Some things happened and I abandoned this site. I hope to correct this.
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What I’m Reading
Some things happened and I abandoned this site. I hope to correct this.
The Progress Report
When I last posted, far too long ago, I had just finished book #28. I wasn’t worried about being behind ~5 books on my goal. It turns out, I should have been. I’m getting ahead of myself.
Since that post, I’ve managed to complete a stunning… two books.
That brings me up to 30/52, which at this point in the year sets me ~11 books behind the target pace.
When I started the year out, and even when I was confident about a ~5 book deficit being no big deal, I didn’t fully appreciate the time demands of classes, volunteering as a research assistant, preparing for the GRE, and the random health issues of toddlers.
As my time and attention have become split among more and more demanding things, my ability/desire to sit down and read has dropped off dramatically.
At this point, I am officially admitting defeat. While I am currently still reading, I honestly can’t see that ~10 book deficit doing anything other than growing. There’s no way, I can see, of hitting 52 by the end of the year.
It’s not terrible though. I started this undertaking on something of a whim. It bothered me that I wasn’t doing more of something that I enjoy, and I thought this would be a great way to change that.
In that regard, it has been a huge success. Even if I won’t hit 52 books, I’ve already crossed 30. That’s ~25-28 more than I would have normally read.
With all the time constraints, and what not, there isn’t a huge need for public accountability as a motivator any longer. So, this will probably be my last progress report on this site. I’ll still be listing what I’m currently reading, and my progress with that, on Goodreads, but that’ll be about it.
Hopefully, around the end of December, there will be a final “In Closing” kind of summary. I expect I may have added at least 3 books by that time (I really hope that’s not being way to optimistic).
The Progress Report
It’s been ~17 days since the last update. At the time I had just finished book #26 and was ~5 books behind pace.
Since then, things have been pretty busy. The Fall semester began, I took a five-day trip to Las Vegas, and I began volunteering to assist with a research project. So, not a lot of time for personal reading.
That said, I did manage to get two books, moving me up to #28. Which means that I’m still ~5 books behind the optimal pace. Though, I’m still not terribly worried about that deficit.
[>] Kill the Dead: The follow up to Sandman Slim, which is every bit as insanely awesome as the first one. Actually, more so, seeing as Kadrey managed to improve upon some minor pacing annoyances in the first book.
[>] The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right: Picked this up after finishing Thinking, Fast and Slow. Kahneman had mentioned it as a great example of how objective, mechanical judgment procedures can be a defense against the systematic biases in our own natural judgment.
Gawande lays out his case in one of the most enjoyable pop-psy/sci books I’ve ever read. And he strikes a great balance between illustrative anecdote and well-cited empirical research.
In The Works
[>] Lost At Sea: An interesting collection of pieces by Jon Ronson, one of my absolute favorite authors, that explore the beleifs of everyone from ICP to reclusive billionaires trying to escape the bounds of mortality via artificial intelligence.
I’m about 75% of the way through and expect to finish the book by tonight. Unless the last 25% takes an out-of-nowhere tank, I can’t see this as anything but a 5/5 rating.
[>] Déjà Dead: I’m a little hesitant to actually count this book. At only ~50 pages in, I’m already starting to get a little bored with it and questioning whether I’ll continue reading.
[>] The Wisdom of Crowds: Another book I picked up after seeing it mentioned in Thinking, Fast and Slow. I can’t say much about it at the moment, as I just started reading it a few hours ago and only made it ~10 pages in before getting distracted.
I’m sad to say that Lost at Sea is the only book I feel confident saying I’ll finish this week.
The story in Déjà Dead is definitely interesting and my love hate relationship with the show it inspired makes me want to at least stick it out with this first book in the series, but the pacing is just so slow.
The Wisdom of Crowds, or at least what I’ve read of it, seems pretty solid. The heavy tendency toward anecdote in these early pages is a little off-putting, but I’m familiar enough with the general theories Surowiecki is exploring to know that the research does exist, even if he prefers just-so-stories. So, I guess at the moment I’m just cautiously optimistic about the book, but not so much so that I don’t wonder if it’ll be the next Invisible Hook in my endeavour and sit on a shelf for several months, partially read.
