#Hashtags: 08.09.2013


#Hashtags is a weekly segment that features an amalgamation of news, statistics and imperceptibly opinionated thoughts.


Welcome to the fourth installment of #Hashtags.  Over the past few weeks I’ve spent a lot of time pouring over the log files and posting about what our top ten most viewed articles are.  This week I’m going deeper.  I’m asking specific questions.  I’m playing the role of the typographical detective.  The result?  Our first ever infographic!

That pretty piece of highly informative eye candy is waiting for you below along with an update on all things BookerMarks, a look at my Friday read, and a very important question that we really need your opinion on.  Let’s begin, shall we?



Click to enlarge!

What’s the point you ask?  Well I wanted to look at two things really: the number of books we’ve been reviewing on a monthly basis and what publishers they came from.  The results are interesting, at least to me, for a few reasons:

What is a “good” number of reviews to be posting per month?  Obviously quality comes first, but what was my expectation going in?  Ideally, I think I’d like to see a minimum of 8 book reviews per month split evenly between Karli and myself.  That’s actually a stat I didn’t look at: how many books each of us reviewed.  We consistently beat that number, but did we sacrifice anything in the process?  You tell us.  No seriously, please do.

Penguin topping the list of publishers was shocking for a few reasons, the least of which is that, with a handful of great folks who are super responsive to us, they mostly suck ass.  We gets lots of emails from them asking if we’re interested in checking out one book or another, and literally 75% of the time when we reply and state that, yes, we are interested, we never hear from them again.  Thanks guys.  I’m sure things can only get better now that you’ve merged with Random House.  Riiiiight.

On the flip side, I’m excited to see that Open Letter, Dalkey, and Seven Stories all made the top ten.  Not that I’m playing favorites (after all, the whole point was to discover if we were or not…) but those guys are all great and consistently put out deeply rewarding reads.

A few facts about the infographic:

Any book that received dual reviews (from both Karli and myself) still counted as one book toward the grand total of 108.

We posted a high number of reviews in January and February because while we were busying designing the new site for the entire month of December, we were also busy reading and hoarding reviews.

I didn’t roll up publishers to their parent organization.  For example, you’ll see both Penguin and Viking in the top ten.  That makes the Penguin thing even more depressing in some respects, but again, if anything it does show that even if they ignore us (AND THEY DO!) we don’t hold it against them.  I should crunch the numbers and see what everything looks like all rolled up at some point.

So what’s the end result?  I think my quest for information has revealed that I’m happy with where we are right now.  We seem to be reading and reviewing A LOT of books, and we don’t seem to be favoring one publisher over another (even if in our heart of hearts we secretly do.)



BookerMarks is in full swing

It was a really good week over at BookerMarks, our Man Booker Prize shadowing site, and we’ve got some great content still to come over the next few weeks.  This year we’re trying something new.  Well, technically it’s something borrowed from the BTBA.  Just prior to the shortlist announcement each of us will championing one book and writing a “Why This Book Should Win” post.  There’s no set parameters or expectations around what the posts should look like.  Pictures, bullet points, flowcharts.  Creativity is the name of the game. I can’t wait to see what my fellow bloggers come up with.  My post will probably be lame in comparison.

Here’s what we posted this week if you want to check it out.

Karli reviewed Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary
I posted a moment of shameless self-promotion
I posted our second Know Your Booker!
I reviewed Richard House’s The Massive
Michelle reviewed Jim Crace’s Harvest
Penny reviewed Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart
I took a look at what last year’s shortlisted authors have been up to
Jen reviewed Jim Crace’s Harvest
I reviewed Richard House’s Sutler
Michelle reviewed Colum McCann’s TransAtlantic

Yup, it was a busy week!



The Colonel by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi

Before I dive back in to polish off The Kills I thought I’d take a break and return to the BTBA shortlist.  I’m currently reading The Colonel by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, translated from the Persian by Tom Patterdale.  Any book banned in Iran has got to be a winner, right?

The novel tells the tale of colonel who is struggling with the death of a number of his children and his wife, but the one that has hit him the hardest is the passing of his youngest daughter.  Yeah, it’s kind of depressing, but it’s also an extremely valuable peek into the political unrest and the mindset of the oppressed people of Iran.  Here’s how it begins:

I’d better put my cigarette out first…

This was perhaps the twentieth butt that he had stubbed out since nightfall. He was feeling suffocated and he had smoked so much that he had lost all sense of taste. The cracked pane in front of him had steamed up. It was unusually quiet.

Every knock at the door broke the caressing silence of the rain. There was nothing but the sound of unremitting rain drumming on the rusty tin roof, so unceasing that it amounted to silence.

