Category Archives: Books

Sander on Literature

This week, during our carpool to work, NPR was talking about banned books.

Sander: “I agree that some books should be banned.”

Mike D: “…”

Sander: “For example: all those books that they make you read in high school. I think Ethan Frome should be banned. Literacy would skyrocket by 80% if that no one had to read Ethan Frome.”

Mike D: “ha! That is actually an excellent example. I hated that book. Though I don’t remember much about it. Something about a sled accident.”

Sander: “A guy is sad in the winter for 230 pages.”

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Good Ole Fashion Books

This weekend Jen and I swung through the local Library to grab some fall reading material. I tend to switch back and forth between science fiction/fantasy and non-fiction. And since my most recent book was all about the design and construction of Brunelleschi’s dome in Florence, it was time for me to blissfully surrender to fiction literature.

But I needed a recommendation. So I decided to start crawling through the unread books on this NPR ‘your choice’ list.

Here’s the start of the list:

NOTE: the formatting is way easier to read if you open the ‘read more’ link below.

Lord of the Rings: Yes Hitchikers Guide: Nope Ender’s Game: Yup Dune: Yes A song of Ice and Fire: Negative 1984: Yes FahrenHeit 451: No Foundation Trilogy: Yes Brave New World: Yup American Gods: Yes (didn’t like it) Princess Bride: Saw the Movie – didn’t know it was a book Wheel of Time: No. Animal Farm: Surprisingly not Neuromancer: nope Watchmen: yes iRobot: yes Stranger in a strange land: Reading it now!! Kingkiller Chronicles: Yes

and then after these first 18, with the exception of Stardust and the Time Traveler’s Wife, I haven’t read any! That gives me a paltry record of: 13 out of 100. 13%… Terrible.

What’s your science fantasy literacy rate?

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Jason Huff

On Friday, Jen and I visited the New Britain Museum of American Art for their September First Friday event. The first Friday of every month, the museum hosts a night of snacks and jazz. While the clientele is a bit older, the entertainment is wonderful and in my opinion it’s a perfect date night.

Shortly after our arrival, we were alerted that there was an artist’s talk beginning shortly on the second floor. Jen and I strolled upstairs and sat down to listen to artist Jason Huff talk about his recent work.

Jason Huff has a fresh approach to traditional works. The focus of his talk was his book ‘The Road Not Taken’ which uses Google’s recommended search results as supplements to the famous Robert Frost poem. Each word from each line was entered into Google, and a new poem was created from the now ornamented text.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” thusly becomes: “Two moons roadside lyrics diverged definition inception amtrak yellow book woods hole ferry.”

It was an extremely fun method of modernizing a traditional work. Check it out here.

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Book updates!

I have started reading a few new books. The Justice book that I last wrote about (Representing Justice) was good enough to encourage me to seek more books on Justice. That coupled with a convenient trip to Connecticut’s infamous Book Barn resulted in my buying the book ‘Justice’ by Michael Sandel. So far it has been a pleasant philosophical walk down the road of righteousness.

Simultaneously, I am getting my fiction kick with the second book in the Name of the Wind series by Pstrick Rothfuss.

Anyone else enjoying some summer reading this season?

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Representing Justice

About six months ago I heard an interesting piece on NPR about a book called “Representing Justice” by Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis. The piece described the book as a journey into the personification of Justice – how different cultures envisioned her and how her image, in a sense, acted as a gauge of the public opinion on the court system.

I finally got around to requesting the book via the Meriden Public Library and just picked it up yesterday.

As she pulled it off the shelves, the librarian groaned under the weight of what looked more like an academic text book than a casual summer guilty pleasure. 668 pages of 8×11 fine print interspersed with the occasional figure or artistic rendition of Justice. This was unexpected.

Mike D: “Uh, for how long can I borrow this book?” Librarian: “Three weeks.” Mike D: “And, supposing I can’t finish the book in that amount of time… can I renew it even though it’s on inter-library loan?” Librarian: “yes, just call us in advance and as long as no one else has requested the book you’ll be able to hold onto it.”

As she said this she flipped over the inside cover to stamp the book with its due date only to find that I am the first person to ever take this book out from the library.*

I suspect renewal won’t be a problem.

In other news: while I’ve only read the first few pages of the book, I’m already full invested. It’s great! I’ll let you know what I think as I dig into its somewhat intimidating depths.

*This is not as ridiculous as it sounds, the book was just published last year, so it may be a new library acquisition.