Those doubts expressed, I did order
So it only took 10 days between updates this time. That’s very nearly down to one a week. Nearly.
The Progress Report
Last time, I had just finished book #23, Nudge, leaving me ~8 books behind ideal pace.
I’m pleased to say that just before sitting down to write this post, I finished book #26, bringing the deficit down to a mere ~5 books putting me at the half-way mark for the 52 target.
With any luck, I can nab a couple more weeks like this one, closing the deficit completely and maybe even getting ahead a bit. Maybe.
[>] Sandman Slim: I can not overstate how completely awesome this novel is. Richard Kadrey somehow manages to blend Batman, Spawn, Deadpool, and the Winchester boys into this crazy and magnificent supernatural anti-hero. And it’s just amazing.
William Gibson nails it perfectly in his cover blurb:
An addictively satisfying, deeply amusing, dirty-ass masterpiece… Sweet.
I can’t even begin to capture it any better than that.
[>] Redshirts: So here’s another confession — hopefully this isn’t going to be a trend with #2 books in these posts — this was my first Scalzi book. I’ve known who he was and been a huge fan of his blog for a long time, but never really sat down with any of his novels.
That might not have changed, had it not been for a big table full of autographed copies of Redshirts that caught my attention at a Joseph Beth, earlier this year. After wandering over and reading the prologue, I knew I had to buy this book. After seeing him live, when he introduced Neil Gaiman in Lexington, I knew I had to read it.
Redshirts is just great. It’s compelling, exciting, and totally hilarious. More importantly though, it’s completely self-aware. Given the somewhat silly nature of the story, it could have easily been a cringe-inducing mess. But Scalzi absolutely pulls it off, by simply acknowledging how silly it is and moving on. It’s brilliant and I can’t recommend it highly enough, to anyone.
[>] The Shining Girls: Wow, okay, this book is beyond amazing.
Last time, I mentioned how I regretted picking it up as an e-book because of how long it seems to take me to read them compared to dead-tree versions — I started this one back in June and just finished it around an hour ago. That regret has only intensified over the last two days as I finished the last ~50% of the book.
Beukes is a ridiculously talented writer and this book is a testament to that. Every little thing about this book is just amazing and impressive. The amount of detail and the perfect — seriously, perfect — pacing as she jumps between a number of diverse and fully developed characters and time periods, is just jaw-droppingingly delightful. I’m so glad at having picked this up (even if I made the mistake of doing so in digital form). And I’m really glad that it was the half-way book for my over all progress.
In The Works
[>] Kill the Dead: The Sequel to Sandman Slim, which I ordered less than half-way into to the first one — I already knew I was hooked.
I started reading Kill the Dead a few days ago, but with dad-duties being back into full-swing I’ve only been able to get in a little over 50 pages so far. But they’ve been 50 excellent pages.
Right now, Kill the Dead is the only book that I’m actually currently reading. That probably won’t be true by the end of the day, as I picked up the last humble e-book bundle with a few things I really want to jump into — I’m looking at you, Boneshaker.
I’m actually leaving Thursday to attend a wedding and stay ~5 days in Las Vegas. The day after I get back, the boy has a scheduled check up. Two days after that, I’ve got an appointment to meet with a professor about a new research opportunity. So, if I don’t get the next Progress Report in by Wednesday, this might actually be the last one of the month.
Whenever the next one comes, hopefully the deficit will be down to, at least, just two books.
Alright, it’s been a few weeks since I first wrote about the reading list, my goal of reading at least 52 books over the course of 2013. Part of the motivation for writing about it here was a sense of public accountability and in that regard I’m long overdue for an update.
The Progress Report
Okay last time, I had read 20 out of 52 books. That was ~5 weeks ago, so ideally I would be reading or have just completed book #25. I’ve fallen a little short of that. I just completed book #23, Nudge, earlier this week.
At this point in the year, Goodreads puts me 7 books behind, but it recognizes The Bed of Procrustes, which I did read this year, as counting toward the goal and I don’t. So actually, I’m ~8 books behind.
