books

action.everylibrary.org
Finally some decisive action you can take locally if you're uncomfortable.
Popular Information
"Ironically, Manatee County is making thousands of books inaccessible to students just in time to celebrate ‘Literacy Week’ in Florida, which runs from January 23 to 27. Only about 50% of students in Manatee County are reading at grade level."
Felony prosecution for providing books in the classroom! This is the nazi behavior we have been warned about happening in modern times.
Washington Post
"Over the past two school years, the number of attempts to remove books from schools has skyrocketed to historic highs. Of the thousands of titles targeted, an overwhelming majority were written by or about people of color and LGBTQ individuals, according to the American Library Association and PEN America."
The real cancel culture in America. Feels like governments in many states trying to dismantle or at least diminish the effectiveness of public education.
Washington Post
"Authoritarian and fascist communities, this is what they always go for, they always burn the books. It actually shows the power of books. If they didn’t have any power, they wouldn’t be burning or banning them. So that’s one thing to remember and celebrate: The power of books."
Cancel culture is at it again.
Read Max
"The movie more or less manages to skip over explaining either the Landsraad or CHOAM without much of a narrative problem, but I think they’re both important to understanding the complicated political forces at play."
Yeah! Some friendly nerd nitpicking here that catches a lot of my thoughts about what the movie missed, but much funnier!

Turn ebooks into audiobooks

I'm a big fan of using the iOS accessibility speech features to read books—mostly while I'm driving. It's also great when I've been reading on my iPhone for a while and need to do something else but I'm also really curious about what's going to happen next in the book. It's easy to turn on:

Open iPhone Settings -> Accessibility -> Spoken Content. Or search for Spoken Content. Turn on the Speak Screen feature:

screenshot of Speak Screen control

Once this is on you can swipe down with two fingers inside the Books app and you'll have an instant audiobook that looks and sounds something like this:



I've found that it works a little better if you disable Scrolling View in the Books app under the font/brightness controls, here:

screenshot of Scrolling View turned off

Once started it will read page after page without any intervention. The controls appear for a few seconds and then move behind an arrow on the left side of the screen that you can tap if you need them.

The downside is that the synthesized voice is robotic and has annoying robotic tics. (One example: it reads years like 1850 as "one thousand eight hundred fifty", annoying in history books that can be date heavy.) iOS has several voices available though and it's worth going through to see if one works better for you than others. Just click Voices on the Spoken Content settings page to see the options. I like one called Ava (Enhanced). It's not a real audiobook as read and interpreted by a real human, but it does work for switching from reading to listening.

Need something to read? I love the books from Standard Ebooks. They're a massive improvement over the varied quality you find somewhere like Project Gutenberg. The book in the video clip above is the Standard Ebook version of Wired Love by Ella Cheever Thayer.
crummy.com crummy.com
Most books published before 1964 are in the public domain even though copyright has been extended to cover things by default after 1923. This article explains things well. Here's another take with more background: Where to Download the Millions of Free eBooks that Secretly Entered the Public Domain.

Almost completely unrelated, I enjoyed Top 5 bits of advice for first-time readers of Moby-Dick which I found via Austin Kleon but now can't find a direct link to that mention. Moby Dick is not in copyright so it's easy to track down. har har.
Relay FM Relay FM
image from Relay FM
I really enjoyed this conversation between Jeff Veen and Mike Monteiro discussing Ruined by Design. There's nothing like hearing from two Internet Olds™ who watched the Web appear and had their idealism about it crushed in many ways. (And I say that affectionately as an Internet Old who has had crushed idealism.) They also discussed Chris Wetherell's remorse about automating retweets. There has been a lot of regret floating around lately. Tim Carmody called it The Builder's Remorse:
"This is the builder’s remorse. Not that you invented a thing, not that the consequences were unforeseen. It’s that you gave the thing to a power structure where things were overwhelmingly likely to end in ruin."
Web development as punk rock was a lot of fun for certain segments of the population. Now it's time to nurse our hangovers, clean up the garbage, and turn it into a profession. Mike Monteiro says it much better than that though which is why you should get his book if you haven't yet.
libraryextension.com libraryextension.com
I really like this extension that tells you if a book you’re viewing at Amazon is available at your local library. I wish it could tell me how much money I’ve saved over time. And I wish it could speed up my holds while I’m dreaming.
gq.com gq.com
image from gq.com
Speaking of digital habits, Cal Newport has a new book called Digital Minimalism. This GQ interview has some great gems on the rise of social media, like this: "It took this careful attention engineering, and cultural engineering, to try to make this seem innovative, and high-tech, and like you had to be doing this. If that falls apart, the whole thing goes." Ezra Klein also recently had him on his podcast: Cal Newport has an answer for digital burnout.
dnd.wizards.com dnd.wizards.com
image from law.duke.edu
I got this fun nostalgia bomb of a book as a Christmas present. It includes the visual history of iconic D&D monsters, campaign settings, and pop culture crossovers. I'm probably the target market. I grew up in the 80s playing this game and I play the latest version today. Seeing the evolution of the game over time is fascinating.

For an online equivalent, follow Old School FRP which posts art and ephemera from 80s role playing games.
Penguin Random House Penguin Random House
image from Penguin Random House
The Battle for Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum
If you like to take the mystery out of things by putting them into a historical context have I got a book for you. The Battle for Christmas is not about the phrase "war on Christmas" and all of the BS that conjures. This book is about how Christmas evolved from a rowdy public festival into the more family-focused holiday people practice today. Nissenbaum also explores the origins of Christmas trees, Santa, and gift-giving. He supports his arguments with detailed historic documents and reading it feels like visting a familiar but alternate universe. I like to revisit this book every year around this time as my family cuts down a tree, hauls it inside, and puts shiny things on it.

For a lighter take on the history behind Christmas traditions check out Mark Forsyth's A Christmas Cornucopia. I'm a big fan of Forsyth's books about language (especially The Elements of Eloquence) and he brings his same humor and love of language to this topic.
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