Why You Should Stop Storing Contacts On Your Cellphone

We’ve all been there. You lose your cellphone, or damage it beyond salvation, and there’s no way to recover your contacts from it. You’re then stuck trying to get everyone to send you their contact information again, ultimately losing a few phone numbers forever–never to hear from those people again.

But there’s no excuse for letting this happen–not anymore. We live in the age of technology; fortunately there are easy ways to keep this from happening to you ever again. Here’s how to break free from this cycle and never lose a contact again.

Forget the SIM

You may have heard about the SIM card, or been told to use that. Why not just keep contacts on your SIM card? There are several reasons it’s a poor choice. First, not all phones use a SIM card at all, eliminating that option entirely. Next, you can only store a single phone number for a single name. This means you’ve got contacts like “Brad – Cell”, “Brad – Home”, “Brad – Work”. This is not only inefficient, but quickly fills up your address book with unnecessary entries. Perhaps the most important reason is that SIM cards are notoriously poor in quality, often requiring replacement, negating the benefits of storing on a SIM–not that there were many benefits to begin with.

Don’t Rely On Your Carrier

Most people choose to store their contacts directly on their cellphone, which is the worst possible way to store them. It’s become such a big problem that wireless companies have provided their own apps and services to back up contacts from the cellphone to their servers, and prevent this problem from recurring. So problem solved, right? Wrong.

What happens if you decide to switch carriers? What happens if your phone doesn’t regularly backup to their service? What if you don’t sign up for it to begin with? There are too many ways for things to go wrong, and you’re left with no control at all over whether your contacts belong to you. Not to mention privacy concerns–do you really want your wireless provider to have all your contacts’ information?

To understand how this all works, you must first understand how contacts work on a cellphone. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to presume use of a smartphone, such as an iPhone, or Android.

Today’s smartphones are capable of managing and organizing multiple contact lists, including those stored in different locations. What you should avoid now is storing contacts in your phone’s address book. Instead, it’s better to rely on some type of internet-based service (Cloud service) to hold your contacts. Some of these include:

  • Microsoft Outlook or Exchange (such as your work email account.)
  • Gmail
  • Hotmail/Outlook.com
  • Yahoo!

Chances are you already have an account with one of these services for personal email, work email, etc. but don’t fully use its capabilities. It’s time to change that.

Get Your Contacts Off Your Phone

Unfortunately, there are really no quick or easy ways to accomplish this, unless your wireless provider already backs up your contacts. If the cell phone store transferred your contacts to your new smartphone, they’re likely stored within your phone itself. As mentioned before, this is the worst place to store contact information–or any information, really–since it’s easily lost.

Move to the Cloud

Though this process may be time-consuming (depending on how many contacts you have), you’ll only ever need to do this ONCE. Ever.

First, you need to determine which cloud service you’re going to use. This should be a service that you’re familiar with, and one that you’re comfortable using. If you use Yahoo! for email, use Yahoo! If you use Hotmail, use Hotmail, etc. This provides the benefit of also using your address book with your email service. Once you’ve chosen your service, log into your account (or create one, if needed). While each service is different, they should provide options for Contacts, Email, and Calendars.

Now, begin manually entering all of your contacts into the service’s website. Use this opportunity to combine those work, home and cellphone numbers for each contact, so each person has only a single contact entry. Feel free to add additional details now, such as their birthday, addresses, spouse information, etc. It will come in handy later on.

As mentioned before, some wireless carriers have their own backup solutions. The problem with those is that they’re tied into that particular carrier, and don’t provide the same benefits as having them elsewhere (more on this later). However, if your contacts are backed up to your carrier, most will allow you to EXPORT them, which can prevent you having to manually enter them all. Because each service and wireless carrier is different, you may need to contact them for assistance exporting your contact information. Once exported to your computer, you can them IMPORT that information into your desired service, bypassing the need to manually enter them.

Once you’ve got your contact information entered, and organized the way you want, it’s time to sync them to your phone.

