Category Archives: books

The Lure of Long Books

When I was little and just learning how to read, I recall looking at the 10 page book that I had to tackle with dismay. It would take me forever! to get through that book. It was a slow, painstaking process, and by the time I made it through, I often felt discouraged. I remember my mother encouraging me by telling me that through books, you go could anywhere and do anything. That helped, and eventually with time and practice (lots of practice!) I got better at reading, to the point where I found it to be a delightful activity.

Yesterday, for the first time in a while, I walked to the local Barnes & Noble for the sole purpose of browsing. I didn’t plan to buy any book (nor do I). I just wanted to wander the shelves and peek at things. While browsing, I noticed an interesting phenomenon that I’d never really been aware of before. I paused more in front of long books than short ones. And I realized a truism for me that I’d never thought about before: I am attracted to long books.

What is a long book? It is different for everyone, but for the sake simplicity, for me, let’s call a long book anything longer than 800 pages.

Over and over again, I found myself pausing in places where thick paperbacks sat on the shelf. I’d pick them up and flip through them, wondering, what makes the book so interesting that I’d be willing to spend so much time with it? Or put another way: what story takes 800 pages to tell?

I don’t know why I like long books so much. I suspect it has to do with not wanting a good story to end. When I am reading a particularly good book, I find myself constantly checking to see how much of the book remains, and as the pages dwindle, I grow sad that the book will soon be over. The longer the book, therefore, the longer it lasts.

I suppose I think of books like vacations. Short books are like weekend getaways. Your average 300 or 400 pager might be like heading off for a week’s vacation. But the long books–those are the big vacations: 2 or 3 weeks away, no cares in the world. You never want the vacation to end.

Looking through the list of books I’ve read over the last 20 years, I see plenty of long books. But there are, perhaps, 6 look books that, as I read them, I didn’t want them to end. In the order that I read them they are:

  1. The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes
  2. Shogun by James Clavell
  3. Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 by Edwin G. Burrows
  4. It by Stephen King
  5. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  6. Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Long books have been much on my mind lately because I recently finished reading James A. Michener’s memoir The World Is My Home, and having done so, have been interested in reading some of his novels. He is famous for monstrously long novels, like Hawaii, and Texas. Indeed, in casting my memory back in time, I can recall browsing bookstores, and lingering over his books because they were so big.

I have read other big books. I’ve read all of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones books for instance, and enjoyed them, but not with quite the same passion that I enjoyed the six  books listed above. I can’t say why exactly. I’ve read many of Will Durant’s histories, and enjoyed those as well, but again, not with the same pleasure as the 6 books above. Whether the long book is fiction or nonfiction hardly matters. I think what makes for the right recipe is that the book sweeps me away, totally and completely. The book becomes that vacation from the rest of the world, a vacation that I simply don’t want to end.

Before I start reading a long book, I experience that same sense of anticipation I get before going on vacation. The mountain of pages (whether they are physical or digital) hold all of the hope and excitement of a vacation. It is a form of potential energy, and I often think to myself, “I’ve got this whole book in front of me.”

Perhaps that is why, when I finish a particularly good long book, it is so difficult to figure out what to read next.  I have immersed myself in someone else’s head for so long that I need some time to recover and gain my senses before I can actually settle on another book that I will enjoy.

Whatever the reason, there is a lure to long books. I am drawn to it like a siren’s song, and once I’m in its grasp, I am its prisoner for as long as it will hold me.

Maintaining My Reading List as a GitHub Repo Using Atom 1.0

At the end of this year, my reading list will be twenty-years old. The list has evolved over time from simple, to complex, and back to simple. But over the course of the last two decades, it has always been available online in one form or another. When I started keeping the list, it was a simple HTML page. It evolved into a sophisticated relational database. When social media sprouted, it moved into places like GoodReads and LibraryThing. But eventually, I found that I had the most flexibility, and easiest maintenance, if I just kept the list as a plain text file on Dropbox.

