Books for Social Credit: How GoodReads Made Me Increase My Book Reading

bMy beautiful bookshelves...empty
So for those that do not know or have not figured out, I’m a big fan of books.  No, I’m not a full out bookslut nor would I call myself a bookwhore and I’ve worked extremely hard not to be a book-hoarder.  Yes, I have lots of books.  In fact, I recently treated myself to two ginormous bookshelves for them (see below).  Two 7 feet tall by 4-feet wide bookshelves from The Mill Store.  Worth every cent!  So in the end, I’m a big fan of books and have accumulated a good amount.

Whenever I’m about to criticize someone’s collection of hub-cabs, pez-caps, etc, I look to my shelves and say; am I really any different?  Sure, I can make the argument that my books have “knowledge” and “stories” and have taught me a great many things.  But often, that is the case with any collector.  I could argue that I only keep the “really important ones”; which is amusing since I have hundreds (I’m afraid to actually count and discover that number might even be closer to 1000 than I want to realize).  Many of the collectors I know have a story, or something to say about each item they have; just as I can explain or justify my books. 
My beautiful bookshelves...full
Inevitably, for many of us, collecting can have a certain “credit” within our circles and beyond.  The comic fan with the entire run of Uncanny X-Men all the way backs to Uncanny X-Men #1 holds also a certain amount of cultural capital within comic-collectors and straight-up comic fan circles.  I’ve recently realized (or maybe acknowledge and accepted) that even with my book-reading/collecting, I too buy into the cultural capital of books.

My realization has been there in parts, but hit me full blast in the last few months, when I acquired the new bookshelves.   I took a “before” and “after” picture of them and uploaded them to my Facebook account.  Why?  For approval of course; to let friends (particularly the bookish types) drool and appreciate what I had recently acquired and filled to capacity.  This got me thinking about what other ways I pimp out my books for cultural capital.  Of course, I realized that my Goodreads account (and the fact that I link it to both my Facebook and my blog) was another example. 

Social Book Sites Like Goodreads

Goodreads.com and other similar sites (like Shelfari) are fantastic social networking sites focused on reading and book culture.  You can connect with friends, authors, reading groups, and other fans of your favorite authors/books.  Their greatest tool is that they allow you to keep track of books that you’ve read; essentially, a virtual library.  This can be great to keep track of all that you’ve read as well as interesting to see what your friends have read and where your tastes overlap. 
GoodReads logo

It’s also addicting.  Egad!  Seeing how many books you have read and then desiring to make that number go up is worse than the friend count on Facebook that people fall prey to.  Finish a book, add it to the list and bam! That’s one more accomplishment.   I recently surpassed the 2000 mark and yes, I did a little happy dance (in my head).   However, besides gaining bragging rights among your more nerdtastic friends, it does serve the purpose of helping you track exactly how much you are reading (and a bigger picture of the type of material you are reading) over a period of time.  For instance, at the time of this blog posting, I have read approximately 70 books since January 1, 2011.  (To clarify, that’s a significant mixture of books, audiobooks, and graphic novels.  I am not that quick of a reader!).  I find that important; largely because it lets me know how much precedence other fields of entertainment and learning are eating up my time and if I should do something about it.  Book shelves full

Undoubtedly, a site like GoodReads has made me want to read more because there is something in being to tangibly connect exactly how much I have read over the years.  It also proves a great tool at the end of the semester when I can skim through and great a really solid bibliography of recommended readings for my students or anyone for that matter interested in any of the things I teach or talk about. 

(And also, let’s not kid ourselves; in writing this, I realize I am further pimping out my books and reading appetite as cultural capital)

QUESTIONS

What objects, material goods, information, knowledge, etc do you use for cultural capital?  How do you communicate it to those you want to know? 

Where do books rank personally within your own culture(s)?  What weight do you give to books or book readers?  Why?

How do you establish your own cultural capital among friends, acquaintances, fellow fans, family, or co-workers?





