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06:27 am: Books
Kyle Cranston and Jenny Dlugos’ Mug of Woe is a compilation of stories, mostly written by comedians, about bad or embarrassing things that happened to them. Many are very funny, many are poorly written (dangling modifiers abound). It’s the sort of book that’s well-suited for reading on the potty – short stories, amusing, mostly inoffensive (except perhaps to stalwart grammarians).

Janet Evanovich is entertaining, if predictable, and Smokin’ Seventeen was fine. Seems a bit of a transitional book – Stephanie may finally be choosing between Morelli and Ranger in #18. Or maybe not.

Dick Francis’ Gamble, by Felix Francis (WTF?) was a great disappointment. So much so that I went back and re-read a dozen or so of Dick Francis’ books (not just my favorites, but a wide range) to confirm that it’s the books that have changed, not my taste. I’ll try it again in a few months, but I’m not optimistic. Major, major bummer.

By way of contrast, I also read Dick and Felix Francis’ Crossfire, which I somehow missed when it first came out. Not bad. They wrote well together. Dammit.

Harry G. Frankfurt’s On Bullshit is a rather brilliant little book, couched in academic form and language, about the nature of bullshit. Bottom line: liars and truth-tellers care about the truth (the former, to discard it; the latter, to tell it) but bullshitters don’t care one way or the other. I realized, in reading it, that people I’ve thought to be pathological liars were probably mostly bullshitters. It’s not that they weren’t telling the truth; it’s that they didn’t care if what they said was true or not.

Eli Pariser’s The Filter Bubble is fascinating. Pariser was the director of moveon.org, so I didn’t read it expecting, y’know, calm and disinterested prose. It’s quite well researched, with solid and well-respected references, which is perhaps unfortunate as the message is rather alarming.

Basically, our lives are becoming increasingly personalized, which seems, on its surface, a good thing – something to save us time and money and inconvenience – but is in fact quite alarming. Most of my concern is related to personalization’s opacity. Because so much of it is done by complex, self-generating algorithms, not even the coders can articulate how it is, for instance, that we are presented some search results and not others. Eek.

Someone (origin is unclear) said “if you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold,” which is certainly true of Google, Facebook, and a gabillion other social networks that tout their great value to the end user. Indeed, there is value, but it comes at the price of our privacy. Most of us are woefully unaware what we’re giving away… and it increases all the time.

Edited to add this link, which is a post about another issue with search - some ISPs are diverting searches to a marketing company. Egads.

I always love Robert Parker; Back Story and Bad Business were not exceptions. I probably read them when they first came out, but hadn’t read them since. Good stuff.

Thomas Perry’s Silence is not, sadly, a Jane Whitefield book (apparently there will be a new one next spring, however – w00t!), but it is quite compelling nonetheless and well worth a read (or even a re-read). If the characters are perhaps not as well-formed as those in the Whitefield books, they are still interesting and sympathetic and the plot hums along at a merry clip.

I’d somehow missed Rick Riordan (though I bought his Olympian set for Teddy) , but I ran out of books on vacation and Devil Went Down to Austin was sitting on the shelf. I’m not crazy about the mixed narrative/epistolary form, but it mostly works here and Tres Navarre is an interesting protagonist. He’s a PI/martial artist/English Lit professor, so a lot of the character bits (t’ai chi on the patio, medieval lit class) interest me greatly.

I read four Jennifer Weiners (3 novels, 1 book of short stories) on vacation, which were reasonably interesting, if somewhat interchangeable. All involve somewhat quirky, bright, chubby heroines, which I certainly enjoy.

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