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Showing posts with label Bibliophile. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bibliophile. Show all posts

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Confession of a Dyslexic Bibliophile - eBooks, Regional Rights and More

Confession of a Dyslexic Bibliophile - eBooks, Regional Rights and More

I love reading. In fact it is one of my favourite things to do. I have loved reading since I really learned to the summer between grade 7 and grade 8. You see I have a dual form of dyslexia, it was diagnosed in grade 2 and did testing every 4 years until I entered university to keep up my special needs status. I wrote a piece a number of years back called How I Became a Bibliophile, From Dyslexic to Addict. It was part of a column I wrote in Imprint my university student's paper, called Confessions of a Bibliophile. But I have discovered over the last few years that I really prefer reading electronically. 2011 was the first year I read more eBooks than Physical books. With eBooks I love that I can change the font, the background colour, the spacing. And more. All of these things make it easier for me to read. I also love reading across numerous devices, my phone, my tablet, and my computer. I have a stick of about 18 books on my bedside table I want to read, these books are not available electronically. But I tend not to get around to reading them. There was a second pile on my dresser that I had moved from the bed side table last year. Now I have two stacks, of books I wish to read. One book sat on this pile for almost a year, when the eBook came out I read it twice in a week. The first time I raced through it in two days, and the second I took more time with it. And ended up giving away the physical copy to a friend. I really wanted to read this book, and had started it a few times, but because it was physical and upstairs in the bed room I just kept not getting to it. 

So in this day and age I am surprised when books come out and are only available in a physical format. Or eBooks come out but are only available in the US, UK, or Australia. There are so many authors I love and their books are just not widely available in North America, or if they are only in a physical volume. Now do not get me wrong, there is no shortage of books for me to read. I currently have almost 200 books in my eBook waiting list and close to 40 physical books awaiting a read. But I get so frustrated when eBooks are geo-locked to specific regions.  I probably read 30 eBooks to every physical book at this point in time. The tipping point was a few years ago and the gap just keeps widening.  

Of course it is not like a decade ago where I had a whole table full and covered of books on the go. They now all sit snugly on my phone and my place is kept on the web and I can jump device to device and pick up right where I was. 

Statistics Books Read By Year:
380 - 2017 
272 - 2016 
177 - 2015 
130 - 2014 
88 -  2013
176 - 2012 
163 - 2011
302 - 2010
142 - 2009
98 - 2008
83 - 2007
191 - 2006
151 - 2005
60 - 2004
52 - 2003
97 - 2002
50 - 2001
41 - 2000
71 - 1999
73 - 1998
131 - 1997
101 - 1996

I started keeping track of the books I finished reading in October of 1995, and movies watched in January of 1996. I have lists for:

All Books Read by Year
Favorite Books By Year
All Movies and TV Series Watched by Year
Favorite Movies and TV Series by Year

I also do a Top Ten List of books each quarter and for the year. They can be found here. I was also asked to pick a Top Ten Catholic Books I have read, you can find that list here (and occasionally I add a note when I come across something exceptional.)

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Confessions of a Bibliophile #8 - Books for Body Mind and Spirit

Confessions of a Bibliophile #8
Books for Body Mind and Spirit

Throughout most of my adult life I have strived to find balance - balanc
e between body, mind and spirit and balance between work, school and play. That balance has often been elusive, yet something I ever strive to achieve. Consequently, for the time being this will be the last installment in Confessions of a Bibliophile. As such, I wanted to leave you with a series of snap-shot mini reviews of some of my favorite books that I frequently reference to help me achieve some level of that equilibrium in life.

Jacob The Baker
Noah benShea

This first book in a trilogy is a fantastic collection of stories, thoughts,
penses and ideas in the great Jewish wisdom tradition. Jacob is a simple baker, and each day on his way to the bakery after his prayers he thinks and reflects on God and life. While the ovens are warming up, he jots down his thoughts on scraps of paper, and then at the end of the day takes them home to organize them. Then by accident, or by fate, one of his scraps gets baked into a loaf of bread. The lady who finds it is overwhelmed by its insight and wisdom. She asked the owner of the bakery if Jacob will share more of his ideas by baking one in each of some rolls for a dinner party for her. Reluctantly, Jacob agrees and his peaceful life is shattered.

on Jacob has no time for himself. When he goes home people are awaiting him; in the morning they are on the path to work; and every day they are in the bakery, asking him questions, seeking advice and wisdom. They soon desire to make Jacob their Tzadik, their wise man. These stories will warm your heart, and open your eyes to the divine in yourself and in others. It will teach you to live with love and to extend grace and mercy towards others. Separate reviews: Jacob the Baker, Jacob's Journey and Jacob's Ladder.

Daniel Quinn

This book looks at the history of humankind on this planet and all we have done to it. It will challenge th
e prevailing belief that more and bigger is better. The book begins with an ad in the paper "TEACHER seeks pupil. Must have earnest desire to save the world. Apply in Person." In the book, the gorilla Ishmael has learned to communicate through thought with humans. He also has a message that we cannot afford not to hear. The book focuses around a series of conversations between Ishmael and his student. It presents a different interpretation of how we went from being a hunter-gatherer society to an agrarian one, and also how that system is bound to fail. For me the most haunting thing in the book is two quotes. Early on we see a poster that states: "WITH MAN GONE, WILL THERE BE HOPE FOR GORILLA?" and much later, on the back of the first poster, "WITH GORILLA GONE, WILL THERE BE HOPE FOR MAN?" This is also the first in a trilogy. The rest of the books are: My Ishmael, The Story of B and a collect of short stories called Tales of Adam.

