Kara Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

45 Articles Tagged with “books”

  1. Ratings are not recommendations

    A caveat lector for those who enjoy my reviews: sometimes new information comes to light that changes my opinion of books or authors I’ve regarded highly in the past.

    This morning I woke up and checked Twitter and then kind of (but not really) regretted it. See, the hive mind often keeps you helpfully informed of things you ought to know, especially when prominent people are being problematic—yet once in a while, it fails to do this. Such was the case with the revelation to me that Caroline Criado Perez is a TERF and indeed has been for a while, and cue my headdesking because last November I gave her book Invisible Women 5 stars and a glowing review.

    GIF of Picard facepalming

    This threw me into somewhat of a quandary. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the book. I think it makes salient points about the problems that women (both cis and trans) face in a society largely designed by and for men. But I don’t want to be supporting the livelihood of people who do not include me in their feminism.

    Options ran through my head:

    • Remove the review. This feels ahistorical though. I said what I said; my opinion is changing in light of new information.
    • Revise the review to be more critical. Without re-reading the book, though, this feels disingenuous. Also, as far as I recall, the

    Read more…

  2. Announcing Kara.Reviews

    Most of you know I post book reviews on Goodreads. But did you know I’ve been doing this for 12 years, for every book I’ve read, amounting to over 1600 reviews?

    If I sound like I’m bragging, I am, because that’s the point of this post: I write book reviews; I write a lot of book reviews; and I’m good at it. So prolific and so good at it that today I’m launching a dedicated book review website: Kara.Reviews

    What’s Kara.Reviews?

    On this site, you’ll find:

    • every review I have posted on Goodreads
    • new reviews at your fingertips
    • an easy way to browse all those old reviews, by bookshelf (tag), numerous links from other reviews, or searching for a book/author
    • a sign-up form for my newsletter

    A Newsletter, You Say?

    I know some of my friends and family enjoy reading my reviews but aren’t on Goodreads, and I’m bad at remembering to tweet links to my book reviews. At the moment I plan on publishing a new issue every 2 weeks, starting tomorrow, August 19. So subscribe now for the first issue!

    Each issue will have links to all my reviews since the last issue, plus some kind of…

    Read more…

  3. 10 years of reviewing every book I read

    I reflect on writing over 1400 detailed reviews, one for every book I’ve read since joining Goodreads 10 years ago.

    Back in May 2008 I joined a little website called Goodreads, then privately-owned and managed, which wanted to be the next big social media platform for readers. At first I just played around with the site, rating some books I'd previously read, and keeping track of what I was reading now. I'd write the odd review. Sometime later that year, probably around August or September, I began to review every book I read.

    And now I’ve been doing that for a whole decade.

    So much has changed over that time. Amazon bought Goodreads, and while it hasn't torpedoed the site the way it did Shelfari, our new corporate overlords have been felt (mainly in how much the site hasn't changed). But this post isn’t about that. It isn’t even about how, in the past 10 years, I’ve learned how to knit, graduated from university, lived and taught in England and then moved back to Thunder Bay, started teaching in adult education, bought a house, made new best friends, etc. All that is to say, 10 years in a long time to do anything, and one of the few things that have remained constant during that time is my book…

    Read more…

  4. Best books I read in 2017

    As with last year, I’m eschewing lists of top 10 best and worst books in favour of simply highlighting some of my favourites read in the past year.

    Social Justice

    I want to start with a book that is actually being published this year, on January 16: Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race. You must read this book if you want to learn more about systemic racism and the ways in which we can dismantle it.

    Next up, one of my favourite books of the year is The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. This is a powerful book about police brutality and anti-Black racism by a Black woman. Again, it’s a must-read, this time in novel form.

    Closer to home, we have Seven Fallen Feathers, by Tanya Talaga. This book examines the deaths of seven Indigenous youth who came to my town, Thunder Bay, for high school. Talaga exposes the racism and systemic failures of our police and government. It’s a harrowing but important read.


    Lots of my non-fiction this year was dedicated to science, which I’m happy about. I requested many ARCs from NetGalley, and two science texts in particular went…

    Read more…

  5. Reading goals for 2017

    Now that I’ve discussed my favourite books from last year, here’s what is in store for this year, hopefully.

    I’m not a super organized reader. I know some people make lists of what they are going to read, keep calendars of upcoming releases they want to buy, etc. I am a messy, spontaneous reader. I pre-order books and then forget about them until they show up at my door. I keep saying, “I’ll get to it next!” of many a book, only for it to languish in a pile. People have given me books for my birthday or for Christmas from years ago and I still haven’t read them.

    I say this so you get an idea of the kinds of goals I set. Think of these more as aspirations that will influence the books I choose to buy/borrow in 2017 and the priorities I give books I already own.

    Let’s start there: I currently have about 70, give or take, unread books that I own sitting in my room. If I make the pace required to meet a goal of 156 again this year, that means I could wait well into June before I need to go to…

    Read more…

  6. Best Books of 2016

    Oh hey, it’s a new year.

