When I first started reading on a tablet (June 2010)....

I thought I should make a list of the eBooks I’ve bought and read, excluding gratis classics, since I got my iPad at the beginning of April 2010. 

I think I am probably reading at twice my usual rate.   I also own more books now, since I don’t have to worry about investing in more bookshelves.  (I can’t yet download my public library eBooks onto the iPad; so I can’t test if I’d borrow rather than won a percentage of these books.)

Most eBooks are ones I would own.  I purchased several heavily illustrated books not available in eBooks during this time.  I downloaded Paul Harding’s novel, TINKER as soon as the eBook was released after it won the Pulitzer, and bought a paperback as a gift.

iPad Apps
Alpha Wolfram, App Developer and Thomas Gray, photographer, THE ELEMENTS -- The most innovative, authoritative and interactive iBook on the iPad. It makes me wish I'd been awake in Chemistry class!

Bill Clark, ACADIA: The Story Behind the Scenery (Just screen shots of pages with text and color, but good for planning a trip.)

Benjamin Vu, Michael Kingerly, Stephanie Olesh, TRUCKS! (If they add spelling the letters of the word on each page to the drawings of single trucks -- audio is really good for "Monster Truck" -- I'd pay for the upgrade for my great-nephew the kindergartner.)

I have, of course, also bought print editions during this time at my normal rate. 

Many of these eBooks are ones I probably would have postponed purchasing in print, since I do not have a bookstore within 15 miles of my house, and it is easy to browse through “sampling” on the bookstore Apps, easier than the Amazon online store.  I also find it easier to read books on related subjects simultaneously (such as Wood and Rakov, who each write about early American politics).

Kindle, B&N, iBookstore, and Kobo eBooks

Fyodor Dostoevsky, THE DOUBLE AND THE GAMBLER, Translated by Richard Pavear and Larissa Volkhonskey
Kathryn Schultz, BEING WRONG
Laura Skandera Twombley, MARK TWAIN’S OTHER WOMEN
Stefanie Pintoff, THE SHADOW OF GOTHAM
Virginia Woolf, MRS. DALLOWAY
Otto Penzler, Ed., THE LINEUP
Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, THE PHYSICS OF NASCAR (my client but I paid for this copy)
Stephen Prothero, GOD IS NOT ONE
Paul Harding, TINKERS
Connie Willis, FIRE WATCH

Archives of posts about books I like
July 2009

It occurred to me the other day that our vocabulary is all wrong in this debate over

e-books – in the same way it’s misleading to talk as if America actually had “healthcare, when we really only have very expensive sickcare. 


We don’t read e-books or hardcovers.  We read what people write.


Books – whether print or digital, whether downloaded or mailed, whether new or old – are just one way that writing reaches the people who want to read it. Books are just one way that people get paid for their writing.


Books are not what I read; they are where I read things that interest me. I find writing in books interesting, because I like writing that reflect the author’s authentic research, originality, and talent.  I like the sentences and paragraphs they choose to combine to make a book; I like the way their long story begins and ends. 


I think if books are to survive we have to stop thinking about books as a “consumer product.” Format usually follow price, but the quality of what’s inside a book does not.


We need to start thinking about books as a place where writers write and readers find them.  If printed books morph into e-books, that’s really not a lot of change.


If we don’t want to lose writing that’s long, and thoughtful, writing that requires time to create – if we want writing we such as we find in War and Peace, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dreams From My Father, or A Room of One’s Own -- we have to find a way to subsidize the places readers can read what such writers write. 


I submit that we could learn how to live without books.  It’s reading and writing we can’t live without. 


And the possibility of that impending loss is what we should talk about.


