Archives: “bookish fascination”

Book meme

Tagged by Gord and less I seem like an ass, I gotta play:

  1. Grab the book closest to you
  2. Open to page 123, go down to the fifth sentence
  3. Post the text of next 3 sentences on your blog
  4. Name of the book and the author
  5. Tag three people

Wilfred stirred a little and lifted his head. “Is it a doctor?” he asked. “Am I dead?”

Infecting Tagging Rik, James, and Kevin .

Help me read one novel a month

One of the decisions I made while down in Austin surrounded by lots and lots of intimidatingly smart people was: I need to read more long fiction.

Before I got involved with the dirty succubus called The Web I used to read fiction. A lot. Working full-time as a bookseller for a few years probably had plenty to do with this. I would spend hours pouring through The Quill & Quire, the New York Times Book Review, and other collections of book reviews looking for new, interesting books to read. Back then I read a new book probably every two weeks.

Now? Not so much. I read a fair bit of short fiction courtesy of McSweeney’s and other excellent anthologies, but I haven’t read a novel in quite some time. I intend to change that.

Every month, starting April 1st, I want to read a different novel.

So, what should I read? Give me some suggestions in the comments. I tend to prefer literary fiction, but I’ll try anything (except fantasy) for at least 50 to 100 pages.

A sad day for web publishing

Today has undoubtedly been a black day for book publishing, web designers, and developers. Three major imprints that specialized in web design and development book publishing have closed up shop, leaving a huge, gaping hole in the knowledge network.

First, I heard about Glasshaus :

"It's with huge sadness, that I tell you that the bank pulled the plug on glasshaus today."

Then, it was Friends of Ed :

"Friends of Ed is dead."

And according to folks on the Webdesign-l mailing list, programming imprint giant Wrox has also ceased operations.

(Edit : someone on WD-L just posted copies of emails sent from all three companies - it looks like the parent company that owned all three, Peer Information, was declared insolvent today.)

I guess it's safe to say now that I had just started the initial process of working on a book for Glasshaus; obviously it's questionable if the project will continue at all with all of this doom and gloom.

<heaves heavy sigh>

book upgrades, please

Part of the reality of life working the Web (besides eyestrain, unrealistic deadlines, rampant coffee breath, and bewildered clients, that is) is the fact that the Web presents a constant learning process.

There's always new, fast-spreading technologies to learn, freshly spun techniques to master, and the inevitable software upgrades to manhandle.

In the last six months there's been new versions of Photoshop, Flash, Dreamweaver, InDesign, Fireworks, Cleaner, and other major software packages released. PHP was updated a bunch of times. Flash introduced a new, more robust version of Actionscript. XML, RSS, and RDF was added into the alphabet soup that is my brain. Mac OS X was upgraded and got even better.

Throughout all of this, I bought books. I rely on books to help me keep up with the march of technology, and now that I'm teaching a lot of this, I rely on them even more. But I'm getting a ton of old books for old versions of software and programming languages that are now, basically, obsolete. What to do with them?

I wish more book publishers did what Ted Landau is doing with his excellent Mac OS X Disaster Relief. Now that the latest version of OS X has been released, Mr. Landau is releasing an update to the book, available free on his Web site.

If more book publishers offered "upgrades" to their books for a reduced price (or free), just as Mr. Landau offers for his book, and software producers offer for their products, I would be a happy man. And book buyers wouldn't have to keep tossing books in the recycling bin.

Anyone have a need for old computer books?

Patagonia, Afro-beat, and Extraterrestials

This week's roundup contains one from all three categories, just to everyone started:

Book: In Patagonia

Written by: Bruce Chatwin

inPatagonia.jpgThis is no mere travel book, but a poetic exploration of a land sequestered from the bulk of civilization; a land at the end of the world. Bruce Chatiwn's travels in Patagonia are deeply anecdotal and laconic, following an arc of experience so concise many said there was no way he could have actual been to Patagonia; that he had made it all up. Whether this is the case or not, In Patagonia is filled with a sense of detail like a laser beam. It conjures up wistful travel yearnings and delicious imagery.

Music: Talkatif

Performed by: Antibalas

talkatif.jpgAfro-beat music has always been associated closely with the man that invented it, the late Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti. More recently, the efforts of his son Femi Kuti has expanding on the original's heady mix of horns, funk, and polyrhythmic energy, but it's Brooklyn's Antibalas which has brought a North American flavour to the genre. A 14-member collective, Antibalas seemlessly incorporates a broad variety of New York sounds (jazz, latin, funk, soul) into the Afro-beat basics of horns, driving backbeats, and infectious rhythms. Dance your ass off, and never look back.

Movie: Man Facing Southeast

(Hombre mirando al sudeste)
Directed by: Eliseo Subiela

manSE.jpgA man appears seemingly out of nowhere in an insane asylum, claiming to be from another planet. Every day he stands, facing southeast to, as he says, receive messages from his home planet. While his psychiatrist doesn't believe a word he says, the man slowly begins to have an effect on him, raising the question: is he telling the truth, or is he truly insane? This is the movie that the Kevin Spacey "let's get Kevin a best-actor Oscar" K-Pax wanted to be (and ripped off remade, to boot). Quietly intelligent, moving, emotional, and thought-provoking entertainment.

