This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Posts here are rare these days. For current stuff, follow me on Mastodon



June 2024

I’m not reading enough. I blame Trump. And Twitter.

I’ve been thinking lately about how I have not been reading nearly enough books lately. This is a problem.

I’ve been tracking the books I read since 2006. The graph above quantifies it. Although I was bad in 2007-2009 too, I’d been keeping up a decent pace of reading from 2010-2015.

A decent pace for me anyway. My average in those years was 13.5 books per year. I know a lot of people read much more than that… and I even read more than that myself when I was much younger… but I think I’m OK with anything above 12 per year at the moment. One per month.

In 2016 I fell off a cliff though. I only finished FIVE books. In 2017 it was even worse. Only THREE.

I semi-joke that I blame Trump and Twitter, but there actually is quite a bit of truth to it. Starting with the 2016 election year, and going forward into the Trump administration, it has felt like if you turned away for even a few moments, you would miss something important happening. So all those spare moments that I previously might have spent reading a book (or even listening to an audio book), instead were spent on Twitter, listening to live news, listening to news related podcasts, or whatever.

The key being it had to be real time or near real time. Reading tweets from a few minutes ago? Of course! Reading an article that was written earlier today? OK, fine. Reading an article that was written yesterday… MAYBE, if it was a really important one, but you’re stretching it. That is way too far out of date! A magazine article from a week ago? Don’t make me laugh! A book written years ago? Doing that felt like every moment spent on that was a moment I was disengaged and out of the stream of what was happening. What did I miss in the time it took to read that chapter? That was just painful.

All of that is of course silly. Nothing bad will happen if I disengage with the news for a few minutes to read a book. Frankly, if anything really big happens, I’ll get an alert anyway. But even if I didn’t, it isn’t like I have to DO anything with that news in real time. I’m not going to be the one making big decisions in reaction to that news. I’ll talk about it on my podcast maybe, but that is a weekly thing. Maybe I’ll want to tweet, or even though I haven’t done it much in recent years, write a blog post. But all that can wait. And is frankly optional anyway.

I can take 20 minutes (or more!) at the end of the day before bed or pull up my Kindle app sometimes on my phone instead of Tweetbot when I have spare moments here or there. I can listen to an audio book on my commute home instead of a news related podcast or live news channel stream! I can! I really can!

So a few days ago I made a resolution. Lets call it an April Fool’s resolution even though it wasn’t quite on April 1st. I decided that for 2018 I’ll make a conscious effort to do a bit more book reading than I have in the last two years. Maybe I won’t exceed the 17 books finished that I hit in 2011 and 2014, but maybe I can at least beat my average over the last decade of 9.9 books per year by finishing at least 10. Maybe I can even manage a one book per month average!

I’ve finished only 1 so far this year, so I’ve got to get to it. In the last week I’ve probably already read more and listened to more audio book content than I had in the previous three months, so I guess I’m off to a decent start…

I’m way down on watching TV shows and movies too, but dealing with that can wait for another day, or maybe that is just fine…

The last “book” post I did was the list of all the books I finished in 2011. To catch up, here is a list of all the books I finished from 2012 to 2017. I used to do little mini-reviews of each book as I went along, but no time for that, so just a list… I’ll report back on 2018 once it is over to see how I did.

2012 (3 Physical, 8 Kindle, 0 Audible = 11 total)

  1. 2012-02-10, Fiction, Kindle, We the Living by Rand
  2. 2012-03-16, Non-Fiction, Physical, Beautiful Evidence by Tufte
  3. 2012-03-18, Fiction, Kindle, 2nd Chance by Patterson
  4. 2012-05-09, Non-Fiction, Physical, Alex and Me by Pepperberg
  5. 2012-05-28, Fiction, Kindle, Heavy Planet by Clement
  6. 2012-06-10, Non-Fiction, Kindle, Lies and Outliers by Schneier
  7. 2012-06-22, Fiction, Kindle, Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Weis and Hickman
  8. 2012-07-14, Non-Fiction, Kindle, The President’s Club by Gibbs and Duffy
  9. 2012-09-02, Fiction, Kindle, Roots by Haley
  10. 2012-10-01, Non-Fiction, Physical, The 4-Dimensional Manager by Straw
  11. 2012-10-07, Fiction, Kindle, Containment by Cantrell

