Weekend reading

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A light breeze from the south, sunshine, blue skies, and the chirp and trill of birds set the stage for a lovely Sunday afternoon. I am sitting outside the apartment reading a book. Or rather reading through a stack of books.

Across the courtyard a guy enthusiastically shouts at his television regarding the baseball game. To the south, the theme music for the television show Dr. Who is heard from an open second-floor window. Why not sit outside and read a good book? Or two. In this northern climate there have been only a few days like this so far this year.

One of the books I have already read, but wanted to reread a selection of poems. One book I bought because I ran up such a large fine at the public library it made practical sense to purchase a copy and finish reading it. Others were on a list of books I have intended to read. One book I put off reading, but am more than 50 pages into it and wonder why I put it off for so long.

What about you? What are you reading this weekend?

Best reads of 2013

The best books I read in 2013 (that may or may not have been published during the calendar) follow an eclectic path―from fiction to poetry, non-fiction to graphic novels. Instead of providing a review of each book or why I consider it a “best read,” I will provide a quote from each book if possible.

1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine Lengle

“A straight line is not the shortest distance between two points.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. – Mrs. Whatsit”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

2. American Primitive by Mary Oliver

3. Blankets by Craig Thompson

“I wanted a heaven. And I grew up striving for that world– an eternal world- that would wash away my temporary misery.”
― Craig Thompson, Blankets

“How satisfying it is to leave a mark on a blank surface. To make a map of my movement – no matter how temporary.”
― Craig Thompson, Blankets

4. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

“The worlds of folklore and religion were so mingled in early twentieth venture German culture that even families who didn’t go to church were often deeply Christian.”
― Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

“Bonhoeffer thought of death as the last station on the road to freedom.”
― Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

5. Channel Zero by Brian Wood

“…and all of a sudden, world cultures become the Monoculture, the same conversation, the same clothes, the same show.”
― Brian Wood, Channel Zero

“And, all over the world, one by one, we quit fighting it.”
― Brian Wood, Channel Zero

“It’s about learning how to give a shit again, about finding ways to make things better. It’s about anger as a positive force of creation. It’s about your right to not have to live in the world they’ve built for you.”
― Brian Wood, Channel Zero

6. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost Of Discipleship

7. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

“For what are we born if not to aid one another?”
― Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

“The world is a fine place and worth fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”
― Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

8. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

“What can’t be helped must be endured.”
― Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow

“This religion that scorned the beauty and goodness of this world was a puzzle to me.”
― Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow

9. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

“But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated. ”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

“Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman, he thought. But that was the thing that I was born for.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

10. The Prodigal God  by Timothy Keller

“Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.”
― Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God

11. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

“If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully. Stories about food show a strong connection. Wistful silences demonstrate unfinished business. The more a daughter knows about the details of her mother’s life – without flinching or whining – the stronger the daughter.”
― Anita Diamant, The Red Tent

“The painful things seemed like knots on a beautiful necklace, necessary for keeping the beads in place.”
― Anita Diamant, The Red Tent

12. River Inside the River: Three Lyric Sequences by Gregory Orr

13. Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins

14. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

“What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”
― Nicholas G. Carr, The Shallows

“Culture is sustained in our synapses…It’s more than what can be reduced to binary code and uploaded onto the Net. To remain vital, culture must be renewed in the minds of the members of every generation. Outsource memory, and culture withers.”
― Nicholas G. Carr, The Shallows

15. Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom by Victor Davis Hanson, John Heath

“[We owe the Greeks] our present Western notions of constitutional government, free speech, individual rights, civilian control over the military, separation between religious and political authority, middle-class egalitarianism, private property, and free scientific inquiry.”
― Victor Davis Hanson, John Heath, Who Killed Homer?

The best books I should have read before 2013

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The 2013 lists are in. From The Seattle Times[1] to The Economist,[2] from NPR[3] to Publisher’s Weekly[4] to The Paris Review[5] and even Bianca Stone’s Poetry Picks[6], everyone seems to be sharing the best books to read of the year.

In some unknown manner, I feel obligated as a reader, and a dabbler in spilled ink and exploded pens, that I should offer a list of best reads of 2013. However, when I look back at the last twelve months of reading material only a few of them were published in the last calendar year.

