Archive for the 'Books' Category

Reading 2017

“I like non fiction. There is so much to know about this world. I think you read something somebody just invented, waste of time.”

(from Sideways the film, not the novel)

Notes on Brian Kenny’s Ahead of the Curve

Brian Kenny’s Ahead of the Curve: Inside the Baseball Revolution was published last July, and I had it marked as a pre-order, but I had to put myself on a little restriction from new books in the second half of last year, so I didn’t get to read it then. I’m finally getting to it now, and it’s a fun read. Fun mostly because Kenny is coming out with his dukes up, and he knows what he’s talking about. I thought I’d put a few notes here, and maybe they’ll spark some discussion or maybe they won’t. My notes are mostly so I can keep track of some of the arguments presented in the book, since the book I’m really looking forward to is Keith Law’s Smart Baseball, which comes out in three weeks.

There’s a chance I’ll change the title of this post later, depending on how things move.

From the publisher’s website:

Most people who resist logical thought in baseball preach “tradition” and “respecting the game.” But many of baseball’s traditions go back to the nineteenth century, when the pitcher’s job was to provide the batter with a ball he could hit and fielders played without gloves. Instead of fearing change, Brian Kenny wants fans to think critically, reject outmoded groupthink, and embrace the changes that have come with the sabermetric era.

Rejecting outmoded groupthink is what I’m all about, so here we go.

Recommend Books for My Children

Here’s BookRiot’s top ten must-read books for children, and I’m curious to hear comments from Mitchell about them, including any books he’d recommend.

Notes on The Circle by Dave Eggers

As always, as a way to process something I’ve just read, this is space for me to blurt out thoughts, comments and questions about the book in question–and others are welcomed to chime in with comments and corrections as well Continue reading ‘Notes on The Circle by Dave Eggers’

Notes on My Antonia by Willa Cather

Raw notes, comments and thoughts about the novel.

I’ll start off by saying I really loved this book. Also, if you said this should be included in the top 10 all-time greatest American novels, I wouldn’t really argue with that.

Here’s a brief description of the novel for those who haven’t read it. Continue reading ‘Notes on My Antonia by Willa Cather’

The Expanse Series by James S. A. Corey

This is a thread to discuss both the sci-fi books and TV shows for The Expanse series written by James S.A. Corey (a penname of two writers–can’t remember their real names). I heard about the series from Grace and later from an NPR piece, which mentioned the way the books did a good job of being consistent with the laws of physics. Grace’s comments about the characters–an XO for a freighter and a detective–basically got me interested in reading this. I just finished the first novel, and my comments about it will be the first thing I write.

Before I begin, I’d recommend this to Marc, and then probably Chris. I think Penny would probably like this as well. Continue reading ‘The Expanse Series by James S. A. Corey’

Thoughts on the Writing Process

I enjoy The Atlantic’s literary series, By Heart, which features writers talking about favorite passages and often includes discussions their writing process. In the recent edition, Kathryn Harrison (whom I’m unfamiliar with) talks about a passage from Joseph Brodsky’s poem, “On Love.” She talks about writing, and I wanted to comment on something she said.

I’m not calculating about what I write, which means I have very little control over it. It’s not that I decide what to write and carry it out. It’s more that I grope my way towards something—not even knowing what it is until I’ve arrived. I’ve gotten better over the years at accepting this.

Of course, the intellect wants to kick in—and, in the later drafts, it should. But in the early stages of a book, I deal with potential self-consciousness by literally hushing the critical voices in my head. The voices that tell you: “Oh, those aren’t the words you want,” or “you shouldn’t be working on this part now,” or “why not use the present tense?”—on and on. Anyone who’s ever written anything is familiar with that chorus.

Writing a first draft, you can become paralyzed by these thoughts. So I literally tell the voices to quiet down. I praise them for their perspicacity, and I tell them how much I need them—that I will want them later. But I cannot listen to them right now, because I am confused by them.

Continue reading ‘Thoughts on the Writing Process’

Criticizing Malcolm Gladwell’s Basketball Example in “How David Beats Goliath” Article

I recently read a 2009 New Yorker article (which I’m guessing is a really a book excerpt), How David Beats Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. The book is about the way underdogs use innovative strategies to defeat superior opponents. He features a basketball example that I find problematic, and I’ll go into those reasons in this thread.

By the way, others have criticized his basketball example, and Gladwell has some responses here I’m going to comment on Gladwell’s responses as well. Here we go: Continue reading ‘Criticizing Malcolm Gladwell’s Basketball Example in “How David Beats Goliath” Article’

Notes on An Experiment in Criticism by C.S. Lewis

As the title implies, this will be my rough thoughts about C.S. Lewis’s An Experiment in Criticism. For those who don’t know anything about the book, the book is ostensibly about literary criticism, but I think it’s more about the different ways of reading a literature–which he breaks into two broad categories–literary and unliterary. The “experiment” aspect involves using these modes of reading to create a different system of literary criticism. Instead of critiquing books and determining if they’re good or bad, Lewis suggests answering this question by examining and using the two different modes of reading. I’ll describe what he means by both in the next section. Continue reading ‘Notes on An Experiment in Criticism by C.S. Lewis’

2015: Favorite Movies, Books, TV Shows, Etc.

What are some of your favorite or most noteworthy movies, books, TV shows, music, etc. that you’ve encountered in 2015. I’ll start off with my favorite films. Continue reading ‘2015: Favorite Movies, Books, TV Shows, Etc.’

Reading 2016

So what are you reading now?

Will Most Artists Always Get Financially Screwed? If So, Why Is That?

