Archive for the ‘Recommendations’ Category

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

Poetry in the Kindle store

May 12, 2015

Poetry in the Kindle store

I do enjoy good poetry
It dances in my mind
It seems like there is mo’ for me
And makes me feel refined

;)

I’m not quite sure why so many people have an aversion to verse.

I’ve seen it run the gamut from people who think it is too high brow and la-dee-da, and those who think it childish and silly.

The truth is, just like prose, there’s a wide variety of poetry, which can appeal to many readers.

Some of it can be quite dark (Poe, for one), and some of it is genuinely funny.

One of the books that I liked enough as a child to seek out and buy again as an adult (I have multiple siblings…I didn’t end up with all the books) :) was

The Birds and the Beasts Were There (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

a poetry anthology edited by William Cole.

It has poems about scientifically recognized animals…and not. It’s a pretty wide ranging anthology, linked thematically, but not necessarily stylistically.

Unfortunately, it’s not available for the Kindle.

Fortunately, though, at the time of writing, there are 79,128 titles in the category

Poetry in the USA Kindle store (at AmazonSmile*)

Okay, that’s only about 2% of the 3,484,407 titles in the Kindle store…but you could read one a day (if they didn’t add any more) and last for over 200 years. :)

27,736 of those are available at borrow at no additional cost as part of

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

Breaking them down by category (and remember that a book can be in up to three categories, so the total might not match the number above), it looks like this:

  • Contemporary (2,187)
  • American (12,497)
  • Anthologies (3,113)
  • Religious & Inspirational (6,508)
  • Women (3,081)
  • British (5,198)
  • Asian American (88)
  • Love Poems (2,694)
  • African (813)
  • Ancient, Classical & Medieval (1,812)
  • Asian (1,154)
  • Australian & Oceanian (546)
  • Caribbean & Latin American (1,369)
  • Chinese (108)
  • Epic (1,486)
  • French (865)
  • German (449)
  • Irish (54)
  • Italian (430)
  • Japanese & Haiku (881)
  • LGBT (363)
  • Middle Eastern (531)
  • Norse & Icelandic Sagas (44)
  • Russian (348)
  • Spanish (690)

Certainly, a large percentage of these books are filed under “American” poetry, but I think poetry is particularly difficult to translate. It often relies on very specific sounds and intonation of the words and language.

I have to say, I think anthologies may be the best way to go if you aren’t used to poetry (and perhaps, even if you are). I think you want to be able to…shake off one set of rhythms and move on to another one, which is not as easy to do if the poems are all by the same person.

I’m going to suggest this one:

The Best of Poetry: Thoughts that Breathe and Words that Burn (In Two Hundred Poems) (at AmazonSmile*)

It’s only $2.99, and is available through Kindle Unlimited. It’s 4.5 stars out of five, although it’s worth noting that it only has 15 customer reviews.

I really like the introduction, and I’ve read through the choices. While this is not about contemporary works under copyright protection, it has, I would say, a decent variety for different times.

If you are interested in sampling poetry, this could be a good place to start.

The way it’s arranged, you may just want to read it from front to back, rather than skipping here and there.

Enjoy!

What do you think? Do you read poetry? Is there a book of poems (or a poet) you would suggest someone read? Can you still recite poems you read as a child? 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! :) 

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.

Read the book first: 2016

April 10, 2015

Read the book first: 2016

I really don’t need my movies to be original.

I know people say that a lot, but I’m okay with movies based on books, comic books, games…I think successfully adapting something can be a greater challenge, in some cases, than coming up with something from scratch.

Certainly, it’s a delicate balance not to irritate fans of the original while being able to bring something new to it.

After all, a movie is not a book…the structures are very different, as are the expectations.

Hey, I even wrote an article (more than five years ago) in my pop culture (and other things) blog, The Measured Circle, called

Hooray for remakes!

;)

However, I always prefer to read the book before I see the movie based on it. I’ve never had a book spoil a movie for me, but I’ve had the opposite happen.

So, what movies based on novels are scheduled to come out in 2016, so you can read the book first?

Here are a few that caught my eye:

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

This is yet another reboot of one of their cartoons, and this one undeniably has an all-star cast! That includes:

  • Scarlett Johansson as Kaa
  • Bill Murray as Baloo
  • Idris Elba as Shere Khan
  • Christopher Walken as King Louie
  • Ben Kingsley as Bagheera

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth-Grahame Smith and Jane Austen

The genre-establishing book of public domain mash-ups gets a big screen version, with stars including Lily James, Lena Headey, and Matt Smith.

Peregrine’s Home for Peculiars by Ransom Riggs

Tim Burton directs…surprised? ;)

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey

Young adult dystopia…but this does have Chloë Grace Moretz, which is always a recommending factor.

The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey

Gorey wrote and illustrated books which often get categorized as children’s books, but they can be quite bizarre…and this one is no exception.

(In Love and War) by Fred Rochlin

Rochlin wrote Old Man in a Baseball Cap: A Memoir of World War II, and this might be based on that…not sure.

