Alchemical Thoughts


Another week, and another bunch of books I would like to read someday. As the saying goes, so little times, so many books.

Items about books I want to read:

  • I continue adding to my interest to learning more about bourbon with Bourbon: a History of the American Spirit. The book was reviewed in San Francisco Book Review.
  • Given the current political climate in the United States, this book sounds like a necessary read. The book is Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You The Right To Tell Other People What To Do. The book was reviewed in San Francisco Book Review.
  • Let’s add in some more history. I often like reading about periods or events in history that may not be widely known. Astoria, about how Thomas Jefferson and John Jacob Astor attempted to create a western trading empire, sounds interesting. It was featured in San Francisco Book Review.
  • As I have written before, I am always interested in books about books and the book trade. So I am adding The Art of the Publisher to the list. It was discussed in The Christian Science Monitor.
  • Here is a little something to help diversify my reading for one. Plus I think some of my feminist friends may be interested in this one as well. The book is My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, and it was reviewed in Mother Jones magazine.
  • I remember living through the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The event is often portrayed as this big “American victory,” but as often is the case in history, things are not as simple as that (nor is that vision really true). You can learn more about the reality of what happened in The Last Empire, which was reviewed in San Francisco Book Review.
  • Here is something on higher education in the United States and China. In this article from Inside Higher Ed, “In Palace of Ashes: China and the Decline of American Higher Education (Johns Hopkins University Press), Mark S. Ferrara contrasts the ‘downward trajectory’ of American higher education against the rise of China’s university system.”
  • Via Drinkhacker, a review of a book on tiki drinks, you know, those nice tropical drinks that evoke some island paradise when done well. The book is Tiki Drinks: Tropical Cocktails for the Modern Bar.
  • Here is another one via Drinkhacker, this time on beer. The book is Beer for all Seasons.
  • I do like vintage things, and yes, I do like adult films and entertainment, so naturally I like vintage and older porn and adult entertainment. Thus a book like Graphic Thrills Volume 2 (apparently there is a volume one too) on adult film vintage posters is of interest. You can find the review in The Rialto Report.


Lists and bibliographies:

  • An older item, but still of interest: the first translations of a set of Zapatista children’s textbooks is available as a free download. Story via Global Voices.
  • There is a graphic novel adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Catch is Boom Studios! for some reason thought putting it out in 6 volumes instead of one large volume was a good idea.We’ll see if I can find a set. Story via Wink Books.
  • I will admit that I have not watched the Netflix show “Narcos.” To be honest, I could not care less about Netflix, but that is another story. Anyhow, I do have an interest in the topic of narcos in Latin America overall, so this list of books for folks waiting for the next season of the show interested me anyhow. From the list, I have read Gabriel García Márquez’s News of a Kidnapping, which I do recommend.
  • Via the blog RA for all: Horror, here is a list of small presses in the genre, which I am saving to look over later.
  • Here is more on movie posters. Via Wink Books blog, two books on James Bond movie posters.
  • Via The Booklist Reader, a list of books on creativity.
Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

Here is the list of books I reviewed at The Itinerant Librarian during the month of October 2015, in case you missed any. Feel free to check them out, and if you happen to read any of them, feel free to comment and tell me if you liked it or not and why.

  • Batman: Earth One, Volume 2.
  • Tales of Heresy. This is part of the Horus Heresy series. The collection contains the short story “The Last Church,” which is probably one of the best stories in Horus Heresy and Warhammer 40,000. If anyone ever tells you that WH40K does not have any depth or any philosophical moments, shut them up by having them read that short story.
  • Harley Quinn, Volume 2: Power Outage. I continue to enjoy this series, and I already have volume 3 in my e-reader cue. You can count on seeing a review of that one soon.
  • Mortal Kombat X: Blood Ties.
  • Uncle John’s Beer-Topia. Like beer trivia? Need some bathroom reading? This is one of those Uncle John’s readers, and it was entertaining.
  • Monster Motors. This can be a nice Halloween selection, but you can read it anytime.
  • The Divine.
  • Creature Cops. From the publisher description, which I quoted in my review, “In a world where a rhino can be gene-spliced with a dog, freakish animals are everywhere, and the Creature Cops have to deal with them.”
  • Death of Wolverine.
  • Deadman Wonderland, Volume 2. This is a manga series I am enjoying. Though I have been borrowing from the library, I may consider getting my own set down the road.
  • Castaways. If you hate reality shows, especially dreck like Survivor, this horror novel may be for you.

