Category Archives: Books

Summer Reading List

I’ve never quite understood why there’s a focus on “summer reading” ’cause I read all the freaking time. But, anyway. Here are some books that I’ve been reading, for those that wish to delve into my demented soul.

Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas by HST

If you haven’t read it, it’s worth it. The interviews always talk about his search for the “American Dream” but it’s really a travelogue for me. A breeze to get through. Lots of great lines that you can look forward to using in the future.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

If you are Hispanic, or not. If you are a geek, or not. A multi-generational tale. It helps to be Hispanic (or are married to one). It helps to be a geek and an outcast. Living characters. And I learned more about the DR then I ever had. It deserves the prizes it received.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Even though I’ve been a nerd since day one, Sci-Fi has never really interested me much. Can’t say why. Just never got into it (like I never got into “gaming”). Probably because I spent too much time in front of a computer. But this is a great hard Sci-Fi book. Sure, the guy is smarter than anyone should be, but it’s a great tale and an interesting read. Didn’t want to put it down.

Mr. Bones by Paul Theroux

Known for his travel writing, he really shines in the short story. To my taste, the first half is better than the last. Mainly because I got a little sick of the stories about love. But, that’s just my hangup. If you haven’t read his travel stuff, do so. Fantastic stuff.

Strange Stones by Peter Hessler

Another travel writer. Also check out River Town, his earlier experiences. If you want to learn more about living in China, he’s a great place to start. Interesting stuff.

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer

See what life was really like in medieval times. Gives you a much better perspective of what it was like to live during that period. A history that doesn’t feel like you’re trudging through a history book.


Longer Term Review – The Kindle Paperwhite

I’ve had the Kindle Paperwhite since it first came out (October 2012). As an owner of a Touch, I was less than impressed when I received it. I didn’t feel that the extra pixels did much and the “white” light is a misnomer, unless you had it cranked up high. Now that I’ve put a solid 5 months on it, here’s what I can report:

  • I didn’t buy the Amazon case. For three reasons: Overpriced, no hand strap on back, and I was mad at them for making the unit just different enough to not fit a Touch case (we’re taking a very few millimeters). All subjective, I guess, but it didn’t make me a happier customer.
  • I bought a third party leather case with a hand strap. While it was protective, the case was heavier than the Kindle. And bulkier. But it did have the hand strap, which I loved. It’s SO much easier reading with the hand strap.

So, the light was “okay” and the cases sucked and the pixels were not noticeable (to me, at least). Not exactly the “wow” I had when I got the Touch.

Never one to leave well enough alone, the case issue got to me first. Originally, I got the case for two reasons: (a) to flip is closed when cats arrived to step on me/it and (b) for protection. Flipping closed never happened. It was easier to just put the unit face down on the bed. Protection was excellent, though at the price of bulk (both weight and dimensions).

I had an extra (and cheap) Nexus 7 case which I wasn’t using much. And it has — had — a hand strap. With a sewing kit I removed the strap and super glued it to the back of the Paperwhite. Yes, super glue. Function over form, in my book. Here is the result:


DSCN2670 (Medium) DSCN2668 (Medium)

It’s be best thing that every happened to my Paperwhite. Now I could take full advantage of its excellent size and weight, without bogging it down with a case. The strap works perfectly and the glue has not let loose. Plus, the rubber back of the Kindle gives you an even better grip. This is the way a Kindle should be held. I can walk around with it, on my hand, with my arms at my side, and it won’t slip loose.

What about protection? Well, like a said, if a cat comes running, I just hold the thing in the air, or put it face down. If I’m on travel, I still have my protective 3rd party leather case.

What about the lighting? I stand by my original review on Amazon — Paperwhite is a marketing term. The light is excellent, but to make the screen “paper white” you have to crank up the light to uncomfortable levels. And what’s the point of having that pumped up, and taking juice, if you are in a well lit room?

That being said, my nighttime reading is far more enjoyable with the Paperwhite. Still too bright at low levels, it does a good job and making the screen easy to read in all conditions. And the pixels, while I’m still not sold, do make a difference. It is a sharper reading experience, especially on some small fonts (usually quotes) in certain books.

The battery — I still say it is worse than the Touch. To the point where I now keep it in Airplane mode all the time and download books over USB. Keep in mind that I read quite a bit — I’ve read 55 books on it since October.

So, 5 months and 55 books, what’s the verdict? It’s my preferred eBook reader. I love love love being able to take out eBooks from the Austin Public Library — it has boosted my reading dramatically. The light keeps me reading in dim/dark conditions. And now that I have my strap solution, I’m much happier.




Things You Shouldn’t Do On Your Paperwhite

Here are some things that you shouldn’t do with your Kindle Paperwhite. Doing so would be naughty.

  1. Don’t turn on Airplane mode and leave it like that.
  2. Don’t plug it into your computer and browse out to \system\.assets\ (it’s a hidden directory).
  3. Don’t delete all the sub directories under that folder, because you really don’t want to avoid the ads.
  4. Don’t check out books from your library for as long as you like, by transferring everything over USB.

The only reason I could see someone doing those bad bad things is if they were sick of seeing ads about Judd Apatow’s newest movie.

Remember, whatever you do, don’t do any of that stuff. It would be very bad.

The Opus: Spenser

If you are looking for a detective / private eye series to work through, check out Robert B. Parker’s “Spenser” series. He wrote them from 1973 to his death in 2010. You can read plenty of reviews about his stuff if you don’t trust me (go ahead — I’ll wait), but here are a couple of reasons why I like the series.

  • He’s a private eye with brains. A smart ass. A good cook. And strong morals. 
  • The books are quick reads, but aren’t pulp fiction. Parker knows how to write.
  • A great snapshot in time. In 1975 it feels like it’s 1975 (clothing, cars, etc).
  • Parker pushes social boundaries, especially with his gay and non-white characters.
  • He doesn’t make the cops bumbling idiots and slobs.

If you like the genre, start going through his books. Wiki has the order of them. And check to see if your library has them as eBook loans — APL does, and has saved me a lot of money. A highly recommended series.

The Opus: Discworld

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a fracking idiot. For the longest time I thought Terry Pratchett wrote kids books. About magic. And, frankly, I got my fill of magic from Harry, thank you very much. I’m glad she got rich, but I never had fun along the way.

Anyhow, after not being able to find the books in dead tree format (because I am cheap and only shop at Recycled Reads), I was happy to see that the Austin Public Library had eBooks for borrowing. And, after many many moons, I got a Kindle Touch (then a Paperwhite). No, I wasn’t behind the curve. Back in the day I had one of those Sony eReaders — and you had to use one of those computer things to get books on it.

Anyhow, the APL was kind enough to get all of the Discworld books, so I could dip my toes for no cost. Hurray!

I started with the Watch series, because I’m still not much of a magic man. This series, quite a long one, follows the Night Watch (think: neglected cops) and their interaction with wizards, trolls, and whatnot.

What fun! Fantasy books that don’t have He Men slaying Dragons. Okay, I’m being unfair, I never read any fantasy, because that was my impression of the genre. I’m shallow. Who cares.

Okay, back to Pratchett: Fun to read. Very well written. Full of tongue-in-cheek. A master as description and language. And he knows how to write a good plot that doesn’t re-hash the same thing over and over (I’m talking to you, Harry).

If you are a detective/thriller guy like me, start with the Watch series. The Death ones are good, too. And the Industrial Revolution–“The Truth” is great. I’ve just started on the Witches series, which I’m a little less happy with, but I give them time. The easiest way to get the reading order is to download “The Discworld Reading Order” PDF from wiki.