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Category: Book Reviews

Various books I’ve read

Free AI spoken audiobooks

Free AI spoken audiobooks

Audible provides a great collection of audiobooks, but you do need to pay for a subscription or buy individual selections. Now, Project Gutenberg, Microsoft, and MIT have worked together to create thousands of free and open audiobooks using new neural text-to-speech technology and Project Gutenberg’s large open-access collection of e-books. The project has been selected as one of the ‘Best Inventions of 2023′ by Time magazine.

Traditionally, AI narrators and voices have limitations. Early generated voices were barely good enough for simple one phrase statements. For longer text, they tend to be very flat/monotone and have bad pacing to the point of being very painful to listen too for any extended period of time. While this is still somewhat the case, this version is much improved.

I personally love combining my workouts/hikes/drives with audiobooks – and having a new free source of good material is great.

The book selection obviously are works in the public domain, but that includes lots of classics – such as some of my favorites: Edwardian and Victorian ghost stories.

You can go to the project’s main page here to learn more, or browse the collection here.

The audiobooks are also hosted on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and the Internet Archive.

Invasion of the Black Slime and Other Tales of Horror

Invasion of the Black Slime and Other Tales of Horror

When I was a kid, I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books. At school book fairs, I was always on the lookout for a good deal. There were various copycats series – such as the really excellent Fighting Fantasy series that I discovered in middle school. Which Way Books, however, never really received the accolades of Choose your own Adventure. Most of them were very mediocre to downright terrible. One book from the series, however, really stood head and shoulders above the others.

Invasion of the Black Slime and Other Tales of Horror was honestly one of the best scary books I read as a kid. I always loved adventure mixed with a tinge of the scary or fantastic. The book consisted of 3 main story lines you could choose between. The first storyline was to continue on to the supposedly invaded mountain town of Silverlode. The second involves visiting a lonely doctor. The third was one of the best which involved spending 24 hours in Uncle Harry Crispen’s haunted house to earn a million dollars.

There were some really great illustrations as well:

It is hard to find copies of this book today. The series was never terribly popular, and used copies of this book can run you about $35 – if you can even find one. I have never seen this book online anywhere; so I decided to change that. I bought a copy and scanned the whole thing cover to cover. It’s now here available as a PDF to download and enjoy.

Personally, I found the haunted house path contained some of the most terrifying stuff I read as a kid. Even today as an adult it holds up really well. There’s even a warning that you need to give full attention to the pages you read as you go into Uncle Henry’s house. I remember taking it seriously and going to my room and laying on my bed to read it. It was downright terrifying to 10 year old me.

If you’d like to hear some the book, here’s an audiobook version:

If you read this book as a kid, share your experiences with it. It was definitely one of my favorites.

Which Way Books #10
The Invasion of the Black Slime and Other Tales of Horror
Written by: R.G. Austin (pseudonym used by multiple people) – Gelman, Rita Golden (uncredited); Lamb, Nancy (uncredited)
Illustrator: Smith, Joseph A.
Format: Paperback
Published: January 1, 1983 by Simon Pulse
ISBN : 9780671460204 
ISBN-10 : 067146020X
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0671460204
ASIN ‏ : ‎ 067146020X
Pages: 118

Download Invasion of the Black Slime and Other Tales of Horror PDF here




Tsundoku is the Japanese word for the stack(s) of books you’ve purchased but haven’t read. Its morphology combines tsunde-oku (letting things pile up) and dokusho (reading books).

I personally love that I have a pile of books I have bought but not yet read. Probably for the same reason that others have suggested – that it creates a sense of wonder and excitement there is so much more yet to learn:

These shelves of unexplored ideas propel us to continue reading, continue learning, and never be comfortable that we know enough. Jessica Stillman calls this realization intellectual humility.

People who lack this intellectual humility — those without a yearning to acquire new books or visit their local library — may enjoy a sense of pride at having conquered their personal collection, but such a library provides all the use of a wall-mounted trophy. It becomes an “ego-booting appendage” for decoration alone.


Elon Musk’s 9 most influential books

Elon Musk’s 9 most influential books

Here are 9 titles that Elon Musk has said were most influential to his development in life. Compiled by Blinkist:

  1. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
  2. Human Compatible by Stuart Russell
  3. Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
  4. Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes & Erik Conway
  5. Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark
  6. The Big Picture by Sean M Carroll
  7. Lying by Sam Harris
  8. Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom
  9. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
Libby stinks, I want my Overdrive

Libby stinks, I want my Overdrive

Overdive Media pulled their app for PC Windows 10/11 in February 23, 2022. Unfortunately, their new app, Libby, doesn’t allow you to actually download and listen to the mp3’s on your Windows desktop.

I seemed to have 2 copies of the app and they do seem to still work as of Dec 2022.

Download links:

ODMediaConsoleSetup.msi version 3.6.0 – Copyright 2016 Overdrive, Inc.

ODMediaConsoleSetup.msi version 3.2.0 from software.informer


First-person shooter book?

First-person shooter book?

