Kara Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

35 Articles Tagged with “reading”

  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

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  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…

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  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…

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  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…

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  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…

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  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…

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  7. Getting back in the game

    I don't make New Year's resolutions, but if I did, one of them would be to blog more often. I fell out of the habit last year because I was so focused on finishing my new blog platform. Now that I'm using it, I really don't have any excuse. Look how many posts I've squeezed into January! February should hopefully be even better.

    Aside from the rash of depressing celebrity deaths, this month has been a good start to the year. My move to a VPS went well. My work continues to be fulfilling and interesting. However, I haven't been reading as much as I should be. Last January I read 11 books, and this year I've only read 7. I know, I know, that's more than some people read in a year, and I'm not trying to be all hurr hurr, I reads all the books! But I set an extremely ambitious goal of 160 books this year, and this is not a great start! I don't have a trick or a special talent that lets me read so many books a year—it's just that I spend a lot of my free time reading. And when I…

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  8. 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

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  9. Libraries make my day

    I feel the need to make note on this blog that I’m 25 now. Since Saturday.

    I started a blog post last week about how I felt to be 25. Essentially it boiled down to “I don’t feel like an adult yet still” and then digressed into morose ruminations on the cognitive dissonance of being Facebook friends with people from high school I never talk to. It was entirely too serious and lugubrious considering that, on the whole, I’m feeling like I’m in a good place with my life right now. Maybe at some point I’ll revise the post to have a slightly more generalized, philosophical tone.

    Instead, to mark my 25th birthday, let me talk about something that has been a major factor in shaping me as a person: reading, and more specifically, libraries. It’s Banned Books Week in the United States, and that seems like as good a time as any to talk about my bibliophilia.

    I went to the library today—my second time since moving back home. The books I borrowed on my first visit were due today. I didn’t really need more books—my dad gave me quite a few for my birthday, and I bought…

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  10. Top 10 best books of 2013

    Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook have probably heard the story of my epic journey to return to England. I’ll record it for posterity in a later blog post, when I have the time.

    For now, I simply wanted to note that I’ve published my annual list of best books I read in 2013.

    For the first time since I started making these lists, I’m not doing a companion “worst books” list. The books I read in 2013 were just that good! Well, there weren’t enough really bad ones, so I don’t think that a “worst” list would have the same significance. Here’s hoping I get a few stinkers in 2014.

  11. Five years of uninterrupted book reviews

    Next March will be my website’s tenth anniversary and also marks the anniversary of when I feel I became a citizen of the Web. I was jealous of my brother’s “MSN account” and demanded one of my own; from there, I taught myself HTML and built a laughable Geocities website. Indeed, you can still read some blog posts from that time. It’s hard to believe I’ve built up such a lengthy catalogue of my thoughts and feelings through essentially my entire adolescence. (It’s also somewhat scary!)

    Of course, that’s next year’s anniversary. Tonight, though, as I posted yet another book review to Goodreads, I realized I missed another arbitrary base-ten milestone anniversary.

    For the past five years, I have written (and shared) a review of every book I’ve read.

    I joined Goodreads in May of 2008 on the recommendation of a friend, who was a casual user of the site. I quickly became passionate about using Goodreads to organize, interrogate, and express how I read. My to-read shelf has since exploded to encompass nearly 900 titles, and it is going to continue growing. At this rate, if I were to read the books in the order they have…

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  12. Hugo-nominated short stories, 2013 edition

    For the past few years I have paid for the privilege of voting in the Hugo Awards. This comes with access to a voter’s packet of digital copies of most of the nominated texts, from novels to short stories and even some of the related works. It’s much less expensive than it would be to buy all the books individually, not to mention hunt down the publications in which the various shorter works were published (though, as digital publishing makes it easier to publish short works standalone online, this is less of an issue).

    I had already read two of the nominees for Best Novel: Redshirts and Throne of the Crescent Moon, both of which I enjoyed but neither of which I feel are quite “Hugo material”. I recently finished 2312, which I didn’t enjoy as much but, paradoxically, feel probably should get the award! I shall continue to work through the novels, but here on my blog I’ll write some posts about the other categories.

