Thursday, October 12, 2006

Moore's A Dirty Job Wins The Quill Book Award

Exciting news for Christopher Moore fans: His recent novel, A Dirty Job, just won The Quill Book Award for General Fiction. His competition for this category included

I have always considered Moore a humor writer, so I was surprised that A Dirty Job was included in the General Fiction category, but if you look at the competition in the humor category you'll see Moore's book would be out of place. He was among very distinguished company in General Fiction.

My heartfelt congratulations to Moore. I am a fan of his writing. Truth be told, I had just begun reading A Dirty Job recently (before the award was announced) and I look forward to finishing it even more now. He's a great writer and a wonderful story teller. Let the winning of this award be one more reason for you to pick up a copy and read it!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Book Review: A Sense of the World by Jason Roberts

Believe it or not, there was a time not long ago when you couldn’t see every square inch of the Earth from a satellite…and access it from a Web page on the Internet. In fact, vast parts of our world not only weren’t known, they hadn’t even been explored by “civilized” men and women. That began to change in 18th century and reached a climax in the 20th century. Somewhere in the middle, a man with vision but no sight took it upon himself to visit the world’s unvisited places, and A Sense of the World is his amazing story. It’s very intriguing reading!

I love adventure stories, simply revel in the sea adventures of Horatio Hornblower and that genre. James Holman (1786-1857) lived in that time, and he wasn’t some romanticized fictional character, but a living, breathing seafarer in the British Royal Navy. His personal goal was to see the world, and if he hadn’t gone blind in his 20’s I’m quite sure he would have done literally that. When he did go blind, he didn’t let that blindness get in his way. He lived a full, adventurous life, traveling alone – yes, alone – throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, Russia, Southeast Asia, Australia, South America, and the South Seas. Mr. Holman climbed mountains, including the fuming Mount Vesuvius, and he galloped on horses. He explored difficult terrain in the Australian outback through swamps and over difficult mountains. He rode a swollen river as ballast in a carriage and wandered through a miserable Russian swamp, but worst still, he fended off bandits and the bitter cold of a Russian winter. Then he suffered the indignity of being hauled back 5,000 miles across the entire Russian frontier for political reasons never explained to him, short of his goal of making across the entire country. All this on a small government stipend and no formal command of any of the languages he encountered.

The story of James Holman is nothing short of remarkable. The book’s subtitle well describes him: “How a blind man became history’s greatest traveler.” I highly recommend this book for those who enjoy reading history, biographies, travelogues, and adventures.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Book Review: Monkey Dancing by Daniel Glick

I just finished reading Monkey Dancing by Daniel Glick. It's a great read for a lot of great reasons.

First, it's a great personal journey beyond grief. Daniel Glick had just been through a gut-wrenching divorce and then he lost his older brother, whom he admired but with whom he had not been much in contact, to cancer. The trip was cathartac and healing.

Second, it's a great family adventure. Daniel is a single dad and had just started to get used to the idea when he took his young daughter and just-teen son on a journey to strange and dangerous places. What a bonding experience.

Third, it was a learning experience. Daniel Glick is a world class journalist and he takes us on a trip to some of the most endangered habitats in the world. You meet the species and the people who live with them and endanger them.

Although the book can be whiney and preachy in places, it can also be wide-eyed and wonderful in others. It shares a passion for discovery and life, and opens the author's heart to the reader where you are free to explore to understand the man and the father and the human being who is trying to rediscover himself within a world beset by so much trouble -- of our own making and beyond our own control.

If I have a real complaint about the book, it's that it lacks pictures. This author has been around the world -- to exciting places -- and there are few pictures to show for it. The ones that are there are small and extremely muddy (fifth-generation copier muddy), and they focus on the author and his kids, so you see much less of them in the context of their locales, which is what their story is about. At one point early in the story, I had to go to the Internet to find pictures about Daintree National Park in Australia. His descriptions were terrific, but I desperately wanted to see where he had been! I hope if Mr. Glick ever republishes the book that he will consider lots more pictures -- bigger pictures, wider panoramas, and some color! Oh, and please leave the mud back in Cambodia!