I’m not really sweating the deficit too much right now. There have been a few choices that were a little dense and time-consuming to read, but I’ve got plenty of fiction books waiting on the shelf that, while not really short, should be fast reads. I’m more than confident they’ll balance things by providing a few 2-3 book weeks before the year’s out.
While I’ve never really been a good hand at writing book reviews (or any kind of review for that matter), I think it might be a, personally, beneficial exercise to at least discuss them a little here.
[>] Thinking, Fast and Slow: I’ve already written about Khaneman’s a bit, here. At that time I still had ~80 pages left. Nothing in those pages inspired change in the original sentiment. But they did inspire an additional, related, thought.
The main point in the original post was how the book had made me revise a ridiculous policy: avoiding books I fear to be redundant. As if to go the extra mile at driving that point home, there was this wonderful passage in the conclusion.
Without going too into the details, the passage included Khaneman perfectly articulating a sentiment that I’ve been struggling to find the words for, for a few years now. This struggle has resulted in many overly long drafts sitting on my hard drive, consisting entirely of me just rambling aimlessly at the subject. If I hadn’t been so silly and ignored an amazing book for foolish reasons, I’d have had it handed to me.
[>] The Duck Commander Family: Here’s a confession: I bought this book because it was on sale and I loved the cover picture of Si. That’s it.
Nothing against the Robertson clan (honestly, I love Duck Dynasty) , but it’s always been my experience that these kind of books are just dreadful. They’re usually vapid, content-free, ghost-written, fame cash-ins.
Needless to say, I didn’t really intend to read it. At some point after I bought it though, it managed to make its way into my car in the spot reserved for my “Emergency Book”: the dead-tree book I can reach for when all other forms of entertainment/recreation have failed me.
Last month, my wife got LASIK surgery. During the procedure, they had a (pointless) rule against wireless devices which took my Kindle and iPhone out of the picture. Out came the Emergency Book. And I’m so glad it did.
I burned through the book before the end of the day. It was absolutely delightful.
Not to mention that there are tons of incredibly revealing and interesting details about the rise of the Dynasty. And it’s also really refreshing to see an earnest success story, that proactively credits those who provided shoulders to stand on and helping hands along the way.
[>] Nudge: A book that was out quite a bit before than Thinking, Fast and Slow and that I didn’t bother with for the same reasons. Consequently, I regret ignoring it for the same reasons.
I don’t have much to say about Nudge, or at least not in this post. I loved the book, but most of what I walked away from it with is more appropriate in my notebook than in this context.
What I will say is this book is a great asset for anyone that’s even a little curios about Libertarian Paternalism. It’s easy to understand, lays out a petty expansive case for its thesis, and the authors demonstrate their expertise with the science behind their arguments.
In The Works
Another section I want to try out a bit, a quick look at the “Currently Reading” books.
I ordered and shelved it earlier this week. It was going to follow The Chronicles of Amber, which I was already a few pages into. An interesting series of events later, however, and Chronicles got Shelved and I ended starting this last night.
I’m nowhere near far enough in to form any kind of substantial opinion, but I love what I’ve seen, so far.
[>] The Shining Girls: I enjoy what I’ve read of this book so, so much, that I really regret picking it up as an e-book.
I’ve got this weird thing about e-books, I won’t go into it here. The short version is that I just can’t seem to read them at even a quarter the pace I read dead-tree books at.
Anyway, this is a brilliant book and Beukes’ talent as a writer is beyond impressive.
[>] Reality is Broken: I’m hesitant to put this one here. It’s been more than two weeks since I’ve looked at it. It was something I thought I might re-read, but now I’m almost certain it’ll find its way off the currently reading list by the end of the week.
Assuming, perhaps foolishly, I can get my pace back above 2 books a month and that I can remember to update in a timely fashion (ha), then the next update should have a lot less ground to cover and be a little shorter.
Exposure to Kahneman’s work in decision making has played a pretty huge role in my life. I owe him, and others like Thaler and Ariely, a great debt of gratitude for shaping my fascination behavioral economics and decision making. And now, as it turns out, I owe him for showing me how silly I’ve been in dismissing certain books.