Bench Press
Sven Lindqvist
Translated Sarah Death

What do you get when a skinhead body builder and an aging author meet by chance at the gym? In Benchpress you get a life being transformed. This book begins with a quote from Marcus Aurelius: "Does transformation frighten you? Yet what can happen without transformation? Can you yourself take a hot bath without the wood being transformed, can you nourish yourself without the food being transformed? Do you not then see that your own transformation is equally necessary?", and this book will change you. As I read it, my own childhood dreams and aspirations, long put away, were awakened. This book is broken up into 85 penses or thoughts. Some are the personal reflections of the author, some of history, and tidbits of information fun and bizarre, and a few are visions that Sven has along his journey. It is also the first in a trilogy. The last chapters of the first two are the first chapter of the next. They are Desert Divers, a journey into the desert to see childhood dreams, and Exterminate All the Brutes, a history of genocides in Africa committed by Europeans and leading up to the great genocide of the Nazi reign. For full review click here.

Way of the Peaceful Warrior
Dan Millman

For many years Millman's books have been among my favorites. This is a first in a Trilogy that includes Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior and The Journey of Socrates. Millman himself went though an incredible story, from injury back to Olympic athlete and from those events has creat
ed a series of books to help bring out the best in other people. This book far exceeds the recent film of the same name. Any of Millman's books are great tools for personal growth.

God Is Not Reasonable:
and other tales of Mother Macrina

Irma Zaleski

This is an updated and expand
ed edition of the great book Mother Macrina that was published by Novalis press in 2000. This version has nearly twice as many stories and bits of wisdom to pass on to the earnest reader. About the original edition I wrote: "This is the first of Zaleski's books that I found. It is a collection of penses - thoughts and meditations from a woman who will remind you of the desert mothers of old." I also wrote a profile of all of Zaleski's books here.

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
Robin Sharma

This is the interesting story of a lawyer who appears to have it all - the corner office, the life style, the cars, women … then he gives it all up and tours the
East. While there he comes across this strange monk and monastery. He comes to live life in a much different way. Yet he is challenged by the monk who has trained him to go back home and share the message he has learned with the West. Julian, our main character, returns to his old law firm and to his protégé John. He tells him a parable; then the rest of the book explains the parable and how it relates to different aspects of our lives. The parable is rather simple and a little strange but as it is explained you will never forget it. Read it to find out how a garden, lighthouse, sumo wrestler, pink wire cable, stopwatch, roses and a winding path of diamonds are symbols of timeless principles and virtues by which to live your life. This book could help raise the quality of your life to a new level.

The Alchemist
Paulo Coelho

This is an amazing
book. It is a story of a young man who has a dream of hidden treasure. It is a book that alludes to that fact that all of us have a purpose and a dream. Yet many settle and give up their dream, and lose their passion for life. In this book it is stated again and again that each of us has our own Personal Legend, a quest: "When you pursue your personal legend the universe will conspire with you to make it happen." You will follow Santiago on his adventure and during the process be challenged to think about your goals and dreams and what you would have to do to pursue them.

How to Get Better Grades and Have More Fun
Steve Douglass and Al Janssen

Do you want to keep your grades up or even improve them? Do you want more time for friends and fun? Then this book is a must read for you this school year. It guarantees a grade point increase or your money back.

By simply reading a chapter a week, at most 12 pages, you will learn tricks and techniques to help you learn how to do school better. This book takes the 80/20 principle and applies it to academics.

Each of these books could bring something new into your life. They are also easy enough to read you could add them in with your school work without too much effort. If you want to see more of my reviews and literary ramblings please stop by my blog www.bookreviewsandmore.ca and maybe we will meet between the covers again.

(First Published in Imprint 2009-09-04.)

Excerpts taken from previous posts:
Books that will change your life.
More books that will change your life.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Confessions of a Bibliophile #7 - How do you treat your books?

Confessions of a Bibliophile #7
How do you treat your books?

I have noticed that people treat books in many different ways, to write in them or not, to stamp or mark them, breaking the spine and many others. Over the years my habits in this regard have changed often. In this week's article we will examine the pros and cons of some of these habits in a reader.

First, writing in books. This is a habit I tend to do in phases. When I am keeping all my books, or reading a book I am planning on reading a number of times, or if a book is really impacting my life, I tend to underline in the book and write notes in the margins. If it is a book I write in, I use a different color with each consecutive reading.
An example is The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom. This book came highly recommended to me my first year here at UWaterloo by Dr. Peter Frick. The first lecture my first term here Peter did a talk on theory of education, and why we are at university. He quoted from his version of this book that was so well worn it was held together with elastics. That first year back in 1998 when I read it, much of it was over my head, specifically some of the philosophy of education. That first year I underlined in red and made notes in the margins. I have since reread the book 3 more times and each time I have understood more of the book, and used a different color for my notes and underlining. For a while I was underlining in every book I read, but as I started selling more and more of my books, I realized that you get significantly less money for books that are marked up, or they will not be purchased at all. So I started writing only in school books, or really meaningful or life-changing books. I also always underline with a ruler so it will be neat.

