When The ‘Do It For The Love’ Advocates Are Advertisers

I am very curious about Astra Taylor's new book, The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age, and after reading this interview with her on The Rumpus, I am ready to add it to my nightstand book pile:

The Work of Sex Work

I am in the middle of reading Melissa Gira Grant's new book, out from Verso next Tuesday, called Playing the Whore. It is very smart, very illuminating, and in many ways, very challenging. I'm planning to interview her for the site in the next week or so, but in the meantime The Nation published a great excerpt today, complete with anecdotes about the workaday reality for jobs we tend to have a lot of preconceived notions about.

Slashing Our Grocery Bills and Cooking on a Budget

Earlier this month, one of our favorite food bloggers, Beth Moncel of Budget Bytes, released a new cookbook with more than 100 recipes geared towards helping people slash their grocery bills. Beth and her publisher were kind enough to give us an excerpt of the intro to her book as well as one of her favorite recipes.

Budget Bytes is available at many of your favorite booksellers.

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I had just earned a degree in nutritional science for which I’d spent considerable time learning how to create healthy meals on low-income budgets. I dutifully employed the basics, like brown-bagging my lunch, avoiding convenience foods, and cooking meals at home, but it just wasn’t enough. Not only was I bored with the food that I ate, but somehow I always seemed to spend more money and waste more food than I meant to or could afford. Certain that I could do more to ease my money problems, I decided to buckle down and crunch the actual numbers . . . like down to the penny. I had taken many foodservice management courses and, while I didn’t particularly enjoy them at the time, the lessons suddenly flashed through my mind. I thought about how commercial kitchens managed expenses by planning menus, calculating recipe costs, and always repurposing leftovers. Maybe I could do the same thing in my kitchen, I thought. I knew it was going to take some effort and serious dedication, but hey, I love a good challenge and I desperately needed to save some money! I can’t lie—the data geek in me was a little giddy with excitement about the project. So, I started planning, cooking, and calculating.

I initially started with the goal of eating on less than six dollars per day, using Excel to track the cost of every single thing that went in my mouth. It was pure nerdy fun and I was totally into it. The calculations were extremely insightful from the start. I quickly learned which ingredients burned through my food budget and which helped stretch it.

Putting my newfound knowledge to work, I was soon cooking twice as much food for half the cost.

Literature as Economic Indicator

According to a study by a team of British researchers, there may be economic indicators in our literature, which has a tendency to increase "words of misery" following economic downturns.

The Best Books About Class

Generations and generations of high school students read The Great Gatsby not because it is a love story for the ages — it isn’t — but because it is a well-written but lurid melodrama about the limitations of the American Dream. A poor guy with limited prospects shakes himself off, changes his name, makes his fortune, and then (spoiler alert) gets his comeuppance after his high-class lady love accidentally kills her husband’s working-class mistress. Oops.

The moral is that we should eat the rich because otherwise they win every time.

For Jewniverse, I wrote about Joanna Hershon’s new book A Dual Inheritance, which is less vivid, plot-wise, than Gatsby, but also a fascinating look at money, ambition, and friendship in the 20th century. Billfold contributor Rebecca called it “a more interesting The Interestings,” in reference to Meg Wolitzer’s 2013 novel about similar tensions. Of course YMMV; both novels are very much worth reading.

Writers have been addressing the topic of class since before Karl Marx was a glimmer in his mother’s eye. Some of the classics of world literature trace a young man or woman’s path from poor to rich: Great Expectations, Vanity Fair. Others concern themselves with what happens when someone who has always been comfortable finds the ground shaking beneath her feet, like in Daniel Deronda and oh everything by Edith Wharton. I’ve started to put together a list of the best books on the topic, so help me out! What are your favorites?

Who Benefits from “12 Years A Slave’s” Oscar Bump?

The Academy Awards are a meaningless popularity contest decided by out-of-touch old white men in suits with the help of an occasional white lady. But if your movie wins one, an Oscar can help make a significant difference in how posterity treats it and, more immediately, in how much money it makes. 12 Years a Slave, which raked in a very respectful $140,000,000 worldwide before it won Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay, is beginning to enjoy its Oscar bump–or perhaps, bumps:

12 Years will make a major expansion in U.S. theaters — Fox Searchlight will be playing the movie in more than 1,000 theaters — even though the slavery drama comes out on DVD Tuesday. … Beyond the big screen, best picture winner 12 Years a Slave is getting a post-Oscar bump for the book it was based on. The 19th-century memoir by ex-slave Solomon Northup jumped from No. 326 on Amazon.com before Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony to No. 19 on Monday afternoon.

