Finished reading: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut 📚

    Now I see why this one is rightly considered such a classic. I can’t believe it took me this long to read it!

    Finished reading: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews 📚

    I didn’t like this one at all. I know it’s supposed to be told from the point of view of a high schooler, but well, maybe I don’t want to wade through the incessant meanderings of someone who is too self-aware, too self-deprecating, and dreadfully unfunny.

    And we get it—he loves The Criterion Collection.

    Finished reading: The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel 📚

    This was probably my least favorite Emily St. John Mandel book. I just couldn’t get quite into like I wanted to. However, even the worst Mandel book is still a great time.

    Excellent reading tips by Austin Kleon (via the website of @KimberlyHirsh) that I need to remind myself as I’m starting to get down to the wire on my reading goal for this year:

    1. Throw your phone in the ocean. (Or, keep it in airplane mode.)
    2. Carry a book with you at all times.
    3. Have another book ready before you finish the book you’re reading. (Make a stack of books to re-read or load up your eReader.)
    4. If you aren’t enjoying a book or learning from it, stop reading it immediately. (Flinging it across the room helps give closure.)
    5. Schedule 1 hour of non-fiction reading during the day. (Commutes, lunch breaks, and any continued period of idle time work well.)
    6. Go to bed 1 hour early and read fiction. (It will help you sleep.)
    7. Keep a reading log and share your favorite books with others. (They will send you even more books to read.)

    For the first time in who knows how long, I got to visit one of my favorite local bookstores, Cellar Door Bookstore. After getting hassled and evicted by their previous landlords, they’ve found a new location and are doing better than ever!

    (I also bought Slaughterhouse-Five. I can’t believe I haven’t read that one yet.)

    Finished reading: Election by Tom Perrotta 📚

    As usual from Perrotta, this was a stellar story. The excellent film adaptation hews very close to the novel, but I enjoyed the film’s ending much more.

    Finished reading: Fairy Tale by Stephen King 📚

    This one took me longer than I would have liked, but I think that’s just because I wanted to spend all my time in the world of Empis.

    As of today, I’ve read as many books as I did in all of 2022. Thirty-two books so far, and there’s still a whole third of the year left! I don’t know how many I’ll complete by year’s end, but right now I’m giving myself a pat on the back.

    Finished reading: The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa. 📚

    A surprisingly touching book with an opinionated cat narrator and gut-punch of an ending.

    An essential practice I need to get better at:

    Abandoning with blinding speed and hearty gusto books that aren’t clicking for me. Especially well before I’m through the first hundred pages.

    It’s unlikely to ever happen—they don’t control enough of the ebook market—but I would love to see a lean e-ink book reader from Apple, à la the Kindle. Something with minimal access to the internet and startlingly long battery life.

    I could get a Kindle, but why give Amazon more of my money?

    Illinois becomes first state to pass law curtailing book bans ↗

    From Brendan O’Brien at Reuters:

    Illinois has become the first state to legislate against the banning of books in public libraries, a practice that has been on the rise across the United States as conservatives look to suppress some books dealing with race, history and LGBTQ topics.

    Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, signed the historic measure into law on Monday in a Chicago library. The law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, the governor’s office said in a statement.

    I’m a little late on this one—the story broke on June 13—but I think it’s still worth celebrating. This is a step in the right direction, a positive step, a good step. I don’t think book bans of any sort are helpful to anyone, especially young people who should have every opportunity to expand their minds and grow their empathy. All of them are reactionary crusades against that which ignorant adults can’t handle and, therefore, hate. None of them are truly done with the well-being of young people in mind, no matter the rhetoric involved.

    Just take the words of Laura Hois, co-chair of a chapter of Awake Illinois,1 for proof:

    “We object to gender influencing, indoctrination of our kids toward anti-racism and leftist agendas.”

    They object to gender influencing (which surely isn’t actually a thing) and anti-racism? They’re promoting and longing for racism? It’s all just their own contemptuous hang-ups that they’re trying to force into the minds of young people, spreading the hate virus. At this point, it should be no surprise that the quiet parts just keep getting said louder and louder. It’s still disgusting to see.