For more, read Amanda Mecke's Google blog, \http://readtosurvive.blogspot.com/


Previous Posts:

December 2008
I highly recommend the 12/7/08 column by Michael Dirda in the Washington Post with advice about giving books as presents.
If you are fan of historical novels and Scandinavian myths (as in Tolkien), look for the Plume publication next year of Ice Land by Betsy Tobin (published in the UK by Short Books). You will also enjoy Jane Smiley's older novel, Greenlanders.
The Booker Prize winner The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (Free Press paperback) provides disturbing and vivid background to the terrorist attack in Mumbai, particularly on police corruption, the elite's dependance on the servant class (who were the heroes of the massacre), and the devastating poverty which haunts the world's largest democracy.
September 2008
I haven't yet read Marilyn Robinson's new novel Home (FSG, hard cover), but her previous book Gilead (which involved the same characters) was one of the most moving books I've read in ages.
For those adults who have never stopped reading YA fantasy, a friend recently introduced me to a 1948 classic, I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith (St. Martin's paperback). 
January 2008
I met Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina when I was consulting for Rutgers University Press on the publication of her biography of Frances Hodgson Burnett, the early twentieth-century author of The Secret Garden. 
Gerzina's new book, MR. AND MRS. PRINCE, just out from HarperCollins's Amistad imprint, is a fascinating story of how she and her husband uncovered the lost history of two freed slaves, also a husband and wife, who were among the first Black land owners in colonial New England, Abijah Prince and Lucy Terry Prince.  Everything in this book which they found will change your picture of early American race relations.  
This a remarkable story of how a couple earned their freedom and fought all the way to the Vermont Supreme Court to protect their property rights and their children's inheritance, long before the Underground Railroad was built by anti-slavery Northerners, both Black and white.
On a lighter note, George R.R. Martin is a wonderful fantasy writer.  Bantam has just released a two-volume collection of his short stories which are set outside the universe of his bestselling Song of Fire and Ice series, Dreamsongs.  St. Martins has also released a new book, Inside Straight, in the collaborative series Martin edits, The Wild Cards.  If you like fantasy and science fiction with a sense of humor and real people, these are must reads.
December 2007
I have been a devote of Doris Lessing since I first read The Golden Notebook in 1971.  She is never afraid of challenging her readers or admiting she has been wrong.  Her Nobel Lecture is a vivid example of how she lives as she writes, showing -- not telling -- all the many reasons empathy makes us human.  She believes in the power of individual stories to change the world.
The full text is posted on the Nobel web site:
From 2007:
After the Sopranos ended, we discovered the marvelous Canadian TV  series, "Slings & Arrows;" three seasons of six episodes each were filmed through 2006 and are now on DVD. It was brought to the US by Sundance. It is an exceptional portrait of acting, theater, Shakespeare, and mood disorders of all kinds, set among the cast of the "New Burbridge Festival" in Ontario.  First season they do "Hamlet," the second, the Scottish Play, and the final, "King Lear".   Don't forget the extras, especially on the last disk.  (And if you don't know "Shakespeare Wallah" from Ivory and Merchant, rent that too!)
I've been a fan of David Lodge's fiction since, fresh out of grad school, I read Small Worlds, his send-up of an academic competion for the lucrative (and tax-free) UNESCO Chair of Literature.  No one who has ever looked for a teaching job should miss his marvelous account of an MLA meeting. 
Lodge's book Author, Author (2004) gives us an affectionate portrait of Henry James.  Looking back from his deathbed in 1915, the story focuses on James' failures on the London stage, which took place while his close friend, the Punch illustrator George Du Maurier (and father of Daphne), wrote Trilby --  the bestselling novel of the century. 
From 2006....
I recommend the German film on Hitler's last days in his bunker, Downfall, and if you find our parents' war endlessly fascinating, as I do, you will also enjoy Scott Turow's ORDINARY HEROES (set during the Battle of the Bulge) and Faye Kellerman's STRAIGHT INTO DARKNESS (set in Munich before Hitler took over Germany).  The novels are much, much more than mysteries. 


THE REINDEER PEOPLE by Piers Vitebsky is the amazing story of a British anthropologist's 25+ years visiting and documenting the life of some of the last indigenous Siberian people to herd domestic reindeer.  We meet many keenly individual men women and children, from the university-trained to shamans.  I was reminded of the Mongul family in the documenary movie "The Weeping Camel," and of Amundson's antarctic expeditions, which used native skills while Scott died using modern mechanical aids.    We learn what it was like to live under Soviet rule (when labor camps drove the meat markets); we watch Perestroika as it affects both animals and people, and we witness the region's disastrous ecological and economic decline under Putin's Russia. 


