Tag Archives: reading

Reading language and format (2017 update)

Two years ago, I wrote a couple of blog posts where I reflected on the mix of languages I used when reading books between English, French and Spanish and about the format of the books I read, whether electronic or paper books. Last year I made an update of those stats and this post, written after having shared last week my 2017 reading list, is just a follow up update of those two tables:

Reading language

Booksperlanguage_2017

From 2010 to 2015 I read mostly in English. From mid 2015 I have started to read more in Spanish than in the past (mainly classics) and in French. In terms of books the mix for 2017 would be English 32%, French 20% and Spanish 48%. However, this year I thought that the mix would be better measured in terms of pages read, as the books can vary quite a bit in their length. Thus, in terms of pages: English 25%, French 33% and Spanish 42%.

Reading format

Booksperformat_2017

In 2017 I mostly read books in paper format, with a single book in electronic format. As I estimated here the amortization of the e-reader in about 20 e-books read with it, I am still just above half way through achieving that. Seeing, the stock of paper books that I have in the shelves, I doubt that I will read many e-books in the near term.

 

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Reading language and format (2016 update)

About a year ago, I wrote a couple of blog posts where I reflected on the mix of languages I used when reading books between English, French and Spanish and about the format of the books I read, whether electronic or paper books. After having shared last week my 2016 reading list, this is just a short post to update the two tables I included in those posts:

Reading language

reading_language_2016

From 2010 to 2015 I read mostly in English. This is something I changed in the second half of 2015 and in this 2016 I have continued with a more balanced approach, with 42% of the books I read being in English, 33% in Spanish and 24% in French. I believe I will continue with a similar approach in this 2017.

Reading format

reading_format_2016

In 2016 I have continued with the same ratio of electronic to paper books than in the previous years. As I read more books in 2016 than in any other previous year, I have also read more electronic books, hopefully this will lead to the amortization of the e-reader I have in this year or the next (I estimated here its amortization in about 20 e-books read with it, the first batch of 10 already completed).

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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (book review)

MurakamiHaruki Murakami is Japanese writer of World fame. Murakami happens to be a consistent runner since the early 1980s, about the same time as he went full-time with the process of becoming a professional writer. “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” (2007) is an autobiographical book in which the author not only explains what running means to him but also how he turned from running a bar to becoming a writer, from being a rather sedentary person to training about 60 km weekly, running at least a marathon a year for over 25 years, etc.

Murakami draws some parallels between running and writing:

  • Stop right at the point when you feel you can do more, both when writing and running. As he says to keep going you have to keep the rhythm, the most difficult part being starting and setting the pace.
  • The most important qualities for a novelist after talent: focus (“the ability to concentrate all your limited talents on whatever’s critical at the moment”) and endurance. These two can be applicable to practically every profession (e.g. “The Focused Leader” by Daniel Goleman at HBR).

There are some other passages that drew my attention while reading the book that I want to share:

Nobody remembers what stupid things I might have said back then, so they’re not about to quote them back at me”. (Think now about today’s social media)

“I’m struck by how, except when you’re young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance.”

“Have you ever run sixty-two miles in a single day? […] I doubt I’ll try again, but who knows what the future may hold. Maybe someday, having forgotten my lesson, I’ll take up the challenge of an ultramarathon again” (No need to tell me that)

“[…] Thus the seasons come and go, and the years pass by. I’ll age one more year, and probably finish another novel. One by one. I’ll face the tasks before me and complete them the best I can. Focusing on each stride forward, but at the same time taking a long-range view scanning the scenery as far ahead as I can. I am, after all, a long-distance runner.”

If you are a frequent runner it is quite easy to relate to the author in several passages (1). In my case, it has been from the races he has taken part in (New York or Athens marathons), to the experiences lived in a 100 km ultra marathon, the thoughts or lack of them while running, the balance found in training, etc.

The book is rather light (about 180 pages in the version I have) and makes for a good reading, however, if he ever wins the literature Nobel prize it won’t be for this book. 🙂

(1) I guess that for a professional writer there may be several parts easy to relate to as well.

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Reading format

BooksIn a previous post, Reading language, I reflected on the mix of languages about the books that I read. This post, some days later, triggered the idea of taking a look at which format do I use when reading books; paper books or electronic books.

