Stretch is back for 2020

TalkClub Read 2020

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Stretch is back for 2020

Edited: Dec 6, 2020, 7:12pm

I fell off the map there for a bit but reflecting back over the decade my best reading happened when I was a part of this group So I want to get back at it in 2020, plus the pencil reviews are piling up again so there's that.

Now a list I'll most likely forget to update:


Encounters with the Archdruid | The Graveyard Apartment | I Remember You | Comaville | The Hole

1. I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Prachett
2. Pursuit by Joyce Carol Oates
3. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
4. The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada
5. The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
6. Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
7. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
8. In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
9. The History of Bees by Maja Lunde
10. Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
11. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
12. Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
13. All Systems Red by Martha Wells
14. Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
15. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
16. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
17. Chemistry: a Novel by Weike Wang
18. Confessions by Kanae Minato
19.Vlad by Carlos Fuentes
20. The Box by Richard Matheson
21. The Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

1. How Not to be a Dick
2. The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar by Matt Simon
3. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer
4. The Mixer: The Story of Premier League Tactics, from Route One to False Nines by Michael Cox
5. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
6. Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli
7. The Crash Detectives by Christine Negroni
8. A Religious Orgy in Tennessee by H. L. Mencken
9. Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World by Marcia Bjornerud
10. Superfreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt
11. When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt
12. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
13. Every Tool's a Hammer by Adam Savage
14. Good Clean Fun by Nick Offerman
15. Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt
16. The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski
17. The Rocks Don't Lie by David Montegomery
18. How to Read Literature like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
19. How to Read a Novels like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
20. Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz

Graphic Novels:
1. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
2. Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Kurg
3. Death Threat by Vivek Shraya
4. An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments by Ali Almossawi
5. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
6. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Short Stories/Long form Articles:
1. "Welcome to Friendly Skies!" by Joyce Carol Oates
2. "The Type" by Sarah Kay
3. "Goblin Market" by Christina Rossetti
4. "A Hanging" by George Orwell
5. "A Colder War" by Charles Stross
6. "Troll Bridge" by Terry Pratchett
7. "Season on the Chalk" by John McPhee
8. "The Perils of Indifference" by Elie Wiesel
9. "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Catherine Prim
10. "Grappling with Chronology" by Andrew Snelling

The Pledge = $7.99+$8.99+$11.99+$8.69+$12.99+$7.99=> $58.64
Points = -7

*; Books off the TBR
Percentage of Books read off the TBR pile = 0.0%

Pencils and Sharpeners Reviewed:

Forest Choice HB graphite
Mongol 482
Dixon Ticonderoga and Black
Papermate Mirado
Carl CP-80
General's Cedar Pointe
Staedtler Norcia 132 46 HB
Palomino Prospector
Mitsu-Bishi 9850 HB
Palomino Golden Bear
Musgrave Test Scoring 100
Staedtler Noris school pencil
General's Test Scoring 580
Staedtler FullHB
Helix Oxford Premium Grade
Write Dude's USA Gold #2
Blackfeet Indian Pencil
Palomino HB
Write Notepads Co. Lenore
Tombow Mono HB
Just/Basics HB
Mitsu-Bishi 9000 HB
Chung Hwa 6151
General's Kimberly 525
Papermate Earthwrite
Lee Valley B
Palomino Blackwings

Selected Covers:

Edited: May 29, 2020, 9:52pm


The Ones I Can Remember:

The Night Circus
My Sister Chaos
Red Card
The Ball is Round
Infinite Jest
Inverting the Pyramid
Evidence of Things Unseen
We Should All Be Feminists
When the Emperor Was Divine
Those Who Wish Me Dead
The Civil War: A narrative
Thinking Fast and Slow
Black Rain
Red Mars
Among the Thugs
Don Quixote
Seeking Palestine
Maps of Time
Annals of the Former World
Rough-Hewn Land
Classic Feynman
Don't Be Such A Scientist
Maus and Maus II
Locke and Key
The Nobody
The Road
Becoming Unbecoming
Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
A Sand County Almanac
A Dirty Job
The Secret History
Getting Back
The Stones Cry Out
When She Woke
Going Bovine
The Book of Lost Things
In the Shadow of the Banyan
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
Destiny Disrupted
The Death of Bees
On Parole
One Man's Justice
The River Why
The Tao of Pooh
Fires on the Plain
Thinking About the Earth
The Housekeeper and the Professor

Jan 4, 2020, 12:54pm

Glad you’re back on the map. Intrigued by the inverse relationship between the amount you read and your ratings.

Jan 4, 2020, 1:03pm

>3 dchaikin: Yeah, those years were anomalies for sure, my fiancee passed away and so I gave up on reading pretty much anything that wasn't at least a 4 rating or above apparently, I wasn't pay that much attention at the time, so I guess I ended up with a stack of outstanding books and little else.

Jan 4, 2020, 1:20pm

Happy reading in 2020. I'll look forward to reading about your activities this year. Cheers!

Edited: May 29, 2020, 9:47pm

Since I failed to get a thread together for 2019 I could at least put together some brief notes of what my top reads were for 2019, plus the statistics for continuity. My memory is a bit shit so… yeah…


Total Number of Books = 26 | Pace = 2.17
Fiction = 6 | 23.08%
Non-Fiction = 11 | 42.31%
Short Story = 3 | 11.54%
Other = 6 | 23.08%
Total Number of Pages = 9,083 | Average = 349
Audio Hours Listened = 76.3
Est. Podcast Hours Listened = 724.4
TBR Status = 5.00% Increase (40 books last year)

Bought = 6 | 23.08%
Borrowed = 16 | 61.54%
Stole = 4 | 15.38%

Author Demographics:
Male = 14 | 63.64%
Female = 6 | 27.27%
Mixed = 2 | 9.09%
New to Me = 16 | 72.73%
More than 1 book: Terry Pratchett, Joe Hill

Country of Origin:
U.S. = 15
U.K. = 5
Uruguay = 2
Lebanon = 1
Japan = 1

Publication Year:
2010+ = 19
2000-2009 = 3
1990-1999 = 1
1980-1989 = 1
Pre-1980 = 3

5 = 2
4.5 = 3
4 = 6
3.5 = 4
3 = 5
2.5 = 5
2 = 1

Average = 3.50
42.3 % Rated 4 stars or higher
34.6 % Rated between 3 & 4 stars
23.1 % Rated below 3 stars

Raising Steam by Terry Prachett

The last of Prachett’s Discworld industrial series. I really enjoyed the building of the Disc’s railroad and modernization of the world. Kind of sad that this is the end of the road and the Discworld will never quite be finished. I still have a few of the witches and Rincewind series left to get to but sooner or later there will be no more Discworld books.


The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

Fascinating concept for a story. Having a woman trapped in a terrible forced marriage to use storytelling to trick her way out of a bad situation to be with the partner she truly desires. Gets reduntate by its very nature and drags a little in the end. Beautiful artwork though so flipping pages is still a pleasure.


Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

An intense look into the day to day lives a platoon deep in the hills of Vietnam. The pressure of dealing with endless and pointless patrols that seem only to serve as a constant way to lose buddies in a fruitless attempt to establish control of the region. Holding all together is a group of exhausted officers faced with making bad choices and forced to deal with the bad outcomes. Probably the best read of the year.


Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman

Fascinating but scary look into the history of Scientology. The power of this cult over its true believers defies belief, but growing up in California their propaganda was everywhere in the big cities preying on people in their most vulnerable states. Still you wonder how intelligent adults let the Sea Org take over every aspect of their lives, leaving them at the mercy of a corporation.


Under the Banner by Jon Krakauer
Another terrifying look at religion taken to the extreme. This time the polygamy of the fundamentalist branch of the Mormon Church. Krakauer paints Mormons with too much of broad brush. The conclusions he draws about all mormons is a little much but polygamy is a poisnious concept and leads to dangerous philosophies about women and society.


The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

A nice little book of philosophical musings. Lots to take away from this one and I’ll likely re-read this over and over again at least the last couple of sentences on each topic, the real meat of the stories.


The Subtle Art of not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

One of the reasons I don’t like non-fiction audio books, I’ve retained almost nothing from this one. I don’t remember much of it. I seemed to have liked it and I guess I remember the most important take away so there’s that.


Dreyer's English by Benjamin Dreyer

A snarking irrelevant writing style guide. Was pretty fun. Not really that insightful but fun nonetheless.


Becoming Unbecoming by Una

A powerful graphic novel about sexual assault and the hidden damages it does to it’s victims. Weaving a personal account of sexual assault with sobering statistics of all the women in our lives that have been through this shit. It’s depressing as fuck.


In the Tall Grass by Stephen King and Joe Hill

One of the few short stories by King that was better than the movie. No winning here; just existential dread.


The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

A book on the productivity method, custom list making that has changed my entire world. Not only for staying organized but for putting things down on paper so I remember them now and not later. I’ve been following the Bujo method long before this book was published and it has long since evolved beyond the basics outlined in this book. The method can be picked up just following Ryder’s youtube videos without all the BS that is needed to write a productivity book.


Jan 5, 2020, 10:16pm

>4 stretch: I didn’t know this. I’m sorry, Kevin. I’m happy you’re here sharing your reading.

Edited: Jan 6, 2020, 1:54pm

Three are 3 types of books I try to get in every year: a play, a non-fiction title on something typically outside of my core subject areas, and a science book from the opposing side (typically creation-evolution debate). The latter usually makes me mad in some sense, but I tend to get some perverse satisfaction from it. I recently came across an anti-vax book from my library which at 1st seemed like reasonable collection of essays discussing the ethical ad moral implications of vaccinating children, the concerns of side effects, alternative schedules, etc. Pretty moderate stuff at first, I disagree with much of the initial essays but I can understand their point of view, concern for the health and well-being of a child is natural and for the most part a good. The authors are obsessed with letters after their names, any letters (an MFA, JD, MLS {a real estate thing}, Colonel, whatever an MPH, RD, or LD) none of which are relevant to their discussions so that was moderately humorous. But it quickly devolves into wrong and dangerous ideas very quickly and only despair is on tap for the remainder of chapters. I couldn't stomach the lies and misinformation. It made me physically ill reading the Andrew Wakefield defenses. It is so disheartening I don't even want this in my "library" or grant it a touchstone I don't even want it to get any pull even no matter how small my corner of the world is, so I'm burying the title behind a spoiler tag, Vaccine Epidemic. I'm not one to censor these kinds of things but the information is this book is dangerous and I want nothing to do with the promotion of it what so ever, not even a remote google search.

I'll grant this book was written in 2011 and perhaps with some generosity maybe some of their stances have with any hope evolved. Judging from the various author blogs that assessment is to generous. And that scares the hell out of me.

I can't touch on the specifics of much in the book as I'm not a medical professional, not that would do much good here. But I am in the environmental regulatory and cleanup world, so I can at least apply some of what I know to one essay made the claim that the level of mercury in a flu shot is 250x what the EPA classifies as hazardous waste. The essay makes the claim that the EPA states that a mercury level over 200 PPB must be treated as hazardous waste. The flu shot contains 50,000 PPB. Neither of these two things are correct. A flu shot contains no more than 25 PPB of mercury, most of the time it isn't even detectable by our testing labs. This amount is so small we struggle to even get reliable data back, we just have to assume the 25 PPB. The EPA limit is a leachate value of 200 PPB, for a hazardous waste classification of soil or water. This is not the same as what the authors are implying, it's a bit difficult to go into the chemistry here, but a leachate value is defined by the concentration of the substance once it ahas been percolated through the soil and/or groundwater. These concentrations may be higher or lower than the raw value.

Mercury is itself classified as a listed waste, meaning that it must be disposed of as hazardous. Which means any mercury containing device must be disposed of in a landfill permitted with a level D classification. These landfills are constructed and monitored in such a way to prevent Mercury from leaching into the environment. Accumulation of even small amounts of mercury in other landfills is what RCRA is in place to avoid. A hazardous waste classification has no bearing on the toxicity of the substance. A package of Nicotine gum is considered a hazardous waste if thrown away. It is not a hazardous waste on the store shelves.

Then there is the outlined spill cleanup which is again utterly wrong:

1. The building must be evacuated
No building ever has to evacuated for a mercury spill, ever. You may not want to be in the room of a large mercury spill for an extended period of time, 25 PPB is not a large amount. Nor is it necessary to evacuate if your florescent bulb breaks or thermostat which do have measurable amounts of mercury. There is no immediate danger to your health, you need to chronic exposure of concentrations that far exceed the amount of mercury in these devices. I don't think I've ever even seen enough mercury in all the cleanups I've done that even comes close to imminently harmful. I'm not even sure that manufactures even keep enough mercury on site to be imminently harmful. Mercury is not a common easily extracted metal

2. A certified hazmat team has to come in jumpsuits and gas masks to clean the spill up
Nope, just nope. First a hazmat team is not necessary at all. A Ziploc bag and maybe a pair of gloves is all that is needed for cleanup. I'm sure a hazmat team would laugh if they got a call from a nurse about this.

As a certified Hazmat tech we do not wear anything more than a pair of nitrile/latex gloves and a paper mask. We do wear full face air respirators but that is because we do indeed deal with truly dangerous substances and from a safety standpoint it is not a good idea carry multiple types masks that protect us from a limited number of things when we have masks that can protect us from a lot more. For those not in a hazmat business you don't need a mask. We are around this kind of stuff 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, our exposure is far greater than the public. When we suit up in the full scuba gear and bubble suits it is because we need to limit our exposure it is not necessarily because the ting we are dealing with is acutely toxic. Sometimes it is, we'll let you know if you are in danger. That shit is hot and heavy, and we don't like having to carry unconscious people if we don't have to.

