Tag: fiction

Sep 12 2019

Book: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The view from my living room in Homer, Alaska

Amy and I arrived in Homer this evening for some time in a different place. We are TV-free up here, so that means, well, books.

She fell asleep early so I finished off The Bookish Life of Nina Hill which I had started several weeks ago but got distracted and read a few other things. The distraction was more a function of being in Boulder, surrounded by physical books which I read, in contrast to being in Homer with my Kindle, where I simply picked up on the last thing I had been reading.

This was a fun book. The protagonist, Nina, loves books, schedules “nothing” for Thursday nights so she can go home and read, and works in a bookstore. While she gets along with people, her favorite thing in the world is to be home alone reading a book. Sound like someone you know?

It covers Los Angeles, books, romance, endless book and movie references, trivia quiz competitions, books, a cat named Phil, a recently discovered family, and David Hasselhoff. Like good contemporary fiction, it moves quickly, the protagonist (Nina) is super-awesome-hilarious-complicated, and time disappears for a while and then suddenly the book ends.

But the backstory of the book is even more entertaining. The author, Abbi Waxman, shares the last name with David Waxman, who is a partner at TenOneTen Ventures. Oh, and they are married. While I’ve never met Abbi, I’ve known David since the late 1990s when I was on the board of PeoplePC and he was a co-founder. Foundry is an LP in TenOneTen and it’s been fun to work with David again after a long hiatus.

I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that David’s wife, like my wife Amy, was a writer. It popped up a few times over the years, but it never stuck in my brain. Over the summer, when Amy and I were having dinner with Nick Grouf (David’s co-founder at PeoplePC) and Shana Eddy, it came up again when one of Nick or Shana (I can’t remember which) recommended The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. Dots were again connected, and the circle now included Amy.

On the plane today, as Amy was reading my Kindle over my shoulder, she said “didn’t someone recommend that book to us?” which then prompted a fun conversation about Nick, Shawn, David, and the mysterious Abbi who I hope to someday meet.

While that backstory was merely a lame approximation of the fun tangling of characters in Abbi’s book, it seemed fitting to unroll it that way.

If you like fiction, books, Los Angeles, stories about interesting characters, and a few plot twists, go grab The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

And, just like that, I’m off to bed …

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Jun 13 2016

Book: The Curve

Yesterday was not an awesome day.

I was tired from my run on Saturday and a late-ish night so I slept in. Amy got up with the dogs. When I woke up, our country was deep in the fallout from the worst mass shooting in the history of the U.S. I was shocked by the shooting, then angry about some of the responses, and then ultimately – with Amy – just sad about the whole thing. Love is so much more powerful than hate, and there is so much hate in the world right now.

So I went for a long run. That didn’t help much so I took a nap and laid down on the couch and read the book at the top of my pile of infinite books. Other than being with Amy and seeing Mark Pincus and Dick Costolo in a cameo on Silicon Valley, reading The Curve was the best part of my day.

Jeremy Blachman, the co-author, wrote a book a decade ago called Anonymous Lawyer which I loved. It almost inspired me and my partner Jason to write a book titled Anonymous VC, but Jason decided to make the video I’m a VC instead. Jeremy sent me an advanced reader copy (ARC in the book trade) of The Curve so my simple task was to read it.

I enjoyed it a lot. I’m not a lawyer, but I’m surrounded by them (Jason used to be a lawyer and some of his best friends are lawyers). I didn’t go to law school but I’ve become very involved at CU Law and Silicon Flatirons around their entrepreneurship initiatives (Phil Weiser and Brad Bernthal are close friends.) I’m not deeply involved in politics, but about 25% of the people I interact with in politics went to law school.

The Curve is a super snarky take on law school. It chronicles the year of a fictional law school in New York – one at the bottom of the barrel. One of the protagonists is a first year law school teacher who quit his job as a high powered New York corporate lawyer to achieve more meaning in his life. The cliche “be careful what you wish for” comes immediately to mind.

It’s a fun, quick read. I enjoyed the dramatic twists, the sarcasm, and the characters, especially as the book cranked into the second half. Once it hit it’s full speed around page 100, there was no stopping it.

If you are a lawyer, or a law school student, or just know a bunch of lawyers and law school students, this book is for you.

And … this just in. Microsoft to buy LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. Nice job on the marathon Reid and Jeff!

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Apr 27 2014

Book: Sailing an Alien Sea

I love reading books written by friends. Knowing how incredibly hard it is to write a book, I enjoy fiction even more, since it’s something I’ve never tried to write.

My friend Cindy Gold wrote Sailing an Alien Sea about a year ago. I read it last month and loved it.

I’ve known Cindy and her husband Terry Gold since 1996, shortly after I moved to Boulder. I was an early board member, then angel investor, and subsequently VC investor in Terry’s company Gold Systems. Terry worked incredibly hard at Gold Systems, along with many people who worked for the company through the years. It went from an idea and a few founders to an almost $10 million revenue company, before growth peaked about a decade ago. Over the past five years, the company had a steady, but slow decline, being close to break even every year, but never becoming solidly profitable or generating additional growth. After numerous painful layoffs and several near misses to sell the company, Gold Systems finally shut down early this year. Throughout the entire process, Terry was a tireless leader who never gave up and, even after two acquisitions feel apart at the end, he still tried to find a home for the remaining employees. While my investment in Gold Systems returned $0 to me, I’ll have lifelong respect for Terry and will always consider him a close friend.

Ok – that paragraph should put you in the mood for this book. Cindy is a genius writer. Her story likely has some autobiographical parts, as most first novels do. She writes the story of two teenage girls growing up in Santa Fe. They are an unlikely pair of friends and they travel down different paths as they get older. Much of the book is through the eyes of Sylvie, who is expect is channeling some of Cindy’s wit, style, and personality, which is sharp and deliciously direct. This is no romanticized story of coming of age – it’s complicated, challenging, often disappointing, and sometimes heartbreaking. But against this challenging backdrop, these girls are amazing. I’m not a reader of “chick lit” and this doesn’t fall in that genre, but rather something I enjoy to read, which I refer to as “human fiction.”

Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. Relationships aren’t easy. Life isn’t easy. And writing a first novel is really fucking hard.

Cindy – well done. Gang, if you want some a great first novel to chew on, grab Sailing an Alien Sea.

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Dec 29 2013

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Thank you Geraldine. Amy and I love and adore you. And you recommended what I think was my favorite fiction book of 2013.

I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel yesterday on the couch during digital sabbath. It was just wonderful. I wasn’t really sure what to make of it for the first fifteen minutes other than knowing that Geraldine and Amy said that I would love it.

By minute 30 I couldn’t put it down. And two hours later I was done. And smiling. And thinking that I should go read all the Anne McCaffrey Dragonriders of Pern books again. They were childhood favorites and – while having no direct relationship to this book – things that were referenced kept making me think of them.

The characters of wonderful. I especially love Penumbra, Clay, and Kat. But the intricate flavors, mix, interactions, and crossover between the world of Google and the world of dusty old book stores was just delicious.

If you want something light, beautiful, clever, and full of awesomeness to read over New Years, try this one.

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