New Year -- New Resources

Monday, October 17, 2011

Best books are always being read again

I saw a Tweet the other day asking “What was the best book you read in school?”  

My flip response was “I could name one best teacher, maybe, but best book, no way.”  It isn’t just the snobbery of having become an overeducated English Major (forgive the redundancy) that makes it hard for me. 

What was “best” when I was 10 (Prince Tom) had been surpassed by many, many others only a few years later.  But that fact did not diminish in any way the bestness of that story about an adopted Cocker Spaniel.  

There are also books that I once disliked and yet came to reconsider and promote to “best.”   Lord Jim was one.   As I only understood decades later, what spooked me was the guilt Jim feels for not protecting the passengers from the Captain who abandons ship. The book was telling  me a story I was not ready, at age 12, to face.  I did not want to know that sometimes people who get drunk, even people you know, can be mean and stupid.  And you can’t stop them.

It is in this way that a book which I thought of as my worst reading experience, one made more depressing because I didn’t know why it made me so sad, became “best” book, when I re-read it as an adult.

I do not believe there could ever be one best book in my life.  

Best books are always plural, and always ones that I have read several times, will re-read again, and can’t imagine having lived without reading more than once.   

That’s why I am working with a start-up company, Gluejar, which wants to make sure anyone’s “best” book can be reread at any time.  We want to make sure no reader will see that book “out of print” and lose the opportunity to remember the joy felt the first time she called that book the “best book I’ve ever read. 

Watch for more about Gluejar and our fundraising webstie,

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Backlist discoveries: Make New Friends, but Keep the Old:

I have to admit a weakness for nostalgic childhood songs. As my mother and I say, “we sing off- key, but we remember all the words.”

One of my favorites is this round:

Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver but the other gold.

All my life I have taken pleasure in adding to my friends far more often than subtracting any, and in introducing new friends to old. And I think the same rule should apply to reading – and rereading – good books.

This applies especially non-fiction that may have been published in those decades between college and middle-age when you’ve been too busy raising a family and building a career to read as much for pleasure as you did when you were that history major turned law student.

For some suggestions, Time Magazine has just issued a list of 100 top “non-fiction” books (,28757,2088856,00.html).

These “influential books” include many gems you may not have read in school, (if you are too old or were not an English major), from Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land (a memoir of growing up in Harlem before the drug epidemic, the only reason the author survived.) to Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, a less pretentious window on Americans in France in the early 20th Century than Hemmingway, especially if you liked Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.

I like the new writers and books as much as anyone. Far be it for me to stop repeatedly checking Google, as well as browsing all the best book reviewers (NYT, Wash Post, NYRB, Atlantic, New Yorker) in the few places who still employ staff writers

If you are interested in reading more than just the things that make new news every 15 minutes on social media, I hope you’ll check out, where our Team is building a new way to get more ebooks reprinted, into more public libraries, and read by more people -- all over the world.

What’s your favorite book that isn’t yet available as an ebook? Go to and let us know, or email me at:

On Twitter You can also follow  #gluejar or @AMREADERTOO

P.S. (FYI, if you like me sang a lot of rounds at camp or in scouts, my other favorite song is “one bottle top, two bottle top…. But that’s another story.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Open Access is not Unlimited or "Free" Use

The Chronicle of Higher Education just reported that Yale University is suing a Chinese University Press for having transcribed and published in a book -- without permission -- material that Yale posts online as "Open Access" video curriculum courses (

Chronicle of Higher Education article

The Chinese book used translations of the lectures and turned them into an written anthology.

The copyright issue here is whether anyone can redistribute for profit or create a "derivative" work based on such "Open Access" posting.  Under the "Terms of License" on the Yale site, no one may do so with these courses.  Any use other than "Non-Commercial Share Alike" -- that is the exact same kind of video display, without editing -- is prohibited under the Creative Commons license Yale is using.  You can't adapt or transcribe the video without additional, specific permission for such use.

"Most of the lectures and other course material within Open Yale Courses are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license ( Course material under copyright held by a third party may be subject to additional intellectual property notices, information or restrictions." 

I suspect that this is not an  intentional violation of digital copyright, but a misunderstanding.  Even in the US, people often confuse "Open Access" to mean "not copyrighted."  In fact, the Creative Commons licenses were developed precisely to make the distinction clear and to protect both copyright holders and the audiences they want to reach.  Chinese publishers have been made huge strides over the last 25 years in obeying International copyright laws.  In fact, licenses from US and UK publishers for translation into "Simplified Chinese," the written format for printed works in the People's Republic, have become very profitable for commercial and scholarly publishers alike.  Many Chinese publishers negotiate directly with the US.