MAPS FOR LOST LOVERS by Nadeem Aslam (March, Knopf hardcover).  An extraordinary novel about long-time British residents, a family caught between devout, traditional, misogynist Pakistani culture (which the mother enforces) and the marxist, integrationist -- yet still observant -- attitude of the liberal father.  I read this book a little before the London bombings, and it gave me instant awareness of what kind of rage and hopelessness simmers beneath the surface, just waiting to be high jacked by extremists.  The father is an extremely sympathetic figure who has deliberately remained in the run-down, immigrant neighborhood to help improve conditions for the working class.  Yet several of his ethical decisions have disastrous consequences for himself and his children, as does the mother's insistence on wanting her sons and daughter to be so faithful they will return to Pakistan to marry.


This page is an ever-changing, virtually random, annotated list of books and media that I currently enjoy and which I highly recommend to others.*

For more recent reviews:  ameckeco2.wordpress.com


I am often stunned by the many ways to discover backlist gems from my home computer everyday via online retailers and social media.  I do read a lot of professional media, but I don't limit what I buy to what is of use to my work.   It is true that when you work in publishing, you get used to – sometimes jaded – about the number of books you know.  Yet it still brings me a lot of pleasure to find out about books and authors rarely mentioned in popular media, especially "midlist" non-fiction, the elusive non-celebrity, non-self-help, not-chill, subjects by not-already-popular authors.  

My own favorite hobby horses are American history, almost any century, because I live in a house built in 1750 and I grew up a baby boomer; early Eastern Christianity and rabbinic Judaism, and Islam on the Silk Road, because I finally got to see the ruins in Turkey; African literature and memoirs, because my nephew is stationed in Lagos, Nigeria, with the State Department; history of science, because I didn't take any hard science in college, and literary history about Virginia Woolf and Doris Lessing, and Shakespeare, because I was an “English Major” -- which is why I didn't read science books until I grew up and realized it was worth paying as much attention to the real world as to fiction.

Here’s a sampling of the new ebooks under "recent"  on my iPad (some of which I've just started reading):

Dr. Kimble and Mr. Jefferson by Hugh Howard, about the early 20th Century architect who rediscovered Jefferson the fact that this Founding Father had built Monticello.  How can you not want to read more when the first chapter tells you that since his death in 1826, “nothing in the Jefferson literature suggested that the man ever built or cared about a building in his life.”

After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires 1400-2000 by John Darwin.  You can’t imagine modern history without Empires, and their wars.  Can we learn from and not repeat the past?

Mrs. Woolf and the Servants by Alison Light. Nothing was easy for a woman writer when Virginia Woolf first achieved a “room of her own.” Despite her bohemian Bloomsbury rebellion, she could not avoid the politics of class in a house that required the help of at least one servant if she and Leonard were to be able to both write and run a publishing house, even without children to raise.

The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Of course this is a bestseller you will know about, but it is worth reading not just talking about.    Don’t  be intimidated by it’s length. You can skip around.  But you’ll never think about Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft, Trust Busting Republicans, carefully documented investigative journalism, or honest politicians (yes, they did exist) the same way again.

Christian Beginnings by Geza Vermes.  Sadly, I often discover the best books in my "hobby horse" subjects via obituaries for authors that I don't know because I didn't read them when I was a student or didn't work at their publisher, the two most likely ways I mine the backlist.  When Geza Vermes died last year, I was still following the new perspective on the transition from Greek, Roman and Jewish cultures to European and Islamic cultures that I had gained from my visit to Turkey, especially in the ruins of Ephesus and the mosques, churches and secular museums of Istanbul.  It was a relief to find that the books by this Jewish historian were still in print.  I chose this book about the Jewish roots of the "Jesus movement" because what I already knew about Christianity from my Episcopalian upbringing gave me a place to begin to better understand Judaism at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple.  When Vermes' scholarship led me to Burton Mack's Who Wrote the New Testament I found a way to leap across the divide from my sunday school years to a world where the fact that Jesus was Jewish -- and that the Apostles who invented his brand were too -- is a surprise to no one.

*Full Disclosure:  These are books I read for my personal entertainment and professional education.  If I also work with this author I'll indicated via  *




*AMecke Co. does not have
any consulting interest
in these titles, and
the authors are not  clients