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What was your favorite book you read this year? Many great best-of-the-year lists are out, including My Bookshelf, Myself and the year’s 10 Best Books from the New York Times as well as 16 Favorites from Brain Pickings and the Smithsonian’s Best Books about Innovation and Science. Bill Gate’s always highlights his favorite reads of…

Best Books of the Year

What was your favorite book you read this year? Many great best-of-the-year lists are out, including My Bookshelf, Myself and the year’s 10 Best Books from the New York Times as well as 16 Favorites from Brain Pickings and the Smithsonian’s Best Books about Innovation and Science. Bill Gate’s always highlights his favorite reads of the year in a video. This year he picks a few that will soon be on my list:

image Recently I have enjoyed well-written biography more than anything else. A talented biographer not only tells a very personal story, but she also carries the reader through the time period in which the subject made their impact on the world. The reader learns about philosophy, history and science while following a captivating narrative. More biographies are already on my list for 2017.

This year, I read two very good examples of the craft: American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin; and Emerson: The Mind on Fire by Robert D. Richardson.

Kai Bird is a wonderful author, and the news has it that he is at work on a biography of Jimmy Carter during his White House years. I would like to end this post with a quote from another favorite president: Barack Obama. It’s included in another book I’ve nearly finished, Thomas Friedman’s Thank You for Being Late. The quote is about story and its power to shape our culture.

“What makes our species unique is that we are not bound by genetic code to repeat the mistakes of the past. We can learn. We can choose. We can tell our children a different story, one that describes a common humanity, one that makes war less likely and cruelty less easily accepted.”

Happy Holidays!

Posted by Joel on December 21 2016 • Books

Brand Storytelling

I love this quote from Content Standard’s story: Why Brand Storytelling is the New Marketing: an Interview with Robert McKee:

“The way to persuade the buyer is to get their attention with a story, and that is very difficult in this day and age of distraction. Story is the most effective way to get attention because what attracts human attention is change. As long as things are moving on an even keel, you pay attention to whatever you’re doing. But if something around you changes—if the temperature around you changes, if the phone rings—that gets your attention. The way in which a story begins is a starting event that creates a moment of change. When someone is watching a story, something happens that turns the situation, usually to the negative. (It could be to the positive, but even if it turns to the positive, it’s going to become negative in a moment.)”

McKee on writing:

“There’s this whole world of study that [all people] have to accomplish. They have to have an author’s knowledge of the art form. That’s the hardest thing for them to get through their heads: here they are, at age 25, 30, and they thought they’d done all the schooling they needed to do. That they could just sit down and be a writer, a businessman, and that they didn’t have to start learning from the beginning.

“If this was music, and not story, you would have to master music theory. You’d have to master the form of it—whether it’s classical, jazz, or rock—musicians are technicians who know the structure of music. They recognize that there’s a technique—there’s a craft. It’s the same thing with writing, you have to be able to compose.”

One campaign that McKee highlights for doing it well is Dove. “It’s a perfect example of what a great marketing/storytelling campaign can be, but it begins with an insight into human nature. Without that substance, it doesn’t matter how skillful the storytelling may be.”

Posted by Joel on December 12 2016 • Content Marketing

Bookstore Tourism

imageAuthor and bookstore owner Ann Patchett takes readers on a wonderful tour of her favorite bookstores around the country in this article in the New York Times. I will certainly visit her store in Nashville, Parnassus Books, when I get a chance to travel in the area. Her story highlights two favorites here in the Twin Cities: Wild Rumpus, a wonderful children’s bookstore, and Birchbark Books, which is also owned and operated by an author, Louise Erdrich. Another author-owned bookstore didn’t make Patchett’s list, but if you are in the area I would suggest that you stop by. Common Good Books in St. Paul is owned by Garrison Keillor.

I visited two of my favorites this year: Powell’s in Portland, and The Strand, the legendary “18 miles of books” in New York City, which ranks high on my list. Here seven authors list their favorite stores. What’s your favorite bookstore?

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Posted by Joel on December 11 2016 •

Starfield

This is pretty cool. It’s called Starfield. It’s an art installation by the French art collective Lab212. “It involves a swing, the projection of a star field in front of it and a Microsoft Kinect.” Participants can swing over scenes from the earth, Saturn’s rings, a black hole or other constellations.

Posted by Joel on December 04 2016 • Multimedia