Book Budget

I just added a new category in my YNAB Budget under Quality of Life Goals, it’s name? Books.

Since I started using Goodreads in 2013 I’ve read 104 books. That’s an average of just under 21 books a year with a low of 17 in 2013 and a high of 34 books in 2016.

Clearly I like to read, so it made sense to actually budget for these books financially since I’m already making time in my life to read them. There’s something very different about sitting down and relaxing with a good book compared to a film or boxset that I enjoy a great deal. Most of these books are fiction, I find they provide me with a good way of shutting my mind off at the end of the day by forcing me to use my imagination. I have to let my mind create the images that go with the words, converting the writers descriptions into visuals in my mind. The words on the page acting as the brush and my mind as the paint to create the large landscapes and cityscapes as well as the detail of the characters faces and the expressions they pull.

Until a few years ago I had gone a few years without reading a lot, I always had a novel on the go but the number I would read in a year was much less. Gradually as I got older and remembered how much I like reading the number would increase, but the intensity at which I devoured books became greater after I became ill with depression a few years ago. Throughout my recovery, and when I find my mood dipping again, novels become a great source of escape. Usually I find concentration hard when I’m battling a low period, but a good novel (often a familiar one that I’ve read many times) is able to provide me with some escape. Reading the prose of a good fantasy or sci-fi book allows me to find freedom from the circular thoughts and spirals of whatever I find myself fixating on. As a visual thinker letting my imagination build the worlds centuries away from today (in either direction) is a great way of exercising my creative muscles and preventing those unhelpful thought patterns take hold.

Whenever I’ve spoken to friends who have been struggling with similar mental health issues, I always recommend they read. It takes a bit of effort to start, but I’ve found it much more helpful than watching a film. The act of watching images develop on a screen is far less distracting than having to engage your mind with the words and story of a book. Reading, I find, is a form of active rest. I can let my body rest and recharge, while using my mind in a way that’s different from the work of my two jobs, and in so doing letting it refresh and recharge.

So here’s to books, to my new book budget, and to the many more hours of rest that they will provide.

Kindle Paper White Review ›

For a long time I’ve thought about buying a Kindle. I read a lot, articles and books, to relax with and of course articles get read on my iPad and books the old fashioned paper way. But living in a one bedroom flat with limited storage is tempting me to consider a Kindle. Reviews like this one from Shawn Blanc help with that decision making, each revision of the Kindle is becoming more and more appealing. Trouble is, I love the feel of a thick paperback in my hand and the look of a series next to each other on my shelf.

Reading Stories, Food for the Imagination

I work as a graphic designer. Like many other folks in my profession I find it hard to turn off. I may not be thinking about projects from work all the time, but I’m always thinking about projects I’d like to do or reviewing the things I see all around me. I see every piece of design and mentally critic it, 99% of the time I’m not even aware I’m doing it, but it’s there, almost like a 6th sense wondering what questions the designer faced.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sat in a restaurant looking at the menu only to realise I’m not looking at what’s on offer but the way it’s been typeset. What font did they use? What does it make me think of the restaurant? Does it make the food I’m reading about sound even tastier or does it make me think I’ll be left wanting more? Does the menu fit the surroundings or does it just feel like a designer somewhere threw it together because he didn’t get a proper brief?

It’s a pretty constant state of affairs. Right now I’m glancing at the empty can of San Miguel thats sitting on the dining table. Does it look like the taste? Does it make me want to lie on a hot beach in Spain? What the heck has a ship got to do with beer? Why did the designer pick gold as the main can colour and break away from the green and white that used to be there?

I can’t turn it off, and many a time I’ve amused good friends as I verbalise my critique.

Unfortunately relaxing is made all the more harder by it. I read to do my relaxing, mostly the blogs of a select few but they’re people who I’ve come to trust. I trust that the links they post are to interesting content, articles that can lead me on a chase around the internet looking at websites, new websites. Websites that start the inner critic on it’s familiar chain of questions. Questions that lead me to find another way of reading.

Books.

Mostly made of paper that smell of ink and aren’t displayed on a screen. However, in this age of constant stream of information that feeds a thirst for knowledge, growth and understanding, I find I need a book that doesn’t make me think too much. There’s no point going to bed to read only to lie in bed for hours thinking about the chapter I just read and the challenges or knowledge it imparts. I need a good story. Something that will make me keep turning the pages, compelling me to read. So it is with great joy in the last year or so that I’ve discovered an author I enjoy, one that draws me to read rather than watch inane tv shows.

It’s not the novels that I write this about though, it’s the impact they have on me. As well as helping me relax, they force me to use my imagination. When reading about the unravelling story I’m forced to imagine the scene, what people look like and where they are. I’m forced to stop asking the questions I ask all day long as I review and work on the various projects I have on the go. That time away from questioning and evaluating can only have one impact as far as I’m concerned, that is, to make my work better. Having time to just imagine frees me from the constraints that are so often put in place when working. They may be imposed on me by the projects, or by the presssures I put on my self, but the more I read and use my imagination in a completely unattached manner. The more creative I feel, the more my imagination is fed the more easily I find work.

In a time when the people around me seem to read more than they ever did, I seem to be the only person among my friends who reads novels. I’d like to encourage you to start. Take a short story and read it. Start small and find something that feeds your imagination, a story which gives it new life and see what impact it has on your work.

Reading on the iPad — Shawn Blanc ›

Ironically, the worst reading experiences are with the apps designed by the “professionals” that are based on the age-old history of reading in print: Apple’s own iBooks, and the Condé Nast apps. The best reading experiences on the iPad are Instapaper and Reeder. In part because they are easy to keep up-to-date, but also because their designs have the least amount of frilly bits, and therefore make reading of the actual text the easiest.

I would also add the Kindle app to the good experiences of reading on the iPad. Either way Shawn nails it in this piece. The traditionally print media folk need to stop trying to design the same way for the iPad as they do for the printed page. There are different rules in play here, and as a predominantly print based designer it baffles me how these guys can’t see that.

Send your Instapaper reading log to Readability ›

The web has been a buzz with Readbility talk this last week. I’ve been waiting to hear how it’s going to work with Instapaper, which has just been answered by Marco in this post.

The question I’m still left with is. What if I find an article I want to read because someone I respect has linked to it, but which I really don’t agree with? I only support things I believe in and not everything I save to Instapaper falls into that category.