Well, there are at least a few for you…any literary adaptations which  you are looking forward to seeing? Does TV do book adaptations (Game of Thrones, The Vampire Diaries, soon to be The Man in the High Castle) better than movies? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Bonus: Full Disclosure News: books by relatives, friends, coworkers, and other people I know.

I wanted to mention that a book by a sibling of mine has just become available for pre-order on the Kindle:

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

I did read an earlier draft, but I haven’t read the final version. I helped crowdfund it, but I will buy a copy. I’m interested to see this final version: I’m told it’s something like 25% different from what I’ve read.

I’ve been impressed with some of the “blurbs” (which you can see on the product page for the hardback, but not on the Kindle page yet): in particular, bestselling mega-author John Lescroart had some nice things to say. :)

Just thought I’d give you a heads-up on it…it’s not being released until June 1st, but I know some of you like to pre-order.

I would feel a bit odd reviewing something for you when I know the person this well, but I do think I may let you know about more books like this, if you don’t mind (I have another sibling with a book in about the top third of sellers at in the USA Kindle store…and it costs over $80!. That should get you intrigued…). ;)

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.

Don’t judge a book by its genre

March 22, 2015

Don’t judge a book by its genre

I think of myself as an eclectic reader.

I’ll admit, it’s something I’ve cultivated to some degree.

I used to read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and certain types of non-fiction…and I still do.

However, I also read other things…lots of other things.

When I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I think one of the best things I did was encourage (not require) my employees to read at least one book from every section in the store (I did that myself).

I had them ask a regular for a recommendation.

When it came to romance, I read a Jude Deveraux and a monthly Harlequin (I don’t remember which one).

Since then, I’ve read quite a few romances, although I wouldn’t say that’s my first choice.

Certainly, since getting a Kindle, my reading has become even more varied. Part of that is because of all the free and low cost books, and now because of

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

That also seems true of my readers. When I polled them back in 2010 in this post:

Are genres irrelevant?

I got these responses:

  • Since I’ve gotten my Kindle (or other EBR**) I…
    * Read the same genres I always have 12.87%
    * Read a wider variety of books than I used to read 87.13%
    * Read a narrower variety of books than I used to read 0%

I mention all this because, well, just as there are people who won’t read science fiction, I’m guessing that some of you don’t read romances. ;)

I’ve just finished reading a book which I think could change your mind.

Spinster’s Gambit (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Full disclosure first: this book was written by a friend of my now adult kid’s. I don’t believe I’ve met the author socially, and have no other connection to the book except as a reader. I purchased mine from Amazon, in the same way that you would.

That said…

I think it would stand for me with most books labeled as “literary fiction”. I’d go so far as to say that it has some of the best character writing that I’ve seen in a recently-written novel.

The plot was good. As regular readers know, my favorite thing in entertainment is to be surprised, and this book did that…something you might not expect if you think of a romance as formulaic.

The characters were relatable, and I felt like it approached a particular topic in a great way.

If you want to read my review of the book, you can do so here:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1232395668

I’ve posted the same review on Amazon, but we’ll see if they reject it because of my (peripheral) connection. They do that at times. Amazon, of course, is under no obligation to post any review, so they tend to err on the side of caution.

On the other hand, they don’t want to annoy customers by not posting their reviews…I think you can “appeal” if they do reject your review. I suspect that, sometimes, a third party tells them that someone is connected (for a variety of reasons), and that might not always be true…at least, not to the level of disqualification.

I bring this up here because I had one particular problem with the book (even though my experience was overwhelmingly positive).

It had a “love scene”.

Now that, in and of itself, doesn’t make me not like a book. I get accused of being prudish, and I  understand how people get that impression. I do think readers should be informed of sexual content, language, violence, and prejudicial portrayals…but then it is up to the readers to read that or not.

I don’t advocate censorship..but I think being informed is reasonable.

I also want to be clear: in this case, the scene also had good characterization…and it was organic to the plot.

It was just that…I had really enjoyed the book up to location 3179 in Chapter Thirteen. I thought it could have ended well there, and again, stood as literary fiction.

Then came the scene which felt like it was perhaps obligatory to the genre.

Now, I now people feel the same way about some science fiction and fantasy…that it would have been a great novel, if it didn’t have those pesky robots or vampires. ;)

Maybe an NSFW (Not Safe For Work) scene like this is necessary for the genre. It may fit the expectations, even be a defining factor. We used to joke about that with the Bill Bixby TV series of The Incredible Hulk…that they were contractually obligated to have at least one “Hulk out” in every episode. ;)

I guess my question is, should I judge the book by something which makes it true to its genre? The book was labeled as a “Regency romance”: it wasn’t like they were hiding its nature.

I like 19th Century literature, so I was familiar with quite a few of the other elements of the book…I didn’t have to look up what a “phaeton” was, for example, or understand why someone might get cold in the roofless carriage. I’ll admit that I didn’t recognize the term “the ton” right away, meaning the high society people who might judge your behavior. You might still know the term “tony” for something which is luxurious.