The second thing I do, in part because I have a lending library, is stamp my name on the spines of my books. I currently have 56 books lent out. By having my name on the spines, if it sits on someone else's shelf for a while, someone will see the name and say 'Hey you have Steven's book here'. I now get about 85% of the books I lend out back. Before I started this, I averaged around 40%. I previously put bookplates on the inside of the book, but the stamp on the spine was recommended by a professor back at Queen's and it resulted in a lot fewer books having to be repurchased.

Taking care of your books. I am pretty meticulous about how I treat my books. I have some paperbacks I have read 3 or more times and still have not broken the spines. When buying used books I will not purchase them if the spine is broken. I also take dust covers off of hard covers when I read them in order to prevent them from being torn or damaged while in my backpack.

When reading, I use cue cards as bookmarks. I write down notes for reviews on the cards. Also any words that I do not know I write down and look up their meanings. My record was a Michael W. Higgins Book. I filled 3 large cue cards, 1 word per line, while reading his book Heretic Blood. Most of the words were either old English or old French words.

So how do you treat your books? Drop me a line and share your habits and strategies. There is a story I heard years ago, I do not know if it is true or not. However, a guy notices that his neighbor has cleaned out his garage, and can now park both cars in it. Previously the doors barely closed because of all the old stuff. The neighbor asked 'Did you find anything worthwhile?' The guy responds, 'Not really; there was this old bible from Guttenberg. But some guy named Luther had written all over it so I threw it out.' And as always you never know what you will find between the covers and whom it might be from.

(First published in Imprint 2009-07-24.)

Friday, 10 July 2009

Confessions of a Bibliophile #6 - To Purge Or Not To Purge

Confessions of a Bibliophile #6
To Purge Or Not To Purge
The process of weeding out the library.

Once upon a time I believed that I needed to keep every book I read; I also wanted to own every book that I read. It soon became obvious that this was impracticable, as well as not feasible and practically impossible. This leads to both the need to purge books, and the pain of purging books. I have purged on many occasions, but it is always a bitter sweet situation. I have sold books when I needed space, when I have needed money and sometimes just because of changes in reading habits. Currently for me, purging is a little less painful for a few reasons. First I do receive over 100 free books a year because of the number of reviews I write and publish, here in Imprint and elsewhere. My blog receives about 500 hits a day and I have publishers and authors contacting me regularly asking me to review their products. Second I also now have an e-book collection. I have over 20,000 books in electronic format that I have collected over the last decade or so. These books are sorted by author and genre, and can easily be carried on a jump drive or put on my laptop and read at leisure. I enjoy the e-book format because it is easier to carry multiple books, and because I can reread old favorites anytime I want without having to keep the physical book. But back to the topic at hand - the need to purge physical books and how to go about doing it.

As an example, when I got married I had about 10,000 books in my library; currently I have about 5000 and of that 5000 only about 100 are books I owned when I got married. If I still had every book that I have owned and read, I would need a second or third house just for the books. So not purging is not really an option, but since it is painful, how does one go about parting with his books, his treasures, his friends? Well here in Waterloo I do it a few ways. If I am selling because I need money then I usually pull out all the books I am willing to part with and pile them on my den floor, then I go back through the shelves and pull out the sacrificial books. These books are ones that I have had more than two years in my 'to read' pile but have not read yet, books I intend to read but just have not made a priority, or books I have started but never got around to finishing. Then I pull out the books I know will bring the most cash. If I am just selling to make space, then I skip this final step.

Once I have all the books pulled out, I load them into boxes and hockey duffle bags. Then the travel begins. First I take them to Old Goat Books on King Street. They are a little more picky about what they will take, but pay prime dollar for used books, and are great guys to deal with. Next I hit the Bookworm on University; anything that Old Goat did not take comes here. They tend to take a good percentage of the books, and even some of the Advance Reading Copies I get from publishers. Next I hit A Second Look Books in Kitchener. They take almost anything and in any condition but do not pay nearly as well. By this point I am usually down to about 10% of the books I left the house with, and these go to the Generations Thrift Store in Waterloo. I now have a policy that if I pack up a book to sell, it does not need to come back home. Then I get to go home with some extra cash, empty bags, and get to reorganize my den and have spaces on my shelves again, and room for the new books that I receive almost every week to review and get placed in the 'to read' queue. My office always feels cleaner and fresher after a purge, because by the time I have the need to purged, I usually have every shelf full, some with double rows of books or stacks of books on tables, and the front of shelves. Then after the purge there is space again, usually a full empty shelf, and spaces on the ends of other shelves. So once all the books are sacrificed the space becomes reorganized and is free of clutter at least for a few months.

Hopefully those tips will help you during your time here at UWaterloo, either if you need to purge because you need the money, the space, or it's just time for a change. Then someone else can find what's between the covers.

Note: You can see more pictures of my old den here, and my current den here. These pictures are after a major purge and reorganization, about 300 books were culled. Today the shelves are filled to overflowing again and it has been less than a year since these pictures.

(First published in Imprint 2009-07-10.)
[Graphic courtesy Ian Cutajar - Imprint.]

Friday, 26 June 2009

Confessions of a Bibliophile #5 - How I Became a Bibliophile, From Dyslexic to Addict

Confessions of a Bibliophile #5
How I Became a Bibliophile,
From Dyslexic to Addict

I have been asked by some of my readers to explain how I went from being a dyslexic to a reading addict. I was originally tested for learning disabilities in grade one in 1976. That initial testing was inconclusive. So I repeated grade one, then in grade two my teacher insisted on and pushed for me to be retested. In January of 1978 during my second testing I was diagnosed with a dual form of dyslexia. Dyslexia is a genre of diseases and it is like saying you have the flu. With my dual form I could spell words out loud correctly and put them on paper incorrectly, then spell them out loud a second time looking letter for letter at the paper and not recognize the error. So I left my normal class each week for a few hours for assistance, and was passed each year into the next grade. Towards the end of grade seven my parents sent me for private testing. I was reading at only a grade three level.

My parents enrolled me in a private summer school program eight hours a day 5 days a week, for the whole summer break. It was an intensive program with low student-to-teacher ratios. Each day we did three reading tests. We read out loud for a set amount of time, then we lost words from our word count for any wrong words when we read the passage, and for any wrong comprehension questions on the passages. Prior to this I had not read any books from cover to cover. I made it through school by being a good listener in class, renting the movies, or asking other people in the class. During this course I went from reading at a grade three level to reading at a university level, and from reading about 30 words per minute to reading over 600 words per minute. Now to put that into perspective, here are North American Reading Averages:

Grade 3-4 Student 60-80wpm
Senior-elementary student 120-180wpm
High-school student 200wpm
Average Adult 200wpm
University student 325wpm
Graduate student 400wpm
Average Speed Reader 500-1500wpm.

The average adult rate is the same for everyone, even for university graduates. Once people are not reading as much or as intensely as they used to, their reading rate atrophies. Yet all of this only took care of my ability to read. Because I had spent so many years behind others I was still behind in my writing, and still had the problem with letters reversing while writing. Using a computer helped it to some extent but when I am really tired it even shows up when using a keyboard. However, at the end of the course, I started reading, realized there was a whole world in books I had been missing, and immediately I was hooked.

At first I read mostly science fiction and fantasy - the likes of Robert A. Heinlien, Piers Anthony, Steven Brust, Roger Zelazny, Edgar Rice Burrows and more. Then by about grade ten I was reading classics, Greek dramas, Thomas Hardy, complete works of Shakespeare and just about anything I could lay my hands on. I became an addict in the true sense of the word. I would find an author I liked and read everything he or she wrote.

I went on to be retested for my learning disability, to establish baselines for academic accommodations, in 1982 and again in 1989.

To be honest, if you had told me five years ago I would be a published author, and now a columnist, I would have laughed at you. With the learning disability I never even dreamed of being a writer. Now I have published over 200 book reviews in 7 different publications, written news and features articles, written two three-part serial features - the first on WSIB and the second on Bone Marrow - and all by chance. A few years back I was working at Chapters and I started getting books before they came out, from contacts at publishing houses. I would write reviews that they could pull quotes from for sales and marketing. After about four months of this I thought, "Why not try to submit these to Imprint?" Most newspapers have book reviews, and I had not seen any in the paper in a long time, usually just CD or movie reviews. So I wrote the then Editor-in-Chief and that first summer had two book reviews in almost every issue.

I love to read. It is probably my favorite pastime, or tied with playing on computers (but that is a different column for fall term). I always carry a knapsack with at least two books, a journal and pencil case. In the early years of my marriage I was defined as 'the reader'. The question at gatherings was always: 'Who's that in the corner reading?' and the answer was: 'Oh, that's Andrea's husband.' I almost feel naked without a book and a journal in which to make notes. Even in the last few years, with having children, my reading has only gone up each year. I read everything - fitness, self-help, theology, fiction, science fiction. I truly am a book addict. That is the story of how I became one, and I never knew what I would find between the pages.

(First published in Imprint 2009-06-26.)

Other Articles Examining Who I Am:
Mad Celtic Warrior, Poet and Priest! - An Essay - 2003
The Journey of a Quester! - An Essay / Spiritual Biography 2004
New Year's 2006
Who Am I? Who Am I? -2008
Confessions of a Bibliophile #5 - How I Became a Bibliophile, From Dyslexic to Addict - 2009
New Year's Goals 2010
Steven R. McEvoy Interview - 2012
2014 My Goals

Who I Am - 2014

Friday, 12 June 2009

Confessions of a Bibliophile #4 - Author Addiction Or Reading Stalker?

I often wonder about addictive personalities - in part because of my own. It manifests itself in many ways, shapes and forms. In regards to my readings, I keep lists of each book read each year, favorite authors, and favorite books. These lists can be seen on my blog as well as a nearly complete collection of my published and unpublished reviews. But when does a love of an author's writing become an addiction, or a form of literary stalking? I think in the last number of years I have had a few book or author fetishes; in short, in short periods of time read entire author canons or most of their works, or compulsively tracked down out-of-print and hard-to- find obscure books from various authors. In this week's column I will examine a few of those obsessions, and maybe my reflections will provide a mirror to parts of your own life.

