Alchemical Thoughts


The list of books I wish to read some day keeps growing, but the time to read them does not always grow to match. Still, I do enjoy making these posts so I can keep track of things I find interesting. In sharing them, I hope it helps a bit in terms of reader’s advisory for folks looking for ideas on books to read.

Items about books I want to read:


Lists and bibliographies:



I saw this bookish writing prompt at Kaizen Journaling a bit of a while back. I had to think about this one for a little bit. I have read so many books over time, and tastes have changed somewhat over time. A challenge for me is that I did not track what I read when I was a kid, so I had to rely on memory to try to remember what I was reading  way back when that I enjoyed enough to remember. Another challenge for more recent years is that I like a lot of different books, so picking favorites is not easy for me. This post will not have a photo since I wrote out my reply here on the spot rather than doing it in my personal journal. As you will when you compare to the original prompt, I adjusted the categories slightly to adjust for my age. So, for the sake of the prompt, here are some choices as of this post. If you ask me next week, or next month, the choices could be very different:

  • Childhood: The Encyclopedia Brown series. If we go a bit further back, I also enjoyed the tales of Frog and Toad.
  • Teens. I think this was the time I first read One Hundred Years of Solitude (in Spanish by the way). This book is my number one all time favorite,  and it will likely remain so for the rest of my life. It is one I reread every few years.
  • Early 20s: I would have been in college as an undergrad. The Robotech series was one I enjoyed to escape the doldrums of college required reading. I still have the set of novels, and I am hoping to reread them soon.
  • Early 30s: Batman: the Long Halloween is one that emerged from those days. I have a tradition now that I reread it every October, near or on Halloween.
  • Today (as of this post): I would say a few volumes in the Warhammer 40,000 series that feature characters I have come to like and admire: Blood Ravens: the Dawn of War omnibus featuring Space Marines Captain Gabriel Angelos, the Ciaphas Cain series, and the Ultramarines novels featuring Space Marines Captain Uriel Ventris. These days, life is pretty much shit. Not my life per se as I am surviving OK, but current events, the world, society, the stupidest election  ever in the United States, shitty media, all that and more make you want just want to get away from it all and as far away as possible. The 41st Millennium seems quite a good distance to leave it all behind.


Welcome to another edition in this series of posts about books I would like to read some day. As always, if you read any of these, feel free to come back and comment to let me know what you thought of a book. Also, if you have ideas and suggestions for books you think I may want to read, let me know as well in the comments. Let’s see what we have for this week.


Items about books I want to read:

  • A former chief of police in Seattle, Norm Stamper was recently featured in Democracy Now! discussing police issues in the United States. He has a new book out on the topic, To Protect and to Serve: How to Fix America’s Police. It seems like a timely book that needs for more people to be reading it.
  • Because I find macabre things interesting now and then, I would like to read Beyond the Dark Veil, a collection of Victorian era post-mortem photography. Story about the book via Boing Boing.
  • These days, Jesse Ventura can have his entertaining and even thought provoking moments. However, him explaining why some are voting for Trump is not one of them. Moving along, this piece highlights his new book, which sounds like it could be an entertaining read. The book is S*it Politicians Say. Story about it via Esquire magazine.
  • Next we have a bit of dark humor with 13 Elegant Ways to Commit Suicide. The older book was highlighted at Dangerous Minds.
  • Another book discussing the issues of gun culture and the big business of selling guns in the United States. This time the book is The Gunning of America, and it was reviewed in a full essay in the The Times Literary Supplement.
  • Here is a book about books, or rather in this case about readers. The book is The Reader in the Book, and it was reviewed at Los Angeles Review of Books.
  • Via @TABITarot, a review of The Ultimate Guide to Tarot Spreads. This may be one to consider adding to my collection down the road as a reference source.
  • This is one of those books that I would enjoy browsing through as a child, the kind of book that has a little bit of everything. The book is Mann’s Pictorial Dictionary, and it was featured in Boing Boing.
  • And one more book via Boing Boing. It is a coffee book of what is described as brutalist architecture. The book is This Brutal World.
  • This book could be an interesting proposition. Basically, it can help explain why dumbasses in the poor states, like say the Deep South, take a ton of federal money and aid, and still hate the federal government (and usually vote Republican). The book is American Amnesia. The book was discussed at AlterNet.
  • Bill Moyers’ site has an article looking at class, politics and Trump while highlighting the recent book White Trash, which is a history of class in the U.S.
  • If you like works like Ambrose Bierce’s A Devil’s Dictionary, you may also enjoy Encyclopedia of Hell published by the folks at Feral House. It is sort of an invasion manual for demons to know what they will find when they get to Earth. The book was featured at Boing Boing.
  • I always find stuff on writing and specially handwriting to be of interest, so I am hoping this book will make for good reading. The book is The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting, and it was reviewed at Inside Higher Ed.
  • I  am adding this one in part because I feel I should at least look at it. Honestly though, I do not give much of a hoot about student evaluations of their college professors, which for the most part can be petty and pretty meaningless when it comes to actual assessment. That is another conversation for another day. In the meantime, there is a new book highlighting such student comments. The book is To My Professor, and it was reviewed at Inside Higher Ed.
  • Only reason I am linking to this post from the Librarian Shipwreck blog is that  it mentions a book on  the concept of planned obsolescence (a.k.a. the  money grabbing move companies make of making shit products so you have to buy them again every few years, like Apple’s current fuckery regarding the iPhone 7 with  no headphone jack) that I think is worth  a look. The book is mentioned all the way at the bottom of the post, and the book is Digital Rubbish.
  • This book just sounded interesting. The book is Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll, and it was reviewed at Rock and Roll Tarot blog.
  • Barbara Moore, one of the big gurus in Tarot, discusses the concept of reading Tarot intuitively on the Llewellyn website, and she also links to the book Tarot Fundamentals, which I may be interested  in reading.
  • Another Tarot book that I might be interested in reading down the road is Tarot Mysteries, which was reviewed at Tarot Notes blog.
  • Sean Gaffney highlights the fourth volume of the manga series Black Bullet. Sounds like one to try out, but I would need to start with the first volume.
  • The Lowrider Librarian reviews the  book The Other Slavery. If you think African American slavery was all there was in the United States, you need to read that book. I know I will be getting to it soon.



