Tag: Reading

2017 Reading Summary

2017 Reading Summary

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But if 2017 was a weak writing year, it was a strong one for reading. Paper, electronic, audio, I consumed a lot of written words this year.

Without going into a lot of detail, because there will be plenty when the 2017 Reading Journey file is done, my category break outs are mostly pretty favourable.

Historical Award Winners: 17, and 4 DNFs

Last Year’s Award Winners: 6, and 1 DNF

Spec Fic Breadth: 7

Other Fiction: 40, and 2 DNFs

Martial Arts: 4

Non Fiction: 16

Which I make a total of 90 books. Add to that several hundred pieces of short fiction (including almost a million words of slush pile reading as a Publishing Assistant for Bards and Sages), and hundreds of comic books, and I read a lot this year.

I hope to match or beat it in 2018.

As far as things go, I gave exactly three 5-star ratings to book-length works this year, to:

The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett – the last Discworld book, and it’s entirely possible that the fifth star was due to my sadness in never getting another new story in this world again.

Abaddon’s Gate (Expanse #3) by James S. A. Corey – loving this series. Of all the works in this universe so far, only a couple of the novellas have gone below four stars. But now I’m almost caught up. One novella and one novel, and I’ll have to wait on new work with everyone else.

So, Anyway by John Cleese – I very much enjoyed Mr. Cleese’s biography, only disappointed by the fact that it left off just as Monty Python began. Hoping for a sequel.

Be well, everyone.

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Where Did All My Reading Time Go?

Where Did All My Reading Time Go?

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royalty-free-photo-antique-book-pileOne of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to become more well-read. I don’t just mean in a specific field, although I have a couple of those in mind. I mean more well-read in general. That resolution breaks down into goals that span several areas.

Unlike a lot of the other goals I’ve set for my life as part of this year’s plan, or the current five-year plan, my reading goals for this year are something I feel like I’d like to talk about. Something that might actually be interesting to other people. Maybe.

Genre Fiction

Once upon a time, I thought I was well-read in Science Fiction and Fantasy. I devoured every book in both genres in every library I could reach, and most of my allowance money went towards books. After I finished with University, and started working in the book retail world, a good chunk of my disposable income, at least the entertainment portion of it, continued to feed the reading habit. Before I had kids, I probably averaged somewhere between 150 and 200 books year as an adult. I’d be reading three or four books at once, and finishing one of them every second day. I read over breakfast, on lunch at work, on breaks, when my wife was out, in the bathroom, and before bed. Rarely was I farther than arm’s length from a book.

I’m not going to read 150 books this year. I have three kids, two of whom are teenagers, all of whom have stuff to do that I want to be involved in: homework, driving lessons, school activities, hobbies, gaming, volunteer work, and so on. My wife certainly deserves some of my time. I have a career, my own writing, my martial arts journey, and several things I’m trying to learn or teach.

But, I’m going to commit to 15 specific genre fiction books this year. In the interest of adding a little historical depth to my reading, I set myself a particular challenge. There is a lot of history in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, and I may have missed a big chunk of it. Well, not “may”. I’ll never catch it all, but the following list, complete with publication years, will help me catch an eye blink, or 15 of them, in time.

  1. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu (2010)
  2. Spin by Robert Charles Wilson (2005)
  3. Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson (1992)
  4. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (1986)
  5. Dhalgreen by Samuel R. Delany (1976)
  6. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin (1969)
  7. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (1954)
  8. Titus Groan (Gormenghast 1) by Mervyn Peake (1946)
  9. Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon (1930)
  10. A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay (1920)
  11. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1910)
  12. In the Days of the Comet by H.G. Wells (1905)
  13. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (1864)
  14. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)
  15. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726)

This list is the product of considerable research and reading on its own. Beginning with 2010s and working backwards, there is a book that I hope in some fashion can be considered representative for each decade. While it certainly won’t represent everything about that decade, I do think they were each significant books in their own way.

Prior to the 20th century, the list gets a little sparses, adding only three more titles: one from the second half the 19th, and one from the first, and one pre-1800.

Added to this, I have a couple of friends with new books coming out this year. I will read those as well, and will attempt to read every anthology coming out this year I have a story in. That’s three so far (I hope there will be more), along with two from last year I haven’t finished yet.

Martial Arts

Shodan, the black belt, is really just the beginning of the martial arts journey. And for myself, I’m at a point in my life where any journey needs to be far more than merely physical. In this case, it’s mental and spiritual as well. To paraphrase Gichin Funakoshi, martial arts isn’t about learning being how to beat people up; it’s about building yourself into the best person you can be. My best person needs to continually study and learn new things, so there will be six martial arts books this year, possibly more, but I’m committing to these six, in no particular order.

  1. Complete Kicking by Sang H. Kim
  2. Art of War by Sun Tzu
  3. The Way of Sanchin Kata by Kris Wilder
  4. Sword and Brush by Dave Lowry
  5. Living the Martial Way by Forrest Morgan
  6. Kata and the Transmission of Knowledge In Traditional Martial Arts by Michael Rosenbaum

Comic Books

My long-term X-Men read continues, and I’m already far outside the re-read zone. At the moment, I have just broken into the year 2004. I’d like to manage five years’ worth of mutant comics this year, so to the end of 2008. That’s something over a thousand comics.

