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. 

Reading

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.

Bible

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.

Family

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.


Related posts:

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:

Bible reading times

How long does it take to read each book of the Bible? I found the graphic which prompted this post on the blog of Jeff Medders. There are also some fancier versions with the same numbers, an Old Testament one, and a New Testament version. As I was digging around the web researching this post I discovered that the source of the reading times appears to be the Desiring God article Three Tips for Better Bible Reading.

I also found another list with slightly different numbers here (if you click that link it will download the document).

What I have done is to combine the numbers to give a range of time to read each book, which I think is more realistic because we don’t all read at the same speed. Also, I suspect the Desiring God numbers may be a bit optimistic. For some books such as 1 & 2 Samuel, Desiring God only have one number for reading both books so I had to do a bit of an estimate to get the range. In these cases the time for reading both books as claimed by Desiring God is also listed.

I also found a list of the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Grade Level (lower is easier to read) for each book in the ESV (Crossway). The grade level is effectively equivalent to the expected reading level after that many years of school. This is more about how easy or difficult it is to parse each sentence rather than whether the passage is easy to understand. Also note that the algorithm chokes on poetry because it is weighted to assume short sentences are easier to read (hence the book of Job is rated as easy to read!)

  • Genesis: 3 hrs 30 min – 4 hrs 35 min.
    (50 chapters, 32,046 words) Reading level 6.3
  • Exodus: 3 hours – 3 hrs 37 min.
    (40 chapters, 25,957 words) Reading level 7.3
  • Leviticus: 2 hours – 2 hrs 35 min.
    (27 chapters, 18,852 words) Reading level 8.7
  • Numbers: 3 hours – 3 hrs 35 min.
    (36 chapters, 25,048 words) Reading level 8.5
  • Deuteronomy: 2 hrs 30 min – 3 hrs 8 min.
    (34 chapters, 23,008 words) Reading level 8.7
  • Joshua: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs 8 min.
    (24 chapters, 15,671 words) Reading level 9.4
  • Judges: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs 5 min.
    (21 chapters, 15,385 words) Reading level 7.4
  • Ruth: 15 – 20 minutes.
    (4 chapters, 2,039 words) Reading level 6.3
  • 1 Samuel: 2 hrs 15 min – 2 hrs 45 min.
    (31 chapters, 20,837 words) Reading level 6.4
  • 2 Samuel: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs 18 min.
    (24 chapters, 17,170 words) Reading level 6.7
  • 1 & 2 Samuel: 4 hours
  • 1 Kings: 2 hrs 8 min – 2 hrs 47 min.
    (22 chapters, 20,361 words) Reading level 7.8
  • 2 Kings: 2 hrs 8 min – 2 hrs 40 min.
    (25 chapters, 18,784 words) Reading level 7.8
  • 1 & 2 Kings: 4.25 hours
  • 1 Chronicles: 2 hrs 15 min – 2 hrs 56 min
    (29 chapters, 16,664 words) Reading level 8.7
  • 2 Chronicles: 2 hrs 15 min – 3 hrs 2 min
    (36 chapters, 21,349 words) Reading level 9.3
  • 1 & 2 Chronicles: 4.5 hours
  • Ezra: 40 – 58 minutes
    (10 chapters, 5,605 words) Reading level 9.8
  • Nehemiah: 1 hour – 1 hr 20 min
    (13 chapters, 8,507 words) Reading level 8.9
  • Esther: 30 – 40 minutes
    (10 chapters, 4,932 words) Reading level 9.8
  • Job: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs 49 min
    (42 chapters, 12,674 words) Reading level 4.2
  • Psalms: 5 hours – 7 hrs 38 min
    (150 chapters, 30,147 words) Reading level 3.9
  • Proverbs: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs 45 min
    (31 chapters, 9,921 words) Reading level 5.3
  • Ecclesiastes: 30 – 48 minutes
    (12 chapters, 4,537 words) Reading level 6.0
  • Song of Songs: 20 – 32 minutes
    (8 chapters, 2,020 words) Reading level 4.9
  • Isaiah: 3 hrs 45 min – 5 hrs 47 min
    (66 chapters, 25,608 words) Reading level 5.5
  • Jeremiah: 4 hours – 5 hrs 36 min
    (52 chapters, 33,002 words) Reading level 7.5
  • Lamentations: 20 – 36 minutes
    (5 chapters, 2,324 words) Reading level 4.0
  • Ezekiel: 3 hrs 45 min – 4 hrs 25 min
    (48 chapters, 29,918 words) Reading level 7.1
  • Daniel: 1 hr 15 min – 1 hr 20 min
    (12 chapters, 9,001 words) Reading level 8.5
  • Hosea: 30 – 51 minutes
    (14 chapters, 3,615 words) Reading level 4.9
  • Joel: 12 – 22 minutes
    (3 chapters, 1,447 words) Reading level 5.6
  • Amos: 25 – 43 minutes
    (9 chapters, 3,027 words) Reading level 5.3
  • Obadiah: 4 – 7 minutes
    (1 chapter, 440 words) Reading level 6.1
  • Jonah: 8 – 11 minutes
    (4 chapters, 1082 words) Reading level 6.2
  • Micah: 20 – 33 minutes
    (7 chapters, 2,118 words) Reading level 5.6
  • Nahum: 8 – 14 minutes
    (3 chapters, 855 words) Reading level 3.8
  • Habakkuk: 9 – 16 minutes
    (3 chapters, 1,011 words) Reading level 4.3
  • Zephaniah: 10 –17 minutes
    (3 chapters, 1,141 words) Reading level 5.2
  • Haggai: 7 – 9 minutes
    (2 chapters, 926 words) Reading level 5.9
  • Zechariah: 40 – 47 minutes
    (14 chapters, 4,855 words) Reading level 6.9
  • Malachi: 11 – 15 minutes
    (4 chapters, 1,320 words) Reading level 6.3
  • Matthew: 2 hrs 30 min – 2 hrs 55 min
    (28 chapters, 18,346 words) Reading level 6.6
  • Mark: 1 hr 30 min – 1 hr 55 min
    (16 chapters, 11,304 words) Reading level 6.1
  • Luke: 2 hrs 30 min – 3 hrs 10 min
    (24 chapters, 19,482 words) Reading level 6.5
  • John: 2 hours – 2 hrs 20 min
    (21 chapters, 15,635 words) Reading level 5.6
  • Acts: 2 hrs 15 min – 2 hrs 55 min
    (28 chapters, 18,450 words) Reading level 8.3
  • Romans: 1 hour – 1 hr 18 min
    (16 chapters, 7,111 words) Reading level 7.1
  • 1 Corinthians: 1 hour – 1 hr 10 min
    (16 chapters, 6,830 words) Reading level 6.3
  • 2 Corinthians: 38 – 40 minutes
    (13 chapters, 4,477 words) Reading level 7.6
  • Galatians: 20 – 25 minutes
    (6 chapters, 2.230 words) Reading level 7.8
  • Ephesians: 20 – 25 minutes
    (6 chapters, 2,422 words) Reading level 11.7
  • Philippians: 14 – 18 minutes
    (4 chapters, 1,629 words) Reading level 9.0
  • Colossians: 13 – 18 minutes
    (4 chapters, 1,582 words) Reading level 9.0
  • 1 Thessalonians: 12 – 15 minutes
    (5 chapters, 1,481 words) Reading level 8.5
  • 2 Thessalonians: 7 – 10 minutes
    (3 chapters, 823 words) Reading level 8.8
  • 1 Timothy: 16 – 20 minutes
    (6 chapters, 1,591 words) Reading level 9.7
  • 2 Timothy: 11 – 15 minutes
    (4 chapters, 1,238 words) Reading level 9.1
  • Titus: 7 – 10 minutes
    (3 chapters, 659 words) Reading level 9.7
  • Philemon: 3 – 5 minutes
    (1 chapter, 335 words) Reading level 8.8
  • Hebrews: 45 – 60 minutes
    (13 chapters, 4,95 words) Reading level 9.5
  • James: 16 – 20 minutes
    (5 chapters, 1,742 words) Reading level 6.4
  • 1 Peter: 16 – 22 minutes
    (5 chapters, 1,684 words) Reading level 8.8
  • 2 Peter: 10 – 12 minutes
    (3 chapters, 1,099 words) Reading level 10.2
  • 1 John: 16 – 20 minutes
    (5 chapters, 2,141 words) Reading level 6.1
  • 2 John: 2 – 3 minutes
    (1 chapter, 245 words) Reading level 7.2
  • 3 John: 2 – 3 minutes
    (1 chapter, 219 words) Reading level 5.6
  • Jude: 4 – 6 minutes
    (1 chapter, 461 words) Reading level 8.5
  • Revelation: 1 hr 15 min – 1 hr 40 min
    (22 chapters, 9,851 words) Reading level 8.4

12 June 2018 update:

Over the last couple of months I’ve been reading the King James Version of the Bible and realised that another factor that will have an impact on how long it takes to read the Bible is the translation you use. This probably is a reasonably consistent factor across all books of the Bible though so I guess that for some translations like the KJV you could just assume it will always take a bit longer to read than for others such as the NIV.

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 full 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.

Eating poems

At the end of the poetry anthology Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr there is an essay by the author in which she discusses part of her journey of faith and the role of poetry in that journey. From reading it I realised how shallow my own experience of poetry is and that while setting out to read a poem a day is definitely worthwhile, it is just scratching the surface of truly experiencing poetry.

In memorizing the poems I loved, I “ate” them in a way. I breathed as the poet breathed to recite the words: Someone else’s suffering and passion entered my my body to change me, partly by joining me to others in a saving circle.

