Category Archives: Books

another example of the power of the blog-o-sphere

Over the last few months,Glenn Greenwald has rapidly become one of my favorite political bloggers, joining Digby, Joe Gandelman and John Cole. Just like those guys, he is intelligent, well-researched, intellectually honest and consistent, and whenever I read one of his posts, I feel enlightened, if outraged. In fact, it’s because of guys like those (and Avarosis, and C&L, and Peter Daou) that I rarely write political posts these days; if I can’t say it as well as they can, I don’t see the point.

Glenn is about to release a book, researched by bloggers and inspired by his own blog called How Would A Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok. His book is published by Working Assets, which is a very small press (they’re primarily a long distance provider which was coincidentally started by a friend of a friend.)

The reason I mention this is not because I think it’s a book that everyone should read (it is) but because it’s a book, like Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot, that was born on a blog, nurtured by bloggers and blog readers, and did something neither of my books was able to do: rocket up to number one on Amazon almost immediately after it was announced. Just A Geek peaked in the teens, if I recall correctly, thanks entirely to the efforts of bloggers and WWdN readers.

In a very short time, Glenn has made substantial contributions to the blog-o-sphere, and it’s wonderful to see him getting some recognition from the same. Congratulations, Glenn!

reading is fundamental

Last week, I mentioned that I’ve read a few books recently which I think many of you will enjoy. Here they are, in no particular order, with the obligatory affiliate link so I can cash in and blow it all on hats.

If you liked the underlying story in Just A Geek — that story of self-doubt, self-discovery, and (hopefully) finding the courage to do what you want to do with your life, you’re going to love this book. If you liked the behind the scenes elements of Just A Geek, you’ll also love this book. Lindasy Moran is a hell of an author, who can put the reader into exotic and mundane places with equal amounts of passionate, vivid, and totally accessible writing. She tells a brutally honest, thoughtful and hilarious tale of her short career in the CIA, from her training at the The Farm, to her assignments in the Balkans during the late 1990s. Lindsay is candid and compelling, whether she’s talking about the dual life she lived and the toll it took on her relationships with her friends and family, or the cloak and dagger stuff she did in her job. Amazon’s reviews have been unfairly freeped by people who are unhappy that she revealed some unsavory secrets about life inside the CIA, but don’t let the 3 star rating fool you. This is a great book that’s incredibly satisfying to read. I give it an A+.

Have you ever looked at a person, and immediately known you were going to be best friends? Have you ever looked at a person and immediately known that you should do whatever it takes to get the hell away from them? Have you ever wondered what goes into devloping those instincts? Blink is all about that nano-moment when our brains instantaneously process a billion little bits of information and give us an almost-always accurate first impression. This book could have been dry and boring, but Malcolm Gladwell informs and enlightens us in an easily read and entertaining book. I haven’t read The Tipping Point, but I bought it because I liked Blink so much. I give it an A.

Meh. I kept waiting for all that Star Trek stuff to happen, and it never did. Where the hell was it? I mean, it was in the Star Trek section, and the cover is all "Star Trek Enterprise Star Trek Transporter Klingon Star Trek." There was, like, one chapter about working on two days of Star Trek and all this other crap about self-discovery and self-doubt and self-what-the-fuck-ever. What a bunch of crap! Where was the gossip? Where was the real secret behind the inverted isolinear optical chip refractiontational warp matrix? And what the hell is a blog? I give it an F-.

This book and Blowing My Cover have done more to inspire me to get off my stupid lazy ass and finish my next book than anything else in the universe.  I can’t seem to sum up this story, so I’ll let Publisher’s Weekly do it for me: "Angie Neuweather, 16, has it rough: she’s fat and sort of slobby; her
mom’s horrible fiancé has just moved into their low-rent apartment; and
she’s constantly being tortured at school (the kids call her
"Lezzylard"). Spunky girlfriends help Angie weather sophomore year,
including Shelby, a spiky-haired, out-of-the-closet lesbian, and
Heather, who has just one giant breast. Angie’s a little sexually
confused herself: she’s sort of got a crush on Carrie, an anorexic
popular girl, but she also enjoys sexual fantasies that involve
penetration by a giant hairy monster. The friendship of two boys—stoner
Pike and perky Mantis—motivates her to go on a severe diet, experiment
with drugs and attend her first beer party (her mom’s so strict that
Angie isn’t even allowed to wear concealer over her zits). Eventually,
she discovers that she’s pretty, and when a rival calls her a
"manstealer," she has an epiphany."