Happy reading.


The list keeps growing, but I still hold on to the hope I will get to a few of these at some point in the future. In the meantime, here are few more books I would like to read some day.

Items about books I want to read:

  • I am not a huge fan of syrup, as in the stuff you put on pancakes. I may bit a little itty bit on my pancakes, or if they are really good, just butter. Still, this book sounded interesting enough, so I am adding it. The book is The Sugar Season,  and it is about a family that makes maple syrup. I am always interested in how things are made.  It was featured in San Francisco Book Review.
  • I do keep up with a lot of the library literature, as I say on my professional blog, “so you don’t have to.” I also often see and read about what other librarians may be reading. A recent kerfuffle in the news was the article from The New York Times about how badly Amazon treats its workers, which to be honest, knowing how Amazon just exploits anyone and anything, should not have been surprising. The article elicited various replies, and I even noticed a librarian or two bringing it  up, for various reasons. Anyhow, for me now, I see that makes this book more timely. The book is Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans, and it was also featured at San Francisco Book Review. To be honest, I am a bit surprised one of those computer obsessed librarians did not read and review this one. Maybe down the road I will get to it.
  • Fantagraphics has that excellent EC Library series going. I’ve been fortunate to read some of their volumes, and here is another one now: Bomb Run and Other Stories, which are 1950s war comics. The book was featured at Wink Books.
  • And also via Wink Books, one more collection of old vintage comics. The book is The Blighted Eye. These come from the private collection of Glenn Bray, and it is also published by Fantagraphics.
  • Recently, Black Cultural Center at the campus I work at had a success retreat for some students. We went down to the Haley Farm, home of the Children’s Defense Fund. I may blog about that experience at another time. The lodge had a small bookstore, and I saw this book there, which I have been meaning to read. It also reminded me I had an item in my feed reader about it, so it may be time to move it ahead in my cue and read it sooner rather than later. I am not sure if I will get to it in what is left of 2015, but I can tell you that I have read quite a few books about the U.S. Civil Rights Era this year. The book is This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed, and it was featured also in San Francisco Book Review.
  • Next, we have a look at the history of corruption in the United States. Given how things are going these days, this one also seems like a timely book. The book is Corruption in America, and it was reviewed at Inside Higher Ed.
  • Marion Nestle has a new book coming out soon, and she is starting to promote it. The book is Soda Politics. This may be one I order for our library.
  • I do not know how the heck I missed seeing this sooner, since Ultraman was a huge part of my childhood, and I do read quite a bit of manga. Anyhow, there is a manga of Ultraman out; I definitely have to get my hands on that. It was reviewed at Manga Blog.
  • As of this post, this book is fairly new, so no information in WorldCat yet. As a librarian and educator, books on sexual health and education interest me, and I am always on the lookout for good ones I can pass on to others. The book is The Sex and Pleasure Book. The authors were interviewed here.
  • The author of the book Thieves of State discusses in this piece why Afghanistan will fall to the Taliban again. Worth a look, and the book sounds like worth a read in these times.

Lists and bibliographies:

Here is the list of books I reviewed at The Itinerant Librarian for the month of September 2015. As always, comments are welcome. So if you find any of these interesting and/or you read them, feel free to let me know your thoughts. Links go to the book reviews.



