quarta-feira, dezembro 26, 2018

2018: My Reading Year in Review

And the year ends once again...

Without further ado, my crème-de-la-crème was the following:

Links for some of the above-mentioned reviews (in no particular order):

Follow-up on ∂S/∂t + H = 0: "Reality Is Not What It Seems" by Carlo Rovelli
Fuck-Spaces: “A Philosophical Approach to Quantum Field Theory” by Hans Christian Öttinger
Shut the Fuck Up and Calculate (Or Not): "The Nature of Space and Time" by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose
dAction/dx = d/dt(dLagrangian/dv)-dLagrangian/dx = 0: “The Theoretical Minimum - What You Need to Know to Start Doing Physics” by Leonard Susskind, George Hrabovsky
Gravity Curves Space-time. That’s It: "On Gravity: A Brief Tour of a Weighty Subject" by Anthony Zee
Lagrangean Systems: "Levels of Infinity - Selected Writings on Mathematics and Philosophy" by Hermann Weyl, Peter Pesic
Smelly Socks:"Gravitational Waves - How Einstein’s Spacetime Ripples Reveal the Secrets of the Universe" by Brian Clegg
The Many-Worlds Interpretation (MWI): "The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III - Multiple Universes, Mutual Assured Destruction, and the Meltdown of a Nuclear Family” by Peter Byrne
Eigen-stuff Applied to Buridan's Ass: “Dichronauts” by Greg Egan
(Count-of-Self) = 0: "Superintelligence - Paths, Dangers, Strategies" by Nick Bostrom
Ancient Greek Cynicism: "The Father of Lies" by K. J. Parker
A Real Sense of Otherness: "Exit West" by Mohsin Hamid
The Gentle-Slide-into-Decrepitude-Concerning-Sex-in-Old-Age: “The Elegies of Maximianus" by Maximianus, A. M. Juster (Translator), Michael Roberts (Introduction)
Gambler's Fallacy: "One Human Minute" by Stanislaw Lem
Et ego in illo: “Baltasar and Blimunda” by José Saramago, Giovanni Pontiero (Translator)
Brontosaurus Shit: "On Bullshit" by Harry G. Frankfurt

A long time ago, and as a form of self-imposed discipline, I decided to keep a list of the books I started to read, followed by a list of those I finished. We’re talking 1980 here (before there was a thing called Internet as we know it today). Unfortunately, and despite all this information, I don’t have the faintest idea how many books I read since 1980. I have notebooks, one for fiction and one for non-fiction in which I keep my lists and mark each book out of 10 - I haven’t read anywhere near the number of books I should have since we are talking many eons here, but I find it helps me remember books and spurs me to complete some I would otherwise give up on.
If you ask me how many books I read in 2018 I can answer that: I recently finished the 107th book. I'm not sure why keeping a list like this has helped my reading, but it has, and I've abandoned only a few books in all these years. I also don’t have the foggiest on which years I read the less. Why? Because I’m still updating my book portals (Booklikes, LibraryThing, etc.)  Looking at the statistics, the best years have been 2018 and 2019 with 122 books and 144 respectively. I remember those years as being years of eclectic reading, the diversity of which may have helped to maintain my interest.

Why did I kept on doing it till now? In today's age there is so much energy sucking distraction, and we do not have the chance to read very often, we get out of practice and reading becomes less automatic and more conscious effort. Trying to read a complicated book, especially for me certain non-fiction books takes a lot of effort and sometimes the effort seems too much. Maybe that’s why, but I can’t really say for sure.

In 2018 I tried for the first time to be more consistent with my Audio-books reading. I “discovered” Audio-books let me make use to otherwise dead time by “reading”. Audio-books also allow me to take energy that you otherwise would use to hold, turn pages, and concentrate on the process of reading and use that energy to follow and think about what you are hearing. It also makes it easier to re-read parts of a book you might not re-read because it is too much time and energy. Listening to the audio-book version of Dante’s and Pinky’s book "Inferno by Dante" was where I realized this, where I finished it and through it was one of the most informative books I had read (I had read it previously in print format), and a friend had a hard time getting through it and did not get as much out of it.