Only once in my lifetime do I remember seeing these roofs in the sunset. I remember it well…

In the evening after the rain, just after sunset, the ochre of the rooftops glowed with melancholy beauty, in those days when the first grey hairs had started to appear on his temples. In those days he still walked upright, with his head held high, and he could feel the earth under his feet. He had not been old and worn out then, his cheeks had not yet sunk in and the worry lines had yet to furrow their way across his brow.

Now that these gentlemen have come… I had better put out my cigarette first, then get up and throw my raincoat over my head. Then I can go to the door. Knock away, knock, keep on knocking, whoever you are! It’s been years since I’ve heard any good news and I’m certainly not expecting any now, at this ungodly hour of the night. Let’s see now, if this old clock is right, it must be about half past three in the morning, and just look at all the fog on that cracked old window… Knock, knock, my friends. Knock hard enough to wake the dead in their graves. But I am not going to take a single step out into the yard before I’ve put my raincoat over  my head and my galoshes on my feet. You can see for yourselves that the rain is coming down in buckets. Besides, I need to switch on the outside light before I come downstairs. Do you want me to slip in the dark and put my shoulder out…? I’m coming. I just hope that Amir’s basement light isn’t on… I must not get muddled. I must stay calm and try not to appear upset or frightened when I open the door. I absolutely must not bat an eyelid or let my mouth shake. But I can’t stop my left eyelid twitching. As soon as I concentrate on anything, it starts fluttering. It’s just this weary old left eye…

“Yes, yes, I’m coming… Just a minute…”


Here’s a look at what I’m hoping to read very soon.

The_HitThe Hit by Richard House

Book four of Richard House’s 4-book Man Booker nominated epic conspiracy The Kills is about a body that’s found burned beyond all recognition in the desert. Could this be the man that Thomas Berens has been hunting?

It’s been a very long journey into the world of The Kills, but so fat I’ve enjoyed every minute. I’m extremely excited for this one. I can’t wait to read how The Kills ends and learn how all everything fits together.

The_InfatuationsThe Infatuations by Javier Marías
Translated from the Spanish by Marguerite Jull Costa

One of the greatest living Spanish writers, Javier Marías makes the jump from New Directions to Knopf with his 14th novel to be translated into English, The Infatuations. How good is it? So good it won Spain’s Nation Novel Prize (a reward the author refused to accept because he did not want to receive public money).

The plot of The Infatuations is driven by one woman’s imagination and the need to make sense of a vicious murder.  Maria Dolz has found what she believes to be, the perfect couple to idolize.  Propelled by her own desires, she begins to follow them, a little at first, then far more frequently, until one day she witnesses the stabbing of the male in the street.  From that moment forward Maria finds herself wrapped up in twisted mystery that questions the very meaning of the word truth.


My Struggle: Book Two by Karl Ove Knausgaard…I know, I know.  The review is written. I should just post it.  So many other books have taken priority.

Dreamland: A Self-Help Manual for a Frightened Nation by Andri Snaer Magnason really got me thinking about the hydrolic fracking issues that the United States is currently dealing with.  More on his book, and this issue, soon.

The Kill by Richard House was good, but not as good as the first two volumes of The Kills.  I think it suffered from too many characters overall, and two few appearances by ones that were established in the previous books.  Still dying to find out how it all ends (or doesn’t) in book four.  More soon.


The top 10 pages that got the most unique hits on the Era this past week are…drum roll please:


Statistics can be revealing.

10. The Planets by Sergio Chejfec
09. Forbrydelsen Vs. The Killing: Week One
08. #Hashtags: 08.02.2013
07. Me Who Dove Into The Heart Of The World by Sabrina Berman
06. On Deck: What We’re Reading
05. Uninstalling CyangenMod 9 From Your HP TouchPad
04. 5 Mildly Annoying Things About The New Nook Simple Touch Reader
03. [Home Page]
02. nook Simple Touch Reader How To: Use Shelves
01. Installing Apps From Unknown Sources On The Nook HD+

Seeing #Hashtags make the list was a pleasant surprise.  Will that trend continue into next week? Will this week’s infographic help?  We’ll see.

While I’m happy to see our reviews Chejfec and Berman crack the top ten, I’m a bit dismayed that our coverage of Richard House’s brilliant novel The Kills is being ignored.  Perhaps folks are reading the simultaneous posts that are happing over at BookerMarks instead?


QuestionPeople LOVE our nook posts.  I mean LOVE.  If we asked, would you be willing to donate money towards buying us a new device so that we could continue to post our series of informative and easy to follow how-to’s and hacks?

About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.