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.

Best Reads of April 2019

I read 9 books in April, for a total of 36 books so far in 2019. I managed to read 130 books in 2018, and my goal this year was for a more modest 100 books because some of the books I had in mind were longer than the average. So I am pretty pleased at my pace, although I would have read significantly more had I not been distracted by two TV series (Lucifer and Bosche).

Here are the books I read in April. The bold titles are the ones I’d recommend:

  • Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by Clive Thompson
  • Fire in the Valley: The Birth and Death of the Personal Computer by Michael Swaine and Paul Freiberger
  • American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley
  • Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro
  • The Path To Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. 1 by Robert A. Caro
  • The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner
  • The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
  • The Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan
  • White by Bret Easton Ellis

I’d say that my favorite book of April was Brinkley’s book American Moonshot. I have read many, many books on the Apollo program specifically and the U.S. space program generally. This is the first one I’ve read that took a political view point of the space race, and I found it very interesting and well-done.

A close second was Clive Thompson’s Coders. Much of what I read in that book described me. I discovered computer programming on a TRS-80 and Vic-20, and learned how to program by copying programs from computer magazines. It was a wonderfully nostalgic book from a tech writer I always enjoy.

I’d planned to read some of the Harry Bosch books by Michael Connelly but the TV series got in the way. I’d also planned to read a biography of Cicero, but after re-reading The Dragons of Eden (I first read it in late 1996), I decided to re-read Carl Sagan’s Contact instead. Next week, David McCullough’s new book, The Pioneers comes out, and I’ll probably jump into that as soon as it appears.

Plotting, Pantsing, and Game of Thrones

When it comes to writing I am a pantser. That is, I don’t plan my stories out in advance, I don’t outline. I start with an idea and some vague sense of how I think things will end, and work toward that, discovering things along the way. It is the only method that works for me. Whenever I’ve tried to plan things out, say by outlining, I find I quickly lose interest in the story. Once it is mapped out, I know it and it is no longer exciting for me.

I don’t even like to talk about the stories I am working on. I used to do this, but found that talking about them had the same damping effect as outlining. If I described the plot of a story in progress to someone, I found it hard to go back and finish the story. Having told it once, I wasn’t interested in telling it again. The novelty of the story was gone. These days, if someone asks what I am working on, I simply say, “a story.” If they pursue and ask, “What’s the story about?” I say, “I don’t know, I haven’t figured it out yet.”

I was thinking about plotting versus pantsing after watching the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, “The Long Night.” It got me wondering if, perhaps, George R. R. Martin might never finish the book series, and instead, call the HBO series the canonical end of the saga. I don’t know if Martin is a plotter or a pantser, but if he is the latter, I could see how the HBO series sort of spoils the writing of the rest of the series. Why write it now that he knows how it ends?

For that matter, why read it once the HBO series has concluded. Certainly there are divergences from the books and the series, but in those cases, the books were the originally published source and can be considered canonical. This isn’t the case with the final seasons of Game of Thrones. Now, the HBO series, which is appearing before the last two books, has to be considered the canonical source.

If the final two books are ever written, they will appear long after the HBO series has completed. The HBO series has been a cultural phenomenon and its images, actors, music have seeped into our psyche in such a way that I think it would be difficult for books to replace events in the series. It is possible that the books will diverge from events in the series but since the last seasons of the series came first, I think they will be treated as the source of truth, and divergence will only cause confusion. And yet, if the books follow the series, there is no longer any surprise, and so why bother?

It would not surprise me if we see Martin and his publisher announce that, after due consideration, the final two books of the series will not be written and the HBO series will represent the canonical conclusion to the books. It will be a novelty: a mixed-media series that began in book form and ended as one the most popular television series of all time. It is a way for the series to go out on top. This would also free Martin of the stress of having to complete the series, and move onto other projects he is eager to do.

I don’t know any of this for certain. I am speculating, but it makes sense to me. I would certainly accept the series as the canonical end and were books to be published, I doubt that I would continue to read them at this point–not because I didn’t like the first five but because I already have a satisfactory conclusion in my mind and don’t need to muddy the waters with multiple endings.

As a pantser, I couldn’t imagine having to write the books after working with the showrunners to produce the rest of the series and knowing in detail what happens. The job, for me, would be more like writing a movie tie-in than a work of original creation.

