Tag Archives: books


Ever since I half-heartedly made a resolution to read more books last year, I can count the number of books I’ve read on one hand: four. Two were for an English unit I took as part of my degree, and the other two are Matthew Reilly titles: first The Tournament, and just recently, The Great Zoo of China.

Four. Four books in close to 18 months. Three physical, one digital.

I’d say it’s because I don’t have enough time, but that’s not entirely true. I have plenty of time most days, and do absolutely nothing with it when I should be looking for work, actually working, or at the very least, writing.

I think a lot of the problem is that I have trouble doing all the other stuff that goes into reading a book, namely the process of actually finding something to read. Reading stuff by your favourite authors is easy, because you already know what their stuff is like. All you have to do is pick up a copy of their latest work and go to town, even if it’s 12am and you have to work tomorrow.

Finding new stuff to read, on the other hand, is much harder. First, you have to decide what kind of book you want to read. Fiction, or non-fiction? Then if you’re reading fiction, you have to decide what kind of fiction you want to read: do you want to read about romance with vampires, magic, or perhaps sci-fi? Do you want to read thrillers, crime novels, or all of the above?

And once you’ve chosen what you want to read, how do you decide what author to go with? If only there was something like IMDB, but for books, that gave recommendations for similar movies/titles you enjoy based on the ones you do.

Or maybe you’re not going to choose what kind of books you want to read, and just want to work your way through the New York Times Bestseller list or something. That’s cool too, even if you’re going to pick and choose.

It sounds like I’m making a whole bunch of excuses as to why I’m not doing more reading, and to be fair, I kind of am. But at the end of the day, there’s only so many hours in the day and days in the year, and you’ll forgive me if I don’t want to waste time reading something I won’t enjoy, or something that doesn’t appeal to me.

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.

I didn’t even want to talk about cable management anyway…

I did, however, want to talk about the importance of taking a break. Yours truly, at MacTalk:

We all laughed at Qualcomm at CES earlier this month when they opened their keynote with three individuals who, for want of a better phrase, proudly proclaimed they were “born mobile”. And while they came across as completely bizarre, their message was sound, even though their delivery wasn’t: we’re now in a generation where people have screens in their faces all the time. If we’re not looking at our iPhone on the street, we’re looking at our iPad, on the bus. If not the iPad, then the MacBook Pro at work. Or the iMac at home. The LCD TV connected to the Apple TV and/or Mac Mini in the lounge. And even when we’re in bed, the screens don’t stop: maybe we have a Kindle. Or maybe we have the new-fangled iPad mini, and look at that before going to bed. And when we wake up, the first thing people do is check their iPhone on their bedside clock radio.

It’s scary how much time we spend connected. We invented things like push email to get our email delivered directly to all our devices, all at the same time. We invented push notifications so we could always know when people mentioned us on Twitter. There’s no denying that we live in a fast-paced world these days, and maybe you love that. But I want to stress the importance of taking a break every now and again — not just for your sake, but the people around you, too. Maybe it’s why everyone is ditching their iPhones and going back to dumb-phones. Or maybe why The Verge’s Paul Miller is currently spending a year away from the internet.

So you see, maybe it’s not about cable management or the importance of cleaning your Mac at all. Whilst those things are both important in and of themselves, it’s the underlying premise of both that’s the real message here, the need to turn off. Think. Read a book — an actual book, not one that you’ve just purchased and downloaded with Amazon’s wonderful one-click purchase system, which instantly pushes the book to your eReader of choice. See what I mean?

It’s actually something I’ve talked about before:

Think about it: when was the last time you went without staring at some array of pixels for some amount of time? If you’re not looking at your computer, you’re looking at your phone. Or playing with your iPad. Using a digital camera. And so on, and so forth.

The question then becomes: where and when do we draw that line in the sand and say: “hey, I just need a moment to myself.” A little alone time, time away from Twitter, time away from Facebook, time to just sit, think, and contemplate the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?

Not even thinking about anything in particular. Just the chance to have a little down time every now and again. The chance to get offline.

Paul Miller is doing without the internet for an entire year. Strange, for a technology writer, but he’s writing about it at The Verge, where his Offline series of posts are always bring up an interesting point from the disconnected world.

