Don't Read The Comments is the newest book by Eric Smith, a literary agent and author of The Geek's Guide To Dating and other books, as well as the owner of many adorable pets. (Full disclosure: Eric was also my editor many, many years ago on the Quirk Books blog, and we've remained friends since then.) It tells the story of two teens who meet and fall in love pretty much entirely online, with the help of a video massive multiplayer game called "Reclaim The Sun." Divya Sharma has managed to turn her love of the game into a popular streaming channel that brings in a little bit of revenue for her and her recently-divorced mother. Aaron Jericho is an aspiring video game writer whose parents want nothing more than for him to follow in their footsteps and go to medical school. A chance encounter in "Reclaim The Sun" helps these two isolated brown kids find solace in each other—but a well-orchestrated doxxing campaign from a group of racist, sexist trolls threatens to tear it all down.
On the surface, this is a perfect nerdy setup of star-crossed lovers coming together against all odds, with a touch of hyper-relevant social commentary. In execution, it pulls that off with plenty of delight. It's certainly not the most high-stakes story I've read—the only doomed kingdoms exist in a video game—but Smith manages to keep the characters' internal stakes on the edge the whole time. And that's realistic, because these are teenagers, for whom everything does feel the end of the world, even when it's not. Read the rest
Tokyo is a sound-saturated city: bustling traffic, train station announcements, people everywhere, the barrage of loud adverts, drunk salarymen singing in the Ginza streets at night, and even the loud caws of the Tokyo’s infamous large crows. Then there’s the seemingly ubiquitous background music in shopping centers, department stores, offices, and super markets. Read the rest
It’s hard to say much about My Lovely Wife, by Samantha Downing, without spoiling the twists. The story is told by the husband (we never learn his name). He and his wife (Millicent) do bad things to spice up their marriage, but they also appear normal to the people who know them. They've been married for 15 years, have two children and respectable jobs (he’s a tennis pro at a country club, she’s a real estate agent). They have friends and go to parties and dinners. Even though they know that they are bad people, they also have deceived themselves into believing they are good parents, good employees, good friends, and good spouses. And they are OK with that. But as we learn more about the husband and Millicent, we find out that not only are they lying to themselves, they are lying to each other about a number of things. Even though they are dislikable, I was interested in finding out if one of the spouses would end up destroying the other.
I’m not a fast reader, but I plowed through all 370 pages in a few evenings. It’s one of those books that takes very little effort to read (compared to another book I just finished — Neil Postman’s Technopoly, which was dense enough that I had to read quite a few of the sentences two or three times before I understood them). In other words, My Lovely Wife is tasty snack reading — an enjoyable, low-nutrition treat. Read the rest
Mind metaphysics, or positive thinking, is a fascinating and mysterious field of personal exploration and inquiry. The guiding principle and basic tenet of mind metaphysics is that thoughts are causative, i.e. thoughts — those intangible acts of cognition, attention and intention — can actually shape reality and the material world in accordance with our wishes and desires. With roots in ancient Hermetic traditions, this profound idea made its way into culture, though not without resistance, via the New Thought and Human Potential movements, and more recently, Positive Psychology, as well as myriad incarnations in business motivation and the self-help industry.
The latest noteworthy work on the contemporary metaphysical scene, already hailed as a modern classic, is The Miracle Club, How Thoughts Become Reality by Mitch Horowitz.
A longtime Boing Boing pal, Horowitz is among the most articulate and authoritative voices in the fields of alternative spirituality, occult and esoteric history. He has curated and authored dozens of books, such as the fundamental Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation, and One Simple Idea: How the Lessons of Positive Thinking Can Transform Your Life.
The Miracle Club is part memoir, part historical map, part "operating manual" for manifesting your true will and your heart's desires. The promise of the book is pretty simple: you can make miracles happen. There's a catch though: miracles ain't free — there is work to do.
Grounding his reflections in personal history and a life of experimentation, Horowitz comes across as the real deal: he is an authentic "adept mind" and he knows his stuff. Read the rest
National Geographic’s Almanac 2019 is a fun, illustrative guide to the natural world and breakthrough sciences and, with 400 pages of stunning, evocative images, celebrates some of the most amazing places, events, and facts about Earth’s history. Opening to a random page you may be surprised with the lifecycle of tardigrades, the logistics of eating insects, or the history of Timbuktu; for someone who enjoys picking up facts about niche subjects, this book satisfies any wandering impulses or curiosities they may have.
The almanac doesn’t go into exhaustive detail about any one topic but covers an incredible range of scientific concepts, processes, and findings. The text is paired with amazing photographs and fun infographics, providing visual learners or less scientifically savvy readers with easy ways of understanding intricate ideas and data. It is effortless and enjoyable to learn from this book, especially since you can thumb through to any page, find an interesting topic or image, and dive right in. Anybody interested in facts and photographs of the natural world and sciences will love this book, simply because it covers a little bit of everything.
A larger coffee table book, Space Atlas, Second Edition: Mapping the Universe and Beyond refines the scope of topics to space and astronomy. Full of charts, maps, and stunning photographs, the Space Atlas is a deeply informative and beautiful book. It is well-bound and lays flat so no small details are lost in the binding, which is important when looking at a two-page spread of a planet or trying to read the names of peaks, valleys, and craters on a moon. Read the rest
The Act of Reading
It's been 10 years since the writing of The Atlantic's now classic essay Is Google Making Us Stupid? in which Nicholas Carr addressed how our reading habits (and our cognition in general) have been collectively affected by the use of the Internet. Carr observed his own scattering of attention, a lessening of concentration for extended periods of time, which overall makes the act of reading more and more fragmented, impoverished and shallow. To quote Carr's eloquent metaphor: “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.” And over the past decade, our nearly ubiquitous access to the World Wide Web has made things worse.
The conspicuous consumption of our daily reading is a steady stream of piece meal information coming from a medley of screens: we endlessly scroll through posts, comments and messages, nervously bouncing from site to site, skimming, browsing and searching, jumping from our latest email or text to social media chatter, compulsively trying to satisfy our information craving. Reading is not what it used to be, and that's that.
But reading comes in different shapes and forms, and is not only for absorbing content. Imagine this: take a few minutes to sit down quietly with someone you care about. Choose a piece of writing you like, and share that piece of writing—reading it loud to the other person. You’ll find something uncanny going on.
Reading aloud to another person is indeed a peculiar experience, something we are not used to, or if we are, it's mostly for children. Read the rest