Up until the “love scene”, I could largely have believed it was 19th Century literature, so I found that somewhat jarring.

Many of you (I’m guessing most of you) won’t have that feeling, though…and if you are afraid you will, you can stop at the break (the book uses this ~~//~~) at about 93%. :)

What do you think? Is even mentioning sexual content/language/ violence in a book a form of censorship? Do you like to know ahead of time? What books have you read which for you transcended genre? Are there genres you feel like you just won’t like…even before you’ve read the book in question? 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!

* 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! :) 

**EBR is a term (E-Book Reader) I use for a purpose built e-book reading device, as opposed to a broadly multi-purpose device, like a tablet. There is some flexibility (earlier models of Kindles could play music unrelated to books, for example), but generally, for Kindles, it’s the ones which are not Fires). Other examples which include the Kobo and the non-tablet NOOKs

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:

https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/85102.100_Biographies_Memoirs_to_Read_in_a_Lifetime_Readers_Picks

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.

10 random books

January 20, 2015

10 random books

I like to be surprised.

That especially goes for my entertainment.

I look for different ways to surprise myself, even in methods to discover new books.

Tonight, I used

http://www.random.org

to generate ten random numbers between 1 and 6400.

Why 6400?

The most results you can get in a Kindle store search is 400 pages. There are sixteen results per page (usually…the last page might have fewer). 400 * 1600 = 6400.

So, here are my results in the

USA Kindle store by New and Popular (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I’m very excited to see what shows up! I’ll be curious as to how many I’ve read, how many are in Kindle Unlimited…and how many I put on my wish lists. ;)

# 165: Brain Rules (Updated and Expanded): 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School
by John Medina
4.4 stars out of 5, 87 customer reviews

I’ve not only read this one, I wrote

Review: Brain Rules
coming up on two years ago. :)

#262 Inferno: A Novel (Robert Langdon Book 4)
by Dan Brown
3.9 stars, 17558 reviews
I read the Da Vinci code…haven’t read this one.

#796 The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad, Book 2)
by Tana French
4.0 stars, 635 reviews

848 Wickedly Dangerous (Baba Yaga Book 1)
by Deborah Blake
4.4 stars, 107 reviews

1643 The Cowboy’s Mail Order Bride (The Dalton Brides, Book 3)
by Kit Morgan and Kirsten Osbourne
4.3 stars, 42 reviews
Available in Kindle Unlimited

2058 Strategic Storytelling: How to Create Persuasive Business Presentations
by Dave McKinsey
4.2 stars, 5 reviews
Available in Kindle Unlimited

2231 She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman
by Ian Kerner
4.4 stars, 490 reviews

4017 Friction
by LD Davis
4.6 stars, 40 reviews

5346
Bloodline: A Sigma Force Novel (Sigma Force Novels Book 8)
by James Rollins
4.5 stars, 666 reviews

5510 Have Me: A Stark Ever After Novella (Stark Trilogy)
by J. Kenner
4.1 stars, 139 reviews

Well, a couple of them are on Kindle Unlimited, but nothing stood out here as something I’d want to move to the top of my TBR (To Be Read) list.

Some relatives did get me books from my wish list at the holidays…looking forward to those! :)

Bonus story: in this

press release

Amazon announced that it is moving into producing movies to be shown in movie theatres…about twelve a year!

They have recently built a strong reputation (in part based on Transparent). We watched The Man in the High Castle, based on a Philip K. Dick book (which I had read recently…borrowed through Kindle Unlimited), and would be interested in seeing more of it, even thought my Significant Other (SO) didn’t find it that interesting.

It matters what we think, too, since High Castle is part of Amazon’s “pilot season”. These TV series which are not yet committed to becoming a series…customer feedback help determine which shows get made.

Theatrical movies, though?

Those are quite expensive! Even focusing on just smaller “art house” movies, you can’t realistically figure on an average production budget of under $10 million…and that is a low budget.

Still, I think people might see these. Amazon has hired Ted Hope, as the new Head of Production for Amazon Original Movies. Hope’s filmography as a producer is quite impressive. It includes:

  • Eat Drink Man Woman
  • The Brothers McMullen
  • The Ice Storm
  • The Tao of Steve
  • 21 Grams
  • Adventureland
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene

While none of these has gotten Hope an Oscar nomination yet (when a movie is nominated for Best Picture, the producers are the names listed), and Hope has been strong in TV, I think that’s the (unstated) goal.

I think Amazon would love to get an Oscar nomination in the next couple of years.

Here’s what makes it interesting for Amazon Prime members (in the USA, at any rate).

The movies will be exclusively available to Prime subscribers (at least initially) four to six weeks after their theatrical runs.

That’s quite short a period, and that could get Amazon some new Prime members.

That would be especially true if they timed a release around Oscar time, and it was getting a lot of buzz.

So far, the

Amazon Studios page at IMDb Pro (also owned by Amazon)

indicates one movie actually in production:

Tiger, Tiger

Co-written and directed by Mark Stouffer, who has worked with John Denver, done nature-connected works, and made a couple of movies.