Sync Your Contacts

Now that your contacts are safely in the cloud, it’s time to get them onto your phone. Again, because each service is different, the instructions may vary slightly, so these instructions will be relatively vague.

  1. On your smartphone, navigate to your Settings, and choose to add an account.
  2. Choose the service that you’ve saved your contacts to (Yahoo!, Hotmail, Google, etc.)
  3. Enter your login information for the service where your contacts are stored.
  4. You should be prompted to choose which items to sync (Email, Contacts, Calendar, etc.)
  5. Done!

Once you’ve completed the setup, your information will begin syncing with your phone.

What are the benefits?

There are so many benefits to using cloud-based contacts that it’s hard to narrow down, but here are just a few:

  • Multiple devices can access the same information. This means that your computer, tablet, cellphone, and any other computer you use can all have access to the same contact list. Any changes you make on one automatically sync to all the other devices you’ve setup for that account, and if you change cellphones, getting your contacts back is as easy as logging into an account.
  • Cross-platform – This means that no matter what type of computer or cellphone you use, they can receive your data. So you can have a PC at home, and an iPhone/iPad, or Android device, and all those devices can access the same data. This isn’t the case if your contacts are only on your cellphone, or backed up to your wireless carrier.
  • Instant updates – Anytime you make an update to a contact, those changes are nearly instantly available on all the other devices you use. So for instance if somebody changes their email address, and you update that on your cellphone, you’ll also have that new email address on your computer when you go to email them the next time.
  • Less worry – Even if you lose your cellphone (already worrisome enough), your contacts are already backed up to the Internet, and you no longer have to worry about how to get them back.
  • Easy to transport – Lets say you setup everything on Yahoo! but later decide to switch your primary email to Gmail. Having your information in the cloud makes it very easy to migrate to another service. Many have automated ways to transfer this information, or at minimum an Export/Import option which allows you to avoid manually entering all those contact details again.
  • Add extra information – In addition to phone numbers and email addresses, you can add birthdays, spouses, anniversaries, and even general Notes to each contact. You’ve now got pertinent details about all of your contacts stored safely in one place.
  • Most modern smartphones will also “link” or “join” contacts from Facebook, and other accounts where the same person might reside, into a single contact card on your phone. This prevents having multiple contacts for the same person on your phone, and makes it easier to find any information you might desire about that person.

Tips

  • Keep work and personal information separated. This is just good practice for all aspects of information, including contacts, calendars, email, etc. Smartphones will still display both items together, but it’s easier to view work and personal information separately, which helps improve work/life balance; not to mention if you’re suddenly terminated from work, you don’t lose any personal information, since it won’t be stored on company systems.
  • Don’t use iCloud for contacts — Though better than nothing, iCloud is still platform-dependent, meaning if you don’t use an Apple product, you can’t access that information. This is similar to relying on your wireless carrier to back up your contacts.
  • When creating new contacts on your phone, be sure you’re creating them for the account you’ve setup, and not adding them directly into the phone memory. You’ve gone to the trouble of getting your cloud contacts setup, so continue using it. Most phones have an option to set a default account (to set which account to add information to without you choosing each time), and you should choose that. If it’s not immediately obvious what account your contact is being added to, contact your carrier for help.
  • Ask for help – Your wireless carrier has dedicated support staff to answer questions about your phone; don’t be afraid to call them and ask for help; you’re already paying their salaries.
  • Security – If you’re worried about your account being hacked, and your information falling into the wrong hands, don’t be. Most of these services now offer two-step authentication, which makes it virtually impossible for someone who’s not authorized to gain access to your account. Once enabled, your information is more secure than ever before.

So now that you’ve moved your contacts to the cloud, and gotten them synced up to your phone, sit back and relax, knowing that your contacts will never be lost again. You won’t have to post anything, or send out requests for phone numbers again. If your phone is lost or destroyed, just log in to your account from a new phone, and voila!–contacts are back, just the way they were.

