Category Archives: Books

Favorite Books

Book Stuff: Organizing Digital Books

Our family owns a bit over 2000 books. The majority of these are physical books. However, my digital editions are increasing rapidly1.

Many years ago . . .
My first memory of reading a digital book was when I was in high school2. My father had bought several educational CD-ROMs. One of these CD-ROMs contained a bunch of public domain books, probably related to Project Gutenberg, but I can’t remember for sure. This was how I discovered the Sherlock Holmes stories which I read on one of those old CRT monitors. However, while I enjoyed the novelty, it was a lot more comfortable to read physical books.

Toward the end of college I got a Handspring Visor. I read some Baen ebooks on it but that was mostly it.

When I started at High Plains Library District, at that time Weld Library District, I remember opening a drawer at the reference desk and finding two very clunky ereaders that had a selection of books loaded on them. I can’t remember what brand they were but I remember they had enormous wall wart adapters. I don’t remember anyone asking to check them out.

In 2006 I got my first iPod which was when I first started listening to downloadable audiobooks. At the time, it took me around 45 minutes to get to work so I had a lot of time to listen to audiobooks. Downloadable audiobooks were easier to use than CDs and didn’t involve trying to change CDs while driving down the freeway. All my audiobooks came frome the library. As such, there was no organization problem since the books disappeared when I was done listening to them.

Our family got our first Kindle at the end of 2011. Jaeger was the one that wanted it but the library subsidized it because they wanted staff to be more familiar with these new-fangled devices3. After about a year we realized that organizing books on the Kindle was a problem, particularly if you were reading books within a series. I researched how other people were dealing with the problem and came up with a file naming scheme to try to eliminate at least some of the problem. At a high level, it boiled down to renaming each book title to be series name, series number, a dash, and finally the title.

Once I started buying audiobooks, I stored them in iTunes on Anna, my old kitchen computer. I used Calibre for my ebooks. However, Anna is quite old and running out of space4. I also no longer listen to my audiobooks on an iPod that requires being synced to a physical computer.

Current Organization
In modern times, I haven’t fully embraced ebooks5 but still own around 240. I also own around 150 audiobooks, many of them duplicates of the ebooks since, as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes that’s a cheaper way to buy them.

Last year I finally decided to store my “digital library” on Google Drive. I already used Google Drive and knew it worked with all my devices. Once I had the basic concept sketched out, I upgraded from the free 15 GB to 200 GB6 and started my migration in earnest.

Google Drive’s search is fantastic. However, I still wanted to be able to browse my books so I created a hierarchical folder structure. At the base is my Digital Library folder. Next are folders for Fiction, Information, Music, Personal (mainly photos and small videos), Picture Books, Recipes, Temp, and Video. Within the fiction folder are folders for each author. Within the information folder I’ve roughly organized by subjects (such as biography cooking, travel, etc).

In both the fiction and information folders I have a folder for each book title and then, if they exist, a folder for M4B, MP3, and eBook. It’s probably a little over the top to have so many sub folders but it helps keep related files together, particularly in the case of MP3 when there’s often many files.

Preparing Books for Uploading
For eBooks, I open them up in Calbrie. If necessary, I strip the DRM7 and then convert the book to both MOBI and EPUB. I probably don’t need the MOBI format anymore but at this point it’s habit. Once converted, I upload the MOBI, EPUB, and original eBook file to Google Drive.

It currently isn’t convenient to use Anna so I now use Myfanwy, my Linux laptop, for audiobooks. It took me a while but I finally discovered OpenAudible which works great with my Audible and non-Audible audiobooks. For Audible books, I strip the DRM which converts the audiobook to one MP3. At that point, I’ve been converting them to M4B format also but I’m not sure that gives me any real benefit so I may stop. The books I get from Libro.fm are divided into multiple MP3 files (one per chapter, I think) which I find annoying. I use OpenAudible to convert them to a single file and then often also convert them to M4B. Once all the conversations are done I upload the MP3 and M4B versions to Google Drive.

Using the Digital Library
During the day, I read/listen to my digital books on either my iPhone or iPad. Because of this, I usually use the original vendor app to read/listen (i.e. Audible, Kindle, Libro.fm, Downpour, etc). However, some of my content I didn’t get from one of the main vendors. In those cases, on the iOS devices, I usually read in iBooks and listen using Bound because it has direct integration with Google Drive.