This one is budgeted at about $19 million…not high by major studio standards, but still a significant risk for Amazon.

This Amazon effort is going to be fascinating to watch: they’ve announced a Woody Allen TV series, IMDb Pro shows a Barbarella TV movie in development, and they’ve optioned ZvG: Zombies Vs Gladiators from Clive Barker.

My guess is that this is going to scare investors…they may like it when Amazon tries to build new markets (like with the Kindle and the Echo), but I’m not sure they like them trying to break into mature markets.

What do you think? How many of the random books have you read? Do you think Amazon should be getting into theatrical releases? As an Amazon customer, does that scare you at all? Would you become a Prime member on the strength of wanting to see a particular movie earlier than other people? What if it meant you saw it before the Oscars were announced, rather than afterwards? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join more than a thousand 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! :) 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.

2015 Read the Oscar nominees

January 16, 2015

2015 Read the Oscar nominees

Certainly, movies were big drivers of book sales in 2014.

If we extend the influence outside of Adapted Screenplay, there are quite a few books on which Oscar-nominated movies were based (I am only including ones where this specific book was credited…there might be several well-known books on a historical figure, or unofficial inspirations of fictional works):

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
by Chris Kyle
4.5 stars out of 5, 5977 customer reviews
Nominations (6): Best Picture, Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Adapted Screenplay (Jason Hall), Editing, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing

Alan Turing: The Enigma (at AmazonSmile*)
Movie: The Imitation Game
by Andrew Hodges
3.7 stars, 99 reviews
Nominations (8): Best Picture, Best Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), Supporting Actress (Keira Knightley), Director (Morten Tyldum), Adapted Screenplay (Graham Moore), Editing, Production Design, Score

The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig (at AmazonSmile*)
Movie: The Grand Budapest Hotel
by Stefan Zweig
4.6 stars, 28 reviews
Note: the movie is “inspired by the writings of” Zweig, according to the credit…it isn’t directly based on this book
Nominations (9): Best Picture, Director (Wes Anderson), Original Screenplay (Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness), Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, Costume, Makeup and Hairstyling, Score

Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen (at AmazonSmile*)
Movie: The Theory of Everything
by Jane Hawking
4 stars, 68 reviews
Available in Kindle Unlimited
Nominations (5): Best Picture, Actor (Eddie Redmayne), Actress (Felicity Jones), Adapted Screenplay (Anthony McCarten), Score

Gone Girl (at AmazonSmile*)
by Gillian Flynn
3.9 stars, 39195 reviews
Nominations (1): Actress (Rosamund Pike)

Still Alice (link not provided since the publisher has blocked text-to-speech access**)
by Lisa Genova
4.7 stars, 2013 reviews
Nominations (1): Actress (Julianne Moore)

Wild (at AmazonSmile*)
by Cheryl Strayed
4.3 stars, 7271 reviews
Nominations (2): Actress (Reese Witherspoon), Supporting Actress (Laura Dern)

Into the Woods (at AmazonSmile*)
by James Lapine (book), Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics)
4.8 stars, 48 reviews
Nominations (3): Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep), Production Design, Costume Design

Inherent Vice (at AmazonSmile*)
by Thomas Pynchon
3.7 stars, 222 reviews
Nominations (2): Adapted Screenplay (Paul Thomas Anderson), Costume

Note: I wanted to get this out this morning, so from here on down this will be a much more simplified listing. That is not intended to indicate anything about the nominees (including whether or not text-to-speech has been blocked). If I get a chance, I’ll add links later).

Here Be Monsters!
by Alan Snow
Movie: The Boxtrolls
Nominations (1): Animated Feature

Big Hero Six
based on Marvel Comics
Nominations (1): Animated Feature

How To Train Your Dragon
by Cressida Cowell
Movie: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Nominations (1): Animated Feature

Unbroken
by Laura Hillenbrand
Nominations (3): Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing

La Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty)
by Charles Perrault
Movie: Maleficent
Nominations (1): Costume Design

Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel Comics
Nominations (2): Makeup and Hairstyling, Visual Effects

The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien
Movie: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Nominations (1): Sound Editing

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Marvel Comics
Nominations (1): Visual Effects

La Planète des Singes (The Planet of the Apes)
by Pierre Boulle
Movie: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Nominations (1): Visual Effects

X-Men: Days of Future Past
Marvel Comics
Nominations (1): Visual Effects

 

 Join more than a thousand 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! :) 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.

** A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books. 

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.

Kindle Daily Deal: 125 books for “kids of all ages” for $1.99 each

December 26, 2014

Kindle Daily Deal: 125 books for “kids of all ages” for $1.99 each

Today’s

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

are a great introduction to those daily bargains for those who might just be starting their Kindle journey (or perhaps I should say “Voyage”) ;), and present veteran Kindleers with some cool options.

As one of my regular readers and commenters, Lady Galaxy, put it:

“…Lots of great selections to start out a library for kids who got Kindles for Christmas.”

