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Tom Lowenthal Locked account

Joined 1 year, 11 months ago

I'm a nonbinary 🏳️‍⚧️ trans 🌈 queer 🧠 disabled 🕍 Jewish 🌹 socialist 🏴🚩 anti-fascist 🌃 urbanist on unceded Ohlone land in Berkeley, CA.

I enjoy reading fiction and I put in the effort to read non-fiction to expand my horizons and improve my abilities. Science fiction is where I'm most comfortable, but I can dive into almost any story depicting smart but flawed people trying to manage complex and uncertain situations.

I cannot recommend Voice Dream enough. Not every book has an audio edition — especially obscure material and non-fiction. Having a robot in my phone which can read me any PDF or ePub is magical. Custom voices and pronunciation, fully offline reading, it's really the best.

When someone has gone to the effort of recording an audiobook, I prefer to buy them from They're a social purpose corporation, care about DEI, and let you support your local book store when you shop there. Most importantly, all your audiobooks can be downloaded as DRM-free mp3 files so you can archive them on your own, and use any audiobook player you like.

My current audiobook app of choice is BookPlayer ( which works great, and has a ton of flexibility and convenience. I'm thinking of migrating my book library to Plex and switching to Prologue (, but like any tech migration, who knows how long that'll take if there's no forcing function.

🍵 While I read, I like to enjoy limitless (green) tea, and (lukewarm) coffee in moderation. 🥟 Dumplings and soup are my favorite food groups, which makes xiao long bao humanity's greatest achievement besides audiobooks. ☔ As well as lying in bed on a rainy day, reading with a warm mug in my hand, I also like to listen to books while sailing, hiking, camping, or really any other activity which lets me look at trees or find a cool bird or pretty flower. 🏕

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Tom Lowenthal's books

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Cotton candy for the soul

3 stars

There are some books which are heavy and take time to digest, some which are rich and nourishing, and some which you really need to get your teeth into. The Penric and Desdemona are none of those things — they're like the lightest cotton candy which just melts deliciously in your mouth. These dozen svelte novellas took no time at all to rush through. These are the pulpiest of pulp stories I've paid attention to in a long while, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. These books demand nothing of the reader, despite a genuinely interesting and novel system of magic and theology. They're just fun smoothly-plotted fast-talking adventure stories where our heroes get into and out of deadly messes with equal aplomb. Could be queerer, could be longer or meatier. But I'd absolutely reread these in an instant — and that's all the time it would take.

@rschulman When I finished Psalm for the Wild-Built, I very much felt as though I'd only been given the first half of a book. And far be it for me to deny Chambers double revenue for this, but I would have preferred the ending too. Now that you've read the second part, do you feel the same way, or do they feel like sensibly-separate episodes?

I'm not saying that you necessarily need to arrange a book club organized around the principles in this and The Dawn of Everything. But if I were, I'd probably suggest combining these two Graeber treatises with some inspirational fiction which allows the mind to imagine the sorts of alternatives we could imagine.

  1. The Dispossessed by Ursula K Le Guin focuses on a protagonist from a communist society, coming to visit a capitalist one. It very much paints a picture of how sensible and natural the protagonist's home, while using their astonishment at the bizarre rituals of capitalism to show just how strange our world is when you stop to contemplate it. And it is, of course, a ripping good yarn.
  2. Walkaway by Cory Doctorow tries to help the reader imagine a near future where it might be easy to just walk away from modern capitalism, and helps to shade in …
Debt (EBook, 2011, Melville House) 4 stars

The author shows that before there was money, there was debt. For 5,000 years humans …

How we got here and why we're stuck

5 stars

I read Debt right after The Dawn of Everything (also by Graeber), and my opinion of these two books is closely interlinked. The combination is an extensive unwinding of the sort of economic and social history I learned in school. I've had to re-imagine the ways that humanity developed our relationship with agriculture, with technology, and with the interplay of social obligations which we now categorize as money and economics.

The core insight and question isn't any of those individual revelations. What Graeber is trying to get you to think about is the stickiness of contemporary social relationships & structures, and the ways that we have lost the ability to imagine the possibility of change. No economic or political system has ever been as committed as ours is to narrowing the realms of the possible and foreclosing the ability to imagine other ways of organizing society. Historically, social dynamics have …

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A Bride for One Night (EBook, 2014, The Jewish Publication Society) No rating

Thoughtful reimaginings of popular stories. Excellentn fanfiction: taking little hints in a beloved canon and expanding the characters and stories which the author knows in their heart fit in the empty spaces between the lines. And like all the fanfiction, focusing on the mildest hints of queerness and expanding those into fully-fledged stories.

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