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Freeway Flyer Post

Synchronizing Technology, Classrooms, and Material

Frequent Flyer adjuncts can feel like their life consists of repeatedly having to bring the mountain to the people.  Synchronizing information, technology, material, and communication across multiple schools can be next to impossible since most schools have no interest in doing so, thus Frequent Flyers are left to their own devices for maximizing their resources to reduce the amount of redundancy in their world.  But in the digital age, adjuncting can be much easier.

Copier technology has become a god-send and all those copies I used to have labor to make (fighting off other faculty tooth and nail for the copier) and lug about from campus to campus are bygone days.  Many of the new copies allow you to scan to email.  They operate as mass scanners in which you can turn those handouts into PDFs and put them online.  Nowadays, I hand out the syllabus at the beginning of the semester and all other material can be gotten online.

Get the rest of the article at:  Adjunct Nation's Freeway Flyer.



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The Blog Year In Review

Well, it’s been a year since I started this blog; so go me for beating the odds and being among the blogs to actually survive beyond the 6 months.  I’m also congratulating myself on managing to be somewhat reliable and post a few a month (most months) and manage about 60 blogs in the first year—that’s just over 1 a week.  I’m hoping to improve that in the next year, but who knows.  And ultimately, I shouldn’t be too proud of that since a reasonable portion of those posts were repostings of things published elsewhere. 

So how has blogging been for me?  Fun, frustrating and rewarding. 

Fun.

I’ve been enjoying having a forum to put together semi-coherent thoughts and put them out into the world for people to read.  I’ve always enjoyed writing and this gives me a means of writing about things that grab my attention and feel I can talk about with some level of intelligence.  When I get into a post that I’m thinking about, I find myself smiling and rather enjoying myself.

Frustrating.  


There’s sooooo much to write about.  My links folder filled with article links and topic ideas is like 30+ pages long and keeps growing.  I would love to spend a week straight just writing as many as possible and then just release them on a regular basis.  It’s also frustrating because it does slip my mind with my other responsibilities and then I feel like I’m disappointing my blog.  I’ll log in—and it will still be there like a faithful dog but I project the long face and sad eyes saying, “Why have you abandoned me for so long?  Don’t you love me?”  Ok, maybe not that dramatic, but there’s still a sense of guilt. 

Rewarding. 

 I’ve had friends, family, students, and random strangers comment on the blog, or to me directly that they enjoy reading it and appreciate what I’m doing.   It’s also rewarding because it has definitely spurred my writing and gotten me back into working on some other writing projects that I hope I will at some point be capable of talking about here (or even pimping out the products of said work). 

Ok, I’ve made it a year. So what’s the next goal?  Any recommendations the readers out there?  I think I want to write more and I’m pretty sure that’s feasible with the changes in my forthcoming schedule, but what else?  I am also hoping to do some more writing on audiobooks.  In fact, I had planned to do a good deal of that, but it never came up in my posts.  


If you have some thoughts of what you’d like to see…or hell, you’d like to write something on here, either add to the comments here or send me an email.  

Here’s to a year!




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Some of My Moments of Popular Culture

We’re all aware of them (and I say that at the end of the week when Charlie Sheen has for all intents and purposes gone off the deep end; who knows by the time you’re reading this, he may be an uber-celebrity or you may be asking “Isn’t that like saying Britney’s gone crazy or Lindsey’s got arrest?”—it’s a bit ubiquitous).  For many of us—sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly—we experience these moments of popular culture “history-in-the-making” that we in some part internalize or feel to be a part of us.  We mourn the passing of a celebrity, attend a major film on opening night, attend ritual event that grants us access into a particular event, or are witness/participant to some other event.  Some of these events become over amplified through media outlets while others stay upon the fringe but still captivate fans.  Ultimately, these moments are part of our individual narratives, yet also shared with many others.   These moments are as numerous and diverse as there are staked interests and entertainments.