2013 (1 Physical, 8 Kindle, 0 Audible = 9 total)

  1. 2013-01-13, Non-Fiction, Kindle, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Morris
  2. 2013-01-16, Fiction, Kindle, The Wandering Falcon by Ahmad
  3. 2013-02-06, Non-Fiction, Kindle, Kanban by Anderson
  4. 2013-03-02, Fiction, Kindle, A Time to Kill by Grisham
  5. 2013-05-20, Non-Fiction, Physical, Steve Jobs by Isaacson
  6. 2013-05-27, Fiction, Kindle, A Drink Before the War by Lehane
  7. 2013-10-04, Non-Fiction, Kindle, Bayesian Data Analysis by Gelman, Carlin, Stern, and Rubin
  8. 2013-10-19, Fiction, Kindle, Things Fall Apart by Achebe
  9. 2013-11-24, Non-Fiction, Kindle, You Are Not So Smart by McRaney

2014 (2 Physical, 7 Kindle, 8 Audible = 17 total)

  1. 2014-01-28, Fiction, Physical, The Last Town on Earth by Mullen
  2. 2014-05-21, Non-Fiction, Audible, Fear Itself by Katznelson
  3. 2014-06-20, Non-Fiction, Kindle, Making Things Happen by Berkun
  4. 2014-07-05, Fiction, Kindle, A Spark of Death by Pajer
  5. 2014-07-09, Non-Fiction, Physical, Change the Way You See Everything by Cramer and Wasiak
  6. 2014-07-16, Fiction, Audible, 11/22/63 by King
  7. 2014-08-04, Non-Fiction, Audible, Hidden America by Laskas
  8. 2014-08-18, Fiction, Audible, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Sloan
  9. 2014-09-02, Fiction, Kindle, The People of the Ruins by Shanks
  10. 2014-10-01, Non-Fiction, Audible, The Fabric of the Cosmos by Greene
  11. 2014-11-11, Fiction, Audible, The Many-Colored Land by May
  12. 2014-11-26, Non-Fiction, Kindle, Head First Java by Sierra and Bates
  13. 2014-11-26, Non-Fiction, Audible, My Beloved World by Sotomayor
  14. 2014-11-27, Fiction, Audible, Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Sloan
  15. 2014-11-29, Fiction, Kindle, Shadows in Flight by Card
  16. 2014-12-15, Non-Fiction, Kindle, The Final Days by Woodward and Bernstein
  17. 2014-12-18, Fiction, Kindle, The Ice Dragon by Martin

2015 (1 Physical, 1 Kindle, 13 Audible = 15 total)

  1. 2015-01-09, Non-Fiction, Audible, Reckless Engagement by Morgenson and Rosner
  2. 2015-01-20, Fiction, Audible, No Longer at Ease by Achebe
  3. 2015-02-12, Non-Fiction, Audible, American Emperor by Stewart
  4. 2015-03-02, Fiction, Audible, Darkness Take My Hand by Lehane
  5. 2015-03-27, Non-Fiction, Audible, Writing on the Wall by Standage
  6. 2015-04-09, Non-Fiction, Physical, The Online Advertising Playbook by Plummer, Rappaport, Hall, and Barocci
  7. 2015-04-17, Fiction, Audible, Earth Unaware by Card and Johnston
  8. 2015-05-15, Non-Fiction, Audible, The Selfish Gene by Dawkins
  9. 2015-05-18, Fiction, Kindle, Storm Front by Butcher
  10. 2015-05-22, Fiction, Audible, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Adams
  11. 2015-07-31, Non-Fiction, Audible, Autobiography of Mark Twain Volume 1 by Twain
  12. 2015-09-01, Fiction, Audible, The Scarlatti Inheritance by Ludlum
  13. 2015-10-05, Non-Fiction, Audible, The Son Also Rises by Clark
  14. 2015-10-13, Fiction, Audible, The Scarlet Plague by London
  15. 2015-12-23, Non-Fiction, Audible, Conversations with Myself by Mandela

2016 (0 Physical, 2 Kindle, 3 Audible = 5 total)

  1. 2016-01-20, Fiction, Audible, Prince Caspian by Lewis
  2. 2016-05-28, Non-Fiction, Kindle, Dutch by Morris
  3. 2016-07-02, Fiction, Kindle, Earth Afire by Card and Johnson
  4. 2016-11-15, Non-Fiction, Audible, Autobiography of Mark Twain Volume 2 by Twain
  5. 2016-11-29, Fiction, Audible, 2001 by Clarke

