Category: Books

As you may have heard, the Harry Potter series (supposedly) wrapped up this week. Also this year, The Sopranos ended its TV run (you may have heard a thing or two about that, too). I have never read Potter or watched Sopranos, but deep down my social conditioning tells me that some day I might, maybe, hunker down for a week and read the Potter Canon or watch 6 seasons of Tony Soprano non-stop.


Most likely I’ll never get around to either. But still, there’s a little voice that compels me to try to avoid reading any spoilers about how these series end. Last month, it was impossible to remain ignorant of whether or not Tony survived the finale. Now, as the slower reading muggles finish up Deathly Hallows, I have a feeling I’ll be inadvertently learning Harry’s fate any day now.

The lesson? I’ll be watching the Lost finale in 2009 in real time. There are no more pop culture secrets in the internet age.

I am poor pragmatic, so I use the library to get almost all my books. This usually works out really well, you go online, find a book, click a button and they send it to your local branch. Easy.

Sometimes, though, I want a book that’s popular, and the waiting list is 40 people deep (apparently everyone loves Obama) and I’ll have to wait months to get it. I don’t like waiting, so I have a little trick: find the large print edition. Those are the copies for the sight impaired, nice big fonts, easy for my nana to read. The large print books are listed separately from the regular versions, so less people find those listings, and less people reserve them. I usually get them right away.

There are times, though, when I’m easily reading my large print copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma at arms length and I picture some poor guy with coke bottle glasses trying to read a regular sized copy under a giant magnifying glass. Sorry about that my friend.

A guilty conscience

I love to read. There’s usually a pile of library books in my living room that I never have enough time to read. And though it seems like my borrowing habits lean heavily towards the non-fiction section, I do love stories.

Probably because of that aforementioned lack of time, I like short stories quite a bit (I had a friend who would peek over a thousand page Maeve Binchy book to laugh at the 200 page collections of short stories I’d be reading).

Anyway, the point of all that junk above is to point you to this brilliant website without looking like I’m just pasting up a link then running out to IKEA (which I am, right now.) Have a great weekend!

Reading list

So we were at Barnes & Noble this weekend and among all the interesting book covers, this new edition of Voltaire’s Candide stood right out. One look and illustrator/storywriter/”graphic novelist” Chris Ware’s amazing cover treatment grabbed me (and if you’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting down with Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, you’d be grabbed too) so I had to buy it. It helps that Candide was by far one of my favorites from 11th grade English class. So if you’re looking for some 18th century hilarity for the plane ride to Turkeyville, I highly recommend dropping the $11 on this beautfifully packeged gem.

Buying a Book For Its Cover

I mentioned last week that I was reading (and loving) Seth Godin‘s books Purple Cow and Free Prize Inside. These are fundamentally books about marketing, but there’s a lot more, even for someone without a product to market (though, really, aren’t we all constantly marketing ourselves?) Purple Cows are the “things” that make a company, or product, or service, remarkable. Stuff like free shipping from or an ice cream shop where you can call the manager at home if you have any problems.

The cool thing about Godin is the way he walks the walk. He made the books I mentioned above remarkable, in part, by packaging them in a milk carton and a cereal box, a little change of pace to make his work stand out (or call it a gimmick, if you’re less than impressed by packaging). For his new book, The Big Moo, he’s selling discounted copies to people who will talk about the book and pass on the ideas.

Will it work? I don’t know, but I’m talking about it because Michael Arrington at TechCrunch (which is on my daily read list to look out for new web-based purple cows) says he’ll give me a copy just for mentioning it. And I’ll try to come up with a creative way to give that copy away to one of you guys when I finish it. Sounds like it’s working already.

Things that make you go Moo

Now that the Sox have put their last late-game of the season to bed with a W (in extra innings, no less), I can put myself to bed too. But first, today’s post!

I mentioned yesterday that I read a library copy of Freakonomics. I’ve got about seven more books out, so these late night games have actually been good for my reading time. The other books, if you’re interested, are:

The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch
Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
Your Call is Important to Us: the Truth about Bullshit by Laura Penny (I tried reading Harry Frankfurt’s “On Bullshit“, but despite it’s svelte pagecount, I couldn’t get through more than 10 pages of its dense treatise)
Purple Cow and Free Prize Inside, both by Seth Godin (I’m really enjoying these, look for future posts on these)
The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki
and probably the most intriguing title on the list, Emergence: the Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software by Steven Johnson

Man, I love the library. All of RI’s books at my fingertips, delivered to my local library a few blocks from home. If anyone has read any of these, definitely leave a comment. I’ll be in bed, reading…

Library Madness

I finally reached the top of the library queue for a copy of Freakonomics this week (I reserved it in April!), and since you only get 10 days with high-demand new books I sat down to start reading it tonight.

And I just finished it. This is partly because of the late Sox game (and partly because of the all-around suckiness of that game), but mostly because this book just rocks. Subtitled “a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything,” the collection of statistically true yet counterintuitive explanations of our world was right up my alley (I enjoy my share of contrarianism, oh yes.)

The most striking element of the book, as you may have heard, was the contention that the driving force behind the huge drop in crime during the 90’s was not a booming economy, nor was it policing innovations, but actually the logical result of less unwanted children being born once abortion was legalized in the early 70’s. That may be unsettling to think about (“ooh, you’re saying abortions are a good thing!”), but it certainly makes sense. I can’t do the argument justice, so I recommend getting the book. It’s very readable and accessible, and you’ll find some interesting new ways to see your world.

Get Your Freak On