Category Archives: Blog

Kindle cover

I absolutely love my Kindle, but it doesn’t come with any sort of protective case out of the box. I shopped around and priced some cases online, but anything that is both functional and fashionable is out of my price range. So on the weekend, I made one myself.


2011 Reading List

I started a survey to select the 50 books I’m planning to read for the challenge group I joined on Shelfari. This is what looks like the final lineup, listed alphabetically by author:

  1. Raptor Red – Bakker, Robert T.
  2. A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters – Barnes, Julian
  3. Fahrenheit 451 – Bradbury, Ray
  4. A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bryson, Bill
  5. Naked Lunch – Burroughs, William S.
  6. Fledgling – Butler, Octavia
  7. Ender’s Game – Card, Orson Scott
  8. The Songs of Distant Earth – Clarke, Arthur C.
  9. Last of the Mohicans – Cooper, James Fenimore
  10. The Passage – Cronin, Justin
  11. Raise the Titanic! – Cussler, Clive
  12. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Dick, Philip K.
  13. Silas Marner – Eliot, George
  14. The Neverending Story – Ende, Michael
  15. Madame Bovary – Flaubert, Gustave
  16. Daughters of a Coral Dawn – Forrest, Katherine V.
  17. How to Read Novels Like a Professor – Foster, Thomas C.
  18. The Princess Bride – Goldman, William
  19. Stardust: The Cosmic Recycling of Stars, Planets and People – Gribbin, John
  20. Far from the Madding Crowd – Hardy, Thomas
  21. The Sun Also Rises – Hemingway, Ernest
  22. God is Not Great – Hitchens, Christopher
  23. A Doll’s House – Ibsen, Henrik
  24. A Prayer for Owen Meany – Irving, John
  25. The Turn of the Screw – James, Henry
  26. A Language Older Than Words – Jensen, Derrick
  27. On The Road – Kerouac, Jack
  28. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Larsson, Stieg
  29. A Wrinkle in Time – L’Engle, Madeleine
  30. A Fine Balance – Mistry, Rohinton
  31. A Portrait of Jennie – Nathan, Robert
  32. The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe – Nicoll, Charles
  33. Inferno – Niven, Larry
  34. 1984 – Orwell, George
  35. Common Sense – Paine, Thomas
  36. Whitechapel Gods – Peters, S.M.
  37. Woodsburner: A Novel – Pipkin, John
  38. Reading Like a Writer – Prose, Francine
  39. Contact – Sagan, Carl
  40. Franny and Zooey – Salinger, J.D.
  41. No Exit – Sartre, Jean Paul
  42. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Smith, Betty
  43. Zodiac – Stephenson, Neal
  44. Walden – Thoreau, Henry David
  45. Infinite Jest – Wallace, David Foster
  46. The Glass Castle – Walls, Jeannette
  47. The Importance of Being Earnest – Wilde, Oscar
  48. The Stone Gods – Winterson, Jeanette
  49. The Voyage Out – Woolf, Virginia
  50. Enchanted Glass – Wynne Jones, Diana

On Audiobooks and the Pleasure of Being Read To

I have a confession to make: I love audiobooks.  I just spent the last hour poking around on Librivox.org, listening to fairy tales read aloud by devoted volunteers, and I was reminded of an argument I had earlier this year.  I told one of my friends that I’d been listening to an audiobook version of the book we were studying in class, and he was horrified.  He could see no reason to turn to an audiobook when I was capable of reading the text myself.  The only excuses for their use that he could rationalise were listen while performing a relatively mindless task, like driving or exercising, or when vision prohibits reading.

I readily agreed, of course, that these are wonderful reasons.  However, I maintain they aren’t by any stretch of the imagination the *only* reasons to listen to audiobooks.  While I admit that my first love will likely always be the strong physical sense of a paper book, audiobooks speak to a completely different sensual base.  The form of books compliments their content with lush surfaces, evocative layouts and designs, tactile and olfactory sensations, and endless more endearing qualities that I can’t do justice to here, but until they are read aloud, much of the poetry is lost.  The sound of the words adds a texture to the story that can be skimmed over during silent reading.  When a text is read aloud, even if I read it to myself, I find that the rhythms and cadence of the prose take on a clearer meaning.

Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) and Christine Nilsson (1843-1921) by Julius Leblanc Stewart

Reading a book aloud to myself helps me to understand how I feel the author intends to be read.  The emotional inflection that I expect may be different from what others ascribe to the text, and hearing someone else read their meaning into it can be very enlightening.  Sometimes an audiobook gives me a fresh perspective on a text that I hadn’t considered in my own reading.  Something as subtle as changing the pacing of a scene can throw unexpected insights into my analysis.  The insights that an actor brings to their performance can invite responses fromthe audience that open up new facets to old arguments.

On a basic social level, listening to someone read a story aloud reminds me of childhood.  As children, we’re read aloud to a great deal.  As we get older, we tend to lose most of that immediate sharing of a written text.  There is something very intimate about reading together; it invites the participants to enjoy a communal emotional response, facilitating discussion among the audience.  Public performance is a valuable aspect of creative culture, and belittling recorded audio performances of written texts denies them a deserved position in the tradition.  There is a deep pleasure to be had in being read to, and a well crafted audiobook can perform the task in a very similar fashion.

Honestly, I don’t think I’m being unreasonable here.  But then again, anyone who can’t see the allure of Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter must be a hopeless case.