I think the 90’s were an amazing time for game books. This is one I’ve not seen before. It was a series of paired game books that have a first-person style play.

You play against another person who is playing at the same time with the companion book. Just like in a real first-person shooter, depending on how you (and your opponent) move around, you can come up behind, in front, or to the side of your enemy as you fight against each other in the dungeon.

How does that work? Questing Beast gives us a tour of how this works with the paired set of White Warlord and Black Baron by Joe Dever and Peter Parr.

Joe Dever has allowed these books to be published on the internet and be downloaded free-of-charge.

Other notable authors such as Rob Adams, Paul Bonner, Gary Chalk, Melvyn Grant, Richard Hook, Peter Andrew Jones, Cyril Julien, Peter Lyon, Peter Parr, Graham Round, and Brian Williams have also generously offered similar permission for their contributions. This includes books from famous series like Lone Wolf, Freeway Warrior, Kai, Grand Master, Magnakai, and even some of the Lone Wolf PC games. Project Aon hosts the books on their free website and gives you free permission to use them.

Ancient Ethiopian Transformation Magic

Ancient Ethiopian Transformation Magic

Magic was outlawed in Ethiopia in the 15th century. Presented here and stored in the British Library, is an ancient Ethiopian manuscript with prayers to perform magical transformations (such as turning into a lion or other creatures). Curator Eyob Derillo describes what is in the text and how historians study it to understand ancient African magic beliefs.

Just looking at the text, it appears to be beautifully illustrated. I wonder if you can get downloaded scans

No End House

No End House

NoEnd House is an amature creepy-pasta short story from a few years back. It tells of a haunted house that has 6 progressively scarier rooms. Supposedly nobody who has made it to room six has ever been seen again.

The short story has a great premise, but many argue that Channel Zero’s version is an even better telling of the story. The six part series starts with them finding out about the haunted house and taking a visit. What happens next is some good story telling, but I thought the final chapters were a bit weaker than the first ones. The first few episodes are definitely worth a watch.

On a tangent, I think this is what Hollywood should be doing these days: taking promising but flawed ideas and working them into great ones. I understand why studios rehash tried and true IP’s like Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvell, etc. They always sell. But it doesn’t demonstrate any real talent to try and reboot old classics with tropey time travel, alternate universe takes, harmful revisionist cannons, or even political/social agendas. Most of the time they only succeeded in ruining critical themes, diluting, damaging, and turning classics into distasteful cash grabs. Lets wake up here Hollywood – there’s lots of great ideas out there if you have the eyes to see them.

Clue: A Novel by Michael McDowell

Clue: A Novel by Michael McDowell

The movie Clue wasn’t a great hit when it came out – in fact it was pretty well panned by the critics. It wasn’t until much later that it became popular with a cult following. This initial flop had unfortunate side effects on the other items that came out with the movie – especially the books. The lackluster movie performance meant that the books were quickly discontinued and forgotten.

Two books that came out with the movie were Clue by Michael McDowell, and Clue: The Storybook. I got a copy of the storybook via inter-library loan a few years back and uploaded a copy here. It’s a fairly short picture book, but does reveal a much-hinted at secret 4th ending that was never filmed. The Clue novelization by Michael McDowell, however, is much more of a standard length paperback.

While I have a lot of nostalgia for the movie, watching and quoting it endlessly, the McDowell book …. well…. leaves a lot to be desired. The writing isn’t good and it certainly doesn’t capture the fun of the movie. You won’t learn anything new and it pretty much follows the movie shot-for-shot. Still, for a fan, it’s worth a casual read.

I have a copy of the novelization, but prices have been getting stratospheric lately. Running as much as $200-$400. I have considered scanning my book for posterity, just like I did for Clue: The Storybook.

But until I get to that stage, you can actually listen to an amature reading of the un-abridged version via the above YouTube video. Read by Austin Curry (sp?), he does mispronounce words on occasion, but it’s more than good enough to give a listen. You can also download a mirrored copy of the audiobook version here if the YouTube link breaks (again).

2023 UPDATE!: you can now read and download the McDowell Clue book from the Internet Archive!!

If you’d like to download McDowell’s Clue book, I also put a PDF copy locally here for posterity.

Title : Clue
Author : Michael McDowell
ISBN : 9780449130490 
ISBN10: 0449130495
LCCN : 85091213
Publisher: New York : Fawcett Gold Medal
Publication date: November 12, 1985 by Fawcett
188 pages, Mass Market Paperback

Best Favorite Scary Stories for Fall

Best Favorite Scary Stories for Fall

One of my favorite pastimes is reading and listening to classic spooky stories. There’s no better time for curling up with a spooky story than a cold, fall evening in front of the fire.

Here’s a collection of my all-time favorite scary stories by the best readers I could find:


This is a unique group – and old stories of this genre are very heavy on dry British/deadpan humor and often require a little bit of understanding of the times in 1800’s England. I highly recommend.


Good general scary classics channels on YouTube:


Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories – Michael Cox, R.A. Gilbert