I have had a couple of electronic readers since some time ago. The first one being a gift received in 2010 (1) and the second one, a similar model I bought in 2013 to replace the previous model which got damaged. I have always thought that the business case for the electronic book was clear and positive: after just reading about 20 books in it the purchase was probably justified, especially if those books were classic ones, of which free copies are available in the net.

Find below the figures.

ReadingFormat

However, taking a look at the table above, the business case for me it has clearly not yet proven positive… In the past 5 years I have read less than 10 electronic books. So far, the cost of the 2 e-readers that I have had, plus the cost of the ebooks divided by the number of books I read in electronic format (a figure between 20 and 30 euros) surely exceeds the average cost of the books in paper format that I buy (which I haven’t calculated but must be between 10 and 20 euros).

What is actually the electronic book adoption trend nowadays? I found several articles. It seems that the high growth of the e-book market up to 2010 has more or less stopped. In this article from The New York Times, it is mentioned that about 30% of readers read a majority of books in electronic format, whereas this other one mentions that in terms of sales ebooks represent as well around 27-30%.

Finally, on the other hand, there is people like my wife, Luca; if she made the numbers for her reading habits, they would show that she reads books per dozens per year and that she reads a large majority of electronic books. She has a Kindle reader from Amazon, rather than a Sony e-reader as I do. This subtle difference may have a point in the shaping of habits: in the Kindle the shop is in the device itself. In a couple of clicks she has the book with her. In my case, I have to buy or download the books using a computer and then transfer the files from the computer to the reader. I guess that this subtle difference, which eases the availability of books for Kindle readers, may have a big impact.

Note: In 2013 I completed reading “Thinking Fast and Slow” which I started in electronic format, but after my e-reader got damaged I continued and completed in paper format (in the meantime, Luca had bought it in parallel in paper), hence the use of decimals.

(1) I received this gift at the end of 2010 from former work colleagues when I left my job in Madrid for Toulouse. I therefore include in the table for the mix of format, only the books from 2011 onwards (it is obvious that before 2011 all the books I read were in paper format).

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Reading language

In a previous post, Musings on objectives setting, I mentioned about reading:

I found that I am not that fast reader (in English and French and neither in Spanish!) nor all the books that I pick are that easy or short, so I linger every year around the 10 books.

BookShelfIn the second half of 2015 I was able to catch up with the objective by reading 2 books a month as intended. This demanded a rigorous approach, dedicating some time each night to reading (not that I didn’t enjoy it!).

I then reflected on the fact that of the last 8 books I read: 4 were in Spanish (plus 3 in English and 1 in French, a light novel by Saint-Exupéry). Did it help in that last reading rush that I read more books in Spanish than in 2014? In 2014 the mix of the books I read was 8 in English and 2 in Spanish. This reflection triggered the curiosity to find out the language mix of the books I read in the previous years, which I checked with the help of this blog (1). See below:

Booksperlanguage

I do not speak many languages, thus I cannot read all the books I read in their original languages (e.g. “The diary of a young girl” or “Crime and Punishment” lately). However, I try to read books in their original language when the authors write in English, Spanish or French, with few exceptions (normally due to availability of a book). When I cannot read one in the original language, I assume that the different translations to the languages I understand are as good (2) and I normally chose the Spanish version to ease the reading.

Seeing the mix above, in the last 6 years I have read more than three times as many books in English than in Spanish. This was intentional, since over a decade ago, in order to keep learning, improving, and to exercise the mind (3). I considered that each book I read in English (or now in French) met two objectives in one: using a different language and reading. It is only now that I reflect that by pushing myself to this exercise I might be reading a bit less than I could if I read always in Spanish, but I am happy with the mix and I think I will keep up with that policy.

I wonder whether you have similar reading language mixes or policies, feel free to comment below if you like.

(1) Either in a specific post about each year’s personal reading list or in the personal summary of each year provided some info of the books I read. However, in 2011 and 2010 I relied on a then available feature of LinkedIn which enabled you to track and comment books read, not active anymore. I retrieved some info of what books I read in those years via the book reviews I made in the blog but I was not able to retrieve all books from 2010 (over a dozen vs 11 I am able to track now).

(2) This may be a bold assumption, but I never go that far as to knowing or researching about how good translators are (may be I should!).

(3) Similar reasons are behind the fact of writing most of the posts in the blog in English: exercising, learning and improving, plus reaching a much wider audience (including foreign in-laws and friends).