    A ban on book bans. Good job, Illinois! Seriously. I’m proud of that state for doing the right thing here, and I hope more states, especially my own, follow suit (and soon).

    Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed this bill into law, and what he said is a fine way to end this post:

    “Here in Illinois, we don’t hide from the truth, we embrace it. […] Young people shouldn’t be kept from learning about the realities of our world; I want them to become critical thinkers, exposed to ideas that they disagree with, proud of what our nation has overcome.”


    1. I’m not going to link to that person or any affiliated websites. I’m sure you understand why. If you want to dare venture into that muck, then please search for it on your own. ↩︎

    Cormac McCarthy, Novelist of a Darker America, Is Dead at 89 ↗

    By Dwight Garner at The New York Times:

    Cormac McCarthy, the formidable and reclusive writer of Appalachia and the American Southwest, whose raggedly ornate early novels about misfits and grotesques gave way to the lush taciturnity of “All the Pretty Horses” and the apocalyptic minimalism of “The Road,” died on Tuesday at his home in Santa Fe, N.M. He was 89.

    Knopf, his publisher, said in a statement that his son John had confirmed the death.

    This is a sad one. I haven’t read all of his works yet, but I’ve greatly enjoyed those that I have. Whatever one might think about his often dark subject matter, it’s undeniable that he was one of the Great American Novelists. His work is timeless.

    I had the pleasure of reading his dual swan song novels, The Passenger and Stella Maris, earlier this year. Both were representative of his immense storytelling powers and unique style. I recommend them both as they’re two halves of a story.

    He went out on a high note, that’s for sure.

    BookTok encourages reading as an aesthetic and no one is safe from its gaze ↗

    From the Makes Me Feel Old Even Though I’m Not Actually that Old Department.

    By Elena Cavender at Mashable:

    “Lots of people read on their phones or Kindles on the train, and those people are reading just for the sake of reading. But the people that are reading a physical book with a cover on it, they’re making a choice to read that one in public,” Erin Hunziker, a 28-year-old digital marketing content creator, tells Mashable.

    The implication that reading has transformed into a theatrical performance in which everyone must be engaged doesn’t sit well. I would have guessed that the person reading a physical book was doing so because they liked reading. It’s a mistake to assume one’s worldview must be shared by the rest of the world (is there a name for that fallacy?).

    Maybe I’m out of touch with what younger people value these days. If that’s what being active in BookTok entails, then I’ll take the ridicule and frustrated eye rolls. It’s been clear for a while that I won’t get much out of TikTok. In the past, I may have endeavored to jump on the bandwagon so I could be aware of what’s popular, but that desire has faded. It’s not for me.

    Performative reading isn’t something I want to engage in, nor have I felt compelled to. It’s an unequivocal good that BookTok has gotten more people reading books, but shouldn’t reading be done for personal joy instead of clout? Making value judgments about what a stranger is reading is exclusionary. It’s more likely to drive people away from reading for fear of displaying the wrong book. Or it’ll destroy the urge to discover new works in favor of relying on what the rest of BookTok is currently fixated on.

    Men who read are largely except [sic] from this treatment of reading, just as they are largely exempt from the conversation around chasing aesthetics. (Though, there’s a certain archetype constructed around men who read Infinite Jest.)

    That’s fair. I’ve never felt the pressure to chase an aesthetic in my life. Whether that’s because I’m not on TikTok (and hardly any social media) or because of what’s in my pants is up for debate. Regardless, men should not take for granted their relative lack of pressure from the world.

    This whole thing makes me think of how I feel about the term “guilty pleasure”: I don’t think anyone should feel guilty about what they enjoy. Like what you like. To hell with anyone who tries to make you feel bad about your passions!

    Conversely, if carrying around a book and designing a look/personality around what accompanies you on your travels is fulfilling, then who is anyone to judge? “Like what you like” cuts both ways—I should enjoy what I want and you should enjoy what you want, and both of us should carry on unmolested.

