Review rampage

Lately, it’s been rare that I’ll give a book its own review post. I’ve noticed some other bloggers are tending toward posts of mini-reviews as well – I think it’s a way to keep ourselves in the bookish conversation when we know we don’t have the motivation/energy/time to tinker over longer single-review posts.

So here goes – some end-of-summer housekeeping:

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (1908. 314 pages.)

My mom and I slowly read Anne of Green Gables together when I was very young. I still remember the red bookmark that marked our place, but I didn’t remember much of the book as an adult. My sisters and I were huge fans of the miniseries though, so some of the original story was lodged firmly in my nostalgia. This past June, my friend and I took a vacation to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. We both were reading Anne books on the plane ride. Montgomery is prone to some sentimentality, but overall it was a delightful re-read. I loved the friendship and cameraderie between Anne and her classmates. I loved how each concert and outing was such a special occasion for them. I found Marilla to be warmer in the book than she was in the miniseries. I also started Anne of Avonlea while on vacation, but honestly those twins that Marila adopts are such awful characters, and I abandoned it. The miniseries was wise to omit them altogether. On a side note, my visit to “Green Gables” and the site of L.M. Montgomery’s home was lovely (though rainy).

IMG_0705The Dark Divine by Bree Despain. (2009. 372 pages.) Recommended by Presenting Lenore.

This is a YA fantasy novel, of the werewolf variety. I liked that the main character, Grace, was a pastor’s daughter (pastor’s kids, holla!). I didn’t like that there was standard-issue broody love interest who is mostly a jerk to Grace. I liked that Grace tries to search the internet for the paranormal thing she just learned about, and gets completely unrelated hits. (Unlike other YA books I’ve read where the exact mythology they needed was in the first search result. *cough* Hush Hush *cough*.) I didn’t like the somewhat incoherent climactic fight scene at the end. Other than the things I’m writing down here in this review, I don’t think I’m going to remember much about this book in a year’s time.

Proof by Seduction, and the Turner novels (Unveiled, Unclaimed, Unraveled) by Courtney Milan

Proof by Seduction joins The Governess Affair as the top Milan novels/novellas that I’ve read. Not to knock on the Turner novels, as I burned through them. She is just a master of the romance novel.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (2010. 240 pages.)

I enjoyed the movie, and picked up the book on a whim while at the library. It had some intriguing world-building, and I liked the book version of Julie, who is – because it’s a book – much more realized and interesting. I was unconvinced by the climactic moment, though I know that’s weird to say about a zombie romance novel. Sucks that Julie’s best friend Nora was whitewashed for the film, however, as much as I liked Analeigh Tipton in that role.

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton (2006, 599 pages)

I gave this as a gift to my cousin for her birthday. She’d already read it (and liked it) and asked me if I wanted to borrow it. The book is told from the perspective of a woman, Grace Bradley, who had been a young servant on an English country estate during WWI and the interwar years. The narrative toggles between the reminiscing elderly Grace and the young Grace. As I was reading, I found that Riverton strongly reminded me of other books and movies about that time period: shades of Ian McEwan’s Atonement, a sisterly relationship that was reminiscent of the one in Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, and Julian Fellowes’ work in Gosford Park and Downton Abbey. (Morton’s book predates Downton, but when I read the author interview at the book’s end, I discovered that Morton cited all the other works as influences.) Unfortunately, the similarity of the book to the other works came off to me as derivative. Not to say Riverton didn’t have its moments: in certain scenes, Morton was able to nicely crystallize an atmosphere onto the page.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013, 295 pages.) Recommended by The Captive Reader

I gave this book as a gift to my aunt, who lent it to me after she finished reading it. I read most of it on a car trip and it made me laugh out loud. I found Don Tillman’s narration of his quest for romance to be hilarious. I had doubts about the accuracy of Simsion’s portrayal of Asperger’s, but I’ve seen some reports around the web that seem to give him credit there. Much has already been said about this book, so I’ll just include an excerpt I found particularly funny, from when Don is making dinner for Rosie at his apartment:

I commenced retrieval of vegetables and herbs from the refrigerator. “Let me help,” she said. “I can chop or something.” The implication was that chopping could be done by an inexperienced person unfamiliar with the recipe. After her comment that she was unable to cook even in a life-threatening situation, I had visions of huge chunks of leek and fragments of herbs too fine to sieve out.

