Category Archives: books

Everything I Read in 2015

Here is everything I read in 2015. At least, it is all of the books I read. It is excerpted from my reading list on GitHub.

  1. Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman (2/10/2015)
  2. Carrie by Stephen King (2/22/2015)
  3. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King (3/1/2015)
  4. The Shining by Stephen King (3/4/2015)
  5. Rage by Stephen King (3/5/2015)
  6. Night Shift by Stephen King (3/7/2015)
  7. The Longest Road by Philip Caputo (3/12/2015)
  8. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (3/14/2015)
  9. Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball by John Feinstein (3/19/2015)
  10. The Stand: 1978 edition by Stephen King (3/22/2015)
  11. Coming Home by Jack McDevitt (4/17/2015)
  12. 11/22/63 by Stephen King (5/20/2015)
  13. The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons (6/1/2015)
  14. Finders Keepers by Stephen King (6/6/2015)
  15. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris (6/14/2015)
  16. Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris (6/25/2015)
  17. Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris (7/10/2015)
  18. Common Sense by Thomas Paine (7/10/2015)
  19. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume (7/30/2015)
  20. The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin (8/3/2015)
  21. Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Question for Transcendent Software by Scott Rosenberg (8/27/2015)
  22. Superfudge by Judy Blume (9/9/2015)
  23. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (9/10/2015)
  24. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (9/20/2015)
  25. Killing Floor by Lee Child (9/22/2015)
  26. The World Is My Home by James A. Michener (9/26/2015)
  27. David and the Phoenix by Edward Ormondroyd (10/19/2015)
  28. A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin (10/28/2015)
  29. On Writing by Stephen King (11/5/2015)
  30. The Dark Tower, Book 1: The Gunslinger by Stephen King (11/8/2015)
  31. The Dark Tower, Book 2: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King (11/13/2015)
  32. Danse Macabre by Stephen King (11/23/2015)
  33. This Old Man by Roger Angell (11/25/2015)
  34. The Dark Tower, Book 3: The Waste Lands by Stephen King (11/29/2015)
  35. Sweet and Sour by Andy Rooney (12/11/2015)
  36. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling (12/24/2015)
  37. My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke (12/28/2015)
  38. Keep Moving, and Other Tips and Truths About Aging by Dick Van Dyke (12/31/2015)

I’ve already listed my favorite reads of 2015, as well as my favorite online read of 2015. I’m happy with the list, and already gearing up for 2016.

My Secret Holiday Project — Revealed

I recently had the opportunity to re-read all of my previously published fiction. It was not a fun experience. I don’t particularly enjoy reading the stories I have written once they are finished. To anyone but another writer that probably sounds strange. There are two reasons I don’t enjoy reading my old stories:

1. In the older stories there is a temptation to want to revise what no longer feels right. I read a line of dialog I wrote 8 or 9 years ago and cringe a little bit. It is not a line that I would write today. One of the most difficult things I have ever done as a writer is resist the temptation to change those lines.

2. I’ve already read the story a lot. I read the story after completing each draft. I read the story out loud before submitting it to make sure it reads smoothly. I read the story again when I receive the pre-publication galleys. And I usually read it a final time when it appears for publication. By that time, I’ve moved onto other stories and I’m sick of it.

The reason I recently re-read all of my stories was because I put together a privately published collection of all of my published fiction, and one unpublished story as holiday gift for friends and family. I used as the publisher, and following their template for a bookstore quality trade paperback, I set about gathering the published text of 11 of my stories, proofreading them again, and putting them into the template. I wanted to give my family a true record of my publications, so I resisted the temptation to change even a single word. The only changes were a few rare instances where a typo had made through editor and copyeditor.

I called the collection Twelve Fossils1, and after hesitating over whether or not I had correctly followed Lulu’s instruction, I submitted the manuscript for an on-demand print run of 15 copies.

12 Fossils Cover

I was eager to see how the books turned out. Much to my surprise, they came out really good. They look professional. There were no formatting problems that I could identify. All the pieces were in the right place. Now that the hard part of re-reading the stories was done, I was delighted with the finished product.

