Like the Inuit with all their words for snow and the Scots with all their words for rain, I wonder if, as we confront the tumult inside of us, we need an expanded vocabulary to describe the subtle differences among the environments of our selves. I think the LGBTQIA+ community, using a string of letters that marches on toward a plus implying always more, has made an important contribution here: recognition that once we begin to focus our honest attention inward, we find a world as diverse and worthy of vocabulary as the one outside…
Care is regenerative. If you care for someone and you put care into a system, it becomes more capable of caring for you. Cleverness, though, is always extractive. Cleverness looks at a situation, goes away, and thinks, “Aha! I’ve made a new idea out of that.” It’s taken something away from a system or situation and all it’s come up with is a clever idea.
— Dil Green
Via Jack Cheng
I hate subscriptions for the same reason companies love selling them: recurring expenses. However, I am a heavy fiction reader and am planning to self-publish. Both from a user standpoint and prospective author side, I wanted to try out Kindle Unlimited.
I read and write romance, which is popular on KU, so there is a large catalog to choose from. In particular, I’m interested in science fiction romance, which is poorly represented by trad publishing and primarily concentrated (currently) in self publishing. I also wanted to read a lot of self-published works to understand the market.
How much I read from KU
I tried Kindle Unlimited for two months this spring. I previously tried it for several months in 2022.
This year, over two months:
- I read 20 KU titles
- I DNF’d 11 KU titles
Last year, over five months:
- I read 38 KU titles
- I DNF’d 9 KU titles
I just saw a post in my news feed reader where the author generated a list of (theoretically real-world) examples with Chat-GPT.
I immediately unsubscribed.
My husband says I’m being unfair. But I see it as a measure of quality: if you use Chat GPT to generate examples, to me that indicates you don’t care about being factual. To trust any generated list I would need an assurance it was fact-checked — which might be slightly faster than just doing the research in the first place but still require time. If you can’t be bothered to do research, you’re not meeting my standards for evidence. I’d have thought nothing of it if he just didn’t list examples, but as soon as I saw it was generated, I lost my trust in the entire article, and my interest in reading the newsletter. (It was also a feed I followed relatively recently so I was still in the evaluation stage.)
I’ve been feeling overwhelmed recently with keeping up on everything I’d like to read online. I’ve also struggled to finish writing blog posts, especially longer articles that tie together many things I’ve been reading and thinking.
I wonder if I’m being too passive in what I consume, and reactive in what I blog about. Most of what I write online lately is in response to or prompted by something I’ve read. I’ve built my own wide stream of information coming in, curating my sources and being selective about what to read from the stream — but I’m still letting others shape what I’m thinking about.
Some of this is good and important — listening to others, participating in the cultural conversation, following curiosity, embracing serendipity. My intake can’t only come from what others curate for me, though. I suspect my balance of intake is off: I need a greater amount of what I read to be something I’ve actively sought out. I’m good at this in my book reading; I can extend my approach from there. To claim ownership of my attention, I should more proactively choose what I spend time thinking about. By starting from a concept rather than discovering one as I go, I could blog more purposefully as well. In fiction writing, I hate prompts, but they do make blogging easy. I can create my own prompts to blog about.
A lot of what comes my way through my RSS feeds does fall into my focal areas, since I’ve chosen who to follow based on shared interests. This style of reading broadly without intent supports blogging that synthesizes many sources through filtering and pattern-matching for insights. This type of writing is connective (and valuable), but doesn’t necessarily go deep. I want to also do more directed thinking: to set out on my reading with a question to intentionally research, a hypothesis of my own to investigate. For now I’m adventuring through content, seeing what there is to see. That’s a good place to start; sometimes, now I have the lay of the land, I should also pursue quests.
Evaluating your fears
I do an exercise called “fear-setting” at least once a quarter, often once a month. It is the most powerful exercise I do.
Fear-setting has produced my biggest business and personal successes, as well as repeatedly helped me to avoid catastrophic mistakes.
I’m a little iffy on Tim Ferriss but this sounds like a helpful exercise.
Noise amongst the noise
the feeling of being noise amongst the noise
A fear for the modern world: to be noise when you want to be signal.
But you’ll always be noise to some. Better to focus on being signal for those open to receiving it.
I disagree with her lament that writing essays is of lesser value than long form work. I think they can build the long work, breaking down thinking into facets to explore (assuming you’re writing non-fiction). A concept enough for a book is a lot to hold in your head at once: breaking it apart makes it more tangible and manageable. I found this to be true in fiction writing too: the container Word gave me for thinking about a story only let me handle about 50k words before I lost the thread, while with Scrivener I can manage stories of 130k+. Folders, outline views, and color coding make all the difference for me.
I do share her challenge of prioritizing long form over essays, I think, sometimes, to my detriment. I let myself trade my novel writing time for blogging time earlier this week, when I felt a welling up of ideas. It was a relief to unburden myself of buzzing ideas. To take the glimmering of potential and feel out its real shape and substance — because sometimes an idea is less than we imagine when put in writing, and sometimes it is so much more than we expected.
In a sense, translating thoughts into writing is our personal form of transmuting mental noise to signal. I think grace comes around to this too: “Sometimes I skip a Monday [newsletter] though and it’s like my whole week doesn’t make as much sense.”
