2018 Reading

Updated: 15 August 2018

Slow Reads

There are some books that I intentionally read slowly in order to let their message sink in or to enjoy the experience of digesting smaller morsels that are rich in meaning.

  • Selected Poems by William Bronk (ISBN 0-8112-1314-5)
  • Second Sky by Tania Runyan (ISBN 978-1-62564-288-2)
  • The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins (ISBN 978-1-5098-3425-9)
  • Holy Bible (KJV)
  • Holy Bible (NIV)
  • Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth by Walter Bruggemann. 167 pages (ISBN 978-0-8006-3460-5).

The books I have read so far in 2018

This list is in the order that I read these books.

  1. The Freedom Diaries by Mark Holloway. 3/10 Finished 4 January 2018, 306 pages (ISBN 978-0-473-25184-0).
  2. Big Blue Sky, a memoir by Peter Garrett. 8/10 Really enjoyed this book, well written and about someone I’ve long admired. He manages to make even politics interesting, though confirms that I wouldn’t last 5 minutes in that realm. The Midnight Oil Great Circle tour in 2017 is a fitting way for Peter Garrett to round out his career. Finished 18 January 2018, 448 pages. (ISBN 978-1-76063-274-8)
  3. Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert. 7/10 A well written and understandable book about global warming. The conclusions of this book are actually quite frightening, especially as we are seeing more extreme weather events every year. Finished 22 January 2018, 320 pages (Kindle edition).
  4. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. 7/10 Written as a play/stage production, a format I personally dislike to read. However, the story is reasonably interesting and brings out some more elements of certain characters. Finished 22 January 2018 (ISBN 978-0-7515-6535-5).
  5. Breathless by Dean Koontz. 6/10 An easy and enjoyable read but I found the story a bit disjointed jumping between seemingly unrelated plot lines which had an implied resolution but were not actually tied together by the conclusion of the book. Finished 23 January 2018 (ISBN 978-0-00-790986-5).
  6. Hearing God’s Voice by Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby 6/10 I enjoyed this book, practical and biblically based. Finished 25 January 2018, 288 pages (Kindle edition).
  7. Praying Hyde by Captain E.G. Carre. 6/10 I became interested to learn more about John Hyde while reading Hearing God’s Voice by Henry and Richard Blackaby. Hyde was certainly an extraordinary man of prayer. Finished 27 January 2018, 152 pages (Kindle edition).
  8. The White Notebook by André Gide. 4/10 I began reading this over a year ago and soon tired of the flowery, self obsessed writing. Finally finished it but not an enjoyable read. Finished 28 January 2018, 100 pages (Kindle edition).
  9. A Victorian Naturalist, Beatrix Potter’s Drawings from the Armitt Collection by Eileen Jay, Mary Noble & Anne Stevenson Hobbs. 7/10 A magnificent book featuring impressive scientific illustrations of fungi by Beatrix Potter. Her cute animal stories are only the tip of her amazing talents as an artist. Finished 29 January 2018, 192 pages.
  10. Demonsouled by Jonathan Miller. 5/10 I felt like a light read over the weekend and picked this up free in the Kindle store. It fitted the purpose, not especially well written but not bad and the storyline was interesting enough to keep me reading. Finished 4 February 2018 (Kindle edition).
  11. My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul. 8/10 I loved this book. It is effectively a story about the love of reading and contained numerous reader idiosyncrasies that I could identify with. Finished 18 February 2018, 256 pages (Kindle edition).
  12. Spark by Emma Neale Finished 21 February 2018 (ISBN 978-1-877448-19-5). (see Poems I have read in 2018)
  13. Writing for the Web by Crawford Kilian. 6/10  Picked up some useful tips and ideas of how to improve my writing. I will probably read this book again. Finished 23 February 2018, 176 pages.
  14. Loved back to life by Sheila Walsh. 7/10 My wife was reading this and had good things to say about it so I swiped it and read it myself. Reading this has caused me to think more about God and how depression has affected and been affected by my faith. Finished 12 March 2018, 240 pages (ISBN 978-0718021870).
  15. Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression by Johann Hari. 7/10The way this book is promoted lead me to think the author dismissed any biochemical basis for depression, but he does concede that neurotransmitters play some role. What he does do is to investigate reasonably thoroughly a bunch of other social and personal influences which cause people to become depressed, noting that when these factors are improved the depression lifts. For this reason it is an encouraging book, though is not promoting any sort of easy fix like taking a little tablet. Finished 13 March 2018, 336 pages (Kindle edition).
  16. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. 4/10 I have resisted this book for a long time, first I resisted even buying it because it seemed over hyped and I don’t particularly like how the author comes across on his podcast. Even after buying it for $4.99 on strong recommendation from people I respect, I’ve avoided reading it for over a year now. The book easy to read and follow but nothing particularly enlightening. I find Tim’s attitudes to be brash and in my view unethical. I could not conduct business in the way he advocates. Finished 20 March 2018, 416 pages (Kindle edition).
  17. The Way of the Writer by Charles Johnson 9/10 A treasure trove of advice and insights into writing. I will need to read this again. Finished 24 March 2018, 232 pages (ISBN 978-1-5011-4722-7).
