2014 Reading Summary: Fiction

I am not much of a fiction reader. In fact, I was surprised to find out that I read 4 fiction books this year. Then I remembered the reading challenge we have at our library each year. Two of the fiction books I read this year were for the library contest. The other two were more research type books for me. I had read about Will Eisner’s book, Comics and Sequential Art, and wanted to know more about him. I was not impressed with his subject matter, but he did a good job with communicating through pictures and text. One thing about his work that I was impressed with was his use of text as pictures.


Genesis Force is a book from the Star Trek universe.

Understanding ComicsGoing Postal was clever and weird. The book was mostly good. It seemed that the author did a good job of not using profanity (which seems to bother me much more when I read it than when I hear it) in the first part of the book. He got around profanity by making up his own humorous words that conveyed a strong emotion but didn’t mean anything. But towards the end of the book he let it all out. Because of this, I’m not interested in reading another book by him.

I hate that participating in the library reading contest requires reading fiction. But I got a nice coffee mug out of it. 🙂

The Last Knight by Eisner was a retelling of Don Quixote.

The Contract With God (also by Eisner) was not worth flipping through. Because of the content I can’t recommend it in any way. And, furthermore, I am never interested in looking at another Eisner book. I did read Comics and Sequential Art later in the year. I should have just stuck with the two excellent Scott McCloud books about visual communication (Understanding Comics and Making Comics). He said everything Eisner said in a much more understandable and less offensive way. I did a review of the book Making Comics a few years ago.

2014 Reading Summary: Biographies

I probably won’t do a detailed review of many of the books I read last year, but I did want to at least list them in some way. This is the first in a series of 6 or 8 posts about the different categories of books I read.

In my book summary I said that I read 3 books in the Biography category. Here they are in the order that I read them.


The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, a Cunning Revenge, and a Small History of the Big Con. This book by Amy Reading is about J. Frank Norfleet who was swindled by a con man in 1919 in a stock market scam. Not learning his lesson the first time, he got taken again. But, then he wised up and spent the next few years hunting down the gang that had taken his money. He did this by learning how the con worked and conning other con men to give him the information he needed to get his money back and put the perpetrators in jail.

Though I like biographies, I really like ones that teach about the business the protagonist is involved with. In this case it was about con artists and the police and detective work that went into catching the criminals. I really enjoyed the book and was glad to serendipitously run across it at the library new book shelf (which is where many of the books I read come from).

If you want to know a bit more about this story, there was an NPR story about it. The host interviewed author Amy Reading.

My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon by Bart Yasso. As expected, this book was well written. The reason I expected this is Mr. Yasso works for Runner’s World magazine. Even if he didn’t know how to write, Runner’s World has a great team of editors.

This book is a chronicle of his running life up to this point. He has run over 1000 races and competed on all seven continents of the world. Like many people who take up running as an adult, he was prompted to better his life and health due to poor choices made as a younger person. Running changed his life and has given him a purpose and a job for the last few decades.

Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker. I have read another book by Mitnick, The Art of Deception, which was about how social engineering works and how he used it to his advantage to hack into many companies. This newer book, Ghost in the Wires, is more about his exploits of escaping the authorities during the manhunt for him.

I am not necessarily a fan of Mitnick or his choice of occupation, but like the book about the con artist ring from 100 years ago, I love learning the tricks of the trade. Mitnick is a con artist extraordinaire.

Mitnick did the majority of his illegal hacking in the days before the Internet and Windows computers as we know them. Much of what he does is social engineering where he convinces people to give him sensitive information by posing as a friendly co-worker. However, today, instead of doing this for illegal purposes, he is paid by the companies he is hacking into for the purpose of testing their internal security protocols.

2014 Book Breakdown

Here is the breakdown of the 57 books I read in 2014. All the numbers below are how many books fell into that category.


I was a little surprised by how few books I read on my Kindle. I really do prefer reading on it, but since I almost never buy books, I read in whatever format I can get them. If I were to actually spend money for a book (and had a format choice), then I would get them exclusively for my Kindle.

  • Paper Books: 29
  • Kindle/Electronic Books: 16
  • Audio Books: 12


I was able to tease out 8 major categories of books. I did have 1 book that overlapped categories. It was not strictly biographical, but it also was not what I would consider a plain history book. So the count adds up to 58 instead of the 57 that I read.