John Candy's Death

Image of John Candy as Barf in Spaceballs
Certainly in my 31+ years, there have been ample deaths:  Kurt Cobain, River Phoenix, Princess Di, Michael Jackson, Gianni Versace, and Walter Kronkite to name a few (And yes, Wikipedia has this one covered).  However, in my own popular cultured life, these weren’t as prominent.  The first real celebrity death to hit me was John Candy.  His death hit home for me since I grew up deeply enjoying his movies (memorized significant portions of both Spaceballs and The Great Outdoors).  His death meant that this giant gentle of a man would no longer bring smiles to my face as he had for much of the 1980s and 1990s.  Chris Farrelly hit me in a similar way too.  The most recent celebrity to leave an impact was Gary Coleman whom I enjoyed a good deal during the 1980s in Diff’rent  Strokes.  Besides Coleman’s illness and the fact that he had become a punching bag for lame-jokes about child-actors, it just struck me that Coleman was a part of my childhood range of familiar faces that separate me from those who grew up in the 1990s or even those who grew up in the 1970s; they each had their own range of contemporary characters to access.

The New Star Wars Trilogy

Poster of the film, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
Another major event for me was getting to see an advance showing of Star Wars Episode I:  The Phantom Menace.  Now, regardless of how people feel about it now, in 1999; the anticipation was palpable.  After all, in the previous years, Lucas had stoked our fires with re-release of the videos shortly after he re-released them in the theaters with added scenes.  As an avid Star Wars fan who had watched his videos to the point of wearing out the video cassettes and up to that point had read all the books that had been written (15 or so) taking place in the Star Wars universe, this was epic.  Though I passed on dressing up to attend, it certainly crossed my mind.

The Fall of Napster

Napster was also a major popular culture event for me.  We’re still feeling the effects of it today.  In the late 1990s and early 2000s, downloading music en masse as Napster allowed us to was pretty fantastic.  But it was also a collective group from certain ages and places.  College students were a major part of it (in part thanks to colleges with their T-1000 connections).  We gained access to mountains of music and could combine and manipulate the music in whatever way we wanted.  I used to spend hours creating my mixed tapes; now it took minutes to download and a very short time to compose.  I also was one of the earlier people to have an “mp3 player”, well before there was an iPod.  It had 16 megabytes (and my second one had 32MB) and could contain 5-8 songs depending on what I put on there.  But there was an excitement of discussion about Napster and other programs (my favorite was Audiogalaxy Satellite) and what would happen to them with Napster in court.  There was a frenzy to download with abandon before it ended.  In fact, nerd that I was, I was downloading more audiobooks than music by that point since others got it in their head to make mp3 audiobooks available.

The Death of Superman

Image from The Death of Superman DC Comics event
And there was of course the “Death of Superman” in the 1990s.  Of course, he wasn’t really dead; it was a complete marketing tool, but that didn’t stop me and a good deal of fellow comic fans from buying the issue in its poly-urethane baggy (2 copies:  1 to open; 1 to keep because it was gonna be worth something—like 10% more than what you paid for it, ha!).  That talk about his death, who was going to replace him (there were at least 4 contenders), and being the one “in the know” at the school when others were interested because it had been announced on the news.  It was indeed momentous for someone like me where my knowledge and experience made me a resource for others (granted, I didn’t actually read Superman or any DC Comics at the time, but that only meant I directed discussions to the comics I thought were cool).  Thus, my interest in it became the means of how others perceived me which became my badge or sense of empower and pushed me deeper into comics.

These moments of popular culture can form or at least influence us, propel us in interesting directions or even create an outward appearance that we are part of a particular group or knowledgeable about a certain arena of popular culture (hence why I get to teach courses on monsters and comics).

QUESTIONS

What about you and your moments of pop culture?  What events have you witnessed that left an impact on you and how?  In answering look for moments that others haven’t talked about as well as choose moments that you actually had a stake in—don’t’ just name them to name them.  What moments have moved you?  A series ending?  A particular sporting event?  Your generational equivalent to Woodstock (if such could actually be realized)?



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