The Outlaw Life

running, reading, blogging, loving

[16] Start Here: Read Your Way into 25 Amazing Authors

Start Here

I first saw this book advertised earlier this week on the bottom of Bookriot’s RSS feed, and I basically immediately went to Amazon and, clicky-clicky, had the book in my possession minutes later. And, yet again, I’m SO THANKFUL for that “Buy it Now!” button, because foe $2.99 I’ve got 25 succinct but loving introductions for 25 authors – some of whom I’ve never heard of, and some of whom I’ve been looking forward to breaking in to very soon (probably even sooner now, if we’re being honest). Some of my favorite Book Riot contributors/bloggers contributed chapters (a million cheers for Amanda Nelson and Kit Steinkellner!) and the whole thing is edited by Jeff O’Neal and Rebecca Joines Schinsky, the genius minds behind Book Riot. The whole things was just really lovely, because it was kind of like looking in to 25 different windows while all these contributors happen to be having loving conversations about some of their favorite authors.

The book covers a really nice range of genres, styles, and time periods (as well as ‘classical’ and ‘commercial’ authors, if that’s a distinction you make a lot in your mind – don’t worry, I won’t judge you for it) and I marked titles by Italo Calvino, Philip K. Dick. E.M. Forster, John Irving, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Herman Melville, Arthur Miller, Alice Munro, Edgar Allen Poe, Richard Russo, and Zadie Smith – and that’s not even half of the chapters that are available to pluck titles from! This may not be the kind of book that other people will sit down and read cover to cover, but I get kind of a huge literary crush on books about books, and it’s especially thrilling to see the voices of people you “know” (which, as we all know, really means “have read for years via the internet”) in print telling you to go read great books. And, regardless of how many sessions you read it in, it’s a great book to have on hand, especially for when you have a vague idea of where you’d like to start, reading-wise, and just need a bit more help jumping in to a definitive work!

If there is one thing that I wish the book had done a bit more of, it would be that I wish they had expanded the number of titles recommended for each author – most stuck to a three to four book range, with the occasional extra title thrown in for good measure. For some authors, I totally get this, but for others – especially like Dickens or Stephen King, who JUST WROTE ALL THE BOOKS OH MY GOD ITS SICKENING – I felt like I just would have liked a bit more of a selection, or a bit of a more extended discussion of the diversity of the titles and which might be better for some situations than others (because of length, genre, tone, etc.). But, then again, that’s not really what this book was about, so it’s really just me being kind of a bitch and stomping my feet and yelling

I want it nowBUT I WANT IT NOW!!!!!!

I really did enjoy seeing so many titles and authors I’d read, as well as the dozens I haven’t, and like so many of my Kindle books, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to get a hard copy of this one as soon as I can!

Rating: Hell yeah!

PS: GO BUY THIS BOOK. YOU WILL NOT REGRET. There. I have unashamedly plugged this book, which no one has asked me to do but which I will do because I think this book was the cats pajamas!

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[12] One for the Books

People who prefer e-books…think that books merely take up space. This is true, but so do your children and Prague and the Sistine Chapel.

Oh, Joe. Whaddaya know? Apparently, this Joe knows all about books – which ones to read, which ones to NOT read, and of course how to read and not read them. I loved this book, but I’m left at a loss as to what to say about it. It was a great, quick non-fiction read, and was a book about books. Thus, it was and is basically gold. I’d give you the Goodreads synopsis, but this time I like mine better:

Books are awesome. We should all read books, but not books that other people recommend (unless you have great friends with rare and amazing tastes) and not ebooks, which of course are not nearly as good as real books. Books are special and life is short, so read good ones and surround yourself with good ones. Read widely but personally, but not ebooks. Also, fuck ebooks.

