Tag: articles

Everything I read in 2012

Everything I read in 2012

Into #longreads? Check out my Google+ community, Non-Fiction Addiction

The best thing about the Christmas/New Year period is All The Lists. Lists lists lists. Lists. (Children may feel otherwise, but what do they know.)

I love browsing end of year lists. It’s a great way to catch up on stuff you missed, and it fills those somnolent post-turkey holiday days like a charm. Whether the lists are in newspapers, mags, blogs… Best books, best gadgets, best songs, worst songs, worst pop-up restaurants where you can’t reserve a table and the queuing system amounts to ‘elbow a fellow aspiring diner in the trachea to get a whiff of hipster-fried chicken’ (Wishbone Chicken Brixton, you are death); yes, I love all the lists.

In bygone years I tended to create sprawling music playlists. A top ten of the year was no good. It always needed to be comprehensive, unwieldy and, ideally, drive me to the brink of insanity while I compiled it (example: my Best Of 2010 Spotify playlist features 192 tracks). You know you’ve made a good fist at a list if the mere thought of trying to fulfil your original vision makes you want to cry.

Which brings me to my 2012 end of year list. As I’ve babbled previously, this year has seen my reading habits change significantly. I didn’t read many books (boo), but I did learn that I could send longform articles to my Kindle (yay). Since sending stuff to my Kindle creates a record of all such articles in my Amazon account, I figured it might be interesting (for me, if nobody else) to put everything I’d read this year into a list.

Sadly this only occurred to me in November, and since Amazon accounts only record text information as opposed to links, it meant I had to (I say ‘had to’):

1. Trawl all the way through my Amazon account

2. Copy the title of each article and/or its author

3. Paste this information into Google

4. Go to the source article link and copy the relevant info & URL

5. Paste this information into my list

Now, it might not sound that arduous. But by the time I’d finished compiling my list of Every Article I Read On My Kindle In 2012, it was 457 items long. That’s a whole lot of copying and pasting, and I’d say it’s easily the most boring way to spend time I’ve yet devised. It really cut into my Christmas shopping efforts, too (this year everyone will get a Keep Calm And Carry On tea towel and be happy with it).

This list may be something people like to browse through. I hope so, given the time I spent on it. But when I got the idea I think my main motivation was this: I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do this before. Why would they? It’s insane, and people have lives. So while it would almost certainly have been generally more useful to create a ‘Best of 2012’ list, I figured people like Longreads and Longform.org have that covered.

(Update: OK, I caved. Here are my 30 Great Reads Of 2012, compiled for The Electric Typewriter; and here’s a Readlist of all of them, should you wish to export them all to your device in one go.)

So my list is unfocused, wide-ranging and includes articles from before 2012. The oldest was published in 1869, but the majority are from 2000 onwards. It’s all non-fiction, and it paints a picture of a reader who is variously interested in, among other things, Scientology, serial killers, Bill Murray, paperclips, pornstars, Carly Rae Jepson, magic, Reddit, David Sedaris, con artists and the Olympics.

If you take a look at it and find something that piques your interest, I hope you’ll share it with others. It might make my RSI worth it.

Every Article I Read On My Kindle In 2012

A mention for the places where I tended to find all these links, and which I continue to browse regularly:

I’ve also created a longform RSS bundle that collects a bunch of these into a single feed which you can add to Google Reader.

Into #longreads? Check out my Google+ community, Non-Fiction Addiction
Update: Thanks to @hollyjunesmith for sharing the list with one of the Twitter big dogs – and welcome to those who ended up here as a result.


Kindle + Longform.org = a reading paradise

Longform articles on KindleWhen I was weighing up whether to get an Amazon Kindle I’m not sure if I thought it would make me read more. I usually had a book on the go, so I couldn’t see it helping me squeeze in any more of them – it would just make it more convenient when I wanted to buy one.

I certainly didn’t foresee that it would widen my reading so much, or that this would have nothing to do with books.

