061) Bad Kitty for President by Nick Bruel, finished November 27

The Bad Kitty books are about a hundred thirty pages, heavily illustrated, smart, funny. This one teaches about presidential elections and it's a bit uncomfortably on the nose at times for a four-year-old book. Also, I'm so charmed that Bruel is able to talk to a cat for so many pages and never lose me.

one day


061) The Sculptor by Scott McCloud, finished November 26

When this book went on sale, there was a signed version on bn.com that was less than the same book unsigned on Amazon. I asked McCloud on Twitter and (etc) but no response. So I bought the B&N version. Then, a couple months later, they canceled my order. Still don't know what that was about.

I ended up returning to my original plan and picked it up from a local comic shop (this one this time). I was with a kid and he read his comic and I read 20+ pages of mine as we ate the best known gelato. Then I tried to pretend like I didn't just buy a giant book for myself right before Christmas so I stashed it on my nightstand and didn't touch it for about a year.

When I picked it up again, I just started over.

And then read it through.

As I intend to do again.

Scott McCloud has just proved he is not merely a theorist.

This is a beautiful book about the difficulty in balancing a life of art and a life of human relationships, and it does it with tools I've never before seen applied to the question. It's nuanced and ambiguous and beautiful and sad and happy. Upon finishing it, all I wanted to do was create and to kiss.

Which aren't, in the end, all that different.

Highly recommended.
depending on how you count, either twelve months or two, three days


059) Thurber by Burton Bernstein, finished November 21

I don't think any one writer has had a larger effect on what I think writing is and how it should function than James Thurber. Which is why I've just finished this 696-page block.

The text is problematic and it's easy for me to see why it made some of Thurber's family and friends angry, as well as why modern readers sometimes find is unreadable. Bernstein gets fixated on lesser topics like whether or not adolescent writings yet smell of genius or young Thurber's prolonged virginity. But I find these things easy to excuse because I loved living my hero's life. I flew through the early years. Once he hit success, I slowed down quite a bit, and he certainly doesn't always come off like a winner. Sometimes the pages-long quotations from letters is great and sometimes I wish Bernstein would have edited his sources a bit more.

Regardless, the book never became a chore, a thing I Just Have to Finish. I always was happy when I picked it up, even when his life was falling apart or he was disappointing me. The people you love will disappoint you. Certainly Thurber had something to say about that.

I don't know if I should recommend the book or not. If you want to read a biography of Thurber, there are other options. (Here are one and two.) Bernstein's came first which makes it important, but not necessarily best. Which is best? I don't know. If another one comes to me, I'll read it, but for now, it's been too too long since I've simply read the man himself. Whether I'll start with an old favorite or something I've only recently acquired, I don't know, but 2017 is not far away.
at least eighteen months possibly three years


058) The Complete Peanuts 1997 to 1998 by Charles M. Schulz, finished November 19

Rerun's on the cover of this volume, and rightly so. He has emerged as a vibrant and full character, consistently funny and honestly sweet. This entire collection is filled with an artist still at the peak of innovation. Andy and Olaf travelling the country hasn't quite figured itself out yet, but you can see it happening. Snoopy as a Valley Forge soldier, given another ten years of Peanuts, might well have become as iconic as the WWI Flying Ace.

Amazing. Forty-eight years and still going strong.

One of the truly great American originals.

a month

Previously in 2016


How are Theric's ethic's doing?


At the beginning of 2016 I declared my intention to only read books I had already begun before the calendar turned. The number of books I've read this year is vastly down, so I decided to investigate what I've been finishing. (Note that this list is not entirely fair as a large number of pages I've read this year are from Don Quixote which I started before 2016 and have still not finished because it is insanely long. So blame Cervantes for the low number. The real question is have I been largely obeying the rules with the 59 books already finished?

Let's start with the intended category, shall we?

Books started before Jan 1, 2016
||||| ||

Hoo. That . . . is bad. Worse than I anticipated when I sat down to examine the ol' data.

Of course, you'll recall I set up a few exceptions for myself. Let's look at those.

Books (in series I'm reading) or (checked out from library before year began)
||||| |||||

This exception existed, yes, because I had checked a couple books out at the end of December, but mainly because I wanted to keep reading Sue Grafton and the Complete Peanuts. And continue I did. I read six of one and two of the other.

I had also intended to reread and finish iZombie and Rachel Rising with this exception. That I did not do.

Did not do because I was not jonesing as much for comics as expected. Largely because of the next prepared excuse:

Recently published books that I'm meant to review or similar (Mormon/eisnerexcuse/senttome/localwriter)
||||| ||||| ||||| ||||| ||

Lot of comics in here. And, as I've felt in previous years, books I feel obligated to read anre taking up too much of my time. I need to read fewer of these, maybe. Though I did certainly enjoy the Eisner Excuse, included here for frankly cheaty reasons.

The other prepared excuse was

Books I can't get out of being lent

I didn't finish any of those. Started one. Have a few lying around. Yeah.

Two additional excuses presented themselves which I feel should be allowed:

Audiobooks from roadtrips
||||| |

Read as part of my job

Which leaves only

Rules broken
||||| |||||

Mostly poetry here. Nothing I truly regret. A couple books I'm very glad I read. Sure, I'm still hundreds of pages away from finishing Quixote or my Shakespeare biography (and I haven't even touched Middlemarch or Dunham---both of which are great, but I've pretty much given up reading on my Nook), but I've spent a lot of time with these still-working-on books and have made progress and hey, so what if I only read sixty-some books this year? It's not about numbers, right? Right.

I do want, next year, to read less online and spend more time in paper. I hope that happens. Feel free to hassle me.

Happy reading.


The Ninja Warrior Megadolphin Svithe


A year and a half ago, we aimed sacrament meeting straight at the kids; the meeting was a big success and we've been meaning to do it again ever since. I finally got around to putting one together today and it was another big success. I think doing one the week after the Primary Program should become a tradition. (That's how we did it this time and making it a regular thing was suggested to me and I like to think I'm the sort of person that accepts good ideas.)

One talk was mostly traditional, though aimed at kids. The second talk involved paper and crayons and a penguin and a reindeer hat. The third talk was our high councilor standing on the ground in front of the stand and talking to the kids about hands, using a Mickey Mouse glove and every other kind of glove imaginable as props. He had intended to ask the kids to sit on the front row, but the second speaker already did that for him.

Great job, speakers!

This is a reproduction of my introduction to the meeting.

Hey, kids. I hope you all remembered from last week when I was in Primary to bring coloring books and Cheerios this week for your parents and the other adults around you, because this sacrament meeting is for you and they might get bored bored bored. So we need to keep them quite. Hopefully you won't have to take them out.

But before we get started, can I tell just one sentence to the grownups? I'll be quick.

Hi, adults. In 1953, the Church sent a letter to all the wards telling them that kids should be attending sacrament meeting. And so we should be making sure sacrament meeting has stuff for kids as well as for adults. And I think you'll all agree that in the years since then, we've done so good that sacrament meeting is pretty much 100% for kids now. Not.

Check out my tie. Up here---I think it's supposed to be a hippopotamus, but it looks more like a naked rat. Then there's a crocodile or a gharial or something. Then a dolphin. Then a--let's skip this one. Then a turtle. Okay. What's this?

Right. An orca. Also known as a killer whale. Also known as a blackfish. Also known as a ninja warrior megadolphin.

I don't know how much you know about orcas, but they live in families, much like us, and they learn things from their families just like we do.

For instance, orcas eat seals, but they way they eat seals varies depending on how they were taught. Some orcas slide up onto the beach and grab a seal in their mouth and shake it back and forth like rrararararararrraaraa. While meanwhile, if you lived in another pod---that's what orca families are called---maybe you would have learned to swim under a seal and hit it with your tail, eighty feet in the air: phwi phwi phwi phwi phwi phwi phwi phwi phwi phwi phwi phwi phwi phwi phwi phwi pwissshhhh! That's like if you took our church and put it on another church then put it on another church then put it on another church. That's high. That seal might have broken bones or he might be fine but he is stunned and he's just lying there wondering what happened while you swim up and eat him. Delicious.

Like orcas, you're growing up in a family and you're coming here to church and what you know and who you are depends on what you learn now. So today we're going to hear from some older orcas....

previous svithe


So I read a book. Who even cares at this point?


057) Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, finished November 17

My Vonnegut book this year was supposed to be Welcome to the Monkeyhouse since I had already started it. (Or thought I had. "Starting it" apparently only meant putting a bookmark in it. I did read a few of the stories, but it remains unfinished.) But because I'm teaching Sh5 for the first time this year (rather than just having it be a summer assignment), I figured it was time to reread it. Unlike last time, this time I absolutely loved it. I think it is, as of now, my favorite Vonnegut novel. I found it terribly moving, which I did not expect. Maybe the rest of the world was right after all....

The lesson here of course is everytime you reread, you're reading a different because because you are a different reader. For someone who reads for breadth, like myself, it's a nice reminder.
say a week


056) Paco by Nathan Thatcher, finished November 3

I was sent this to review and although I enjoyed it immensely, I took a long time to get through it and have yet to do more then sketch out some ideas for the review (which will likely appear on AMV).

I am ashamed.

In the meantime, if you have interest in modern orchestral music, electronic music, persecution of Mormons in Spain in the 1990s, Kraftwerk, sudden trips, or music about Lehi, this is the book for you.

over six months


055) The Complete Peanuts 1995-1996 by Charles M. Schulz, finished October 18

When I was in junior high school, I cut my favorite comic of the day from the newspaper and collected them. Some days I couldn't choose just one.

Those comics I kept in the bottom drawer of my desk (it had been my grandmother's when she taught school) and revisited them frequently. They are deeply ingrained. They are ur-texts to my soul. Which is why, when the years of Complete Peanuts that coincided with my junior high years passed by and I didn't see Joe Agate, I had an existential crisis. Had I imagined this key Peanuts storyline?

The answer is no. But it didn't actually arrive until after I graduated from high school. That a storyline (a week long!) had sunk so deeply (I've imagined including it in a collection of short stories vital to understanding Theric) that I thought it was a childhood memory, is very striking.

I clearly had long needed Charlie Brown as Hero.

More than half this book I have probably never seen before as they were first published while I was a missionary.

Soon, there will be no unread Peanuts in this world. That's a little sad. But I'm looking forward to starting over from the beginning.
under a month


054) "K" Is for Killer by Sue Grafton, finished October 17

I'm glad I crafted out an exception for these books, because I'm enjoying them very much. One genre, one protag, a dozen different stories told. Well, eleven, so far. You know what I mean.
probably two or three weeks

Previously in 2016