The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu is a fascinating historical review of how the television and advertising industries grew up and eventually got in bed together. Wu makes the case that our attention spans have been bought and sold as commodities, often without our knowledge or understanding. He’s a fine storyteller who offers many provocative insights into how we spend our lives and give away much of our time for free. You’ll never look at TV or advertising the same way after you read this book. I also highly recommend his NPR interview. Both experiences are well worth your time, free of advertising, and might even change your life.
I picked up a used copy of John Grisham’s novel The Associate for an airplane companion on a recent business trip. I’m a sucker for fast-paced thrillers, courtroom dramas, and intense nail-biters. Oddly, I can’t say this book is any of those things, but it’s a decent enough page-turner, and, well, I have a soft spot for Grisham. The plot revolves around a sexual assault scandal. Originally published in 2009, it seems even more relevant today in the wake of the Me Too movement. As far as I can tell, the film has been in development since at least 2014. If anyone knows more about this, please share.
I hope you’ve had a great spring reading season. Summer begins on June 21, so like all good nerds, I’m sure you’ve been researching your summer books. If not, you can count on The NYTSummer Reading guide. Check it out!
One of my favorite local St. Pete hangouts is Haslam’s Book Store. I never seem to tire of browsing and buying used books there (or anywhere else, for that matter). Sometimes, the rattier the look and smell and feel of the books the better. Here are my first three hits of 2019. All of them wonderfully well-worn, as you can see.
Pseudo-People is a collection of science fiction android stories originally published in 1965. It includes tales by Ray Bradbury, Harry Kuttner, Isaac Asimov, Richard Matheson, and more. Most of the pieces were originally published in the 1950s. Classic stuff. I was surprised to find a page for it on goodreads. If you want to check it out, here it is.
(Rating: A Rocket Blast From the Past!)
Lewis Shiner was, for a while in the 1980s, one of my favorite authors. I first fell in love with his short stories. I held onto his novel Deserted Cities of the Heart for a long time as a treasured artifact from when I was learning how to write fiction. It was originally published in 1988. I’m not sure what happened to my copy. I probably loaned it out and never got it back. I can’t wait to re-read it — after 30 years! (Sigh.)
(Rating: The 1980s Weren’t All Bad!)
Zane Grey is well known as the master of the western genre. Most people are familiar with his novel Riders of the Purple Sage (1912), which has lived on in film and print. But it was The Mysterious Rider that caught my eye in the bookstore. I dashed through it in a few sessions of casual late-night reading. The language, style, dialogue, and especially the characters and their sensibilities were delightfully reflective of the Old West as well as Grey’s own time (original publication date 1921). I was surprised to find an annotated version of it on Kindle. Read and enjoy!
If you’re a true coffee lover like I am, I’m sure you get a kick out of discovering new brews. Nothing goes better with reading and writing than a good cup of java. In November I foundWicked Joe, a family owned coffee company that appears to be both socially conscious and Earth friendly. They offer several varieties. I tried their Wicked Italian (naturally!)—organic fair trade, whole bean, dark roast—and brewed it French press style as recommended. (Rating: Delish!)
While enjoying Wicked Joe’s delizioso Italian dark roast, you might as well pair it with some savory Jewish folk tales.Jonathon Keats delves into ancient Jewish lore in The Book of the Unknown: Tales of the Thirty-Six. You won’t need a course in Judaism 101 to get a kick out of these short fantasy tales of unruly magic and the truly bizarre. Just an open mind, a vivid imagination, and a willingness to suspend all manner of disbelief. (Rating: Great fun!)
No book could be more timely than Omar El Akkad’sAmerican War, offering a speculative glimpse into the next American Civil War (circa 2074). What will become of our society if we can’t put an end to our anger, hatred, and divisiveness? Akkad’s extrapolation, frightening as it is, is probably not the worst case scenario. If you’ve been following the decline of American politics and civil discourse lo these recent years, this novel won’t make you feel any better about it, but it’s a thought-provoking journey nonetheless. (Rating: Go there if you dare!)