    I usually do a round-up of my best 10 (and worst 10) books of the year and post it as a list. I’m fairly proud of the lists area of my site, but I also have ambitions to do a little overhauling this year, so the lists might be evaporating—hopefully temporarily. I’m going to keep it simple and simply blog about my year of reading.

    Also, I’m not going to try to rank my favourite books from 2016 like I usually do. This can be a fun exercise, because it really makes me think about why I enjoyed a book so much. Nevertheless, I would prefer to speak in general about more books. I had a good reading year! I met my goal of 156 books (which is based on a theoretical average of 3 books per week, kind of the most comfortable number I can achieve)—though, to be fair, a chunk of those were Animomrphs. I had fewer 5-star ratings this year than in 2015, 1 more 4-star rating, and 1 more DNF. I also had fewer 3-star ratings and more 2-star ratings. That doesn’t sound promising, I know. However, I…

    Read more…

  7. Trends I'm sensitive to in current science fiction

    This post began as part of my review of The Man Who Sold the Moon. I began contrasting Heinlein’s subject matter with what’s hot in SF these days. Gradually I realized I was eliding too much in my attempts to be as succinct as possible, so I was faced with the choice of expanding an already long review … or excising most of the discussion. Fortunately, I have a soapbox all my own where I can put this kind of stuff.

    First, a disclaimer: science fiction is a diverse field. Nor do I claim to have a comprehensive knowledge of recent SF works. I’ve been pretty good about reading some of the most notable releases each year, mostly thanks to my Worldcon membership for Hugo voting. Nevertheless, this is not intended to be a survey of the current state of the field. Instead, I’m looking at some of the current obsessions within SF based on my own particular lens.

    It’s a truism to claim that science fiction becomes hung up on the future of the technology fetishes of the present. Heinlein, of course, talked a lot about atomic power, the bogeyman of his day. Probably the most memorable recent

    Read more…

  8. Books and tea make for a good week

    I sat in the backyard this morning, and much of this afternoon, and read. The weather was very nice last weekend, and it was nice again on Friday and today as well. Spring has finally crept up on us, and summer is around the corner. I’ve enjoyed a week off of school, taken the time to rest and recharge and read.

    It feels so weird that as I sat in the garden, basking in the calm Sunday morning, protesters continued to occupy streets in Turkey. What began as a simple, peaceful demonstration in opposition to government plans for developing a park (into a mall) has erupted into a full-scale riot. Apparently, the Turkish government and police are rather surprised that spraying tear gas on peaceful protesters and running them over with cars isn’t quelling the riot.

    I can’t quite wrap my head around that kind of massive moment. I’m thankful for the Web, particularly Twitter, for being able to provide me with moment-to-moment commentary and especially photos of what’s happening. It doesn’t make me feel connected—I don’t think I have the right to make such a claim when I have no stake in what’s happening—but it makes me…

    Read more…

  9. Top 10 best and worst books read in 2012

    As I’ve done for the past four years, I now present my top 10 best and worst books that I read last year. This was a good year for reading. Although I’m not quite back up to where I want to be, at around 150 books per year, I beat last year’s total by ten books. And once again, I read only four 1-star books—though I gave up on four books, the most I’ve ever abandoned in a single year. I don’t like giving up on books; I like sticking through to the bitter end and then writing a snazzy invective of them. But some of the books I tried to read last year just weren’t working, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to write cogent reviews of them, so I decided to move on to the next one on the list.

    Speaking of the list, here are the lists:

    You’ll notice you can’t comment on this blog post. For the past year or so, I’ve been receiving an increasingly impressive amount of spam on my blog, which baffles me because I don’t know where my blog…

    Read more…

  10. Iday Diary for Wednesday, June 20

    Me, dressed in tie and sports coat, ready for interviews

    Interview day. I woke up early—I think around 5:30—to make sure I had enough time to prepare before breakfast at 6:30. In particular, I was worried about my tie, which up until now I had only practised. Now it was time for the real thing. Doing up the top button on my shirt was tricky too, and as I went down to breakfast I felt quite self-conscious. All this fancy dress is foreign to me, but it’s something I’m going to be doing a lot in England—as in, every day when I go to work.

    Turns out I don’t suck quite so badly at tying a tie as I worried, and after enough reassurances from others at the table I decided to shut up and focus on getting into an interview mindset. To be honest, I wasn’t all that worried. Thanks to some marvellous practice with my partner student teacher, Erica, I was feeling prepared. I knew how to answer my questions; I was confident in my ability and passion as a teacher; I had this down. Now it was just a matter of waiting.

    We were picked up by minibus and driven to the Athenaeum, a subscription club in…

    Read more…

  11. Top 10 best and worst books I read in 2011

    It’s that time of year again. Took me a little longer to do it, but I did it: I chose the 10 best and 10 worst books that I read last year. You can view their respective lists by following the links below:

    Part of the reason for the delay was that I finally decided to bite the bullet and attempt to import all of my Goodreads reviews en masse. It actually worked out fairly well, so now constructing book lists is a less troublesome endeavour.

    Book lists still don’t have a comment feature yet, so as always, I invite you to comment on my selections on this blog post—oh, and tell me what were some of the best and worst books you read in 2011.

