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.
(Fred Vogelstein reads at Town Hall tomorrow night at 7:30 pm. The reading is $5.)
Two serious problems plague modern tech journalism. The first is that every tech writer is terrified of losing access to new products if they go more negative than standard advertising copy. The second is a problem of living in the present: It’s impossible to place all these new products and services in a historical context because, technologically speaking, history is still happening all around us. In his new book, Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution, Fred Vogelstein avoids the first problem: He doesn’t appear interested in currying the favor of either Apple or Google, as he portrays the executives of both companies as narcissistic, venal, backstabbing jerks.
Here’s the situation: A few decades ago, Steve Jobs delivered a product that changed computers for the better. With Macintosh, he made computers easier to use, friendlier, and way more fun. But Jobs’s insistence on controlling both the software and the hardware caused him to lose the majority of the home-computing market to Bill Gates’s Windows operating system, which could be installed on a panoply of devices, from cheap rigs to luxury setups. Now Apple may be in the process of similarly losing its control over the mobile market to Google’s Android mobile operating system, which shares Microsoft’s affordable versatility and market oversaturation.
Vogelstein showcases his storytelling skill by wisely beginning Dogfight with Jobs’s drama-fraught introduction of the iPhone to the media. The iPhone that Jobs unveiled was a broken thing that could perform just enough of certain tasks to awe the press...
Rob Delaney: He's hot, but he's also funny. Go figure!
What surprised you most about writing the book?
Maybe the almost slingshot-like energy of how much I did not enjoy writing the first draft and how much I did enjoy doing the revision. As a comedian, you're used to getting an immediate response, whether positive or negative, and you get accustomed to that. So I was so happy after my publisher and editor read it and it became more of a dialogue. A book is a collaborative effort, even if one person is actually clicking and clacking and writing out every word. Other people are involved. It's fun to realize that. And they know more about books than me. It was fun to create a book under the guidance of a very experienced publisher [Julie Grau]. She published and edited Orange Is the New Black and a lot of other great books.
If there weren't a photo of you on the dust jacket, what would you want to see on the cover?
Maybe a nature shot, something oceanic. There's a lot of water in my book, a lot of ocean. Maybe a purple ocean and a green sky. I remember seeing that one time when out in a storm. The sky became green, and the sea became purple, and it was very scary and beautiful.
In your standup, as well as in your book and on Twitter, you can go for uncomfortably long periods without saying or writing something funny. And your serious moments don't always boomerang back into punch lines. Did you have to fight with yourself to just let the chapters of the book about your struggles with drinking and depression go for long stretches without being funny?
In just three years, Short Run has become one of the most important events in the Seattle literary calendar. It’s a free, daylong celebration of small publishers from Seattle and around the country, featuring comics, literary zines, gorgeous art prints, food, and entertainment including “All-Day Transformative Hair Brushing”...