2013 reading list, a year end summary

The "to read" pile 5feb13

Here are previous year end lists: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. My always-updated booklist lives at jessamyn.info/booklist and it has its own RSS feed.

Number of books read in 2013: 50
2012: 53
2011: 56
2010: 48
2009: 39
2008: 31
2007: 53
2006: 60
2005: 86
2004: 103
2003: 75
2002: 91
2001: 78

average read per month: 4.17
average read per week: 1.04
number read in worst month: 1 (April)
number read in best month: 7 (Jan/Dec)
percentage by male authors: 76
percentage by female authors: 24
percentage of authors of color: 4?
fiction as percentage of total: 54
non-fiction as percentage of total: 46
percentage of total liked: 90
percentage of total ambivalent: 8
percentage of total disliked: 2

Some of the same patterns as last year. I didn’t travel as much and I think this means I read a bit less. I binge-read the His Dark Materials books and read every book by Brad Meltzer. The Kindle lets me plow through sort of simple fiction and humor stuff, but I’m still not really using it for non-fiction or tougher books. In looking at my to-read pile from February (above), I’m realizing I have a pile of books someplace in my house that has some of these books on it (the Miss Manners book and the RV book in particular) that I must have moved when I spruced up my bedroom. Graphic novels continue to entertain me but it’s getting harder and harder to find new long ones that I like. I still use paperbackswap.com for random serendipity–things come in from my wish list occasionally and I’m never expecting them–and to get rid of older books I just don’t need to have around.

This year I’m going to try to actively read more books by women, more books by authors of color, more non-European authors and more books that fall under the general GLBTQ umbrella. It’s too easy to fall into grabbing the most available titles and these have a tendency to reflect the mainstream. No big deal, and I read some good books, but I’d like to expand my range. It’s good to have goals.

I got a Kindle

kindle with custom screensaver on

I am aware that I am dreadfully behind the times, but the Kindle I wanted finally hit a price point that I felt was worth it and I got one: a Kindle Keyboard 3G/Wifi model. It’s nice. I’ve been tinkering with it. Here are some initial impressions.

1. Now that the Kindle Fire and other fancier ebook readers are out, the older ones are relatively inexpensive. While you can still buy this model new for low three figures, I got it refurbished from ebay for $50 delivered and was happy about it. Didn’t come in an Amazon box. Just showed up in some bubble wrap with a cable. Fine by me and super cheap for worldwide low-end 3G and an “experimental” browser.

2. I am mostly interested in using this when I travel for the free worldwide-ish internet access as well as being able to carry a lot of books with me on a long trip. I still prefer paper books but am at the point where I need to have more working knowledge of ebook readers than I have. We lend them out at the library that I occasionally work at, but that isn’t enough. I am not interested in buying a lot of new books. I am not interested in creating any more of a relationship with Amazon than I already have. I have a loose relationship with copyright laws but that doesn’t mean that you should, necessarily.

3. First step: hacking it so I can do what I want with it. I do not want their default screen savers. I do not want to pay them to convert things to PDF for me. I do not want to only buy things from the store, I don’t really care about the store. I don’t like the blinky page turning effect. A quick google brings me to this page. I follow a few instructions and I have my own screensavers and a jailbroken Kindle. I also read more about the blinky page flashing effect and why it exists (and that the alternative is often ghosting which would drive me crazy) and I’ve decided to stick with the blinky and learn to live with it, even though it’s nice to have options. I am not messing with the default fonts, for now. I am not installing KIF the Kindle interactive fiction interpreter, for now. I am okay that I will miss out on Amazon-only releases, for now.

4. Second step: get some books. As I said, I wanted to see how much I could do with this without involving Amazon. I’m not anti-Amazon so much as I’m just Amazon-agnostic and don’t want to have my device talking to them about me. There are basically three main ways to get books on to the thing: buy them, steal/borrow them, create them.

As much as I love the DIY Scanner idea, it’s a ways off for me. So I’m going to focus on the middle option.

