What books did you read in 2010?

I didn’t read as much as I’d like to have (by a long way). But that happens most years. Far too much going on in my life! I expect you are the same. Which means when I invest time in a book it has to be really good.

When I was a teenager I would read every book I picked up from cover to cover, even if after a few pages I knew it sucked.

But I had more time back then and I was determined if I started something I would see it thru (an interesting life lesson is learning when giving up on something is actually the right course of action – took me a long time to learn how to make that judgement call – and I probably don’t always get that one right).

So this year the highlights of my reading have been:

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham (genius sci-fi writer)

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey (writes about California and you can tell he loves the place)

Survivors by Terry Nation (genius sci-fi writer, creator of the Daleks for Dr Who)

(I have also read a pretty good book for Oktober Books, but that has been an editing role and it isn’t due out until mid 2011, so I can’t really discuss… yet!)

If you have any literary highlights / must reads from the past year, please tell us about them:

Great book give away

December 28, 2010

The great book give away is happening on March 5 this year and has been organised by Jamie Byng ( a publishing genius).

You have until Jan 4 to sign up – details here.

Anyone interested in their finances (or even in some hardcore economics) should check out this American guy’s blog.


Sign up to the free weekly update and each week you get a “tip of the week” by email – some of these are genius (a recent one is below) there are also several free bits of the site, but to get to the really indepth stuff you need to climb the pay wall.

Gary also has some of his books available free to download as eBooks, some are pretty useful. Others (to my mind) not so much. A mixed bag.

On occasion he opens up the paid for stuff for sneaky peeks (great marketing move – to let you see what you’re missing by not paying him a monthly fee) and its always been good stuff when he has done that.

Example tip of the week:


Gary North's Tip of the Week - |DATE Used Tools (Cheap)
    I am a great believer in owning tools.  I am also a
procrastinator in learning how to use new tools.  

    One way to reduce your costs of procrastination is to buy
used tools from other procrastinators who finally gave up.  You
buy at 25 cents on the dollar or less.

    This is why I love Craigslist.  It offers so much stuff that
is in good shape, yet the owners are ready to sell cheap.  They
see that they are not using some device, so they figure that
getting something is better than getting nothing and also wasting
storage space.  This is a wise decision.

    I use NotifyWire.  I have recommended it before.  I am doing
it again.  You can find out who is selling what on Craigslist,
and for how long (if you check older listings).  The longer, the
better.  He may be willing to take less.


    If I buy a used tool that is in pretty good shape, and I pay
very little for it, even if I never do use it, I can sell it on
Craigslist for close to what I paid for it.

    The main expense is my time.  So, I don't look for cheap
tools this way.  I look for $1,000 items for $250.  

    I am in the market for a small greenhouse.  

    I have this advantage: my wife is great with tools and can
repair almost anything.  She likes tools, too.

Gary "Tool Shed" North

Two years to go…

December 21, 2010

According to the Mayan calender we have only got two years left.

Since most of us remember the Millenium and the whole end of the world stuff that built up around that… I am definately a sceptic about this Mayan thing.


What book did you really like when you were a kid?

When I was reasonably young, I really loved The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heide.

When I was at school there were some books about pirates (the blue pirate, the red pirate, the green pirate, as I recall). But I have no idea who they were by or what they were called. I remember loving them when I was in the first year at junior school. I think one of the pirates got stuck on an island and met a Griffin.

A little older and I got into Roald Dahl. I don’t think I ever read one of his books I didn’t like.After reading his children’s books it was pretty awesome to discover his adult fiction also rocked.

Eventually I read The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien and from fantasy I got into sci-fi as well with John Christopher and The Tripods Trilogy.

Any recommendations from your childhood welcomed:

(and if you know anything about the pirate reading books, I’d love to hear from you.)




Dispatches from India

December 16, 2010

My friend Rowena Speirs (and former Weston & Somerset Mercury reporter back in the day) is in Mumbai, India, blogging for World Vision.

Her dispatches from India are insightful and if you have any interest in the sub continent (or the work of World Vision for that matter) it would be worth having a read.

I will give a personal recommendation for her writing ability – evidenced by her description in the linked piece:

“There is nothing appealing about Subhash Nagar. It is a blight on this banking and diamond quarter of India’s economic capital, Mumbai. There are ramshackle houses tripping over each other in every direction with only narrow, litter-filled lanes and a noodle soup of electrical cables connecting them.”