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Musings on objectives setting

A few days ago, I had a short Twitter exchange with a couple of friends on  objectives. Sara mentioned that she was not setting objectives for the New Year. Nacho made a point of my objective tracking approach, which I detailed in a post in the blog back in 2011 (Personal mid-year review). Unfortunately (or fortunately) I do not follow such a thorough approach anymore (1), though I do set myself some personal yearly objectives, have them noted down, track them, etc.

In that post from 2011, I made reference to a previous post in which I commented on a HBR study and a post post by Sid Savara. The main takeaways from those readings were: have the goals in written, have plans towards achieving them and share the objectives with someone (at least with someone you have confidence with, not necessarily with everyone!).

In this post I quickly wanted to share some examples of the objectives I set to myself (2):

  • Reading: as I mentioned in a previous post in which I shared a summary of (my) 2015, I set myself a minimum objective of reading 10 books a year. I do not read any book for the sake of meeting the objective. It is rather that I have dozens of very much dear books in the shelves waiting to be read and I keep buying (and grabbing from my parents’ home) books that I think would teach me something or add some value. Ideally, I would like to read about 2 books a month. That would make over 20 books in a year, however, during some periods along a year I read less often, I found that I am not that fast reader (in English and French and neither in Spanish!) nor all the books that I pick are that easy or short, so I linger every year around the 10 books. Do I share the objective? Up to now, not explicitly, though I force myself to write at least a yearly post commenting the books I have read… thus, I do have to read them! Follow up: it is not very structured, though I know at any moment the books I have read along the year (I keep a record) and every now and then make some numbers of pages to be read per day, per week, in order to complete this or that book at a given point in time.
  • Writing: here I always remember a tip from Conor Neill, a professor at IESE, who says that we should strive to write something everyday, at least 500 words (see the blog post where he explains the benefits of doing so, Writing to reflect. Mindful leadership). In my case, apart from job emails, files, presentations…, I do not write (and reflect on) for this blog (or any other format) on personal interests everyday. Ever since I started the blog, back in February 2010, I intended to write regularly. What does that mean? Initially I aimed at publishing 8 posts per month, I lowered this target lately to about 6 posts per month. That would make about 70 a year. In 2015 I just met that target. Previously I had always been above 80 posts. See below the monthly production.

Blog post per month

Blog post per year

  • Speaking: on this front I was very consistent when I joined Toastmasters in December 2007, trying to give a public speech every two months. I kept being quite engaged until more or less mid 2012. I then dropped Toastmasters until I re-engaged myself in mid 2014 at the corporate club of Airbus in Toulouse. I am now trying to figure out the pace at which the club attendance allows and I am able to prepare myself to speak often (by speaking I refer to giving prepared speeches, as every two weeks in the club almost everyone gets to speak either with a role of evaluator, in table topics, etc). Thus, a vague objective (speaking regularly), not quantified, not yet in written, though shared.
  • Flying: for this objective scheduling is key. As I mentioned in the post where I shared my path to the private pilot license (PPL), it took me 4 years to obtain it mainly due to the difficulty in finding slots. From March 2015 (once I had passed the theoretical exam) I was more rigorous, always trying to have at least two slots scheduled with the instructor and airplanes booked at any point in time. This enabled that, even if many slots had to be cancelled due to weather conditions (or any other issue), I was more regular with the flying, I managed to obtain the license and fly over 19 hours. For the 2016, the goal is clear: to fulfil the requirements to maintain the license, that is 12 flight hours with 6 take offs and landings in the last 6 months prior to the license expiry date. On top of that, in order to carry passengers it is required to have completed 3 take offs and landings in the previous 90 days. Thus, the requirements by law help you in aiming at flying often. On the other hand, I was trained to fly on Robin DR 400 airplanes and another objective I have is to learn to fly another model, Diamond DA20 in order to have more flexibility with the scheduling of airplanes and be able to fly oftenhow often is often? At least a flight per month (ideally 2), about 2 flight hours a month… this objective, then, is well followed up with the aeroclub scheduling tools, navigation logs, etc.
  • Running: with the running I have many and varied objectives. From running (e.g.) 2,000 km in a year, to completing at least 2 marathons a year, to beating personal best times (PBs) in different distances (10k, half marathon and marathon), to other miscellanea objectives (e.g. running x days in a given week, y kilometres in a given week or month, running some special race, running a number of days while on holidays…). For the completion of marathons and aiming at PBs I do schedule training plans at the online tool provided by Garmin (the provider of the GPS watch I use). Thus, the objectives are clearly defined, shared (with Luca, colleagues, in social media) and well followed up.

