Tag: reading

2018 in books

Last year was the first year in which I kept a more organized list of what I read. I had a loose goal to read a book a week and ended the year having read 48 books. Given that a few of the books were significantly denser academic ones I consider that close enough.

The two best work books I read were Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic and Freedom from Command and Control.

Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic is an in-depth look at how Mayo Clinic works and the service mentality that’s embedded within their operations. I posted some high-level notes over here. If you work in any kind of service team it’s a worthwhile read. It captures in a more structured and easy-to-name way some aspects of effective service that you likely already intuit.

Freedom from Command and Control covers how to apply ideas from Toyota’s production system to service teams of all types. John Seddon is a consultant and covers a bunch of case studies and models for how to evaluate service team performance. Reading it got my mind working more than any service industry book in recent memory. As an aside, it’s $50 on Amazon so I’d generally recommend reading it only if you can find it at a local library. The first two-thirds of the book are fantastic. The last third is more of a rant by Seddon against certain standards bodies.

On the fiction side of things my favorite reads were when I branched out from the science fiction I typically read. Pachinko, Into the Distance, and The Sympathizer were three great ones.

I also refreshed my main reading list to start logging things as I go through 2019. I have a vacation coming up over the next week and a half so that list will grow quite a bit by the end of the month.

Replacing Instapaper with Pinboard

After Instapaper’s odd GDPR-related decision to (temporarily) block EU access I decided to re-evaluate what tool I use for my reading list. I’ve used Instapaper every day for the better part of a decade but something about their recent decision didn’t sit right with me.

I’ve had a Pinboard account since 2009 and decided to try it as a read-later tool. So far so good. If you’re interested you can see what I’ve recently read here.

The import process to Pinboard was a bit of a pain. It’s supposed to be automatic but for some reason my export files weren’t importing. I didn’t have that many articles in my backlog, so I ended up migrating these manually.

On the settings side Pinboard has a bookmarklet you can add to your browser for one-click article saving. I also set it up to mark everything as private by default. That gives me a private to-read list and a public already-read list.

iOS is where Pinboard is the least competitive with Instapaper. What’s worked well enough for me is the Pinner app (on both iPhone and iPad). That makes it easy to read articles through Safari’s reader mode. Plus it’s then much easier to turn articles into bookmarks. The main downside is that there’s no offline storage, though I rarely used that with Instapaper.

The bonus feature is that Pinboard has, for a fee, built-in archiving. For $25/year it will crawl every bookmark you add and save a cached version for as long as you have an active, paid account. It’s a nice protection against link rot.


Allerton Gardens.

Leah and I just got back from 9 days in Kauai. This was our second trip to the island and we enjoyed it just as much as the first. On the activities side of things we went for a hike along the south shore, did two intro SCUBA dives, and more. Plus, this was our view for the week. No complaints.

I also read my way through 5 books: Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson, Museums: A Visual Anthropology by Mary Bouquet, The End of Average by Todd Rose, A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine, and Anathem by Neal Stephenson.

Offscreen reading

Just got the new copy of Offscreen. I subscribed starting with Issue 10 and have really enjoyed reading it.

My list of books to read is immense, and only keeps growing at a rate which outpaces my reading speed. That means there are many canonical books that I’ve never read. In the last week and a half I picked two of them off the list, and loved both.

The first, A Canticle for Leibowitz, is a wonderful science fiction book written in the late-1950s. The focus is a plausible future where humans have annihilated the vast majority of the world’s population through nuclear weapon strikes. Written knowledge, seen as the foundation for that nuclear arms race, becomes both rare and hated.

The second, Fahrenheit 451, is Ray Bradbury’s classic about book burning and the role knowledge and conversation have (or rather, don’t have) in a dystopian future society. Short read, finished in a day, but really fantastic.

I read two articles about books and their future this morning. The Millions has a feature on Tumblr’s Reblog Book Club. It’s a refreshing example of creating space for productive discussion online. Om Malik also has an interview up with Matt MacInnis, CEO of Inkling. The idea of unbundling everything we use the book for into its component pieces really appeals to me.

A few days ago I finished Haruki Murakami’s, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Loved it; great book. It’s a book about running that, really, is about far more than running. Murakami weaves an engaging memoir together that illustrates the place running has in his life, work, and personal happiness.

How You Know

Reading and experience train your model of the world. And even if you forget the experience or what you read, its effect on your model of the world persists. Your mind is like a compiled program you’ve lost the source of. It works, but you don’t know why.

How You Know by Paul Graham.

An upside to tracking my reading is knowing that, so far, I’ve read 34 books this year. 1 I’ve been aiming for one book a week and am close to that goal; just 7 books short.

Those 34 books break down as 19 non-fiction and 15 fiction. I’ve been on a bit of a sci-fi kick this year, reading 11 books. That will soon be 12 sci-fi books as I’m nearly done with Abaddon’s Gate.


  1. Pardon the dust on that linked page. Still need to work out how best to display books with this new theme.

New Reading Material


I’ve been reading a lot more recently, about a book every week. This should keep me busy for a while; a benefit to living three blocks from Powell’s.

As an aside I find it really beneficial to read one fiction book in conjunction with one non-fiction. Ensures I have reading material no matter the frame of mind I’m in.