Archive for the ‘Bufo’s Life’ Category

My February 5th interview on The Kindle Chronicles: the annotations

February 6, 2016

My February 5th interview on The Kindle Chronicles: the annotations

I am the featured interview on Len Edgerly’s The Kindle Chronicles podcast for Friday, February 5th, 2016, and you can hear it here:


It was a great experience!

Len and I exchange occasional e-mails, and I’ve been on the show a couple of times before. We’ve never met in real life, though…our mutual admiration comes from each other’s work. ;)

I also have to say that I think Len did a terrific job editing our interview! We actually spoke for well under an hour, so it wasn’t so much cutting out things as it was polishing them. I did make one mistake, and referred to our adult child by a gender specific term, which I don’t do here in this blog (I’ll explain in a moment). Len was nice enough, and skillful enough, to edit that out for me when I mentioned it.

On this blog, I don’t identify inherent characteristics, such as my own gender. There are some other things I don’t reveal as well. There are two reasons for that.

The first is that I want this to be a place where people can participate based solely on their ideas and feelings. When people make comments (which I always appreciate), I don’t want them to feel that they should reveal gender, or marital status, or age…or anything they don’t want to do. :) They are welcome to do so if they want, but if I do it, I think people would be less comfortable not doing it.

The second reason is that it’s a challenge and fun. ;) I’ve taught people how to use the same skills we use in improv to have better interactions at work. One of those is the ability to think about one thing while you are doing something else (for example, thinking about how what you are saying will affect someone at the same time you are saying it). One thing I’ve had people do, with no warning ahead of time, is stand up and talk for thirty seconds about what brought them to this place in their lives…without using the word, “I”. Great trainers (that’s my “day job”) can all do that pretty smoothly. Most people have a very difficult time.

While I definitely would like you to listen to the show, and I think I was completely fairly represented, I thought that some annotations might be helpful.

Here’s the first thing:

You can hear one of our dogs on the show. ;)

What you actually hear is Elf squeaking a favorite toy, a plush mustache which is about the same length as the dog (who, while a rescue and undoubtedly mixed, turned out to apparently be primarily Portuguese podengo pequeno wire-hair). It’s pretty quiet, but you can hear it in the background at one point. Elf will squeak it repeatedly for minutes at a time….I actually encourage that by saying, “Squeaky! Squeaky!”

Two things about that, and one which is not just about me. ;)

I did the interview at home. As I said, it took under an hour, so I blocked some time on my work calendar, recorded it during what was basically my lunch break, then went to my nearby office.

The second thing, and Len and I were both impressed with this, was that I did my end on my now discontinued Fire Phone (I was one of the few who paid the initial about $200 for one) with the earbuds and in-line microphone that came with it.

The sound quality is quite good! I use those earbuds at work, but I haven’t recorded anything for broadcast with them before.

We did the interview via Skype, and I tried a couple of other configurations first, including a headset I got for use with Dragon (a very popular speech-to-text program…you talk, it types)…but this was the best.

You aren’t going to buy a Fire Phone at this point, but you can buy the headphones:

Amazon Premium Headphones (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

At $14.99 at time of writing, I think they are a good deal. You could use them with other SmartPhones and devices…you know, unless the next iPhone drops the headphone jack, which is a rumor. ;)

We covered a lot of topics, and they tie back into five things you can read from me. Two are previous posts in this blog:

The first one we discuss explicitly. The second one addresses the idea of “inheriting” e-books…I wrote it back in 2009, but the basic information should still be current.

There also a question and some discussion about

The Collected I Love My Kindle Blog Volume 1 (at AmazonSmile*)

which you can read as part of

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

or it’s available in the USA for $0.99.

My other blogs came up a couple of times. I mentioned a funny statistic about my Sherlock Holmes blog, and my broader pop culture blog was named. Those are:

Another item that was mentioned was one of my sibling’s first novel

One Murder More (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I didn’t mention it by name, because I didn’t want this interview to feel like I was promoting items, but I did refer to it.

Not something I’ve written or that a family member or someone I know has written (you can see those at I know these authors!) but that I referenced was software that can give you a virtual background when you are on a video call. I’ve used


It’s free, and a lot of fun!

I do want to clarify something about that part of the conversation.

I said that I had used it at work to have an office background, and jokingly told Len not to tell my company. ;)

I’m a very honest person, as I think my readers know. I never did this to trick anybody. I was actually authorized to test out the technology for possible use at my company. Yes, I did “fake” an office background, but I would always tell them before the end of the call to get their feedback.

One question (about public libraries) was asked by a reader who was named on the show, but I didn’t get that question directly here, so I’m not naming names…I’ll just say thank you, and I’ll name you if you like. :)

I want to make very clear my gratitude to people who subscribe to this blog through the Kindle store! I mentioned that they really make it possible for me to do this, but I don’t think I said the words, “thank you”, so…thank you!

Finally, I mentioned a project I have that I will make public on February 29th. I think readers of this blog will find it interesting, and I’ll announce here it here when it is ready.

I’d be interested in any feedback you have for me about the show, or additional questions about topics we didn’t cover. Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

The four books I’m (actively) reading now

January 8, 2016

The four books I’m (actively) reading now

I’ve mentioned before that I read more than one book at a time.

That’s always been the case with me…and it’s one of the reasons I like e-books and the Kindle so much.

I used to leave books in different rooms in the house, and just read whatever book happened to be in the room I was in at that time.

I know a lot of people don’t do that (my Significant Other doesn’t). You get one book, and read it straight through, then just go on to another book.

Just not my style.  :)

I never get the books confused. I think reading them in different contexts probably helps with that…I’m reading the same book in the same setting.

As a trainer, I know how important context can be.

There was a great study where they taught people something when they were standing in water (I think up to their waists). When they re-tested people, those who were standing in water again could do it much better than those on dry land.

Here’s a context memory trick I give people.

Let’s say you are in the car and you hear something mentioned on the radio: a phone number, a website, or maybe a book title. You want to remember it later, but you can’t write it down or record it easily.

Slap your leg, then say what it is you want to remember out loud.

When you get home, sit down again…simulating the car. Slap your leg (same hand, same leg) and you’ll probably remember it.

I also had a great example of it. I was helping someone at their desk in an office. They said (approximately), “I don’t know why I can’t remember how to do this…I knew it before.”

I looked up and said, “Was there a picture behind your computer before?” There had been, and it had just recently been removed.

That was the problem.

If we had gotten the picture back, the person would have known how to do it. As it was, we had to retrain…

So,  I like reading multiple books at once, and don’t have a problem with that.

Right now, I’m actively reading four books…by actively, I mean I read all of them just about every day. There are a number of other books I’m reading…but that’s more catch as catch can. I’ve been rationing

Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

because I like it a lot, it’s short essays, so it makes a great transitional “emergency book”, when I’m between other books.

I only read it maybe once in a month, so I don’t consider that one an active one.

Here are the four I am actively reading…and why these. :)

I’m re-reading an omnibus edition of the fourteen original Oz books by L. Frank Baum. The edition I have is no longer available, so I’m not linking. I’ve never been a re-reader, so this is a bit of an experiment for me. I read it on my

Kindle Voyage (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

when I’m going to sleep…usually not even completing a chapter at a time.

It is interesting: I am seeing new things as I re-read them, even though I’m a big fan.

At home, I’m also reading

Who Goes There? (at AmazonSmile*) by John W. Campbell

on my

All-New Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile*)

This work (shorter than a novel) was the inspiration for the science fiction classic The Thing (from Another World), and other versions (including John Carpenter’s gonzo adaptation starring Kurt Russell). I’ve never read it before, and one non-spoiler but that surprised me. One character seems to me to clearly be Doc Savage! The character is described very much like Doc, and it would make perfect sense for Doc Savage to be in this situation under an alias.

When I’m out on the road, I’d usually be focused on one book…but a gift that I got,

The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History (at AmazonSmile*) by Jon Morris

has some great excerpts..typically, a cover or one page from these mostly public domain works.

Text-to-speech is important to me, and I don’t want to miss the illustrations, so this isn’t my book for the car. I’m reading it on my now discontinued Kindle Fire HDX. I’m loving this one! Good scholarship and context, and the right amount of snark. ;) Not disrespectful, but pointing out some of the ridiculousness of some of these characters. I mean, with many of these origins, the hero survives something which should have killed them, but somehow imbues them with incredible powers instead. I guess what doesn’t kill you makes you super…

In the car, I’m listening to

The Man Who Fell to Earth (at AmazonSmile*) by Walter Tevis

I’m reading this one as a borrow from

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I certainly knew about the book…I think I own a paper copy, but I’d never read it.

At this point, although it is certainly worth reading, I’d say like the movie better. I’ll also say that David Bowie was perfectly cast….

