New (old) notebook day

I have just reached the last page of my previous notebook so rather than crack open a brand spanking new one I’m returning to one that I started using about a year ago but for some reason abandoned in my locker at work. This is a Moleskine ‘cahier’ lined pocket notebook, they are readily available and this format is an ideal pocket size.

I waver between using lined, unlined and dot grid notebooks. Unlined obviously offers the most flexibility, but I typically write short notes rather than drawing stuff and my writing is small enough to comfortably fit within most lines and grid layouts. In the end my main reason for choosing a particular layout is often just wanting a change from whatever I was previously using.

Another factor which can be important to me is the type of paper in a notebook. If I’m in the mood to be using a fountain pen I opt for Clairefontaine notebooks which are also great value for money. Pencil works well on most paper (but not well on the Clairefontaine coated paper!), with the Story Supply Co. paper being particularly good. Moleskine has mediocre quality paper, it is awful for fountain pens, OK for pencil and OK for ballpoint and gel pens.

Because of the middling quality of the Moleskine paper, and mainly because I haven’t been using it much lately, I’m pairing up this notebook with my favourite ballpoint pen. This is a Lamy 2000 multi pen, actually the most expensive pen I own but excellent for carrying around in my pocket. I’ve replaced the Lamy D1 refills with Zebra JSB 0.5 refills in royal blue, black, carmine red and emerald green. The ink in these flows immediately and is nice and smooth to write with. They are not very economical refills because of their small size but for the way I use the pen it is an ideal set up – four colour options, no skipping or false starts and no problems with accidental leaks in my jeans pocket.


Another idiosyncrasy of my notebook is that I taped a ‘pencil board’ (shitajiki) inside the front cover to stiffen it a little. This particular one was designed for a larger notebook so has been trimmed a little to fit. It does make writing notes while on the move a bit easier, I forgot I had done this so am glad to have found this notebook again.

Master list of books I have read

This list is in the order of author surname. I began keeping lists of the books I read each year in 2004 but even then did not record every book I read until more recently so this remains a somewhat incomplete list.

Multiple dates after a book indicate that I’ve read it several times.