  18. 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke. 8/10 This is a good book. Every time I read from it I am inspired to spend time with God and read my Bible. Finished 25 March 2018, 224 pages (Kindle edition).
  19. Science Blogging: The Essential Guide by Christie Wilcox, Bethany Brookshire, Jason G. Goldman. 7/10 Finished 2 April 2018, 289 pages (Kindle edition).
  20. These Intricacies by Dave Harrity. 7/10 (see Poems I have read in 2018). Finished 5 April 2018, 60 pages (ISBN 978-1-4982-3693-5).
  21. Hearing God in Conversation by Samuel C Williamson. 8/10 An excellent book on the topic of hearing God’s voice, balanced and biblical. Finished 7 April 2018, 216 pages (Kindle edition).
  22. Reinventing You by Dorie Clark. 7/10 I found this a useful and interesting book because of the place I’m currently at in my life. It does seem to be targeted at a mostly business audience but still has some good advice. Finished 20 April 2018, 240 pages (Kindle edition).
  23. Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything by Anonymous 7/10 Finished 23 April 2018, 195 pages (Kindle edition).
  24. Tigana by Guy Gabriel Kay 7/10 Finished 30 April 2018, 692 pages (Kindle edition).
  25. How Fiction Works by James Wood. 6/10 An interesting book. It is a little bit pompous in tone, I can’t say I enjoy the writer’s style but I am learning. What it is making clear to me is how few of the great literary novels I have read, something I’d like to fix. This book does not actually discuss how fiction works but how literary novels work. Finished 17 May 2018, 191 pages (ISBN 978-1-845-95093-4).
  26. Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke. 7/10. Overall the intent of this book is to encourage Christians to read more, though I suspect most people who read books about reading books are already book readers. Something I have gained from reading this is that I need to be more intentional and strategic about planning the books I want to read, I’ve read too much junk which has not been of any lasting value to me. Finished 23 May 2018, 206 pages (Kindle edition).
  27. Adolf Hitler by Hourly History. 6/10. I picked this little Kindle book up as a freebie. It doesn’t go into a lot of detail but is a good overview. Finished 23 May 2018, 53 pages (Kindle edition).
  28. Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett. 10/10. Finished 26 May 2018, 405 pages (ISBN 978-0-85151-821-3).
  29. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug 7/10An enjoyable, light read about web usability, I learned some stuff and was reminded of a bunch of good practices. Finished 29 May 2018, 200 pages (Second Edition, 2006 ISBN 978-0-321-34475-8).
  30. Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan 7/10. Finished 2 June 2018, 304 pages (Kindle edition).
  31. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordan D. Fee and Douglas Stuart 10/10. I got a lot out of reading this book, it is an excellent overview of Bible exegesis and interpretation while still being easy to read and aimed at the average Christian. Initially I thought I knew the Bible well enough to not need to read a book like this, but I’ve been humbled by how patchy my understanding actually is and have realised that my grasp of the literary structure of much of the Bible is quite thin. I highly recommend this book. There is actually a fourth edition published so try to find that if you can. Finished 12 June 2018, 275 pages (Third edition, 2003 ISBN978-0-310-24604-0).
  32. How to Choose a Translation for All its Worth by Gordan D. Fee and Mark L. Strauss 7/10. After reading How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, I became convinced that I should at least reconsider whether using the ESV translation of the Bible for my main Bible is the best choice so this book was good for informing me of what makes a good Bible translation. The authors are clearly biased towards the NIV and against the ESV but do put forward some good reasons why this is the case. After finishing this book I’m still undecided but reassured that any of the currently popular translations are actually good translations and the choice mostly comes down to personal taste. Finished 21 June 2018, 170 pages (Kindle edition).
  33. Practicing the Power: Welcoming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Your Life by Sam Storms 6/10. A moderately useful little book about embracing the work of the Holy Spirit. Finished 22 June 2018, 272 pages (Kindle edition).
  34. The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today by Wayne Grudem 8/10. I found this a very useful discussion of what the New Testament gift of prophecy is, how it works and how it differs from prophecy in the Old Testament. This book is a solid read, with plenty of Bible references and footnotes. I now wish I had a hardcopy version of it because it is easier to check footnotes and references on paper and I’d like to have a copy on my shelf for reference. Finished 11 July 2018, 404 pages (Kindle edition).
  35. In the Middle of the Mess by Sheila Walsh 7/10. I had not realised when I started reading it that this book was largely about the author’s battles with depression and suicidal thinking so it struck me like a knife in the heart when I encountered this on page 5. Because of this theme running through the book, it is one that spoke deeply to me and a book I need to read again. Finished 25 July 2018, 169 pages (ISBN 978-1-4002-0185-3).
  36. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe 6/10. A good story, but quite wordy for a modern reader. Finished 3 August 2018, 200 pages (Kindle edition).
  37. The Magicians by Lev Grossman 7/10. Like a gritty, New York update on Harry Potter with alcohol and sex. The storyline gets a bit meta, playing around with concepts of a story within a story and the angst gets a bit much at times but not a bad read. Finished 15 August 2018, 402 pages (Kindle edition).