    This article describes a symptom of the broader issue with social media: If you let it, TikTok, Instagram, or whatever else will eventually rise to the top will take what you love away from you. It’s one of the greatest, most efficient joy-sucking tools humans have ever created. That’s the danger inherent in performative posting, as mentioned earlier. Books are a great thing. Wouldn’t it be a shame if that love turned rotten because of the nasty demons lurking in all those services?

    I’m sure there’s an accessibility reason for justified text in ebooks (and if there is, then I’d love to know more about it). For me, it’s never done anything but degrade the reading experience.

    Make justified text an option, but the default for all ebook text should be left aligned.

    I read Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz.

    Same old Evan Smoak action but with a refreshing dive into his past and family. I don’t think it’s the strongest in the series, but I appreciated how it made an effort to enlarge the story of the Nowhere Man. 📚

    I just read Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro.

    As always, Ishiguro turned out an impeccable and moving novel. Klara’s story held my heart tenderly throughout before almost crushing it in the last several pages. What an experience! 📚

    Gone with the Wind publishers brand novel ‘racist’ and ‘harmful’ at start of new edition ↗

    From Jacob Stolworthy:

    A new edition of Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel, released by Pan Macmillan, contains a caution at the start warning readers of its “problematic” content.

    The note reportedly says the book has not been rewritten to erase the offensive material, but says it includes “racist” elements that are “hurtful or indeed harmful”.

    I feel that this is an appropriate and adequate addition to the book. Assure the readers that nothing in the text has changed, give some historical context, and allow people to choose for themselves if they want to venture into a problematic book.

    This is in contrast to the recent trend of removing or altering problematic language and themes in previously published works. New editions of the books of Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming, and Roald Dahl have had their texts changed in recent months. I can understand why the publishers have made their alterations, but I believe it’s the wrong tack to take.

    It will surprise nobody to learn that I don’t own the rights to these books. I’m just some guy in Southern California, not some powerful publishing decision-maker. However, I don’t feel censorship is necessarily the correct decision to make with most things. Not only would Margaret Mitchell’s book be reduced to a slim and confounding thing, but trying to erase slavery from history, even in the context of a work of fiction, would be far more problematic.

    It’s not a book ban, but a text ban is still an erasure. In the case of Gone with the Wind, removing any text relating to slavery would be akin to whitewashing the past. I’m glad the publishers haven’t made that decision. Context and education are important. Willful ignorance and turning a blind eye to the atrocities of the past are harmful.

    UPDATE: Is there a word for book publishers who fall over themselves to alter the content of older works for “current sensibilities” because other publishers are doing it and they don’t want to be branded as politically incorrect or behind the times?

    Penguin Random House has started changing “outdated” terms in the works of P.G Wodehouse. Jeeves and Wooster couldn’t escape this fate either. This time, they’ve also included a disclaimer at the front of the book. As I wrote above, an explanation of a book’s history and how it may be problematic today is an acceptable addition. Altering the content? I’m not as certain.

    This is beginning to feel like reactionary jumping on the bandwagon. At what point do these actions go from feeling like they’re well-intended to an obvious fear of losing money?

    I read The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami. This is not my preferred short story collection of his; that honor would go to Men Without Women. This was fine enough and had a couple of stand-out stories, notably one that was turned into an amazing Korean film. 📚

    I read Past Tense by Lee Child. While it wasn’t the best Jack Reacher novel, it was a new take on the old formula. This refreshing change made for a propulsive and enjoyable read. 📚

    I read Stella Maris by Cormac McCarthy. This was a wildly different book than The Passenger, but it does a good job of informing much of what was in it. A fascinating pair by one of the greats. 📚

    I just found out that a somewhat local independent bookstore, called Cellar Door Bookstore, is being evicted from their Riverside, CA location of ten years. Here’s their announcement. At the time of their eviction notice, they were given a meager forty-one days to clear out their entire inventory and hand over their keys.