  1. Lloyd Alexander, The Arkadians. January 2006.
  2. David Allen, Getting Things Done. January 2008.
  3. James Allen, As a Man Thinketh. July 2017.
  4. James Altucher, Choose Yourself. August 2016.
  5. Giselle Liza Anatol (Editor), Reading Harry Potter (Critical essays). April 2004.
  6. Kristen Jane Anderson and Tricia Goyer, Life, In Spite of Me. 2012.
  7. Anonymous, Embracing Obscurity.January 2013, April 2018.
  8. ‘BB’, Brendan Chase. (with illustrations by D.J. Watkins-Pitchford), June 2006 (ISBN 0-416-58830-1).
  9. Craig Ballantyne, How To Set Goals. January 2017.
  10. Arnold Bennett, How to Live on 24 hours a Day. April 2016.
  11. Ingrid Betancourt, Even Silence Has an End. January 2011.
  12. Steve Biddulph, Manhood. January 2009.
  13. Steve Biddulph, Raising Boys (2nd Edition). February 2005.
  14. Steve Biddulph, The Secret of Happy Children. November 2005.
  15. Steve Biddulph, 10 Things Girls Need Most. June 2017.
  16. Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby, Hearing God’s Voice. January 2018.
  17. L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water. April 2017.
  18. Mark Batterson, Circle Maker. May 2013
  19. Susan Rose Blauner, How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me. July 2014.
  20. Steve Bloem and Robyn Bloem, Broken Minds. May 2012.
  21. Micha Boyett, Found. 2015
  22. Tyler Braun, Why Holiness Matters. December 2016
  23. Wayne Breitbarth, The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success. October 2017.
  24. Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck, Live Your Calling. December 2014.
  25. Mary Helen Briscoe, Preparing Scientific Illustrations. June 2004.
  26. Susan McGee Britton, The Treekeepers. October 2004.
  27. Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code. July 2004.
  28. Randy A Brown, Easy Bible Marking Guide. August 2014.
  29. Sally Brown, Liz McDowell and Phil Race, 500 Tips for Research Students. April 2004.
  30. Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets. March 2011.
  31. John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress. November 2008, March 2013.
  32. John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. October 2008, January 2009.
  33. David D. Burns, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. May 2014.
  34. Timothy Butler, Getting Unstuck. May 2008.
  35. Tony & Barry Buzan, The Mind Map Book. January 2005.
  36. Susan Cain, Quiet. February 2016.
  37. Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing. August 2012.
  38. Richard Carlson, Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff at Work. April 2005.
  39. Captain E.G. Carre, Praying Hyde. January 2018.
  40. Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries. October 2016
  41. Harry E. Chambers, My Way or the Highway: The Micromanagement Survival Guide. July 2017.
  42. Francis Chan, Crazy Love. December 2009.
  43. Tim Chester, The Message of Prayer. June 2009.
  44. Catherine Chidgey, In A Fishbone Church. November 2005.
  45. Catherine Chidley, Golden Deeds. January 2006.
  46. Dorie Clark, Reinventing You. April 2018.
  47. Geoff Coffey & Susan Prosser, FileMaker Pro 8 The Missing Manual. April 2006.
  48. Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. April 2008.
  49. Danny Cox and John Hoover, Seize The Day. February 2004.
  50. Carolyn Crane, Mind Games. November 2016
  51. Matthew Crawford, The Case for Working with Your Hands. September 2016.
  52. Michael John Cusick, Surfing for God. October 2017.
  53. Ed Cyzewski, Pray, Write, Grow. January 2017.
  54. Suzanne Davis, Ten Interesting Things About Human Behavior. January 2017.
  55. Jeremy Dean, Making Habits, Breaking Habits. January 2013
  56. Edward De Bono, Simplicity. June 2008.
  57. Edward De Bono, Sur/petition. February 2004.
  58. Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy. May 2014.
  59. Claire Diaz-Ortiz, Twitter for Good. August 2012.
  60. Waris Dirie, Desert Dawn. May 2009.
  61. Garry Disher, Writing Fiction: An introduction to the craft. January 2004.
  62. Joni Eareckson, Joni. April 2004.
  63. David & Leigh Eddings, The Elder Gods. November 2016
  64. Robert Edric, Peacetime. April 2005.
  65. Nir Eval, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. March 2017.
  66. Fiona Farrell, Book Book. October 2005.
  67. Laurence Fearnley, Edwin + Matilda. 2012.