“No assistance is required,” I said. “I recommend reading a book.”

I watched Rosie walk to the bookshelf, briefly peruse the contents, then walk away. Perhaps she used IBM rather than the Apple software, though many of the manuals applied to both.

p. 50

Cold Hit by Linda Fairstein (1999. 464 pages)

I’d read the first book of the Alexandra Cooper crime novels – this is the third. I like that Fairstein’s background as a prosecutor lends an authenticity and specificity to her protagonist’s work life. For example, while there is the central murder case, Cooper still has to contend with her other cases, work politics, her social life, and a boyfriend. And as the murder victim is part of the art dealer world, Fairstein provides a fascinating inside look there as well. That said, this book ran a little long, tended to info-dump at times, and I really dislike the character of one of Cooper’s cop buddies, Mike Chapman. Not sure if I’ll pick up another from this series.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1991. 627 pages.)

This book series has a huge following, but like the laggard I am, I didn’t pick the first book up until right before Showtime aired its tv show adaptation. I spent much of a weekend flying through this book, but after the weekend ended, it took me a while to pick it back up and finish the last bit (where Claire punches a wolf!) Anyway, I really liked the main character of Claire. She was clear-headed and compassionate, and seemed to cope with unexpected time travel pretty well. The story somehow manages to be non-stop things-happening without sacrificing quality character interaction. I’m not in the camp of Claire/Jamie being a favorite literary couple, but I liked them.

**Spoilers for first book** Unlike Claire however, I would have hitched a ride back to my own time without hesitation. Almost getting killed in a literal witch-hunt? Screw that. That said, the scene where she returns to Jamie after deciding to stay in his time was a high point in the novel for me. Also, the part where she sees the Loch Ness Monster was both beautiful and ridiculous at the same time.***End Spoiler**

I’m not sure if I will pick up the subsequent books. I watched the first few episodes of the show with my co-worker, and it hews pretty close to the book, but it’s still gearing up for the good stuff.


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National Book Festival 2014

For ease of reference, authors discussed in this post and their most recent work: Paul Bogard (End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light), Eula Biss (On Immunity), Paisley Rekdal (Intimate: An American Family Photo Album), Elizabeth McCracken (Thunderstruck & Other Stories), Richard Rodriguez (Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography), Louisa Lim (The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited).

This is the tenth year I have attended the National Book Festival, and the 14th year of the festival itself. For the first time, the festival was not held on the National Mall, but in the Washington Convention Center. Like most people, I resist change, and was really disappointed when I heard about the change of venue. Despite having to deal with heat and/or rain some years, I loved the combination of bookish celebration and the vista offered by the Mall grounds.

I arrived at the convention center last Saturday still inwardly grousing. I was also missing my friend Kristin, who had always been part of this annual tradition of attending the festival, but couldn’t make it this year. It didn’t take me long to get over these mixed feelings, as a celebration of books is always a happy occasion.

I first saw Paul Bogard who discussed his book End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light. The book is ordered from chapter 9 to chapter 1, corresponding to the Bortle scale, which measures the brightness of the night sky (i.e. the measure of light pollution). Skies over cities would usually measure at class 9 on the Bortle scale, while very remote places may rate a class 1.

Bogard explained that he isn’t against artificial light, but he argued that it’s being used wastefully, irresponsibly and in ugly ways. He displayed some photos which illustrated things like “sky glow” and “light trespass”, as well as the difference between unshielded light and shielded light. There are ways to use artificial light for safety that is more energy efficient, more pleasing aesthetically, and that doesn’t disrupt people’s sleep and nocturnal animals’ habits. Bogard also referenced Paris’ new approach to artificial lighting, as well as Tucson and Flagstaff’s lighting ordinances. I found the talk to be very engaging, and it seemed the rest of the audience did as well, as a number of people approached to ask questions after the talk.

