Thursday, April 24, 2014

Book Bits

by Annanlisa Quinn)

Going to the library gives people the same kick as getting a raise does — a £1,359 ($ 2,282) raise, to be exact — according to a study commissioned by the U.K.'s Department for Culture, Media & Sport. The study, which looks at the ways "cultural engagement" affects overall wellbeing, concluded that a significant association was found between frequent library use and reported wellbeing. The same was true of dancing, swimming and going to plays. The study notes that "causal direction needs to be considered further" — that is, it's hard to tell whether happy people go to the library, or going to the library makes people happy. But either way, the immortal words of Arthur the Aardvark ring true: "Having fun isn't hard when you've got a library card!"

Richard H. Hoggart, scholar and key witness in the 1960 obscenity trial involving the U.K. publisher of Lady Chatterley's Lover, died on April 10. He was 95. A defense witness for Penguin Books, Hoggart argued that D.H. Lawrence's novel about Constance Chatterley's affair with a gamekeeper was "puritanical, poignant and tender." He explained that the book was "puritanical" not because it was rigid or prudish, but because it carried "an intense sense of responsibility for one's conscience." Penguin was acquitted.

French economist Thomas Piketty's 700-page book on income inequality has attracted rapturous media coverage since it became the top selling book on Amazon. But in an article for The New York Times, Justin Wolfers asks whether Piketty has "kicked off a broad national conversation about inequality, or is the book being read mostly in the East Coast liberal echo chamber?" Wolfers used data from Google searches to show that people in Washington, D.C., did far and away more searches for Piketty, followed by Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut — pointing to a coastal, not a nationwide trend.

The shortlist for the 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing, which awards the author of the winning short story £10,000, was announced this week. The list includes work by Diane Awerbuck, Okwiri Oduor, Billy Kahora, Tendai Huchu and Efemia Chela. According to a press release, the head of the judges, Jackie Kay, said this is "a golden age for the African short story," adding that the shortlisted works were "compelling, lyrical, thought-provoking and engaging." She said, "From a daughter's unusual way of grieving for her father, to a memorable swim with a grandmother, a young boy's fascination with a gorilla's conversation, a dramatic faux family meeting, to a woman who is forced to sell her eggs, the subjects are as diverse as they are entertaining." The full list, with links to each story, is here.

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