Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Books I Read in 2017

As I mentioned recently, I’ve done absolutely abysmally on my goal of reading 17 books in 2017. I did managed to finish off two of the books I was reading when I wrote that last posting1, so I upped my total number of books read in 2017 to four instead of two, but it’s still pretty sad.

2017 reading challenge

For the record, the four books were:

my 2017 books

And here are some stats that Good Reads gave me on those books:

books stats 2017

I have high hopes that 2018 will be a better year for me for reading because (a) four books is a pretty low bar to set, (b) my book club is getting rebooted, so that will give me several book reading opportunities/motivation, and (c) I’m hoping that my office will get moved to a more transit-friendly location soon in the new year, so that I’ll have more Skytrain book reading time in 2018 than I did this year.

Anyone have any good book suggestions for me?

  1. I did read a chunk more of Better Angels of Our Nature over the holidays, mostly on during my flights too and from Toronto, but I didn’t manage to finish it off. But I’m sure I’ll finish it soon in the new year, so at least that will get me off to a good start on my 2018 book reading goal! []

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Canning Edition

And speaking of stuff I learned through books I read: this year I learned about home canning!

Last year, I made some jams. But this year, thanks to a book that my friend Linda gave to me, Foolproof Preserving: A Guide to Small Batch Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Condiments & More, I actually learned more about the science behind making jams, jellies, and pickled things. This also allowed me to add seven new food items to my list of new food items that I made in 2017 (this year’s goal was to make at least 17 new food and drink items that I’ve never made before):

  • raspberry jam
  • figs pickled in balsamic vinegar1
  • fig-infused balsamic vinegar2
  • pickled spicy beans
  • pickled beets
  • pickles3
  •  jalapeño jelly

Making spicy pickled beansScott and I just opened a jar of the pickled beans yesterday and they are super tasty, if somewhat sour. I gave Kalev a jar of the jalapeño jelly, but haven’t tasted it yet myself. The raspberry jam, of which I made a tonne thanks to buying an entire flat of raspberries at one of the local farms, has been enjoyed by many as I’ve given it out to a number of people. The pickles and beets and figs have yet to be tested.

There’s still a number of things that I want to try canning – blackberry jam comes to mind as, for the second year running, I failed to go out blackberry picking again this year. But that book has a number of other cool recipes that I’d like to try, such as peach-bourbon jam, mulled cider jelly, red pepper jelly, pickled carrots, pickled asparagus, roasted tomato-lime salsa, spiced figs in syrup, Dijon mustard, and applesauce. Not in the book, but which I want to try: plum sauce. Looks like I have a good list of potential new food items to make for my 2018 goal of making 18 new foods that I’ve never made before!

My first ever batches of spicy pickled beans, pickled beets, and pickles!

Beans, beets, and pickles.

  1. Yes, the figs did come from Tig & Pat’s annual fig party. []
  2. Yes, the fig-infused balsamic vinegar is the vinegar that was left over from when I made the pickled figs. []
  3. Why don’t we call pickles “pickled cucumbers”? Everything else we pickle, we use “pickled” as the adjective followed by the name of the thing we pickled. []

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Books

So speaking of books, I have been absolutely pathetic at reading this year. I just looked on Good Reads to see how close to my goal of reading 17 books this year and discovered to my dismay that I have read a mere *two* books this year. TWO! I mean, I feel like I must have read more books than that, but I can’t for the life of me think of what they would be.

I blame my lack of reading in large part on the fact that partway through the year, my work team and I were moved to an office that is not easily accessible by transit and so I’ve been driving to work. Given that I do the lion share of my reading when I’m on the Skytrain or bus, this really cut into the amount of time I spent reading1. In addition, I didn’t really go on any vacations where I could do a bunch of reading and my kobo died and it took a little while before I bought a new one.

Also hampering my total is the fact that I started reading The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker, which 800+ pages long. I mean, it’s no Infinite Jest, but it’s still been taking me a looooong time to read it.

I do have a few books that I’ve read parts of, varying from almost all of the book to just a chapter, including2:

I should probably finish some of them just to get my numbers up!

Plus I have a few that I have lined up to read, including:

Fortunately, I only have one week left of work for 2017 and then I’m on holidays and I’m really hoping I can get in some pleasure reading3.

