Fun Size Bytes


  1. Go home. All of you. By order of Gaius Justus Gallicus, under-commander of the Sixth Legion, commander of the Third and Fourth Centuries, under authority of Emperor Tiberius and the Roman Empire, you are all commanded to go home and perpetrate no weird shit until I have gotten well drunk and had several days to sleep it off.

    Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

    Listening to the audiobook of this is a good way to spend Holy Saturday.

  2. 22 Books You Should Read Now, Based On Your Childhood Favorites

    Dr. Wife linked to this on BuzzFeed, but of course it’s… well, of course, they can’t just post a list, it has to have GIANT BOOK COVERS because “OOH PRETTY COLORS!” and this annoying JavaScript SAVE ME! BOOKMARK ME! SHARE ME! annoyobot that keeps jumping around like one of those damn little yippie dogs.

    So I stripped it down to just the text here.

    (Well… and then I wrote a shell script which prompts the user for some input, and then uses it to search the Kindle store on Amazon.com, and returns the proper URL, and, optionally, the Title too, as Markdown, but I’ve been wanting to do that for awhile anyway.)

    Anyway, here’s the list, in a much-easier-to-refer-to-later format.

    (Disclaimer: this isn’t my list, it’s from someone called Arianna Rebolini)

    1. If you loved The Giver, you should read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

    Both novels tell of sheltered future societies gone wrong: the “Sameness” paradise of The Giver and the isolated boarding school of Never Let Me Go, Hailsham. But each of these supposed utopias harbor secrets, and the significance of Hailsham’s own “sameness” is the darkest of all. What happens when the residents grow up and figure it out?

    2. If you loved Redwall, you should read George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

    Rich, generation-spanning histories. Magic and mythology. Epic warfare. Feuding families. Badass ladies. So many feasts. Both series are chock-full of all of it. The world of A Song of Ice and Fire just happens to be inhabited by humans, not mice.

    3. If you loved Sideways Stories From Wayside School, you should read Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

    The brilliant and hilarious Catch-22, which follows Captain John Yossarian as he fights in the U.S. Air Force, is all about the absurdities of bureaucracy. And while the themes of the war novel are understandably darker, the shenanigans are similarly inane — from a bomber pilot holding rubber balls in his hands as a way to distract from the crabapples in his cheeks, to the Wayside School student who can’t count in the correct order but always lands at the right number.

    4. If you loved the Harry Potter series, you should read Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.

    Brooklyn teenager Quentin Coldwater of The Magicians likely grew up reading about Harry Potter. It’s the reason he spends his days wishing magic were real, and the reason he’s so excited when his fantasy is seemingly fulfilled by acceptance into the Brakebills Academy for magicians. But the magic world of The Magicians is a bit more tempered by reality — the studies are tedious, the practice is mired in bureaucracy — and even when Quentin discovers how far-reaching this magic is, he’s still not immune to some standard post-grad disillusionment.

    5. If you loved Anne of Green Gables, you should read Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls Trilogy.

    Kate and Baba of The Country Girls are like bosom friends Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, but if Anne and Diana eventually made their way out of the country and into the city. In this controversial trilogy, the girls — romantic, adventurous, and rule-breaking — leave their idyllic hometown for Dublin, where they pursue their passions side by side.

    6. If you loved Ramona Quimby, Age 8, you should read Sloane Crosley’s I Was Told There’d Be Cake.

    We all loved Ramona Quimby because she was relatable, a little strange, and always hilarious. Same goes for Sloane Crosley, whose sharp, endearing, and laugh-out-loud personal essays tell stories of angry bosses, misadventures at the Museum of Natural History, baking mishaps, and more.

    7. If you loved Holes, you should read Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

    Both Holes and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao read as modern mythology, featuring two curse-afflicted protagonists who can’t catch a break. They’re tales of misfits and survival, and the cruelty that Oscar faces as an overweight Dominican-American teen obsessed with sci-fi is just as harsh and alienating as that of Stanley Yelnats’ prison camp.

    8. If you loved Bridge to Terabithia, you should read Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings.

    At its core, Bridge to Terabithia is about friendship, especially the kind that is strengthened by shared creativity and imagination. In The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer explores that bond — focusing on six teens who meet at a summer camp for the arts — and looks at what happens when it extends into adulthood.

    9. If you loved Ender’s Game, you should read William Gibson’s Neuromancer.

    If you were drawn into the apocalyptic cyberpunk future depicted in Ender’s Game, you’ll eat Neuromancer up. Ender is at times a reluctant hero, and Gibson’s has-been hacker Case is similarly unlikely — but when a dangerous artificial intelligence threatens Earth, it’s Case (working with a dead man and a street fighter) who has the power to save the world.

    10. If you loved The Devil’s Arithmetic, you should read Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred.

    Both novels use time travel to illuminate horrific moments of history — The Devil’s Arithmetic sending its protagonist to the Holocaust and Kindred sending Dana to the slave quarters of antebellum South. The 26-year-old Dana travels back and forth, though, jumping between her happy life in California and life-threatening experiences as a slave until she figures out what she’s being sent back to do.

    11. If you loved Walk Two Moons, you should read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.

    Walk Two Moons is a story within a story, told by a girl longing for her missing mother. The tale she weaves is fantastical, tinged with spirituality, mysticism, grief, a bit of romance, and rich descriptions of the land. Marquez’s epic masterpiece widens the scope of each of those themes. In a long and entrancing history of the mythical town of Macondo, he writes about love, revolution, prosperity, loss, and the tragic rise and fall of a family.

    12. If you loved The Phantom Tollbooth, you should read Neil Gaiman’s Stardust.

    It’s the playfulness of The Phantom Tollbooth that wins over its readers (and, really, it’s one of the children’s books that warrants revisiting), and Neil Gaiman’s Stardust captures that same sense expertly. When Tristan Thorn embarks on a quest to find a fallen star, he encounters witches, elf-lords, a captain of a flying ship, and all manners of eccentrics that will stay with the reader long after the book is finished.

    13. If you loved The Hobbit, you should read Michael Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road.

    So it doesn’t have any hobbits or wizards, but what Gentlemen of the Road lacks in fantasy it more than makes up for in action, adventure, and enthralling characters. Zelikman and Amram, physican and ex-soldier respectively, make their way through the Caucasus Mountains in the year 950, fighting and stealing and somehow getting in the middle of a full-scale revolution.

    14. If you loved Harriet the Spy, you should read Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

    Harriet M. Welsch is easily one of the most lovable heroines of YA fiction, for her passion, independence, and fearlessness. Twelve-year-old Paloma of The Elegance of the Hedgehog is cut of the same cloth — a talented, precocious, and curious wunderkind who befriends similar eccentrics in her Parisian apartment building, and who’s mysteriously decided her life will end by her 13th birthday.

    15. If you loved A Wrinkle In Time, you should read Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!.

    Twelve-year-old Ava of Swamplandia! doesn’t travel through space and time, but she does travel through the Floridian swamps all on her own and, like Meg Murry of A Wrinkle in Time, her bravery is for the sake of her family. As Ava sets off to save their alligator-wrestling dynasty, she travels deep into a beautifully surreal and somewhat mystical landscape, encountering dangerous strangers and creatures alike.

    16. If you loved Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, you should read Melissa Bank’s The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing.

    The troubles that Margaret Simon experiences in the Judy Blume classic — romantic anxiety, body confusion, the awkwardness of fitting in with new friends — are especially potent in the preteen years but by no means limited to them. Melissa Bank proves this as she follows protagonist Jane Rosenal from age 14 to her mid-twenties in a series of hilarious and heartbreaking stories of navigating love, work, and life.

    17. If you loved James and the Giant Peach, you should read Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore.

    Roald Dahl was the master of bringing the surreal to life, peopling his world with talking bugs, cartoonishly evil adults, and a peach large enough to live in. Murakami is similar in his ability to fill his readers with metaphysical wonder, and he is most successful in Kafka on the Shore. Teenager Kafka Tamura sets off on a search for his mother and sister, with the elderly Nakata as his unlikely partner. Together the two encounter a slightly altered reality, full of riddles, talking cats, a rainstorm of fish, and a mysterious murder.

    18. If you loved A Series of Unfortunate Events, you should read Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son.

    In The Orphan Master’s Son, Adam Johnson tells a tale that could very well be described as a series of unfortunate events, and in a similar vein as Lemony Snicket’s series. It follows the young and motherless Pak Jun Do as he makes his way in North Korea, coming up against harsh demands and arbitrary violence in a thrilling and at times harrowing tale of lost innocence.

    19. If you loved Hatchet, you should read Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Once Upon A River.

    Brian has his hatchet and Margo has her rifle, and both are fending for themselves in these stories of survival. Their isolations are different though; where Brian is alone in the wilderness after surviving a plane crash, 16-year-old Margo is traveling along the Stark River in rural and sparsely populated Michigan in search of her long-lost mother. The dangers she encounters are real and and often disturbing, but her perseverance is legendary.

    20. If you loved When Kambia Elaine Flew In From Neptune, you should read Toni Morrison’s Sula.

    Both When Kambia Elaine Flew in From Neptune and Sula have at their cores stories of children who are forced to grow up too fast. They tell of violence in the household, the effects of poverty, experiences of racism, and above all the way that two friends can carry each other along. Toni Morrison’s classic Sula begins in childhood, and follows young Sula and Nel as they survive life in the Bottom (which shares a name with Kambia Elaine’s hometown, though the former is in Ohio and the latter is in Texas) and test their friendship as they go separate ways in adulthood.

    21. If you loved The Westing Game, you should read Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

    What was great about The Westing Game wasn’t necessarily the mystery, but the characters involved in it. It was suspenseful, for sure, but it was fun and at times even funny. Robin Sloan captures that feeling in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, a fast-paced and heady mystery that follows a former web designer who suspects there’s something more to the bookstore he’s taking shifts at. As he delves into analysis with his eclectic friends, he uncovers a world of secret societies, mysterious literati, and a web of technological riddles.

    22. If you loved the Goosebumps series, you should read John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Harbor.

    John Ajvide Lindqvist is the master of old-school horror, and his eery ghost story Harbor will have you sleeping with the lights on for weeks. Set in the icy desolation of a fictional Scandinavian island, Lindqvist creates a world of mysterious disappearances, dark magic, stalking phantoms, and an angry and insatiable sea.

  3. sniffyjenkins:

My lovely, deeply talented friend and fellow novelling type Al Brookes has just published her beautiful novel, The Gift of Looking Closely, on Kindle. It is a genuinely lovely book. I have read it and I love it. If you like good literature, gorgeous, poetic use of words and a slow-burning, intriguing read, please do buy it. I think you will like it a lot.

Available for the couch-cushion price of US$3.77 on the US Kindle Store.

    sniffyjenkins:

    My lovely, deeply talented friend and fellow novelling type Al Brookes has just published her beautiful novel, The Gift of Looking Closely, on Kindle. It is a genuinely lovely book. I have read it and I love it. If you like good literature, gorgeous, poetic use of words and a slow-burning, intriguing read, please do buy it. I think you will like it a lot.

    Available for the couch-cushion price of US$3.77 on the US Kindle Store.

  4. Giovanni’s Room (1956)

    Read More

  5. The Talisman (1984)

    Read More

  6. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988)

    Read More

  7. An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness (1995)

    Read More

  8. Bird by Bird (1994)

    Read More

  9. Lamb (2002)

    Read More

  10. The Children of Men (1993)

    Read More

  11. Giovanni’s Room (1956)

    Read More

  12. Figured out how to borrow Kindle books from my public library.

    liquiddiamonds:

    So I’ve got thousands of books, a quiet house, and a puppy at my disposal. Sounds like a perfect vacation to me.

    1) Are you familiar with the “magic catalog” for Project Gutenberg? Lots of free, public domain books you can download directly to your Kindle from the built-in web browser?

    (And, of course, you can read them not just on a Kindle, but pretty much any tablet-y device.)

    The Kindle browser is terrible, so I made my own short URL for it so I didn’t have to remember the long one or use Google:

    http://luo.ma/MagicCatalog

    (You don’t have to capitalize those two letters either, http://luo.ma/magiccatalog will work just as well.)

    2) As you discovered, many libraries now have ebooks (and audio books!) that you can download. Your local library will have information, or you can try checking out:

    http://luo.ma/OverDrive

    (again, capitalization optional)

  13. Confession: I’m a terrible study of history. I was never good at it, and I often found it boring.

But I love Sarah Vowell’s history books, and one of my favorites is
The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell.

I highly recommend the audiobook, unless you can’t stand her voice (there are samples on the web page) which I don’t understand because I think it’s adorable but I know some people don’t like it.

Anyway… here’s a section of the book I really liked (emphasis added):


  Here we arrive at the reason why this here tale of American Puritans is more concerned with the ones shipping off from Southampton for Massachusetts in the Arbella in 1630 than with the Pilgrims who sailed from Southampton toward Plymouth on the Mayflower in 1620: because the Plymouth colonists were Separatists and the Massachusetts Bay colonists were not.
  
  Before I explain that, I will say that the theological differences between the Puritans on the Mayflower and the Puritans on the Arbella are beyond small.
  
  Try negligible to the point of nitpicky.
  
  I will also say that readers who squirm at microscopic theological differences might be unsuited to read a book about seventeenth-century Christians. Or, for that matter, a newspaper.
  
  Secular readers who marvel every morning at the death toll in the Middle East ticking ever higher due to, say, the seemingly trifling Sunni-versus-Shia rift in Islam, might look deep into their own hearts and identify their own semantic lines in the sand. For instance, a devotion to The Godfather Part II and equally intense disdain for The Godfather Part III. Someday they might find themselves at a bar and realize they are friends with a woman who can’t tell any of the Godfather movies apart and asks if Part II was the one that had “that guy in the boat.” Them’s fightin’ words, right?
  
  Anyway, England, 1630.
  
  Question: Why is the aforementioned John Cotton standing in front of the aforementioned John Winthrop and his shipmates, watering the seeds of American exceptionalism that will, in the twenty-first century, blossom into preemptive war in the name of spreading democracy in the Middle East that temporarily unites even some factions of the aforementioned Sunni and Shia Mus lims, who hate each other’s guts but agree they hate the bully America more?
  
  Answer: Because Henry VIII had a crush on a woman who was not his wife.
  
  In order to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, and marry Anne Boleyn, Henry had to divorce England from Rome.
  
  When the pope, for some reason, refused to annul the marriage vows Henry made to Catherine more than two decades earlier, Henry rebelled and established himself as the head of the Church of England in 1534.
  
  This was seventeen years after Martin Luther nailed Rome’s abuses by nailing his “95 theses” to a church door in Germany, thereby welcoming in the Protestant Reformation.


In case you didn’t know,
the Church of England was founded because Henry VIII wanted a divorce from his wife.

Which is, perhaps, not the best reason to start a new denomination.

But, hey, it helped lead to the founding of America.

The rest of the book is a great look at how Christians in the USA before the USA was the USA came to this country for religious freedom, and then promptly started persecuting other Christians who did not live up to their standards and follow their understanding of Christianity.

So when people want to say that this country was founded on “Christian principals” I want to say to them “Do you actually know anything about the early years of this country? Because even if you call all of the Founding Fathers ‘Christian’ then you should consider the fact that they decided very purposefully not to establish any version of Christianity as the official religion of the country.

Because they saw that even Christians who came to a new world seeking religious freedom were quick to deny that religious freedom to other Christians because they were a different ‘flavor’ of Christian.

That seems like a lesson that more modern-day Christians should pay attention to. Maybe.

    Confession: I’m a terrible study of history. I was never good at it, and I often found it boring.

    But I love Sarah Vowell’s history books, and one of my favorites is The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell.

    I highly recommend the audiobook, unless you can’t stand her voice (there are samples on the web page) which I don’t understand because I think it’s adorable but I know some people don’t like it.

    Anyway… here’s a section of the book I really liked (emphasis added):

    Here we arrive at the reason why this here tale of American Puritans is more concerned with the ones shipping off from Southampton for Massachusetts in the Arbella in 1630 than with the Pilgrims who sailed from Southampton toward Plymouth on the Mayflower in 1620: because the Plymouth colonists were Separatists and the Massachusetts Bay colonists were not.