While I was playing around with Atom1.0 , GitHub’s open source text editor, it occurred to me that I might be able to squeeze out even more functionality from my plain-text reading list. So I created a new repository on GitHub, my reading-list repo, and checked in my plain text file. To what end?

Commenting on the books I read

I’ve often wanted to write brief comments on the books that I read, but I’ve never been happy with the interfaces of places like GoodReads or Amazon reviews. I’m not interested so much in writing a review of the book, or giving it starts. I just want to capture some thoughts.

But my list is a plain text file, and capturing thoughts about a book, given the format of the list, would make it awkward at best. It occurred to me, however, that if I had my reading list in a GitHub repository, then each time I added a book to the list, I’d have the ability to add a commit comment when I checked in the list. That commit comment could give me the opportunity to include my thoughts about the book, without messing up the integrity of the list itself.

So that is my plan. Beginning with book #609 (Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris, which I am reading now), I will add my thoughts about the book as a commit comment, when I check-in the list. To see my thoughts about a book, one needs only go to the commits page for the master branch, which looks something like this at present:

Reading List Commits

One huge advantage to all of this is that I can do it all from a single place–namely, my text editor. I was playing around with Atom this morning, and after installing the git-plus package, I discovered that I never have to leave the text editor to make, comment on, and commit changes to my reading list.

Using Atom to update and comment on my reading list

It works something like this:

First, I open my reading list in Atom. I have a command line alias to do this. Just type


at the command line and hit enter. The current file opens up in Atom. I go to the end of the file, and add the book I just finished reading. (I’ll use Colonel Roosevelt as an example, even though I haven’t finished it yet.) I can easily see which files in the repo have changed and which lines have been updated or changed in the file.

Reading list in Atom

When I am ready to checking and commit the file to GitHub–and thereby add my thoughts on the book I just added–I can do it directly from the editor:

Add, commit, and push

After selecting “Add All Commit and Push” I get another editor window that prompts me for my commit comment. This is where I’d add my thoughts about the book:

Commit thoughts

As soon as I save this, the file is committed to the GitHub repo and pushed to the master branch. Anyone who wants can see it in the list of commits:

Commits list

Now I have a nice tidy way of adding thoughts about the books I read without messing up the integrity of the list, and without every having to leave my text editor. But wait, there’s more!

Subscriptions and discussions

Because the list is checked into a GitHub repository, it comes with all of the features and functions of a GitHub repo. Other GitHub users can subscribe to the repository, and get notifications when it is updated–that is, when I comment on the book I just read.

Moreover, anyone can click on a commit, and see my thoughts, and, if they so choose, add comments of their own:

Commit comments

I understand that some of this stuff is beyond what the average person might do, but I have been fascinated by the potential of GitHub for uses beyond just that of maintaining code. And when there is seamless integration, like that built into Atom, it makes it a no-brainer solution for maintaining my reading list.

Stephen King’s Favorite Stephen King Novel

Yesterday I sat down to watch a Stephen King talk from back in January of this year. It took place somewhere in Florida and it was for a library down there. In the question and answer session that followed the talk, King was asked what his favorite Stephen King book was.

I watched with interest, but I was fairly certain of his answer. In many places in recent years, King has often said that his own personal favorite is Lisey’s Story. So I was surprised, and delighted, when King answered that his own favorites were “probably It and 11/22/63.” As it happens, my favorite King novel (and favorite novel period right now) is 11/22/63 followed pretty closely by It.

Tastes change over time. I know this from experience. My favorite book from 10 years ago is different than what it is today. But I was particularly pleased that King recognized those two books as his own favorites. I’ve enjoyed most of what he has written, but those two books are a cut above the rest as far as I am concerned.

My Summer Reading List, 2015 (Sort of)

Obviously, we still have a month to go before summer officially begins, but a few nights ago, I jotted down the following list of books, all of which I am interested in reading in the near future1.

  • The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons (reading this now)
  • Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • Finder’s Keepers by Stephen King
  • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris2
  • Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris3
  • Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
  • The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain
  • Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
  • One Summer by Bill Bryson
  • Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
  • The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

What’s on your list?