Well, those are my actively reading books (I’m also reading a couple of  magazines). What about you? How books are you actively reading? Are you happy just reading one book at a time? Feel free to me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #311: Orwell, Open Road

October 29, 2015

Round up #311: Orwell, Open Road

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Getting comfortable with the 7″ Fire tablet

I’ve had the

Fire, 7″ Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB – Includes Special Offers, Black (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) $49.99

for about a week now, and I feel like I have a pretty good sense of it.

I would describe the device itself as serviceable, and the Fire OS 5 (which will come to some older models) as superior.

I certainly miss having dictation for the keyboard, and trace typing (like Swype…you drag your finger around to make words). I use both of those a lot on my now discontinued Kindle Fire HDX 7 (which is still what I’ve been using most of the time.

The biggest problem I’ve had with it, and I called Kindle Support to check it with them (no almost instant onscreen Mayday help), is that I can’t use it as a nightstand clock.

My Kindle Fire HDX is my nightstand clock. I have it (unplugged, just running on battery) next to the bed. The native clock app has a nightstand mode. The numbers are red, it’s dim, and it stays on all night. It takes about half the battery charge, which is fine…it charges up quickly enough in the morning.

With the new Fire, the clock app has a Night Mode…but it doesn’t override the autosleep timing! In other words, when I’m sleeping, it’s sleeping, too: no display. I don’t know about you, but I want to be able wake up groggily in the middle of the night, glance over, see what time it is….and decide if it’s appropriate to wake up the rest of the way and get out of bed. I don’t want to have to wake up the tablet to decide that.

One issue is that you can’t set the autosleep on the device to “Never”, which is my preferred setting. I’ll put my devices to sleep when I choose. :)

It’s a minor irritation, and I’m still using my KFHDX7 next to the bed.

Outside of that, it’s pretty good. I’d feel fine with having it for a guest or in  doctor’s waiting room. We don’t call them that any more, by the way…it’s a negative connotation.. They probably say you are “in the lobby”, in the “reception area”, or just “out front”. I loved a cartoon that I saw years ago which has a patient saying to the doctor, “If you want me to be more active, why have I been sitting in your waiting room for forty-five minutes?” ;)

Jane Friedman sounds like someone I would like to know

Jane Friedman is the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Open Road Media.

That’s been one of the best publishers for e-books. They typically publish backlist titles (older titles…the books that aren’t in the front of the catalog), and they secured the e-book rights for those when the bigger tradpubs (traditional publishers) were still hadn’t really awakened to the need.

In this

The Bookseller post by Porter Anderson

Friedman talks about the philosophy of the company.

I agree with a lot of it!

It’s definitely worth a read: this is a company that is still “…chasing profitability”. It has a clear-eyed view of the glory of resurrecting p-books (paperbooks) for the digital era. Plus, the good-humored CEO has close to 10,000 p-books at home…I can empathize. ;)

Orwell again

One of the most infamous incidents for Amazon and the Kindle was when they removed copies of a certain edition of George Orwell from customers’ Kindles.

No doubt, the irony of it being George Orwell added to the coverage of it.

Amazon apologized, compensated customers, and even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos called it “stupid”. They said they wouldn’t do the same thing in the same circumstances again, and to my knowledge, they haven’t.

Now, my understanding is that what happened was that a publisher had this book in the Kindle store, but specifically for the Australian market where the books are in the public domain (no longer under copyright protection, so no permission is needed). Amazon apparently accidentally made them available in the USA, where they were (again as I understand it, unintentionally on the publisher’s part) infringing on the rights of the estate.

In trying to rectify that, Amazon reached into customer’s devices, and deleted the unauthorized file.

Possessing that file on your Kindle, by the way, was not illegal. In

Dowling v United States

the Supreme Court of the U.S.A. found that possession of infringing copies of a copyrighted work was not the same as possession of stolen goods (despite people commonly conflating the terms “theft” and “infringement”, they are different…that’s not to say that one is less “bad” than the other, but they aren’t the same).

One of my first posts, more than six years ago, was a parody about this situation:

All’s Well That Orwells

Well, recently, there’s been another story involving Orwell’s works and alleged infringement.

In this

TorrentFreak post by Ernesto

it’s reported that “internet radio host Josh Hadley” had some designed removed from an online retailer (one I’ve used) because of a complaint supposedly from the Orwell estate.

The design had the number 1984 prominently, and I think most people would see it as a clear allusion to the Orwell book.

However, allusions are not illegal…and you can’t copyright a title.

You can trademark it, but that doesn’t seem to me to be what’s being suggested here.

On the basis of the limited information in this article, it does appear to have been an overreach…the kind for which Disney has been famous.

The retailer is within their rights (and may be wise) to remove an item when they receive a legitimate looking claim of infringement.

They are under no obligation to carry anything. If they did continue to distribute something after having been told it was infringing, and that did turn out to be the case, they could be liable.

So, irritating as it might be, someone can make a claim of infringement, and most retailers would, I think, remove the item.

I’ve made a claim like that myself to Amazon, and a work (which was infringing) was removed.

I did have to attest that I was the copyright holder, and I had to send them evidence. Amazon could have hypothetically gone after me if I had lied to them (and I didn’t and I don’t). :)

Just based on what I’ve seen, Hadley was probably within rights to make the design.

The retailer was within rights not to carry it.

If the estate did not file the complaint in good faith…I’m not sure what the legal ramifications could possibly be. Restraint of trade?

I’ve had the same sort of thing happen to me a couple of times when I was reasonably sure I wasn’t infringing.

One was a t-shirt design where I used a public domain illustration. Somebody complained, I guess, and it doesn’t even have to have been the rightsholder.

I basically shrugged about it.

The other one was more amusing.

We did a t-shirt that said, “Frickin’ panda heads”. Yes, that was a reference to playing on the Wii Fit. I don’t think that’s an infringement…but, oh well.

It might be different if I was designing t-shirts for a living…if my family depended on it. Then, it might be worth fighting for it.

For me, it wasn’t.

Supergirl and Pat Savage

I know some of my readers are fans of Doc Savage, who is one of my fictional heroes. If you are, you might be interested in a piece I recently wrote in The Measured Circle:

Supergirl is a hit! Thanks (again), Doc Savage

What do you think? Should I have fought the takedown notices, in order to defend people who do rely on it? What should retailers do with infringement claims? Do you use a tablet a nightstand clock? Do you have an app you like that overrides the global sleep setting? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Tinder prerequisite: name 5 women authors you’ve read

August 13, 2015

Tinder prerequisite: name 5 women authors you’ve read

Regular readers know that I don’t identify gender on this blog, generally.

I try to write in a way that doesn’t use gender-specific pronouns. I don’t identify my gender, or the genders of my friends and family (I use “Significant Other”, “sibling”, “now adult kid”, that sort of thing…I also often use somewhat more awkward writing, by using proper nouns rather than pronouns. That means I may use someone’s first or last name several times in a paragraph).

I’ve explained this before, and I know not everybody endorses the idea of it, but I think my readers generally accept it…in some cases, maybe, just as an eccentricity of mine. :)

I do it so that people can feel free to comment on this blog without revealing intrinsic characteristics (I also don’t make explicit other things, like race). If I don’t do it, it’s arguably more convention for other people not to do it.

I would say that’s my favorite thing about the internet: the ability to be judged by what we say, not by who we are.

I also believe (a lot of sentences starting with “I” this time! That’s because I am, so far, talking about me…that will become somewhat different as I continue) that some of my readers think it is important to promote contributions by people who might face a lack of recognition because of who they are.

For example, I’m sure there are people who by default assume authors are male. It used to be much more true, I believe, that women authors would have a tougher time in the mainstream marketplace. Female authors sometimes had pen names designed to disguise their gender…either by using, say, initials instead of a first name, or by choosing a deliberately male name.

In English, many speakers assume the default is male.

We no longer tend to use the term “authoress” and people don’t say “lady doctor” much any more. I don’t use the term “actress”, unless I have to quote something, like the categories in the Oscars. To me, it singles out female actors as different from “regular actors”. There isn’t a term for male actors like there is for female actors. If you say that the play calls for ten “actors”, that means both the female and male roles. If you say it calls for “six actors and four actresses”, the generic term refers to the males, meaning that “male” is seen as “normal”.

I’ve had readers assume that my now adult kid is male…since that’s the default, I think. I haven’t said either way. :)

So, I found this

TNW (The Next Web) post by MIC WRIGHT


It’s about Tegan (AKA BellJarred) who asks men (the article specifically says men) who want to connect to name five female authors they’ve read first.