  12. OMG, one more Hugo post

    Yesterday was the deadline for voting in the Hugo Awards. I submitted my final ballot on Friday. I managed to finish all of the Hugo-nominated works in the novel, novella, novelette, and short story categories. I also voted in the best related work and best dramatic presentation categories, and I voted for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Here's an overview of my picks for this year's Hugos.

    I wrote lengthy reviews on Goodreads for all of the novel nominees, so rather than a recap blog post that just links to those reviews, I will list them here. The ballot allows us to rank each nominee by preference, so that if our first choice doesn't receive a majority of the votes, it gets stricken from the ballot and our second choice becomes the first, and so on. So I've listed the nominees in order of preference:

    • The Dervish House, by Ian McDonald. This did not blow me away, yet it somehow stuck with me and persuaded me to give it five stars. I hope it wins.
    • Cryoburn, by Lois McMaster Bujold. My first Vorkosigan novel, I enjoyed it but don't really think it's

    Read more…

  13. Good books and a sleepy conscience

    Sunday was mostly an odds-and-ends day. I cleaned my room, organized things, and finished some books. Although the threat of rain hovered constantly in the air, I even managed to do some reading outside. So I had a pretty good weekend.

    I managed to finish both Persuasion and the Iliad. My to-read shelf was finally empty, which meant I could restock it with books from the rather oppressive overflow stack. I have forty more books on the shelf now, and the overflow now fits comfortably inside that blue milk crate! My goal is to empty the shelf again by the end of July--this is ambitious, I'm aware, and made even more so by the fact that I also have to get through the Hugo Voters Packet by the end of July.

    I'm voting in the Hugo Awards again this year. I first voted last year, when John Scalzi alerted his readers to the fact that the Worldcon organizers distribute a packet containing electronic copies of most of the nominated works. This year, the attending membership at Renovation is only $50. That is a small price to pay for access to all these wonderful works, not to mention…

    Read more…

  14. Top 10 best and worst books I read in 2010

    For the third consecutive year I have prepared two top 10 lists of books. One has the best books I read last year, and the other has the worst books.

    Recently I completed a new feature for my site, book lists. They do exactly what they sound like: lists of books I've read, with reviews I've written on Goodreads. This is all part of a larger work-in-progress, which is a portal that offers an overview of my reading.

    Rather than reproduce the list here as I have done in the past, I'll just link to the two lists. Since book lists do not accept comments, however, please post your comments here!

    And you may want to check out the lists from previous years.

    I intend to analyze my reading statistics in detail like I did for 2009. Those should be available soon. For now, let me just say that I read 137 books in 2010--fewer than last year's total, 156 books. My goal for 2011 is 166--I hope to regain my lost ground and better it by ten! Wish me luck.

  15. Somehow I continue to acquire books

    New book arrivals, all lined up

    I've fallen in love with Subterranean Press, a specialty science fiction publisher. They release gorgeous limited editions of books by fantastic authors. Recently I bought an awesome special hardcover edition of Grave Peril, the fourth Dresden Files book. And a few weeks ago, I was weak-willed enough to spend money on four additional books from them!

    Courtesy of BookMooch, All Tomorrow's Parties, by William Gibson, and The Stolen One, by Suzanne Crowley, arrived in the mail last week. I am slowly collecting Gibson's novels and hope to read them in some kind of order, so I probably won't get around to All Tomorrow's Parties any time soon. The Stolen One is Elizabethan-era fiction, marketed for young adults; I entered a giveaway for it on Goodreads and didn't win, but it looked interesting enough to put on my BookMooch wishlist.

    One of my discussion groups on Goodreads is reading N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms this November. It looks like exactly the kind of fantasy I love, but I've been trying to reduce the number of books I buy until I get through my backlog. (As this post indicates, I'm failing miserably at this!) But I…

    Read more…

  16. On romance and genre in literary criticism

    Hello, my name is Ben, and I am a genre snob. Or at least I was. I'm trying to quit, but as fellow genre snobs can attest, it is not easy to surrender culturally-inculcated notions of genre and embrace a more nuanced approach. Still, I need to try. For the children!

    This week I read Amanda Scott's Tempted by a Warrior, which I won in a Goodreads giveaway. Had I paid more attention when entering the giveaway, I would have noticed that the book is historical romance, not merely historical fiction, and passed. I didn't notice, however, and I won the book. As I prepared to write my review, I discussed the book with a friend--who, as it happens, reviews paranormal, romance, and even paranormal romance((You didn't see that one coming, did you?)) for one of those review sites to whom publishers send books with the eager trepidation marketing people perfect after too many years in college.

    I opened the conversation by quoting one of the sex scenes in the book:

    Me: There is a list of words that automatically ruin sex scenes for me, and "tempestuous" is one of them. Her: I can't imagine why. Me: Aside from

    Read more…

  17. Thanks to the Hugos, I have not totally abandoned democracy

    Those of you who read science fiction and fantasy and spend a good deal of time online are probably aware that we're in the middle of the 2010 Hugo Awards. You can see this year's nominees here.