  68. Sinclair B. Ferguson, In Christ Alone. April 2010.
  69. Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Grace of Repentance. January 2017.
  70. Tim Ferris, The 4-Hour Work Week. 20 March 2018.
  71. Jonathan Fields, Uncertainty. 2015
  72. Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett, When Helping Hurts. September 2012.
  73. Neil Fiore, The Now Habit. July 2008.
  74. Graeme Finlay, God’s Books, Genetics & Genesis. April 2005.
  75. Kenneth C. Flint, Isle of Destiny. November 2016
  76. Pat Flynn, Let Go. 2015
  77. Pat Flynn, Will It Fly?. April 2017.
  78. Janet Frame, Owls Do Cry. April 2004.
  79. Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning. 2012.
  80. Lawrence M. Friedman, Curt Furberg and David L. DeMets, Fundamentals of Clinical Trials. May 2004.
  81. Robert Fulford, The Triumph of Narrative. October 2004.
  82. Steve Gaines, Pray Like It Matters. September 2017.
  83. Peter Garrett, Big Blue Sky. January 2018.
  84. Michael E. Gerber, The E Myth Revisited. January 2004.
  85. Camilla Gibb, the petty details of so-and-so’s life. September 2004.
  86. André Gide, The White Notebook. January 2018.
  87. Francesca Gino, Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed. 2015
  88. Jocelyn K. Glei, Maximize Your Potential. 2015
  89. Seth Godin, The Dip. April 2008.
  90. Jeff Goins, Wrecked. September 2013
  91. Larry Gonick and Woollcott Smith, The Cartoon Guide To Statistics. May 2004.
  92. Robert Greene, Mastery. February 2016
  93. Chris Guillebeau, $100 Startup. 2012.
  94. Nicky Gumbel, Questions of Life. March 2004.
  95. Lee Gutkind (Editor), Keep It Real. March 2016
  96. Johann Hari, Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression. March 2018.
  97. Harvard Business School, Time Management. March 2006.
  98. Sally Helgesen, Thriving in 24/7. March 2006.
  99. Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea. 2012.
  100. Todd Henry, Louder Than Words. November 2015
  101. David Hieatt, Do Open: How a simple email newsletter can transform your business. May 2017.
  102. Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich. January 2017.
  103. Susan D. Hill, Closer Than Your Skin. June 2008.
  104. Jim C. Hines, Libriomancer. October 2016
  105. Charles D. Hodges, Good Mood, Bad Mood. May 2014.
  106. Mark Holloway, The Freedom Diaries. January 2018.
  107. Anne Holm, I Am David. December 2005.
  108. Mark Hurst, Bit Literacy. July 2013
  109. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World. November 2017.
  110. Bill Hybels, Too busy Not to Pray. July 2004, February 2005, May 2006.
  111. Eileen Jay, Mary Noble & Anne Stevenson Hobbs, A Victorian Naturalist, Beatrix Potter’s Drawings from the Armitt Collection. January 2018.
  112. Nancy Kehoe, Wrestling with Our Inner Angels. February 2016
  113. Cathy Kezelman, Innocence Revisited. 2015
  114. Bernadette Jiwa, Meaningful. 2015
  115. Bernice Koehler Johnson, The Shan: Refugees Without a Camp. 2012.
  116. Charles Johnson, The Way of the Writer. March 2018.
  117. Christine Johnston, The Shark Bell. October 2005.
  118. Christine Johnston, Goodbye Molly McGuire. September 2005.
  119. Christine Johnston, A Friend of Jack McGuire. September 2005.
  120. Christine Johnston, The Haunting of Lara Lawson. September 2005.
  121. David Jones, Pharmaceutical Statistics. May 2004.
  122. Robert Jordan, The Eye of the World. January 2016.
  123. Robert Jordan, The Great Hunt. February 2016.
  124. Robert Jordan, The Dragon Reborn. March 2016.
  125. Robert Jordan, The Shadow Rising. April 2016
  126. Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven. April 2016
  127. Robert Jordan, Lord of Chaos. April 2016
  128. Robert Jordan, A Crown of Swords. May 2016
  129. Robert Jordan, The Path of Daggers. May 2016
  130. Robert Jordan, Winter’s Heart. May 2016
  131. Robert Jordan, Crossroads of Twilight. May 2016
  132. Robert Jordan, Knife of Dreams. May 2016
  133. Robert Jordan, The Gathering Storm. June 2016
  134. Robert Jordan, Towers of Midnight. June 2016
  135. Robert Jordan, A Memory of Light. June 2016
  136. Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis. March 2009.
  137. Howard M. Kanare, Writing the Laboratory Notebook. April 2004.
  138. Josh Kaufman, The Personal MBA. 2015
  139. Guy Gabriel Kay, Tigana. April 2018.
  140. Crawford Kilian, Writing for the Web. February 2018.