When it comes to artists and their ability to make money, there seems to be an immutable law: artists, in general, will always get screwed. That is, an economic model where this doesn’t exist for the majority of artists just doesn’t exist. That’s what I felt after reading an article about the way online streaming services often don’t fairly compensate musicians. The hope that the internet would be a game-changer in the music industry, allowing musicians to by-pass record labels and thus gain fairer compensation doesn’t seem to have materialized. Is there a system where musicians (and artists in general) could be fairly compensated for their work? Or are the vast majority destined to get a raw deal? And if the musicians will always be unfairly compensated, what’s the reason(s) for this?

Thoughts on the Matter

I have no idea what the answer is, but I’m going to start with reasons the online streaming model doesn’t seem to be the answer. Continue reading ‘Will Most Artists Always Get Financially Screwed? If So, Why Is That?’

Notes on The Silmarillion

I recently completed the 1977 version of J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Simarillion. The book was published posthumously, and I understand Tolkein’s son, Christopher, completed some of the unfinished material. In any event, the book is basically a collection of ancient myths and legends that occur within Tolkein’s world, and it definitely seems to fall within an oral tradition, whereas the LOTR feels more like novel. Additionally, of all Tolkein’s writing I’ve encountered, this has the most poetic feel. I think the language definitely incorporates more of Elizabethan flavor.

The purpose of this post is for me to jot down some of the ideas that I want to remember and understand. Writing, in this sense, is a process to help me digest and remember the material, and the post will provide a repository for these notes.

As the word “notes” implies, my writing will be rough–both the quality of the writing itself as well as the content. Not only might my ideas be unrefined, but the writing may contain factual errors, as I might not always have the book to refer to. (I’ll try to indicate when this may occur, as well as make corrections later on.) I favor this approach because if I attempt to get all the facts right, I probably won’t complete this post.

By the way, I understand that Tolkien’s background is in ancient languages or etymology, and I get the sense he relishes the creating categories and names, as characters and places often have multiple names. This aspect appeals to me, but it causes a lot of confusion as well. This is one of the reasons for taking these notes. Hopefully, it’ll help me get a better understanding of the characters and their relationships to each other.

If any of you have read the book, I welcome any corrections or comments–especially those that might lead to a discussion. Continue reading ‘Notes on The Silmarillion

Henning Mankell’s Wallander Series (Books and TV)

I just finished reading the second book in Henning Mankell’s Wallender detective series. I thought I’d start a thread with my comments about the specific books as well as the series as a whole. I might add some general observations about Mankell’s writing, and eventually, if I watch one of the series (I believe there are three versions), I’ll try to comment on them as well. Here are some comments of the first book in the series, Faceless Killers*: Continue reading ‘Henning Mankell’s Wallander Series (Books and TV)’

The Elmore Leonard Thread

Instead of writing reviews of specific novels/short stories, I think Elmore Leonard deserves a separate thread. The following are some of my recent comments from the “Reading: 2015” thread (with a short exchange with Mitchell). Continue reading ‘The Elmore Leonard Thread’

“No Such Thing as Reading, Only Rereading.”

From the Dick Cavett “By the Book” segment in the New York Times Sunday Book Review:

“Huck” (Huckleberry Finn) is a great illustrator of…Nabokov’s admonition that there is no such thing as reading. Only rereading. Try it with a book you read and think you know. It’s as if the thing’s been rewritten and filled with gems that you missed the first time. Try it, even with a few pages you’ve just read. We’d all have been better off to have read half as many books. Twice.

I definitely think there’s something to this.

What I like about the idea is the suggestion that a book isn’t really completed after one has read it–that the book isn’t really “finished,” as it has more to offer. Or, maybe Nabokov is getting to the nature of the way we process information via reading–that is, the act of processing information is a unique event, which can therefore yield insights or even pleasures from material one has read before. (I’m not sure this applies to all books, although maybe it does. However, perhaps, the great books are the ones that really offer something substantial after each reading.)

By the Book Questionnaire

The New York Times Sunday Book Review has a segment where they interview a prominent person, asking a set of questions. I thought I’d list some of the questions, giving the opportunity for others to answer them. I’m actually more interested in hearing from others, but I’ll try to answer these questions myself. (If some questions bog you down, feel free to skip them.)

Here are the questions:

    What books are currently on your nightstand?
    What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?
    What are your favorite books of all time?
    What’s the last book that made you laugh?
    What was the last book that made you cry?
    What’s the worst book you ever read?
    What book made you furious?
    If you could require the President to read any one book, what would it be?
    If you could require every American to read one book, what book would you choose?
    What kind of reader were you as a child? Your favorite book? Your most beloved character?
    What books do you find returning to again and again?
    You’re hosting a literary dinner party for three writers. Who’s invited?
    What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

Favorite Books, Movies, TV Shows, Etc. of 2014

I’ll start. Continue reading ‘Favorite Books, Movies, TV Shows, Etc. of 2014’

Reading 2015

Another year of great reading!

Notes on James Joyce’s Ulysses

If there is a more difficult novel to read out there, I haven’t encountered it yet. Here’s a description of the difficulty, just to give you an idea. Imagine if I wrote a novel set in Hawai’i, and I included many cultural and historical references, the type where you’d either have to have lived in a Hawai’i for a while or studied it formally. Now, add to this a writing style that not only relied on pidgin English, phrases in Japanese and Hawaiian, but also highly poetic and even experimental–as in making up words, including some were most like sound effects. Oh, and the book is filled with puns, some of which I suspect are based on these cultural and historical references. Now imagine someone from Ireland reading the novel, and you can understand why I thought of giving up on the book several times. Continue reading ‘Notes on James Joyce’s Ulysses