First option: I went to Listen Up Vermont and gritted my teeth through the terrible interface (which I hear is changing), found a book I wanted to read, went to check it out, tried three different library cards until I got one that worked. Then got to the Amazon page and had to log in there as well. Did not want to register my Kindle. My only option at that point was to read the book in the “cloud reader” [i.e. on their website]. Okay. No way to download a book without becoming an Amazon customer. I’m sure this is not news to anyone who has a Kindle, but I hadn’t really tried this all out yet. This whole process took far too long.

Second option: Open Library. Found a book I wanted to read. “Checked it out” via Open Library’s nifty checkout options. Not even sure which library card I used, maybe it was just me being in the state of Vermont. Checked out the PDF of the book. Downloaded it to my desktop via Adobe Digital Editions which did not require me to register for an account but did have less functionality if I didn’t register which seemed okay to me. Could read it on my desktop. Was prohibited because of DRM from reading it on my Kindle. In the interests of science I tried to figure out how to get this to work anyhow. Spent a lot of time on this website reading about Calibre and the DRM and ebooks generally. Don’t let the post dates fool you, this is a fairly up to date blog. Calibre is a great ebook management tool that follows in the steps of some other open source tools in that it doesn’t break DRM itself, but you can obtain plug-ins that will do the DRM-breaking if you want. It also does a lot of other great things like allowing you to edit ebook metadata and group and organize your ebook collection. You can also use Calibre to format-shift your ebooks to and from various formats. I took the DRM off this ebook and then moved it to my Kindle. It’s not so great to read there because it’s in PDF format but it was good for proof of concept. 500 page PDFs are just not awesome for reading.

Third option: piracy. Most of the time if you search for a reasonably popular book using the title and other words like “mobi” or “epub” you can find forums where people upload pirated copies of these books to filesharing sites like divshare or mediafire. It’s worth noting that the Apprentice Alf website that helps you break DRM explicitly says that breaking DRM to upload books to piracy sites is an explicitly uncool use of DRM end-running which is the position I agree with for the most part. I tried the pirate download options with a book I already had in hard copy and found not just that book but a bundle of five other books by the same author. Downloaded, unrar-ed drag-and-dropped to my Kindle. Started reading. No passwords. No failures.

And as far as the reading experience, I’ve taken to it much more quickly than I thought I would. This is, of course, what everyone but me thought would happen. The Kindle is light, the back-forth buttons are simple and not accidentally clicked. I like being able to look up words in a dictionary without moving more than a few fingers. I like that it knows where I left off. I like getting to toss a book out when I am done with it. All in all my conclusions are much like the ones I was nodding my head with at the In Re: Books conference. Ebooks readers are great and improving all the time. It’s the ebooks themselves–the DRM, the bad user experience, the complicated and wonky checkout procedures, the lack of privacy, the changing restrictions we deal with as libraries, the terrible websites our vendors create–that are not just suboptimal but at the center of a bad user experience that we’re in the awkward position of promoting as if it were our own.

So, mixed feelings of course. I’ve gone to bed and read my Kindle most nights this week and enjoy it. I still can’t look a patron in the eye and explain that they need to go through a bunch of bad websites, log in at least twice and create relationships with multiple vendors who are not the library in order to check out a book from us. Here’s hoping the landscape will change for the better. Here’s suggesting we do what we can to help that happen.

2012 reading list, a year end summary

I’ve waited til the new year to write this list up. I’ve spent the first few days of the new year finishing up a few books that were lingering on the nightstand. Here’s the complete list, you’ll notice that I only finished some of the books in this photo which was my “to read” pile on 1/1/12.