  1. On the flip side, I listened to way more podcast, as I typically listen to podcasts when I’m driving. []
  2. Full disclosure: All the things in this posting are Amazon affiliate links. That means if you click on them and then buy something, I get some cash. So you should totes do that because I like when I get cash! Seriously though, you should totally buy Introducing Epigenetics: A Graphic Guide by Dr. Cath Ennis because (a) it’s a very interesting book (from what I’ve read so far), (b) my friend Cath wrote it! But mostly because of (a)! []
  3. I also have some serious vacationing planned for 2018, so hopefully I’ll get a strong start on my 2018 book reading goal! []

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RIP Kobo

My kobo1, appears to be no longer capable of holding a charge. I plug it in overnight and it seems like it’s charged, but then a few hours later (during which time it isn’t being used) and I see this:

My kobo won't hold a charge :(

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, as it is more than 4 years old and in electronics time that’s like 1000 years old. Plus I’ve not been able to get it to connect to my computer for quite some time now, which means that I haven’t been able to put any new books on it. I was hoping to read the books that I already had on there that I hadn’t yet read though. I’m in the middle of reading The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker. Though I can’t tell you exactly how far because my goddamn kobo won’t hold a charge. Guess it’s time to start looking at what’s happened in eReader technology in the last four years…

  1. Which I had named Luna, after Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series. []

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Books I Read in 2016

I set my goal to read 16 books in 2016 and I started off strong with books I was reading for fun, but the decision to take on teaching a new course meant that come the summer, when I did my course development, the type of book I was reading was predominantly textbook. Also hampering my reading was the launch of PokémonGO, as I used to do a lot of reading on my commute to work, but once I got hooked on trying to catch ‘em all, I ended up spending much of my commute either catching Pokémon or grabbing stuff from PokéStops as I whizzed by them on the bus or train1 or doing my Pokémon inventory management2.

Anyway, I did manage to surpass my goal of 16 books:

I read 21 books in 2015!

The books were:

2016 Books

2016 Books 2

2016 Books 3

This list includes:

  • 4 fiction books
  • 8 non-fiction books
  • 9 textbooks

I think my goal for next year should be to read fewer textbooks!

Looking at the list, the book I most enjoyed this year was the Voodoo Killings, followed by Dear Committee Members, and the books I learned the most from were the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and The Spirit Level. The book I liked the least was Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking3

In terms of stats, I read 7,711 pages of books4 in total, with book lengths ranging for 181 pages to 704 pages.

2016 books - stats

Not surprisingly, the most popular book I read was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and the least popular book was the textbook I assigned to my class. Apparently only one other person on all of Goodreads read that textbook, which I’m hoping means none of my students are on Goodreads!

I’m not planning to teach any new courses next year, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be reading more books for fun!

  1. Back before they changed the game so that you can no longer get stuff from Pokéstops when you are travelling at fast speeds. []
  2. For the uninitiated, you only have room for 250 Pokémon in your PokéBox, so once you’ve caught that many, you have to free up space by transferring some of the Pokémon to the professor in exchange for candy. This takes some work, as you need to figure out which Pokémon you have extras of and then figure out which is the lowest value Pokémon so you know which one to get rid of. []
  3. And that includes all the textbooks I read! []
  4. I also read some unholy number of pages of journal articles. I wish there were a site like Good Reads where I could track all my journal article reading! []

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All the Books I Read in 2015!

I started tracking the books I’m reading on GoodReads this year and it made a nice summary of the 18 books I read (i.e. surpassing my goal of 15 books), so I just stole screenshots from that report. #Efficiency

GoodReads 2015 - part 1
GoodReads 2015 - part 2

The above list includes:

  • 4 books that I read for one of the courses that I taught
  • 5 books that I read for my book club
  • 1 book that I read for work
  • 8 non-fiction books that I read out of interest

Wow, I just realized there isn’t a single fiction book on that list that I just chose to read myself. Good thing for my book club or I wouldn’t have read any fiction at all!

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OK

Speaking of LitFest, I’ve been meaning to write a blog posting about Olga Kotelko since I learned about her at LitFest 2015… back in May!

One of the events at LitFest 2015 was a talk by Olga’s co-author Roxanne Davies and her editor Michele Carter about the book “Olga – The O.K. Way to a Healthy, Happy Life“. I’d not heard of Olga before this talk, but I learned that she:

  • started competing in track and field when she was 77 years old
  • competed around the world in track and field events until she died at the age of 95
  • won more than 750 gold medals and broke more 30 world records!

Talk about an inspiration! Just check this out video of her competing at 95:

And here’s her telling the story of how she got into track & field:

In related news, here’s a story about Harriet Thompson, a 92 year woman who finished the San Diego marathon, becoming the oldest woman ever to do so!

