Would you spend more on pop culture consumables if your satisfaction were somehow guaranteed? On my Twitter feed this morning, I saw this series of proclamations from a publisher that believes so strongly in its product that it is willing to refund you your money if you don’t agree. (As always with tweets, read from the bottom up.)
Here’s more information about the book itself, which looks like a loving satire/send-up of undergraduate education in England. If you take this Melville House challenge, let us know how it goes!
The Millions this morning came out with a list of the most anticipated books of 2014: Part II, and it is exciting and painful in equal measure. Billfold pal Dustin Kurtz captured the feeling well on Twitter. (See left.)
To make matters worse, Book Riot also this morning came out with its list of the Best Books of 2014: Part I. Every one of these volumes would bring a person closer to God. What does one do when faced with the kind of bounty that occasions both greed & despair? Unless one is a billionaire — in which case, according to James Surowiecki, one is too busy grousing about how no one likes you and making ill-advised comparisons to Nazi Germany to buy books — one must triage. But how?
Because of various constraints related to not being a billionaire, my method is to be supremely practical. I get books from the library first; then when I fall hard for one, so hard that I find myself babbling about it at parties and in even less appropriate situations, and I know that I will want to both a) read it again, and b) lend it out to people I love so that they too can experience communion with the spiritual realm, I will pay money for it, usually once it has been released in paperback. Bonus points if the author is a female debut novelist, because karma. I have to be stern with myself, though, because small New York apartments only have so much space and thin freelancer wallets only have so many dollars.
My other hack is to review books for places like Barnes & Noble, because they send me novels for free, and the only catch is that, in exchange, I have to say nice things about them. (The books, not the store.) (Though I also like the store! Wandering around it, I feel like Corduroy: “This looked like a palace. Corduroy guessed he had always wanted to live in a palace.”) How do you feed your book habit? Are you library-only, or e-reader only, or audiobook only, or merely dreaming of the day when you once again have time to read for pleasure at all?
Every time I finish one of the Diana Gabaldon Outlander books, I take a moment to rejoice, and to read the Acknowledgements because they are full of fun thank yous such as this one, to her husband, for “his marginal notes (e.g., “nipples again?”).” Then I order myself the next installment in the series for $4.99. I don’t know how many books there are still to come: eight? eight hundred? Unless there is a marked downturn in quality, I will read them all, just as I did with Game of Thrones, His Dark Materials, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. These series appeal to something primal inside me: like video games, they offer a blend of simplicity and transcendence. Plus, at the end, resolution.
I feel guilty about shelling out $5 per fix, though, because 1) the e-books come from Amazon, and remember when I was going to boycott Amazon? hahahaha I am so good at having principles, and 2) Money! Spending money. And not on high-brow literature by serious and/or debut writers, either, but on an efficient pleasure delivery system. Here I am wearing clothes with holes in them and not going to the gym. How much sacrifice is too much? Which small indulgences are worth it? If it’s not that expensive and it makes me feel better, is that a good enough reason to press “buy”?
Especially because it’s fall. Season of cold winds and hot cider, of family and holidays and the guilty pleasures we lean on in order to get us through, like binge-watching network TV, or buying two coats at once at Nordstrom Rack, or mainlining a whole bag of candy corn. Maybe in the summertime, bolstered by long, sweet, sunshine-y days, I would like to start The Drums of Autumn as soon as I’m done with Voyager, but I wouldn’t need to. In the fall, though, I feel like Barney offered Duff beer: “Just hook it to my veins!“
This is the week that we would normally have a Billfold Book Club meetup, but we aren’t going to be looking at Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South until Thursday, October 16 (chapters 1-25 only, with chapters 26-52 for Thursday, Nov 20).
So I wanted to remind y’all that North and South was still happening, and that we are going to judge these fictional characters on how they manage their money.
I’ve started reading N&S, and I am just tickled that this 159-year-old book hits so many familiar tropes:
—Margaret, our heroine, is not pretty. —Well, she’s not as pretty as her cousin Edith, anyway. —She’s actually secretly pretty. —Way prettier than Edith, if you catch her in the right light. —The world just doesn’t appreciate how pretty Margaret is. —They don’t appreciate her intelligence, either. —Except this one guy. —He totally does. —He’s not pretty either. —Just kidding, he’s smolderingly hot if you catch him in the right light.
And that’s all in the first few pages.
Somewhere in literary heaven, there’s a nine-gun salute happening in honor of Michael Brown, who has died at age 93. His entire obit is a delightful read. A cryptographer and Cabaret songster, he made his money writing cheeky, clever industrial musicals, which was an actual job some people had in midcentury America:
Industrial musicals boasted professional casts — Florence Henderson and Dorothy Loudon are alumnae — and opulent production values. In an era when a Broadway musical might cost $500,000, its industrial counterpart could cost as much as $3 million. They also had high-level composers and lyricists, including Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, known widely for “Fiddler on the Roof” and less widely for “Ford-i-fy Your Future,” the Ford Tractor show of 1959.
For DuPont, Mr. Brown created ‘Wonderful World of Chemistry,’ a show that in all likelihood has had the greatest number of performances of any musical in history. … Presented in the DuPont pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, it was a rare example of an industrial musical open to the public. The show, written, produced and directed by Mr. Brown, was performed at least 40 times a day, by at least eight companies, for months on end. Seen by an estimated five million people, the show, 24 minutes long, played some 17,000 performances. Broadway’s longest-running musical, “Phantom of the Opera,” by contrast, has had about 11,000 performances since opening in 1988.
But the best part of the obit tells the story of when he sent a letter to his friend, the struggling writer Harper Lee, and changed her life.
I have been a fan of Chris Guillebeau’s work for years. I took his Empire Building Kit course when I was starting my first ventures into entrepreneurship, and continued my education with his book The $100 Startup.
Chris’s newest book, The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose To Your Life, released last week. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy, and as soon as I finished reading the book I asked Chris if he’d be willing to answer two questions about his book for Billfold readers.
Nicole: I really liked that you were realistic about how much the various quests you profiled cost to complete, and that you offered low-cost or free alternative suggestions to readers who might want to do something like “walk across the United States” but not want to quit their jobs or not have the available funds. If people are worried about the monetary cost—or opportunity cost—of going on a quest, what advice do you have to help them in their decision-making?
Chris: Make no mistake: a quest should involve some kind of cost. If you believe in something and want to pursue it, it will inevitably involve some degree of tradeoff with something else. And that’s okay! It’s not a quest without cost, and it shouldn’t necessarily be easy.