Friday, April 01, 2011

Answering Questions on Reading Tips

A few of you asked questions via Twitter or comments on my All Reading Is Not Equal or Fast post, so I'll try answering them here.

When you review a book that was less than perfect or heck even one that was perfect could you also suggest some alternatives?

I'll be honest. That could be more work than I'm willing to do in a free forum like Amazon.com and this blog. Sometimes I mention alternatives because they're fresh in my mind and I like the other options. Always mentioning alternatives can be a real chore. If I wrote reviews for formal publication I would do that. Otherwise, I recommend subscribing to my Amazon.com review RSS feed and staying current with my reviews.

Where do you find the time to read the books? After family-time, work time and sleep-time..at what time of the day do u read and how much time do you invest? I keep trying to read books but I read 2-3 pages per day at night...thanks!

When work is really busy, I probably read the most when on the road. I try to get to airports early, so I could have 30 to 60 minutes at the gate. On the flight I hardly ever watch the movie(s) or work on a computer. I pretty much always read a technical book or read The Economist. Planes are especially good for concentrating my attention because I have no alternative and no distractions!

When I don't travel, I like to make some time early Saturday and Sunday mornings. I might also read a little at night, when my wife does the same.

Also, be prepared to read. Think one book will keep you busy on a trip? Take two. What if you're stuck at the airport, etc.? Whenever I take mass transit, I take something to read with me. The same goes for any time I expect to wait somewhere, like a doctor's office, before a meeting, and so on. This little stretches of time add up. And, if you face an unexpected delay, the little stretch becomes a reading-productive big stretch.

How do you maintain your list of books to read throughout the year? Do you look at upcoming books from specific publishers, books referenced in conferences and presentations, does Amazon offer pre-order recommendations and reviewer copies? How do you prioritize such a list?

Every once in a while I access this Amazon.com search page and do a keyword search for computer security terms, ordered by publication date.

I review the results and concentrate on titles from the mainstream publishers like Pearson imprints (Addison-Wesley, etc., including Cisco Press), No Starch, Wiley, Osborne/McGraw-Hill, Apress, O'Reilly (including Microsoft Press), Wrox, and Syngress. I never read Auerbach (sorry guys). I pretty much avoid everything else. You have to publish something extraordinary to catch my attention otherwise. Examples include books on FreeBSD or other BSD topics.

This method usually catches all books I care about in the next 9-15 months. I am rarely surprised, but that can happen! As a backup I subscribe to the blogs of major publishers who provide feeds on upcoming books (hint to publishers who do not do this -- you should!)

If I know and like the author already, I'll add the book to my Amazon.com Wish List immediately. I assign a priority based on how many months until the book will be published. I use Highest for published books and Lowest for books the farthest in the future.

Next I add books to my formal reading list. I usually have a queue stretching 9-12 months. My goal since probably 2000 or 2001 was to finish a calendar year having read all books available on my list, but it's never happened! (Will this be the year??)

My current list is more or less grouped by themes. I order the books based on the knowledge or familiarity I expect to need in order to understand the book. Hence, my current list shows books on C and Windows prior to books on exploitation develop and debugging Windows.

If a book seems really interesting, I'll put it on my schedule when the book is expected to be published. That may require rescheduling my reading. Not meeting my schedule can also force me to change the list.

The toughest part of my process involves seeing a book with an interesting title and subject written unknown author. Sometimes I'll take a leap of faith and add the book to my Wish List and reading schedule. Other times I'll wait until I can flip through it in the store. I always keep my Wish List and reading schedule synchronized, so you won't see me Wishing a book but not having it planned for a certain month.

How do you tackle/review books that are only distributed digitally?

I have yet to encounter this problem but I expect to at some point in 2012. I imagine by that time I'll just read the new book on an iPad or similar. I'll probably rely on note-taking on a separate piece of paper.

Thank you for your questions!

3 comments:

RD said...

On the "be prepared to read" tip... This is where a Kindle comes in handy. You can load up the Kindle with multiple books (less weight) and use the Kindle app on multiple devices. I was stuck in a doctor's office longer than expected once and was able to pick up my latest book (right at the last point I had left off) on my Blackberry. I know BB - not the best way to read a book - but great in an emergency.

I also find the electronic highlighting and note-taking comes in very handy if you want to write a blog or review later on.

And finally - I often email PDF technical docs to my Kindle and have them automatically converted to Kindle format for reading.

Richard Bejtlich said...

Sorry nybbles -- thanks for your comment, but I messed up moderating it in the Blogger console and can't recover it. Doh.

Jorge said...

Do you mind sharing why you don't read Auerbach's books?