All posts by Jamie Todd Rubin

About Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin writes fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including Analog, Clarkesworld, The Daily Beast, 99U, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies. He was featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He has been blogging since 2005. By day, he manages software projects and occasionally writes code. He lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and three children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.

Digital Pack Rat

I wish clearing up my digital photos was as easy as clearing out the house for moving. There are a lot of things I am unsentimental about. I get rid of old clothes without a second glance. Marie Kondo would be proud. I look at something that’s been stored away for ages and dump it. If I haven’t needed it for the last six years, I’m not going to need it now. Digital photos are different. There are 23,465 digital photos in my photo library as I write this. I don’t think I’ve deleted one.

My logic is always the same: it costs nothing to keep the photo. It doesn’t occupy physical space the way 23,465 Polaroids would. So why get rid of them? They provide an unedited collage of my life for the last twenty years or so.

The problem is that I am not organized about my photos the way I am in other parts of my life. I’ve made reluctant attempts at organization now and then, but my heart was never in it. I’ve had all kinds of great ideas for photo taxonomies that would allow me to put my finger on a photo within seconds. These ideas never pan out. I just don’t have the interest. And yet the photos accrue.

Look at all of these screenshots I’ve captured! I don’t even get rid of these. I think, for some reason, that I’ll need a particular screenshot at some point in the future. This is preposterous, but the screenshots are still part of my photo library.

I must have dozens of pictures of a barn in Maine. The barn doesn’t change much. But I have my phone, so I take the picture, even though I know I already have plenty.

That barn in Maine
That barn in Maine.

Digital photography has created a crisis and turned me into a digital packrat. I find myself wishing that we still had to put film in a camera, or that there was some equivalent cost to a digital photo. I think I’d be more careful about what pictures I decided to snap, and what I chose to keep.

I’ve been taking fewer photos these last two months. Many of the photos I had taken previously were taken spontaneously with the thought, “This would make a good post on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram.” But when I gave up social media and found myself pulling out my phone to snap a photo of the two deer munching away at shrubs alongside the bike path, I made a decision. I slipped my phone back into my pocket and decided to stand there and watch the deer. No photos necessary.

Deer
The deer that I didn’t photograph When I started thinking about this post, I snapped a photo the next time I saw her. Actually, I snapped three.

The 23,465 photos in my library will only continue to grow and continue to be disorganized. Whenever I get the idea to purge and organize the photos, I break out in a cold sweat. The number alone—23,465 (and counting)—terrifies me. If I managed to look at, and make a decision on, 100 photos a day, it would take me nearly 8 months before I finished. And by then, who knows how many more photos will have appeared.

Thinking about how difficult it is to purge all of those photos make it so much easier to get rid of the physical stuff around the house. The more I can get rid of the, the less I have to move to the new house.

Which reminds me: I need to get over there next week and take pictures of all of the rooms so that I know where everything is going to go.

The Mirror in the Bedroom

We spent several weeks clearing out our house to properly stage it for sale.The house sold on the very first day it was on the market, which was great, but it made me feel that all that decluttering was wasted. Now the house is beginning to take on that pre-move cluttered look, and before long I suspect it will be in complete disarray.

For instance, there was a full length mirror behind the door in one of the kids’ bedrooms. We’d taken it down and stuffed it into a closet. It was gone last weekend when I needed to check my tie in the mirror. It reappeared lasted night, leaning in the space between two closet doors in our bedroom.

That mirror has some kind of magical power. No one in the house can walk by it without stopping in front of it and striking a pose of some kind. I was laying in bed reading last night and was distracted by what seemed like a parade passing by that mirror:

  • Kelly would stop in front of it to see how the new Vineyard Vines apparel she got on sale at Target looked. There wasn’t time to do that at Target because there was a line just to get at the stuff.
  • The Little Miss would stroll past and strike a pose, while lip syncing to some song or other.
  • My youngest would walk right up to the mirror, grip both sides of its frame, and start blowing kisses at her reflection.
  • I stopped in front of it to look at my eyebrows. The barber was supposed to trim them the last time I got a haircut and forgot. So I decided to check to see if there were any strands particularly out of control.

