Tag Archives: books

Today is Great: A Daily Gratitude Journal for Kids

I’ve written quite a bit about diaries, journals, and notebooks over the years. I got a relatively late start with my own diary. I was already 24 and I wish I’d started sooner. A few years back, I tried to get the Little Miss to start a diary, but as with many diaries, it didn’t last very long.

So I was delighted to learn recently that my friend Vicky, who runs the popular Mess for Less blog, has a new book coming out called Today Is Great: A Daily Gratitude Journal for Kids.

Her book birthday is coming on October 1, so if you have kids interesting in diaries and journals, and who are looking for a fun way to ease into the process, be sure to check out the book!

84 Charing Cross Road

And sometimes, desperation and persistence wins the day. I have been going through an unusually dry spell in terms of what to read next. I am reading, slowly, The Great American Sportswriter edited by Schulian, but I’m taking it in bite-sized chunks. I have struggled and struggled and struggled to find something that will awaken me from this summer drowse and fill the world with color. No Cheering from the Press Box, edited by Jerome Holtzman riled me from this slumber for a moment, but that was way back in June.

Last night, out of a combinations of boredom and desperation, I flipped through every page of James Mustich’s 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die in the hopes of finding something. As I reached the Ds, I considered re-reading Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, which I recall loathing in junior high school when I had to read it. This is the level to which I have fallen. I told myself I was being noble by giving a second chance to a book that a teenaged version of me scorned. But I pressed on. I made it through the entire book, skimming, at least, every entry, and making note of a few: Dispatches, Notes on a Cowardly Lion, A Book of One’s Own, Ongoingness, Lonesome Dove, The Diary of Samuel Pepys.

As I drifted off to sleep, bookless, one of the titles lingered in my thoughts, more of a place than a title, really, 84 Charing Cross Road.

This morning was beautiful: sunny and clear, with the humidity blessedly vanished, and temperatures in the upper 60s. I headed outside for my morning walk, and took in the wonderful weather, and that was the last time I noticed it. Or anything else on my walk for that matter. I began listening to the audiobook version of 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, and I was lost in the delightful letters between a New York Bibliophile, and the employees of Marks & Company Antiquarian Booksellers, lead primarily by Frank Doel. Those letters were wonderful, and Hanff’s witty style put a silly grin on my face for the entire morning.

Though short, this has to be one of the best books I’ve read all year. It surprised me, caught me off guard, and quickly and dramatically transformed my desperation into gratitude. But there was also a sadness. It is unlikely that a story such as this could ever happen again. People just don’t write letters anymore, for the most part. And a correspondence such as this could not be replicated in e-mail; it is not, I have found, a medium that lends itself to a literary style.

Sometimes, a book like this is just what I need to stir things up, and before I know it, I find that there is indeed plenty out there that I am interested in reading. I am hopeful that is precisely what happened here this morning.

991 Books

More than two months after moving into the new house, I have finished cataloging all of my paper-based books. I used LibraryThing to catalog them because the iPhone app made it easy to scan barcodes and enter ISBNs. While cataloging the books, I purged again. I did this before the move as well. In this round, I donated 128 books.

My bookshelves after the Second Great Purge

The majority of the books I got rid of in this latest purge were Piers Anthony paperbacks. I had been collecting these since I first discovered Anthony in junior high school, and some of them dated back to that time. It was a little difficult letting these go, not so much because of the nostalgia they created, but because of the memories of the hard-earned money I spent to buy them. Hopefully, they will take on a new life for another reader.

I kept a few of the PA paperbacks. I kept a paperback copy of Race Against Time. I remember checking this book out of the Granada Hills branch of the Los Angeles Public Library before I knew who Piers Anthony was. I read it at a fever-pace over the course of a few hot summer days. Eventually, I obtained my own copy, and I kept this one as a reminder that books can surprise you and be a window into all kinds of new discovery.

My copy of Race Against Time

I also kept a rare paperback copy of Kiai! by Piers Anthony and Roberto Fuentes. I haven’t read this one, but the book happens to be signed by Piers Anthony and I couldn’t give that up. I kept several PA hardcovers, including his INCARNATIONS OF IMMORTALITY series, which I remember really enjoying.

My signed copy of Kiai!

Going through all of my books, I was surprised at how many I found that were signed by the author. Dozens of them. They fall into two broad categories: books that are signed to me personally, and books that I obtained already signed. I have several signed Asimov books that fall into the latter category. I have one Will Durant book in this latter category along with several volumes of Dumas Malone’s Jefferson and His Times that are signed.

There are many more books that are signed to me, including perhaps 10 by Harlan Ellison, half a dozen by Barry N. Malzberg. And there are many books signed by authors who have since become my friends.

