Boing Boing 

Magic Books - the secret art of book hacking


What is a book? The commonly held notion is pretty simple: it is an object made of pieces of paper, glued or bounded together, with stuff written in it. Indisputable. But, maybe, there is more than meets the eye.

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The Whisper of Stars: A science-fiction thriller

The Whisper of Stars: A science-fiction thriller (Hibernation Series Book 1)

Hibernation and suspended animation stories have always fascinated me. The Whisper of Stars turns sleep into an action packed technology thriller.

Nick Jones' debut novel is a winner. I was immediately drawn into his dystopian near future, where the last best hope for humanity is hibernation. The characters are surprisingly engaging and I found myself actually caring about Jen, an officer in the Duality Division tasked with enforcing the laws around hibernation. Packed with fantastic conspiracy and technology,I'm looking forward to reading the next in his series!

The Whisper of Stars: A science-fiction thriller (Hibernation Series Book 1) by Nick Jones

Gallery of Star Trek comic book covers

I love these old Star Trek comic book covers, posted by AstroDevil in memory of Leonard Nimoy. The title lettering is fantastic!

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The importance of glass, artificial cold and more

fqwfqwfwqfIf you're looking for a comprehensive explanation for modern life is how it is, there are probably other books to read. But if you're looking for something light, informative and fun, HOW WE GOT TO NOW is just the thing. There's also a PBS TV show that goes along with it.

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Razorhurst: blood-drenched gang warfare and ghosts in Gilded Age Sydney

Justine Larbalestier’s Razorhurst is an historical novel that skilfully weaves in a ghost story that puts the action of gang-warfare exactly where it belongs: in the relationship between the living and the dead.

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Fatal Boarding by ER Mason

Fatal Boarding

Fatal Boarding is a fantastic space adventure that introduces Adrian Tarn, a perfectly textbook 'doesn't do things by the book' hero.

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Erotica author says Amazon is hurting her $10 million yearly sales

Jaid Black, a 43 year old writer of self-published erotica ebooks, says Amazon is needling into her market: hardcore erotica for women.

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Noir and horror for your kindergartner

I want my hat back

Caldecott winner Jon Klassen, is one of the most respected and beloved contemporary children's book authors and illustrators. Kids love him—and adults do, too.

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The Year's Work at the Zombie Research Center

The Year's Work at the Zombie Research Center (The Year's Work: Studies in Fan Culture and Cultural Theory)

The Year's Work at the Zombie Research Center is a hilarious collection of short essays and stories about Zombie cultural significance.

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M.T. Anderson, sci-fi author, accidental prophet and nice guy

FEED

In 2002, M.T. Anderson wrote the novel Feed, which featured a future in which humans are all hardwired with computer chips (the eponymous Feeds) so they can shop. Constantly. Back then it was a comment on consumerism. Now, 13 years later, I was curious if he was sick of telling us all "I told you so."

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Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain

Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain

A humorous take on the YA superhero novel! Penelope wants to become a superhero, just like Mom and Dad, but things don't quite go according to plan in Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain.

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Grasshopper Jungle takes angst to its allegorical limit

GrasshopperJungle_CV_1Pmo.indd

Not all young adult novels are for adults1, But this one is.

Grasshopper Jungle isn't Andrew Smith's first novel, but it is the one that's thrust him forward as one of the best voices in the genre

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Read Dickens with the prices adjusted for inflation

So many times I'm reading a Victorian plot that revolves around some gentry fop handing a scullery boy a sum of 100 half-whatevers. And I’m left wondering: is that a staggeringly large amount of money or an insultingly small one?

Historical Currency Conversions is a tool for finding the current value of historical currency. Type in an amount you see in a book and it spits out: “100 guineas in 1850 had the same buying power as 14647.25 current dollars.” Sure there are socioeconomic challenges to comparing 1850 London with current times, but you get in the ballpark enough to move on with your book.

History of the great sex.com feud

In 1994 Gary Kremen (who would later found Match.com) registered a bunch of domain names: jobs.com, housing.com, and, most famously, sex.com. Soon after, a "brilliant con man" named Stephen Cohen gained control of sex.com and sold ads that brought in about a half million dollars a day.

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30-Day Guitar Workout

30-Day Guitar Workout

In addition to the oddest cover design ever, 30-Day Guitar Workout offers great exercises and has improved my playing.

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Apocalypticon, a hilarious post-apocalyptic novel

Apocalypticon

Who says post-apocalyptic fiction has to be dreary? In Apocalypticon the end of the world is absolutely hilarious.

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This doctor made a blind man see and an autistic boy speak

Psychiatrist Norman Doidge, who is on the faculty of the University of Toronto, uses sensory stimulation "to change the structure and function of brain circuits" in people with chronic pain, autism, and Parkinson's. Manuela Hoelterhoff of Bloomberg Business interviewed him about his work, which Doidge has written about in his new book, The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity.

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Read chapter one of "Funereal", an upcoming novel of suicide, plastic surgery, and extreme therapy in Korea

boingboing funereal cover

If you have any interest at all in writing produced by the cultural exchange — or culture clash, if you prefer — between the West and Asia, you might consider keeping up with Signal 8 Press. Though a relatively new operation, they've already put out quite a few intriguing books, ranging formally from novels to travel memoirs to short story collections to college guides and geographically from China to Hong Kong to Laos to the Philippines to Korea.

Having read my own writing on Korea for The Guardian, Signal 8 author Giacomo Lee (@elegiacomo) reached out and offered me a chance to read his upcoming novel Funereal, a dark and sometimes surreal exploration of the country's drive for perfection, its unceasing competitiveness, and its conformist beauty culture — especially as they all exist, in lethally concentrated form, in the enormous, shapeshifting capital of Seoul.

Lee, a British former resident of Korea, accomplishes a literary act of which I know no precedent: convincingly rendering Korean characters through Western eyes. His countryman David Mitchell essayed a dystopian Korea in one layer of Cloud Atlas, but he set it in the unrecognizably distant future. Lee writes of the dystopian Korea of today, one that, in his conception, has driven itself nearly to the asylum with its own increasingly impossible standards and hopelessly unrealistic expectations.

boingboing giacomo lee

Funereal's protagonist, a young lady in her late twenties named Soobin Shin, finds herself plucked from her dead-end donut-shop job by a regular customer, an entrepreneur who has come up with the potential next big thing in a culture perpetually on the lookout for next big things: OneLife, a service that puts on fake funerals for Koreans overwhelmed by their very existences, unwilling to go on, and need of the moment of reflection that only bursting alive out of a coffin in front of one's gathered black-clad friends and family can provide.

Having taken on the role of frontwoman in this fledgling company, Soobin truly believes she has stumbled onto her true calling until everything goes pear-shaped in this enterprise of fake death when real death involves itself — an inevitability, I suppose, in a country with suicide rates second only to those of Lithuania.

Lee didn't make up the fake-funeral thing out of whole cloth. In his article "Does Writing About Suicide Inspire Suicide?", he references famous Korean novelist Kim Young-ha's I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, which "features a ‘suicide counselor’ who helps his depressed clients kill themselves, while the main character I present symbolizes the opposite, a woman who buries her suicidal charges alive so that they can overcome their depression."

"It is, of course, an extreme solution," he adds, "but one inspired by an actual company that operates in the most affluent area of the country’s capital." He also highlights the Vice documentary A Good Day To Die: Fake Funerals in South Korea, which surprised him "by showing not the private services imagined in my novel, as held in living rooms and offices for one person at a time, but by another way of doing business entirely": fake-burying en masse, for maximum efficiency.

Funereal doesn't come out out April 14, 2015, so I asked Lee to hand over the opening chapter so Boing Boing readers can give it a read and see what they think in the meantime. You can download it as a PDF here. As a fellow Korea enthusiast, I think I speak for both Lee and myself when I say that the country has plenty to love. But every country offers plenty not to love, and out of that grim material he as crafted the first Western novel of Korea's dark side.

Chapter one of Funereal by Giacomo Lee

Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin: Art, Sex, and Magick in the Weimar Republic

Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin: Art, Sex, and Magick in the Weimar Republic

There is a lot to be obsessed with in the life of Aleister Crowley, the relatively infamous occultist, poet, painter, spy and ceremonial magician. The Beast in Berlin covers a period of his life that has, until now, been largely unexamined.

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Oliver Sacks on a motorcycle in 1961

I'm a huge fan of Dr. Oliver Sacks. He's led a very interesting life, as a medical researcher, professor of neurology, lover of music, lover of things that explode, and intrepid psychonaut.

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"God Hates Japan": the Douglas Coupland novel that may never appear in English

boingboing god hates japan

Though I appreciate a well-made physical book, I don't collect the things aggressively as some do. Yet I can't suppress my desire to possess certain, highly specific volumes. At the top of that stack of literary desiderata stands this one by Generation X, Microserfs, and jPod author Douglas Coupland (star of Close Personal Friend, featured here last week).

"In 2000, Mike Howatson, a gifted Vancouver animator, and I produced an illustrated novel called God Hates Japan,” writes Coupland on a blog he briefly kept at the New York Times. "It was published only in Japanese — beautifully and elegantly, I might add — by Kadokawa Shoten in 2001. It’s the story of characters lost in a malaise that swept Japanese culture after the burst of the bubble economy in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. It also depicted the way some of these characters lived in the shadow of a death cult’s 1995 sarin-gas assault on Tokyo’s subway system."

coupland god hates japan 2

Though he seldom deals directly with Japanese themes in his work, Coupland has a history with the country. He first went there in 1983, as an exchange student at the Hokkaido College of Art and Design in Sapporo. Later, he would return for a degree in Japanese Business Science from the Japan-America Institute of Management Science ("I know, it’s as random as it sounds").