Breadth Requirement

And because well-read should, by definition, also mean well-rounded, and because I’m curious about a lot of different things, there will be a minimum of one nonfiction book in each of the following non-fiction fields:

  1. Ancient History
  2. Philosophy
  3. Mathematics
  4. Paleontology
  5. Astronomy
  6. Physics

You might note that this small list is a bit science heavy. That’s okay, because I kind of think of myself that way, too. I’m just too much of a generalist to ever settle down into one field in depth.

Anyone want to share their reading goals for this year?

Be well, everyone

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What I’m Reading: Martial Arts After 40

What I’m Reading: Martial Arts After 40

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I don’t really talk about it a lot on here, but it’s no secret I train in karate, and have been for about four and a half years now.

It’s also not a secret that I’m in my forties, and while I trained for six months or so just before my son was born, I didn’t take up karate seriously until a little while after my 39th birthday. Four and a half years on, I’ve learned a lot and definitely ramped up my fitness level, but I’m not ready to start feeling my age yet, so I’ve been trying to expand my personal definitions of what I need to do in order to keep pushing my limits without injuring myself.

Hence, Martial Arts After 40 by Sang H. Kim.

The book is broken into four parts, of which I’m just starting the third

  1. Beginning Your Journey 1-4
  2. Getting Fighting Fit and Staying that Way 5-15
  3. Your Martial Arts Journey 16-25
  4. Mastery Points

The first section breaks out things like fitness basics, nutrition, and a little bit of motivation. This is the first four chapters. And is light reading, a preaching to the choir section that doesn’t hurt to get you into the right frame of mind.

The second focuses on specific attributes like Agility, Flexibility, Power, and so on, providing important points in each and ten or so exercises targeting each attribute with a slant towards developing for martial arts. Eleven Chapters.

The third looks at fitness in martial arts in detail. This, for me, is the meat of the book. Upcoming chapters target skill development, forms, sparring, and a lot of martial arts specific skills and fitness. This is where I start taking notes, I think.

51e5yJoFdMLThe fourth section is the shortest, and titled “Mastery Points”. I’m refusing to read ahead, at least at the moment, but I’m anticipating the wisdom of the ages here. Or at least some solid advice and ways to think about things to continue to grow in your chosen art as your number of birthdays continues to grow.

Available on Amazon and probably wherever else fine books are sold.

Be well, everyone.

Amazon.ca, Amazon.com

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What I’m Reading

What I’m Reading

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So I signed myself up for the Goodreads reading challenge again this year, and increased my target to 50 books, theoretically almost one per week. I’ve finished nine books so far this year, and I’m nearly done a tenth. That makes me 5 books behind schedule at the moment, but it’s not because I’m not reading, it’s because of what I’m reading.

You see, a while back (last year), I started doing an X-Men re-read.

X-Men, as in the comic book.

I used to collect comic books, and I was a huge X-men fan, accumulating most issues of all of the regular series of titles (although not all of them new off the shelf, from issue 100-ish of the original series through to around 330. This is the series that most readers will know as The Uncanny X-Men.

But I also did all of the primary spin off series in the same time frame: New Mutants, X-Men, X-Force, Excalibur, Alpha Flight, and some of the mini-series too, but my budget was limited most of the time when I was younger. There were a couple of other series I read consistently, too, but not always related: New Warriors, Darkhawk, and so on.

Actually, I started the re-reads last year with Elfquest, The Tick, and Alien Legion, before moving into other things and winding up with the X-Men again.

On the re-read cycle, I’ve expanded my X-Men to include more of the mini-series, and a couple of spin offs that I hadn’t gotten into at the time. And, using some online resources in addition to my many boxes of comics, I went right back to the beginning with issue #1. In the primary series, Uncanny, I just read issue #310. There have been a lot of story arcs, more than I remembered, and it’s been pretty neat to watch the development and redevelopment of the characters.

Over the course of a little over a year, I’ve worked my way from the early 1960s origin of the team up to the mid 1990s. Forward momentum has slowed significantly as the storylines have gotten more intricate and span more titles. In the 90s, a lot more titles came out per month. And I’m getting close to the end of my own personal collection, so I’ll need to figure things out soon. I stopped collecting in mid 1996, though I went back for a scattering here and there over the next few years.

Why 1996?

We bought a house.

And in 1998, we had our first child.

Things kept building up from there.

But I’ve been devouring them lately, to the point where they make up most of my reading. Really. I’ve read more than 500 comic books this year, and pretty much all of them are X-titles. And, like I said, I’m going to run out of hard copies very soon. However, at this point, the vast majority of everything I don’t have is available online. The Marvel digital subscription price is looking pretty good at $69 for a year with unlimited access. Of course, at my current rate of consumption, it will take me three more years to get close to the present. Which means that there’s a lot of story still to come.

