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All Of Us Or None: Social Justice Posters of the San Francisco Bay Area

I received this book to review for the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association. My review is in an issue of their newsletter and you can read it here.

Book Lust To Go

I enjoy Nancy Pearl’s Reader’s Advisory books, considering them very readable on their own. However I LOVE travel books and needed some inspiration. This book, loosely organized by country and region, is a wide-ranging look at what you might want to read, both contemporary and older books, fiction and non. There is, of course, a bit of a Western slant to these suggestions, but Pearl does a pretty good job at trying to round out a certain kind of “White people go places” books, with books written by people who live in the regions she’s covering. I made my own sub-list of travel books to read from this book.

The Book of Lists: The 90s Edition

I’m sort of embarassed that I never knew this book had come out until it was quite out of date. I have all the origianl Books of Lists and People’s Almanacs and reread them every now and then. I stopped at the Book of Predictions which wasn’t very good and then I assumed the meme had just ...died. It hadn’t, hooray! This book is not quite as great as the previous ones and is a bit too referential -- many lists end with “for more on xyz topic, consult the book of lists 1” which gets cloying after a while -- but the lists are there, they’re great and interesting and quirky as ever. I only found this book because it was on the discard shelf of the local library. I wish I knew why it wasn’t more popular. Also, it is sort of weird to publish a “nineties edition” of anything in 1993? I thought so.

The Book of the Year 2018

I will forever be that nerd complaining about books that are about the year but are published during the year. What about stuff in December! This was a fun and engaging trivia book organized alphabetically which was maybe just a little too cheeky (a lot of see also references that were kind of jokes but also kind of exhausting) but otherwise a great manifestation of one of my favorite podcasts.

The Dayhiker’s Handbook

I was expecting something different from this book. Despite what its title says this is not really a dayhiker’s guide. The two authors are an adventurer/hiker and an editor for Outside magazine. There is no evidence in this book that they worked together on this book at all. They each write entirely separate sections, do not refer to the other’s sections, and write about entirely different things. John Long is the adventurer and under the guise of writing about different hiking environments, he gets to regale us with tales of his adventures, few of which are dayhikes. He writes with the heavy-adjectival style that is typical for people for whom writing is not a first profession. His prose is readable and his stories are good but they give very little advice on dayhiking and most of them are cuationary tales of what NOT to do. While I appreciate a good warning, I found the preponderance of them tiring and his writing style not at all compelling.

Michael Hodgson is the other writer and writes mainly in the sidebars giving advice in gear, recipes for trail eating and good lists of things to do for preparedness and enjoyment of hiking. His advice is more down to earth and yet you still get lots of information about what sort of sleeping bag to buy for cold weather camping and what sort of backpack to buy for weeklong jungle hikes. It may be that Californians approach the idea of a dayhike much differently than New Englanders, but I found this book so completely out in left field compared to what I was expecting, that I continued to read ahead because I couldn’t believe that it advertised itself as a dayhiking book and was telling me about ice climbing expeditions. As a book of adventure stories and GORP recipes, it’s more than adequate, but I’m still looking for a good dayhiker’s guide.

The Explainer

The Explainer Another one of those “tell us how it works” books, though this one is from the folks at Slate and a little less hipster and a little more informative than the one from the mentalfloss folks. Answering questions sent in from readers like “Could Bill Clinton be elected Vice President?” and “Can the President change the oath of office?” and “Why do Supreme Court justices recuse themselves” it’s got a lot of tidbits presented authoritatively enough to be good reading while at the same time somewhat entertaining. And, since the questions are usually linked in some way to something that the Slate team has written about, there’s usually some degree of relevance to whatever’s being talked about. It’s not all politics, it’s sometimes really interesting, and the information is usually cited.

Exploring Stone Walls: A Field Guide To Stone Walls

This book is supposed to be a bit of a field guide to Northeastern stone walls. It sort of reaches that goal, but it’s stronger as a rumination of the nature of stone and the interplay between man and nature in New England over the past 400 years. As a field guide, it’s lacking clear photographs of described wall and rock types, and the classification scheme that he has created is great but shoved into an appendix. It may be that I don’t have enough training, but some of his descriptions were not evocative enough for me to get a clear idea of what he was describing, though it was clear that he knows this topic inside and out. My favorite parts were his descriptions of what you could learn by a community or builder by loking at their walls; the anthropological aspect of his work and his enthusiams for the subject shine through on every page. There is an appendix listing some of his favorite walls in New England as well as some that he finds notable for one reason or another.

