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Books & Reviews

Look what is in your library book

In Antwerp, they found herpes and cocaine

Jessica Roy writes for Time that the professors—experts in toxicology and bacteriology—found the ten most popular books at the Antwerp library and screened them for germs and other substances. All ten of the titles ended up testing positive for traces of cocaine, which suggests that Belgian library patrons are having just the BEST time when they borrow, say, Wuthering Heights or the latest offering from Sue Grafton. In all seriousness, Roy reports that the drug wasn’t present in large enough quantities for unsuspecting patrons to feel any effects, but they could end up testing positive for cocaine.

The copies of 50 Shades of Grey, meanwhile, produced even cringe-inducing results, in the form of the herpes virus. E.L. James’s wildly popular erotic novel apparently tested positive for traces of the virus, albeit in minimal enough quantities that the professors assure that there’s no public health risk and no possibility of contracting the STD from contact with the book.

How to publish your own book

 

How to publish a book

In 2011 the publisher of Guy Kawasaki’s New York Times bestseller, Enchantment, could not fill an order for 500 ebook copies of the book. Because of this experience, Guy self-published his next book, What the Plus! and learned first-hand that self-publishing is a complex, confusing, and idiosyncratic process. As Steve Jobs said, “There must be a better way.”

With Shawn Welch, a tech wizard, Guy wrote APE to help people take control of their writing careers by publishing their books. The thesis of APE is simple but powerful: When a self-publisher successfully fills three roles—author, publisher and entrepreneur—the potential benefits are greater than with traditional publishing.

Guy and Shawn call this “artisanal publishing.”

Artisanal publishing features writers who love their craft, and who control every aspect of the process from beginning to end. In this new approach, writers are no longer at the mercy of large, traditional publishers, and readers will have more books to read.

APE is 300 pages of tactical and practical inspiration. People who want a hype-filled, get-rich-quick book should look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you want a comprehensive and realistic guide to self-publishing, APE is for you.

December 1941 by Craig Shirley

December 19411

While on the way to the cabin on Friday, I stopped by Indigo Books and picked up December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World by Craig Shirley.  The book attempts to look at each day of December 1941 in the lead up and aftermath of the attack of Pearl Harbour though a variety of lens to give the month and attack some context.  He examines historical records, news paper accounts and even pop culture as part of this effort to explain the almost instantaneous change in American culture and life because of it’s entry into Word War II.

Pearlharbor

It’s an entertaining read.  I wandered through the almost 600 pages in two days.  I leaned a lot, especially about the difference in American and British views of how to communicate the war (Churchill laid it all out while FDR chose to reveal as little as possible) but in the end it was a very unsatisfying read.  The editing was awful.  The book got countless historical facts wrong (like the tonnage of the Price of Wales or the suggestion that England had 500,000 pilots trained).  The there are sentences like, “It was raking in millions each week, mostly for the top four studios: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros.”  The fourth studio was…  Also Pittsburgh was misspelled.  Things like that drove me crazy.

Pearl14

What was interesting to learn was the totalitarian powers that Congress almost immediately gave FDR to win the war.  What was even more interesting is when you realize that once war was won, those powers were taken away from the President.  It speaks to the ability the United States has to make and remake itself as the context determines it.  It will be interesting to see if the U.S. ever returns to a pre-9/11 mindset.

Rita Hayworth

I think the other thing the book did well was explain the events leading up to Pearl Harbour from Japan’s perspective.  While in no ways does it justify the attack, it does explain a little of what the Japanese were thinking through their militaristic cabinet.  I am not sure that I would recommend the book, there are just simply too many mistakes in it but it wasn’t a bad way to spend the weekend.

Award winner coming through…

It not me but F.S. Michaels, author of the book Monoculture which I have mentioned around here before.  Here are the details.

2011 NCTE Award Winning Book: Monoculture by F.S. MichaelsFIRST-TIME CANADIAN  AUTHOR WINS AMERICA’S GEORGE ORWELL AWARD
NCTE George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language

Canadian author F.S. Michaels has won America’s prestigious 2011 George Orwell Award for the non-fiction debut MONOCULTURE: HOW ONE STORY IS CHANGING EVERYTHING (Red Clover Press, May 2011). Published by Red Clover, a new Canadian independent press, MONOCULTURE has been described as “a provocative investigation of the dominant story of our time.”