How does my reading compare with the way I read back then? I think there are two aspects to it. One is enjoyment, and one is a suddenly closed mind. I recall as a young reader I could read more or less anything, was completely open to all kinds of difference in literary style. Even Ulysses did not seem difficult. Then came a middle period. Spoilt by Dostoevsky, I tried Beckett and Kafka, and failed to read both as having - so it then seemed, if not today - compared to the Russian psych-dramatist lifeless barely conscious characters. I managed short Bellow, but struggled with long (Herzog excepted). Then later Bellow suddenly became an effortless read, and an earlier liking for Updike as a Russian master's more pacific apprentice paled making re-reading the great short stories a struggle. Later Kafka and Beckett became grown up Wodehouse and a delight to read, the finest dark comedy so fitting for the 20th C that was. (Throughout however Tolstoy alone remained ever green and quite the same, the exception that proved the problematic rule.) Years later I tried to re-read “Finnegans Wake”. Impossible to get past 1/4 of the book, like someone who once did 60 quick push-ups and now struggles three times at arm’s length. As Zhuangzi said long ago, and through a mere acolyte to a master sage, "you are not the person now sitting on your desk today you were sitting there yesterday". Change, and unfathomable calibrations of internal and external contingencies ever escape us. So what are “boring books”? No idea, but I don't this "boring books" crap. Boring books are the ones we put down. And interesting and entertaining books the ones I finish. Clearly in my case, far from one reader throughout the one life, there are many, and from decade to decade even great books can be like dice. However, recently, in dotage, there seems a return to that early phase of being able to read almost any style and form so long as it be literary - good - enough (so obviously no E. L. James or Dan Brown).

I have reached the age now where I know my own tastes and don't often embark on a book I can't finish, though some may take a while due to various distractions. But if something's a dud I don't hesitate to ditch it, life is too short and they keep on publishing things I might want to read! These days if a book hasn’t got my attention within a hundred pages it goes to the charity shop. I also set the threshold at a hundred pages. Some books need to warm up a bit first, and to quit on them after just 30 or 40 pages, however hard-going, would be to do them a disservice. One example that particularly stands out is “Wolf Hall” (yes, ThemisAthena, I finally read it; I'm not writing a review...probably no review ever…): I found it very hard to get into, especially with the author's habit of always referring to the protagonist as 'he', never as 'Cromwell', but after a certain point - probably between a third and a half of the way in - things just clicked, and I devoured the rest in a twinkling.

2018 was finally the year I found the gumption to publish 300 of my retro-reviews. Between the stuff I recovered from my BBS disks and some other IDE and SCSI disks I've got in the loft I was able to scrounge up these 300 "gems" from back in the day. There's much more reviews where these came from...Will I have the Will to publish them? That's a different story altogether...

2018 was also the year I wanted to read more Physics books. I've read same absolute crackers! (see pictures and links above)

2018 was also the year I wanted to return to my SF days. Meaning, I wanted to catch up with the genre. Unfortunately I didn't read all the stuff I wanted. 

In a nutshell:

Physics = 29

SF = 40
Crime Fiction = 9
Mundane Fiction = 16
Computer Science = 9

On with the rest of the numbers:

· Number of words written in the 108 book reviews (*): 117512 (average 1088 words per review)
· Number of words written in the 31 non-book chronicles/essays: 22916 (average 739,3 words per chronicle/essay)
· Number of words written in the 139 reviews and non-book chronicles/essays: 140428 (average 1010,3 words)

Not written in 2018, but in a way belonging to 2018 because I published them this year,  the number of words written in the 300 retro-reviews: 185896 (average 619,7 words)

Number of books and pages read: 

Number of Books Read Per Publication Year (1900-2018): 

Reading Chart Per Month (2018): 

Ratings Distribution (2018):

My 2017 Reading Challenge:

Reading Challenges Per Year (2018): 

My All-Time Booklikes' Profile as of the end of 2018 (888 reviews since 1980):

My All-Time Goodreads' Profile as of the end of 2018 (901 reviews in total):

Number of followers and Follows on Booklikes:

Number of followers on GR (yep, after what happened to Leafmarks one can't be too careful...):

2018 Average Rating:

NB: 3.7 in 2017.

