Being a Reader

They say you can’t be a writer if you aren’t first a reader. On the one hand, I’ve been reading for most of my life. Writer, fan, and all around nice guy Jamie Rubin recently commented on his blog:

High school and college taught me how to learn. Reading has taught me nearly everything else.

These words really resonated with me. I’ve been trying to read more lately, carefully spreading the reach of my knowledge eating tendrils. I have a hard rule that it has to be interesting to me, even if that trumps other merits. At the start of the year, I tried to establish that I would read nonfiction in equal measures with fiction, switching back and forth. That didn’t survive the actual test of reading, though.

So what has qualified recently to make it to my active reading pile?

  • The Rise of Athens (fun)
  • Vampire Forensics (research)
  • Monsters Among Us (research)
  • Persian Fire (fun)
  • The Daily Stoic (fun/journal)
  • Paperbacks from Hell (fun)
  • In Joy Still Felt (fun)

Of that list, two notes. Paperbacks from Hell is an awesome journey, but it is very much a leisurely, almost coffee table setting journey I’ve been reading from it on and off again for months now, and can see it taking me another three or four months to finish. That’s ok – it’s not a race.

The Daily Stoic is, as you may have guessed, 365 daily stoic thoughts. I’ve been pairing it with my daily journal, partly to encourage me to journal more often (believe it or not, I journal daily even though I only blog once every few months), but also because it’s been nice to have some thoughts to chew on. Stoicism isn’t for everyone, but enough of it fits my world view to make it an interesting journey.

Two books in that list I marked as research. Scary stuff, that. I have a notion for a book I’d like to write (eventually – though maybe not right now), and I felt like I didn’t know enough on those subjects to write intelligently. I realize the subject matter isn’t exactly serious science, but they are a natural extension of the joy I’ve always had watching classic horror movies.

As for the Persians vs. the Greeks in that list – you should see some of the ancillary books I have lying around (who knew I had opinions on Iliad translations???). In some ways it was the first volume of Asimov’s autobiography, In Joy Still Felt, and his tales of walking around reading the Iliad that led me there.

My fiction TBR pile is actually larger, and equally chaotic. I’m still reading Stieg Larson’s books (Nordic mysteries), along with trying out Anthony Ryan (fantasy) and some classics I picked up on a recent trip to Powell’s (Pohl, Asimov, and Weber being the bulk of the pile).

And this is how I spend my summer 🙂


**EDIT – Added “In Joy Still Felt” to the list of books being read. Maybe my list is getting too long to manage…nah…

Paper or Plastic?

The last few weeks I’ve done a lot of travelling, and this has gotten me thinking about books and how I read them.

Continue reading “Paper or Plastic?”

Amazon Prime Past Its Prime

A blog post only someone who has nothing better to complain about could write. This blog post is the quintessential first world problem complaint. And yet, I write it, maybe to save someone else from the same mistake.

I made my first order with Amazon in August of 1998. I bought a copy of James Blaylock’s Winter Tides, and it was amazing. I used my computer to have a book sent to my house. The future had arrived.

Over the course of the next 20 years (wow, that alone is a weird concept to me), I have bought books, movies, and music from Amazon. In the last few years, as they’ve expanded, I expanded what I was willing to buy. I’ve dabbled in Christmas shopping on the behemoth, even groceries a few times. I have two books exclusively for sale on Amazon. And for more than a few years now, I’ve been a Prime member.

When it was first introduced, it seemed like a lot to pay for free shipping. But as time moved forward and what Amazon offered increased, it started making sense. That it included the Amazon Music and Video stuff was ancillary, just a bonus – we got Prime for the free shipping. And as we bought more through Amazon, it made more and more sense. In the early days of being on Prime, it was amazing. Why wait to order something to justify the shipping when you could just have it sent as needed? It became easier to check on Amazon for something rather than to see if you could find it local. Convenience ruled, delivered by UPS in as little as a day or two.

In the last few years, though, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in Prime. Maybe it’s an East Coast vs West Coast thing. Maybe the East Coast packing and distribution centers for Amazon are just better at their jobs. At first, we blamed the apartment complex we lived in for some of the problems. But after a while, it became obvious the problem was at the source. Orders mysteriously delayed. Orders not showing up for days and days past the supposed 2 day guarantee. When things do finally show up, half the time they are sent in a way that guarantees they will be damaged.

Part of the problem is that in order to cover the cost of shipping, at least for folks living in the Portland, Oregon area, Amazon isn’t using a real delivery service. They’ve hired drivers to bring packages around in their cars like a Lyft for deliveries. We get deliveries at 8 at night from sketchy looking guys driving beat up cars with a pile of packages in their backseat. I’m sure it’s a great way to make a buck, though I wonder how far Amazon covers their insurance while they’re carrying my precious cargo in the backseat.

But for me, a bibliophile, the real killer is in the one thing Amazon should know how to do: sending books. The last three times I’ve ordered books from Amazon, they’ve come in variations of a padded envelope. The result? The books move around loosely, covers get bent, pages get bent. Permanent creases are made as the book shifts around, bending back the cover, and then is put under the weight of a hundred other packages while it’s transported. Why pay for the privilege of receiving damaged books?

Sending books in a way that almost guarantees they are damaged by the time they arrive, and having over half our packages take a week despite their “guaranteed Prime shipping” makes me think there’s no reason to continue paying for Prime. Maybe Amazon Prime is past its Prime?