Christmas is for ghosts

It used to be a tradition for a family to gather and enjoy a good ghost story for Christmas. (See, for example, Dickens’ famous story.) This practice should be revived, and there’s a delightful Haunted Library of the best stories, with neat modern illustrations, that is perfect for doing so.

gordon meyer with book

Locally Volumes is your best choice to pick up one or more copies, but if you must, find the complete “A Ghost Story for Christmas” series on Amazon too.

See also: Book Review: The Canterville Ghost

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means


This book by Ross Petras and Kathryn Petras is subtitled The 150 Most Commonly Misused Words And Their Tangled Histories. That’s a fair summary, but it could also be “Schadenfreude for Grammar Pedants.”

Not what you think cover with gordon meyer

This book discusses words that are commonly misused. Many of them are word pairs and often they are homonyms, in which case mistakes are somewhat understandable among those who don’t read very much. But many of them are just words that don’t get used very often. For example, some people confuse “podium” and “lectern.” In fact, until I read this book, I wasn’t completely sure how they are distinct. (Briefly, you stand on a podium, and behind a lectern.)

Another example is “per se,” which means intrinsically, but as the authors observe, “many people persist in sprinkling it incorrectly in their conversations, like a handful of croutons.” The authors also offer an interesting bit of trivia that the word “ampersand” derives from the phrase “and per se,” and alarmingly, Google reports that some ignoramuses are now writing “per say.”

“Peruse” is another word that stood out to me. It’s commonly misused to imply casual observation, but in fact means the opposite — to carefully examine.

The authors also discuss some regional differences, such as the word “revert,” which is commonly used in India to mean “reply.” Go figure. Just don’t try this at home. (Unless you happen live in India, in which case, even the O.E.D. says it’s OK.)

Two more examples: Oral means “pertaining to words,” and verbal means “spoken.” So if someone tells you to do something, they are giving you verbal instructions. And, a pair of oft-confused words that the disgraced Donald Trump might need to learn, venal means corrupt and venial means pardonable (usually relating to sin).

I can’t forget to mention that each word is accompanied by an example of where it has been used incorrectly. Interestingly, many of them are from the Huffington Post, but virtually no media or personality is spared. This alone will make this book appeal to self-appointed grammar police.

Finally, the production values of this book are outstanding. The binding, covers, design, and paper are of the highest quality. I know this an odd thing to mention, but this book just feels good to hold. I bought my copy at Judy Blume’s delightful Books & Books in Key West, but of course you can also find it the Amazon.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: Bullet Points and Punch Lines

I bought this book because, based on the back cover blurbs, it seemed like it might be in the same ballpark as some of my favorite (and, alas, deceased) authors such as Hunter S. Thompson, George Carlin, and Abbie Hoffman. The writer, Lee Camp, is host of “Redacted Tonight” (never heard of it) which airs on “RT America” (ditto), but he’s also a standup comic and this book is subtitled The Most Important Commentary Ever Written on the Epic American Tragicomedy. How could I say no?

gordon meyer with book

Unfortunately, while Camp is a punchy writer, the book lacked the depth and cleverness I yearned for. Oh, I learned some things, and I appreciated all his footnotes, but too often it felt like he was straining to be snarky and outrageous. I’m fine with that, when it’s also clever and pointed, which Camp fairly was.

One lesson I still have not learned in this life is that you I have to finish reading a book that I've started. I read all of this one, but past the halfway point it became a bit of a slog as I realized it was more annoying than interesting. And I mostly agreed with his points, so I’d consider myself a sympathetic reader, but he wore out his welcome with me. That won’t stop me from quoting some facts he brought forth, but it does mean that I appreciate the writers I mentioned above even more. I suppose I might need to lower my standards a wee bit.

I’m sure, after this dour review, you’re dying to read the book for yourself. You can find it, of course, at Amazon.

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

A little free library in Chicago

A new Little Free Library has appeared in the neighborhood! Formerly known as "Little Free Library #76261," you can find it on the 1600 block of N. Wolcott Ave, in the Chicago Wicker Park - Bucktown neighborhood. Follow on Instagram for updates and news. If you keep your eyes skinned, you're sure to see a few esoteric titles appear.

