What’s on my Nightstand: November 2013

2013-11 Nightstand

I haven’t been doing quite as much reading lately, but I’ve been snatching bits and pieces of books here and there and my recent vacation afforded me some free time to really dig in.

A Feast For Crows

A while ago I mentioned Game of Thrones, the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series. My original goal was to stay ahead of the TV series, which I’ve easily done so far, especially now that book 3 has been split up into two seasons. George R. R. Martin split book 4 into two books, too. There are rumors that the TV show might wrap up the story, but given his track record I’m betting on some kind of Zeno’s Book Paradox, where each successive book is split into two books, ad infinitum, thus never finishing the story.

Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess

I selfishly picked up this book a while ago when Liam started showing an interest in chess so that I wouldn’t get beat by an 8-year-old. The format of the book is pretty unique; it’s a series of puzzles with all the answers on the odd pages. Once you get to the back of the book you turn it over and the book continues on the even numbers. The book focuses on the endgame. My trouble now is getting there. Basically, one of the best chess players ever plays most of a game and lets you make the last move. Luckily Liam seems less interested in chess these days so I have a little bit yet to learn some openings, and there’s slightly less shame in being beaten by a 10-year-old.

The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol

I took a Russian Literature class in college and pretty much loved it. Gogol is my favorite author that we studied in that class, I even like him a bit more than Chekov. A lot of what I read in that class reads melodramatic now that it has aged but Gogol’s stuff is still sharp and in many cases downright funny. I pulled this off the shelf to re-read a couple of specific short stories. One is Viy, a fantastic and terrifying tale fit for Halloween. The other is the Night Before Christmas, a magical and hilarious tale for the holidays.

Seven Plays by Sam Shepard

I’ve done a bit of acting in the distant past but I’ve never read plays for leisure. The other night, though, I was having some trouble sleeping and looking for something to read. Since Angela and I are going to see True West in a few weeks, I thought it might be interesting to read through the play once on my own. Maybe having an understanding of the plot will allow me to focus on acting and directing choices. I’ll let you know in a couple weeks.


As regular readers know I dabble in cooking but to date I’ve mostly worked from recipes. Ratio is a different kind of cookbook. Instead of recipes Michael Ruhlman teaches you (spoiler alert) families of ratios. For example, pasta is made with 3 parts flour and 2 parts egg. Biscuits are 3 parts flour, 1 part fat and 2 parts liquid. Once you know the ratios you can experiment with different kinds of fat or liquid and make as big or as small a batch as you want. So far results have been mixed. I’ve made everything from some tasty but hard biscuits to some absolutely incredible lasagna with homemade noodles and sauce. Even the less successful experiments are good because they help me to learn what went wrong instead of just blaming the recipe, and I’m gaining more confidence lately in working “off-book”.


My tablet isn’t just for chess, sudoku and writing drafts for my blog while watching Breaking Bad. I also use it for reading, too. I use Google Currents to get feeds from a lot of different sources; you may have seen the results of this when I go on my bi-weekly posting sprees, linking to things from Colossal, My Modern Met and Dwell among others. Also, Intelligent Life (The Economist’s lifestyle sister magazine) recently came out with an Android app, so I can work my way through those great articles a few at a time before bed. I couldn’t imagine reading on a tablet for any extended period, though.

That’s it! If there are any books I should add to my Christmas list or blogs I should add to my RSS feed, feel free to leave a comment.

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