Showing posts with label Non Fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Non Fiction. Show all posts

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The 1st Anniversary of My Online Nonfiction Poll

It has been one year since I created the poll for the greatest nonfiction book of all time.  This poll was created in response to the PBS series The Great American Read which was for the greatest novel of all time.  Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird won that one followed by  the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, Jane Austen's Pride and Predjudice, and The Lord of the Rings series by JRR Tolkein.  They do not say how many votes they received.

The six top vote-getters in this poll of the 45 responses received can be seen in the table below.  I went six deep because there are many ties for the lower places.  There is an other option where voters can nominate books that deserve attention.  80 books on the list received at least one vote.  The list expanded from 100 to 116 books over the last year as voters nominated their favorites.  The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin has received the most votes so far.

Number (%)
1.     On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (1859)
13 (28.9%)
3.   Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947)
11 (24.4%)
3.   Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
11 (24.4%)
4.   Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)
8   (17.8%)
5.   Night by Elie Wiesel (1956)
7   (15.6%)
6.   A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (1988)
6   (13.3%)

After one year I pruned the list down by 12 books that received no votes such as Roget's Thesaurus and Encyclopedia Britannica.  Other books that are influential but received no votes were left in such as The Souls of Black Folk by WEB DuBois and the Kama Sutra by Vātsyāyana because they are influential.  This is a living breathing list with no deadlines.  Next year I will report on how the list will have changed.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Johnstown (PA) Books

It has been harder to find time to write on this blog between work, working on my book, and life in general.  Tonight I did have time to write about some of the books that have been helpful to me in writing my book.    

The first series of books I would like to discuss is Randy Whittle's two part series on Johnstown's History.  The first part covers the aftermath of the 1889 flood starting in 1895 up to the period right after the 1936 flood.  The second begins with the Johnstown steel strike in 1937 up to the aftermath of the 1977 flood.  Published in 2005 and 2007, both volumes are meticulously researched and engaging reading.

The second book I would like to discuss is For Bread with Butter: The Life-Worlds of East Central Europeans in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, 1890-1940 by Ewa Morawska.  The book chronicles the experiences and struggles of East Central Europeans in Johnstown.  It covers the conditions of Balkan Slavs, Austrians, Hungarians, Polish, Romanians, Russians, and Czechoslovakians in their home countries and here in Johnstown.  It is meticulously researched and very enlightening but it is very academic.

Johnstown: The Story of a Unique Valley is an edited book with different chapters written by different authors in their own specialties.  This book has been very helpful in researching Johnstown's past, its flora and fauna, and other issues relevant to the area.  It was written in 1985 along with Morawska's book.  

Of course no listing of books about Johnstown would be complete without David McCullogh's book about the Johnstown Flood.  There have been many other books on the topic including a recent one by Al Roker but his was the one that was able to interview some of the last survivors of the tragedy.  You can vote for this version or any other nonfiction book you want on my list of the greatest nonfiction books of all time.

Another book I found useful was Johnstown's Nineteenth Century African American History Primer by the Johnstown Area Heritage Association.  It chronicles how the city was one of the stops on the underground railroad, how this group was settled by African Americans before 1850, and how it was changed by the Civil War and the great flood of 1889.  It is not available on

The last book I would like to discuss is not really a book.  It is a Master's Thesis titled A History of Homelessness- A Geography of Control: The Production of Order and Marginality in Johnstown, Pennsylvania by Donald M. Mitchell.  It was written in 1989 and chronicles the housing issues in the city.  It is available in the Pennsylvania Room of the Cambria County Library in Johnstown.

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Update on the Best Nonfiction Book Poll

It has been 4 and a half months since I launched my best nonfiction book poll.  I have added 16 books to the original 100 on the poll since it was launched on Dec 3 of last year as respondents have suggested new books.  Charles Darwin's Origin of Species is still leading with The Diary of Anne Frank now in second, The Silent Spring by Rachel Carson now in third, Walden by Henry David Thoreau in fourth and with Night by Elie Wiesel and A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking tied for fifth.  Ninety of the books on the list have received at least one vote.

Of the 116 books on the list, thirteen were written by women or 11%.  Eight were written by  writers of African Descent (seven African American and one African) or 7%.  69 books were written in the 20th century or 59%.  Fifteen were published after the year 2000 or 13%.  Ten were Written in the 19th Century or 9%.  Eleven were written in the 18th Century or 9%.  Twelve were written before 1700 or 10%.  Robert Caro's series of books on Lyndon Johnson straddles the 20th and 21st centuries and was included in both.

Since the poll was launched three women and two black writers were added to the list.  You can vote in the poll and suggest your own books here.  The video above has some possible selections.

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Monday, March 4, 2019

Creative Nonfiction Awards

While I have still been getting responses to my online poll (36 responses so far) I have been writing on my blog and working on my book about Johnstown.   I saw a post on Facebook about the 

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction and Essay Contest

The essay writing contest was of interest to me.  According to their rules an essay is any nonfiction writing that has 6,000 words or less.  I thought of submitting one of my blog posts but which one?  Which one had the most positive response recently?

Looking at the recent comments on my posts, I chose the one on poverty in the Greater Johnstown School District.  I had to add information to it to supplement it for those who are unfamiliar with Johnstown.  The essay was far less than the 6,000 word limit but longer isn't always better.  

I don't count on winning it but it is a way on increasing exposure for the blog.  I have updated the look of the blog with snippets of each post on the front page.  