3. The incident must be reported to the government.
This is partially true for hazardous waste spills. Small spills must be included in annual reports for hazardous waste generators detailing the amounts and ultimate disposal of those wastes as a part of the birth to grave documentation within RCRA. In this case a hospitals and medical facilities are already doing that with their medical wastes, blood soaked bandages are also considered hazardous waste. So yes this is sorta a requirement but it's not an emergency call to the EPA or anything like that.

This was literally the only bit of this book I was able to read. I don't even want to address the rest of this trash.

Edited: Jan 6, 2020, 1:48pm

Crazy stuff. Terrific commentary, and cool to learn a little about what you do... I’m kind of fascinated by that part.

Jan 6, 2020, 2:43pm

Oh, I'm excited for the pencil reviews to return! Welcome back!

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:37pm

I've thinking about the lack of diversity shown in the last ten years of reading, while I've been aware of it for a long time I haven't really laid out a plan to address it. This year I wan to make a concentrated effort to do better in this regard with some rules and a little financial motivation:

1. Woman authors are a priority
2. If not a woman the author must be from a country or under represented minority group
3. Any list of rules should have at least three, otherwise they are just bullet points and it is a waste of time numbering them

These rules do not apply to any Non-fiction titles since I'd find that too limiting and would not fit well with my information hording tendencies.

To hold myself accountable throughout the year all books read that don't meet the above rules I'll have to pay the book's listed price to a charity. I'm not sure if it should be a charity I want to donate to or one I hate. I'm leaning towards the hate side of the spectrum to really motivate the reading selections, but maybe one that does good things but I disagree with on a philosophical level like PETA or Greenpeace.

And at the end of the year if I manage to stay south of $100.00 donated, the balance will be donated to a local charity here called Second Helpings.

Prices to be based on Ebook prices since that is what I read most of the time these days. And from store since they are listed at the end of each book.

I'm already starting the year off on the wrong foot but what the hell:

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Prachett - $7.99

Jan 11, 2020, 11:55pm

Rule number 3 is my favorite, but I’m fascinated by this plan. It’s really thoughtful. (I’ll have to know what you’re donating to before I think about giving you encouragement one way or the other...)

Jan 12, 2020, 5:37am

The pencils are back!
>11 stretch: I love your rules system. Wouldn’t work for me (I’ve set myself some goals this year for the first time in ages, but my rules are much looser than yours), but I’m intrigued by the charity (dis)incentive. Looking forward to seeing how it works out...

Jan 12, 2020, 6:26am

So glad you are back! LOVE the analysis of a decade of reading, the graphs & pie charts. I am also fascinated with your plan going forward; it's terribly clever. I know I would soon stray and knowing that each time I did so I was doing good, I'd soon be straying quite purposely. But, I would not make a rule where I would give to a charity I don't believe in.

Edited: Jan 12, 2020, 8:27am

11> I have also been trying recently to buy more contemporary books, in particular, by women writers. My problem is that, having so many books at home already, I don't always actually read the books I buy in any sort of timely manner. In 2019, of the 63 books I finished, 7 were by women and 3 were co-written by male & female writing teams. So, more or less, generally speaking, one out of six. Not so hot, I guess.

Edited: Jan 12, 2020, 12:03pm

>12 dchaikin: Yes, I'm still thinking on this quite a bit, I don't want to donate to causes that are actively working against what i believe in.

So no Political parties, its a hard pass on anti-abortion groups, the NRA, anti-vax or anti-science groups, or an overtly religious group (not because they are religious, but because I'm non-religious and giving to them would feel like spite no matter what good they were doing.) I'm not trying to be jerk about this just trying to structure it in a way that holds me accountable to the goal. In that I'm looking for a charity that is doing something objectively good for the world but I disagree with on means and methods. So I believe in treating animals with kindness and respect and donate to the local Humane society and ASPCA, but I strongly disagree with how PETA goes about their mission on shame campaigns and celebrity endorsements, high admin costs, etc., and I would never consider donating to them if I wasn't forced to. They are not too far from core beliefs but still painful enough to encourage to sticking with the plan. At least that's the idea anyway...

I do hope that you and the others that might visit this thread will help to gently hold me accountable to this experimental plan.

>13 rachbxl: Yeah I've had vague goals in the past, I can't plan out reading and stick to them very well. This is a effort to structure the goal and leave a bit of wiggle room with an incentive not to stray too far from the path. I'm actually excited to see if this works myself.

>14 avaland: Looking back over those years I've found things have improved. Both in gender and diversity, but clearly not enough (fascinating what one's own data relieves about oneself). If anything I've learned from the Freakonomics guys, incentives matter. You're right if I pick a charity I believe in it would be too easy to stray from my goal since in the end it would be going to a good cause. There's got to be a little pain in straying from the path. The trick is finding a balance with a group I don't believe in, but that isn't actively working against the things I do.

>15 rocketjk: Yeah same here. I have the intentions to do more in the past, but never really held my feet to the fire sort speak. Being apart of Club Read has expanded the horizons a lot and things have actually improved. I just wanted to structure this year in way that forces me to improve my own behavior rather than letting me off the hook with small improvements like years past.

I'm not without women/diverse voices, of the 40+ podcasts I've listened to 29 are hosted by at least one woman and another 5 are hosted by an under represented minority, and even though I'm excluding nonfiction in my rules I actually do much better there with 60/40 split, almost all the long form articles I read that are not soccer related are by women. However, I feel I could be doing better and it is my hope that with "plan" I'll be able to influence my own behavior to expand my own habits rather than falling back into something more comfortable. It's an experiment for me and I'll tweak it as needed to achieve the desired results.

Edited: Aug 15, 2020, 7:31pm

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

Moonwalking with Einstein a memoir about the Foer's dive into the world of competitive memory competitions. Centering on the methods that these contestants used to visualize incredibly long lists of words or three shuffled decks of playing cards, etc. and then repeat them back in timed competitions. The author himself found this so intriguing that he took a year or more to train himself and become a contestant in a major competition. Near the end of the book that these training methods are mostly useless to those of us who just wish to better our memories. Theses are really only suited to competitions. The usefulness of keeping facts and dates in our brain is of some use for sure but pencil and paperwork just fine for me. Honestly, I can't remember why I had this book on my shelf. Ironic that.


Connective Tissue: Mary Roach

Jan 13, 2020, 3:09pm

Funny that last line - well, 2nd to last. Interesting to read your response. This book gets hammered, but it’s interesting to get a window into how books were memorized in the past.

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:37pm

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

The Tiffany Aching series has quickly become one of my favorite Discworld line of books. And I thoroughly enjoyed the last (for me) book of the series. Dealing with the maturing of Tiffany Aching and the coming into her own as witch. It was an engaging story about confronting the realities of the world, in all its ugliness, and learning the balance of life. An important death forces the community to come to terms with their roles within society. I Shall Wear Midnight Is darker and more serious than most of the Discworld, less humorous and jovial. I think on the whole the Aching series has been a bit more serious than the others. I also think this story arch is far superior to the witches' series, or at least more cohesive.


Connective Tissue:
Discworld: Tiffany Aching
, Discworld: Witches
Incurred Penalty: $7.99

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:37pm

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder

Seem like good lessons, a bit too of the moment for me straining at times to relate and conflate too much of our current predicament with authoritarian states of the past and present. Still, a good little remainder to be vigilant about eroding freedoms and that even small actions are needed to protect our way of life.


Connective Tissue: Summer for the Gods, Amongst the Thugs, Inherit the Wind

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:36pm

The Mixer: The Story of Premier League Tactics, from Route One to False Nines by Michael Cox

The Mixer is the linear account of the evolution of the soccer tactics of the English Premier League from its flat 4-4-2 long ball of 1992 to the defensive play from the back of 3-at-the-back of Conte. It's a fascinating history of the players and the managers that have influenced the game in this short period of time. The tactical changes were slow to change at first, it took time for the philosophies of the European game to take hold in the EPL. But like a train once up to speed those influences have pushed to tactical side of the game ever further. So quickly have the chances occurred this book already fills dated 3 years on. Pep and Klopp have moved onto another level and the diversity of tactics within the Premier League at mid- to lower end of the table makes for compelling watches if you know you like soccer.


Connective Tissue: Inverting the Pyramid, The Ball Is Round

Jan 22, 2020, 12:39pm

Timothy Snyder shows up here again. Interesting response.

>21 stretch: wondering if I could make sense of this. (I’m clueless. I spend the entire game trying to figure out what the heck the strategies are and why - and never manage to figure it out.)

Jan 22, 2020, 1:02pm

>22 dchaikin:: My rating is too low for the Snyder book. Really just don't know where to fit it, I heard him on NPR (I think) and he was really good interview, maybe beacuase that segment was well done I'm just a bit yeah-yeah about the book.

As for soccer tactics I'd go with Jonathan Wilson's Inverting the Pyramid it's like THE book on the evolution of soccer tactics. It's a door stopper of a book. The Mixer is a bit too in the weeds for a starter, with lots of names thrown about and a general presumption that you know what each position is and is supposed to do on the pitch.

If neither of those are of interest there's a podcast put out by the Total Soccer Show guys called Soccer 101 that goes through the terminology, positional play, how to watch for tactics, and the strengths and weaknesses of formations among other things. This is probably the best and quickest way to get a general tactical awareness for watch a match on TV.

Jan 22, 2020, 1:04pm

Thanks! I’ll start with the podcast

Edited: Jan 22, 2020, 1:08pm

This soccer discussion makes me laugh (at myself). Growing up in the U.S. I had very little knowledge of or interest in soccer, other than the fact that it was fun to get out and kick the ball around in gym class.

I recall about 25 years ago sitting in a hotel room in Dublin by myself watching an EPL game broadcast that had just hit halftime. The commentators were using replays and the telestrator (I think that's what they call it when they draw lines on the screen) to illustrate the two teams' different strategies. I said, "Oh!" It was the first time I'd realized that soccer teams use actual strategies and aren't just kicking the ball around until they can get it close to the goal and try to score. I enjoy watching soccer on TV now, not that I'm really knowledgeable about what I'm seeing, as long as I can generate some sort of rooting interest in the game.

Jan 22, 2020, 1:36pm

>25 rocketjk: I feel much the same way about basketball, even though I should know better I just can't see how the strategies they deploy play out on the court. Until someone draws lines on the TV to tell me what they are doing, I have absolutely no idea what they trying to accomplish except running around until someone is open enough to take a shot. It all happens too quick for me to even see if there is a defensive shape. All the scoring confuses me.

Jan 26, 2020, 9:24am

>20 stretch:, >22 dchaikin: re: Snyder. Michael (dukedom) recently finished another Snyder, The Road to UnFreedom: Russia, Europe, America and plans to review it, if that might be of interest.

Edited: May 29, 2020, 10:04pm

Recently the library added some graphic memoirs dealing with family or coming to terms with family. Two that caught my eye were about two immigrants coming to terms with difficult history and fractured families. War and atrocities tore their families apart in very different ways. These women took on their own projects to make sense of it all were both beautiful and moving.

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

The Vietnam wars that ravished that country after WWII had profound consequences for the trajectories of ordinary people. Plans for life paths that never came to pass. The coming together and marriage of people that really weren't meant for each other, circumstances and a hopelessness of a peaceful future force together. Thi Bui through her simple black.white and red artwork details the painful histories of her family, troubled youth, and of the hardships endured by here parents through a series of interviews from her now estranged parents and her own fragmented recollections. The stories are piecemeal and are difficult since both her parents are damaged by the experience and in turn have left plenty of emotional baggage within the family. It's hard to imagine that Bui, a struggling new mother herself, to explore the past that has caused so much pain in her family and discovery why her parents are the way they are. She wants to try to heal the wounds of the past so that her new family can move on with a new footing and not dwell on the things gone in a country they can never return to. There's no satisfying ending here just a melancholy hope that things will be different now that the past is out there in the open.

I read this in a single seating.


Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Kurg

Kurg a German, is struggling to come to terms with Germany's Nazi past. Were family active members of the Nazi party? And what does that mean for her and her family? Both her parents know little about their past. Both come from estranged families that never talked about or dealt with their histories. Her father the less favored son named after a dead brother who served in the SS is especially distant with his family. So through archival research and distant family interviews Krug is able to piece together the story of her family and discover some uncomfortable truths about their Nazi past. There's not much reflection on this in the end and really it is just an exploration of the past that doesn't really lead anywhere. It was bit harder to read due to the bright artwork and choice to split the text up with illustrations, but still beautiful and worthy reading even if the conclusion is just meh.


Connective Tissue: Maus I, Maus II

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:36pm

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Korede, the narrator, is the elder of a beautiful, charismatic, and sociopath younger sister. Her sister is a killer; there is little doubt that she is a straight up murderer. She is superficial, and uses her beauty and charms to lure her victims into her life. The people around her are so charmed and taken with her beauty that none of them can see her for the murderer she is. All except her sister Korede who knows exactly who she is and where the bodies are buried. Korede is an enabler, obligated by family ties and dark secret, and in my estimations worse than her sister.

Told through short chapters, the pacing of the story is quick and linear. No wasted space. For a long time I thought I knew exactly how this story was going to end, but then it goes in a completely different direction which really made this very enjoyable book a great little read. And while i liked it quite a bit it is hard to imagine how this made the booker long list.


