Reading Journal 2015 Week 1

This week started early. Not much early but last year early.

Anyway, the big goal is to log what I read, not just read. I tend to read and read and read but I don’t know how much of what I ingest I actually assimilate. This is both to help me assimilate more and to keep a record of when I read what. Books will be assimilated.

Click image for source. Come on. You know I like Star Trek.

But here’s the thing. I find it is difficult to cut through meaty books at this pace. I prefer to read things slowly…er…procrastinate. Maybe I read 6 or 7 books at once, finishing them all over the course of 4-6 weeks. Isolating one book each week doesn’t seem like it’s going to allow things to percolate through. But maybe that’s not all bad. I’m changing some reading habits here too, not just focusing on a single book and speed. I’m making notes in my books so I can re-focus on certain passages when I read the book again.

But this week was awful. I got distracted reading two other books just trying to run away from reading about the King Ranch. Not that I didn’t want to read about the King Ranch, I wanted to do other stuff too.

So that takes me to my review system. I just don’t have the time to share my chapter by chapter notes of each book in a series of blog posts. I have a job, man. So I’m going to attempt to answer a few simple questions about each book to help you determine if it’s the book for you. Let’s just dive in.

Bob Kleberg and the King Ranch

What’s it about?
This book seems to be two things at once. It’s kind of a biography of Bob Kleberg as well as a history of the King ranch. But it is also kind of an autobiography of Bob’s right hand man, John Cypher. Kind of. It details their decades of working together to grow the ranch into a global enterprise. Really, pretty fascinating stuff if you can wrap your head around the numbers involved. For example, they projected a property in Venezuela would finish 4,000 steers each year but they actually finished 19,000. Wow. There are numerous anecdotes that are instructional to the aspiring rancher as well as crazy stories of life with Bob.

Is it a classic?
On the initial reading I would say no. Good but not great.

Will you read it again?
Yes. I plan to read it again, skimming through and seeking out the portions of the book I highlighted.

Does it belong on your bookshelf?
Maybe for a little while. I do plan to flip through it once or twice more.

Can you relate a favorite passage or two?
Here the author is relating the experiences of establishing business in Cuba right up through when Castro seized power and stole the ranch. It’s hard to risk an investment if you don’t have secure property rights. Ultimately the ranch and investors lost $6 million. That’s a lot of money in 1959. Plus the cattle…many of which ended up in Russia. How about that? Anyway, I feel that this is personally applicable right now…and for the next 6 or 7 years.

Unlike most manufacturing, the ranching business is a slow start-up. It takes years to bring raw land to a good grass yield and to breed up a herd to the point of turning off quality and quantity beef. Though the company operated seven years, it was only in the last six months that it generated its first net profit, $600.

Next they were working in Brazil with one of the most successful businessman in the country at the time, Dr. Augusto T. A. Antunes. The following was asked of Dr. Antunes:

Doctor, how do you define social justice?

Without hesitation, Antunes replied, “Social justice is the process of giving everyone an equal opportunity to become unequal.”

Who should read this book?
This is a historical, biographical collection of tales mixed with details of efficient cattle operations, hunting and drinking. I don’t think they are tall tales and the author doesn’t seem to shy away from pointing out Bob’s weaknesses. There are also interesting global political notes as the world stood 50 or 60 years ago. So if you’re into that…

The Martian: A Novel

What’s the book about?
Group of astronauts go to Mars. Emergency situation comes up. One gets left behind. He wants to go home.

Is it a classic?
No. Well, maybe. There may be more here than I picked up on the initial reading. I don’t think so though.

Will you read it again?
Oh, maybe. It’s a fast read on a rainy day and it made me laugh.

Does it belong on your bookshelf?
Nope. It’s an ebook and should stay there. See if you can catch it on sale.

Can you relate a favorite passage or two?
Several. At one point the main character, who has been alone for more than a year, is focused on driving a vehicle to a rescue location. He can’t keep his mind on his work though. He interrupts himself in the middle of a narration and it made me giggle.

