I Read More Than I Think I Do

Sometimes, particularly at the end of the year, I worry that I don’t read enough. Mary reads all the time, and sometimes I think it’s more like she inhales the books (or, in this case, the ebooks). I, on the other hand, am a great one for starting an e-book, putting it down for a period of time (measured in weeks or months, and maybe even years), picking it up again, reading some more, etc. until I get through it. If you were to ask me how many books I read during the year, I’d probably tell you four or five. And you would recoil in horror: “My God, you’re a writer and you only read five books this year?”

I was embarrassed about this until I got my statistics from Pocket for the year ending in ten days. Pocket is a service that allows me to put articles, web pages, and blog posts aside to be read later. I use it primarily to hold onto your blog posts, along with any links I might find, when I’m working on my Kindle or my phone, because occasionally those devices can’t open them, or the whole article doesn’t come through on Feedly, or I haven’t the time to read it then (like it’s the middle of the night and I just happen to grab my phone). Likewise, when I happen across an article on Wikipedia (which by now everyone knows is the blogger’s best friend) or a news item, I can save it for later, and I’ve discovered I can save Instagram pictures and YouTube and Dailymotion videos there as well.

Anyway, back to my yearly statistics. Turns out I’m in their top 1% of all users.

Source: Pocket

So, I’ve read the equivalent of 45 books this year on Pocket. Add that to the four or five (it’s actually more than that) actual books I’ve read, and that’s about a book a week. Maybe not reading at Mary’s level, but at the same time it isn’t as though I’m not reading. I think I’m becoming a better blogger, since the majority of those words were from your blog posts.

So, thank you for writing that I’ve really enjoyed and learned something from.

Pocket added social media functionality to their service this past year, where you can see what your friends recommend and where you can recommend things to your friends. I don’t use that part of it, mostly because I’m hesitant to give Pocket access to lists of my Facebook and Twitter friends, and I’m not sure I’d use it much anyway. If any of you are Pocket users and you’re using those features, how do you like them?

And, if you’re not a Pocket user, why not give it a try? I think you’d find it helpful and convenient to use. It’s a free service (although I’m a premium user, at least for this year, at $30). (They aren’t paying me to say that, in case you’re wondering.)

James Altucher’s 10 Ways Reading Makes Your Life Better


It’s been one of those days. I went to bed way too late and got about five hours of sleep, I’ve spent most of the day spinning my wheels with a problem that I’m still having with the whole simulcasting experience, I tried using a different service to do the simulcasting. only to learn they talk to WordPress but not to Blogger (“Gee, we were thinking about it, but haven’t got around to it,” while advertising on their page that they do), it’s been the coldest it’s been since I moved here, etc. etc. Needless to say, when it came to coming up with a Thursday Ten, I drew an absolute blank.

So, instead of writing something myself, I’m going to yield the floor to James Altucher, hedge fund manager, author of several books (all available on Amazon), and host of the blog Altucher Confidential. I’ve been reading his blog for several years now, follow him on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to his email list. He doesn’t talk about money or investing on his blog; rather, he talks about his philosophy of life and how he thinks. The other day, he posted an article to his email list called 10 Reasons Reading Makes Your Life Better. I think it’s an interesting look on something we should all be doing as writers, anyway.

Read the article and ask yourself whether there’s anything he forgot when he made up his list. I’d love to hear what you think.


It’s Saturday again, boys and girls, time for me to do another installment of Stream of Consciousness Saturday, brought to us by Linda Hill, on whose blog you can find the instructions. Grab the graphic below and play along, why don’tcha?


This Week’s Prompt: heel/heal

So today’s prompt is “heel/heal” and all I could think about was Walter Brennan in Meet John Doe going on about the “Heel-lots,” and how Gary Cooper didn’t want to get in with them.