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Sunday, February 10, 2019

A Look at My Blogosphere

Three weeks ago a member of a wrtiers group on Facebook posted this image asking "Who (in this group) is a blogger?"  The post received over 630 comments with 206 unique blogs listed.  I thought I would take a look at the blogs listed to see what kind of platforms that they used (Wordpress vs. Blogger) and what types of topics that they covered.  I also added the 24 blogs on my blogroll (on the right of this page) for a comparison.  I know this sample only scratches the surface of the blogosphere and is not representative of it but it is representative of what I see on the web.  You can see the sample of blogs and the topics I used to categorize them and can view them yourself here.

Margin of Error

I expected Wordpress to be the most popular host forI the sample of blogs and it was as can be seen in the table above with 42.2% listing it as the host.  The second most popular domain was "other" which included blogs with no host listed or with obscure hosts.  Blogger (which hosts this site) was a distant third at 17.7%.  This survey has a 6.8% margin of error.

% of blogs

I looked at each blog to determine which topic it covers and what it's general orientation is.  Some blogs were hard to categorize so I gave it the most generic term "Writing."  Aren't all blogs about writing you say?  These are blogs that (sort of like this one) goes from topic to topic wherever the author wants to go.  This was the second most common topic at 20 percent.  The ten most popular topics 

The most popular topic/orientation was Author at 22.2%.  This refers to bloggers who use their sites to promote their books.  The third most common topic was fiction at 10.9%.  These topics shouldn't be surprising given that they were sampled from a Facebook group for writers.  There was a wide variety of blogs that were easier to categorize with 84 other categories found.  One blog in this survey could have up to four categories.

It was very time consuming to survey each blog.  It took two weeks to put this simple analysis together.  I say this just to give you an idea of the difficult work of putting these analyses together.  If I missed anything please let me know.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Game of Growing Up and Outgrowing Fantasy

I have been tied up with other writing assignments to post on this blog lately.  I saw this video on Facebook from Real Time with Bill Maher where he criticizes comic book fans and thought I should comment. I posted it on my Facebook and got one negative comment and one positive one.  The negative one said "The ironic part is that in a 100 years people will likely remember Stan Lee and others like George Lucas. But will not remember Bill what's his name. Bill M. has been and always will be jealous and condescending of things that are more relevant to others then he will ever be to them. I honestly don't know how he even stays on the air."  I responded by saying that "...thanks for your input. Will Rogers is still remembered last I checked.To which he replied "As he should. Along with Mr. Rogers."  

The positive comment was "Thanks Paul. The same childish culture elected DT.Well I don't know what percent of Stan Lee fans voted for DT (which I assume means Donald Trump).  I know at least a few of them didn't.  

I also notice that Maher criticized Marvel Comic movies like X-Men, Iron Man, and Black Panther. At the same time he did not criticize Game of Thrones which his own network (HBO) makes a lot of money off of from many of the same Stan Lee fans.  

Anthony Hopkins (the mad scientist who designed the park), and robots James Marsden and Evan Rachel Wood in Westworld
Westworld, HBO's other science fiction series, makes a point about how the division between fantasy and reality is becoming increasingly blurred.  It's about an western amusement park with lifelike western robots where guests can act out their wild west fantasies (however raunchy).  Later the robots all go berserk.

Science Fiction/Fantasy can be a way of shedding light on the modern world.  It can also be an escape from it.  I know several people who have or will be writing their own Sci Fi books.  The online poll for The Great American Read has, I am sure, received more votes than my Best Non-Fiction book poll.  I has received one vote since my last update.  Three of the top five vote recipients in the fiction poll were the SciFi/Fantasy books Outlander, The Game of Thrones, and The Lord of the Rings.  

I know the vast majority of Comic Con fans can distinguish between fantasy and reality.  There is the tiny minority who can't such as the man in Aurora, Colorado who shot up a movie theater during the showing of a Batman movie while dressed as the Joker.  It's not that different from John Hinckley being inspired by the movie Taxi Driver and the novel Catcher in the Rye.  The phenomenon is also similar to how millions of evangelical Christians give their money to televangelists in hope of finding spiritual or physical healing. 

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Friday, December 28, 2018

Early Results for the Best Nonfiction Poll

It has been one month since this online poll has begun.  There have been 27 responses to the poll so far with a wide variety in the books receiving votes.  Of the 112 books listed, 69 received at least one vote.  The top vote receivers so far are listed below.

Title, Author (Year)
Votes (%)
On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (1859)
11 (40.7%)
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962)
7 (25.9%)
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (1988)
5 (18.5%)
Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)
5 (18.5%)
The Diary of a Young Girl (The Diary of Anne Frank) by Anne Frank (1947)
4 (14.8%)
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins (1976)
4 (14.8%)
Relativity by Albert Einstein (1916)
4 (14.8%)
Cosmos by Carl Sagan (1980)
4 (14.8%)

Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species is the early leader with 40.7% of the vote followed by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring with 25.9%.  Walden by Henry David Thoreau and A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking are tied for third with 18.5% of the vote.  Four books are tied for fourth with 14.8% of the vote each.  

The voting is open ended with no final voting date.  Respondents can suggest new books with the other option.  I will post the results from time to time as new responses come in.  This is a living breathing poll.

One respondent suggested a poetry book by TS Eliot.  I believe that poetry is neither fiction or nonfiction.  If you disagree, you may register it in the comment section below.  I will take it under consideration.  I also created a poll on blog Facebook page on this subject. Make your voice heard!

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