Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Sun 1 Aug 2010 4:41 pm   //   Posted in: Bicycles, Books

A bike tour of “The Great Gatsby”

“It was on that slender riotous island which extends itself due east of New York—and where there are, among other natural curiosities, two unusual formations of land. Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into the most domesticated body of salt water in the Western hemisphere, the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound.” — The Great Gatsby, Chapter 1.

This summer I’ve been obsessed with “The Great Gatsby”. Yesterday I decided to ride my bike to the towns on the North Shore of Long Island where the book is set. How closely do these neighborhoods resemble the roaring ’20s kaleidoscope I see in my imagination when I read this story? Would I find Gatsby out there?


Sun 11 Jul 2010 1:07 pm   //   Posted in: Books, New York is different

Growing Up Gatsby

“I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride.”

“I’m thirty,” I said. “I’m five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor.”

Do they still teach “The Great Gatsby” in schools? They did in Maryland in the 1990s, when I read the book for the first time. At that time (9th grade maybe?) I had never been to New York City, had a girlfriend, or attended a party thrown by a wealthy strangers. The narrator, Nick Carraway, seemed unattainably cool and wise as he cruised through the high-society jumble of Manhattan and Long Island. The book was a fantasy.

Now when I read “Gatsby,” I feel like I’ve lived entire chapters of it. (Minus, you know, the tragedy.) I’ve come to appreciate it as arguably the all-time best New York City summer story. This year, as I was re-reading it for probably the 5th time, I was shocked to realize I am now the same age as Nick, the cool narrator who once seemed so out of reach.


Wed 3 Mar 2010 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: Books, Music, Videos

Everything I know about “Alice in Wonderland” I learned from Tom Petty

“Alice in Wonderland” has been recycled so many times in so many mediums that every living American probably has some childhood association with the story. Here’s mine: The 1985 music video for “Don’t Come Around Here No More” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Here’s Tom Petty at his coolest:

Wed 9 Dec 2009 8:18 am   //   Posted in: Art, Books

The monster at the end of this blog

I’ve been thinking about my parents. Last week I turned 30. When my mom and dad were 30, they were providing for and raising a 10-month-old and a 3-year-old (me). By contrast, my biggest responsibility is taking care of a cat.

This week I read that Sesame Workshop is publishing some free e-books for children. One of them is “The Monster at the End of This Book,” first printed in 1971. I have dim memories of this book being read to me by my mom.


Thu 24 Sep 2009 7:13 am   //   Posted in: Books, Stray data, Technology’s long memory

Yesterday I got one of those promotional e-mails Amazon sends out all the time….

As someone who has purchased or rated Guide to Venezuela: The Bradt Travel Guide by Hilary-Dunsterville Branch or other books in the South America > Venezuela category, you might like to know that Along the River that Flows Uphill: Between the Orinoco and the Amazon (Armchair Traveller) will be released on October 1, 2009.

So what, right? Here’s what: Amazon is making a recommendation based on a book I purchased in September 2000—Nine years ago!


Sun 6 Sep 2009 10:27 am   //   Posted in: Books

Library books

One unique quality of library books is the notes past readers have written in them. To be clear: I never write in library books. But I enjoy that extra layer of the reading experience—trying to puzzle out what other readers were thinking based on scrawls in the margins. (Within limits—and I’m talking about legible notes, not obsessive highlighting or underlining, which is annoying.)

I especially like it when a reader has corrected a mistake, or made a sophisticated editing judgment:



Tue 1 Sep 2009 10:00 am   //   Posted in: Books, Brooklyn, New York is different

“Sentimental value”

I saw this sign recently near my apartment. I think it sums up the kind of neighborhood I live in:


Tue 30 Jun 2009 10:00 pm   //   Posted in: Books, Media

The fall of Chris Anderson

Wired editor Chris Anderson and I are in the same line of work. The difference is he’s the top editor at a major business magazine, while I’m a mid-level editor at a small business magazine. He’s published a successful book called The Long Tail and is a popular public speaker; I can claim no such accomplishments. You might say he’s very skilled at his job. Until recently, I would agree.

A week ago, a reviewer for the Virginia Quarterly Review discovered that Anderson committed plagiarism in his upcoming book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price. In at least seven passages, Anderson fills in his argument with background paragraphs he copied from Wikipedia.


Fri 3 Apr 2009 7:00 am   //   Posted in: Books

A recommended book

I just finished reading When Skateboards Will Be Free: A Memoir of a Political Childhood by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh. The book recounts Saïd’s life growing up with parents who were members of the Socialist Workers Party. Following marching orders from this fringe political group, his parents acted irrationally, to the detriment of their family. Saïd wrote this book with the best kind of journalistic detachment. We already know that he is totally invested in his own life story, so he has no need to over-explain his feelings. He just writes what he saw, and how he acted. It took courage to write like this. I actually feel wiser for having read his book.

Of course, I have a bias, given that I used to work with Saïd and his now-wife Karen. I met Saïd soon after I moved here in 2002. A fellow cyclist, he taught me the rules of the road for bike riding in New York City. (Rule 1: Buy the $100 bike lock, or your bike will get stolen.) In 2004, he and I organized a series of low-stakes office bets on the outcomes of the presidential primaries. (We both predicted Howard Dean would be elected.) He was one of the good guys at our office.

I’m really pleased to see Saïd’s name on such a high-quality book!

Mon 23 Jun 2008 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Books, Technology

Recommended: On-demand publishing

Recently I was asked to help update my church‘s member directory. Recalling a bad experience with Olan Mills a few years ago, we decided to go the do-it-yourself route. Two professional photographers who are members of the congregation did the photography. I designed the directory in QuarkXpress. For the printing, I used Lulu is an on-demand Internet-based publisher. You upload a PDF file to their site and then you can order as many copies of the book as you want. Lulu charged about $6 each for our directory – an 8-page full-color letter-sized booklet with a stapled cover, also full color.

There might be cheaper ways to do this, but the speed, quality and ease of Lulu was impressive. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who needs a book printed.