I knew the mirror was going to be a problem. I was certain that I wake going to wake up in the middle of the night, catch reflected movement off the mirror, and think that someone was standing by the closet.

A thunderstorm passed through around midnight, and one clap exploded right overhead loud enough to jolt us out of sleep. Still half asleep, heart pounding a little from the abrupt awakened, I climbed out of bed and padded the short distance to the bathroom. I do this more often in the middle of the night than I used to. My doctor assures me that at my age, it would be a problem if I wasn’t doing as often.

I took about three steps, and caught motion off to my right. I startled, jumped back a little, and saw someone else jump back in surprise. It was that damn mirror!

I turned the mirror around so that it wasn’t reflecting everything that was happening in the room. I thought if no one saw their reflections, they’d stop pausing in front of it. When I came back to the room a few hours later and caught sight of myself, I realized that someone had turned it back around again.

I can’t wait until we are in the new house and the mirror is back behind the door where it belongs.

You Say Tomato, I Say Blah

I can no longer remember what a good tomato tastes like. Every tomato I’ve consumed over the last ten years or so has no discernible flavor. This came to a head on Thursday when I ordered my usual sandwich for lunch. I order the same thing for lunch every day. I do this because I like it, but also because I know exactly how many calories the sandwich has, and because it is one less decision I have to make. On Wednesday, the tomatoes on the sandwich were so tasteless that on Thursday, I ordered the sandwich without tomatoes.

I like tomatoes, and I recall a time when they were sweet and juicy. Now, it seems, all of the flavor has been engineered out of them. I’ve tried organic tomatoes from the grocery store: same result. And I’ve tried “farm fresh” tomatoes from the farmers market. No luck there either. It makes me skeptical about just how farm fresh those farmers market veggies really are.

The strange thing is that things made from tomatoes taste the same as they always have. Spaghetti sauce, ketchup, tomato soup: these haven’t changed. Perhaps there was never much tomato in them to begin with, or perhaps the other ingredients have a stronger taste than the tomatoes. I suspect that some tomatoes are grown specifically for these products, and these tomatoes still have their flavor. Those are the tomatoes that I want.

My dad used to drink tomato juice, and I’ve often wanted to like tomato juice, but it tastes just awful to me. I tried it recently, and it still tastes awful, but even that has more flavor than the bland slices on my sandwich, or in a salad.

Other vegetable still taste good to me. At least, they still have flavor. Tomatoes seem to be the big exception. That’s too bad because I love to make the occasional B.L.T. sandwich, and nothing makes the B.L.T. as much as the perfect tomato slice. That means gone are the good B.L.T.’s

There will be people out there, I’m sure, who will attribute the tomatoes loss of flavor to genetic modification. Tomatoes have been tinkered with to the point where they last forever, and the side-effect of this is the lack of flavor. Perhaps that’s so, but I have a different theory. I think the tomatoes just got fed up with us, and decided the best way they could avoid being eaten would be to lose the one thing that made them edible.

Laugh Out Loud

I am prone to laugh out loud at something that amuses me. I’ve lost count of the times Kelly has said to me, “What’s so funny?” because I am laughing. Not chuckling, you understand, but laughing from the gut. I thought I would make a list of things that make me laugh out loud. These are in no particular order.

  • Reading. I often laugh at something I read. This is especially true if it is something written by Andy Rooney or E. B. White. After calming down, I have this terrible habit of reading aloud what made me laugh to whoever is in earshot. I call this a terrible habit because I would hate anyone who inflicted such misery upon me. This is how I know Kelly has a good heart.
  • Bloopers. I could spend a large chunk of my life doing nothing but watching bloopers from classic television shows on YouTube. Whenever I am feeling a bit down, I’ll watch bloopers, and come away with tears in my eyes. Not from sadness, but from laughter. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve fallen off my chair laughing at bloopers.
  • Pride before the fall. Although I should be ashamed of this, whenever one of my kids does something stupid and then falls down because of it, my first reaction is to laugh. “Don’t run around in there!” I’ll shout, “the floor is still wet.” Off the kids go, running, until the legs go out from under one of them. I am helpless with laugher at this point.