This book isn’t for everyone, but will captivate people who enjoyed River’s Edge, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Repo Man, and SubUrbia. I give it an A-.

  • Sin City Volume I and II by Frank Miller

I am so late to the party on Sin City, I’m a little ashamed. Frank Miller does for Noir with Sin City what he did for Batman with Dark Knight Returns. The link will take you to a complete collection of Sin City graphic novels, but since I’ve only read the first two, those are the ones I can heartily endorse. Volume I is essentially what became the movie, and at times could have been used as story boards, in fact. Volume II weaves in an entirely different story, with entirely different characters, into the story Volume I. Rather than give you the details of the plots, which aren’t all that important, I can tell you that the drawings are simple but striking, and the dialogue and stories are the type of gritty, anti-hero tales that Noir fans love. If you like stories about the bad guys beating the shit out of the worse guys, and the femme fatales who drive them to do it, you’ll love Sin City. Volume I gets an A, Volume II gets an A-.

Okay, that’s all for me today. If you’ve read any of these stories and would like to add your thoughts, go for it. If you’ve read any of these books and can suggest additional books based upon them, that’s good too. If we can Long Tail Lindsay or Michelle’s books, that would be superawesome.

The Rough Guide To Sci-Fi Movies

RoughguidetoscifiJohn Scalzi is the author of a great book called Old Man’s War, as well as The Rough Guide to the Universe.

He also writes an absolutely fantastic blog, called Whatever, which I highly recommend to everyone who reads and enjoys any of the crap I write. I read it daily, and John has inspired me to make some major changes when I return to blogging at WWdN (more on that in a future post.)

Today, John announced the release of his latest book, The Rough Guide To Sci-Fi Movies.

As you might expect from the title, the book is a guide to science
fiction film, from the very first SF film in 1902, to this summer’s
biggest science fiction extravaganzas. That’s 103 years of science
fiction film in 325 pages, including the index (lovingly indexed, I’ll
note, by the super-competent and generally awesome Susan Marie Groppi).
But — of course — it does some scene setting as well, putting SF
films into context. The book is arranged in the following chapters:

The Origins:
The history of science fiction and other speculative fiction, reaching
back to ancient Greece and then following through with written science
fiction through the 21st Century.

The History: A quick jaunt through the eras of science fiction film from 1902 to 2005, not only in the US but worldwide.

The Canon: Reviews and commentary on the 50 science fiction films you have to see before you die (more on this in a minute)

The Icons: The people and characters of enduring significance in science fiction film.

Crossovers: Film genres that mix and match with science fiction, including fantasy, thrillers, horror and animation.

The Science: A look at the science (or lack thereof) in science fiction films.

The Locations:
Significant studios and locations where science fiction is filmed, and
places (real and otherwise) made famous by science fiction.

Global: Snapshots of science fiction films from all over the world, from Canada to South Korea.

Information: Past and present science fiction in other media.

There’s much more information about the book in John’s blog, so if you’re interested at all, you should head over there and check it out right now, then you should buy it today. Then you should buy a copy for a friend, and while you’re at the store, ask them why they don’t carry  Just A Geek. Be sure to mention that it’s a Star Trek book that’s all about Star Trek, and you have to love Star Trek to enjoy reading it. That’s always good for a laugh.

Congratulations, John!

turn the page

Via Slashdot, I saw that the British Library has an online exhibit of some amazing works of literature, including manuscripts in the authors’ original hand, like Leonardo DaVinci, and Lewis Carroll. There are flash and non-flash interfaces, to serve users of varying bandwidths and preferences, and the images are simply amazing.

This is one of the greatest advantages of living in these times: I would almost certainly never get a chance to see any of these works in person, but The Internets bring them right into my home.

If you like this exhibit, you’ll probably like WikiSource and Project Gutenberg too.