Barbara Stanwyck was in that movie, too. She was also in Ball of Fire with Gary Cooper as a jazz singer that Cooper sees and realizes that the dictionary that he and a bunch of college professors were writing was missing hundreds of words. And, she was in Christmas In Connecticut with Dennis Morgan and Sidney Greenstreet. S. Z. Sakall was also in that movie, and in Ball of Fire. Amazing how those old actors got into everything. Also interesting, she was in the movie Double Indemnity with Fred MacMurray, and by the 1960’s both of them were playing heads of families, he on My Three Sons, she on The Big Valley. Which also featured Lee Majors and a young Linda Evans, who played little more than eye candy on the show. A shame, but that’s the way things were. Barbara Stanwyck was listed as “Miss Barbara Stanwyck” in the opening credits of the show. She was a beautiful woman with tremendous legs, the kind that look good in high heels. See? I brought it all back together.

Gary Cooper played a baseball hopeful in Meet John Doe. He was participating in the whole thing because they promised they would pay to have his arm fixed so he could pitch again. Which reminds me of one of the greatest things I ever saw on a baseball diamond: The Braves were playing the Mets in New York a couple of years ago, and Eric Young Jr. was hitting against Tim Hudson. Young hit a soft grounder to Freddie Freeman, the first baseman, and Hudson runs over to cover first. Hudson makes the call, and Young kept running and stepped on Hudson’s heel and broke it. It was clearly an accident; both of them just got to the base at the same time, and I know Young didn’t mean to step on Hudson’s heel. And Young was really upset, I mean in tears. He was a rookie, Hudson was a veteran, and the kid was just shattered that he had hurt the guy. They had to bring a stretcher onto the field to take Hudson off, and before they did, he called Young over. I could see what he was saying: Don’t worry, kid, things like this happen and they’re nobody’s fault. I’ll be fine, you just get back and play. It was really a testament to the kind of player Hudson and Young both were. They were playing hard, the way the game is meant to be played. Someone gets hurt, and there are no hard feelings. Tim, being the veteran player, told Eric, the rookie, that everything was okay. I remember getting on Twitter and sending Young a tweet, saying essentially the same thing, and hundreds of other Braves fans did the same thing. Here’s the video of the accident.

Back to the movies. I always thought that Kevin Costner was this generation’s Gary Cooper, but Costner had worse taste in roles to take. Kind of a shame; he was really good in Bull Durham and Field Of Dreams. The latter movie always makes me cry. It was about baseball, but it was also about fathers and sons and reconciling with them, and about what seems to be the wrong thing to do ends up being the right thing after all. Not to mention a beautiful speech delivered by James Earl Jones, playing Terence Mann.

And while I’m on the subject of James Earl Jones, the commercials he and Malcolm McDowell did for Sprint a few years ago were among my all-time favorites. Two fine actors doing dramatic readings of text message conversations. I wish Sprint had left them on YouTube, because if you’ve never seen them, you missed a real experience.

Malcolm McDowell was in A Clockwork Orange. I think it was his first movie role, at least his first starring role. It was originally a book by Anthony Burgess. It’s a short book, maybe I should read it sometime. I’m learning to read a lot faster, in the hopes that I can get more reading done and not get distracted as easily. I think, the way I’ve been reading, one word at a time, I get bored with the book and start looking for other ways to entertain myself. But I read an article on Lifehack about reading faster, and I’m doing some of the things it says to do, and I notice a difference already.

Whoa… this has really taken a roundabout route… hope you haven’t turned on your heels and left.

(Videos were added after the text was written, by the way…)

Straight ahead to 2015

I had something that I was going to post, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I hadn’t drawn a conclusion for everyone to think about, so that’s sitting in the queue waiting for further updates. You might see it next week, or sometime in the future, or maybe never. You know how it goes. I’m not so certain I’m all that hot about the topic.


That, of course, leaves me without a post for today, so I thought it might be good to talk about 2015, and where I want this blog to go, and where I want my writing to go, because let’s face it, I’ve really been banging around like a boat without a rudder where my writing is concerned. Here are some thoughts I had.