[Driving and going through a list of wants…]

It has been a long time since I’ve seen a woman. Just sayin’

Anyway, to ensure I don’t crash again I’ll – Seriously…no women in like, years. I don’t ask for much. Believe me, even back on earth a botanist/mechanical engineer doesn’t exactly have ladies lined up at the door. But still, c’mon.

Who should read this book?
First let me say to my Sunday School teachers out there: Skip this book. Potty. Mouth. Lots of worty dirds. Guy gets wounded and left for dead on Mars…of course he has some choice words. But he tends to have a sense of humor about things. Here’s a mild quote. Our hero is trying to build a vehicle to travel from A to B on Mars. He needs a place to sleep so he puts a tent on through an airlock on the vehicle to act as a bedroom.

The rover and trailer regulate their own temperatures just fine, but things weren’t hot enough in the bedroom.

Story of my life.

If you found any humor at all in those quotes, get the book. If you read that and thought, “I can’t believe Christopher would quote such a thing”, this isn’t the book for you. I laughed all the way through…though I did skim here and there. Narrations of driving across the surface of a frozen desert planet were…well…skimable.

Next week I plan to read Ten Acres Enough. I received that as a Christmas gift. It looks like a fast read so I may also tack on Cottage Economy.

Please give me some feedback on this post. I haven’t written a book report for 25 years and I find the results to be less than satisfactory. I read a lot. Like, a lot, lot. I like to share with my readers when I find a book that helps a farmer out. But I also like to be entertained so I include links to movies and music. Fun books too. Please let me know if there are questions I can answer for you. The current post format is just the Beta version. I’m not even sure this kind of thing belongs on this blog. Especially books about lovesick astronauts stranded on Mars.

18 thoughts on “Reading Journal 2015 Week 1

  1. I like the format of the book report in this post. I have a very wide range of taste in books as well so it’s helpful to read others take on books. I will admit however, that when it comes to ‘meaty’ books, I like the chapter by chapter posts you did for Farmer’s Progress.

    • I gave Farmer’s Progress a lot of time because it’s a special book. I don’t think the Kleberg book is worthy of that kind of time…that kind of reflection…that kind of change. In fact, it takes a rare book…

      When you read Mortimer Adler, he suggests that the majority of books should be read quickly so you can read more books. Get through them. By doing so you will find the 5 or so books published each year that are capable of changing you.

  2. As a former English teacher I like your headings because they show you have read the book. I like them more because they give insight into the book. I liked your insight about the King book laying our politics 50 years ago that today we are living with the results.

    Good also is the variety of subjects. I may not read a book, but it is nice to have an idea what a title is about.

    • Thanks. Be ready for variety if I at least list out what everybody else is reading as suggested by Kari. I’m afraid reading is suffering a little right now as my oldest used Christmas money to buy Minecraft. That game is like crack.

  3. Sounds like my hubby would like The Martian – which by the way was eventually published in print late last year (Crown), and is scheduled to be a Ridley Scott movie with Matt Damon. I should probably get him the book before that happens :). Any other good sci fi offers? He’s a huge Heinlen fan, and also Larry Niven.

    The King Ranch book sounds interesting, though probably not my cup of tea. I agree that the perspective on the political scene half a century ago might make it worth the read though.

    Ten Acres Enough is on my list too, but I have to finish Farmer’s Progress first. I just cannot read it quickly and may run out of my 30 days on it and be compelled to go by a copy off Abe Books. It really is as good as you were telling us months ago.

    And yes, I like this format for book reporting.

    • @SSF – I never made it on my 30 days either from that free Soil and Health online library but did find I could download a PDF of the book via the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi – yours to keep. If you Google “George Henderson farm progress pdf New Delhi” I think it is the PDF download from “A Farm KrishiKosh”. I still haven’t finished reading it yet either – I am one of those old-fashioned people that like a physical book and don’t like reading books on my computer and don’t have a reader for the same reason so am a slow screen reader!

