From The New York Times:
“Books are the best weapons,” President Emmanuel Macron of France said at the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair, addressing the unifying power of literature and language. “Without culture, there is no Europe.”
The French leader, who joined Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at the opening ceremony of the world’s oldest book fair Tuesday night, spoke of culture’s crucial role in Europe, and of how it can be a unifying force at a time of rising nationalism. France is the guest of honor this year, and more than 7,000 exhibitors from over 100 countries are expected to attend.
“Identity of language lives through the confrontations with other languages,” Mr. Macron said.
. . . .
The European leaders’ speeches underpinned a political undercurrent at this year’s book fair, which opened to the public on Wednesday and runs through Sunday. Both have been forced to deal with challenges from the far-right in elections this year.
. . . .
“The presence of Chancellor Merkel and President Macron at the opening of the Frankfurter Buchmesse symbolizes the close relationship between Germany and France and their commitment to a strong, unified Europe,” Jürgen Boos, the fair’s director, said in a statement last week.
“In times when poisonous narratives have become popular and the spreading of fear and hatred have once again become socially acceptable, we liberal, democratically minded bibliophiles must respond with attractive counterarguments,” Mr. Boos said at a news conference at the fair’s opening.
Link to the rest at The New York Times
PG suggests that at least some readers may not be interested in having their books liberally seasoned with fashionable politics and are not inclined to purchase a new weapon for their bookshelves.
It struck PG that, for readers who seek to signal their virtue through books, it would be interesting to compare the books on their bookshelves with the less-visible books on their tablets, phones or ereaders.
He is reminded of a number of articles he has read about bestselling books that are started, but not finished by large numbers of readers. If you Google books started not finished, you’ll see a selection of such articles.
A few years ago, a mathematics professor used public data from Amazon to provide a list of bestselling books that were purchased and read together with books purchased but perhaps not read.
Here’s an excerpt from his article in the Wall Street Journal:
Amazon’s “Popular Highlights” feature provides one quick and dirty measure. Every book’s Kindle page lists the five passages most highlighted by readers. If every reader is getting to the end, those highlights could be scattered throughout the length of the book. If nobody has made it past the introduction, the popular highlights will be clustered at the beginning.
Thus, the Hawking Index (HI): Take the page numbers of a book’s five top highlights, average them, and divide by the number of pages in the whole book. The higher the number, the more of the book we’re guessing most people are likely to have read. (Disclaimer: This is not remotely scientific and is for entertainment purposes only!)
. . . .
“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt : 98.5%
This seems like exactly the kind of long, impressive literary novel that people would carry around ostentatiously for a while and never finish. But it’s just the opposite. All five top highlights come from the final 20 pages, where the narrative falls away and Ms. Tartt spells out her themes in a cascade of ringing, straight-out assertions.
. . . .
“A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking: 6.6%
The original avatar backs up its reputation pretty well. But it’s outpaced by one more recent entrant—which brings us to our champion, the most unread book of this year (and perhaps any other). Ladies and gentlemen, I present:
“Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Piketty : 2.4%
Yes, it came out just three months ago. But the contest isn’t even close. Mr. Piketty’s book is almost 700 pages long, and the last of the top five popular highlights appears on page 26. Stephen Hawking is off the hook; from now on, this measure should be known as the Piketty Index.