There are things that should make be laugh out loud but only make me chuckle. Here are a few:

  • Most jokes people tell. I think this is because most people are lousy joke-tellers, or are excellent joke-tellers, but tell lousy jokes.
  • Television sit-coms. I will mostly chuckle, with a rare laugh out loud. The bloopers are usually much funnier than the sitcom. I wonder if it has ever occurred to someone to produce a sitcom, but never air it; instead air only the outtakes.
  • Stand-up routines. I chuckle at these as well. Here the jokes are better, but these days, they are cleverer than they are funny. Clever only gets a chuckle.

There is one thing that made me laugh harder than anything I’ve ever laughed at in my life, but that I will never laugh so hard at again: my grandpa’s laugh. His laugh is indescribable, capable writer though I am. I am not even going to try. But when he got going, it was a phenomenon that would reduce me to jelly. I try now and then to recall the sound of that laugh, but as time passes, it fades more and more.

There is only one joke I have ever heard that produced a similar laugh out loud reaction and reduced me to jelly. No, I’m not going to tell you the joke. Why? Because it is an excellent joke, and I am a lousy joke-teller.

New Beginnings

New Year’s resolutions are convenient because they are tied to the calendar. A fresh new calendar means a fresh new beginning, a way of wiping away the past and starting from scratch. I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. I prefer, instead, using my birthday as a time to start something new. After all, in the world of me, my birthday is my New Year.

There is, however, an even better time for putting new resolutions and ideas into practice: moving to a new house.

We are moving to our new house in June. It is the house that, at this point, we plan to be in at least until the kids are all off to college, which means at least another 16 years. It seems like after that we could reasonably downsize. By then, of course, the kids will be coming home for holidays, and bring with them significant others, and eventually, perhaps, kids of their own, so maybe we’ll have this house longer than twenty years. Certainly the bank hopes we will.

I have been looking over my cluttered desk in my office here, and daydreaming how wonderful my new office will be. My current office is a spare bedroom, that’s about 115 square feet. There is a single window looking out back into the tops of some trees. None of my books are here, as they won’t fit. I have this small desk, and it is constantly cluttered. My new office is nearly three times the size of my current office. I like having a lot of sunlight when I work, and my new office has window on three sides. In that respect, it is more like a sun room than an office. All of my books will fit in the new office, although I’ll need to get some half-sized bookshelves to go along one wall.

I think that my new office will solve all of my problems. I’ll write better in my new office. I’ll have a desk that can handle a bigger screen, and they’ll be no need to hide the mechanical keyboard in a tray beneath the desk. I will separate the areas that I work and write. On one side of the office, I’ll have desk where I do my work. On the other side, I’ll have a desk at which I can sit and write. That desk will face toward the backyard, which overlooks the trees and woods of the local park. It’s important to be able to stare out at nothing when I am writing, and the trees make a pleasant nothing to stare at. I imagine that once I am setup in my new office, that bestseller that I’ve been meaning to write will finally take shape. Traffic here on the blog will increase a hundredfold because of the improved quality of my posts thanks to my new office.

Of course, the office is just one part of the new house. There is, for instance, a large space in the utility room that can be used for storage. Instead of tossing all of the junk in there haphazardly, I plan on putting in shelves, and stacking things neatly on the shelves. I plan to keep extras. One shelf will have a supply of every kind of light bulb we need for the house. On another shelf we’ll stock the toilet paper. The tools will be neatly organized, and some of the more frequently used ones will be hung on the wall. I will install bolts that can hold the ladder so that it is no longer stored in the guest room.

Moving into the new house seems like the best time to reorganize the kitchen so that is it more sensible and functional. I am always preparing food far away from the dishes and utensils I need, so when we get into the new place, I’m going to figure out where I will prepare the food and put the dishes and utensils there.

This is a great opportunity to clean out the closets. I give clothes I no longer wear to Kelly when she takes things for donations. We’ve filled the car with these donations, and yet the closet seems as full as ever. This time I’m really going to purge. The closets in the new house will be empty when we arrive, and should appear only half-full once we’ve moved in.