The twelve stories in the book amounted to about 64,000 words, and comes to 191 pages. I’d written a lengthy introduction, and then an introduction and afterword to each story. But I decided I wasn’t interested in analyzing my work, even for friends and family. The stories, I decided, should be whatever anything thinks of them. So I cut my introduction down to 2/3rds of a page, and cut all of the individual story intros and afterwords.

12 Fossils TOC

I intended this as a holiday gift, and purposely printed only 15 copies. I mention this to head-off anyone who might be interested in a copy. There are no more, and I don’t plan to have any more made. I wanted the book to be something special. Except for the last story in the volume, all of the stories have been previously published and are all available through their original outlets.

Lulu did a great job with the book, and at an affordable price. If I was ever crazy enough to do a project like this again, I would not hesitate to use them for it.

The problem is, I don’t think I’ll ever do a project like this again, at least not with my fiction. I already knew that I didn’t enjoy re-reading my old stories. What I learned from this experience is that I dislike the process of producing a book. I don’t like the formatting, and editing, and specifications, and everything that comes with it. I prefer to write things and have someone else handle all of the boring stuff.

  1. A deliberate reference to how Stephen King refers to stories—as fossils, or found things.

My Best Reads of 2015

I never do as much reading on vacation as I intend. I look forward to vacation as a time when I can squeeze in extra reading, and more often than not, I read less than normal. Sitting by the pool seems like a good time to read—except that I have to keep my eyes on the kids. Relaxing on the lenai after lunch is a perfect time for reading—except that I have to take the kids for a bike ride.

All of this is to say that with just a couple of weeks left in the year, I’m not likely to get much more reading in. That means it is safe to post my best reads of 2015. As I mentioned in last year’s post, these are books that I read in 2015, but they were not necessarily published in 2015. They are all books I have read for the first time.

I have read 35 books so far this year. 14 of 35 were nonfiction. 13 books were re-reads of books I’d read before. Here, then, are my best reads of 2015:

5. This Old Man: All in Pieces by Roger Angell

What a delightful book. I always enjoy Angell’s baseball writing, but I also enjoyed his other writing. This collection was a grab bag of items written for the New Yorker and it was one of those reads that made me wish that I could be this kind of writer.

4. Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball by John Feinstein

Where Nobody Knows Your Name follows several minor league baseball players, a manager or two, and an umpire as they make their way through the minor leagues, in hopes of making it to the Show. I enjoyed the picture of the unglamorous life of the typical minor league player, and the determination of each one of them to continue to try their best, even when the odds are against them.

3. The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin

I read this book on the heels of completing Edmund Morris’s 3-volume biography of Theodore Roosevelt. Those books were a detailed look at Roosevelt’s brief, remarkable life. This book took a somewhat more modest approach, looking at the lives of Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, and their interactions with the “muckraking” journalists of McLure’s magazine, Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stanard Baker, and others.

I found the parts on journalism the most remarkable parts of the book. The rise of McLure’s and the writers who worked for him was, for me, a window into the evolution of journalism in the United States that I’d never before been aware of. I found myself wanting to look for the investigative pieces that Tarbell and Steffens wrote, and read them myself. It seemed to me that this was one instance in which the label “the golden age” was not hyperbole.

Goodwin has a natural flow to her writing, and reading The Bully Pulpit made me want to read more of Goodwin. I think that, as much as anything, is a telling recommendation for any writer.

2. The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean by Philip Caputo

In The Longest Road, Caputo writes of the trip he and his wife (and their dogs) took from the southern tip of Key West, Florida, to the shores of the Arctic Ocean in Alaska. It is a travelogue that rivals Blue Highways and makes me yearn to reproduce such a journey.

The Longest Road

1. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

One of the things I’d always wondered about a character like Gandalf from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is how he became a great wizard/warrior. At some point, Gandalf had to be a child with no notion of magic sorcery. How did he go from that child to the great wizard he became? I always thought this would make for a fascinating story.

That is, perhaps, the best way to describe what The Name of the Wind is all about. Rather than Gandalf, the story is about a boy named Kvothe who, at the outset of the story, we know to be one of the great wizard/warriors of the age, a person of legend. Now, living as a humble innkeeper “Kote”, Kvothe tells his story to a Chronicler, and I finally get to see the evolution of a Gandalf-like wizard from boy to legend.

I managed to devour The Wise Man’s Fear as well, and since then, I have been eagerly awaiting Doors of Stone.