Near miss


I have worked in labs for a long time and it is generally a pretty safe work environment despite what some folks imagine. However, occasionally something happens that has the potential to turn pear-shaped.

Today I was making some 5 molar sodium hydroxide solution, which is corrosive. In fact, 1 molar sodium hydroxide is corrosive, 5 molar is five times stronger and so is very corrosive. It was also hot because the solution heats up as the solid dissolves. Without giving it too much thought, I covered the top of the measuring cylinder I was using and inverted it to mix. Unfortunately the combination of heat and alkaline solution dissolved part of the seal on the lid, resulting in a spurt of liquid bursting out and across my bench. Fortunately it went away from my face and didn’t hit anybody else so was mostly just a mess and some on my hand which was easily washed off.

In hindsight there were a few things I did wrong there: Inverting a measuring cylinder is a quick and dirty way to mix solutions but always has the potential for spills – I was taught better than that but have become slack over the years. It also was luck rather than good planning that caused the splash to go away from my face. I was wearing eye protection but probably should also have had a face shield on. Sodium hydroxide in the eyes is one of the worst accidents that can occur in a lab and the only reliable way to avoid it is to have protection between you and the corrosive liquid.

As with most mishaps I’ve had in labs over the years I was not injured, just got a fright. Whether that means I’m a safe worker or just stupid but lucky I’m not sure! It is good though to be reminded of the need to be careful and aware that something could potentially go wrong at any time.

photo of right hand with deep chemical burns from sodium hydroxide on the palm at base of thumb
What could have happened (Sodium hydroxide dermal burn)
Image of burn from: BMJ Case Rep. 2012; 2012: bcr2012007103. Published online 2012 September 11. doi:  10.1136/bcr-2012-007103

