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Reading continues to be an important part of my ideal day. I try to get in at least 30 minutes of reading each day by either:
- Listening to audiobooks in the car, or while exercising
- Reading my Kindle during my lunch break
- Reading in the evenings as part of my “wind down” bedtime routine
2019 has been another good year of reading for me. While I don't get through as many books as some voracious readers do, it's still a lot compared to where I was a few years ago in 2015/2016 when I barely read anything for two years. You can find my reading lists for previous years here – 2018 & 2017.
During 2019 my reading habits changed again. The first quarter of the year involved a lot of training hours for my first ultramarathon, so I continued where I left off in 2018 by listening to long audiobooks while running.
After that, my reading eased off a bit as I got into some heavy work projects. A little too heavy actually, with July being an absolute nightmare of overwork that I vowed never to put myself (and my family) through again.
A few months ago I wrapped up my last external project and turned my focus full-time to our family business. This stabilised my hours and routine again, and my reading habits were able to recover.
I set myself a goal of reading 12 non-fiction books in 2019. I ended up reading seven instead. I was on a personal development journey with a lot of the non-fiction reading I was doing in 2018. Partly that was in support of the research I was doing for Surviving IT. After I published my book, I took a little break from business and personal development books, and dove back into fiction instead.
During 2019 I also became more selective on what I read. Last year I stopped listening to Altered Carbon when I realised I wasn't enjoying it. This year, I did the same with some more titles, including Metro 2033, going as far as to return it to Audible for a refund to use on another book.
It's hard to say whether the books themselves are the problem, or just the way I am listening to them. Dark, mysterious stories with quiet, whispery dialog don't work for me. Simpler stories, like the Jack Reacher books, are much easier for me to follow when my concentration is shared with other things, such as the trail I'm running along. And any familiar stories, such as listening to the audiobook of a novel I read years ago, also work fine.
Some folks on Reddit suggested that I probably just don't like “heavy” stories with complex plots and lots of characters. Maybe that's true for audiobooks. I'm loving the Game of Thrones books though, which I'm currently reading on Kindle.
Maybe the bottom line is that not every book suits every reader. And that's fine with me.
Anyway, on to my reading list for 2019.
- Rage of a Demon King (Raymond E. Feist) – The continuation of the Serpentwar Saga that I was listening to at the end of 2018.
- Shards of a Broken Crown (Raymond E. Feist) – I really just enjoy all of the books in Feist's Riftwar universe. Good characters, good pacing, good dialogue, complex without being overwhelming. Very easy to listen to while driving or running.
- The Martian (Andy Weir) – I saw the movie first, and the book didn't disappoint. Well narrated, good humour, and takes more time to flesh out the character than the movie is able to.
- Band of Brothers (Stephen E. Ambrose) – As a huge fan of the HBO series I was thrilled to listen to this book and discover just how close the TV show stuck to the stories in the book. Having the visuals of the TV series and the actors in my mind also helped to bring the story to life as I listened.
- The Visitor: Jack Reacher, Book 4 (Lee Child) – Not my favourite Reacher book so far, but still good.
- No Country for Old Men (Cormac McCarthy) – I did not know what to expect going into this, and it pulled me in from start to finish. I went on to watch the movie a few weeks later.
- The Things They Carried (Tom O'Brien) – I'm still not sure what to think of this. It's a book of stories from the Vietnam War, but blurs the line between fact and fiction so you never really know what is true. Having Bryan Cranston narrating it was probably what kept me engaged more than the words themselves.
- To Pixar and Beyond (Lawrence Levy) – Turns out I had my history of Pixar all wrong, so this book set me straight. A good business story. If I learned anything from this, it's that relationships and how you treat people is one of the most critical pieces in business success.
- Can't Hurt Me (David Goggins) – This book is delivered in a really engaging way. In between each chapter, the narrator and Goggin's have an informal conversation, which adds a lot more context and character to the stories in the book. There's some good advice about how mindset helps us to overcome obstacles in life. It's energising to listen to at times. But I would caution anybody reading this to take a more sensible approach to pushing beyond physical limits. Literally running on broken legs is… not smart.
- Born to Run (Christopher McDougall) – I've read this before, so listening to the audiobook was a fun way to re-read it. All the stuff about barefoot/minimalist running you can take or leave, your choice. But what I always love about this book is how it shares the spirit of the running community.
- Prince of the Blood (Raymond E. Feist) – I'm back to Midkemia, filling in a few books I skipped over in my listening last year. Another great tale. Just about to carry on with the next book, The King's Buccaneer.
Audiobooks I started, but couldn't finish:
- Artemis (Andy Weir) – Not sure what I was expecting, but I just didn't get into this story. It's well narrated, and would probably make for a decent movie. Perhaps my expectations were too high based on The Martian. I stopped listening about two thirds in, looked up the ending online, and don't regret my decision.
