Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Bookshelf Turns Six... in Indiana

Sample Gates, Indiana University Bloomington
I’m forgoing the traditional cupcake for this year’s blog birthday in favor of a photo of Indiana University: that’s where I’ll be, for the American Literary Translators Association’s annual conference, on October 16, the day Lizok’s Bookshelf turns six. The ALTA conference feels supremely fitting because if there’s one thing that sums up this past year, it’s a big increase in translation work. It’s also been a year for meeting many more of you, in person or virtually, and hearing more about why you read the blog. I used the words “gratifying” and “humbling” last year when I wrote about meeting blog readers and can only say that they still apply. Thank you.

Here are a few annual report statistics for the last blogyear…

Geography. The top visitor countries changed again this year: United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, and Canada, with Germany rising and Italy dropping. Top cities are New York, Moscow, London, Oxford, and “not set.” Londoners are still taking more time per visit than New Yorkers: 2:06 for London and 1:04 for New Yorkers. By country, the most leisurely readers in the top ten visiting countries are Australia (3:25) and Italy (2:27), with Austrians schussing away even faster than New Yorkers (1:02).

Common Search Terms. I’m not getting as many details about search terms these days but the most common sets are lizok’s bookshelf, lermontov hero of our time summary, best Russian literature, and Russian literature reading list. The most popular name was “boris dralyuk” followed by marina stepnova. The most popular book and story names (after hero of our time) were kuprin gambrinus, the petty demon summary, makanin underground (that’s the top contemporary book title), and salam dalgat. Paging through the statistics, I see that many, many other books turn up a lot but the search terms differ slightly—e.g. variations on Andrei Dmitriev’s The Peasant and the Teenager and Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago—so the books stay low in the standings. I was very happy to see the combination of doctor zhivago rowan tree come up—a friend and I spent countless hours eating ice cream and talking about that in grad school—but I have to wonder how someone got here with the words naked russian beach.

A special note on one popular post: my piece about Vera Panova’s Seryozha, dated April 20, 2008, continues to draw readers. It makes me endlessly happy that so many readers from India have searched out the title and left comments saying how much they loved the book.

Popular Posts. Top landing pages fit with the common search terms listed above: Top 10 Fiction Hits of Russian Literature, A Hero of Our Time, Russian Fiction for Non-Native Readers, The Petty Demon, and “The Overcoat.” As last year, I can’t help but see a peculiar disconnect in readers’ overwhelming interest in classics and my overwhelming interest in contemporary fiction. And as last year, it’s the discovery factor that keeps me going with contemporary novels, even if I might have to attempt five clunkers (which rarely get mentions here) before I find new favorites like Vodolazkin’s Laurus, Levental’s Masha Regina, or Sherga’s wonderful debut novel, The Underground Ship. As I type, I realize that my interest in contemporary fiction is probably the most compelling reason to read more classics since so much of what I seem to be translating is written by contemporary writers who somehow use historical settings.

Saving the Best for Last: Thank you! Finally, a thousand thanks to each of you, for visiting, reading (whether for one minute, two minutes, or more!), writing, commenting, and inquiring. I know I’m not always very quick to respond to messages but please know that I appreciate hearing from everyone, whether in person or by e-mail. I’m glad so many of you find the blog useful!

Up Next: Vadim Levental’s Masha Regina. Trip report on the American Literary Translators Association conference.

Disclaimers: The usual.


  1. Happy birthday! I believe I may be a contributor to that disconnect, although I have a good excuse.

    1. Thank you, Tom! You have many good excuses that make for many wonderful posts!

  2. Happy blog birthday, Lisa! I'm looking forward to your ALTA update, and right now I'm contributing to reducing your disconnect by looking up recent posts on the Russian Booker shortlist...

    1. Thank you, Russian Dinosaur! (On both counts!) ALTA is always fun and there are some fun Russian and Slavic panels, people, and readings to write about... once I get settled back to my so-called real life!