A connection made there put God Hates Japan on the cutting edge of digital publishing. One of Coupland's classmates "owned a mobile phone advertising company in Tokyo, so we simultaneously published the book in a digital form that could be read via cell phone. Images from the book became animated and appeared on screen in between chunks of text as readers clicked their way through. It was kind of crazy, and maybe 11 people finished the whole thing (that’s a lot of clicking), but the illustration and themes lent themselves to the format nicely, and it was definitely some kind of first."

boingboing god hates japan 3

The timing of Coupland's own experience in Japan placed him well to write about that malaise that set in after its seemingly unstoppable postwar economic growth ground to a halt. He worked as a researcher-designer at Magazine House in 1985 and 1986, a period of which he recalls this: "We'd go out for $4,000 lunches. It was obviously unsustainable, and everyone knew it, but it stopped nothing. It was a death spiral."

coupland god hates japan 5

Still, even a "lost decade" in Japan has more to offer than a prosperous decade in a fair few other countries, and it all looks even more interesting when processed through the Couplandian filter. But will his large English-language readership ever get to read God Hates Japan?

Not before it goes through one further filter still. The publisher must, Coupland says, "find a novice Japanese-English translator, and then publish his or her first, uncorrected translation of the book. It would be such a wonderful piece of Japanglish, those weird contortions of English that the Japanese put on their shirts and products, mostly from the 1980’s into the mid 1990’s, but not anymore, really." Okay, young English Translation Studies majors of Japan: who dares take on this challenge?

How one stupid tweet blew up Justine Sacco’s life

shameThe NY Times Magazine has an excerpt from Jon Ronson's forthcoming book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed. I got an advance copy of the book. It's about people who've had their lives ruined from online shaming.

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How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain

How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain

A scientist, his dog and an MRI machine. In How Dogs Love Us, Gregory Berns tells the story of how he is seeking to decode the canine brain.

Neuroscientist Gregory Burns, and his off-beat team of researchers, came up with the idea of putting a dog on an MRI. If military trained dogs could help eliminate Osama bin Laden as a terrorist threat, why couldn't they be taught to lay still for an MRI? If Burns and team could just capture that data, they might be able tell us what dogs are really thinking.

Berns loves dogs and he loves his dogs. He does an amazing job of communicating what is special about our relationships with our canine companions and why we should be curious as to how dogs view that bond. This book is more the story of how they got to start collecting data, rather than one that presents hard truths about canine mentation. It is still a wonderful read. I did have a hard time, however, as one of Burns dogs is named Callie. I recently lost a Callie of my own.

I'll be looking forward to the second book, where Berns share more research. This edition was available "free" via Kindle Unlimited.

How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain

Free ebook: "Marriage" by HG Wells

Marriage

Marriage is a surprising story about relationships and people by science fiction legend, HG Wells.

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"WE," a dystopian future from 1921 by Yevgeny Zamyatin

WE (Timeless Wisdom Collection Book 1076)

An early take on the dystopian future, Yevgeny Zamyatin's WE shares the joy and horror of a life without individuality.

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Young Moons (Water Worlds book 1) by HSSt Ours

Young Moon (Water Worlds Book 1)

While I was on vacation Harry sent me Young Moon. This fantastic dystopian future is told from the point of view of a young Chinese/Korean girl, growing up in a communist society!

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The Way Into Chaos: Book One of the Great Way

The Way Into Chaos: Book One of the Great Way

Harry Connolly set out to write an epic fantasy with no dull parts. In The Way into Chaos he over delivers.

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Mary and Vincent Price's incredible recipe book

A Treasury of Great Recipes

Wandering through a used book store yesterday, I came across a book with an unremarkable title: A Treasury of Great Recipes. Normally this would not catch my attention, but the book's co-authors were Vincent and Mary Price.

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The Sculptor: Scott McCloud's magnum opus (about magnum opuses)

Scott McCloud is best known as comics’ most accessible, smartest theorist, thanks to his 1994 classic Understanding Comics. But the other McCloud, of superhero comics like ZOT! is equally beloved by the cognoscenti. With The Sculptor, McCloud reminds us that he is one of the field’s great storytellers, with a story of love, art, madness and death that wrenches, delights and confounds.

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The Remaining: Refugees, DJ Molles excellent zombie adventures

The Remaining: Refugees

DJ Molles zombie stories are some of my favorites. I put off reading his third installment, The Remaining: Refugees, and could wait no longer!

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