  1. I say “near future” but my experience has been that when I post lists, I sometimes stick to them, and sometimes ignore them completely. What I read next can sometimes be a spontaneous decision.
  2. A re-read, although it’s been more than 13 years since I last read this book.
  3. Also a re-read.

W. C. Heinz and the M*A*S*H Connection

I have mentioned before how my favorite long-form nonfiction is the baseball essay. Reading those essays leads to all kinds of places. I was discussing these types of pieces with a friend of mine, and he recommended a recent book put out through The Library of America called The Top of His Game: The Best Sportswriting of W. C. Heinz edited by Bill Littlefield. I’d never read any of Heinz’s pieces before, but I am having a delightful time going through this book. His pieces tend to be short: 800 words, compared the the baseball essays that I most enjoy. But Heinz’s voice carries the day in these pieces, which cover all manner of sports, from baseball, to boxing, or horse-racing, and beyond.

But the most remarkable thing I’ve learned in this book is something about Heinz himself. I am also a big fan of M*A*S*H. The book, upon which both the movie and the series was based, was written by Richard Hooker. Well, it turns out that Richard Hooker is a pseudonym for pair of writers. One is H. Richard Hornberger, a doctor who served in Korea. The other writer was–you guessed it–W. C. Heinz.

I thought that was a pretty cool connection, when I learned of it in the intro to the book.

A New Audiobook Version of James Clavell’s Shogun

Back in the summer of 2005, I read James Clavell’s Shogun. I absolutely loved it. When I started listening to audiobooks 2 years ago, I sought out Shogun. The version Audible had at the time was narrated by David Case, and the reviews of the narration were pretty awful. Nevertheless, I bought it, and tried to listen to it, but gave up after a while. The narration just wasn’t very good.

A few months ago, I noticed that the book was no longer available on Audible1. I thought perhaps that this meant a new version was being produced.

Today being a Tuesday (when new books are released), I searched Audible for a few books I was looking for. Shogun was one of them, and to my surprise and delight, a new version had indeed been produced.


This version is read by Ralph Lister, and just listening to the preview, I could tell it was a much better narration. I’m really looking forward to listening to this, having enjoyed reading it a decade ago. There are a few books in line in front of it, but I’m glad to see that a new version was produced.

  1. Before anyone panics, the version that I bought was still available to me in my Audible library. It didn’t go away. You just couldn’t buy it any longer.

Stephen King Books I Have Not Yet Read

Back in November, as part of his 6-city tour for Revival, Stephen King came to the Washington, D.C. area as a guest of the Politics & Prose bookstore. I wasn’t able to attend, but last night, I watched the talk on YouTube.

As often happens after I see Stephen King speak, I thought to myself, “Gee, I wish I was a writer!” It also makes me want to read more Stephen King. I have, over the last several months, been reading a good deal of nonfiction, although I did take a break in November to read Revival. But in the last two weeks or so, I’ve been so busy with other stuff that I haven’t had a chance to do much reading at all. This morning, I woke up with King’s talk still on my mind and decided that I’d start on something else of his today.

But what?

I went through the list of books I’ve read since 1996, looking for all instances of Stephen King. There were 66 of them (+ = e-book, @ = audiobook, * = recommended, ^ = re-read):