The new house has a big deck in back, just off the kitchen. The deck overlooks the woods to the local park. We generally eat dinner together as a family, and I am going to resolve that we try to eat outside more than we do inside, at least between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Yes, moving to the new house will be a new beginning, and I can already feel my life improved by these big changes I intend to make. I explained all this to Kelly, and she reminded me of a few things:

  • We’ll need to put the table the kids use to do their homework in the office for the time being, so I’ll need to work on just one desk instead of two.
  • Until we get that shed, all of the bikes will need to go in the utility room. That’s better than in the living room where they have been, but it means I’ll need to hold off on the shelves, and thus, the organization of the junk that goes on them.
  • Kelly reminded me that I never know where anything goes in the kitchen, and besides, she prepares dinner more than I do, so she should be the one to organize the kitchen for peak efficiency.
  • The closets in the bedrooms are somewhat smaller than what we have now. I’ll have to use a closet downstairs in the family room for my clothes, no matter how much I manage to get rid of.
  • May thru September is peak mosquito season. Eating dinner out on the deck every night sounds nice in principle. In practice, it may be more irritating than it is worth.

Except for all that, boy I can’t wait to move into the house, and get started on this new beginning!

For Want of a Paperclip

I was helping the Little Miss with her math homework the other day. This second-grader of mine is learning statistics. I don’t recall learning statistics in second grade. The thing I recall most about second grade was learning to churn ice cream. The page she was assigned in her math book had a circle divided into four equal parts. Two were shaded black, one white, and one grey. The instructions said to spin a paperclip in the circle twelve times, and note how many times it pointed to each color. These results would then be used to complete a set of fractions.

A paperclip is a wonderful invention. Even its shape is elegant, rounded as it is on both ends. This led to the first problem. The instructions, presumably written for a second grader to understand, did not explain how we should know which end of the paper clip was pointing to color in question. Both ends look the same.

This would have been a serious showstopper, but we were saved this embarrassment because I could not locate a paperclip to save my life. Where have all of the paperclips gone? I went about the house in frantic search of a paperclip. I spent twice as long trying to locate one than it would have taken to complete the entire assignment.

Usually, I can find a stray paperclip or two in a desk drawer. But my desk no longer has drawers, and hasn’t now for five years. There is almost always a paperclip attached to the back page of the Field Notes notebook I carry in my pocket. Alas, my current notebook has no paperclip. It was lost at some point, and I haven’t replaced it (probably because I haven’t been able to find a paperclip).

I used to keep a paperclip in the car for reasons that now elude me. Out to the car I went, but no paperclip there either. There is often a paperclip or two along the floorboard behind my desk, but since we had the carpets replaced, that carpet is pristine and free of paperclips.

The funny thing about paperclips is that I almost never use them for clipping paper–Field Notes notebook excepted. Often I bend them out of shape and use the pointy end for resetting a device, or scrapping dust bunnies from the charging port on my iPhone.

According to a 2011 piece in The Atlantic, Americans buy 11 billion paperclips a year. That’s close to a hundred billion paperclips in the years since, and not one to be found anywhere. I couldn’t even find a paperclip to photograph for this post! Who’s hoarding all of the paperclips?

The Little Miss eventually reminded me that she needed to get this homework done. To do it, we needed to generate 12 random numbers between 1 and 4. Since I couldn’t locate the paperclip we were instructed to use, I did the next best thing. I ran downstairs to the game shelf. The Little Man had a new (and so-far, unused) Dungeons & Dragons starter set. I figured I’d grab the 4-sided die and use that. But the games had already been packed away for our upcoming move.

Frustrated, the Little Miss and I sat at the table and twelve times, we asked Alexa to pick a random number between one and four. What could have been done with a paperclip, now required an entire neural network.

I started to worry, as I finished writing this post, that “paperclip” might not be spelled as one word. I reached for the dictionary, forgot that it was packed away (probably with the Dungeons & Dragons set, and all of the paperclips) and with a reluctant sigh, pulled up the Merriam-Webster site and looked up the word. Turns out, it is two words: paper clip.

I’m not going to change it though. I’m too worn out from running around the house in a failed attempt to locate a paperclip.