    Normally each category has five nominated works. This year, only three short stories swung enough of votes to meet the threshold for nomination. All three are strong contenders, and all three…

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  13. Thoughts on Amazon buying Goodreads

    Last Thursday my Twitter feed erupted with people talking about Amazon buying Goodreads. As I read the first few, sporadic tweets, I blinked incredulously. Was I reading that right? I scrolled down and saw that I had missed a tweet from the official Goodreads account making the announcement. I followed some links and landed in the feedback forum’s official announcement topic. Two days and more than 800 posts later, a particularly vocal portion of the Goodreads member base has voiced its concern and disappointment over this turn of events. There has been quite a bit of rage-quitting and table-flipping in the past few days.

    I had to admit that, after those first few confused moments, my reaction was similar. Amazon has not exactly had a stellar track record in terms of good corporate citizenship. (To be fair, unlike Google, it has never claimed it wouldn’t be evil.) In particular, Amazon has made no secret of its desire to achieve a monopsony in the book trade. Its acquisition of Goodreads seems like yet another step along that path, a path that I don’t think really benefits consumers. Finally, I share many of the reservations expressed in that topic about how…

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  14. 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…

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  15. 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.

  16. How I read so much

    The year is almost over, and unless I finish a book tomorrow, it looks like I will end 2011 with 115 books read. Not too shabby, I suppose. Far cry from my goal, which was to tie with 2009’s best of 156 books. But still pretty good, all things considered. Indeed, from time to time people exclaim their awe at how much I read. I don’t like to draw too much attention to the quantity, which is after all no indicator of quality, because it feels too much like bragging. But today someone on Goodreads asked me how I manage to read so much, and as I was composing my reply, I realized it was getting too lengthy. Lengthy enough for a blog post, in fact.

    It’s quite simple. I have a time machine, you see, and that allows me to go back in time and spend more time reading throughout the day….

    Well, I wish that weren’t so much science fiction!

    Last year, which was a very good year for me, I averaged 2.6 days per book; this year I have been slightly busier, so I took 3.1 days per book. Considering that most people, i.e., people who do…

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  17. 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

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  18. OMG, Hugo novellas! (Novellae?)

    Having dispatched the Hugo-nominated works for the short story and the novelette categories, I'm now getting into the big guns: novellas and novels. I love long-form fiction, and so I look forward to reading all of these longer works. Here are my thoughts on the novellas. I wrote this post over the course of several weeks as I worked through the novellas while reading other things, so my reviews begin verbosely and diminish as my memory has faded. On the bright side, I reviewed two of these on Goodreads, so you can enjoy some detailed analysis over there.

    "The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window", by Rachel Swirsky

    In this wonderfully original story, Rachel Swirsky introduces us to Naeva, a practitioner of "woman's magic" in the Land of Flowered Hills. She has been a companion of Queen Rayneh since childhood, but Rayneh betrays her on some bad advice from her councillors and imprisons Naeva's spirit in a crystal, preventing Naeva from ever finding rest. She must endure centuries and then millennia of a half-aware stasis during which she is intermittently yanked back into the world of the living, summoned by a parade of practitioners.

    Naeva is…

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  19. OMG, Hugo novelettes!

    I continue my reading of this year's Hugo nominees with the novelettes. As with the short stories, all of these are available online, and I encourage you to read them.

    "Eight Miles", by Sean McMullen

    Although I wouldn't call "Eight Miles" steampunk, it is definitely a cousin of that genre--perhaps we can call it "Victorian chic." McMullen embraces the sense of wonder and pure flights of fancy that recall the science fiction of the early 20th century--indeed, even going as far back as H.G. Wells and The Time Machine. This is a story that might have been written in that era, for it relies on ideas that run counter to our contemporary knowledge of the solar system--and that's fine.