  1. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King (9/16/2001)
  2. Needful Things by Stephen King (9/25/2004)
  3. On Writing+ by Stephen King (9/16/2009)
  4. Carrie+ by Stephen King (9/21/2009)
  5. The Shining+ by Stephen King (9/28/2009)
  6. It+ by Stephen King (10/28/2009)
  7. Night Shift+ by Stephen King (11/3/2009)
  8. Under the Dome by Stephen King (11/30/2009)
  9. Different Seasons+ by Stephen King (12/9/2009)
  10. The Stand+ by Stephen King (6/2/2010)
  11. The Dead Zone+ by Stephen King (6/11/2010)
  12. Firestarter+ by Stephen King (6/25/2010)
  13. Pet Sematary by Stephen King (6/29/2010)
  14. Blockade Billy+ by Stephen King (6/9/2011)
  15. 11/22/63*+ by Stephen King (11/18/2011)
  16. The Green Mile+ by Stephen King (11/23/2011)
  17. Full Dark, No Stars+ by Stephen King (7/5/2012)
  18. Bag of Bones+ by Stephen King (7/10/2012)
  19. It*+^ by Stephen King (7/30/2012)
  20. 11/22/63*^+ by Stephen King (2/19/2013)
  21. Misery@ by Stephen King (2/23/2013)
  22. Gerald’s Game@ by Stephen King (3/3/2013)
  23. Hearts in Atlantis@* by Stephen King (3/8/2013)
  24. On Writing@^ by Stephen King (3/14/2013)
  25. Needful Things@^ by Stephen King (3/20/2013)
  26. ‘Salem’s Lot@^ by Stephen King (3/25/2013)
  27. From A Buick 8@ by Stephen King (3/29/2013)
  28. The Tommyknockers@ by Stephen King (4/6/2013)
  29. Dreamcatcher@ by Stephen King (4/13/2013)
  30. It@^ by Stephen King (5/2/2013)
  31. 11/22/63@^ by Stephen King (5/16/2013)
  32. The Shining@^ by Stephen King (5/21/2013)
  33. Danse Macabre@ by Stephen King (5/27/2013)
  34. Carrie@^ by Stephen King (5/29/2013)
  35. On Writing@^ by Stephen King (6/4/2013)
  36. Joyland@* by Stephen King (6/5/2013)
  37. The Dark Tower, Book 1: The Gunslinger@ by Stephen King (6/7/2013)
  38. The Dark Tower, Book 2: The Drawing of Three@ by Stephen King (6/12/2013)
  39. The Dark Tower, Book 3: The Wastelands@ by Stephen King (6/18/2013)
  40. Hard Listening+ by Stephen King, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, et. al. (6/24/2013)
  41. Dolores Claiborne@ by Stephen King (6/27/2013)
  42. The Dark Tower, Book 4: Wizard and Glass@* by Stephen King (7/10/2013)
  43. The Dark Tower, Book 5: Wolves of the Calla@ by Stephen King (7/26/2013)
  44. The Dark Tower, Book 6: Song of Susannah@ by Stephen King (7/30/2013)
  45. The Dark Tower, Book 7: The Dark Tower@ by Stephen King (8/7/2013)
  46. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon@ by Stephen King (9/24/2013)
  47. Doctor Sleep@ by Stephen King (9/29/2013)
  48. On Writing@^* by Stephen King (10/31/2013)
  49. The Wind Through the Keyhole@* by Stephen King (11/5/2013)
  50. The Langoliers@ by Stephen King (11/15/2013)
  51. The Library Policeman@ by Stephen King (11/21/2013)
  52. The Sun Dog@ by Stephen King (11/27/2013)
  53. Nightmares & Dreamscapes, Volume 1@ by Stephen King (12/4/2013)
  54. Everything’s Eventual: 5 Dark Tales@ by Stephen King (12/26/2013)
  55. The Man in the Black Suit: 4 Dark Tales@ by Stephen King (12/27/2013)
  56. Christine@ by Stephen King (1/8/2014)
  57. The Shawshank Redemption@* by Stephen King (1/17/2014)
  58. The Body@* by Stephen King (1/24/2014)
  59. It@*^ by Stephen King (4/3/2014)
  60. From A Buick 8^*@ by Stephen King (4/18/2014)
  61. 11/22/63@^* by Stephen King (6/1/2014)
  62. Mile 81@ by Stephen King (6/2/2014)
  63. Mr. Mercedes@ by Stephen King (6/6/2014)
  64. Joyland@^ by Stephen King (6/9/2014)
  65. The Shawshank Redemption@*^ by Stephen King (6/29/2014)
  66. Revival@ by Stephen King (11/20/2014)

I then compared this to the list of books in Stephen King’s Library to see what I haven’t read. The list turns out to be an interesting one:

  1. Rage (as by Richard Bachman)
  2. The Long Walk (as by Richard Bachman)
  3. Roadwork (as by Richard Bachman)
  4. Cujo
  5. The Running Man (as by Richard Bachman)
  6. Cycle of the Werewolf
  7. The Talisman (w/Peter Straub)
  8. The Eyes of the Dragon
  9. Thinner (as by Richard Bachman)
  10. The Dark Half
  11. Insomnia
  12. Rose Madder
  13. Desperation
  14. The Regulators
  15. The Plant: Zenith Rising
  16. Black House
  17. The Colorado Kid
  18. Cell
  19. Lisey’s Story
  20. Blaze (as by Richard Bachman)
  21. Duma Key

I haven’t read any of the Bachman books yet. Perhaps the biggest standout on the list is Cujo. I’ve started it a couple of times, but have always ended up distracted by other things. I take it as a sign that I just can’t get into the book. King says his favorite book is Lisey’s Story, and I’ve managed to make it halfway through that one, but have given up. I was thinking about re-reading Hearts in Atlantis, which I thought was great the first time I read it, but I do want to give something a try that I haven’t read yet. So at this moment, I’m leaning toward Insomnia. I’ve stayed away from that book mainly because King himself has said it was overly plotted. But it can’t hurt to give it a try and see for myself.

I’m still undecided, but I’ll let you know what I choose. If there are any books on this list that you feel are a MUST READ, let me know in the comments.

New books I’ve obtained over the holidays… so far

Iam, apparently, still on my nonfiction kick for the most part. I will finish up my re-reading of Caesar and Christ today, and begin a long-awaited re-read of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. After that, I think it is back to nonfiction, and here is some of the nonfiction that I’ve acquired around the holidays to fortify me.

  • The Autobiography of Mark Twain (Volumes 1 & 2) by Mark Twain
  • No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli1
  • The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer
  • I, Claudius by Robert Graves

I can’t say this with certainty, but I am beginning to get the feeling that I write better fiction when I am reading nonfiction. I think when I am reading fiction, I am too liable to fall into the trap of trying to imitate the style of whatever author I happen to be reading.

In any case, I am looking forward to all of these books in the new year.

  1. I read this in college, and even wrote a paper on it, but I have no memory of it today.

Audiobooks: Listening vs. Reading

They say that with age comes wisdom, and that part of wisdom is the ability to allow your opinions to be changed with changing facts, arguments, or the natural flow of time. Long time readers will no doubt recall the opinion I once held that audiobooks were not for me. It is interesting to look at that post from nearly 3 years ago and the 4 arguments I made against my own use of audiobooks, and compare them to how my opinions have changed today.

1. The voice bothers me

I wrote,

I am so used to my own internal voice, and the voices I make up in my head for various characters, that I can’t bear the voice of someone else reading to me.

I look upon this statement today as both naive and somewhat self-centered. Since February 2013, I’ve read 80 audiobooks, and if anything, I have learned that the narrator tends to enhance the book rather than detract from it. Indeed, today I would argue that there is at least one advantage to audiobooks over regular books:

A good audiobook narrator will lead me to books I might otherwise not have chosen to read

The one dimension to audiobooks that doesn’t exist in other forms of the books (paper, electronic) is the narrator or narrators who read the books. I have found that I enjoy some narrators so much, that I will seek out other books that they have read, books that I might never have chosen to read if not for the narrator. A few examples of these include:

  • Danse Macabre by Stephen King. Read primarily because it was narrated by William Dufris, a narrator I first heard read John Scazli’s The Human Division. I probably would have gotten to the book eventually, but Dufris brought me to it much sooner, and I enjoyed the book.
  • Blue Highways by William Least-Heat Moon. My dad recommended this book to me years ago, but I didn’t read it until early this summer when I discovered that Joe Barrett narrated the audiobook version. I first heard Joe Barrett as the narrator of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, and as soon as I finished that book, I started looking for other books that Barrett narrated.

