The Magnet 27: What I'm reading

Welcome to another issue of The Magnet! This one is a bit later than usual, but I had a writing assignment with a short deadline, so I spent the weekend writing it and taking short breaks by playing darts with my family. (By the way, I made a new and hopefully improved dart-scoring sheet for the dart game my family plays. The game is simple: be the first to hit all 20 numbers on the board. We like this game because it combines skill and luck. Once our accuracy improves we’ll change the rules so that we have to hit the numbers in order from 1 to 20.)

I mentioned in the last newsletter that I’ve been reading Wuthering Heights. I’m still reading it. I’m at 78% and I have to say I’m not loving it. It’s hard to stay interested in people who don’t do much other than sit in their houses complaining and bickering. In fact, I’ve been sneaking in some other books I’ve been wanting to read. One is Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, by Patricia Highsmith (author of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train). I appreciate how she gives lots of examples of her missteps in writing — “I have dwelt as much on my failures as successes here because one can learn a lot from failures. By revealing my sometimes formidable losses of time and effort and the reasons, perhaps I can save other writers from suffering the same things.” I’m listening to the audiobook Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff, which has been described as a cross between The Road and 28 Days Later. I’m only an hour into it but I’m excited to listen to more. I’m also reading The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values, by Brian Christian. It sounds like a dry subject but Christian writes it like a dramatic thriller.

Then there are the books I want to read after that: a comic book version of Tono Monogatari (the Japanese “cultural equivalent of Grimm’s fairy tales”) by Shigeru Mizuki, Bad Jobs and Poor Decisions by memoirist J.R. Helton, and the massive, typographically illustrated science fiction thriller XX by Rian Hughes.

I intend to finish Wuthering Heights, but with all these other books begging for my attention, it’s going to take a while.

I also want to thank you for subscribing to The Magnet. This has been an experiment in advertising-free content, and I’m immensely grateful for your support. About 700 of you are subscribing, and if you are a subscriber you get additional content. If you like The Magnet and want more, please subscribe here. It’s just $30 a year, or $5 a month.


The Magnet Mascot Shirts

I’ve been studying Japanese kanji characters every day for over five years. (I use the Wanikani method.) I like the old Japanese word for “magnet,” which has the two kanji characters for “mysterious” and “stone.” The Magnet’s mascot is a little creature with a horseshoe magnet head. It’s wearing a smock that says “mysterious stone.” I’m selling a limited batch of Magnet mascot shirts in various styles. Ordering ends in two weeks, then the shirts will be sent out. To keep the shirts mysterious, there are no other markings on them other than the mascot image.

Thanks for reading! The Magnet is written by Mark Frauenfelder and edited by Carla Sinclair.