Category Archives: Tools for Readers

Reading with Intent

One of my biggest fears is wasting my time. That’s one reason I like following book bloggers and keeping up with readings and reviews. I’m trying to be pickier about my books these days and I’m trying to read at a pace where I can actually absorb and use what I’m reading, not just “read at it” and react to whatever is open on the page before me. There are just so many books!

Today I ran across this quote and wanted to leave it here. I may have to make myself a bookmark with this. It’s from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations (that link is to one of the free digital versions on Project Gutenberg).

“…I learned to read carefully and not be satisfied with a rough understanding of the whole, and not to agree too quickly with those who have a lot to say about something.”

I love that about “those who have a lot to say about something”! Some of these modern histories and social science books appear more worthwhile than they are just because they weigh a ton.

Anyway, just wanted to share the quote. Reading Meditations is turning out to be a good (if slow) experience. Amazing to think that he wrote all of this for himself. All these lofty goals, thoughts, personal philosophies were not meant for the public eye. Pretty neat to think about.

Be well!

Reading Ability Tied to Ice Cream

Ok, so this one has a bit of a “cars with umbrellas in them get into more wrecks, so umbrellas cause wrecks” kind of feel to it, but hey, it was reported by The Economist. Which is pretty legit and their paywall is more profitable than what I’m running here at Headsubhead, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

But the numbers do track just about the same: countries that consume large amounts of ice cream treats also score very very well on literacy tests.


No doubt there are many other factors here, but doing a quick and dirty back of the napkin confirmation…

Business Insider lists these ten as the top ice cream eating countries:

  1. New Zealand
  2. United States
  3. Australia
  4. Finland
  5. Sweden
  6. Canada
  7. Denmark
  8. Ireland
  9. Italy
  10. United Kingdom

And according to a Washington Post article, the most literate countries in the world are:

  1. Finland
  2. Norway
  3. Iceland
  4. Denmark
  5. Sweden
  6. Switzerland
  7. United States
  8. Germany
  9. Latvia
  10. Canada & Netherlands (tie)

So that’s 50%. Of course, while it’s easy to count ice cream cones, it’s much harder to measure literacy. No doubt some formulas would track this trend higher or lower, but it’s still pretty fun.

So, averaging the info from Business Insider, in order to maintain a high level of literacy you should consume 13.5 liters (3.6 gallons) of ice cream per year.

All of that probably isn’t true, but it sure is fun to say. And there’s math behind it! Everything with numbers is true, right? Just ask any of these politicians running for office. However if science could tell us which flavors of ice cream help us most with reading comprehension…. then we’d be on to something.

Two eReader Apps You Should Check Out

Here are two iOS ereader apps that I think you should try. Both Readmill and Marvin read ePub files and offer features that iBooks is nowhere close to rolling out.


This app has quickly become my favorite app to read in. The design of Readmill is fantastic and they have pioneered many of the highlighting-type features that kindle and iBooks have adopted.

readmill ereader appsWhat really makes Readmill great is the community and sharing aspects. Basically, (if you turn on the features) it turns any book you’re reading into a book club. You don’t necessarily “follow people” (though you can), but while in a book other people’s highlights and comments pop up, just as if they were scribbled in the margins of a paper book. In Readmill you can reply to their marginalia or highlights and then others can respond to you, etc. You’ll have a full blown discussion before you know it… all centered on this shared experience of that very book you are reading. Of course, you can also ‘@’ people not reading the book to help promote the book or spur interest/discussions among your friends, but the idea of a group of people gathering around the shared reading of a book is fantastic. I really like the notion of discovering people to follow based on their ideas and observations alone.

readmill ereader appsI have always read business books in paper. I need to scribble and make notes in non-fiction books. But I recently gave Readmill a go for a business book and can honestly say I was better for it. I stumbled on a few people, in the Readmill community, who had read it before me and made some fantastic connections inside that book. These were ideas that  I may never have come up with on my own. It was a cool experience.



Marvin is a fun app to read in as well, but for totally different reasons. You do have amazing controls over the color, brightness, etc. and the design is solid. Plus, they have some nifty features to help folks with dyslexia or near-blindness. Marvin also allows one-click downloads from free eBook sites, Dropbox, Readmill, ODPS, and Calibre integration.

marvin ereaderBut my favorite feature of Marvin is the Deep View. Once you click ‘OK’ the Marvin app will quickly read your whole book in about a minute. It will then offer you a list of every name in the book with external links and how the names appear to be related in the book. It will also offer you a summary of the book (free Cliffs Notes!) if you’d like one. It will also compile a list of articles about that book, article about the author, and other internet content related to the book. It’s like setting your own private wiki-pedia for the book you happen to be reading.

marvin appOnce you integrate that with IMDB, etc. it gets to be very very fun. I’ve found I enjoy reading older books in this app as I’m always amazed at how many author “from the days of yore” knew each other, hung out together, berated each other, or mentioned each other in their books and reviews.

For every Brat Pack in Hollywood, there were at least 10 groups of authors paying attention to each other.


While neither Readmill or Marvin have direct access to a robust bookstore like iBooks or kindle, these two ereader apps are worth the extra two clicks to getting an ePub side loaded to read. Check them out. I’d love to know what you think.

The Game of Books

Game of Books player card Game of Books has been fully funded via their Kickstarter campaign! Basically, it’s home library/book cataloging system where you earn points/skills/etc. based on the books you read… think Dungeons & Dragons meets LibraryThing. This could be a lot of fun.

You start off as an Apprentice and then level up as your reading progresses:

Character Titles:
Apprentice Reader = Level 0+
Journeyman Reader = Level 25+
Craftsman Reader = Level 50+
Master Reader = Level 75+
GrandMaster Reader = Level 100+

At the bottom of their site, there is also a “concept demo” that shows off what your Reader/Character card would look like. Some folks might think it’s hokey (which it may be, we’ll have to see) but many like all of their virtual badges and fake pats on the back for “leveling up” across hundreds of check-in apps. And I think competition can be fun. What I am anxious to see is how well this resonates with the two budding readers in my house… this seems to be the kind of thing that my son would dig.

What do you think? Would you give Game of Books a try?