Seeking out books because of the narrator provides yet another window into a book that I might not already have read. My “internal voice” which I was so used to three years ago would never have led me to these narrators and thus opened the doors to these other great books.

2. I cannot divide my attention to make listening and doing something else worthwhile.

This is an example of not seeing the big picture. To a large extent, I was forced to audiobooks precisely because I found that my time during the day was too limited to allow me to read as much as I wanted to read. The big lure of audiobooks was that I could multitask. This has become my biggest time saving tip, one that I have talked about in a variety of places, including my “How I Work” interview with Lifehacker earlier this year.

My days are very busy. I try to break them up with exercise, and my preferred exercise is to take long walks at various times throughout the day. During these walks, I listen to audiobooks, and I can usually ensure at least 2 hours of walking–and therefore 2 hours of listening time–each day.

I find that I have little problem dividing my attention between walking and listening to audiobooks. Occasionally my attention wanders, but it is easy to go back and re-listen to what it was I missed. The same happens when reading a book from time-to-time.

Moreover, I can listen to audiobooks while doing things that I can’t do while reading: chores around the house being one big example. And then, of course, there is listening to audiobooks while on long drives where I am the driver.

So, yes, I was absolutely wrong when I said that I could not divide my attention between listening to an audiobook and doing some other kind of activity. The bulk of my listening has occurred while doing other things.

Continue reading Audiobooks: Listening vs. Reading

My Controversial Book Post: On “Used” Books


I have always had strong feelings about books. Books have been such a big part of my life that it impossible not to develop feelings about them. Lately, however, while my opinions remain strong, I’v found that they have changed in a fundamental way.

For as long as I can remember, I have always tried to treat my books gently. The thought of a creased page corner to bookmark a page filled me with horror. I always handled paperback books with tenderness, taking particular care not to crack the spine of the book. When I read a hardcover book with a dust jacket, I was always careful to remove the dust jacket so as not to damage it in the handling of the book. I was often loathe to loan out books out of fear that the person to whom I lent the book, regardless of how much I trusted them, would not uphold my standards of reverence for the tomes.

I find these day, however, that I no longer feel this way. My reverence for books has never been higher, but looking back on my gentle treatment of books over the last twenty years or so, I see what appears to be now as silly, and even selfish behavior with respect to books. Indeed, my opinion on the handling of books has taken an almost 180 degree turn. Here are just a few of the ways my opinions have changed.

Books should be used, and well-used at that

Books tell two stories: the story the author has written, and the story of readers interaction with that writing. Whereas folding down a page corner to marks a spot in the book used to look like a desecration to me, I now see it as a reader’s interaction with the book. The creased page may simply provide history: where the reader paused in their reading. On the other hand, it may provide other insights. It may be a place that the reader found particularly insightful, or particularly annoying.

A pristine book looks good on a shelf or in a collection, but a pristine book is also very likely an unread book, and what good is an unread book. Whereas I used to love the way a brand new hardcover book looked freshly arrived home from the bookstore, I now find that I much prefer the look of a well-used book. A book with a wrinkled dust jacket, and with page edges yellowed from constant touching is a beautiful sight. Indeed, sitting down with a pristine book and reading it so well that by the time the book is finished, it looks well-used has become an almost sublime experience for me.

It has also made me realize that the unique aspect of wandering the stacks of a used book store, or a library , is the fact that all of the books there are well-used, and often by many people. It is quite an accomplishment to produce a book that many people want to read, and for which many copies are printed. It is an exceptional accomplishment when a single copy is read again and again by either the same person, or many people.

Today, there is nothing that looks so good to me as well-worn book. Indeed, I see a well-worn book as a book of the happiest sort. And while I am a big fan of e-books and audiobooks, even a oft-read or listened to e-book or audiobook lacks a well-worn look.

Books should be a collaboration between author and readers

I used to cringe when I opened a book in a used bookstore, to find that the previous owner had scribbled in the margins, or worse, highlighted passages throughout the book. How could someone deface a book in such a manner?

