Library Shelf Listing

Finding new books is harder than it should be. Independent bookstores are closing shop, and big box stores who only carry whatever bribes their way past the exorbitant stock keeping fees. Databases and libraries become impossible to navigate unless you already know what you're looking for. Even with online resale, you can only search within your own vocabulary. Now rare are the times when one can simply look upon a bookshelf and see some hitherto unknown title.

I know I must not be the only one with this problem. So, I offer a listing of my own shelves, such that anyone may use my listing as reference for their own.

My books get divided into three categories: Fiction, Arts, and Sciences. ... however, what I classify as what depends more on my own idiosyncrasies and opinion of the book than anything else.

I will only list books that I liked, were interesting, or at least not terrible enough to be disowned. Self-authored books are not listed. Multiple copies in different languages are listed only under one entry. Scientific work that risks being quickly outdated are unlisted. Favourites are italicized. Items are listed alphabetically, but not in the order in which I first read them, so inter-related lines of thought between multiple books may be listed in a confusing order.

I take recommendations for others, within reason.

Recent Additions

From Hell

Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell

This was my first Alan Moore book in quite a long while... Especially after having such trouble with his previous work, inspiring interest and repulsion in equal parts. For every one thing I liked about them, there was yet another that I didn't. From Hell continues my impression of Moore through his make of historical fiction.

I first found this book on my library's bookshelf way back in undergrad, but was only able to give it a passing glance. I felt spoiled on the concept when I flipped it open to a random page, discovering the book's central premise: a historical novel about the 01888 Whitechapel Murders, done by the historical serial killer “Jack the Ripper,” whose true identity was never fully determined.

Spoiler culture is something we should look past. At the time, I thought it made reading the book superfluous, as if I accidentally discovered the “plot twist” by mistake. What this rules out is any possibility of Moore's writing being good enough to impress in execution. Sure, it is about Jack the Ripper, but that alone doesn't quite cover why. This book is wonderful examination of not only the murders themselves, but also of the social conditions in which they happened. It is not just a thriller story about the characters involved and their actions, but also about the society in which they lived. The historical setting of Victorian London is something the book makes living and breathing place, even if it isn't pleasant about it. The Ripper is only the vehicle used to explore this larger tener duende.

... yet that's also what repulses me. Its fanciful construction of the historial murders poses some risks of its own, wrapped up in a blanket of intrigue that goes all the way to the upper echelons of the Victorian Monarchy and a gaggle of rich gentlemens clubs. The real historical murders likely possessed no such aspirational qualities, targeting entirely low-income targets of no particular import. Yet conditions on the street were so terrible, a politics of suspicion caused so many people to fling accusations against the rich and powerful anyway. (It likely did not help matters how the historical murders prompted their own media frenzy in contemporaneous newspapers.)

This book lies purely within that conspiratorial frame of reference. How the historical Inspector Frederick Abberline suspected another known serial killer who lived in the Whitechapel region at the same time, is not really a topic in this book. Yet if that route would be taken, there won't be much of a story to tell. We ignore such prosaic things to instead focus on the wonders of totalitarianism, with its all-encompassing constructions of both society and history. It certainly is an interesting place to be, but not a terribly healthy place to dwell within for too long. Moore is aware of this, writing in the book's postscript “the greater part of any murder is the field of theory, fascination, and hysteria that it engenders. A black diaspora. Our tireless, sinister enthusiasm. Five murdered paupers, one anonymous assailant. This reality is dwarfed by the vast theme-park we’ve built around it.”

Incredible Cross-Sections

Stephen Biesty, Richard Platt

I will freely admit to once being an absolutely illiterate small child. I grew up in a very remote place which felt like the edge of civilization itself and never had much access to reading material. The nearest library or bookstore was over a half-hour's drive away, and my school board shuttered the libraries all the elementary schools. I don't think I was able to read even the simplest book until I was probably 7 or 8 years old. The few times I did gain access to reading material, it was only ever at someone else's leisure. My few visits to a public library were always a confusing time, and I struggled to make the best of it.

Inevitably, I found myself drawn to these specific books of peculiar classification. Were they picture books for children? Or something for more general reading? A lot of libraries had these same volumes, but treated them quite differently. The memory of these old books, which I only ever read for the smallest of moments, hung in my mind. As a man grown, I eventually tracked down and added some heavily-used copies to my collections. They sit awkwardly on my shelves, several times taller than other books, yet somehow much thinner.

These are purely nostalgic reads for myself; I cannot verify anything about their informative value. It may very well be the case that there is some artistic license taken in the depictions, however detailed they may be.

Mother's Milk

Sacha Archer

<MW> This book seems interesting. Should I get it?

<Taylor> Ah, a texture pack, in book form.

<MW> Well when you put it like that...

Book of the Day

Changing Minds in Detail

David Starker

This book was given to me not as an actual volume, but instead as a series of ring-binder printouts from one of my more interesting teachers, even if I only knew him for a short while. One of the more ethical—albeit also one of the harder to find—books on persuasion. (But it begs the question if books on persuasion can even be ethical, at all.)

Starker has a bad habit of repeating the same things over and over, but his work is not singular, and tries to find common strings between multiple diverse fields in which persuasive tactics are used. Reading a lot of craft writing books beforehand made many of the concepts feel familiar to me, as they were largely the same things, but under different names. It is not a magic-bullet solution to changing people's minds about any specific thing, but a generalized framework to keep in mind only for when one is truly serious about their persuasive efforts, and is simply ineffective when attempted casually.

The ultimate thing that sets this book apart from other attempts at outright manipulation, is the central concept of “closure”—the very moment when the mind is changed. Closure is something a person must reach on their own, and while you may lead them to it on the best of days, it is not a path that any ethical persuader can force someone to take. (If, indeed, that is a thing the persuader cares about...)

If you managed to go through what I have and still didn't see anything which caught your attention, you may also try these sources:

Dan Pollock is the curator of a well-organized HOSTS file used for blocking common sources of advertising, shock sites, and other malware. (Which everyone should totally have installed, regardless of their operating system.) He also keeps an extensive bookshelf of his own, which I use for reference sometimes as well.

Fellow Canadian writer Jonathan Ball doesn't have a bookshelf per-se, but he does engage in a thing known as the "95 Books" challenge each year since 02013, based off of a quip that a certain American idiot-president managed to read 94 books a year. He's been successful at reading more than 100 books each year compared to my average of about 25, though I should note as far as the challenge itself goes he is something of a dirty cheat. (Lots of Canadian Poetry books anyone can finish reading in about a day.) You can see the lists he has completed here.

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