I am left with 991 printed books. I have about 400 e-books and nearly 800 audiobooks from Audible that are not part of this catalog. This also does not count all of the magazines I have, including a complete set of SCIENCE FICTION AGE, and a fairly complete set of ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION from 1939-1950.

My next step is to organize them. Right now, they are on the shelves in a completely haphazard fashion. Once, long ago, I had them arranged alphabetically by author, and then chronologically within each author. I am planning on changing that. I’ll organize the fiction books alphabetically by author and then chronologically within each other. The nonfiction I plan on breaking into several categories that are useful to me. These include: biography/memoir, science, history, sports, NASA/space exploration, essays and criticism, and reference books. I may need one or two additional categories, but we’ll see. With the purge complete, the books should all fit neatly on my existing shelves. I’ll post another picture when the reorganization is complete.

Here is an interesting fact: according to LibraryThing, if all of my books were stacked up, they would reach about 550 feet, which is just shy of the height of the Washington Monument.

Some Summer Reading

As one who likes to tempt fate, here is a list of some of my upcoming reading for the rest of June and early July. I say “tempt fate” because as I have said before, my reading is guided almost entirely by the butterfly-effect of reading. In other words, I make plans, and the butterflies laugh. That said, here’s what I am looking at:

  • Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (currently reading)
  • No Cheering in the Press Box by Jerome Holtzman (currently reading)
  • All Those Mornings…At the Post by Shirley Povich
  • The Great American Sports Page edited by John Schulian
  • The Map of Knowledge: A Thousand Year History of How Classical Ideas Were Lost and Found by Voilel Moller
  • One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission that Flew Us to the Moon by Charles Fishman
  • Range: When Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
  • Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir by Linnie Marsh Wolfe
  • On Democracy by E. B. White
  • Ten Innings at Wrigley by Barry Abrams
  • Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide
  • The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam
  • An Army At Dawn: The War in North Africa (1942-1943) by Rick Atkinson
  • The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

What are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Sunday Morning, On the New Deck

Among the many little advantages to the new house is the deck. The deck overlooks the backyard, which slopes down into the local park—the same park our kids have been going to for ten years now. A deck wasn’t on our list of must-haves, but ever since putting the offer on the house, I’ve imagined sitting out there on Sunday morning, reading the papers.

This morning, after our youngest woke us up around 6 am, I took advantage of the unexpected wake up call to do just that: I went out onto the deck and spent nearly an hour and a half reading the Washington Post, listing to the birds, and watching the joggers and bikers descend into the park.

A picture from the new deck
A picture form the new deck this morning.

For some reason, it made reading the newspaper that much more enjoyable. I found several new books to read. Among them, Ballpark, Baseball in the American City by Paul Golderberger, and Ten Innings at Wrigley by Kevin Cook—a rare instance in which a review in the paper convinced me to add books to my reading list. Tony Horwitz, who recently died unexpectedly, has a new book out. I enjoyed reading Blue Latitudes when it came out, and have added his new book, Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide to my list.

Sitting on the deck and reading the Sunday papers may seem like a small thing. But given how hectic life has been lately, with house-hunting, packing, moving, unpacking, all on top of our normal jobs and chores, the quiet comfort of sitting out there made me feel good.It didn’t go unnoticed. When I came in to make some eggs, the Little Miss, noting my cheerful demeanor, said, “Daddy, you sure seem in a good mood this morning.” (Maybe I haven’t been a good mood lately?) I was, despite being awakened earlier than I would have liked. And I think it was due in large part to that hour out on the new deck.

New books!

Came home to some new books in the mail today.  First off, one of two rare Isaac Asimov books that were not already in my Asimov collection,  Our Federal Union: The United States from 1816 to 1865.

Next on the list is Alastair Reynolds’ first novel Revelation Space.  I saw this book on a must-read list and I’ve never read anything by Reynolds besides some of his short fiction.  I figured I’d give it a try.  It wasn’t available on the Kindle so it arrived in today’s mail.

Finally (and also not available on the Kindle) is physicist Steven Weinberg’s latest, Lake Views: this world and the universe, a collection of essays.  (Pictured.)  I’ve never read anything by Steven Weinberg before, but the review for the book in the February 2010 issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN made it sound like a fascinating read.

At present I’m making my way through Connie Willis’ intriguing novel, Blackout, to say nothing of two issues of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN and two issues of NEW SCIENTIST.

Some cool things in my book collection

Getting the office setup and organized, and purging some books reminded me of some of the cool things I have in my collection. I’ve picked out a few of these things to highlight below.