Not Prolific

Some truths are harder to admit than others. When I started to write with an eye toward publication, I wanted to be a prolific writer. This should be no surprise to people who know my history. I have been, to a large degree, influenced by unusually prolific writers. Isaac Asimov is perhaps the best example, and greatest outlier, even among prolific writers. But even before Asimov, there was Piers Anthony, whose endless Xanth saga is still producing books (though I stopped reading them 20 years ago) more than four decades later.

Being prolific, in my mind, means producing a great deal of published writing. I say published writing because my goal has always been to write for paid publication. Therefore, what counts is what is paid for, what appears in print (or e-form). For me this is often the tip of the iceberg. Much writing I do never sells, and never sees the light of day. So I may be prolific in the sense that I write a lot, but I have recently come to face the fact that I am not a prolific writer in the sense that make frequent sales.

This is an important realization for me. I grew up reading writers who could produce stories quickly, and I have, for many years, felt that is the way one should produce stories. But it is simply not the way that I work, and I have at last come to accept that.

I started a new story this year, a novelette of around 12,000 words. It has taken me the better part of four months to get out the first draft. I could say this is because I have been busy with work, and family, and the process of selling our house and buying a new one. But the truth is, I work slowly. There is even evidence for this. Over the period of 8 years where I was actively selling stories, I sold just about a dozen. During that same period of time, I sold perhaps three times that many nonfiction pieces. Still, about 50 sales of short pieces over a span of 8 years is far from prolific.

When I started to write for publication, I produced a massive outpouring of stories and submitted all of this. This was during a time in which I had a plethora of ideas and no internal regulator of which of those ideas was good and which was bad. They all got written. Over time, the superfluity of ideas continued, but I became a better judge of them, and instead of writing all of them, selecting only the ones I deemed the best ideas. My production slowly began to decrease, but the quality of my stories increased. My evidence for this is nothing more than the fact that I began to sell stories. (The stories may have been bad, but the point is they sold to professional markets, which is the only objective way I can judge the quality of my own work.)

With story sales under my belt, one would think that I would immediately plunge in with more. The door had opened a crack. Now I needed to burst through. That was, I admit, my intention going in, but that is not how things worked in reality. When I rushed a story, I tended to lose control of it. Despite my deep desire to want to be like my idols and write stories quickly and prolifically, I simply couldn’t do it. That particular talent didn’t reside within me.

That said, I like to think which each story I did complete, was an improvement on the previous. And what I have discovered over time is that while I write my stories more slowly, I do so because I carefully consider the lessons I’ve learned by previous experience and weave them into the story to make it better. For me, that just takes time. I can’t even set a goal: write one story a month, or twelve stories a year. That doesn’t work for me. A story takes as long as it takes, but when it is finished, is the best possible story I could have written at that point in my life.

It is difficult to describe what a relief it is to admit this to myself. I no longer feel pressure when a story takes a long time. It takes as long as it needs to take. I suppose if I depended on my writing for my living, this would be a problem. It indicates that I probably couldn’t make it as a full-time writer. Fortunately, that is not my situation, and I can take my time to get a story right. This discovery has dramatically increased my empathy with someone like Patrick Rothfuss.

How do I know if a story is right? I can’t say. If it sells, I suppose it is right. If, when I complete the last words of the final draft and there is nothing more to do, I suppose it is right. Writing is, as is often said, a lonely business. The first part of the new story I’ve been working on (the story is divided into three parts) is being critiqued by my writers group this week. Their feedback doesn’t necessarily tell me if the story is right, but it does give me my first glimpse of reader reaction. And since I am not as prolific as I once hoped I would be, this kind of feedback becomes ever more valuable.

The Origin of Consciousness and Other Mind-Bending Subjects

Every now and then I encounter a book that is particularly challenging. Yesterday, for instance, I finished reading The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes. I probably first heard reference to this book through the science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer. But its title has popped up a number of times over the years and I finally decided to give it a go.

The main premise of Jaynes’s argument is that (1) consciousness, as we know it today, did not emerge until about 1000 B.C., and (2) that consciousness emerged as a result of language. I found both the premise and the book one of the more challenging reads I’ve encountered in recent memory. Even so, I found the book fascinating. (Decades ago, I had the same reaction to David Berlinski’s A Tour of the Calculus.)

Jaynes uses, as much of his evidence, references to the language in literature as it evolved over time, with particular focus on The Iliad and The Odyssey as well as the early books of the Bible. He interweaves this evidence with modern brain and psychological experiments. Where I was particularly challenged was in his discussion of things like metafiers, paraphors, and parafiers, and how they relate to the way we think. Try as I might, I couldn’t get these concepts clear in my head.

It got me thinking about the limits of my own understanding. In college, for instance, I found that I had a weakness for economics. At least, I took a required course on macro-economics, and although I attended the lectures, read the text book, and did the assigned homework, I found the subject impenetrable. I came away with a poor grade that reflected my lack of understanding, as to opposed to my lack of effort. I encountered similar blocks with higher math, like integral calculus.

Still, I’ve often turned to books when I can’t understand something, and with few exceptions, it usually helps. Jaynes’s book, while fascinating, is one of those exceptions where I am left feeling more confused (although more intrigued) than before I read it. I have started to re-read Carl Sagan’s The Dragons of Eden as a kind of palliative to this effect. I remember finding that to be an excellent book on the evolution of human intelligence when I first read it in the mid-1990s. But human intelligence is different from human consciousness. I can’t tell if the failure is on my, for a simple inability to follow Jaynes’s arguments, or on Janyes for being unclear.

I suppose it shouldn’t bother me. I read so much that there are bound to be things about which I read that I simply can’t understand. But reading is my primary method of continuing education, and when I can’t understand something, I feel as I did when back in the macro-economics class, working away at the homework, reading the text, and taking in the lectures–and getting nowhere.

Caffeine Free

I have been caffeine-free for 17 days now. The hard part is over. The headaches and muscle aches of caffeine withdrawal have passed. All that remains is a mid-afternoon weariness that I fight with physical activity, usually a walk to get my blood flowing.

I gave up caffeine during the peak stress period of our house-hunting. I was stressed and anxious that I suspected all the caffeine I consumed contributed to that anxiety. I don’t know this for certain. But I had given up caffeine before, for over seven years, and I seemed to recall feeling less anxious during that time. So I gave it up again.

I have never been a coffee-drinker, although I’ve tried to be once or twice. My caffeine of choice is a can of Coke. For a while, a few years back, I’d also drink Red Bull, but gave that up over a year ago. Still, I drank a lot of Coke–to the point where I could have a Coke before bed and it wouldn’t really affect me. I’d doze off as soon as my head hit the pillow.

When I gave up caffeine the first time, sometime on Valentine’s Day 2003, I recall that I went through withdrawal symptoms (mostly headaches) for about three weeks. That is what I expected this time, and it proved to be slightly less than that. As for the anxiety, that seemed to easy more rapidly than the headaches. Of course, that could simply be a placebo effect, but it doesn’t really matter since I feel less anxious than I did.

Still, I enjoy Coke, and I can only tolerate Sprite in small doses. So, like I did during my first 7-year stint off caffeine, I’m back to drinking Caffeine-Free Coke. As far as I can tell, it tastes no different than regular Coke, just without the caffeine.

I find it interesting how I mentally build up to these changes. I thought about giving up caffeine for months. I knew that I would do it eventually, I just needed to built up enough mental rational to do it. Then, I woke up one day and decided the time was right, and I went cold-turkey. I was probably a bit more moody during the two weeks or so it took for my brain to get used to life without caffeine, but that was mitigated somewhat by the reduction in anxiety as well.

Now, with our house sold and the new house purchased, with all that’s left is the move itself, the stress of that process has also dropped dramatically and I feel a whole lot better. Yet I have no desire to go back to caffeine. I don’t know at this point if I will make it 7 years, or 7 more days. This is a day-by-day thing. But I’m glad I did it. I feel better without the caffeine.

Reading Isaac Asimov’s Memoirs

In the spring of 1994 while preparing to graduate from the University of California, Riverside, I read Isaac Asimov’s memoir, I. Asimov for the first time. I knew of Asimov, of course, but I had read very little of his writing at that point. After reading I. Asimov I began to read everything I could find by the Good Doctor, fiction and nonfiction alike. I loved the FOUNDATION series. I particularly enjoyed the dozens of essay collections from Asimov’s science column in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

But the books that impacted me the most were Asimov’s original autobiographies. They were mentioned early in his memoir, I. Asimov as being out-of-print. I managed to locate some good first editions (one of which was signed) at the Iliad Bookshop in North Hollywood. Unlike the 1994 memoir, which was a kind of topical overview of Asimov’s life, the 2-volume autobiography (In Memory Yet Green, published in 1979, and In Joy Still Felt, published in 1980) totalled something over 1,500 pages wherein Asimov, in his colloquial way, discussed his life in great detail.

It was from these books that I learned how to be a writer. Not how to write, but how to act as a professional writer. I learned about the importance of manuscripts and clean copy, about the relationships between author and editor, about the mechanics of the publishing process, and much more.

Two years later, in 1996, I began a tradition of reading all 3 volumes in the month of April. Asimov died on April 6, 1992, so I would begin I. Asimov on April 1, and try to finish it on April 6. I would then spend the remainder of April reading the two large volumes. I began with I. Asimov because I didn’t want to end my month with Asimov’s death. This tradition became a fixed point in my life, and I eagerly looked forward to the spring because I knew it would be time to read those books.

I never tired of them. I can recall heading over to Swenson’s in Studio City, ordering a chocolate malt, and sitting at a table with In Memory Yet Green, reading it with absolute pleasure while sipping at my shake. Over the years I managed to read these books at least a dozen times, to the point where I had them virtually memorized, but I still sat down to read them each spring. It was like I was sitting down with Asimov, and he was telling me these stories. I could hear his Brooklynese accent in my mind as I read the pages.

The last year in which I read all three was 2007. I had already made my first professional story sales at that point, but my life was soon to change: marriage, followed by the first of my three children. In 2010, I managed to sneak in a reading of just In Joy Still Felt (the 11th time I read the book), and in 2012 I read In Memory Yet Green. But that was it. That was the last time I read any of the Asimov biographies, or any Isaac Asimov books for that matter. My interests had drifted. Between 1996 and 2012 I read Asimov books 137 times. Though I’ve read 400 books since 2012, not one has been by Isaac Asimov.

Until now.

I mentioned that we recently sold our house and bought a new one. It has been an extremely stressful, chaotic and busy 2 months, and I was looking for a way to center myself, now that the hard part was over. I remembered the joy and comfort that Asimov’s autobiographies brought me each spring, and as it happens to be spring now, I thought I’d read the two big books again.

It was easy mainly because we’d packed away a lot of stuff in order to declutter the house for showings. My bookshelves went into storage and the thousand books that rested on them were all boxed up. Fortunately, I had the forethought to record (in Evernote) what was in each box, so it wasn’t difficult to locate what box I needed in order to retrieve the books. The hard part was moving all of the other boxes to get to it.

On Wednesday, cracked open my first edition hardcover of In Memory Yet Green and began to read. It had the intended affect. The years flew away and it was if I was back in that Swenson’s in Studio City, with the book in front of me and chocolate shake off to one side. I am hearing Asimov’s voice again, laughing in all the right places, and soaking in the joy I’ve always taken from those books. I’m only about 80 pages through the first book, but I expect to make it through both of them within the next week or two, and I am so glad I decided to read them again.

Why It’s Been So Quiet Here

If you have been wondering why things have been so quiet here lately, permit me a few moments to explain. We have recently sold the house we’ve lived in for the last 10 years and bought a new house. Our old house is a townhouse. Our new house is a single family home with a yard that backs up to a local park that we frequent. The new house is slightly bigger, has 4 bedrooms, and an amazing room that I’ll be using for an office. It has an updated kitchen, a brand new 350 sq. ft. deck, and is an improvement in almost every respect. This has therefore been a very busy, and exceedingly stressful month.

It turns out that in our area, at least, it is a seller’s market. Our house sold on the very first day it went live. We put offers on 2 other houses, and despite raising our offers, we were still outbid by a considerable amount. This has made things stressful over the last four weeks or so, to say nothing of time consuming. So I have had little time to write at all, let alone here on the blog.

We now have our settlement dates, and while things are still a bit busy preparing for our move, we are at least through the most stressful part and I should be able to write more here.