LittleFreeLibrary

Thank you to Scot Kamins for inspiring this, all the way back in 1999 or so. (He has no idea.)

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: No Ketchup

This book by Dennis Foley, subtitled Chicago’s Top 50 Hot Dogs and the Stories Behind Them, is a city-dweller’s delight. Foley has credibility to spare (more on this later) and the book is organized in a way that’s perfect for keeping in the glovebox of your car. That way, you’ll never be without guidance when the urge arises to eat like a true Chicagoan.

Gordon Meyer with book

Foley rates and ranks hotdogs across the city (sorry not sorry suburbanites) using a succinct scale and terms defined in the front of the book. By the time you’ve read a few, you’ll find yourself looking for a 4 mustard bottle place that serves thummys with a full M7 complement. (Trust me, it works in the context of the book.)

But the book is more than just hot dog reviews. If a place also makes a good Italian Beef, that’s noted too, for example. But the best bonus is the stories that Foley includes. There are numerous sidebars about history, people, and city life. It’s clear that Foley is true blue Chicagoan — a salt of the earth type that cares about his fellow citizens and has the Irish gift of gab.

I trust Foley’s rankings because he clearly gets around. All the compass directions in the city are well-covered, aided by the fact that Foley used to be an electrician for the city’s Streets and Sanitation department. This took him all over, and the job allowed plenty of time for lunch breaks. (Insert your favorite city worker joke here.) Interestingly, the folksy and casual tone of his writing belie his MFA and law degrees. Chew on that for a while!

Sadly, although this book is current, it was researched and published just before Trump’s pandemic so there will surely be some changes to the restaurant landscape in the coming months. For that reason, I encourage you to seek out local recommendations now, and to forgo using the coupons that are included in the back of the book. They’re only for a dollar off (of a ten dollar purchase) and I’m betting the extra buck will be appreciated by the restaurant.

Foley has done the gut-wrenching (literally) work of eating more than fifty hot dogs over the course of fifty days. (The places that didn’t make the cut are omitted and unnamed.) The least you could do is buy his book, right? I got my copy at Quimby’s Bookstore in Wicker Park, but you’ll find it on Amazon, too. Bonus: If you buy it from Quimby’s stop by the nearby Devil Dawgs — which is in the book — or neighborhood gem George’s, which Foley inexplicably did not list.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book review: Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show

Gordon Meyer with the book

This book, by Steve Bryant, was delightful. I think anyone will enjoy it, but if you happen to be a magician, ghost show fan, or resident of the Midwest (or, ahem, all three) you’re in for a treat with page after page of allusions that will make you smile.

Before starting to read this book, I didn’t read the back cover summary. Therefore, I didn’t come to realize that Lucas and the troupe were dead until I got to around page 23. A realization that made me laugh with delight. (It’s not really a spoiler for me to say this, as most people will pick up on that a lot sooner, if not before they begin.)

Another moment, which I definitely will not spoil, is the perfect ending. Seriously, it’s exactly how the book should wrap up, and it offers something that you’ll recall with a smile in the future.

It’s a rare feeling for me to have, but about halfway through this book I realized that it would make a wonderful movie. I hope that Disney or someone else has optioned it from Mr. Bryant, it has so much potential for the big screen!

Just one more note, yes this is a “Young Adult” book, but don’t let that dissuade you. It’s smart, clever, and fun. And if you need more convincing see my review of Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise.

Now, run off and get your copy of Lucas Mackenzie at Amazon, I’ll meet you in the back row of the theater, the show is about to begin!


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: You Are Wonderful coloring book

gordon meyer with book

The subtitle of this book by Eliza Todd is “A Coloring Book That Thinks You’re Pretty Darn Cool.” (Spoiler alert: the feeling is reciprocated.) Yes, let’s get one thing out of the way first, I’m 45-50 years older than the target market for this book. I don’t care, not only because I have no shame, but also because adult coloring books are actually a thing too.

But the problem with “adult coloring books” is that they strain for credibility. They’re serious. They’re complex. Coloring them makes me feel like I have a second job. A job that I’m not good at. I don’t need that stress and pressure!

Todd’s book is simply delightful. It’s affirming, friendly, and cute. And as you focus (just enough) on coloring it, you discover all sorts of delightful and endearing touches. Before you know it you’re smiling, and if you’re not careful, having fun.