I managed to ford the stream of pedestrian traffic to get to the Poetry & Prose room, where Eula Biss and Paisley Rekdal formed a two-person panel on the subject of creative non-fiction. I chose this session because I’d heard of Biss’ book On Immunity, but came away super-impressed by Paisley Rekdal, who was a new name to me. (To be clear, as the following quotes will show, both authors offered great and intelligent contributions to the panel discussion. But Rekdal ended up being the standout author for me at this year’s festival.)

The session unsurprisingly started with the moderator asking the authors to define creative nonfiction. The authors provided good answers, but the question – while necessary and expected – bored me, so I’ll just jump to some of the cooler comments:

 – Rekdal compared creative nonfiction to photography, in that the work is both artistic and documentary in nature.

- While working on On Immunity, Biss was bothered when someone told her “we don’t speak to the press” because she didn’t consider herself to be “the press.” A little later she said that while there is a relationship between journalism and nonfiction/essay writing, the big difference is deadlines. And she didn’t say that just to be pithy, but because – obviously – if you have more time, there are more angles in which to approach a topic.

- Regarding “facts”: Biss remarked that facts can act as a formal restriction in nonfiction writing. If you don’t want to depart from the facts, you have to figure out a way to work with them in an artistic way. Rekdal added that a fact is not the primary definition of truth. Truth is narrativized.

- One of my favorite comments by Rekdal: she said that connectivity is the primary goal of creative nonfiction. Why does this idea go with this idea? Why is this relevant today?

- Comment from Biss: We don’t have a great vocabulary for truth. We could use, like, 27 more words for it.

- Rekdal, on her recent work Intimate, which is partly about Edward S. Curtis who photographed Native American people in the early 20th century: she found herself bothered by what Curtis chose to photograph or not photograph, and realized it was because he purposely never photographed biracial people as part of his project, and Rekdal is herself biracial.

- Near the end of the talk, both authors praised the small presses  which published their work (Tupelo for Rekdal, Graywolf for Biss), and their editors. Biss said that one of the chapters in her book wouldn’t have existed if her editor hadn’t pushed her in that direction.

I stayed in the room to hear Elizabeth McCracken. As with all the authors I saw at this year’s Festival, I’d never read her books. The only thing I’d read by her was the foreword she’d written for my friend’s book on stillbirth. Despite admitting that her new book of short stories is very depressing (“maybe they should come with medication”), she herself infused her talk with a lot of humor. I liked her comparisons between novels and short stories: novels are reenactments and short stories are dioramas; writing short stories is like a blow to the solar plexus while novels are a long linger illness from which you won’t recover. She remarked that three stories from her new collection are from the same discarded novel, but no one has guessed which three they are, because they have nothing to do with each other. She joked “That just shows you how bad the novel was.”

An audience member asked McCracken which authors she likes to read. Her off-the-cuff answer was a combination of classics and new authors/works: Lolita, Roxane Gay, Cristina Henriquex’ The Book of Unknown Americans, Rose Tremain (I think? or a similarly named author), Edward P. Jones, Lolita again, Dickens.

After meeting friends for lunch in the convention center, we all went to hear Richard Rodriguez. My friend Jenny had a dog-eared, annotated copy of his memoir Hunger of Memory, complete with a fabulously dated cover design. I didn’t know anything about him. He freely admitted during his talk “I’m turning of an age now where I will say anything.” And he did – his talk rambled over a range of topics, from the dearth of local news to women’s liberation to desert religions. I couldn’t always follow his segues, and found the talk subsequently unfocused, but was happy my friend later was able to meet him and get her well-loved copy signed by him.

I had warned Jenny ahead of time that the authors of children’s books tend to have long book-signing lines, and she took my advice and left after Rodriguez’ talk to get a head start on Judith Viorst’s line (author of the Alexander books). My other friend and I chose to attend Louisa Lim‘s talk on a whim. Her topic – the selective amnesia in China regarding the events of June 1989 – was fairly interesting, but I started to feel quite tired then and didn’t take any notes worth relaying here.

