Archive for December 2012
Notes from a small island by Bill Bryson
Bryson is good at telling boring stories with a lot of humor, which makes them easy to consume despite the dull subject matter. The travel side of this book was a bit disappointing. In most of the places Bryson visits he informs the reader about the rain, complains about the awfulness of new glass buildings being mixed in with the old architecture, observes some random facts about the history, stumbles along some of the pubs and then goes back to his hotel for an early night.
What prevented this book from being a complete disappointment was that it has a lot of funny observations about the Brits and British culture.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
As good as I remembered it was. Yes, it is a bit simplistic but that’s what makes it powerful. It is a fairy tale after all.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Another great dystopian novel, about the subjugation of women in a totalitarian Christian country. Very well executed, among the best novels I’ve read this year.
There are some really big advantages to e-books. You can carry one device with a couple of thousand books around with you, all of it together weighing no more than a single pocket book. Even better, those thousands of books don’t get dog ears. Usually, I am an early adopter of new technology. And yet, I somehow still seem to have trouble making the leap in this case.
I have fundamental concerns with the current ways in which e-books are traded. The terms under which most e-books are sold are worrying. “sold” is probably the wrong word; the terms of the license that is sold to most books is ridiculous. You don’t really own the book, you get the right to consume a copy – but that right comes with a long list of ifs and buts. You can’t lend e-books to friends (or can only lend them a limited number of times). Publishers can retract the license, effectively removing it from your device after it has already been “sold” to you (in an amazing fit of irony, Amazon accidentally did this with e-book copies of 1984). Manufacturers of readers are given permission to phone home and track your reading habits.
But most of all, I really like my books the way they are. Old books and new books both have their own distinct smell. Without having to touch buttons I can see how far along I am. I like that I can feel the backs of paperbacks twist and crack under the pressure of my fingers as I work my way through a novel. I like being able to browse books in (the unfortunately decreasing number of) quality book stores, rather than in ad-filled electronic stores on small screens. I like that paperbacks are a commodity that I can easily lose or give away.