The Lure of Long Books

When I was little and just learning how to read, I recall looking at the 10 page book that I had to tackle with dismay. It would take me forever! to get through that book. It was a slow, painstaking process, and by the time I made it through, I often felt discouraged. I remember my mother encouraging me by telling me that through books, you go could anywhere and do anything. That helped, and eventually with time and practice (lots of practice!) I got better at reading, to the point where I found it to be a delightful activity.

Yesterday, for the first time in a while, I walked to the local Barnes & Noble for the sole purpose of browsing. I didn’t plan to buy any book (nor do I). I just wanted to wander the shelves and peek at things. While browsing, I noticed an interesting phenomenon that I’d never really been aware of before. I paused more in front of long books than short ones. And I realized a truism for me that I’d never thought about before: I am attracted to long books.

What is a long book? It is different for everyone, but for the sake simplicity, for me, let’s call a long book anything longer than 800 pages.

Over and over again, I found myself pausing in places where thick paperbacks sat on the shelf. I’d pick them up and flip through them, wondering, what makes the book so interesting that I’d be willing to spend so much time with it? Or put another way: what story takes 800 pages to tell?

I don’t know why I like long books so much. I suspect it has to do with not wanting a good story to end. When I am reading a particularly good book, I find myself constantly checking to see how much of the book remains, and as the pages dwindle, I grow sad that the book will soon be over. The longer the book, therefore, the longer it lasts.

I suppose I think of books like vacations. Short books are like weekend getaways. Your average 300 or 400 pager might be like heading off for a week’s vacation. But the long books–those are the big vacations: 2 or 3 weeks away, no cares in the world. You never want the vacation to end.

Looking through the list of books I’ve read over the last 20 years, I see plenty of long books. But there are, perhaps, 6 look books that, as I read them, I didn’t want them to end. In the order that I read them they are:

  1. The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes
  2. Shogun by James Clavell
  3. Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 by Edwin G. Burrows
  4. It by Stephen King
  5. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  6. Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Long books have been much on my mind lately because I recently finished reading James A. Michener’s memoir The World Is My Home, and having done so, have been interested in reading some of his novels. He is famous for monstrously long novels, like Hawaii, and Texas. Indeed, in casting my memory back in time, I can recall browsing bookstores, and lingering over his books because they were so big.

I have read other big books. I’ve read all of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones books for instance, and enjoyed them, but not with quite the same passion that I enjoyed the six  books listed above. I can’t say why exactly. I’ve read many of Will Durant’s histories, and enjoyed those as well, but again, not with the same pleasure as the 6 books above. Whether the long book is fiction or nonfiction hardly matters. I think what makes for the right recipe is that the book sweeps me away, totally and completely. The book becomes that vacation from the rest of the world, a vacation that I simply don’t want to end.

Before I start reading a long book, I experience that same sense of anticipation I get before going on vacation. The mountain of pages (whether they are physical or digital) hold all of the hope and excitement of a vacation. It is a form of potential energy, and I often think to myself, “I’ve got this whole book in front of me.”

Perhaps that is why, when I finish a particularly good long book, it is so difficult to figure out what to read next.  I have immersed myself in someone else’s head for so long that I need some time to recover and gain my senses before I can actually settle on another book that I will enjoy.

Whatever the reason, there is a lure to long books. I am drawn to it like a siren’s song, and once I’m in its grasp, I am its prisoner for as long as it will hold me.

Maintaining My Reading List as a GitHub Repo Using Atom 1.0

At the end of this year, my reading list will be twenty-years old. The list has evolved over time from simple, to complex, and back to simple. But over the course of the last two decades, it has always been available online in one form or another. When I started keeping the list, it was a simple HTML page. It evolved into a sophisticated relational database. When social media sprouted, it moved into places like GoodReads and LibraryThing. But eventually, I found that I had the most flexibility, and easiest maintenance, if I just kept the list as a plain text file on Dropbox.

While I was playing around with Atom1.0 , GitHub’s open source text editor, it occurred to me that I might be able to squeeze out even more functionality from my plain-text reading list. So I created a new repository on GitHub, my reading-list repo, and checked in my plain text file. To what end?

Commenting on the books I read

I’ve often wanted to write brief comments on the books that I read, but I’ve never been happy with the interfaces of places like GoodReads or Amazon reviews. I’m not interested so much in writing a review of the book, or giving it starts. I just want to capture some thoughts.

But my list is a plain text file, and capturing thoughts about a book, given the format of the list, would make it awkward at best. It occurred to me, however, that if I had my reading list in a GitHub repository, then each time I added a book to the list, I’d have the ability to add a commit comment when I checked in the list. That commit comment could give me the opportunity to include my thoughts about the book, without messing up the integrity of the list itself.

So that is my plan. Beginning with book #609 (Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris, which I am reading now), I will add my thoughts about the book as a commit comment, when I check-in the list. To see my thoughts about a book, one needs only go to the commits page for the master branch, which looks something like this at present:

Reading List Commits

One huge advantage to all of this is that I can do it all from a single place–namely, my text editor. I was playing around with Atom this morning, and after installing the git-plus package, I discovered that I never have to leave the text editor to make, comment on, and commit changes to my reading list.

Using Atom to update and comment on my reading list

It works something like this:

First, I open my reading list in Atom. I have a command line alias to do this. Just type


at the command line and hit enter. The current file opens up in Atom. I go to the end of the file, and add the book I just finished reading. (I’ll use Colonel Roosevelt as an example, even though I haven’t finished it yet.) I can easily see which files in the repo have changed and which lines have been updated or changed in the file.

Reading list in Atom

When I am ready to checking and commit the file to GitHub–and thereby add my thoughts on the book I just added–I can do it directly from the editor:

Add, commit, and push

After selecting “Add All Commit and Push” I get another editor window that prompts me for my commit comment. This is where I’d add my thoughts about the book:

Commit thoughts

As soon as I save this, the file is committed to the GitHub repo and pushed to the master branch. Anyone who wants can see it in the list of commits:

Commits list

Now I have a nice tidy way of adding thoughts about the books I read without messing up the integrity of the list, and without every having to leave my text editor. But wait, there’s more!

Subscriptions and discussions

Because the list is checked into a GitHub repository, it comes with all of the features and functions of a GitHub repo. Other GitHub users can subscribe to the repository, and get notifications when it is updated–that is, when I comment on the book I just read.

Moreover, anyone can click on a commit, and see my thoughts, and, if they so choose, add comments of their own:

Commit comments

I understand that some of this stuff is beyond what the average person might do, but I have been fascinated by the potential of GitHub for uses beyond just that of maintaining code. And when there is seamless integration, like that built into Atom, it makes it a no-brainer solution for maintaining my reading list.

Stephen King’s Favorite Stephen King Novel

Yesterday I sat down to watch a Stephen King talk from back in January of this year. It took place somewhere in Florida and it was for a library down there. In the question and answer session that followed the talk, King was asked what his favorite Stephen King book was.

I watched with interest, but I was fairly certain of his answer. In many places in recent years, King has often said that his own personal favorite is Lisey’s Story. So I was surprised, and delighted, when King answered that his own favorites were “probably It and 11/22/63.” As it happens, my favorite King novel (and favorite novel period right now) is 11/22/63 followed pretty closely by It.

Tastes change over time. I know this from experience. My favorite book from 10 years ago is different than what it is today. But I was particularly pleased that King recognized those two books as his own favorites. I’ve enjoyed most of what he has written, but those two books are a cut above the rest as far as I am concerned.

My Summer Reading List, 2015 (Sort of)

Obviously, we still have a month to go before summer officially begins, but a few nights ago, I jotted down the following list of books, all of which I am interested in reading in the near future1.

  • The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons (reading this now)
  • Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • Finder’s Keepers by Stephen King
  • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris2
  • Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris3
  • Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
  • The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain
  • Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
  • One Summer by Bill Bryson
  • Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
  • The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

What’s on your list?

  1. I say “near future” but my experience has been that when I post lists, I sometimes stick to them, and sometimes ignore them completely. What I read next can sometimes be a spontaneous decision.
  2. A re-read, although it’s been more than 13 years since I last read this book.
  3. Also a re-read.