And there you have it folks. Joe Queenan in a nutshell. I think that Joe most likely has his right to have such a crotchety opinion (“Joe Queenan is a humorist, critic and author from Philadelphia who graduated from Saint Joseph’s University. He has written for numerous publications, such as Spy Magazine, TV Guide, Movieline, The Guardian and the New York Times Book Review. He has written eight books, including Balsamic Dreams, a scathing critique of the Baby Boomers, Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon, a tour of low-brow American pop culture and Imperial Caddy, a fairly scathing view of Dan Quayle and the American Vice-Presidency. Queenan’s work is noted for his caustic wit.” – and yes, that I legit picked that shit up straight from Goodreads) and this whole experience was kind of like sitting near your really well read and literate grandpa while he talks about how good things were in the ‘good ole’ days’ and how everything now is headed to hell in a hand basket. Sure, some of the time I felt like what Ole’ Joe was saying seemed a little harsh for my way of reading – I for one love giving and receiving book recommendations, as I believe it’s my job to take those recommendations and narrow down to the ones that fit for me – but he’s not exactly trying to say that his way is the only way. Maybe the best way, but not the only way. I don’t necessarily agree, as I have an e-reader (a couple, actually, with perhaps another one coming soon – ah, the technological rat race), I think this about sums up what its like to sit down and have a 250 page adventure with Grandpa Joe:

Electronic books are ideal for people who value the information contained in them, or who have vision problems, or who like to read on the subway, or who do not want other people to see how they are amusing themselves, or who have storage and clutter issues, but they are useless for people who are engaged in an intense, lifelong love affair with books. Books that we can touch; books that we can smell; books that we can depend on.

Rating: Hell yeah!

EDIT:: Amanda from Dead White Guys and Book Riot didn’t come away with the same feelings I did, but she makes some really valid and HOLY SHIT HILARIOUS points in her GIF reply to One for the Books!

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[11] Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore

penumbra

‘I did not know people your age still read books,’ Penumbra says. He raises an eyebrow. ‘I was under the impression the read everything on their mobile phones.’

Clay Jannon is a young man of the Google age who, after losing his job marketing the start-up NewBagel, gets a job working the overnight shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore. There, a significant part of his job is to keep track of all the people who come into the shop – what they look like, what they buy (or borrow!), and what their mental state is. Soon, noticing an number of oddities about the job, the shop, and the clientele, and with the help of a tech-savvy roommate, rich best friend, and computer-genius quasi-girlfriend, he discovers a secret code buried deep within the books of the store – as well as a loyal cult dedicated to unraveling the code. Soon, Clay and his friends are harnessing the full power of Google, the expertise of librarians, and 15th century letter punches, to unravel the secrets of eternity. It’s an ancient tale spurred by the full reaches of contemporary technological power.

The shelves were packed close together, and it felts like I was standing at the border of a forest – not a friendly California forest, either, but an old Transylvania forest, a forest full of wolves and witches and dagger-wielding bandits all waiting just beyond moonlight’s reach.

One of the more stand-out things about this novel is the really beautiful and philosophical nature of technology. Not only is Google the most used search engine, but to hear Robin Sloan describe it, the people there are also pushing the boundaries of human existence. While I don’t believe I’m one of those “OHMIGOD FACEBOOK AND THE INTERWEBZ IS JUST THE BEST THANG EVA” people, but as this book points out, technology gives us the chance to question how we define and conceptualize what it means to be immortal, how we define time and space relative to factors like our instantaneous ability to share information over the internet, and what happens when classic and modern meet (ebooks? audiobooks? Goodreads and Librarything? Podcasts?)

To be honest, I wasn’t super thrilled with the actual plot of this book – weird book cults and rouge Google employees sounds good on the surface and is just…awkward on the page. I loved the scenes at Google (and naievely hope that they’re all true), and by far my favorite character is Kat Potente, the female Google goddess who, while expectedly pixie-like and psuedo-individualistic, is still totally adorable. All in all, the ideas in this book were way more exciting than the plot or process of reading the book itself.

Remember this: A man walking fast down a dark lonely street. A bell above the door and the tinkle it makes. A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time.

Rating: Okay

PS (because I’m me and I can’t kind of talk about philosophy – or do a post in general ever – without my favorite philosoraptor EVER):

philosoraptor-professor-x

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