  • Communications/Business: 19
  • Religious: 12
  • Technology: 6
  • History: 5
  • Productivity: 5
  • No Category: 4
  • Fiction: 4
  • Biographical: 3


  • December: 12
  • November: 8
  • 2 Months: 5
  • 3 Months: 4
  • 5 Months: 5


  • Library: 31
  • Owned: 24
  • Borrowed: 2

Of the owned books, they broke down like this:

  • Free or given to me as a gift: 12
  • Purchased used: 9
  • Purchased new: 3

I guess you can see I don’t spend much for books even though I read quite a few. There are so many books that I already own that I have never read, I really shouldn’t spend so much time at the library. But it is so hard to resist the pull of the New Books shelf each week when we go.

We are members of 2 local libraries. The one we go to every Saturday is fairly well stocked, but seems so impersonal. Though we have been there most Saturdays for the last 3 years I still feel like we are walking into someone else’s library when we are there. I’ve never felt like the staff are friendly or personable. Their computer system has been in a constant upgrade process for 2 years and it almost never works as expected. I only remember asking for help finding a book one time and that was about 1 year ago. The lady pointed towards where the book should be. I had already looked and asked her if she could go help me look. She finally did. Though we did not find the book, it is still listed in the catalog as being on the shelf. I have told them twice that the book was missing, but they have not taken it out of their catalog or flagged it as being temporarily lost.

The library where I go during the week is in a small house. Almost too personal at about 1,200 square feet of total space (this includes stacks, offices and storage). I haven’t spent much time in there, but I know all the workers’ names and they act thrilled to help any patron try to find a book. I am excited that this during-the-week library is building a new 16,000 square foot building that will open in May of this year. That will be a more than a 10X size increase in the new building!

Over the next few days I will compile the groups of books and work on a few book reviews for you.

2014 Consumption — 2015 Creation

Today is January 1–a day typically known for goal setting and resolutions. For me I have been thinking about my 2015 goals for a couple of months. First let me tell you about 2014 (which I did not blog about my goals for the year). Then I will get into 2015’s goals.

2014 — A Year of Consumption

Some of the books I read in 2014
Some of the books I read in 2014

No, not a year of tuberculosis. That is a different kind of consumption than what I did in 2014. I made 2014 a year of reading. I know some people read a ton more books than I do; but for me, setting a goal is helpful to keep me reading. I did something similar in 2008 and 2009 when I had a goal of reading 800 pages a month. In 2008 the goal was an average for the year and 2009 was an attempt to not let any month drop below 800 pages.

For 2014 the goal was not a certain number of pages, but a certain number of books. I wanted to read 50 books for the year. My final total was 57 books. Total pages read was 13,275 (for an average of 1,106 pages a month).

I will go into much more analysis about the books in upcoming posts. Mainly I am breaking the analysis into smaller parts because of what it has to do with this year’s goals.

2015 — A Year of Creation

I have a big content creation goal for 2015. Of course I will still be reading through the year. I plan to write down each book I read (which I did better in 2014 than I have ever done before). It will be interesting to see if I actually read significantly less when I don’t have a specific goal.


Year of WritingThe bulk of my content creation will be in the form of writing. I plan to create at least 4 pieces of writing content per week. That will be spread over several websites. I have identified 8 places where I should be regularly creating content. That means that the 208 new pieces of writing won’t all be here. So it may not look like as much writing is going on if you just follow this one blog. This just happens to be the best place to talk about this and the place that can catch any random thoughts I have.

This is a total goal for the year and not necessarily a week-to-week or month-to-month goal. So if I don’t have 4 each week or 16 each month, I am allowing myself to catch up towards the end of the year. It is also possible that this goal is too meager. I will re-evaluate later and see if I need to increase the number as the year goes along. Based on the last couple of years, I don’t think this will be too low. I need to get back into more consistent writing.


Along with a writing goal, part of my creation will be evaluating my different websites. I want to seriously look at all the themes, plugins, functionality, and overall design of each one of my major websites. So each site will get an honest evaluation.

I want to standardize many of the plugins I use. Because I have built my various websites over the course of 15 years–with about 9 years focused on WordPress–I found the best plugin at the time for a particular job. But, that means that I am using about 4 different caching plugins and 3 different backup plugins (with some sites having no automatic backups at all). I want to unify my maintenance routine on the sites which will best be done by standardizing the way I work with each site.

Personal Goals

I have some other goals related to Bible study, health and ministry. Though I probably won’t post my Bible study goals explicitly, the fruit of those goals will show up on Genuine Leather Bible. BTW, in 2014 I was able to buy the .com domain for that website. I will probably keep the main content on .net, but now the .com will point traffic to the site. That has become, by far, my biggest source of traffic.

I had thought about having a minimum number of words that are needed to be considered a “piece of content,” but I never have problems writing too few words. I am tracking everything with the knowledge that if there is ever anything that is considered too short (300 words or less) those will be balanced out by the many blog posts and articles that will approach the 3,000 word mark throughout the year.