Retrospective: 2013

With each new year comes the inevitable look back at the past one. Was it a good year? Did we get everything accomplished that we set out to do? Am I a better person than I was last January 1st? 2013 was an interesting year for Jenny and I–a big one, sure–and we have much to be proud of, and happy about. Looking forward to 2014, we have a few things planned that will hopefully give us fond memories of the twelve months that will mark the year. But let’s take a look back at the past twelve months, and what 2013 entailed.

World Events

While 2013 had many memorable events, some tragic, others merely noteworthy, here are a few that stuck out in my mind:

  • On January 21st, President Barack Obama was inaugurated to his second term. Whether you like him or not, agree with his policies or not, he’s still the president, and an historic one.
  • On February 15th, the world experienced a very close call with an asteroid, when an approximately 17-foot diameter meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia, injuring over 1,500 people, and causing widespread damage to buildings. The object was completely undetected, and so came as a complete shock to the entire world–including the scientific community charged with monitoring near-Earth asteroids, in order to warn of events such as this. The event heightened global awareness of the threat these asteroids pose to Earth, as well as how much work is still needed to protect us from further such close-calls.
  • On April 16th, domestic terrorism struck the United States once again during the Boston Marathon. Three people were killed, and over 200 others injured when two bombs exploded during the race. The story immediately captured the nation’s attention, and over the ensuing days, a manhunt like no other was carried out in Boston, resulting in the city effectively shutting down while authorities tracked down the perpetrators.
  • In the weeks leading up to October 1st, the news could only talk about one thing: a government shutdown. Sadly, the government did shutdown on the 1st, and did not re-open until October 16th, when a short-term deal was made that would see funding available until January 15th, 2014. Fortunately, a new deal was struck (without much argument) that should see the government continue to function for the time being.
  • On December 5th, South African leader and visionary Nelson Mandela succumbed to a prolonged respiratory infection. He was 95 years old.

Of course there were many other global events of significance, including possible chemical weapons use in Syria, a new Pope being elected, mother nature unleashing her fury in the form of earthquakes, tornadoes and typhoons, but none of these stuck in my mind like those listed above.

Our New Home

We got the keys!

We got the keys!

When 2012 came to a close, we were watching construction of our new home closely, hoping that everything would come together. On February 22nd, the house was completed, and we signed off on the construction. On February 25th, we closed on the house, after some last-minute hand-wringing, then moved into the house fully on March 3rd. Jenny and I both took time off work to settle into the house, though on alternating weeks. I was off March 4th through the 8th, while Jenny took the following week, March 11th through the 15th off. During this time, we were able to get a lot of unpacking done, and worked on getting things in our new home settled.

Our House

Our House

On May 15th, we had our home security system installed, and have been quite happy with it. If nothing else, we feel much more secure, and feel that our home is well-protected. Shortly after that, my mom & dad came to visit for my 34th birthday over the long Memorial Day weekend, and saw our house for the first time. It was a nice visit though, if all too brief.

In preparation for hosting Christmas at our house this year for the Brown family, I finished painting the living room on November 23rd, which led to us changing the furnitureLiving-Room orientation, but resulted in something we like very much. It really feels like home now.

I also hosted a poker party on December 7th at our house. Everyone that attended seemed to have a lot of fun, and we ended the night playing some Rock Band in the living room. It’s been fun reuniting with friends this year, some of whom I haven’t really seen in years.

Considering this was our first Christmas in our new home, I wanted to host the holiday in our home with my family. My brother and sister-in-law flew in from Michigan, Mom and Dad came down from Hawkins, and we spent a full week together. We began with a short trip to San Antonio to visit family, including my 93-year-old grandmother, then spent the rest of the time back in Houston, eating, eating, and eating (Houston really has amazing restaurants). Sadly, Jenny was ill for most of the week, so didn’t get to spend as much time as she wanted with everyone. It seems like at the holidays someone’s always sick. In all though, it was a busy, fun-filled week, and I’m so thankful that I got to spend quality time with my entire family.

