Friday, November 23, 2018

The Great American Read-Nonfiction Edition

I thought I would take a break from the recent election to discuss another topic I was thinking about.  I really enjoyed watching The Great American Read (GAR) on PBS last fall.  They put together a list of 100 novels and or series of books and profiled them on their program.  They had celebrities endorse their favorites on the list and then asked viewers to go on their website and vote for the ones that they liked.  You can see the list of books they chose and who won here.  To Kill a Mockingbird won the online poll (people could vote for more than one and more than once) followed by the novel series Outlander and Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice, and The Lord of the Rings series.

All of this is interesting but I wonder why non fiction books do not receive the same attention.  They can have at least as great of an impact on society as 1984 or Huckleberry Finn (it didn't make the GAR list of 100 but Tom Sawyer did).  The most impactful books are often the most controversial such as Charles Darwin's the Origin of Species or Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto.  Others can fill a void such as Dr. Benjamin Spock's Baby and Child Care.  

Like fiction, nonfiction covers a wide variety of Genre's.  26 of the 100 books in the GAR poll were science fiction/fantasy as were three out of the top five finalists in the poll.  Nonfiction can cover any book based in fact be it a cookbook, a dictionary, biography, science, or history.  To their followers religious texts like the Bible, The Quran, or the writings of the Buddha are factual books but nonbelievers of those faiths may not see it that way.  The biggest challenge is which books to include.  

Goodreads has an online poll for the best nonfiction books of this year with the sub-genres of biography, history, and science.  Robert McRum published his own list in the Guardian of his top 100 nonfiction books of all time written in English presented in chronological order.  I say why not have the crowd weigh in on the top text books of all time?  Why just focus on English texts?  I might be willing to create such an online poll if no one else will.  I have advertised many nonfiction books on this site

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Voter Turnout Reflects change in Voting Patterns in 2018 Cambria County (PA)

A report was released today by Keystone Crossroads showing how voter turnout increased from 43% in 2014 (the last midterm election) to 58% this year.  These numbers are for the percentage of registered voters who voted.  For my county, 50,184 voters out of 83,338 registrants voted for a turnout of 60.22%.  If one considers the total eligible voting age population of 107,485 (2017 estimate), the turnout rate was 46.7% which is still high for a midterm election.  The turnout for the 2016 election (63,072) was 58.2% in Cambria County by this measure (108,400 elegible voters in 2016).

Before the election I wrote about how voter registration patterns have changed since 2014 for Cambria and Somerset Counties.  The colors in the above map show how voter turnout changed since 2014 with counties having a larger increase having a darker color green.  Blair County having the largest increase in turnout of those registered.  The Keystone Crossroads article does not state what the 2014 numbers were for each county but it does state that there was an increase for each of the state's 67 counties.  

The lighter colors for Cambria and Somerset counties suggest that the increases for there were not as large as for other counties but does not say exactly by how much.  Looking at the county results, Sen. Casey and Gov. Wolf lost these counties while winning the state.  For Cambria County, Republicans picked up one state house seat while and almost won two while Democrats gained statewide.  The increases in voter registration for Republicans in Cambria County coupled with a lower increase in voter turnout suggest that there is a shift in voting patterns among voters there.  

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