Poems I have read in 2018

Last updated 22 August 2018

Poems that I have read in 2018

  1. Ogre by Emma Neale (Spark).
  2. Spell by Emma Neale (Spark).
  3. Lucky dip by Emma Neale (Spark).
  4. Renewal by Emma Neale (Spark).
  5. Going to sleep by Emma Neale (Spark).
  6. Ride to Banburry Cross by Emma Neale (Spark).
  7. Mirror by Emma Neale (Spark).
  8. The science fair by Emma Neale (Spark).
  9. The first stone by Emma Neale (Spark).
  10. Chronoslide by Emma Neale (Spark).
  11. Abecedarian by Emma Neale (Spark).
  12. The early life of Marc Chagall by Emma Neale (Spark).
  13. Yellow Opus by Emma Neale (Spark).
  14. Night feeds by Emma Neale (Spark).
  15. Exposure by Emma Neale (Spark).
  16. Skin by Emma Neale (Spark).
  17. Mansfield Park by Emma Neale (Spark).
  18. Kid gloves by Emma Neale (Spark).
  19. The Annihilation of Matter by William Bronk (Selected Poems).
  20. Blue Spruces in Pairs, a Bird Bath Between by William Bronk (Selected Poems).
  21. We want the Mark of Time by William Bronk (Selected Poems).
  22. At Tikal by William Bronk (Selected Poems).
  23. In deed by Emma Neale (Spark).
  24. Open home by Emma Neale (Spark).
  25. Divorce by Emma Neale (Spark).
  26. Buzz track by Emma Neale (Spark).
  27. Loving a mountaineer by Emma Neale (Spark).
  28. Traveller overdue by Emma Neale (Spark).
  29. Metonymy as an Approach to a Real World by William Bronk (Selected Poems).
  30. Anderson’s Bay by Emma Neale (Spark).
  31. Whakatane by Emma Neale (Spark).
  32. Reversal by Emma Neale (Spark).
  33. Lyric by Emma Neale (Spark).
  34. Cropped by Emma Neale (Spark).
  35. Ecology: A future history by Emma Neale (Spark).
  36. Truth as a Far Country; as a Piteous Ogre by William Bronk (Selected Poems).
  37. Embarrassment of riches by Emma Neale (Spark).
  38. Mend by Emma Neale (Spark).
  39. In the swim by Emma Neale (Spark).
  40. Warm spell by Emma Neale (Spark).
  41. Water colours by Emma Neale (Spark).
  42. Naming the stars by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  43. The Night Watch by William Bronk (Selected Poems). ★
  44. In January by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  45. The jilted husband speaks by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  46. Slave wall by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  47. The hole by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  48. Contemplating the egg by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  49. My grandfather sings again by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  50. Atropos by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  51. The Shuttle by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  52. At Cave Hill cemetery by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  53. Northern Cross by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  54. Where shadows come from by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  55. Loving thy neighbour by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  56. You are sitting in the kitchen, only a witness by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  57. Fathom by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  58. Etymology by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  59. On prayer by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies). ★
  60. Not My Loneliness, But Ours by William Bronk (Selected Poems).
  61. Virgin and Child With Music and Numbers by William Bronk (Selected Poems).
  62. Novena by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  63. Was blind by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  64. On prayer #2 by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  65. To mark the place by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  66. Trigger by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  67. Hallelujah I’m a Bum by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  68. Ghost story by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  69. Natural order by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  70. Confession by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  71. At Spofford Lake by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  72. Pantoum breakfast scramble by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  73. Bluegrass winter view by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  74. Quanta by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  75. From the hammock by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  76. Poem to usher in the season by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  77. At Pleasant Hill to visit Shakertown by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  78. After Chuck’s zen garden by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  79. Your days are waiting by Dave Harrity (These Intricacies).
  80. The Outer Becoming Inner by William Bronk (Selected Poems).
  81. Certain beasts, Like Cats by William Bronk (Selected Poems).
  82. The Summer Airs by William Bronk (Selected Poems).
  83. Aspects of the World Like Coral Reefs by William Bronk (Selected Poems).
  84. The Nature of Musical Form by William Bronk (Selected Poems).
  85. Tenochtitlan by William Bronk (Selected Poems).
  86. La Coma de Piedra by William Bronk (Selected Poems).
  87. God’s Folly by Tania Runyan (Second Sky).
  88. Groanings Too Deep For Words by Tania Runyan (Second Sky).
  89. Setting My Mind by Tania Runyan (Second Sky).
  90. Newness of Life by Tania Runyan (Second Sky).
  91. No One Can Boast by Tania Runyan (Second Sky).
  92. Awake, O Sleeper by Tania Runyan (Second Sky).
  93. Holy and Blameless by Tania Runyan (Second Sky).
  94. 1960 by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  95. Lucky Cat by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  96. Only Child by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  97. Approach with Boldness by Tania Runyan (Second Sky).
