CAPS LOCK: How Capitalism Took Hold of Graphic Design, and How to Escape from It

by Ruben Pater

A thought-provoking book about the close bond between design and capitalism. Like what do we do with the fact that the word branding is inextricably intertwined with slavery? The Dutch West India Company’s “brand guidelines” included these instructions:

[A]s you purchase slaves you must mark them at the upper right arm with the silver marker CCN, which is sent along with you for that purpose.
p. 135

And now we talk about personal branding.

Fuuuck.

I’m not sure the book delivers on the “how to escape from it” promise in its subtitle, but it has me reconsidering a lot of the things I thought I knew about design, and I’m grateful for it.

The Spook Who Sat by the Door

by Sam Greenlee

In all his career as a professional Negro, Summerfeld had never before encountered a white liberal who actually wanted an original opinion from a Negro concerning civil rights, for they all considered themselves experts on the subject.

p. 3

I love clever writers, and Sam Greenlee is a very clever writer. The wry smile he wears as he puts down words is crystal clear on each page. As is his rage.

We been on our ass, but never on our knees and that’s what the white man don’t understand. He thinks it’s the same thing.

p. 81

It’s a spy thriller that manages to have some interesting things to say about race relations in America. It can feel heavy-handed at times, but maybe a more subtle approach wouldn’t work. Or maybe I’m just a white liberal considering myself an expert on Greenlee’s subject.

Anyway, I enjoyed it. It fed my radical soul, and I think it’s worth a read.

Peter Pan

by J. M. Barrie

I love to be reminded that some books are classics because they are full of magic and surprise and delight so that they are still enjoyable even after 100+ years. (Unlike many other classics which are a slog and only enjoyable on reflection after the fact, largely because most other readers gave up before the end so you’ve got one over on them.)

Peter Pan (originally Peter and Wendy) is such a classic. I’ve read it many times and in between readings I always forget it isn’t a stuffy book. Then a few years later I pick it up again and before I have finished the first page I’m delighted and smiling all over again.

The Ferryman

by Justin Cronin

A utopian dystopia (dystopian utopia—and aren’t they all?) starts unraveling when Proctor Bennett starts dreaming.

On the one hand, it’s a much-used formula. On the other hand it’s a pretty good formula as long as you haven’t read The Giver or The Hunger Games or Red Rising or watched Elysium or Æon Flux or Pleasantville or played BioShock too recently. And as long as the formula comes with a good twist, which The Ferryman does. I could hardly put it down.

The Poppy War

by R. F. Kuang

I read The Poppy War for the first time a couple of years ago, but I did not realize it was a series. As soon as I found out I bought the other books and re-read the first one to remind myself of the story.

Rin, an orphan who survived the genocide of her people, tests into the Sinegard military academy where she discovers her unique ability to summon fire before the Third Poppy War breaks out. This book is so very good, and I’m looking forward to continuing the story in The Dragon Republic.

What I Mean When I Say I’m Autistic

by Annie Kotowicz

When I read We’re Not Broken I felt like I understood more about autism as a public health issue, but not necessarily what it means to be autistic. It turns out this book is what I was looking for.

Through the lens of science and her own experience, Annie Kotowicz describes what it means to be autistic.

Autistic people process information differently, because our brains are hyper-connected in some places and less connected in others.

I miss what others catch, and I catch what others miss.

What I Mean When I Say I’m Autistic, pages 15 and 19.

I don’t want to tell anyone what to read (yes I do), but if you have an autistic person in your family, workplace, or circle or friends (you do), I think this book will be really helpful. Maybe that person would even be willing to read it first and circle the parts that especially apply to them, and cross out the parts that don’t, as Kotowicz suggests.

Gallant

by V. E. Schwab

A dark, lovely book about a lonely orphan who sees ghouls everywhere and returns home to find Death waiting for her. And somehow, serendipitously, I happened to pick it up two days before Halloween.

Project Hail Mary

by Andy Weir

I’ve been playing Starfield lately, which feels a bit like prep for reading a NASAcore adventure about saving the Earth from a sun-space parasite and first contact with a plausible non-carbon-based alien species. You don’t have to play Starfield, though. Project Hail Mary is a pageturner either way.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

by Olga Tokarczuk

Lovely book. I mean, it won the Nobel prize for literature. You don’t need me to tell you it’s good. But it is. And it’s not good the way some literature is good, meaning thick and dense and hard to read. It’s good the way good stories are good.

I think maybe the most magical thing about the book is the way the field of view starts small—just two characters and a corpse in a frozen winter village—and grows steadily as the book progresses, taking on scenery, characters, relationships, and more.

It’s also a unique take on murder mystery. I didn’t read the jacket so I didn’t even realize I was reading a murder mystery until two thirds of the way through the book. Not that I minded.

Anyway it’s really good and you should read it.