Here is another round of books I would like to read eventually:

Items about books I want to read:

  • Hurricanes and natural disasters often make the news. The part of those news that we rarely see is that there is a big profiteering element to natural and other disasters. Something like Hurricane Katrina is not just a natural disaster; it is also a disaster of social and economic inequality. You can read about that in The Disaster Profiteers. The book was featured in Scientific American.
  • Naturally, the librarian in me has an interest in books about libraries, so here is The Meaning of the Library: a Cultural History. It was reviewed in Macleans.
  • What do you know? There is a book out there about lists. Yea, lists, like to-do lists, inventories, etc. The book is Lists by Liza Kirwin, and it was reviewed at The Well-Appointed Desk.
  • Voter disenfranchisement is a big issue in the United States as political parties, especially the GOP, seek to keep minorities from voting. Learn more about this issue in Give Us the Ballot. The book was featured in Mother Jones magazine.
  • And speaking of the GOP, maybe it should stop alienating women, minorities, the LGBTQIA community, and young people, in other words, anyone other than rich white cis males. This book may be of interest to them, although at this point that party needs more than just rebranding as the article from In These Times suggests. The book is The Selfie Vote.
  • Enjoy paper folding? Like origami, but you think it’s just for kids? If you are an adult, maybe you want to try out Pornogami: a Guide to the Ancient Art of Paper-Folding for Adults. It was featured at Incredible Things.
  • I may have mentioned this before, but since I moved to Kentucky, my interest in bourbon has increased a bit. I am always interested in how alcoholic spirits are made, so it is kind of nice to live here where bourbon is made. Anyhow, there is a new book out by a guy who “tasted between 50 and 60 bourbons” and has written about it. The book is Bourbon Curious, and it was briefly mentioned in the Lexington Herald Leader.
  • NPR reports that Twitter has put out a guide book on how to use Twitter for politicians, and apparently it is quite amusing. You can download the handbook here. Yes, I did download a copy for myself, so you bet it will get reviewed when I read it.
  • Something “shop-related.” Saving this one more for future reference. The book is the Library Publishing Toolkit, which you can download for free here.
  • Oil/petroleum makes the world go round. But it does so at a high price. Learn about the corruption and scandals of The Secret World of Oil. The book was reviewed in San Francisco Book Review.
  • Also, the San Francisco Book Review says that “picking up where Goodfellas and The Godfather left off, The Mob and the City is a terrific, informative read.” Sounds like a good reason to pick the book up.
  • Wink Books highlights the book The Art of Robert E. McGinnis. The guy did a lot of pulp covers, many of which some of you might remember.
  • Wink Books also highlights the book American Grotesque: the Life and Art of William Mortensen.
  • My friend, Mark at Habitually Probing Generalist, has been reading quite a few graphic novels. Since we cannot resist graphic novels and comics in this joint, and some of these sound cool, here we go:
    • Here he reviews Sumo by Pham. Like Mark, I have enjoyed other books published by First Second, so this an added motivation.
    • Over here, he reviews the book De Tales. It is a collection of four tales set in urban Brazil.
    • He really liked this one, which by the way, would have fit into the LGBT Reading Challenge I am doing this year as well as the graphic novel challenges. Maybe if I get to it before the end of the year I can fit it in. The book is Stuck Rubber Baby.
    • He also really liked this one, from Image Comics, which is a publisher that has put out some other works I have enjoyed. As Mark describes it is a “twisted take on the Lewis and Clark expedition.” The book is Manifest Destiny, Volume 1. From the sound of it, I may have to order it for our library’s graphic novels collection.
  • Adding some manga to the list with Rose Gun Days, Season 1, Volume 1. It was reviewed at A Case for Suitable Treatment.
  • And speaking of manga, The Manga Critic reviews the pocket book  A Brief History of Manga.
  • When it comes to hipsters, there is no lost love. So some hipster humor is something I can appreciate. Bitches n Prose review the book Hipster Animals: a Field Guide.