Here are previous year end lists: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. My booklist lives over on jessamyn.info/booklist and it has its own RSS feed.

number of books read in 2012: 53
2011: 56
2010: 48
2009: 39
2008: 31
2007: 53
2006: 60
2005: 86
2004: 103
2003: 75
2002: 91
2001: 78

average read per month: 4.42
average read per week: 1.02
number read in worst month: 1 (Feb/Dec)
number read in best month: 11 (July)
percentage by male authors: 75
percentage by female authors: 19
fiction as percentage of total: 51
non-fiction as percentage of total: 49
percentage of total liked: 94
percentage of total ambivalent: 4
percentage of total disliked: 2

My reading is really getting to be consistent. I read about a book a week, split between fiction and non-fiction. I like most of the books that I read. I read a lot in July and not so much in December or February. Still no ebook reader, though I’ve been using my iPad more to watch Downton Abbey while I am on the treadmill. One book took me the better part of a month to get through (Quammen’s book about the Dodo and other extinctions) but it was well worth it. I read all the Hunger Games books in a little over a week and while I think that having read them is good for me as a librarian, I felt pretty “meh” about all but the first one, which surprised me.

2011 reading list, a year end summary

Books
Image is by shutterhacks

I did a lot of reading-while-traveling this year. I got a lot of travel books from random library booksales. I’ve still been reading in paper-book form, as much as I see the compelling argument for ebook readers, I haven’t made the switch. Here are previous year end lists: 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. My booklist lives over on jessamyn.info/booklist and it has its own RSS feed. Here’s the wrap-up of what I read in 2011.

number of books read in 2011: 56
number of books read in 2010: 48
number of books read in 2009: 39
number of books read in 2008: 31
number of books read in 2007: 53
number of books read in 2006: 60
number of books read in 2005: 86
number of books read in 2004: 103
number of books read in 2003: 75
number of books read in 2002: 91
number of books read in 2001: 78

average read per month: 4.67
average read per week: 1.01
number read in worst month: 2 (Feb/April/Dec)
number read in best month: 10 (July)
percentage by male authors: 72
percentage by female authors: 28
fiction as percentage of total: 54
non-fiction as percentage of total: 46
percentage of total liked: 92
percentage of total ambivalent: 5
percentage of total disliked: 2

I read a lot of books by a few authors that I found and liked the year including Tana French, Geraldine Brooks and Connie Willis. Still not really on the ebook bandwagon. Still enjoying reading paper books in bed. Still finishing a few books I started in 2011, I expect this trend to continue. Wish me luck, and happy reading in 2011! Feel free to link to your own reading lists in the comments.

telling it like it is a reading list from 1970

“The Mod-Mod Read-In Paperback Book List was produced in 1970, under the auspices of the Young Adult Services Division, the precursor of the Young Adult Library Services Association. From the titles, it seems to be an ancestor of both Popular Paperbacks and Quick Picks. It was part of a project called “Operation Opportunity;” apparently the Jaycees’ response to the Great Society.”

Read the whole post over at Sara Ryan’s terrific blog.

2010 reading list, a year end summary

I made an effort to make time for reading this year. The combination of this and a lot of airplane time meant more good books read. Here are previous year end lists: 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. My booklist lives in a separate blog and it has its own RSS feed.Here’s the wrap-up of what I read in 2010.

number of books read in 2010: 48
number of books read in 2009: 39
number of books read in 2008: 31
number of books read in 2007: 53
number of books read in 2005: 86
number of books read in 2004: 103
number of books read in 2003: 75
number of books read in 2002: 91
number of books read in 2001: 78

average read per month: 4

average read per week: .92
number read in worst month: 2 (Jan/June)
number read in best month: 7 (July)
percentage by male authors: 73
percentage by female authors: 27
fiction as percentage of total: 60
non-fiction as percentage of total: 40
percentage of total liked: 90
percentage of total ambivalent: 9
percentage of total disliked: 1

I read a lot of books on a few topics this year: art history/theft/discovery, cybercrime novels and a few victorian mysteries and some graphic novels. Still not really on the ebook bandwagon. Still enjoying reading paper books in bed. Still finishing a few books I started in 2010, I expect this trend to continue. Wish me luck, and happy reading in 2011!

summer reading lists collected

Rebecca’s Pocket always collects summer reading lists from various sources and puts them all together in one place. Here is a link to her ever-expanding Summer Reading List 2010. I’m intrigued by the first link: Good Books That Almost Nobody Has Read from 1934. I believe I have read one of them. If you like that sort of thing you may also enjoy the entire Neglected Books Page.