At night, I listen to audiobooks to help me fall asleep and go back to sleep when I wake up in the middle of the night. I only listen to a subsection of my audiobooks that are interesting but I already know what will happen next so I don’t stay awake to find out. Unfortunately, I need an audiobook app that has a sticky sleep timer. That is, if the sleep timer stops a book but I start it again with my earbud, the sleep timer automatically restarts and will once again turn off the book at the 20 min mark. As far as I can tell, there are no iOS apps that will do this. I have spent countless hours looking. As a result, I use the Smart Audiobook Player app on my old Android phone at night. There’s certainly a better way to transfer the audiobooks onto my Android device. However, for now I download them to Myfanwy and then from there transfer to my phone’s SD Card8.

  1. In 2020 we bought 23 Audible audiobooks, 3 Downpour audiobooks, 5 Libro.fm audiobooks, and 31 Kindle ebooks for a total of 62 downloadable books. By comparison, we bought 2 physical audiobooks and 30 physical books for a total of 32 physical books. As an aside, the Kindle ebooks were almost always discounted while the physical books were almost always full book-cover price.
  2. Probably high school, maybe middle grade, I can’t remember for sure.
  3. Ok, they weren’t super new-fangled. By this point, Amazon had released 4 models of the Kindle.
  4. Giving her an SSD many years ago was a great upgrade at the time but it’s only 500 GB.
  5. Sometimes I’ll read one while waiting in line at the store and I’ve grudgingly switched to eBooks when flying.
  6. I’m approaching the 200 GB limit so have reluctantly upgraded to 2TB, the next level up, and expect to stay at this level for quite a while.
  7. To be clear, I strip the DRM so the books will work on all my devices/apps and they’re more future-proof.
  8. That said, this phone hasn’t gotten a security update since 2017 so I rarely let it connect to the internet.

Book Stuff: Organizing Physical Books

There are many ways to organize books. Each house I live in I organize them slightly differently. However, usually there’s at least one “featured” shelf, a general fiction shelf, a non-fiction shelf, and a kid’s shelf. This time we have a built-in bookcase in the living room which I put all our Hugo award nominees and winners (as well as the “not-a-Hugo” awards given out in the same ceremony)1.
Built-in bookcase with games and books.

Also in the living room are our three very cheap bookshelves which have survived being moved five times so far. You can see the shelves are starting to bend and we daren’t put our computer science books on it anymore. I have kid books on the bottom three shelves, so Julian can reach them, and some of our adult non-fiction (mainly travel and history) on the top two shelves.
Three book cases side-by-side with books.

In our entry way we have most of our fiction books. I don’t want to buy more bookcases until we find a permanent house and I know what will fit. However, space is getting really tight so I’m having to get creative with how I can fit all the books while also allowing (some) room for growth. That’s while some of the series are stacked vertically. I’ve also started interfiling the few DVDs we have, mainly because I don’t have a better place to put them.

Three bookshelves crammed with fiction books.

In our Wallingford house I had a bookshelf in Julian’s room that contained his favorite books. The downstairs “playroom” had a lot of built-in shelves that I used for overflow picture books, juvenile books, YA, and travel. Without those built-ins, I don’t have enough space for all of Julian’s books in the house. I have one large shelf in his room that contains the read-aloud chapter books he likes, old board books he still enjoys looking at, easy readers, library books, and about half of his picture books.

The house we’re renting comes with a detached garage that has a second unfinished level. I thought it’d make a good play area so I set up our smaller tent with a rug, blankets, pillows, and a bin with the other half of Julian’s picture books. Julian enjoys reading in the tent, it makes things feel more adventurous.

REI brand tent, with rain fly on, setup in an unfinished garage. (In case you’re wondering why the rain fly is on the tent, it’s to protect the books and blankets. The garage has bats and isn’t 100% weather-proof.)

View from inside the tent. Blankets on floor, books in a plastic bin, and a pillow that reads "Just One More Chapter".

Most of our technical non-fiction books are in our bedroom in Jaeger’s sturdy double oak bookshelf. Calvin has some books in his room but not a lot. He’s currently more an audiobook listener than a physical book reader. I have a couple of shelves of cookbooks in the kitchen and then various other books scattered around the house.

  1. If one book in the series won, I put the whole series on the shelf.

Book Stuff: Buying Books

I usually read new books through the library. However, once I find a favorite series or author I buy them. Quite an expensive habit when you move as much as I have recently, books are heavy. However, my new place never feels like home until my books are on their bookcases. I almost always buy the physical book and then, if I enjoy listening to the book, I may buy the audio version and possible the ebook version.