I did not keep track of the books I had read until the fall of 1995. Since then I have read over 1300 books. So in the last 151 months I have read 1334 books - that is an average of almost nine books a month and 104 books a year. In that same time frame I have read the following sets. Between 1995 and 1997, 31 books by Madelein L'Engle. I read 18 by Kathy Shaidle, 35 by C.S. Lewis, and since 2006, 37 by Jose Maria Escriva. I have read only six of his books but combined I have read Calvin Miller's books 56 times, and I have read only 4 of Noah benShea's books but read them for a total of 28 times. I would definitely say that is fanatical if not obsessive behavior!

Yet that is only part of the story. Chuck Palahniuk wrote the novel Fight Club, and after seeing the movie in the summer of 2004, I devoured all of his books except Fight Club - both his fiction and non-fiction. I read 7 of his books, 2 collections of his works in under a year, then finally read Fight Club. A while back, a short story The Warm Sand that I had read haunted me for decades. After being reminded of it while browsing used book stores in Toronto I managed to track it down. (Here is a story about the story and how I found it the story is also posted with permission.) After finding the story again, I interlibrary loaded every edition of all of author J.F. Power's books and read them and compared different editions of his short stories.

In my column two weeks ago I talked about Canadian Phenom Kathy Shaidle. I first encountered her blog, tracked down her books in print, then spent the better part of a day tracking down a small independent publisher in Toronto that released early editions of her works of poetry and managed to get copies that were still in stock so that I would have all of her books. (An author profile.)

I often get asked how I read so much, or why I sometimes reread books again and again. The answer is simple I read because I must. There is some small part of my that needs to read daily, it is central and core to my being. I read over 100 books a year, and any given year 15-20 of those are rereads. I reread books for a few different reasons; first because the book has had a lasting impact on me, and I need to reread it to experience that effect again. The list of these annual rereads change, as some become less important and some are added to the list. Some book's I reread because I know I did not 'get it all', an example of this is The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom, the first time I read this I loved it but knew that about a third of the theory was over my head. So in successive readings I have gleamed more and more form the book. Some books I reread because new books have come out in a series, I have gone back and reread some series chronologically, and also in the order they were published. Finally some books I reread just because I love them and want to revisit the characters, the story or revisit the impact it had upon my life.

I have met only a few of my favorite authors in real life: Madelein L'Engle, Chuck Palahniuk, Michael W. Higgins and a few more. I have corresponded with a few on the web and before the 90's through snail mail. I also used to collect signed books, both those I had signed and those for which I sometimes paid a stupid amount of money. Recently on e-bay I saw a 1st Edition Fight Club go for over $1500USD. Before marriage and children I was never that bad but I was overly zealous in my acquisitions. I still have only a few signed books - sold some when I needed the money and some when I needed the space. But the question remains: Do I stalk authors? I find I do. I tend to find an author I like and try to read everything they have published. I sometimes compare various editions of books like Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land considered a classic in its day. After his death, the original book almost three times the size was released by his estate. It was even better than the version his publisher made him hack down, and that had been a classic for ages. However I seldom have gone out of my way to engage authors on the web or in real life. A few have contacted me because of my reviews - most thanking, a few complaining and one outraged. Yet, as always, you never know what you will find between the covers.

(First published in Imprint 2009-06-12.)

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Confessions of a Bibliophile #3 - Judge A Book By It's Cover

Often shoppers judge books by their covers, at least at first glance. Reading some of my favorite authors happened by chance as I picked up one of their books based upon the cover. Steven Brust's early novel Jhereg, is one example. This book came out when I was 13 - it was about an assassin witch. I loved the art work so much I used the font from the cover of this and others in the series to create the designs for one of my tattoos. Another book I picked up to look at just because of its cover was Orphanage by Robert Buettner; first published in 2004 it had a great retro Sci-Fi feel, and it reminded me of many of the early covers of Robert A. Heinlein's books, and in reading the cover I found out it was written in homage to Heinlein's classic Starship Troopers, which is an amazing commentary on war. So of course I had to buy it that very day. Third, The Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman, had something mystical about the cover and it had an effect upon me. I had the book for almost two years before reading it because I did not want the spell of the cover to be broken.

In years gone by I collected every edition of different books. Some of Piers Anthony's books have gone through 5 or 6 cover changes. Many classic science fiction books were originally only available in pulp, paperback editions - cheap to make and cheap to recycle to make new ones. I owned the complete Edgar Rice Burrows Warlord of Mars series originally published between 1917 and 1964. These books were transformational in the years after I first learned how to read. Let me digress for a minute. With a dual form of dyslexia and after repeating grade one, they just kept passing me on in school. I got through my book reports by renting VHS or Beta tapes, and paying close attention in class. The summer between grades seven and eight I was sent to a private summer school, and I went from reading at a grade 3 level to reading at a university level and reading over 400 words per minute. It was this whole world that opened up to me that I never knew existed. Reading became an addiction and books an obsession. I read many DAW books, a publishing company dedicated to Science Fiction books. At the time of their merger with Penguin Group in 2007 they had published 1400 books, and from the inception in 1972 until 1985 their books all had yellow spines and a yellow logo box on the front cover. Therefore as you browsed used book stores you could easily recognize the books even if they were not cover facing.

I am sure that you are aware that a great deal of planning goes into choosing covers for books. Publishers also change covers if a book has been out a while, if response was not what was expected. A few years back a book called The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks came out, in the original prereleases of the book there was no author or title on the front cover. But eventually the American arm of the publisher forces a small black diamond with this info. Later they changed the cover completely so that the title and author was in large blocks on the cover. I personally was more attracted to the original, it was so unique and different it immediately grabbed my attention. I often judge books by their cover, or if I do not know the author their covers induce me to pick up the book or to leave it on the shelf or table. It is all part of how books are marketed to us. The next time you are in a Chapters or Indigo books, check out the tables, check out the books on the end caps of the bookcases. These spaces are rented or sold to publishers. Some tables will be all books by one publisher, some will be thematic or issue focused. But most of these books on tables are there to get your attention, to inspire you to pick it up and hopefully purchase it. Another thing used to draw you to certain titles are book lists. At Chapters you receive a discount on the Globe and Mail best sellers' list, and then there is Heather's Picks. The owner of Chapters-Indigo has a table with her selection of books that influence her and are favorites. The other is Oprah's Picks - the day a book is mentioned on her show most Chapters, Indigos and Coles in Canada sell out. The stores start getting calls to reserve them before the show has finished airing. There is an interesting story about Canadian author David Adams Richards. One of his books was selected to be an Oprah Pick. When his publisher told him this, and that it would dramatically increase sales, he went to look at this list of Oprah's Picks. When he saw the books on the list he did not want his name associated with those other books and opted not to allow his book to be one of her picks. Yet all of these marketing tricks are designed to get you to pick up the book and hold it, In part to judge it by it's cover.

Seldom when book covers change do I appreciate it. I am a creature of habit and like things to stay the same. A few books that have changed the cover art for the worst, in my opinion, are Dust by Arthur Slade, Fidelis by A.R. Horvath, and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Some books that have pulled it off well are Orphanage by Robert Buettner, The Singer by Calvin Miller and Night by Elie Wiesel. So drop me a line and let me know what books you have judged by their covers and whether it was worth it. Yet all in all judging books by their covers has almost always served me well. Seldom have I been terribly disappointed and wished I had not read the book. So as you look at that next book cover, and its placement in the store, consider all the factors in the marketing behind it, before picking it up, flipping it over and reading the back. Yet as always remember you never know what you will find between the covers.

(First Published in Imprint 2009-05-29.)

Friday, 15 May 2009

Confessions of a Bibliophile #2 - I Love You

Have you ever fallen in love with a character from a book - were they fictional, were they real, were they dead? When reading, sometimes the characters or people become so real to me they are like friends. So I revisit them year after year, rereading the books. With others I wonder what they are doing after the time of the book, two years later, five, or ten years later. I wonder what they are up to. I have fallen in love with five women while reading about them, one fictional, two dead before I was born, and two living. In this week's column I will briefly describe each of them and hope it will inspire you to check out their writings or the writings about them.

Meg Murry is a fictional character created by Madeleine L'Engle. She appears in six of the books in L'Engle's Karios series of books. She is a child in the first books and a mother in the later books. She is a strong woman, an intelligent woman. She appeared so real in the pages. I tried her favorite sandwich and it became one of mine, toasted bagel with liverwurst, cream cheese, tomato slices. L'Engle is one of my all-time favorite authors and when I met her at a conference, she stated that recently she realized that one of her characters had just finished her PhD. Her characters were real to her, and time kept passing for them. Meg was the first woman I ever fell in love with in a book.

My first term here at UW, I took a course called RS100C Faith Quests with Dr. Michael W. Higgins. We read 13 books over the term. I fell in love with two of the women we read about and studied. The first was Etty Hillesum, when I read her book The Letters and Diary of Etty Hillesum. She was passionate about life, and she was determined to understand herself. Even after the Nazi advance and occupation she did not stop living. The last words we have from her are on a post card thrown from a train on its way to Auschwitz. She was an incredible woman, and her life is an amazing testament of the human spirit.

I am not sure what to call the next woman. I met her as Joy Gresham, the woman C.S. Lewis married, then fell in love with. Lewis wrote about her in his book A Grief Observed. It recounts his experience of her illness and her death. It was the basis for the film Shadowlands. Lewis originally published this book under a pseudonym N. W. Clerk. It appears the book was so well written, he received a number of copies from friends to help him with his grief.

Five Feet of Fury - www.fivefeetoffury.com. That is the current blog of Kathy Shaidle. As a fulltime blogger since 2000, Kathy has offended nearly every one. I encountered her previous blog, relapsedcatholic.com, through other Catholic blogrolls. After reading her blog for a while I tracked down her books and read them. I have read most of her books more than once and her autobiographical piece God Rides a Yamaha six times (The God on the Yamaha was wearing a UW jacket with Math on the armband). It is a series of columns published after she was diagnosed with Lupus. I fell in love with her because of her vulnerability in this book. Yet most of her writings are sassy, humorous, poignant and very political. Kathy states: "Social justice is the stubborn application of unworkable solutions to imaginary problems." or "Racist' is the new 'commie."She is considered one of the top Conservative bloggers in Canada. Mark Steyn declares about Kathy "Kathy Shaidle is one of the great virtuoso polemicists of our day: If the "human rights" racketeers get their way, she'll be unpublishable in her own country. But, in the end, that's a reflection not on her but on them." In his intro to her latest book The Tyranny of Nice.