Progress at Work

Work in 2013 was more than interesting, but also extremely challenging in many ways. On January 10th, my best friend and co-worker Matt was let go. In the end it’s the best thing that could have happened to him, since he was immensely unhappy there, but at the time, it felt pretty terrible. Of course, we both moved on, and have done exceptionally well for ourselves. On March 27th, I got my best-ever performance review, and on June 2nd, celebrated my 5-year anniversary with the company. Not only do I still enjoy my job, but I’ve been here longer than at any other job in my life.

Things became quite interesting in August, as the company consolidated two of our offices into a single building, which entailed LOTS of planning, preparation, and hard work. Due to various circumstances, I essentially took over the project from my boss, and took on the responsibilities myself. This turned out to be a huge boon, not only for myself and my Project Management aspirations, but also in helping the other team members of the project. By the end, I had building management people, outside vendors, and countless others relying on my opinion and responses to get the project done. My career and status within the company took a huge step forward because of it. This project also made me realize even more how much I appreciate new challenges, and that project management is definitely something I want to explore further. I believe it’s a talent I’m uniquely suited for.

Unfortunately, work took a lot of time, especially in August. One particular week saw me work nearly 100 hours, and as a result, I got sick, then better, then sick again, so it was early September before I felt truly normal again. Fortunately, things at work have slowed down quite a bit since, and for the first time in a long time, we’re actually in a proactive mode, rather than fighting lingering problems. Of course, 2014 already appears to have some challenges ahead, but that’s the nature of life.

My Writing, Or Lack Thereof

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything worth sharing. Even my website has been strangely quiet most of the year. I just haven’t been able to concentrate long enough to get anything written. On October 28th, I revamped the outline for the novel I started back in 2010, during National Novel Writing Month. I had every intention of participating again this year during November, and was even rather excited about it. But when November 1st arrived, I couldn’t get down more than a few words, and I was already stuck, and I quickly abandoned the entire effort. I’m having to come to terms with the fact that I’m likely through writing–at least anything of significance. I still enjoy putting together the occasional book review, or some rant about things that bother me, but essentially, I think I’m through. Few people bother reading the things I write anyway, so it’s not like I’m abandoning a huge audience.

Miscellaneous Happenings

These items are those that don’t really fit into any particular category; they just kind of happened:

  • February 15th – I finally finished paying off my knee surgery, from when I injured it over 2 years ago. It was nice to have it completely paid off, and to be able to put the whole affair completely behind me–not that Jenny will ever let me forget that it happened.
  • July – We decided to try getting healthier.
    Our new treadmill

    Our new treadmill

    We bought new bikes and a treadmill, and then sort of abandoned both of them for a while. With the new year, we’ll try to get back to using these regularly, and to get into better shape.

  • March 23rd – I managed to talk Jenny into going with me to College Station, TX to attend AggieCon 44, a small science-fiction/fantasy convention. I’d actually never been to a SF convention, so it was interesting; the whole premise for me going was that George R.R. Martin would be there, and he’s rarely in Texas for anything, let alone just a couple hours from us. I took my copy of A Game of Thrones and got it autographed. I have to say though, while I’m admittedly a nerd, the people there made me look absolutely normal
    Signed by the author, George R.R. Martin

    Signed by the author, George R.R. Martin

    .

  • November 28-30th – We went to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving this year, and enjoyed some time with them. We watched movies, and went to Tyler to watch the latest Hunger Games movie with Mom & Dad. On the way home, however, I was pulled over, and received a speeding ticket. Ironically, I’d been watching my speed the entire trip, but for some reason, this was a brief moment where I was actually speeding, and got busted for it. Oh well, live and learn. I’ll take my defensive driving, and all should be well.
  • December 6-10th – Jenny took time off work for her 34th birthday, as well as dentist’s appointments, and just to relax, in general. It was a well-deserved vacation from work for her.

