All things related to books

Table of Contents

1 Bookstores

1.1 Online Bookstores

1.2 Bookstores in Israel

1.3 Bookstores in Beer Sheva

2 Bookbinding

3 Libraries

4 Software

5 eBooks & eBook readers

5.1 Free eBooks

  • Project Gutenberg

5.2 eBook readers

5.2.1 Amazon Kindle

5.2.2 iPad

5.2.3 iPod

6 My current reading list

6.1 Books I am currently reading

6.2 Books I finished reading

  • Fraktur: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Learning the Craft, by Ruthanne Hartung. This is a near useless for learning Fraktur penmanship. I was greatly disappointed by this book, and had I not ordered it from overseas I would have been delighted to return it. This is a very beautiful book, by someone who is clearly an expert in Fraktur. The book is filled with luscious, multi-colour examples that are a pleasure to look at. That said, I feel that the title of the book strongly misrepresents its content. The title says "Fraktur: Tips, tools, and techniques for learning the craft". Foolish me, this title has led me to conclude that I might learn Fraktur calligraphy from the book. If you wish to learn to write in Fraktur, and you are considering this book, then you are better off looking elsewhere. This book devotes very little to teaching the writing of Fraktur, contains no explanations as to the order of the strokes needed to draw a letter. There are many specific issues involved in writing Fraktur, and this book addresses none of them. What this book seems to be about is how to use Fraktur for creating beautiful ornamentation, documents, greetings, etc. It will show you how to combine Fraktur with birds and flowers and hearts and what not, to create traditional-looking, aesthetically-pleasing, artwork, gifts, signs, etc. I don't think the book is very good on pedagogy: It doesn't really teach anything related to the execution of the Fraktur script, and discusses everything else instead: pens, nibs, quills, paper, colour, etc. How can you have a book on Fraktur and not say a word about ligatures?? Many of the examples were executed by a shaky hand. Fraktur is visually stunning when executed precisely. Some of the more wobbly samples were painful to watch, since it was clear that the person who wrote them knows what they're doing, and I mean no disrespect by this criticism of the book, but perhaps the examples on page 54 & 55 should have been done by a more steady Fraktur is a very important script, and there are many reasons for learning to write in it, ornamentation being only one of these. When I bought the book I honestly thought it would teach how to draw the letters, have graded exercises on strokes, a discussion of Fraktur styles (of which there are perhaps more than a dozen), a discussion on the serifs, a discussion on the ligatures of which Fraktur has many beautiful ones. There could have been a discussion on writing material: Fraktur can be written by pen or quill, but it is often written by brush, and on the blackboard it is written with chalk… There are big difference between the execution of Fraktur letters using chalk and the same using a brush. There is so much to write about Fraktur, and pretty photos cannot substitute for this!
  • Getting Started with Processing, by Casey Reas & Ben Fry. The book is a simple, hands-on, handholding introduction to the Processing programming language. Processing is a simple language built on top of Java, and shares much of the syntax of Java. It is designed to prototype simple graphical applications quickly. It comes with many useful libraries that provide all sorts of useful services (creating movies, graphics, PDF files, etc). It comes with a minial IDE that can do a few neat tricks: create standalone applications for Windows, OSX, and linux, as well as create applets (remember applets?). But the reason why Processing is so easy to use is not pretty: Processing is easy to use because programming in it isn't event-driven, but based on polling for [a very small number of] specific events. The advantage is that one needn't re-train in event-driven programming, and the program structure remains simple. The disadvantages are many, and include inefficiency, less responsiveness, and a very simple model of events that will not improve. Processing is a useful tool, and as such, I shall be using it, but it's also a sad statement about just how complex the graphical toolkits have become, that reversion to polling was considered by the architects of the language to be a positive step foreward. That Processing was created on top of Java is a strong argument to the effect that event-driven programming in Java is impossibly complex. If there is any lesson that should be learnt from this language, it is that language designers must strive to make event-driven programming simpler and easier, or risk their languages be born obsolete.
  • The Two Income Trap, by Elizabeth Warren & Amelia Warren Tyagi. The book analyses the decline of the middle class in the US, and arrives at a surprising insight as to its origins: In the 1970's, the US supreme courst required mortgage lenders to take the wife's salary into account when considering the size of the mortgage and the ability of the family to keep up mortgage payments. Until then, only the husband's salary was considered as proof of financial ability. This motivated many women to search for gainful employment in order to improve their families' financial situation. Around the same time, there there was a sharp decline in the quality of public education as well as the personal safety in many neighbourhoods around the US. Families began to use the second paycheque in order to buy housing in better neighbourhoods with better public schools, and they were so desperate to secure a better education and a safer environment for their children that they took higher mortgages based on the assumption that both parents would be employed. Since both paycheques were now committed to paying for an expensive mortgage, any unplanned disruption to their combined paycheques, due to illness or layoff, placed them under impossible financial hardship. I appreciate the authors' insights, and had especially enjoyed their analysis of the data on household spending, showing that despite a common a popular notion, households today spend far less than did similar families 30 years ago, on such items as food, clothing, entertainment. Today's families spend more on health insurance and mortgages. The only part of the book that I thought was unmotivated was the optimism & hope the authors express in the end. I'm not being particularly pessimistic either; That part was just not supported by data or argumentation, but only by an article of faith. All in all, this is an important and thought-provoking reading, and I highly recommend it.
  • The Hamster Revolution: How to Manage Your Email Before It Manages You, by Mike Song, Vicki Halsey, Tim Burress. The book has some strategies for reducing the amount of time one spends on email. I found the book to be 98% fluff, and about 2% useful suggestions. About 1-2 pages should have been more than enough to summarize the "principles" in the book.
  • The Craft of Intelligence, by Allan Welsh Dulles. I bought this book, essentially as a sequal to Viktor Ostrovsky's book By Way of Deception on the Mossad. The thing I found most interesting about Ostrovsky's book was his description of the training methods of the Mossad. I was hoping that Dulles' book would provide a similar treatment for the CIA. It doesn't. The Craft of Intelligence is essentially a propaganda book put out by the ex-director of the CIA. The book has several explicit aims (stated by the author), and lots of implicit aims one can easily deduce from the prose. The implicit goals include:
    • Condition the American public to a level of secrecy and a lack of transparency to which it has previously been unaccomstomed.
    • Condition the American public to accept larger expenditure on intelligence.
    • Condition the American public to regard its free press as unpatriotic, when it publishes information the US intelligence agencies would like to conceal.
    • Condition the American public to show greater suspicion towards foreigners.
    • Explain the failures of the CIA that took place during his administration.
    • To assure the American public that the US intelligence agencies do not make policy but rather implement policy. This is the scariest of the aims of the book. Mr Dulles was a sophisticated and well-educated person. It is hard for me to believe that he doesn't realize that no president can follow the details of how his agency implements the policies that the president makes. Hence the distinction between making of policy and its implementation is a naive one — so naive, in fact, that I find his assurances more troublesome than calming.
  • Dumbing Us Down, by John Taylor Gago. Great insights about the state of compulsory public education in the US. What I loved about the book is that the author didn't succumb to obvious trap of regarding the school system as a failure that needs some tinkering with to get right. Rather, the author places compulsory schooling within its historical and political context, carefully distinguishing between education and schooling. Very sharp, very poignant.
  • בחזרה לאלף-בית: הדרך להצלת החינוך בישראל. This is a nice book, with a poignant and succinct analysis of the problems of Israeli schools. The book has a number of weaknesses, which are, IMO, (A) an insufficient analysis & discussion of the causes of the current failing situation. I call such an analysis "the thermodynamics" of the situation, i.e., what kinds of views, behaviours and actions pay off the most. Unless these agents, which are people, positions and offices, are identified, and their motivation analysed, they shall remain anonymous, invisible obstructions to any possible change. (B) I thought the second part of the book, which discusses a vision for Israeli schools in the 21st century was hastily written, contradicts itself, and is rather groundless. The author discounts opposing views by claiming that they are "exaggerations", again, without any supporting argumentatin. But the first part of the book is excellent, makes many useful points, and I've learned much from it.
  • Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent, 1934-1941, by William L Shirer. I found this an eye-opener, specifically because the book contains a critical look at the daily lives of German citizens under the Third Reich. For an Israeli Jew, this is not information I was exposed to in my high school study of WW2. Well worth reading.
  • Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua. A nutty, quick hack job of a book. Contrasts what the author calls "Asian" style of raising children to the "Western" style. The book is written in a self-mocking , flippant style, and makes for light reading. The author seems a very obsessive person, with a moderate level of insight as to the damage this behaviour has inflicted upon her life and family.
  • Erlang Programming, by Cesarini & Thompson. Erlang is a language I find myself re-learning quite often. This is currently the most useful book I have on Erlang. It's very down-to-earth, easy to follow, and contains a welth of information. I've been reading if over and over, pretty much each time I "return" to Erlang after a long break.

Author: Mayer Goldberg

Date: 2011-08-30 19:05:46 IDT