Two months with Kindle

Kindle broke me! Or, to be precise, it broke my reading habits…

Not my finances, I’ve spent roughly the same amount of money I would spend on books anyway, only I got (YTD) 124 ebooks and 8 paper books… ebooks were, on average, under 1 Euro apiece, thanks to Humble Bundles (and their Polish equivalent, ArtRage). So, I got 15.5 ebooks for each regular book.

This is not as wonderful as it looks, because I’ll never read all the books from the bundles I got… and I sometimes buy ebooks from the peripheries of my TBR only because there is a nice deal on Amazon… I need to devise some new metric measuring book cost. And stop automatically buying all the bundles. Perhaps also unsubscribe from Amazon alerts, I literally just bought Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, while writing this ($3.14 for the whole thing, how could I not?).

But how is my reading broken? Well, the book I read in paper is “Deadhouse Gates”, second volume of Erikson’s Malazan Books of the Fallen. It’s great, but heavy. And requires high concentration, to follow all the names and plot-lines. It’s almost a ritual, to sit down and open it to read a chapter or two.

Kindle is light, and all sort of books are waiting there that I can easily read whenever I have a spare moment. I’ve read 17 titles since Feb 19 that way. During that time I’ve only read one full book on paper and listened to two audiobooks. The ebooks are mostly non genre, and many of them only available in Polish. Or public domain classics.

What I mean to say is, this post is going to be a series of mini-reviews 😉

Wiesław Łuka Nie oświadczam się (“I confess nothing” but said in a distinctly rural dialect)

Something from a very cheap bundle of Polish non-fiction, I’ve already read half of what was included. Money well spent!

1981 True Crime classic depicting a trial of… an entire village, at some point. In a small village, not that far from my native Krakow, a poor family crossed powerful local figure – a guy in good standing with local authorities, the owner of the only tractor around, someone you want to like you if you want to live in peace. They were murdered buy him and several of his clansmen, under the eyes of half the village, on Christmas day. And most of the community collaborated with the murderers when they tried to hide the truth. The almost succeeded and I so see a great HBO mini-series based on this story…

I’m not a true-crime junkie, but this moved me. Not the murder itself, but how the small community united around the perpetrators. Decent, church-going old ladies harassing the few witnesses that broke the wall of silence, victims’ father’s own sister telling him to calm down and forget about it, another pillar of the community explaining, that she would feel sorry if a cow was killed, but these people, well, it just happened and there’s no point wasting time on the past… I’m rarely shocked, but here I was, and I would recommend this – to all Polish speakers.

If you don’t read Polish, you’re likely familiar with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. It’s a true crime classic, a groundbreaking nonfiction novel adapted into a very good movie, and explored in another one. I’d say, Łuka is even better than Capote. His story is more impressive, and his book is less of an artificial construction, he gives the readers more direct access to what happened. Or, at least, successfully creates such an impression 😉

Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński, various anthologies

At least it’s all public domain, and there is a great Polish NGO that prepares ebooks of such works… a Polish Gutenberg, one could say.

My favourite Polish intellectual… medical doctor, a Fin de siècle cabaret writer (Moulin Rouge!-like atmosphere, but in Krakow), and, in a period between world wars, a lonely supporter of modern human rights (especially women rights) and progress in general – concepts rather alien to an autocratic, catholic Poland. So, like our times… and I’ve read several collections of his essays, feeling increasingly depressed, as the impression was – nothing has changed. Oppressive stare, undereducated clergy eager to control all aspects of social life, widespread magical thinking, structural inequalities… and this guy, writing in a modern language that would be perfectly ok in a 2021 newspaper. Sure, there is more of us now, and in a decade or two we might even win some elections 😉

Anyway, it’s so nice to discover this connection to someone I can reach, through his writings, across time.