It is true that as a practice my family congregates at the public library at least once a week, sometimes more. And, since I am an agnostic[7] as far booksellers go, at least a couple nights a week myself and some family members can be observed wandering through the aisles of a Barnes & Noble or a used bookstore. Often I am disappointed in bookstores and libraries because they tend to focus on the bestsellers and popular trends rather than the well-written and perennial books.

So, maybe I should title the list, “the best books I should have read before 2013″. Next week I will share some of the best books I read in 2013 (that may or may not have been published during the calendar).

UPDATE: Here is my list best reads of 2013.

NOTES:
[1] The Seattle Times, 31 of the best titles of 2013
[2] The Economist, A bountiful offering
[3] Our Guide To 2013’s Great Reads
[4] Publisher’s Weekly, Best 20 Books of 2013
[5] The Paris Review, Best of the “Best”
[6] My Poetry Picks for 2013
[7] By agnostic, I refer to the lesser used denotation of the word meaning unwilling to commit to an opinion. This is my quiet response to local matters. Bumper stickers and posters decorate the downtown area declaring “Local is the new black” or “Choose Independents, Buy Local”. This is all well and good, but I am not dogmatic on the point. To demonize corporate retail outlets is a moral pretense that I disagree with on the grounds that the people of Asheville need work. In these economic hard times, any work is good work. Why should I shame one hard worker who is employed at Barnes & Noble and not also shame one hard worker who is employed at a local independent bookseller? Seems like undeserved discrimination to me. My preference is to visit corporate and independent bookstores alike and maintain a bookseller agnosticism in the hopes that neither employees of Barnes and Noble or Malaprop’s loss their jobs as they try to support their families and communities. And no, I am not running for city council.

How many copies do you need?

20130530-102758.jpg That’s the question I asked myself when I saw four copies of Outliers and three copies of The Tipping Point at the downtown public library. Does the library need that much Malcolm Gladwell? Yet, I can hardly find seven books written by Vonnegut. I was able to locate at least seven books by Hemingway but not all that much on Steinbeck. The experience got me thinking.

Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point is an interesting book, but how will it stand up over the years? It’s a bestseller now, but in 50 years, or 100 years, will it still be impacting readers?

Along a parallel track, will your favorite blogs have the same readership in 50 years? Some of the blogs I used to enjoy reading eight years ago have disappeared from the webosphere a few short years ago and the writer’s voice I looked forward to hearing is no longer there.

But books remain. Whatever their legacy, they have a space, or more, on the bookshelves of a library. At least for now.

Thanks for your support

Now available as an ebook

Just wanted to say thanks to all who have purchased an ebook version of Late Night Writing. Your support means a lot to me.

Since the book’s re-release as an ebook, it has sold more copies as an ebook in less than two months than it did in the first year of its release as a print book.

Hope you enjoyed reading Late Night Writing. If you like this title, you may also like some of the forthcoming ebooks that are scheduled for release. More details are forthcoming.

Again, thanks so much for your support of Late Night Writing!

The Last of the Great Chained Libraries

coffeehousejunkie:

Normally, I don’t reblog material from other blogs, but this is such an interesting piece about chained libraries. Hope you enjoy the read as much as I did.

Originally posted on medievalfragments:

By Jenny Weston

On a beautiful sunny day last week, the Turning Over a New Leaf project team decided to take a day off from the office to visit a spectacular chained library in the small town of Zutphen (located in the eastern part of the Netherlands). Built in 1564 as part of the church of St Walburga, it is one of only five chained libraries in the world that survive ‘intact’—that is, complete with the original books, chains, rods, and furniture.

Needless to say, it was a rather surreal moment for all of us to step into the little room to see the dark-wood lecterns, upon which were placed (in neat rows, side-by-side) beautiful 15th- and 16th-century books, secured in place by metal chains.

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Chained Library in Zutphen

Looking closer, it is possible to see just how the chained-library system works. Each book is fitted with a metal clasp, usually…

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So many books, so little time

First quarter books
What do you think of when you look at a stack of books?

Maybe, so many books, so little time. Or, can’t wait to get home and read this novel/memoir/biography tonight after supper….

[read more]

UPDATE: This blog post is available as part of an audio podcast.

Listen here:

Or listen on:
PodOmatic: coffeehousejunkie.podomatic.com
SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/coffeehousejunkie

E-book: How long does it take to write a haiku?: and other stories

Purchase the e-book Kindle Edition for $0.99!

What do you think about when you see a stack of books? In this short collection of stories you will also learn what a creative director thinks of when he sees a stack of books. Who is the audience for your poems? Is possible to write in your sleep, or not?