W. C. Heinz and the M*A*S*H Connection

I have mentioned before how my favorite long-form nonfiction is the baseball essay. Reading those essays leads to all kinds of places. I was discussing these types of pieces with a friend of mine, and he recommended a recent book put out through The Library of America called The Top of His Game: The Best Sportswriting of W. C. Heinz edited by Bill Littlefield. I’d never read any of Heinz’s pieces before, but I am having a delightful time going through this book. His pieces tend to be short: 800 words, compared the the baseball essays that I most enjoy. But Heinz’s voice carries the day in these pieces, which cover all manner of sports, from baseball, to boxing, or horse-racing, and beyond.

But the most remarkable thing I’ve learned in this book is something about Heinz himself. I am also a big fan of M*A*S*H. The book, upon which both the movie and the series was based, was written by Richard Hooker. Well, it turns out that Richard Hooker is a pseudonym for pair of writers. One is H. Richard Hornberger, a doctor who served in Korea. The other writer was–you guessed it–W. C. Heinz.

I thought that was a pretty cool connection, when I learned of it in the intro to the book.

A New Audiobook Version of James Clavell’s Shogun

Back in the summer of 2005, I read James Clavell’s Shogun. I absolutely loved it. When I started listening to audiobooks 2 years ago, I sought out Shogun. The version Audible had at the time was narrated by David Case, and the reviews of the narration were pretty awful. Nevertheless, I bought it, and tried to listen to it, but gave up after a while. The narration just wasn’t very good.

A few months ago, I noticed that the book was no longer available on Audible1. I thought perhaps that this meant a new version was being produced.

Today being a Tuesday (when new books are released), I searched Audible for a few books I was looking for. Shogun was one of them, and to my surprise and delight, a new version had indeed been produced.


This version is read by Ralph Lister, and just listening to the preview, I could tell it was a much better narration. I’m really looking forward to listening to this, having enjoyed reading it a decade ago. There are a few books in line in front of it, but I’m glad to see that a new version was produced.

  1. Before anyone panics, the version that I bought was still available to me in my Audible library. It didn’t go away. You just couldn’t buy it any longer.

Stephen King Books I Have Not Yet Read

Back in November, as part of his 6-city tour for Revival, Stephen King came to the Washington, D.C. area as a guest of the Politics & Prose bookstore. I wasn’t able to attend, but last night, I watched the talk on YouTube.

As often happens after I see Stephen King speak, I thought to myself, “Gee, I wish I was a writer!” It also makes me want to read more Stephen King. I have, over the last several months, been reading a good deal of nonfiction, although I did take a break in November to read Revival. But in the last two weeks or so, I’ve been so busy with other stuff that I haven’t had a chance to do much reading at all. This morning, I woke up with King’s talk still on my mind and decided that I’d start on something else of his today.

But what?

I went through the list of books I’ve read since 1996, looking for all instances of Stephen King. There were 66 of them (+ = e-book, @ = audiobook, * = recommended, ^ = re-read):