Notable Entertainment

In any given year, movies, television, and even video games occasionally rise to the top as some notable entertainment. 2013 was no exception, and there were some intriguing titles this year:

Movies

  • “Gravity” was a film I’d been waiting a long time for, and it didn’t disappoint. A film best experienced in IMAX and 3D, this was a movie I really need to watch again.
  • “Elysium” was another film I’d been eagerly anticipating, but failed to live up to expectations. A solid film, it just didn’t have the same ‘blown-away’ feeling I got from the director’s previous film, “District 9”. Still one worth watching, but I probably could have waited for DVD.
  • “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, the 2nd film in the Hunger Games series was even better than the (already excellent) first movie. I ended up seeing this one twice in theaters, which is rather unusual for me.
  • “Star Trek Into Darkness”, the sequel to 2009’s reboot of the franchise, left lots of fans disappointed, but I was not one of them. I thought it was a good movie that countered the first, and flipped things just enough to be fun to watch. Definitely darker than the first movie, the ending has me intrigued by the possibilities that a third movie could explore.

Television

  • Dexter‘s final season aired this year, and it was a huge disappointment to practically everyone. A lackluster plot, not particularly good acting by seasoned regulars, and a terrible and un-fulfilling series finale led to lots of people yelling at their TV’s. For a show that started out so fantastic, it really just went downhill. The show lasted 8 seasons, but Season 5 was probably the last good one.
  • A newcomer to my favorites, Almost Human is a brand-new J.J. Abrams-involved show, which is about a future cop and his android partner. It’s only a few episodes old, but already I’m completely hooked, and I hope that the show succeeds, and thrives. I’d like to continue watching it for a long time.

Video Games

  • The Last of Us – This game, exclusively for the Playstation 3, was one of the most amazing games I’ve played in a long time. Not only was the story immensely engrossing, but the characters were worthy of their own television show or film (in fact, recent reports indicate that a movie is already in development). I’m not usually one for “zombie” games, but this was a title that transcended the genre, and really gives an experience like no other. I cannot recommend this game more highly.
  • Grand Theft Auto V – This, of course, was the biggest game release of the year, and it did not disappoint. An immense game world, fantastic new gameplay mechanics, and a truly good story made this game one that I enjoy going back to again and again.
  • Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – A big departure for AC games, AC4 actually moved backward in time from the previous game, and changed up the direction of the series significantly. While not exactly negating the previous AC games, it definitely charts a new approach to how this series will continue; I suppose that’s due to the fact that this has become an annual franchise now. The game isn’t bad, and is actually a nice step up from AC3, but I can’t help missing the protagonist from the AC2-series games, Ezio.
  • NBA 2k14 (for PlayStation 4) – After getting a PS4 for Christmas, I downloaded NBA 2k14, and have to say that it’s the most realistic-looking video game I’ve ever played. It truly shows what the next-gen consoles are going to be capable of, and I’m very excited about it. I’m not a huge basketball fan, but this game is enjoyable, and challenging enough to make it well worth playing. It’s made me even more excited for the new MLB: The Show game to come out.

Technology

Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a retrospective for myself if I didn’t discuss the technology I used or discovered during the year. I’ve purposely put it toward the bottom of the list, since most people will find it boring, or uninteresting.

