A list of books I've read this year.
To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
This is a stand alone novella from Becky following a group of human explorers many light years from home, exploring planets on behalf of Earth. Assuming Earth still exists. And if Earth, or all the people, are gone, why are they still exploring and what should they do next? I didn't actually realize that this was a novella while I was reading it. Becky packs a lot of action and story development into less than a novel here.
Running with Sherman by Christopher McDougall
Tone, Twang, and Taste: A Guitar Memoir by Pete Kennedy
Suggested Reading by Dave Connis
On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How it Drives America Insane by Emily Guendelsberger
When journalist Emily gets let go from her local alt weekly she embarks on a 1-year journey to explore low wage work, and of course write a book about it. She logs a couple of months at an Amazon warehouse near Louisville, KY, a call center in Hickory NC, and a McDonalds in SF. All the jobs suck, and the suckiness can be summed up by this line.
A good rule of thumb: the more interest management takes in workers’ use of the bathroom, the more that job is going to suck.
At Amazon it was pretty clear to me that the humans are essentially beta testing the software that will control the robots that eventually replace them. That job at least paid okay compared to the others.
I will never again get frustrated with a call center agent. First, they probably don't actually work for the company you are calling to complain about. Second, the systems they are working with are so kludged together that it is a miracle they are ever able to look up your account. And third, their job is not to help you. It's to sell you something else while they have you on the line.
At McDonalds, you get in trouble for clocking in 1 minute late, or 1 minute early. So you end up with 6 employees hovering over a register to clock in during the 60 second window. This also means McDonalds is essentially stealing time from employees every day as they have to aim to be at work 20 minutes early to avoid the repercussions of being 1 minute late. Also the scheduling software is set to keep the store understaffed at all times to minimize labor costs.
These jobs keep people in fight or flight mode for 7 hours a day. Never 8 hours - can't have people being full-time employees now. Being that stressed simply ain't healthy. If you want to fix healthcare costs in this country maybe look at the way late stage capitalism endeavors to keep everybody stressed out and sick.
One more thought from the book.
As more and more skill is stripped out of a job, the cost of turnover falls; eventually, training an ever-churning influx of new unskilled workers becomes less expensive than incentivizing people to stay by improving the experience of work or paying more.
When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole
Reviewed on the blog.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
I'm a fan of the author's Temeraire series but this book did not grab me. It's classic fantasy - commoner discovers she has magical power - but I just didn't get into it and bailed after 100 pages.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold: A Novel by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Reviewed on the blog
Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby
I picked this up at the library on Friday and finished it on Sunday. That probably tells you everything you need to know.
Beauregard or "Bug" is a retired professional get-away driver. After his last big score 3 years ago he bought a double-wide, some land, and an auto shop and settled down to be a legit businessman with a wife and kids in rural SE Virginia. Unfortunately, business isn't going so well and he is behind on rent, bills, his kids need braces and college money, etc. Then opportunity knocks and he has a shot at a jewelry store heist that will catch him up. Unfortunately for him, the jewelry store is really a front for organized crime, and they are not happy about 2 million in diamonds vanishing in a robbery.
The book is faced past, exciting, violent, profane at times, and almost impossible to put down. Underlying all the action is a current of institutional racism as Bug (a black man) tries to run a legit business in rural Virginia where the Confederate flag flies freely.
The Postmortal: A Novel by Drew Magary
In 2019 a cure for aging becomes widely available across the world. You can still get hit by a bus or get cancer, but you will no longer age physically.
What could possibly go wrong?
Drew's debut novel answers that question. I was entertained reading it.
Traction: Get a Grip on your Business by Gino Wickman
At The Edge of Ireland: Seasons on the Beara Peninsula
It was marketed as an updated McCarthy's Bar and in fact he visits McCarthy's Bar early in the book. However it lacks the charm and humor of Mccarthy's Bar. I got bored about 1/3rd of the way through it.
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
A paranormal murder mystery is way outside my lane, but I don't see how this doesn't end up in my top 5 this year. The ghosts were just creepy enough to keep me on edge, and the murder mystery is engaging and entertaining.
The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper: A Travis McGee Novel John D. MacDonald
I got on a Travis McGee kick 8 or 10 years ago and read the first 8 or 10 in the series. For reasons unknown I suddenly had a hankering to read these stories again so I picked up the next one on the series that I haven't read online via the library.
It's a Travis McGee book - you know what you are getting. A mystery novel set in the 60s, written by a guy that was pushing 60 in the 60s. The sexism and background racism that just never occurred to white folks back then (or today, sadly) can get annoying, which is why I burned out on them back in the day. I was entertained, but I can take it only in small doses so I probably won't be reading another Travis McGee novel real soon.
Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion byTom Beaujour, Richard Bienstock
It delivers exactly what is advertised on the cover, although it should probably be named the "US Hard Rock Explosion" as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal barely gets a mention. Lots of drugs, sex, and depravity, because it was rock and roll in the 80s. Mostly centered on the Sunset Strip bands, although the east coast tribe from NJ/NY gets some attention too.