The version I read was paperback -- maybe there was a better photo selection in a hardcover version?

I like adventure stories so I naturally gravitate to this kind of book. I was captivated by the tales told, the risks taken, the lessons learned, the journey accomplished, the growth achieved, and the life restored. I think you will, too, whether or not you like adventure stories.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Book Review: Naked Conversations by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

If you’re a blogger looking for a resource, Naked Conversations is it. If you’re a company looking for tips and hints, this is your book. But if you’re someone looking for advice on whether to blog, beware – this book sells and promotes as much as it informs.

Naked Conversations provides lots of case studies. It talks about companies that have turned around their image by blogging. It talks about companies that haven’t blogged or have allowed only limited blogging and have suffered for not fully embracing the blogosphere. But they don’t discuss companies that have blogged and suffered miserably from it. It is a consultant’s Pollyanna view provided by passionate weblog evangelists, hardly an objective view.

Still, this book, written primarily for businesses, provides lots of how-to kind of information, so it’s useful for commercial and well as non-commercial bloggers. So if you’ve already made the decision to blog or allow blogging, I highly recommend this book. If you’re still trying to decide, I’d say read this book, but don’t make it your only counsel. Enter “blogging” in the Amazon search box on my
business book website to find more books on blogging.

Editorial Reviews from and Publisher’s Weekly (scroll down below fold)

Other books by Robert Scoble

Monday, April 10, 2006

The DaVinci Code Now in Paperback

Great news! The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is now available in paperback! It has taken way too long to move to the mass market size. The problem, of couse, was that the hardcover book topped the Best Seller list for so long -- more than two years! It's still number 2 on The New York Times list.

So all those good readers who were waiting for the smaller, less expensive size, it's here! Join the rest of the world in enjoying this great mystery/thriller, now only $7.99 at

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Q&A: Book dummies for book smarties

Q: What is a “book dummy” and when should I use one?

A: A book dummy is an imitation book that you use on a shelf in place of a book you have pulled from the shelf. It helps keep the same pressure between books that was there before you removed the book, and it helps keep the shelf neat. In libraries, book dummies are sometimes used to show visitors that a book has been moved and where to find it, such as when a book is in use in a display or put aside for a group.

You should use a book dummy if you collect books or are otherwise concerned about maintaining the value of your books. In addition, you should use one if your shelves of books are part of the décor of your home or office, or if you entertain frequently in the room where you shelve your books. Unkempt shelves look sloppy and can be bad for book covers, bindings, and pages.

Book dummies are easy to make, or you can buy them from book suppliers.

How to do your own:

  • Option 1: Buy used books to serve as book dummies. Books from garage sales work well as long as they aren’t moldy – you don’t want mold to spread to your other books! Buy several different sizes to mimic the size of books on your shelves.
  • Option 2: Make one from sturdy cardboard, Styrofoam block, and tape. It should be the size and thickness of the standard book on your shelves. To make it look like a real book, buy a hardcover book at a garage or yard sale, remove the covers and binding, and bind them to your Styrofoam block.
  • Option 3: You can also simply use a block of wood the size and thickness of a book, or a block of Styrofoam, although these aren’t as aesthetically pleasing to the eye and will likely detract from the look of your book collection.

Where to buy:

Note: A “book dummy” is also a term used in the book business for a mockup of a new book. A designer will layout the book and its design in a “dummy”, much as an art director will do for a magazine issue. Don’t be surprised if you do a search for one kind of book dummy and find the other.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Igniting the Spiritual Imagination

Today I want to briefly illuminate on a spectacular event that has recently unfolded. It’s the first hand-copied Bible in centuries* (since the early 1500s).

When the printing press was invented, the need to hand copy books fell to the wayside. Saint John’s Abbey and University in Minnesota teamed up with British calligrapher Donald Jackson to revive the practice this once “to ignite the spiritual imagination of believers throughout the world by commissioning a work of art that illuminates the Word of God for a new millennium.” In commissioning this work, the abbey and university took an extraordinary step in creating both a breathtaking work of art and bringing to the world the majesty of God’s hand-illuminated word.