2017 (0 Physical, 1 Kindle, 2 Audible = 3 total)

  1. 2017-03-08, Non-Fiction, Audible, Stiff by Roach
  2. 2017-04-08, Fiction, Audible, With the Night Mail by Kipling
  3. 2017-05-30, Non-Fiction, Kindle, Spam by Brunton

A Short History of Top Books

On March 10th, I announced a new thing I was doing, the “Top Read and Tweeted Kindle Books” list. Well, I set it up using Twitter’s RSS feeds as the source, and they turned those off earlier this week. I think I could probably redo it using Twitter’s API (which is probably how it should have been done in the first place, but I was more familiar with the other way), but realistically, that would take me time that would be better used for other things, especially since I haven’t gotten any comments on this thing since I launched it, and I was probably the only one looking at it. So, goodbye Top Book thing. It was fun while it lasted!

It was actually interesting to watch over the past three months though.

Here is a chart of the performance of every book that made the Top 5 at any time during the run of my list. (The lines are extended to show 7 days before and 7 days after the days each book was actually in the Top 5.)

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 19.26.48

Click to embiggen if you want.

During the 95 days I have been running this analysis, there have been four books in the #1 slot:

Gone Girl and Gatsby swapped a bit before Gatsby took the clear lead.

Inferno is obviously crushing everybody at the moment. Almost 2% of everybody tweeting they finished a Kindle book recently were tweeting about finishing Inferno.

As of 2013-06-11 21:36:35 UTC when the last tweet was processed by my system, this was the Top 20:

Rank Tweets Book
1 325 Inferno by Dan Brown
2 127 The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3 101 Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
4 68 Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
5 40 Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
6 39 Entwined with You by Sylvia Day
7 37 The Magpies by Mark Edwards
8 36 Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
9 35 World War Z by Max Brooks
10 (tie) 29 The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
12 (tie) 28 The Hit by David Baldacci
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
14 27 The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
15 25 The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
16 (tie) 24 The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman
18 23 Life Of Pi by Yann Martel
19 (tie) 22 The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

If anybody else out there would miss this though, let me know of course. :-)Anyway. Fun stuff. I would have had fun continuing to track this for awhile. But as I mentioned, probably not worth fixing.

Book: All the President’s Men

atpmAuthor: Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
Original Publication: 1974
Started: 2011 Jan 19
Finished: 2011 Feb 5
Format: Kindle
5862 locations / 18 days
326 locations/day

Once again writing these years after reading the book. Perhaps I’ll catch up someday. Ha!

Well, in any case, this is the classic Woodward and Bernstein narrative of their watergate investigations. More than two years later, my main memory of this is being disappointed that it ended before the resignation, so didn’t take the story the whole way. Yes, I know they did another book that covered the last days of the Nixon presidency, but I still wished this just continued.

I have a vague memory of thinking that while the events themselves were interesting and of course are historically important, than the actual tone of the writing was a bit dry and “this happened, then this happened, then this happened” for my taste. But it has been a long time since I read it, so who knows.

I’ve been toying with giving a star rating or some such when I do these things, but realize I actually have a better measure of how much I enjoy a book, and it is already listed above. When I am really into a book, I make time to read. I read in the spare moments during the day. A minute here or there whenever I catch a chance, and I end up choosing to read instead of watching TV or even instead of sleeping sometimes. I end up reading it faster. Not in terms of how fast I actually read while I’m sitting with the book, but in terms of how much I read per day. Meanwhile, for books I am NOT enjoying, I end up forcing myself to read a little every once in awhile, but don’t actually seek out time to read, so those go much more slowly.

Of course, this is also effected by how much free time I have. Although there are exceptions, in recent years this has been relatively steady, so I’ll just ignore it at the moment. :-)

And yes, this is also somewhat determined by the “difficulty” of the reading. A light fiction book is going to “flow” better than a dense textbook. But I think that also matches up with my enjoyment. The dense textbook may well provide me with valuable information, but I’m not sure “enjoy” would be the right word to describe my interaction with it.

