Avid Readers, Occasional Bloggers

Tag: Amazon.com

Dakota Christmas (Kindle Single) by Joseph Bottum

As noted yesterday, Dakota Christmas, the Kindle Single by Joseph Bottum, was something of a surprise hit.  As a magazine writer and editor Bottum had written a number of Christmas pieces over the years and as a result was contacted by Amazon about the possibility of mining this material as part of the Kindle Single program.   The 7,500-word piece met with unexpected success:

“Dakota Christmas” has struck a chord. One recent week it was No. 1 for sales in Amazon’s Kindle Singles and in nonfiction, and No. 1 for all sales in all books on Amazon in the categories of Christmas, memoirs and religion.

As I write it is the #2 Kindle Single just below Dean Koontz and about Stephen King.

So what is Dakota Christmas?

A memoir of childhood Christmases on the South Dakota plains. By turns sweet and comic, sentimental and serious, Joseph Bottum’s “Dakota Christmas” is an instant Christmas classic. In this beautifully written account of the mad joys and wild emotions of Christmas for children, Bottum captures the universal spirit of the season even while he recounts his memories with a sharp particularity that brings them alive for readers.

It is rather hard to describe actually.  It is a memoir and an exploration of a holiday with all its cultural and emotional nostalgia and detritus; an exploration of memory and childhood and an essay on the Christmas essay. I think the key lies in the “universality through particularity” noted above.  It is in describing and thinking about his own experiences with Christmas that Bottum in turn flushes out our own experiences, memories, emotions and conceptions.

The writing is literary, the author has a 10,00 book library he is finally able to shelve in one place now living in South Dakota, and richly detailed.  His detailing his unique experiences and relationships almost automatically causes the reader to explore his own past.  He recalls the toys, books, food and music of the season – and the events, places and people; he recalls the details but struggles to feel the emotions in quite the same way.  A Bottum notes, memory is in many ways our least reliable tool but really our only tool for this task.

Throughout is the thread of place and the plains of the Dakotas are a character themselves.  And it is in this place that Bottum is reminded of the underlying meaning and truth of the season.

Readers with a similar background will find the essays nostalgic and full of cultural touch-points. Those with a different background will enjoy an evocative tour through a different time and place.  Anyone with a fondness for Christmas will enjoy an interesting exploration of the holiday through a variety of perspectives. I am not sure what makes an “instant Christmas classic” but think “by turns sweet and comic, sentimental and serious” is a great description of this enjoyable collection of essays.

Dakota Christmas (Kindle Single) by Joseph Bottum

As noted yesterday, Dakota Christmas, the Kindle Single by Joseph Bottum, was something of a surprise hit.  As a magazine writer and editor Bottum had written a number of Christmas pieces over the years and as a result was contacted by Amazon about the possibility of mining this material as part of the Kindle Single program.   The 7,500-word piece met with unexpected success:

“Dakota Christmas” has struck a chord. One recent week it was No. 1 for sales in Amazon’s Kindle Singles and in nonfiction, and No. 1 for all sales in all books on Amazon in the categories of Christmas, memoirs and religion.

As I write it is the #2 Kindle Single just below Dean Koontz and about Stephen King.

So what is Dakota Christmas?

A memoir of childhood Christmases on the South Dakota plains. By turns sweet and comic, sentimental and serious, Joseph Bottum’s “Dakota Christmas” is an instant Christmas classic. In this beautifully written account of the mad joys and wild emotions of Christmas for children, Bottum captures the universal spirit of the season even while he recounts his memories with a sharp particularity that brings them alive for readers.

It is rather hard to describe actually.  It is a memoir and an exploration of a holiday with all its cultural and emotional nostalgia and detritus; an exploration of memory and childhood and an essay on the Christmas essay. I think the key lies in the “universality through particularity” noted above.  It is in describing and thinking about his own experiences with Christmas that Bottum in turn flushes out our own experiences, memories, emotions and conceptions.

The writing is literary, the author has a 10,00 book library he is finally able to shelve in one place now living in South Dakota, and richly detailed.  His detailing his unique experiences and relationships almost automatically causes the reader to explore his own past.  He recalls the toys, books, food and music of the season – and the events, places and people; he recalls the details but struggles to feel the emotions in quite the same way.  A Bottum notes, memory is in many ways our least reliable tool but really our only tool for this task.