As a lover of quality books (and as a Roman Catholic) I have been impressed at the incredible effort taken and devotion given as a talented team of artists and calligraphers set out to re-present the Word of God in so magnificent a work.

If you are devoted to books, it’s well worth a look. You can see pages and learn about the effort at the
Saint John’s Bible website. You can also order a copy at the Saint John’s Bible Online Gift Shop. In addition, PBS aired a television program about the making of this new bible, part of which is available on the Saint John’s Bible site.

There will be seven volumes in all of handwritten text and illuminations. When I ordered my copy there was but the Gospels and Acts finished. I see today that The Psalms is available now, too. There is also a book about making the Bible, and you can order prints of some of the illuminations. You can actually
view pages on the site.

One of the facts that impressed me was that the lead artist used red ink bought from a shop in England that had closed its doors hundreds of years ago! They also used gold leaf for some of the illustrations, and it was all produced on lamb-skin sheets of parchment that had to be hand-selected and hand-prepared. Copies for sale were printed on paper known to best display and preserve the work. Still, my copy was only $64.95 (plus tax and shipping)!

Why do I tell you about the Saint John’s Bible? Because it’s a rare tome and it exemplifies all the best of a published work – I wanted to share my excitement.

*Update: 4.09.06
In the first paragraph of this article, I said that this was the first hand-copied Bible in centuries. I believe I read that on a website that talked about the Saint John's Bible, although I haven't found it again yet. Regardless, this isn't the case. It doesn't diminsh from the amazing work and inspiration that went into the Saint John's Bible, but it does rob other similar works their due credit. I don't believe it was intentional, however.

To learn more, read about "The Pepper Bible." There are additional links in that article to other hand-lettered illuminated Bibles.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Update to February 15, 2006, article on author Christopher Moore

Attention fans of humor writer Christopher Moore: I have good news! Chris is about to release his new book, A Dirty Job. He will be touring parts of the U.S. to promote the launch, and you are invited to attend. Chris will sign copies during the event, but if you can’t get to one of the locations, you can order a signed copy.


For a personalized, signed copy, contact:

Writes Chris:
I look forward to seeing you on the road. We sort of ran out of dates and cities, so I’m going to try to pick up the South, Northeast, and Canada next year when my next one, You Suck: A Love Story comes out.

Hope you enjoy the new book.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Q&A: Cleaning up your act

Q: What’s the best way to clean the covers of a book?

A: When I worked at a retail bookstore, we always used
Goo Gone. It’s an orange-based cleaner that easily removes sticker glue, dirt, grime, sticky residue, and many other markings. However, it can’t fix bends, scrapes, curls, tears, or other physical damage. And never use it on inside pages, because it may soak into the paper and leave a stain.

Whatever you do, don’t use regular household cleaners, which can damage a book cover. And don’t apply any cleaner directly to the cover – apply it to a soft cloth and then wipe the cover with the treated rag, then dry with an unexposed part of the cloth.

Before treating the cover with any kind of cleaner, including Goo Gone, try wiping the cover with a slightly dampened soft cloth first. It may take away the grime without having to apply anything at all.

I've said a couple of times here to use a soft cloth. Lest you think I'm just trying to be fashionable, keep in mind that rough textures can wear the cloth on a hard cover and the edges of paperback covers. Soft cotton works great.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Q&A: To pre-read or not to pre-read

Q: When should you read a book that a movie is based upon – before seeing the movie or after?

A: There is no right answer to this question. That’s because different people read books and see movies differently. The outcomes are rarely the same. So the real answer is, it's up to you. But here is my "professional" take on it:

I tried reading a book before seeing the movie and I was disappointed in the movie. Because the book can cover more and get more deeply involved in point of view and character development, not to mention the movie not always matching the book, I found myself criticizing the movie more and catching errors or discovering missing pieces of the story instead of simply enjoying the movie.

My best experience has come from seeing the movie and then reading the book. In that way, I get to enjoy the movie for its own sake, and then I read the book to either get more background or to see how the two were different. I’ve never felt disappointed in either version this way.

