Reading List 2020

1. Agency – William Gibson
2. Exhalation – Ted Chiang
3. Autonomous – Annalee Newitz
4. Maigret and the Wine Merchant – Georges Simenon
5. Nocturnes – Kazuo Ishiguro
6. A General Theory of Love – Richard Lannon/Fari Amini
7. End Games – Michael Dibdin
8. The Plotters – Un-Su Kim
9. Back in Bologna – Michael Dibdin
10. The Sentence is Death – Anthony Horowitz
11. The Art of Solitude – Stephen Batchelor
12. The Last Tourist – Olen Steinhauer
13. Medium Raw – Anthony Bourdain
14. The Reality Bubble – Ziya Tong
15. Death of a Celebrity – M.C. Beaton
16. Death of a Village – M.C. Beaton
17. Death in the East – Muckerjee
18. Death of a Poison Pen – M.C. Beaton
19. Collusion – Luke Harding
20. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
21. Italian Shoes – Henning Mankell
22. This Is How You Lose the Time War – El Mohtar & Gladstone
23. Travel Light – Naomi Mitchison
24. The Octopus – Frank Norris
25. The Second Biggest Nothing – Colin Cotterill
26. Agent Running in the Field – John LeCarré
27. The Shadow Girls – Henning Mankell
28. The Address Book – Deirdre Mask
29. There There – Tommy Orange
30. The Empress of Salt and Fortune – Nghi Vo

I enjoyed the two books by Henning Mankell. I only knew him as a detective novel writer and these books show a different side of him. I especially liked Italian Shoes.


Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.

– Nathaniel Hawthorne


After the success of General Motors’ Cadillac ad campaign that used a Led Zeppelin song, for which the English band was paid a lot of money (I heard the number $17 million although GM hasn’t made that number public), other car companies were looking to buy up rights to other famous rock songs. I heard through the grapevine that one such American band was offered substantially more that what Led Zep was paid, but that they ultimately turned down the offer because they didn’t want to support the car and oil industries. Good for them, I thought, but then I wondered whether it was the best possible decision. What if one took the money and then quietly donated all, or a portion of it, to a good cause? For example, one could take money from a car company and then turn around and support climate change research.

It would be a difficult thing to pull off. The public, especially the band’s fans, might not appreciate their selling out unless they reveal that they have given the money away in a press release. In fact the idea of taking money from a tainted source and handing it over to a good player and NOT revealing the latter became a story that I have been thinking about for several years. I imagined the personal strength of character one would have to possess in order accept the scorn and hatred that could be the result. In my story a cook, or a musician, starts working for a warlord, who is despised by the people, with the intention of carefully building his influence and using that influence to help as many people as he can. He ends up saving dozens of lives and does a lot of good, but, of course, the people cannot find out about this because he would lose his influence and so he dies a lonely and hated figure. The Hollywood ending would be that someone who knows what transpired lets people know what a good person the cook or musician actually was. In the European ending nobody ever finds out and the very last scene shows a villager spitting on the man’s grave.

Ice Bubbles

Magical Ice Bubbles Appear on the Surface of Lake Nukabira in Hokkaido – Spoon & Tamago

Lake Nukabira, located in central Hokkaido, has become a fantastical canvas for one of nature’s most artistic phenomenons. Gas and other substances at the bottom of the lake freeze as they rise to the surface, becoming trapped in multiple layers and creating a multi-dimensional installation of “ice bubbles.”

The region itself gets heavy snowfall so the ice bubbles typically remain hidden to everyone. But this year the phenomenon has shown itself and photographers have been flocking to the lake to capture the rare sight.