Tag Archives: john peck

On Our Nightstand, October 5th-11th

Here’s what we’re reading this week at Diesel!

Anna in Brentwood
Half Empty
By David Rakoff
As in his previous collection–Don’t Get Too Comfortable, one of my favorite books of essays ever–the pieces in this book delve into a vast array of subjects with Rakoff’s perversely reassuring pessimism.

Grant in Oakland
Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence
By George Michelsen Foy
A personal journey through one of the noisiest places on earth – New York City – and its opposites – a snowy forest, an underground mine, an anechoic chamber – in search of absolute silence and what that means.

John Evans
Introduction to Sufism: The Inner Path of Islam
By Eric Geoffroy
Why not take a good look at the heart of Islam and its messages of universal tolerance, love, and peace? I can’t think of a reason.

John Peck in Oakland
The Scott Pilgrim Series
By Bryan Lee O’Malley
Little graphic novels that somehow manage to be simultaneously escapist and true-to-life.

Miles in Malibu
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work
By Alain de Botton
The world is full of man-made things. Every day, we use, eat, see, buy, and sell man-made things. But who are these “men,” and how does “making” “things” affect their lives and the lives around them? De Botton’s meditation on labor and laborers paints a portrait of the faceless manufacturers of our everyday commodities.

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On Our Nightstand, September 7th-13th

Here’s what we’re reading this week at Diesel!

Anna in Brentwood
The Wayward Bus
By John Steinbeck
I decided I wanted to read something fun and relaxing, and somehow this translated into my picking up one of Steinbeck’s goofier, lust-filled novels. Both the version of myself who slogged through Grapes of Wrath in high school and the one who rapturously pored over East of Eden in college would be appalled.

Diane in Brentwood
Growing Up Jung
By Micah Toub
Toub is the son of TWO Jungian psychologists. His writing style is a delight and it’s clear that with all the introspection wafting around his childhood home, he’s as screwed up at the rest of us.

Geo in Brentwood
I Hotel
By Karen Tei Yamashita
Yamashita encapsulates the complex political environment of 1960s San Francisco in a truly ambitious, explosive, and enthralling novel.

John Peck in Oakland
How Did You Get This Number
By Sloane Crosley
Great humor writing, with a refreshing feet-on-the-ground (i.e. not too precious) take on life’s absurdities.

Margaret in Oakland
Lions at Lamb House
By Edwin M. Yoder Jr.
Another of those fabulous finds from Europa Editions–a fictive encounter between Henry James and Sigmund Freud at James’ country estate on the East Sussex coast. Deliciously droll.

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Font Hunter

John Peck in Oakland reports:

As a letterpress printer, I’ve developed an increasingly obsessive relationship with fonts—which, as the cranky old printer I will someday become would tell you, are more accurately called “typefaces.” Examining typefaces is a strange form of “deep reading” akin to pausing a film to examine a single shot. As our words (like these very ones you’re reading) are increasingly digitized into an unending flood of pixels, it’s occasionally worthwhile to look over an “analog” sentence slowly enough that the words become objects, each with their own unique visual character.

Thus, in my alternate paper-slinging role as a bookseller, I thought it would be interesting to compare the typefaces of three popular Diesel titles—if you have any of these books lying around, please feel free to examine them as well. All quotes are taken directly from the colophon of each book.

1. Cloud Atlas (paperback, Random House) by David Mitchell
“This book was set in Requiem, a typeface designed by the Hoefler Type Foundry. It is a modern typeface inspired by inscriptional capitals in Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi’s 1523 writing manual, Il modo de temperare le penne.” The classic/modern conflation seems perfect for Mitchell’s mind-bending, time-warping work, and the especially sharp serifs complement the book’s bend-till-it-breaks take on language.

2. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (hardcover, Vintage Crime) by Stieg Larsson
“This book is set in Minion, a typeface produced by the Adobe Corporation specifically for the Macintosh computer, and released in 1990.” It’s a very clear typeface, heavy enough (in this edition) to read from a good arm’s length, though somewhat crowded in the kerning they’ve used—probably necessary for a book of such magnitude and (literal) weight. The Adobe history is especially appropriate to the hacker-heroine of the Millennium Trilogy.

3. All the Days and Nights (hardcover, Knopf) by William Maxwell
This colophon has nothing less than a history of Europe in four type founders: “This book was set in Janson, a redrawing of type cast from matrices long thought to have been made by the Dutchman Anton Janson, who was a practicing type founder in Leipzig during the years 1668-87. However, it has been conclusively demonstrated that these types are actually the work of Nicholas Kis (1650-1702), a Hungarian, who probably learned his trade from the master Dutch type founder Dirk Voskens. The type is an excellent example of the influential and sturdy Dutch types that prevailed in England up to the time William Caslon developed his own incomparable designs from them.” Indeed.


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On Our Nightstand, August 17th-23rd

Here’s what we’re reading this week at Diesel!

Anna in Brentwood
Night of the Living Trekkies
By Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall
Laugh all you want (I can totally hear you!), but it’s the best zombie book I’ve read since World War Z. And it’s hilarious. So actually, you really can laugh.

Geo in Brentwood
Riding Toward Everywhere
By William T. Vollmann
In this book, Vollmann does what he does best: immerse himself in some crazy experience so he can tell us about it. This time it’s illegal trainhopping. While it doesn’t make me want to risk my life on the rails, I do now fancy a nice little train trip up the coast.

John Evans
The Power of Place: Geography, Destiny, and Globalization’s Rough Landscape
By Harm J. De Blij
For readers of Thomas Friedman and Jared Diamond, a nuanced global perspective which furthers, and corrects, much of their writings. Leave it to a geographer to clarify overwhelmingly vast complexities.

John Peck in Oakland
The Turkish Cookbook: Regional Recipes and Stories
By Nur Ilkin and Sheilah Kaufman
Continuing my world culinary tour with this awesome and very complete cookbook. Contains beautiful photographs of both food and regions of Turkey.

Kim in Malibu
So Long, See You Tomorrow
By William Maxwell
Maxwell might be one of the best mid-century American writers you’ve never heard of, and this book, a slim novella that packs a hefty emotional punch, is quietly satisfying. It was written as the pseudo memoir of a man recounting the events of his childhood growing up in Illinois in the ’20s in the aftermath of a local murder, and, prepositional phrases aside, conjures up such a complex inner world for his characters, I find myself transported.

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On Our Nightstand, August 10th-16th

Here’s what we’re reading this week at Diesel!

Anna in Brentwood
Super Sad True Love Story
By Gary Shteyngart
I’m very picky about dystopian fiction: it’s incredibly hard to create a vision of our future world that feels vivid but still realistic. Shteyngart’s shallow, artless America feels all too probable, but its people also still seem like people, and you ache for them.

Geo in Brentwood
In Utopia
By J.C. Hallman
The “utopia” concept has always interested me, and apparently it has also interested Hallman because he wrote a great book about it. In Utopia covers anything utopian in both concept and execution, from the history of the word to real-life utopian communities to Pleistocene rewilding.

John Peck in Oakland
Mastering the Art of French Cooking
By Julia Child
After slogging through the weighty cultural history, movie tie-ins, and countless editions of this book, I’ve found that it is, at its core, a beautifully written and expansive cookbook. French cooking is both lavish and simple at the same time—a cuisine that rewards patience is always a worthwhile pursuit.

Thomas in Brentwood
The Skating Rink
By Roberto Bolano
Only three chapters in, Bolano’s characters propel and scatter like gravel thrown from the back tire of a rusted get-away truck.

Veronica in Malibu
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
By Raymond Carver
While not the most optimistic portrait of American life, this collection of short stories is absolutely captivating. Carver’s mastery of his craft is not only beautiful, but inspiring. If only I could make the banality of middle American suburbia sound half as enchanting…

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On Our Nightstand, July 20th-26th

Here’s what we’re reading this week at Diesel!

Anna in Brentwood
The Thieves of Manhattan
By Adam Langer
Like last year’s delightful How I Became a Famous Novelist, Thieves is a playful skewering of the book world that displays surprising insight about the creative urge. To be honest (an important issue in this book), it never even made it to my nightstand because I zipped through it in less than a day.

Geo in Brentwood
The Idea of Communism
By Tariq Ali
A thoughtful short book (or long essay, whichever you prefer) that examines the evolution of Communism, from the theory that Marx and Engels bring forth in The Communist Manifesto to its many derivations: Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, Maoism… The -isms are infinite and, Ali argues, grow further and further from what Marx and Engels had perceived in the first place.

John Peck in Oakland
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
By David Mitchell
After taking genre-bending fiction to incredible heights with his first three novels, it’s been interesting to see David Mitchell stick to more traditional narrative structures on his fourth and fifth (Black Swan Green and Thousand Autumns, respectively). I’m about a third of the way through this book, and loving it—I’m resisting the urge to dog-ear my favorite pages, so it’s filling up with little scraps of paper as I make my way through it.

Thea in Malibu
By Leslie Marmon Silko
Ceremony tells the story of Tayo, a young Native American trying to navigate the clash of his traditional identity with the damaging aftermath of WWII. Silko’s writing is beautiful, poignant, and moving. Not to be missed!

Thomas in Brentwood
Don Quixote
By Miguel de Cervantes (trans. by Edith Grossman)
The noble quests of Donny Q reassure that chivalry is a battle still worth fighting. Grossman’s translation captures Cervantes’ distinctly modern wit that keeps him so relevant.

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On Our Nightstand, July 13th-19th

Here’s what we’re reading this week at Diesel!

Anna in Brentwood
Somebody Everybody Listens To
By Suzanne Supplee
A realistic and heartfelt young adult novel about a teenage girl from the small-town South who tries to set her dreams of becoming a country singer in motion. I don’t know much about country music, but Supplee does a great job of capturing how music of any kind can convey and intensify emotion.

Geo in Brentwood
Poor People
By William T. Vollmann
I can always count on William Vollmann’s work to challenge me intellectually and philosophically. Poor People is no exception.

John Peck in Oakland
Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter
By Tom Bissell
Every art form based on new technology spends its first few decades in a sort of limbo, during which any attempt to valorize it as art is smacked down by the guardians of high culture. As video games near their third decade, the argument for games as art is gradually, but surely, becoming irrefutable. As a gamer, I’ve been waiting a long time for a good book-length study of one of my favorite activities, obsessions, and yes, art forms.

Kim in Malibu
About a Mountain
By John D’Agata
It would have been easy for essayist John D’Agata to rant about how storing nuclear waste inside a mountain is a really, really bad idea. Instead, he weaves together the facts of the Yucca Mountain, Nevada, project with wit, insight, and surprising cross references, ultimately revealing just how little we can truly know about anything.

Thomas in Brentwood
The Man With the Golden Arm
By Nelson Algren
Nelson Algren’s The Man With the Golden Arm is crass, dirty and unrelenting. I am gladly submerged in the tremendous daily follies of Algren’s post-WWII burnouts and users.

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