Physical Books
I usually buy physical books from my local independent bookstore. Up in Seattle, that was Elliott Bay Book Company1 , Ada Technical Books, and sometimes Third Place Books (usually when they had author events). Elliott Bay was particularly convenient because if I timed the bus just right I could request a book and pick it up on my lunch break. Ada Technical Books isn’t super big but has a really nice collection of STEM books for children. I bought my favorite t-shirt from Third Place Books.

Since moving back to California, I’ve been shopping at Bookshop Santa Cruz. I’ve ordered their Book Bundles several times as gifts which are pretty fun.

I also occasionally buy books from Amazon, usually when I need them really fast.

For many years I bought mass market paperbacks. This was due to cost as well as it being easier to carry around2. Now, I prioritize the book’s looks over price or size. Sometimes I end up with multiple editions of the same book if it’s later released in a more attractive format.

Audiobooks
I love audiobooks. I listen to my favorites during the night to help me fall back to sleep and new ones are great when I’m doing something that leaves my brain relatively free. For a long time I had a Downpour subscription. At first, they were DRM free. However, I discovered by accident that they had also started adding DRM’d books, depending on the publisher. I figured that if I was going to have to deal with the hassle of DRM, I might as well get an Audible subscription instead3. I kept it for a couple of years. However, the Audible subscription always made me a bit uncomfortable because of how hostile Amazon is to libraries. Last fall I was going through an audiobook buying binge and I decided it was a good time to pickup a second subscription via Libro.fm. In February, I decided it was time to get rid of my Audible subscription and just use Libro.fm. I lose access to some of the Audible-only authors but so be it.

eBooks
eBooks are my least favorite format. I usually stick to Kindle unless the author/publisher is promoting a direct download somewhere else4. Unless I am particularly obsessed with the author, I only buy ebooks if they are on sale or if I can buy the ebook and then add on the Audible version for less than the audiobook would cost by itself. The one exception to this is chapter books for Julian. Amazon has a feature they call Immersive Reading which is amazing. Julian can listen to chapter books that he couldn’t read himself while also being able to watch the words as they’re spoken and see the pictures5. It’s not a replacement for reading with your kid but it is a really nice supplemental option6.

  1. Thanks to Elliott Bay, I can never remember how to spell Julian’s middle name because we spelled it with one less t.
  2. Through college, I required my main coat have a pocket big enough to carry a book.
  3. I had the Audible Premium Plus plan because I wanted to be able to buy books, not just temporarily listen to them — that’s what a public library’s for.
  4. Such as the monthly ebook from tor.com.
  5. Overall, this works really well. However, occasionally editions get crossed. For example, the US edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factor is paired with the UK edition of the audio and it turns out they Americanized some of the words and concepts in the US edition so it doesn’t perfectly match with the audio
  6. I’m also annoyed that traditional publishers didn’t come up with this option before Amazon did. Granted, audiobook rights aren’t always sold with the book but it was such an obvious value-add option.

Book Stuff: Where I Borrow Books

There are many things I feel like I should talk about. I keep thinking I should do a post about our move or online school this year. However, those subjects take more energy than I have. On the other hand, books are always fun to talk about. So this is a post about random book-related things. Originally, this was going to be one post but I suspect it would become unbearable long so I’m going to chop it up into a couple of different posts.


For much of my adult life I have been spoiled because I worked at a public library. This made it very easy to request and pickup books. True, I telecommuted for quite a few years. However, I was working part-time so if I couldn’t arrange my book pickup to coincide with the occasional trip into work, I still had time after work to take a trip to the library with Calvin.

One of the first things I did after moving to the Santa Cruz Mountains was figure out where my local library was. Turns out that was a tricky question. We are located almost exactly between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz, both are about 30 minutes away. However, since we are technically in Santa Cruz county, I decided I’d start by getting library cards for the family at Santa Cruz Public Library. I was very excited to see that they were offering curbside pickup, albeit during limited hours1. Picking up books worked fairly well while I had a flexible schedule. However, their hours were still fairly limited and as I got busier it became harder to time my trips off the mountain to coincide with when the library was open.

Fortunately, Santa Clara County Library District has a bookmobile with a monthly stop only 15 minutes from our house2. We can only request up to 12 titles per library card so it requires me to spend more time managing my requests than I’m use to. However, the convenience of having the books delivered to us is worth it. Plus, they have a really great collection. My one quibble with using them is that because I live in Santa Cruz county, I’m not directly funding them. To salve my conscience I made sure to donate at least as much as they’d get from us in property tax if we lived within their taxing district.

