If you're still unsure what you're doing this weekend, you should bear some things in mind.
First up, tonight at Town Hall, Ellen Forney and David Montgomery will be giving a performance. Montgomery is a prominent local geologist. Forney is a Stranger Genius Award–winning cartoonist. They've both been artists in residence at Town Hall for the last few months. Tonight, they'll talk about their work, what they've been up to, and where they're going. It's $5.
This is the cover to the 2013 edition of What to Read in the Rain. Nobody knows what the cover to the 2014 edition will look like.
Saturday afternoon, there's a lot of stuff to do. 826 Seattle is hosting a release party celebrating the new What to Read in the Rain anthology collecting local writers and writing students. Proceeds from the book benefit the very good local youth writing organization. The event features a reading, a signing, and "Northwest-themed refreshments." Also, Ada's Technical Books is hosting an e-textiles workshop with author Fay Shaw demonstrating how to create and sew an LED cuff bracelet.
Tomorrow night, there's only one event you need to know about. Bruce Pavitt is reading at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery in Georgetown. The SubPop muckety-muck and author of Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe, 1989 discusses a very important time in Seattle history. The book contains 200 photographs of Nirvana by Pavitt and Steve Double, along with diary excerpts from the tour.
Sunday, you should skip the readings and go to Urban Craft Uprising and finish your goddamned Christmas shopping.
For more information about the readings I talked about above, along with so much more, visit the readings calendar.
Something strange happened on my way to work this morning. It happened just like this: I was reading a new book by Costas Lapavitsas called Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All, when I began to suspect that a man sitting across from me in the back of the bus was trying to make out what I was reading. But when I confirmed from the corner of my eyes that this stranger's eyes were indeed locked on and scanning the back of my book, I began to feel odd. Why feel this way? What was wrong with this situation? Was it the icy sunlight hitting his round face? Was it the bumpiness of the turn the bus was making—rotating behind me was the Douglass-Truth library? Then it suddenly dawned on me: I almost never read actual/hard books on the bus or train but instead PDF files or e-books presented on the screen on my phone (a Nexus 4). But why would this create an odd feeling in the first place? Because this kind of situation—a reader and a stranger curious about what the reader is reading—is almost completely lost with an e-book. A change in a technology (public visibility/sharing in the case of a hard book) never occurs without an unexpected gain or loss.
Yesterday, I wrote about my distaste for year-end arts lists. It turns out, I'm not the only one who feels this way. Rather than compile the usual year-end book lists—they published no less than 20 lists last year—NPR has instead compiled a digital concierge of the year's best 200 books. The books aren't arranged in some arbitrary "best" to "worst" construction. Instead, they're grouped by genre and by the person who recommended the book, which allows you to make some interesting jumps from book to book. It's a much more helpful way to keep track of the most noteworthy books of the year. (Although I would encourage you to step outside your preferred genres; you'll probably find something worthwhile by expanding your horizons a little bit.)
In their introduction to the concierge, NPR hints that BuzzFeed's obsession with list-making might have been a reason why they decided to take a more nuanced approach. If they can convince the rest of the internet to give up on pointless list-making, maybe BuzzFeed does serve an important purpose after all.
There are so many neat events happening tonight I can't tell you about them all in a single blog post. First up, Rob Delaney is doing comedy (and signing his memoir) at the Neptune. My interview with him is here. Also, Fred Vogelstein is reading at Town Hall tonight, and I explained why his book, about the Apple/Google phone wars, is so damned compelling in the book section this week.
And there are other things going on tonight that I want to talk to you about. First up is Castalia at Hugo House. The UW Creative Writing MFA showcase returns with first-year poet Allison Stagner, first-year prose writer Kay C. Rogers, and Stranger contributor Sarah Galvin, who writes some of the funniest poems you've ever heard. UW faculty member Andrew Feld will also read poetry at this event, which is free.
In addition, Coll Thrush is at the Olympic Sculpture Park. The interestingly named Thrush is the author of Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place. Stranger art critic Jen Graves says Thrush is "AWESOME." The caps are hers. She is not the sort of person to overuse capital letters, so pay heed.