  • January 5th – I consolidated my e-book library, including Jenny’s, and converted all of our books to .epub and .mobi format. Essentially, I wanted to ensure that our libraries are safe for the future, and that regardless of device we use to read them (though I can’t really see us abandoning the Kindle anytime soon), that we’d have the ability to take our books with us. This was a pretty massive undertaking, as between the two of us, we have over 1,000 e-books.
  • January 20th – I decided to try YNAB (a personal finance application) once again, continuing my attempt to abandon Quicken entirely. It didn’t take me very long to realize it just wasn’t going to work out though, and on January 25th, I switched back to Quicken. I made other attempts throughout the year to find a new solution, but none of them have met my requirements. As of now, I’m still stuck with Quicken.
  • April 6th – In need of a computer upgrade, I broke down and bought a new Mac Mini to replace my 2010 MacBook Pro. The new Mini has so far been an absolutely perfect computer, offering powerful performance, along with the stability that I’ve come to expect from Apple computers. I sold my MacBook Pro almost immediately, and it pretty much paid for my new computer alone.
  • June 1st – Jenny finally upgraded from the iPhone 4, which was growing long-in-the-tooth, to the iPhone 5, and has been pretty much entirely happy with it. The only downside to this is that we had to change to a shared data plan, which means we have to monitor our usage much more closely.
  • July 30th – Google released the Chromecast device, and mine finally arrived. Read my review of the device here.
  • August 28th – I conceived of an app that I felt might truly be useful, and started the path to learning to code, in order to program an app. I lost steam a little bit, and haven’t really returned to this just yet, but plan to do so again.
  • September 24th – Upgraded my cellphone (once again) and got the Moto X, which is hands-down one of my favorites phones to date. It’s billed as the “iPhone of Android phones” and it delivers entirely on that promise. It’s easy to use, not filled with all the bloatware that other phones come with, and is genuinely useful. I can’t praise the phone enough, really, though I’m sure that’ll change as the next great phones come out and grab my interest.
  • Christmas – Jenny got me a PlayStation 4 for Christmas. I had debated which next-gen console to buy, but knowing that the only next-gen baseball game would be on the PS4, and almost every game I am interested in for 2014 will be out for both new consoles, the choice was easier. Jenny was very lucky to track one down, considering it was one of the hottest gifts this year, and extraordinarily difficult to find in stock anywhere.
  • All year long – My website went through several different layouts and looks, but the content essentially remained the same. The latest layout went live on November 25th, and will hopefully keep me satisfied for quite some time. I did nothing to change my book or movie library resources from the previous year, and am still happy with the tools I’m using currently.

Day-to-Day Changes

In the past, I kept a paper journal, and used various methods to keep track of things that were important to me. 2013 saw some huge and major changes to my daily workflows.

  • January 1st – No longer entering journal entries into a paper journal, I now keep my entries 100% digital. This has helped me be a little more fluid with my writing, as well as affording me more flexibility for when I’m not at home. Along with my journal entry, I take a self-portrait every day (or mostly every day) to keep with the journal. My goal is to eventually put together a “video” of all these pictures, to see my age progression. It’s one of those projects that takes a really long time to see the results of.
  • January 30th – Wrote my 2,000th journal entry.
  • March 13th – Finally started using Evernote on a day-to-day basis. I’d tried the application a couple times before, but never found its usefulness. Thanks to an article on Lifehacker which did a great job of explaining why Evernote was so useful, I’ve used it every single day since, and never looked back. It’s truly a digital notebook, and has resulted in my going almost 100% paperless, everywhere in life. It’s really a life-changing tool.
  • July 25th – 29th – I’ve been using the Kindle for a long time to read my e-books, and have been mostly happy. I generally listen to Kindle books in the car to and from work, but have always been irked by some of the quirks of the way it reads back the books. Google’s read aloud feature is much better by comparison, but until Google made their Play Books app allow books not bought through Google Play, it wasn’t something I could use. They finally allowed other e-books to work with their software, so I was ready to give it a try. Unfortunately, after just a few days, it was clear that the Google Play implementation just doesn’t work as well for my particular scenario, and I switched back to using the Kindle as my daily reader. Until I’m forced to get a new Kindle that doesn’t do the audio-playback of the book, I’m staying put.
  • August 20th – I discovered and immediately fell in love with a system for organization called Bullet Journal. I rushed out and bought a Moleskine notebook, and started using this system right away. It immediately made an impact in the way I get things done. Sadly, after just a couple of months, the downfalls to this system also appeared: it’s easy to leave behind your Bullet Journal (which becomes a panic-inducing event), and it’s rather inconvenient to have to carry it around with you all the time. This led me to seek out alternatives, which led to:
  • October 17th – I started using the Any.do app. After trying a few similar apps, like Wunderlist, and even Google Tasks, this app appealed to me for its simplicity, while remaining quite powerful. Among my favorite features are the “Planning” features, and the way it handles snoozing events, and organizing your day. It’s a really useful app, and has replaced nearly everything that I was doing with Bullet Journal. Between Evernote and Any.do, my organization is much better than it was in the past, and has made a huge difference.
  • October 19th – I resumed my (mostly) daily journal entries, after tailing off almost entirely at the end of August. This of course means there’s also a gap in my daily self-portraits as well. Another gap near the end of the year has re-thinking the whole journal idea, but I’m not sure I want to abandon it entirely, considering how long I’ve been keeping one.

