Books & Reading

02.27.2022 - Scrolling in the Scriptorium

journal 1 min read

Today I'm listening to an audiobook of The Swerve, which I find delightful and informative. The opening chapters deal at length with old manuscripts and the monks who copied them in the fifteen century. I came across a brilliant bit of wordplay, but first, to set the scene:

In charge of the scriptorium was the person on whom Poggio and the other book hunters would have focused their most seductive blandishments: the monastery's librarian. This important figure would have been accustomed to extravagant courtship, for he was responsible for providing all of the equipment that was required for the copying of the manuscripts: pens, ink, and penknives whose precise merits or defects would become overwhelmingly obvious to the laboring scribe after a few hours at the day's task. The librarian could, if he wished, make a scribe's life miserable or, alternatively, provide a favorite with particularly fine tools. Those tools also included rulers, awls (to make tiny holes for ruling the lines evenly), fine-pointed metal pens for drawing the lines, reading frames to hold the book to be copied, weights to keep the pages from turning. For manuscripts that were to be illuminated, there were still other specialized tools and materials.

After this illustration of life in the monastic library, we get a delightful bit of history that ends with a connection I hadn't made in the past.

Most books in the ancient world took the form of scrolls like the Torah scrolls that Jews use in their services to this day-but by the fourth century Christians had almost completely opted for a different format, the codex, from which our familiar books derive. The codex has the huge advantage of being far easier for readers to find their way about in: the text can be conveniently paginated and indexed, and the pages can be turned quickly to the desired place. Not until the invention of the computer, with its superior search functions, could a serious challenge be mounted to the codex's magnificently simple and flexible format. Only now have we begun once again to speak of "scrolling" through a text.

And that's today's moment of delight.

The Cemetery of Beautiful Unforgotten Books

books 6 min read The Cemetery of Beautiful Unforgotten Books

I don’t remember the exact year I was introduced to The Shadow of the Wind. 2006? 2007? But I do remember what I was doing.

Mowing the lawn. Didn't see that coming, eh?

It was a hot summer day. My cheap MP3 player pumped an audiobook through earphones barely loud enough to hear over the roaring mower engine.  Audiobooks weren’t my thing, but I wanted to give them another try. That’s when the voice of narrator Jonathan Davis read the opening chapter of a haunting, beautiful tale I immediately loved.

I still remember the day my father

My First Weeks with Google Play (Audio) Books

technology 5 min read My First Weeks with Google Play (Audio) Books

TLDR Summary: Google Play Audiobooks is fantastic and every bit as great as Audible. I noticed a small syncing inconvenience with Android Auto, but that's easy to fix. Google Home integration is lovely. The big negative: content. Google needs more Audiobooks. I'm sure they'll get more eventually. Until then, we'll struggle with wanting the ecosystem benefits of Google Play but preferring the book selection of Audible.

At long last, Audible has a worthy competitor. It’s called Google Play Books.

In most ways, Audible is a fantastic service. Great selection. Great features. The subscription plan is reasonable for my usage

My Year in Books - 2016

books 7 min read My Year in Books - 2016

2016 felt like a slow reading year. That's mostly because I read so many long books. I also read a few books purely out of obligation (ahem, Harry Potter). But major life changes filled the year, and their emotional aspects had my brain frequently too distracted to read for long. But I persevered and found a few gems along the way. So here's my 2016 reading list, along with a quick thought on each book. I don't do reviews, so these aren't reviews. In no particular order:

Harry Potter 4-7 by J.K. Rowling

Years ago I promised my daughter

Amontillado - A Mystery Novel

mycreations 2 min read Amontillado - A Mystery Novel

Kevin Koperski’s Amontillado, the Edgar Allan Poe-inspired murder mystery about a writer, his estranged wife, a book club encounter, and a spiraling descent into darkness, is available digitally and in hardcover from Streetlamp Press.

What people are saying...

"The twists and turns, the macabre were present and oh-so-enjoyable. A really great unique voice and style." - Amazon Review

"If you enjoy Edgar Allan Poe, you should really enjoy this novel. It is dark. The language is lush. And Poe's stories are embedded both as themes and as objects in the story." - Goodreads Review

"Death, betrayal, and lost love

To Osten Ard Again with Tad Williams

books 10 min read To Osten Ard Again with Tad Williams

On this day of days there is a familiar stirring deep inside the dozing heart of the fantasy world. The realm of Osten Ard comes alive again with the release of Tad Williams’ The Heart of What Was Lost.

For some of us, it’s a day we never expected. For all of us, it is a day to celebrate, a day to explore, and a day to lose ourselves in the beauty and tragedy and horror and history of one of the most beloved lands in fantastical literature.


I first discovered Osten Ard in the summer of 1991.

A Moment of Reflection for Those who Die as a Footnote

books 4 min read A Moment of Reflection for Those who Die as a Footnote

I enjoy history. Sadly, it seems the more you learn about a particular historical period, the more you realize how much more there is to learn. It can make you crazy. I imagine that’s the reason history buffs tend to specialize. But that’s not really the point of this post.