Lists and bibligraphies:

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.


These are the books I reviewed at my main blog, The Itinerant Librarian, for the month of August 2016. Feel free to check them out, and as always, comments are welcomed.

  • Started the month reviewing Deadpool: The Complete Collection, Volume 1. I am sure with the recent film that books like this will be of interest.
  • I reviewed Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Tarot. This is one that is a great resource, and it is one I would like to get a print copy down the road.
  • Fans of Vampirella and Aliens, or both may enjoy the crossover comic Aliens/Vampirella.
  • I continue to enjoy DC’s run on the Harley Quinn comics. This series is one of the very few DC has that is actually worth reading. This month I reviewed Harley Quinn, Volume 4: a Call to Arms.
  • If you are a baseball fan, or you happen to be Puerto Rican, or just like a good biographical graphic novel, consider giving 21 a try. This is a biography in graphic novel form of Roberto Clemente. For me, this  is one of the best things I have read so far this year.
  • I also reviewed Bill Maher’s book New Rules. I had read this book previously, but this time I read it as an audiobook.

I saw this spread for the Full Moon in Pisces that took place this week at Ethony’s Tumblr blog here. I decided to go ahead and give it a try as part of my learning to read cards. Initially, I was going to do it with my Gilded Tarot deck, but I decided I needed something different. I went in a different direction, and I used my new Halloween Oracle deck, the one created by Stacey DeMarco. I wanted to get more of a fall season vibe. This oracle deck does have a lot less cards than a traditional Tarot deck. The traditional Tarot deck, like the Gilded Tarot I use, has 78 cards. This oracle deck has 36 cards. The reading experience was quite interesting, and in a way I felt the deck had to get to the point. After all, there are less cards to choose from, so being concise was part of the experience.

For the reading, I did my best to use my intuition, and it actually went a lot better than I initially thought it would go. Since this is a new deck to me, and it is an oracle deck, I did feel an initial need to rely on the guidebook. However, as I said, my intuition worked out a lot better than I initially expected. The images certainly helped me reflect on the questions of the reading, and I feel that I got some good insights and advice on things to work on during this season. On a side note, I did read the companion book previously, so down the road I will write a review of the Halloween Oracle over at The Itinerant Librarian and then crosspost it here.

For this post, I will simply share what cards I drew for what question. I am putting the card name, and in parenthesis after the name I am including the keywords the card provides. I am not sharing my reading reflections, as those can stay in my Tarot/oracle journal. Down below I am including photos of how I laid the spread before and after revealing the cards. If you wish to see the cards in more detail, you can click on the card photos.

  1. What energies are coming up from my subconscious?
    • Card: Forgiveness (Reducing burden)
  2. What is in need of healing?
    • Card: Joy (Rejoicing in the present)
  3. What message does my intuition want to deliver?
    • Card: Skull of Darkness (Blind spots)
  4. What am I being asked to dream (sleep on it, meditate, or lucid dream) about?
    • Card: Apple (Risk and reward)
  5. How best can I ride the waves of this emotional full moon?
    • Card: The Veil (The future)


Five card spread in slight circular pattern

This is the spread laid out before I revealed the cards for the reading.









Five card spread, cards turned upside and revealed.

This is the spread, using the Halloween Oracle, now revealed in full.










