Online Book Sharing

I just read about BookSwim, an online book-sharing program.  New books, free shipping, no wait times.  A few hitches though – it’s not super cheap.  Pricing starts at $24 a month for 3 books at a time.  I see the appeal of the “no waiting” thing, especially if you like to read bestsellers.  But I think I’ll stick with the library – I put books I’m interested in on my hold list, and they come in eventually.  And the best part – it’s free.  Oh, and who even knows if BookSwim ships to Canada.

Free eBooks

Regardless of how you feel about eBooks, I’m afraid/excited that they’re here to stay.  A statement from Amazon on Monday confirmed that they sold more eBooks in the last 3 months than actual old-school hold-’em-in-your-hands real books.

I have two eBook readers on my iPhone, and I’ve browsed through them a few times.  But I haven’t really given ePublishing a good testdrive.  That’s why I was excited to read about ManyBooks – a website featuring 28,000 free eBooks.  Yeah, they’re mostly old or obscure, and you’re not going to find any brand new top sellers.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t good stuff!  I’ve been meaning to read Great Expectations for years, and there it is, in a variety of formats for different eReaders.  Also available are PDF versions and an audiobook.  Sweet.

Oh, and for you Toronto readers, you can download audio and eBooks on the Toronto Public Library’s website here.

Penguin 75

Another design book to covet… Penguin Books’ longtime Art Director Paul Buckley has chosen 75 of the best Penguin book covers over the past 75 years.  Here’s the bookHere’s an interview with Paul Buckley over at Design:Related.  And if like me, you’re feeling so inspired by rad book cover design that you want to try your own hand at it, Uppercase Mag is doing a call for submissions.  Design a book cover that represents you (are you a mystery?  classic?  romance?) and it might be featured in the Fall edition of the magazine.

Top 20 Writers under 40

In its annual Summer Fiction issue, the New Yorker has recently published a list of Top 20 Writers under the age of 40 (click on each author’s face for more info).  There are two Canadians on the list (Rivka Galchen and David Bezmozgis), so the Canadian news media has been really touting the story (Toronto typically swoons whenever acknowledged by anything in New York).

I’m one to talk though – I had read a review of Bezmozgis’ Natasha and Other Stories when it came out in 1994, and wanted to read the book then, but never got around to it.  But now that he’s on the New Yorker’s list?  I’m definitely going to pick that one up.  Here’s an excerpt from the book – a short story called Tapka that you can read to get a taste.

I’m happy to see that Nicole Krauss and Jonathan Safran Foer are on the list.  And there are many there that I haven’t heard of.  All authors will have excerpts from their work published in the New Yorker over the course of the Summer.  If that’s not reason enough to pick up the magazine each week, I don’t know what is.

Favourite Things: The Library

What an amazing concept – everyone in a city (or town) gets to share a huge collection of books (and albums, and DVDs, and magazines… and soon, video games).  I’m glad that libraries have been around for a while, because if someone tried to introduce that idea now, it probably wouldn’t work.  Kind of like public health care in the States.  I digress.

Anyway, I love the Toronto library.  The individual branches aren’t so great (except for a few, and I’m talking about you, S. Walter Stewart branch).  But the whole system is amazing.  With the beta launch of the Toronto Library’s new website, it’s even easier to find items, place them on hold, and then go pick them up at my local branch.  Rarely have I thought of a book that I can’t find at the library.  Including new releases.  And often, I’ve “tested” a library book, found I liked it, and bought a copy of my own (because some books are so good, you don’t want to return them after 3 weeks).

Little known fact – the Toronto Library website has a “downloads” section.  eBooks, audio books, and a little bit of music.  Check there next time you’re going on a road trip and need something to listen to.  Or heck, download some audio books for your daily commute.  Beats listening to morning radio (except the CBC morning radio.  Love the CBC).

Favourite Blog of All Time: Design*Sponge

I heart Design*Sponge.  I’ve been reading this blog for years – long before I was a designer.  I have always been drawn to owner/blogger Grace Bonney’s excellent sense of style (usually on a budget no-less), and her candid, friendly writing.  It’s been so cool to watch this blog grow over the years.  At first, Grace would write about a whole bunch of topics (all relating to interior design), and throw them all together in one place (hmmm… kind of like the blog you’re reading right now).  But over time, Grace developed clearly recognizable categories for her blog posts – “Before and After”, “DIY”, “In the Kitchen”, “City Guides”, and my favourite: “Sneak Peeks” (where she gets interesting people to post photos and descriptions of their homes.  Kind of like The Selby, but not so weird).  She even has a schedule for the categories: Mondays are for Sneak Peeks, Tuesdays are for Guides, etc.

I recently launched some blog design services, and when I work with my blogger clients, I always use Design*Sponge as an example of what an excellent blog can be.  Have a strong, clear, interesting voice in your writing, and give your blog some structure.  It’s a formula that has worked very well for Grace (she has 60,000 daily readers, over 10 contributing writers, and is coming out with a book).  I think her daily schedule for her blog categories is brilliant – it keeps things interesting, and most importantly, it gives the reader a reason to come back to the blog every day.  Oh yeah, and don’t you love the look of the blog itself?  It was custom designed for Design*Sponge.  Gives the site a completely original look.  Love it.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

I recently took a holiday in New York City.  It was amazing.  Friends, food, good drinks, art, shopping, and lots of walking around.  My pals and I stayed in the lovely apartment of Alex Williams and Joanna Goddard, of A Cup of Jo fame.  While in their apartment, I noticed that they had a copy of their gorgeous wedding invitation and wedding program (designed by the amazing Rifle Paper Co) tacked to their fridge.  I noticed a quote from a book on their invite, and of course, I had to check it out further.  I love it when people quote books, because it’s usually a very personal choice, and it shows so much about them.

The book that Alex and Joanna quoted was The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.  I’ll stop right here and say that I would NOT normally be interested in a book with a title like that.  But since Alex and Joanna seemed to like it, I thought I’d give it a try.  So I put it on order on the Toronto Public Library’s fancy new website.

I’ve just started the book, and I’m only about 25 pages in, but I already love it. You know when you come across a beautiful sentence, and you read it over again a few times?  That’s already happened a LOT and, like I said, I’m only 25 pages in.  Wow.

PS – I just did a quick wikipedia search to learn more about the book (but not to spoil the ending or anything), and I found out that Nicole Krauss is married to Jonathan Safran Foer.  Who is another amazing writer.  Don’t you just love it when amazing people are married to other amazing people?  I do.

Solar by Ian McEwan

I love Ian McEwan.  I’ll read anything he writes.  I especially loved Saturday, On Chesil Beach, Amsterdam, and Atonement (the book, definitely not the movie).  So when I saw that he had a new book, Solar, I bought it right away.

Just finished it last night, and I’m still not sure what to think. It’s deeply satirical, but not always clever.  Sometimes interesting, sometimes boring.  Really heavy on physics, and I actually like physics.

Overall, a good read, but not the best.  Oh well.  You win some, you lose some.