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Books I Read in 2014

Making this year’s list of books that I read was much easier than last year, since I started using GoodReads to track my reading1

Fiction books I finished in 2014:

  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
  • Xenocide by Orson Scott Card
  • Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card
  • The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh2
  • We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo3

Non-fiction books I finished in 2014:

  • The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
  • Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall4
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot5
  • A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout6
  • Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Catalan7
  • Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi8
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Books I’m currently reading:

So I read 14 books this year with 5 more in progress – the exact same numbers as I had last year 11 – which surprises me, since I was still in school in 2013 and I figured that in 2014, with both not being in school and the addition of my Skytrain commute to work, during which I do a lot of reading, that I’d have read a lot more books this year. Perhaps I’ll make one of my 2015 goals to read even more books!

  1. If you know me and we aren’t yet friends on GR, feel free to friend me! []
  2. A book that I read with my book club. []
  3. Final book club selection of the year – for January 2015’s book club meeting, but I finished it a couple of weeks ago. []
  4. This was a Christmas gift from Sarah and Dave a few year’s ago, but which I didn’t get around to start reading until last December thanks to all that pesky school I was doing. Finished it early this year. []
  5. Another Christmas gift from Sarah & Dave. They know me well, as I loved both this and Born to Run. []
  6. Another book club selection, but this was a memoir rather than fiction, which all the other book club books have been. []
  7. Borrowed this one from Daniel. Totally fascinating! []
  8. This is an amazing book and everyone should read it. []
  9. I went to the book launch for this as Kalev is friends with the author, so I have a signed copy! []
  10. This book was funded by a Kickstarter – the first and only Kickstarter I’ve ever taken part in. []
  11. Though I suppose there are still a few more days in the year so I might complete some of those “in progress” books in 2014. []

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Books I Read in 2013

Because of school, I didn’t get to do as much fun reading as I would like to have in 2013, but I did manage to read a few during my breaks (i.e., before classes started in January, over the summer, and this Christmas). For school, I did a lot more reading of journal articles than textbooks (which my bank account is very thankful for!), but for those classes that did have textbooks, we did tend to read almost the entire book.

Here’s the breakdown of what I read in 2013, as far as I can recall1

Fiction

  • The Passage by Justin Cronin
  • The Twelve by Justin Cronin
  • World War Z by Max Brooks2
  • Momo by Michael Ende
  • Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach
  • Bridge to Teribithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (in progress)

Non-Fiction – for school

  • Essentials of Negotiation by Lewicki, Barry, Saunders, & Tasa
  • The Leadership Moment by Michael Useem
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: Concepts and Practice by Boardman, Greenberg, Vining, & Weimer
  • Business Ethics in Canada, 4th edition, edited by Deborah C. Poff

Non-Fiction – for fun

  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
  • Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
  • The Myth of the Garage: And Other Minor Surprises by Chip and Dan Heath
  • Systems Concepts in Action by Willsions & Hummelbrunner (in progress)
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (in progress)
  • Born to Run by (in progress)
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (in progress)

So that’s 14 books read completely, with another 5 in progress. Not bad for a year where I was in school in addition to working!

  1. I wasn’t tracking my reading, so I’m probably forgetting some. Will be able to do a better job of reporting on my 2014 reading as I’m going to track everything on Good Reads! []
  2. I might have actually read this at end of 2012 – I can’t quite remember. []

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Reading Fiend

Two parallel stacks of books on blue backgroundNow that I have copious amounts of time on my hands, I’m doing what I did the last time I suddenly had copious amounts of time on my hands – reading all the books ever!

Since finishing school, I’ve read one complete book (The Bridge to Teribithia – which I read for the book club that my friend Shalu just started), started two other books (Ender’s Game and A Short History of Nearly Everything) and nearly completed another book (Born to Run). To give you a sense of how bad my ability to read for fun has been while I’ve been in school, Sarah and Dave gave me Born to Run TWO Christmases ago, and I’ve only now gotten around to reading it! I also started reading Thinking, Fast and Slow near the end of the summer, as it was a recommended book on the syllabus for my Internet Marketing class (and it sounded super interesting), but once my classes, including Internet Marketing, started, I didn’t have time to finish it. So I’ll get back to that soon!

As I’ve now returned to the land of reading things other than textbooks and Harvard Business Review articles1, I also finally gotten around to joining Good Reads, where I will track all the stuff that I’m reading because in addition to loving to read, I love to track things! So you can friend me over there is you want to follow my reading adventures, which you totally know you want to.

Image Credit: Posted by Horia Varlan on Flickr using a Creative Commons license.

  1. Not that I intend to stop reading stuff from HBR – I *love* those articles! []