ABOUT THE AWARD
The annual George Orwell Award, established in 1975 and given by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), recognizes authors who have made an outstanding contribution to the critical analysis of public discourse. Past recipients include author Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food), Amy Goodman (co-founder, executive producer, and host of the award-winning national daily news program Democracy Now!), Pulitzer Prize-winner Charlie Savage, television host Jon Stewart and the “Daily Show” cast, economist Juliet B. Schor, linguist Noam Chomsky, and cultural critic Neil Postman.

Congratulations!  It is on my soon to be published list of my best reads of 2011.  If you haven’t read it yet, you really need to.  The book changed how I look at much of the world around me.

A DIY Book Journal

Last year it took Mark forever to get started on his written assignments.  He would just freeze and get all stressed and I would have to calm him down and get him focused on what to do.  I thought we had made some progress but he wanted a book the other day and tried to access his line of credit at the Bank of Dad.  I agreed but made him promise to write me a book report on what he learned.  After a couple of days of Mark stressing all out about it, I wrote out a quick outline and things went much smoother and he gave me a pretty good book report without the stress and suffering that often comes with it.  I typed up what I had put together, added a bit of formatting, stole some ideas from some other book journals and printed out 50 copies for him to keep in a binder.  I also saved it to a PDF and uploaded it here in case any of you want to see what I did or make your own book journal for your kids.  I think I am going to put together a weekend trip journal and a Adventure Around Town Journal as well.

30 of the harshest things one author has said to another

Of course the harshest remarks are probably left anonymously on Amazon.com

Ernest Hemingway on William Faulkner: “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”

Mark Twain on Jane Austen: “I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

Other

I am not sure where I first started following Kester Brewin’s writings.  Probably I found some of his stuff on Vaux’s old site and I assume that I heard of his book from either Jonny Baker or Steve Collins’ blog but I ordered The Complex Christ when it came out in England, paid a fortune to have it shipped across the pond and then paid of 18% of Canada’s national debt in import fees.  To this day, it is the most expensive book that I have ever purchased.  It was worth every cent and I paid for it and lead to a fundamental rethinking of my theology and my understanding of the urban context (it was about that time that several of you started to hate what I posted here).

Others for the Kindle by Kester BrewinThe other day on Twitter I was waiting for my Kindle to finally arrive when I asked what book I should order.  Kester came up with and instead of ordering it, I went online to see if Other was available in Canada yet.  It isn’t here in paper form yet but it is available on Kindle and it quickly earned the honour of being the first book I ordered for my Kindle (and hooray, no import fees).

The book hit home for me this week as the debate exploded over political rhetoric in the United States after the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords outside of a Safeway.  Whether or not you agree that themes of violence in political rhetoric contributed to the murders or not, I think all of us agree there is something wrong with how we see people we don’t agree with in this world.  Whether that divide is Christian-atheist, moderate-fundamentalist, liberal-conservative, Israeli-Palestinian, black-white, or whether or not we like Kenny G, we tend to dismiss and deride the opinions of those who we disagree with.  I don’t know if has gotten worse but I suspect it has.  Years ago I used to be a regular viewer of Capital Gang which had the Democrats and Republicans around a table disagreeing.  Not only was the dialogue cordial but they actually seemed to enjoy being around each other.  Now the Republicans are at Fox News and the Democrats are on MSNBC.  Not only are they no longer sitting around the table but they are at competing networks.  There isn’t even an attempt to engage or dialog with each other.

For a wide variety of reasons this has changed how we see and interact with each other and Other tries to address that by looking at the Great Commandment, to love the other.  While that seems obvious, Brewin addresses the situations where Christianity and the church have largely failed to see God’s creation in other people.  As he puts it, what kind of selves do we need to be in order to live in harmony with others?