As we left the large ballroom, we had to fight our way through a pressing crowd. “Who’s next?” a girl behind us wondered. I recalled that it was Doris Kearns Goodwin and that she had written Team of Rivals, which explained the mass of people. I’m tempted to say, “only in D.C.”, but that is probably underestimating the interest in presidents and politics elsewhere in the nation.

My last stop was the Book Sales area, where I succumbed to temptation and picked up the recent books by Bogard, Biss and Rekdal. This year the Festival’s bookseller was local independent bookstore, Politics & Prose, a nice show of support for indie book sellers.

And that was the end of this year’s National Book Festival experience!



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Library Loot

Though I visit my public library regularly, it’s been ages since I’ve done a Library Loot post.

All Aunt Hagar's Children    Hardboiled YoshimotoLost Lake AllenJoe Larry BrownEssential South

All Aunt Hagar’s Children by Edward P. Jones

Hardboiled & Hard Luck by Banana Yoshimoto

Though I haven’t signed up for it officially, I remembered that the Diversiverse challenge was coming up soon, so I picked up these two books with that in mind. Edward P. Jones is an author I’ve been meaning to read, and one of the National Book Festival authors name-checked him last Saturday for his great short stories. I have read Banana Yoshimoto before, but a long time ago.

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

I have read all of her other books, and I know I can depend on her for an enjoyable read.

Joe by Larry Brown

This book has been on my to-read list since 2008. Apparently, finding out that it has been made into a movie is the kick I needed to finally check this book out of the library.

Fodor’s Essential South

This was the only book on the shelf in my library’s travel section that included anything about Alabama or Mississippi. My sister and I have been talking about taking a road trip through one or both of those states next year. I have some ideas of what I want to see, but it doesn’t hurt to gather more ideas.


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10 Books that have stayed with me

So I was tagged on Facebook for a meme that said to list “10 books that have stayed with me” and while I just listed the books without explanation on Facebook, I thought it would be a good idea for a blog post. For me, the “ten books that have stayed with me” isn’t exactly the same as my “favorite” books, though some could be called that. Rather, I thought of books that still come to mind years later, or books whose memories can still summon the feeling I felt when reading them, or also books that seem to form part of my identity as a reader. You could ask me in a month and I might have a different version of this list. But this is the list that I made last night (no particular order):

1. Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London

In third grade, through Scholastic book orders, I bought a bound paperback which consisted of both stories. I was all about the animal stories then, and I thrilled over Jack London’s depiction of the Klondike Gold Rush’s rough frontier. I have re-read the book over the years until it’s become this dog-eared, familiar presence in my bookshelves and in my memory.

2. Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves by Adam Hochschild

This book is primarily about the British abolition movement, and I certainly learned a lot about this part of world history, especially how the Caribbean was impacted by the institution of slavery and the way it ended there. But the book also lingers in my mind because of how Hochschild told this history – his warts-and-all approach to all the key players, his care to not overlook the contributions of marginalized people whose efforts were not thoroughly recorded by their contemporaries. I also remember the awesomeness of Thomas Clarkson and how I actually teared up when Hochschild described how he was honored at his funeral.

3. A Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O’Nan

Okay, this one is a love-it-or-hate-it book, particularly due to its use of 2nd person point of view (“You ride your bike to town.”). And I haven’t re-read it in a while, so it may not be as good as I remember it being. This short book is about a 19th century sheriff/mortician/preacher whose Wisconsin town is threatened by disease and fire in the same summer. I first read the book in high school, and its creepy, almost apocalyptic, tone made an impression on me. I think it’s mostly the ending that helps this book land on my list – getting sucked into a story where the worst does happen to everyone else and yet “you” are left standing.

4. Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith

Smith is a dependably good storyteller, but this book – the first I read – is still the best of them all. Ivy Rowe’s entire life is told through letters, starting with her almost mythic childhood in the Appalachian mountains. It’s one of the best books I’ve read for capturing the journey through time in one person’s life. And it’s that and Ivy Rowe herself that have stayed with me ever since I read it.

5. Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty

I read this book and other novels and stories by Welty for a senior high school project. I never re-read the others, but Delta Wedding remained a part of my reading life long after graduation. I may have even bought it with graduation money. Not a lot happens in Delta Wedding, but I was incredibly taken with Welty’s description of the Fairchild family, their house, and that region in Mississippi during the 1920’s. An early scene involves the Fairchild family picking up their nine-year-old cousin Laura from the train station and as she gets into the car, she is immediately surrounded by the chaos of her cousins. Perhaps drawing from my own experiences with extended family, I can almost hear that scene when I think about it. My love for this book is one of several reasons I want to visit Mississippi next year.

6. The Country of Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

As with Delta Wedding, The Country of Pointed Firs also has a strong sense of place. The difference here is that Jewett was writing about coastal Maine, a place that I am intimately familiar with as it was my childhood home. The book was published in 1896, nearly a century before I was born, but reading it fills me with such a strong home-feeling, proving that I guess the essence of the place has stayed the same.

7. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

I read this book once in high school and liked it, but Shute’s novel On the Beach made more of an impression at the time. I re-read A Town Like Alice several years ago, and loved it. It has dated elements, but the loveliness of the narrator – an elderly solicitor – shines through. What I especially like is that it takes the shape of an epic love story (two people thrown together by war and then separated by the same), but then it goes beyond the usual denouement and shows how the character Jean basically reinvents a town so that she can share a life with the man she loves.

8. Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

The world-building is amazing in this book and I love how Mieville interrogates the tropes inherent in the quest narrative. It’s also funny and quirky in wonderful ways. The main reason Un Lun Dun made my list was the way each individual life was valued: no matter how minor the character, each life mattered to the protagonist and to the story. When so many stories have barely-remarked carnage and death, Un Lun Dun seemed completely refreshing in how it dealt with loss of life.

9. Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher

I read this 1973 book last year and while I found Schumacher remarkably short-sighted about women in the workplace, his ideas and the way he laid them out have really informed my thinking about economics ever since. My dad, having read my post on this book last year, pointed my attention to this summer’s Market Basket controversy which I had somehow been missing. The Market Basket saga has recently concluded in a happy fashion, where it was reaffirmed that people do matter, but it seems all too rare.

10. The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver

In the Post-Birthday World, the book divides into two parallel-world narratives. In one, the main character, Irina, chooses to kiss a man who is not her long-term boyfriend. In the other, she is tempted, but refrains. The book follows Irina on these separate life-paths and the way that decision ripples through her love life, career, and her experience of world events. I loved there wasn’t a clear “bad” or “good” life, though one does seem to leave her more sad than the other. Similar to O’Nan’s book, it’s possible a re-read may diminish my memory of this book, but its take on life-changing decisions is something I still think about.


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The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman

Book cover of Inn at Lake Devine.

1998. ebook version. (Paperback version would be 253 pages.)

Recommendation from: Thomas at My Porch

In a nutshell:

The novel starts in 1962. Natalie Marx’s mother has written to various resorts about summer accommodation availability in Vermont. One innkeeper sends a letter back stating in part: “The Inn at Lake Devine is a family-owned resort, which has been in continuous operation since 1922. Our guests who feel most comfortable here, and return year after year, are Gentiles.” Twelve-year-old Natalie, fresh off reading the Diary of Anne Frank, is both outraged and intrigued by the anti-Semitism of the innkeeper. The following summer – part by chance, and part by Natalie’s design – she manages to inveigle an invitation to stay as a guest at the Inn. Her visit as a teenager turns out to have surprising consequences in her adult life.


I read The Inn at Lake Devine on the day I flew home from my vacation in Nova Scotia. I was immediately taken with Lipman’s style. She knows how to succinctly capture a milieu, whether it’s a girls’ summer camp, or an ill-managed inn. Here is an excerpt where Natalie describes the arrival of a new family in her neighborhood and the politics of childhood friendships:

For a few happy days, I was courted by both sisters [Marla and Shelley], who wanted nothing to do with each other. Marla soon recognized my low social standing on the street – defined by my braces and glasses and twenty-inch bike – and worked her way into the clump of girls a year older (Claudia Forestall, Marybeth McKemmie, my sister, Pammy) who took the public bus to the junior high and dressed alike. Our mothers took us two younger girls to lunch in department stores, pretending we were better friends than we were. That’s how it was on Irving Circle and how I was raised: You made the best out of what was within reach, which meant friendships engineered by parents and by the happenstance of housing. I stayed with it because we both had queenly older sisters who rarely condescended to play with us, because Shelley was adopted and I was not, because Shelley had Clue and Life, and I did not.

