Category Archives: Book Column


Reading Technology in Education

A friend sent me this photo in an email:

reading technology

After Googling around it looks like it comes from a soon-to-be-released book Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age. The book seems to be about technology and schools and reading technology and education, but I’m not sure.

That’s a great find though. No doubt the same argument was made when slide rules gave way to calculators. And of course books to Nooks and iPads.

Though there has been some interesting research lately on how well reading technology devices serve kids and in what areas they fail the students. I wonder what these studies would have turned up had they been conducted when the chalk and slate were abandoned?

Not too mention that with the glut of books in the late Nineties (and Harry Potter) it wasn’t un-heard of for the publishing industry to run out of paper for a bit.

Maybe this principal from 1815 was onto something. Ain’t technology grand?


Talking trilogies

Justin Landon asks a great question: why are there so many trilogies? He posts his research (much more than I’d ever do) over on the Tor blog. It’s worth reading. You should do so.

I have to admit to being flummoxed by the “trend” as it does seem new-ish to me. Of course, Landon shows that stories of three have been around a long while, but these days it just feels contrived and forced at times.

I’ve always thought that it was a sales and marketing decision, as whenever the “next in the series” is promoted and marketed, attention and sales naturally spike for the first book. Which, of course,  is a good thing.


I only bring this up because I read two books last year that ended (each after 400+ pages) with no resolution. And each looking towards the next book to be released sometime in the next 11-16 months. WHAT!? I was pretty ticked. Had I known they were the first in a planned trio I would have waited. This is what I did with Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series. It was tons of fun and worth the wait as I could binge read all of them in one coherent flurry of pages.


Don’t get me wrong. I love a book series. But it’s totally ok for one book to be one whole story. I want to dive deep. But I also want to know when I’m going to be reading one story over three books and two years. I’d be a proponent of a big sticker on the front that says “1st book in a planned 3 book series” or some such. But I imagine publishers wouldn’t go for that. I wonder if authors are of a different opinion? If three-book chunks are needed to keep folks like Scalzi and Grant at the keyboard, then please disregard this post.

Maybe I’m just immature and hate to wait. Or maybe I just need to do a little more research (of the Justin Landon quality) on that hot-off-the-press novel before picking it up to see if I’m going to be left hanging or not.

Or maybe I need to get comfy with the word “omnibus” and find some.


Falling Books Bookend

If you are going to fall for a novel bookend at least make it humorous. And this one certainly floats to the top of all the choices on the interwebs and would be a great gift for book lovers.

Falling Book Bookend

It’s aptly called “The End” and features a little bookworm about to get squashed by the tilting titles.  It’s just under 4.5″ tall so don’t expect to hold too many books with this (or even one big book). But it will certainly be a great talking piece as friends peruse you shelves.

The price is all over the place, but averages around $15 as it’s listed here on the Mental Floss site.

Do chime in if you have found any clever bookends that top this one!


National Science Fiction Day

National Science Fiction Day

Today is officially the unofficially official National Science Fiction Day. So happy NSFD! I got this info from both Wikipedia and Slate… is it possible to get any more legit than that?

The day was chosen due to it being Isaac Asimov‘s birthday. Which is a pretty good reason. Asimov has written one book for every star in the sky it seems. And his Foundation Trilogy is one that sparked my reading interests many many many years ago.

different engines coverIf you are interested in the history of Science Fiction I do not think you can do much better than Brake’s and Hook’s Different Engines. This book may feel a bit dry at times, but it’s simply because it ranks well in the researched/scholarly category and you are learning stuff. But the book is fascinating and worth your time.

They convincingly trace the birth of Science Fiction to Johannes Kepler’s Somnium, which he was working on in 1593, but was published posthumously in 1634. Their sense of what is and isn’t Science Fiction is a good one and offers wonderful insights for any fan of the genre.

As a gift for National Science Fiction Day this year I’m offering you a link. A very sci-fi bookish/reading link. Click here to go to Project Gutenberg and download a free ebook version of Lyn Venable’s Time Enough at Last. This is the short story that inspired the classic Twilight Zone episode of the same name.

Henry Bemis

You remember it don’t you? The one where bibliophile Henry Bemis survives a nuclear bomb and stumbles upon a public library and finally has enough time to read! With no one around to bother him! But then… so sad.

Anyway, enjoy the quick read by Venable and then go watch that episode of the Twilight Zone. It’s fun, but his wife is really mean.

Happy National Science Fiction Day!

power of habot

Two Recommended Reads

Happy New Year! I hope 2014 is off to a great start for you and that many great books are in your future. Here are two highly highly recommended reads for any functioning adult… who is on the internet… and wants to continue to be an effective and functioning adult. I’m serious about these two books. They are great reads.


The first recommended read is Clay Johnson’s The Information Diet (my review). This book is a short one, but it is jam packed with information and case studies about most of the places you interact and inhabit online. The book is eye-opening, but not in a scary “big brother is gonna git chu” kind of way. He just lays it out clearly. It’s all about understanding how algorithms and networks operate online and on sites like Facebook. Plus, he ends up with ideas and tips for turning your media consuming self into a more productive person and savvier consumer.


The second one is Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. This book is fascinating. He shares data and stories on why you probably tie the same shoe first every morning,  strategies to break your bad habits or reinforce your good ones. Not too mention interviews with the people at Target and music sites that are using our habits against us in efforts to market to us and lure in their shops. Amazing stuff.

Both these books are bursting with information that I think will make you a better citizen both on and offline. Plus, it’s just good to know what kind of a world you will be wading through in 2014.