Happy 2015!

Book Review: Thou Shall Prosper: 10 Commandments for Making Money

In general I would say the book Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin was a good read. I liked his principles, even though I thought almost everything he said could have been done in a more concise way. The book is almost 400 pages long. With some tighter editing, it could have easily been under 300 pages. He was fond of giving four illustrations when one or two would have been sufficient.

Good book. Too long.

Book cover for Thou Shall ProsperHis 10 Commandments for Making Money are:

  1. Believe in the Dignity and Morality of Business
  2. Extend the Network of your Connectedness to Many People
  3. Get to Know Yourself
  4. Do Not Pursue Perfection
  5. Lead Consistently and Constantly
  6. Constantly Change the Changeable, While Steadfastly Clinging to the Unchangeable
  7. Learn to Foretell the Future
  8. Know Your Money
  9. Act Rich: Give Away 10% of Your After Tax Income
  10. Never Retire

Here are some thoughts on what he had to say with some of these points.

Commandment 1: Believe in the Dignity and Morality of Business

His main takeaway point with this is that so often people look down at business as if it were something immoral or wicked. That may sound like an absurd statement to you, but I think he is very right. Look at many of the villains in movies and TV shows. A great number of them are business owners. Sitcoms are rife with people hating their boss and hating work. Our culture has done much to vilify business owners just in the area of media alone.

The truth is that most business owners are morally upright people. You can’t stay in business long if your whole goal is to cheat your customers out of their money. Though it is covered later in the book, he talks about how just doing business, as an owner or as a client, creates greater wealth for all parties. Let me give you an example.

Right now I have a TV being repaired. The unit was given to me by a friend after it got hit by lightening. It was worth nothing to my friend since he was going to throw it out and buy a new one. I think that if the TV was working I could sell it for $150 to $200. But I am not willing to pay that much for a repair. I found a repairman who will do the work for me for $100. In the end I will have a TV that I could probably sell for $150 to $200, yet it only cost me $100 to repair. The repairman has to buy the part and install it. He told me today that the part costs $50 and he will do the repair for $50 for his time. I suspect this repair will take him much less than 2 hours to do. Do I begrudge paying him $25 to $50 an hour? No. Do I feel like he is cheating me? No. Yet in the end, he has $50 profit that he can use to pay his bills. I will have invested $100 to get a TV that I believe is worth more than $100. Potential wealth has been created for both of us just because we conducted business with one another. I say potential wealth since I don’t plan on selling the TV right away. I plan to use it for a year or two and then sell it for $100 and upgrade to a bigger and better unit.

Commandment 2: Extend the Network of your Connectedness to Many People

Making money can’t be done in a vacuum. You have to build relationships. That is true in business and it is true in ministry. If you cut yourself off from people then you won’t do well in building wealth.

Commandment 6: Constantly Change the Changeable, While Steadfastly Clinging to the Unchangeable

Roll with the punches of life and business, but don’t let go of the anchors we have in good business principles. Some businesses that have come and gone rapidly are ones that ignore the time-tested principles of making money. Looking back on the Dot Com bubble of the late ’90s it is not hard to see why some of the businesses failed. They tried to move too far away from sound business practice. Yet, we also know of businesses that have failed because they refused to catch up with the times and make changes where necessary.

This one can be a tough one to navigate, but if you know your industry well enough, you should be able to make wise business decisions.

Commandment 9: Act Rich: Give Away 10% of Your After Tax Income

There is something about giving money away that makes us more content with what we have. I think there are many religions that have some kind of teaching about giving away money to charitable causes. As a Christian, I see where the Bible teaches about tithing and giving offerings above the tithe. In churches people often give testimonies about how when they started tithing or giving to missions then their own personal wealth increased. Rabbi Lapin makes a very compelling argument to become more generous for your own prosperity’s sake.

Commandment 10: Never Retire

Our culture has ingrained into us that we should work until we are 65 and then sit down and do nothing. It really is an incredibly crazy idea. Certainly you may not be able to work in the physical capacity you did when you were 30 years old, but you have much experience you can contribute to a business. If you work because you enjoy what you are doing then you will probably enjoy doing it past “retirement age” too.

Too often it is seen that when people stop being productive in society that they rapidly deteriorate physically and mentally. You may not have a 40 hour a week job that actually pays you money, but you should try to continue to be productive as long as possible. Though I am nowhere near retirement age, I see the effect that traditional retirement has had on older friends. I think I would rather keep working and being active.

The last two commandments were worth reading Thou Shall Prosper. But getting to those two (or any two that interest you) necessitates wading through way too many pages and examples than what I really wanted. I am glad I made it through the book, but it certainly was not easy.