My Cluttered Desk

There are some things in life that you just have to accept. For me, it is that, no matter how much I will it otherwise, my desk will always be cluttered. Each spring, I de-clutter my desk. Each spring, I make a solemn vow that this time, my desk will remain uncluttered. Thus envowed, my desk remains uncluttered. I think the record is about a week. Then it resumes its natural state of clutter.

My cluttered desk, today
My cluttered desk, today.

I’ve come to accept this as one of those things about myself that I cannot change. I remind myself of that clever epigram:

If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, what is the sign of an empty desk?

What, then, can I change? Why, the desk of course! I used to have a great big wooden desk. Despite its size, there never seemed to be enough surface area for my needs. I got rid of it years ago, and switched to a smaller, glass-topped desk. This made it easier to have two computers, but still, there is never enough surface area.

The problem is that I don’t use both computers at once. But I often have a notebook open to take notes. Meanwhile, books and things pile up. My spare glasses are there. A stack of critiqued manuscripts that I got back from my writers group two weeks ago. Atop one pile is the smoke detector from our bedroom. The battery began to give out the other day, and is sitting there awaiting replacement.

I tried solving this problem a while back by adding some wall-mounted shelves above my desk. Frequently used things went there: my dictionaries, The Elements of Style, my Field Notes notebooks. What happened was that within a week, those shelves were cluttered too.

At the end of the month we’ll be moving to our new house. There, I’ll have a brand new office, more than twice the size of my current one. I plan on giving this cluttered desk to the Little Man for use in his room. I will buy a new desk. I need one with a lot of surface area. I started browsing around for possibilities: there are small desks, large desks, sit-stand desks, computers desks, executive desks. But I have yet to see the one that I am looking for.

That would be the Uncluttered Desk.

Bookmarks

Bookmarks are hard to find. At least, I am seeing fewer and fewer of them floating around. Of course, with so many books available in e-book form, it’s no wonder that there are fewer bookmarks.

I like bookmarks, but often use anything but a bookmark to hold my place. The most frequent object I put toward this use is a business card. Business cards have the same thickness of a bookmark. They fit squarely between the pages. They do the job very well. I also feel less guilty about them sitting on my desk or in my wallet, going unused.

We are packing up for a move to a new house, and when I went to look for a business card for the book I’m reading, I couldn’t find one. The book is a hardcover, with a dust jacket, and that is like having a built-in bookmark. I just slide the end of the dust jacket between the pages I want marked.

Dust jacket bookmark
My dust-jacket bookmark.

Most things make terrible bookmarks. In a pinch, I can tear a sheet of paper and slide it between pages. It used to be that a piece of mail would do the trick, but there is so little of that around these days. Then there’s always the possibility of folding down the corner of a page, but avoid that kind of sadism.

E-books have fancy bookmarking capabilities which I rarely use. I don’t know why that is. My Kindle app allows me to place as many bookmarks as I want. Before e-books, the most bookmarks I ever used for one book was two: one to hold my place in the text, the other to keep my place in the endnotes, if they were particularly interesting. I have never found a reason to use more than one bookmark in an e-book. They are no even needed for endnotes because you can jump back and forth between the endnotes and text.

Audiobooks have the worst bookmarks. I love audiobooks but the bookmark system is virtually unusable. The reason for this is that I don’t know I want to mark something until I’ve heard it, at which point I’ve past it. It is complicated and time-consuming to back up to right where I want the bookmark. If I feel the need to bookmark (or annotate) an audiobook, I usually listen along with a copy of the print or e-book.

The thing I miss most about bookmarks is the nice collection I grew from used bookstores. More e-book reading and audiobook listening, combined with fewer used bookstores means fewer opportunities for new bookmarks.

Most magazines come with built-in bookmarks: those annoying cards that ask you to renew your subscription, or send a gift subscription to a friend. When a new magazine arrives in the mail, I rip out all of those cards, and toss all but one–and then use that one as a bookmark until I am finished with the magazine.

Some Reading Stats

I was looking at my reading stats the other day. I happened to make a table that presenting how many books I’ve read each month over the last 24-1/3 years, and noticed a few interesting things. I thought I’d share them here.