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Name of the Wind

I just finished Patrick Rothfuss’s book ‘Name of the Wind’. This particular book was recommended to me by my sister Alicia and was far different from any other books I’ve read in recent history namely because it’s Fantasy.

Roll not your eyes! This book is awesome. Yes, it has a horrific cover. And yes, it does delve into Demons, Magic and the like. But suck it up and read it because it is great. This book is to the stereotypical Fantasy genre as The Passage is to Twilight. It is deep, dark, and thoroughly engaging and not remotely tacky or glittery.

The big trouble with ‘Name of the Wind’ (much like The Passage*) is that it’s part of an incomplete three book series. And while the second book of this series is complete, the third is not. Why do I do this to myself?!?! ACcording to my limited research, Mr. Rothfuss has already written the full story (all three books). Originally, he’d planned on releasing one per year for three years. However life got in the way. He published the first in 2007, the second in March 2011, and the year that’s currently listed on publishing sites for the third is 2014.

So if you plan to read it, read it slowly.

(Passage book 2: Aug 2012, book 3: 2014)

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Book Recap

With my recent travels, I had plenty of time to hunker down on planes and get my reading groove on. I zipped through a bunch of books.

Let the recaps begin!

1. How Pleasure Works – The New Science of Why We Like What We Like by Paul Bloom What a great read! In a broad sense, I saw this book as presenting a debate around essentialism – the belief that all things have an essence – this isn’t spiritual, simply an argument of what defines any particular item (is a dog still a dog if you paint it red? yes… but why?). Once the author establishes how we define objects, we can see how they can acquire value beyond their superficial nature and basic practical use. For example, why are celebrity owned knick-knacks so valuable? Because the history of that item has altered the way we perceive it. The object’s definition has changed.


I strongly recommend this book. It’s an easy non-academic read, but really encourages thought.

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson This book received great reviews from all my family and friends who read it. But I must admit, I’m not really on board the dragon train. I loved the characters. I found them exciting, quirky, and natural… but it wasn’t enough for me. The book’s start was slow. 25% of the book passed before I felt involved. The action kept me enticed for the next 50 percent of the book… but the last quarter felt forced to me. I’m not sure why – it might just be that I’m not a mystery thriller kinda guy.

3. The Non-Designers Design Book by Robin Williams Whoa awesome! A great book for anyone who finds themselves working with material that frequently falls under the eyes of customers or executives. This book presents a simple set of rules by which any presentation, pamphlet, or advertisement can be organized/arranged to make it easier on the eyes. My review makes the book sound horribly dry. It’s not! It’s lively and action packed with recommendations and examples.

NOTE: this book is great on a kindle, but probably better in print. There’s a chapter on color… color? not so great on the kindle. I’ve ordered a hard copy to have on hand at all times at work.

Book Review Disclaimers: I should point out two observations my friends recently have made regarding my reading preferences and my disclaimers that accompany them.

Next up on my reading list? Hunger Games. Vivienne recommended this book to me, but she commented on how the book might not be esoteric enough to make it onto my preferred reading list. “you think I like esoteric books?!” I exclaimed “yeah, like House of Leaves,” Vivienne responded. “oh.”

Disclaimer one: I like weird books.

HC Alicia, upon hearing my raving review for book #3, commented on how she doesn’t want to learn about typography because it’s a bit of a pretentious topic. “you think typography is pretentious?!” I exclaimed “uh… yes” Alicia responded “oh.”

Disclaimer two: I like my books pretentious.

So as you decide to take my book recommendations, be sure to take my weirdness into consideration.

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Book Review – The Pillars of the Earth

During family trips to Blockbuster, Dad D. always hoped for two things:

(1) Laser blasters and/or (2) Space battles

Dad D. would not enjoy Ken Follet’s lengthy novel The Pillars of the Earth.

Instead of giant spaceships smashing into other giant spaceships, The Pillars of the Earth describes the building of a cathedral and the frustrating struggle for power within the church and the royalty in England.

In the beginning I loathed the book. There was so much going on in so few pages that it seemed like the author may have been grossly over caffeinated during his writing sessions.

But Follet calmed down a bit once the cathedral building began and the characters came into their own. The villains were easy to hate and the heroes easy to love. The one problem with epic novels like these is that the villains grow into such epic horribleness that there is no death gruesome enough to act as justification for the horrific acts that they commit.

Over all, I greatly enjoyed the read. Despite the lack of space battles, I recommend this book – especially if you’re going on a few plane trips. Nothing makes travel easier than a long captivating book as a travel companion.

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