Actually, the article is a bit confusing. The article says “five books written by female authors”, but part of what they show seems to suggest it is “five female authors”.  That makes a big difference. Anybody who has read the Harry Potter series has read five books written by a female author (Jo Rowling…although the books were published with the gender neutral J.K. Rowling, and I understand that was because of a concern that boys would be less likely to want to read books written by a female author. I find that an odd argument: it’s likely to be the parents/legal guardians of a young child who would make the book buying purchase decisions, especially for something that was relatively expensive like the Harry Potter books. They may have been right about the marketing…but certainly, most book buyers knew that Rowling was female after the first book or so, and the sales did not go down).

The only challenge for me on this would be remembering which authors are female.

I don’t make a book buying decision based on that. I don’t make a book reading choice based on that.

I’m generally not big about an author’s biography…except, perhaps, when it informs nonfiction. If your autobiography is about having been a child soldier, than having been a child soldier is important. :) If it’s a novel, well, for me, it just doesn’t matter.

I experiment with my own mind. :) Years ago, I made an effort not to identify people I met in person by gender. I succeeded. I met someone, and later could not identify their gender to someone else. I know, though, that’s unnatural. It took a form of…self-hypnosis, I suppose, to achieve. I didn’t maintain it, though.

That ability has certainly been useful at times. I don’t like being annoyed (apparently unlike some people on the internet) ;) and I don’t like conflict. If I find something that irritates me, what I usually do is change that irritation into amusement by reframing it. Then, I’ll smile when I encounter what was a former irritant.

I’ll give you an example.

My Significant Other, who I love very much, tends to put things into places I use as workspaces. We are having our kitchen redone right now…we hadn’t had a working stove for many years, and there were a lot of other issues. We refinanced, and we’re having the kitchen done by Ikea (the look of it and the price of the cabinets are both good…the experience with the contractors, to whom we were connected by Ikea, has not been). That means we have no cabinets, no counter space.

I keep a few spaces clear for food prep. For example, a little corner of a table where we have the microwave and a “third burner”, not even a square foot, is where I prep my oatmeal. :) I put a plastic bag on the lid of the garbage can, so I can put some things there. We have a half wall where I set the dog dishes (small dogs, small dishes), as I get the canned dog food out of the refrigerator (which is in our living room). Next to the sink in the bathroom, I have an area where I clean dishes.

My SO has left things in all of these spaces, I think. :)

That’s not done on purpose, consciously, to mess me up. We both need empty spaces…I think these are just convenient.

I used to be irritated to find something in a “clear space” like that.

I reframed it for myself as being like a cat getting in your “warm spot” on a chair when you get up to get something. :)

That charms me…and now, I smile when it happens.

My point on all this is that identifying people by gender is natural…arguably, even a species survival requirement (although perhaps, not in all circumstances).

Making the effort to identify female authors I’ve read, I then found it not difficult at all to come up with five. I would guess I could come up with fifty without much effort. Coming up with more than fifty of anything can be difficult. ;)

That goes back to when I was a child, and straight on to the present.

I’ll just throw a few out here, making the point again that I didn’t read them because they were female.

I’m currently reading

Go Set a Watchman (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

having just re-read

To Kill a Mockingbird (at AmazonSmile)

Hm…the name “Harper” isn’t particularly female to me…I wonder if most people who read the first book when it first came out were even aware  of the author’s gender. Sure, TKaM had a female protagonist…but Harry Potter has a male one. Arguably, it’s much more common to find women writing male protagonists than vice versa, though.

I’ve read tons of Agatha Christie. :)

I read the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich.

I think I’d better just start listing some:

  • Anne McCaffrey
  • Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Constance Whyte (nonfiction)
  • Olivia Butler
  • Elaine Morgan (nonfiction)
  • Ruth Plumly Thompson (the second Oz author)
  • Jane Austen
  • Louisa May Alcott
  • Mary Wollstonecraft (and not just Frankenstein)
  • Suzanne Collins
  • Kim Harrison

I could keep going on and on.

On all of these, I’m pretty sure they are female. :)

Looking at what came to mind, there is some diversity of topic/genre there, although clearly, fantasy/science fiction is up there, and there isn’t as much nonfiction. That may be more a reflection of what I’ve read for fiction (rather than what’s written/published), but I read a lot of nonfiction. I suspect that might actually reflect a publishing…tendency, although I haven’t looked for an analysis.

What do you think? Is requiring that people have read a certain type of author before messaging you a reasonable thing to do? Do you think if someone can name five female authors they have read, it’s predictive of how well you will get along with them? Could you quickly name five female authors you’ve read? How about five authors of a given race? National origin? Is it different to ask the latter two questions than the first one? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Challenge me…with a book

July 1, 2015

Challenge me…with a book

I consider myself an eclectic reader, and sometimes state that with pride in this blog.

Books are a form of connecting with other ideas and feelings…and I want to be exposed to as much of that as I can.

I’m not saying that needs to be true for you, certainly, but for me I’m far more concerned that I won’t have read as widely as I would like before I die, rather than that I won’t have read all of the “good books” I should.

I think that the best thing I did when I was a brick-and-mortar bookstore manager was encourage my employees to read a book from every section in the store (and I did do that myself). I didn’t compel them, just encouraged them. :)

Inevitably, doing that, you are going to sail the seas of ignorance.

I mean, I had a broader knowledge of books than most people, of course, but how was I going to pick a good romance, travel book, and “Men’s Adventure” (as it was called back then)?

What I did, and what I recommended to my employees, is that I asked regular customers for recommendations.

I read some great books that way!

I won’t say they were books I would never have read otherwise…but I might have had to live to be a thousand years old. ;)

My life has absolutely been changed by serendipitous reading…the first Doc Savage I read was because they were the only books available where I was.

Still, I don’t just randomly pick a book to read.

I’m willingly to read anything, but I’m more inclined to get certain types of books. If something is science fiction or fantasy, that’s a plus. If it’s non-fiction that might help me in my job, that gives it more weight in the scales of my choice.

That’s probably always going to be true.

However,  I miss the experience I had with reading  those recommended books in the bookstore.

I’m turning to you, my readers.

I’d like you to suggest a book for me to read.

I have to put a few rules on this:

  • It has to be available to me in Kindle format through in the USA
  • It can’t block text-to-speech access (it will say that text-to-speech is “enabled” on the book’s Amazon product page)
  • I won’t re-read a book for this, but it’s okay if I already own it
  • I’m going to say it has to be priced under $15…or any book available to me through Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) (again, that fits the above rules…I just mean any priced book in KU)

Outside of that, suggest away! :)

Try to make it interesting and meaningful. Fiction, non-fiction…both fine. It’s okay with me if you wrote it.

What I’m thinking I’m going to do, and it’s going to depend on how many suggestions I get, is make it a poll.

There you go…”crowd choicing” a read for me!

I’ll put it into my reading mix right away, but I might not read it next (I sometimes have time pressure to read something).

I know my readers aren’t big on me doing reviews here. I figure I’ll make some comment about it here, and likely right a review on Goodreads. There might be a lively discussion about it in the comments at some point.

I’ll say, modestly, that my reading it might have a minor impact on sales…that happens…but I’d rather you think about something that I might love or that might change me significantly.

What’s your recommendation? :)

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

*When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Our library with photos

May 25, 2015

Our library with photos

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a very visually oriented person.

However, I know that lots of people (probably the majority) like to see pictures, in addition to just have me using words to describe something. ;)

I’ve mentioned our floor to ceiling library many times in the blog. Those of you who picture things when you read (I generally don’t…again, I know I’m in the small minority on that) have probably created all sorts of images.

I’m guessing most of them are much more grandiose than the reality. :)

I knew someone who had a really impressive library…more than one floor, with a spiral staircase and ladders on tracks.

Our is furnished with “as is” bookshelves from Ikea…some of them cost as little as $5!

We also use the room as a guest room sometimes. I would love, love, love to be at somebody’s house and stay in a library! Dream come true…

Anyway, here are some photos (taken today) of our library…

This first one is just a general shot of one of the sections:


That object you see in your bottom left corner? That’s the bed. It’s a small room, so that’s also where you can sit while you are reading, if you want. We went with a literary theme, and bought pillows and a comforter for it to match:


Here is more of a closeup of a small section:

Library Closeup

One more shot of another section:


This is one wall, to give you the scope:


Finally, this an unusual item, and one of my favorite things I own. :) It’s a magazine rack. As I recall, I bought it from a place going out of business, but I know it was a small, local, sort of general store I patronized. I think the owner might have built it, and I believe I paid five dollars for it. Moving it through several homes over decades has probably been pretty silly, but I like it.


I asked my Significant Other before I shared these, and I tried not to do it where the room might look too messy (even though the books could be neater).

That’s why you aren’t seeing the shelf under the window. ;) That one has some non-book items on top of it. Well, I should say, “non-book related items”. As you can see, I do keep some small things on the shelves, usually related to the category. The Lost in Space robot is in front of my science fiction/fantasy section.