I am intrigued by her view of India and the descriptions of the people she meets and the life they lead. I recommend you have a read of her dispatches too.

With thanks to my old friend Dave for pointing this out to me.

If you go forward to around 2 hours 50 mins there is a piece about the author David Eagleman.

(This is a link to a BBC radio programme, so will disappear after a week unfortunately,  see my earlier comments on broadcasters approach to having their back catalogue online).

This author has published an iPad book which has lots of graphs / images and can be read from any chapter (he speaks of a Random Access Chapter device, which I assume is named to remind us of how RAM works). The book sounds like the kind of future I have been talking about for publishing, and in fact probably goes further than I have thought – the chapters can and will be updated as time goes on to ensure they remain relevant.

He also talks about the importance of sources for his work and highlights the use of hyperlinks to confirm what he is saying (which is exactly what bloggers do all the time, so I am not too surprised by this).

The interview is not a great one – would a BBC interviewer have asked any other author a question about how readers can trust what is being said in this new format – just the sort of material which will be replayed in half a century and people will laugh at how stupid the questions were as all books are made that way in 2060.

This blog is about the influence on publishing of what David Eagleman has done – you may also want to have a look at his website and get the book (Why The Net Matters: How the Internet Will Save Civilization) as the topic itself is quite interesting to (may blog about it once I have had a good look at what he says)

Just read an interesting blog on the economics of eBooks for students.

The conclusion here is broadly in line with some of my earlier blog posts – that the cost relative to print is an important factor in the decision to buy.

Google Books has landed

December 8, 2010

The publishing game has changed this week.

Google launched its rival to Amazon on Monday.

Google tends to be a game changer in whatever it does.

An indepth look at what has happened can be found in this article.

Only time will tell exactly what this means for ebooks and publishing.

Watch this space I guess…

which do you read first?

December 7, 2010

News is about people. Traditional news covers people such as Prime Ministers, Presidents, leaders of business and so on.

Once upon a time these were all packaged up in newspapers published each day, then broadcast in news bulletins on the wireless every hour and later on TV.

All of this information has moved online – you can read, watch or listen to news as it happens from anywhere in the world. I am quite interested in Aussie politics and read about it at The Age (Melbourne) or The Sydney Morning Herald.

So for free (well, the ongoing cost of my web connection), I can know what is happening to politicians and business leaders on the other side of the planet.

But the web has done something else. I can also read news from hundreds (or thousands if I want) of ordinary people. On Facebook via my PC or mobile I can see a stream of updates from people I see everyday and people I see from time to time (I get updates from my friend in Cambridgeshire and know what is happening to her most days, whereas Before Facebook (BF) we maybe spoke once a month / two months, which involved lots of catching up) and from people I haven’t seen for years.

These events I read about are happening to people, and to those folks and to me, these are news stories. Just not in the traditional sense where news values tell you what the Deputy PM does is news, while what my friend CH does in Cambs is unlikely to make the front page of the Sunday Times (as that DPM story did – havent connected to the original story due to the Rupert Murdoch paywall, which I have mentioned before).

I like news in the traditional sense and I like news in this new sense of status updates / feeds / streams which people I know are uploading. This blog I am writing will appear in feeds, sometimes it is commented upon, sometimes re-tweeted or pinged back. Certainly it is read by a few people and to some, on some level it is news that I have written it. Mostly I write commentary on other events (whether readers agree or not is of course up to them) rather than breaking news here.

Altho my Facebook updates will from time to time break news about my life – the biggest one (so far!) being when my son was born. I got messages and comments from all over the world within only a few hours and in some cases from people I havent seen in years.

A friend of mine was on a plane at the time and he landed to discover a voicemail from his mother demanding to know why he hadn’t told her that my boy had arrived – she had seen the Facebook pictures as well – he hadn’t even heard yet as he’d been on a flight. While my brother-in-law who hadn’t been around for the 24+ hours labour as I had, could have uploaded his photos first, while I slept, but told me later he thought it right he wait so I could upload the first photos. I was grateful for this and am glad he had a concept of Facebook etiquette.

I find it interesting that when I click the arrow on Firefox to look for most visited sites, the top two are always the same. One is a news site, the other is Facebook.

One of the life observations I have is whether I look at Facebook or traditional news first more often?

I know when I am expecting an update from a friend I will always look there first. But when I am just browsing while I wait for a train or for someone to arrive, is it the friend stream or the traditional news stream which I go to first? I am going to pay more attention to this.

Please feel free to let me know which one you go for first.

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