    Before I explain that, I will say that the theological differences between the Puritans on the Mayflower and the Puritans on the Arbella are beyond small.

    Try negligible to the point of nitpicky.

    I will also say that readers who squirm at microscopic theological differences might be unsuited to read a book about seventeenth-century Christians. Or, for that matter, a newspaper.

    Secular readers who marvel every morning at the death toll in the Middle East ticking ever higher due to, say, the seemingly trifling Sunni-versus-Shia rift in Islam, might look deep into their own hearts and identify their own semantic lines in the sand. For instance, a devotion to The Godfather Part II and equally intense disdain for The Godfather Part III. Someday they might find themselves at a bar and realize they are friends with a woman who can’t tell any of the Godfather movies apart and asks if Part II was the one that had “that guy in the boat.” Them’s fightin’ words, right?

    Anyway, England, 1630.

    Question: Why is the aforementioned John Cotton standing in front of the aforementioned John Winthrop and his shipmates, watering the seeds of American exceptionalism that will, in the twenty-first century, blossom into preemptive war in the name of spreading democracy in the Middle East that temporarily unites even some factions of the aforementioned Sunni and Shia Mus lims, who hate each other’s guts but agree they hate the bully America more?

    Answer: Because Henry VIII had a crush on a woman who was not his wife.

    In order to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, and marry Anne Boleyn, Henry had to divorce England from Rome.

    When the pope, for some reason, refused to annul the marriage vows Henry made to Catherine more than two decades earlier, Henry rebelled and established himself as the head of the Church of England in 1534.

    This was seventeen years after Martin Luther nailed Rome’s abuses by nailing his “95 theses” to a church door in Germany, thereby welcoming in the Protestant Reformation.

    In case you didn’t know, the Church of England was founded because Henry VIII wanted a divorce from his wife.

    Which is, perhaps, not the best reason to start a new denomination.

    But, hey, it helped lead to the founding of America.

    The rest of the book is a great look at how Christians in the USA before the USA was the USA came to this country for religious freedom, and then promptly started persecuting other Christians who did not live up to their standards and follow their understanding of Christianity.

    So when people want to say that this country was founded on “Christian principals” I want to say to them “Do you actually know anything about the early years of this country? Because even if you call all of the Founding Fathers ‘Christian’ then you should consider the fact that they decided very purposefully not to establish any version of Christianity as the official religion of the country.

    Because they saw that even Christians who came to a new world seeking religious freedom were quick to deny that religious freedom to other Christians because they were a different ‘flavor’ of Christian.

    That seems like a lesson that more modern-day Christians should pay attention to. Maybe.

  14. Jenny managed to score a signed copy of
The Phantom Tollbooth 50th Anniversary Edition for The Boy at a recent signing in D.C.

I didn’t tell The Wife about it until today when it arrived (ok, well, it technically arrived yesterday but we didn’t check the mail until today).

I showed her the book and she said “Oh, cool!” but I showed her that it was signed to The Boy, she literally gasped with delight and surprise.

Thanks, Jenny. I look forward to him opening it, I look forward to reading it with him (we never did get to finish it), and I look forward to explaining to my mom that one of my “Friends From The Internet” got it for him :-)

(By the way, the 50th anniversary edition has proven so popular that Amazon lists it as “ships within 7 to 13 days”! Wow!)

    Jenny managed to score a signed copy of The Phantom Tollbooth 50th Anniversary Edition for The Boy at a recent signing in D.C.

    I didn’t tell The Wife about it until today when it arrived (ok, well, it technically arrived yesterday but we didn’t check the mail until today).

    I showed her the book and she said “Oh, cool!” but I showed her that it was signed to The Boy, she literally gasped with delight and surprise.

    Thanks, Jenny. I look forward to him opening it, I look forward to reading it with him (we never did get to finish it), and I look forward to explaining to my mom that one of my “Friends From The Internet” got it for him :-)

    (By the way, the 50th anniversary edition has proven so popular that Amazon lists it as “ships within 7 to 13 days”! Wow!)