Finally, a Mormon woman from Utah, Terry Tempest Williams - and she does live up to her middle name. Terry's book Refuge is the story of life and the story of death - death of women from cancer, and death of birds in a flooded sanctuary. Williams is a poet, author, environmentalist, and is very passionate about life and life in the desert. Her books are moving and powerful; she writes about the clan of the one-breasted women. She states "I belong to a Clan of One-Breasted Women. My mother, my grandmothers, and six aunts have all had mastectomies. Seven are dead. The two who survive have just completed rounds of chemotherapy and radiation." All of her books are powerful and moving.

I fell in love with each of the women because of the power of words. Words can shape us, change us, challenge us and transform us. Each of the women profiled above can have lasting impact on your life. So check out the books and remember you never know what you will find between the covers, or who.

(First published in Imprint as 'I Love You' in the column Confessions of a Bibliophile 2009-05-15.)

Monday, 4 May 2009

Confessions of a Bibliophile #1 - To Write Or Not To Write

This summer I am applying for a column here in Imprint. I am doing so for a number of reasons, but first and foremost is to expose my love for books and all things bookish. I am a book addict! I have bought books rather than groceries - I have stayed up reading all night even though I had exams or work the next day but just could not put the book down. I have sat in Chapters and read a book from cover to cover because I did not have the money to buy it. One such book Starbright, by Andrew M. Greeley, I read 3 times in Chapters before I had the money to pick it up. I would even put a book mark in it and put it in the back of the stack till my next visit. Yet what does all of that have to do with writing?

You see I never expected to become a writer. I have a dual form of dyslexia and writing was never really an aspiration of mine. I never thought it would be even remotely possible. However a few years back, I was working as a zone lead in Chapters and developed some contacts in the publishing industry, and over time I started getting more and more free books, and getting them further and further before the books street date. The review copies are called by a variety of names: ARC (Advance Reader's\Reviewer's Copy), Galley Copies or Uncorrected proofs. I have received some of these as much as 8 months before a book's street date. I have had publishers send me PDF's of books because the ARC's were not even ready yet. I started writing reviews for publishers from which they would use excerpts in marketing campaigns. So I thought, why not try to publish in Imprint? I had not seen any book reviews in the paper for a while and each week in the arts section there were CD, DVD and Movie reviews. Most major papers have book reviews and usually a weekly section dedicated to book reviews. Then in May 2006 I published my first review in Imprint. Since then I have published almost 130 articles, and about 120 of them have been book reviews.

Over my years at the paper my involvement has been up and down some terms, depending on how much I was on Campus and other life events - having 2 children, being injured at work, surgery and more. Yet Imprint has remained a central part of my life, and my identity both as a UW student and as person. I am an author. So this term I am going to try to expand my horizons. I am applying for a column in the spring term for the paper. The process of becoming a columnist at Imprint is as follows: write a letter of intent, outlining the title of the column, the focus and the purpose, and include 3 sample columns. Then at the first staff meeting of the term, the current staff and members who become staff by successfully achieving editorial board status vote on the concept and determine your fate. If you already have a column and you wish to continue it you have to reapply each term. If I am successful over the next 4 months you will read my reflections, confessions and predilections as a bibliophile.

(First Published in Imprint 2009-05-01.)
[As a side note the column submission was accepted and will appear in Imprint over the next 4 months every other week, and a few days later will be posted here.]

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Who Am I? - Who I Am!

A Post from Eric Scheske over at The Daily Eudemon got me thinking again about the whole question of 'who I am'. I constantly struggle with the question of Who I am? One thing I do, to help me find out is journal. Usually at the beginning of each term - so about 3 times a year. I journal based on questions from a Science Fiction show called Crusade which was a spin off of Babylon 5. Each episode of Crusade began with a series of questions being asked by the narrator to the Captain. They were:

Why are you?
What do you want?
Who do you trust?
Who do you serve?
Where are you going?

I find that as I get older, I really like lists. I have quite a few of them that I use in various forms and means. The daily goals I have been using as guidelines for living are:

1. To get enough sleep.
2. To eat right & exercise daily.
3. To refuse to be a perfectionist.
4. To carefully control finances.
5. To ask for help when needed.
6. To pray and read the Bible daily.
7. To not pressure self into pla
nning entire life today.

And then there are principles to live by, which I got from a book by Dr. James MacDonald, which are as follows:
Eight Principles to Live Your Life by:

1. I will do all things as unto the lord.
2. I will live in the light of the judgment seat of Christ.
3. I will consider my weaker brother in all I do.
4. I will do nothing unless I'm sure that it's right to do.
5. I will do all things to the glory of my God.
6. I will avoid what may appear wrong even if I know it's not.
7. I will abstain from thi
ngs that could enslave me.
8. I will seek always to do what I believe Jesus would do.
With these three sets of guiding questions or goals, I have been fairly happy with my progress so far. But I still can not answer the question of who I am. My goals are to be a good man, a good husband and a good father. I think the activities listed above - the journaling, staying healthy in body, mind and spirit - will help those goals. I want to be a better friend to the people in my life.

The Closes I have come is a poem I published a few year back found here called "poetry in being". Yet If I had to answer I would say:
I am a Roman Catholic
I am a husband
I am a father
I am a son
I am a brother
I am a friend
I am a bibliophile
I am a writer

Some of my favorite quotes about identity and being are:

"Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you."
Chuck Palahniuk - Fight Club

“Anything that doesn’t lead us to that – to better know and serve God – is a waste of time.”
-Charles de Foucauld

"There is no certainty, only opportunity"
-V for Vendetta

"It is in changing that things find purpose."