    While I fall into both of the above categories, I only paid the Hugos passing notice. Certainly, if a book has won the Hugo Award, or even been nominated, then I might give it more consideration before I begin reading it. But not every winner is a winner, if you know what I mean.

    This year's different, though. This year, I'm going to pay more attention, because I'm voting in the Hugo Awards.

    Earlier this week, John Scalzi posted on his blog about the 2010 Hugo Voters Packet being available. This is an electronic copy of many of the works nominated for Hugo awards, which is distributed to people who have registered for AussieCon4 (and are thus eligible to vote in the awards).

    A full ticket to AussieCon4 is $310 Australian dollars--and I have no intention of attending a convention. But all you need for voting rights is a supporting membership, which is only $70 Australian. I didn't even need to…

    Read more…

  18. Top 10 best and worst books I read in 2009

    Another year is behind us, and the Internet is inundated with all sorts of "best of" and "worst of" lists, including Rex Sorgatz's List of Lists. Last year, I posted my inaugural annual list of best and worst books I read. I enjoyed pontificating so much about my favourite (and least favourite) books of 2008 that I thought I'd do it all over again for 2009!

    Before we begin, let me explain. I use a site called Goodreads to track what I read. I joined Goodreads last year in May 2008, so I only had seven months' worth of books--64, to be exact. Choosing twenty books as the best and worst of the "year" amounted to thirty per cent of the "year's" total.

    This year it's different. I read 156 books, which gives me a wider selection and means I have to be a little more discriminating in choosing my top 10. In fact, winnowing the choice down to ten took more work than I thought it would. Sure, I could create a "top 11" or "top 12" list--why enslave myself to society's arbitrary fascination with the number 10? But that's not the point. The point is to…

    Read more…

  19. My doomed love affair with the Kindle

    Some big news in the Canadian tech industry this week was the advent of the Amazon Kindle in Canada. I've mentioned my mad love for the Kindle previously as well as my discomfort with Amazon's approach to tethered appliances. So, now that the Kindle is finally available here, will I be getting one?

    The short answer is no, not right now. Technologically, I think the Kindle is an amazing device that uses some pretty interesting physics to make reading easy and comfortable. It boggles my mind that we have the ability to store so many books in such a small, slim shell and take it anywhere with us! However, I still have reservations about whether an e-reader is necessary, and I'm still set against tethered appliances. So here's the long answer.

    One More Piece of Luggage

    When you leave the house, what do you check to make sure you've got with you? Keys, mobile phone, ID, maybe money? What about your Kindle?

    I've got this bizarre notion that, if I one day get a smartphone, I could use that device as my e-reader as well. It makes sense to combine them; we've already rolled music players and cameras…

    Read more…

  20. Welcome to the Walled Web 2.0

    As much as I am in love with the technological achievement that is the Amazon Kindle, I have to chastise Amazon and the producers of other eBook readers for what I see as a step backward.

    You may have heard last week about Amazon deleting books off Kindles. This is worrisome because--as Jonathan Zittrain explains--it emphasizes how much you don't own what you "buy" from Amazon or any other company that digs its claws into you by selling you tethered goods. We sacrifice our freedom to keep what we purchase in return for a little convenience in the purchasing.

    That's not all though. Barnes and Noble, bookstore rival to Amazon, plans on launching its own eReader from Plastic Logic. Now, I'm all for competing eReader devices and competing eBook stores. Competition breeds innovation. But what I don't like is this:

    At this point, B&N's plan becomes clear--the books will be tied to the B&N e-reader, and not downloadable by Kindle or Sony Reader owners. Essentially B&N is trying to set up a closed ecosystem that's a direct rival to Amazon's, and that's based from its bricks and mortar stores and a website, versus Amazon's 100% cloud-based solution.

    A synonym…

    Read more…

  21. Your rose-coloured glasses are on fire

    Funny story. Last night I got an email from my friend Maria, who recommended to me her friend's LibriVox audio recordings for my summer audiobook odyssey. Since it's as good a place as any, I decided to begin with John Milton's Areopagitica.

    For those of you unfamiliar with Areopagitica,((I'm guessing that's most, but certainly not all, of you. And that's not a bad thing.)) Milton wrote it back in 1644. In many ways, the world was different back in 1644: global warming wasn't as much of an issue back then, the roads were slightly better, and Clint Eastwood had just starred in his first movie. Yet in many ways, the world was very much the same: young kids listened to pop music that drove their parents crazy, celebrities got into tabloid scandals, and short-sighted people wanted to censor books.

    Areopagitica is a polemic against the Licensing Order of 1643, which would essentially establish government censorship over all published works. Milton argues passionately and eloquently that such an order is foolish, that censorship is ineffectual and indeed harmful to a free society. He cites the examples of the Greek and Roman societies((The classical period was a…

    Read more…

  22. Help me listen my way through summer

    During the summer, I bike to work. I could pretend that this is because I want to be green and stay in shape, but it's really because I don't have consistent access to a vehicle. Although it is good exercise, I must admit.