For me, it’s the biggest question that I wrestle with every day at work and the hardest discussion that we have with staff.  In a context of violence, drugs, and anger, how we deal with the other is a definition of how we see them but also ourselves.  Once the U.S./Canadian edition hits the shelves, I plan to purchase a bunch for our staff because it’s something that we all need to wrestle with everyday… or at least it’s something that I need to do to remind myself to reset myself and look for God in other people every day.

In a time in my life when I am working hard at getting rid of over 1000 books from my library, I am glad I added this one to my Kindle and look forward to always having a paper version on my shelf.

The "Homicide Lexicon" and its rules

Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David SimonI am reading Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon and really enjoying it.  Throughout the book, Simon frequently refers to a set of 10 informal rules that apply in the majority of homicide cases, as detectives soon learn. They are as follows:

  1. Everyone lies. Murderers lie because they have to; witnesses and other participants lie because they think they have to; everyone else lies for the sheer joy of it, and to uphold a general principle that under no circumstances do you provide accurate information to a cop.

  2. The victim is killed once, but a crime scene can be murdered a thousand times.

  3. The initial 10 or 12 hours after a murder are the most critical to the success of an investigation.

  4. An innocent man left alone in an interrogation room will remain fully awake, rubbing his eyes, staring at the cubicle walls and scratching himself in the dark, forbidden places. A guilty man left alone in an interrogation room goes to sleep.

  5. It’s good to be good; it’s better to be lucky.

  6. When a suspect is immediately identified in an assault case, the victim is sure to live. When no suspect has been identified, the victim will surely die.

  7. First, they’re red. Then they’re green. Then they’re black. (Referring to the money that must be spent to investigate a case, and the colors in which open and solved murders are listed on the board)

  8. In any case where there is no apparent suspect, the crime lab will produce no valuable evidence. In those cases where a suspect has already confessed and been identified by at least two eyewitnesses, the lab will give you print hits, fiber evidence, blood typings and a ballistic match.

  9. To a jury, any doubt is reasonable; the better the case, the worse the jury; a good man is hard to find, but 12 of them, gathered together in one place, is a miracle. (Referring to jury trials)

  10. There is no such a thing as a perfect murder.

  11. The (literal) Order of Phoenix

    A spreadsheet plot written out by J.K. Rowling. Her approach to spreadsheet plotting is to divide the columns by chapter number, story timeline, chapter title, main plots and subplots.

    A spreadsheet plot written out by J.K. Rowling. Her approach to spreadsheet plotting is to divide the columns by chapter number, story timeline, chapter title, main plots and subplots. via

    The Tipping Point?

    Seth Godin is done with publishing.

    Traditional book publishers use techniques perfected a hundred years ago to help authors reach unknown readers, using a stable technology (books) and an antique and expensive distribution system.

    The thing is–now I know who my readers are. Adding layers or faux scarcity doesn’t help me or you. As the medium changes, publishers are on the defensive…. I honestly can’t think of a single traditional book publisher who has led the development of a successful marketplace/marketing innovation in the last decade. The question asked by the corporate suits always seems to be, "how is this change in the marketplace going to hurt our core business?" To be succinct: I’m not sure that I serve my audience (you) by worrying about how a new approach is going to help or hurt Barnes & Noble.

    You had me at Wifi

    Kindle with books - graphite

    This looks like the Kindle that will finally make me purchase a e-book reader.

    There are a few new features as well, the most important of which is a new WebKit-based browser. WebKit is the open-source base for all of our favorite mobile web browsers, including those used by the iPhone, iPad, Palm Pre, and various Android devices. The Kindle’s web browser is, due to hardware limitations, not going to be replacing your iPad for web browsing anytime soon, but I was pretty surprised at how usable it is. For any kind of reading (news, blogs, comedy, Wikipedia, that kind of thing), it’s really not bad.

    For me, the most impressive new feature is the screen. Amazon’s previous e-ink screen was fine, but some other readers (like Sony’s Pocket Reader and, arguably, Barnes & Noble’s Nook) packed clearer, sharper screens. Well, not anymore, because the new Kindle’s screen is, bar none, the best e-ink screen I’ve ever seen. It’s fantastically sharp, with excellent contrast (Amazon claims 50% better contrast than any other e-ink display on the market), and it refreshes noticeably faster (Amazon says 20% faster) than the previous generation, which was already pretty quick for e-ink. Amazon has also taken the time to work on the fonts, offering new, more precise font sizes as well as custom-made, very pretty fonts.

