Last weekend during our vacation camping along the Loire, while I was reading and flipping a page on my Kindle it somehow got stuck on the cover page. It seemed to be still on (backlights working), but didn’t respond to anything I did, nor to a reset. As the battery drained sometime after, it looked like the photo shows.

The book I was reading, upon David Weinberger’s advice, was Cheap Complex Devices by John Sundman. I was deep enough into the novella that I can’t somehow shake the notion that the book itself has had an influence on this Kindle flop. Or maybe it was the humidity after a rainy day on the campground, with gallons of….



A new device should be delivered tomorrow.

I’ve reconfigured my book list automation so it also publishes them to the book section on my blog.

About a year ago, late 2021, I made it easy for myself to publish lists of books I’ve read in OPML. Before I first made those lists in early 2021 I would publish postings about some of my reading in the book section of this site. Switching to making OPML lists based on my internal notes meant I had stopped posting to the books section. There’s however no reason why I wouldn’t do both. The OPML lists are hardly discoverable, and posting them here as well means they are being shared in RSS too. Yet, I don’t want to do things twice, so tonight I automated it.

The script that goes through my internal book notes on my laptop to create the OPML lists, now also creates posts for each book in my site. Not for all books, just for book notes that have changed in the last week and are part of the current year’s reading. It builds on my existing personal Micropub client I use to post other things to this site too. Meaning that if I run the script weekly it will automatically post any books I’ve finished that week. Today at the start I set the script to any book read this year, so this year’s reading list is up to date.

I read daily, and browse bookstores often. At times you pick up a book in a store, or come across it online, look at it and think that it might be interesting, only to conclude it isn’t and leave it. Until you encounter it a next time, and think it interesting and again conclude it isn’t. Some of those might be interesting at a different point in time when my own interests have shifted to align with it better.

Others I’d better not read because they’re badly written, or there’s strong indications the content doesn’t live up to its backflap pitch. Better to spend my reading time on a different book.

For that group I want to break out of the repeated ‘oh this might be interesting…..oh it’s not’ cycle. I already keep notes about books I haven’t bought yet but might. It’s a sort of preselection stage before both my current reading stack and my anti-library. I now added a Won’t Read List, for books I haven’t bought for which I want to ensure my future self also won’t. You might say it’s type of critical ignoring. I do positive curation in my notes, but now adding negative curation too for those books I repeatedly encountered and rejected.

Through my feeds I follow the book notes and recommendations of other bloggers, and have found some fun and great books through them. For their negative recommendations I never had a use before, but now there’s a way to curate those for myself too.

The inaugural version of my personal ‘Won’t read list’ has two books. Maybe I’ll add it to the OPML book lists I share online.

I was browsing books in the beautiful bookstore in the former Dominican church in Maastricht last week. Reading the blurbs on the back it hit me how themes in contemporary novels seem so utterly disconnected from the momentous in the now, so very much rooted in the past without making literary sense of the now.

The Dominicanen bookstore Maastricht, photo by Jorge Franganillo, license CC-BY

Post WWII literature in the Netherlands has been dominated by two themes, first processing the impact of the war not just for those who lived it but also those who inherited their parents’ trauma, and second coming to terms with a suffocating strict protestant upbringing in an increasingly secularised world. The latter never appealed to me at all, spending several hundred pages in the tediousness of an environment that had no bearing on my life. The former was of more interest to me, tracing the lines of events then to the present day, the complexity and emotions of the many different layers. Europe’s most historical event in my own adult lifetime was the fall of the iron curtain, with the Berlin wall its evocative symbol, and all it led to, the reunification of Germany, the dissolution of Yugoslavia and ensuing wars, Eastern European countries joining the EU. But that too is over 30 years ago, and I’ve read the novels that explore the societal and psychological upheaval and consequences for our current lives.

We’re now over a fifth into the 21st century. Yet browsing the new releases table in that Maastricht bookshop you wouldn’t be able to tell, other than by checking the year of release of the books on offer. The majority still is processing, or actually just rehashing, those same themes. At best the ‘protestant coming out and of age’ novels have morphed into more general personal reflection by the author, novel writing in lieu of psychotherapy. It seems to be the result of marketing (this stuff has been selling for well over half a century!) or ‘easiness’ (you can’t go wrong with these themes as an author!), but daring or suprising it isn’t. It all seems to me so exclusively looking backwards to the past, the books my parents generation would have found daring or surprising in the 1960s and 1970s. Standing in that bookstore I also realised how in school we were told that these were ‘the themes that matter’, and that as a consequence there’s a sort of reflex in me when I pick up such a book that it should interest me. It became very tangible to me all of a sudden that what interests me most, and what indeed should interest me, wasn’t presented on that table. The story was in what was missing among the new releases.

Most of what was on offer fully ignores the now, and what might be momentous in the now, let alone trying to make literary sense with it. I long to see more emerging ‘great European novels’ that have the interwoven European society and its complexity center stage, more exploration of the shifting globalisation and geopolitics playing out in communities and invidual’s lives, the next two billion people coming online, the workings of digitisation and data on our lives, and through it all the climate threat. More now and forwards looking, looking towards the horizon from the now, while incorporating what went before. More novels that are, well, novel.

Luckily, there was something on offer along those lines as well. And more easily spotted once I realised what I wanted to filter out.

I think I have adjusted my book choosing filters permanently last week.

The Dominicanen bookstore Maastricht, photo by Bert Kaufmann, license CC-BY

Einmal im Jahr ist es in den Niederlanden ‘Bücherwoche’, wenn alle Autoren und Buchhändler einladen zum Lesen und natürlich zum Bücherkauf. Wir waren in Amersfoort in der Buchhandlung, und ich fand dort mehrere übersetzte Bücher Deutscher Autorinnen. Da ich die lieber im Original lese, habe ich sie gerade bestellt. In der kommenden Zeit werde ich dann wohl wieder viel Deutsch lesen:

Um nicht mit leeren Händen Heim zu kehren, haben wir natürlich auch einen (laut Kassenmitarbeiterin ‘herrlichen’) Stapel Niederländischen Bücher ausgesucht für uns alledrei.

Bookmarked Web Annotation Data Model by World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

I wasn’t aware of it, but there’s a W3C model for annotations (in JSON). It was mentioned in the book Annotation I’ve been reading in the past weeks. Not sure if this is something I have a use for, but it may be an interesting way to transform and share book notes on this site. It was suggested that uses this model. There’s also a API which suggests it might be possible to pull annotations from there, although I don’t suppose you could push them there as a way of publishing annotations.

The Web Annotation Data Model specification describes a structured model and format to enable annotations to be shared and reused across different hardware and software platforms. … The specification provides a specific JSON format for ease of creation and consumption of annotations based on the conceptual model …, and the vocabulary of terms that represents it. This specification was derived from the Open Annotation Community Group’s outcomes. … This document was published by the Web Annotation Working Group as a Recommendation