One of the books I’m reading is The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore.  It’s a fast paced romp through three hundred years of Russian tsarist history (which, incidentally, is a fairly unexplored topic for me).  What I’ve learned thus far is that seventeenth century Russia

Boxed Books Bad

books 5 min read Boxed Books Bad

In anticipation of a move, I’ve put new carpet and paint in my living room. No big deal, right?

Wrong. The living room is where my books live.

Floor to ceiling books. A full wall of shelves. Stacks of books congregating on an end table. Books I’ve loved. Books I haven’t read. College textbooks. Coffee table books. Collectibles, sentimental keepsakes, nostalgia inducing paperbacks, bargain priced classics I’ll never get around to reading. Walls of memories. Walls of adventure. Walls of sadness and romance and heartache and saving the world from evil. It’s quite the room.

New Arrival: The ABC of Edgar Allan Poe

books 2 min read New Arrival: The ABC of Edgar Allan Poe

The fine folks at Play Attitude have delivered once again. Arriving on my doorstep last week from somewhere in that distant magical land across the oceans, otherwise known as Spain, was quite possibly their most beautiful book to date.

The ABC of Edgar Allan Poe was a Kickstarter campaign they ran back in July 2015.  Before he had any plans of creating the book, artist David G. Forés challenged himself to create a new Poe inspired piece of Instagram art every day for a month. Each day represented a new letter of the alphabet, and for each letter he drew

2015 - My Year in Books

books 2 min read 2015 - My Year in Books

Every year, I set myself a two-books-per-month reading goal. It’s a pace I can hit without too much trouble, and it allows me time to navigate some of the 1000 page behemoths hoarding space on the to-be-read shelf.

In 2015, I managed to read thirty books. Some were fantastic. Others were boring. Most were educational in some sense.  I’m not much of a critic or reviewer.  Any book that holds my attention to the end must impart some knowledge, even if it that knowledge concerns effective fiction pacing.

Below is my 2015 reading list. I like keeping a

The Shannara Chronicles

books 3 min read The Shannara Chronicles

In seventh grade, my English teacher assigned The Hobbit as reading material. I hated reading books for school. I either read too slowly or I had too little patience for the lengthy bouts of reading necessary to finish on schedule. I don’t remember how much I read, but I can’t imagine I made it as far as Mirkwood. I simply wasn’t interested.

Two years later, my sister had the same English teacher, and during winter break it was my sister’s turn to accompany Bilbo to the Lonely Mountain. Somehow, we found ourselves in a battle to

Forgotten Colors: A Kickstarter Book Win

books 2 min read Forgotten Colors Book Cover

Books. They’re delicious Autumn morsels. Take a Fall day with wind blown leaves skittering along the sidewalk, sit yourself in the warmly-colored interior of a cozy bookstore with cool air outside, hot coffee inside, fiery sunlight shining through tall glass, and get lost in the pages of a fantastical adventure surrounded by a million other tomes waiting to be dusted off and explored. Tell me that isn’t perfect. To misquote a famous movie: “Is this Heaven?” “No, it’s Autumn.”

This year’s season of delightful rainy decay has already delivered on the book front. I don’t

"The Watchmaker of Filigree Street" by Natasha Pulley

books 1 min read "The Watchmaker of Filigree Street" by Natasha Pulley

On a particular day in August 2015, the book gods declared a holiday. There was a new Harper Lee novel, a new Ernest Cline novel, and a highly-rated debut by Natasha Pulley. I learned about that last one on Goodreads, I think, as part of a New Releases email. It seemed like an interesting book, so I put it on my list. When I searched for it at the bookstore and found a delightful binding with a watchface showing through a cutout on the jacketless cover, it quickly joined the others in my hand.

I don’t have much to

"Napoleon: A Life" by Andrew Roberts

books 4 min read "Napoleon: A Life" by Andrew Roberts

One of my stated goals with this blog is to discuss why I plan to read a book before I actually read it. I’ve deviated from that stated goal with this book because, to put it simply, I’m lazy. Each morning I wake up, stumble to my computer, read my tasks for the day, and casually click “Postpone until tomorrow” on the task labeled “Napoleon Blog”.

Laziness is about as un-Napoleonic as it gets. I know it’s un-Napoleonic because I’ve just finished a wonderful biography of the man. Yes, after a month of postponing my “Why

Now Reading 'Armada' by Ernest Cline

books 2 min read Now Reading 'Armada' by Ernest Cline

This is no surprise, right?  Have you read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One? If you haven’t, you should. If you have, I bet you’re going to read Armada.