One School, One Library, One Librarian

Why South Africa is failing its children and what people are doing to try to solve the problem.

[F]ewer than 7% of schools in South Africa have a functioning library. Perhaps 21% have some kind of structure called a reading room, but these are usually used for classrooms, are seldom stocked properly and do not have a library professional in charge to ensure that the right books are there and that they are used properly. The lack of libraries compounds the many problems, such as teachers’ poor subject knowledge and poor access to textbooks, that plague our schooling system. These factors combine to make our reading outcomes, at all grade levels, among the worst in Africa.

2009 reading list, a year end summary

I skipped doing this last year because I was sort of embarrassed at the shortness of my list. I vowed to read more this year and I guess I did. Here are previous year end lists: 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. As you probably know, my booklist lives in a separate blog and it has its own RSS feed. I’m not a voracious reader and I’ve been heavy into genre fiction this year, but here’s the wrap-up of what I read in 2009.

number of books read in 2009: 39
number of books read in 2008: 31
number of books read in 2007: 53
number of books read in 2005: 86
number of books read in 2004: 103
number of books read in 2003: 75
number of books read in 2002: 91
number of books read in 2001: 78

average read per month: 3.25
average read per week: .75
number read in worst month: 0 (November)
number read in best month: 7 (February)
percentage by male authors: 82
percentage by female authors: 18
fiction as percentage of total: 51
non-fiction as percentage of total: 49
percentage of total liked: 81
percentage of total ambivalent: 6
percentage of total disliked: 3

So… I’m still doing pretty poorly reading books by female authors though I’ve been balancing fiction and non-fiction pretty well. I loved a few books I read this year, specifically the book about the WPA writer’s project by Kurlansky and the fiction book by Howard Frank Mosher that was set in Vermont. Now that the bus to MA has wifi and I have an EVDO card for my laptop, I read less when I’m in transit. Now that I play scrabble most evenings with my boyfriend 9and also, that I have a boyfriend at all) I red less at night. I haven’t gone over to ebooks in any way though I bet I’m reading the same amount of words, but less of them are in book format.

I have a few books that I got mostly through in 2009 that I’m sure I’ll finish off in 2010. I also have a bedside table for books now that I didn’t have before. Wish me luck, and happy reading in 2010!

how to destroy the book

I’m still sort of annoyed at Amazon’s self-serving press release about more ebooks being sold for the Kindle on Christmas Day than “real” books. I feel a few things

1. they’re creating a distinction that isn’t necessary, between ebooks and paper books
2. at the same time they’re obscuring the very very real distinction that exists and is terribly important: you do not own an ebook, you license or lease it

Plus I just plain old don’t believe it. I mean maybe it’s true for the narrowly sliced timeframe they’ve outlined but really? This isn’t a trend, it’s a blip. Want me to think otherwise? Release some actual numbers. Amazon makes more money off of ebooks than paper books. They’d like to keep doing that. So.

I’ve been meaning to link to this talk for a while, a transcribed talk that Cory Doctorow gave at the National Reading Summit in November. The title of his talk was How to Destroy the Book. I think you’ll enjoy it.

[T]he most important part of the experience of a book is knowing that it can be owned. That it can be inherited by your children, that it can come from your parents. That libraries can archive it, they can lend it, that patrons can borrow it. That the magazines that you subscribe to can remain in a mouldering pile of National Geographics in someone’s attic so you can discover it on a rainy day—and that they don’t disappear the minute you stop subscribing to it. It’s a very odd kind of subscription that takes your magazines away when you’re done [as is the case with most institutional subscriptions with Elsevier, the world’s largest publisher of medical and scientific journals].

Having your books there like an old friend, following you from house to house for all the days and long nights of your life: this is the invaluable asset that is in publishing’s hands today. But for some reason publishing has set out to convince readers that they have no business reading their books as property—that they shouldn’t get attached to them. The worst part of this is that they may in fact succeed.