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Have Read, Am Reading, Will Read

I’ve been working on making some changes and either introducing, or re-introducing some more positive habits into my life. And one of the main things I wanted to make time for is reading printed books.

There were two main reasons for this. One was to spend at least some time between waking and sleeping when I’m not reading from a screen to give my eyes a rest and to get into a better routine to promote a good night of sleep.

The other was to see if my attention span has suffered from the constant distractions of social media, notifications, and emails. There’s still plenty of debate over the potential benefits and harm of task switching (as opposed to pretending you can actually multi-task). And it’s never something I really experience when actively writing and creating something – only when passively consuming entertainment of some description

Plus I miss my childhood, spent devouring books for at least an hour every day…

So I bought some books. One I’ve already finished, one I’ve just started, and one is awaiting me impatiently… And the benefit of having been slack in my reading habits for a while is that many of the things I want to read are relatively cheap right now.

Jon Pierson: Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes: Guided Tour Through A Decade of American Independent Cinema

Spike, Mike Slackers and Dykes by Jon Pierson

Written in 1997, I can remember it being recommended by Clerks director Kevin Smith a long time ago. And it was one of those things I never seemed to get around to reading – until now.

And it was alright. The author, Jon Pierson, was responsible for investing in, and making deals for, indie films including Spike Lee’s first film, She’s Gotta Have It, the aforementioned Clerks by Kevin Smith, documentary The Thin Blue Line, and Richard Linklater’s Slackers among others. So a pretty good list of influential films from that period.

As a result, the book covers elements of film making, film distribution and dealing with studios, but not really in much depth. In fact, what was most interesting when reading it now is wondering whether there’s still a need for that type of role and how making films has changed. This was an era when extremely low budget meant $7,000 (El Mariachi) or $27,000 (Clerks) on 16mm film. Not an iPhone.

It was also an era before internet distribution – no Youtube or Vimeo. No Amazon or Netflix streaming. And none of the smaller online indie film sites like Indieflix.com, for example. And the book was published two years before the internet sensation of the Blair Witch Project…

Having said all that, it’s still a very interesting book. If you’ve got an outsider’s interest in film, then you’ll pick up some inspiration, and it’s a great example of someone risking their money and livelihood on things that they like and consider worth championing. Which doesn’t always pay off, but still resulted in a pretty incredible batting average. So if you’re interested, the wonderful vagaries of Amazon’s pricing algorithm mean you can get a secondhand copy anywhere from 1p to £23.47 depending on which apparently identical listing you click on.

 

Julian Dibbell: Play Money

Play Money by Julian Dibbell

I’m doing better with Play Money. It’s taken me less than a decade to finally get a copy of a book I’ve meant to read since I first heard about it. When it was written, the world of MMO gaming was relatively new and unknown. So the idea of a journalist taking a year out of work to try and earn a living purely within an online game seemed fairly odd to a lot of people. For me, it just seemed a fascinating glimpse into what might happen in the future..

And given the rise of MMOs and eSports, I’d like to tell my former self not to listen to the naysayers and invest more time and effort into the ideas he had back then…. darn it…

Anyway, it’s been interesting so far. I’m pretty early in, but it’s fascinating firstly to be transports back to the era of Ultima Online. For context, World of Warcraft was new and still growing in 2006. Second Life had appeared in 2003. And I was still in my twenties…

So while it’s not exactly a handbook for how to make a living from gaming in the modern age, it’s been an interesting look back so far. And it’ll be fun to see how many characters from the book are still active in gaming in some way…

Interestingly, author Julian Dibbell has recently switched from 20 years of writing about tech to becoming a tech attorney. Anyway, so far so good. and there are some shiny paperback copies of Play Money on Amazon, although the hardcover copy I chose appears to have vanished…

 

Mark Earls: Herd

Herd by Mark Earls

I’ve been waiting to dive into Herd to make sure I’m back to maximum focus. Mainly because I could have sworn I’d not only read it close to the original release, but also owned a copy.

Either it was a very rare time I lent a book to someone (I can only remember lending out a handful of books in my life, and the loss of the 2 I remember loaning out in the last 15 years still pains me), or I’d read some much insight from Mr Earls via articles, blogs, and Twitter etc that my memory started playing tricks on me.

But it seemed like a very pertinent time to re-read a book whose subtitle is ‘How to change mass behaviour by harnessing our true nature’, and it’ll be interesting to pick out which bits are relevant with the recent examples of Trump, Brexit and other mass behaviours…

I was also given a copy of Five on Brexit Island by some relatives recently. And looking at my profile on Goodreads, it appears than what I thought was a break of a few weeks after starting Cryptonomicon has turned into several months. In my defence, I did get distracted by motoring through the fantastic Ecko trilogy by Danie Ware, which I recommend to anyone who enjoys sci-fi, fantasy, and a healthy dose of vernacular English cursing.

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Awesome books in the Amazon Spring Sale

I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember. When I was young, my parents and some of my teachers did a lot to encourage me, and part of my routine as a child was to spend an hour or more engrossed in a book before I went to sleep.

It’s been vitally important in becoming a better writer, marketer and communicator. And I’m constantly being tempted and encouraged by the combination of a Kindle and Amazon’s one-click purchase and delivery over wifi. I still enjoy browsing bookstores and comic book shops when I get the chance, but having almost instant access to such a wide variety of niche topics and authors still amazes me.

Looking at my purchases over the years since I was given a Kindle, I’ve noticed the price point for impulse purchases tends to be around the £3 mark. I’ll sometimes pay more for an eBook if it’s something particularly useful for work, or accept the short wait for a secondhand print edition, but I usually can’t justify paying much larger amounts for something which I know costs almost nothing to store and transmit.