Natalie, particularly adult Natalie, is a very likable character. There’s a part in the story where she steps in to help almost-strangers when they are struck with tragedy. And it’s not an act of saintly heroism, but I was struck by the wonderful human decency of it. Likability is not necessary for me to enjoy a story, but it is enjoyable to read a book and have the reaction: “I like you, main character. You are a decent person and I am on board with you.”

I knew very little about the plot going in, but was happy to follow wherever Lipman decided to take the story. And Lipman took the story in some unexpected but ultimately delightful directions. These unexpected directions aren’t handled as *big twists* at all, but I still won’t spoil you. I find it is a great pleasure to discover while reading a book that you have complete, instinctive trust in the storyteller.

The Inn at Lake Devine is one of my favorite reads of this year. I finished it in a day. I have just recently finished reading Lipman’s novel, The Dearly Departed. I liked it, but it’s not near as good as The Inn at Lake Devine.

Excerpts from others’ reviews:

Bookchatter – “As far as pace, I breezed through the book and read it in one sitting. There was one spot where it dragged a tad, and got a bit silly, but not enough to make me want to put it down.”

BookLust – “I salute Elinor Lipman for bringing attention to a serious issue by presenting us with a happily-ever-after comedy.  Well done!”

Brazen Bookworm – “If you’re looking for the perfect book to while away a summer afternoon, look no further”

Unputdownables – “The characters are fleshed out, and the story original. Lipman doesn’t ever hold back on the bad parts of life, but she also gives us humor and great pacing.”


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Too Big to Know by David Weinberger

Too Big To KnowToo Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room

2012. Basic Books. Hardcover. 231 pages.


David Weinberger was a keynote speaker at a conference I attended earlier this year. I had picked up this book beforehand, as a way of being uber-prepared for this last-minute-approved professional development opportunity. In Too Big to Know, Weinberger briefly examines how technology is shaping the way we create knowledge.

Some years ago, I read Nicholas Carr’s The Big Switch, though I think he is better known for his book The Shallows. Weinberger’s book is in the same topical vicinity as those, but Weinberger is not a subscriber to technodeterminism. He doesn’t believe that technology leads to only one outcome.

Weinberger describes the “old” paradigm of knowledge creation as “knowing-by-reducing”: we winnow information until it’s more manageable, with the byproduct of excluding ideas along the way. Today, we are exchanging this “filter-out” process for a “filter forward” process. Some information is still selectively pushed forward, but unlike in the past, we are still able to access what didn’t make it through the filter. People can see the filter and interrogate it.

I think the most interesting chapter for readers is chapter 6, “Long Form, Web Form”. In it, Weinberger challenges the idealization of published books as the true form of knowledge. A few choice quotes:

If you’re writing a book, you have to have a conversation with yourself about possible objections because books are a disconnected, nonconversational, one-way medium. We have had to resort to this sort of play-acting not because that’s how thought should work but because books fix thoughts on paper. (p. 95)

Books do not express the nature of knowledge. They express the nature of knowledge committed to paper cut into pages without regard for the edges of ideas, bound together, printed in mass quantities, and distributed, all within boundaries set by an economic system. (p. 100)

Weinberger references Jay Rosen’s Pressthink blog as an example of long-form’s possible future direction. He points out the benefits of this approach: arguments get their natural length; because of comments / interaction with readers, the argument becomes more responsive; ideas get to the public faster, and the author’s authority becomes “right-sized.” The disadvantages of this approach are that the readers’ voices may function as noise; some arguments actually do work better when presented all at once; and a published book is still a “traditional token of expertise and achievement.”