While I love physical books, I also read ebooks and listen to eaudiobooks3. I think all the libraries I have access to have both Overdrive and Hoopla. However, I have a strong preference for Overdrive. If I have a specific book I’m looking for and it’s not available on Overdrive, I will look at Hoopla. However, when I’m browsing, I only browse Overdrive. I have a hierarchy of where I look for those books. Because I live in Santa Cruz County, I try to check out ebook/eaudio from the Santa Cruz County Library when it’s available. This is because e-versions are insanely expensive for libraries so it seems fair to me that I put most of that cost on the place where I live. However, if it’s not available there, then I look at Santa Clara County Library.

Next post, to be published sometime in the nebulous future, I’ll talk about where I buy books.

  1. The Seattle Public Library started offering curbside service the day after I left so I had been without physical library books for months at that point.
  2. Unlike Washington, most California libraries in this area will give you a card even if you aren’t in their service area.
  3. I almost never checkout physical CDs. Downloadable audiobooks are so much easier to deal with these days.

Reading in 2020

I spent the last several months thinking I had read substantially less this year than previous years. I guess it was the expected narrative. Everyone was having trouble concentrating and I knew I had started a lot of books I hadn’t finished. It wasn’t till I reviewed my reading log that I realized it wasn’t that I had read a lot less than 2019 but I had forgotten to log most of my reading from May and June. It turns out I managed to read 78 books in 2020, only 2 less than 2019.

The other thing I completely forgot until I started to write my 2020 recap today was that I had set a reading goal for 2019/2020. Given that I had forgotten I had a reading goal, I did reasonably well. Though, there were a couple of areas I didn’t come even close to making my targets. When I made my reading goal, I knew reading 26 YA books was going to be a stretch for me. I only ended up reading 9. Though, I did start a lot more YA than I chose to finish. I read one historical fiction novel but the goal was for two. I didn’t list any in the Librarian Recommended category though I think I may have just forgotten where I got some of the recommendation from. Then there’s literature . . Apparently I just don’t naturally read straight-up literature anymore. So, if I want a stretch goal for the future, literature might be a good one.

Best Sellers
Goal: 2
Read: 3

Biography, Autobiography, Memoir
Goal: 2
Read: 3

Librarian Recommended
Goal: 2
Read: 0

Written by an author from another country
Goal: 2
Read: 3

  • My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite – My favorite parts of this book involved Korede talking about cleaning. It might be weird, but I find discussions about cleaning and precision to be very relaxing. I really, really wish Home Comforts, by Cheryl Mendelson, was available as an audiobook. I’m sure it’d be the most soothing read ever.
  • The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson – This was a delightfully weird and quirky book. Little tidbits of appalling history were dropped all over the place in between the obviously fictional story.
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – I really liked Gods of Jade and Shadow but started, and never finished, The Beautiful Ones. This one was kind of in the middle for me. It was interesting, and worth reading, but not really my thing.

Graphic Novels
Goal: 2
Read: 2

Historical Fiction
Goal: 2
Read 1

Informational
Goal: 2
Read: 3

Juvenile Books
Goal: 6
Read: 7

YA Books
Goal: 26
Read: 9

  • vN, by Madeline Ashby (2020 pre-pandemic)
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – This turned out to be a re-read which I didn’t realize until I was most of the way through the book.
  • The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black
  • Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
  • A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher – T. Kingfisher is delightful and I love almost all the books she writes2. What’s amazing about this book is she started writing it years ago, way before the baking/sourdough trend that exploded this year.
  • Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson – This was the most recent book I read and I really enjoyed it. Stevie is a very interesting character and I loved the description of the eclectic school. My one annoyance was it ends on a cliffhanger. However, I still liked it enough that I’m currently listening to the 2nd in the series.
  • Catfishing on Catnet, Naomi Kritzer (2020 pre-pandemic) – Delightful
  • Girls with Sharp Sticks, by Suzanne Young (2020 pre-pandemic)

Literature
Goal: 2
Read: 0

Mystery
Goal: 2
Read: 9

Poetry Anthologies
Goal: 2
Read: 3

General Fiction
Goal: 2
Read: 2

  • Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel
  • Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson – I listened to this book while driving down to California. It was a hoot. This book probably falls best under magical realism but it’s shelved in general fiction.