My few readers may be aware that I recently started learning to use and read Tarot cards. These days, my learning deck is the Gilded Tarot by Ciro Marchetti. I have been doing a little studying, reading, and working on my Tarot journal. One of the exercises I have found helpful in my learning is doing a daily card draw. After I do my morning writing on my personal journal, I shuffle the cards, and I draw a single card to get a theme and/or lesson for the day. It has helped me to gradually learn to read the cards and their meanings. So far, I had not done any spreads until I saw a couple of spreads on how to interview a Tarot deck as a way to bond better with it, so I went ahead and did this one. This is my first ever Tarot spread reading, and I think it turned out very well. I think I will keep doing this exercise, or ones similar to this one (there are variants), when I get a new deck added to my collection.

I did this spread on July 30, 2016.  The photos below show the spread as I laid it initially, and then revealed in full. If you click on the photos, you can see the details better.

Tell me about yourself. What is your most important characteristic?

Card XVII (17- Major Arcana): The Star. There is much hope and inspiration to be found in the cards. For me, this is a beautiful card, and it is one of my favorites in this deck. Maybe the deck is starting out making a good impression. The deck starts by telling me that I can find hope and inspiration in these cards. I can also find beauty and get in touch with emotions, imagination, and dreams. The water suggests emotions as well as fluidity. When things get dark, there is some hope and inspiration to guide me onward. This deck will also help me explore my intuition a bit more, something I could use some work on. This is also reinforced by the number 17, which is a number of intuition. For me, this definitely rings true. It is why I switched from the Marseilles deck to this one. The visual style helps my intuition and memory better. I may be more of a textual learner, but I can still gain benefit from learning visually and from exploring my intuition. The Star for me also speaks of beacons, guidance. Much as I learned about the North Star as a guide, this deck can provide a beacon of hope and guidance when needed. Overall this is a positive deck that can offer hope, enlightenment, intuition, and guidance.

What are your strengths as a deck?

Card XVI (16-Major Arcana): The Tower. I have to admit that my initial reaction to this card was “oh dear deity!” This is a strong card, and it startled me. But that is the message of this deck: this deck can and will at times startle you. It can shake your foundations. It can help destroy old misconceptions. It may shake you so you see things in a new light. A strength of this deck is that it can be blunt. It can help shake me out of routine and complacency. It make make fall, but it is also so I can learn once more to pick myself back up and rebuild. This deck says, “I’ll give it to you straight, and I will shake you hard if needed to get you to listen.” The deck also says, “don’t get too arrogant, or I’ll bring you back down to size and humility.” I found interesting that The Tower is the card that numerically precedes The Star, which is also the first card I drew now. It’s as if the message there may be need for disruption, even violent change, but this is necessary so that new hope and enlightenment can happen. Sometimes you have to shake things, and at times shake them hard, for change, learning, and understanding to take place. A strength of this deck is that it can startle you, but it is so you can see, learn, and grow towards enlightenment and wisdom.

What are your limits as a deck?

Card III (3- Major Arcana): The Empress. I admit that initially I am not sure what to make of this. Are there some limits in terms of feminine aspects? Are there limits in terms of reflecting on topics like sensuality, and not just sex and erotica but sensual elements? I am getting more questions than answers here. Maybe this deck at times may bring up those questions and other questions, but I may have to seek answers elsewhere.

The Empress is also associated with fertility and creativity. Perhaps there are limits to what the deck can offer in terms of creativity. It could be saying, “I’ll give the first steps, ideas, hints, etc., but you then need to expand.” You get the seeds, maybe the fertilizer too, but it’s  up to you to plant and nurture. This deck can inspire but you do the work of nurturing and tending the garden. Your mama will teach you, but she’s not doing it for you. For me, by the way, this is another favorite card in the deck: a strong woman who is seductive yet wise and motherly, also orderly.

What are you here to teach me?

Page of Pentacles (Suit of Pentacles- Minor Arcana).  Here to teach me to stay grounded, feet firmly on the ground, and to keep it real. But the deck is also here to bring good news and lessons. Sure, you can look up to the stars but remember to keep those feet on the ground, in reality. The page is a young man, a reminder that I still have much to learn both in Tarot as in life. The peacock indicates prosperity; I am not expecting literal wealth (but hey, if it comes I am grabbing it) but more prosperity in daily life through learning and growth. Deck may bring good news, but it will teach me to be realistic, remind me of staying grounded and humble.

How can I best learn and collaborate with you (the deck)?