All-Time Most Popular Pages from My Blog:

NB: What a surprise! My Shakespeare pages still comprise my TOP3. And my musings in German still in 4th place! Wonders will never cease...

My All-Time Rating  Distribution (3.3):

My All-Time Physical Properties (Number of Pages Distribution):

How High is My Book Stack:

NB: My value at the end of 2018 was 350,6 metres (1150.2 feet). Higher than the Big Ben and the Washington Monument! The Eiffel Tower was finally conquered...The Empire State Building is just around the corner with 381 metres (1250 feet)...

If all the pages in all my books were laid end-to-end:


(Almost 900 Kg of books...but still far from one elephant...)

My All-time Author Gender:

My "Dead or Alive" When it Comes to Authors:

Number of Books Read on My Bookshelf:

Number of Books Read per Year:


Number of Pages Read per Year:

2018 Shortest, Longest Books (and average): 

2018 Most and Least Popular:

2018 Average of Pages Read : 

All-Time Blog Hits Around the World (BookLikes):

Most Popular 100 Reviewers in Portugal:

Most popular 100 reviewers in the last 12 months in Portugal:

All-Time Blog Hits Around the World (the blog you're reading now):



Around 66 K new hits in 2018; 5487 hits per month in 2018. A very pronounced increase when compared to last year's stats (around 38K new hits in 2017 when compared with 2016's stats; 3167 hits per month in 2017).

The increase from 2017-2016 (38K) to 2017-2018 (66K), resulted in an 28K hits jump.

All-Time "My Map of the World":

2017 (1280 places):

2018 (2480 places):

NB: 1200 places added in 2018.

All-Time Number of Posts Written Between August 2006 and December 2018:


Because this is my final post ever, a coda is in order.

There pretty much isn't a single character in the novels of Thomas Mann, for instance, who wasn't someone he'd met. Der Zauberberg was based on his wife's stay at a sanatorium in Davos, the main character is his alter ego, and all the other characters were either patients at that sanatorium, or people Mann knew. Tod in Venedig was based on a holiday stay in Venice. Tadzio existed for real, except that he was called Vladzio. On and on. He really never made anything up, he embroidered on his own experiences. And of course there is another classic author of "autofiction" novels, Marcel Proust. I could go to my bookshelves and pick dozens of novels off the shelves (and I don't have all that large a library), starting from the 19th century onwards, that were almost wholly "autofiction". The most famous novel in Dutch, Multatuli's (1820-1887) Max Havelaar, is an account of the time he spent as a colonial official in the Dutch East Indies, and his second most famous book, Woutertje Pieterse, are his childhood recollections. The entire oeuvre of the great Belgian, Dutch-language writer Willem Elsschot (1882-1960) consists of novels closely based on his own life experiences. That's why my reviews always go on a tagent. They almost always remind me of something...Meaning: they're based on my own experiences.

Why did I keep on reviewing until now?

The review is an artefact that is continually evolving, espousing and reacting to the real as seen and mused over by many writers - some are examinations of the bloggers's own experience of life, some come from a retold story or piece of gossip or an incident reported in a book, some are fantasies around anthropological, mythological, historical or philosophical issues told through the social and political milieu in which life events of a real or imagined character occur, delving into the psychological dimensions, motivations and intentions of that character and those around her/him. It is a contemplation of an individual and the personal qualities and events and actions that impact upon human existence in a particular set of circumstances.

I'm just gonna stop writing book reviews and let the world burn in peace. It took something more - like study - to learn to read on a deeper level and be able to do a book justice. I'm gonna go back to reading in a passive sort of way - I think the technical terms are lisible and scriptible reading.

I'm off! Take care.

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