Short Story Anthologies
Goal: 2
Read: 2

Other Books I Read

  • The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – I really enjoyed this book. I’m definitely going to read the next one.
  • Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear
  • Generation V by M. L. Brennan
  • Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs
  • Changes by Jim Butcher- Part of the Harry Dresden series. While I generally enjoy this series, one of my pet peeves has always been around Dresden’s benevolent sexism. I keep reading the series because the story is good and there are interesting strong female characters. However, usually there are multiple times in a book when I end up grinding my teeth at Dresden’s attitude. However, in this book, I didn’t notice as much teeth grinding. Hopefully that promising trend continues with the rest of the series.
  • “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom” by Ted Chiang
  • The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
  • Finna by Nino Cipri – A weird but fun novella.
  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark
  • Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn – A fun romance. I particularly enjoyed how it started.
  • How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K Eason
  • Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey – I had to like it for no reason other than the librarians 🙂
  • The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – I have no idea why I picked up this book. Probably because of the whole housewives come out victorious over evil angle. It was an engrossing read. However, the husbands’ treatment of their wives bothered me way move than the ostensible monster of the novel (which is probably what the author intended, it just wasn’t what I was expecting and may have avoided if I realized that).
  • The Bride Test by Helen Hoang – This is the second romance I’ve read by Hoang, the first being The Kiss Quotient, and it was wonderful.
  • Null Set by S.L. Huang – I had a harder time getting into this book than the first one, Zero Point. However, once I finally did, I enjoyed it.
  • Blood Price by Tanya Huff – This book was originally published in 1991. However, in spite of that, it has aged remarkably well. I really enjoyed reading the book. Personally, I particularly liked that it was an urban fantasy without any romance plotline. I like romance but often prefer it not be mixed with other genres.
  • Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff – After reading Blood Price, I went back and listened to Valor’s Choice, which is the first book in a space opera series. I thought I had listened to this book before. However, I think I must have just listened to some of the ones later in the series because nothing sounded familiar. That said, it was very good.
  • Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher – Another one of my favorite reads from 2020. Kingfisher does macabre romance wonderfully well.
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune – I loved this one. It was such a nice kind book. This is another book that I bought the audiobook for as soon as I finished.
  • Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire – I’m not 100% sure I finished this one but I think I did so I’m going to count it.
  • Middlegame by Seanan McGuire – Seanan McGuire tells good stories. This one is no exception but it’s in a very different style than the other McGuire stories I’ve read.
  • Chaos Reigning by Jessie Mihalik
  • Hunting Party by Elizabeth Moon (reread)
  • Sporting Chance by Elizabeth Moon (reread)
  • Once a Hero by Elizabeth Moon (reread)
  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
  • Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – Hmm, still not quite sure what to think about this one. Parts were fascinating and parts I got a little bored. I reread Gideon the Ninth before this one and enjoyed it better than the first time. So, maybe this one would improve on a reread also.
  • Demonology and the Tri-Phasic Model of Trauma: An Integrative Approach by Nnm (Good Omens Fan Fic) – This might be the first fan fic I’ve ever read and it was really good. Also long (around 390 pages on my iPad mini). It was recommended on the Be the Serpent podcast. While I did immensely enjoy this story, I’ll probably wait for other recommendations before wading further into fan fc as the immense volume of stories available is very intimidating.
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik – This was one of my 2020 favorites. Personally, I feel it’s a YA novel but it’s another case where it appears to be classified by others as an adult book. I waited several months to get it from the library. However, I only got 35 pages in before I bought it from Bookshop Santa Cruz. Then, I finished the book and bought the audiobook so I could listen to it at night.
  • Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk – I really enjoyed this book. It’s a regency romance but set in a fantasy world. Also, in true romance style, there was a HEA3.
  • The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai – I really loved the female protagonist being a tech entrepreneur.
  • The Last Emperox by John Scalzi – This is the conclusion to the The Interdependency series. It was over-the-top and a ton of fun.
  • Murder by Other Means by John Scalzi
  • The Deep by River Solomen
  • Starship Repo by Patrick S. Tomlinson
  • Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes – Another book I felt could fit into YA. I listened to the audio version which I thought was read really well.
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
  • A Pale Light in the Black by K. B. Wagers – A really fun book. Basically, it’s the Coast Guard in space.
  • Network Effect by Martha Wells
  1. Not from my family, mind you, but from some of the especially conservative church members I knew.
  2. The exceptions being her horror novels. I’m sure they’re good but they’re not for me.
  3. Happily Ever After

Work and School from Home: Learning about Racism

I am bad at talking about racism. I never know the right thing to say so I tend to stay silent and watch and listen. I’m also too timid, which I understand is a privilege many people don’t have. However, I feel like my sporadic updates about COVID-19 would be incomplete without acknowledging our additional crisis caused by racism.

I’ve watched COVID-19 magnify existing problems. For example, organizations bad at communication become even worse at communicating. It’s also widening the differences between our socioeconomic classes1 as well as racial groups2, particularly for black people.