  98. Greece by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  99. The Night of the Fallen Limb by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  100. Dream Life by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal). ★ ★
  101. Cosmology by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  102. Not So Still Life by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  103. Bashō in Ireland by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  104. Weathervane by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  105. Species by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal). ★
  106. Helium by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  107. The Money Note by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  108. Henrik Goltzius’s “Icarus” (1588) by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  109. Predator by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  110. Sirens by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  111. The Bard in Flight by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  112. Traffic by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  113. Sixteen Years Old, I Help Bring in the Hay on My Uncle John’s Farm with two French-Canadian Workers by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  114. The Present by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal). ★ ★
  115. On Rhyme by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal). ★ ★ ★
  116. The Five Spot, 1964 by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  117. 2128 by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  118. Bags of Time by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  119. One Leg of the Journey by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  120. A Restaurant in Moscow by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  121. Tanager by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  122. Bravura by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  123. Santorini by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  124. Early Morning by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  125. Portrait by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  126. Muybridge’s Lobsters by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  127. Child Lost at the Beach by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  128. In Praise of Ignorance by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  129. Microscopic Pants by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  130. On Evolution: Just in Time by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  131. Fact of Life by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  132. Between San Francisco and Auckland by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  133. January Snow by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  134. After Surgery by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  135. Many Moons by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  136. Note to J. Alfred Prufrock by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  137. Speed Walking on August 31, 2013 by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  138. December 1st by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  139. Genuflection by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  140. Thanksgiving by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  141. All You Know by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  142. Ills by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  143. Playing God by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  144. Evensongs by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  145. After Thoreau by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  146. Light by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  147. Auras by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  148. So There by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  149. Taunts by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  150. Doing Unto Others by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  151. Under the Stars by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal). ★ ★
  152. Mister Shakespeare by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  153. The Day After Tomorrow by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  154. Goats by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  155. The Influence of Anxiety: a Term Paper by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  156. Seminar by Brian Turner (Night Fishing). ★
  157. Pre-Xmas, 2013 by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  158. Enigmas by Brian Turner (Night Fishing). ★ ★
  159. Dog by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  160. Blackbird by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  161. Mother by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  162. The End of the World by Brian Turner (Night Fishing). ★
  163. Night Fishing by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  164. Salutary Song by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  165. Last words by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  166. Second Thoughts by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  167. Playing Dead Seriously by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  168. Truths by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  169. Mulching by Brian Turner (Night Fishing).
  170. Solvitur Ambulando by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal). ★
  171. The Lake by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).
  172. A Day in May by Billy Collins (The Rain in Portugal).