Christmas Read

A Christmas Read

Tis the season to curl up with a tinsel-themed tome and a toddy or two and this year I’m reading Otto Penzler’s Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop for my Christmas read.

Penzler owns the famed Mysterious Bookshop in New York City and for many years has commissioned one author a year to pen a Christmas-timed mystery in which his bookshop plays a role.

Christmas read

The book is a fun and light collection of a few of these short stories. No big mind boggling mysteries, but great fun. Some authors set their whole story inside Penzler’s shop while others simply make reference to it during the story. If you’re a fan on mysteries, this is a good one to be on the look out for (it was published in 2010) to have in your collection.

What are you reading this holiday week? Any annual habits or something new?

Hope you all have a wonderful and peace-filled Christmas and holiday season!

Calvin and Hobbes Go Free!

The entire run of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip is now free to read online or via the Go Comics mobile app (again, for free). Calvin and Hobbes have been some of the best Sunday funnies reading ever. The strip has been put online in a promotional effort for an upcoming documentary called Dear Mr. Watterson.

Go read the strip

Calvin and Hobbes

I know I am going to check in on Calvin and his tiger ever day. I wonder if the film will be any good….

the abominable

Dan Simmons quote

Dan Simmons has a new book coming out The Abominable (October 22, 2013). I have to admit to being on the fence as to whether I want to read it (I loved, loved, loved The Terror, but Drood and the next left me meh). But this one sounds a little more in line with The Terror so I’ve been following along as it rolls out. Which is why I ran across this interview with Simmons by the folks at Publishers Weekly. It’s not long and worth a read, but the last answer struck a chord as Dan Simmons explains how he wants his readers to be with the flip of the last page:

“The real test for me is how the reader feels after he or she has finished one of my books. If readers have no questions to ask, no conversations they want to start, no strong feelings they wish to share, then I’ve failed. But overall, as at the end of a life well lived, there should be a sense of completeness—of having known triumph and sorrow—as well as having some questions still unanswered. That and some sense of sadness that the characters are no longer there to spend time with. Finishing a good book, I think, should feel a bit like saying goodbye to old friends.”

THAT’S exactly how I want to feel at the end of a book. I think The Abominable just secured a place on Mount TBR.


cover_the abominable


Podcasts for Bibliophiles

There is a great thread, in the Books on the Nightstand group, over on Goodreads, where members are listing their favorite podcasts for bibliophiles and book lovers. Even if you’re not a member of GoodReads or prefer other sites (like LibraryThing!) this thread is worth checking out. There are quite a few podcasts mentioned that I’m going to have to check out at least once. Here is a list of the first five that I’m downloading now to see what they have to say:

Greater Boston Book Loft – sounds like this will be a nice shorter 10-15 minute podcast and includes author interviews.

Literary Disco – three friends who are self-professed booknerds

Authors on Tour – this podcast is produced by the good folks at Denver’s indie rockstar bookstore The Tattered Cover

KCRW’s Bookworm – a podcast about books and authors, based in L.A.

The Afterword – produced by Slate

Other than Books on the Nightstand and NPR’s offerings, what podcasts do you listen to? Let me know if I’m missing out.

Author Rejections

I’m reading Pushcart Press‘ perfectly pocket-sized (only 101 pages) Rotten Rejections and it’s great fun. It’s amazing some of the rejections now-famous authors have gotten over the years. Some of my favorites so far:

Rudyard Kipling (1889) – “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

Norman Mailer (1948) – “This will set publishing back 25 years.”

Samuel Beckett (1951) – “There’s no sense in considering them for publication here; the bad taste of the American public does not yet coincide with the bad taste of the French avant garde.”

John Le Carre (1963) – “You’re welcome to le Carre – he hasn’t got any future.”

I have to say it’s been fun reading through all of the blurbs and quotes from the author rejections. It’s interesting to see how often a book manuscript is rejected based on being bad vs. the author’s lack of skill. One thing I’ve noticed is that the publishing industry is a lot nicer these days. The form letters of 2013 are dull and drab to some of the absolutely b-r-u-t-a-l barbs editors and publishers replied with back in the late-1800’s through the early 1900’s.

But the colorful writing found in Rotten Rejections does make for better reading.

books about books

A Word About “Books about Books”

One thing I truly enjoy reading about is books. Books about books is just about as good as it gets. These can cover book collecting, book arts, book plates, libraries, crafts, publishing, biographies about writers or editors,etc. There are even sub-genres of fiction that identify when books or bookstores or libraries figure heavily into the story. It’s a little meta. It’s a little nerdy (but not geeky), but it’s great to read up on people’s personal libraries and people’s relationships to books.

books about booksBut there is no word for it! You read that right. I can find no single word that means “books about books”.

How can this be? Is there one that I haven’t thought about? Surely someone has solved this problem by now. How can there be no word for “books on books”?

If you read books about book fanatics you’re reading about bibliomania. If you read mystery books about books you are reading bibliomysteries. But what if you’re reading books about books? The trio of words works, but you have to admit “books about books” is a bit cumbersome. Can’t we come up with a word whose sole definition is “books about books”? I guess if you read books about books you are a bibliophile, but how can we work that so it means an actual book whose focus is books.

Time to get busy wordsmiths! Let’s solve this. The solution (the final word, if you will) should be an elegant one worthy of the task. Biblio-biblio is just weird. Biblio-books is even more awkward than the original phrase.

Of course, this whole exercise makes me think of Sniglets. So now I have to go find those books and thumb through them. You should do the same. But when we get done reading…. back to the neologistic task at hand!