Tag Archives: books

Summer Reading Time

1 Jul

My favorite advice columnist, Amy Dickinson, recently posted the question on her Facebook page, “Do you have a favorite summer read? Want to recommend one?” But of course I do! This librarian by any other name can always offer up advice on a good book or two. Here are a few on my summer reading list:


I actually just finished “W” yesterday. I have read Sue Grafton’s, Kinsey Millhone’s alphabet series from A to W, and will surely make it to Z (and then have a good, long cry once I finish it and think about the series ending). I love these books – the characters, the settings, the mysteries. Perhaps what I like most about them, though, is that Kinsey came to life in “A is for Alibi,” all the way back in 1982. While we’ve aged to 2015, Grafton chose to let Kinsey age at the speed of the stories. In other words, Kinsey is still in the 80s, still doing private detective work using index cards, a typewriter, and pay phones – AND the occasional microfilm/microfiche and reference librarian. I love it! “X” is coming out in August. My summer reading will be bookended by Kinsey, thanks to Sue Grafton!

penguinAlong with a good murder mystery, I’ve also been reading Yochai Benkler’s, The Penguin and the Leviathan. This title was referenced in an article that I was reading about team science and Clinical Translational Science Centers. It’s thesis, that cooperation between competing parties leads to better results than self-interest, intrigued me and just a few chapters into it, my interest has been met. I’m enjoying it.


I also recently came across a reference to Maryanne Wolf’s, Proust and the Squid. Anyone who’s read my blog and the books that I mention on it knows of my fascination with neuroscience, the effects of today’s technology and media on our brains, and the habit of reading. How could I not read this? It’s up next, after I finish the penguin tale.

rebanksI began James Rebanks’ memoir, The Shepherd’s Life, just last night. I’ll be finished with it before the weekend. It is beautiful! Beautiful writing, beautiful landscape, beautiful living. A bonus, if you enjoy his tales of life with the sheep, you can follow Rebanks on Twitter, @herdyshepherd1.


I just came across Tanner Christensen’s, The Creativity Challenge, this morning. I can’t resist books like this, i.e. ones that offer up new information about creativity along with a daily activity to spur on my personal quest to be more creative. No doubt, this book will be in my possession within days.

Jacket Board - Analytics Press

Finally, the 2nd edition of Stephen Few’s, Show Me the Numbers has lived on my work desk since June. It’s a summer companion. Few is the founder of Perceptual Edge, a consulting firm dedicated to information design, knowledge management, and visual communication. He has authored seminal papers and books on the subjects, this particular book being among them. It’s a terrific reference for me and the work that I do, and I imagine of interest and help to more than a few of my readers, too.

That’s it for my reading this summer. What are you picking up? Feel free to share in the comments section.

Pre-Drone Deliveries

4 Dec

I saw my first “Best Of” list for 2013 today. It was from this past Sunday’s New York Times Sunday Book Review, the 100 Notable Books of 2013. It goes without saying that there are plenty of books and authors worth checking out on this list. A few I’ve read: Andre Dubus III’s, Dirty Love and Jamie Quatro’s, I Want to Show You More (I saw these two together on a panel at this year’s Boston Book Festival), and Megan Marshall’s wonderful biography, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life. Several also appear on my “to read” list: Five Days at Memorial, by Sheri Fink and The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, to name a couple.

Over the past year, I’ve mentioned a number of books that I like and find useful for my work. Since it’s that time of year (and because the blog post that I started to write for this week was depressing me), I thought I’d list a few favorites that I read in 2013, that currently reside on my Kindle, and that I’ve not noted previously. They weren’t all published in 2013, but they landed on my virtual bookshelf within the past twelve months, thankfully before the start-up of drone delivery.

innovation generationInnovation Generation: How to Produce Creative & Useful Ideas,

by Roberta Ness

Roberta Ness, MD, MPH, is the Dean of the University of Texas School of Public Health. This book is based upon the course, “Innovative Thinking”, that she teaches at the School. It gives practical examples and a host of exercises that the reader can do to develop his/her own habits for thinking more creatively, whether you’re a scientist or not. (Published: 2012)

The Science of Serendipity

The Science of Serendipity: How to Unlock the Promise of Innovation,

by Matt Kingdon

I often think how one of the things we’ve lost in moving scholarship to the desktop article level is the random act of finding relationships between unrelated things, aka serendipity. When an article was physically bound next to others, your chances of seeing something besides the one thing you were looking for were greatly enhanced. Strolling the stacks led you to also notice the other journals and/or books nearby, each filled with ideas that could unlock a whole new train of thought. Kingdon’s book is written for the business world, but I found it highly insightful for learning about how ideas and products are often born out of seemingly random connections. The key to success, he argues, is learning how to see these connections and then move them to the level where things happen. (Published: 2012)

100 Things

100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know about People

by Susan Weinshenk

If you read my blog with any regularity, you know that I write a lot about how to design and deliver presentations. This book adds to that topic, but also brings in some science about how people listen and take in information. We know that the best presenters are those who can give their audience what it wants. This book gives some tips (100 of them) on how to become better at doing just that. (Published: 2012)

reinventing discovery

Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science

by Michael Nielsen

Librarians talk a lot about our possible role(s) in eScience as it relates to data. For me, though, the more interesting place to work is in the other side of eScience, i.e. networks. Nielsen’s book is a fascinating read into how science happens today via vast networks of people and talent and interests, all connected by the internet (and subsequent techie tools that harness its power). Read this book along with David Weinberger’s, Too Big to Know, and you’ll likely never think about knowledge and discovery in quite the same way again. (I also recommend wearing headgear while reading them. The ideas can make your head explode.)  (Published: 2011)

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything

by Colonel Chris Hadfield

Canada’s best known and likely best loved astronaut offers up a memoir filled with lots of lessons for all of us stuck on Earth. This book just came out in late October. I downloaded it and read it over a weekend on my couch. It’s a virtual page turner. If you love space (I sure do!) or just a great story about someone doggedly reaching his goals (imagine wanting to be an astronaut when your country doesn’t even have such things), give this one a go. You’ll enjoy it. Follow @Cmdr_Hadfield on Twitter, too. Great stuff!

Now it’s your turn. Share some of your favorites from the past year. One can never have a “to read” list that’s too long.

Summer Picks

18 Jul

I’ve but a short post to share this week. Honestly, it’s just too hot to even think clearly enough to write, BUT not to read. With this in mind, I thought I’d share a few of the informationist-related books that I’m working through this summer. If you have others to contribute or thoughts to share about any of these, I hope you’ll do so in the comments section.

Beginning Database Design, Clare Churcher

Beginning Database Design, Clare Churcher

It’s true that most librarians learn about database design in grad school and it’s surely a skill that we should have expertise in throughout our careers, but a good refresher text is never anything to snuff at. I picked up this one at the MIT bookstore when I was taking the Software Carpentry Bootcamp several weeks back. It’s a keeper for the bookshelf on my desk.

Visualize This, Nathan Yau

Visualize This, Nathan Yau

Data Points: Visualization that Matters, Nathan Yau

Data Points: Visualization that Matters, Nathan Yau

These two books by Nathan Yau, together, are providing me with both a skill set to retrieve data from the Web and a really good understanding of how to present data and/or information so that it makes the most sense to an audience. Yau writes clearly and with a tone that keeps you interested in a topic that, lets face it, could easily slip into the dry and “put you to sleep” mode. As one with an appreciation for design, I also think that the books are treasures to look at. They’re a great starter set for what is my summer reading’s real focus, data visualization.

Visualizing Data: Exploring and Explaining Data with the Processing Environment, Ben Fry

Visualizing Data: Exploring and Explaining Data with the Processing Environment, Ben Fry

More technical and dense than Yau’s books, I had a half-price coupon for an O’Reilly Media ebook and so I picked this one. It’s definitely good for reference and troubleshooting, though I know it’s not one that I’ll read cover-to-cover.

The Functional Art: An introduction to information graphics and visualization (Voices That Matter), Alberto Cairo

The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization, Alberto Cairo

Cairo’s is another really beautiful book to both look at and read. Design is first and foremost. I’m finding Yau’s books more practical for my learning, but I love picking this one up and flipping through its pages every now and then, just because it’s so nice to peruse. But not to sell it short, it’s filled with a lot of good advice for communicating information in a clear and interesting manner. It fits well with the others on my shelf.

Beautiful Visualization: Looking at Data through the Eyes of Experts (Theory in Practice), edited by Julie Steele and Noah Iliinsky

Beautiful Visualization: Looking at Data through the Eyes of Experts (Theory in Practice), edited by Julie Steele and Noah Iliinsky

As the title suggests, this is a phenomenal collection of works by many of the leading practitioners of data visualization working today. This is the perfect working informationist beach book, offering a bunch of short, quick reads, separate to themselves, that together give you a really high bar to shoot for if you want to go into this field.

A Simple Introduction to Data Science,  Lars Nielsen & Noreen Burlingame

A Simple Introduction to Data Science, Lars Nielsen & Noreen Burlingame

Short and sweet (just 75 pages long), this is a staple on my Kindle. It explains data science in lay terms, yet from the scientist’s (not the librarian’s) point of view. It’s a nice reference to keep handy.

Pretty Good for a Girl

Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass (Music in American Life), Murphy Hicks Henry

And finally, lest you think I’ve completely rearranged all of my life’s priorities, I’m really, (really), enjoying this compilation of women (most forgotten and/or overlooked) from the 1920s to present who have held their own in the male-dominated world of bluegrass music. It’s stellar!

That’s a full beach bag of books for me (and you, if you want to seek some or all of them out) and summer is really only so long. In fact, how many days do I have ’til vacation?!?!

Happy reading and stay cool!


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