I bought the book The Constant Gardener in anticipation of seeing the movie first and then reading the book. But the movie didn’t stay in theaters very long and I didn’t get a chance to see it. Yet, I didn’t want to read the book first, so I waited for the movie to come out on DVD. It took much longer than I thought it would and the book languished on the shelf. The movie recently arrived at my favorite video store and I rented it – now I look forward to reading the book. The problem with my seeing the movie first is that I have had to wait to enjoy this great story. So it cuts both ways.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Q&A: Saving grace for saving your place

Q: What’s the best way to save my place in a book?

A: Let’s start with the way not to save your place – folding over the corner of the page. It’s called a "dog ear," and it’s not good to do to a book just as it's not good to do to a dog. In addition, it reduces the value of the book.

I’m happy to say there are many better ways to save your place:

  1. There’s the really inexpensive way – shove a piece of paper between the pages. It can be any piece of scrap lying around the room, or it can be a flyer, handout, or envelope. Just keep it thin and free of grease, oil, or ink that could taint the page.
  2. Sometimes the bookstore will give you a paper bookmark, often in the form of an ad with store location, phone number, Web address, and hours. It will save your place as easily as any other method.
  3. Bookstores also usually sell more ornate bookmarks made of varying materials like metal, paper, plastic. The best ones are laminated (to avoid tainting a page and to keep it nice looking). Metal will hold up nicely, but they can be thick (which could bend or curve pages) and they sometimes are made to attach, which will mark or damage the page. Some also will stick to the page, which could leave a smudge or other taint mark.
  4. Ornate bookends make nice gifts and will usually serve the reader for some time. They’re available in lots of different styles, enough really to suit any reader’s personality or interest. Consider giving one for a birthday, anniversary, Easter, Christmas, Hanukkah, summer vacation, or at the same time you give that person a book.

More page-savers to avoid
I would also avoid using paper clips, alligator clips, page markers, or anything else not specifically designed for use in a book or that otherwise marks up a page.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Book Review: Lamb by Christopher Moore

I first ran into author Christopher Moore reading Lamb, the imaginative and often irreverent story of Christ’s youth as narrated by his childhood best-bud, Biff.

I must say I have since been disappointed by some of his other works. In particular, The Stupidest Angel and Fluke. Moore is a great writer. I like his style and tone. His characters are always interesting, and his prose is vivid enough that you can really see the scenes as the stories progress. However, Moore is supposed to be a humor writer – yet there isn’t much humor in these other two books. They’re good stories, but I guess I set myself up hoping the other works would match what Moore had accomplished in Lamb. (Moreover, I can’t figure out why Moore titled the one work The Stupidest Angel – the angel, who appears in Lamb as well, actually has a minor role in this story. I call it The Strangest Title!)

So let me tell you why I liked Lamb. I first picked it up because I’ve always been curious about the early life of Jesus the Christ. I read the cover hype and was enthralled with the idea of Jesus Christ having a childhood best friend and wondered what he would have made of the savior of the world. I read a few passages from the book and was immediately hooked into the story.

Now, I wouldn’t read this book thinking it was in any way an accurate historical narrative. It’s fanciful to say the least. But Moore does provide substantative details about the people and the times. He weaves in words from scripture to suggest how Christ might have thought to use them in the final years of his life, lending a genuineness to the story, and he fits those last years into the tail of the narrative, giving it authenticity. Where the story wanders from reality is the trek Moore gives Christ in search of the three wise men from his birth to get answers about the meaning of his life (he asks his Father, who won’t say), and Christ’s supposed study of various religions from which he might have picked up some of his ides on life. Jesus (or Joshua in Aramaic) and Biff travel thousands of miles over many years through the Middle East, Asia, and India, then back to Judea just in time for the beginning of Christ’s ministry.

What I found compelling was Christ having a close friend early in his life. And I liked the occasional sarcasm Biff offers in the story and the way he sticks by his best friend even to the very difficult end. The picking up of words of scripture to pepper the story in a humorous but meaningful way also gives this story legs that get you from beginning to end and say, “Yeah, it could have happened this way.”

I highly recommend Lamb. It’s fun, it’s interesting, it’s a great tale. I wish I could say the same about Fluke and The Stupidest Angel – maybe I wouldn’t feel that way if I had read them first.

