Reading Around

Kindle on My PhoneMy reading habits changed when I bought my Kindle a few years ago, and they continue to evolve. When I first got the Kindle it seemed so much more convenient than dragging around a bunch of books, and I started carrying it around. I still use the Kindle when I am at home or on a business trip, but I now I find it inconvenient to drag it around with me all the time. That’s because I do carry around my slick little cellphone, and I use that for reading books in small doses while sitting in waiting rooms, over a cup of coffee, or riding the subway. It took me a little practice to get this to feel natural — the problem wasn’t the small screen or backlighting, it was just finding the right hand position and mastering the quick page flip so it felt natural.

Some books work better for this than others. I enjoy reading Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Ariely and all the Freakonomics-type books this way, but not fiction and narrative nonfiction like history, biographies and memoirs. Short stories, essays, and all those books of “fascinating facts” also work well on the phone. I don’t think this would be nearly as convenient if Amazon didn’t sync my collection among all my devices (the Kindle, desktop PC, netbook and phone) and keep track of my place.

Day 160: June 10, 2010But it’s not that I never read paper books anymore. I still borrow lots of library books, buy some books I know I want to own, and reread books from my home library. And while I bring the Kindle on business trips and find it very convenient for reading on the plane and in a hotel, I never bring it on vacations where I am going to be traveling around with a backpack, staying in random places where I feel it would be just one more thing to worry about keeping safe. For those trips, I bring one or two long but compact paperbacks, often old favorites that I want to reread. For example, when I went to Jamaica I brought my old Signet Classics copy of “Great Expectations,” bought for sixty cents when I was in high school. That’s a very cold, damp, wintery book which contrasted beautifully with the dazzling warmth and beauty of Jamaica in the spring.

Back from the Coffee FactoryBack when I bought that copy of “Great Expectations,” there were fewer reading options. Buy or borrow from the library, hardcover or paperback, that was about it. Now everything is much more complicated. Both paper books and ebooks can be bought or borrowed from the library, and ebooks can be read on any number of devices. It’s complicated, but as a reader, I appreciate having so many options.

A Christmas Carol

Merry Christmas to one and all!

Here’s my favorite holiday story, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, beautifully illustrated by Arthur Rackham and presented and preserved in several formats by the Internet Archive.

And if you’d rather listen to the book, I recommend the Librivox A Christmas Carol version 2, read by Glen Hallstrom, otherwise known as “Smokestack Jones.” You can download the files in many formats from the Librivox page for this audiobook, or download or listen online at its Internet Archive page. Librivox recordings are free audiobooks of public domain titles, read by volunteers.

A Christmas Carol, Illustrated by Arthur Rackham

Embedded from the Internet Archive

A Christmas Carol, Read by Glen Hallstrom

Embedded from the Internet Archive.


Book CoverRibsy, by Beverly Cleary

This is an old favorite of mine, but I haven’t read it in many years. I was almost afraid to read it again. I’ve been rereading a lot of favorite books lately, and many of them have been disappointing. The books simply aren’t as good as they used to be. Ribsy, however, seemed as sweet, fresh and funny as it was when I read it to my little brother over forty years ago.

Ribsy is a good-natured mutt who lives with his boy Henry Huggins. He certainly never intended to run away, but one rainy day he escapes from the parked car while his family is shopping to chase a little dog who has been barking at him, and finds himself lost and confused in the parking lot.

“Ribsy had a pretty good nose, but unfortunately he was no bloodhound. He had never tracked a lost child over mountains and through forests. He was just an ordinary city dog, trying to track his owner across an enormous parking lot that smelled of oil and exhaust.”
» Read more

The Worcester Lunch Car Company

Book CoverThe Worcester Lunch Car Company
By Richard J. S. Gutman

This slim volume from Arcadia’s Images of America series is a collection of old photographs, advertisements, articles, menus, matchbooks and other documents and memorabilia about The Worcester Lunch Car Company and some of the 651 diners they made during 55 years in business. Gutman, who is the author of American Diner Then and Now, interviewed some of the key personnel from the diner manufacturer before they died, and had access to the company archives preserved at the Worcester Historical Society, as well as his own collection of photographs from decades of road trips and research.
» Read more

Diners : People and Places

Diners : People and Places (Cover Image)Diners : People and Places
Photographs by Gerd Kittel; Introduction by Richard F. Snow

This is a slim volume of color photographs of classic diners, mostly in New York and New England, taken by German photographer Gerd Kittel. It’s a lovely book, in its way, and there are some interesting photographs here, including many interior shots, some including customers, waitstaff and cooks. Each photograph is only identified by name and place, and the book would have been much more useful to the diner-lover if it also included three other pieces of information: the diner’s manufacturer and and year of manufacture, and the year the photograph was taken. The book was originally published in 1990, and I bought the updated second edition from 1998, so all the photographs were taken at least nine years ago, but it would be helpful to know when.
» Read more

Dog Years : A Memoir

Dog Years (Book Cove)rDog Years is poet Mark Doty’s story of his two dogs, Arden and Beau, and their shared joys and sorrows.

Mark and Arden are living alone with Mark’s lover Wally, who is dying of AIDS, when Mark decides to get another dog. It’s really the last thing they needed, at that point.

In Doty’s words:

My friends think I’ve lost my mind. You’re taking care of a man who can’t get out of bed, and you’re adopting a golden retriever? They do have a point, but there’s a certain dimension of experience at which the addition of any other potential stress simply doesn’t matter anymore. Oh, say the already crazed, why not?

» Read more

Born on a Blue Day : A Memoir

Born on a Blue Day (Cover image)Born on a Blue Day is the story of Daniel Tammett, a young man with an extraordinary mind. He has a rare combination of Asperger’s Syndrome and synesthesia, a condition which blurs the usual distinctions between the senses.

In his own words:

I see numbers as shapes, colors, textures and motions. The number 1, for example, is a brilliant and bright white, like someone shining a flashlight into my eyes. Five is a clap of thunder or the sound of waves crashing against rocks. Thirty-seven is lumpy like porridge, while 89 reminds me of falling snow.

Daniel is the firstborn child in what will become a very large family. His parents had limited education and resources, and his father suffers from a debilitating mental illness, but as parents, they were patient and supportive of the unusual son. Daniel was different from the start, and suffered from frightening seizures as a child. As with any child on the autistic spectrum, his social skills were limited and he craves solitude and a predictable routine, things not easy to find for a boy growing up with a large family in small, crowded homes in London.
» Read more

Are We Addicted to Fame?

Book CoverFame Junkies: The Hidden Truths Behind America’s Favorite Addiction — by Jake Halpern

Jake Halpern grew up in the unglamorous Rust Belt city of Buffalo, New York, where he briefly found himself fascinated by Robin Leach’s celebrity show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous until his parents gave the television away. This book is a journalistic journey to examine the role and meaning of fame in America today.

Like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous , which showed the homes and possessions of the famous, rather than the famous themselves, this is a book is not about celebrities themselves, but about those who want to be famous, used to be famous, or want desperately to be associated with the famous.
» Read more

1 2 3 4 7