We should expect this mistake to be quickly rectified.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Another reason to like ebooks

I came out to Seattle to visit my sister and attend her oldest's high school graduation. Being the resident Reader-Geek in the extended family (otherwise full of engineers or math whizzes who are also serious athletes), and knowing she liked math and science, I asked if she had ever read an novel about a scientist?  She couldn't think of one, but I remembered Flatland, Edwin Abbots' quirky, 1880 novella subtitled "A Romance in many dimensions," the story of a two-dimensional world.  I instantly downloaded the 99 cent classic to her mother's Kindle.

Now, I know there's not necessarily any better chance that she will read the book (after finals) than if I had mailed a print copy to her, but at least she knows it's at hand while she may still remember our conversation.  I did think it was hopeful that when I described the story, she immediately asked, "How do they pass each other in only 2 dimensions?"  I had probably read it more for the romance than the geometry, and the question would never occur to me.

Do you have favorite novels about science, math, and non-English major subjects you would recommend to a 16-year old?  Let me know.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Begins and so does my summer reading list

Just finished reading an interesting Project Gutenberg Edith Wharton story from the Atlantic, The Bunner Sisters. Harrowing tale of spinster poverty in late 19th Century lower Manhattan.

As usual, alternating fiction and non-fiction:

I have begun James Gleick's THE INFORMATION: A HISTORY, A THEORY, A FLOOD hoping to refresh my "geek" credentials. I had just reached the page introducing Alan Turing and at the same time (while pausing to read Google News), I saw that the UK Museum dedicated to breaking the Nazi Enigma Code has just rebuilt a "Turing Machine," the computer that helped win the war.

For someone who has trouble with crosswords and math and can't decipher simple substitution codes, I am addicted to books about codebreaking. I like reading about people who do what I can't, like mountain climbing.  Can't wait to visit the Bletchly Park Museum when I get to go back to England.

Also beginning CALEB'S CROSSING by Geraldine Brooks, about the first Native American to graduate from Harvard in 1665. Six miles from my house in Northwestern Connecticut, in the early 19th Century there was a missionary school for young men from Hawaii and other Native Americans. It was disbanded in 1826 when a local (white) woman married a Cherokee graduate, and the mixed-marriage upset the town. Marriage Equality and Affirmative Action have always been prickly subjects

Have a Happy Memorial Day!  I am off to Seattle to see my niece graduate from High School (and then head to Penn as an engineer-to-be) and to congratulate my nephew on finishing college (UC Berkeley) and getting a job as the first software engineer in our family's youngest generation -- which also includes our first Turkish and Arab speaking journalist (an American University graduate who is off to the Middle East as a State Dept. Language Fellow).  These young people give me infinite hope for a future with fewer and fewer wreaths to be laid at fresh graves on Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Watch this space....

Ask you local library about ebook loans. An easy way to keep a reading "budget" while playing with your new Kindle, Nook, iPad, Sony or Kobo reader.

From Library Journal reporting on BEA -- annual Book Industry Convention

Growth in demand just beginning
All four panelists described an exponential upward demand for ebooks. For example, Michael Colford, the Boston Public Library's director of resource services and information technology, said he expects the library's ebook budget to triple next year (FY12) from its current total of $105,000 (about 5 percent of the library's materials budget).

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Current Events in depth

I love being able to get the right book (in most cases) instantly on my iPad when I have need background about current events, such as the current crisis in Japan.

I realized I knew Japanese history only vaguely, and very little about how they had gone from isolation to being an economic powerhouse so quickly. I found a wonderful overview, from pre-history to the present, in James Huffman's JAPAN IN WORLD HISTORY (Oxford University Press). Another book I have sampled but not read yet is Mary Mycio's WORMWOOD FOREST, about her many return journeys to Chernobyl after the disaster there.

By the way, if you have never read Ishiguro's ARTIST OF THE FLOATING WORLD, his short first novel about an aging artist in Hiroshima after the war, it is still my favorite of his many good books, even though it's not an ebook yet. I keep pushing that "I want to read this on a Kindle/Nook" button for backlist books by favorite authors, and I hope we'll see more and more of them reissued.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I've been snow shoeing to survive lately.....

Sorry for the hiatus. But I will be back soon with a lot of books to recommend.

Meanwhile, given this winter weather, you might want to go back to the best account of Scott and Amundsen's race to the South Pole, THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH by Roland Huntford.  And ask Random House to release an eBook, while you're ordering the paperback.