Johnny Cash Cash: The Autobiography of Johnny Cash

I’m a fan. I have a few favourite songs (nothing unusual: Hurt, The Man Comes Around, I Walk the Line). When I’m in a mood, I can listen to his albums exclusively for a few days… he’s definitely in my musical top 10. I have great respect for singers-songwriters and he is one of the great ones. Not a pretty voice, but a strong one, and one having something to say.

My first encounter with the story of Cash’s life was in 2005, when Walk the Line hit cinemas, with excellent portrayal of the musician by Joaquin Phoenix. Recently, I’ve seen ReMastered: Tricky Dick & the Man in Black, a documentary about Cash’s meeting with Richard Nixon, when the later learned country musicians are more complicated than he thought 😉 And that is my view of Cash – a largely self-thought man of deep convictions, religious but very sensitive, able to translate the contradictory facets of American politics and history into his many great songs.

So, I added Cash’s autobiography to my Kindle library, read it… only to find it rather disappointing. It does not contradict what I thought about the guy, but his prose is nowhere need as good as the lyrics he wrote. Here, lack of formal training in writing showed. And while some of the worse moments of his life are mentioned, it’s still a bit of a morality tale. What I liked best was the early chapters, about his childhood in rural Arkansas during the Depression. It was tough. In general – listen to Cash, watch both the movie and the documentary, but this book is optional.

Brian Porter-Szücs Poland in the Modern World: Beyond Martyrdom

This is a serious book I’d recommend in paper, as there are some maps and charts. I loved it so much I bought it again, in hardcover. We might do a two-shot about this and another new book on Polish history, but probably not very soon.

Poland in the Modern World is a history of Poland since 1795 until now written by an American historian (but one that visits our country regularly and speaks very good Polish). I loved it, and I would recommend it to English-reading audience interested in learning something about this corner of Europe. Should this be the one book on Polish history for someone with limited time and some interest? I’d say so, but it’s even better if you know something already, perhaps about John Paul II, Lech Walesa or maybe the romanticism of Polish emigrants plotting anti-Russian uprisings while in exile in XIX and XX century Europe. Porter-Szücs is a great antidote to any theory about Poish exceptionalism 🙂

To a Pole like me, used to our traditional historiography that puts the nation in the centre of history, and firmly believes that Polish nation is so very special, this was extremely refreshing… I’m going to buy a few copies and distribute them among family and friends 🙂

Dan Abnett Horus Rising

Humble Bundle… cash sucking machine that convinces you you’ll save loads of money, while you’ll only ever gonna read/play/watch a fraction of what you pay for 😉 In two Warhammer 40K bundles I bought 44 ebooks, and I’m quite sure I’ll ever read 10, maybe 15 of them. But, it’s still worth it. And this one, the only read so far, was quite a bit of fun.

Not a very sophisticated novel, lacking the subversive humour of, say, Ciaphas Cain books, but a solid piece of space-military fiction with some character development and epic plot that is only signalled here in the first installation of Horus Heres cycle. I liked it a lot. I need things like that, and would Cain be that fun if not measured against all the other regular, earnest officers of the Emperor?

It’s a story of human Empire at the height of its glory, with the seeds of future conflicts already sown, and some of the protagonists realising reality is more complicated than they have been taught in officer school. Battles, military/civilian relations, and some ugly truths about war visible behind the imperial propaganda. It’s a book you can decide to take at face value, or dig deeper and appreciate that the situation is, morally and politically, quite complicated. Both ways are fun, with some great combat scenes and military humour 🙂

Sweet Silver Blues

Finally, something that occupied a place on my TBR for a few years, was much cheaper in “e” than in paper, so I bought it and… did not like it too much. A decent fantasy noir, but somehow failed to impress me. A few laughs, limited interest in how the intrigue will develop… does it get better? It’s from 1990, so I guess Cook predates most of urban fantasy. If I liked the plot better… maybe one day I’ll read book two and something will click – but that’s not gonna happen any time soon.

Heh, I wonder when will my condition stabilize, and I I do want to finish the Malazan Saga this time, it really is superb. Right now I’m revisiting some of my favourite HP fanfics, on Kindle 😉

48 thoughts on “Two months with Kindle

  1. Well, it’s definitely a diverse list – and diversity in reading materials is quite needed, too! 😀 So don’t beat yourself up, but also don’t get your hopes up that this condition might stabilize anytime soon – this is how Kindle works 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    1. piotrek

      Well, it seems I’m reaching a point of saturation with the kind of books I’ve been e-reading, and my mind goes back to Malazan Empire… we’ll see 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 124 ebooks in 2 months? Are you mad???

    Seriously, you have a problem.

    On the positive side, your fiancé probably doesn’t think you’re cluttering up the place with books so much anymore 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Welcome to the modern world! Waiting at the doctor for half an hour is no lost time anymore, there’s the Kindle App on your smart phone which synchronizes with your Kindle.

    Now, wait what happens when you‘ll discover Netgalley 🤣

    Ebook doesn’t have a .mobi version? Don’t fear, converters are all around, and de-drm can strip the nasty DRM before moving it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      I promised myself I’ll keep away from NetGalley 😉 And I’ve always had a book in my backpack, even if what I was reading was really heavy – but yes, Kindle is more convenient.

      I’ll do another post in a few months, this is still early stages…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I was wandering about that. I always carry a book when I leave home and there’s a risk of time to kill. So do I understand correct that you read more now because of Kindle? But why, if you did carry around a book too?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. piotrek

          Yeah, I also find it strange 😉 It’s mostly because on Kindle I’ve read multiple “fast” reads, light novels, collections of short stories or essays, and on paper I’m reading this wonderful, but demanding, and super-long, Malazan book.
          Also… Kindle is small and easier to operate with one hand. I’m reaching for it not only when I would reach for a book, but also in some cases when I would until recently go for my phone. It’s a few extra minutes here and there, and it adds up.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes that makes sense. Maybe I should reconsider. It seems more worthwile to reach for a Kindle and not for a phone. On the other hand, I should just try to surpress my need to have an electronic device in hand.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      Thanks! I’ve been reading more non-genre for some time now, even before acquiring the Kindle, and I find this diversity refreshing 🙂 But it’s getting harder to find a topic for a review…

      Like

        1. piotrek

          Ola claims the third one is the best…. I know, I know, after I finish what I’m currently reading on Kindle, it’s back to Deadhouse Gates, I promise 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Book hoarding is the kind of “illness” that has no relation with the kind of medium we read in: once we contract it, there is no going back… 😀
    That said, the ease with which we can acquire ebooks (and take them around with us with almost no weight at all) is one of the best reasons those e-readers tend to become some of our best friends 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      So true 🙂 Well, I’m getting more books, but also reading a bit faster, so perhaps the two trends will balance each other out, in a way… now I can see myself having less paper books, but displaying them better on the same amount of shelf-space… and how many .mobi files are there on my device, that will be my sweet secret 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      Thanks, we’ll see if that’s a long term change, so far in 2021 I have my best reading stats since 2014 (and that was a peculiar year for various reasons).

      Porter-Szücs is good if you’re interested in history of Poland in the global context, he shows how we fit into wider trends. There’s a lot of social, political & economic history, and less about warfare that you might find in standard histories of Poland. Two things he caught really well are how modern nations were created in XIX century, and how complicated a phenomenon communism has been in this part of the world. I found the Polish version to be pretty readable, for that kind of book…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. You can also try Norman Davies’ Heart of Europe – more traditional and less revisionist than what Porter-Szücs seems to offer, but very good nonetheless, and digging more into how the past shapes the present in Poland.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. piotrek

        IDK… Davies is passée, a very traditional view on brave poor Poland 😉 if that should still be read, only in tandem with something modern…