You might look at this and wonder how I can find anything.

First, I tend to just remember where things are. My SO likes to tell the story about when my SO asked me where the taxes from a certain year were. I said something like, “They are on the top shelf of the bookshelf under the window, third pile from the right, about two thirds of the way up, next to something yellow.” :)

Second, the shelves are separated by category, which narrows it down.

Third, some sections, like science fiction/fantasy are alphabetized: that one is alphabetical by author, and within that by title.

When I alphabetize titles, I follow Leonard Maltin and treat numbers as though they are spelled out. So, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” is in the “T”s, as though it was “Twenty Thousand Leagues”. That’s because sometimes it is spelled out, sometimes it isn’t. ;)

It’s also not quite as simple as that.

In some cases, I treat the series as if it is the author…Star Trek is one of those. The Doc Savage books have their own section in the library…they take up quite a bit of one of the bookshelves.

I also know some of you are cringing because I don’t have separate science fiction and fantasy sections. ;) I’ve mentioned how I treat that before.

For me, any fiction which is intended to take place outside of consensus reality is fantasy. Within that, there is Science Fiction (which is possible within the framework of consensus science but isn’t happening now…for example, travel to Mars via rocket) and Fantasy, which isn’t (traditional magic, for example). I’m sure that regular readers won’t be surprised that I don’t find those categories to be hard and fast, though. ;)

It often comes down to intent, including the intent of how the author wants it perceived. An author may want FTL (Faster Than Light) travel of a hardware spaceship through conventional space to be believed to be scientifically possible, or for telepathy to be scientifically based. We can’t really judge intent, though, so it seems somewhat subjective to me.

Therefore, I lump all fantasy together on the shelves.

Even defining fantasy can be tricky. I include works as fantasy if the audience perceives it as fantasy, even if it is later shown in the work to have been a trick. Again, that’s pretty fluid.

My main goal in putting them together is to make it easier to find something when I want it. That’s more important to me than being strictly correct…so free association counts. ;)

I do have some rare items, and as you can perhaps tell, I don’t have humidity controlled, behind glass kind of storage. Is that irresponsible? It doesn’t feel like it. I have been able to keep books in good shape…not pristine, mint condition, but I don’t have these books to resell them (then it would matter), but in some cases to preserve them, and I am doing that.

Will this room ever go away and everything be in digital?

I suppose it might…at this point, it makes me nauseous to consider it. ;) If the books I owned were already preserved in digital, I would then consider donating them to some place that would do actual preservation work. I would have to find somebody I thought would respect them…not just treat them as cultural artefacts. I might go so far as to say that I want someone who would love them.

I should also say, I’ve mentioned having ten thousand books on shelves in our house…they aren’t all in this room. Just about every room in the house has at least one bookshelf.

Well, now I’ve bared my shelves to you. :)

I think you can see why some of the titles might be controversial, but I decided I was more comfortable with you than with someone coming to inspect the house for some reason…

This is also a long way from having books piled on the floor, which I used to do. :)

How about you? If you have anything you want to share about how you have your p-books, feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Update: thanks to a reader who improved this post with some copy-editing and chose to remain anonymous. :) That’s one thing I’m finding with this new computer. I have to hit the keys harder than I’ve been doing, so a letter got missed. I have to see if I can adjust the feel of the keys…might be able to do that. If not, I’ll have to learn to pound the keys like it was ragtime. ;)

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Reflections: 5 ways e-books are better

May 21, 2015

Reflections: 5 ways e-books are better

I didn’t think I would like e-books.

I was wrong.

Regular readers have heard me say that before. My first Kindle (one of the very first generation, which was released in 2007) was a gift.

Now, I’d had a very long history with paperbooks (p-books).

I’d been a bookstore manager, I used to travel with a separate suitcase just for books, I always had an “emergency book” with me (in case, tragedy of tragedies, I finished one while I was away from the house and had nothing to read), I had a floor to ceiling library (in a room which our kid eventually noticed was bigger than our kid’s bedroom), and owned books that were 100 years old.

That doesn’t mean I was a rich person who indulged in books as a hobby.

Those floor to ceiling bookshelves? They weren’t built-ins. We bought them “as is” from Ikea…some of them were as low as $5. Yep , five dollars for an assembled bookcase.

They don’t all exactly match, and we bought some of them with scratches and other imperfections.

I figured, hey, you aren’t going to see those anyway. I was right on that…the shelves are often two deep, with another layer with the books sideways on top.

Our best friends have said they will never help us move again, because of all the books. :)

I sometimes had the same book in several editions (The Wizard of Oz), for example, because I liked the actual morphology and design of the books, not just the words in them.

Like a lot of book people, I sort of dismissed e-books. Oh, I wouldn’t say I was dismissive of them, and I wouldn’t have denigrated anybody for reading them…they just seemed…ephemeral.

According to Isaac Bonewits, author of

Real Magic (at Amazon Smile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

the Law of Contagion in magic (Bonewits has done non-fiction analysis of how magic is believed to work) is

“Objects or beings in physical or psychic contact with each other continue to interact after separation.”

I, irrationally, felt that physical books had a special connection with me.

I wouldn’t say I actually thought that was the case, but I felt it.

Books that I had since I was a child seemed almost alive to me, like old friends.

If I knew a book had been owned by someone else in particular, I felt (not thought, felt) that it was “imbued with their essence” in some way.

E-books? They weren’t going to have any of that.

However, I was willing to give it a try…you know, like augmented reality of Stephen King’s “3-D sound book” decades ago. I didn’t think it would actually become part of my life, but it would be fun to experience. Sort of like…you don’t take a roller coaster to work, but they can be great on vacation. ;)

Well, I would never have predicted that I would do all of my regular reading with e-books!

Yes, I go back every once in a while to look something up in one of my p-books, but my day to day reading? That’s all e.

Why is that?

Part of it, I think, is that I am good at changing my positions.

I’m always open to other ideas.

I love looking at a behavior of mine, sometimes one of which I am completely unaware, and finding a better way…and most importantly, being able to make that shift (and love it).

I want to be very clear: I didn’t change to e-books to be trendy. ;) I certainly did it before it was a trend, for one thing, but also, logically, I think they are better for my day to day reading.

Not better in every single circumstance. There is nothing wrong with reading p-books, and I want to see them all preserved. I don’t like art made out of books, where the books are destroyed in the process (like plates with embedded book covers…I’ve seen that sort of thing at arts and crafts fairs).

However, if I just want to read a book? It’s always an e-book now.

Here are five reasons why.

1. Text-to-speech

I would have laughed at the idea that I would like software reading me a book! This has been the biggest boon, the biggest shift. I typically listen to TTS for hours a week in the car. The technology has gotten much better over the years, which helps…but the main thing, as I like to say, is that driving is no longer “wasted non-reading time”. ;) If I’m in a position where I can as easily sight read as listen to text-to-speech, I’m going to sight read. That’s not always the case, though. Much of technology becomes adopted because it is “better than nothing”. That’s going to be the case with robots (which I write about quite often in my The Measured Circle blog. Is a robot caregiver in the home better than a licensed social worker for an autistic child? No. Is it better than nothing? Absolutely! You can’t afford to have a social worker in every autistic child’s home, and I can’t sight read while I’m driving. I would not consume books anywhere near as quickly as I do because of TTS. I think publishers make a mistake when they block the access, partially for that reason.

2. The invulnerability of e

When I read a p-book, you usually can’t tell it has been read. I don’t even break the spine on a mass market paperback. That is, though, hard work. I love that when I read an e-book, I can’t degrade it! When someone is using our guest Kindle, they can’t mess up “my copy” of the book. I used to keep several copies of some books around (like The Man of Bronze, the first Doc Savage book) so I could just give them to people, rather than loaning them a copy. I didn’t want to have to worry about the damage…with e-books, that’s never an issue.

3. Increasable text size

This has become more important for me over time. As I write this, I am wearing one dollar glasses from the dollar store (I now also buy very inexpensive reading glasses from Amazon, but these literally came from a dollar store). I do tend to wear them when I read on a Kindle…but it’s really nice not to have to do that. I’d probably be into large print books now if I were reading p-books…and those are expensive, physically larger, and not always available.

4. Simultaneous Device Licenses

The ability for us to have the same book on multiple devices at the same time for one download price has changed (for the better) my reading relationship with my Significant Other. When a new Stephanie Plum comes out, we now read it at the same time (thanks to TTS, I tend to finish first, but we start at the same time). We can talk about it afterwards. I’d never read a Stephanie Plum before the Kindle. My SO would read one…and then give it to a sibling or someone else. Reading a book is one of the most intimate acts there is (just you connecting directly to the author through the words). Talking about a book with someone else, therefore, reveals some of your inner self. I wouldn’t have thought about this being a benefit of e-books, but it really is.