Connective Tissue: My Sister Chaos

Feb 1, 2020, 11:59am

>11 stretch: >16 stretch: I'll be interested in learning which charity you ultimately pick for your challenge. It's an interesting concept, to find one that is doing good, jusst not in the way you would normally support.

Feb 7, 2020, 7:27am

Another alt list for American Dirt much of it publized elsewhere but I just wanted to say I want a book prize judged by these people.

Feb 10, 2020, 6:36pm

>30 markon: I think I am going to go the Salvation Army. The are problematic on many levels. Too business like and too socially conservative for my liking. But they do good work at times. It was through them that my mentally and physically disabled aunt was able to live as much as a unhindered life as possible, with a craft job and social connections otherwise unavailable to folks with her conditions. We as a family take issue with them in other areas and their are better organizations that I’d prefer to give to.

Edited: Feb 13, 2020, 10:48am

Lee Valley B
Wood: Red Incense-Cedar
Core: B
Shape: Hexagonal
Finish: Dark Green
Ferrule: Gold colored aluminium
Eraser: Pink rubber
Markings: Made in Gt. Britain Lee Valley B, in gold foil
Origin: Great Britain

I really tried to like the Lee Valley. It has all the pedigree of a would be great pencil. Beautiful and rare red incense cedar, made by a company known for their high quality woodworking tools, and a dark green finish. On paper this is tailored made for someone like me, but in the end it fails in just about every measure.

Aesthetically the Lee Valley is so simple and beautiful. The dark green paint matches the incense cedar with its streaks of red (it’s not a red cedar, Lee Valley uses a hybrid wood that is used in their other products). The gold color imprint and ferrule are a perfect match with the rich color paint. Sitting on the desk the Lee Valley is the epitome of the elegant tool. And the aroma from the pencil is just amazing.

That’s were the good stops. The B core is dark and smooth as expected. Problem, it breaks every three letters or so. The point strength and retention is awful. You have to sharpen the lee valley constantly. I write each of these reviews in the pencil being reviewed before typing them up, and I’ve chewed through a Lee Valley just to get this far. Then there is the god awful eraser. It is a grumbly piece of junk. So soft and rubbery it literally does nothing but fall apart. The one way this eraser will ever erase anything is by tearing a hole in the paper. Europen pencils tend to have terrible attached erasers. Given the popularity of the eraserless pencils there makes sense that this tend to be weak. The Lee Valley eraser, however, is eggressly bad. So both the business end and the back end of the Lee Valley pencil make it all but useless.

There’s a lot of components to the Lee Valley to like. The woodcasing is of the highest quality, the craftsmanship is top notch, and the design is great. Then there is the graphite which breaks too often, and an eraser that doesn’t erase. It may work well enough for woodworking, but it doesn’t cut it as writing instrument. It’s sad that this doesn’t work as a writing tool. The Lee Valley is such a beautiful instrument and I really wish it was better at doing its job.

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:36pm

The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada

This short novella about a mysterious, omnipresent 'Factory' who's sole purpose is to provide employment to the underemployed populace of the region. 'The Factory' is a massive city onto itself, providing all the material needs and wants of its workforce. At the same time it as impenetrable monolith. With no discernible products, the 'Factory' provides its workforce with mundane and seemingly pointless jobs. There isn't much of a plot here, instead we follow three newly minted employees as they struggle to get through their daily grind of shredding endless amounts of paper, proofing documents that just go through endless iterations, and launching a green-roofing project with slow growing moss. We follow them through the days, months, and years while they struggle with purpose and reasoning to go do their banal jobs. Oh, and the 'Factory' grounds are populated by giant rats, a species a lizard that inhabits the cleaning facilities, a pantless streaker, and black birds that only live within the confines of the 'Factory'.

This is a surreal novella, that is rather bleak. The drudgery of the workers lives and the slipperiness of the timeline would be hard to follow if the book was any longer. It rides the fine line of being strange and depressing without pushing into the total downer category. It is by no means uplifting and the ending is as empty as the narrators jobs. I thought it was a great little read, but I can see how this one isn't an instant recommendation.


Connective Tissue: The Metamorphis

Edited: Feb 19, 2020, 11:33am

>29 stretch: Sounds interesting!

I see you may be reading The Memory Police. I have it in a nearby TBR pile (I can hear it breathing....)

Feb 18, 2020, 10:18pm

>29 stretch: I’ll get here as I wrap up the booker list. It’s the shortest on the list. Curious how I’ll respond to this pair (I’ve read numerous reviews by now)

>31 stretch: this link was a nice little hole to get lost in.

>33 stretch: good grief, any chance you got a bad batch of these pencils. Sounds like they’re not usable. Enjoyed your review and the idea that you write them out in pencil.

>34 stretch: Hmm. Kafka-esque?

Edited: Feb 19, 2020, 2:53am

>34 stretch:

Her book The Hole is coming out soon in English and I very much recommend it. It was the first book I read by her and really made me fall for her writing. I started dreaming about becoming her translator although obviously I was beat to the punch. :)

>35 avaland:

avaland I'm surprised you haven't read My Sister yet. It's right up your alley!

Feb 19, 2020, 9:41am

>35 avaland: The Memory Police is going to be one of favorites for the year, it really is beautifully written.

>36 dchaikin: The Lee Vally really was disappointing. Lee Valley makes some great high quality wood working tools for reasonable pricing their marking tools are pretty awesome. But this pencil just isn't good. Its nice wood and paint is nice but the cheaped out on the other materials using OEM chinese cores and having no idea what an eraser is for. Its god enought to mark wood but not good enough for writing on paper. Lee Valley now sells Blackwings on their website, like so many others.

The Factory is Kafka lite almost a Kafka Ice. Just my addled brain making the most tenuous of connections with past reading.

>37 lilisin: Yeah I've been catching up with your 2019 and Japanese Lit Threads since I've been checked out for some time. I'm now unreasonably excited for The Hole, I'll miss the release date of course because I never keep track of such things.

Feb 26, 2020, 5:18am

I started The Memory Police last year but put it aside as I wasn't in the right brainspace for it. I'm looking forward to having another go this year.

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:36pm

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

The Memory Police in concept is an interesting but straight forward concept: a mysterious island were objects and concepts disappear - flowers, boats, photos, calendars, days, etc - the things that disappear don't just physically disappear but are erased from peoples memories, complete with an obsessive and secretive police force that ensures that things are eternally forgotten. It's the perfect setup for the typical contrarian hero determined to fight off the tyrannical police and free the people of the island from their own oppression. Instead, it's a quiet drama of writer as she navigates an increasingly stifling world where goods are scarce and police disappear those that can't forget. The only real drama comes from her radical chose to hide her editor who remembers all the things that have disappeared. But really this is a vehicle explore her surreal detachment to the things that disappear. The story is paralleled by a novel within the novel she is writer were a typist slowly loses her voice. The world fades and people leave yet everything must go on as before. All there is, is what is left and no matter how one struggles against the loss there will always be more disappearances. She must find a new path to navigate an undefinable loss to carry on.

The Memory Police is not some epic fight against the surveillance state or self exploration as the world around us slowly fades and what that means in some grander scheme. There's not much of plot to speak of, no character development, she is just an observer of increasingly bleak and fading world. There are no satisfying answers to the bigger questions asked in this novel; What are we without our memories? Who knows. Things just fade away and people endure. Eventually there is nothing left to forget and the world moves on. The Memory Police is an odd novel to define, it doesn't come to some satisfying conclusion, it isn't an exploration of some grand theme, it isn't a thrilling fight against an oppressor or extensional threat, it is beautifully written. I'm not entirely sure what it is, but I enjoyed it immensely.


Connective Tissue: Nothing.

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:35pm

Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli

A powerful and personal series of essays about the child migrant cross at the border. Framed as answers to the 40 question intake questionnaire that Luiselli as a volunteer interpreter trying to facility legal aid for these children. Using the questions used to triage the cases for lawyers was not only unique, but forces the reader to examine how they would answer them and examine their own biases. Can't imagine how hard it was to constantly hear the stories of vulnerable children knowing that it was impossible to help them all.


Connective Tissue: Seeking Palestine

Mar 13, 2020, 7:42am

>40 stretch: Very nice review of The Memory Police. The story still comes to mind from time to time, a kind of haunting, I suppose.

Edited: Mar 22, 2020, 10:21am

Another planning post:

So the disincentive project to motivate me to read more women is working like a charm. It forced me to look for books in places I never would have before and build a reading list I'm excited about. I've already improved my global percentage of women authors by 2%. I have no desire to give this up. However, I have begun to see issues: (1) I'm avoiding books I really want to at least try because they are written by men, (2) I'm already beginning to rationalize the disincentive, it's too weak and i really don't want to go full dark, (3) i want to expand my own reading diversity in all directions, and (4) I think there is the potential for better system that may even incorporate non-fiction.

This is just a working draft of the proposal:

Step 1: Institute a point system
3 pts for novel by a woman
2 pts for a translated work
1 pt for book written by all other minority groups (ethnically diverse, LGBTQ, disabilities, etc.)

-5 pts for white male authors from English-speaking countries
-2 pts for non-fiction of the same ilk or if it is TBR pile book
Points can be accumulative (i.e. a translated work by a woman = 5 pts). This allows me to build up points while still having a penalty that is to be paid for not reading diverse books.

Step 2: Establish a point total goal that can be changed with each year to fit reading plans. I don't know what this looks like I think I'll crunch some numbers from my past years to establish a baseline and see how this year stacks up. Goal needs to be aspirational, but still achievable.

Step 3: A new disincentive. The monetary one I put forth earlier would be too complicated with the point system, and I can always see my brain rationalizing its way out, the bastard. So for falling short of the goal I need something painful (mildly) that is scalable for how far short of the goal I fail to reach. I'm short on idea for this.

I hate running. I play soccer but I hate just running. So one idea is to do a half-marathon and each point I fail by is equal to the km I have to run. The main problem I'm not entirely sure I can run a half-marathon, that requires a level a dedication to training for pure running I just don't have. I could probably do 3-4 miles easily maybe even 5 or 6 if I'm feeling cocky, but the full 13.1 that seems like it might the undoing.

I'm open to suggestions!

Edited: Mar 15, 2020, 11:07am

1 hour of running for each negative point?

Are there household chores you hate doing -- cooking, laundry, washing dishes? Maybe have a partner, family member, or friend hold you responsible for doing chores for x number of hours / days?

Or, instead of a punishment, restructure to a earn rewards -- you get to buy one book for every positive point...

Mar 15, 2020, 8:37am

>43 stretch: Your incentive/disincentive plans are terribly clever. I'd recommend simplicity - something like for every book you read in challenge categories, you get to read a male-authored book. Just a thought.

Mar 15, 2020, 11:45am

>44 ELiz_M: The hour of running might be ticket! Unfortunatley cleaning isn't punishment for me. My partners broke us and we perfer to do chores.

>45 avaland: Oh its too clever by half. But I've tried more passive approaches over the years. I may not be typical in putting goals down in public but I do make some in the begining of the year. It's made some small improvements over the years, but I have a lot of ground to make up. ANd knowing my own tendencies and habits a more agrressive appraoch is needed. I'm horrible with names, truly terrible I've worked closely with a guy for over ten years and just recently found out I've been calling him by the wrong name this entire time. I was so wrong that everyone thought I had just nicknamed and he now goes by that instead of his given name (I feel bad about this). So I've always been fascinated that other readers can follow authors so closely when I can't even tell you the name of the one I'm currently reading. So paying attention to who the author is has always been a low priority. If nothing else this forces me to pay attention and to seek out books I'd otherwise miss because I wasn't. And the incentive part is just a kick in the ass my own hard headness needs from time to time.

This approach is working for me and has completely 180'd my own reading lists, I just want to give myself a bit more room to expand that list while still aggressively forcing a change in habit, even if it is a bit more complicated. With all the things I track from books, soccer, and pencils (you should see the spreadsheets) this is just another data point.

Mar 15, 2020, 3:33pm

>46 stretch: I'm impressed then. The minute I institute any kind of goals, restrictions, parameters on my reading, I nearly always rebel in fairly short order. But, I've found that my literary instincts are generally reasonably good so I have followed them.

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:35pm

A Religious Orgy in Tennessee: A Reporter's Account of the Scopes Monkey Trial by H.L. Mencken

Inherit the Wind is among my favorite books of all time. So getting a first-hand account from one the foremost journalist and cultural critics of the time. It is easy to see the material that Jerome Lawrence was able to draw from for the play. The feel and the characters for the play are straight out Mencken's reporting. It is a biased reporting for sure, but Mencken was a master at setting an atmosphere for tense cultural war. Even when the proceedings of that war didn't quite live up to the billing. It kind of felt like Mencken was stretching what little material there was, and is hatred for the 'yokels' is on full display in his writings. Mencken was an elitist ass. A repetitive ass. In all the words he spills on the page he actually says very little. He goes for cutting remarks and quotable quips far to often in his re-telling of events. Fond of his large vocabulary a great deal of substance is lost in being superior to all those around you. There were a couple of initial quotes and some funny lines, but mostly it was just repetitive religious southern folk without an Ivy league education are bad drivel dressed up in fancy language.

I was surprised to learn that Mencken was not present during the seminal moment of the trial, when Darrow questioned Byrant on the stand. It was such a water shed moment in the case. One that has long outlasted any other outcome of the case. And Mencken had to write it from a third party accounting. I'm sure he would have been able to squeeze out several more columns just from Byrants own testimony. Not that any new Revelations would have come from it, but it would've at least made his take down of Byrant a bit more interesting.

