12 books for 12 months – 2017

My main reading goal for this year was to make serious headway into my unread books (books I’ve owned for six months or more and never opened). To better motivate myself to get through this stack – which was easily 100+ books at the start of the year – I set a moratorium on book buying, which I was able to maintain more or less successfully.  And I’ve finished up the year by taking out 34 unread books, out of 85 read for 2017 total. Not spectacular, but it’s within spitting distance of 50%. Continue reading

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An update

I’m not dead and neither is the blog- it’s just up until rather recently my life hasn’t really been my own, primarily because of the demands of work. However, I recently switched jobs, with the result that I have a lot more time to write and read while being able to keep a roof over my head. Which is great- I read more books in November than I’d thought was possible for me to do ever again, and hopefully I can keep that pace up.

I’m going to be putting up a post on one of those books tomorrow. In the meantime I want to apologize to anyone who’s commented and never got an answer. I’d see the comments, be delighted and embarrassed that someone was still reading this thing, and then they’d get buried in my inbox without the chance for me to respond. At this point I’m going to just let them lie, largely out of shame, but going forward, I’m going to try to answer any comments I get — if blogs still get comments nowadays — more promptly.

In the meantime, enjoy my cat making reading even harder than it already is.

Thoughts on ‘Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes’

In the prelude of Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, Maria Konnikova tells how, when her father read her and her siblings “A Scandal in Bohemia,” she was inspired to count the steps in every staircase she encountered so that she could prove she’d “observed” and not just “seen.” That kind of thinking – the ability to call to mind any needed fact, the flash of insight into a person from a glance at their shoes and their fingertips – is the kind we associate with Sherlock Holmes. However, Konnikova argues that this isn’t the right way to go about the observational approach advocated by Holmes and uses the stories to illustrate her arguments. Continue reading

Story is not enough

It’s very hard to write when you are sick at heart.

For me – an American – the events of the past few months have caused a renewal of heartache. My country’s election of a corrupt, cruel, and venomous buffoon to the position of national leader was undeniably a catalyst, but the ache predates even his rise to power. We live a time of almost unbearable strangeness, where one can go with a few clicks from cat videos to pornography to people pratfalling off treadmills. People can live decades with diseases that would have been death sentences a few decades ago, doctors can videoconference to surgery tables, and we can see light-years away with stunning clarity.

These are the days of miracle, to paraphrase Paul Simon, but not of wonder. Continue reading

Thoughts on ‘The Unconsoled’

After a nightmare, one of the most maddening moments comes when trying to pinpoint the terrifying aspects. The fact that you couldn’t run from one place to another, to use a common dream situation, seems minor when set against how much it makes your heart hammer.  It’s the heightened reality of things that aren’t or should never be real that lends the fear.

In Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled, this eeriness comes in the distortion of recognizable things, rendering innocuous moments sickening. Not because the moments themselves have much in the way of horror. But because those things simply can’t be real- and yet within the story, they’re as inexorable as anything in the real world. Continue reading