With physical books, if you look at pages, that is of course a measure that depends on the size of the pages, the size of the print, if there are photos or illustrations, etc, etc, etc. But if I’m reading on a Kindle, most of that is abstracted out by the “location”. And look there above, I already have locations per day. With my patterns of reading (one book at a time, always finish any book I start), this is a good measure, at least for books I read on Kindle.

So, for All the President’s Men, I give an enjoyment score of:


As context, here is where this fits with the last 10 books I’ve reviewed (in order by score):

  1. 723 – Shadow of the Hegemon (F)
  2. 695 – Shadow Puppets (F)
  3. 656 – Fatal System Error (NF)
  4. 647 – War of Gifts (F)
  5. 614 – Shadow of the Giant (F)
  6. 446 – First Meetings (F)
  7. 326 – All the President’s Men (NF)
  8. NA – Nurtureshock (NF) [Physical 25.8 p/d]
  9. NA – 9 Ways to Bring Out the Best in You and Your Child [Physical 14.9 p/d]
  10. NA – Agile Project Management with Scrum (NF) [Physical 9.06 p/d]

So yeah, I guess I wasn’t all that excited by it compared to the last few things I’d read previously.

Finally, my usual two Kindle adoption graphs…

% of the last 20 books I reviewed that are now available on Kindle:


% of the last 20 books I read that I actually read on Kindle:


(I bought my Kindle when the first ratio hit 50%. I’ve said before that I’ll do these charts until the ratios get to 90% or so.)

Top Read and Tweeted Kindle Books

Time to put out the results of one of my latest projects.

If you want to jump straight to the end result, just check it out: Top Read and Tweeted Kindle Books

It is currently set to update automatically every hour.

For more details of what this is and what I did, read on…

Over the last few months, 15-30 minutes at a time, as I had a few moments, I’ve been working on putting something together that I’d been curious about for a long time. Namely, a while back a feature was added to Kindles to share that you had finished a book. When you get to the last page of a book, it asks you if you want to put a note on Facebook or Twitter that you have finished the book.

This naturally leads one to wonder… well, at least it leads me to wonder… which books people are finishing and how that compares to standard lists of what books people are buying. After all, probably most books that are bought do NOT actually get read, certainly not all the way through. These social media posts might give at least some window into that.

Now, to be clear, in the end, looking at these can NOT tell you about what people are reading. For one thing, it is just Kindle books. For another thing, it is only people who bother to connect their social sites to their Kindles. And then it is only the books that they choose to share publicly… there is surely lots of reading people just don’t want to share.

But I thought it would be interesting anyway. I concentrated on the Twitter side because I thought I had an idea how to do that. When people finish their books they can choose to edit and customize what they Tweet, but if they don’t, then the tweets have a standard format, and I could grab and parse those tweets. So I started collecting and grabbing that data. Then I set up stuff to remove as much of the “extra” stuff in the tweets as I could (although when people add custom stuff, I can’t really catch that), and then do some sorting and counting and such to come up with a ranked list. The parsing is by no means perfect, but it is good enough for now.

I tried looking at the last 10,000 tweets, but there were still way too many ties in the top 20. So I looked at the last 20,000 tweets, but given the current rate of these tweets you would have to go back farther in time than I wanted, so it would be pretty slow to respond to changes. For now I’ve settled at the last 16,384 tweets. Why 16,384? I am a geek, it is a power of two, it is between 10,000 with too many ties, and 20,000 with too much time, and at the current rate of tweeting it is pretty close to a month of tweets.

In any case, I put the last tweaks on this in the last 24 hours, and I figure now it is ready to go live.

To get the latest up to the hour counts, go to the page I’ve set up for this: Top Read and Tweeted Kindle Books

As of the hour I am posting this though, here is what the list looks like:

Data as of 2013-03-10 20:00:16 UTC, covering 16384 tweets over 31.96 days.
Includes tweets from 2013-02-06 20:54:17 UTC to 2013-03-10 19:58:16 UTC.

And there it is. Not quite the same as the bestseller lists, but fun to look at and see how it changes over time.

Oh, and yes, I know that it would be trivial to manipulate this list, since it just counts tweets in a specific format, and anybody could tweet as many tweets as they wanted in that format, no reading of a book required. But hey, still fun.

