Tag Archives: reading

Intellectual reading… from Facebook?

Lots of people have their own ideas on how best to find their next novel to read.  Some keep lists of books they intend to check out at a later date.  Some rate past purchases and books they’ve read on Amazon in hopes that it will refine the site’s suggestions.  Others scour book club lists or the New York Times Best Sellers.  Many use GoodReads, a social networking site whose purpose is to categorize and rate books, and share your views and recommendations with your friends.  In a similar and less Web 2.0-savvy way, others go by word of mouth of friends and family.

I use all of these tactics and then some.  But do you know what has worked best for me? Taking note of my English major Facebook friends’ tastes.

Think about it: who better to ask for book recommendations than those who willingly read 15+ books a semester for their classes (or at least picked a major that required such)?  English majors read and analyze the greatest, most worldly works in literature and in many cases take upwards of ten classes dedicated to their study.  It isn’t illogical to think the kid on your hall who wrote a 23-page paper analyzing the works of Kafka might know a thing or two about a good book.  Wouldn’t you rather navigate the overwhelming ocean of books with a seasoned oarsman as opposed to a first-time paddler?

While I don’t keep a running list of every book an English major mentions on their Facebook profile, I long ago noticed that many cited the same ones.  I figure, these people have read hundreds of books, and likely hundreds more than most of the population.  If they think something is the best, they’re probably drawing from a larger, more comprehensive sample than little ol’ me.

So what books do my English major friends’ profiles display over and over again?  Here’s a short list:

Are all English majors’ recommendations amazing?  Of course not.  But scouring profiles for suggestions has lead me to some quality reads in the past (anything Vonnegut, Prep, gods in Alabama, etc.). As a result, I decided this week to pick up Everything is Illuminated.  Though I’m only on page 15, I’m gushing about the author’s writing style already.  A quick peek at my favorite line in the book already (page 4):

“My stomach is very strong, although it presently lacks muscles. Father is a fat man, and Mother is also.”

Hilarious!  The narrator says so much about his personality and appearance in so few, but perfectly orchestrated words.  Wonderful.

Thanks English majors for keeping your Facebook profiles updated, or at least your “Favorite Books” section.  I’ve been secretly hitting y’all up for suggestions for years!

What books do you see again and again on your friends’ Facebook profiles? How do they compare to that of your English major friends? Have you used them for other suggestions, like to find a movie or new TV show to watch?


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If Your Headline Sucks, You’re Screwed

Welcome to advertising. PR. Journalism. All communication really.

Did the headline grab you? If not, chances are you wouldn’t have gotten this far.

A savvy blog post from 2007 made its rounds on Twitter today, preaching the necessity to capture one’s audience with an attention-grabbing headline.

Sure, we’ve been told in journalism, PR and advertising classes again and again to snag attention with headlines.  “If your headline is boring, why am I going to want to read your [copy, article, pitch]?,” you may have heard a professor rhetorically ask.

John Jantsch (the blog’s author and author of Duct Tape Marketing – The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide) argues that the headline is an ad’s best opportunity to reach the consumer and if it doesn’t happen within the first three seconds, the chance is probably lost forever.  Jantsch says:

“It is a scientifically proven fact that 5 times as many people read headlines as read the body copy of an ad. So with the headline, an advertiser has spent about 80% of their advertising dollar. It doesn’t take a genius to realize then the headline is the most important part of any ad.”

80%?  Wow, that’s a lot of money riding a quick one-liner.  If you think about it, the headline is like the pitch within the pitch.  But that’s the challenge we encounter every day as communicators.  Will a newspaper choose your story pitch if the headline bores them?  Probably not, and perhaps more likely, the journalist won’t read your entire news release.  Will Mr. Newspaper subscriber read your story if they yawn while reading the title?  Likely not.  The same works for ads.  As Jantsch later says, if the reader isn’t ensnared in the first few seconds, they’ve already turned the page.

Not surprisingly, this made me more cognizant of what I read today.  Most days I sift through what I’ll read and not read subconsciously.  But today there were a few examples that gripped me right away from the headline.  And you know what?  I usually read the “body copy” or full article in these cases as a result:

ACC Screws Itself – Wow, that’s harsh.  Can you say that?  You have my attention.  How?  Why?  Tell me!

Spam. Spam. Spam. Spam. – I expected this article to be about everyone’s favorite canned meat. That, and the article was on the front page of the New York Times site.  What’s so important with Spam right now?  And four mentions in the title alone?  Well turns out the article was about spam emails on PDAs in Iraq.  Not the most enthralling topic, but the repetition and urgency of the headline got me there.

Uncovered!  The Unseemly Side of Quilts – Quilts have an unseemly side?  What on earth?  I thought they were just blankets that sat on your couch unused until the day you’re too lazy to get up and turn up the thermostat when you’re cold and watching TV.  I’m intrigued…

Dozing Employee Wants Her Job Back – So she wants to work again so she can sleep and get paid for it?  Of course she wants her job back, but can she get it?  So many questions.

What was the last headline that grabbed you?  Why do you think it did so?

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Sunshine and Tabula Rasa

Long time no post. Due to my laziness I think I’ll just make lists of tasks I hope to accomplish this summer… and other miscellaneous thoughts.

Goals for this summer:
1. Get advertising internship (check)
2. Take two summer school classes (signed up, much more to do)
3. Learn Illustrator
4. Learn InDesign
5. Learn AP writing style
6. Read more books… and finish them!
7. Write!
8. Less internet, more sleep.
9. Work on ads on my own

1. Road trip to Houston for an Astros game at Minute Maid Park, preferably when the Braves are in town
2. Quality time at Barton Springs
3. Explore more of Austin/Hill Country
4. More BBQ-inspired road trips
5. Swim more, run more, maybe even bike or learn to row?
6. Get tan, relax in the sun
7. East Coast vacay in August: Outer Banks, Virginia Beach, Key West (keep dreaming)… somewhere beachy

Places where I’d like to go, but probably lack the time (these are “nearby” as in within Texas):
1. Big Bend National Park
2. South Padre Island

Restaurants I’d like to try:
1. Roy’s (Hawaiian fusion)
2. Casino el Camino (gigantic burgers)
3. Juan in a Million (breakfast tacos)
4. Z Tejas (upscale Mexican)

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