Late Night Writing ebook – now available

Late Night Writing – ebook

After nearly a decade since it was published, Late Night Writing is now available as an ebook for $1.99 at Amazon.com. The ebook features some new material — a Foreword by journeyman journalist/editor, poet, and founder of The Indie, Pasckie Pascua, an Introduction and an epigraph (of sorts).

Late Night Writing is available as a Kindle ebook, and that means you should be able to read it on all Kindle devices as well as iPhone and iPad devices. For those who do not have an ereader or tablet, Amazon has an app you can download that will allow you to read ebooks from your desktop or laptop computer.

Last month I re-read Late Night Writing and found, in retrospect, that reminds me of something Thomas Merton once wrote. I am interested to learn what you think of the collection of poems. Please leave your comments below or feel free to leave a starred review on the ebook’s Amazon page. Thanks for your support!

Do children’s books sell as e-books?

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Photo courtesy of @mxmulder

Let’s face it, e-books are no longer a novelty. With the Kindle, Kobo, Nook and other e-reader devices, the transition to a digital reading experience is no longer a discussion. They are here to stay. But is the e-book market just for adults? How well do children’s books sell on this new platform?

Last year, I worked on a half dozen or so children’s books. Not books I’ve written, mind you, but I did design covers, inside layout and typesetting. All of the titles are available on various e-reader devices. Each book features fully illustrated pages (the industry trade refers to them as picture books) and they print at various formats. The most common — and standard to the trade — is a 32-page, 8.5″x11″, colored ends hardcover book.

This is where the question gets interesting: Do children’s books sell as e-books? According to one report,

“children’s and young adult digital book revenues exploded nearly 300 percent…”[1]

Those sales numbers are quite convincing. Authors request e-books of their picture books in addition to their traditionally printed picture books. At least, the authors I work with are convinced by the published industry sales reports. Best I can tell is that young adult books perform much better than picture books even though children’s and young adult books are lumped together in a single category.

My experience is that the iPad provides the best possible interface as an e-reader with brighter colors and fluid user experience. The more popular e-readers (i.e. Kindle and Nook) seem clumsy by comparison leading some to believe that the e-reader device is a transitional technology that is soon to be replaced by the tablet.[2] Both Kindle and Nook scale down a large format picture book to the default viewing area specific to the individual device. Though the iPad has the better picture book experience, I’ve noticed that children are more interested in apps than e-books.

So, what is an author of children’s picture books to do? Here are some things to keep in mind as a children’s book author:

  • A picture book that is interactive (using apps to feature audio, video, etc.) sells better than a static digital e-book.
  • Young adult fiction titles sell better as an e-book than picture books.
  • Publishers typically provide both print and digital products, and it is wise to have the book in as many formats as financially viable.
  • Scholastic published a report on the reading habits of children stating that: “Eighty percent of kids who read ebooks still read books for fun primarily in print.”[3]
  • The same report shares that: “Fifty-eight percent of kids… want to read books printed on paper even though there are ebooks available”[4]

The tactile interaction with a physical book is an important part of the reading experience for children. In her book The Writing Life, Annie Dillard writes,

“The written word is weak. Many people prefer life to it.”

As e-books gain market share, the written word — whether print or digital — will always compete with life. Readers still seek to retreat into books that don’t offer the distraction of emails, hyperlinks, social media updates, Youtube videos and the like. It’s a choice the reader and the author must make.

NOTES: What prompted this post is a discussion posted on the LinkedIn group Ebooks, Ebook Readers, Digital Books and Digital Content… The specific discussion thread is here http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Do-childrens-books-sell-as-1515307.S.212309551
[1] Jason Boog, “Children’s & Young Adult eBooks Saw Nearly 300% Growth,” Galleycat, September 7, 2012 accessed February 19, 2013 http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/category/sales-stats
[2] Dan Eldridge, “The Disappearing Market Share of the E-Reader: Is it now a transitioning technology?,” Teleread.com, November 1, 2012 accessed February 19, 2013 http://www.teleread.com/e-ink/the-disappearing-market-share-of-the-e-reader-is-it-now-a-transitioning-technology/
[3] Kids & Family Reading Report, Scholastic, accessed February 19, 2013 http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/kfrr
[4] Kids & Family Reading Report, Scholastic, accessed February 19, 2013 http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/kfrr