A transcript of Byrant's testimony is included as an appendix. The rest can be skimmed, but this is worth reading.


Connective Tissue: Inherit the Wind, Summer for the Gods, Monkey Girl, Finding Darwin's God, Kitzmiller et. al. v. Dover Area School District

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 10:28pm

So I'm doing the absolute worst at actually reading the books I same I'm reading at this point. I read mostly library books and getting sick put a big slow down into my schedule. I still did some reading and in fact stumbled upon a new favorite author. It's just smaller stuff requiring less concentration to consume and that was readily available from my library system. So I started reading books from the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire. Read completely out of order per usual, but that wasn't so much a problem since each is a stand-alone story only linked by a common the magical doorways that lead into alternate realities.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

This is a twist on the classic fable of Jack and Jill. Twin girls Jacqueline and Jillian raised to fit exacting standards of their distant and uncaring parents. Jacqueline to be an aggressive, sports loving tomboy (a replacement son) and Jillian to be a prim and proper lady. Their doorway takes them to a land where for the first time they get to chose what direction their lives take, for the first time they are allowed to become the people they want to be or at least explore the sides of their personalities that they repressed for so long to fit their parents molds. Both the dark and the good comes out in their characters being raised by a vampire lord and a mad scientist.

This one is the second book in the series, and first read by me. So far it is undoubtedly the favorite, such a unique way to tell a coming of age story even if it is a bit macrabe and twisted.


Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

This is the first book of the series and is very much the setup story. It's both an introduction to the alternate realities through the magical doors and how this universe works by introducing multiple characters and defining the worlds they visited on a spectrum of high logic to high nonsense, whether they are good or malevolent. It is also a murder mystery.

Sometimes the alternate reality rejects the children, and they must learn to readjust to our reality. There is a boarding school setup to help children learn to live with the lost of what they consider their true homes. This book is both an introduction to the doorways and the various world's that lead to them and an explanation of the children that the doors choose to take from this world. It's also a murder mystery, Children are being brutally murdered at this school full of runways. In order for the school to continue to operate and function as a way station for these children it is up to them to find out who is behind these murders and stop them.

It's a lot to throw at one book. And McGuire barely pulls it off. I can understand why the mystery is there to pull the story along but it is the weakest part of the book as a whole and I think there was another way that used the doors in a better way. The other weakness is that the Wayward series includes many characters on the LGBTQ spectrum. Here that handling is clunky, it's sometimes painfully obvious when McGuire wants to hammer in on a point and breaks the flow of the narrative to explain asexuality or consent. She has so many good passages and lines that show these important messages, it isn't necessary to straight up hit the reader over the head with them.

This very much feels like a setup story for the rest of the series.


In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

One of the older counselors at the boarding school for Wayward Children is an eight-year-old little girl. She went to world that was governed by market based on a bartering system where everything must be traded at fair value. Everything is tradable even life and death, however there are heavy prices to be paid for the fair value of a life. And the debt must be paid. The consequences for not squaring your debt in this world are quick and exacting. Lundy made a deal that wasn't of fair value. She was banished from what she considered her for a deal that had no fair value. As punishment, she ages backward in our reality.

Another fascinating world and compelling story. Got much stronger towards the end.


Connective Tissue: The Book of Lost Things, Locke & Key

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:35pm

The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

The story is told in three parts in following three separate timelines.

The past - an English natural historian/failed shop keep and the development of an industrial beehive.

The present - an American bee farmer struggling to build and pass on the farm to a son who doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps. This is where the bees are beginning to disappear

The future - a pollinator in a dystopian China, where the cities are abandoned and a bulk of the population, including children are forced to focus on food production. Without bees the humans are forced to pollinate the fruit trees by hand.

All three characters are depressing to follow. One because he is depressed, the other because everything is going to pot, and the third because she lives in dystopia that is incredibly bleak. Through the lost of her only child she rediscovers that the bees have returned to the landscape. It’s supposed to be uplifting, but it’s not. It’s just a bleak book that piles on the bleakness.

It would be a stronger book if it just followed a more fleshed out farmer’s story, this one feels the most complete, the most dynamic. The past and future timeline are just spare parts adding to the continuously depressing atmosphere. Altogether they are three depressing well written boring stories.


Connective Tissue: Station Eleven

Edited: Apr 17, 2020, 11:50pm

>40 stretch: This is more or less exactly how I felt about The Memory Police - you have summed it up very well.

I used to feel a similar way about books by Banana Yoshimoto - although her stuff is much more naturalistic - I enjoyed them but couldn't put my finger on why.

I like your 'Connective Tissue' idea.

Edited: Apr 18, 2020, 1:18pm

>51 wandering_star: One of these days I'm going to have to get either Kitchen or Asleep never sure if I should go with her most popular work or the one that sounds the most interesting.

Haha, the connective tissue bit is just me making loose connections, trying not forget how passed reading influences future reading. At least it gives me something to think about.

Apr 19, 2020, 9:20am

>49 stretch: Enjoyed your reviews of all the McGuire books. If I didn't already have great piles of books around me, I might have added some of them to it. :-)

Apr 19, 2020, 4:29pm

>53 avaland: For while there I was worried that all my reading was going to be McGuire, her writing and take on on storytelling has quickly become on of my favorites. I got so many of her books on my library wishlist, but I am trying to branch out a little. They were perfect books to read while I was sick so I'm trying to get back into some of the other books I said I was reading from earlier and hope to get back to McGuire a little later but who knows my willpower is weak.

Edited: Apr 22, 2020, 8:47am

I have now officially overcomplicated my offline reading tracking spreadsheet. And yet it still feels incomplete. Just marking the day when I took this into overkill territory.

Although it did help realize an error I made in calculating Avg pages and Avg rating. A population vs. sample problem, that I couldn't work out for way too long. In the chart post the red lines are slightly off (0.01 rating and 2 pages respectively), and now it will shame me forever.

Apr 22, 2020, 12:22pm

Some Shorter works:

"Welcome to Friendly Skies!" by Joyce Carol Oates

Was delightfully weird and twisted story about a special kind of flight. Maybe the first thing from Oates a truly enjoyed. I feel like Oates is the type of writer I think I should like way more than I do. I love her concepts and I can see that she is a super talented storyteller, but I still never quite enjoy her books, and I have no idea why. But I'll keep trying.

"The Type" by Sarah Kay

A spoken word poem. Wasn't the worst, merely okay. Still, not the biggest fan of poetry. Will also keep trying.

"Goblin Market" by Christina Rossetti

The Children's poem that inspired the plot In an Absent Dream. Found it to be kind of a slog, again not the biggest fan of poetry, I still maintain you have to love language for language’s sake to really appreciate poetry. I am not smart enough to appreciate language but reading some literary interpretations articles, I am almost certain that they are a load of shit.

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:34pm

Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World by Marcia Bjornerud

As a geologists it is sometimes difficult to not treat time as an abstract. Working the "quick" timescale of groundwater means that even in my lifetime most of the projects I've worked on won't have naturally turned over once. It becomes easy to think of time in numbers, what's a 100, 1,000, 1,000,000, or even 100,000,000 years? We're trained to become comfortable with deep time scales and cycles that are and should be largely unfathomable. Our relationship with time is both fatalistic and oddly optimistic. We ourselves have little of it, but the Earth has had eons and will continue to have eons after us (until our star has burned out its fuel). We appreciate time in a way that the culture finds difficult to comprehend and runs counter to our instincts.

In Tunefulness, Marcia Bjornerud makes an impassioned and eloquent argument for developing a poly-temporal worldview of time is one of Bjornerud’s objectives. A concept she calls Timefulness. Bjornerud is cautious to avoid the trap timelessness that so many geologist fall into. She contends that timelessness falsely invokes a sense of permanency and sterile aspiration, when the Earth in fact is dynamic and in a constant never ending state of change. That understanding timefulness better equips scientist to tackle the larger philosophical and practical questions posed by climate change. And that the practices of close reading and spatial visualization in geology provides material records that have documented many changes of our planet. Something that human beings are not been able to witness or experience. It is crucial that geologists take a more active role in public discourse to encourage the public to think more deeply about Earth’s multiple past and future iterations. She makes a compiling case that "fathoming deep is geology's greatest contribution to humanity".

It's a hopelessly romantic book, but If nothing else she has been able to articulate something I have found so difficult to explain. Rocks to a geologist aren't nouns they are verbs. They have stories to tell about the past and the future.


Read the first chapter it's worth it!

Connective Tissue: Maps of Time

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:34pm

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

Another adventure in Jack and Jill's deadly world. I guess this is supposed to be the finale of the Moors and the final trip with Jack and Jill. It was satisfying conclusion for the sisters and leaves open the possibly of more adventures with our cast of oddball characters. However, it was short and felt a bit rushed, more like an episode in these characters lives rather than a full fledged chapter. I liked it well enough but certainly not my favorite of the series.


Connective Tissue: The Book of Lost Things, Locke & Key, Down Among the Sticks and Bones

Edited: Aug 16, 2020, 11:07am

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea is a wonderfully imaginative world where stories live and are preserved for safekeeping. The starless sea that lives beneath our feet, full of stories, books, and literary wonders is a paradise for storytellers and misfits. Where there is a place for people to find their own story. Something worth preserving and protecting. It's a place of wonder and beauty that only Erin Morgenstern can conjure up and bring to life in so much riveting detail.

Told through interwoven stories that are all the same story. An endless cycle of the same story playing out over and over again, different characters, different settings, but ultimately the same story. There's a mystery of secret societies and symbols. A never-ending love story. A thriller with deadly consequences. And finally, a procedural that puts it all together. The story is actually kind of a mess. For long stretches both the characters of the books are confused in time and by elements within the story. So is the reader. It's ok for the characters to be confused, for the symbology to not make sense, and for the events not fit linearly. In fact, that is an element for good storytelling. It's bad storytelling for the reader to be just as confused. There needs to be a common overarching thread for the reader to follow, one that helps fill in the questions being asked. Morgenstern does provide one but waits until that last ¼ for the puzzle pieces to beginning fitting together. There's a lot of action in between for us all to be lost in, I'm still not entirely sure if some of it makes sense. It would have been tighter and stronger if the procedural bit started about half-way through the book and bits of the larger picture were fitted together sooner. It would have made sense of the antagonist and why the starless sea was falling apart, why it keeps persisting. It would have also helped the story come to a more satisfying conclusion or at least giving the ending a bit more of a punch than it did.

Despite its glaring storytelling flaws I still loved it. I loved the atmosphere. I loved the world-building. I loved Morgemsterns approach to interwoven stories and underlining thesis; that all stories are the same story, and yet they are all different. I don't I guess I am forgiving, even if it didn't come together as I hoped.


Connective Tissue: The Night Circus; Every Heart a Doorway; The Book of Lost Things

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:39pm

Palomino Blackwings
Wood: Incense-cedar
Core: Various grades graphite
Shape: Rounded Hexagonal
Finish: Black, white, natural, and Special colorways for quarterly editions
Ferrule: Gold, silver, or black squared of metal
Eraser: Adjustable soft pink rubber (square), non-smudge; and Square plastic of various colors
Markings: Varies depending on pencil and edition
Origin: California (wood); Japan (manufacturing)

So I've avoided reviewing what is arguably the pencil that has had the largest impact on the wood case pencil in the past 20 years. And I will continue to avoid a direct review of the pencil, there are too many variants designs, and I'm not a regular user. Instead, I'll discuss the relaunch of the long storied Blackwing 602 by California Republic that breathed new life into a stale pencil world with some thoughts on the pencil in use.

Courtesy of the Blackwing Pages

In order to talk about the relaunch version we have to discuss the original Blackwing 602. The Blackwing 602 was manufactured by Eberhard Faber Pencil Company from 1934 to 1998. It was widely considered one of the best American pencils. They were quite brazen in its marketing, making claims like "half the pressure, twice the speed" to describe its dark line but long-lasting point. It was the favorite of creative types like animators Chuck Jones and Don Bluth, authors John Steinbeck and E.B. White, composers Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, John Williams, Stephen Sondheim, Nelson Riddle, and Quincy Jones, playwrights Eugene O'Neill, and Arthur Laurents, the filmmaker Todd Field, and the poet Archibald MacLeish. It became iconic for its graphite colored lacquer, square ferrule with the pink eraser, gold imprint, brazen slogan, and smooth and darker than a typical HB core. It was a very popular premium pencil and did well until word processors and cheap school pencils flooded the market. Sanford which owned Eberhard Faber said it was because of the breakdown of the machine that formed the bit of metal for the adjustable eraser. Really the market for the Blackwing 602 had eroded so far that it was worth it for Sanford to fix the machine and to discontinue making woodcase pencils. They became immediate collectors items that people have horded like crazy, driving up the prices and crating a cult following for all things 602. The love for vintage 602 is a bit insane, some versions of this pencil go for as much as $60 per pencil. And frankly they aren't that great. They aren't all that dark, or smooth; they are actually kind of scratchy. Now I can totally understand the love a pull of vintage pencils. I happen to love the EF Mongol 482's that have been discontinued even longer than 602's, but even I have to acknowledge that just about any store bought pencils are better than my old Mongols. There are no color of rose-tinted glasses that are ever going to make a pencil worth that much. It's a wooden stick that marks paper and disappears as you use it. At $60 it is no longer a tool but a collectors item that illicits a lot of questions about one's sanity. I mean you don't put this on the wall like a painting to be enjoyed. This goes in a drawer to be forgotten maybe occasionally brought out to show some poor understanding soul your crazy side.