Two of Pentacles (Suit of Pentacles- Minor Arcana). Well, this is interesting. Presence of pentacles continues. Being earthy as I am, a Capricorn, I see this as encouraging. It continues the idea of staying grounded and keeping it real. The man here also has his feet firmly on the ground. But there is also water, the moon, a ship, and even a dolphin behind him. Emotions, imagination, and intuition come into play as well. I can best learn if I work to juggle and balance all those elements. As the man juggles and balances the pentacles, a rainbow forms. Learn to keep intuition and emotions in a healthy balance with the ground and reality. Doing that may well be the best way to learn and collaborate with this deck. For me, the appearance of this card is additionally encouraging because for me it can symbolize instruction librarians and teachers who as performers often have to balance multiple things in our classrooms. So, keeping a sense of balance is the best way to learn and collaborate with this deck.

What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?

Four of Cups (Suit of Cups- Minor Arcana). Well, this is interesting too. This goes back a bit to the prosperity theme in the Page of Pentacles. There are gifts I already have, symbolized by the three cups, but in studying and working with this deck I may gain new gift, new ideas, new inspiration (spiritual, divine, higher, what have you), symbolized in the fourth cup. In addition, some peace and calm may be an outcome as well. The setting in this image is a green, lush, peaceful field, forest animals and birds in the sky. It’s as if the deck is saying to drink from this gift and be inspired and at peace.

This is a card of re-evaluation. Look up, assess new opportunities. Sure, things may e good, but look up also, assess, and grow. An outcome may well be that at times I reevaluate, see things anew or in a different light, and hopefully learn some new lessons and gain new insights.


Tarot Deck Interview Spread. Cards facing down.

This is the spread as I initially laid it out after shuffling the cards.

Tarot deck interview spread. Cards revealed.

This is the spread with the cards all turned up and revealed.

I saw this prompt a good while back over at Booking Through Thursday, and it has been sitting  in my feed reader’s list for a while. I am finally getting around to it. The prompt is as follows:

“How often do you visit a library? Do you go to borrow books? Do research? Check out the multi-media center? Hang out with the friendly and knowledgeable staff? Are you there out of love or out of need?”

This is an interesting question for a librarian. I can say that I visit a library every day of the week since I work at a library. But let’s look at the question in a different way. I am an academic librarian, which means I am a librarian  that works at a college or university library. In my case, it’s a college library. From my library, I do borrow books to read, though not as often as I do from the public library. Much of this is because I read pretty broadly, and I also tend to read a variety  of popular topics that an academic library just does  not pick up. A public library and an academic  library have different missions and serve different populations, so their collection development tends to be different. Thus for some things, I can find them at my library. Other things I rely on the Berea branch of my local public library.

So, what do I get  from my own library? I often get the following from my own library:

  • Some more academic history books.
  • Books about higher education.
  • Some books on social justice issues, especially as related to race, gender, and related issues.
  • Some graphic novels (our library has a graphic novels collection for students to use, mainly recreational. We have some decent holdings, but it is still a work in progress).
  • Items via Interlibrary Loan (ILL). When neither my library nor my local public library have a book I want to read, I can use this service to have my library bring it in from another library. It is one of the big perks of working in an academic institution. Public libraries do offer ILL, but it is rarely as robust as the one  in an academic institution. I have used ILL to get all kinds of books from academic topics to popular books.

What do I get from my public library:

  • Graphic novels. These are often titles my library does not have. They often get things quicker too than we do.
  • History books. In this case, I get more popular history works, the kind that a good informed lay reader would read. A particular subset of this would be microhistories. Those are books that do history on a single topic really well. One example is Mark Kurlansky’s Salt.
  • An art book now and then. This also includes photography books.
  • Humor books.
  • Some popular fiction. I read science fiction, plus some fantasy and horror, so I get books in those categories. This year, I am doing a horror reading challenge, so I get those books through my public library. Brian Keene’s work was a recent discovery from doing the challenge last year.  I do look forward to reading more by him, by the way.
  • In fact, when I do reading challenges, I often get the books for them at my public library.
  • Books on fairly random topics. I am pretty inquisitive, and once in while I will pick up something because it sounds interesting. I have read books about rodeos and fried twinkies, about the history of delis, about the Glock handgun, so on. Recently, I even read the book that  is now basis of the movie War Dogs (by the way, from the looks of recent reviews, skip the movie, read the book).  I am very eclectic as a reader, and I usually find what I need at the public library.
  • Media. I get DVDs for some movies. I like movies, but I would not call myself a movie buff. I also get DVDs for old television shows. Plus, since I am doing an audiobook reading challenge this year, I have been trying out some of their selections. However, in audiobooks, my local public library does leave a lot to be desired.

In the end, I go to my  local public library out of my need as a reader. I usually visit my public library once a week, usually on Sundays. I do get things from my own academic library, but  I read a bit too broadly and eclectically for my academic library. So my public library combined with Interlibrary Loan pretty much get me what I need. In the end, I do love libraries. I am glad I work in one, and  I am happy to use and support my local public library branch.

How about readers out there? Feel free to comment about your own library experiences, what you go to the library for, so on. Or if you do not use your local library, tell me why as well.

October 2016
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