    The ride is about twenty minutes one-way. I usually listen to music on my 1 GB iPod Nano. Yeah, that's right: I haven't upgraded to the latest model. Shocking, I know. However, this usually means I end up listening to the same music over and over all summer. I suppose I could create weekly mixes or playlists to help keep things fresh, but I'm just too lazy.

    So this year, I'm going to try something different: audiobooks. It furthers my goal of reading more, and it's much safer than trying to read a book while biking. Rather than purchase audiobooks, I'm going to try Librivox, a crowdsourced repository of public domain audiobooks. I've gone ahead and created a shelf at Goodreads to track my summer listening. Now only one thing remains: to what should I listen?

    I'm open to suggestions. I'm considering some Victorian fiction, thinking that it may be less dry if I listen…

    Read more…

  23. Push

    I'm still alive.((Although chances are equally good I'm just a component of a massive set of equations which we happen to perceive as the Universe.))

    Actually, when all is said and done, the wisdom teeth extraction was Not That Bad. I went in, the assistant hooked me up to various Machines That Go Ping!, gave me some nitrous oxide to relax, then stuck me with an IV. I drifted off to neverneverland. The next thing I know, the assistant is asking me to come lie down on a bed in a little recovery room. I do so and start to read my book. In about five minutes I'm fully lucid and feeling quite well.

    I won't rub it in, but I had no swelling, no bruising, and no pain. I took a couple of painkillers on Friday but kicked them after Saturday morning. I had pizza--in small bites--for dinner on Friday, although I stuck with yogurt, Jello, and very soft food until Tuesday. My jaw feels a bit different when I chew, but overall it was a painless procedure.((Aside from the part where I give them a substantial chunk of money, of course.)) All that trepidation....

    These past few…

    Read more…

  24. Are You Sure This is Legal?

    Books I bought

    Today I went to renew my iRewards membership at Chapters. I took with me my gift cards from Christmas, because I know that any time I enter Chapters, I can't leave without buying at least one book.

    I bought twelve.

    As usual when leaving Chapters, I experienced this giddy sensation as if I had committed some sort of crime and gotten away with it--how could they let me leave with so much knowledge?! Sure, I paid them for it, but it still seems like a crime. Buying books leaves me exhilarated--I don't know why people do drugs when they can just get high off reading. At least, I find reading that enjoyable; I suppose other people don't.

    The photo above includes books I acquired prior to today as well, including some older editions of Sense and Sensibility and Middlemarch, which I got for free. Highlights from today's trip include Remix, by Lawrence Lessig, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, and Before the Dawn, by Nicolas Wade.

    I'm looking forward to reading all of these, as well as the nine books I borrowed from the library today. This is how I intend…

    Read more…

  25. Further evidence that I lack common sense

    The hooks on the back of my door We all have humbling experiences that remind us we aren't as smart as we think we are. And even if we are that smart, sometimes we still lack common sense, and other times we just plain don't think.

    A couple of days ago, I woke up to the a slow but inexorable cracking noise coming from the vicinity of my bedroom door. Sometimes my cat scratches at my door in order to gain entry, oblivious as to my current state of consciousness. This sound wasn't like a cat scratching, however, which was why I had trouble placing it at first. Unlike the frantic scrabbling noise of claw on wood, this had the deliberate sound of something going horribly, horribly wrong.

    Several seconds later, the sight of the hooks on the back of my door falling out, taking my coat with them, confirmed this fear.

    My library book bag I had stupidly placed my library book bag on these hooks. When the bag is empty, this isn't a problem. Yet as I gradually fill up the bag with each book I read, it becomes heavier, adding strain to the hooks.

    My brother originally installed the hooks; he was also the one who affixed them to…

    Read more…

  26. Top 10 best and worst books I read in 2008

    I had originally intended to eschew the "best of 2008" and "worst of 2008" trend that always appears at the end of the year.((I still intend to avoid resolutions.)) However, one of the best websites I discovered in 2008 was Goodreads. Since joining in May, I can't recommend it enough. A self-proclaimed bibliophile, much of my leisure time goes toward reading. Thanks to a terrible memory, I have trouble recalling the particulars of books I've read; my reviews usually emerge as hazy generalizations that make me feel like I didn't read the book at all. Continuing my trend of using technology to replace my memory, Goodreads helps me organize my books; I can keep track not only of books I've read, but I also add books I want to read. It's pretty much awesome.

    So I thought, since I can actually remember what books I read this year, why not post a top 10 list of the best and worst books I read in 2008? Technically, this is "best and worst since May 2008", since that's when I started using Goodreads. Even so, I had trouble paring down each list to only ten books--I can only imagine it'll be…

    Read more…

  27. Online/Offline is a false dichotomy

    Two months ago I read The Numerati, in which Stephen Baker discusses how technology--particularly the Internet--is affecting marketing techniques and how businesses and individuals manage their data. Now that we have the tools and understanding to mathematically model more behaviour than ever before, there's a new group of people--the eponymous Numerati--at the forefront of this information revolution.

    One of the concerns Baker briefly addresses is privacy. On the Internet, this has always been an issue, but the surge in popularity of social networking this year makes it even more relevant. MySpace and Facebook have made headlines with the Lori Drew case and the launch of identity management Facebook Connect.((Google Friend Connect gets no respect. Poor OpenSocial!)) What was once a matter of "privacy" is now a question of the most appropriate mechanism for managing the convergence of one's offline and online personae.