- Strong Men Armed (Robert Leckie) – I tried to listen to this right after Band of Brothers. Perhaps it's the different writing style, or perhaps it's that it covers a much broader set of characters and events, but it just didn't pull me in. I do want to learn more about the Pacific theatre, so I hope to come back to this one in future.
- Leviathan Awakes: The Expanse, Book 1 (James S. A. Corey) – I got a short way into this before realising I had no idea who was who, and what was happening. Probably requires more concentration than I can give it. I'll try the TV series, and maybe give the books a read on Kindle to see if they're more engaging that way.
- Metro 2033 – It's taken me a while to process this, but I think ultimately this book just doesn't work for me as an audiobook. Too many complicated names of places and characters, I started to lose track of who was doing what. At one stage I realised I completely forgot why the main character was on his quest to begin with. Probably better to read in print/Kindle. One of the few audiobooks I've returned for a refund. I doubt I'll come back to it, as I already looked up the ending.
- Star Wars: Rebel Rising (Beth Revis) – Set between the events at the start of Rogue One and when Jyn is rescued from captivity. Filling in the story of how the young Jyn was raised by Saw Gerrera, and why their relationship was so complicated when they reunited later in Rogue One. I enjoyed it a lot.
- Company of One (Paul Jarvis) – This is primarily a book for solo business owners. But it also teaches you, as an employee, how to think of yourself as a “company of one” within a larger company. The overall message is that more is not necessarily better, and what's most important is finding your personal definition of success.
- Anything You Want (Derek Sivers) – A collection of short pieces about business and entrepreneurism. Very efficient advice. Makes each point quickly, and moves on. I made dozens of Kindle notes from this one.
- Nowhere Near First (Corey Reese) – As a slow runner myself I really enjoyed reading Corey's tales of running. Ultimately I am in this sport for fun and community, and Corey embodies that perfectly. A very easy read, I think I got through it in two sittings – one on the way to my first ultramarathon, and the second on the way back home again.
- Finding Ultra (Rich Roll) – This was okay. A little bit like Goggins, Rich's stories go beyond what I would consider healthy levels of “pushing past your limits”. There is a good message in here about how you can turn your life around and be a better, healthier version of yourself. If you don't like the vegan/plant-based lifestyle stuff, you might find the book doesn't click with you.
- A Game of Thrones (George R.R. Martin) – As a fan of the TV series I had promised myself I would read the books when it was all over. Then season 8 came along and …. wasn't great. If anything, that made me want to read the books even more, to try and salvage my enjoyment of the Game of Thrones world. I loved this book! It does a much better job of conveying the scale of events, and a kingdom at war. The characters are richer and more engaging. I was worried it would be a complex, challenging read, but I smashed my way through it in no time.
- A Clash of Kings (George R.R. Martin) – Loved this as much as the first book.
- A Storm of Swords (George R.R. Martin) – Nearly finished this book now. I have no complaints, other than being a bit restless sometimes to move on to events that I know are coming up. At this rate I'll probably finish all the current books by mid-2020. Hopefully a new one is released around then, or not long after.
Kindle/print books I started, but couldn't finish:
- Star Wars: A New Dawn (John Jackson Miller) – I have no actual complaints about this book. I just put it aside so that I could read it during a holiday instead, giving me the opportunity to then binge-watch my way through the Star Wars: Rebels TV series.
- The Future of Violence – Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones (Benjamin Wittles and Gabriella Blum) – Heavier and more academic than I was expecting. I tend to read in the evenings, and even an engaging fiction book puts me to sleep quickly. This book was knocking me out in a single page. Not a criticism of the book at all, I just obviously need to read it in a different setting. I'm interested in these topics as research for future novel writing ideas, so I definitely plan to come back to this.
On My Reading List for 2020
- Continuing the ASOIAF (Game of Thrones) series.
- Star Wars: A New Dawn, followed by the Star Wars: Rebels TV series, then circle back to read Thrawn (I am trying to read the canon in timeline order).
- The King's Buccaneer (Raymond E. Feist).
- Jack Reacher books 6 (Without Fail) and 7 (Persuader)
- Looking for a new sci-fi series to listen to during training runs (if you've got a suggestion please comment below).
- Tom Clancy's catalogue, starting with The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, Rainbow Six, and Red Rabbit (although I am thinking I'll read them in chronological order). As I've read some of these before I feel they'll be perfect for listening to as audiobooks while I train.
- A series of ultrarunning books including North, by Scott Jurek, Training Essentials for Ultrarunning, by Jason Koop, and Run Gently Out There, by John Morelock.