Book learning

As I’ve been reading and researching information about writing for the web, I realised that it will save me time to find a book on the topic by someone who already knows about it. After a bit of indecision and largely based on reviews on Amazon, I have chosen the book Writing for the Web by Crawford Kilian.

The author of this book spent 40 years teaching at community colleges and from what I’ve read so far appears to know what he is on about. In fact, just reading the introduction I learned a new concept for me, the difference between hypotaxis and parataxis, and the idea that hypertext relies more on parataxis in which ideas stand alone without being linked to the previous idea.

I’m wanting to learn without my existing biases getting in the way so it makes sense to carefully read through this book (and possibly others), putting what I learn into practise and also following through with further reading and research where I can.

More information about hypotaxis and parataxis:

Reading on the web

This is part of a series on Writing for the Web.

The famous answer by Jakob Nielson to “How do users read on the web?” is “They don’t.”

Very few web users read written web content word-for-word. Instead, they scan the page searching for the information they want.

However, I question this finding. The eye tracking study which showed people scanning for information on the page was conducted in such a way that participants were given the task of looking for specific information on the page. When a person is searching for something in particular they will scan written text looking for it, whether it is written on a screen, paper or the side of a building. But there are still plenty of people who like to read in order to learn, for entertainment or because it is enjoyable. These are the people I want to write for.

Reading behaviour for long articles

To me, a more interesting question is, how do people read an article on the internet when they are interested in what it has to say? Are there differences in how we read a 1,000 word magazine style article on a website compared to how we read it in a newspaper?

Farhad Manjoo wrote an article on Slate which looks at roughly this question. He asked a data scientist to analyse the scrolling behaviour on Slate articles to determine what proportion of users scroll all the way through their articles. Taking a very broad view it seems that only something like 10 to 20% of users scroll all the way to the bottom of an article. These figures do have some correlation with actual reading in that better quality articles tend to end up with a better proportion of people scrolling all the way to the end to see what is there.

Reading online takes longer

It takes people approximately 20-30% longer to read online than it takes to read on paper. (The effects of reading speed and reading patterns on the understanding of text read from screen. Mary Clare Dyson & Mark Haselgrove Journal of Research in Reading 23(2):210 – 223 · June 2000)

Multitasking is more likely online

In a study comparing on-screen and hard copy reading, 90% of students stated that they are more likely to multitask when reading from a screen. (Redefining reading: The impact of digital communication media. NS Baron – PMLA, 2013)

Reading from a screen is harder

Naomi Baron found that people consistently said it is harder to concentrate when reading from a screen, and that it is easier to focus when reading hard copy.

Physicality of books helps reading

Baron noted that in her studies there were significant preferences for the physical attributes of books, preferences which can inform how web writing could be made easier to read. These physical aspects of books include the ease of navigation and knowing where one is reading and how it relates to the overall text, the book cover and it’s visual imprint on memory, being able to easily annotate a book, and the ease of flipping from place to place in a paper book.

Short and scannable is not the only option

Despite the commonly held view that web readers prefer short, scannable content, there is evidence of an audience hungry for longer articles that engage and inform them. In fact, Jacqueline Marino found that even if an article is very text heavy, it can still be engaging if it is well structured and well written. Similarly, Chris Giliberti argues that Millennials are seeking out high quality long form content to counter the constant stream of short, shallow web content which has become the norm.

Challenges to web writing

From what I’ve discovered about how people read online, here are some of the challenges for a web writer:

  • Readers switch from linear reading to searching or skimming.
  • Reading online is slower.
  • Distraction is a problem for web readers.
  • Web readers often multitask.
  • Web writing needs to be well written and well structured.
  • Readers typically expect shorter content online.
  • It is assumed that reading should include instant access to other resources.
  • Help readers navigate through the text.
  • Visual markers are useful to readers.
  • Ease of annotation may help readers.

My current notebook

This is a bit of a geeky post. I thought I would start keeping tabs on the notebooks and writing sticks I use. I already have reasonably strong preferences in what I like to write on and with, but over time it could be interesting to see what I actually use most as opposed to what I think I like to use. My guess is that non-aesthetic factors such as price and availability could play a bigger role than I presently account for.

The notebook currently in my back pocket is from Story Supply Co. It is one from a pack of three that I ordered from the US in 2016 when I was placing an order for a few other items. I’ve already used one of them and found it a good notebook with nice paper for pencil (hence the pencil in the photo).

Pocket Staple Notebook by Story Supply Co.

The pencil I’m using is a General’s Cedar Pointe HB (or #2 for Americans). It actually seems a bit soft for an HB but is an OK pencil. I like the natural wood finish and the eraser on the end is handy when carrying it around in my pocket. Because the point wears down reasonably quickly (and I prefer a sharp point), I often also have a small brass bullet sharpener in my pocket too. The plastic pencil cap is by Tombow and keeps the lead point from snapping off while doubling as a pencil extender by sticking it on the eraser end when I’m using the pencil. Another centimetre or so and I will retire this pencil to use in my bullet pencil.


Note: These notebook posts won’t be particularly frequent as I take a while to get through each notebook (from 3 months to almost a year in some cases).

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