Goodreads reading challenge 2020 (24 books)

Every year for the past six years, I have participated in the Goodreads reading challenge. It is a challenge of setting yourself a goal; the number of books you would like to read for the year. And throughout the year, you track your progress, marking the books you have read, and selecting the books you are currently reading.

The lowest target I set myself was in 2017 and 2018, where I set myself to read 16 books. This is lower than my usual 24 books for the year, mainly because I was doing my part-time Master’s study at NUS while working at the same time. So I figured that I shouldn’t torture myself and set a goal that was simply unattainable given my workload and the amount of required readings for my Master’s study.

However I managed to reach my reading goals for 2017 with 19 books read, three books more than my original target set at the beginning of the year. But I wavered a little bit in 2018, with two books short of my 16 book target. It was still a decent milestone though and I was quite proud of myself in being able to set aside time to commit myself to reading a book every now and then.

2019 was the year that I set a really lofty target; 30 books. I initially wanted to make up for lost time, now that I had graduated with a Master’s Degree, I should have more time catch up on my reading. I was wrong. I was short by 8 books, reading only 22 books in 2019, 2 books short of my usual 24 books a year goal typically set in earlier years. The fact that I was 8 books short, meant that I was distracted by a lot of other things that was happening in my life.

This year, I am trying to be kinder to myself and set a goal of 24 books to read for 2020. I suppose that after all these years using the Goodreads reading challenge, 24 books seem to be my sweet spot. I have exceeded that goal a few times before, usually by one or two books.

It’s mid January and I have completed reading three books. I am not celebrating just yet, but I am confident that I am off to a great start in reaching my goals of reading 24 books this year. I am currently ahead of schedule (although who knows what is in store for me in 2020 that might ultimately derail my reading plans) and who knows if I might eventually reach 30 books by the end of the year, the highest goal that I have set for myself but fail to eventually reach it. Maybe 2020 is the year where I will smash that 30-book goal set in 2019.

My Year in Books 2016

24 books. That was the number of books I challenged myself to read for 2016. I set my reading challenge on Goodreads, and it really does help in tracking my progress. 24 books a year roughly amount to about a book every 2 weeks. Challenging for someone who constantly have to find time to set aside just for reading a book, but not impossible (I read lots of news articles from NYT, magazines online and on my smarphone such as Nat Geo, New Yorker and Foreign Affairs, so I do have a lot on my plate when it comes to reading)

And I did it (at the 11th hour, I was behind 3 books with less than 3 weeks left to 2016)

Presenting, My Year in Books 2016.

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Resubscribing to The New Yorker

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Sometime last year, I subscribed to The New Yorker, taking advantage of the 3 month subscription promotion for only $1 an issue for 12 issues. It was a good deal and I had not only access to the latest issue of the magazine, but also it’s archive. I loved The New Yorker. Its long form writing on most topics from science, medicine, and various social issues happening around the world is a great read. And contemporary topics covered around the world on various issues allowed me to keep somewhat up to date with what is happening around the world with a little more depth to the topic in question. While it is a weekly magazine with a few long form articles covering certain topics, it does not have the breadth of topics nor the lightning fast reporting found in other news agencies like CNN, BBC or the International New York Times. What it lacks in breadth, it makes it up for depth.

It is rare (for me) to actually enjoy the kinds of writing found in The New Yorker. Topics and subjects covered in their articles are fairly easy to understand (except for American politics which is usually skip) and quite engaging, mainly because it really delves deep into the subject matter, with excellent writing, top notch fact finding and verification, such that articles within The New Yorker are written as a story to be told, rather than facts to be reported. In almost all articles, there is always a human side to it, rather than reporting just the facts and ‘he said she said’ perspective. Investigative journalism are among my favourite kind of journalistic writing and it is abundantly found in The New Yorker.

I took advantage of the promotion but never continued my subscription ($59.90 for a year). Partly because I didn’t allocated time within the week to actually sit down and read he articles within The New Yorker. And soon, I found that I began to lag behind as more issues are released on a weekly basis. Very soon, I felt that, the more I lag behind, the more reluctant become in catching up and actually setting aside time to read those articles that I missed.

Fast forward to 2 months ago, I actually committed myself to continuing my subscription for an entire year. One of the main reason I decided to do that was because I finally bought an iPad mini 4 two month prior. Now I can read my favourite books, (Kindle), keep up to date on the news (CNN, BBC, The International New York Times) and finally have time and the platform to dedicate myself to reading The New Yorker. By using the iPad app, new issues are downloaded automatically and the magazine is formatted beautifully on the iPad Mini such that it makes reading the magazine a joy (just try the National Geographic Magazine app, it’s wonderfully formatted for tablets and it’s fully interactive). And with the iPad Mini, I can read while commuting, which is a boon, since now I can truly read my favourite books, comics, and magazines. The time spent commuting (45 minutes each way) can now be spent on reading. You have no idea how much that means to me when I finally got the iPad Mini.

So now, I am a happy subscriber to the magazine and will continue to do so, as long as those articles in the magazine continues to captivate me.

Digital magazine subscriptions

I have been a National Geographic subscriber for more than a year now. The subscription I am talking about is the digital version of the magazine. It has all the contents of a regular physical magazine, but you read digitally, from your iPad or iPhone. Though you don’t have the physical copy, there are several advantages to subscribing to a digital one. First, is the portability and mobility of carrying the magazine. You don’t have to add extra weight to your bag when carrying the physical magazine around. The Nat Geo app, which allows you to read the digital versions allows you to read comfortably on your iPhone or iPad. This is great for commuting, especially when you want to insert reading time in between traveling without the hassle of carrying the actual magazine.