According to the New York Times, the movie launched its source material to the bestseller lists this past fall. Now its trajectory is steep enough that Oscar-winning director Alfonso (“Gravity”) Cuaron could be called in to film it. When your intrepid author checked on Tuesday, March 4, the paperback remained in the top 20, while the Kindle version had jumped to #17 overall and #2 on several specific lists:

• #2 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Sociology > Race Relations • #2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > History > Americas > United States • #2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction

People are rediscovering a lost classic and paying for the privilege! Terrific. But in a case like that of 12 Years a Slave, when the memoirist is long-since deceased, who profits from the book’s Oscar bump? Not to be all Upworthy about it, but the answer may surprise you.

Return Your Library Books, You Thieves

The numbers are in — a year later — and it looks like there were 70,144 books checked out but never returned from Brooklyn Public Library’s 60 branches in 2012:

Library workers blame cutbacks for the large number of thefts, which spiked dramatically from 2011, when 61,543 books were never returned.

At the Brooklyn Heights branch, staff has been slashed from 30 employees to 20 over the past five years, largely due to city budget cuts. In 2010, 71,087 books vanished.

“We don’t have the staff to watch as much,” said the librarian, who declined to give her name.

Apparently in 2009 there were 4.1 million books, and now there are only 3.3 million! Now, this is no doubt a real problem but I would object to the strong wording in this New York Daily News article. Thieves?! I would go with something closer to “people with the best of intentions who will one day finish reading this George Saunders story collection, I mean you never know, it could be tonight, it could be tomorrow, but I’m certainly not going to give up now, after it’s been sitting in this stack of books by my bed for upwards of seven months.”

The Book Thief

Books by Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac, Paul Auster, William S. Burroughs, and Don DeLillo are frequently stolen from bookstores, but Melville House's Claire Kelley reports that the most likely books to be stolen from a library are books about "pregnancy care, dream interpretation and witchcraft." And also books by Stephen King. Stealing from libraries is particularly sad because the books are free to check out with a library card, and yet it happens.

For the Love of Books

I was raised in a reading family, by a father who showed his love for us in many ways, but none better than through books. As kids, my sister and I were never chided to go outside and get "fresh air"; if we were reading on the couch, then that was just fine. Weekends found me sitting on a tiny chair at the local bookstore, nose deep in the latest installation of The Baby-sitters Club or Sweet Valley High, tearing through them as fast as I could.

Nothing Leprechaun Gold Can Stay: Financial Lessons From “Harry Potter”

• Witches and wizards apparently operate in a cash only society. Maybe you too can get by without a credit card!

• “One can never have enough socks. Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” –Dumbledore, who should start celebrating Hannukah

• The wizarding world does not seem capitalist; in fact, it seems barely post-industrial, perhaps in line with JRR Tolkien’s shire. Everyone is pretty happy even though no one makes it onto Forbes’ Fictional 15. More leaning back, drinking butterbeer, and watching Quidditch for us all.

• 1 Galleon = 17 Sickles = 493 Knuts. This must be mocking the pre-1971 British currency system, where 2 farthings = 1 half-penny, 12 pence = 1 shilling, 5 shillings = 1 Crown, and so on. Decimalization FTW.

• Keep your money safe by hiding it in a locked vault at the bottom of a goblin bank protected by blind dragons. Or the modern equivalent: a CD.

The Economics of Writing Romance Novels

In the new issue of Harper's Jesse Barron examines the romance genre, which has been little-loved by the literary world which has had a tendency to embrace books by straight white male writers (recall David Gilmour telling Emily Keeler, "I'm not interested in teaching books by women"). The story is behind a paywall, but Barron has a really great post up you can read talking about how romance writers don't care about how they viewed because they're making tons of money and inverting the model.

David Letterman Pokes Fun at the 0.1 Percent

David Letterman has a satirical book out today called This Land Was Made for You and Me (But Mostly Me), which pokes fun at the 0.1 percent (the tagline for the book is "Billionaires in the Wild"), and talked to the New York Times about it with illustrator Bruce McCall.