  • My list goes back to 1996. The first year in which I read at least one book every month of the year was 1998.
  • There are only two months over the last 24+ years during which I never failed to read at least one book: February and April. I have no idea why that is.
  • The longest stretch I have gone without reading a book is 5 months between September 2007 and January 2008. I know why. That was when I started dating the woman who is now my wife.
  • The longest consecutive streak of reading at least one book a month is at present 52 months and counting. The last time I didn’t read at least one book in month was January 2015.
  • The most books I’ve read in a month is 15 (twice). I might tie that record again, but I think it will be tough to beat.
  • I’ve read more books in March (99) than any other month. November has second place (84), followed by December in third place (82).
  • I’ve read the fewest books in July (56).
  • In 24-1/3 years, I’ve read, on average, just over 3 books per month.
  • Before 2013, that average is 2.5 books/month. Since 2013, that average is 5 books/month, or double what it was. Why? Audiobooks.
  • Last year (2018) was by far my best year as far as reading was concerned. I read 130 books. That’s an average of 11 books per month. I’m on track to read about 110 book in 2019.

The Night King (Spoiler-Free)

The most recent episode of Game of Thrones, “The Long Night,” has been coming back to me again and again over the last six days. It is the music that has me thinking about the episode. When she watched the episode, my wife, Kelly, was not impressed by the music. But I found it to be a unique and emotionally important part of the episode. In particular, the track titled, “The Night King” has stayed with me. The track is available on the iTunes store and I’ve listed to it about a dozen times. I think it is about the best music I have heard from the series thus far. Ramin Djawadi has created something remarkable.

I was listening to it late this afternoon, and my older daughter, the former Little Miss, said that it sounded like music you’d hear going into a haunted house. I think what she meant was that the music was haunting. And given the context of the music in the episode, I’d say she was spot on. What I find remarkable about this is that none of our kids have seen Game of Thrones so they had no idea what the latest episode was about. And yet she thought the music was haunting, too. I think that says a lot about the power of the music, that it draws out exactly the right emotions, even for someone who has no idea what the show is about.

500 Years of da Vinci’s Notebooks

Thursday marked the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death. In the chaos of the week it was lost to me, which is too bad because I meant to write about it then. It first came to my attention in October 2017 as I read Walter Isaacson’s magnificent biography of da Vinci. I remember thinking then that I have to make a mental note that the 500th anniversary of his death was mere year and a half away. How time flies!

It was brought back to my attention yesterday morning when I read the cover story in the May 2019 issue of National Geographic, “Leonardo’s Enduring Brilliance” by Claudia Kalb. Toward the end of the article, it noted da Vinci’s death on May 2, 1519.

There are many impressive things about da Vinci, not the least of which was his curiosity about the world around him. But what has impressed me most about da Vinci, the more I learn of him, is the prolific manner in which he recorded his curiosity in his notebooks, and the mind-boggling fact that over 7,000 pages of those notebooks have survived the five centuries for us to read and study today.

Nothing has made a more profound impression upon me than this. In a world where so much of what we do is captured in a digital medium, paper still proves to be among the most reliable storage systems ever created. I’d been keeping Field Notes notebooks in my pockets for several years before reading the da Vinci biography. Afterward, I moved my journals back to paper form, so impressed was I with the sheer durability and reliability of the medium.

In the year and a half since, I haven’t changed my mind. I always have a Field Notes notebook in my pocket, and my journals are still captured in large Moleskine notebooks, four of which I have filled up in 18 months. I don’t know that these notebooks will last 500 years, but I suspect they will outlive this blog, for instance.

There are trade-offs, of course. The paper journals are more difficult to search, but spending some time indexing them helps with that. They are not “always available” the way cloud-based data is. If I am traveling, I have my current journal with me, but not the past volumes, so if I need to look something up, it has to wait until I get home. On the other hand, I like the simplicity of pen, ink, and paper. I paste in a lot of printed photos so that I get a low-tech multimedia experience. And being a low-tech solution, the journals don’t require a computer, power source, or anything else to maintain.

