Ready Player One

It’s not often that I post book recommendations here, but here goes one. If you’re a child of the 80’s; if you ever walked into the arcade, dropped a coin in the slot in the slot let the “real world” fade away for a few hours; if you can quote lines — just a few or all of them — from Star Wars, War Games, Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Monty Python and the Holy Grail; if your head bops to INXS or you sing along with Duran Duran, then you owe it to yourself to grab this book, right now! As one reviewer over on GoodReads put it, “This book is nostalgia porn.” It’s not great literature, but Ready Player One is a fun, somewhat YA, romp through the things that were so much the background of our childhood.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline.

The year is 2045, and the world has finished it’s fast-track slide to the bottom of the heap. Pick any dystopian movie setting; this fits right in. There is one bright spot for people, and that’s that they don’t have to actually spend time there — they can instead put on a headset and live in OASIS, a full-time virtual world. When the creator of the world dies, he leaves behind the ultimate game – with the winner taking his enormous fortune and control of OASIS. And the creator was — wait for it — a huge fan of 1980’s culture, so the game has more references than you can keep up with.

Getting highlighted text from the Amazon Kindle

Buying electronic books for the Kindle, and in conjunction the Kindle app on various devices – PC, Macintosh, iPhone, iPad, Android tablet, etc. – has just become much more useful for me.

Among the nice features of the Kindle software is the ability to hilight blocks of text and to take notes. This is hardly something new; I often hilight passages in paper books too, and use Post-It notes to leave my comments, questions and thoughts. The hard part is in remembering exactly which books on my shelf held the quotes I marked or notes I left. With electronic books and notes, I should be able to let the computer do the remembering and searching for me. Unfortunately the Kindle is pretty much a closed system; I’d found no easy way to get to the highlights or notes other than through the Kindle itself. That makes the use of hilighted text in blog posts, letters or presentations difficult.

All that changed today, thanks to this article and a comment left by someone named Zach. I’m happy to have found a way to get information out of Amazon’s system. It’s by no means perfect or automatable, and there’s no guarantee that Amazon won’t change this or take it away at some point in the future, but for now it’s better than nothing.

Go to, log in using your Amazon account, and click on Your Books. You should get a listing of Kindle books you’ve purchased from Amazon. See updated info.

If you’d like to use their system to keep track of your reading, you can do so under the Reading Status column, and you can rate your books as well. You also have the option here of making your status, ratings and notes public from this page, though I’ve not figured out yet how someone else would see them. update: use the “Hello <name>” menu at the top right-hand corner of the page to view your Profile, then people can use a link like this (thanks to this post by Scott H for helping me discover it).

Now for the good part – click on Your Highlights at the top of the page and you should see a listing of books along with your notes and hilights. See updated info.

screenshot of Amazon Kindle Your Hilights page

From here you can copy the text and paste it wherever you’d like.

This changes the decision of what format to purchase books – electronic or paper – for me.

This is not meant to be a method for wholesale plagiarism, of course.

(btw, if there are other ways of getting notes & highlights out of Amazon’s locked box, please let me know in comments below.)


Interesting juxtaposition: my initial search for “how to copy text from hilights” came as I was trying to decide what format of a book to buy, paper or Kindle. The book in question is The Innovator’s Cookbook, by one of my favorite non-fiction authors, Steven B Johnson. The article I reference above, where I found the comment, is in response to something Steven wrote. And today, at about the same time as I was creating this very post, Steven was posting to his own blog about a tool to “capture what I was reading.” The tool is Findings, and it includes a way to grab data from the very page I had just discovered!

This isn’t the first time that this has happened, by the way, see Accidents and Emergence.

Area 51

book cover I just finished reading Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base, by Annie Jacobsen. [Amazon] Lots of previously-unknown history. It’s a good book, even if there aren’t enough aliens.

A Quote for the Day

In my own defense, I can point out that I have also written heartwarming books where people return from the dead. Usually to eat the living, it’s true, but surely that is a quibble — a miracle is a miracle.”

— Stephen King, in his article ‘A History of Violence’

Practices of an Agile Developer

This past week, I read Practices of an Agile Developer, not because I’m currently employed as a developer, nor because my employer uses them, but because I believe the guidelines are good ones to be practiced no matter what the profession. Check out some readers’ notes, then invest some time in the book yourself, especially if you are in the software development arena.

15 Favorite Books

There’s another “thing” making the rounds.

15 Favorite Books: “Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”

Here’s my list:

Other books I’ve read over the last few years are listed here.

Daemon – Read It Now

Wow, it’s been over a year and a half since I read Daemon and recommended it here. It’s a great book and I’m glad to introduce it to other new readers. It’s fascinating to see how often conversations these days wander near people’s fear of — or complete trust in — technology; those are great times for me to say “hey, have you read Daemon yet?”

The book’s doing well; I just heard from the author – it seems that the new hardcover edition of Daemon will be front-of-store in every Barnes & Nobel and Borders in the U.S. and is being translated into ten languages, and he’s signed a deal with DreamWorks for the film rights. It’s sure to be a topic of even more conversations.

What are you waiting for? Order your copy & find some time to get reading.

Book: How to Read a Book

I read books, quite a few of them in fact, and as I’ve written before I find a number of them through friends and their suggestions. Well, now Tony Dye has one for us: How to Read a Book.

How to Read a Book.

Huh? Did I get that right – a book called How to Read a Book? Yup, sure enough, that’s exactly what it is.

The concept, over-simplified, is that reading a book takes planning, and effort, and even note-taking

Actually this does sound like it’d be right up my alley. Tim Sanders wrote somewhat similar things in one of my favorites when he wrote about turning books into workbooks. I’m adding this book, with it’s interesting title, to my to-read list. Thanks, Tony.