  141. Carolyn King, The Natural History of Weasels & Stoats. May 2004.
  142. Carolyn M. King, Habitat of Grace. July 2005.
  143. Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book. June 2005.
  144. John Kirwin, All Blacks Don’t Cry. 2012.
  145. John Kirwin, Stand By Me. 2016.
  146. Robert Kiyosaki, Rich Dad Poor Dad. 2015
  147. Ruud Kleinpaste, Backyard Battlefield. January 2006.
  148. Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe. January 2018.
  149. Dean Koontz, Breathless. January 2018.
  150. Gregg Krech, A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness. May 2014.
  151. Danielle LaPorte, The Desire Map. January 2016
  152. Nigel Latta, Before your kids drive you crazy, read this! March 2009.
  153. Nigel Latta, Fathers Raising Daughters. June 2011.
  154. Joan Leaf, Fatal if Swallowed. April
  155. Yashua Levine, The Corruption of Malcolm Gladwell. July 2017..
  156. C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet. March 2005.
  157. C.S. Lewis, Perelandra. July 2005.
  158. C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain. April 2005.
  159. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. May 2008.
  160. Nick Loper, Buy Buttons March 2017.
  161. Angerona S. Love, When Darkness Comes. July 2012.
  162. Brian Lomas, Easy Step by Step Guide to Stress and Time Management. March 2006.
  163. Tremper Longman, How To Read The Psalms. June 2011.
  164. Greg Lucas, Wrestling with an Angel. August 2011.
  165. Gordan MacDonald, The Effective Father. May 2009.
  166. Hugh McGuire and Brian O’Leary, Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto. September 2013
  167. Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God. November 2012.
  168. Juliet Marillier, Daughter of the Forest. August 2005.
  169. Gary Martin, Devotional Catalyst, Inspiration For Busy Christians. September 2012.
  170. Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. April 2014.
  171. George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones. December 2016
  172. George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings. December 2016
  173. George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords. December 2016
  174. George R. R. Martin, A Feast for Crows. January 2017. 
  175. George R. R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons. February 2017.
  176. Sarah Martin, How to Breed a Rabbit. April 2017.
  177. Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. 2015
  178. Jeffrey J. Meyer, Time Management for Dummies. March 2006.
  179. Peter Michaelson, Why We Suffer. November 2012.
  180. Mike Michalowicz, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. September 2017.
  181. Jonathan Miller, Demonsouled. February 2018.
  182. Jonathan Milligan, The 15 Success Traits of Pro Bloggers. 2015
  183. David Murray, How Sermons Work. September 2012.
  184. David P. Murray, Christians Get Depressed Too. 2012.
  185. Watchman Nee, Let Us Pray by. February 2017.
  186. Jill Elizabeth Nelson, Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View. October 2017.
  187. Richard O’Connor, Undoing Depression. May 2014
  188. Kevin M. O’Doherty, The Little Book of Thinking Errors. April 2017.
  189. Sean O,Neill, How to Write a Poem. July 2017.
  190. George Orwell, Animal Farm. January 2015
  191. George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty Four. 1986, 1998, December 2017.
  192. Averil Overton, Stress Less. June 2008.
  193. JI Packer & Carolyn Nystrom, Guard Us, Guide Us. October 2009.
  194. Frank Page, Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide. 2015
  195. Alan Paton, Cry, The Beloved Country. January 2010.
  196. Pamela Paul, My Life with Bob. February 2018.
  197. Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlet, Evolution From Creation to New Creation. May 2005.
  198. Jim Phelps, Why Am I Still Depressed? April 2017.
  199. Doris Pilkington, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence.
    September 2016
  200. John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life. March 2008, November 2009.
  201. John Piper, Future Grace. February 2008.
  202. John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching. August 2008.
  203. Terry Pratchett, Interesting Times. October 2017.
  204. John Preston and Julie Fast, Get It Done When You’re Depressed. February 2014.
  205. Warwick Pudney and Judy Cottrell, Beginning Fatherhood. February 2009.
