Fiction vs Non Fiction – 83

For the last couple of years, I have been very good at making time to read. I have read around 40 books in the last year and a half, 95 % of which are non-fiction. When I started reading voraciously, I really enjoyed it; however, I have found that with non-fiction there are diminishing returns as a lot of material is repeated in slightly different ways.

Most of us are creatures of habit, and tend to read about things we enjoy. The problem with this is that over-time you end up reading the same things over and over. I tend to only read around science and finance, with the occasional biography thrown in. Whenever I have tried to read fiction It always becomes an endurance challenge rather than a pleasure.

The books never seem to capture me; I tend to resent them whilst reading them, and I always think that I could be doing something more productive with my time. I persevere with it because it seems that everyone else loves reading fiction and maybe I could enrich my education by reading some decent books.

So far, with the exception of George Orwell’s 1984 that I listened to the audiobook of, I have not found this to be the case. For me, non-fiction is infinitely more valuable. However, I didn’t get to where I am today by giving up so easily. I have decided to give the classics a shot. Partly because they should be good, and partly because they are feely available, and therefore, only a loss of time if I hate them.

There are tons of sites for free, old books if you care to use google, but the one I have used is https://www.planetebook.com/ebooks/. I have downloaded a selection and put them on my kindle.

I started with Ulysses by James Joyce. I must admit that I have got sixty pages in and I hate it. The prose is written in such a way that I cannot believe anyone is enjoying it. The sentences are so verbose that it seems like the author is mocking me. It truly is the stuff of David Foster-Wallace’s wet dream.

I have now switched to ‘A tale of two cities’ by Charles Dickens – hopefully this will be more ‘my kind of thing’. I do not have any criteria for how I am selecting these classics, so feel free to recommend some. I guess my current strategy is to go with the ones I have heard of.

I realise that there is a very good chance that those who are reading this are writers of fiction, so to you I ask: why?

Why do you read/write fiction. For me, reading is a pursuit of knowledge, it is an activity that I have to put effort into to achieve. I wouldn’t say it was something I do to relax as it actually requires a lot of time and effort. Time and effort that I could be using to learn a new skill.

I cannot read before bed if I want to actually follow what the author is saying; at the end of the day I am usually far to tired to follow a story, so I normally do my reading first thing in the morning with a coffee. It is kind of like a warm-up for the rest of the day.

At the moment, other than 1984, I am not sure I could recommend any work of fiction over a non-fiction title.

If you had one book to recommend to convert someone like me to the world of fiction what would it be?

I read a lot as is required by my studies and I have to admit that from what I have read so far, the technical, dry, plotless manuscripts that make up scientific literature rate higher than the works of fiction I have read over the last few years.

Maybe I am just wired differently?

You reap what you sow – week 37 as a PhD student

The sweet, gentle, torture of having a week off of lab work; where instead, I try and write my literature review.

Writing is still my weakness. I am perfectly adept at filling a page with words that are vaguely related to the subject I am trying to write about. I still feel as if the thing I am trying to say is entirely lost from the piece; also, the section doesn’t flow well. I am confident I can fix the flow of it, but I am not sure I can figure out what I am trying to say.

One of the underlying issues is that with scientific, academic writing you need to have evidence for all the points you make for obvious reasons. However, I struggle with integrating the points I am trying to make into a coherent argument where all the points work together to make a piece. What I have just described is the source of my frustration this week; well, most of it anyway.

The other source of frustration is that it is proving a lot slower to get samples delivered than I thought it would be; I was expecting to make one phone call, and the samples would be on their way as this is what happened the previous time. Alas, this is not the case, this supplier is not so fast as the bureaucratic processes that were in place with the previous supplier are not developed. Therefore, I have to play the waiting game, and this creates some anxiety as I fell as if nothing happens soon my supervisor will be on my case.

Now that the happy stuff is out the way…

It was quite a nice week; on Tuesday we harvested all the rocket plants we planted two-weeks prior. It was backbreaking work again and the rest of the day was a write off once we got home. Although it was a nice change of pace, I will not be too worried if it doesn’t happen again.

