Reading and Learning

I don’t remember exactly when I first learned to read, but one of my earliest memories of reading is from the passenger side back seat of my parents’ car, taking in every single word of every business sign as we drove down the street, marveling at the not only the information that I could, and was, taking in so simply, but also that sense of awe in myself, in the “I’m reading! I am READING!!! By myself! With no help!”. That moment was a revelation, which may be obvious at this time, has stuck with me from that moment on.

There were some notable moments, I guess you could call them, in my reading history. Such as the summer in high school (it was 1993, I want to say) where, between working full time, I managed to read over 3000 pages, including the majority of Asimov’s Foundation series. Mostly on the bus to and from work, as well as evenings before bed.

There was also the time a friend of mine in College introduced me to David Eddings’ world of the Belgariad and Malloreon (thanks Steeve!) He lent me book #1 (Pawn of Prophesy), and I soaked it in in about 2 days. That weekend, I went to a book store, and bought all 5 books of the Belgariad series, new! I was so entranced, it didn’t occur to me to check the used bookstore. Fortunately, I did for the Malloreon (part 2 of the series) and saved a bundle. Most notably of reading this series, there was a night where I set out to read a few chapters of the book I’d just started. At 4am, I finished all 300+ pages of the book, and had to force myself to not read “just 1-2 chapters of the next book”.

Over the years, I’ve read more, or less, but I always read. On the bus, standing up, on the commute to or from work, be it a novel or a technical book (which is exactly how I learned classic ASP). During lunch breaks, evening hours, the newspaper on the way to work, doing the crosswords on the way back home in the evening (after reading the comics, of course!)

However, after a while, other things took over, and my love of reading was pretty much off by the wayside, yearning to be picked up, but mostly, sadly and woefully ignored. I’m ashamed to admit that this went on for YEARS. Sure, I’d read a little here and some there, but nowhere near the volume or the amount of time I had in years past, despite having the opportunities to do so.

Fortunately, later, but not too late (it’s never too late to pick up a book again), a wondrous thing was unleashed upon the world! E-Ink! And with it, the eReader revolution! I had checked out the nook, hemmed and hawed at it, and ultimately passed. It simply didn’t have that tug, the sense of purpose or belonging. Odd as this may seem, it felt foreign to me. However, a short time after that, I bought a kindle, after briefly toying with a co-worker’s device for a few minutes. This was back in the days where you could ONLY get a Kindle directly from Amazon. They did have a forum where you could meet up with other local people who have Kindles, and are willing to let strangers take them out for a test drive.

Regardless, after a few minutes, I was sold. At least, in principle. In money, this thing was not a piddly purchase. This was the 2nd generation device, with a physical keyboard and all that fanfare. At the time, the device retailed for 259$ from Amazon – plus another 65$ if you wanted the 2 year protection plan. My brother likes to say “only chumps pay retail”. Well, call me a chump, but I was an extremely happy one when the device came in.

This little slate styled tablet, reminiscent of the PADDs from Star Trek, was a rebirth of my reading passion. I would read from it pretty much every chance I would get. Breakfast, lunch, bed time, you name it. Not to mention, since it supported “active” content, there were some very fun and challenging word games available to play with the keyboard. I couldn’t say how many hours I spent exploring the lack of breadth or depth of my vocabulary on “EveryWord“. And it truly lived, and still lives, up to the promise of being able to read it in any circumstance. I’ve read it in bed with a small lamp clamped to the top. I’ve read it outdoors, in the park. I’ve read it in fluorescent office lighting as well as mixed natural/artificial lighting on a bus and train. Even by the electric candle they call a “light” on an airplane. I could read when and where ever I had the chance!

Now, I won’t say that there haven’t been any relapses in setting reading aside, however, they have been much shorter lived. In fact, ever since I got my newest Kindle device (the Kindle Voyage, which I highly recommend and can’t praise enough, and even has great prices on refurbished devices), I have nearly literally (but mostly metaphorically) plowed through many, many books. When combined with services such as Instapaper and Readability which can natively send articles to your device (others can be handled by email, 3rd party services, such as IFTTT, there is never a lack of words and pages to read, and keep metaphorically turning. To round it out, with all of those possibilities and combined with it’s built-in, self-adjusting backlight, reduced size and weight, it’s more convenient than ever to read when ready!

So, between the Kindle and Amazon’s integration with Goodreads, natively within the platform, I’ve been better able to track what, and how much, I read, which can be seen on my Goodreads profile page. Every year, for a few years now, Goodreads has a “reading challenge”, where you challenge yourself to reading a certain amount throughout the calendar year. So, in 2015, I challenged myself to read 12 books. It was low for two reasons – first, I knew I had some long books to read, and second, it only automatically counted books that came in via the Kindle store. You had (have) to manually update book progress and completion from any other sources, such as externally sourced eBooks (Kickstarter rewards, books from Gumroad, those sold on publisher’s and author’s sites, etc).

I must admit, I really surprised myself when I saw, at the end of 2015, that I had read not just the 12, not even double that, 24 books, but a whopping 29 books throughout 2015! So, for 2016, I really challenged myself. I wanted to push myself, and see what my eyes were made of. So I challenged myself to read an incredible 18 books. Yeah. Anticlimactic, yes? But also, I knew going in that this year was going to be a busy one, and I would need to make the time to do some reading. Also, I ~~spend~~ ~~invest~~ procrastinate a lot of time on Hacker News. This is one where you can/should read the comments, unlike the rest of the internet!

However, should I ever run out of things which I currently have bought to read, or simply run out of things that I would like to read – such as free books I got because “free”, but in hindsight, not worth the e-ink they’re displayed on. So, should that day ever come, I will, without a doubt, be on the hook for a Kindle Unlimited subscription. Hopefully they’ll still be running the 30 days free (or longer, one can hope) trial period when that day comes.

So, now that I’ve expressed enough words, I think it’s time to go consume a few of them. First, let me ask you, what are you reading today?