Reading Round-Up: January 2024

Augmenarium - Ethan's writing and thoughts

Last updated 02/05/2024 ❖ First posted 01/31/2024
~5 minutes to read

The best things I read in January, regardless of when they were published. Non-advertising topics only; I’ll put my ad-related reads over on my AdCavern blog.

Who’s Out There?

It’s only recently that I’ve been breaking out beyond my usual career-related marketing blogs and getting deeper. One challenge is finding these blogs in the first place.

A good starting point was Tom Critchlow’s blog, which I read for marketing but delves into more conceptual topics as well. (I’m looking forward to his upcoming independent consulting book.)

I forget which of his posts linked me to other writers on this page, but I particularly enjoyed the “Narrative Aircover” post and recommended it to an artist I know for a completely different perspective than what he probably intended. Maybe I’ll write about that myself sometime.

I’ve been reading through lots of what Maggie Appleton writes. My two favorites so far have been “The Expanding Dark Forest and Generative AI” and “A Brief History & Ethos of the Digital Garden.” The digital garden idea is something that I grew up with back when I made my first sites in 1997 and is the exact concept I’ve been trying to get back to with my own site.

I also loved “Squish Meets Structure: Designing with Language Models” in large part for the eldritch tentacle horror visualization of ChatGPT.

I also love Maggie’s choice of fonts—the body text and headers in Canela variations look absolutely beautiful. And the sans Lato is something I use on my own site too, gorgeous all around.

I have been reading a lot from Escaping Flatland by Henrik Karlsson. First and foremost, his four-part series on blogging and networks is something I’ve already been thinking a lot about, but this really helped me nail it down into words:

  1. First we shape our social graph; then it shapes us
  2. Scraping training data for your mind
  3. A blog post is a very long and complex search query to find fascinating people and make them route interesting stuff to your inbox
  4. Pick an audience that likes the illegible you of today, not your past achievements

Really masterful stuff, and I’ll need to go back and reread soon.

I also read this paper from 2017 by Shan Carter and Michael Nielsen called Using Artificial Intelligence to Augment Human Intelligence. The big value here for me was laying out how AI works as what I think of as a “plane of analogies” which is something that I use in my own thought as well. And I think by investing more thought into this mental model I’ll see more rewards from it.

Books IRL

I’ve been reading plenty in real life this month too.

I read Not the End: Poetry for Final Girls by Anna Klein as my first book of the year, and I wrote about it in the first issue of my zine, Augmenalia. I really enjoyed it.

I read my luxury first edition copy of Scammer by Caroline Calloway, a controversial social media figure (I don’t know how to describe her really). It was self-indulgent and flowery, which fit her to a T, and I enjoyed that too. I found some hidden self-promotion gems in this book I may write about later.

I read The Mysteries by Bill Watterson of Calvin & Hobbes fame and unfortunately it was incredibly disappointing.

I read the Death Issue of The Nib, which itself has recently shut down, alas—but the Death Issue was actually their first issue. Really touching. Sad that this place is going away.

I read a 1900s compilation of mixed (mostly Greek & Roman, some Egyptian) mythology meant for children, which was simplistic (no rape or murder) but still good, called In the Misty Realm of Fable by Emma Robinson Kleckner. I dedicated the first issue of Augmenalia to her late daughter.

I’ve read through 2 or 3 of the Cat in the Stacks mystery novels by Dean James when I wanted some lighter material. They’re cozy mysteries featuring a cat and some archiving & library science. They’re not perfect, but they’re good when I don’t want to have my mind active.

Finally, I’m at various points through a few “Big Ideas Simply Explained” books: Mythology, Architecture, & Art. Absolutely wonderful books, clear and easy to read, I love these things.


(What is a zine? See articles on The Bindery & Wikipedia.)

As usual, I have been loving my friend Eliana’s zine Die Valais Frau. I can’t emphasize just how much this little publication has influenced me the last couple months.

In that spirit, I spent a lot of time creating my own, Augmenalia #01. It’s what this blog’s name is based off of–they’re sort of companions to each other.

I had ~9 interested people before I began, I made 21 copies just so I’d have extra practice, and within a week or two around publication (1/17) all 21 of them were spoken for, with more people asking to get on the list for #02. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback and can’t wait to work on the next issue, but not rush into it. No parts of this zine save for the cover will ever be digitized.

In February I plan on reading more zines to get a better feel for the environment.

Thanks for reading.

Written by Ethan J. Hulbert.

Augmenarium - Ethan's writing and thoughts

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