I’ve got nearly 200 Isaac Asimov books, including some rare books and 3 signed books. Among some of the rare books, are four of his five "annotations". Here’s a picture of three of those books, Asimov’s Annotated Don Juan, Asimov’s Annotated Gilbert & Sullivan, and the Annotated Gulliver’s Travels. (The fourth one, not pictured, is Familiar Poems, Annotated.) The only one I’m missing is the Asimov’s Annotated Paradise Lost. These are all first editions:

I have three books signed by Asimov: a hardcover edition of In Joy Still Felt, an old paperback copy of The Caves of Steel, and this first edition of Murder at the ABA:

I have a number of friends who have had books published and who have been kind enough to sign copies of their books for me. Here are a few of them:

First, there is Michael A. Burstein’s () excellent collection of short fiction, I Remember the Future, nestled comfortably between William Burrows’s This New Ocean and Italo Calvino’s, If On a Winter’s Night, A Traveler…

Then there is David B. Coe’s first novel, Children of Amarid, between John Clute’s Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Michael Collins’ Carrying the Fire.

And then there is Edmund Schubert’s novel, Dreaming Creek, nestled between Healer’s War and an anthology of science fiction from ANALOG. Edmund is the editor of Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, and he bought and published my first story, "When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer".

I am a huge Barry Malzberg fan and have many of his books, both paperback and hardcovers, first editions when I could get them. Here’s what I mean:

I met Barry at Readercon 2008 and he was very kind to me there. He signed two of my favorite books of his, Herovit’s World and Beyond Apollo, both first editions:

Robert J. Sawyer (author of the book for which the ABC series FLASH FORWARD is based) was so cool to me at RavenCon in 2007. At the time, his novel Rollback had just come out and when he signed it for me, he signed to me as a "fellow writer":

Children’s author, songwriter and performer Barry Louis Polisar was my land lord for 6 years when I lived in Maryland. During that time, he signed one of his many books for me. He is a great guy, a real mensch:

And then there are the magazines. Here is just a sampling, beginning with my complete collection of SCIENCE FICTION AGE, edited by Scott Edelman () between 1992-2000. To this day, I believe it was the best all-around science fiction magazine ever produced.

The first time I met Scott in person, at Capclave 2007, he was kind enough to sign the premier issue for me. That issue is pictured below, along side the January 1993 issue of the magazine which contains Bill Shunn’s () story, "Two Paths in the Forest Toulemonde," which I consider to be the best fantasy story that ever appeared in that magazine. Bill was kind enough to sign that issue for me when I met him in person at Balticon 2007.

There’s more, like the May 1950 issue of ASTOUNDING, which contains L. Ron Hubbard’s original Dianetics essay. Or the August 1945 issue of ASTOUNDING containing A. E. Van Vogt’s "World of A". But I’ll leave you with the image of my complete 1924 edition of H. G. Well’s Outlines of History:

There’s more interesting stuff, but I’ll save it for another time.  And just one note, in case anyone asks:  I’m not interested in selling any of it!

Busy lately?

So here’s the deal:  We moved.

This move culminates a series of (wonderful) events that have taken up the better part of the last two years.  Now that the move is over the unpacking has begun and this takes time and meanwhile, the house is in a fair amount of disarray.  I don’t work too well in disarrary and so we are working hard to get things unpacked in proper array.  This includes the office.

The office/library is a pretty large room and once it is completely unpacked and organized, it will be a wonderful room.  Bookshelves line the wall, filled with something on the order of 1,200 books and old magazines, including rare signed books, rare editions, and a complete collection of SCIENCE FICTION AGE magazines.  Unpacking and then organizing those books in the proper order on the shelves is a slow and complicated process.  In an ideal world, I would arrange the books alphabetically by author, and then chronologically within each author.  However, given limited shelf space, this isn’t currently practical and the best that I can do is alphabetically by author.  To do this, all of the books must be unpacked and then arranged around the room in roughly alphabetical order.  Once that is done, I can start loading up the shelves, using my LibraryThing collection to help guide me along the way.  In an ideal world, I would get the books on the shelves and the office completed this weekend.  For three reasons:

  1. It would be nice to have it done.
  2. I’d like to use the office in the early mornings next week to complete a short story by Halloween.
  3. NaNoWriMo!

Meanwhile, there are still other things to do.  I’ve anchored to the wall 4 of the 7 bookshelves in the office.  This is to ensure that when Zach is old enough to roam around and pull on things, he doesn’t pull a bookshelf down on top of himself.  (Incidentally, I did this the right way:  I got some corner mounts, pieces of metal bent at a right angle with a screw going into each end.  I used a stud-finder (jokes welcome) to align the mounts to a stud and then drilled a small hole in the wall (and the top of each bookcase–though it pained me to do so) and screwed the mounts tight.) 

