My new book: I like to write back—a collection of silly replies to unsolicited email

Book cover shows old Gmail icon

Look! I’ve made a thing!

What do you do with unsolicited emails? Ignore them? Delete them? Let your spam filter swallow them? What if you were to reply to them?

That’s exactly what I did in October 2009. Fed up of people wasting my time sending me emails about search engine optimisation opportunities, or who wanted to place adverts and guest posts on this blog, instead of rolling my eyes, tutting loudly and deleting them, I wrote back.

You can download a free copy in PDF, or buy a paperback copy on Lulu.com on my books page.

Continue reading My new book: I like to write back—a collection of silly replies to unsolicited email

The Fear Bubble

The Fear Bubble: Harness Fear and Live Without Limits eBook : Middleton,  Ant: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store
The Fear Bubble

Over the last few years I have read mostly business, productivity and agile-related books that have helped me at work. This year, I have made it a priority to try to read more and to read more widely, from a variety of genres.

Last night I finished reading The Fear Bubble by former Special Boat Service (SBS) operator Ant Middleton.

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“Oh I Am a Spaceman” book in progress

Illustrations of an orange astronaut standing on the moon.
O I am a Caption

Seven years ago, in May 2014, Reuben (then 5 years old) told me that he wanted to write a song called “Oh I am a spaceman”. Over the next hour we wrote the song and recorded it with a wonderful drum accompaniment from Reuben and uploaded it to Soundcloud.

It is possible that the accompanying children’s book may appear this year.

Continue reading “Oh I Am a Spaceman” book in progress

Make Time

Make Time: How to focus on what matters every day

Although I now subscribe to the 12 Week Year approach to planning , one of my overall goals for 2020 is to read more.

I’ve got the year off to a good start reading Make Time: How to focus on what matters every day by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, the team behind the popular Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days.

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Generation X

Generation X: Takes for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland
Third time lucky for this novel

I have been saying to myself for too long that I need to step away from my PC more often and read more books. So, this year I decided to start by reading all of Douglas Coupland’s novels, in chronological order, in the order he wrote them; I have all his novels up to Gum Thief (2007). That’s 12, including Life after God (1994) which is a collection of short stories. I’ll see how many get through in 2017.

Generation X: tales for an accelerated culture

This is, at least, the third time that I’ve started to read Generation X by Douglas Coupland, but it’s the first time that I’ve actually finished it.

I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve grown older, or because I know myself better now, or whether my own life circumstances have changed dramatically over the last two years but I connected with the book more this read through than in the past. It resonated with me more than before.

While I connected with the book, I didn’t connect with the characters. Andy, Dag, Claire, and Tyler and Tobias. I found them too aloof, too fickle, too disconnected to begin to care about them too deeply. Despite all the conversation and the frantic activity, the novel felt like a study in loneliness. Maybe that’s the point being made about my generation.

“Time to escape. I want my real life back with all of its funny smells, pockets of loneliness, and long, clear car rides.” (p.172)

Throughout the novel, Andy, Dag and Claire tell stories: searching for meaning in their lives. Creating their own metanarratives in a post-modern world without one.

This, Coupland’s first novel, contains moments of genius. Simple sentences that capture what it means to be living now, recording the culture, portable insights into the minutiae of life towards the end of the 20th century.

In was in paragraphs like this that I was able to connect most with the novel:

“I must have been asleep for hours. When I woke it was dark out and the temperature had gone down. There was an Arapaho blanket on top of me and the glass table was covered with junk that wasn’t there before: potato chips, bags, magazines… But none of it made any sense to me. You know how sometimes after an afternoon nap you wake up with the shakes or anxiety? That’s what happened to me. I couldn’t remember who I was or where I was or what time of year it was or anything. All I knew was that I was. I felt so wide open, so vulnerable, like a great big field that’s just been harvested.” (p.183)

Or the chapter about celebrating Christmas with the family, and for a moment being transported away from the humdrum of everyday life into something mysterious and magical.

But there is a problem.

Later on life reverts to normal. The candles slowly snuff themselves out and normal morning life resumes. Mom goes to fetch a pot of coffee […]

But I get this feeling—

It is a feeling that our emotions, while wonderful, are transpiring in a vacuum, and I think it boils down to the fact that we’re middle class. (p.171)

Or moments, like in the final chapter, where the characters find meaning or insights into their own lives through their interactions with passers-by. Not deep insights, but touch-points with their own humanity, recognising their own significance, and perhaps that there is also a reality beyond that which they normally live.

Then there are a few chapters that really touched me, that left me feeling like the world was a different place afterwards.

The final chapter in part one, about being caught in a nuclear explosion. While shopping.

Chapter 22 Leave your body about “this poor little rich girl named Linda” who meditates for seven years. That chapter is one of the most beautiful of any that I’ve ever read in a novel.

When I’ve mentioned to people that I had started reading this novel again, after abandoning it twice, they invariably asked why, and said that life was too short to tackling books that I didn’t enjoy. But I’m glad that I did persevere. Because it was for those beautiful insights, those snippets of exquisitely crafted words, amidst the mundane chatter and mind-games of the central characters that I did it. I feel enriched by having read this book.

Review score: 7/10

Next book to read: Shampoo Planet (1992).