Perhaps because so much of what I do these days is on a computer, these notebooks offer a reprieve from that. It’s nice to sit down at the end of the day, or first thing in the morning, and write in them, longhand. There is, it seems to me, far less distance between me and other diarists I admire when I am scribbling in these books. I could be in the same room as Isaac Asimov, or John Adams, or even Leonardo da Vinci, each of us scribbling away on paper.

Coming Soon

Sometimes, I spend an hour or so looking into the future. I skim lists of books that are “coming soon” to see if anything piques my interest. I keep a list of the ones that interest me, and this list is never completely empty. Even as “coming soon” becomes “coming now” I am looking ahead yet again, filling the list with more books.

I thought it might be interesting to share some of the books that appear on my “coming soon” list as of today. Here they are:

  • The Happy Bottom Riding Club: The Life and Times of Pancho Barnes by Lauren Kessler. The Right Stuff was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and a I grew older, I loved Tom Wolfe’s book on which the movie was based as well. I couldn’t help but be interested in Pancho Barnes, who is mentioned in both, and was delighted to see a biography of her coming out later this month.
  • The Map of Knowledge: A Thousand Year History of How Classical Ideas Were Lost and Found by Violet Moller. Maps, history, lost knowledge: all buzzwords that tickle my curiosity. This one also comes out in mid-May.
  • The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini by Joe Posnanski. Houdini has shown up in several books that I’ve read over the years, but I’ve never read a book about him. I saw this one and it seemed interesting so I added it to the list. It doesn’t come out until the end of October.
  • Untitled: A Memoir by Tom Selleck. I was and am a huge Magnum, P.I. fan. Celebrity bios and memoirs are a guilty pleasure of mine, and when I saw this as-of-yet untitled memoir by Selleck, I knew I’d want to read it. This one is currently slated for release in mid-November.
  • Agent Running in the Field: A Novel by John Le Carre. I’ve only read one Le Carre novel, but I very much enjoyed his memoir, and so when I see new books by Le Carre, they automatically go on my list. This one is due out toward the end of October.
  • Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. I was intrigued by this because I’ve often thought of myself as a generalist as opposed to a specialist. I know a fair amount about a great deal of subjects as opposed to a great deal about one specific subject area. Isaac Asimov was a generalist in this regard as well, and probably one of the stronger influences on how I came to be as well. This one is due out at the end of May.
  • Blue Moon: Jack Reacher #24 by Lee Child. I read the first 23 Reacher books last year and they are pure fun for me. So naturally, I am looking forward to #24, which comes out at the end of October.
  • The Conservative Sensibility by George F. Will. I enjoy Will’s baseball writing, even if our politics don’t agree. That said, I try to understand many different view points, and when I saw this book and it’s summary, I thought it would make an interesting read. This one comes out in early June.
  • Fall, or Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson. Stephenson’s books are always intriguing and in many ways unique. The description of this new novel pushed the right buttons so I added it to my list. It comes out in early June.
  • Play Hungry: The Making of a Baseball Player by Pete Rose. I’m belong to the school of thought that Pete Rose should be allowed into the Baseball Hall of Fame. As soon as I saw he’d produced this memoir, it went onto my list. This one is also due out in early June.
  • Becoming Dr. Seuss: Thedore Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination by Brian Jay Jones. I grew up on Dr. Seuss. That is what my parents read to me when I was little, and that is what I read to my kids when they were little. I’ve often wanted to know more about him. This one comes out next week.
  • One Giant Leap: The Untold Story of How We Flew to the Moon by Charles Fishman. I love reading about the Apollo missions, and of course, a boatload of books are coming out this year, the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing. This one caught my eye because it focus on the computer systems that got Apollo to the moon. Book is due out mid-June.
  • Vagabonds: The Story of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison’s Ten Year Road Trip by Jeff Guinn. We drive down to Florida several times a year. On a couple of occasions, while down there, we’ve visited the Edison-Ford museum. It’s a beautiful place to visit, and I’ve always wanted to know more about the men. This books provides a nice opportunity to find out more. Comes out in July.

Just because the books are on the list doesn’t mean I will read them as soon as they come out. The butterfly effect of reading takes me in all kinds of directions. But there are all books that I am looking forward to reading at some point.