It’s a Gas!

It’s a Gas! explores the surprisingly diverse world of the gas station—a functional high tech temple, a transit zone, a film set, a converted residence, or an abandoned ruin hidden in a backyard. The world of pumps is full of surprises, ready to be discovered in this book. The preface was written by US-American talk show legend and passionate car collector Jay Leno… More here.

Not sure the book will be amazing, but the image above really is.

Going For A Song

Garth Cartwright has travelled the length and breadth of the country, conducting more than 100 interviews with some of the icons of the record shop trade and the wider music industry, including Martin Mills (Beggars Banquet), Geoff Travis (Rough Trade), Andy Gray (Andy’s Records), Ralph McTell, Chris Barber, The Specials and many more. Featuring a foreword by the renowned comedian and writer, Stewart Lee. From the UK’s first record shop, Garth traces the history through more than a century of unprecedented social, cultural and political change… Available here.

Looks like a really good book and it’s available at HMV for £4.99 with any other purchase. Best to grab it from HMV while it is still there…

Strange Horizons

Strange Horizons is a weekly magazine of and about speculative fiction. We publish fiction, poetry, reviews, essays, interviews, roundtable discussions, and art.

Our definition of speculative fiction includes science fiction, fantasy, horror, slipstream, and all other flavors of fantastika. Work published in Strange Horizons has been shortlisted for or won Hugo, Nebula, Rhysling, Theodore Sturgeon, James Tiptree Jr., and World Fantasy Awards… More here.

If you are unaware of Strange Horizons, take a look. You may be surprised at how good the content is.

Download the Books That Just Entered the Public Domain

So, how do you actually download these books?

It largely depends on what site you go to, and if you can’t find a book on one site, you can probably find it on another. For instance, ReadPrint.com, as well as The Literature Network (mostly major authors), and Librivox (audio books), Authorama (all in the public domain), and over a dozen other sites all have vast selections of free ebooks… More here.

Useful article. There are some seriously good books now available for free if you want to check them out.

Just under 191 million books were sold in the UK last year

The sale of printed books rose in the UK in 2018 for the 4th year running. Just under 191 million books were sold last year; sales grew 2.1% in value & 0.3% in volume. Not bad, given that a few years ago, when e-books took off, books were being dismissed as moribund. Tweeted by John Simpson.

It does make me wonder if this is a case of people sticking to what they know and love or choosing to go back to a simpler form of content consumption. Something tells me it is the latter and that this trend may continue in many other areas as well.

Kindle Paperwhite 2018 first impressions

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Buying a new Paperwhite is a bit like buying the one you already own. Not much changes and the overall experience feels so familiar that you are left wondering what you spent the money on. It is, however, a product that many, including myself, feel nailed its intent from the very first release and if it ain’t broke…

The latest release adds serious water resistance (IPX8 rated) which is ideal when on holiday and a must have feature which is long overdue. For such a simple product I am surprised it took this long.

It is also lighter (182 grams) and slightly smaller (167 x 116 x 8.2 mm) than the previous generation and this is noticeable at first. It doesn’t take long though to forget that and to feel that the new Paperwhite is just the size it should be. The only other noticeable hardware change is the flatness of the display with no bezel ridges anymore. Theoretically this is an improvement, but for me I kind of like the dip in the middle.

You can now pair it to Bluetooth headphones to listen to audiobooks which is a nice bonus and of course your place in the book is synchronised whether you are reading or listening, a feature that still impresses me to this day.

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There are also some software adjustments including the ability to save settings for multiple people which makes it a useful reader for the whole family and besides that it all feels, as I said before, very familiar.

The fact that I cannot write much about the new Paperwhite is a compliment. It has always been my preferred reader of choice, even above real books, and the latest version is a subtle improvement that keeps it high up in my list of products that are worth every penny. I only bought this because my current Paperwhite was damaged in a fall and it had served me perfectly for many years and many many books. I fully expect this new Paperwhite to be just as good and truth be told I don’t really want it to change much.

Iconix

BIC Lighter

Iconix is a comprehensive collection of iconic product design objects, chronologically organized from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to the present. Each spread of this richly illustrated book showcases the author’s representation of the chosen design, expressing its essence and capturing its spirit. In the introductory text, he shares his concept of the term iconicity to help the reader understand what makes these products stand out and why they are considered icons today… More here.

Looks like a decent book with some nice imagery to demonstrate iconic designs, but likely not something you will keep coming back to.

How to be right

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In the bestselling How To Be Right, James provides a hilarious and invigorating guide to talking to people with faulty opinions. With chapters on every lightning-rod issue, James shows how people have been fooled into thinking the way they do, and in each case outlines the key questions to ask to reveal fallacies, inconsistencies and double standards.

If you ever get cornered by ardent Brexiteers, Daily Mail disciples or little England patriots, this book is your conversation survival guide.

I am about a third the way through, but it is already proving to be an excellent read and much more interesting than I expected. Yes, I am an ardent remainer and a bit left wing, but there’s a lot of sense written here.

Tiny Tears

The children stared at him from the photo frame on the shelf, from a time when he was a hero who knew everything, when he was the funniest man in the world who loved more than he thought possible.

The half smoked cigarette burned the astray having just added a few more cancerous cells to his lungs, but he didn’t care- the future was the least of his worries. It was a future filled with the same day over and over again and all he could see was conference calls, emails, meetings and TV. No time spent drinking with friends down the pub talking about football and music, and instead the prospect of very rare outings with work colleagues which bored him to oblivion and only served to make him feel more lonely. Having a couple of drinks in between games of ten pin bowling was really not his cup of tea.

After an hour the screen started to blur and his head lightly smacked the desk as sleep overcame him and took him to a place where he could not hurt anymore.

“Marc, please be careful. This weather’s awful.” The rain splashed against the windscreen and fragmented into small magnifying splodges of water which made the task of seeing the road ahead and other vehicles even more difficult. Marc still felt safe at his customary eighty miles per hour in the outside lane.

“I’m fine Ruth, stop worrying. I have done this trip a hundred times before and never had a problem.” The ’tut’ at the end of his sentence highlighting his annoyance. Billy and Meg were asleep in the back of the car and had no idea weather like this was dangerous and that their father felt invincible at the wheel of a car.

“I’m just saying that’s all. How would you feel if something bad happened?”

“Nothing’s going to happen- you want to get home before midnight, don’t you?” Ruth rolled her eyes.

“I just want to get home in one piece thanks.” Silence took over for a few miles.

Marc was awoken by the sound of his phone beeping. It was 7am and he was still at the desk, but could feel a hard object pressing against his right ear, the mouse. The thirty seconds following sleep were his favourite part of the day. As his mind started to put together his memories for a brief moment he was not the person with so much anger and bitterness inside. He was just an ordinary guy with ordinary worries.

He decided to take a look at his emails, but lost interest fairly quickly and headed up to the bathroom. The November chill was especially apparent as he stepped into the shower and waited for the warm steamy water to bring his aching body back to life. He felt as though he had slept on a rock and could not dislodge the ache at the bottom of his spine. Despite the number of times he had decided never to fall asleep sitting at the desk again it still happened far too often.

The end of the shower brought back the November chill so he quickly walked to the bedroom where the radiators had started to dissipate condensation onto the windows and the morning sun peaked through the gap in the curtains. As usual his work suit, tie, socks, shoes and pants were all laid out in perfect order and ironed as perfectly as could be. His obsession with having every little thing ‘done’ had become more intense since it happened and sub-consciously he knew it was just a way to fill his time and to give him a sense of achievement no matter how minor.

The ten minute journey to work followed the same pattern as every other day. The queue at the traffic lights, the children walking across the zebra crossing guided by the chubby lollipop lady and the inevitable scramble to get into the single lane as it narrowed from two. These days he didn’t care who went past him and how close they got to taking his bumper off. The fact he could drive at all was a miracle.

After he had made his morning coffee and exchanged pleasantries with people he barely knew he was sat at his desk taking his laptop out of his briefcase and logging on for the boredom ahead. A couple of people looked up and meekly said ‘Good Morning’, but to this day they still seemed ill at ease with Marc’s presence.

He had always been the jovial life and soul of the party and his team was well known for working hard and having fun at the same time. He had tried desperately not to change since it happened, but he knew that it would never be the same again. The people around him had changed as much as he had and the gap between them was more than apparent. There was no pressure anymore from his manager and people under him did not question his ideas, they simply followed his instructions. No matter what he did or where he went the actions of those around him were a constant reminder of what he was now.

Every conference call and meeting followed the same pattern. People knew of his situation and stayed well away. Looks of pity greeted him wherever he went and some days it all became too much. He would leave early causing colleagues to presume he was still grieving, but in actual fact he just needed to get away from them, as far away as he could.

The times he had thought of leaving and moving away were too many to count. He knew that it was the only way to start his life again, but the thought of interviews, moving and dealing with so many people now scared him- the confidence was gone, replaced with an empty shell consumed with guilt every minute of every day.


I am expecting the full book to be available in 6-8 weeks. I started writing it 10 years ago and only came back to it recently, but I am hoping the wait has been worth it.

In Praise Of Shadows

This is an enchanting essay on aesthetics by one of the greatest Japanese novelists. Tanizaki’s eye ranges over architecture, jade, food, toilets, and combines an acute sense of the use of space in buildings, as well as perfect descriptions of lacquerware under candlelight and women in the darkness of the house of pleasure. The result is a classic description of the collision between the shadows of traditional Japanese interiors and the dazzling light of the modern age.

It’s not available as an eBook, it’s very short, it’s wonderful.