5. You ain’t heavy…you’re my e-book

It’s absolutely amazing to be able to easily carry ten books with me and switch back and forth whenever I want! I always tended to be reading more than one book concurrently. I would often have a book in each room in the house, and just read whichever one was where I was. I kept that emergency book I mentioned above in the car, and then I might have two with me. I love, love, love being able to bounce around! With access to wi-fi (which is common where I am), I can also download more if I want. One big reason why the Kindle exploded the e-book market and other devices hadn’t (there were more than ten EBRs…E-Book Readers available in the USA market when the Kindle was released) was that you could download wirelessly. Before I got the Kindle, I still thought of reading an e-book as either doing it on a computer, or plugging a device into a computer, downloading the book and transferring it over a period of perhaps minutes…with very little capacity on the device to hold books. I thought e-books weren’t more convenient than my home library, I thought they were less so. The Kindle completely inverted that: e-books are far more convenient for me than p-books! I think my SO had the best line. In the early days of the Kindle, someone sneeringly said to my SO, “I like the feel of a book in my hand.” My SO replied, “I like the feel of a hundred in mine.” Exactly.

Those are just five of the reasons, and there are more. I would miss each and every one of those if I had to go back to just p-books.

How about you? Think back…what have been the biggest advantages for you of e-books? Did you first try an e-book as a lark, as an experiment…or did you already know you would like them? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

3 books that changed my thinking

May 17, 2015

3 books that changed my thinking

Books change you.

Yes, I think that every single book you read changes you in some way. I actually think that’s true about all of your experiences. Even if what it does is reinforce a prior held belief, the fact that that belief is now harder to shift is another (and sometimes very) important change.

However, that doesn’t mean I’m choosing these books at random. ;)

In each of these cases, I would say that the change was conscious. I can articulate something that shifted…there is a before and after, and I can see a causal relationship to having read the book.

I also am only picking books which are available in Kindle editions in the USA.

While that is becoming less of a factor, it’s still significant for many books I have read, especially those I’ve read decades ago.

I’m also going to try to pick books I haven’t talked about repeatedly in this blog in the past. I think all my regular readers know that my having read the Doc Savage adventures has shaped who I am today. I keep the Doc Savage oath on my computer at work, and I use that as an inspiration. I do strive to make myself better so that “all may benefit” by it, and to help those who need it. :) That also eliminates

The Book of the D*mned (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which I know I’ve referenced repeatedly. The basic idea that you should be able to be fluid in your beliefs about facts also informs what I do and how I (tolerantly, I think) approach others’ beliefs.

I’m also not going to limit myself to non-fiction, although they may turn out to all be that. I say they “might” because I haven’t chosen the books yet…I’m going to let inspiration strike me as I reflect and write. :)

We’re off!

The Human Zoo (at AmazonSmile*)
by Desmond Morris
4.4 stars out of 5 | 115 customer reviews

Desmond Morris’ The Naked Ape is one of the most important books of the (relatively) modern era…and is not available in the USA Kindle store. However, this isn’t just a case of “I can’t have that, so I pick this.” ;) The Human Zoo treats humans like other animals (which is what Morris did in The Naked Ape).

The fascinating thing here is the discussion of how living in crowded city conditions affects our behaviors…and the parallels there are to animals living in zoos.

When you think about it, city dwellers may see hundreds of people a day which they have not previously assessed as not a threat.

We don’t have the tactical option to choose “fight or flight” every time…and we know we may encounter some of them again (the bagger at the grocery store, for example).

That means that we can’t use our normal social skills, which changes our behavior.

It turns out that animals in zoos or other artificially crowded conditions have some changes in the same way.

One thing that I remember (and it’s been a long time since I read this) was the idea that rats in a confined space may end up having “teenage gangs” that would rove around and terrorize other rats. That’s not something that happens in the wild, where there is a lot of territory.

An adolescent rat in a confined, crowded environment doesn’t have the ability to establish their own territory…or to move out of a territory already dominated by another rat.

Being in a “human zoo” (a city) doesn’t mean that all the characteristics influenced by that will be negative, of course, but this gave me an intriguing insight into the impacts it does have…and how they aren’t unique to humans.

Thinking, Fast and Slow (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
by Daniel Kahneman
4.4 stars | 1,688 reviews

I wrote a review

A book I’m reading now: Thinking, Fast and Slow

of this one just over a year ago, but I haven’t talked about it over and over since then.

Quite simply, I think this may be one of the best books you’ll read to understand your own thinking.

Understanding doesn’t necessarily mean that you can change any of it, but if you know you are likely to act in one specific way even when that way is not optimal, it can help you recognize the risks and take steps to mitigate the damage.

The key thing here was thinking about two processing systems in my mind. One that is super quick and where I’m not even aware of it. The other one that is slower and more deliberate and conscious.

Both are absolutely necessary.

In the fast system, for example, you are constantly assessing threats.

When I sat down to write this post, I didn’t say to myself consciously, “There isn’t a mountain lion in this room which might attack me.”

Without being consciously aware of it, though, I had scanned the room.

How do we know that?

Since I would have noticed the mountain lion if there was one. If I wasn’t scanning the room without thinking about it, the mountain lion would be invisible to me until I said to myself, “Initiate threat scan.” ;)

That’s just not the way it works.

This book does a great job of making you aware how the two  systems work together, and what the strengths and flaws are of each.

Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers (at AmazonSmile*)
by Jacques Vallée
4.8 stars | 18 reviews

One thing true Forteans learn is to not think, “You are wrong, I am right,” since there will be elements of the rightness in the wrong and the wrongness in the right. In the Fortean paradigm, the correct theory and the incorrect theory are actually just different degrees of the same thing.

Let me stress that I don’t mean this about morality, but only about matters of fact.

It’s very simple to substitute one belief for another. However, as John A. Keel said, “Belief is the enemy.”

Let’s take UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects) for example.

Many people substitute the belief that they all reports of UFOs are the result of hoaxes or misidentifications with the belief that they are structured vehicles from another planet.

It’s not scientific (or Fortean…contrary to what some people think, those come very much from the same place) to say either one.

They are both different possible explanations…and while you certainly might think one is more probable than the other, to say that one is definitely true is to close your mind to new evidence which might sway you.

Passport to Magonia was a shock to many when it was published in 1969. Vallée is an astronomer, and had already written books which people saw as perhaps supporting the ETH (Extraterrestrial Hypothesis).

Magonia suggested something very different: that what we now interpreted as UFOs and aliens was the same phenomenon that we had previously interpreted as fairies (among other things).

What was important about this for me was that it was clear that the consensus reality belief could be wrong without it proving that an alternative belief was correct. They could both be at least incomplete.

It also was a big deal to me that Vallée had to some extent shifted.

To me, I had already assessed Vallée as intelligent, imaginative, perceptive, and empathetic. This was somebody who was scornful and bullying of other’s beliefs, and had the intellectual and emotional tools to really see things in a new way.

Those are things I admire…and if a person like that could set aside a prior leaning and go in a new direction…well, that encouraged me to strive to be able to always do the same.

There you go! Three books which have affected me, and by extension, affected you. :) I would be a different person without having read them, and that means this blog (if existed at all) would be different, too.

Don’t think reading something can change your thinking?

I can tell you something right now that can change your thinking.

However, I’ll warn you…you may not be happy with the change. :)

For that reason, I’m going to put it at the very bottom of the post**, even after my normal “end matter”…so you’ll only read it if you choose to do that. You’ve been warned… ;)

What do you think? Can you point to specific books which changed your paradigm? Is it good to have solidly held beliefs in matters of fact, or is it better to be able to shift…or both? If books do change the way we think, does that justify their suppression (whether in public libraries, school libraries, or by the government)? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

** LIFE CHANGING MATERIAL ALERT…DO NOT PROCEED BEYOND THIS POINT IF YOU WANT TO LEAVE HERE UNCHANGED: Many years, I read a science fiction short story. Unfortunately, I don’t remember who wrote it or what the title was…if you recognize this, please let me know. In the story, someone wakes up in bed…and feels that there is something missing in the room. They look around, and can’t tell what it is, but the feeling persists. Later, the character finds out…they have become invisible, and they are no longer seeing the blurry outline of their nose that you can otherwise always see. That’s the change…from time to time, in the future, because you read this, you’ll suddenly become aware that you can see your own nose… ;) END LIFE CHANGING MATERIAL

A Day in the Life of a Kindleer 2015

March 15, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Kindleer 2015

This is one in a series of posts which I write about once a year. I do this primarily to give my readers some ideas they might use to get more out of their devices. I also think it’s interesting to go back and look at the previous ones, to see how much things have changed…and it’s always a lot.