Now, I see this in a very different light. Writing in the margins of a book is a reader’s way of holding a dialog with the author. It is an ancient method. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams frequently wrote in the margins of their books. Perhaps in middle age, the revelation has come to me that writing in my books, highlighting passages, jotting notes, counterarguments, and other things is a way for me to interact not only with the text but with the author. When you think about it, this is pretty remarkable. You can have arguments with Mark Twain, or Mary Shelly, or Carl Sagan, or Marcus Aurelius.

Marginal notes and highlights provide not only a dialog with the text, but also a history of the reader’s interaction with the text. Over the course of successive readings, a reader might find their opinions changing in the margins of the book. If you are lucky, you might come across a copy of the book with some anonymous reader’s notes already in the margins, to which you can add your own. Now, the dialog has become something more, a unique discussion among readers that potentially span decades.

Continue reading My Controversial Book Post: On “Used” Books

My 6 Best Reads of 2014

I thought about waiting until 2014 is actually over before posting about my best reads this year, but I figured if there is a late-comer in the next few weeks, nothing prevents me from revising my list. It would have to be a really fantastic late-comer, but anything is possible.

Note that I called this my best reads of 2014. I did this because many of the books I read this year were not published in 2014. I want it to be clear that these mark the books that I most enjoyed reading this year, even if they weren’t published this year. Call me quirky.

Indeed, calling these “reads” is a little disingenuous, too, as most of these were audio book, and I listened to them. I have come, reluctantly, to accept that reading and listening are two different activities, but for the sake of simplicity, they produce the same result within me, and so I use the phrases interchangeably, much to the dismay of many. Again, call me quirky.

To date, I have read 36 books so far this year. That is down from last year, but there were a couple of really long book this year and that makes up for some of it. 20 of those 36 books (56%) were nonfiction. 6 of the 36 books were re-reads of books I’d already read. Here then, are my best reads of 2014.

6. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

I’d never read anything by John Irving before, and wracking my brain, I can’t think of what it was that made me decide to tackle A Prayer for Owen Meany. But I thought it was fantastic, and this is one example where an audiobook almost certainly gives added dimension to the printed page, for Joe Barrett’s impression of Owen Meany’s unusual voice was pitch-perfect. Indeed, because of Joe Barrett’s excellent narration of this book, I sought out other books that Barrett has narrated.

5. The Martian by Andy Weir

This book was a hard science fiction-fan’s playground. What happens when an astronaut is accidentally left-behind on the Martian surface? How long can he survive? Turns out, a pretty long time. This novel was the exception to the rule that technical description in a science fiction novel can be boring and get the way. I listened to much of this book on the long drive home from our summer vacation in Maine, and that meant that Kelly–who is anything but a hard science fiction fan–listened to it a well. She got caught up in it for while. Eventually, she drifted to sleep, lulled by the highway, but when she awakened, the very first thing she asked me was, “Did he make off the planet?”

4. Great Baseball Writing: Sports Illustrated 1954-2004 edited by Rob Fleder

If the human lifespan ever stretched out to the point where multiple careers were possible in a single lifetime, I think I’d turn my attention to becoming a sportswriter, and specifically, a baseball writer. The long pieces in this collection appeared throughout a 50-year span of Sports Illustrated, giving a picture of the game, and its participants (to say nothing of the times in which they played) in a way that only baseball sportswriters can capture

Continue reading My 6 Best Reads of 2014

Ignore That Last Post!

Earlier today I foolishly listed out the next three books I’d planned on reading. I even cautioned that such lists were foolish because what I desire to read changes quite rapidly, often affected by what I’ve just read in some way or another. I mentioned how I just finished reading The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time in probably 30 years; certainly the first time as an adult. And I said that up next was a biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

What on earth made me think I could finish reading The Fellowship of the Ring and not want to continue on with The Two Towers.

Well, that’s just what I have done, and so please ignore that last post, and quite possibly, ignore me. I tend to be foolish in this regard, and let this stand as one of countless examples of such foolishness.