"Trouble is a part of life, and if you don't share it, you don't give the person who loves you a chance to love you enough."

"It's Very Important to understand the difference between dreams and goals. Dreams are things we wish for--things you enjoy thinking about but don't really know when they'll happen. Goals, on the other hand, are specific things you have decided you need to accomplish within a clearly defined period of time."
Bill Phillips

"It is when things go wrong, when the good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly."
Madeleine L'Engle

"Mere change is not growth. Growth is the synthesis of change and continuity, and where there is no continuity there is no growth."
C.S. Lewis

"There is nothing so constant as change. Meet it. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Learn from it.
The one thing you can be absolutely sure of in your life is change. It’s the only thing that never changes. The law of nature is that you either grow or you die; there’s no in-between. So, what have you chosen so far? Are you growing in every area of your life? Hey, it’s not enough to be growing and looking great just because you work out. That’s only a small part of your life. What about your emotions, spiritual life, family, friends, career, hobbies? Are they growing as your body does? Become a complete person and not an in-shape and great-looking version of an incomplete person. There’s way more to life than just working out. Go with the flow and embrace changes in all areas of your life. The change will do you good."
Robert Wolff, PH.D. Bodybuilding 101

"To strengthen the mind you must harden the muscles."

"Now -- here is my secret:
I tell it to you with an openness of heart I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God - that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me to be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond able to love."
Douglas Coupland - Life After God

"May I never be complete. May I never be content. May I never be perfect. Deliver me, Tyler, from being perfect and complete."
Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, (As the world sees these things.)

"You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet."
Fight Club - The Movie

"Either Get busy living or get busy dieing!"
Andy - The Shawshank Redemption

"What am I living for? What am I dieing for?"

"All men die, not all men really live!"
William Wallace - Braveheart

"There is no normal life, just life so get busy living it!"

Some of this post comes from New Years Resolutions 2006. I also wrote to essays on this topic in university the first The Journey of a Quester! - An Essay / Spiritual Biography and the second Mad Celtic Warrior, Poet and Priest! - An Essay.
Yet even after all of that the question remains, of "Who am I?"

(As an addendum Jeff Vehige has a great post on Rule of Life - Some Examples, that is really worth checking out.)

Other Articles Examining Who I Am:
Mad Celtic Warrior, Poet and Priest! - An Essay - 2003
The Journey of a Quester! - An Essay / Spiritual Biography 2004
New Year's 2006
Who Am I? Who Am I? -2008
Confessions of a Bibliophile #5 - How I Became a Bibliophile, From Dyslexic to Addict - 2009
New Year's Goals 2010
Steven R. McEvoy Interview - 2012
2014 My Goals

Who I Am - 2014

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Meme: Alphabet

Ebeth from A Catholic Mom Climbing the Pillars tagged me and I am glad to have a diversion, I am thinking too much about my son's health and future.!

The theme for this meme is that using the 26 letters of the alphabet you will express who you are, what you do, your interests, what matters to you etc….and you have to write it within 26 minutes…I haven't seen this anywhere, though I'm sure it's so obvious an idea that other bloggers have done it before!...

A: Academic, adaptable, adventurous, affectionate, aggressive, alert, ambitious, artistic, assertive,

B: Bibliophile, bold, brave,

C: Capable, caring, casual, clean, clear-thinking, clever, competent, composed, conservative, cool, courteous, creative, curious,

D: Determined, daring, dedicated, deliberate,

E: Efficient, ethical,

F: Faithful, firm, flexible, forceful, formal, frank, factual,

G: Geek, generous,

H: Healthy, helpful, honest, hotheaded,

I: Imaginative, independent, individualistic, industrious, intellectual, intelligent, intense, interesting, inventive,

J: Journaler, JeSTeR, Joke,

K: Kind,

L: Learner, leadership, leisurely, light-hearted, likable, lively, logical, loving, lovable, loyal,

M: Masculine, mature, methodical, meticulous, mild, moderate,

N: Natural, neat-freak,

O: Organized, original,

P: Perfectionist, painstaking, patient, powerful, practical, precise, professional, purposeful,

Q: Quick,

R: Roman Catholic, rational, realistic, reflective, reliable, religious, reserved, resilient, resourceful, responsible, rocker,

S: Student, serious, sharp-witted, sincere, sociable, spiritual, steady, stimulating, strong, strong-minded, studious, supportive,

T: Tenacious, teachable, thorough, thoughtful, tough, trusting, trustworthy,

U: Unexcitable, unique,

V: Versatile,

W: Writer, wise,

X: Xeric

Y: Yearner (Defn #1)

Z: Zany,

I waited a few days to do this when I could think straight, but I
cheated, I went and found some list of adjectives from these two sites Adjective Check List and Adjective Alphabetical Lists and grabbed from them. Then I removed the one's that did not apply. The one's I came up with myself are in blue, but I prefer my short for MCWPP Mad Celtic Warrior Poet Priest!

I tag no one in particular but would be interested in seeing answers from Davenport, Tim's and Steven Brust. If you want to join in please feel free to play.