Summary

In reality, 2013 wasn’t a particularly busy year, though it certainly felt busy enough. Between work, home, hanging out with friends, and just enjoying life in general, there wasn’t a lot of spare time for hobbies, but that gives us something to do this year, I suppose.

We’ve got some home improvements we hope to make, and some vacations we’d like to go on, but ultimately, that all depends on factors out of our control right now; hopefully we’ll have more answers to those questions in the near future. If everything works out as we hope that it does, however, 2014 looks to be a very memorable year, and I look forward to recounting its events again in twelve months.

Happy New Year!

What I Read in 2013: The Year In Review

Each new year, I take a look back at what I’ve read during those previous twelve months. It never ceases to amaze me how many good books I’ve read–and how many books I was interested in that turned out to be less-than-stellar. 2013 was no exception, but also saw some deviations from my typical selection of books. I worked my way through two series, including one I never thought I’d read. I also explored some genres that I don’t usually delve into, with pretty good results.

As far as goals, I set myself a goal to read 30 books in the year, and have exceeded that by a full 45%. In fact, I read more books this year, and more pages than any previous year since keeping track of it all.

In any given year, most of the books I read are relatively middle-of-the-pack regarding quality. Either my scores have changed (which is entirely possible), or the books I selected this year were better-than-average, as very few of the books I read ranked lower than 4 out of 5 stars. I consider the 3-star range ‘average’ so most of the books I read were above-average.

In November 2013, “Ender’s Game” was released to theaters. Based on the book of the same name, which I’d never read, I decided to try reading it before the film came out. I’m glad that I did, since Ender’s Game was a pretty amazing novel. I went on to read the rest of the Ender series, which were quite good. As a result of reading the book, I was very excited to see the movie, which was good, but of course not as good as the book.

2013 was also another all-electronic year. Each title I read was an eBook.

That said, 2013 was an interesting year for books. Here’s how it went for me:

Books

Books read: 43
Pages read: 16,862 (avg. 46.19 pages/day)

