Books in 2022, Plan vs. Reality

The Plan

Last year, I made a list of books for every week of the year. I hardly read anything from the list. I read things like N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy, revisited some of the books of Iain M. Banks Culture series (currently reading Against a Dark Background), and basically, just read whatever I felt like and only looked at the list a few times. I did manage to read the first entry, Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha by Daniel M. Ingram, which I found worthwhile.

This year I’m going to try just one book a month.

  1. The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony by Robert Calasso
  2. Chicago by Brian Doyle
  3. Recollections of My Non-Existence by Rebecca Solnit
  4. Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
  5. Against Method by Paul Karl Feyerabend
  6. Building Stories by Chris Ware
  7. The Chandelier by Clarice Lispector
  8. The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
  9. Circe by Madeline Miller
  10. The Odyssey by Emily Wilson
  11. Ulysses by James Joyce (in conjunction with Stuart’s companion volume)
  12. Paradise Lost by John Milton

Beyond the list, I’ll make room for anything like the Murderbot series by Martha Wells, Ann Leckie, and any of the other usual suspects. Memory’s Legion, the final book in the Expanse series is coming out in March, isn’t it? Knowing me, I’ll want to reread the whole series again next year. Maybe as a fun corrective, I’ll keep a list of books actually read below.

The Reality

  1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  2. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
  3. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
  4. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, 3/6
  5. Holes by Louis Sachar, 3/11
  6. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, 3/17
  7. Leviathan Falls by James S. A. Corey
  8. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, 8/8

The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster

“”I believe that you pray to it when you are unhappy. Men made it, do not forget that. Great men, but men. The Machine is much, but it is not everything. I see something like you in this plate, but I do not see you. I hear something like you through this telephone, but I do not hear you. That is why I want you to come. Pay me a visit, so that we can meet face to face, and talk about the hopes that are in my mind….

..In the dawn of the world our weakly must be exposed on Mount Taygetus, in its twilight our strong will suffer euthanasia, that the Machine may progress, that the Machine may progress, that the Machine may progress eternally…

…Man is the measure. That was my first lesson. Man’s feet are the measure for distance, his hands are the measure for ownership, his body is the measure for all that is lovable and desirable and strong. Then I went further: it was then that I called to you for the first time, and you would not come…

…We created the Machine, to do our will, but we cannot make it do our will now. It was robbed us of the sense of space and of the sense of touch, it has blurred every human relation and narrowed down love to a carnal act, it has paralysed our bodies and our wills, and now it compels us to worship it. The Machine develops – but not on our lies. The Machine proceeds – but not to our goal.”

-E.M. Forrester, “The Machine Stops.”

Always Judge a Book By Its Cover

“Some books win awards, some win our heart, and others… only serve to confuse.”

https://alwaysjudgeabookbyitscover.com/

Eating People is Wrong’s commentary made me LOL. But, it was the Chuck Tingle book that convinced me to post this website. I don’t know why I even know who Chuck Tingle is, probably has something to do with the “weird fiction” phase I went through mid-2019, but I’d like to do my part to increase his readership.

The Four Reading Levels

  1. Elementary: What does the text say? Literacy.
  2. Inspectual: What is this article/book about? Superficial, skimming.
  3. Analytical: Is the information / argument good? Meaning, perspective and use.
  4. Synoptic: Comparative. Trying to incorporate multiple points of view into our own view.

Nothing I want to quote from the article by Bruno Boksic on this topic. But, I thought it was a useful mental model.

New Year, Coloring Around a Dead TV

Spending New Year’s Eve watching live TV. I’m struck by how this format, based on a shared experience at the same moment in time, is a relic from a previous media era. After a few hours, I feel dumber. I’m left with the feeling that I could live the rest of my life and not see any live television again, and I’d be better off for it.

Also, conversation is kind of a lost art. Coloring apps, on the other hand, seem the flavor of the moment. Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is that there’s time to read, or do other things of value, but you have to choose them.

Books I’d Like to Read in 2021

A short fiction where I pretend to you, dear reader, that I am still capable of reading more than a book a week.