    And I can't help but feel that some people are missing the point.

    What is Privacy?

    Like "Web 2.0", we tend to throw the term "privacy" around quite a bit without much thought to what we actually want when we demand it. Does this merely mean we want our bank account details safe? Or do…

    Read more…

  28. Bring me your written word!

    More books I should not have bought

    I did a terrible thing today. I bought more books.

    This is how it works: Chapters is located in a mega-lot that also includes Staples, Future Shop, and Wal-Mart, any of which I may need to visit a couple of times a month to purchase stuff. However, when my body comes in proximity to Chapters, my addiction centre sends signals to my legs to move in that general direction. Once in Chapters, I am utterly at the mercy of how the sales staff has laid out their enticing displays.

    The books on the left are from a previous expedition--actually, the two Umberto Eco books and Sundiver (the book I'm reading right now) came from Chapters Online. I love their shipping. The book with the spine faced away from the camera is Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. I forgot to turn it the proper way before I snapped this photo. Stephen Baker was interviewed in a recent episode of Spark, so I decided to purchase his book. Similarly, I bought The Stillborn God today because Mark Lilla was on Ideas.

    The books on the right are from today's expedition. My dad generously orders Chapters gift cards with his…

    Read more…

  29. Read Neverwhere online or download it for free

    Last February, I drew your attention to Harper Collins' free online browsing of American Gods. Well, they are doing if again, this time with Neverwhere!

    You can read it for free or download it as a PDF. You don't get to keep it forever (the PDF will self-destruct in thirty days) but it's an excellent offering nonetheless.

    I mean, I could go off on a tangent about how self-destructing PDFs is an example of "tethered appliances" taking over the Internet and taking away our control over what content we can access. Then I could casually mention Jonathan Zittrain's The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It. But I won't.

  30. Yay for reading!

    Holy books, Batman!

    Literacy is wonderful. I love reading. I spent most of this summer reading Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, fed to me by my coworker. So I went to the library for the first time this summer last week and got out the books you see in the stack on the right. Three of those books are the second or fifth book in a series, however, so I'll need to read the other books in those series before I can begin reading them. Naturally I made a list of books I wanted to get at the library. However, I forgot the list at home, and I ended up not needing it anyway, because I pretty much took home the New Books shelf, as I often do.

    But first, The Pillars of the Earth! I bought that copy for my friend Carly for Christmas. She foolishly((Never mention to me that you have nothing to read or that you are planning to read book x but don't have it. Many a friend has realized the error of such statements in my presence.)) mentioned that she was intending to read The Pillars of the Earth, and she did indeed have…

    Read more…

  31. Read the diaries of George Orwell

    George Orwell was an English author of great talent. In addition to Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, his two most well-known works of fiction, he was a journalist and an essayist. His topics varied; he covered politics and philosophy, as well as the evolving nature of language. Nineteen Eighty-Four has had a profound affect on our culture, introducing phrases like "Big Brother" into the English language. I'm certain that Orwell would shudder to learn that a term from one of his novels has become the title of a reality TV show . . . but I don't think he'd be all that surprised.

    Beginning Saturday, August 9, The United Kingdom's Orwell Prize will serialize Orwell's diary online. Apparently this date is significant, as it marks 70 years since the day Orwell first began writing his diary. The website will publish one entry a day until 2012, 70 years after Orwell stopped writing his diary. Seventy years ago would be 1938, so this means we get to read the diary of a brilliant writer watching Europe descend into World War II.

    I've already subscribed to the feed from the Orwell diaries blog.

  32. The hypocrisy of age ratings

    Let me begin by saying that I don't support age rating of books (i.e., saying "this is for ages 8-12, this is for young adults, this is for adults..."). However, when you look at how we rate our other content by age, it seems hypocritical, does it not?

    Games and movies receive official ratings that state whether or not the content of those products is suitable for a certain audience. Sometimes, the law enforces these ratings. That means if you're under 18, you can't get into an R-rated movie (without an adult). But you can go and buy a book that may have the same graphic scenes as an R-rated movie, and the cashier at the store doesn't stop you. They don't card you. (At least, they didn't card me when I was under 18.)

    Seems like we have a double standard here. I know, I know: books aren't as "visual" as movies or games. Reading about mass violence or sexuality, reading a curse word, that isn't the same as seeing and hearing it. Well I think that insults the average reader's imagination. And even if it doesn't compare to graphical depictions, wouldn't a book's descriptions, if done well enough,…

    Read more…

  33. This is your brain. This is your brain on books.

    Every day I find myself becoming more of an autodidact whose primary goal is to propagate knowledge. Seems like a pretty worthy goal for a set of self-replicating DNA, no? After all, that's all we--everything in the universe--are: information, in one form or another.

    My thirst for knowledge is perhaps my most consistent trait as far back as I can remember. I loved and continue to love to read. When I first got MSN (because I was jealous of my younger brother), the next step I took was to learn HTML so I could create my own website. From there it ... sort of snowballed :fear: (as this site evidences). The Internet is an autodidact's dream: a nearly limitless, ever-updating source of information. Thanks to Google, Wikipedia, and the Oxford English Dictionary, I can learn the answer to most questions or the definition of a word (still not sure about that whole group of groundhogs issue, however). I read sites like Lifehacker regularly, learning about subjects as varied as technology to productivity to cooking. The Internet's vast potential for education is enough to make me love it, despite of its drawbacks that some critics use to declare technology…

    Read more…

  34. Read American Gods online for free

    As previously mentioned, Neil Gaiman and Harper Collins have put the entire text of American Gods online. You can read it for free here. :drool:

    I own a copy of American Gods, of course, so it's redundant for me. Nevertheless, it's extremely cool because, hey, let's face it: it's free stuff. And it exposes more people to Neil Gaiman and one of his wonderful novels.

    So, as the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation says, Share and Enjoy!™

    Update (2011): People keep finding this post somehow. I suspect they are googling for "read American Gods for free" or something of that sort, to which I say: dude, local library. Book piracy is dumb. Anyway, I keep getting comments saying, "It's not the whole book! It's just an excerpt!" This blog post was written in 2008. The entire book was available, back in 2008, and then after a certain amount of time, they removed the entire book and replaced it with an excerpt. Deal with it.

  35. Free stuff

    Got your attention, didn't I?

    Neil Gaiman, one of the greatest authors of our era, is going to offer one of his books online for free to celebrate the seventh birthday of his blog. But that's not the best part. We get to choose which book! Head on over to his blog and vote for the book you want to see online for free. Take his advice, though, and instead of voting necessarily for your favourite book, vote for the one you'd give to a friend. I just introduced a friend of mine to Neil Gaiman and lent her my copy of American Gods.

  36. Mr. Idaho. Surprised to see me?

    I've finished Sandworms of Dune, the final installment of the Dune saga. Originally conceived by Frank Herbert, who wrote six novels before his death, his son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have written six prequels based on the material left behind by Herbert. Since then, they tackled the challenge of completing the famed "Dune 7", the conclusion of the story arc begun in Chapterhouse Dune. This book they split up into two: Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune.

    I love the Dune saga. It is perhaps my favourite serious science fiction novel, because it's just written so well, and it's so wonderful to read. The prequels will never be as good as Frank Herbert's original works, even if they are based on his notes and plot ideas. I like Kevin J. Anderson as an author--but that's one problem. The books have more of Anderson's voice than Herbert's. They are pale shadows compared to the original six novels--enjoyable, but not as fulfilling. I experienced the same problem with these last two sequels, and now that I've read the conclusion, I must say that I'm disappointed.

    Spoiler warning below.

    So basically in Sandworms of Dune, it…

    Read more…

  37. Universal warming

    As I've said previously, I'm tired of the repetitive fearmongering being done in the name of our "global warming" crusade. It's another example of herd mentality exacerbating a crisis that it is supposed to be solving. Last century it was nuclear weapons, this century it's global warming.

    Well wake up people, and stop being so selfish! After all, we are not the only planet in this universe. There are many other planets out there that are heating up. In fact, I've "discovered" a dangerous new phenomenon that must be stopped! Universal warming.

    Here's how it goes. We constantly produce information. Information is useless without transmission; it only becomes usable when conveyed from one state to another (i.e., from person to person). Transmitting information requires energy. As energy is used, entropy in the system increases. To demonstrate, take talking for example. If you talk about something, you are transmitting information. This means you are increasing the net entropy of the universe. Everything you do increases entropy, unfortunately.

    Why is entropy bad? Because entropy is the tendency of a system toward increasing disorder. As entropy increases, the amount of usable energy declines. Eventually we'll suffer the heat-death of the universe and the…

    Read more…

  38. Behold, I have finished War and Peace

    You heard me. I'm now among one of the elite who have read War and Peace from beginning to end. Not only that, but I am among the elite who read it for pleasure instead of being forced to read it for some other purpose. If only I could read Russian. :D This actually happened last week, but I never got around to blogging about it.

    Yes, War and Peace was excruciatingly boring at times--particularly when Tolstoy described the battles. I don't care about battles, but at least make it interesting, man! Don't describe the formations. Give me something to stimulate my imagination, honestly! The interaction among most of the main characters was great though.

    After reading this, it strikes me that Tolstoy is essentially the Dickens of Russia. He is an excellent storyteller, but a terrible writer. Sometimes he gets lost in the social commentary and forgets that he does have to advance the plot once and a while; that's what made it boring at times. After all, the last part of the epilogue is just an indulgent treatise on his views of history and how events happen.

    It is worth it, though. It is boring, and it takes…

    Read more…

  39. The death of culture

    Often you'll read one critic or intellectual or another say something along the lines of how Hollywood is destroying the movie industry, creating cheap flicks at the expense of "art" and "culture". And as much as I am sometimes tempted to agree with this cynical evaluation of our entertainment industry, I can't bring myself to jump on that bandwagon. I just can't.