Reader Resources

Editorial Reviews of Lamb from and Publisher’s Weekly (scroll down below fold)

Other books by Christopher Moore
Christopher Moore interview on

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Book Review: Empire Falls

HBO made a riveting two-part movie of Empire Falls by Richard Russo, a great narrative. They did the book justice, following it devotedly chapter by chapter. Still, as much as I liked the movie, I liked the book best.

Richard Russo is an excellent writer, as you’ll find in Empire Falls. You’ll relate to the interesting characters, enjoy the vivid descriptions of the town and the times, and reach the end caring deeply for this man of poor means and the people he interacts with every day of his otherwise rich life.

As I said, the book is filled with rich, vivid characters. There's the main character, who has spent his life trying to leave this sleepy, dying New England town only to be pulled back time and again, ultimately to run a diner owned but restrained by the town's richest family. And then there's his recently divorced wife who just wants to be loved -- she's about to marry the town's health club owner, a bombastic, self-assured health nut who has taken an irritating liking to the main character. Let's see, there's also the town matron who keeps a tight grip on the town that is her family's empire and who takes pleasure in putting down the main character. In flashbacks, you'll also meet her timid husband who once fell in love with the main character's wife but who takes his life when the main character was a child. Paul Newman won a Golden Globe this year by playing the main character's father, a listless, irresponsible, irrepressable, but certainly lovable scallawag who is less a dad and more an occasional houseguest. There is also the main character's brother who helps him run the restaurant, his daughter who loves her father and can't stand her mother or her mother's boyfriend, the main character's mother-in-law who appreciates him far more than her selfish daughter, and a retired priest who suffers from Alzheimers and can be counted on to say what he thinks however inappropriate and leaves town with the main character's father and the parish's cash. They all breathe life to this memorable narrative that seems long until you get to the last page and wish it could go on and on.

Reading Resources
Editorial Reviews by and Publisher’s Weekly
(scroll down below the fold)

Other books by Richard Russo
Richard Russo interview on BookPage
● Article in
World Literature Today (scroll down)
● HBO Web pages on Empire Falls including various interviews

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Q&A: How to prevent paperback books from curling

Q: How do you keep paperback (soft cover) book covers from curling?

A: Thanks to Dennis of San Francisco for e-mailing me with this question.

Dennis says his room is often cold, but it faces the sun so it heats up periodically during the day, then gets cold again. His roommate’s room is structurally similar, but the sun doesn’t shine directly into his room, and the roommate’s books don’t curl.

My theory is that with the fluctuation in heat comes a fluctuation in humidity, which causes the paper to react differently at different times of the day. Thus, the cover stresses and curls. My recommendation is for him to shade the room during the day, especially the part of the day when the sun is the most direct and hottest. That might help modify the fluctuation in humidity.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Get a humidity gauge (or hydrometer) to measure humidity and monitor the room. If humidity is high – 60% is ideal for books – take action to reduce humidity, such as using a dehumidifier or heating the room.
  • If the rest of the house is moderately humid and books in the other rooms don’t curl, keep the doors to the bedroom open so the air can circulate, thus reducing humidity in the affected room.
  • Store books in less humid rooms (that sounds simple, but most people don’t factor humidity into deciding where to store books).
  • Shelve books tightly together. Don’t shelve them so tightly that it’s difficult to pull books from the shelves, but tightly enough to force the pages shut. Too tightly against varying sized books may warp the cover and too loosely will expose more of the paper to the air.

One more point to consider:
Paperback books generally don’t do as well with temperature and humidity fluctuations as do hardcover books. That’s because paperback books are usually made with thinner paper and often with a lesser-quality paper. If you think of your books as an investment or if you want to preserve your books for a long time, consider buying hardcover instead. They’re more costly but they should last longer with good care.

Dennis reports that the tips have helped:
You were right--the temperature changes were making the humidity fluctuate drastically. That, in conjunction with a small room and no air circulation, was the culprit. I wonder how students take care of their books in small dorm rooms? Well, I bought blinds for my window and keep my door open during the day, and close it when it gets colder at night. Now that the temperature doesn't swing as much, my books seem to be holding out.

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Dennis.