Book: War of Gifts

wogAuthor: Orson Scott Card
Original Publication: 2007
Started: 2011 Jan 18
Finished: 2011 Jan 19
Format: Kindle
1294 locations / 2 days
647 locations/day

I continue my tradition of writing “quick” reviews of books over a year after I read them… uh, almost two years after I read them. Oops. Anyway, I guess this has value as it leaves in my head only what is fundamentally memorable about a book, not just the initial impressions.

So on Orson Scott Card’s War of Gifts, basically my memory at first blush was really weak:

  • It is yet another in the Ender series. #10 in publication order.
  • It is not a full novel. Maybe a novella? Really not much more than a short story.
  • It has a Christmas theme.

That is about all that persisted in my memory all this time, so I reviewed the Wikipedia page to refresh my memory.

It really is an oddball little Christmas story that doesn’t fit in all that well with the rest of the series. It is like when your favorite hard rocking band comes out with a Christmas album. Some kind of effect. You end up thinking “Uh, OK. But what??”

In the end it wasn’t a bad little short story. It just seemed out of place.

The five second plot summary is that a student who is fairly religious arrives at battle school, where overt religious expression is forbidden as divisive. Hijinks then ensure over the Chirstmas season as various groups try to express their religious beliefs in various ways. Finally, Ender comes in and plays diplomat and resolves the situation.

The end.

If you are trying to be a completist and read all the Ender books, by all means this needs to be part of that. Otherwise though, I’d probably skip this.

OK, as has been my pattern, with each review, a couple of graphs regarding Kindle coverage:

% of the last 20 books I reviewed that are now available on Kindle:


% of the last 20 books I read that I actually read on Kindle:


(I bought my Kindle when the first ratio hit 50%. I’ve said before that I’ll do these charts until the ratios get to 90% or so.)

Curmudgeon’s Corner: If Suddenly I Start Screaming

In the latest Curmudgeon’s Corner Sam and Ivan talk about:

  • Stones! / Cars!
  • Call for Romney Supporters / EC Update / Debate Preview / Coattails?
  • Apple Maps
  • Reading on Paper
  • Driverless Cars

Recorded on 30 Sep 2012

Length this week – 55:51

1-Click Subscribe in iTunes Download MP3 File
View Podcast in iTunes View Raw XML Feed

Kindle Ratio as of 2012 May 30

Sigh, once again I let things go way too long. I’ve been busy with other things. But since I’m stuck at hotel after a cancelled plane flight, I’ll maybe catch up on some old stuff.

So, months after I should have… the chart of how many of the last 20 books I have reviewed that are available on Kindle… now up to 80%:

I actually got my Kindle after that ratio hit 50%. So here also is the ratio of how many of the last 20 books I’ve read (not necessarily reviewed yet) that I’ve actually read on Kindle. This is up to 75% now.

I’ve said I’ll continue doing these posts until each of the charts hits 90%.

Kindle Ratio as of 2011 Aug 22

OK, I’m way behind, but as of soon after I posted my review of NurtueShock (August 22nd to be specific), here is where things stood.

Percent of the last 20 books I’ve posted reviews for available on Kindle stays at 75%.

And the percentage of the last 20 books I’ve actually read (at least as of Aug 22) on Kindle goes up to 70%.

Kindle Ratio as of 2011 May 30

So, as of the review posted for First Meetings

Percent of the last 20 books I’ve posted reviews for available on Kindle is now up to 75%.

And the percentage of the last 20 books I’ve read available on Kindle stays at 65%.

Kindle Ratios as of 2011 May 27

OK, in the past I’ve just done the percentage of the last 20 Books I’ve read that are available on Kindle. Of course, I have really done these calculations after I post the reviews of the books, not right after I’ve read them, and right now, I’m way behind. At this point there are 13 books I’ve finished reading that I haven’t yet posted my thoughts on. Oops. Also, this has been all about what percentage of the books were available on Kindle. Now that I actually have one, another relevant stat is how many I’ve actually read on the Kindle. So, two charts…

First, percentage of the last 20 books I have REVIEWED that are currently AVAILABLE on Kindle (so this doesn’t include the 13 books I have read but haven’t yet reviewed) – This is now at 70%.

Next, the percentage of the last 20 books I have READ that I actually READ on the Kindle (this does include the 13 books I have read but have not yet reviewed) – This is now at 65%.

By the way, I think I’ll discontinue posting about these charts when/if each hits 90%.