Follow your curiosity deeper
This reminds me of when I traveled to the Mediterranean after high school; my coach didn’t think we were exhibiting enough Wonder as we encountered history, and made us write an extra essay about it. But what does Wonder look like? Must it be Awe, clearly written on your face, or can it be curiosity?
Wonder must be felt, it cannot be forced or faked; likewise, curiosity. There are many instances when fake it till you make it applies, but performing wonder or awe or curiosity for someone else I suspect prevents it from being felt. Someone else cannot tell you an experience is meaningful; you assign your own meaning. No one else can be curious on your behalf; you must find your own curiosities.
You can create conditions more friendly to experiencing the emotions you seek, but the emotion is not guaranteed. Place is one way to prompt connection with the past, but having expectations of emotional meaning makes it easier to disrupt. We got up early to run the track at Delphi; the landscapers were there too, leaf-blowing. The modern din forestalled a bond with the priestesses of yore. Likewise, too much intent strains curiosity; it is an invitation to be followed, not a certain path. Expecting a direct trail keeps you from seeing the cairns and blazes marking a way off to one side, or reading the topography for the easiest passage.
I like this encouragement to indulge my curiosity because sometimes I’ll be intrigued by something, then remind myself I have no reason to learn more about it or save it because there’s nothing about the information that’s relevant to my life or work. And sometimes that is true, but practicing curiosity inculcates that perspective in your thought habits, making it easier to be curious about more things.
Is the same true for wonder? Were we not trying hard enough to feel it? Is it a state of mind that practice can bring you to more readily? Both Wonder and curiosity require openness and humility, but feeling Wonder also takes vulnerability. Curiosity, in contrast, needs an acceptance of inefficiency. These additional demands may make one more challenging for some to feel than another.
In Egypt, I doodled motifs from the walls of an ancient tomb — sketching and photography were my way of absorbing what I was seeing. Curiosity is an active engagement that adds to what exists, ciphering it through the self; Wonder is a receiving and a changing of the self. Curiosity seeks to unravel the mysterious; Wonder values the mysterious for itself. Constitutionally, I am more suited to curiosity than Wonder.
2022 Year-End Reading Review
What I Read in 2022
I read 212 books in 2022, compared with 175 in 2021.
- All the books I read
- My 20 favorite books from the year
2022 Reads by Type
- 122 novels
- 32 novellas
- 39 non-fiction books
- 7 graphic non-fiction books
- 12 graphic novels and art books
2022 Fiction by Genre
Of the 154 novels and novellas I read, here’s the breakdown by genre:
- 141 romance
- 27 contemporary romance
- 53 sci-fi romance
- 23 fantasy + paranormal romance
- 38 historical romance
- 5 I missed when I counted and I’m not doing it again
- 2 sci-fi
- 6 fantasy
20 favorite books I read in 2022
I’ve chosen my favorite 9 novels, 5 graphic novels and art books, and 6 non-fiction books that I read during 2022. Presented in no particular order. Links lead to my reviews.
Jump to: sci-fi books | romance novels | non-fiction books | graphic novels
Most of the fiction I read is romance, with some fantasy and sci-fi thrown in. I’ve chosen favorites based on enjoyment level, as well as how memorable they’ve proven and some judgment about whether I thought they were doing interesting things.
Sci-fi and Fantasy
Two men are forced into a telepathic connection and plunged into a treacherous, unexplained quest. One is plagued by self-loathing, the other driven by duty and honor. One is an agent of chaos, the other a master of regulations. The balance between them, and the trust they grow, lets them survive and accomplish more than anyone expected they could. I also liked how it explores familial love and obligation.
This is in the same universe as Winter’s Orbit (which is quite different tonally but also recommended), but is a standalone with no character or storyline overlap. It’s on the border between romance and sci-fi, though I think falls more on the side of sci-fi with a strong romantic element because it doesn’t quite follow the usual strictures of a romance story.
Read this if you liked Murderbot or Saga.
A Spindle Splintered
This novella reimagines fairy tales as a multiverse, and follows one Sleeping Beauty jumping from her own timeline into another’s. She wishes so badly she could change her own timeline that she’s determined to give another the happily ever after they both deserve. I enjoyed the meta level of storytelling incorporated here, and exploration of the roles we play in our lives and relationships. There’s a light secondary character romance.
Read this if you enjoyed This is How You Lose the Time War or No One is Talking About This.
The intense heroine takes zero shit and bows to no man. I found this challenging to read because I kept wanting her to play nice, but ultimately she forges her own path and draws others along with her. She’s a disruptor, refusing to bow to others’ expectations or diminish herself. The magic system is both interesting and infuriating, and the way the pairings of fighters connect to their mechas is cool.
This breaks the YA mold by making the seemingly mandatory love triangle a triad 😱 And they’re all awesome. Warning: it ends on a cliffhanger.
Read this if you enjoyed Peter Darling or Hench.
Nettle & Bone
As always, T. Kingfisher’s heroine is down-to-earth and steadfast. I enjoyed the variety of magic described throughout, and the weight put on the cost of different magics. Pieces from this keep coming back to me months after I read it.
I found the beginning chapter a little confusing since it pulls a scene from midway through the book, but it quickly jumps back to a clearer start.
Read this if you enjoyed Ten Thousand Stitches or Across the Green Grass Fields or Nimona.