So I’m always interested in Kindle deals and sales – and the current Spring Sale which runs until April 4th has some brilliant books in in which I thought were worth highlighting as they cover business, marketing, motivation and also inspirational fiction. I’ve marked the ones I bought earlier this week to read, the ones I’ve already consumed, and the ones I’ve owned for a while and recommend.

 

Already Owned: Pattern Recognition by William Gibson – £1.99

I’m a big fan of science fiction, especially as it often informs the approach technologists take to the future. And William Gibson is the legendary author of a number of cyberpunk classics which have certainly had an influence on hackers, techies and innovation.

But Pattern Recognition is based in the current day, which makes it far more accessible to anyone turned away by the idea of science fiction. It still integrates the use of present and imminent tech in a fairly fast-moving tale which contains the usual Gibson level of detail when describing objects and surroundings. It’s the Otaku level of descriptions which I love, whether it’s street in London, an item of clothing or a piece of antique technology. And it’s just £1.99 for the Kindle Edition in the sale.

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson – £1.99

 

Already Owned: Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson – £0.99

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of this when it was published by Seth Godin’s The Domino Project. It was particularly appreciated as I studied American Literature for my degree, and Emerson was obviously a notable part of that.

All of the Domino Project books were designed to be relatively short, to allow you to read them quickly. But also to have long-lasting effects on how you think and act, especially with regards to motivation and business. The fact that Self-Reliance was written almost 200 years ago hasn’t changed the insight and inspiration contained in it, and this edition includes relevant quotes about the effect of the book by various industrial and influential people since. And it’s less than £1.

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson – £0.99

 

Just Finished: The Liberation of Loch Fyne Oysters by David Erdal – £0.99

I picked this up for three reasons. The first is that I’ve dined in one of the first Loch Fyne Restaurants, as it’s in Oundle near Peterborough, so I recognised the name. Secondly, it covers the history of the firm from founding and particularly when it became an employee owned company. And thirdly, it was less than a quid.

The author is head of a partnership that was set up to assist employee owned companies, and is able to provide a wealth of context around the Loch Fyne example, including other employee-owned businesses throughout the years, the benefits, and the pitfalls. It may seem easy to become employee owned, go open source, or latch onto other similar concepts, but it’s certainly no guarantee of success without a  lot of hard work and most importantly, a change in mindset. Well worth reading as a very human introduction to the concept for any business owner.

The Liberation of Loch Fyne Oysters by David Erdal – £0.99

 

Currently Reading: Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do by Euan Semple – £2.19

I was quite surprised to see this available for such a cheap price as it was released fairly recently by Euan, who I’m pleased to say I’ve met and chatted with a lot online. I recommend keeping an eye on his blog, The Obvious? in addition to picking up this book. Having worked in a senior role at the BBC, he’s since consulted with a range of large businesses on the introduction and integration of social media tools.

I’ve only just started reading the book itself, but it follows the same style as Euan expresses in person and on his site – it’s about the people and approach you take, rather than the choice of specific social media tool. Thinking about your business needs and objectives in the right way, and the right approaches means you can cope with the constant changes in technology in a calm and positive way.

Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do by Euan Semple – £2.19

 

To Read:

How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzeil – £2.09
The future involves a far greater integration between computer AI and human endeavour. And as an author, inventor, futurist and current Director of Engineering at Google, Kurzweil has been long recognised as one of the most insightful and influential people in this area. I honestly can’t wait to read this one!

Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation by James McQuivey – £0.99

James McQuivey is a VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester. And picking up this book for less than a pound is definitely cheaper than buying a Forrester report! Plus the blurb on the Amazon page picks out some interesting examples of disruption from the book covering some wildly different industries, which is always a great way to become inspired.

Finance for Non-Financial Managers: In a Week: Teach Yourself by Roger Mason – £1.99

There’s definitely a balance in running a business between awareness of every important aspect, and bringing in the right resources to take care of areas which aren’t your strength, or become time sinks. I’m well aware that I’ll probably never become an accountant, and the finest detail of our finances require specialist help – my time is better spent elsewhere.

At the same time, as a business owner, I need to understand and be comfortable with all the financial requirements, and know what’s going on at any point in the process – and be able to dig into the finer detail as needed. So I’m always looking for resources which can help me to overcome any gaps in my knowledge, and reluctance to step away from the creative side to ensure that my business is stable and able to grow effectively.

 

There are hundreds of other books in the sale, and I’d love to know your thoughts on any that you pick up and read, or anything I’ve missed from the list above.

 

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Been reading: The Leopard by Jo Nesbo

It’s been funny seeing the huge popularity of Scandinavian crime novels follow by own introduction to the genre by a Swedish ex-girlfriend. Spending more than a decade together meant that I had a reasonable insight into Swedish culture when I was introduced to the original Wallander series and films.

That was followed by going back to the original source, the Martin Beck novels by Per Wahllo and Maj Sjowall. And also expanding my reading to other Scandinavian countries. I’ve obviously head of Jo Nesbo, but only got around to reading my first Harry Hole novel when The Leopard: A Harry Hole thriller
arrived for Christmas.

It’s not surprising that it’s a fair leap from Martin Beck and Wallander to Harry Hole. The Leopard is a great crime thriller, with a more modern amount of gory details, and a setting which covers Hong Kong, Africa and Norway. It means that there’s less of an overt Scandinavian outlook and approach to the world, and it’s fairly fast-paced with some good twists.

It’s also a good length at about 600+ pages, and yet I still ended up finishing it in just a couple of days – I couldn’t put it down until I reached the end…