Courtesy of the Blackwing Pages

There was a hole when the original was shelved. The like's of California Republic, Musgraves, General's, Steadtler, and Dixon were still churning out their typical hexagonal and round school/drawing pencils that have for generations. But there was nothing like the Blackwing. When the trademark for the Blackwing 602, California Republic snatched it up and announced a relaunch of the Blackwing brand with a tribute to the original. The buzz around the relaunch of the once again holding one of the most iconic pencils in history was about as most exciting thing pencil nerds good get. And it has been phenomenally successful. Although the initial 2010 relaunch was not without controversy. Dubbed the MMX (Romanian numerals for 2010) by the pencil community recently rebranded the matte. This pencil was more of a tribute to the Original Blackwing and not a direct replica. The MMX was darker and smoother than the original, it was black instead to graphite gray, had a gold band and white eraser. Really it looked nothing like the original, simply borrowed the name. For the some Blackwing 602 enthusiasts this was unacceptable, they wanted a copy of their favorite pencil and nothing short of that would do. Never mind that launching a pencil in 2010 was a feat in of itself. And never mind that Palomino would use the feedback a couple of years later to launch the new Blackwing 602, a more direct copy of the original. It was all but over the top and probably lead to a further generational divide within the pencil community. Nostalgia and history are powerful forces that "traditionalist" fans will hold onto until the bitter end. While the Matte pencil is phenomenally good it's core was better suited for drawing than writing being super dark and smooth but lacking in the retention department. It was recently relauched without the gold band and with a black eraser to better match the branding of the other models.

Courtesy of the Blackwing 602

Based on the success of the Matte, the Palomino brand launched a more direct copy of the 602. Taking some of the most iconic bits of the original 602, the gray graphite lacquer, the pink rubber eraser, the gold ferrule, and even the famous slogan "half pressure, twice the speed". It wasn't as dark or as smooth as the Matte, but the point retention and durability was fat better. I would put it on par of any typical Japanese writing core. After the replica 602, Palomino launched the Pearl. A white pencil with a white eraser that is somewhere between the Matte and 602 core. It's a great Goldilocks of pencil that fits somewhere between the drawing and writing grades. Still, I prefer the 602 core the point retention to darkness ratio is a better fit for my preferred pencil. These pencils were tremendously successful. Then Palomino turned it up to 11. Jumping on the tremendously popular stationary trend of quarterly specialty editions, Blackwing launched quarterly themed pencils with different finishes using one of the three standard editions cores that they call Volumes. Each theme is based on a number associated with some creative individual, or cultural event. For subscribers there's even a collector pencil sealed in a plastic (now glass) tube and sometimes a small trinket. I can't state enough how much these editions have changed the pencil world. For popular editions like the 211, first naked edition themed after the John Muir trail, individual pencils are going for as much as some vintage 602's. The have inspired a line of perimeum notebooks, long point pencil sharpeners, pencil rolls, colored pencils, and point protectors. In the erasable community there is a subgroup of 'hackwing' enthusists that swap the different ferrules and erasers of the various editions to make unique combinations all their own. And with the huge success of the 211, there is now a fourth standard edition called the Natural. It is a unlacquered pencil that showcases the natural grain of the cedar with a firmer core. Needless to say the Palomino Blackwing has breathed new life into the woodcase pencil community. There is genuine excitement around each new edition.

Courtesy of the well appointed desk

So I appreciate the various Blackwings and I really like seeing the editions as they come out each quarter. The creativity of the Palomino team is amazing. I love the backstories. I really love that the other companies like Musgrave are moving into the 21st century and are putting out some of the best pencils they have made in decades. It's hard to understate just how important the revamped Blackwing line is to this niche community. Yet I don't actually use the pencils myself. I've never purchased a special edition and I've own nothing from the Blackwing line of stationary. One reason is the ferrule and square eraser bother me. Sure it's adjustable but by volume you get less eraser in a Blackwing than regular eraser, granted not by much and with some pencils its more eraser. Not the biggest drawback in the world, what I really don't like is the aesthetics of the end of the pencil. It's distracting to me and doesn't balance right with how I hold the pencil. But that is just a quirk of mine and not really a valid criticism. The real reason I'm reluctant to pick up a Blackwing is that they defeat the philosophical underpinnings of why I love pencils. I love pencils because they are cheap seemingly tools that perform a job. Blackwings at $2.00 per pencil perform the same job, but a double the cost of some of the best pencils on the market. While not expensive in the grand scheme of things with a dozen pencils still outlasting any pen at a similar price or more, they just don't fit my personal cost to benefit ratio. I just can't get the same value out a Blackwing as I can out of say a Forest Choice, Tombow 558, Test 100, the Harvest, or Mongol 482. While the Blackwings are approaching works of art in the special editions they just bring as much joy to me as some of the more humbling offerings. Still, some of those editions are hella sexy.

Courtesy of the gentleman stationer

Edited: May 29, 2020, 9:59pm

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

I apparently can't stop reading Seanan McGuire. The series is so easy and fun digest. This time we go on a quest to a Nonsense world full of Sugary Confections. I thought I'd hate the Bright and light nonsense worlds, but actually they are just as dark as worlds of death. Nothing makes sense in Confection. Landscapes made of candy and the magic makes no sense. The only thing that keeps the story grounded are the sarcastic characters and their earnest desire to succeed.

Probably my second favorite of the Wayward seriess, sad I'm out of books, happy I can read future books in publication order.


Connective Tissue: Every Heart a Doorway, The Death of Bees

May 30, 2020, 9:03am

>60 stretch:

Still, some of those editions are hella sexy.

Awesome review but this line is all I needed because they are indeed some damn sexy pencils.

May 30, 2020, 9:42am

>60 stretch: As a fountain pen person, I really enjoy reading all the geeking out on pencils, and can relate. I'm not much of a pencil user... though maybe I should break some of my old ones out and give them a try again.

May 30, 2020, 6:55pm

>60 stretch: So entertaining! The best thing I read today.

May 31, 2020, 10:54am

>62 lilisin: I'm just so happy I could work hella into a sentence again. That makes my NorCal heart happy again.

>63 lisapeet: Yeah fountain pens are a whole nother thing. I never got excited about using pens in school like the kids in my class did. Saved me a rabbit hole that.

>64 sallypursell: Glad you got something out of it. It's a werid niche of mine, but I enjoy doing it and y'all are crazy enough to read it I'll keep posting.

Jun 1, 2020, 3:28pm

>60 stretch: Ahem. These Blackwing posts and photos of yours are not helping my budget, sir. I purchased a box of Blackwing 840 pencils after you and Kay combined to break down my resistance, along with this enticing YouTube video:

That was quite enough...and now this?! I'm still working on my first 840 pencil, and now I want ALL.THE.PENCILS.

I shall have to report you to the LibraryThing powers that be, I'll think of something.

Great post!

Edited: Jun 1, 2020, 7:44pm

>66 kidzdoc: Oh yeah, the promo videos will get you every time. The 840 is among the most beautiful editions. The 530 is my favorite because I use to fish next to historic marker of the Sutter Mill's actual location, fun fact 530 us the only federal historic marker with two locations. But the Bathomatric topography of Lake Tahoe in 73 is just stunning, and having an entire movie printed on 1138 is just plain cool even if it isn't much of looker. The creative team at Palomino is insane with what they try and pull off.

And hey at least I'm not selling the ugly brown stick with an average core at best that is known as the Swiss Wood. They go for $5.50 a pop and smell like treated lumber. I'll take the hit for beautiful and decent albeit not cheap pencils.

My next one will be a bit cheaper, just need write up another cool pencil company.

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:33pm

Superfreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

More of the same Freakonomics. Intriguing and sometimes fascinating insights about unconventional topics. It was good but certainly nothing groundbreaking. At times the thinking and reasoning is faulty especially when they get over their skis a bit. It is worthy sequel and good read. Still learned quite a lot.


When to Rob a Bank by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

This is a collection of essays from the freakonomics blog. Some of this is the success of the freakonomics way of the thinking and some of its failures. Some essays are expanded into full chapters of their books and some comes from their collaborators and economist that have looked in unconventional places into the insight of human nature and interactions. The Collaborative essays are by far the most interesting and wish that this and the failures were the focus of this book. I am probably rating this one too high but my overly complicated calculator says otherwise.


Think like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Thinking like a Freak is the distillation of the all the other books with useful tips and insights into the way of thinking like well a freak. I am a fan of the incentive riven way of thinking and change. How it drives our thinking about all kinds of economic thinking. When saying I don't know can lead to some of the most important ideas, thoughts, and insights. How to get to truth when through all the bullshit. What makes persuasion works. How knowing when to quit has upsides to your health and emotional well-being. That thinking simple and from a different angle can help us solve our biggest issues in small digestible steps.

None of this earth-shattering stuff by itself. Collected into a single volume does this make this whole thing worthwhile. The tools and tips in this book are good reminders for thinking through things slower, more carefully, and coming at people and topics from different angles to get at the root of the matter.


Connective Tissue: Freakonomics, Thinking Fast and Slow

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:34pm

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

The essays on feminism, discrimination, and self-esteem were the kind of shut up and listen essays I was looking for. The essays on culture and media criticism were less interesting and a reminder of why I don't pay that much attention to media critics of all kind. We like what we like, analyzing it from all angles makes it all a bit less fun. No the irony is not lost on me that this is criticism of a piece of media. But for its worth no one should take any of this all that seriously.


Connective Tissue: We Should All Be Feminists

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:33pm

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

This was a future western dystopian about a group of women that call themselves Librarians but are really a refuge for women across the LGBTQ spectrum. It's more of vehicle for a story about the escape of one woman whose sexuality makes her unsafe for the conservative society she's in. It wasn't a very good story. Everything was too convenient too easy, and she could lie and read the room too well for any of it be believable. Without a challenge the stacks are never that high and the danger is never real. The women are more than capable and are able to plain sight without much trouble. It's just not a compelling story. And the Non-binary character's use of the pronoun they meant entire paragraphs were confusing, it's hard to tell if the they is talking about the singular character or the entire group making it hard to keep reading.


Connective Tissue: The Sisters Brothers

Edited: Jun 7, 2020, 8:30pm

I am not a detected maker myself, but I do admire those who are and their processes. Helps inform the making I do do. Usually I just watch videos or read articles, but I was short on podcasts, so I gave a couple of famous for other reasons makers audiobooks. Both these men come to their very different crafts from constructing scenery for the stage.

Every Tool's a Hammer by Adam Savage

This is Adam Savage's, of mythbuster fame, short memoir about pursuing a passion and seeing it where it leads. As a generalist Savage is the collector of skills not necessarily a master. So it's not super detailed in any one practice. Really there isn't much to learn here except that passion and inclination for creative can make some cool shit. There's also some philosophical caveats for the underpinnings of organizing a shop and tool storage that works for Savage which is also known as organized chaos. It's definitely not my speed, but whatever works.


Good Clean Fun by Nick Offerman

Nick Offerman is a serious woodwork with Midwestern country sensibility, told from a less than serious persona. This is a straight break down of what wood working means to him and exactly how he goes about it. He's singular focus and more organized style is very different from Savage's methods. In fact, they are complete opposites. The trouble here is separating his persona he refers to as a clown from the passion he has for woodworking and the perfection of his craft. It's mix of both serious and less than serious at the same time. It just washes over you, not sure much of anything was picked up here.


Connective Tissue: Yes, Please

Edited: Jul 2, 2020, 7:36am

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Overall, I liked All Systems Red. The plot reads like a thriller and should be filled with twists and turns, but is fairly straightforward. I absolutely loved the concept of “Murderbot” — a security robot created of organic and inorganic parts that hacks its own system, gains sentience and a sort of freedom, becomes socially awkward, and wants all the humans to just shut up so it can watch its soap operas. I’m not sure how, but Wells has managed to create a character that calls itself ‘Murderbot’ and still manages to be one of the most delightfully relatable character.The human characters basically have no development and are little more than window dressing.

One of the things that I loved about Every Heart a Doorway is that the author manages to create a beautiful, full world in under 200 pages. I don’t feel like this is the case with All Systems Red. This feels like there’s so much left unexplored in this world and so much growth for the Murderbot, a great teaser to keep reading the rest of the series.


Connective Tissue: Downbelow Station

Edited: Jul 2, 2020, 7:35am

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

A brother seeking justice for his older brother being gunned down for being on the wrong side of the neighborhood. It's novel told in lyrics about a young man trying to live up to a strict but generational destructive code of honor. In the course of six story elevator ride, a little over a minute, this teen is visited by all the death and destruction he has seen or been a part of in his young life. The death of surrogate brother, an uncle, his childhood friend, his father, and finally his own brother. All in the endless cycle of violence and revenge dictated by the code. A cycle set to repeat itself as soon as this elevator reaches the lobby.

It was a powerful and innovative way to tell this story. Not quite poetry but close enough for me to count it.


Connective Tissue: The Type

Jul 4, 2020, 5:15pm

Some more shorter works:

"A Hanging" by George Orwell

The recounting of the execution of a Burmese prisoner by hanging. What is most disturbing about this essay is just how casual the participates are during the whole affair. The routine of it all is something else.

"The Troll Bridge" by Terry Pratchett

I'll never get enough of Prachett. This is a short story about washed up hero and a outdated troll trying to cling to what they know as the world shifts and passes them by. Short and sweet and fitting

"Season on the Chalk" by John Mcphee

McPhee mixes history, place, personal family details, and geology, to talk about the Chalk that lies beneath champagne country in France and off the coast of England. Like always it's pretty much perfect. No one can quite do what McPhee does in his essays: make the abstract personal.

