What I read in 2018

This is the fifth time I’ve published my book diet for the year (though admittedly a few days late). It’s a pretty eclectic mix this year, and I’m happy to report I did manage to squeeze in a few classics amidst my steady diet of not-so-classics. Not gonna lie, Gilgamesh (humankind’s earliest surviving written story) is kinda awesome. I did fail in my promise to myself to stop reading anything approaching pop-pseudo-psychology and self-help. I keep telling myself it’s because it’s background for all the writing on the topic I have planned, but it’s really a poor excuse.

This number is also totally inflated because I decided to include a few things from Audible that not only did I not “read” but aren’t exactly even books. Audible recently started giving members two free “Audible Originals” downloads every month, which are a combination of short books, plays, and…episodic treatments of a theme? Either way, they’re neat! (And audible is still offering two free books when you sign up.)

  1. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss (This book is so frequently referenced and has generated so much copycat drivel that I’m shocked I hadn’t read the actual source before. Unfortunately, you can’t be a practicing physician in 4 hours a week, and most of the other insights I liked have remained unchanged since the time of the ancient Stoics.)
  2. The Doctors Guide to Smart Career Alternatives and Retirement by Cory S. Fawcett (I wouldn’t mind retiring to write books either; writing them while gainfully employed is hard work!)
  3. The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell (I wouldn’t want to live in Scandinavia, but I would like their social benefits please)
  4. Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook by David Galef (Nanoism and I get a shoutout and a couple of reprints in the final chapter, which is neat)
  5. So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport (Along with Deep Work, Newport has written two of the least cringe-worthy entries in the productivity/self-help genre. I don’t regret reading either one.)
  6. American Sniper by Chris Kyle
  7. What I Talk about When I Talk about Running by Haruki Murakami
  8. SP4RX by Wren McDonald (‏One thing that I love about graphic novels is how different art styles can inform and reflect the story. Grabbing a random new one off the shelf is always fun when I take my son to the library)
  9. Can’t and Won’t (Stories) by Lydia Davis (it took me over a year reading this book in small chunks to get through it. Had high hopes, as I tend to enjoy (and of course publish) very short stories. Ultimately many of the shortest ones felt empty, while the longer ones generally felt somewhat plodding and maybe even indulgent?)
  10. Island by Aldous Huxley (a treatise on the benefits of Buddhism and magic mushrooms loosely masquerading as a story. Brave New World it is not.)
  11. Dockwood by Jon McNaught (beautiful, unique art, almost like a nearly silent film; very short graphic novel (really two graphic short stories) but so quietly depressing).
  12. Mooncop by Tom Gauld
  13. In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
  14. How to Live a Good Life by Jonathan Fields (ugh. answer = buckets)
  15. Catch Me if You Can by Frank W. Abagnale (fascinating)
  16. Stephen Colbert’s Midnight Confessions (Weak. I did almost belly laugh once though. I also read it in Barnes and Noble for free, so well worth the price of admission).
  17. The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein (awesome near-future techno-romp)
  18. Spell or High Water by Scott Meyer (Magic 2.0 #2)
  19. First Man: Reimagining Matthew Henson by Simon Schwartz
  20. Buzz! by Ananth Panagariya and Tess Stone
  21. An Unwelcome Quest by Scott Meyer (Magic 2.0 #3)
  22. Fight and Flight by Scott Meyer (Magic 2.0 #4) (Ugh this was so weak compared to the first three.)
  23. Ikigai by Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia (I told myself I wouldn’t buy any more terrible self-help Audible daily deals, but I’m a sucker for Japanese wisdom. This was really terrible but at least mercifully short)
  24. If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino (a unique trip, novels within novels *inception horn*)
  25. The Elements of Style by Strunk & White (I think this my third re-read)
  26. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
  27. The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster (published in 1909! probably the inspiration for WALL-E)
  28. Consciousness and the Brain by Stanislas Dehaene (not the fastest or easiest read, but a fascinating one nonetheless. His writing for a general audience is much more palatable than his papers from the 90s and early 2000s I read during one of my college seminars).
  29. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
  30. Infinite by Jeremy Robinson (I thought this was an awesome sci-fi thriller thingie)
  31. See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng (highly recommended, particularly if you liked the Curious Incident)
  32. What Do You Care What Other People Think? by Richard P. Feynman
  33. Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov (Robots #1)
  34. The Sky Below by Scott Parazynski
  35. The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov (Robots #2)
  36. The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov (Robots #3)
  37. You Do You by Sara Knight (her first book was far funnier and superior)
  38. Out of Spite, Out of Mind by Scott Meyer (Magic 2.0 #5)
  39. Gilgamesh: A New English Version by Stephen Mitchell
  40. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester (I read this so many years ago that it took me a few chapters to realize I’d already read it! A true science fiction classic)
  41. Andrea Vernon and the Corporation for Ultrahuman Protection by Alexander C. Kane (fun!)
  42. Outcasts of Order by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (I don’t know if I’m just getting older, but the writing in this subseries is more repetitive and the characters more two-dimensional than I seem to remember. Nonetheless, Modesitt may always be my guilty pleasure.)
  43. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky (really good! Arthur C. Clarke Award winner)
  44. Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson
  45. The Year of Less by Cait Flanders
  46. No Time to Spare by Ursula K. Le Guin
  47. Misbehaving by Richard Thaler
  48. Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Stormlight Archive #3) (#4 please…)
  49. Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner
  50. Capital Gaines by Chip Gaines (If I could see deep inside myself, I’d still never know why I read this)
  51. Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss (This is an excellent [the best?] book on negotiating. Probably should be a must-read for every graduating resident)
  52. One Doctor by Brendan Reilly (This is a beautiful doctor memoir. It really is lovely. Reilly also deftly weaves in the frustrations and issues with the changes in the practice of American medicine deftly and with excellent perspective).
  53. You Need a Budget by Jesse Mecham (by the creator of the software of the same name)
  54. Bushido Online: The Battle Begins by Nikita Thorn (I can’t fully express how utterly silly and fun this book is. It’s a LitRPG. I didn’t know what a LitRPG was before, but it’s basically a book where the action and character development occurs like a roleplaying game. People have hitpoints. Gain abilities. Go on quests. It’s just so adorably goofy.)
  55. Bushido Online: Friends and Foes by Nikita Thorn
  56. The Coming Storm by Michael Lewis
  57. Girls and Boys by Dennis Kelly
  58. Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman (Arc of a Scythe #2)
  59. Boomerang by Michael Lewis
  60. Atomic Habits by James Clear
  61. Laid Waste by Julia Gfrorer
  62. “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” By Richard P. Feynman (I feel like if I had a spirit animal, it would have been Feynman.)
  63. This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay (a diary version of the medical coming-of-age tale. You know the end before it starts, but it’s still a good ride with some laugh out loud funny bits. It was also neat to make sense of how training works in the UK)
  64. Twain’s Feast by Andrew Beahrs
  65. No Land’s Man by Aasif Mandvi
  66. The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak
  67. I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (not great even as far as super-powered YA goes, but when I discovered that Lore is a pen-name for a group of writers including literature’s greatest modern liar [James Frey], I was curious).
  68. Zero G by Dan Wells
  69. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell (Why do I keep reading this tripe??)
  70. Victorian Secrets by Stephen Fry
  71. The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi (The Interdependency #2)(I really enjoyed this one. Has some echoes of Asimov’s Foundation but written with foul-mouthed contemporary style and pacing)
  72. Out of My Mind by Alan Arkin (um, this was odd and meh)
  73. Friday Night Lights by H. G. Bissinger

I’ve read some long books over the years, but Sanderson’s 1248-page epic Oathbringer was a monster.

I have so many unread books on the shelf it’s almost embarrassing (I practice the art of Tsundoku), and also I really want to finish writing book #4 this year—I need to get to work!

Big Update to Medical Student Loans

In addition to publishing my “general audience” student loans book last week, I also pushed a pretty sizable update to the original doctor’s version last week.

Medical Student Loans has been revised for 2018 with a slew of small updates and a few new features, including expanded sections on the “married filing separately” loophole and its pitfalls and updates in the world of private refinancing for residents. On top of that, I’ve updated all numbers and figures for the 2018 tax year and made several bug fixes and clarifications throughout the text.

It remains a living document, so feedback is always welcome.

All new buyers will always receive the most recent version.

But, if you purchased the book previously, you can download the updated revision through the “Manage Your Content and Devices” on your Amazon account. Enjoy!

My newest book is Student Loans: A Comprehensive Guide

I just released my third book. OK, it’s really more like my 2.5th book, because Student Loans: A Comprehensive Guide is a line-by-line reworking and expansion of my second book, Medical Student Loans: A Comprehensive Guide.

As with all of my longer projects, I drastically underestimated the amount of effort and time it would take to complete this task, as this book still took the better part of a year to complete.

Student Loans is temporarily exclusively available on the Kindle platform, and I’m running a free book promotion until the end of Friday.

So, if you are or will be a physician, read my other book; I wrote it just for you, and there’s nothing else like it.

If you’re anything else, please enjoy this new book (for free), and tell your friends who are in school, have been in school, or will be in school to get their free copy now (there’s nothing else like it).

Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook

I finally had a chance to sit down and enjoy Brevity: A Flashfiction Handbook by David Galef.

This was particularly fun because:

I’ve published six stories by Mr. Galef in Nanoism, my unusual journal that exclusively features Twitter fiction, the longest running of its kind. Keeping it in the family, I’ve actually published even more (10!) by his son, Daniel Galef.

Nanoism is featured in the chapter discussing microfiction. Galef defines nanofiction in the book basically exactly as I did when I started publishing in 2009: Twitter fiction, stories of 140 characters or less (i.e. teeny teeny teeny tiny stories). As the book includes examples of flash fiction’s many forms and styles, two pieces from Nanoism’s library of almost 800 stories also made it into the book (on page 123).

Aspiring writers of very short stories would do well to check out Brevity in addition to The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction which came out back in 2009. Good stuff.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin, one of my very favorite writers, passed away this week at the age of 88.

Le Guin was sometimes referred to as a really good speculative fiction author—which is wrong. She was a fantastic writer who happened to mostly write genre fiction. Her meticulously crafted imaginative work set the stage for younger writers like Michael Chabon and David Mitchell to write literary novels that include the fantastic, something readers now take for granted.

A Wizard of Earthsea was one of my first great loves in fiction of any style (though the new cover art makes me sad). The Left Hand of Darkness is really the shining example of what a good writer can accomplish only within the structure of “science fiction.” Ditto The Dispossessed. And The Lathe of Heaven.

Even her manual Steering the Craft was my favorite book on the mechanics of storytelling for many years (and was apparently extensively revised/rewritten and republished in 2015, which means I need to read it again).