  1. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King (9/16/2001)
  2. Needful Things by Stephen King (9/25/2004)
  3. On Writing+ by Stephen King (9/16/2009)
  4. Carrie+ by Stephen King (9/21/2009)
  5. The Shining+ by Stephen King (9/28/2009)
  6. It+ by Stephen King (10/28/2009)
  7. Night Shift+ by Stephen King (11/3/2009)
  8. Under the Dome by Stephen King (11/30/2009)
  9. Different Seasons+ by Stephen King (12/9/2009)
  10. The Stand+ by Stephen King (6/2/2010)
  11. The Dead Zone+ by Stephen King (6/11/2010)
  12. Firestarter+ by Stephen King (6/25/2010)
  13. Pet Sematary by Stephen King (6/29/2010)
  14. Blockade Billy+ by Stephen King (6/9/2011)
  15. 11/22/63*+ by Stephen King (11/18/2011)
  16. The Green Mile+ by Stephen King (11/23/2011)
  17. Full Dark, No Stars+ by Stephen King (7/5/2012)
  18. Bag of Bones+ by Stephen King (7/10/2012)
  19. It*+^ by Stephen King (7/30/2012)
  20. 11/22/63*^+ by Stephen King (2/19/2013)
  21. Misery@ by Stephen King (2/23/2013)
  22. Gerald’s Game@ by Stephen King (3/3/2013)
  23. Hearts in Atlantis@* by Stephen King (3/8/2013)
  24. On Writing@^ by Stephen King (3/14/2013)
  25. Needful Things@^ by Stephen King (3/20/2013)
  26. ‘Salem’s Lot@^ by Stephen King (3/25/2013)
  27. From A Buick 8@ by Stephen King (3/29/2013)
  28. The Tommyknockers@ by Stephen King (4/6/2013)
  29. Dreamcatcher@ by Stephen King (4/13/2013)
  30. It@^ by Stephen King (5/2/2013)
  31. 11/22/63@^ by Stephen King (5/16/2013)
  32. The Shining@^ by Stephen King (5/21/2013)
  33. Danse Macabre@ by Stephen King (5/27/2013)
  34. Carrie@^ by Stephen King (5/29/2013)
  35. On Writing@^ by Stephen King (6/4/2013)
  36. Joyland@* by Stephen King (6/5/2013)
  37. The Dark Tower, Book 1: The Gunslinger@ by Stephen King (6/7/2013)
  38. The Dark Tower, Book 2: The Drawing of Three@ by Stephen King (6/12/2013)
  39. The Dark Tower, Book 3: The Wastelands@ by Stephen King (6/18/2013)
  40. Hard Listening+ by Stephen King, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, et. al. (6/24/2013)
  41. Dolores Claiborne@ by Stephen King (6/27/2013)
  42. The Dark Tower, Book 4: Wizard and Glass@* by Stephen King (7/10/2013)
  43. The Dark Tower, Book 5: Wolves of the Calla@ by Stephen King (7/26/2013)
  44. The Dark Tower, Book 6: Song of Susannah@ by Stephen King (7/30/2013)
  45. The Dark Tower, Book 7: The Dark Tower@ by Stephen King (8/7/2013)
  46. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon@ by Stephen King (9/24/2013)
  47. Doctor Sleep@ by Stephen King (9/29/2013)
  48. On Writing@^* by Stephen King (10/31/2013)
  49. The Wind Through the Keyhole@* by Stephen King (11/5/2013)
  50. The Langoliers@ by Stephen King (11/15/2013)
  51. The Library Policeman@ by Stephen King (11/21/2013)
  52. The Sun Dog@ by Stephen King (11/27/2013)
  53. Nightmares & Dreamscapes, Volume 1@ by Stephen King (12/4/2013)
  54. Everything’s Eventual: 5 Dark Tales@ by Stephen King (12/26/2013)
  55. The Man in the Black Suit: 4 Dark Tales@ by Stephen King (12/27/2013)
  56. Christine@ by Stephen King (1/8/2014)
  57. The Shawshank Redemption@* by Stephen King (1/17/2014)
  58. The Body@* by Stephen King (1/24/2014)
  59. It@*^ by Stephen King (4/3/2014)
  60. From A Buick 8^*@ by Stephen King (4/18/2014)
  61. 11/22/63@^* by Stephen King (6/1/2014)
  62. Mile 81@ by Stephen King (6/2/2014)
  63. Mr. Mercedes@ by Stephen King (6/6/2014)
  64. Joyland@^ by Stephen King (6/9/2014)
  65. The Shawshank Redemption@*^ by Stephen King (6/29/2014)
  66. Revival@ by Stephen King (11/20/2014)

I then compared this to the list of books in Stephen King’s Library to see what I haven’t read. The list turns out to be an interesting one:

  1. Rage (as by Richard Bachman)
  2. The Long Walk (as by Richard Bachman)
  3. Roadwork (as by Richard Bachman)
  4. Cujo
  5. The Running Man (as by Richard Bachman)
  6. Cycle of the Werewolf
  7. The Talisman (w/Peter Straub)
  8. The Eyes of the Dragon
  9. Thinner (as by Richard Bachman)
  10. The Dark Half
  11. Insomnia
  12. Rose Madder
  13. Desperation
  14. The Regulators
  15. The Plant: Zenith Rising
  16. Black House
  17. The Colorado Kid
  18. Cell
  19. Lisey’s Story
  20. Blaze (as by Richard Bachman)
  21. Duma Key

I haven’t read any of the Bachman books yet. Perhaps the biggest standout on the list is Cujo. I’ve started it a couple of times, but have always ended up distracted by other things. I take it as a sign that I just can’t get into the book. King says his favorite book is Lisey’s Story, and I’ve managed to make it halfway through that one, but have given up. I was thinking about re-reading Hearts in Atlantis, which I thought was great the first time I read it, but I do want to give something a try that I haven’t read yet. So at this moment, I’m leaning toward Insomnia. I’ve stayed away from that book mainly because King himself has said it was overly plotted. But it can’t hurt to give it a try and see for myself.