You can get your copy from Amazon for a very reasonable price. Welcome to the world of adulting like you don’t give a damn.

(You might also like Book Review: Why You Should Read Children’s Books)


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: Londonist Mapped

It was only the second day of our long trip across Great Britain and Europe and here I was at Waterstones in Kensington purchasing a large-format book. Bless my wife for putting up with my impulse to buy it. (But she made it clear that I was the one who would have to stow it until we had a chance to send it home.)

Gordon Meyer Londonist Mapped Book

The hassle of hauling, and eventually mailing, “Londonist: Mapped” was worth it. It’s a self-described book of “Hand drawn Maps for the Urban Explorer,” which is accurate, but it isn’t until you page through the book that you discover how quirky and enchanting the contents truly are. Londonist.com commissioned many artists to create the maps and each one offers and different style and perspective on the city. It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but “Things you might not have done near Brick Lane,” “A banker’s pub crawl,” and “A guide to tube pedantry” are all fascinating. And as a visitor, the brief but enlightening text that accompanies each map made me feel more knowledgable than I am.

Now that we’re back home in the U.S. — and locked in our mandated self-quarantine — opening this book not only takes me back to happy memories, it also reminds me that things to love and appreciate are everywhere underfoot.

If you’re fortunate enough to be a Londoner, I suspect that you’ll love this book. If, like me, you only get to enjoy London occasionally, get this book now and you’ll have a greater appreciation when you’re there, and happy daydreams of visits until you return. You can order a copy here at Amazon.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: Homicide — Bucktown

Gordon Meyer with book

This book by Samuel T. Logan features police reports and post-factual location photographs of nine neighborhood murders. I was fortunate to review a prepublication copy and wrote the text below, which Mr. Logan opted to include on the back cover.

“The Chicago neighborhood of Bucktown is known for its tree-lined streets, family-friendly attitudes, and easy access to downtown. All in the shadows of the working-class factories that are now high-end condos. But there are darker shadows too, which neighbors only speak of in hushed tones (or private Facebook groups). Like all such gossip, much of it is exaggerated or just plain wrong. In Homicide: Bucktown, Sam Logan has done the painstaking work of shaking loose the actual facts from the government authorities. But if the cold procedural descriptions make you feel uneasy, the accompanying in situ photographs provide reassurances that, despite horrific events, life goes on. But do take heed, you can’t unlearn what you’re about to discover.”

Get your copy (and its earlier published sibling “Murder: Wicker Park”) at Quimby’s Bookstore.

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: The Soft Atlas of Amsterdam

This delightful large-format paperback by Jan Rothuizen, subtitled Hand Drawn Perspectives from Daily Life, is one of the most charming and fascinating books in my library. My fondness for maps, hand artwork, participant observation, and Amsterdam coalesce perfectly in this book.

Gordon Meyer holding book

Each two- page spread is a “map” of a mundane (or sometimes famous) area of the city. The artwork is engaging, but it’s the annotations and details that draw you in. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, and you’ll frown. Having spent a little time in many of the areas, the art brought new details to light, and also (because the book is a couple of years old) let me consider how the area has changed since being captured.

It’s hard for me to decide on a favorite, but his drawing of an Albert Heijn supermarket certainly stands out. I was instantly transported back to the aisles of the one near our apartment at The Wittenberg. And the annotations resolved a few unanswered questions that puzzled American me. (Such as why Kellogg’s boxes are smaller — it’s to fit the Dutch shelves, which are shorter on the bottom rows. Duh.)

Other maps, such as Rokin, Vondelpark, and a canal houseboat stand out too. Having personal experience, I found these were honest representations, so it leads me to trust the others I didn’t get to see, such as a methadone clinic, a delivery room, and commune-style home.

I bought my copy of the book at the gift shop at Our Lord in the Attic (Ons’ Lieve Here op Solder) and proceeded to haul it around in my briefcase for the next several weeks. It was well worth the effort and is now one of my favorite souvenirs of the city. You can get a copy from Amazon, too. If this sounds like something you might dig, don’t hesitate. You can imagine me waving at you from the nave in Oude Kerk.

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer