Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Skimming eBooks

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In an interview published on, Steven Johnson makes an interesting observation about one of the shortcomings of ebooks:

Skimming. It’s a funny thing with print vs. ebooks; the digital age is supposed to be all about attention deficit disorder and hypertextual distractions, but ebooks lock you into reading them in a linear fashion more than print books do. It’s much easier to pick up a print book and flip through the pages, get a sense of the argument or structure, than it is with an ebook (or magazine.) It’s a very interesting interface challenge: I think it’s probably solvable, and I know many smart folks are working on it, but we don’t have a true solution yet.


Written by breckfield

February 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm

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The Holy Bible: Some Books Are Better Than Others

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Reading the Book of Job, one is reminded that some books of The Bible are better written than others. For me, it is a torturous task to slog through the seemingly endless back-and-forth between Job and his comrades. The story of Job could be told more effectively in far fewer chapters. Ninety percent of this book reads like an entry in a Bad Shakespeare contest.

This makes me wonder if there is any readable, non-academic commentary on the writing of The Bible. I assume that there is, but I haven’t gone looking for it yet. What are the best-written books of The Bible, and what makes them so? Can different authors’ styles be identified? How does a particular translation (KJV, NIV, etc.) affect the readability? Do we know of other writings by these authors, that are not included in The Bible?

Has anyone ventured to pick The Five Best Books of The Bible? How about The Five Worst? And why were some of these authors and books chosen to be included in The Bible?

The Bible is not literally The Word of God. It is a collection of writings about God and His relationship with us. And those writings are by mere mortals, some of whom were better writers than others.

Written by breckfield

June 14, 2011 at 7:42 am

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Jane Leavy vs. Mickey Mantle: This Time It’s Personal.

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Jane Leavy has written a biography of Baseball legend Mickey Mantle, The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood.

Early in the book, Leavy admits that The Mick was her childhood hero.

Apparently, she’s gotten over that.

The Last Boy is well-researched and informative; this was no off-the-cuff effort. Leavy covers the highlights of Mantle’s career, The Man, The Myth, and The Legend.

But she seems to have invested more time, energy, and pages in trying to convince us what a lousy person Mickey Mantle was off the field. To be sure, no objective observer would have awarded Mantle the “Family Man of the Year” award. And his baseball excellence does not excuse his many failings as a human being.

But Leavy seems to  focus more attention on the failures, and there is perhaps a personal reason for that. In 1983, a young Jane Leavy interviewed Mickey Mantle over the course of a few days in Atlantic City. He was drunk, crude, and far from the hero that she worshipped as a child. Leavy not only acknowledges this ugly personal encounter, she devotes several chapters to it in the book.

I expect a biographer to take an honest look at their subject and to present them as they really were, warts and all. But Jane Leavy spends so much time shining a spotlight on Mantle’s dark side that his accomplishments seem to pale by comparison. And that’s a shame, because she could have written a truthful and balanced biography that was much less depressing.

Written by breckfield

February 16, 2011 at 9:06 am

“Stardust” by Joseph Kanon

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I recently finished reading “Stardust” by Joseph Kanon.

A mystery set in Hollywood in 1945, this is the fifth novel by Kanon, whose others works include “The Good German” and “Los Alamos”.

I first learned of this story in Bookmarks magazine, and I knew that the classic Hollywood setting would appeal to me.

The readers’ and editorial reviews average 4 stars (out of 5), and that’s about where I’d rate it.  It’s perhaps a little longer than it needs to be, but that’s a criticism that I have with many books, both fiction and non-fiction.

I haven’t read any of Kanon’s other work, so I can’t offer a comparison there.  But if you like stories of Hollywood in The Studio Era, then I can recommend this one.

Written by breckfield

December 19, 2010 at 6:21 pm

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