Dark Matter

“We’re more than the sum total of our choices, that all the paths we might have taken factor somehow into the math of our identity.” (Dark Matter by Blake Crouch)

I had gotten used to it: the slow slog through books. Looking down at the bottom of the page or screen to see how long before you could select a more satisfying read. With Dark Matter, you don’t notice the page numbers; there isn’t enough time. By the time your eyes near the bottom of the page, your fingers are already turning it, your mind automatically filling in any pesky word gaps that you may have missed in your speed and eagerness with the necessary nouns and conjunctions.

Yet, it’s a good thing that the whole thing is paced so quickly because it doesn’t bear the weight of too much scrutiny. You get the feeling that the author thought up the most thrilling pretext for the book first and then found the least plausible and most suspenseful conclusion later. If you de-suspend your suspended disbelief for even a minute your brain might start asking questions, which would make the whole reading experience pointless. So my advice is: don’t do it. Just read it all in a sitting or two, with no space for thought in between. Probably best if you don’t think about it too much afterward, either.

Recommended Action: Buy Borrow Now – Borrow SometimeAvoid
Length: 352
Ending: satisfying
Incidental Learning: quantum mechanics
Further Reading: Other fast-paced thrillers, like Gone Girlor Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, or perhaps some sci-fi like Saturn Run

Dirty Job

“Don’t be ridiculous, Charlie, people love the parents who beat their kids in department stores. It’s the ones who just let their kids wreak havoc that everybody hates.” (Dirty Job by Christopher Moore)

I have a vague feeling that I used to read better books. Perhaps its nostalgia for simpler times, but I think not. I just seem to be choosing books that don’t work for me more frequently these days, and then obstinately sticking with them to the end (though I resolved to do the opposite less than a year ago). Here’s my theory: where I used to read exclusively in print, I now read almost all ebooks. The reasons are highly practical and all having to do with the demands of motherhood, but I have come to believe that the process for selecting a book online is just inferior to browsing for a book on a shelf.

When browsing books in a library or at a bookstore, you’re confronted with all the possibilities at once. You can only narrow your search to a specific letter of the alphabet, so the selection process happens with a certain amount of serendipity. You walk down the shelves and a cover attracts you, or you recognize an author’s name someone recommended long ago. You see authors from all genres shoved together unceremoniously, so you’re forced to intuitively make a selection rather than choosing by a preconception about your preferences. When searching, however, you limit your choice with parameters before you even have a chance to think or get inspired. You may find e-books that coincide with your stated preferences, but you’ll get fewer books that surprise you – which leads to less enjoyable reading.

Dirty Job emphasizes atmosphere over every other quality; It feels more like a bunch of bizarre coincidences and one-liners stitched together by a thin over-arching plot than a cohesive novel. Though I input ‘comedy’ as my search criterion to arrive at this selection, I apparently failed to tell google that I mostly find humor in 1920’s British novels, not supernatural thrillers. I laughed only once throughout the entire book. Next time, I’ll be more careful with how I phrase my search. Or better yet, I’ll find a way to toddler-proof my library books so I can read them safely throughout the day.

Recommended Action: Buy Borrow Now – Borrow SometimeAvoid
Length: 405
Ending: Main character dies
Further Reading: The atmosphere of this reminded me of No Bad Deed or the Dresden Files.