"The Perils of Indifferene" by Elie Wiesel

A speech about the holocaust and how good people can let evil happen. Good lessons here that can be applied to all social injustices.

"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

A woman locked away in a room for her 'own' good contemplating what means to be in good health. With the faded floral yellow wallpaper closing in on her. This one was a bit a crazy making. Which I suppose is the point.

Jul 6, 2020, 10:42pm

>21 stretch: While I am not sure I want to read this one (I lived through this time, waiting for a certain team to get a title again...), I did not even realize it was out. So I may decide to take a look...

>40 stretch: Nice review. And not being able to define what it is exactly may be the strongest part of The Memory Police anyway.

Catching up here :)

Jul 7, 2020, 6:44am

>75 AnnieMod: No, yeah the Mixer is tactical nerdy as hell. It was a good reminder in places for what I already knew but with likes of Michael Cox and Jonathan Wilson I always learn something about the game. I personally perfer these kinds of books even if the tread ground i already know to something like biograghical like Brillant Orange.

I am still coming to terms with Liverpool winning the title after so long. It's surreal. And that an American (Pulisic) played a role in clinching it for Liverpool, well that is just the best.

Talking about the Memory Police is much like reading it, it's hard to grasp anyone part of it, but in the whole it's brilliant.

Edited: Jul 26, 2020, 11:29am

The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski

Petroski is probably the most readable engineering historians out there. The range of his topics is kind of insane: from toothpicks to bridges nothing is too small or mundane to delve into the immense amount of design and evolution our tools have undergone through the ages. This time Petroski focuses his attention on the bookshelf and how they've evolved through time to accommodate our every growing needs. For something so simple it was fascinating to revisit the earliest irritations of the shelf and see how they changed as the very thing they held changed. It is also interesting to see how books value has changed so dramatically as they became more and more valuable. The world would be a very different place if books were still kept under lock and key. Having collections of books has always added some cultural cache. And that was never more evident than in the past. The democratization of the print was fundamental and that is evident in the massive needs and layout of our institutional places of learning.

There is a lot of detailed history here. Especially how libraries came to be laid out with the lay out of the building to accommodate for lighting. There's whole sections of chapter dealing with the orientation of shelves to windows to take advantage of natural light. There are times when a more concise history would have worked here. There was a lot of focus on the time before electrical lighting and more modern innovations get the short shift. It's also a bit dated since it was written largely before the digital revolution. The move to digital collections and the use of computers has been a fundamental change that has forever altered our institutions and their needs. I certainly found portions of this booking interesting, but nowhere near as interesting the Pencil. It was a little too focused at times about the orientation of shelves and less on their evolution and the big changes to how changes in books, publishing, and access altered our relationships to libraries, bookstores, and reading. At least that was what I was hoping for after reading is other work.


Connective Tissue: The Pencil, The Book : a cover-to-cover exploration of the most powerful object of our time

Edited: Aug 16, 2020, 11:09am

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods is a small collection of 5 short spooky graphic stories. It's unique to see a collection of short stories rendered in a graphic novel format. I think short stories work really well in this format and I hope to find more graphic novels that explore this type of storytelling in the future. All the stories are quietly eerie and even creepy at times. The stories themselves are not connected anyway, except through the distinctive atmosphere created by the use of color. Lots of black, blues, and shock of red to create emphasis on key points. I think artwork sells the horror of fairly simple stories. It adds the sticky factor for a couple of stories I just can't stop thinking about. Not that I haven't read these kinds of stories before, it can't rely on the surprise factor of horror, but images bouncing around in my head are what really make this one special.


Connective Tissue: Radioactive, Lock & Key

Edited: Aug 16, 2020, 12:15am

>60 stretch: >73 stretch:

I have no idea why this is upside-down. The photo I uploaded was right side up. I turned that one in Photoshop, and posted it again. It was stillupside-down!

And I do like fountain pens, too.

Aug 16, 2020, 8:29am

>79 sallypursell: Haha, it's ok I can turn my screen upside down. A velvet was a nice pencil, I once found one in a parking lot that was torn to pieces.

The middle one looks a bit like a Johnny Carson pencil.

Edited: Aug 16, 2020, 11:03am

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Gods of Jade and Shadow certainly starts out as a fairly straight forward Cinderella re-telling. A young homely girl treated more as a servant in her wealthy grandfather's home then as a member of the family, one day stumbles upon the bones of Xibalba, the Mayan god of death. The old gods of Mexico have been forgotten but what little power they still possess is jealously held and fought over with humans playing as their pawns. Cassiopeia, the central character of the story, is linked to Xibalba physically but also spiritually because while her family is European her father was indigenous. Her unwittingly unlocking of Xilbala begins a quest across Mexico's Yucatan to restore Xibalba to his throne and her self discovery.

The atmospheric setting of the 1920's Mexico makes the story feel a bit more real. AN oppressive Catholic state mixed with the '20s anything goes attitude gave space for a subset of forgotten gods to still hold some power and fight it out amongst themselves. And a perfect backdrop for Cassiopeia, a native looking Mexican to find her place in a racist world where natives are considered of little to no value. There's a first love story here, but that isn't the driver here. It's through the journey and falling in love with a god that Cassiopeia is finally able to find her footing in her world. She will ultimately have to make a very grown-up and un-cinderella-esque choice. And by the end, her choice is easy and unforced.

Gods of Jade and Shadow is a good book. A little slow-paced for my liking, but it was fun to explore Mexico's mythology and native culture, through a narrative story.


Connective Tissue: None

Aug 16, 2020, 10:19pm

>80 stretch: I was never really a fan of Johnny Carson. What are the characteristics of his pencil?

Aug 17, 2020, 10:07am

>82 sallypursell: I'm too young for Carson myself, but he had special pencils made with an eraser on both end. He had a nervous habit of bouncing or twriling a pencil during interviews. The erasers prevented the accidental stabing of himself or his guests. I believe they were Dixon Ticonderogas.

Aug 20, 2020, 9:15pm

>83 stretch: Okay, I see now. I wonder how much it cost to have those pencils made? I'll bet the card was photo-shopped.

Aug 20, 2020, 11:11pm

You could make one by cutting off the eraser end of a pencil and sharpening it at both ends. Low-tech.

Aug 21, 2020, 12:11am

>85 lisapeet: I didn't even think of that! I must point out, though, that it wouldn't be a full-length pencil as it was in the picture.

Aug 21, 2020, 7:56am

I was thinking of the one with two points, anyway—not two erasers. But it still probably wouldn’t be hard to build one of those—just cut an eraser cleanly off a pencil and glue it on another, pre-sharpening, just at the line of the metal so you can’t see the join.

Aug 21, 2020, 9:24am

>84 sallypursell: and >87 lisapeet: No glue necessary, with careful application of pliers the ferrule and earser are easily removed. The ferrule is clamped in place, not glued. Between the friction of the wood and the very light clamping they tyipcally stay in place. If I remember correctly the tonight show prop department just bought a two boxes of pencils took the erasers off one and shoved them on the other. Dixon thought that was great marketing so made a gross for the show to be handed out to guests. Novelty stores sell them and there are a number of those kinds of posters floating around in the real world. It orinated with a famous science fiction or fantasy author who didn't like writing on computers. I can't recall who it was at the moment but they made an actual poster. I think CWPE has one in their shop. Velvet pencils are unique and uncommon though. They're not everyone's favorite.

There's an entire sub-culture of pencil enthusiasts that swap various ferrules on pencils (especially blackwings) to make new combinations referred to as a 'hackwing'. Some really substandard pencils do use glue though, so another reason not to buy the store branded crap.

Aug 21, 2020, 9:27am

>88 stretch: There's an entire sub-culture of pencil enthusiasts that swap various ferrules on pencils (especially blackwings) to make new combinations referred to as a 'hackwing'.
Ah, of course there are. As someone who occasionally goes down the rabbit hole of fountain pen hack videos, I'm not surprised at all.

Sep 3, 2020, 1:19pm

The Rocks Don't Lie by David Montgomery

Many theologians and natural philosophers have long interpreted the biblical story of Noah’s flood as a foundational event that fundamentally shaped and altered the history of the Earth. Geomorphologist David Montgomery through the examination of a wide variety of flood and creation stories across centuries, provides an enthusiastic and valuable recounting of the history of geology and how the advances in science have consistently faced opposition from the guardians from those that view Noah’s Flood as the framework that all geological observations must fit. And how through the work of Steno, Playfair, Buckland, Sedwig, Hutton and Lyell, that the burgeoning science of geology was able to shape and convince both theologians and the most Christians that the Rocks Don’t Lie. That the earth is much older than the chronology laid out in a literal interpretation of the Bible; that we can use the evidence before us to reimagine how the world came to be and that information can inform us about our place in the world.

The Rocks Don’t Lie is not a blow by blow take down of Noah’s flood. (The Geologic Column does that well enough on its own) Instead it is a history of thought. How we progressed from ‘natural philosopher’s’ and their pontificating about how the Earth came to be based on the Creation myth told in the old testament. To the beginnings of an actual science that examined the actual rocks for evidence of a global flood and how when the evidence pointed in a different direction, they went that way. Forming new theories and ideas about the Earth that would come to reshape our understanding of the world. There has always been push back theologians that argued for literal interpretation of Bible. And geology has always been the hardest sticking point when trying to get the evidence to fit within their predefined framework. Not to say geologist haven’t bee dogmatic in our own ways detrimental to the advancement of science. But science as a tool has always pushed for better evidence and more comprehensive explanations of that better explained the evidence. Even Noah’s flood has be seriously examined and attempts to explain how large regional floods throughout the world can explain how these stories ended up in a testament of a people trying to make sense of their own history and the world they found themselves living in. There’s whole sections of this book dedicated to how the Hebrew can be interpreted differently and how ancient myths from around the world are similar but very different in key ways that don’t jive with global event.

For the most part Montgomery is even handed and gentle in his rebuke of the flood myth, even when giving an overview of the more recent resurgence of the creationism movement. He’s even level headed about the Creation Museum, which I consider a feat. Montgomery’s the Rocks Don’t Lie is a decent overview of the evolution of flood geology and how uncovering the evidence of the rock record has decimated that particular interpretation of events.


Connective tissue: For the Rock Record

I would like to say geology has relegated the Noah’s Flood to a creation myth, but sadly there are those that not only view that Noah’s Flood as literal event, but as the framework for basing how the rock record is to be interpreted. It’s frustrating how sticky this framework has become. I wanted a more comprehensive geologic understanding of the modern creationist movement.
I’ve always known what it is, but I wanted to be fair and try to get a fair reading from the people that are at the tip of the spear for the movement. I finally found a summary their geological conceptional model in Grappling with the Chronology of the Genesis Flood, which is YEC (young earth creationist) book mostly about the philosophy of time and the proper way to interpret Hebrew. It’s also nautically themed which was annoying. In the middle of the book are three chapters of outlining the current state of creationist geology authored by Andrew Snelling. To say I was disappointed by what I read would imply that I had expectations of something robust and well thought out, which is not what I expected. But somehow I was disappointed. I thought that maybe with all this time they had come up with something more comprehensive then trying to get the modern geologic column to fit in their literally understanding of the bible. It really is just hand waving even if they are trying to use geology words complete with eras and epochs to draw their lines. Today its all about the 5 to six “megasequences” that the secular geologic column can be divided up into. The discussion on the Sauk meagasequence I must say had me confused, I know the Sauk I’ve mapped mush of the Sauk and the Mars, never has it been called a megasequence, a facsis sure, hell the Sauk formation is made up of multiple sequences, but a megasequence just confused me. After much research megasequences are just their latest attempt to fit high and low water periods to best fit their model. The mixing of terminology and the bend over backwards to fit some modern geology theories into their model is just a muddled mess. I had hope for something better. It’s all top level, nothing starts at the bottom where the evidence is and works it’s way to theory. It’s not science, it’s philosophy and bad philosophy.

I really wish there was more to it, more to dig into and question. Snelling’s RATE project has been a failure, the creationist geologic model is a 17th century compromise, and by his own summation of scriptural geologist vs young earth geologists and the issues they face:
Today’s Flood geologists who emphasize the reliability of accelerated plate tectonics and a consistent geological column can find their intellectual roots in the SG movement, whereas those who adhere more closely to the traditional Whitcomb-Morris Flood cannot and do not find their roots there. The weaknesses of SGs are that they failed to resolve many issues that continue to plague Flood geologists today, especially the issue of where to place the biblical Flood in the geological record. A second unresolved issue is what aspects of uniformitarian principles can be useful for creationist studies in light of the statement in 2 Peter 3:3–4 that seems to speak against uniformitarianism. A third issue is how much the appearance of age in the rock record, or mature creationism, can be utilized as a scientific argument for creationism because of appearance of age being outside the ken of science. And a fourth unresolved issue is finding an adequate explanation for the absence of antediluvian human remains in the pre-Pleistocene fossil record.

These are pretty fundamental issues to be having with your model. The trappings of science don’t hide the fact that it’s a half-baked idea that has long been dust binned. I want to say I’m finally done with this, that I no longer want to or feel the need to explore this particular controversy. Something will drag me as it always does.

Sep 13, 2020, 12:52am

>67 stretch: Well, that was ingenious. If I were an engineer I would have thought of this.

>90 stretch: Well, this sounds fascinating. What an interesting approach. I had one college course in Geology, and I liked it a lot. Still, it couldn't move me from biology.