Then, police officers murdered George Floyd3. This is too common 4. Protests erupted, including in Seattle.

Calvin and I now share an office. A couple of days ago, while I was reading a Seattle Times article on the protests, I must have made a sound because Calvin asked me what I was doing. I told him I was reading about the protests and he asked me why there was a car on fire. For a moment, my mind went blank. How do I explain?

A while back Calvin and I watched a movie on Netflix called See You Yesterday. We had just recently watched Back to the Future and this movie seemed like a good continuation. The central plot of See You Yesterday is a teenage girl’s quest to change the past and save her brother from being shot by the police. Commonsense Media suggests it’s appropriate for ages 15+. Calvin was 10 at the time we watched it together. I wasn’t sure if Calvin was old enough to see a film with police violence. However, as I was looking for articles about the movie I ran across one, I can’t remember which one, which pointed out that black children don’t have the luxury to be ignorant. So, we watched the movie. It was really good.

So, when Calvin asked me what the protests were about, I asked him if he remembered watching See You Yesterday. He said he did. I then told him that while the movie was obviously fictional, police killing unarmed black people was not, it had happened many times before. The protests were because another murder had happened and people are justifiably enraged.

As I said, I don’t do a good job talking about racism and I’m also deeply ignorant about so much of its impact on people. However, I felt I needed to give Calvin some additional context. When in doubt, I turn to books. So, I started looking for audiobooks that could help explain it to Calvin. Eventually, I ran across a list from The Book Table, an independent book store, that had A Black Lives Matter Reading List. It included Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. The reviews were good so I bought it5.

Calvin and I both listened to it. It’s for a juvenile/teen audience so is substantially shorter than the book it’s adapted from, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. As I listened, it reminded me of when I was an adult reference librarian and was asked for basic information about a specific topic. Sometimes the best way to learn something new is to find a book in the children’s area explaining the topic. Stamped is both engaging and informative. I think it gave Calvin and I a lot to think about.

  1. About Half Of Lower-income Americans Report Household Job or Wage Loss Due To Covid-19
    Kim Parker-Juliana Horowitz-Anna Brown – https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/04/21/about-half-of-lower-income-americans-report-household-job-or-wage-loss-due-to-covid-19/
  2. Race and Income Shape Covid-19 Risk: Sph: Boston University
    Samuel lhemdi – https://www.bu.edu/sph/2020/04/28/race-and-income-shape-covid-19-risk/
  3. Four Minneapolis Officers Are Fired After Video Shows One Kneeling on Neck Of Black Man Who Later Died
    Dalton Bennett-Brittany Shammas-Katie Mettler-Timothy Bella – https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/four-minneapolis-officers-are-fired-after-video-shows-one-kneeling-on-neck-of-black-man-who-later-died/
  4. A Decade Of Watching Black People Die
    https://www.npr.org/2020/05/29/865261916/a-decade-of-watching-black-people-die
  5. At the time, the library didn’t own the audiobook version. Less than 48 hours later, they currently own 10 copies but there are 47 holds

Reading Goal February, 2020 Update

I’ve been having trouble finishing books recently. I have quite a few half-read books sitting around that I think I’d like if I’d just finish them. However, T. Kingfisher’s newest book, Paladin’s Grace, was released a couple of weeks ago and it was the perfect book at the perfect time. I still like Swordheart a little better but Paladin’s Grace is my favorite for 2020 so far. I bought the ebook and will definitely buy the physical version also when it comes out.

We took a vacation last week during Calvin’s winter break. I started out with another great book, How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse1 by K. Eason, but the others I had pre-downloaded didn’t speak to me. Fortunately, I found a couple of more that were good and even filled in a couple of my goal categories.

Books I’ve finished recently:

  • Bestseller: Nine Perfect Strangers, Liane Moriarty – This one was a lot of fun. There were several lines I particularly enjoyed in it including:
    Before her booking was “accepted” she had to answer a very long, rather invasive online questionnaire about her relationship status, diet, medical history, alcohol consumption in the previous weeks, and so on. She cheerfully lied her way through it. It was really none of their business.

    This is something I feel we should do more often on the internet.

