.

This morning I finished reading Our Patchwork Nation. It's one of those books that's not easy to hand-sell from a mere bookseller. It strikes me that readers would rather hear from experts in reviews on such a subject. At least that's been my experience with similar books. "It's nice that you liked it, but what do the experts say?" seems to be the implication. Eh, could be wrong.
Ray Chinni and James Gimpel divide the country into 12 community types: Boom Towns, Campus and Careers, Emptying Nests, Evangelical Epicenters, Immigration Nation, Industrial Metropolis, Military Bastions, Minority Central, Mormon Outposts, Service Worker Centers, and Tractor Country.

These divisions are by county, which is better than metropolitan statistical area, but makes it harder to divide something like Cook County, which is clearly a little bit of half these groups. I think that's why they renamed the original "Big City" classification as "Industrial Metropolis", as many counties include surrounding areas. And in the appendix in back, they give both the primary and secondary classification. You could see Milwaukee County being subdivided into immigration nation, minority centry, emptying nest, and Boswell's neighborhood probably looks more like campus and careers than anything else.

The groups are created by socioeconomic data, including income, education, ethnicity, religion, and economic makeup, which by that I mean, where are most of the jobs. One of the things you learn is that even at the county level, the world is more purple than it is blue and red. The difference of opinions among groups is not as great as you'd think.
I was amused by one chart, which compared the prevalence of gun and book stores per 100,000 people. I don't live that far from a gun store (Badger Gun in West Milwaukee, but I'm not linking to it, it's enough that I have to pass it whenever I take brush to the recycling center on Lincoln) but I live closer to a second-hand bookstore, Bay View Books and Music.

Boom Towns, 3.7 gun shops, 5.4 bookshops
Campus and Careers, 2.9 gun shops, 7.1 bookshops
Emptying Nests, 4.4 gun shops, 3.4 bookshops
Evangelical Epicenters, 5.5 gun shops, 1.5 bookshops
Immigration Nation (which refers to Latino presence), 2.6 gun shops, 2.5 bookshops
Industrial metropolis (cities), 1 gun shop, 3.3 bookshoops
Military Bastions, 4.0 gun shops, 2.7 bookshops
Minority Central (this means African American or Native American, as the socio-economic data is very similar for the two types of communities where these groups dominate), 3.4 gunshops, 1 bookshop
Monied Burbs, 2.3 gun shops, 5.8 bookshops
Mormon Outposts, 4.5 gun shops, 1.7 bookshops
Service Worker Centers (often tourism dependent), 5.0 gun shops, 4.8 bookshops
Tractor Country, 10.1 gun shops, 3.8 bookshops

As the authors state, the level of guns is not just a function of attitude, but of space. Open spaces mean more opportunities for hunting. The tractor country stat for bookshops being better than for industrial metropolises was quite interesting to me, and did actually warrant a note from the authors. My explanation wasn't that interesting, so I leave it out here.

On to the next. I'm starting Apollo's Angels, which was just named one of the top ten books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, and yes, we have an event with the author on February 3rd. What's been interesting to me this year is that all five nonfiction books have been already big hits with us. The sleepers this year are in the fiction area. And I really expected to see A Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, but no.

The fiction books are:
Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
The New Yorker Stories, by Anne Beattie
Room, by Emma Donoghue
Selected Stories, by William Trevor
A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan

Story heavy with two collections, and the Egan, which had an story-or-novel backstory with its publiciation, or so I discussed last night with friends Polly and Willy.

The Nonfiction books are:
Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet, by Jennifer Homans, as previously mentioned
Cleopatra, a life, by Stacy Schiff
The Emperor of All Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Finishing the Hat, by Stephen Sondheim
The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson

We've been chasing these books all fall, but that's partly because of their great reviews in The New York Times Book Review. It's interesting that the nonfiction selections all relatively recently published. I guess the books published last spring were all relatively crappy.

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