I have to say, though, I’m surprised how much it is the same this time as last time. I did it last year pre-Fire Phone, and that does affect it. I’m doing it this year pre-Amazon Echo (I could have mine within a couple of weeks), so I wanted to get this done before that new device changes things.

I usually wake up between about 2:00 and 3:30 AM. That’s hours before I need to go to work, but I get a lot of things done (including writing) during that time.

I know what time it is because I have my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

set up next to the bed as a clock. I use the built-in clock app, set in nightstand mode. There is no problem at all in reading that in the dark, although it would be quite dim (it’s lit in red) in a normally lit room…there are other clock options for other situations. The battery will have gone down about 40% (or somewhat less) since I went to bed.

They changed the clock app since last year, and I have to say, I don’t like the change as well. Weirdly, the time moves around on the display…it’s not always in the same part of the screen. Also, the minutes are in small writing. When I’m looking at a nightstand clock, I want it to be as easy to read as possible (so I don’t have to wake up all the way to figure out what it says), and this does make that harder…tolerable, but harder.

It’s in the

Origami case (at AmazonSmile*)

from Amazon, in a configuration that makes it stand up. I did think that case was expensive (it’s $44.99 right now…$5 less than I paid for it in October of 2013..and $5 more than it was last year when I did one of these), but I have to say, it’s held up very well and I do use its features.

I pick it up facing me, so it won’t bother my Significant Other (it wouldn’t anyway, but I’m just being cautious) and head for the bathroom.

The two dogs we have now (Elf and Patty) don’t get up when I do that: they can be incredibly active for an hour or so at a time…but they also sleep better than most humans. ;)

I have a Cloud Collection with my morning apps. I’ll prop the Fire on the towel bar, and start with the

ABC7 News San Francisco (at AmazonSmile)

That’s the free app from my local station. I check that first in case there is anything that’s going to mess up traffic, but it is quite well designed. For one thing, I can flip articles from there into my

free Flipboard magazines

and e-mail articles easily to people if I want.

For another, they always have a text version of the story…I never have to launch a video to find out what is happening in the article. CNN (see below) doesn’t do that.

Oh, I should mention: before I start using the apps, I turn the wireless back on (I leave it off at night to save battery), increase the brightness from the lowest possible setting to about 25%, and turn off the orientation lock (I don’t like the clock flipping around while I’m carrying the Fire to the bathroom). I do all that by swiping down from the top.

After that, and while I’m doing some other morning tasks, it’s on to the

CNN Breaking US & World News (at AmazonSmile)

app. Again, I can flip and e-mail from there. I typically read the following sections:

  • Home
  • Featured
  • World
  • Entertainment
  • Tech
  • Health

I won’t finish all that before I head for the kitchen, dogs thumping on to the floor and “shaking it out” (I hear the dog tags jingle) to follow me. Well, we don’t go to the kitchen first: we all go outside for a bit. I start my morning exercise there. I do about 45 minutes, twice a day…as the baseline. I track that with the free

Review: MyFitnessPal

app. Over the course of more than a year, I’ve lost more than forty pounds. I’ve been a vegetarian for a long time, and eating wasn’t really the issue for me: it was doing regular exercise. This app has kept me on track with that, entering my food and my activity. I haven’t lost a lot more weight since last year, but I have gotten into better shape.

We come back in and I feed the dogs. I eat a small bag of almonds myself (Trader Joe’s sells these “handful” size bags), a slice of Veggie Go pepper jack cheese, and half a spinach bolani (yes, I’m  a creature of habit), then back to finish the exercise. I set the Fire up on the entertainment unit and keep reading while I work out. That’s not always convenient: I can only really change the pages between reps or sets (I’m doing my own brand of calisthenics, really…I walk with a cane, so I need to come up with things that will work and still burn the calories).

I’ll run out of CNN before I run out of exercise, usually, so it’s on to my morning

Flipboard (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

read. Again, this is a free app. I highly recommend it: you can customize what you see, and it very much fills the void of having a morning newspaper. I flip articles from into my magazines also.

Somewhere in here, I finish the exercise, and make and eat breakfast…still reading Flipboard usually.

I also have CNN on the TV…with the sound muted during some of this. There are exercises where I just can’t read my Fire…so at least I can read a news crawl. ;)

Update: since last year, we bought an inexpensive Element TV (that’s a brand I like…not super fancy, but it works). It has a really cool feature: you can set it so that when you mute it, closed captioning automatically comes on, then goes off again when you unmute. I suppose I could get bluetooth headphones and listen to the audio, but, I like reading. ;) I also like at least two things happening at once, and the captioning, the crawl, and the video (as a combination) works for me.

In between exercise sets, I turn on my

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

That’s not only my cellphone…it’s our house phone, too. Yep, we don’t have a landline…haven’t had one for years. I do turn it off at night, but my Significant Other has a phone on…in an emergency, someone could reach us.

I don’t like my Fire Phone as well as I liked my Galaxy S3 (which I gave up for this), but it does work and has some cool features. They have also improved it, and I think they’ll continue to do so.

After Flipboard, it’s on to the

WordPress (at AmazonSmile)

app. That’s where I’m going to approve your comments.

I honestly like to have seen the news myself first, before I get comments on it. That gives me a better perspective, and often makes it easy for me to make a valuable reply. I love it when a reader gives me a heads-up for something which I haven’t seen yet!

I’m not quite writing replies, yet, unless something urgent arises. If that happens, or if big enough news was revealed in the free apps, I’ll go to…a desktop. Yep, an actual desktop computer. While the built-in dictation app on the Fire works remarkably well (easily translating my spoken words into text), it’s faster for me to type on a full-sized keyboard.

New since last year?

The Washington Post (at AmazonSmile*)

I got that free for having a Kindle Fire tablet. I’m honestly not sure I’ll renew it when the time comes to pay for it. It has some interesting things, and I do look through it all every day, but I’m not sure I’d miss it. I can flip things from there, though, so that’s been nice (book reviews on the weekend, for example). It also has some clunkiness. The worst thing, and I know this is a small thing, is that the back button doesn’t work as I would expect it to work. When I have the table of contents open, I can tap and go to a story. The default view is two stories on the screen, which is too small for me, so I tap a single story to enlarge it. When I use the Fire’s back button, it doesn’t take me back to the table of contents…it makes it two stories again. If I remember to go to the table of contents instead of back, I’m fine, but that goes against the back button habit…and that habit is part of Amazon’s own operating system.

I also now go to the

IMDb Movies & TV (at AmazonSmile*)

They’ve improved the app, and I can flip stories from there into my Flipboard magazines.

Next is the Maxthon browser. I’m pretty sure I got that from Amazon originally, but it isn’t currently available for the KFHDX. It is my favorite browser, and the one I also usually use on the desktop (I’m using it right now). I believe you can get it at 1Mobile for the Fire. I like the privacy mode (Silk now has one, by the way), and I like how it syncs my favorites easily between devices. I also have Chrome, Dolphin, and Silk available to me on my Fire, but don’t use them much.

I hit some favorites in Maxthon:

  • I go Amazon and get the free app of the day (almost every time)
  • I check the Kindle Daily Deals
  • I check BoxOfficeMojo
  • I check my Flipboard magazines reader counts (I now have thousands of readers for them)

One more morning stop: the built-in e-mail app on my Fire, where I check my incoming e-mail. Again, I won’t tend to respond there, but it’s a great place to read the mail.

Now, let me point out: I’ve been reading the Fire for over an hour at this point…and it’s all been free items.

Then, it’s usually on to the desktop to write. I may have the Fire open alongside that, but usually not. At this point, it’s charging. It doesn’t take it very long to charge to 100%…I don’t think it’s an hour. I use the

Pwr+® 6.5 Ft AC Adapter 2.1A Rapid Charger (at AmazonSmile)

I like it a lot! I broke one (not the device’s fault…the Fire slipped off the arm of the couch and slid between the arm and the cushion: that, not unreasonably, bent the jack) and replaced it.

If I have more time to read before I leave, it may be sight-reading a book (some times borrowed from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, or now, from Kindle Unlimited). I may also read Fortean Times using the Zinio app, which you get from the Zinio site. I pay for that, and I may have paid for the book I’m reading (or I’m reading it because of Prime or Kindle Unlimited…that’s no additional cost, but there has been a cost). I also do read books I’ve gotten for free. Oh, and I also read

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY Magazine (at AmazonSmile)

I’m not averse to paying for content…it is nice that a lot of what I like is available for free to me. :)

Heading off to work (and my commute varies, since I go to different places…it can be an hour), it’s text-to-speech in the car, so more book time. :)

I have my Fire with me all the time at work. I can sometimes get by with that rather than with my laptop: I work in cramped spaces sometimes, and it’s a relief.