That’s true…but I have to say, that lots of adults read the books that are classified as “children’s books” as well. My tendency is to think of children’s books as ones which include that younger group, but don’t exclude the older one.

You should never be ashamed of what you read…assuming it’s legal and such. :)

Please check the price before you click or tap that “Buy” button. These prices may not apply in your country (I have readers all over the world), and they are only good today. Books can also go in and out of deals like this, although with the KDD (Kindle Daily Deal), that’s unlikely, from what I’ve seen.

Before I get to the ones they have listed as for “children of all ages”, let me point out a few others:

  • The original Ian Fleming James Bond books (now published as e-books by Amazon) are $1.99 each…not for children ;)
  • They have 43 (at time of writing) “top-rated romances” on sale. Top-rated doesn’t necessarily mean “best known”, but they can be a good opportunity to expand your horizons and discover new authors

I think it’s also worth noting that all of the above are part of

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

meaning that members (and you may have just started a free month) can read them at no additional cost.

Now, on to those 125 “children’s books”! These are some of the stand-outs to me:

  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin: a fantasy classic, 4.1 stars out of 5, 624 customer reviews…first in a series. Also in Kindle Unlimited (KU)
  • Lois Lowry books: Number the Stars (KU), Gossamer (KU)
  • The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare (Newberry winner)
  • Farewell to Manzanar (KU) by James D. Houston and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston: a non-fiction treasure which has been widely lauded about the Japanese internment camps in the USA…or rather, one person’s experience in one
  • Sleep Like a Tiger (KU) by Mary Logue, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski: Caldecott Medal picture book (note: text-to-speech is not enabled on this title, but I assume that it is due to the text being part of the image and therefore inaccessible to the software, not because the access was blocked by the publisher)
  • Catherine, Called Birdy (KU) by Karen Cushman
  • An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 (KU) by Jim Murphy (Newbery honoree)
  • Sing Down the Moon (KU) by Scott O’Dell
  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virgina Lee Burton (some of us may remember being read this by Captain Kangaroo)
  • Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen
  • Curious George by H.A. Rey and Margaret Rey: a part of childhood
  • The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl (KU) by Barry Lyga
  • Yes, She Can! Women’s Sports Pioneers by Glenn Stout
  • Mary Poppins in the Park (KU) by P.L. Travers and Mary Shepard…not the first of the series about the magical nanny, but part of it

Enjoy!

Join over a thousand 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.

 

31 “read-sons” to love Kindle Unlimited

December 26, 2014

31 “read-sons” to love Kindle Unlimited

Like a lot of people, you may be brand new to

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

You may have gotten a free month when you bought (or were given) an Amazon reader or tablet, or maybe you were given a gift of KU:

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

If you are a reader, this is a wonderful thing!

Of course, you’ll run into naysayers who want to dismiss it…they may tell you how the biggest publishers aren’t participating, and how you won’t see the bestsellers in there.

Well, the part about the publishers is true (at least at the time of writing), but there are some recent bestsellers and a lot of great books that may not be topping the charts this week!

I decided to list 31 “read-sons” (reasons, but specifically things to read) to love having KU, but before I do, let me explain how it works.

For $9.99 a month, you can read certain Kindle books. The amount you can read in a month of those books is unlimited, although you can only have up to ten at a time. If you go to borrow an eleventh book, it will suggest you return the one you’ve had the longest, but it’s up to you.

You don’t own the books, but you can keep them as long as you are a KU member. It is possible for books to go in and out of KU, though.

More than one person can read the same book on your account at the same time…that still counts as only having borrowed one book. For example, if you borrow Water for Elephants, two people can both read it on your account.

For more information (both on how to use it and book recommendations, see the

Kindle Unlimited category of posts on this blog

Okay, here are 31 read-sons! I picked thirty-one so there would be one reason for each day in the longest month, since so many people are getting one month free. You don’t have to borrow only one book a day, though: again, you can have up to ten out at a time.

