Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Report #127 - Steal Like an Aritist and Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon
Book 51 of 52
Book 51 1/2 of 52
Page count 160
Page count 224

I decided to group these two books and call it one simply because they were very quick reads and work incredibly well together.

Steal Like an Artist -  is a cheerful look at creativity.  Kleon demonstrates how art, or any other human endeavour, is pushed forward by stealing the ideas of others and building on them to create your own work.  Basically he gives the reader permission to be influenced by others.

It is terrific.

Show Your Work! - takes a practical look at how to make yourself known to a wider audience by using the great power of the internet.

I found this book incredibly illuminating and have started to use some of his ideas on my other blog.

Read them both.  You won't be disappointed.

You should also visit Austin Kleon's website you may find yourself diving into his world.

Also Austin Kleon

Monday, January 19, 2015

Book Report #126 - The Martian by Andy Weir

Book 50 of 52
Page count 369

This is my kind of science fiction.  It's known as Hard Sci Fi in that it is rooted in current science.  What I loved about this story is that it was firmly rooted in today's engineering.  Yes, the nuts and bolts of it all.

If you remember the movie Apollo 13, then you remember the scenes where the crew and engineers on the ground, would come up with all kinds of unique, ad hoc solutions to problems.  Well, this book is a lot like that, but on Mars.

Astronaut Mark Watney's crew leaves him behind during a mission-ending dust storm.  He was hit with some flying equipment and and blown down wind.  All his environmental suit instruments indicated that he had died and his crew mates were forced to evacuated the surface without him.

What follows is a story of survival filled with problems, interesting solutions, setbacks and dark humor.

I loved this book.

Andy Weir's website is here:

Andy Weir

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin


Oh my god!  This story is just as chilling as it was when it was first published in 1954. 

As the title suggests, the universe does not care about good intentions. There is no compromise when it comes to physics and mathematics. 

In this story we run into the desire of a young girl to surprise her older brother. But the laws of physics and the good of the many, to borrow a quote from Star Trek, has something to say about it. 

This is an excellent story and one that should not be missed by any science fiction fan. 

I read this in the July 2011 issue of Lightspeed magazine which includes a follow up short story called The Old Equations by Jake Kerr. 

The original story is now in the public domain and can easily be found with a Google search. Or, if you like you can find it HERE.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Book Report #125 - The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Book 49 of 52
Page count 550

I have no idea how to do justice to such a lyrical, beautiful, desperate, tragic and important work.

Zusak's use of language is a thing of beauty.  The narrator was unique and I thoroughly enjoyed the style of story telling.

We follow the life, triumphs and tragedies of Liesel Meminger a young German girl caught in the circumstances of the Second World War.

I believe this novel will stay with me for weeks before I can shake the effects of it.  As sad as it was I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to read it.

Highly recommended.  Not for the faint of heart.

He does not have a dedicated website.  His Wikipedia page is HERE.

Markus Zusak

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Without a book, Gasp!

I feel naked. 

I left my book behind and now I have nothing to read on my commute. 

This feels very strange to me. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Book Report #124 - This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Book 48 of 52
Page count 339

What a wonderful book.

Ordinarily I don't gravitate to literary fiction, not enough happens, but this one was a delight to read.  It was also made into a film that I am looking forward to seeing. 

Judd Foxman's father has passed away and the family has been asked to sit shiva in his memory.  At the same time his marriage is also falling apart.  The ritual brings his entire family together, for a week of conflict, resentment and, ultimately, understanding.

Both my daughter and wife have read it, loved it, and wanted to hear my take on it.  Jonathan Tropper writes with the honest voice of every man.  This is an author who understands how to articulate the way men think and view the world.

Although the foundation of the story is completely sad it is an uplifting, funny and honest look at relationships.    Through the forced proximity of sitting shiva we get to see the cracks in the lives of everyone else.  It is the distance we keep between each other that promotes the belief that other people have their shit together better than we do.  Tropper reminds us that everybody's lives are a mess.

Tropper also has a way of turning a phrase that I fell in love with.  Here is how he opens the book:

"Dad's Dead," Wendy says offhandedly, like it's happened before, like it happens every day.  It can be grating, this act of hers, to be utterly unfazed at all times, even in the face of tragedy.  "He died two hours ago."
"How's Mom doing?"
"She's Mom, you know?  She wanted to know how much to tip the coroner."

In another moment Judd describes just how hurt and angry he is his wife's lover (who happens to be his own boss):
 "Wade could not get enough pancreatic cancer to satisfy me."

These are dark, funny and insightful lines and the book is filled with such gems.

Highly recommended.

Jonathan Tropper's website is HERE.

Jonathan Tropper

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Book A Week Challenge.

As I near the end of this challenge I find myself thinking about what to focus on next.

A book a week may not be a stretch for some but it was for me.  It kept me focused on the act of reading, which was what I wanted to cultivate all along.  Now I seldom find myself without a book within easy reach.

Some weeks were more difficult than others; there were times where I started two or three books but not latching on until I found the fourth one.  I found myself looking first at the page count before considering it.  If it was too long I'd add it to the "after the challenge" pile.

For 2015 I plan to slow it down a bit, I think 25 to 30 is plenty for me.  I also want to take up the challenge of reading more short stories.  I've got loads of collections and fiction magazines that are just begging to be read.  I find shorts to be a challenge all by themselves; without the room of a novel to explore characters or multiple plot lines - they are a different kind of read.

I'm going to make the target of 100 shorts for 2015.  That's only two a week which I should be able to do easily enough, at least I hope so.

I will still dive in to the Star Trek universe on a regular basis but my love of science fiction has lead me back to my first love: the space program.  Over 2014 I've been collecting many books on the subject of the Apollo program and today's robotic space exploration so I'll be reading through all of that.

My unofficial goal is to read more history, it could be related to the space program, Canadian history or the Cold War. I also like reading "this is how our world works" offerings.

Like always; I will follow my nose but I will slow it down so that I might have the luxury of savouring something instead of having my next book in the back of my mind.

What the Book-A-Week Challenge has taught me is that I love reading and it has helped me develop the skill to be continually doing so.  For that I am exceedingly satisfied with the result.

All the best for 2015.

Keep turning pages.