I use

OfficeSuite Professional 7 (at AmazonSmile)

sometimes (which I got as a Free App of the Day) to do viewing and light-editing of Microsoft Office files), and I use

ColorNote Notepad Notes (at AmazonSmile)

(yet another free app) to make quick notes, often using the dictation feature again (speech-to-text).

I have Evernote, but I’ve never gotten into it, for some reason.

Mainly, though, I’m reading at breaks and at lunch. :) I am not normally connected to wireless, so I use my phone to approve comments and check things.

When I get home, I turn airplane mode back off, and it’s back to e-mail, checking the web, and reading.

It’s probably worth noting that I use the

Safeway (at AmazonSmile)

We do seem to save a lot of money with it (it’s free)…and it lets us know what savings it has on things we have bought before. That’s very convenient!

As a nightly thing, I switch to the

Kindle Paperwhite (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

for actually reading in bed before going to sleep. I’m usually asleep by 9:00…I get about four or six hours sleep a night. Just three years ago, I regularly got eight hours (9:00 PM to 5:00 AM), but I don’t know if it’s the lost weight or just getting older, but I don’t need that much any more. I wake up naturally…no alarm. I did talk to my doctor about the relatively short sleeping period…seems to have no ill effects at this point.

Something which has changed a lot since last year: the amount that I use our

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and we have also gotten a

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

In the bedroom, we’ve “cut the cable”…well, we hadn’t had a cable in there for years, really.

All of the content there is through the Amazon Fire TV.

During the morning routine or at night, I usually first go to

YouTube (at AmazonSmile*)

I want to see what is trending…I often enjoy that, and it keeps me pop culture current. ;) I will sometimes search for something, but not that often.

We also now pay for

Hulu Plus (at AmazonSmile*)

I’ve never had such a steep learning curve with a TV-related product! It’s quite odd and different from most other things. I’m used to being able to catch up on a program whenever I want, either by watching it on demand from Comcast, or recorded on our Tivo. With Hulu, they only keep a handful of the most recent episodes of really popular shows, from what I can tell.

Dropping cable altogether and just using the Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick would be less convenient than Tivo with Comcast for that sort of thing, but could work.

Right now, I watch current shows (Gotham, The Walking Dead) on the Tivo, and go through older shows (The Time Tunnel, My Living Doll) on Hulu.

I also watch

Watchup (at AmazonSmile*)

which I find to be a pretty good news video app, including clips from well-known sources. It also can do some coverage of more offbeat things. I could probably improve its choices for me, but it only gives you three seconds to vote thumbs up or thumbs down on a video…if I’m getting dressed or brushing my teeth, that’s not enough time.

I don’t watch it every day, but I do watch

BBC News for Fire TV (at AmazonSmile*)

I do like that perspective, but I like the shorter more variable news segments better on Watchup for the times I’m watching.

Although, in writing this post, I just checked to see if BBC News is available for the Fire TV Stick (it wasn’t for the last of the Day in the Life posts), and it is! Hm…it’s possible with that I could drop CNN in the family room (if it will do the closed captioning…might not).

We are going to look at cutting the relatively small cable package we have now, but it might not save us much: it’s bundled with our internet, and we don’t have anything fancy. If we dropped it, I’d say the biggest loss would be Ellen…I watch every episode, usually while exercising. I can adjust, though. ;) I’m not aware of a legal place to watch it on demand, which seems odd.

Although the

TED app (at Amazon Smile*)

and Netflix are both in my Recents, I haven’t watched them recently.

Interesting for me to note…Prime Video isn’t even in my recents. I was watching that quite a bit last year. I do still use Prime Video sometimes: I’ve downloaded Warehouse 13 episodes to watch at lunch at work (while I exercise, sometimes…yeah, I guess I’m exercising quite a bit).

Let’s see what else I use on the Fire:

Oh, I use

AccuWeather (at AmazonSmile)

every day…consider that part of the morning routine. I didn’t think of it at first, because I don’t invoke it: it’s in my notifications. I find it to be pretty accurate…and again, it’s free. I have it set in centigrade: I decided to convert to that a while back. I have trouble thinking of the temperatures in Fahrenheit now, so it’s nice that it has the option. Centigrade is just simpler: zero is literally freezing, ten is cold, twenty is fine for most people, thirty is hot. That’s rule of thumb, but works pretty well.

I tend to use the calendar on my phone, rather than on my KFHDX, but I will check an app which is no longer available. It shows my Google calendar: I could do that in the built-in calendar app, but this one had a nicer format.

I also suggest you use

Clean Master (at AmazonSmile*)

I use it more than once a week to clean up junk files on my Fire, and it seems to work very well. Guess how much it costs? ;) Nothing…

I also use

Fandango Movies – Times & Tickets (at AmazonSmile)

on the weekend (not to purchase tickets, just to get times), and without thinking about it I use

Battery Doctor (at AmazonSmile)

The only reason I even notice it is it places a little tone when the Fire is 100% charged: nice to be able to hear it when I’m working on the desktop.

Finally, I use Prime Music from time to time…I’ve listened to playlists, and I have tried and enjoyed some of the new stations. That’s not super common, though…maybe when I’m writing. It’s text-to-speech in the car, and usually video when exercising.

As to the Fire Phone…

I check my e-mail and the comments on this blog quite often. I also have written blogposts on it (using the dictation feature), although that’s not as good as having a keyboard.

I don’t tend to do that on my Fire tablet when I’m out, because I’m not always connected to wi-fi.

Others I use on the Fire Phone:

  • the built-in calendar: shows my Google calendar appointments nicely
  • maps: they’ve made that work quite well, I’d say better than what I had on the Galaxy
  • texting…every day, with my Significant Other usually. It’s likely to be a quick text, dictated, when I’m leaving work (that varies)
  • photos: I love that photos I take on my phone or just available on our Fire TV and Fire TV Stick with no effort!
  • the phone…I’m hoping they’ll eventually let us use the Echo to make phone calls and send texts, perhaps through a Fire Phone (and maybe through other brands eventually)
  • IMDb news
  • Maxthon
  • MyFitnessPal
  • the built-in notes app
  • alarms
  • an app for my medical provider
  • Magic Bubbles (at AmazonSmile*)…that’s an augmented reality app. AR overlays something virtual on the real world…in this case, I can blow on a virtual bubble wand, and bubbles float across the room (apparently). I can pop them, if I want. It intrigues me that that is the only “game” I’m using much at all. In addition to managing a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I used to manage a gamestore…I would have though I played more :)


Now, some of you may look at all that and worry that I don’t get enough time “unplugged” (even when I read, I’m doing it on a screen…not technically plugged in, but I think that counts).

One thing I really like is we’ve been going to a great dog park near us, usually both weekend days. We drive about half an hour to get there, but it’s been ranked as one of the best dog parks in the world. I think it’s very natural feeling for our dogs to rove over two or three miles with us (we have to zig zag through the park, which is huge, to get that much…but not back and forth over the exact same path) with it being familiar territory. They are super happy there! We like the walk…even with the cane, I walk pretty well (my SO says I’m much faster with the cane than I was without it), and I enjoy that. We see birds, and I keep looking for a marine mammal…no luck yet, but I’ve heard it has happened there.

I’ll check in with this again next year…and we’ll see if the Echo has replaced any of my app use. Oh, for those of you who use audiobooks (I prefer TTS…I don’t like the actor/author interpreting the characters for me, unless I’ve already read the book), there is now an Audible streaming service:

Yes, you can listen to your Audible audiobooks in a browser!

I mention that here because that might mean that Audible books will come to the Echo, which I’d like to see…er, hear. ;)

If you have questions about this, or thoughts about your Kindle (and other Amazon devices) in your daily life, feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

New! Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Amazon’s 100 Biographies & Memoirs to Read in a Lifetime

February 18, 2015

Amazon’s 100 Biographies & Memoirs to Read in a Lifetime

Lists of books are popular features.

It’s interesting to me that that is the case.

After all, I doubt I’ve ever seen a list where I didn’t think there were omissions and questionable inclusions.

Perhaps that’s the point.

They spark a reaction, and reactions can mean engagement…and engagement can mean purchasing.

Not all lists are about purchasing, of course, and even an Amazon list of books like the brand new

100 Biographies & Memoirs to Read in a Lifetime (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

isn’t about immediate conversion of sales.

In some ways, it’s about Amazon’s positioning as knowledgeable about books…knowledgeable and credible, which are not synonyms. You can be knowledgeable and have no one believe you (ask Cassandra), and you can be credible without having a lot of knowledge on a topic.

When I’ve trained trainers, I’ve even taught the latter…how to be credible.