    I admit to being prejudiced in favour of flashy weapons, super-sleek spaceships, aliens, and robots. However, "Eight Miles" is still an appealing work because it's a fascinating story. The main character gets drawn into a story that has already begun and must make some tough decisions that rapidly take him outside of his comfort zone. Much like Wells' time traveller, McMullen's protagonist, Parkes, is an inventor, and this plays an important role, both in what he chooses to do…

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  20. OMG, Hugo short stories! (2011 edition)

    As I mentioned last month, I am voting in the Hugos and therefore reading as many of the Hugo-nominated works as I can before the July 31 deadline. So far I have read all of the short stories and novelettes and am going to embark upon the novellas this weekend. Here are my thoughts on the Hugo-nominated short stories.

    "Amaryllis", by Carrie Vaughn

    I'm ambivalent about "Amaryllis," because there's a nice concept here but that the actual story is too simple. as far as the tone goes, it is perfect. I got teary-eyed at the end as well, despite my inner critic going, "The resolution was too simple! There's not enough conflict! I want another cup of tea!" (That is how my inner critic stresses syllables, apparently.)

    Vaughn very deftly avoids trying to do too much with her short story, which is a problem I often have when I try to write them myself. It's a very simple concept, and she doesn't attempt to go any further and tell us much more about the world than the main character's immediate surroundings. I like that, because it keeps the mood intimate.

    The simplicity of the setting…

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  21. Stalk my reading even more intensely!

    On Tuesday I launched reading portal for my site. Basically, this is a one-stop place to learn about what I am reading, what I was reading (and what I thought about it), the best and worst books I've read each year, etc. Although I've got both my current reading and recent reading on the homepage, the reading portal is much more detailed. You can actually read the fifteen most recent reviews I've written, and there are links to my detailed yearly reading stats.

    The coolest feature of the reading section is the one that has been finished and live for a while now: book lists. I can create a list of books, with their associated reviews, based on any criterion I desire. This was motivated by my annual best/worst books of the year list, which in previous years I posted directly to my blog. I am also slowly going through my Goodreads account and creating lists corresponding to series I have read or am reading. This is a nice way to see, in general, what kind of books I like to read (and a nice way for me to track what series I've read).

    I've been using Symphony

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  22. 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…

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  23. 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.

  24. 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

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  25. 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…

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  26. 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…

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  27. Bring me your math! All your math!

    Tonight Stargate Universe premiered, and I wanted to share my thoughts on it. However, I feel guilty blogging about a television show when I haven't blogged about arguably more important matters, such as life.

    With a month behind me, I feel good about the school year so far. I only have four courses this year: Introductory Analysis, Partial Differential Equations (PDEs), Introduction to Mathematical Probability, and Speculative Fiction. Three math courses and an English course. All of my math courses are interesting, and I was excited to take the English course the moment I saw it offered. I'll discuss it first, since the rest of the post will be about math.

    My Speculative Fiction course is covering only science fiction this section--which is fine. Although I love literature in general and would gladly have taken something like Victorian Literature if this course hadn't been offered, the chance to read and discuss science fiction for credit is not something I was going to overlook! We're reading The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, The Left Hand of Darkness, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Neuromancer, Dawn, and Singularity Sky. We also have to…

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  28. Avatars, zombies, and nephews, oh my!

    More Reasons to Love the Guild

    I've already preached my love for The Guild, a webseries by talented comedians and actors, including Felicia Day. Well, even as they work on a third season, they've released a fantastic music video:

    Who Said Math Can't Be Fun?

    Well you were wrong, whoever you were. Mathematicians from Carleton University and the University of Ottawa modelled different responses to a zombie apocalypse and concluded that the best way to survive a short-term zombie apocalypse is to impulsively eradicate all zombies. Ladies and gentlemen, load your engines and start your shotguns.

    I'm an Uncle

    Baby Clark

    In July, my sister, Tara, gave birth to a very little boy named Clark! So I've got a nephew, which makes me an uncle, and that is sublime. I got to meet Clark today for the first time, which called for the typical point-and-shoot photos that wind up on Flickr somehow.((I blame the gnomes, if only because they haven't unionized yet like the orcs did.)) If I'm short on words about Clark, it's only because I don't really know him yet--he doesn't know himself yet, since he's only a month old and still new to the world.…

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  29. 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…

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  30. 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…

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  31. 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…

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  32. 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.

  33. 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…

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  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.