The Tipping Point

Tipping PointBy: Malcom Gladwell

Gladwell believes that social phenomenon (such as the wild popularity of children's show "Blue's Clues", or the ebb and flow of teenage smoking habits) are affected by something he calls the "Tipping Point".

The tipping point is that one point where a phenomenon tips from being a small. potentially isolated sociological event to becoming a major, widespread happening. Some examples: Hush Puppies went from being a totally lame piece of footwear to becoming a massive, sought-after fashion statement. Sesame Street went from being a small, experimental children's television show to becoming an ingrained part of our childhood experience. All of these things, according to Gladwell, had their own "tipping points".

This is a fairly well written book, with some fascinating insights into a bunch of different events which Gladwell traces to discover each one's particular tipping point. I found the main problem with this book was that Gladwell sometimes over-emphasizes his point with almost too much backing information; he sometimes overwhelms the point he's trying to make and in a few spots drags things out a bit too much.

The interesting thing is, this book has also had its own tipping point. It has become a gigantic bestseller via word of mouth, incredibly savvy marketing, and some well-placed positive reviews. In addition, the term "tipping point" has started to work its way into our daily lexicon. That, more than anything else, is proof that Gladwell is onto something.

The Great Perusal 2001

The smart and oh-so-dashing fellows who run the Morning News have posted their picks for the best ten books of this year (but not necessarily published this year). I'm game (and yes, there are some of mine that are the same as theirs: they're good books, remember?). In no particular order, the best books I read this year:

» J.D. Salinger: Catcher and the Rye » David Foster Wallace: A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again » John Berger: To The Wedding
» Robert Polito: Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson
» Dav Pilkey: Capitaine Bobette et la Machination Machiavélique du Professeur K.K. Prout [thanks, Maya]
» Anne Carson: Autobiography of Red
» Philip Gourevitch: We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families
» Bruce Chatwin: In Patagonia
» John Kennedy Toole: Confederacy of Dunces
» Octavio Paz: The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz, 1957-1987

What's your picks for the best ten books you read this year? Let me know and I'll post your lists here in a week or so. Also, if you know of a book or author that you think I'd like, post it in the comments.

Other top 10's

Contributed by Niklas Andersson:
"A hard one, but I think my list would be as follows (in no order whatsoever):"
Neil Gaiman: American Gods
Edward Savio: Idiots in the Machine
Wilton Barnhardt: Gospel
Lewis Shiner: Glimpses
Nick Hornby: High Fidelity
Steven Brust: Issola
Jonathan Lethem: Amnesia Moon
Tim Powers: Declare
Jonathan Carroll: Land of Laughs
Graham Chapman: A Liar's Autobiography

To The Wedding

coverBy John Berger

Reading Berger's writing has always been an enigmatic, gloriously lyrical experience, and To The Wedding is no exception. Reading it leaves you with a decidedly European feeling; all narrow cobblestone streets, fleeting glances through gossamer curtains, and sly street merchants with secrets to share... beautiful.

Fast Food Nation

coverBy Eric Schlosser

I'm just waiting for a reviewer to say, "Fast Food Nation does to greasy hamburgers what No Logo did for globalization" - as lame as that sounds, it's an accurate description of this excellent book. Author Eric Schlosser rips apart the black box that is the American fast food and meat industry, and it's at times lucid, enlightening, and digusting... sometimes all at once. (Thank goodness I don't eat red meat.) A great, compelling read that will change the way you look at "1 billion served" forever.

Taking Your Talent to the Web

coverBy Jeffrey Zeldman

It's always a refreshing change of pace to read a book about the Web that is, for all intensive purposes, for everyone. Jeffrey Zeldman ("he's not just a Man, he's a Zeld-Man") writes in a friendly, cheeky tone, and his passionate, lucid approach to the Web feels like an album where every song is a #1 single. Greatest hit: "Style sheets for Designers: Designing with Style"

Fast Food Nation Update 2

Why McDonald's Fries Taste So Good: an except from the latest book on my nighttable, Fast Food Nation. As you can probably guess from the high number of FFN related links I've been posting, I liked the book a lot. Since we're on the subject, check out one of the many excellent interviews with FFN's author, Atlantic Monthly contributer Eric Schlosser.

Okay, enough about that.

Fast Food Nation Update 1

McDonald's Clarifies 'Flavor' Definitions: Interesting, at least to me, considering that I'm reading Fast Food Nation, which delves deeply into the whole mystery of just what "natural flavours" really are... I have, by the way, gone back to my absolutely-no-red-meat diet. Life as a carnivore was just too scary.

Salut Galarneau!

It's funny how much I crave downtime these days. I'm starting to think that I need to rent a cabin out in the middle of nowhere just to decompress my brain from all of this... activity. Just sitting on my ass, reading and listening to music. I've got lots of books that need reading, too: the last bits of No Logo, Jeffrey Zeldman's Taking your Talent to the Web, the latest issue of McSweeney's, Jacques Godbout's Salut Galarneau!...

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