Sep 19, 2020, 10:21am

Chemistry: A Novel by Weike Wang

A profoundly lost and unsettled Chemistry PhD candidate, is slowly coming to the realization that she is unhappy, she needs a new direction. As a child of immigrants she feels the extreme pressure to not only be a good chemist, but to be an outstanding chemist. At the same time she is chaffing against the sexist and racial stereotypes of the lab. Her work isn't going great, and she's clearly falling behind, her boyfriend wants an answer about their future. The stress was overwhelming, she makes the rash choice to implode her life. Build a new one from the ground up, coming to terms with her own shortcomings, her complicated feelings about her parents, her high expectations, her future, and what she desires from her own life. She has to define what comes next.

The shadow of expectations from oneself and those of others looms large. Built up overtime are a crushing force for those that on the edge.

Chemistry is a not a lighthearted, easier answer coming of age story. It doesn't end with a happy ending. There's only the possibility of a new life and new-found happiness.


Connective Tissue: The Best We Could Do

Sep 21, 2020, 6:40am

I've just had a long catch-up here. And interesting mix of reading. I especially enjoyed the reviews of the Petroski and the Montgomery books.

Sep 28, 2020, 4:22am

>93 avaland: Yeah being chaotically eclectic is my guiding principle. So happy I can maintain the theme with the backbone of a goal.

Edited: Sep 29, 2020, 8:00pm

Confessions by Kanae Minato

A twisted revenge plot of a mother and teacher seeking her own form of justice. From the first chapter we know the killers; there's no mystery, no hiding. What unfolds is a complex and layered scheme that ruins many lives.

Told from alternating prescriptives we get to see the motivations and inner workings of the mostly unredeemable characters. There are no winners in this story just losers of various degrees. No redemption arc or moral high ground. Just evil doings and tradegy. It's all darkness.

The motivating factors for each of the protagonists and the actions that flow from them are so nuanced and scary it's hard not to see them as real people. Everything about this story is shocking, the horribleness of the characters, the crime, the setting, and the plot twists (they are so twisted and so good). This book is relentless. I loved every minute of it.

I don't know how exactly to articulate exactly why I love Japanese literature so much, but this book has it. There is just so much feeling and art packed into every page. Even a straight forward relatively short revenge plot has so much more to say than revenge is wrong. I don't know what I am talking about anymore, I just read so much more into these characters of a dark and thrilling plot.


Connective Tissue: In the Miso Soup, One Man's Justice

Oct 7, 2020, 1:02pm

How to Read Literature like a Professor by Thomas C foster

How to Read Literature like a Professor is a basic breakdown of how to read literature so it can be analyzed on a deeper level. There's probably nothing earth breaking here, but for me this was an education. My own education past high school never touched the canon again. Laser focused away from the humanities means understanding literature on a more meta level has been left to my own devices. And well that has been a slow process. This book will help speed the process up a good bit. Written in a plain spoken manner I learned something new and enlightening from ever chapter. I can't promise there will be any evidence of having learned a damn thing, but at least I will be thinking a bit more about what I read while I read.


Connective Tissue: Thinking Fast and Slow

Oct 10, 2020, 9:48pm

Just caught up from a ways back. This a fun thread to read through. Enjoyed especially the linked article on time and your post on The Rocks Don't Lie. Chemistry sounds so dark.

Edited: Oct 11, 2020, 6:03am

>97 dchaikin: Thanks for stopping by!

Chemistry is definitely one of the most depressing books I've ever read. It never lets up, not even the slightly uplifting ending is all the hopeful,. And yet it kind of is in a realistic this is real life, make of it what you will kind of way. Despite all the darkness I breezed through this one.

Edited: Oct 22, 2020, 1:57pm

>96 stretch: Excellent. I also own a copy of How to Read Literature Like a Professor, and, like you, I didn't take any literature courses past high school, due to my undergraduate and graduate majors (engineering, microbiology, molecular biology, medicine). I'll dig that out and add it to my reading list for next year.

ETA: Chemistry: A Novel sounds interesting (but not Principles of American Nuclear Chemistry, ack!). I'll read it, and/or send a copy to my best friend from medical school, who is Chinese American and completed a PhD in Chemistry before he started medical school, then married a Belgian woman who also has a PhD in Chemistry.

Oct 22, 2020, 3:32pm

I somehow missed your thread entirely until now! Glad there were pencil reviews and a truly impressive array of stats to draw me in.

I do love the Blackwings. I got a box of gorgeous turquoise ones, with the coast of CA traced in gold and a box of the black ones. My son took three of those for his SATs and has kept them. He's also a pencil fan, which was caused by living in Germany with the stationary shops with large pencil displays at least partially to blame. In any case, we call them The Fancy Pencils.

Chemistry: A Novel was just odd and wonderful and I learned about the unique and uniquely terrible world of PhD chemistry. My impression was reinforced in Brandon Taylor's Real Life.

Edited: Oct 23, 2020, 8:44am

I've had Chemistry on my wish list for a while now—I really liked the premise, at least in part because the idea of being a scientist used to fascinate me as a kid but I couldn't even begin to imagine doing the school part (ironically, now I could but it's a bit too late for that).

I still want to try out a Blackwing one of these days, just like I really want to see what writing with a $400 fountain pen is like (though with fountain pens I'm pretty sure anything over $350 is about the pen body finish, but I could be wrong). I just discovered there's a fountain pen Reddit, which is probably a rabbit hole I don't need, but I'll probably go there anyway.

Oct 24, 2020, 8:44am

>101 lisapeet: I assume you know about Goods for the Study in Soho? I am sure you can try a Blackwing there and maybe they even have a $400+ fountain pen.

Oct 24, 2020, 10:03am

>99 kidzdoc: I got a lot of it for sure, maybe not earth shattering but certainly enough to get me thinking a bit harder about how I read. I listend to How to Read Novels Like a Professor which breaks down the strutcure of novels in a detailed way as a companion piece. Was too information heavy to get much out of the audio version, it's at a minium an easy and funish way to gain some knowledgeaboutthe things I read.

Chemistry: A Novel is a rough touchstone, keeps veering towards that Nuclear Chemistry Textbook. LT marketing.

>100 RidgewayGirl: That California coast edition is gorgeous. German stationary is such gateway into pencils. I'm more a Japanese fan but I appericate the precison of the Germans. It's too bad Stadlers are such a pain to find here in the states. The ones they sell at staples just don't come close to the authentic German versions.

>101 lisapeet: The curve of deminishing returm is in full effect when it comes to stationary. There's reallyno reason to drop nearly $2.00 per pencil when a $0.26 does the job just fine, but once you do there is no going back. Thankfully pens never really took hold for me. Considering that I now have enough pencils for my lifetime, my children's lifetimes, and possibly thier children. I can't imagine what fountian pens would do to my budegt.

Oct 24, 2020, 5:02pm

>102 ELiz_M: I didn't know about that store... one of the only things I miss about going in to my office was the fact that I traveled through Manhattan twice a day, and it was easy to hop off the train to explore or shop. I have no idea when I'll be down in Soho again. Though maybe that's for the best, wallet-wise.

Oct 31, 2020, 4:45am

Hi! I loved your answers in the Questions for the Avid Reader 20 Questions - I also have Godel, Escher, Bach and haven't gotten around to reading it (it was a graduation gift...lordy, 20 years ago). Combining that with your answer to the blue cover, I decided I needed to read your thread. I _love_ the graphs, gorgeous. I've been tracking my reading, with increasing precision, for over a decade; I should do a roundup post like that. What did you use for the graphics?

Timefulness is on my TBR pile, and now the Petroski is too. I love books about the details of everyday things.

Edited: Oct 31, 2020, 1:51pm

>105 jjmcgaffey: Thanks for coming by! I used a combination of screenshots from google sheets and adobe spark creator to create graphics. I can do it in python, but that I can never get it quite right. Both google sheets and Spark are free and availabe on my phone so I figure why not, and they are much easier to use.

I've totally revamped my tracking spreadsheet this year, been something of an ongoing project: Reading Stats Spreadsheet

And now for a deep dive no one asked for:

  • I switched the aesthetics to black and white, I find it more readable although arguably less pleasing to the eye.

  • The reading stats tab has been beefed up quite a bit, still keeps track of the yearly totals to the left, but centerly is what I like to call the hub. The Hub is were the data entry goes, everything is nearly automated from there, the exceptions being the "other" category under vitals (can't make the if statement work for some reason), Podcast listening tracking comes from another sheet, and I only have three countries setup each year for tracking (the US, UK, and Japan) all other countries require manual entry. But otherwise entries copied from the Books in Progress sheet fills in much of the data automatically.

    ETA: The "other" formula has been fixed I think. It's the long and hard way but it seems to count correctly for now.

  • Added a bunch of pivot tables and charts to track genre vs read rate and ratings etc. The formatting and labeling is a little off, the pivot tables should be their own sheet but I didn't want to add another that'd would require more processing power and would separate it from my year at a glance sheet.

  • Added a very basic Gantt chart to the left. The formatting here is screwed up a bit, I didn't put the start date and end date in separate place so it covers the last quarter of the previous year, which fits my own reading a bit better and divides the three columns (months) into quarters nicely. Going with a happy accident.

  • Finally, a goals tracking box with conditional red light to green light formatting to see just how bad I’m doing!

  • The totals sheet includes statistics from all my previous years with sampling analysis.

  • Dashboard remains much the same, that's the charts from the original graphics.

  • A ratings calculator because ratings are only so good without a measuring stick, and I'm a scientist at heart I need to be able to defend numbers.

  • And a TBR/Library Book Picker built with LT Collections and a 5 random number generators, just to see if I could.

In other words I started simple and have now gone full Kevin on my reading stats. And i couldn't be happier with this overly complicated monster.

Nov 1, 2020, 2:27am

Cool! I have a reading spreadsheet too, but it's in Calc, not Sheets, so I can't easily show you. One sheet of Currently Reading, one of Books Read This Year, which feeds automatically (somewhat)* into Stats Calculate - which tracks by month books, start and end date, pages, original publication date, and some info on genre, author gender, and category (the last is stuff like if it's a BOMB, reread, or borrowed, paper or ebook, if it's an ER or Netgalley book...).

Books Read also feeds LT Post, which (using concatenation) creates my posts for my Club Read thread - numbers, brackets, stars, etc. Makes it a lot easier to put up.

And finally it feeds Stats Posts, which I put up monthly - tracks books, pages, BOMBs, genres, etc for a month.

I don't have any graphics - I should fiddle with that. I want to put my spreadsheet into Sheets so I can update it from my phone rather than taking notes and updating only when I get on the computer.

*The somewhat is that Stats Calculate doesn't "notice" when a month changes, I have to go in and copy the appropriate lines so that it picks up the next book under the new heading. I've tried a few times to make an If statement that could handle it - insert a month heading and some sum lines - but it's never worked.

Edited: Nov 1, 2020, 9:15am

>107 jjmcgaffey: That is cool! Never tought of using the data in that way to help format posts. I'll need to look into that.

I've never gotten an if Statement to work with dates, don't know if it is input dependent. Filters, slicers, and queries are they only way I got months to work, but not sure that would be useful in your case. Or at least not super complicated.

Edited: Nov 3, 2020, 8:38pm

Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz

The American Civil War is something that has always loomed large in our development as a country. In Confederates in the Attic, author Tony Horwitz sets out to discover the commonality of our Civil War past, through interviews of various members of diverse stakeholders that have immersed themselves in the literature and regalia of the war.

Horwitz’s purpose is take the temper of the country, where the outcome and effects of the Civil War still linger most - the South. Most of the people in the book harbor Civil War obsessions: hardcore re-enatcors, collectors of antebellum south memorabilia, members of the white supremacists civic organizations (like the Sons of Confederate veterans, Daughters of the Confederacy and the Council of Conservative Citizens), and a largely now ignorant modern population all trying to live out their own version of the war and derive its meaning for their own purposes.

Throughout the book, Horwitz returns to an issue that troubles anyone interested in the Civil War. How do we reconcile our romantic fantasies toward a war that claimed more than 1 million casualties? And how can we venerate a culture that enslaved millions of African Americans? While most of us prefer to avoid these issues, Horwitz bravely and thoughtfully drives us directly into the modern hornet’s nest.

Horwitz's reflective odyssey uncovers a profoundly disaffected nation, where battles over the Confederate flag, monuments, anti-government sentiments, and enduring ignorance and bigotry invite some dispiriting conclusions about the prospects for a collective reconciliation between the North/South and Black/White.

"Everywhere, it seemed, I had to explore two pasts and two presents; one white, one black, separate and unreconcilable. The past had poisoned the present and the present, in turn, now poisoned remembrance of things past."


Connective Tissue: Seeking Palestine, Jerusalem

Edited: Nov 4, 2020, 12:22pm

The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada

I'm really at a loss to describe this novel. It's such a wonderfully weird and surreal descent into an unreality. Where past and present, family lineages and the fabric of reality get all mixed up. Where we get to explore our protagonist memory and self come apart at the seams. I don't know how to quite encapsulate this novel other than it is stranger than the Factory and it's all the more amazing.

Oyamada is such a great writer, no one else can pull this story off like she does. That's all I have, it's a short book go read it!