Lists and bibliographies:

  • Donald Trump’s presidential run in 2015 has been seen as either a joke or an embarrassment of the American nation. One element he has is quite the authoritarian streak, and though many Americans say it could never happen here, well, look at who they have been supporting lately. This article in Alternet discusses Trump, authoritarianism, and offers a couple of books to read up on the topic.
  • Interested in what the faculty of the Harvard Business School have on their summer 2015 reading list? Here are some of the books that made their shortlist, via HBS Working Knowledge.
  • Recent research reveals that doodling can be good for your cognitive abilities. This article out of The Atlantic mentions a couple of books on the topic.
  • Wink Books has a post on a couple of volumes from the Dark Horse collections of Creepy and Eerie magazines.
Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

Here is the list of books I reviewed at The Itinerant Librarian during the month of August 2015. Feel free to check the reviews and the books out. I got a pretty good selection for my readers this time. As always, if you read any of the books, feel free to comment and let me know how you liked them or not.

  • Transformers: Drift-Age of Stone.
  • Justice, Inc. If you have enjoyed Michael Uslan’s work in The Shadow comics, you will probably enjoy this crossover series.
  • Plucked: a History of Hair Removal. Yes, there is a book on the history of this topic, and I read it.
  • Best Sex Writing of the Year, Volume 1. From the folks at Cleis Press, a very nice sampling of nonfiction sex writing. As Belle Knox writes in the book’s foreword, “It’s easy to forget that outside of our own, seemingly normal sex lives, the world has thousands of different stories and experiences to share with we may not otherwise have imagined” (ix).
  • Robert Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy. This is a graphic novel adaptation of the classic Heinlein novel.
  • Predator Omnibus, Volume 1. Dark Horse Comics capitalized on the success of the film with this comics series in the 1980s and 1990s. This is the first volume collecting those comics.
  • Arms and the Dudes. Supposedly, there is a movie coming out soon, so read the book before the movie. “Greed was the dark truth at the heart of the arms-dealing world” (200).
  • October Faction, Volume 1.
  • Buttermilk and Bible Burgers. I do a bit of reading about Appalachia.
  • The Radical King. Cornel West edits an anthology of Dr. King’s more radical writings to remind us the man was not just a dreamer. Dr. King had a seriously radical vision for the nation, one that many wish to forget, whitewash, or sanitize.
  • The Incredible Hulk, Volume 1. This time, Bruce Banner finally gets his wish: to be separated and rid of the Hulk.
  • Insylum. A horror novel about two buddies and a horror themed park where the last two to enter always disappear.

I decided to try my hand at this after reading this post, “20 Questions I Have for People Who Were in Their 20s Before Cell Phones & Internet” found at forever twenty somethings.I was a bit younger than my 20s in those days, but I certainly faced these questions too. It was not a big deal then. To be honest, I wonder how easily spoiled today’s youth are by cellphones and the Internet. My cohort and I had to make do without, and we did just fine. In fact, in many ways, the pace of things was not as rushed. Now, to date myself a little bit, I grew up as a teen in the 1980s. I barely recall my early days of getting on the Internet. My first personal e-mail was on Hotmail, and I do still have and use that account though it is no longer my primary e-mail. My first real e-mail was in college, back when it was using a VAX system of all things. I do remember AOL and those pesky disks they used to send to try to get you to subscribe to their Internet service. Boy, have we come a long way in a short amount of time. Before that, I survived without all this technology just fine.

To be honest, a lot of this seems like a big first world problem, but I am doing it for amusement now. I copied the questions from the post. I will then type out my answers (some snark may be included):

1. How did you make plans?  You agreed with people beforehand on things like where you would be and at what time. You either talked in person or over the phone. Yes, we did have telephones back then. We had already moved past the telegraph.

2. How did you CANCEL plans?  Usually you tried to call as soon as you knew.

3. How did you know who was calling you before you picked up the phone?  Until the advent of caller ID, you did not know. However, once answering machines came around, you let the answering machine pick up so you could screen the call. If you were real snarky, you could even put funny messages on your answering machine to greet callers. Heck, if you did not feel like taping your own, you could buy those messages recorded for use. One thing you may keep in mind is that back then spam calls were not really the problem they were now. Back then, you knew most of your callers were family or friends, i.e. people you wanted to talk to. Nowadays, it’s not really safe to answer a phone, and since it is easy to spoof called ID, I still let the answering machine pick up so I can screen.

