Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Five Years of the Bookshelf

One of these years I'll bake
some myself.
It’s time for the cupcake again! It was five years ago today that I first posted to Lizok’s Bookshelf. The last five years have felt like about two, maybe three, years, particularly given how much I’ve enjoyed meeting—in real life and over e-mail—so many new friends and colleagues through the blog. It’s very gratifying (and even more humbling) to go to conferences and book fairs, and have people ask, “Are you Lizok?” A huge thanks to all of you for visiting, reading, and getting in touch.

Something feels a little different each year when I write these posts, and this year the biggest change is that contemporary Russian literature has become an even larger part of my work and life. I’m still writing a bit for the Read Russia site in these post-BookExpo America months, plus lately I’ve been working more on literary translation, which I love. I’m very curious—almost agonizingly curious!—to see what the next year brings.

Here are a few annual report statistics… It’s always fun sifting through Google data to see what brings people here.

Geography. The top five visitor countries haven’t changed: United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Canada, and Italy. Among those countries, Italians spend the most time (average of 2:28), and Canadians are the fastest (1:14) readers. Top cities are New York, London, and Moscow; the cities seem to fluctuate, but Londoners still take more time than New Yorkers (minutes are so damn short in New York!) and Muscovites. One surprise: Lilburn, Georgia, was in fourth place though its speed reader(s) only spend(s) a bot-like average of six seconds (six seconds!) per visit.

Popular Posts. The most popular post, again this year, was Top 10 Fiction Hits of Russian Literature, which froze out “The Overcoat” for the second year running. “Russian Fiction for Non-Native Readers” was next, followed by Pushkin’s Belkin Tales and Lermontov’s Hero of Our Time. I do, of course, find a certain irony in the fact that my primary interest is contemporary fiction but more readers come here to read about classics. I keep amassing nineteenth- and twentieth-century classics… and I love reading them, truly I do, but I rarely seem to get around to as many as I’d like because I love the discovery element of contemporary fiction even more. Then again, winter’s on the way…

Common and Odd Search Terms. “Lizok’s bookshelf” is now the most common search phrase, and I observe lots of combinations of book titles or author names together with “Lizok.” I was extremely surprised to find the string of shubert in kiev leonid girshovich as the second most popular search term… I didn’t even finish the book! After those terms came: Russian literature reading list, The Golden Calf online, Compromise Dovlatov review, Drawings from the Gulag, Lizok “Twelve Chairs,” index:of Russian novelists, and The Foundation Pit summary. I’m happy to know so many people are seeking out Ilf, Petrov, Platonov, and Dovlatov.

I haven’t noticed a lot of strange search terms lately, though I just saw that someone asked again whether it’s safe for pregnant women to eat gefilte fish. I still can’t/won’t answer that question. That query draws visitors thanks to my post on Dina Kalinovskaia’s wonderful novella Oh, Shabbat!… which reminds me I still want to try making my own gefilte fish, especially after seeing Lake Ontario when I was in Rochester, New York, recently and learning Lake Ontario harbors carp. Back to searches: I also sometimes see strange series of words and numbers that make it look like people are trying to contact someone (e.g. Dostoevsky) beyond the grave, perhaps through some strange combination of phone and e-mail. Please, people, don’t even try! And then there are sausage-related searches: sausage fun, sausage links drawings, and sausage people. I have no idea what any of that means but here are posts mentioning sausage. Some searches, like those seeking specific translators, make me happy, though: Amanda Love Darragh is particularly popular, and Marian Schwartz and Andrew Bromfield pop up pretty regularly, too.

On that cheery note, I’ll sign off until next weekend… and thank you again for visiting. I hope to meet even more of you, virtually or in real life, soon!

Up Next: Marina Stepnova’s Lazar’s Women, Zaven Babloyan’s Russian translation of Serhij Zhadan’s Voroshilovgrad, and a trip report on the recent American Literary Translators Association conference.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Emily. I'm looking forward to reading your post(s) on Gogol!

  2. A belated happy birthday and congratulations!

  3. Belated happy birthday to the blog, and thank you for the constant entertainment and new discoveries!

    1. Thank you very much, Russian Dinosaur: I'm happy to be able to help keep you entertained!)))