Shelf Life for November 2019

Books Read
A.D.: After Disclosure by Richard M. Dolan & Bryce Zabel
The Day It Finally Happens by Mike Pearl
The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli
An Actual Life by Abigail Thomas
So You’re a Little Sad, So What? by Alicia Tobin
Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut

Books Bought/Found/Given
Bang Your Head: The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal by David Konow
Leo Gray and the Lunar Eclipse by K.J. Kruk
Burn the Towns and Sack the Banks: Confederates Attack Vermont by Cathryn J. Prince
Freedom & Unity: A History of Vermont by Michael Sherman, Gene Sessions, and P. Jeffrey Potash
So You’re a Little Sad, So What? by Alicia Tobin
Mysteries of the Unexplained: How Ordinary Men and Women Have Experienced the Strange, the Uncanny, and the Incredible by Readers Digest

November was a big reading month.

I read the same amount of books as I bought, and there’s even some overlap on the Venn diagram of books read and books bought.

I wrote about two of the books on my read list last week during Thanksreading. If you missed those, you can find my pieces on Alicia Tobin’s So You’re a Little Sad, So What? right here, and you can read my thoughts on The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli right here

Those books aside, the highlight of my reading in November was Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos. I hadn’t read Vonnegut in a long time. Like, since high school, I think. Definitely not nearly as well-read on him as I should be. 

In the course of doing a bit of background research after finishing Galapagos (which I loved), I found the consensus is that his later stuff is more free form and less enjoyable than older works. This got me wondering about maybe starting at the beginning and reading Vonnegut in order of publication. It’s an experiment I’ve wanted to do with a prolific author, but I never landed on someone who seemed right for the undertaking. Vonnegut seems right. 

So that’l be one of my 2020 goals.

A.D.: After Disclosure by Richard M. Dolan & Bryce Zabel was the big letdown this past month. It’s not that it was a bad piece of work, but it really felt hamstrung by the authors’ obvious agenda. I bought A.D.: After Disclosure to explore speculative writing, the idea behind this book being what happens in the world after one or more governments disclose that Earth has been visited by beings not of this world. 

And Dolan and Zabel do a fine job exploring the ramifications of the very specific situation they consider to be the truth about a massive U.S. government cover-up of alien visitations that goes back to the fabled Roswell crash of 1947. They’re married to their ideas of what disclosure needs to disclose, and they’re sticking to it. Sometimes it’s hard to read over the sound of Dolan and Zabel grinding their axes.

Which kneecaps the thought experiment, and it makes the whole deal less interesting than it should be.

On the other hand, The Day It Finally Happens by Mike Pearl is a fantastic example of speculative writing that isn’t hamstrung by a sales pitch on the part of the author. This book contains short pieces that examine what could happen when certain events come to pass, and it’s a fun journey through a mix of interesting and frightening scenarios.

What happens when Jurassic Park becomes an actual thing? What does it look like when the British monarchy is no more? What’s the actual fallout of a nuclear war? And on and on.

There was a handful of pieces I thought about skipping, like Pearl’s look at what happens when the Olympics no longer ban performance enhancing drugs? I’m not a sports person, but his research and writing held my interest regardless. 

Fun book.

I want to take a minute and focus on one of the books I bought in November. 

There was a rare Saturday afternoon, early in the month, when I had a bit of time to relax, so I wandered into the Barnes & Noble in South Burlington, VT. There was an author signing that day. Someone I’d never heard of. 

K.J. Kruk was there with her new book, Leo Gray and the Lunar Eclipse

I walked by her table three or four times. Jumping the hurdles of writing my first novel and hoping to publish something some day, I really wanted to talk with her about how she approached writing and publishing. Again, though, I knew nothing about her work. I really didn’t want to be “that guy”. 

But she came across as just so genuinely nice and interested in the kids and adults she talked with, so I waited for a lull in the line and approached her table.

I’m so glad I did.

We had a great conversation about writing and publishing. She patiently answered all my questions in a super-thoughtful way, and she explained a lot to me about hybrid publishing, the model she used for getting Leo Gray and the Lunar Eclipse published. She made me feel as welcome as a young fan who knows her work inside and out. 

I was still recovering from losing a lot of writing when my hard drive died a few weeks earlier, and her taking the time to offer some advice and insight boosted my spirits when I really needed it. Also, she gave me astronaut ice cream, which is a next-level gesture of kindness where I come from. 

I hope I returned her graciousness and didn’t overstay my welcome. I don’t think I did, if we’ve learned anything as a society, it’s that men aren’t great at judging when they’ve been around too long.

Anyway, I’ve got Leo Gray and the Lunar Eclipse sitting in a special pile of books set aside for days with nothing else to do, when I can get comfy and binge. Keep your eyes peeled for it to show up on a Shelf Life later this winter in my read pile.

What did you read in November? I’d love to find out, so leave a comment below.

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