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Man, you’re a Pole who is totally fed up with your own country. You vomit Polish history with every pore of your body. You have the Polish sickness Gombrowicz described so well – and I know all about it too, believe me. But no-Poles are fortunate enough that they don’t share this predicament and know very little about Poland, and they might benefit from a more traditional take as well 😉

          Liked by 2 people

          1. piotrek

            He is very popular in Poland, because he’s a Western historian appreciating our uniqueness… “God’s Playground” is the title of his book on Polish history. It’s rather well written, but it has a very traditional optic… if one wanted to read two books on Polish history, Davies could be used as baseline for Porter-Szücs 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  5. That Wiesław Łuka study sounds fascinating, I wonder if it’ll ever be translated for poor linguists like me… Like Bookforager I’ve made a note of the Porter-Szücs, but seeing your virtual wheelbarrow of books I’m sort of glad that I can’t manage ebooks in any shape or form. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      I’ll find a new equilibrium, one day… and when I do, I’ll write about it 😉

      Łuka… his book should be translated, it’s amazing, a clash between a small, tight – and sometimes dangerous – community, and a modern state, a bit soulless but, in that case, trying to deliver a modicum of justice. You can observe modern mentality in conflict with tradition, often within someone’s mind. A gripping tale.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I can’t blame you there. I went through something similar but managed to control the urge after realizing I wouldn’t read the dozen of ebooks I got at an insane price anytime soon. 😛 I’m glad that it allowed you to diversify your reading though! So… what are these Harry Potter fanfics? Like… Word documents you downloaded and read from random people who write them?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      There’s a Calibre plugin that downloads stories from major FanFic sites in mobi format, works pretty well 🙂 I used to read a lot from fanfiction.net, so I decided to re-read some of the favourites. One called “Seventh Horcrux” is actually the single text that makes me laugh the most, more than any book I’ve read in recent years… non-comedic stuff I judge harsher than I used to.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Kindle is wonderful. So many books at such affordable prices and, even better, author’s get a bigger % cut of sales than traditional publishing gives them.

    I have Amazon Prime and they’re are loads of books for free with Prime Reading. Long live the drug of cheap literature.

    I’ve adopted a way of getting through my paperbacks. I’ll read a chapter/certain amount of pages of one, then switch to the other and do the same. I know, I’m mad. A fellow blogger thinks I’m insane 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      I have to many books waiting already… I’ll get Prime when Amazon.pl fully develops and it will give me all the other benefits, right now it would only be Prime Video and books I think…

      I’ll try a version of your system – reading a chapter or several in paper, switch to Kindle for a bit, then repeat 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I fully accept it’s a strange way of reading. But, for me, it makes me excited to get back to the other one each time. So I don’t feel any burnout or find my mind wandering for either title. Fingers crossed it suits you as well as it suits me🤞

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Ignoring the cost aspect for a time, do you actually enjoy the experience of reading on a Kindle?I waned one for a few years but though I find them invaluable when I am travelling, I much prefer the printed page

    Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      I actually do. Maybe not as much, but a lot. It makes me want to read printed versions of the “better” books, but “easier”, lighter ones – I’m perfectly ok reading them electronically.

      Like

  9. buriedinprint

    I can see where switching to e-reading would open up different possibilities time-wise. There are lots of instances, I’m guessing, when you normally reach for a cell phone and, so, this device is there for those few minutes instead, and all those pages do add up in those small bits of time over the course of a week. A few years ago, I went through a serious e-reading phase too, but now I have to limit the amount of time I spend on a screen, so I’ve returned to reading almost exclusively print once more. Still, I like knowing that I have an ebook on hand, whereas I might have to wait awhile for a library copy to arrive in print. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      Thanks!

      I decided not to count my time with Kindle as screen time 🙂 I’m already a bit over it, though, buying less ebooks and I’ve even read a couple hundred paper pages last week… I see some kind of equilibrium on the horizon!

      Liked by 1 person

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