  1. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins! Yes, you can read (or re-read) all three of the Hunger Games books at no additional cost!
  2. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling! All seven of the books at your convenience…vide libri! Another cool feature: they have these books in different languages. If you’ve read them in English and are learning Japanese, it might really help you to read a book with which you are familiar in that language
  3. Bond…James Bond by Ian Fleming!
  4. More than 300 million copies of books by romance writer Janet Dailey have reportedly been sold…there are over fifty titles by hers in KU!
  5. Childhood’s End, Rendezvous with Rama, and more by science fiction master Arthur C. Clarke!
  6. 27 (at time of writing) of the Perry Mason books by Erle Stanley Gardner
  7. Good grief! You’re on Kindle Unlimited, Charlie Brown! The Complete Peanuts Collections (the comic strips) are available in KU…and they are $14.99 each at time of writing
  8. Cookbooks! Ever bought a cookbook, or browsed through a bunch in a store, just looking for a recipe to cook one dish? With KU, you don’t need to buy them…just borrow them! Have a vegetarian coming over for the holidays? You can borrow Holiday Vegan Entrees
  9. Travel books! That’s another example of something you might want to use, but don’t want to keep. Going to Australia for the holidays, so you can enjoy them on the beach? There are close to 200 Australia travel books in KU, including the Lonely Planet series
  10. Read the movie! Life of Pi, 12 Years a Slave, From Here to Eternity…
  11. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson: this 1962 book really launched the environmental movement in the USA
  12. Have a laugh with Erma Bombeck! One of the most popular American humorists and newspaper columnists, you can read If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?, Motherhood, and The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank and more!
  13. Lord of the Rings…and the Hobbit!
  14. All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and All Things Wise and Wonderful by James Herriot!
  15. KU AudioBooks (at AmazonSmile*) There are close to 10,000 audiobooks at time of writing available through Kindle Unlimited
  16. The Wayward Pines books…recent books soon to be a TV series on Fox!
  17. George Orwell books, including 1984 and Animal Farm: not in the public domain in the USA, but available to read at no additional cost on KU!
  18. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks: super popular non-fiction book from 1985!
  19. The Heirloom Collection series, illustrated by Jaqui Oakley: Complete Sherlock Holmes (the original Arthur Conan Doyle Works) or the complete novels of Jane Austen, published at $99.99 in hardback, highly rated, new four color illustrations…sure, you could find Homes and Austen for free outside of KU, but these are relatively high quality editions!
  20. Capital in the 21st Century…a number one New York Times bestseller in 2014!
  21. Hundreds of books on Minecraft! Would you really pay for them? Maybe…but you are probably a lot more likely to read them
  22. The Princess Bride by William Goldman!
  23. Pat Conroy! The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini…
  24. John Jakes! North and South, The Kent Family Chronicles…
  25. The 87th Precinct books by Ed McBain
  26. The Wool series (popular recent science fiction) by Hugh Howey!
  27. Umberto Eco! The Name of the Rose, Foucault’s Pendulum…
  28. Thousands of joke books! Honestly, who reads a joke book twice?
  29. David Halberstam’s The Fifties!
  30. The “For Dummies” series! That’s another example of one where, once you’ve read it and learned it, you probably don’t want to own it
  31. The Best American Short Stories series (not 2014 at the time of writing, but early volumes)

There! If that “naysayer” still says there isn’t anything good to read in Kindle Unlimited…well, you’ll know better. ;)

Enjoy!

Update: thanks to reader Allie D. for a comment which helped improve this post!

Join over a thousand 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.

2014 ILMK Holiday Gift Guide

December 1, 2014

2014 ILMK Holiday Gift Guide

There are a lot of options in gifts to consider from Amazon this year…and that’s both a good and a bad thing.

It’s good, because you may find something that fits your needs better.

It’s bad because it’s harder to find it! ;)

That’s a bit like books…so many more possible choices, and yet, it’s challenging to make one.

 Let’s start out with devices to use to read e-books.

Skipping the Fire Phone for now (I’ll come to that), there are two main categories:

  • EBRs (E-Book Readers): the Kindles
  • Fire tablets: (formerly “Kindle Fires”)

They are two pretty different classes of devices. In fact, a lot of people, like me, use both.

An EBR is great for reading books. You can read them outside without a problem, the reading experience is very comfortable, and the battery life is measured in weeks, not hours. If someone is a bookworm, this is a good choice.

Notice that I didn’t say the “best” choice. :) Different people use their devices differently, and what is best for one person might not be best for another.

For example, if someone wanted to read magazines, or perhaps textbooks, in color, an EBR (at this point) won’t do that. If someone reads a lot of novels and they read National Geographic, you are going to have to make the call as to what’s most important for that person (or, as I mentioned, figure on the person using both).

The Fires are “backlit” (you read what is on the screen by a light coming from behind a screen….like your cellphone, laptop, or desktop computer) tablet computers. You can read on them (I do), but you can always watch movies, TV shows, use apps (including popular games), visit websites, and so on.

If you have someone who is “all about those books”, I’d go with the EBR. If you’ve got somebody who is also going to want to do videos, apps, and robustly use the internet, I’d go with the tablet.

Let’s talk EBRs first.

There are basically three models this year, at three price ranges. I’m going to start in the middle, then tell you what you’ll miss or gain as you go up or down.

Kindle Paperwhite 2 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
Price at time of writing (all prices in the USA at Amazon.com, and may go down and back up during this season): $119 to $189
Options: $20 lower for an ad-supported model; $70 more for a model with 3G. Ad-supported models are a lower initial price, and you agree to see ads on the “sleep screen” and where you select the book to read…but not inside the book. Since they’ve been released, the ad-supported models have been more popular than their unsubsidized, full-price counterparts. 3G is a second way to connect to the internet (including Amazon’s servers). With wi-fi only, you need to be on a short-range network (you may have one in your house for your devices: some businesses, like Starbucks and McDonald’s may have it). With 3G, you connect like a cellphone would, so you can connect in more places, possibly like in a park or at the beach. It may be worth noting that 3G is easier to use (oh, and there’s no charge for it), since you won’t have to enter a password.
4.5 stars out of 5, 22030 customer reviews

This is my EBR, and I like it a lot. It is the most comfortable reading experience I’ve ever had…including paper. It has the latest software update.