 

The digital magazine comes packed with interactive features not found in the physical copy. Sections such as daily news, instagram photos, interactive maps, visualizations, diagrams and embedded video clips that enhances the story and articles being written and told are not found in physical copies. This makes the entire experience much more immersive, meaningful and best of all, being able to better connect emotionally to the stories being told about places, people and events around the world.

 

The subscriptions are usually cheaper. Physical magazine subscriptions usually costs more. This is mainly because of the actual printing, and distribution of the magazine to your doorstep on a regular basis right to your doorstep. With the digital version, you simply download data, digital bits and bytes that would ultimately make up the magazine itself. It is hassle free, as the downloads are usually automatic and comes on the day the issue is released, as compared to waiting for a couple of days to allow the magazine to be shipped to you. And because there is no printing involved, you save the environment along the way, saving paper and ink.

 

Of all the magazines that I’ve looked at, National Geographic is by far one of the best. It has its own dedicated app to download, manage and read the magazine. The magazine is also formatted correctly depending on whether you are reading the magazine from your iPad or from your iPhone. This maximizes comfort when reading text and and interacting within the pages no matter what the screen size is. Therefore, they actually have a dedicated team ensuring that the experience you get out from reading the magazine is consisted throughout, regardless of where you read it form.

 

I have contemplated subscribing to other magazines such as The New Yorker, Discover Magazine and perhaps American Scientific. However I am still hesitant, as the digital counterparts are not as robust and mobile-friendly compared to National Geographic. However, one distinct advantage is that you can read all the articles featured in the magazine from your PC, from their website, just by logging onto your account. Paywall articles will become accessible to you once you are a subscriber. If you wish to read from your phone or tablet, you can ready the PDF versions of the magazines. However, I find the PDF versions to be clunky, and difficult to navigate, and it is not different than reading a scanned copy of the magazine with no way to reformat the article to suit the screen size of your tablet or phone. The New Yorker however has its own dedicated app to read the articles just like National Geographic, but that magazine features articles that touches on topics like the Arts, politics, general interests and current affairs. I’m still not sure if the articles in the magazine would be enjoyable to read, considering the topics that are featured, despite its excellent reporting.

 

Discover magazine and American Scientific have apps that allows your read the digital versions on your mobile or tablet, but they simply offer simple pdf versions of the magazine, which like I said, makes reading clunky as the documents are oversized, and you have to constantly zoom in and out to read that little snippet of text somewhere in the magazine. Simply put, it is not optimized for reading on your mobile devices. What makes it attractive though is access to the articles from the website itself, and the website has a very good layout to begin with with regards to reading long-form articles. Simply log in and you have the full access to all the articles and materials found in the actual magazine itself, and they even throw you access to past editions as well. Subscription is also very cheap, considering they are waiving the cost of printing and shipping the physical magazine.

 

So there you have it, the pros and cons of reading digital magazines. I am most probably going to try out subscribing to Discover magazines, because they have an offer of subscribing 2 years worth at a very very cheap price.

The Name of Wind

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Having completed my second read through of this amazing novel by Patrick Rothfuss, I am still at awed by the way it is written. Beautiful, engaging and the characters filled within the pages are believable and as real as it gets. I am so emotionally attached to the characters in the book, that I will remember them for the rest of my life, despite them being only fictional characters and not real people.

This is a 600 page tome, a heavy and fluffy by my standards when it comes to fantasy novels, but being the first in the series, it is considered light reading since you are not bogged down too much on the history and culture of a fantasy world the author created. Rather, he slides you in smoothly and slowly into his world without becoming overwhelmed from the beginning. The novel just gets better as you understand the characters more, their intentions and the lore and culture of the world, introduced as little snippets here and there, telling through tales of myths and legend. A story within a story as most people would say, when these myths and legends, fairy tales pertaining to the fantasy world Patrick Rothfuss wrote which are a great read as well as a good way to flesh out more about the culture, people, and history of the world.

It is quite rare for me to read a book the second time. And this book, is no exception. It took me a while to complete it, being 600 pages and all, but every page of it is an engaging as it once was when I first picked up this book. I think this is one of the best fantasy novels I have ever got the chance in reading it, and I have known that not many people actually knew about this book and the impact it has made within fantasy writers all around.

Now an even greater challenge, to read through, for the second time, a 1000 page sequel to The Name of The Wind. It is entitled The Wise Man’s Fear. Equally epic, I can’t wait to read the adventures found within the novel.

Patrick Rothfuss meant this novel to be an epic trilogy. The third book is not yet out and it is currently being written by Patrick Rothfuss. No date is set for it’s release. I think he may be taking his time to write a truly epic thousand page tome again and also to find a way to end the story without leaving any part of the story dangling. Honestly, I cannot wait, the last book was published in 2011. The first book, 2007. Assuming if he takes about the same time to write a sequel, 4 years, I would have guessed that it would be around 2015 before the next part of Kvothe’s adventure is made known to the world.

Tiong Bahru Bakery to chill

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Tomorrow is sunday. If I am free tomorrow, then I might head down to Tiong Bahru bakery, buy a couple of croissants or any of their other famous pastry, and dive into my novels in my kindle

I might head town to do just that, slowly savour their breads and pastries, spending my afternoon with my favourite book. Tiong Bahru bakery is one of the more famous bakery in Singapore. They have really nice croissants and other french inspired pastries on sale. Most of them are sweet, really sweet, and the size is generous enough for the price they offer. It’s quite filling just eating one of their pastries. But since I would be spending my entire afternoon there, i might just order a little bit more to fill my stomach throughout the day.