A few quick notes on that:

  • Use numbers…that always impresses people. For example, if I was teaching an Excel class many years ago, I could be in front of people who thought they knew Excel quite well. I could say (back then), “There are 256 columns in Excel…does anyone know how many rows? 65,536.” That gave me instant credibility…even if it was just a memorized fact. It doesn’t have to be a complicated number: “There were seven castaways on Gilligan’s Island.” That may get people counting to confirm…and when they do, they are impressed with you
  • When in doubt, use big words. That also makes you sound credible…not approachable or relatable, necessarily, but it does help with credibility. :) That’s only true if you use them correctly…well, if somebody knows what the word actually means, that is. I have to reset my reaction when someone uses the word “decimated” (often “absolutely decimated” or “completely decimated”) to indicate a nearly complete reduction. “Decimated” technically means “reduced by one tenth”. If there were 100 soldiers, and you reduced it to ninety, you decimated that group. At least, that’s what it used to mean…my now adult kid who is a linguist has convinced me that it is usage that matters. I still have the emotional reaction, but I can reset it :)
  • Use the jargon. I work with medical folks, and when I can use a word that they use appropriately, it really ups my credibility
  • Speak quickly. Again, this is just when you are establishing credibility, not when you are training a concept. Most people don’t think you can lie at high speeds…that you have to think about what you are saying too much. If you excitedly say something, smashingallthewordstogether, people will think you are being honest. Don’t believe me? Try saying something really slowly and deliberately out loud…it will likely sound even to you like you are lying
  • Be imperfect. Pause, use an “um”, look to the ceiling (up to the left, typically), laugh at yourself for what you just said…those can all make you seem genuine, and not rehearsed

Now, clearly, you can’t just follow techniques to gain credibility…you need to be reacting in the moment and have empathy for what your audience is feeling.

That said, I come across as credible in person…and it can be a problem for me.

I’ve been a boss.

I’ve said to people something like, “Now, I don’t know yet if this is going to happen, so don’t hold me to it, but it’s possible that we are going to xyz.” I’ve then had people telling others we were going to xyz, and saying, “Bufo said so.”

That means I have to be careful about what I say. :)

I was being observed by one of my favorite managers, and in debriefing a class, the manager said at one point, “Then you did that hypnosis thing you do,” and just went on to another point.

I said something like, “Wait, what? What hypnosis thing?”

I realized later that I do use something like “guided imagery”.

Never, by the way, for nefarious reasons!

It’s just as important and difficult (sometimes) to make people believe in something which is true and good for them as it is to make them believe in something which is false and bad for them.

That said, let’s talk about this list. :)

I do like biographies and memoirs, but I like a lot of things. ;)

Here’s the list from Amazon, and whether or not I’ve read them:

  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers: no
  • A Long Way Home by Ishmael Beah: yes
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway: no
  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson: no
  • American Caesar by William Manchester: no
  • American Lion by Jon Meacham: no
  • American Prometheus by Kai Bird: no
  • American Sniper by Chris Kyle: no
  • American Sphinx by Joseph J. Ellis: no
  • Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt: no
  • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank: yes
  • Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy: no
  • Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain: yes
  • Ball Four by Jim Bouton: no
  • Black Boy by Richard Wright: no
  • Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin: yes
  • Born Standing Up by Steve Martin: no
  • Born to Run by Christopher McDougall: no
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey: no
  • Cash by Johnny Cash: no
  • Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie: no
  • Chronicles by Bob Dylan: no
  • Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert: no
  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose: no
  • Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron: no
  • De Profundis and Other Personal Writings by Oscar Wilde: no
  • Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller: no
  • Dorothy Parker by Marion Meade: no
  • Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama: no
  • Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp: no
  • Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston: no
  • E-Mc~2 by David Bodanis: no
  • Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: no
  • Endurance by Alfred Lansing: no
  • Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill: no
  • Helen Keller: The Story of My Life by Helen Keller: yes
  • I Am Malala by mlala Yousafzai: no
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou: no
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer: no
  • Just Kids by Patti Smith: no
  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain: no
  • Knock Wood by Candice Bergen: no
  • Life by Keith Richards: no
  • Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela: no
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius: no
  • Mortality by Christopher Hitchens: no
  • My Life in France by Julia Child: no
  • Naked by David Sedaris: no
  • Napoleon by Andrew Roberts: no
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass: no
  • Night by Elie Wiesel: no
  • Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin: no
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac: no
  • Open by Andre Agassi: no
  • Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen: no
  • Personal History by Katharine Graham: no
  • Robert A. Caro’s The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A. Caro: no
  • Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs: no
  • Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford: no
  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand: no
  • Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan: no
  • Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov: no
  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson: no
  • Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman: no
  • Tennessee Williams by John Lahr: no
  • The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone: no
  • The Andy Warhol Diaries by Andy Warhol: no
  • The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein: no
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X: no
  • The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll: no
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: no
  • The Color of Water by James McBride: no
  • The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman: no
  • The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi: no
  • The Diary of Anais Nin by Anais Nin: no
  • The Diary of Frida Kahlo by Carlos Fuentes: no
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: no
  • The Gulag Archipeligo by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: no
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: no
  • The Kid Stays in the Picture by Robert Evans: no
  • The Last Lone Inventor by Evan I. Schwartz: no
  • The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr: no
  • The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara: no
  • The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester: no
  • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris: no
  • The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder: no
  • The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer: no
  • The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston: no
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion: no
  • This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff: no
  • Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow: no
  • Touching the Void by Joe Simpson: no
  • Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck: no
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: no
  • Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes: no
  • Updike by Adam Begley: no
  • Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) by Stacy Schiff: no
  • West with the Night by Beryl Markham: no
  • Wild Swans by Jung Chang: no
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed: no

Well, I’ve only read five of these, but I have to say, I was very impressed with some of them. The Helen Keller book is amazing. A Long Way Home was devastating, but great. The Mark Twain book was so modern and so clever.

Certainly, though, there are many others I might list which I have read and which in some small way, let me live someone else’s life for a while.

Amazon knows that, and one of the synergies of their having purchased the social reading website Goodreads, is that they can do a curated list like the above and let people contribute to a crowd sourced one…which they have done:

You can vote on and add titles to that one.

Without at all claiming that they are the best, here are some other biographies/memoirs which come to mind for me:

  • A Zoo in My Luggage by Gerald Durrell…and indeed, several of the Durrell books (not available for the Kindle)
  • A Job for Superman by Kirk Alyn…Alyn was Superman in the serials, and this book has some great stories! I bought it from Alyn at a science fiction convention, and that may have colored my perception of it. :) Still, I remember some of the stories easily. There was one where Alyn is talking about a scene carrying, I think, Lois Lane out of a burning building down steps. “Action!” Runs down the steps, but they have to reshoot the scene (smoke or something). Another take. Another problem. Another take. Another take. Another take. Eventually, the director says, “Superman, you’re slowing down.” Alyn explains that the actor is heavy, and the director says something like, “Actor? You’re supposed to be carrying a dummy!” That was part of the perception of Alyn on set as being Superman. Two more. :) Superman is animated flying, but they are standing around (very common on a set). Alyn asks what is happening, and they say they are trying to figure out how Superman is going to take off. Alyn, who was a ballet dancer, says, “I can jump over the camera.” Well, this is a tall camera! They don’t believe their star, but Alyn does it. Alyn points out, amused, that Superman takes off from a ballet position. ;) The last one was when They did have to do a close up of Superman flying. What they did was build a chest plate with wires, and Alyn would lay in it with legs (and hips) held straight out. That’s right…the plate didn’t get to Alyn’s hips! Picture doing that for a minute or more while they did the shot. Better, lie down on a table with your hips off the edge and try it…
  • Books by John A. Keel and Hans Holzer…very different people, very different writing style, sort of connected both writing about “paranormal” things. They are both field investigators and both bring you a feel for what it is like being there
  • Philip Jose Farmer’s “mythographies” of Doc Savage (Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (at AmazonSmile*)) and Tarzan

I could keep going. :)

One last thing, so those of you with Kindle Unlimited can read biographies and memoirs at no additional cost as part of your membership:

Kindle Unlimited Biographies & Memoirs sorted by most reviewed (at AmazonSmile*)

Don’t have Kindle Unlimited yet? It’s worthy of consideration, in my opinion:

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

What do you think? What are your favorite biographies and memoirs? I know people who say they don’t like to read non-fiction…what books do you think would convince them? These sorts of books also fit into Common Core…does this show the value of that program? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Bonus deal: pre-pay for three months of Sling TV ($20 a month) and get a Fire TV Stick for free, or $50 off a Fire TV!

Sling TV and Fire TV (at AmazonSmile*)

That’s the “cable cutting” way to get some TV networks at a cheaper price than paying for a full cable package.

Don’t want Sling TV? The Fire TV is also $15 off at time of writing, making it $84 instead of $99.

I use a Fire TV every day, and a Fire TV Stick some days.

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


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