2016 Reading Wrap-up

I read a lot this year – more than any other year, in fact. As of today, the book-count according to Goodreads is 52, though I’ll surely finish the book I’m reading now (Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go) by year-end. I took a stab at gathering some analytics about what I’d read:

First, here’s the full list

There are a few short-stories and novellas mixed into the total book count, but overall, the average length was 286 pages. I read 48 pages per day. Goodreads tells me the total page count was 14,879.

Top 5 genres: Fantasy, Adult Fiction, Science Fiction, Humor, Music
Top 5 themes: Mystery, Paranormal, Horror, Dystopia, Death

I read an equal number of books written by male and female authors (totally by accident!). Digging in a bit deeper, I was curious about the relationship between gender of the author and gender of the main character:
Male author, male character: 11
Female author, female character: 17
Male author, female character: 6
Female author, male character: 6

The missing books above are the non-fiction ones – I read 40 fiction books and 12 non-fiction books.

Top 3 authors: Laini Taylor, Patrick Ness, Megan Abbott

Finally, here are the 10 books I enjoyed the most out of the lot (in no particular order):
Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff – I loved reading stories told through specific points of view – these characters had very strong and interesting points of view.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness – Just a ton of fun – particularly for a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer type stuff.
The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes – Man, Lauren Beukes creates such a creepy and compelling atmosphere in this book. I wish I knew how to describe it better so I could find more books like it.
The Sellout – Paul Beatty – Awful, hilarious, unsettling. Can’t recommend it enough.
Uproot: Travels in 21st-Century Music and Digital Culture – Jace Clayton – Jace has always had a way with words. No exception here. This is a fun and fascinating travelogue/memoir/think-piece on modern music and culture.
Through the Woods – Emily Carroll – So dark and wonderful.
Night of Cake and Puppets – Laini Taylor – I enjoyed the whole series that this book is a part of, but this little story really stuck out. I’d love to read more short stuff by Laini Taylor.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman – Not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading this one. It’s as great as everyone says.
A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness – This one is one you have to read the physical version of – the art that goes with it is perfect. Ness handles grief here expertly.
Spelunky – Derek Yu – Here’s a book that’s ostensibly about a video game, but really I found to be more about creating something that’s important to you. I’d recommend it to anyone. I hope Derek Yu has more book-writing in his future.

So, what do I take from this analysis? What do I want to change about my reading habits? Not a lot, really. I’d like to read a few more non-fiction books, mostly just because the non-fiction pile seems to grow fast. Mostly, I just want to keep up the pace. I’ve made a conscious effort to read at least 40 pages per day this year – it’s been great and I want to keep that going.

2015 year in review

2015 was all over the place. It began with a mountain of snow and ended with breakfast on the deck in December. But over all it was a pretty great year.

Steff and I vacationed in New Orleans
NOLA

 

We discovered kayaking and camping with friends.
Kayak2   Kayak1

 

We visited dear friends in San Francisco.
SF

 

I did a bunch of woodworking.

Wooden Christmas gifts - salad tongs, boxes, spoons, herb strippers.
Wooden Christmas gifts – salad tongs, boxes, spoons, herb strippers.
A tiny spoon made from a purple heart pen blank
A tiny spoon made from a purple heart pen blank
The game of Tak from the Patrick Rothfuss Kingkiller Chronicles books as designed by Cheapass Games
The game of Tak from the Patrick Rothfuss Kingkiller Chronicles books as designed by Cheapass Games
An oak dice tray
An oak dice tray
A playing card deck box made of oak.
A playing card deck box made of oak.
A Big Green Egg table
A Big Green Egg table
A douglas fir outdoor table top with oak screw plugs
A douglas fir outdoor table top with oak screw plugs

I also made a couple of new twitter bots this year:
@omgcheckthisout – a linkbait article title generator
@MartyMcflyDay – a bot that tells you whether or not today is the day Marty McFly travels to in Back to the Future II – this one was made with help from @WhatTheKit

2014 Year in Review

2014 was a good year! It feels odd saying it. It felt like an uphill battle a lot of the time. I think that battle was mostly in my head though, as some really great stuff happened. So I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge all the good stuff.

The good stuff in brief: I started a new job. I started (and finished!) a bunch of projects in python, woodworking and writing. I was generally quite healthy. I started biking to work. Over all I’m feeling like I’m finishing the year on an upswing.

The details:

Woodworking
I built a bench
bench
A child’s seat
seat
A stool
stool

I also built a bat house, a gate and some shelves, none of which I have decent pictures of though.