Ready Player One came out of nowhere. It was geeky, fun, and oh so memorable. It was the ultimate throwback for those of us who grew up playing Atari, Commodore, Intellivision (Note: Just like today, I didn’t like Apple, except maybe for Zaxxon and River Raid, which were awesome!). Ready Player One offered a sci-fi future that was somehow nostalgic, which seems impossible. How did Cline pull it

Carlos Ruiz Zafón does Chipotle

books 1 min read Carlos Ruiz Zafón does Chipotle

I fell in love with Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s writing when I first listened to the audio version of his novel, The Shadow of the Wind. His Cemetery of Forgotten Books might be the greatest fictional locale in the history of literature.

I’ve since bought a signed advanced reader’s copy of that novel, plus collector editions for it and its two successors. They’re dark, mysterious, romantic, all about books, authors, and love.  Just try to keep me away.

Thus my delight to discover his words now adorning various Chipotle beverage cups.

I stopped in for burrito with

'Go Set a Watchman' by Harper Lee

books 1 min read 'Go Set a Watchman' by Harper Lee

Not much to say about this one. Sometimes you read a book because it’s the pop culture thing to do. Sometimes that book is the sequel to a classic. Rarely does that sequel arrive more than fifty years after the original.

I don’t have high expectations, given what I know of the publishing story. With the success of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee could have published this book at any time. She chose not to. That says a lot.  I don’t buy claims it was a “lost” novel. Authors don’t forget writing a novel, especially

'How Music Got Free' by Stephen Witt

books 4 min read 'How Music Got Free' by Stephen Witt

I’m not gonna lie. Stephen Witt’s new history of the MP3,  How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy, was something of an impulse purchase and not just because the title kicks ass. I read an interview the author gave in which he touched on the early days of mp3 downloads, Napster, and a cabal of leakers few people knew existed. The nostalgic side of me couldn’t resist.

Let us remember…  It was the late 90s. I was already firmly entrenched in techie land by

'The Third Reich at War' by Richard J Evans

books 6 min read 'The Third Reich at War' by Richard J Evans

I spend a lot of time in the car. During most of that time I listen to music, but sometimes I try to multitask. That’s where audiobooks come in.

I spent years attempting to improve my audiobook listening skills. Early attempts were always thwarted by tangential thoughts. I’d hear a comment which would initiate a thought, and that thought would lead to other thoughts, and those thoughts would lead to unrelated thoughts, and inevitably a few minutes would pass during which I hadn’t heard a word of the narration. Rewind, rewind, rewind, try again. Fail again. Repeat.

'Seveneves' by Neal Stephenson

books 2 min read 'Seveneves' by Neal Stephenson

I'm still undecided about Neal Stephenson. I'm drawn to his books, but I wouldn't say I love them. At a minimum, they're intelligent, and they deal with interesting technology. His writing is fast and active and unmuddled, which, given so many technological descriptions, is an impressive feat. Perhaps his story ideas and characterizations intrigue me, even if the execution is inconsistent. Regardless of the past, I know exactly why I'm reading his newest novel, Seveneves: It spans thousands of years in a single volume.

I love history. I love seeing how systems evolve over time, or how ideas drift through

At Long Last... Unfettered

books 2 min read At Long Last... Unfettered

Two and a half years ago, I ordered a book. By itself, this is not a unique event. But this book was special.

It all started when an independent author battled cancer. Self-employed like most indie authors, he didn’t have insurance or funds to cover expensive treatments, and as a result he ran up significant medical debts. He struck upon an idea to help raise money while simultaneously providing something of value.

He reached out to authors in the Science Fiction & Fantasy community asking them to contribute a short story to a collection he planned to publish. Their

'This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate' by Naomi Klein

books 2 min read 'This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate' by Naomi Klein

Now that I’ve promised to post about books I’m beginning to read, I figure I might as well read something profound.

Enter “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate” by Naomi Klein.

I’ve always been drawn to environmental issues. Like basic human rights, environmental concern should transcend politics and religion. Regardless of locality or mythological tendencies, all societies share the environment. We suffer when any one of us destroys it, and the scientific evidence that we’re destroying it is not insubstantial. Should you be of the mindset we’re not actually destroying it, you must at

In Which I say Again...

books 2 min read In Which I say Again...

I’m no critic.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I analyze and critique a lot of things, especially for my day job, but I’m certainly not a literary critic. I’ve said this before.

Reading is education and entertainment. I read to learn history, business, science.  I read to experience other people’s stories and situations and struggles. I read to be exposed to new ideas and arguments. I read to learn about craft, about plotting and structure, about words and sentences. I sometimes read because a certain book will look great on my bookshelf. I do not,

Reading The Tale of Despereaux

parenting 2 min read Reading The Tale of Despereaux

If you don't already know, Despereaux is a mouse.  He is a mouse who, by his own admission, has fallen in love with a Princess. And in the world of mice, falling in love with a Princess is the most absurd thing one can do.

Of course, Despereaux's entire existence is riddled with absurdities. He was born too small. No one expected him to survive. He happens to READ the scribbled lines in a book instead of eating the pages like other mice.

Despite his peculiarities, however, the other mice let him be, until he falls in love with a