  206. Kit Reed, Mastering Fiction Writing. January 2004.
  207. Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. March 2018.
  208. David Rees, How to Sharpen Pencils. July 2016.
  209. Michael Reeves, Enjoy Your Prayer Life. 2015
  210. Vaughan Roberts, Battles Christians Face. June 2017.
  211. Marilynne Robinson, Gilead. 2012.
  212. Marshall B. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication. July 2008.
  213. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. October 2004.
  214. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. February 2005.
  215. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. October 2005.
  216. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. June 2005, December 2005, June 2009.
  217. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. July 2005, September 2005, July 2009.
  218. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix. June 2004, July 2005.
  219. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. August 2009.
  220. J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. January 2018.
  221. Derek Rowntree, Statistics Without Tears. May 2004.
  222. Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project. June 2014.
  223. Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Little Prince. September 2016
  224. Rosemary Sassoon, Improve Your Handwriting. April 2016
  225. Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World. July 2012.
  226. Hugh Scott, The Shaman’s Stone. May 2004.
  227. Gerald Seymour, Condition Black. January 2016
  228. Julien Smith, The Flinch. January 2017.
  229. Sean Smith, J.K. Rowling (A Biography). March 2004.
  230. Sherwood Smith, Wren To The Rescue. October 2004.
  231. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. April 2009.
  232. R.C. Sproul, Can I Have Joy in My Life? August 2017.
  233. Kio Stark, Don’t Go Back to School. 2014.
  234. Roger Steer, George Müller, Delighted in God. September 2008.
  235. John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men. June 2016
  236. Pamela Stephenson, Billy (The Complete Life Story Of A Comic Genius). August 2004.
  237. Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ. July 2005.
  238. William Styron, Darkness Visible. May 2011.
  239. Jon Swanson, Anticipation: An Advent Reader. January 2017.
  240. Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place. June 2004.
  241. Kyle Tennant, Unfriend Yourself. May 2013
  242. Lysa TerKeurst, Unglued. July 2016
  243. Mark Thornton, Meditation in a New York Minute. July 2008.
  244. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. June 2004.
  245. Leo Tolstoy, The Death Of Ivan Ilych. October 2012.
  246. Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves. October 2004.
  247. Paco Underhill, Why We Buy (The Science of Shopping). February 2004.
  248. Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts. February 2011.
  249. Denis Waitley, Timing is Everything. January 2004.
  250. Daniel Walker, God in a Brothel. 2012.
  251. Sheila Walsh, Loved back to life. March 2018.
  252. David Watson, Fear No evil. April 2004.
  253. Bill Watterson, The Authoritative Calvin & Hobbes. Finished May 2004.
  254. K.M.Weiland, Outlining Your Novel. August 2016
  255. Edward T. Welch, Depression, A Stubborn Darkness. July 2011.
  256. Sam Wellman, Amy Carmichael: Selfless Servant of India. April 2016
  257. Elie Wiesel, Night. December 2009.
  258. Christie Wilcox, Bethany Brookshire, Jason G. Goldman, Science Blogging. April 2018.
  259. Samuel C Williamson, Hearing God in Conversation. April 2018.
  260. Wendy K. Williamson, I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar. 2012.
  261. Douglas Wilson, Wordsmithy. January 2017.
  262. Rebecca Wilson and Bronwyn Evans, A Passion for Life (Young New Zealanders Doing Business). January 2004.
  263. Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove, The Wisdom of Stability. March 2017.
  264. Ben Witherington, Jesus and Money. January 2016
  265. James Wood, How Fiction Works. May 2018.
  266. Desiree Woodland, I Still Believe. June 2012.
  267. Tony Woodlief, Somewhere More Holy. April 2011.
  268. William Paul Young, The Shack. 2012.
  269. Mary Frances Zambreno, A Plague of Sorcerers. November 2004.
  270. Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan, The Demise of Guys. August 2017.


  • Billy Collins, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems.
  • Billy Collins, Ballistics
  • Billy Collins, Picnic, Lightning.
  • Shirley Deuchrass, River Calls Me Home.
  • Robert Frost, A Boy’s Will.
  • Dave Harrity, These Intricacies. April 2018.
  • Seamus Heaney, District and Circle.
  • Seamus Heaney, Human Chain.
  • Patrick Jones, darkness is where the stars are.
  • Mary Karr, Sinners Welcome.
  • Philip Larkin, Collected Poems.
  • Owen Marshall, The White Clock.
  • Lynley Millar, The Catlins Collection.
  • Andrew Motion, The Customs House.
  • Emma Neale, Spark. February 2018.
  • Emma Neale, Tender Machines.
  • Bernard O’Donoghue, Farmers Cross.
  • Sylvia Plath, Ariel.
  • Luci Shaw, Scape.
  • Kenneth C. Steven, Iona.
  • Monica Taylor, Paper Boats.
  • Brian Turner, Taking Off.

Yearly reading lists:

Some of these posts contain more detail on what I thought of the books I’ve read.

Dead trees make better books

My 4th generation Kindle device died a miserable death several weeks ago. I was annoyed because I was enjoying a good book when the screen froze and refused to let me read any further. To finish the book I resorted to using the Kindle app on our laptop and on my phone, neither of which is good for my eyesight or posture.

The device itself was about six years old, probably an acceptable lifespan for this sort of technology (though for the sake of the planet they should be built to last much longer). I quite liked the simplicity of that model of Kindle as it has no touch screen so the reading experience relies on physical buttons to move forward and back through the pages of a book. As Craig Mod points out, Kindle on iOS is a bit of a pig, the touch screen causes unnecessary confusion.

I’ve been using Kindles on and off ever since they launched. Our relationship has been contentious but I’ve always been seduced or re-seduced by their potential. At their best, they are beautiful devices. At their worst, infuriating. They are always so close to being better than they are. (Craig Mod)

A couple of the infuriations Craig mentions are accidental page turns and accidental bookmarks. I’d also add accidental highlighting and unintentional dictionary lookups. Maybe I’m odd, but I never lookup definitions of words on my Kindle, I have a much better dictionary app on my phone, or the good ole OED. Which brings me to the reading experience.

What I’ve noticed since my Kindle device died and I’ve returned to hardcopy books is that reading is so much easier in a paper book. Everything is where I expect it to be, I can refer to the table of contents while keeping a thumb at the place where I was reading from, flipping forward or back a few pages is effortless and intuitive. The rest of the time all the meta information of the book stays out of the way and I can read undistracted. Yet there remains a heap of information about what I’m reading on each page and in my hands that I process subconsciously and helps orient me to the context of what I’m currently reading. This occurs in ways that an electronic gadget does not replicate well.

What do I mean? Page numbers are an obvious thing, but they are given extra meaning by the weight of pages on each side – it’s easy to judge how far through the book I am without consciously looking. Print books don’t have 20 extra pages of filler crap at the end to pad out what is really just a pamphlet, that costs money in a physical object. Any additional pages at the beginning or end of a paper book are there for good reason.

More subtly, each page in a printed book gives information about context by the page layout, indentation, paragraph breaks, typesetting. Ebooks attempt to replicate these things, but aside from paragraph breaks, the fluid text flow of an ebook usually ruins the effect. Even paragraph breaks can become hard to spot in some ebooks.

It seems that what is being attempted with ebooks is to abstract the content of books away from the physicality of the book form. This is necessary to allow the text to reflow into the various container forms of differing devices. If we processed data in the same way as computers this might be effective for humans, but we are embodied beings with a long history of interacting with a physical world. Our senses and minds interpret information in context of a physical world of objects, people and the environment. Books may rely upon ideas, but I wonder if we maybe hunger to keep those ideas in a physical form, a specific book with a particular cover illustration underlined using my favourite pen while sitting on our blue sofa on an overcast day.

I’m glad that we have ebooks, they make books far more accessible to more people than ever, but I don’t think they are as good as physical books made of paper and cardboard. When I can afford it I will probably get myself a new Kindle device because I have hundreds of unread Kindle format books that I’ve previously purchased. The device is also great to have on hand if I may have time to read but don’t want to lug around five different books because I’m unsure which one I will want to read in a waiting room.

For convenience the Kindle is great, for a good reading experience paper is better.

Books I should read

I already have a list of books I’ve bought and need to read in order to justify spending money on them. That list alone is rather long, but then there are books that I know I should read because they are a significant part of the heritage of English literature, are classics, or would be good for me. I know that such a list of books one should read could easily get out of hand, everyone has some book they think everyone else should read, so I’m trying to limit this list to books that are strongly recommended by numerous sources.

This list will grow and morph as I add books, read books and hopefully become better for it. Once I read books on this list I will add them to my list of books I’ve read and delete them from here (and my giant to read list if appropriate).

  • Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
  • Jane Austen, Emma
  • Jane Austen, Persuasion
  • Saul Bellow, Seize the Day
  • Thomas Bernhard, Wittgenstein’s Nephew
  • Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives
  • Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
  • Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Journey to the End of the Night
  • Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote
  • A.P. Checkhov, Ward No. 6
  • A.P. Checkhov, Rothschild’s Fiddle
  • A.P. Checkhov, The Lady with the Little Dog
  • A.P. Checkhov, The Bishop
  • A.P. Checkhov, The Seagull
  • J.M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello
  • Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage
  • Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
  • Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
  • Denis Diderot, Rameau’s Nephew
  • F.M. Dostoevsky, Notes From Underground
  • F.M. Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
  • F.M. Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
  • Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie
  • George Eliot, Adam Bede
  • George Eliot, Middlemarch
  • Frederick Exley, A Fan’s Notes
  • William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
  • William Faulkner, Absalom! Absalom!
  • Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews
  • Henry Fielding, Tom Jones
  • Gustave Flaubert, Sentimental Education
  • Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
  • Theodor Fontane, Effi Briest
  • Henry Green, Caught
  • Henry Green, Loving
  • Knut Hamsun, Hunger
  • Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd
  • Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge
  • Thomas Hardy, Tess
  • Homer, Iliad
  • Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
  • Henry James, What Maisie Knew
  • Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady
  • B.S. Johnson, Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry
  • James Joyce, Dubliners
  • James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • James Joyce, Ulysses
  • D.H. Lawrence, Sea and Sardinia
  • D.H. Lawrence, The Rainbow
  • Sinclair Lewis, Babbit
  • Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
  • Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks
  • Katherine Mansfield, The Garden Party and Other Stories
  • Guy de Maupassant, Pierre and Jean
  • Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
  • Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
  • Ian McEwan, Atonement
  • Robert McLoskey, Make Way for Ducklings
  • Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
  • Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
  • V.S. Naipaul, A house for Mr Biswas
  • Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past
  • A.S. Pushkin, Eugene Onegin
  • Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day
  • Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
  • Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
  • Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March
  • Philip Roth, Sabbath’s Theater
  • Philip Roth, The Counterlife
  • Norman Rush, Mortals
  • Norman Rush, Mating
  • Jose Saramago, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis
  • W.G. Sebald, The Emigrants
  • Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  • Stendhal, The Red and the Black
  • Stendhal, The Charterhouse of Parma
  • Italo Svevo, Confessions of Zeno
  • W.M. Thackeray, Vanity Fair
  • L.N Tolstoy, Hadji Murad
  • L.N. Tolstoy, War and Peace
  • L.N. Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
  • John Updike, Terrorist
  • John Updike, Of the Farm
  • David Foster Wallace, Oblivion and other stories
  • Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
  • Virginia Woolf, The Waves
  • Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Focussing on practice

I was reading Chris Bowler’s most recent email newsletter today. In the intro to it he makes the comment:

It has simply been a matter of waiting and looking for the right things to write about. And maybe to focus on practicing more than preaching (always a good thing).

I can identify with both searching for the right things to write about, and especially the focus on practicing rather than preaching. I did go through a period a few years back of literally preaching in church, and often my blogging has been somewhat preachy. My current phase of life one of trying to concentrate more on the practicing aspect.

I am reading the Bible more than I was a year ago, am absorbing what is taught at church rather than arguing with it, and am searching for what my role should be over the next five years or so.

As far as blogging or writing goes, I’m still finding my way. Obviously I’ve not written much over the last few months, instead I have been reading and slowly making a balsa wood toy boat for my son.

I’ve been learning a bit about science writing and creative nonfiction, a potential direction that makes sense of my background and training. However, deep down I would also really like to write fiction so I’m still not sure which direction to move in. I guess the sensible thing would be to do the best I can at one or the other in order to gain practice as the experience can be used whichever way I finally go in.

The price of knowing good and evil

In Genesis 2:17 God tells Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then in Genesis 3:5 the serpent deceived Eve into desiring the fruit of that tree, so she ate from it. Verse 7 states that the eyes of Adam and Eve were immediately opened to know that they were naked. Presumably this realisation of their nakedness is a result of knowing good and evil, so it was an instant impartation of the knowledge.

However, in thinking about this recently I started to wonder if perhaps the sin and evil which resulted from this event are the expected effect: Adam and Eve were already experiencing ‘good’ even if they were unaware of any other state of being. To understand the knowledge of good and evil they would also have to experience evil.

One of the fundamental questions people have regarding belief in God is, “How can a good God allow evil?” The explanation must surely be that evil was demanded by the first humans reaching out to take the knowledge of good and evil. We cannot have such knowledge without knowing both what good is and what evil is.

I assume that theologians have discussed this at great length and explained it far better than my stumbling thoughts, but this is a new idea to me.

Deleting Facebook

Yesterday I finally bit the bullet and deleted my Facebook account. I’ve been working towards this for the last few months by transferring stuff I want to keep over here to my blog. I had downloaded a copy of my Facebook content but it was easier to work directly from my timeline on the site than fishing through a bunch of files and folders to find things. I was only part way through the process but read one too many articles reporting how unethical Facebook is to put up with them any longer.

Over the last couple of years anything I’ve gained from using Facebook has been increasingly outweighed by the negatives of giving my information to a business who are primarily wanting to sell that information on to advertisers, marketers and whoever else is prepared to pay for it. As a company, Facebook shows little or no regard for the real people who use their platform, preferring to put profits and influence first.

Over the course of 2017 I kept noticing articles and news reports pointing to a cavalier attitude from Mark Zuckerberg and a persistent refusal to accept responsibility for the mass manipulation of people and compromise of their privacy. Then the Cambridge Analytica fiasco emerged bringing serious calls to re-evaluate our use of Facebook and what could potentially develop into a mass move away from the platform.

Most people are unlikely to be able to bring themselves to follow through and abandon Facebook. The early abandoners are likely to already have other channels of social networking and be driven by strong principles prompting them to take action against Zuckerberg’s beast.

My hope is that enough people will abandon Facebook within a short enough timeframe to cause some pain to the company. It would be great if it became a snowball effect, but that could be too optimistic. I believe that the prevalent social media model has multiple flaws stemming mostly from the advertising-driven revenue stream they rely upon. I’d love to see some constructive alternatives emerge from the backlash against Facebook, spurring a general awareness amongst internet users that it is time for a move away from platforms operated by mega corporations like Facebook, Amazon and Google.

We have already endured internet 1.0 and 2.0, it is time for new ideas to create version 3.0 in which real people are respected and their data remains under their own control. Just speculating, but this would seem to be where blockchain technology could become truly useful in decentralising control back into the hands of users. However, this would require educated internet users, most people are not there yet.

Will deleting my Facebook account make any impact? Realistically, no. One out of 2.2 billion obviously makes no difference. Yet if one in every thousand people decided to kill their account then Facebook would lose 2.2 million users – perhaps that might be enough to be noticed and prompt some changes.

I also want to be clear that I’m not deleting my account as a Luddite move against social media per se. All of the big tech giants have serious faults yet I continue to use most of them. But this particular company has pushed things too far and their ‘free’ service has more negatives about it than positives.

Long live the blog! 

What if all I want is a mediocre life?

I posted a link to this blog post by Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui some time ago on Facebook but want to link to it here because I think it expresses well how I often feel myself about the idea of ‘getting ahead’ or ‘success’. Read the whole post, it’s worth it.

What if All I Want is a Mediocre Life?

What if all I want is a small, slow, simple life? What if I am most happy in the space of in between? Where calm lives. What if I am mediocre and choose to be at peace with that?

What if all the striving for excellence leaves me sad, worn out, depleted? Drained of joy. Am I simply not enough?