For the year ahead (i.e., 2018) I will continue reading a poem each day to broaden my experience, but I also would like to latch on to a couple of poems that really speak to me and read them over many times, write them out, speak them out and let them take root in me until I can feel the poem as well as read or recite it.

Poems attach us to one another

I am not a huge poetry fan. I’d like to be, poetry is a sophisticated art and appreciating the art form is a good step in becoming a better writer. Beyond that, poetry at it’s best can touch upon what it means to be human and this I am interested in. This is well expressed in a blog post I read today:

… Since that moment, I’ve believed very deeply that poetry’s sole purpose is to attach us to one another, and I’ve lived by poetry’s guidance to allow that kind of connection to grow in my life. If a poem isn’t reaching out its hand, then I get bored and move on.

I want poems of the bystander trying to make sense of the world. I want poems of rich experience written by women and men unable to turn away from what they must see and what they must say. I want poems that awaken me. If the poem is too detached or too ecstatic, I bristle—they’re fallacies of human emotion. I want the poem that gives life by being true to life. (Dave Harrity at tweetspeak poetry)

A book a month

My ‘to read’ stack

I am currently 42. Based on Psalm 90:10 there is some justification to think I could live another 28 years. On average I can manage to read a book a month (not including my reading of the Bible, which never ends). So, 28 x 12 = 336; a reasonable estimate of how many books I could read before I go home.

That is actually not a lot when you consider all the books out there that might be worth reading (and there a plenty that are not!), so it would be sensible to choose wisely what to invest time into reading. Therefore I am creating this list to help me target my reading.

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

This list is likely to change and morph as I reassess whether certain books are ones I really want to read or not. (The numbers do not indicate priority, they’re just to keep track of how many items are on the list).

  1. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  2. The Evil of Evils by Jeremiah Burroughs
  3. Communion with God by John Owen
  4. Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges
  5. Church History by Eusebius
  6. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry Garrard
  7. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
  8. The Works of John Newton, Volume 1
  9. The Works of John Newton, Volume 2
  10. The Works of John Newton, Volume 3
  11. The Works of John Newton, Volume 4
  12. The Works of John Newton, Volume 5
  13. The Works of John Newton, Volume 6
  14. When I don’t desire God by John Piper
  15. With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray
  16. The Mortification of Sin by John Owen
  17. The Poems by W.B. Yeats
  18. Prayer by John Bunyan
  19. Dig Deeper by Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sack
  20. Spiritual Depression by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones
  21. Imagining the Course of Life by Nancy Eberhardt
  22. The Confessions by St. Augustine
  23. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  24. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  25. Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth by Walter Bruegemann
  26. Praying the Psalms by Walter Bruegemann
  27. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  28. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  29. A journey to Victorious Praying by Bill Thrasher
  30. The Cross of Christ by John Stott
  31. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  32. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  33. Can You Drink the Cup? by Henri Nouwen
  34. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  35. Nostromo by Joseph Conrad
  36. Scripture by Heart by Joshua Choomin Kang
  37. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
  38. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Louis Carroll
  39. 1 Samuel by Dale Ralph Davis
  40. 2 Samuel by Dale Ralph Davis
  41. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  42. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  43. The Gospel According to John by Leon Morris
  44. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
  45. Herzog by Saul Bellow
  46. The Epistle to the Romans by Douglas Moo
  47. Living on the Maniototo by Janet Frame
  48. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  49. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  50. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  51. Paradise Lost by John Milton
  52. Collected Poems by T.S. Elliot
  53. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  54. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  55. Selected Poems by Robert Browning
  56. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  57. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  58. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  59. Letters of William Cowper by William Cowper
  60. A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot
  61. Joy Unspeakable by D. Martin Lloyd Jones
  62. Seasonable Counsels by John Bunyan
  63. Interpreting the Pauline Epistles by Tom Schreiner
  64. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  65. Zorba the Greek
  66. Treasury of David by Charles H. Spurgeon
  67. The Way of Life by Charles Hodge (edited by Mark Noll 1987)
  68. Practical Christianity by J.C. Ryle
  69. Everything Must Change, Jesus, Global Crises and a Revolution of Hope by Brian McClaren
  70. Future Grace by John Piper
  71. Because He Loves Me by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick
  72. The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges
  73. The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal
  74. Journals by George Whitfield
  75. The Freedom of a Christian by Martin Luther
  76. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  77. The Righteous Shall Live by Faith by R.C. Sproul
  78. Short Stories by Anton Chekhov
  79. Death of A Salesman by Arthur Miller
  80. The Plague by Albert Camu
  81. The Unity of the Bible: Unfolding God’s Plan for Humanity by Daniel P. Fuller
  82. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
  83. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  84. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
  85. The Shan: Refugees Without a Camp by Bernice Koehler Johnson