Thinking Fast and Slow came out a few years ago, but it never crossed my mind to bother reading it. I’d already read many of Kahneman and Tversky’s academic publications (including those in the book’s apendix), as well as a number of other articles/summaries discussing their work (or anything regarding prospect theory for that matter). So why bother, I thought, in wasting time on 400 some pages that should be redundant.
This was, profoundly, stupid of me. By neglecting this book for so long, I’ve deprived myself of an amazing lesson about the material.
In all honesty, I kind of went into this expecting it to be something along the lines of a Gladwell book: Khaneman would give an anecdote and then point to his work and go “See there.” Instead it was a wonderful series of “Here is what inspired this research, this is how we conducted it, here were the results, and now here are some applications/observations.” Complete with instances of contradictory results, admissions of limitations, &c.
In other words: this book was something I didn’t think could exist, an academic text written in an easily accesible manner. And it wasn’t ridiculously dense or boring, something that tends to be an issue with any writing that depends more on the science and less on the author’s charisma and ability to craft a just-so narrative.
Now I regret not having gotten around to reading it sooner, and even more so, I regret all the other books I’ve put off because of that same fear of the information being redundant (Ariely’s stuff specifically, but also Nudge which is next on the reading list).
Anyway, the book is definitely a great read and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Especially to those who come from a more economics related background (undergrad background in political science and economics was the entire reason I found my way into Khaneman’s works in the first place), this book is a great introduction to a field that provides a number of pieces to a puzzle that feels very incomplete in that field.
Way back in the first week of January, I was made aware of this whole 52 books in a year thing. The, not uncommon as I have discovered, challenge someone undertakes to try and read one book a week, every week for a year, or essentially 52 books in a year.
My first thought was honestly “wow, a book a week, I wish I had the focus/drive to do that.” It inspired that all too frequent twinge of guilt that usually comes with every book I do read: “Man I love reading, why don’t I do it more often.” A twinge that’s usually brushed away with “Oh, yea. ADHD”.
But this time, things were a little bit different. Like I said, I learned of this challenge during the first week of January, while I was actually in the middle of reading my first book of the year, Future Perfect. It occurred to me that I was already, by chance, on pace with the challenge (even if it was just the first book) and I had been making really awesome progress with Vyvanse. Maybe, I thought, I was actually in a position to do the 52 books thing.
I figured even if I couldn’t exactly nail down one book a week, that between semesters and during summer and winter breaks (when there would be more people around to help with Alex), I could make up slack by maybe knocking out 2 quick reads in a week here and there.
So, I decided to try it out. I finished Future Perfect, and quickly jumped on the next book and while I lost a little steam with the third (really dense, information heavy, slow read), I was able to catch up by burning through the next two.
All in all, things were going really well, I was always either on target, or just 1 book behind at any given time. Until last month. Last month, for whatever reason, I seem to have run out of steam.
Previously, whenever I’ve felt like I’m running low on motivation, I’ve just glanced over at my Goodreads profile, and let it tell me how my pace was (Goodreads has a delightful goal setting feature). Having Goodreads as a source of artificial and semi-public source for accountability had been working pretty well.
However, given the sluggish rate at which I’ve been moving through my latest two reads (both of which are incredibly enjoyable and, at least so far, look to be 5/5 stars), I need some way to kick things up a notch. The way I see it, that means adding another layer of accountability.
While my Goodreads account is more, or less, public, it’s one of those things that someone really needs to be looking for specifically to find; they’re not really likely to just stumble across it. This website, on the other hand, is (as of this writing) the top hit when Googling my name.
Seeing as I’m paying to maintain a domain name, I might as well use it for something other than (really) infrequent and non sequitur blog posts. That’s why I’m now adding the [Reading List] page.
The [Reading List] page will be a, hopefully, frequently updated list of the books I’ve completed, am working on, and have on deck for the year. It will exist as a, very, public record of my progress toward my 52 books goal.
Hopefully, even if (as is most likely) nobody is actually visiting the site or ever looking at that page, knowing that it exists as a constant reminder that’s only a Google away, can help with any future motivation deficits.