    I have observed that more movies are "packaged" these days. What are "packaged" movies? Well, these are the hits that look and feel like the director simply sent in a form from a mail-order catalogue--he or she filled out the title and main characters, and the company sent back a pre-packaged movie: special effects, music, etc. Movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, and--especially with its third installment--Spider-Man are packaged blockbusters.

    Are packaged movies inherently evil? Does it make a movie bad? Of course not. I like each of those three movie series above--although none of them are particularly spectacular--but they aren't moving and they aren't cathartic. And sometimes you need that. Sometimes you don't need a purging; you just need some action, some humour, and some explosions. The only reservation I carry is…

    Read more…

  40. I know what Stephen Harper is reading. Do you?

    Now you know.

    For you see, Stephen Harper failed to learn a critical lesson of statecraft: never tick off an artist. The problem with annoying an artist, especially someone as influential as Yann Martel, is that artists are, by definition, creative people. And they find very creative, sometimes unexpected ways to get back at those who slight them.

    Of course, since the purpose of an artist is to create, and not destroy, Yann Martel came up with a form of ingenious constructive revenge against Mr. Harper. I won't go into all the details, for they are explained on the site. Suffice it to say that the Canadian government did not pay enough attention to the Canada Council of the Arts' 50th anniversary, and that made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.

    So now Yann Martel has pledged to send Harper a book every two weeks, along with a letter. The books he chooses, he hopes, will offer Harper in his moments of "stillness" suggestions, opportunities, if you will.

    I for one think that this is an interesting idea. Certainly superior to publishing a roasting rant about Harper's policies on someone's…

    Read more…

  41. RIP Kurt Vonnegut

    We'll miss you. :bye:

    What? You expected more? Perhaps some sort of heartfelt testament to my love of his work? I enjoyed Breakfast of Champions and Player Piano. But frankly I'm just too tired at this point in the night to even consider delving into praise of Vonnegut's vast oeuvre. I'm going to sleep.

    Congratulations to Cortney and Vivike for getting into Guelph and Brock, and Guelph and OCAD, respectively! :w00t: Unlike yours truly, who simply had to poke Lakehead with a pointed stick (I don't think they even bothered to check if I was any good at math... they just let me in), these two actually had to send work to get accepted--Viv in particular had to assemble a portfolio, and in the case of OCAD, fly down for an interview.

  42. The invisible dotted wavy brown line

    Shortened weeks are killer. Yes, four-day weekends are awesome. But right now, right before midterm, at a critical juncture? :/ The thesis for my history ISU is due this Thursday. I've sort of got a thesis down, but I'd really feel more comfortable handing it in if I had some solid research to support it before I get in too deep. Unfortunately, I worked tonight and I'm working tomorrow. On the days that I work, I get home at about 8, and I'm too tired for serious work (like research). Methinks I'll just word my thesis very convincingly and then do as much research as I can on the weekend. I'm blogging instead of reading about Locke and Hobbes right now. :D

    On the up side, the first six of the books I ordered from Chapters came in--The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. I've been watching the Sci-Fi Channel series based on the novels, so I want to read the novels, since they sound pretty interesting.

    Anyway, back to history. Thanks for taking the time to read about my laziness! :)

  43. Missing Media

    As I continue to expand my boundaries of knowledge by reading and watching more books and movies, it occurs to me that there are some books/movies that are regarded as "classics" by culture, but that I've never had a chance to actually experience the whole way through. An example of this is It's A Wonderful Life--classic Christmas movie, but I guess because it's been played over and over on TV so much, I never really sit down to watch it, so I've never seen the whole thing.

    What are some books and movies that constantly pervade your life, but that you've never actually taken the time to read or watch in their entirety?

  44. American Gods

    American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, is one of the best stories I have ever encountered. I once read it, oh, must have been two to three years ago. Then I bought it from Chapters last week on a whim, even though I barely remembered the plot. When it arrived and I picked it up and started to read, I instantly felt better. Just being able to sink into the universe that Gaiman creates with his words.

    The tale is compelling, and it blows my mind. Very few books do that for me--I enjoy most of the books that I read. Some of them I find hard to put down (lately, for example, I have been reading some Jennifer Fallon. She is no Gaiman, but I still hurry to reach the end of her books). But my memory isn't that great, and they slowly slip away. Dune, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, American Gods ... these books resonate and impart something to me that transcends that. It's why books are so great.

    I'm going to try and read my entire novel in one sitting now. I finished the second draft a few days ago, and I have found…

    Read more…

  45. Time for a break

    I finished The Da Vinci Code yesterday, my English teacher lent me the illustrated edition for March Break. It was awesome! The plot is compelling and excellently constructed, and the characters are pretty realistic. The ending was slightly rushed, in my opinion, and not as fulfilling as I would have liked.

    Speaking of the March Break . . . it's over now. It was fun while it lasted. Would I like more time? Yes, of course, but I'm also glad to be going back to school. Besides, it's Easter Weekend at the end of this week, and Space is airing a miniseries marathon. Part 1 of Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars on Friday, and Part 2 on Saturday! All 3 parts of Frank Herbert's Children of Dune back to back on Friday! Muwahahahahah!