Hi Jason,

Your mention of Philip K. Dick got me thinking about my reading list. Most people have a “nightstand” stack of books they intend to read. I do also. Stacked up in no order are Amusing Ourselves to Death, How to be Normal, Algorithms of Oppression, Doorways to Transformation, Caste, Reality +, An Autobiography of Skin, To Fall in Love, Drink This, and Exhalation, by Ted Chaing. I’m reading that collection of stories now. Brilliant. I have his earlier collection on hold at the library, and just picked up The White Album by Joan Didion from the library, which I will get to. Spare is on my Kindle, on loan from the library. I’m reading Digital Body Language on Kindle for work. On my Kobo to-read I have How to Blow Up a Pipeline, Ubik (a great Philip K. Dick novel I’ve read before), Murakami’s The Novelist as Vocation, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

Perhaps I’m overly ambitious about this reading list? But I don’t think there’s such as thing as a to-read list that’s too long. My books-to-buy list is longer.

If a book is mine, I pencil notes in the margin or start an index of my favorite parts. I copy Kindle and Kobo highlights using Readwise.io. Every Friday I load all the digital notes into DEVONThink. I get a lot of pleasure out of reading and I like to remember it all. I’m pretty agnostic about digital or paper. Digital is good for work and note-taking. Paper is best for pleasure reading.

Do you have a to-read list, and if so, what’s on it?


Hi Lee,

Just as I received this letter I started getting walloped with a case of food poisoning. My third time in about 8 months. Not fun. It slowed me down responding to this letter and also making progress on Living in Data by Jer Thorp, a rare non-fiction book to make it from my “to read” pile to my “reading” pile. Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse is right next to it, ready to go.

I don’t keep a “to read” list per se, but I do have stacks of physical books, and an entire section of our bookshelves that are “to be shelved” which means “to be read”. When I buy a physical book, it goes there, and when I actually read it, it’s stored away, alphabetical by author, with fiction in one section and non-fiction by topic in other shelves.

I’m not near my desk at the moment which has a stack of books on design, managing programmers, and running development teams stacked up on it to read. I’ve also got quite a few sequels on that “to be shelved” shelf.

About 70-80% of my book reading is on my Kindle, because I travel a lot for work and it’s simply too convenient versus carrying books and risking reaching the end of one without another ready to go. I like to, when possible, use Libby to take out books from the library first on my Kindle, then buy them from my local bookshop if I really liked it. Of course, I simply preorder the stuff I know I’m going to read and love.

I’ve never been a good highlighter. I try with my Kindle, but instead, I actually find it interesting to see other people’s highlights. I’m not often drawn to the same lines as others, but sometimes I feel like I may have missed just how interesting a particular line or passage really is without the queue that 500 other people highlighted it. When I do remember to highlight, I quite enjoy looking back. I often still love what I found worth noting, though I also feel like when I get to the end of a book, reviewing my highlights doesn’t really capture how I felt about it. I guess part of reading a book is my total immersion in it, and even the best moments pulled out don’t make me feel what the book made me feel.

My best friend loves Joan Didion. I’ve never read any of her pieces. I hope my friend is not reading this blog post, because I’m quite positive I’ve never actually told her this.

I think it’s important to have stacks of books as a reader. Losing momentum with reading is something I’ve found can happen shockingly easily if you don’t have a couple of choices lined up to feel out. I never finish a book and go to bed— I always try to find the next book and read just a little bit of it so that I keep my groove.

Well maybe not never— those nights when you make the mistake of picking up your book with 3 hours of reading left to go at 11pm and realize at midnight there’s no way you’re not finishing it— I let myself crash after those “mistakes”.