I’m still undecided, but I’ll let you know what I choose. If there are any books on this list that you feel are a MUST READ, let me know in the comments.

New books I’ve obtained over the holidays… so far

Iam, apparently, still on my nonfiction kick for the most part. I will finish up my re-reading of Caesar and Christ today, and begin a long-awaited re-read of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. After that, I think it is back to nonfiction, and here is some of the nonfiction that I’ve acquired around the holidays to fortify me.

  • The Autobiography of Mark Twain (Volumes 1 & 2) by Mark Twain
  • No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli1
  • The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer
  • I, Claudius by Robert Graves

I can’t say this with certainty, but I am beginning to get the feeling that I write better fiction when I am reading nonfiction. I think when I am reading fiction, I am too liable to fall into the trap of trying to imitate the style of whatever author I happen to be reading.

In any case, I am looking forward to all of these books in the new year.

  1. I read this in college, and even wrote a paper on it, but I have no memory of it today.

Audiobooks: Listening vs. Reading

They say that with age comes wisdom, and that part of wisdom is the ability to allow your opinions to be changed with changing facts, arguments, or the natural flow of time. Long time readers will no doubt recall the opinion I once held that audiobooks were not for me. It is interesting to look at that post from nearly 3 years ago and the 4 arguments I made against my own use of audiobooks, and compare them to how my opinions have changed today.

1. The voice bothers me

I wrote,

I am so used to my own internal voice, and the voices I make up in my head for various characters, that I can’t bear the voice of someone else reading to me.

I look upon this statement today as both naive and somewhat self-centered. Since February 2013, I’ve read 80 audiobooks, and if anything, I have learned that the narrator tends to enhance the book rather than detract from it. Indeed, today I would argue that there is at least one advantage to audiobooks over regular books:

A good audiobook narrator will lead me to books I might otherwise not have chosen to read

The one dimension to audiobooks that doesn’t exist in other forms of the books (paper, electronic) is the narrator or narrators who read the books. I have found that I enjoy some narrators so much, that I will seek out other books that they have read, books that I might never have chosen to read if not for the narrator. A few examples of these include:

  • Danse Macabre by Stephen King. Read primarily because it was narrated by William Dufris, a narrator I first heard read John Scazli’s The Human Division. I probably would have gotten to the book eventually, but Dufris brought me to it much sooner, and I enjoyed the book.
  • Blue Highways by William Least-Heat Moon. My dad recommended this book to me years ago, but I didn’t read it until early this summer when I discovered that Joe Barrett narrated the audiobook version. I first heard Joe Barrett as the narrator of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, and as soon as I finished that book, I started looking for other books that Barrett narrated.

Seeking out books because of the narrator provides yet another window into a book that I might not already have read. My “internal voice” which I was so used to three years ago would never have led me to these narrators and thus opened the doors to these other great books.

2. I cannot divide my attention to make listening and doing something else worthwhile.

This is an example of not seeing the big picture. To a large extent, I was forced to audiobooks precisely because I found that my time during the day was too limited to allow me to read as much as I wanted to read. The big lure of audiobooks was that I could multitask. This has become my biggest time saving tip, one that I have talked about in a variety of places, including my “How I Work” interview with Lifehacker earlier this year.

My days are very busy. I try to break them up with exercise, and my preferred exercise is to take long walks at various times throughout the day. During these walks, I listen to audiobooks, and I can usually ensure at least 2 hours of walking–and therefore 2 hours of listening time–each day.

I find that I have little problem dividing my attention between walking and listening to audiobooks. Occasionally my attention wanders, but it is easy to go back and re-listen to what it was I missed. The same happens when reading a book from time-to-time.

Moreover, I can listen to audiobooks while doing things that I can’t do while reading: chores around the house being one big example. And then, of course, there is listening to audiobooks while on long drives where I am the driver.

So, yes, I was absolutely wrong when I said that I could not divide my attention between listening to an audiobook and doing some other kind of activity. The bulk of my listening has occurred while doing other things.

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