Category: books

journal – reading update, in which I change my serial reading, and put down Wolf Hall for the last time 📚

journal – reading update

I praised the Serial Reader app last month, thinking at the time it would be a fun & significant boost to my reading time. But following Dorian Gray, I started and abandoned several others that just weren’t for me. As I dug deeper into the titles, I felt like I was grasping for something good, instead of picking from the (long) list of books on my existing “to-read” list. I tried a couple that were on my list, like Little Women, and Middlemarch, but didn’t enjoy either of them. So, although it’s clever, I decided Serial Reader isn’t for me, after all.

But the strict daily reading time still seemed good, so I’ve been trying simply sticking to that habit, with the help of the iOS app Streaks. It’s a simple daily reminder app that’s meant to keep you from “breaking the chain”, maintaining regular daily habits. I’ve tried it before, but eventually rebelled against what came to feel like tyrannical nagging. So far this time, however, for reminding me to stay on something I enjoy, it’s been going great. That’s 17 days in a row, since I’m counting. The books I’ve read this way have admittedly been quick and light: the first two omnibus editions of an anime my daughter recommended: Vinland Saga. I may continue graphic novels for this daily habit for a while; I have Watchmen sitting over there on the shelf.

On another front, I admit defeat, for the third and final time, at trying to get through Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. I want to love this book, and the second (Bring Up the Bodies) which is also on my shelf, and the third which is due out next year, but it’s just not happening. I pride myself on being undaunted by tougher prose: The Odyssey, Don Quixote, some of the deeper Tolkien, including his Beowulf, but I find Mantel’s style a slog too far. The setting is too foreign, the characters too numerous, and the pronouns too ambiguous. I’m pretty bummed by this concession, but also looking forward to starting a book I’ll look forward to each night.

just finished my first full book on the clever Serial Reader app (The Picture of Dorian Gray). there are lots of older & public-domain titles on my list, anyway, & I found the 10 to 20-minute chunks of reading each day fun & easy to stay on top of. recommended! 📚

(2/2) “rede” is a good one but my favorite of those is “ruth”, “a feeling of sympathy and sorrow for the misfortunes of others”.

like an opposite of “ruthless”!

finally had the time & focus today to really dig in to The Fall of Gondolin, the latest (& last) from J.R.R./Christopher Tolkien. enjoyed looking up and learning some new (very old) words along the way. gems like:

  • ruth
  • meed
  • brake
  • astonied
  • rede
  • thence
  • fain

just finished Data and Goliath, by Bruce Schneier, for this month’s Austin Computer Book Club meetup. it was eye-opening and kind of horrifying, but pragmatic, interesting, and more timely with each passing day’s headlines 📚

The Library Book

I recently started The Library Book by Susan Orlean, via an audiobook that somewhat ironically I bought, rather than getting from the library. (This title was also just selected as this year’s Mayor’s Book Club book, so I have a head start there, ha ha.) It’s really good so far, a unique blend of LA history, in broad strokes and small ones, with a little mystery and a huge dose of detailed examples of how awesome libraries are.

And they really are. They’re kind of a miracle, in many ways. I spent the afternoon yesterday working at our big, beautiful new Central Library, and then attended a wonderful talk with Rachel Kushner, author of the excellent The Mars Room. The circumstances that led me there last night were Byzantine, when I thought about it, but it was so nice. I feel happier just being at the library, and I should make the effort to get there – including branches – more often.

librarians should “read as a drunkard drinks or as a bird sings or a cat sleeps or a dog responds to an invitation to go walking, not from conscience or training, but because they’d rather do it than anything else in the world.”

- Susan Orlean, quoting Althea Warren, director of the LA Public Library 1933-47, in The Library Book

when you order the cheapest used book you can find and it winds up being signed by the author (if barely) & has his business card tucked in the back 😎 📚

added to my to-read list: a new book from Mike Monteiro: Ruined By Design. as evidenced by the sample chapter (“Ayn Rand is a Dick”), it clearly (and typically for Monteiro) pulls zero punches (via Jen Myers’ email newsletter)

just finished Anna Burns’ Milkman. haven’t enjoyed a book this thoroughly in a long time. the unique style might not be to everyone’s taste, but I fucking loved it. the story, the style, the characters, the insights… every page was a delight. a masterpiece. 📚

just finished The Sisters Brothers, a book I liked so much the first time that I not only intended to reread it, I actually did! Just in time for the movie to be gone from theaters, lol/sob. but what a great book, I enjoyed it as much as I remembered. 📚

finished The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead. Another gripping & masterfully written story from an author I like a lot, though for me, imagining the railroad as a literal underground construction didn’t add as much to the story as I’d expected.

finished reading God Save Texas, by Lawrence Wright. I enjoyed the mix of history, personal anecdotes, and political analysis. some of the stories cast recent events – in Texas & the US more broadly – in an interesting, some-of-this-ain’t-all-that-new light. 📚

finished Functional Thinking by Neal Ford for yesterday’s @atxcompbookclub. I found juggling examples in several different languages to be more work than it was worth, but as an intro, background, & argument in favor of functional programming, it nailed it. 📚

finished reading: The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller. I really enjoyed this modern telling of The Iliad story, which I knew broadly but have never read. This is so well written, evocative, with superb characterization. highly recommended. 📚

Next was a title that’s been on my list since the 2011 Tournament of Books, where it got to the semis. This opening round review is a good one.

book review: Next, by James Hynes: really enjoyed this. I think I would have even if I weren’t so familiar with much of the setting (a bright, hot day in downtown & south Austin), but that was a bonus for sure. (and what a final act!) 📚

at last, it begins! “Every day for the next few weeks a judge will read two of these novels and select one to advance. Then another set of readers will offer commentary… Eventually one novel reigns supreme & we award its author a live rooster” #ToB18

book review: The Book of Joan, by Lidia Yuknavitch. a literary sci-fi apocalypse story with interesting ideas and moving scenes, undercut for me by some suspension-of-disbelief breaking aspects & a few gory moments 📚

book review: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. overall, not bad, but it didn’t meet the expectations I had after a truly great first chapter, some of the historical period parts struck me as awkward, and a patch or two were a slog 📚 #ToB18

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