you are a librarian you have to be ready for the occasional person who
opines how nice it must be to have a job that lets you read books all
day. While in any given day I may scan or skim the written word (in
both print and on screen) most of my reading takes place at home. To
give you an idea of what I have been reading I have wrestled the
current pile of books off my bedside table and will offer this lightly
The Case of Madeleine Smith, part of Rick Geary's Treasury of Victorian Murder. This is a graphic novel about an affair between a young and proper upper-class Scottish woman and her decidedly lower class lover that goes horribly wrong. It can be read and digested in an evening and the story is fully complemented by the author's meticulous pen and ink illustration. I have been enjoying the art of Rick Geary since the early days of the National Lampoon (before that publication made its slow slide into soft-core porn and frat-boy humor) and he has found a real niche for himself in the Victrorian Murder series. Past volumes include the story of Jack the Ripper, Lizzie Borden and Abraham Lincoln.
Chances Are... by Michael and Ellen Kaplan. This work of non-fiction is subtitled as Adventures in Probability and I was hooked when I read the opening quote from Gibbon: "The present is a fleeting moment, the past is no more; and our prospect of futurity is dark and doubful. This day may possibly be my last: but the laws of probablity, so true in general, so fallacious in particular, still allow about fifteen years." This book is light on equations but rich in the stories of the individuals who have explored and explained the world of probability -- look elsewhere if you are looking to simply improve your poker game. Of special interest to lawyers and judges is the chapter titled Judging which explores the use of probability in the courtroom. Included is as good an explanation of Bayes' Theorem as I have ever read.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. This has been lingering at my bedside for a while now. Darkly dystopian, the protagonist has been cursed with the task of trying to survive following a catastrophic plague while overseeing a tribe of genetically engineered human beings. Both the disease and the neo-humans were the handiwork of the protagonist's best buddy -- a sort of über-geek who goes by the screen name of Crake. While I finished the book a few months ago I want to go back and re-read the last chapter -- the story just seemed to collapse on itself and I can't help but think that I missed something.
The Complete Aubrey/Maturin Novels, Volume Two by Patrick O'Brian. Speaking of re-reading, here is a series of 20 novels that I have re-read in their entirety many times. While you might think of some genres of literature as "brain candy" I have seen the works of Patrick O'Brian compared to crack cocaine for readers. While on the surface they are historical fiction devoted to nautical adventures set in the Napoleonic wars they are much, much more that that. The major characters are developed to perfection in the 6500 pages that the collected novels comprise. There is adventure, battle, and intrigue interspersed with domesticity and details of the hearth and home. These are the books I turn to again and again when I want some relaxing escape before turning out the lights.
Make: Technology On Your Time vol. 09: Fringe. More than a magazine, not quite a book; this is a publication from the publishing house of Tim O'Riely (the folks that produce those great computer books with the old-fashioned engravings of animals on the cover) that is devoted to DIY technology projects. Sort of a mashup of Heathkits, Burning Man, Mythbusters, and Popular Mechanics. I may never build my own flame-belching, potato flinging cannon, but I can enjoy the vicarious thrill through the pages of this publication.
Change Your Underwear Twice A Week by Danny Gregory. This book has nothing to do with hygiene or high fashion. Instead, this is a remembrance of the lowly filmstrip. While many Ziefbrief readers grew up in a world of VCRs and DVD there are still some of us who were subjected to the filmstrips -- a series of static images sometimes accompanied by a soundtrack played on a separate reel-to-reel audio tape player. In elementary school I was one of the AV kids that would take the filmstrip and 16mm film projectors in to the classrooms from the library. I still remember some of the 'strips collected in this volume.