Birthdays (and Christmas) mean books. Always. Yes, I should get books out of the library, but I don’t. For one thing, I often re-read books — sometimes because I need something to read and I just grab whatever is at hand; sometimes because I need the intellectual equivalent of comfort food.¹

Some books don’t get read at all. Five Days At Memorial² by Sheri Fink, excellent as it was proved to be simply too intense, for example. The Autobiography of Mark Twain was too long.

This birthday I got two books that were on my Amazon wish list: Provenance by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. I found both of them to be enjoyable reads.

Provenance is about an art scam that involved not just forgery, but the altering of files in several museums to provide backgrounds (“provenance” in the art world) for the forged works. People who are interested in art will understand exactly how terrible this can be. It’s fascinating, even though it is not quite as good as Edward Dolnick’s The Forger’s Spell.

The other book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, has made me rethink social media, and my presence on it. The book either explicitly or indirectly raises questions about how we treat people on Twitter and Facebook, and whether the people who get hit with public scorn for what would have been minor transgressions before the rise of Twitter really deserve to be treated as they were. Really good book.

Next up, books I bought at Haslam’s in St. Pete. First up is Thunderstruck by Erik Larsen. I love Larsen’s work (I have reread Devil in the White City a couple of times), and as usual he has picked an interesting and not really well known event — the capture of the murderer H.H. Crippen because of wireless transmission to the ship he was on³. I also have Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warnings, which promises to be good — as Gaiman almost always is.

Now if I can only figure out what books to get rid of so I can have space for the new ones…

¹Pride and Prejudice gets reread a lot (every year, as a matter of fact), as do several Discworlds. Recently I read I cheap book about the history of the British monarchy, and I often just dip into reference works like The Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases.

²Great book about what happened in Memorial Hospital in New Orleans during Katrina. If it does not make you cry, you need to develop some empathy.

³Genius (Marconi) and murderer, just like Devil in the White City.

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