It has a built-in “frontlight”…that’s not like the backlight on a tablet. It’s more like having an onboard booklight. You can read it easily indoors or out, and has great battery life.

This is a good, solid choice.

If you want to go for the top of the line, you move up to the recently introduced

Kindle Voyage (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
Price: $199-$289 (options priced same as above)
3.9 stars, 644 reviews

What you gain:

  • It’s sleeker (lighter, thinner, smaller)
  • It has a special way to change pages, just by lightly pressing (you can change the sensitivity) on the edge where you hold it (as opposed to touching the screen with the Paperwhite). This should make for an even more friction-free reading experience
  • It automatically adjusts the brightness
  • It has more PPI (Pixels Per Inch)…that’s the number of dots on the screen being to make the letters and images. The more pixels, the stronger the graphic

What you lose:

  • Some people like playing games on their EBRs (called “Active Content”). Active Content is not being made available for the Voyage, supposedly to give a more focused reading experience
  • There are combo deals for the other two models with Kindle Unlimited (more on that later) right now: that’s not available for the Voyage

If you want to get the most affordable Kindle, there is the:

Seventh generation entry level Kindle…I call it the “Mindle Touch” (it replaces the old “minimum Kindle”, and has a touchscreen) or the “K7″ (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
price: $79-$99 (no 3G available)
4.0 stars, 839 reviews

What you lose:

  • There is no light on this. If you want to read in a dark room, you would need to deal with it like you do (did?) with a paperbook
  • No 3G option
  • Lowest PPI (Pixels Per Inch…see above)…least sharp

What you gain:

  • Lowest price
  • Lighter than a Paperwhite (but heavier than a Voyage)

If you are buying someone a first Kindle, or you want to give someone an extra Kindle to have (some people like having two…one could be a “spare”, or be used in two different locations), or want to have a guestroom Kindle, this is a great choice. If you aren’t sure if somebody is going to like a Kindle, this is the least risk (although all current Kindles have a generous thirty day return policy from Amazon).

Overall, I’d say that the light does make a big difference…if you are comfortable spending $40 more for a better experience, I’d go for the Paperwhite over the Mindle Touch (again, just my name for it). Go for the Voyage if you want the “best”.

Next, let’s talk the Fire tablets.

It’s a little bit harder to pick a middle model here. I’m going to start with the one I use every day. :) It’s actually a generation back, but it is still being sold new by Amazon:

Kindle Fire HDX 7″ (at AmazonSmile*)
price: $199 ($179 Black Friday sale)-$294
options:

  •  With 4G (an additional way to connect to the internet, including Amazon’s servers): +$100
  • Go from 16GB on board memory to 32GB: +$20
  • Go from 16 GB to 64GB: +$60
  • Ad supported: -$15

I’ve been very happy with this device! I use it every day. I

  • read books
  • read magazines (in color)
  • use text-to-speech in the car (software which reads books out loud to you, unless the publisher has blocked the access. That’s no longer available on the current EBRs, because they do not have sound)
  • listen to music
  • watch videos
  • use apps (both games and utilities…it’s my main news source, using the Flipboard and Watchup apps)
  • check the weather
  • read and answer my e-mail
  • use it as my nightstand clock (including the alarms)
  • “mirror” it to my TV…anything on my screen appears on my TV through my Fire TV or Fire TV stick (more on those later)
  • and many more things

The onscreen tech help, Mayday, is amazing! Within fifteen seconds, you can have a technical advisor appear on the screen (you can see them, but they can’t see you). They can take over your device (if you want), tell you how to do something, or show you by drawing on the screen.

While it is the previous generation of hardware, it has the current generation software (Fire OS 4).

While no technology is perfect, it has been one of my favorites to date (knock virtual wood). ;)

Want to move up from there?

Fire HDX 8.9 (at AmazonSmile*)
$379-$594

Options:

  • Add 4g: +$100
  • Go from 16GB to 32GB: +$50
  • Go from 16GB to 64 GB: +$100
  • Ad supported: -$15

What you gain:

  • Bigger screen
  • More pixels per inch
  • Faster processor: 2.5GHz versus 2.2GHz
  • Another hour of battery life (despite the larger screen)
  • Better wi-fi connectivity
  • Adds an additional 8MP rear-facing camera (as opposed to the front-facing camera only on mine…the latter is really designed for video calls, and isn’t great for taking pictures or video of things besides you)
  • Current generation (you aren’t likely to see it replaced as soon as the one I have, so you might avoid “buyer’s remorse”)

What you lose:

  • It’s significantly bigger and heavier
  • Costs a lot more

The rear-facing camera is the biggest difference (besides overall technical quality), and some people love the bigger screen. I had an 8.9″, though, and often found it to be too big to carry around comfortably.