And that’s the way I like it.

Be well, everyone.

And don’t be afraid to read a comic book or two. If superheroes aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other genres out there. I promise, you can find something for any taste.

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The Reading Backlog

The Reading Backlog

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So one of our family goals this year was to de-clutter and clean up the house. All I can say there is that the year’s not over yet and we’ve made some progress.

But, in the process of things, I’ve been able to get a clear idea of how many books I have in the house. More importantly, how many books I have in the house that I haven’t read yet.

It’s a scary number.

You see, I used to work for a large book retailer. The last several years of that particular career were in a couple of different incarnations of an office environment, so there were a few freebies here and there, but mostly in the non-fiction vein. However, whether I worked in the office or the stores, I enjoyed a nice discount on books purchased new, and I took advantage of that.

I’ve also, at various points in my life, been a frequenter of used book stores, accumulating out of print genre books by favourite authors, discovering dozens of new authors, and picking up the occasional edition of one or more of the Lord of the Rings books (I have eight complete, plus one of the unauthorized Ace printings of Fellowship).

Since moving to this house in late 2002, I’ve done several book purges, sending some books to the local library, some to my children’s school library, and more than I like to think about to a used bookstore that didn’t deserve them (I’ve learned better since). It’s made a significant impact on the size of my personal library in my mind, if not my wife’s.

This is all background to lead up to the note that, if I count correctly, I have 317 books classifiable as Fantasy or Science Fiction that I have yet to read. Yes, really. They span decades, from the late 1960s to about 2010.

Knowing I have a lot of books I haven’t read never seems to stop me from picking up just one more when I see something I really like. I think it has slowed me down, but never stopped me.

When I left the retail book industry eleven years ago, I calculated that I had between five and six years of reading material available. Based on my reading speed in 2013, that number is closer to ten at the moment.

Yikes.

But brings up the problem of other changes in my reading habits. I have a hard time finding time to read paper anymore, having almost all at once switched to e-books. Electronic text is portable and convenient and I can read on my phone while waiting to pick up a child from school, standing in a particularly long line at the grocery store, or wherever I feel like it. Paper gets read in that last little bit of time before I turn out the light.

Consequently, paper books have become books to savour while e-books are to consume. Which is not to say I don’t enjoy reading both, but these days new physical books only come into the house if they fall into the first category.

Which makes me wonder how long it’s really going to take me to read those 317 books.

Or if I should even try.

I mostly read on a screen these days, and I don’t think I see that changing. I think that 317 number isn’t likely to shrink in my lifetime. Maybe electronic versions are in order for most of them.

Be well, everyone.

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Reading Goals for 2013

Reading Goals for 2013

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And, to round things out, reading. I haven’t been reading enough for pleasure in the last few years. There was a time, long ago before I became a parent or a serious writer, or a fully functioning adult, when I read a lot more. Through most of my 20s, I read 150-200 novels per year, haunting bookstores new and used alike (and not just because I tended to work in them). Those days are gone. Most of my short fiction consumption (and there’s still a fair bit of that) is online these days, but I read thirteen novels last year.

When I closed out my career with Chapters, I had about five years worth of projected reading material, some of it fiction and some not. There are quite a few of those books I never opened and may never. I’ve picked up plenty of other stuff in the years since, but my life has also had a lot of changes in the same time.

But this year I want to do more reading than I’ve made time for in the recent past. For the number-obsessed geek in me, that means setting some goals. So…

Fiction: I’m after 26 novels this year. Yup, doubling last year. A novel every two weeks doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. I brought quite a few home from World Fantasy, have lots more lying around, and have put about twenty electronic editions on my phone. No excuses. And audio counts.

Martial Arts: karate has grown to be a very important part of my life and activity over the last couple of years. It is my intention to read at least six martial arts related books this year. I’ve picked them out already and have five of them in my possession.

Comic Books: a couple of years back, I started doing some comic book rereads, finding old friends and catching up. I used to collect comics when I was younger and had disposable income (i.e. no responsibilities). I’ve spent most of that time with the X-men, working my way from the beginning up to the late 1980s. I hope to hit 1995 by the end of the year. Not too lofty a goal, hmm? If I make it, that’s going to carry me pretty close to the end of my collection and I’ll have to make a decision or two at that point.

Other reading: I do a lot of non-fiction reading, mostly on the internet, either news or for research. I’m not going to set a goal here as it’s something I do almost every day, but it’s worth noting. While we’re at it, there are a dozen or so web comics I read regularly, checking in a couple of times each month to read every page published since the last time I was there. I am still reading, it just mostly hasn’t been the same stuff I used to read. But I’d like to fix that a bit.

That rounds out my primary writing related goals for the year (and if you don’t think reading relates, we should talk about feeding the creativity beast within). As per usual, I’m crazy. But that’s okay. The attempt is more important than the success, although success on all fronts would be pretty cool. I’ll post monthly status updates and you can check my progress on the reading goal on Good Reads any time. Please go ahead and friend me while you’re there.

Be well, everyone.

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