  1. Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha by Daniel M. Ingram
  2. Fool on the Hill by Mark Sargent
  3. The Omnibus Homo Sacer by Giorgio Agamben
  4. Cargill Falls by William Lychack [x]
  5. Black Imagination by Natasha Marin (Editor)
  6. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
  7. Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth by Marilyn Waring
  8. Deep Adaptation by Jem Bendell [x]
  9. The Carrying: Poems by Ada Limon [x]
  10. Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen
  11. Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures by Mary Ruefle [x]
  12. How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community by Mia Birdsong
  13. Hexaflexagons and Other Mathematical Diversions by Martin Gardner
  14. Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology by Gregory Bateson
  15. Are Women Human?: And Other International Dialogues by Catharine A. MacKinnon
  16. War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires by Peter Turchin
  17. Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind by Alan Jacobs
  18. Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book by Walker Percy
  19. Take the Long Way Home: Memoirs of a Survivor by Susan Gordon Lydon
  20. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum
  21. Ball Four by Jim Bouton
  22. The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men by Robert Jensen [x]
  23. The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa
  24. Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World by Olga Khazan
  25. The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics by Christopher Lasch
  26. Modernist Cuisine at Home by Nathan Myhrvold
  27. On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee
  28. Another Birth by Forough Farrokhzad
  29. Darkness Spoken by Ingeborg Bachmann
  30. So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ
  31. Oblivion Seekers by Isabelle Eberhardt
  32. The Neopolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
  33. Machines in the Head by Anna Kavan
  34. The Selected Poems of Rosario Castellanos by Rosario Castellanos
  35. Mad in Pursuit by Violette Leduc
  36. The Wedding by Dorothy West
  37. The Hebrew Bible by Robert Alter
  38. The Red Book: Liber Novus by C.G. Jung
  39. New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver
  40. Heart of the Original by Steve Aylett
  41. On the Brink of Paradox by Augustin Rayo
  42. The Commonwealth series by Peter F. Hamilton
  43. Notes on the Synthesis of Form by Christopher W. Alexander
  44. Sandworm by Andy Greenberg
  45. Women, Race & Class by Angela Y. Davis
  46. A Passion For Friends by Janice G. Raymond
  47. The Precipice by Toby Orb
  48. Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump
  49. Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
  50. Primeval & Other Times by Olga Tokarczuk
  51. Consuming the Romantic Utopia by Eva Illouz
  52. Tools for Conviviality by Ivan Illich

Tachyon Humble Book Bundle

“Get ready to ride off into the stars and charge into magical battles. We’ve teamed up with Tachyon to provide you with a bundle of imaginative digital sci-fi and fantasy books for your reading pleasure! Get ebooks like Ivory Apples by Lisa Goldstein, The Very Best of Caitlin by R. Kiernan, and Beyond Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.”

Humble Book Bundle: Celebrating 25 Years of Sci-Fi & Fantasy from Tachyon.

Most excited about Jo Walton’s Starlings, The Best of Michael Moorcock, Bruce Sterling’s Pirate Utopia, and Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology in this collection.

Books as Time Capsules

“Saving clippings this way turns each book into a time capsule. The next time I open one of these books, a paper treasure will fall out. A little surprise for my future self. (Or whoever else cracks it open.)”

Austin Kleon, “How to turn your books into time capsules.” AustinKleon.com. January 29, 2020.

Strangely, this even works when the time capsules are part of the creative product. I remember enjoying Ship of Theseus, largely for the meta-story and ephemera in the margins and added to the book. And, it also works when reading my own marginalia, years later. Adding clippings seems like a natural extension to capture the cultural moment.

Don’t Like, Don’t Read

“The onus was on the reader, not the author, to protect themselves with the information given. Basically, AO3 took the early fandom nugget ‘Don’t like, don’t read’ and made it policy.”

rapacityinblue, on Tumblr. (I’m not going to try to get my mind around how a Tumblr discussion should be cited.)

I found this discussion about Archive of Own Own (AO3) fascinating, and it made something clear(er) to me that I have not understood for a long time: trigger warnings.

When I read an article that includes trigger warnings, it is normally from a mainstream source that has largely been sanitized of content that would trigger me. So, they seem unnecessary.

I’ve never spent any appreciable time on A03, but it is clear that the content in the A03 archive has not been sanitized. And if you are browsing something where you truly don’t know what you are going to get and it is possible that it may not be what you want, it should be tagged in such a way where you can make a rough determination of whether it is something you want to get into before you start to read. If there’s a good chance you aren’t going to like it, you can tell in advance and not read it. The responsibility lies with the reader.

I spend most of my time reading sources that do not have any, or much, “triggering” content (at least for me). In that environment, I do not need a trigger warning. I am free to read everything.

I was trying to think of another example in a different media, and there are definitely films I can think of that would benefit from this kind of tagging. For example, I suggested that my wife and I watch Oldboy when it came out in the theaters. We knew nothing about it going in, and to this day, my wife won’t watch South Korean movies. It’s a movie that can “trigger” a lot of people. Others that come to mind would be Requiem for a Dream and Se7en, and a case could be made for films like The Silence of the Lambs, Reservior Dogs, and others. What would it be like to watch Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story if you had a history of anorexia nervosa? What seems benign to me certainly may not be benign to another.

And it made me realize that most of our environments have been sanitized. We do have systems to tag content, such as when a movie is labelled “R”, Restricted. But, it is interesting that these labels are based on maturity and age. And while there are designations like “graphic violence” or “strong language” that are used in conjunction with the rating, there’s a world of difference between the “graphic violence” in Oldboy than most other films that get made. But, we don’t need a better system of tags because challenging films like Oldboy, largely don’t get made.

So, the next time someone with a conservative outlook talks about “snowflakes” being “triggered”, perhaps it would be a good time to suggest they try a double feature of Oldboy and Requiem for a Dream and see if they think these films should having something more extensive than an R rating for “for strong violence including scenes of torture, sexuality and pervasive language” or “intense depiction of drug addiction, graphic sexuality, strong language and some violence”, respectively.

See also: The reaction to Isabel Fall’s short story, “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter.”