books and reading · pop culture

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

After a couple of weeks off, it’s time to talk about the articles I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.

Feminism Isn’t Ruining Your Love Life (Salon)

This is a great think piece that flies in the face of everything the media tries to tell us about smart, independent women and marriage.  It’s kind of perfect in every way:

Actually, women with college degrees are more likely to marry than their less-educated peers—and less likely to divorce. Graduate degrees and high salaries also don’t hinder a woman’s chance of walking down the aisle. Sociologist Christine Whelan found that women aged thirty to forty-four earning more than one hundred thousand dollars per year are—once again—morelikely to be married than their lower-earning cohorts.

Women are often advised that the best strategy for ensuring lifelong happiness is to snare a man while they’re in school and marry shortly after graduation. But this den-mother wisdom flies in the face of marriage and divorce statistics. The reality is, the older the bride, the stronger the marriage.

What I so appreciate about an article like this is that it reassures us that being a feminist doesn’t mean that you’re destined to be alone forever (um, duh), and that you don’t have to be married right out of school.  This is something I talk about with my friends all the time, and it’s nice to see it reflected in the journalism we consume.

7 Movies That Changed Your Political Views, According to Science (Mother Jones)

Kind of an interesting rundown of a recent study that indicates certain movies are making us more liberal, or at least changing our viewpoints on certain issues.  If you know me in real life or have read my Twitter (or, um, this blog, sometimes), you know I’m about as left-wing as you can get, but it’s still interesting to check myself against the movies cited in this article and study.

How do you stack up?

Big Data’s Next Frontier: Crowd-Testing Fiction (Salon)

People all over are clutching their pearls over the future of reading in the digital age, and it has largely to do with the fact that book subscription sites like Scribd and Oyster can track their subscribers’ reading habits.  This doesn’t seem that alarming until you really break down what that means: these sites can track how many readers actually finish a book or at what point (or percentage) they abandon a book.  Why does that matter?  Because authors want that data.

E-book retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble have been collecting information like this for a while now, but they keep it to themselves. Oyster and Scribd — no doubt aware that these days there’s much more money to be made from people’s fantasies of becoming successful authors than there is from actually selling books to readers — have said they are willing to share the data they gather, presumably for a fee. And authors, especially self-published authors, are very interested.

Probably a lot of the hand-wringing over this is about how books will start to be tailor-made for the consumers, but, dudes, this has been going on for decades already.  Just because the masses like certain things doesn’t mean that literary authors are going to change their writing to meet the criteria.  But popular fiction has always been malleable, and when it comes to money, all bets are off:

But a sizable sector of publishing doesn’t put a premium on originality, and not coincidentally, this is the same part of the book market that has been most transformed by the e-book self-publishing explosion. In genres like young adult fiction, romance, urban fantasy, thrillers, mysteries, spy novels and various fusions thereof, many readers prefer the familiar and the formulaic.

I don’t have answers to this one, but I do think it’s amusing to watch people lose their shit over stuff like this.  Sites like Oyster don’t even offer many literary novels (those don’t sell the way erotica does these days), so it’s not like it’s the right clientele anyway.  At any rate, it’ll be interesting to watch this evolve as ebooks become more prevalent.

Lucy’s Conquests (The Hairpin)

Since J. and I became puppy parents, I’ve been particularly dog-crazy.  I’ve always been moved by stories about animals, and often am more affected by an animal getting injured or killed in a movie or book than by human characters (we can talk about that later).  Just this past week, I read one of the Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and lost it when her cat dies.  Poor J. didn’t know what to do about it.

This isn’t so much a sad story as it is a sort of sweet anecdote about the writer’s dog and her proclivity to meet people wherever they go.  We also have an incredibly friendly dog who is so excited to meet other people and dogs it can be overwhelming.  There’s something about the joy of a dog that is contagious, and there’s certainly a universality about loving and owning a dog.  I don’t know.  This piece stuck with me this week.

21 Films to Look Forward to in 2014 (The Atlantic)

I mean, you know this list was going to make my radar with its inclusion of Veronica Mars.  There are a lot of movies coming out in 2014 that I’m excited to see, but this is by far the one I’m most nervous/excited for.

But if Veronica Mars isn’t your thing (which probably means we can’t be friends), there are tons of other great movies on this list to get excited about, including a lot of book adaptations, including Gone Girl, The Fault in Our Stars, The Giver, and Divergent.

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