    Since they’ve received no explanation for the eviction from their property management company, speculation about this terrible surprise is all anybody has right now. Cellar Door has long held reading events led by local drag queens called “Drag Queen Storytime.” It’s hard not to feel that this harmless and supportive event is the cause of their eviction. No official reason has been given, so it wouldn’t be right to condemn anybody for their actions yet. However, the timing of everything—so soon after a recent Drag Queen Storytime—is telling. If that’s the reason, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest. Upset, but not surprised.

    Hateful actions from ignorant people happen all the time, and often it’s especially hurtful when those actions happen so close to home. Luckily, Cellar Door is not run by people who will take any of this lying down. They will have to vacate, but that doesn’t mean they’ve reached the end of their story. They’re sure to find another location (hopefully close by and run by good management) and will continue providing their community with a welcoming and loving book-centered experience.

    In the meantime, I’ll be going there as soon as possible to give them some of my money during this rough time. I’m also excited to soon have the opportunity to continue supporting them at their future location.

    I encourage anyone who reads this to purchase as many books as you can from them—they have an online storefront—or make use of companies that support local bookstores and other worthwhile literary causes, such as Bookshop.org, IndieBound.org, ThriftBooks, Better World Books, or really just anywhere that isn’t Amazon.1

    UPDATE: According to a poorly written article in The Press-Enterprise, Cellar Door has been given until March 31, not February 28 as they were first told, to relocate. A small kindness, but one only given after this story attracted a fair amount of backlash from the community. The store will still be moving and will still be better off for it.


    1. Especially now that Amazon ended their AmazonSmile program because it “has not grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped.” Yet another disappointing load of corporate cruelty. ↩︎

    I read The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay. A fascinating, high-concept idea. Unfortunately, much of the first half is full of tiring exposition dumps and a misunderstanding of the maxim of “show, don’t tell.” 📚

    I read The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy. Like all of his work, this book was dense, expansive, and demanding of deep attention and thought.

    I’m really looking forward to reading its companion book, Stella Maris. 📚

    My Favorite Books That I Read for the First Time in 2022 (and the Ones I Disliked)

    Books have always been an important part of my life. I consider myself a big reader, not voracious necessarily (I don’t know if I can read that fast), but it’s always been a part of my identity. However, between school and life, the amount that I read throughout any given year fell for a long time.

    That sad fact of my life changed in 2022. I surprised myself by finishing thirty-two books last year, a feat that I haven’t accomplished in at least a decade, if not longer. I’ve been making books an integral part of my life again, and I’m happier for it.

    Listed below are several of those thirty-two books that resonated with me (and a couple that felt like wastes of my time). I’ve been tracking them in a Notion database, which has worked out well and feels better than using Goodreads.1

    My favorite books

    • Billy Summers by Stephen King.
    • The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. I was a big fan of Station Eleven, so I was predisposed to enjoying this book. I didn’t expect how enthralled I would be by its end. It may be the best thing I read all year.
    • Kissa by Kissa by Craig Mod. I love everything this person does, so supporting his work by purchasing this book about walking, Japan, and pizza toast was a no-brainer.
    • Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel. Their first novel. While it’s not as grand or affecting as their later work, I enjoyed the trip it took me on.
    • The Little Friend by Donna Tartt. This one took me forever to finish, but it was stellar. I’m so glad Donna Tartt is enjoying renewed interest.
    • Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami.
    • Number One Is Walking: My Life in the Movies and Other Diversions by Steve Martin and Harry Bliss.
    • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. In the world of unique books, this one may be in the top three. I’ve never read anything like it. The experience of unraveling its mystery was one of the best I’ve had in recent years.
    • Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. I don’t think this was quite as good as The Glass Hotel, but I blasted through it in a few short days and it stayed with me long after I finished it.
    • A Wealth of Pigeons: A Cartoon Collection by Steve Martin and Harry Bliss.

    My disliked books


    1. Thanks, Amazon… ↩︎

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