Weinberger doesn’t forget that he is presenting these ideas in a published book:

Not only is the irony / hypocrisy of this book inescapable, it is so familiar in this time of transition that I wish someone would write a boilerplate paragraph that all authors of nonpessimistic books about the Internet could just insert and be done with. (p. 97)

My other favorite chapter in this book was Chapter 7 “Too Much Science”, where Weinberger describes how this new paradigm of conveying knowledge affects the scientific community. He quotes the (recently deceased) Jean-Claude Bradley, a chemist who supported Open Science initiatives, and who said “trust should have no part in science.” The book argues that we should be able to dig into the data and see commentaries from amateurs and experts. Weinberger points out that “scientific journals rarely published research with negative results” but that kind of research is still very important information for the community. Research scientists need to know what didn’t work, as well as what did work.

In the last chapter of Too Big to Know, Weinberger offers five strategies for navigating this time of transition:

1. Open up access – have a policy of “including everything and filtering afterward.”

2. Provide hooks for intelligence. (This would be metadata, and specifically Linked Data. Incidentally this is where my job intersects Weinberger’s ideas.)

3. Link Everything (show your work)

4. Leave no institutional knowledge behind.

5. Teach everyone – people should learn how to evaluate knowledge claims.

The chapters I glossed over were also interesting, though I found the first few chapters covered arguments and ideas I’d previously encountered. It was Weinberger’s discussion of books and scientific knowledge that I found most thought-provoking. I liked that Weinberger saw both the pros and cons of knowledge’s new direction, and wasn’t a doomsayer or an indiscriminate cheerleader. His keynote speech had a great sense of humor and that shows in the book as well, though in lesser degree.

I realize that this post is more a summary of the book than a proper review, but it’s the kind of book where I feel more like sharing its ideas than writing about my reaction to them.

I’ll close with another quote:

Welcome to the life of knowledge once it has been taken down from its shelf. It is misquoted, degraded, enhanced, incorporated, passed around through a thousand degrees of misunderstanding, and assimilated to the point of invisibility. It was ever so. Now we can see it happening. (p. 110)

Excerpt from another review:

Kira J. Baker-Doyle, PhD – “What I realized as I was reading was that this was not Weinberger’s best form, and in fact, he was writing it as if it was in the form he prefers – “web form.” In a blog format, these chapters would be full of links that I would have fun jumping around and exploring. Yet in “long form,” some examples seemed unnecessary.”

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Today’s Post is brought to you by the letter . . .

I picked up the following meme from Frances at Nonsuch Book, but it was actually started by Simon at Stuck in a Book. Basically Frances randomly assigned me a letter, and I have to pick my favorite book, author, song, film, and object beginning with that letter. I got the letter ‘A’. So this is my stab at it:

Favorite book:


And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts

I don’t have any ‘A’ books that fall into my close-to-my-heart inner circle of favorites, but And the Band Played On is probably the worthiest of the ‘A’ books I have read. It details the course of the AIDS epidemic in the US from 1980 to 1985. It’s a passionate book and had a strong emotional impact on me.

Favorite author:

Jane Austen – I don’t love all of her books, but her mastery at writing comedy of manners is what makes her a favorite author of mine. I have come to her defense a couple of times, actually, when people have dismissed her as being too romantic and too “girly” for them to even try to read one of her books.

Favorite Song:

“Amado Mio” – Pink Martini

This is the song that turned me into a Pink Martini fan. I heard it while living with my sister and her husband one summer – I was unemployed and there was a heat wave, but I actually look back at that time fondly, so I associate this song with the best memories of that summer.

Favorite Movie: Amelie

Amelie poster

I love the colors, the music, and the joy of this film. This is one of my favorite scenes:

Favorite Object: Apples.

I couldn’t think of a non-food object that was something I would call favorite. We had apple trees on our property while growing up, and I remember picking them, sorting them, helping to make applesauce and apple butter. They aren’t my favorite fruit, but I consider them a kind of family fruit. My dad enjoys growing them and at one time, my ancestors made their living off of them. My mom makes a wonderful apple pie. There’s a homey-ness about them that I like. (But don’t get a Red Delicious apple anywhere near me. Those things are terrible.)



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