For the rest of the week I was sat at home writing, and although I found it frustrating working from home has its charms. It is quiet, and I can manage my time how I want. This was the main draw of a PhD to me: the autonomy. It is nice to make lunch in my kitchen and nip out for a quick run whenever I reach a sticking point. It felt a lot like the earlier months of my PhD, And I hope that I have many more weeks like it. I expect next week will be the same.

Because I had been doing an awful lot of lab work in the previous month my reading has fallen behind, and next week I intend to finish A brief history of time by Stephen Hawking; I started it over a month ago, and it is a relatively short book. I was enjoying it, and as it was my second time of reading I was understanding the concepts a bit better than the first time.

One concept that fascinates me and I still don’t fully understand it time — I even wrote a post about it. For those of you who have never read any physics books you might think time is an easy concept, but in the eyes of relativity and the physical universe, it is very strange.

If anyone has any book recommendation, I would be glad to receive them as I need to get back on my reading train! Preferably non-fiction.

 

One month review of WordPress

I thought I would just share my experience of posting on this platform for the past month. Without any effort on my part, other than writing posts, I have gained 6 followers, 43 views and 22 likes. From looking at the accounts that have followed, I have realised that all but one are liking and following in the hope I will do the same to there blog, and therefore, increase their followership. This does not work.

Without doing anything to promote my blog, all the readership comes from WordPress’s Reader. I would like to see how far this blog can grow organically, so I do not intend on spending money to promote this. However, I may soon upgrade to the next level of WordPress package so I can get a better URL, and more importantly, remove ads. I will upgrade once I have a few more followers, maybe 50?

Life is good – Week three as a PhD student

This week was more interesting; the work was the same, but there was more diversity. A society meeting, and two training courses! One of the training courses was health and safety related, so I’m not too enthusiastic about it, but it was a welcome break from searching through the scientific literature. The second course, which was on Thursday, was about data management. One of the key revelations from the course was that my sponsors could ask for my data at any point, which has certainly re-evaluated my approach to note taking and data storage. My usual approach is as basic as possible, i.e. no comments, minimalist headers, optimised to be imported into stats packages. Knowing that it could be requested from me has changed my view drastically.

Socially in my academic life, I have always been a bit of a mutt. I went to University when I was 24, too old to care about going to clubs anymore, too young to consider myself mature and join the mature society. When you’re 24, 18-year-old people seem like they are decades younger in many ways. Visually not so much, and that is why the older students 30+-year-old are also a vast departure. Anyway, why I am telling you this, is I have always felt a bit out of place, and therefore, did not attend any society stuff. This time around, I have decided to say yes to much more. Which is why I attended a mature society lunch. Bear in mind that you’re technically a mature student after the age of 24 in the UK, I was by far the youngest person at lunch, it felt like going to lunch with my parents, they were nice enough, but it was still slightly odd.

As an aside – I have recently bought a kindle; it is better reading on this device than conventional books, controversial I know. But I was annoyed with having most of my shelf space taken up by books; I had gotten over the fact that it looks good to have a large collection of books, to show how well read you’re to everyone that visits. So, I got rid of most of my books and bought a kindle, now my issue is that books are more expensive than the ones I used to buy from Oxfam. The solution… join the library. So I did. If anyone is considering buying a kindle paper-white. Don’t, as you cant get library ebook’s on there. Which means you’re going to have to pay for almost everything, which is highly sub-optimal.

One of the best things about doing a PhD is the amount of training you receive, I have signed up for 5 courses this year. All free and all expensive if you would have to pay. Also the number of emails I get for different schemes to take part in with different scientific bodies. It is very odd that once you get to the stage In higher education where you’re finally getting paid everything becomes free. I have heard millionaires state this to, obviously slightly differently in the sense that if they have some following they get given stuff for promotion e.g. a fancy car. As an undergraduate everything cost more than I could ever afford, hence the £50K plus debt. It is an observation I have just come to in my life that maybe it should be the bottom 90% that benefit from this rather than the top. I fear I am now chatting bollocks and am far from my remit.

In summary, life is good.