  1. * Reamde by Neal Stephenson ( 1,055 pages | 1/1 – 1/22 | My rating: 4/5 | My Review )
  2. * The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter ( 432 pages | 1/23 – 1/27 | My rating: 5/5 | My Review )
  3. Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds ( 510 pages | 1/28 – 2/9) | My rating: 4/5 )
  4. Defending Jacob by William Landay ( 432 pages | 2/12 – 2/21 | My rating: 4/5 )
  5. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn ( 434 pages | 2/23 – 3/4 | My rating: 4/5 )
  6. Slow Apocalypse by John Varley ( 443 pages | 3/5 – 3/18 | My rating: 4/5 )
  7. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline ( 384 pages | 3/18 – 3/22 | My rating: 5/5 )
  8. The Cassandra Project by Jack McDevitt ( 401 pages | 3/27 – 4/1 | My rating: 3/5 )
  9. Apollo’s Outcasts by Allen Steele ( 317 pages | 4/2 – 4/7 | My rating: 4/5 )
  10. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan ( 305 pages | 4/8 – 4/12 | My rating: 5/5 )
  11. After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress ( 193 pages | 4/13 – 4/16 | My rating: 5/5 )
  12. Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer ( 368 pages | 4/16 – 4/21 | My rating: 4/5 )
  13. Consequences by Kristine Kathryn Rusch ( 368 pages | 4/22 – 5/1 | My rating: 4/5 )
  14. Buried Deep by Kristine Kathryn Rusch ( 386 pages | 5/1 – 5/7 | My rating: 4/5 )
  15. Paloma by Kristine Kathryn Rusch ( 372 pages | 5/7 – 5/15 | My rating: 4/5 )
  16. Recovery Man by Kristine Kathryn Rusch ( 336 pages | 5/15 – 5/23 | My rating: 4/5 )
  17. Duplicate Effort by Kristine Kathryn Rusch ( 370 pages | 5/23 – 6/2 | My rating: 4/5 )
  18. Anniversary Day by Kristine Kathryn Rusch ( 348 pages | 6/2 – 6/7 | My rating: 4/5 )
  19. Blowback by Kristine Kathryn Rusch ( 392 pages | 6/7 – 6/15 | My rating: 4/5 )
  20. Inferno by Dan Brown ( 482 pages | 6/19 – 6/29 | My rating: 4/5 )
  21. Cryptic: The Best Short Fiction of Jack McDevitt by Jack McDevitt ( 450 pages | 7/1 – 7/16 | My rating: 5/5 )
  22. The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter ( 437 pages | 7/17 – 7/24 | My rating: 4/5 )
  23. * The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes ( 384 pages | 7/25 – 8/2 | My rating: 5/5 )
  24. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury ( 298 pages | 8/3 – 8/9 | My rating: 3/5 )
  25. When We Wake by Karen Healey ( 305 pages | 8/10 – 8/13 | My rating: 4/5 )
  26. * The Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K. Rowling [as Robert Galbraith] ( 465 pages | 8/14 – 8/23 | My rating: 5/5 )
  27. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey ( 497 pages | 8/24 – 8/27 | My rating: 4/5 )
  28. Farside by Ben Bova ( 368 pages | 9/1 – 9/7 | My rating: 2/5 )
  29. New Earth by Ben Bova ( 385 pages | 9/8 – 9/13 | My rating: 3/5 )
  30. Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson ( 452 pages | 9/13 – 9/27 | My rating: 4/5 )
  31. * Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card ( 352 pages | 10/3 – 10/9 | My rating: 5/5 )
  32. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card ( 419 pages | 10/9 – 10/17 | My rating: 4/5 )
  33. Xenocide by Orson Scott Card ( 608 pages | 10/17 – 10/30 | My rating: 4/5 )
  34. Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card ( 387 pages | 10/30 – 11/7 | My rating: 4/5 )
  35. Starhawk by Jack McDevitt ( 418 pages | 11/8 – 11/14 | My rating: 3/5 )
  36. Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson ( 320 pages | 11/15 – 11/19 | My rating: 4/5 )
  37. * The Circle by Dave Eggers ( 504 pages | 11/19 – 11/24 | My rating: 5/5 | My review )
  38. The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters ( 322 pages | 11/25 – 12/3 | My rating: 4/5 )
  39. Countdown City by Ben H. Winters ( 322 pages | 12/3 – 12/8 | My rating: 4/5 )
  40. The Humans by Matt Haig ( 304 pages | 12/9 – 12/12 | My rating: 4/5 )
  41. K-Pax IV: A New Visitor from the Constellation Lyra by Gene Brewer ( 168 pages | 12/12 – 12/16 | My rating: 3/5 )
  42. The Minority Report by Philip K. Dick ( 112 pages | 12/16 – 12/17 | My rating: 5/5 )
  43. Forrest Gump by Winston Groom ( 257 pages | 12/17 – 12/30 | My rating: 3/5 )

* Highly recommended titles

To see this list (and accompanying details) on Goodreads, click here.

Looking forward, 2014 looks to be a bit of a wildcard. There are (to-date) 62 books on my to-read list. A good portion of them are the Culture series, by Iain M. Banks, which I’ve been intrigued by, but never read. Whether the series will remain on my list or not after I start the first, however, I cannot say.

But other than a new series, and a few books that I want to read, I’ve got no real game-plan for the year. Most of my favorite authors have already published late this year, so likely won’t have anything coming out until late next year at the earliest. It’s not as if I don’t have enough reading material to keep me busy, but there’s nothing all that exciting on my list–nothing that I can’t wait to get to. This is the first year in a long time I can recall that being the case.

So in 2014, the question is whether I can surpass the 42 books I read last year and go the distance. I think I’ll set a reasonable goal for myself of 35 books, since some of those on my list are rather lengthy.