And he’s not the only one. In this ever-connected society we live in, people are leaving their iPhones behind. It’s not that they don’t find 24-7 access to the internet inconvenient or anything, it’s just that, well, it can be a burden as much as it can be a blessing. Using your smartphone to find any information on anything is great and all, but you know what’s even better? Having time to yourself where you’re not staring at some pixels, no matter how pretty they may be.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually very appreciative of being able to look something up quickly, fix something wrong with a server in a different state, or whatever else. It’s great to be able to have that constantly connected access in the fast-paced life of today. We may not have flying jetpacks or hoverboards like sci-fi movies predicted, but we do have these pocket-sized devices that mean we’re a moment away from the collective knowledge of humankind, devices that can connect us instantaneously to someone on the other side of the world. But sometimes, just sometimes, that can be as exhausting as it is exhilarating. Being constantly switched-on, being constantly connected is a chore when all you want to do is do the exact opposite.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Maybe you know someone that goes on hikes for days at a time. Someone that spends a lot of time, not necessarily alone, but away from technology, away from those pretty pixels. Maybe they take a day away from technology every week. Maybe they have a policy of doing as much exercise as they do sitting down and playing computer games. These are all good things, to be sure, but what if they’re not for me?

Maybe then, the answer to this business of switching off, of taking a break, is not to do less interaction with technology, but to do more of the other stuff. In my opinion, a big part of the problem is how much time we spend doing technology-related things — leaving precious little time for the other things, the non-technology stuff. Somewhere along the way, we lost our balance — if you seem to be spending your entire life in front of the screen, maybe that’s because you are. The solution then, is simple: do other stuff. Get the balance back.

I don’t make many New Year’s Resolutions. But if I were to make a resolution, right now, it would be to simply read more books. I mean, I have a Kindle for a reason, right? (And I’m talking about the book-reading reason, not the “I’m an avid technology enthusiast” reason.) I didn’t read many books in 2012; one book on Kindle, maybe a handful of paperbacks. I want that to change in 2013.

Read more books. I can do that.

So, I met Matthew Reilly yesterday…

…and I don’t feel special for it.

I think something has to be said with regards to this – Matthew Reilly, of all people.

It’s not that I don’t think he’s a literary genius – I do, he’s absolutely brilliant in all respects, it’s just that, well, it didn’t lack the “sparkle” I was expecting.

I’m not actually sure what I mean by “sparkle”, by the way. He was an excellent, captivating speaker, and he managed to keep the auditorium enthralled the whole time (much the same way he does with his books), so it’s definitely not that.

After his talk, we waited for him to sign books. This isn’t unusual – hugely popular authors like Mr Reilly have huge lines to get his autograph on a couple of books. Personally I managed to get The Six Sacred Stones and The Five Greatest Warriors signed, completing my Jack West Jr trilogy (he had previously signed my copy of Seven Ancient Wonders), but I also managed to get my Scarecrow trilogy signed as well, which was a plus.

I don’t know – maybe meeting him revealed someone who I just wasn’t expecting, the guy with the DeLorean, the life-size Han Solo in carbonite, the guy who takes pictures of his TV in order to use them as his screensaver… Actually going and meeting that guy who managed to keep me up till 3am in the Uni exam period, hooked on The Five Greatest Warriors, was something else.

It was funny – because when it was my turn to get my books signed, I had hoped I was going to say something witty. Something snappy. Instead, I managed to mumble some lame attempt at a joke that went something along the lines of “No, I wasn’t waiting for The Five Greatest Warriors because I had resolved to just forget about it, making the release date come all the more faster” or something along those lines.

There was also an awkward moment at the start where I went to shake his hand, but he had a pen it it – I partially withdrew my hand, only to have him put the pen down and shake my hand. Sigh.

In any case, I don’t think I’ll enjoy the Matthew Reilly books as much now, but not because he’s a crappy writer or anything like that. Sometimes you’re better off not knowing, you know? I don’t mean this in the sense that he’s a bad guy – it’s just that sometimes, the mystery keeps you going. Keeps you in the game. Now that I feel like I know the man that little bit better, there’s no more mystery.

I think it’s the same with Dan Brown, another fiction writer I also enjoy (although some say I shouldn’t). If I ever met him, I don’t think I’d enjoy his books as much anymore – and again, not because he’s a bad writer, but because – there’s no more mystery surrounding him. He’s no longer some person who sits at a desk, pumping out good-quality book after good-quality book – instead, he’s just some guy, with glasses, who does this, and talks like that. (Having not actually met Dan Brown I’m not sure what mannerisms he would have, so I’m doing my best here :p)

Just one of those things, you know?

I’m yet to talk about why I didn’t enjoy The Five Greatest Warriors as much as I did some of his other books – but that’ll come later, I’m sure.

This post part of Blogtober 2009, where I try and write at least one blog post every day. Most of the time they’re not hugely substantial – a quick snap there, a quick viral video there – but this time, substantial comes into it’s own.