      • Wow, you’ve been pretty resourceful! I’m about halfway through the Soil and Health copy. If I don’t finish it doesn’t matter, as I think I’m going to ask for someone to buy this for my birthday off Abe Books. I’ll have to check out the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, for sure. Thanks! I’m not a fast reader whether of print or e-resource. I help people with their e-readers all the time and I have to say, the technology is still pretty clunky. I heard a library CEO describe them as akin to the early “horseless carriage” – early autos were like carriages because that’s what people knew. No one 100 years ago would have expected cars to look and operate as they do now. Someday ereaders will not be made to work like print books as they are now. It’s an interesting thought.

        • Well now. I have to weigh in on the e-reader thing. I am a recent convert for a number of reasons. Not only do I read an e-book faster than a physical book, I can’t misplace it. I get through it faster because it is always with me. I bought The Martian in Kindle format and it came pre-highlighted. You can turn that off or you can add your own, making it VERY easy to return to a favorite passage. Or you can bookmark pages.

          I agree that there is something about holding the book in your hands, making notes in the margins…looking at stacks and stacks of books and realizing I need to buy more bookshelves…but it is nice to not have more shelves too.

          • Have you ever tried speed reading? In your goal of reading lots of books this yr you may find it useful. Many yrs ago I read the Evelyn Wood 7 Day Speed Reading & Learning Program that teaches you to run your finger rapidly along the text lines of a book – your eyes read but you eliminate the sub-vocalizing (reading under one’s breath or aloud in one’s head). Check it out if you haven’t already, it is pretty cool and I used this for a while mostly with non-fiction, I didn’t like it so much with fiction that I usually read for pleasure and like to savor the words and plot etc. Some non-fiction I also find I like to take in slowly to absorb and think it through like what others have commented about Farm Progress. I haven’t used this method for a long time now, it would seem that this would not work that well on an e-reader but I haven’t ever tried it or used a e-reader enough to really know. I think in my clumsy screen way my running fingers would be highlighting and looking up words!

        • @SSF – Thinking more about speed-reading that could? be the direction of the future of the e-reader as it moves away from the horse-less carriage into e-high-speed audio books. Why read when you can listen a lot faster? You know how some radio commercials that i.e will read the conditions of a contest or limited offer in super speed? We understand it we just are not used to hearing words that fast… There likely is a speed setting to the read aloud function on e-reader already-I am just too behind the times with that technology!

  4. Thanks for the book reviews – I often base my reading list on books others have told me about. As everyone who reads this blog likely has a common interest in farming to some degree I would say tell us a bit more about the farm books. I like the format -perhaps you could add a category of Take Home Msgs – like a few of the things you highlighted in the bk and wrote notes on. A few tidbits on what you read that you would USE on your farm or things that made you stop and ponder –I wonder if that would work on my farm or maybe if I changed this a little I could do a similar thing. Whether it is a dif in size ie King Ranch being one of the largest in the world vs small farmers or Elizondo being in Florida and you being in IL. With me on the Cdn Prairies I wonder how much will I get out of spending $99 USD/$120 Cdn to learn about a system that works in FL and would be good to hear your opinion on how location based the info is.

    Flashbacks – I would love to see some reviews of books you read/DVD’s you saw in the past too that you would recommend. You mention some of them occasionally, like Gord Hazard recently. I see that I can buy his out of print used book in Good condition on (the Canadian version of .com) for a mere $14,935.15. I kid you not! Fortunately I can likely have my local library loan this for me from one of the Ag College libraries and will check that out.

    All to often I find at the end of the workday, which is when I tend to do a lot of my reading, my brain cannot take anymore incoming data and I prefer to be entertained instead. As such I also enjoy light and humorous family reading particularly ones with farm settings so would enjoy some reviews on what you are reading as a family too. Thanks for doing these reviews!

  5. I see your VB6 and raise you an ancient dBase 3+ with IF, AND, BUT, … NOT! That’s pretty cool you had VB6 reading to you – maybe SSF and I can look forward to a future Chism Farm online audio library? 🙂

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