I’d been to longform.org previously and I really liked its notion of providing a place to encounter lots of quality journalism. But like a lot of folk, I imagine, I rarely seemed to have the time to read as many of them as I’d have liked.

So when I got my Kindle I went to Longform and started making use of its handy Send to Kindle button, which converts the text through Readability (whose button you should really install in your browser, by the way) and sends you the article via wi-fi. The result is that I’ve only read about three books in six months – but the articles I’ve been reading have been about a much wider range of topics than I would have encountered through books.

Not a week goes by when I don’t stop by Longform and send more articles to my Kindle. I’m a pretty slow reader, so it’s challenging to get through them all. But it’s less daunting than a bookcase (or Kindle) full of books.

This post happens to coincide with Longform’s 2nd anniversary, which means there’s loads of stuff to read – almost 3,000 articles. Longform partners with sites like Slate to present articles around certain themes, and invites guest editors to curate pieces. And while its selections are perhaps overly biased towards U.S. publications, they are from big players: The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Smithsonian, Time, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone and the like. It also invites you to submit articles you’ve found.

It has a lovely open source kind of feeling, and the clean design means there’s nothing to distract you from the important business of browsing through the stories. Or, as they put it in a recent blog post:

There’s no Most Popular box to keep the numbers churning for particular stories, we don’t SEO the hell out of posts, and every piece we recommend spends roughly the same amount of time at the top of the homepage.

You can browse in a variety of ways, too – by topic, by writer, by publication, by decade (one of the things I love about the site is the fact that you’re as likely to come across something from the 70s as you are a recent story). It’s a bit like having all the best magazine articles ever at your disposal, without having to buy the magazines or get ink on your fingers.

(What this means for the model of journalism that funds these articles nags at me constantly, and I think what I’ll do here is what I tend to do in my mind – uneasily try to ignore the potential implications. One thing’s for sure: this Longform-Kindle paradise wouldn’t be as seductive if you had to actually pay for the content. Ew!)

Another interesting thing about this way of reading articles is that you’re not exposed to the way magazines traditionally present them. I read Getting Bin Laden, from the New Yorker, last week. I don’t buy The New Yorker, so it’s unlikely I would have encountered the article without Longform; but if I had bought the magazine it’s the kind of piece I might very well have skipped over in favour of articles closer to my other interests.

But there’s something democratising about reading things on the Kindle – everything’s in the same font, there are no ads, no sidebars and one tends not to flick through looking at how long stories are and surmise whether it’s worth embarking on reading it. If you send it to your Kindle it’s because the subject sounds interesting, and that’s it. You know it’s going to be long, and that becomes a positive rather than something that may turn you off. It might take three or four commutes to/from work to get through it, but it’s a pleasant way of keeping your brain ticking over and you know that soon you’ll be onto another piece.

Over the past few months I’ve indulged my fascination for, um, creepy subjects like missing persons, nazis and serial killers, but I’ve also read about the Marfa Lights;  how Hollywood stars would look rubbish without stylists; what happens when pet chimps go nutsKFC’s plans for world domination; a 1991 piece about Guns N’ Roses on the verge of implosion; a portrait of a paranoid, joyless Tiger Woods; battles and rivalries in the breathable outerwear industry (?!); a whole series of stories about Saturday Night Live.

Now, this orgy of article-reading isn’t helping to assuage one of my grim, enduring fears, which is that I’m never going to read all the books I want to before I die. But that’s a stupid fear anyway. And I do wonder what it means that I’d seemingly rather read lots of shorter things than one long thing. Is it good for my brain to read stuff from lots of different sources, or is it symptomatic of a shortening attention span? (I suspect it’s both.)

I also wonder what the magazine publishers think about this form of reading. On the one hand their content is being exposed to more people, but on the other hand people using the Send to Kindle button are reading it without actually going to their sites and adding pageviews or ad impressions. Like lots of the entertainment the web enables you to access for free, the fact that this feels too good to be true has me suspecting that it is, and that it may not last.

But while it does, I’d recommend that anyone with a Kindle give this way of reading a go. It’s a readolution!

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