And oh my God there are so many more interesting events. We've got a celebration of a famous Lummi totem pole carver at the Burke, a flash fiction reading at University Book Store, and Oscar-winning actor Octavia Spencer at Third Place Books. And more! Books about miniature gardening; author Julia Serano, the author of Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive, at Elliott Bay Book Company; and others I can't mention because I just ran out of breath. Oh my God, and the Silent Reading Party! Can't forget about that. That's always a good time.
If you want to see what else is happening tonight, and for the rest of the (surprisingly busy) foreseeable future, you should visit our readings calendar, which now stretches clear out to February. Phew!
I'm not exactly sure why the publishing industry picked this year to set off an explosion of Star Trek-related books—it can't solely be due to last summer's Star Trek: Into Darkness, because all these books have to do with the original TV run of the show—but my inbox has been heavy with Trekkie material since earlier this year, when Juan Ortiz's beautiful Star Trek: The Original Series poster book was published. It's some kind of golden age for book-loving Star Trek fans.
For the nostalgia freaks, there's Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series. This one is the exact same format as a book that collected Garbage Pail Kids cards from earlier this year, and it's pretty much a straight shot of nerdy collector mania. In addition to larger-than-scale reproductions of the photographs from the 1976 trading card set, the book contains trivia about the production of the card series. (For some reason, every series regular character in Star Trek is represented except for Sulu, whose absence feels weirdly pointed.) There's not much more than a rehash of every episode of the original series; a few new cards are glued into the back of the book, but it's basically a book-form reproduction of the trading card series. If that appeals to you, here you go.
A Very Klingon Khristmas is a parody of a kid's book, written by Paul Ruditis and illustrated with paintings by Patrick Faricy. I suppose this book is intended to appeal to people who draw Trek fans for the office secret Santa program. It's packed with cheesy Klingon riffs on all the usual Christmas dressing ("On, Ch'Tang! On, Ki'Tang! On, M'Char! And Silvin!") and it's the kind of disposable book that gets passed around once or twice and then forgotten, although the art is at least interesting; Faricy's art is pleasantly dark and grubby, which elevates it above a lot of licensed dreck.
Finally, Federation: The First 150 Years is a history of the foundation of Star Trek disguised as a commemorative edition looking back on the origins of the Federation. (Apparently, e-books haven't caught on in the time of Starfleet, for some reason.) It's a handsome textbook-looking volume, filled with illustrations and photographs and lots of Trek background material explained in a rather bland expository style. I enjoyed the book for its dense Easter-egginess; there are plenty of callbacks to Scott Bakula's late, unlamented Trek prequel TV show, Enterprise, and the stilted textbook delivery makes some of the Original Series episodes sound downright academic. I can't see fans of the rebooted Trek movie series enjoying this book—it's too packed with obscure details and it doesn't follow movie continuity—but longtime Trek fans will probably get a kick out of it. If you're looking for a gift, you could do worse than Federation, but for my money Juan Ortiz's eye-popping poster book is still the dreamiest Trek-nerd gift of the year.
We are entering that godforsaken time of year when every website on earth unleashes lists of the year's best and worst whatevers. For the most part, I'm allergic to year-end lists; there's no room for nuance, and they pretty much only exist because writers and editors get lazy around the holidays. There's no lasting value to any random year-end list.
But! I will make an exception for #libfaves13, the Twitter hashtag which features librarians counting down their favorite books for the year, day by day. Why is this list different? Well, for one, it's not written by some lazy-ass magazine writer in New York or a know-nothing movie reviewer with an agenda to push. Librarians are inherently better and more worthwhile people than journalists, which makes their lists more important. But more importantly, a whole bunch of librarians are taking part in the process, and the lists appear in chronological order on Twitter. This wipes out the childish good-bad linearity of most year-end lists and creates an effect more akin to walking into a library and having a bunch of librarians toss good books at you, minus the potential head trauma.