The Rewards of Reading in Print

David Ulin is spot-on in his analysis of the differences between reading in print and e-reading:

Reading in the material world by David Ulin (posted by the Los Angeles Times on February 24, 2015)

This quote, in particular, resonates with me:

[O]n a device such as an iPad or an iPhone, we never lose sight of ourselves—they are customized environments, extensions of our psyches—whereas the print book exists in a different realm. It requires an externalized commitment, an accommodation, in which its otherness is part of the point.

Ebooks and print books will always offer different experiences and serve different purposes. Our cultural obsession with seeing them in competition with each other is incorrect and, I believe, does all readers a disservice.

Book Review: Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari

Chasing the Scream book cover
Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari
Bloomsbury USA, 2015

I believe that Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari is one of the most important books currently on our shelves. I think most people are aware that the war on drugs has been an abysmal failure. What this book reveals about the origins and history of that war goes a long way towards explaining why.

Essentially, Mr. Hari argues that the approach we’ve taken to drugs for the past 100 years is worse than merely a failure—the war on drugs has been just about the worst possible approach we could have taken. It’s doing tremendous damage to our society. It’s the opposite of what we should be doing. Moreover, it’s a hugely hypocritical policy that ensconces deeply racist attitudes. He backs up these claims with numerous examples from the history of the drug war.

Far more important, however, is Mr. Hari’s exploration of alternatives. There are better options available to us to deal with the problem of drug use and the violence that accompanies drug culture. We already have compelling data to show that some of these alternative options actually work—options that are based on compassion, rather than vilification; healing, rather than criminalizing.

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Book Review: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Sword book cover
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
Orbit Books, 2014
Cover art by John Harris

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie is less engaging than its predecessor. It’s a decent SF novel and I enjoyed reading it. But it wasn’t nearly as exciting or as compelling as Ancillary Justice.

I ended my review of Ms. Leckie’s first book with a note of confusion—it was a great novel but I couldn’t understand how it was great enough to have won all of the awards that it did. Even so, the second installment in her Imperial Radch series doesn’t live up to the expectations placed on it by that first novel.

There are two major shifts from the first novel in the series to this one:

  1. The scope of the second book is much narrower.
  2. The main character is portrayed in a very different light.

I’ll start with the changes that we see in Justice of Toren One Esk Nineteen / Breq Mianaai.

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Infographic – 2014: My Year in Reading

My friend Bil liked my 2014: My Year in Reading post so much, he made an infographic of it:

Infographic - 2014: My Year in Reading
This image is entirely the property of Bil Gaines.

He asked me to name an animal and I chose the three-toed tree sloth.

Bil is an amazing writer / artist / father / husband / shark lover / bland car enthusiast / SEO guru. Please read his blog. Also, if you want any fancy-schmancy infographics, drop him a line.

2014: My Year in Reading

I have a friend who posts a list of all the books they read each year on their Facebook page. This has inspired me to write my own Year in Reading posts.

All of the reading data that follows comes from my Goodreads account. A complete list of all the books I read last year is at the bottom of this post.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I realized after I posted this on February 12, 2015, that I had miscalculated some of my figures based on the data. On February 13, I recalculated all my figures to correct for my previous mistake. This post has been updated to reflect these new calculations. I added a day to my time-to-read figures.


I read 40 books in 2014. It was a nonfiction-heavy year for me.

  • 24 nonfiction
  • 16 fiction

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Book Review: Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn by Amanda Gefter

Trespassing on Einstein's Lawn book cover
Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn by Amanda Gefter, published by Bantam 2014

I love Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn by Amanda Gefter more than I’ve loved any book in a long time.

I first became fascinated by cosmology in third grade (no kidding, in third grade I wrote an essay for school titled, “When I Grow Up I Want to Be a Cosmologist.” You can ask my mom—she still has it.) While I didn’t dedicate my life to pursuing the subject the way that Ms. Gefter has, her delight and fascination with the theories of cosmology perfectly captures my own. I know the thrill of them the same way she does.

More than any other, this book reminds me why I love this field of study.

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Logos vs. Branding

My rant last week about library logos arose from a discussion I had with a co-worker about branding libraries.

Too often, people seem to think that their logo is their branding. Or that coming up with a good logo is the most important first step in creating their brand. The conflation of logos with branding is such a universal issue that there’s a whole school of thought dedicated to correcting this misunderstanding. Google “branding is not a logo,” or “brand vs logo,” and survey the results.

Whenever I discuss library logos, someone always brings up the New York Public Library’s lion as an example of how effective a logo can be. But the reason the lion works so well as a logo is because it was already an iconic image of a library with a deeply rooted history in the community. It’s specific to the NYPL and encapsulates the reputation and history the library already has.

The purpose of a logo is simply to reference the larger identity of an organization.

That larger identity—not your logo—is your true brand. Your brand grows out of the interactions you have with your patrons and the role your library fulfills in its community.

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