4. How did you rid of the fear that is calling people?  I would not label it a fear, but I do dislike talking on the phone. E-mail was a welcome arrival. I much rather e-mail people than call them.

5. How did you find out information about people before you went on dates with them?  You really did not have much options here. If you knew a common friend, you pumped them for information maybe.

6. How did you find people to date in the first place???  Well, school, church (back when I was a church goer, I did have an older girl hit on me after church. True story. That did not get far, but that is another story), other gatherings.

7. How did you keep tabs on exes?  Why the hell would I want to do that for? Anyhow, back then I did not have an ex yet.

8. How did you keep tabs on what your entire graduating class from high school was doing?  Given I did not (and still do not) give much of a shit what the folks in my high school class do, this was not nor is now much of a concern.

9. How did you look for jobs?  The newspaper and word of mouth.

10. How did your parents get in touch with you when you were out? Back then, you told your parents where you would be, and you better be there or else. Growing up back in Puerto Rico, this was common. You went to a friend’s house to hang out, you told your parents who it was and where. Odds are good our parents knew their parents, so they could call and check. Also, we had fairly firm curfews. I had to be home usually by 6pm or so, which was dinner time. One way to know was if in the house you were visiting the TV was on. When the news went on (this was before the days of CNN), you knew you had to head home. If the theme song of the soap opera that came after the news came on, you knew you had to run home because you just overstayed. Back then, the soap opera theme song was the one for the soap opera Cristina Bazan. The song was “Atrévete” by José Luis Rodríguez, aka El Puma. (Link to YouTube).

11. How did your survive waiting for meetings, appointments, trains, or anything without being able to pass time by pretending to look busy on your phone? If I had to and I could, I carried a book or some other reading material.

12. How did you do ANYTHING at work before email? You talked to people. You called on the phone. The work pace was likely a bit slower, but that was a good thing. We survived just fine.

13. How did you tell co-workers (or someone else you were meeting) that you were going to be late when you were stuck in traffic or stuck on some disabled subway car? They had to wait, and that was the end of it. You explained what happened when you got there, or if you could, you stopped at a pay phone and called in. Again, the world did not end.

14. How did you sign up for classes at the gym? You went to the gym and signed up. Or you called over the phone I guess. This was never a concern for me though. Why, how do people sign up now? Even if you sign up online, you still have to go to the gym in person, so I do not see any advantage from signing up online or doing it when you get there.

15. How did you know where you were or where you were going ever? See #10, apply it to other people. Again, people were more understanding and patient, so this was not an issue.

17. How did you always have change on you to use these pay phones? You learned to carry some change in your pocket, no big deal. To this day, I carry at least two quarters in my pocket for pay phones. It is more a ritual than anything else given I have a cell phone, but the habit remains. For long distance back then, you often had a phone card.

18. How did you research anything for school? Did you have to go through the Encyclopedia? What? You think research did not happen before the oh so precious Wikipedia? Yes. We had encyclopedias, and we learned how to use them. We also had libraries and librarians to help us with our research if need be. The tone of this question makes it sound like we lived in the Dark Ages. We had books then, and we still have them know. We also had journals and indexes to find articles just fine. You learned to use things like Reader’s Guide and got on with it.

19. How did you find out about the weather? I looked outside. I watched the news and got the weather forecast. Listened to the radio news for any alerts. Again, the world did not end.

20. How did you stay in touch with friends? Talking in person. Phone calls. A bit more distance, letters and cards via mail.

In the end, we got along just fine. The world did not end. People knew to be patient, and they knew to wait as need be. Sometimes I think cell phones and Internet have made people impatient because they have to know now right this second or else. Also, since people were a lot more patient and less tech, people were a little less rude. I mean, there were no cell phones, so you could not whip it out in restaurants and movie theaters, but you actually had to pay attention. You needed to let people know, you called ahead or told them early enough without so much rush. And that is how we survived just fine.

November 2015
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