Full-Time RVing: A Complete Guide to Life on the Open Road

It’s sort of hard to imagine the usefulness of books like this back in the pre-internet times it was written. I saw when looking it up that there is an updated version and I am curious what it would be like. This guide, which really did give me a great idea of what it would be like to live in an RV, was super meticulous about things that just don’t need to be so detailed now (where to buy thing, notably). I liked the energy of the authors, though some of their priorities did not seem to be mine. At the point at which they were suggesting exactly what ruled graph paper to buy for making lists, I did tune out on some of it. Enjoyable but I’d pick up the new version if I were you.

The Hobo Handbook: A Field Guide to Living by Your Own Rules

Got this form a friend who knows how much I like to travel. This is a neat little guide to how you can maybe drop out of the rat race. It’s got a scary quiz in the first few pages where you answer a few questions about your personality and your comfort level with various things and then Mack gives you advice on whether you’d be good at being a hobo [for me: no]. Which is fine, I guess, assuming hobo means riding the rails. And at some level this book is good at giving you various hobo options that aren’t just freight hopping but it seems to suffer from a lack of focus. The prime example sidebars of the “Did you know X was a hobo?” are all about drifters and freight hoppers and most of the book caters towards people riding the rails with some not-too-veiled snootiness towards people still stuck in “the rat race”

And yet, at the same time, I don’t get the feeling that Mack has actually done any of this. While I’m sure he’s traveled at times and stayed in hostels or with friends and maybe met other travelers, there is no first person commentary about any of the things he suggests [making stew from squirrels, avoiding the bulls in train yards] and so instead of a guide to doing this sort of thing for real, we get more of a well-researched “this is what I have learned form other people” approach without really even citing those people. All in all while I liked reading this book, I learned very little from it except that Mack is probably a good researcher and reads the same websites that I do. The graphic design which includes pages designed to look thumbed over and messy (and the occasional black on grey text) doesn’t really add much and in fact makes the book sometimes difficult to read. All in all an okay book for someone who knows nothing about hobo culture, I’d skip it otherwise.

How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler

A super fun book about what you would need to know if your time machine crashed in the distant past before most stuff was invented. It’s flow-chartish covering topics like metallurgy and agriculture with a bunch of fun appendices about how to do specific things. The whole tone is a very wry “Whoops, sorry you got stranded. Well here’s what you’ll need to do to stay alive and.or make inventions from scratch” and is delightful to read.

The Hungry Scientist Handbook

This book is part cookbook, part wacky scientist project book. Not good if you’re looking for a book that is all of either one. It’s a fun look at nifty things you can do in or near the kitchen, some tasty, some geeky and some a delicious combination of both. The book starts out tantalizingly with edible underwear and winds up with a 26 page instruction manual for making drink coasters that light up in certain ways. I definitely looked at a few recipes and thought “I can do that” and looked at a few others and thought “that would be dangerous/impossible” Overall, it’s a good mix and would make a nice gift for the scientist who has everything (including a sense of humor).

Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior

I read the 1983 version of this and so it has absolutely no helpful information about the internet. Which is fine since that’s the one place I seem to know what I am doing. I like the idea that very good manners is basically about putting OTHER People at ease but I don’t always know how to do that (since I am often awkward) so I enjoy getting to read about tried and true ways to get along with people. Miss Manners is frequently quite amusing on these topics and this book was gigantic and I read it slowly over several months. I hear there is an updated version.

Time Management for System Administrators

[review pending]

What’s the Difference?

This book capitalizes on the hipster love for trivia while at the same time trying to get its barbs in. So, while it helpfully and humorously explains the difference between crack cocaine and regular cocaine, it also talks about meth user’s bad breath. Is this a snarky aside or is it true (and yes, I know about “meth mouth” but does that equal bad breath?) and how do I tell the difference between jokey pretend information and real information. I enjoyed flipping through the pages of this book; I’m pretty much their target audience, raised on bar trivia and That’s Incredible. On the other hand, as a librarian I felt that it was a little too light to be truly useful, and yet a little too earnest to be just a Big Book o' Snark. Fun, light, eh.

Who Knew? Things you didn’t know about things you know well.

I’ve been trying to get better at trivia so I pick up these books when I see them. This was a little hardcover tucked away at my dad’s house. All the trivia factoids are about brand names which I guess makes sense but made it seem a little bit like a viral ad. And, in my nerdy nitpickery, I found myself wondering how much of the stuff was still true. For example, Alan Smithee is no longer the name used by producers who want to disown their relationship with a film, though it’s a great story. And I wonder if it’s still true that Cinderealla has been made into a movie more than any other story, or how you would tell? Anyhow, it was a fun quick read but I gave it the librarian raised eyebrow.