Throughout is the thread of place and the plains of the Dakotas are a character themselves.  And it is in this place that Bottum is reminded of the underlying meaning and truth of the season.

Readers with a similar background will find the essays nostalgic and full of cultural touch-points. Those with a different background will enjoy an evocative tour through a different time and place.  Anyone with a fondness for Christmas will enjoy an interesting exploration of the holiday through a variety of perspectives. I am not sure what makes an “instant Christmas classic” but think “by turns sweet and comic, sentimental and serious” is a great description of this enjoyable collection of essays.

American Spectator E-Book Debate

The American Spectator has offered a couple of different perspective on e-books this week.  On Wednesday, Lisa Fabrizio didn’t so much denounce electronic books as worry about what their growth might mean:

And so it was with trepidation that I read last week that Amazon.com announced that for the first time, sales of titles for its Kindle e-readers outpaced those of hardcover books. Now, I’m no luddite when it comes to the advance of technology, but I hope I’m not wrong in predicting that the surge in the sale of e-books is merely a fad and not a trend As we grow more and more into a technologically based society, we are losing touch with the sensible world around us. This push-button lifestyle brings us further and further away from simple pleasures; those that may be enjoyed even without electricity.

As did my father when I was a little girl, I encourage children to read: read anything that catches their fancy and if Kindles are the only means to this end, then fine. But my suggestion to the young is to pick up a real book, love it, and reread it until its pages are yellow and dog-eared and then pass it on to someone else. Then none of you will have cause to pause when someone asks you that popular question: If you had three books to take with you should you ever be stranded on a deserted island, what would they be?

Mark Goldblatt, author of Sloth, responds from the perspective of a reader and an author. He concludes it is not an either or situation:

As unsettling as such innovations may seem, they needn’t encroach on the experience of traditional readers — not even those seduced by the siren song of a Nook, Kindle or iPad. The option of sight reading, of scanning down the page line by line, without using the cursor, will always remain. But the range of new possibilities is sure to impact how writers write; many will write with an e-book specifically in mind. They will become orchestrators as well as wordsmiths — deciding, in the case of Sloth, what to annotate, but, in the future, deciding what to score, what to illustrate and what to animate. The results will be hybrids… not unlike the way today’s graphic novels are hybrids of traditional novels and comic books.

Not surprisingly, I am in the both/and camp. I love my Kindle and its conveinence.  But I also love books qua books. Just one example, my wife and I love to buy classic children’s books at used book stores and library sales because of both the classic stories and their great illustrations.  And lest all the authors out there are worried, yes we enjoy brand new children’s books for similar reasons.  This is something that can’t be replicated on a Kindle – at least right now.

I don’t know how the various markets will work themselves out but I am not afraid that art and illustration and the joys of books as physical objects will disappear.

Are e-readers 8-tracks in disguise?

The Wall Street Journal ponders this question:

Books are having their iPod moment this holiday season. But buyer beware: It could also turn out to be an eight-track moment.

While e-reading devices were once considered a hobby for early adopters, Justin Timberlake is now pitching one on prime-time TV commercials for Sony Corp. Meanwhile, Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle e-reading device has become its top-selling product of any kind. Forrester Research estimates 900,000 e-readers will sell in the U.S. in November and December.

But e-reader buyers may be sinking cash into a technology that could become obsolete. While the shiny glass-and-metal reading gadgets offer some whiz-bang features like wirelessly downloading thousands of books, many also restrict the book-reading experience in ways that trusty paperbacks haven’t, such as limiting lending to a friend. E-reader technology is changing fast, and manufacturers are aiming to address the devices’ drawbacks.

Yes, the WSJ brings us the hard hitting journalism that tells us that if you don’t have disposable income and/or aren’t a gadget person you may not want to spend hundreds of dollars on a dedicated e-reader!

“If you have the disposable income and love technology—not books—you should get a dedicated e-reader,” says Bob LiVolsi, the founder of BooksOnBoard, the largest independent e-book store. But other people might be better-off repurposing an old laptop or spending $300 on a cheap laptop known as a netbook to use for reading. “It will give you a lot more functionality, and better leverages the family income,” he says.

Wow! I never would have figured that out myself. To be fair, the article does go on to offer some contrasting opinions on the pros and cons of various devices.

But I find this debate tiresome in some ways.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén