Sucker

So, I’m trying to make sure I don’t have any unnecessary expenses, and I’m looking over my credit card bill, and I decide that I no longer need my monthly Audible subscription. I hardly ever remember to download an audiobook each month, so that’s a waste of money, and even if I did, when would I listen to it? I don’t have an hour commute each way to work any more.

When you cancel your Audible subscription, it asks, “Why are you canceling?” I figure there’s no harm in honesty, so I select “I’m trying to cut down on expenses,” which is true. The site comes back with an offer: would I perhaps like to switch to a slightly cheaper plan that allows me to roll over credits from one month to the next? No thanks, I say, $14/month still seems like an unnecessary expense.

OK, says Audible, how about this really cheap plan, only $10/year which allows you to roll over up to 18 total credits?

Damn. Got me. Well done, Audible sales team!

Sucker

Terry Brooks, The Sword of Shannara

Holy crap, is this bad. I remember that I, and my whole group of friends, really liked this book in high school.

This book is the most bald-faced, pathetic, half-assed ripoff of the Fellowship of the Ring I can imagine. Practically every character is just a lamer version of a character from Tolkien. Shea Ohmsform is basically Frodo, only an idiot. Flick is basically Sam, only an idiot. Balinor is basically Aragorn, only an idiot. Allannon is basically Gandalf, only an idiot — and kind of an asshole. And on and on.

But, look, I can excuse a derivative book. Most modern fantasy is derivative of Tolkien. But the writing and the (to put it charitably) characterization are so wooden and clumsy that I can’t look past any of the other flaws. I listened to this as an audiobook, and it’s not a good sign when I’m driving down the highway shouting, “Show! Don’t tell!” and “Are you kidding me?” every mile.

How’s this for another one: 18 hours into a 24 hour audiobook, the first female character appears. Yeah.

(Wikipedia seems to indicate that the later books in the series are less egregiously bad — maybe Brooks got better. I’m probably not going to find out.)

The Sword of Shannara

Terry Brooks, The Sword of Shannara

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma

I didn’t technically read this book; I listened to the audiobook, but I think that counts.

If you care about food at all – that is to say, if you eat – you need to read this book. The structure is what pulls you in: Pollan turns the lens of investigative journalism on four meals, tracing them all the way from the patch of ground they grew in to the plate they end up on. What it turns into, though, is a polemic against the compromises and dangers of the “industrial food chain,” and this is something that every consumer needs to be educated about. He even describes an alternative, in the ingenious Polyface Farm.

The Omnivore’s Dilemmamay not change your mind completely, but you’ll never look at corn the same way again.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma