Recalibrating my reading

Back in November 2011 I published a list of books I wanted to read. Looking at that list now seven years later, I am dismayed at how few of those books I have actually completed reading since then. From a list of 85 books that I claimed I wanted to read, I have read a total of 8 of them seven years later:

  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
  • Can You Drink the Cup? by Henri Nouwen
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  • The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
  • The Shan: Refugees Without a Camp by Bernice Koehler Johnson

That’s only 10%, why so few?
The problem is not that haven’t been reading much over the last seven years (I’ve read a total of 180 books over this period). I think the issue is that the sort of books I actually read is different to the books I think I should read.
When I analyse the list of what I thought I should read, it contained 30 literary classics, of which I have read two, though I’ve also read some other classics which were not on my list in 2011. There were also 43 books about Christian topics, many of these books are quite ‘serious’ and require concentration to read well. I’ve often felt guilty for not reading some of these books which I spent good money to buy and are by reputable authors. However, I have read plenty of books on Christian topics in the last seven years, what tends to determine exactly which books I choose to read is the issues I happen to be wrestling with at the time.
My choices of what to read are driven by multiple factors, here are some I can think of:

  • What I’m already part way through reading (I usually have 3 or 4 books on the go simultaneously)
  • How I am feeling (do I want something light, or am I in the mood to concentrate?)
  • Time available
  • Current ability to concentrate (do I have an hour alone or fifteen minutes with kids bouncing around)
  • Book availability (am I at home where the hardcopy is, do I only have my Kindle)
  • How public is my location (I’m not going to read The Mortification of Sin at work!)
  • What issues are currently on my mind
  • Am I trying to learn something in particular

For good or bad, those are the kinds of things which influence what I actually read. The results of such choices are reflected in the list of books I’ve read over recent years. What is immediately apparent is an abundance of lighter Christian reading, ‘business’ and ‘self-help’ books and fiction compared to the serious list of what I should read.
A factor in these differences is something I wrote back in the 2011 post:

In choosing books to read, I am trying to aim for literature that will enrich my soul – quality rather than quantity.

While that is a good aspiration, it doesn’t account for reality. In order to enrich my soul what I am reading has to meet some immediate need or I will discard the book and opt for something else. I do try to slowly plod through serious books even while I’m reading more interesting stuff, but if it is too hard I keep putting it aside and eventually forget the flow of the book so achieve nothing.
Moving forward I think I need to make use of libraries more where I can, it is easier to try a book and then discard it without guilt if it is borrowed rather then one I bought. I do want to finish reading all the books I have purchased myself though so will need to exert discipline to keep reading some of those harder ones on my bookshelves at home.
Something I did do this week is cull all the freebies from my Kindle library (over 150 of them!). My reasoning is that even if I only paid 99c for a kindle book on sale, the barrier of actually paying real money should have caused me to give the purchase decision more thought than if the book was free. Also, a lot of the freebies were in the ‘old and difficult to read’ category so had been sitting there un-read for years, better to be shot of them.
An encouraging trend is that over the last three years my reading rate has picked up sharply so it could be that if I revisit this topic in another seven years a lot more of the books already on my shelves will have found their way on to the lists of books I have read. I hope so, because they are good books and will enrich my soul if I put in the effort to read them. But I also want to see plenty of poetry and fiction on my reading lists in future years, also a bit more history and biography. The business and self-help categories can probably be dumped without any loss to my wellbeing.
To make my musings here more concrete, I’ve come up with some personal ‘book selection guidelines’:

  • Prioritise books I already own
  • Use libraries as much as possible
  • Try books but abandon the junk quickly
  • Classic novels are usually good reading
  • Read lots of poetry
  • Read what I enjoy, we all have our own tastes
  • Don’t feel guilty for reading fiction

The Land of Far Beyond

We are currently reading our 9-year-old a book by Enid Blyton called “The Land of Far Beyond” which is like a kids version of “Pilgrim’s Progress”. In this story people like Patience and Peter do well if they stay on the narrow path and avoid the company of folks such as Despair but instead choose to travel with people such as Cheerful and Courageous. Unfortunately, on their journey to the City of Happiness the travellers find it all too easy to stray from the path and wander into all sorts of trouble.
It would be easy to be cynical and mock a story like this, but instead I find myself wondering if a simple approach to life and faith might do me good? Maybe I’m wishing that in real life pitfalls were clearly labelled as they are in this story, that the name of a person would instantly let me know what they were truly like. Most of all I want to be able to see that I am indeed walking on the narrow way – sometimes it feels like it would be easier to undertake a long arduous journey to a place far away than to muddle through the labyrinth of life as a sinner in a fallen world.
I guess what I’m pondering is how much easier it would be to live by the guidelines of simple virtues and avoiding clearly defined vices. In our society this tends to be branded as conservatism, traditionalist and intolerance, but the New Testament seems to urge us to such a life and I much prefer it to the muddied morality of secularism. It would also be more emotionally honest to be able to identify in myself when I’m being lazy or diligent, content or covetous.

Update, July 2018

It has been so long since I posted anything here that I thought the easiest way to get going again would be to do a general update on where I’m at currently. 


I’ve been reading a lot this year, and the content of my reading has transitioned over recent months to being dominated by Christian topics. I view this as a good thing as it reflects an underlying transition in my thinking back to being more God focused than I have been for a while. My reading does tend to follow the direction my heart is inclining, hence the eclectic selection in my lists of books I have read.


Earlier this year I bought a New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, which is the King James Version of the Bible with modern spelling (eg, ‘show’ rather than ‘shew’) and crucially, in paragraph format rather than having each verse begin on a new line. The paragraph format makes a huge difference to the readability of this version and I’ve been enjoying reading the version of the Bible which has made such a massive impact on the English language.

However, I’ve also gone in the other direction on Bible translations and returned to reading the NIV for my main daily reading. This has been like reuniting with an old friend as it is the translation I used for the first five years of my Christian life. I read the Bible a lot during this period so revisiting this translation is helping motivate me to read it a lot more now too. 

Social Media

I caved in and did open a new Facebook account at the start of June. I have only added 30 people as friends, all of whom I know well in real life but some I don’t see very often currently so this is a way to keep in touch. I’ve noticed though that most of these folks don’t actually post much to Facebook anyway so the ‘staying connected’ aspect is not all that useful.


Our kids are generally doing OK. One is about to change schools in the hope of getting more support for some particular learning needs. The decision to make this change has been a long time in coming and we have tried a lot of other options before making such a big change. In the end our priority is to ensure each of our kids gets an education that builds them up and gives them a good foundation for life. Each child is different so we are seeking the best combination of teachers, facilities and systems to fit each one.

One of our parents had major heart surgery in June. This was a very anxious time because even the surgeons were not confident of a positive outcome. However, so far, so good. The first week of recovery was tense, but there has been a steady improvement since.

Evernote expired

My paid subscription to Evernote expired last month and I chose not to renew it. The plan I was using allowed me to save over a gigabyte of notes each month so my habit was to use the web clipper tool to save any article I thought I might want to read from the web. Because of this my collection of notes was growing much faster than I could read those articles. Being a person who likes to completely finish things, I felt an internal pressure to read all the stuff I had saved. Since stopping that subscription I’ve changed my approach and now try to decide if something is worth reading before I even consider saving it. I try to read things immediately if they seem worthwhile, or park it in a browser tab. If I haven’t read it by the end of the day I close the tab on the assumption that if it is actually important I will stumble across it again or can do a search and find something similar. If I was not motivated to read it during the day, it probably is not relevant enough to me to bother saving.

Low tech evenings

Without setting out to, I’ve become mostly technology free in my evenings over the last few months. This has largely been a progression from committing myself to reading less off the internet and more books. Then my Kindle died so I got in the habit of reading hardcopy books, and my phone battery is also dying so it goes flat quick enough to dissuade me from wasting time on games or reading the news. I am also reading the Bible a lot more these days and I use a nice leather bound Bible so enjoy the experience of reading from that. (I did replace my old Kindle with a new one and do use it, I just enjoy real, paper books more).

The pleasant result of this coalescence of factors is that my evenings are less stressful than they were when using technology a lot – there are no crashes or slow internet issues, my eyes get less tired, and it seems much easier to think about important things rather than trivia when the world is further than a click or tap away. I am currently finding it more effort to login on the laptop than to grab my book from the shelf beside the couch. In my view this is a good thing.

We have three school aged children so life is no less busy for me than it was when I spent my evenings glued to screens, but it feels better now. My thoughts are able to follow a track to its conclusion rather then being interrupted or sidelined by some alert or glittery distraction. I’m able to concentrate better on books that require hard thinking to read them well, and I have quite a stack of this sort of books.

I haven’t attained nirvana or transcendental bliss, I still can waste an evening reading crap on the internet. But now I notice the loss of that evening acutely and feel worse for the internet time rather than fooling myself that I’m ‘staying informed’. Most of what is published on the internet is garbage now, so it is hard to know what are reliable sources and what are not, and even the better ones are still often profit driven and rely on advertising so generate content to gain clicks not to publish quality journalism. Surfing the web is not an easy way to ‘stay informed’, books are easier.

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

2018 Reading

Updated: 5 November 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)
  • 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, 330 pages (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, 326 pages (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, 303 pages (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. 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.
  13. 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).
  14. Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression by Johann Hari. 7/10 The 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).
  15. 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).
  16. 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).
  17. 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).
  18. Science Blogging: The Essential Guide by Christie Wilcox, Bethany Brookshire, Jason G. Goldman. 7/10 Finished 2 April 2018, 289 pages (Kindle edition).
  19. 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).
  20. 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).
  21. Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything by Anonymous 7/10 Finished 23 April 2018, 195 pages (Kindle edition).
  22. Tigana by Guy Gabriel Kay 7/10 Finished 30 April 2018, 692 pages (Kindle edition).
  23. 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).
  24. 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).
  25. 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).
  26. Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett. 10/10. Finished 26 May 2018, 405 pages (ISBN 978-0-85151-821-3).
  27. 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).
  28. Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan 7/10. Finished 2 June 2018, 304 pages (Kindle edition).
  29. 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).
  30. 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).
  31. 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).
  32. 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).
  33. 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).
  34. 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).
  35. The Art of Spiritual Writing by Vinita Hampton Wright 8/10. Nice to read a book dealing with this angle, particularly targeted at Christian writers. Also contains some good writing tips. Finished 9 August 2018, 166 pages (Kindle edition).
  36. 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).
  37. The Loser by Peter Ustinov 8/10. Finished 2 September 2018, 240 pages (1964 Pan Books Ltd.).
  38. Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward 8/10. An interesting book which has changed some of my views about Donald Trump and confirmed others. It also gives insight in to how the White House functions. I’m relieved to learn that there are some responsible adults there to moderate the impact of a narcissistic, lying president! Finished 15 September 2018, 448 pages (Kindle edition).
  39. How Can a Good God Let Bad Things Happen? by Mark A Tabb 7/10. A good book about suffering and how we can live through it in faith as Christians. This book is not so much about the theology of suffering but rather how faith looks in the sufferings of real life. Not an easy book to real but worthwhile. Finished 21 September 2018, 224 pages (Kindle edition).
  40. How to be a Poet by Jo Bell & Jane Commane 7/10. Quite a useful guide to writing and publishing poetry. Reading this has given me some good information to mull over as I begin to write poems and consider how to improve and how to publish them. A detracting factor is that for a book about poetry (where every word counts) and written by a publisher, it is quite poorly edited. Finished 29 September 2018, 200 pages (Kindle).
  41. Thin Places: A Memoir by Mary E. DeMuth 7/10. A journey back through the Author’s childhood revisiting some tragic and awful memories but also seeing God’s hand in her life as she was growing up. Finished 6 October 2018, 224 pages (Kindle).
  42. A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver 10/10. This book has both shown me how much I have to learn about poetry and also gives me hope that I can learn how to write poems worth reading. Finished 15 October 2018, 130 pages (ISBN 978-0-15-672400-5).
  43. Write Great Fiction – Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell 7/10. Some useful tips and ideas, I took a long time to get through this book so probably should read it again to cement what it has to say. Finished 16 October 2018, 240 pages (Kindle edition).
  44. God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old testament Angry, Sexist and Racist? by David T Lamb 7/10. Overall, an interesting book, though the author tries too hard to be funny. Emphasises the need to read the whole Bible rather than taking ‘proof texts’ out of context. Finished 16 October 2018, 205 pages (Kindle edition).
  45. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed 8/10. Great to read a fantasy novel that is based on a culture and setting other than medieval Europe. Finished 20 October 2018, 285 pages (Kindle edition).
  46. Daily Rituals by Mason Currey 5/10. Despite being well researched this is actually not a very interesting book (it took me about 2 years to plod my way through it!). I thought that reading about the habits of creative people would be inspiring but I ended up somewhat bored and disgusted by a lot of them. Finished 21 October 2018, 304 pages (Kindle edition).
  47. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels 6/10. Kind of interesting to read this for myself. Interestingly, Donald Trump seems to be enforcing a communist economic policy in the USA. Finished 24 October 2018, 36 pages (Kindle edition).
  48. Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson 8/10. A fascinating look at the English language. Finished 27 October 2018, 245 pages (ISBN 978-0-141-03746-2).

Poetry books

  • Spark by Emma Neale Finished 21 February 2018, 78 pages (ISBN 978-1-877448-19-5). (see Poems I have read in 2018)
  • 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).
  • The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins 7/10. Finished 27 August 2018, 108 pages (ISBN 978-1-5098-3425-9).
  • Night Fishing by Brian Turner 7/10. Finished 25 September 2018, 94 pages (ISBN 978-1-17656-094-3).
  • How to Make a Million by Emma Neale 8/10. Finished 10 October 2018, 96 pages (ISBN 1-86962-100-X).
  • Nine Horses by Billy Collins 8/10. Finished 31 October 2018, 120 pages (ISBN 978-0-375-75520-0).


  • New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson 6/10. Very long, a bit preachy and the multiple sub plots seem quite disjointed. Finished 3 November 2018 (Audible, ASIN: B06XHNKGGB).

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:

Am I actually going to read this?

The start of the year is a good time to ‘clear the decks’ and cleanup excess stuff cluttering my shelves, home, workspace and mind. I began by reducing my clippings of websites/articles stored in Evernote from 6500 notes down to 3800. I still have some work to do to prune it right down to only the essential reference material I need to keep.

Starting back at work today I was confronted with an overflowing tray of paper that needs sorting, junk on my computer desktop, and a very full downloads folder. A common theme of all this stuff I have accumulated is that at the time of saving it I had some intention of reading it. Unfortunately I don’t have time to read everything.

I love information, it fascinates me to learn new facts, ideas or tips on how to do something better. When I was a kid the primary source of information was from books. I lived in a small country town with a small public library and few shops selling books. In this setting it was achievable to have read all the books available that interested me, and I did just that. It was possible to know the limits of the information available in my small world.

Now it is not possible to know the limits of information available to me with an internet connection. Yet I still have an information scarcity mindset. This belief causes me to hold on to sources of information despite understanding that by the time I get around to reading it that information is likely to be outdated. This is a costly mistake.

The thousands of pdfs stored on my computer are not only taking up bytes, they take up mental space and each causes a mild stress by being unread.

An Information Flood

Information is no longer scarce, we are flooded by it. In a flood the problem in not getting enough water, the real problem is keeping excess water out. Added to having too much water is the issue of it being dirty. There is water pouring in all over the place but it is so contaminated with filth that it is unusable, even hazardous. This is the situation we are now in with information.

Social media channels are like sewers, plenty of content running through them but little of true use to us. If I jump into the Twitter or Facebook feed I’m carried along in the torrent but all it does is waste my time. News websites are not much better, actual news stories are so similar to click bait that it can be tricky differentiating the two.

Search engines such as Google or Bing are not reliable conduits of clean information. They are like using the same bucket for bailing out flood water and collecting drinking water, cross contamination is constantly occurring.


To avoid the negative effects of misinformation we need to filter our sources. A clean stream can easily be muddied so I have to consciously filter all incoming sources, picking out what is helpful and leaving behind the trash. I do seek out good curators but what is considered useful to that person may not be relevant to me.

The ability to efficiently filter information, both from the flood and also from reliable sources, requires training. Fortunately my work and education have trained me reasonably well. Perhaps this is going to be the primary benefit of having a degree, learning how to identify reliable sources and developing critical thinking skills to discern what is most true.

In our society the scientific method and peer-review are held to be the best information filters. Working at a university I have ready access to such information but even that can go stale and outdated if stored too long.


Books used to be a great way to store and retrieve information, in some cases they still are. These days so much new information is being generated and it changes so fast that storing information is hardly with the trouble. Assuming I have internet access, all I need is the information required to go about my daily life and work. Holding on to more than that comes at a cost and it will be quickly outdated so unless what I need is historical records there is no point keeping old stuff. The obvious exceptions are photographs and family records.

So back to my original problem, I am flooded with information, I don’t need more and don’t need to keep it all. If I need to know something I can easily look it up. The cost of keeping what I’m not actively using is higher than the small effort required to find anything I want to know.

Rest in the Sun

What most of us need these days is a chance to ‘dry out’, an opportunity to escape the flood and catch our breath. This is related to my goal of reading books rather than blogs this year. I want to stem the tide of incoming information and clear out all the stuff I’m not able to keep up with. This should enable my mind to quieten down, think more clearly and create.

More books and writing

Swapping blogs for books

In 2017 I did a lot of reading. Some of that was books, but a large amount was articles and blog posts on the internet. As a result of consuming an estimated 3,650 written articles from the web last year, I’ve come to the conclusion that my time could be better spent reading books instead.

Some of the reasons for this conclusion are:

  • Many blog posts end up repeating much the same information as others (especially anything about how to do something with WordPress).
  • Due to the shorter format of even a long web article, reading off the internet is wide but shallow. Good books enable a deeper exploration of a topic.
  • Most web articles are not particularly well researched (there are exceptions and I love those).
  • Reading from a computer screen in the evening is detrimental to good sleep, something that is becoming more important to me as I get older.
  • I have a massive list of books I want to read!

Therefore, in 2018 one of my goals is to devote my evening reading time to books rather than web articles. In theory this should result in a jump in the number of books I read, and maybe even see me knock off some heavy duty tomes which I keep putting off diving into despite knowing that I will gain much from digesting them.

More writing

A sort-of related goal for this year is that I want to do much more writing. Last year I spent a lot of time tinkering around with websites. I consider this to have been valuable learning experience and don’t regret the time invested but have realised that I’m unlikely to become a web developer and want to improve my writing skills in 2018 rather than continuing to focus on web development.

The obvious way to improve my writing is to write more, so expect to see much more published on this blog in 2018 than over the last few years. Not all of what I write will end up here (be glad for that), some will be junk, some will be purely practise and some won’t be stuff I want to publish on the internet.

I do see the potential hypocrisy in wanting to read less from blogs yet intending to publish more on my own blog. However, nobody is forcing you to read my blog and it hurts no-one for posts to sit here lonesome and unread. In the long run if my writing improves any lonely unread posts will have been worth the effort.