And it is here that I wanted to stress on the definition of the goal, its writing and its sharing. I will take the objective “running 2,000 km”. In 2014 I started to publish online in Twitter regularly both the goal and how I was progressing.

With the online tool I have the objective clearly written down and tracked, I know whether I am ahead or behind, the weekly or monthly mileage needed to attain the goal, etc. The sharing of the goal in my inner circles helps with the finding slots to run. The sharing of the goal more widely encourages and pushes oneself. See below how I reached the objective in 2015. You can see that while the training towards Seville (February) and Madrid (April) marathons lasted I was well ahead the reference. After those marathons took place I fell behind, even if I only fully stopped for a week after Madrid marathon. I kept running below the reference weekly mileage until the end of June, when I was 70km behind… I then subscribed for Millau (September) and started building up mileage for it, then extended the training up to Toulouse marathon (October), stopped only 3 days after it and, since then, I always was around or over the reference to attain the goal (even if I had to stop for over a week at the end of November due to a cold that got me down with severe throat ache).

Running mileage 2015 progression

***

It is clear that each one has a different approach and there is not a single one that fits us all. Many will not want to be constrained by fixed goals, nor be reminded of them by having them written, even less sharing some goal they are unsure to meet, not to talk about publishing it on social media! This is just how I go about trying to meet some personal objectives.

(1) At least not for every objective and plotting a global indicator.

(2) These goals are easy to share others are kept in the inner circles.

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My 2015 reading list

In this post I wanted to share the list of books I read along the year (1) with a small comment for each one (2), links to Wikipedia articles about the book (if available) and to the authors (in case you want to read about them). I have also included a small rating from one to three “+” depending on how much do I recommend its reading:

  1. DSC_0342Profiles in Courage (by John F. Kennedy) (++): written by then senator Kennedy when he was convalescent from a back surgery in the 1950s, this book analyzes the context, figures and controvert decisions made by 8 different US senators mainly from the XIX century (from John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster… to Robert A. Taft), decisions that were not popular at the time in their constituencies but the politicians understood were needed to be taken and demanded courage to do so. For this book Kennedy obtained a Pulitzer prize in 1957. From the analysis, Kennedy extracts some lessons in the last chapter that are well encapsulated in the following dilemma: “[…] the loyalties of every Senator are distributed among his party, his state and section, his country and his conscience. On party issues his party loyalties are normally controlling. In regional disputes, his regional responsibilities will likely guide his course. It is on national issues, on matters of conscience which challenge party and regional loyalties, that the test of courage is presented.” 
  2. “El arte de ser padres” (by Fitzhugh Dodson) (++): a loan from my parents to help us in the quest of upbringing our daughter, the book, written in the late 1970s, did help in removing weight from some situations when the child was at the turn of being 2 years old. Among other things, it teaches you to get more relaxed, laid-back, not to enter into conflict trying to impose things, etc. It was also interesting to see how society and some social conventions have changed from the 1970s to today (e.g. drinking and smoking during pregnancy).
  3. TheSpiritOfStLouisThe Spirit of Saint Louis (by Charles A. Lindbergh) (++): this autobiographic book describes one of the great adventures of the XX century, the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic ocean in May 1927. For this book Lindbergh received a Pulitzer prize in 1954. The beginning of the book covers the days of Lindbergh working for the postal service of Robertson Aircraft Corporation and how he gets engaged into the race of who would be the first pilot(s) to cross the ocean. He later describes the conception, development and testing of the Ryan aircraft he flew for the feat. He finally gives a detailed account of the 33h30′ flight; hour by hour, alone, squeezed in his seat, with scarce food and water supplies, cold, flying day (within the clouds at times) and night, thrilling and semi-unconscious (asleep) at times, until he lands in Le Bourget. I wrote a post review the book, find it here.
  4. El General en su Laberinto (by Gabriel García Márquez) (+): this book is a novel trying to figure out how the last days of the Venezuelan revolutionary Simon Bolivar were. The characters, trips, locations, etc., are real. The dialogues, thoughts, feelings, are the work of Garcia Marquez. As always with Garcia Marquez, there are very vivid dialogues and reflections in the book by way of its characters, however this wasn’t the book I liked the most from him. On the hand, to get a better feeling and description of the last days of a person I very much preferred for the uneasiness it puts you as a reader The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Tolstoy.
  5. Pensar con Arte (by Manuel Conthe) (++): this book shows how our minds work in their way of thinking with their biases and the situations that may arise. The concepts covered are similar to other books that I have read in the past (Thinking Fast and Slow, Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger or Poor Charlie’s Almanack), the originality here comes from the parallels and connections that the author brings and offers with the arts (literature, paint, cinema, music…), showing examples from different art craft.
  6. España 3.0: Necesitamos resetear el pais (by Javier Santiso) (+++): this book is call for action, for change, for resetting Spain into a country which bases its economy and growth on innovation, education and technology. It starts by offering a rather harsh and in my opinion good diagnostic of many of the ailments of the country. Then shows how several things do work in the country and how in previous occasions the country has raised up to similar challenges and it can and has to do so again. The sooner the better.
  7. The Diary of a young Girl (by Anne Frank) (++): the diary of a 13-year-old girl when she starts writing it and 15-year-old when it finishes, Anne Frank describes how she, her family and some others live day by day in hiding from the Nazis. Throughout the book there are many comments, appreciations, worries, misunderstandings, etc., very typical of that age. Despite of that, at some points of the book Anne provides a great example of resilience, attitude and hope: e.g. at times she reflects that all in all she cannot complain, she doesn’t lose time and imposes onto herself a rigorous studying and reading time schedules, etc. In that extent, her attitude and the diary reminded me of another book I have often seen recommended that I must read, “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, a jew imprisoned at a concentration camp.
  8. LeeLee (by Douglas Southall Freeman abridged version by Richard Harwell) (++): this is the biography of Rober E. Lee the general of the Army of Northern Virginia on the Confederate side during the US civil war. The book covers from the origins of the family, the birth and early education of Lee, his days at West Point where he specialized as an US army engineer, and how as the different states start seceding and viewing that his allegiance shall remain to Virginia he resigns from the US army. The book then describes the different battles, the style of Lee during the war and the surrender at Appomattox. Then it covers his final years as president of the Washington college in Lexington. For the extended version of this biography, Douglas Southall Freeman received a Pulitzer prize in 1935.
  9. commonstocksCommon stocks and uncommon profits and Other Writings (by Philip A. Fisher) (++): a classic book about investing strongly recommended by many, among others Warren Buffett. The first edition was written in 1950s, the edition I read dates from the 1970s and includes some reflections of what he wrote in the first one. The main contribution of the book is what the author calls the scuttlebutt (rumor, gossip) technique, that is the thorough research ground work an
    investor must make before investing in any stock by way of talking to sales men of competitor companies, customers, experts on the field, academics, management of the company, etc., and which he summarizes in 15 points. A quick takeaway from the book is that, if you lack the time to thoroughly proceed with the scuttlebutt, it might be better to leave for others, who have, the task of picking your stocks. The Other Writings included in the book relate to what is and how it was developed his investment philosophy and on whether the markets are efficient.
  10. The gospel of wealth and other timely essays (by Andrew Carnegie) (++): In the main essay of the book (The Gospel of Wealth), Carnegie, discusses the moral obligation of the wealthy to redistribute their wealth in life back to the society. He positions himself against charity and offers several options that would have a great impact in lifting those among the poor willing to work in their own progress: funding of educational institutions, hospitals, libraries, parks, monuments, etc. Other essays relate to whether the United States (the Republic) should or not follow the path of Britain in having colonies and dependencies (in relation to the Philippines), a speech explaining the arrangements of the American constitution, critiques on proposals for free trade agreements between Britain and its colonies, etc. A good review of business and politics at the end of the XIX century.
  11. Vol de nuit (“Night Flight”, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry) (++):  in Saint-Exupéry’s second novel he describes the operations of an air mail business based in Buenos Aires and with aircraft incoming from different locations in South America. The book describes the difficulties of night flight at the time and of developing this new type of service. One particular flight under cyclonic conditions will put into question the whole operation and the different characters, the pilot, her wife, the line operations’ chief, radio operators, etc.

(1) You can find here: my 2012 reading list, 2013 (embedded in my summary of 2013) and 2014 ones.

(2) In this 2015 I have not written many dedicated posts about the books I have read (just one about the The Spirit of St. Louis), but I do not discard making a review of some of them in the future.

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