  • Memoir: Whiskey in A Teacup: What Growing up in the South Taught Me About Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits, by Reese Witherspoon – When first envisioned this category I had meant to read/listen to hefty serious biographies. However, it turns out that’s not what I’m in the mood for these days. I have enough serious stuff going on in real life at the moment and don’t need more in my reading life. Like the James memoir, this was nice and chatty. However, it took me a long time to finish, even though it’s a fairly short audiobook.
  • Informational: Ditch the City and Go Country: How to Master the Art of Rural Life From A Former City Dweller, by Alissa Hessler – I have a dream of someday living somewhere my neighbors aren’t right next to me. This book goes a bit deeper into some areas that I’m not particularly interested in, such as raising animals. However, the first section on picking a location had lots of really good things to consider.
  • Juvenile Books: Estranged, by Ethan M. Aldridge – This is a juvenile graphic novel that I brought home for Calvin. I read it after he finished.
  • YA Books: vN, by Madeline Ashby – I found this one via a tor.com list. It was definitely gripping and I sped right through it.
  • YA Books: Girls with Sharp Sticks, by Suzanne Young – I ran across this one via The Book Smuggler’s blog. It’s been sitting on my virtual to be read pile for a while and I finally downloaded it while on vacation. This was another quick engrossing read with a twist that I feel I should have seen coming.
  • Short Story Anthology: The Trans Space Octopus Congregation, by Bogi Takács – I still have an incredibly hard time reading short stories. Each story end takes me out of the world and it’s really hard for me to go back into another world, particularly if they’re completely unrelated. However, there were several stories in this collection I found intriguing and would have liked longer versions.
  • Short Story Anthology: A Very Scalzi Christmas, by John Scalzi – Jaeger got this for me for Christmas, so it’s a really good thing I didn’t end up getting it for him . . . This one generally is a lot more lighthearted than the Takács anthology. As I mentioned, I don’t tend to like short stories. However, I read this while around Jaeger’s family so I wasn’t in an environment where I could really concentrate on a full-length novel anyway.

Current Goal Counts:

Category Goal Number Read
Best Sellers 2 2
Biography, Autobiography, Memoir 2 2
Librarian Recommended 2
Written by an author from another country 2
Graphic Novels 2 2
Historical Fiction 2
Informational 2 1
Juvenile Books 6 3
YA Books2 26 3
Literature 2
Mystery 2
Poetry Anthologies 2 1
General Fiction 2
Short Story Anthologies 2 2
Total 36 16
  1. This feels like a YA book to me. However, SPL didn’t put it in the YA section. Nor does K. Eason, as far as I can tell, consider it YA. So, it doesn’t get to go in that category. I might see if my son might like to listen to the audiobook though . . .
  2. Ok . . . I forgot I had such an ambitious goal in this category. Obviously I need to be reading more YA.

Reading in 2019

2019 isn’t quite over yet and it’s possible I’ll still get through another book or two before the year ends1. However, I think we’re close enough I can safely list the books I read.

In 2019 I read 80 books2:

  • 1 Anthology (though I’m partway through another)
  • 3 Graphic Novels
  • 3 Non-Fiction Books 3
  • 45 Novels
  • 13 Novellas
  • 1 Novelette4
  • 2 Juvenile (one novel and one novella)
  • 1 Poetry book
  • 11 YA Novels

Favorites:
Overall, I feel like most of the books I read were excellent. However, there were two I particularly loved. They aren’t necessary the “best” of the bunch but these are the ones that completely sucked me in while I was reading:

Swordheart by T. Kingfisher
This is my favorite book of the year. It has so many things I love in it: middle-aged woman, snark, practical outlook in life mixed with optimism and a dash of naivete, and a magic sword. I bought the physical book and then bought the ebook. I’ve already re-read it. I desperately want there to be an audiobook version so I can add it to the books I use to help me fall back to sleep. This book makes me happy just thinking about it.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
This was my favorite book published in 2019. I really enjoy mysteries that are set in a science fiction universe.

Books read in 2019:
The Outside by Ada Hoffman
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
This is How you Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar
The Princess Saves Herself by Amanda Lovelace
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
Shadowblade by Anna Kashina
Clock Dance by Anne Tyler
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson
The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
Witchmark by C.L. Palk
Red White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Rule of Capture by Christopher Brown
Once & Future by Cori McCarthy
Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Catering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson
Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson
Killer Pancakes by Diane Mott Davidson
Lark! The Herald Angels Sing by Donna Andrews
Wilde in Love by Eloisa James
Fair Play by Eve Rodsky
The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee
Cruel Prince by Holly Black
The Wicked King by Holly Black
One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik
Small Favor by Jim Butcher
Turn Coat by Jim Butcher
White Night by Jim Butcher
Giant Days by John Allison
A Very Scalzi Christmas by John Scalzi
After the Crown by K.B Wagers
Beyond the Empire by K.B Wagers
The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards
The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
Gods Monsters and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather
Paris in Love by Lisa Kleypas
Penric’s Fox by Lois McMaster Bujold
Prisoner of Limnos by Lois McMaster Bujold
Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan
The Late Show by Michael Connoly
Spaceside by Michael Mammay
Kingdom of Needle and Bone by Mira Grant
The Armored Saint Myke Cole
Catfishing on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
I Moved to Los Angeles and Worked in Animation by Natalie Nourigat
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
Escaping Exodus: A Novel by Nicky Drayden
The Black God’s Drum by P. Djèlí Clark
Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs
Spousonomics by Paula Szuchman and Jenn Anderson
The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin
The Library of Lost and Found: A Novel by Phaedra Patrick
The Poppy War by R. F Kuang
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas
Star Uncharted by S.K. Dunstall
Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire
The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire
The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire
Ebony in Onyx by Sharon Shinn
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher
Swordheart by T. Kingfisher
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Children of Blood and Bone my Tomi Adeyemi

  1. Especially since my kids will be with their grandparents.
  2. Assuming I haven’t forgotten any books . .
  3. These are books I’ve read all the way through, not books I’ve referenced specifically sections.
  4. I read all the 2019 Hugo Nominee Novelettes but I’m only considering one for this count because it’s the one read as a hard copy, which I admit is a weirdly arbitrary distinction.

Reading Goal December, 2019 Update

Right after I made my goal I read several books within my goal categories. Then December got stressful and I reverted to comfort books and re-reads.

Books I’ve finished recently:

  • Bestseller: The Late Show, by Michael Connelly
  • Graphic Novel: I Moved to Los Angeles and Worked in Animation, by Natalie Nourigat – I’ve never wanted to work in animation (fortunately) but this was an interesting read and it was particularly fascinating to read the bits about adjusting to moving to LA.
  • Juvenile: The False Prince, by Jennifer A. Nielsen – This book was a fun, fast read.
  • YA: Catfishing on Catnet, Naomi Kritzer – This was delightful. It was uplifting and funny even while discussing scary topics.
  • Juvenile: Minor Mage, by T. Kingfisher – I bought this one on a whim because it’s by T. Kingfisher and I enjoyed the first paragraph. In the acknowledgements T. Kingfisher says she thinks it’s a juvenile novel and I agree so that’s how I’m categorizing it.
  • Memoir: Paris in Love, by Eloisa James – This book has a nice and chatty tone that I listened to while making suppers.
  • Graphic Novel: Giant Days, by John Allison – This was the start of a series and, if I remember, I’ll read more in the series.
  • Poetry: The Princess Saves Herself in This One, by Amanda Lovelace – Poetry isn’t something I naturally pick up. However, I really enjoyed this one and ended up buying a physical copy.

I’m currently in the middle of reading two short story anthologies so I might be able to cross that goal off soon. However, it’s slow reading because even if I like the individual stories, the lack of an ongoing plot means I don’t feel any urgency to continue after I finish each chapter.

Current Goal Counts:

Category Goal Number Read
Best Sellers 2 1
Biography, Autobiography, Memoir 2 1
Librarian Recommended 2
Written by an author from another country 2
Graphic Novels 2 2
Historical Fiction 2
Informational 2
Juvenile Books 6 2
YA Books 26 1
Literature 2
Mystery 2
Poetry Anthologies 2 1
General Fiction 2
Short Story Anthologies 2
Total 36

Reading Goal 2019/2020

For the past couple of years I have loved nominating and voting for The Hugo Awards. While I enjoy it, I also feel like it has consumed my reading life. Particularly in the months right before nominations open I felt like I was trying to cram the best science fiction and fantasy books of the past year. In 2019 I have already read a fair amount of excellent science fiction and fantasy. However, I’m going to take a break and branch out more. I’m still planning on nominating the books I happen to have read and loved but won’t try to be as systematic about it.

Back in 2013 I had a goal to read 36 books across a range of genres1. I’m going to something similar this year, though with minor tweaks in the categories. Here’s my current goal:

Best Sellers 2
Biography, Autobiography, Memoir 2
Librarian Recommended 2
Written by an author from another country 2
Graphic Novels 2
Historical Fiction 2
Informational 2
Juvenile Books 6
YA Books 6
Literature 2
Mystery 2
Poetry Anthologies 2
General Fiction2 2
Short Story Anthologies 2
  1. I just realized this was when Calvin was turning 4 and Julian turned 4 this year. I doubt this is coincidence.
  2. Not romance, mystery, science fiction/fantasy, etc