    Amazon has also doubled the storage of the new Kindle, so it can store up to about 3,500 books, and has, more impressively, doubled the battery life. With wireless turned off, Amazon rates the Kindle’s battery life as up to one month (and a comparatively pitiful 10 days with it on). A month of battery life! That might get glossed over, but it’s insane that an electronic device (with a 6-inch screen, no less) could last for an entire month on a single charge.

    Goodreads

    Goodreads

    Three of the four of us are using Goodreads around the house.  You can find me at www.goodreads.com/jordoncooper, Wendy at www.goodreads.com/wendycooper and Mark is now at www.goodreads.com/markcooper.  If you want to follow what we are reading and what we think about it, you now can.

    Refresh

    I don’t take a lot of vacation days.  Part of it is the nature of work… about the time I want time off, we are often short staffed.  The bigger issue is me.  I don’t enjoy vacations very much and it’s something that I have worked on more as I have gotten older.

    This week Mark and I are up at the lake for a couple of days of male bonding before Wendy comes up this weekend with Oliver.  The weather has been hot but I don’t have a huge to do list.  Well I had a big to do list but I was reminded this summer but a friend of ours that he spent so much time finishing their family cabin, he didn’t enjoy it as much has he should have.  So Mark and I have cooked meals over an open fire, taken Maggi swimming a lot, and hung out reading.

    Sergio: One Man's Fight to Save the World So far this week I have read Samantha Power’s captivating book, Sergio: One Man’s Fight to Save the World about Sérgio Vieira de Mello, the United Nations diplomat who was described as being a cross between James Bond and Bobby Kennedy.  His resume took him from Bangladesh to East Timor to eventually Iraq (where he was killed) in his attempts to bring about peace, alleviate human suffering, and bring hope and security to those that have none. 

    What struck me as I read it is he was a flawed man (terrible womanizer), who made big compromises and mistakes (befriending more than one person accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in his attempt to bring about peace), yet consistently learned from them and adapted to new challenges.  I was contrasting him to what I had been taught about leadership which says that it requires perfect character and looks down on compromise and has people scorning or ignoring their enemies.   There is also the aspect of how contextual what we have learned really is.  What works well in one situation won’t work well in another situation.

    Finally, this is shown by Sergio Vleira de Mello’s life and Samantha Power’s worldview and writing but the world’s problems require nuance, understanding of complex factors, and a wider view of context than is often given (MacNamara’s description of the misunderstanding of the nature of the Vietnam War comes to mind as an overly narrow understanding of a conflict).

    Now back to the vacation.  Mark was engrossed by The Hardy Boys and is looking forward to a late night session of playing his PSP.  We tried to go swimming today but the algae was so gross that Maggi is a bright green shade right now, despite having given her a shower (it was as bad as it sounds).

    Other by Kester Brewin

    Other by Kester BrewinKester Brewin released his latest book Other.  It’s only available in the U.K. right now but if you want to pay the Canadian government a lot of fees, you can get it shipped here (I paid more in taxes and fees for The Complex Christ than I did for the book but it was worth it).

    I am pretty excited about this book because The Complex Christ forced me to rethink much of how I saw the world, looked at history, and read the Scriptures.  While Brewin writes theology, his writing extends my thinking beyond where it has gone before.  I rate him up with Thomas Homer-Dixon, Jared Diamond, Malcolm Gladwell, and Steven Johnson as people that have helped constantly reinvent my world view.  I can’t wait until my copy gets here (the fees alone should erase Canada’s deficit).

    Jesus Manifesto

    Jesus Manifesto Thomas Nelson is releasing a new book called Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. This book will be on special discount from Amazon.com on June 1st, the date of the release.

    I got to know Frank Viola a little bit at Soularize in the Bahamas and I have long enjoyed and appreciated his writings since Spencer Burke started to go on and on about his writings almost a decade ago.  Of course over the years Leonard Sweet has influenced and formed my spiritual praxis as much as any theologian.