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Guyscanwefocus' reading challenge 2018

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In the spirit of the new year, I am trying to pick up old healthy habits that went by the wayside in 2017.  One of those is running.  Another is reading.


My goal is not a specific number of books (in 2017 I only read 5), but to simply read more and enjoy it.  To that end, I'll be keeping a list here.  Note: I'm cheating a bit by including books I started in 2017.  Asterisk indicates started prior to 2017; Two asterisks indicates it is a re-read.  


Completed (in order):

Breakthrough: Why We Can't Leave Saving the Planet To Environmentalists*

The Golden Compass*

Resolving Ecosystem Complexity

The Investor's Manifesto**

Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes and How To Correct Them


It happened in the Florida Keys

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius*


The Subtle Knife

How to Read Water

A Wrinkle in Time

The Wrong Stars

Two's Company, Three is Complexity


The Dispatcher

Old Man's War

The Ghost Brigades

The Last Colony

Assassin's Apprentice

The Human Division


In Progress: 

Ecological Forecasting

Untangling Ecological Complexity

The Amber Spyglass

Saga of the Icelanders

Geographical Ecology

Naked Statistics



I'll be updating as I progress!

Edited by Guyscanwefocusplease
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Actually walked into a real brick book store on Saturday and picked up a book called Nod by Adrian Barnes. I figure if I am going to make a list, I might as well put my opinion down on what I read.


The book follows a Canadian writer and his girlfriend through the breakdown of society when one day, for no reason, humans can no longer sleep. Well, most humans, anyway. I won't spoil anything.


It is an excellent premise and a horrifying book- the closest thing to The Road I have ever read. It gets difficult to read in parts and has unusual literary style and random segways I didn't care for, but I still blew through it in two days. It was worth the money to pick it up for the premise alone.

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On 1/23/2018 at 9:56 PM, paintybeard said:

I read "Nod" a couple of months ago. As you say, it is in many ways a horrifying book and I cannot really say that I enjoyed it. Felt a little guilty about that after I read about the authors personal history.

Yeah, I felt very.... conflicted as well.  It's hard to describe to folks that hadn't read it.  Though, interestingly, Adrian's diagnosis came after Nod had already been written... what a coincidence...

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Just finished "It happened in the Florida Keys" by Victoria Shearer.  It's a collection of non-fiction short stories going back about 200 years.  I live down here, and this is a small enough place that everyone knows the history (except me), so I thought it important to know it myself!


Some fascinating stories in there, including a few that I had never heard before- including the only combat encounter between a war blimp and a U-Boat ever in WWII.  It also includes more well known stories, including how the keys was ground Zero for the Cuban boat lift (mass migration from Cuba), and how the Keys declared independence (then war) on the USA in 1982, briefly forming the Conch Republic.  That's where we get our motto- "We seceded where others failed!".


I actually loved the book- it leaves out a few stories I expected to see in there, such as the time one of our spy blimps got loose, was found by a fisherman, and later found 1000 feet in the air with a fishing boat floating 200 feet below it, drifting in the breeze.  But, if you ever intend to visit the FL Keys, you need to give the book a read- it includes some great background that will make a lot more sense once you come to visit. 

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Ok, was on a business trip with no internet for the past 2.5 weeks.  Lots of time to read during travel, and finished three books!  Here are my assessments:


Mediations by Marcus Aurelius

Picked this up on the recommendation of a friend.  It’s translated more or less directly from Marcus Aurelius, and it’s pretty cool to read a direct personal reflection that is over 2,000 years old.  Not surprisingly, this makes it difficult to read in spots.  That being said, there are some uncanny similarities to modern times.  One could argue that Marcus Aurelius is one of the top 5 most powerful and influential people in recorded history- yet he spends several paragraphs in one of his reflections trying to convince himself to get out of bed.  In a way it’s both saddening and freeing to see that even the “greats” struggle with everyday things.

This book is short but because of its dense material and archaic writing style it took 3 months to finish.  I am glad I read it.


Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer 

While on my work trip a colleague was reading this book.  We’re both biologists and this book is narrated by one that travels into a quarantine zone known only as “Area X”.  The premise on the back was really interesting sounding, and the book was short, so I gave it a go.

I finished the book in under 24 hours (it doesn’t even pass 200 pages).  The premise was really cool, but I felt the writing was too fluffy and abstract- there were a lot of long words in places short words would have worked just as well, and there are strange philosophical points that don’t really have anything to do with the main text.  In short, it felt like the author was trying (and failing) to write a character smarter than he was.  Maybe I’m being too hard. 

At the end of the day, the premise was really interesting, but the writing and plot just never “grabbed” me.  It just kind of ended.  I won’t be reading the other 2 in the trilogy.


The subtle knife by Phillip Pullman

My wife got me into the “His dark materials” trilogy and thus far I am really enjoying it.  Fighting bears, other worlds, witches, and a very sharp knife.  It’s interesting and entertaining without being too simple or complex.  The writing style is notable- it feels as if the entire thing was written perhaps a half century ago.  This gives the books a sort of gravitas of classic fiction, though they are barely 20 years old.  I love it and look forward to reading the third!

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What a very strange coincidence, I finished "Annihilation" last night too. We seem to be very much on the same wavelength for books to read, although it took me rather longer than you to get through it. As you say, an interesting concept that the author didn't do as much with as he might. I too thought that the vocabulary was deliberate over-ornate to make the story seem more mysterious. Unusually in a book of this type I saw quite a lot of the plot coming and pretty much was able to see where the book would end, especially as there were 2 more books to on the horizon. I might get the sequels from the library, but would not buy them.


 So glad you have enjoyed "The Subtle Knife". I think this and it's sequels are just about the best fiction I have ever encountered and my copies are dog-eared with frequent re-reading. Unusually amongst trilogies the middle volume is not just a pot-boiler but a very good story in it's own right. And the last book is very moving indeed. Please do post your thoughts when you complete the series.

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So it's been a few months.  I picked up a new video game (Sea of Thieves) and have been playing that a lot.  I don't play many video games anymore, but this one was too good to pass up. I highly recommend it if you enjoy sailing or pirate games!


Along that vein, I finally finished How to Read Water.  What an excellent book. It's dense,  and as such can be hard to just sit down and read.  However, it has a lot of fantastic information in there and is a good read for anyone from the landlocked pond watcher to the experienced waterman.  I finished it while off at sea, and one of the captains (with way more experience than me) borrowed it and remarked that there were things in there that even he didn't know.  He ordered a copy as soon as we got to shore, so that should tell you something.  If you ever wanted to know more about why coasts, seas, lakes, ponds, or puddles act the way they do, or if you just like nature in general, this is a fantastic book. The best book on water I have ever read.  I see myself coming back to it often in the future, as once it is read it becomes a great reference to have on the shelf.


I also finished A wrinkle in Time.  I read this classic in elementary school, but it had been so long that I could not remember any of the plot.  All I remembered is that when I first read it, I loved it.


I loved it the second time around, too, but for different reasons.  So much of what I read, even for fun, is dense and requires a certain level of brainpower I just don't always have when I get off work.  A Wrinkle in Time takes me back to a time when I could just read for fun and think nothing of it.  This puts it in excellent company with the Hobbit and some of the Dragonlance books.  If you haven't read A Wrinkle in Time, I suggest it for three reasons:  1) It's very short and easy to read; 2) It's a classic (and if you have kids, you can read it to them); and 3) it's just downright strange and enjoyable.


I'm also marking off The Wrong Stars as read.  I bought it back in January, and got 95% of the way through before the book just magically vanished.  I enjoyed it, but I probably won't be reading the remaining books in the series.  I enjoyed the premise and the characters.  The crew's dynamics were great, and the author has a very interesting and original take on Aliens that I really enjoyed reading about.  However, the plot just seemed like an old re-hash told a dozen times before.  Perhaps there is a big twist that I missed, but it just didn't grab me.  If you like sci-fi or world-building, I suggest reading it for those reasons.  Maybe someone who has picked it up can tell me how it ends and if it is worth going back to grab from the Library. 



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Knocked out another book this weekend- "Two's company, Three is complexity".  This is a pop-sci book that introduces complexity science.  Many fields, from fluid dynamics, to economics, to biology deal with complexity and I wanted to learn more about it for my own job.  It's a good introduction- especially the first half. The back half gets a little repetitive, but it's easy to read throughout and is a good starter on the topic.

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It's been awhile! The summer is the busiest time of the year for folks in my field, so my free time has dwindled to basically nil.


I did manage to read two more books during the past two months:


"How to win friends and influence people" by Dale Carnegie


"On writing: A memior of the craft" by Steven King


Both books were fantastic, simple to read, direct, and extremely informative.  Dale Carnegie has hit on the inner workings of human psychology in a way that astonishes me- especially since it was written 80 years ago!  I cannot reccomend this book highly enough.


On writing was also extremely useful to read.  I consider myself an aspiring fantasy writer, though I don't work at it all that much.  Either way, seeing what makes good or bad writing, and how the master himself does it, was both entertaining and really useful.


Next on my list are some science books- going back through the history of my field and reading some foundational works to give myself that context!

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3 hours ago, ladystorm said:

I track my books on Goodreads.

I'm around 220 for the year.  I'll hit at least 300 before the year is out.


Thanks for the suggestion!  I post it here because this is the only forum presence I have- but I think starting in Jan I'll move this over to goodreads.


300 books?!? How do you do it???

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