Connective Tissue: The Factory, The Memory Police

After reading the Hole and Confessions, I think I'm beginning to understand just what it is about Japanese literature and my favorite Japanese authors that I love. Well at least one very narrow aspect. They don't step back from the course of the story. They'll run straight off the cliff's edge if the story demands it. Oyamada has no issues descending into utter madness if that's where the story needs to go she goes there. In Confessions Minato goes full sociopath. The entire story is full children killers, which is dark enough for most authors, but Minato lets the story go just that little further. We all know the little sociopath is going to detonate his bomb in some grand gesture. The whole story has built to that, there's no question he's going to press the button. Most author's I feel would stop there, either leave it ambiguous or somehow try to redeem the characters in some small way. Instead, Minato lets the ultimate revenge play out. She has the irredeemable teacher disarm the bomb and move it to destroy the one thing the little sociopath loves more than anything - his own mother. It's so dark and twisted. It is a whole different level of horrific.

The thing is Oyamada and Minato are not alone in this regard. Ryu Murakami, AKira Yoshimura, Ryu Mitsuse, Yoko Ogawa, Hikaru Okuizumi, Shohei Ooka, Koushun Takami Masuji Ibuse, or even Kenzaburo Oe, none them hold back. They take us to the darkest, strangest, and most surreal places. Never pulling their punches or trying to wrap up a messy story with a tidy conclusion. The stories take their natural course.

I don't know I could be off base with this assessment. I just don't find what I find in Japanese authors very often in the more western literary sphere.

Nov 5, 2020, 3:17am

I have a bit to catch up on.

>92 stretch:
I quite believe this book was written about me. The only difference is that my immigrant parents were not pushing me to become an outstanding chemist. Instead they were wondering why I chose chemistry at all. But the rest is all me. Failing my classes, getting bullied by my labmates, leaving a four year relationship and wondering what is meant for me. And it's not a happy ending for me either as I'm still lost and confused and not satisfied where things have taken me.
So, although this book sounds excellent, I think I'll skip it. I already have to live my version of the book without needing to read it.

>95 stretch:
I haven't read this one; or rather, I started reading it in Japanese but it was a bit above my level at the time. But the movie is excellent! It's on Netflix (at least it used to be) so maybe you'd be interested in watching it.

>110 stretch:
You are the first review I've seen so far for The Hole and that makes me so excited that you loved it so. I read it when it first came out in Japanese about 5 years ago and as I was reading it, I immediately knew I wanted to translate it. Oh, every day I thought about translating that book. I wanted to be the one who brought it to the Western world! The only problem was that I've never translated before other than my days as an amateur online manga translator back in high school and well, even if I did translate the book I don't have the connections to get it out there. So my dream of translating the book became a fantasy (in my dreams I always won translation awards as well, very exciting!) So I'm very happy that it has been translated (and I knew it would, it was only a matter of time) but I'm sad it wasn't me. I really am kicking myself for not being brave and trying it out for myself.

But yes, I really loved that book.

And I totally agree with your assessment. It's also one of the reasons I love Japanese literature (and it also explains why I dislike Haruki Murakami so much with his plots that go nowhere and explain nothing and avoid actually delving into actual topics of interest). I love the these books explore the parts of humanity that humans want to pretend don't exist. The Sea and Poison which explored the vivisection during the war. The Twilight Years which shows abusive disregard to the elderly and married women. A Personal Matter which explores that topic we are not allowed to say we feel: that we don't want a disable child.

Especially now in the US where everything seems to have to be politically correct in literature otherwise people will label the author has being bigoted, or racist, or whatever. Just because the author has a bigoted character does not mean they are bigoted themselves, but the number of times I've seen young Youtubers attack an author just because they didn't actually understand the book, is outstanding.

In any case, happy to have caught up on your thread.
I regret having lost track of my own.

I'm currently reading Endo's Scandal so perhaps that'll inspire me to post something once I'm finished.

Nov 5, 2020, 4:43am

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Edited: Nov 5, 2020, 8:40am

>111 lilisin: Funny, thinking back on my own experience in school, we had to enteract with a lot of the chemistry department, since a lot of geology is just applied chemistry. There were plenty of disaffected chemists, especially women within the program. They were geniuely astondised by our (both men and women) enthusiasm and passion for our science. I always just thought it was the usual complaining we all do from time to time. We were always taken aback. Our experiences were so, so different. We were a 60/40 split deparment with women in the majority, and we traveled as pack, hung out as back, spent weekend field trips tired and exhausted together, and drunk way too much beer together. It was a radically different experience, and Wang's book is an eye opener to a adjacent world I had no idea about.

I'll need to find Confessions on Netflix for sure. I haven't been surprised or genuinely shocked by a plot twist in a long, long time. I read on a break on road trip and could not think of anything else for the last 2 hours of the drive.

Oyamada is such a fantastic writer, I can see why you'd want to translate her work. I do hope she continues to write and her work be translated, because she is quickly becoming a favorite. I envy the ability to read in Japanese, significantly reduces the wait time. Waiting on the rest of the world to catch on is tasking.

I totally spaced on Endo in my lists. I have to get back to him sometime soon. I couldn't agree with you more about Haruli Murakami and I throw in Banana Yoshimoto. When I say I like Japanese authors these two come up over and over again. Having a slightly different Japanese literature education, due in large part on your recommendations, I just can't with either of them. Murakami especially is too much of navel-gazing read, I want there to be a point. I have a new appreciation for authors that just don't look over the cliff edge, but run and jump off it and then dig a hole when they reach the bottom.

My favorite place for faux outrage is booktwitter and booktube, where the smallest things go to blow up into the dumbest of controversies. There's plenty of shit in the book world to be mad about for sure, but nuisance is not a thing there, and I find it hilarious. One day they'll realize things can be two things and it's going shatter their world. I am here for that...

Nov 5, 2020, 11:46am

>109 stretch: I read this at least a decade ago and it would be a good choice for a reread. I still have that image of guys doing their best to look bloated by decomposition.

>110 stretch: This is a book I'm eager to read. And given your comments, I think you'll like Earthlings by Sayaka Murata more than I did.

>113 stretch: In these days of uncertainty and unrest, there is nothing better than a good booktwitter kerfuffle to take my mind off of things.

Nov 5, 2020, 1:02pm

>111 lilisin: Confessions the movie was really good. Nailed the atmosphere really well. They stuck to the story really well I remember so much of the story from the book. It takes on a totally different meaning knowing how it ends.

>114 RidgewayGirl: Yeah it took me such a long time to read Confederates in the Attic I've had it on my TBR for the better part of a decade like most of my Civil War books, not like the war is going anywhere so better late then never. It being written in 1998, it does feel a bit dated. I want to read his Spying on the South to get a better things about how things have changed or not.

That's the funny thing about reviews, even the less than glowing assessments can be useful. It was your review that put Earthlings on my TBR before the more popular Convenience Store Woman.

Exactly, melodrama is so much more entertaining than the actual drama of the news. What's really fun is when it goes meta and becomes a philosophical debate about the platforms not being the best forum for those kinds of discussions. Which then leads to even more fighting and the whole reason for the initial outrage is dropped. It's a round circle that can't undone. And I know it's bad, but it can be such a guilty pleasure watching from the sidelines. Maybe I do need to get a TV subscription back?

Nov 5, 2020, 7:25pm

>115 stretch: I still have Confederates in the Attic on my TBR, close to... 20 years? I'll read it someday, though—I keep thinking a good project would be to read one of the oldest books on my shelf a month or something. There are many. I started my first job in publishing in 2004 and was all OMG FREE BOOKS... so there are a lot of those floating around my shelves.

I passed over The Hole when I first saw it, but now I'm having second thoughts. It sounds just out there enough.

Nov 18, 2020, 9:39pm

I’m a big fan of Japanese literature too. I wasn’t aware Confessions was made into a movie. I checked on Netflix and couldn’t find it. Does it have a different name? Or maybe somewhere other than Netflix? Thx.

Nov 19, 2020, 4:56am

>117 arubabookwoman: I got it off of youtube movies. I don't think it's on the American Netflix, when I search it at work it's on the UK version. But it's just called Confession (2010).

Dec 6, 2020, 11:24am

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

Distance does not solve all family issues. Tasked with cleaning out her hateful, hoarding grandmother's house, our sarcastic narrator stumbles across a mysterious, nonsensical notebook that belonged to her step-grandfather. Within the notebook hides the secret to the strange woods and the horrific creatures surrounding the old house.

This is a different take on the creepy house in the woods story. Being completely self-aware and sardonic about the situation makes for a more enjoyable and light narrative. But horror relies on mood and atmosphere. So when the plot turns serious the lighthearted, sarcastic tone makes the plot a hard sell. It's clearly a creepy and terrifying situation to the narrator, but falls flat to the reader. An enjoyable twist in narration to these kinds of stories, just can't quite carry the mundane plot and lack of creepy atmosphere.


Connective Tissue: All Systems Red, Wayward Children

Edited: Dec 28, 2020, 1:37pm

Click the picture for readable spreadsheet, Still figuring out how to do readable with pictures that aren't super large.

2020 reading year summation:

Big Takeaways

The incentive program worked! I set a goal of reading 70% women, I came up short of that goal. But I did manage to raise my overall share of women authors by 7%, which is a huge amount of growth in a single year. It has fundamentally changed the way I choose my next reads as evidenced by my complete 180 wishlist and TBR. So I don't think I'll have any issues with maintaining a continued upward trend in this area.

That being said I owe $58.64 to the Salvation Army.

Next year I'm going to go with a point based system. I realized after coming up with the initial plan, it put a limit on other areas of my reading. And a cash based system would quickly become overly cumbersome. I already set up and experimented with the points in this year's tracking. I'll still heavily favor women authors, but I get points removed from the penalties for diverse authors/topics, works in translation, and reading outside the US-UK bubble. And this extends to nonfiction books as well. My goal is to end in positive territory which is both harder than it sounds, but attainable. I still haven't thought up a disincentive for this yet, so I'm open to fun/humiliating ideas.

Completely revamped my read tracking spreadsheets. They are more comprehensive than ever before, but simpler to track and less prone to error. The new sheets have given me entirely new insights into my reading behavior and will be tremendous assets to future goal setting. My favorite bit may be the reading calculator, I had to learn all kinds of conditional formatting to make all the pretty colors. And I like a number based approach to assigning ratings for what I've read. I also incorporated all kinds of statistics into the sheets to make them more robust and just fun to analysis. The science nerd in me is the happiest immersed in data.

This year in general has been phenomenal. I've never read more in a single calendar year never thinking I'd ever break the 50 books threshold. Hitting nearly 60 books in a single year is insane. There's no way I'll be able to maintain this pace; I'll give it a shot anyways.

Litsy is a tremendous amount of fun, and hopefully it'll improve my reviews here as well. At the very least it'll make them less wordy, which I think is best for everyone. This of course does not extend to pencils, those will be as wordy as ever.

New Authors I love:

Oyamada, Hiroko
McGuire, Seanan
Minato, Kanae

The Books that'll stick

(nf) The Mixer by Micheal Cox
(f) The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada
(f) The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
(nf) Tell Me How it Ends by Valeria Luiselli
(f) Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
(nf) Timefulness by Marcia Bjornerud
(f) Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
(f) The Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
(f) Chemistry by Weike Wang
(f) Confessions by Kanae Minato
(nf) How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C Foster
(f) The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada

Touchstones are broken will update them with the long form once I figure out how to do that!

Dec 28, 2020, 3:22pm

>120 stretch: Now I want to know what 1000+ page book you read in 2016 (I am guessing there was at least one very long book in order to have such a low total pages and the highest average pages).

Dec 28, 2020, 3:36pm

>121 ELiz_M: Actually, it was two books Infinite Jest and Inverting the Pyramid both were at over 1,000 pages. Average pages is funny, this year when I remove the one poetry book and the stolen classics (a grand total of 4) my average normailizes to around 320. Just a few outliers and you get spikes in either direction.

Dec 28, 2020, 4:17pm

>120 stretch: Cool data! I can see I’m going to have to do some more spreadsheet work to keep up!

I like the idea of the timeline graph: it would be fun to see which are the books I spend more than a day or two on, and which overlap. I suspect mine would end up looking like a barrel-organ roll, though. Obviously you have to remember to note “started” dates if you want to do that, something I never manage.

Dec 28, 2020, 5:14pm

>123 thorold: Thanks! I've never been good at start dates either, but I've read mostly library books so I can count backwards from the days I miss, or if I feel especially lazy look up my checkout history. It adds a visual punch to number if days read for sure. I created it before I started calculating burn rates (number days read) which was dumb, so the sparknores timeline graph is overly complicated but I think I like its function a bit better then the "fixed" version. Things line up nicely with my predinfied months but are actually slightly off since each month is not equal in the number of days. It's just a millimeter here or there, I can live with the uncertainity.

Dec 29, 2020, 10:25am

It was yet again a great pleasure to follow your reading year this year, stretch. And all these bonus statistics and graphs and charts! Can't wait till 2021. I have some great sounding Japanese books lined up and hopefully I'll actually write about them this time! Happy New Year!

Dec 29, 2020, 2:43pm

>125 lilisin: I always look forward to what's next on your Japanese Lit pile, I'm always looking forward to your recommendations. Happy New Years to you as well!

Dec 29, 2020, 4:18pm

I love all the stats! Although now I'm wondering about these 17% of books that you stole, and where you stole them from. :)

Dec 29, 2020, 4:28pm

>127 bragan: They are all legally obtianed materials, open sourced, published free online by the authors, or long out of copyright. Nothing is actually stolen. ;) Just my humor leaking out of otherwise dry category of "online source" or *shutters* "other".

Dec 29, 2020, 4:33pm

>128 stretch: A disappointingly boring, but morally unimpeachable answer. :)