If you want to go less expensive, there are three varieties of the HD:

Options:

  • Going from the 6″ to the 7″ screen: +$10 on the regular HDs,  +$40 on the Kids’
  • Going from 8GB to 16GB (not available on the Kids’): +$20
  • Ad supported (not available on the Kids’): -$15

What you lose:

  • No 4G option
  • Lower PPI
  • Slower processor
  • Worse wi-fi connection (single-band versus double-band)
  • Onboard storage options smaller
  • Mayday

What you gain:

  • Lower price
  • Kids edition is “ruggedized” and guarantees a replacement if broken
  • More colors for the case

I would consider the Kids version for younger kids, or ones that you think would be more likely to need the extra protection (kids vary). You’ll have to balance off the lack of a rear-facing camera on the 7″ HDX with the additional cost and size of the 8.9″ HDX. The lack of Mayday on the HDs is a serious deficit, in my opinion, but I bought one of those to be our “guest Kindle” this time around…and it’s working out quite well.

Those are the EBRs and tablets, although Amazon often has refurbished ones of the older, discontinued models.

Certified Refurbished Kindles (at AmazonSmile*)

Those will be less expensive, and may include those older models. They come with same basic warranty as new ones, but they are “used”, so you need to take that into account.

Before I move on to other Amazon media devices, I want to mention a few things that can go with the EBRs and tablets.

Amazon Gift Cards (at AmazonSmile*)

They can not be used for subscription items (magazines, newspapers, blogs), but can be used for music, videos, e-books, the above devices, accessories (covers and such), and apps.

They come in lots of designs, and you can even customize them. You can do odd amounts, and even send them by e-mail.

I’ve seen something saying that gift cards top people’s wish lists…I think there used to be more of a stigma to them before than there is now.

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

Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s subser (that’s what I call a “subscription service”) for e-books. You can have up to ten a time out, and there are over 700,000. While you won’t see every currently popular book, there are a lot of great choices. I think this is a wonderful gift for a serious reader…or even for someone you want to encourage to read. Even if they are already a subscriber, this will extend it: and they can exchange the gift, if they want.

I’ve written to them suggesting that they do one month gift subscriptions (I’d buy quite a few), but they are currently available in these amounts:

  • 6 months for $59.94
  • 12 months for $119.88
  • 24 months for $239.76

I don’t know how long it will last, but they are also doing bundles of a Mindle Touch and six months of KU for $99

Kindle and 6M KU for $99 (at AmazonSmile*)

That’s a savings of $39.94!

The bundle offer is also available for these devices (not for the Voyage, at least currently:

I think those bundles could be life-changing gifts!

If you get a tablet, you get a free month of Prime…but gifting a year’s worth would be appreciated by just about anybody:

Amazon Prime (One Year Membership)
at AmazonSmile

Okay, this has gotten to be quite long! Let me give a quick rundown on Amazon’s other media devices:

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
4.0 star, 13302 reviews

I also use this every day. Currently $99, they have had some sales on it already. You plug it into the HDMI on your TV, and you have access to lots of Prime content, apps for other services you may have (Netflix, Hulu+), your photos, and you can mirror your device. If you want to “cut the cord” (stop using or cut back on cable or satellite), this will be a big help.

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
3.9 stars, 1796 reviews
$39 at time of writing

This is the Fire TV’s smaller sibling. I just got mine yesterday…and it’s quite impressive. It’s like the Fire TV, but is a much smaller device. I will say that it was noticeably slower at doing things (although once you got into something like a video or an app, it was fine). It doesn’t come with the voice search remote control that the “big” Fire TV has, but you can put an app on your smart phone and do it. One place I plan to use it as at work: you can mirror your compatible tablet or smart phone. We often have big TVs in conference/training rooms, with an HDMI input. I would just need to put the Fire TV stick on the network, and then I could mirror my device to it. That’s so much more convenient than using bulky projectors!

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
$199 unlocked at time of writing
3.7 stars, 137 reviews

This one notoriously hasn’t succeeded. I own one, and it’s a good phone with some unique features, but not an outstanding one…yet. They are still supporting it and playing with pricing. If they gave it a unique ability to work with the Echo (see below), that could be a big push for the Fire Phone. I’d be cautious about gifting it, though…I’d look at what brand of phone the person wants to have. It’s pretty hard to switch between an Android phone and an iPhone, for example.

Amazon Echo (not yet available for general purchase)
$99 for Prime members who get invites currently: expected list price, $199

This is the one where people would say, “How did you get one of those?” If you haven’t been invited (you can request an invite at the above link if you are a Prime member…doesn’t mean you’ll get one), your only hope is places like eBay.

What I’ve been reading from people who have one is very positive…I’m hoping I can get one, either by invitation, or by them opening it up to the public!

It appears to be improving every day, and I think that this device will become commonplace in the next few years. It’s sort of like the computer on the original Star Trek’s Enterprise, or like SIRI for your house. You talk to it: it does things (especially playing music, but answering questions, putting things on shopping lists, setting alarms…and I predict it will do a whole more in the next year).

That should give you some guidance and ideas! If you have any questions, feel free to comment on this post.

Join over a thousand 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! :) 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.

 


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