Since we have an eat-in kitchen, we’ve converted our dining room to a kind of TV sitting room.  We removed the chandelier and put in a light that makes the room look less like a dining room.  We put a new 27" Vizio HD TV in there (the big TV is down in the family room).  Still, the room can use a little work.  As can the kitchen.  And don’t get me started on the guest room, which is a complete mess at this point.  And I still have to put the grill together, although I agree with strausmouse about grilling between November and April on the east coast.  We have to mount all of the art work on the wall–which in turn will clear out space in one of our storage closets to put our bicycles.

And in between all of this there is a baby to take care of, a wife’s birthday coming up (tomorrow!!), Game 6 of the ALCS (and ultimately a Yankees/Phillies World Series), finally finishing the Stephen King novel that I’ve been reading for the last month, and of course my day job.

So yeah, things have been busy lately, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel that I can just barely see.  But it is getting closer and closer…

Good meals

I’m sequestering myself in the office this week in order to complete some training material for a 3-day train-the-trainer session I’ll be leading in mid-March.  I started the work morning off by putting together my annual self-appraisal.  With the exception of one meeting, I spent the rest of the day working on the training stuff, and I’m pretty happy with my progress.

After work, Kelly headed to the gym and I prepared dinner.  Tonight I made strausmouse ‘s recipe for tofu lettuce wraps.  They turned out pretty good.  Kelly liked it and wished that I had made more.  As I side dish, I made a kind of cucumber dill salad that also came from strausmouse .  Kelly really liked that one.

Spoke with he11o_sunshine  earlier today.  I returned a library book, and picked one up that I had on hold.  That one is for Kelly’s book club.  I received the books I ordered from Amazon today:  Ray Bradbury’s We’ll Always Have Paris, and Nancy Kress’ Steal Across the Sky.  The Kress book is next after I finish up The Way the Future Was, which will likely be tonight.

Chest and back strength workout tomorrow morning.

My book catalog is on LibraryThing!

This is related to the consolidation process from last week.  I’ve finally got the bulk of my book catalog loaded into LibraryThing.  I’m still in the process of tagging and cleaning up the entries that are there, but with the exception of some really new books I’ve acquired, and a few still packed away in boxes, the bulk of my collection is now uploaded.

And here are a few canned queries I put together:

I you are on LibraryThing, please feel free to friend me.

400!

Last night, I completed my 400th book since January 1, 1996, finishing off The Hard SF Renaissance.  I’ll have a summary of this later on (and on goodreads).  Shortly before going to bed, I started up on book #401, Gardner Dozois’ The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year’s Best Science Fiction.

400 books in 14 years seems like a lot, but it averages a mere 28 books per year, which is just over half of what I was aiming for when I started this out, way back when.  Still, I should be very satisfied.  There are people out there who probably don’t read 400 books in a lifetime.

New Year’s Day

We had a quiet day yesterday.  It was cold in the metro D.C. area, with temperatures in the 20s.  We went shopping in the morning.  First to Old Navy for Kelly to get some maternity clothes, then to Target, where she got more maternity clothes, and where we picked up a few other items.  Fromthere we headed to Barnes & Noble where I got a couple of new books:  The New Space Opera and The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Years Best Science Fiction, both edited by Gardner Dozois.  While browsing around in Sport’s Authority, we ran into Sarah and Mike.  Finally, there was a quick stop at the grocery store and we headed home.  I was starving and made a massively tall sandwich for lunch.  After lunch, we played Lego Star Wars for a while–until I felt dizzy from the motion on the screen, something that’s happened to me once before a long time ago.

I napped for about an hour and a half and then spent some time reading more of The Hard SF Renaissance.  I had hoped to finish this up in 2008, but didn’t make it.  I’m close to 2/3rds of the way through the book and I enjoyed the Greg Egan story I read yesterday.  I’ll post a short summary about what I’ve read so far soon.

I watched a few more episodes of Battlestar Galactica in the evening, and then it was lights out at 10 PM.  Kelly works from home today so I headed into the office a little early this morning.

I didn’t get any writing done yesterday, but I cut myself a little slack.  I do have to work today, although I suspect it will be dead here.  Snow is expected although I don’t think it will be much.  I plan on getting back to regular writing and workouts in earnest next week, although I am hoping to get some writing in before then.  As for the workouts, I have been a real slacker, and it shows.  I am at my peak weight, and I constantly feel it.  I’ve been steadily working my way back to a healthy diet, and plan on starting the workouts up at a simple level, rather than trying to start where I left off.

I don’t have specific New Year’s resolutions.  Aside from the arbitrariness of them, it’s hard to plan your year when you are expecting your first child halfway through.  We really have no idea how that will affect even the simplest things, like going to the gym.  I would say this:

  • I’d like to aim for 5.2 million words read this year
  • I’d like to complete the novel I’m working on and get it submitted to one place
  • I’d like to write at least 3 short stories
  • I’d like to sell at least 1 short story

Stay tuned…