The Nameless Horror

3 In 10 Stories Can Misreport Book Stats

I keep seeing repostings of stories in the Bookseller and elsewhere reporting on the National Literacy Trust report on book ownership and reading enjoyment.

"3 in 10 households don’t own a single book!" scream either the headlines or the people retweeting/refacebooking this.

None of whom, I assume, have read the report, because this is balls and I wish you’d all shut up about it.

3 in 10 children/teenagers (the range is 8-17) in the survey say they do not have books of their own. The percentage is actually 66.8% saying they do, almost spot on two thirds, but since everyone bounces the … in 10 figure, let’s stick with that.

(Despite this, nearly 50% of those who don’t own books of their own still read a book at least once a week, only ~15% lower than those who do.)

The actual household figures? 0.6% of “we have books of our own” kids say there were no books at all in their home (suggesting that 0.6% of them were just making up any old toss), compared to 9.4% of those in the “we don’t have” category. 9.4% of that 33.2% category is close to 3% of the overall.

3% of households have no books in them. Or, to put it in headline language, 3 in 100.

This is still sad, but everyone can now please put a big fucking sock in your outrage at the non-existently poor state of book ownership in the UK. Thank you.

Edit to add: Oh, and ~9% of homes overall apparently have more than 500 books in them. I leave it for you to decide if there may have been any reporting issues when participants were giving data for this study.

AYLB Review From @dotcomaphobe

The charming, sexy Jon Harrell reviews ALL YOU LEAVE BEHIND thusly:

I just read a new novella by this fella named Sean Cregan. I have to admit, I really enjoyed it. The Levels is an excellent set piece. Having not yet read the novel by the same name, I found this very easy to get into. I’ll be posting a review on Amazon forthwith.

What I really enjoyed about it, though, is the writing. The author’s previous novels (the Alex Rourke stories) were good, yes. The plot was fast-paced and the third act was always thrilling (and fun) in each of those novels, but reading this latest work shows just how far the author has come in writing both dialogue and action. For starters, I believe Cregan is English, but I didn’t notice a single extraneous “u” in the entire piece. But to be a Brit, it must be damned difficult to conceive of American conversational tones, and Cregan does an admirable job. The action sequences were tight and sharp, avoiding that trap of over-analyzing every angle-of-fire blast and feint-parry-thrust. I didn’t have to wade through the character’s plan of “how the fight would go down” and then have to watch it as well. The action was really more reaction; I saw instinct instead of rote script.

Overall, a very enjoyable read. The afterword was great as well; I was really interested in hearing his take on why he chose the same set piece for this one.

Oh, and it comes with the first three chapters of Murder Park, the next Cregan novel (slated for release in January 2012, if I’m not mistaken).

In the interests of disclosure, I should point out that Jon, as well as being charming and sexy, is one of the two friends who provided the main character’s name, so he’s not an unknown reader, and he’s one of those who responded with a “Yes please!” when I did a shout out on Twitter to see who’d want a freebie reviewy copy of AYLB. However, it’s a genuine review, and he liked it enough to then buy a copy, bless him.

Of particular interest to me is how the story stands up when you’ve not read THE LEVELS, since it shares the setting (apparently, perfectly well), and how good my Americanisation is these days since I made the effort to spell the whole thing in US English (unlike “Americanisation”) as well as, obviously, getting the turns of phrase used right (apparently, perfectly well too. Hooray!).

(Talk of extraneous “u”s, incidentally, is a long-running in-joke about us Brits on the gaming board where he posted this, where I know him from; the Amazoun variant misses that ouut.)

I’m not going to habitually post everything everyone says about AYLB, but this is the opening bout of feedback and it seemed worth mentioning. And, y’know, shout out from a mate, all that.

This Is Plot Country

Once again, for what feels like the hundredth time this year, I am plotting out a book. Notebooks have been sullied with hideous, cryptic scrawl. Post-it notes have been assembled and plastered to the dining room wall like so much neon pink bat guano.

(Not that I’m suggesting you normally plaster your dining room walls with bat guano. I certainly don’t and I’ll hurl anyone who claims otherwise to the flock of specially trained housebats I definitely don’t have.)

I can’t plot for shit. Relatively speaking, it’s a weak point of mine. I get halfway through writing a book and only then realise I’ve actually missed the whole point of the damn story and I can’t remember what it was I was intending to do with most of what I have got.

I do it in speech, too.

In my later years, I’ve tended to plan more, because this means I make all my stupid plotting errors early on, before I’ve actually gotten 50,000 words into a novel. It saves a lot of time, but it does involve building up massive layers of post-it notes all over the walls. My record for a single book is a shade under 100, starting from the initial who/where notes, to the answers to the string of “why” and “how” and “what would be awesome here?” questions I ask myself as I go along.

Anyway, so it begins.