  1. For someone that does this every day, I am remarkably disorganized. A lot of times I have no idea what I’m going to write about until I’m seated at the computer faced with a deadline. The reason I added a couple of the features that I did this past year (Blue Monday, Stream of Consciousness Saturday, the bimonthly Battle of the Bands) was because I needed things to write about. I’ve also fallen in to the habit of counting my ROW80 checkins as posts, something I never intended to do. I like doing Two for Tuesday, and although I sometimes have trouble coming up with a list of ten things to post on Thursday, I think that’s a worthwhile exercise, even if half the time I’m grabbing ten videos off of YouTube and embedding them into a post.
    One of Gibbs’ rules on NCIS is “trust your gut,” and my gut is telling me I need to start using an editorial calendar to plan out my posts a week or two into the future. I haven’t done that because I worry something will come up that I really, really, REALLY want to blog about, but I would have already posted for that day. Turns out, that’s just me making excuses for not doing it.

  2. I blog every day because I have no idea what to write about otherwise. In fiction, I’m pretty good at a couple of things (character building and dialogue) but I really suck at plotting and outlining my stories. In non-fiction, I’m drawn to memoir, but I don’t want to just write hilarious little vignettes about my early childhood and be done with it. In other words, I blog to avoid developing my skills in those areas.
    Lately, though, I think one of my stable of characters has a story to tell, and I think it’s time that I bit the bullet and learned how to write that story.

  3. I’ve been negligent in my reading. I’ve taken steps to remedy that situation, buying a new Kindle and sorting though our joint library to locate the books that I got for free and allowed to accumulate. I’ve started reading some of the books and made a terrible discovery: I don’t find them all that interesting. I haven’t determined whether my taste in reading material has changed or I’m just allowing myself to be overwhelmed. I think maybe it’s time I started looking for what I do like to read, besides writing books. Maybe starting with the books I blew off in high school, again.

Over the last two weeks of the year, these are the areas I’ll be focusing on as I come up with a decent set of goals to get me closer to where I want to be as a writer, a blogger, and a reader by the end of next year.

Have you given any thought to what your goals for 2015 will be?

A book from my childhood

Source: Amazon.com
Source: Amazon.com

This was one of my favorite books as a kid. I got it from my godmother when I was seven or eight. She had brought a copy home with her when she returned from a trip to Europe, and we used to read it together. She thought I might like a copy of my own. I lost track of the book after I left home, but Mom kept it for me and gave it back to me not long before she died.

These were children’s stories written by Herr Wilhelm Busch in the late 1800’s. They were written in German, and the book I have (an earlier edition of the one currently available) has the text written in German and translated into pretty amazing English poetry by “H. Arthur Klein and others.”

These are not pleasant stories. Max and Moritz are two delinquent little boys that wreak havoc wherever they go. They kill a woman’s chickens, then abscond with the meat, put gunpowder in the church organist’s pipe, goad the town’s tailor into crossing a bridge which they have sawed through, and end up being ground up by the local miller and fed to the ducks. Ker and Plunk, or “Plisch und Plum” if you prefer, are two dogs that are saved from drowning by Peter and Paul. The dogs (and boys) are about as bad as Max and Moritz, but without the malicious intent, and finally all are taught a lesson with a hazel-root stick, after which they become model citizens.

There are shorter stories as well. A boy goes skating on a very cold day, falls through the ice, and freezes. His father finds him and brings him home, and when they try to thaw him, he melts away. Two boys tease an old man who lives in a barrel, and eventually get flattened by said barrel. A boy tries smoking his father’s pipe, and the room starts dancing around him until his mother finds him and puts him to bed with strong coffee. A boy teases an old man with a blowgun, and the old man shoves the gun down the kid’s throat.

Gee, really pleasant stuff, huh? As awful as it sounds, it’s a wonderful book. Busch wrote the whole thing in verse and illustrated it himself, and both drawings and verse are clever. The translators took care to produce a text that’s faithful both to Busch’s words and to the poetry and stories. The Afterword of the book has details about the stories and explains some of the translations. And, my copy is over fifty years old, and while the cover is torn off, the pages are still intact.

If you know German, or are trying to learn it, you’ll like this book. If you write verse, you’ll like this book. If you have kids, they’ll like this book. If you just like stories like this, you’ll like the book. I can still remember the details and the pictures forty years later, even though I hadn’t had a chance to sit down and read it again until recently.

I rate this book five stars (or, if you prefer, Fünf Sterne).