Writing
I wrote somewhere around 12 short stories. Most of them were as part of a class I took, but I also wrote some after the class. I’m really happy about that.
Here’s one of the stories: Olivia’s Good Morning

Coding
I spent a lot of time this year trying to improve my coding skills – most of that time was spent on Python. This lead to some cool projects:

I participated in NaNoGenMo this year. NaNoGenMo is like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) only the goal is instead of writing a novel during the month of November, one attempts to write a program to generate a novel. My entry was a python script that generated a book titled “A Full and Complete Reckoning of Uncommon Mythical and Monstrous Creatures.
You can see the code here: creatures.py
You can see the full-book output here: creatures.txt.
The full list of NaNoGenMo entries is here, if you’re curious: https://github.com/dariusk/NaNoGenMo-2014/issues

I made some Twitter Bots:
https://twitter.com/creativitybot – A new brainstorming/creativity idea every three hours.
https://twitter.com/storyrobot – A brief plot/story is tweeted every three hours.
https://twitter.com/creaturelist – A new imaginary animal is created every three hours.
https://twitter.com/truthbombsbro – A horrible bit of tech/venture startup-speek “advice” is generated every three hours.

I made a python script that calculates the distances between frets on a stringed instrument (hopefully I’ll actually build a stringed instrument sometime so I can use this calculator)
https://github.com/samtb/FretCalculator

I also made a little script that pokes me every day to do something productive/creative – it auto tweets to my twitter account https://twitter.com/samteebee every morning at 7am.

Reading
Man, this was a good year for me and reading. I read 40 books this year (some were quite short, indeed). That’s more than twice as many as last year. Goodreads claims I read 10,858 pages this year (4600 last year). Here are this year’s books, in the order in which I read them:
The Summer is Ended and We Are Not Yet Saved – by Joey Comeau
Lockpick Pornography – by Joey Comeau
Life After Life – by Kate Atkinson
Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work – by Michael Michalko
Sand Omnibus (Sand, #1-5) – by Hugh Howey
The Fault in Our Stars – by John Green
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead – by Sara Gran
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth – by Isabel Greenberg
The Night Circus – by Erin Morgenstern
Show Your Work! – by Austin Kleon
Ashfall (Ashfall, #1) – by Mike Mullin
Divergent – by Veronica Roth
The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles – by Kij Johnson
A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain – by Adrianne Harun
Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls – by Alissa Nutting
The King of Limbo: Stories – by Adrianne Harun
Forty Stories – by Donald Barthelme
Ashen Winter (Ashfall, #2) – by Mike Mullin
Moonwalking with Einstein – by Joshua Foer
The Devil in the White City – by Erik Larson
The Martian – by Andy Weir
ZZT (Boss Fight Books, #3) – by Anna Anthropy
By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain – by Joe Hill
Candyfreak – by Steve Almond
Boy Proof – By Cecil Castellucci
Uglies – by Scott Westerfeld
Blue is the Warmest Color – by Julie Maroh
Rogues – Various authors
The Magicians (re-read) – by Lev Grossman
The Magician King (re-read) – by Lev Grossman
The Magician’s Land – by Lev Grossman
The Slow Regard of Silent Things – by Patrick Rothfuss
The End of Everything – by Megan Abbott
Sunrise (Ashfall, #3) – by Mike Mullin
The Lies of Locke Lamora – by Scott Lynch
Right Body, Wrong Junk – by Avery Edison
The Enchanted – by Rene Denfeld
The Shell Collector – by Hugh Howey
Clipping Through – by Leigh Alexander
We Were Ugly So We Made Beautiful Things – by David Barringer
This list, with ratings and short reviews I wrote for each book is here, if you’re interested:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/4660461-sam?utf8=%E2%9C%93&order=a&read_at=2014&sort=date_read&per_page=50

Health
I got better at running this year, too. It wasn’t exactly a conscious effort to improve, but I think it was simply a result of my efforts to run more/consistently throughout the year. I did have one goal: to run a sub-20-minute 5k. I got very close (20:21, I believe), and I’m blown away by that.

This seems like it would be a good time to make some resolutions or plans for next year, but I’m not going to do that. I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping a rolling list of projects I want to do and/or skills I want to gain or improve on. I’m going to keep that up. Maybe I’ll do another review like this next December. We’ll see how next year goes. You can keep up with me on twitter if you’re at all curious.

Plot and Game Idea Generators

I created a couple of fun random text scripts the other day:


Random Plot Generator

Game Idea Generator

Before making the plot generator I had been spending time jotting down “bad plots” as a writing exercise in my notebook, hoping they might get the creative juices flowing and lead to actual good ideas. It got me thinking about Emma Coats’ advice on story structure. So I cobbled together some Python and made a funny command-line script that popped out insane plots. I enjoyed it so much that I ported it over to JavaScript and put it online. I tweeted about it and at some point Emma Coats caught wind. That was fun:

As for the game idea generator, I was talking to a friend about our addiction to funding Kickstarters for video games and board games. I said that I think the likelihood of my funding a Kickstarter game is directly proportional to the absurdity of the theme. Later that afternoon the Game Idea Generator was born

Tadpoles and Frogs


Shot at the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain – Audio and Video recorded two weeks apart – I think the audio is of the mating that created the tadpoles in the video, though I’m not really sure.