Books I've Read

Here's a list of the books I've read in recent years. Some of this will be mildly embarassing (the Star Wars books) but I'm determined to be honest here and to not edit this list for intellectual respectability. Perhaps openly publishing such a list will cause me instead to edit my actual behaviors, and choose from a better class of books. After each year is done I'll do some analysis of what I read in that year, which ought to give me some productive insight into my habits.

Most importantly of all, the presence of books on this list should not be taken as an endorsement of their contents or authors. This goes double for any political book; I sometimes go out of my way to read books that are not in line with my pre-existing beliefs, so make no assumptions from this list. Reading such books, by the way, is a practice I might recommend to others too.

In general I have at least three books going at all times: one on paper for the most serious reading, one audible audiobook for commuting and listening to while exercising or doing relatively mindless tasks, and one kindle book for when I'm waiting in line or at other times when I have my phone and some loose time to read it with. In the following list I've linked to the specific edition I read (or listened to) myself, where possible.

Books marked with a star (*) are the monthly selections of the bookclub I'm a member of.

This list immediately revealed to me that I was failing at C.S. Lewis's recommendation to read one old book for every new book. So I'm calculating a Lewis Ratio per year: count of old books divided by count of new books, where old is defined as having been first published earlier than 1900. This isn't that old really—certainly Lewis wouldn't be satisfied—but honestly my ratio would be zero for 2016 and 2017 if I moved the threshold earlier by only a century, to 1800. Best would be to select a more consequential year, 1789 probably, by which to divide old from new ways of thinking.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the books listed below are paid Amazon links.


  1. The Master Builder, Henrik Ibsen
  2. That One Should Disdain Hardships: The Teachings of a Roman Stoic, Musonius Rufus
  3. The Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man's Guide to Chivalry, Brad Miner, read by Christopher Lane
  4. Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton, read by John Lee
  5. The Dragon, Evgeny Shvarts, translated by Laurence Senelick
  6. My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell
  7. Beggars in Spain, Nancy Kress, ready by Cassandra Campbell
  8. Invention: A Life of Learning Through Failure, James Dyson, read by James Dyson
  9. The War on the West, Douglas Murray, read by Douglas Murray
  10. The Courage to be Disliked, Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
  11. The Lighthouse at the End of the World, Jules Verne, ready by Bob Jones
  12. Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative, Ken Robinson, ready by John Lee
  13. The Courage to Be Happy, Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
  14. Five Little Pigs, Agatha Christie, read by Hugh Fraser
  15. Charter Schools and Their Enemies, Thomas Sowell, read by Brad Sanders
  16. Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass, Theodore Dalrymple, ready by James Cameron Stewart
  17. The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook, Niall Ferguson, read by Elliot Hill
  18. Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX, Eric Berger

Books on paper = 2, Kindle or other ebook = 5, audio = 11. Lewis ratio = 2/18. Fiction to nonfiction ratio: 5/18


  1. The Early Cases of Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie, read by Charles Armstrong
  2. Dune, Frank Herbert *
  3. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, David Epstein, read by Will Damron
  4. The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World, Patrik Svensson, read by Alex Wyndham
  5. Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, Michael Polanyi
  6. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby *
  7. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe *
  8. Adventure Cats: Living Nine Lives to the Fullest, Laura J. Moss
  9. The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age, James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg, read by Michael David Axtell
  10. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, read by Jonathan Haidt
  11. Pandora's Star, Peter F. Hamilton, read by John Lee
  12. The Color of Magic, Terry Pratchett *
  13. Heart of Palm, Laura Lee Smith *
  14. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
  15. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin *
  16. Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered, Austin Kleon
  17. Rebuilding the Polymath, Stephen Spaulding and James Gibson (I provide no link as this work is sloppily written and the ideas it expresses are obvious. Don't bother.)
  18. The Invisibility Cloak, Ge Fei, translated by Canaan Morse
  19. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, John Taylor Gatto
  20. Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin
  21. The Leipzig Connection, Paola Lionni
  22. Samuel Smedley, Connecticut Privateer, Jackson Kuhl
  23. Judas Unchained, Peter F. Hamilton, read by John Lee
  24. The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger *
  25. The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare, G. K. Chesterton, read by Simon Vance
  26. Polymath: Master Multiple Disciplines, Learn New Skills, Think Flexibly, and Become Extraordinary Autodidact, Peter Hollins
  27. Psychiatry: The Science of Lies, Thomas Szasz
  28. Ideas Have Consequences, Expanded Edition, Richard M. Weaver
  29. Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life, Jordan B. Peterson
  30. A Disquisition on Government, John C. Calhoun
  31. Heretics, G. K. Chesterton, read by Rory Barnett
  32. Whistleblower: My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight for Justice at Uber, Susan Fowler

Books on paper = 5, Kindle or other ebook = 17, audio = 10. Lewis ratio = 2/30. Fiction to nonfiction ratio: 12/20


  1. The Farthest Shore, Ursula K. Le Guin
  2. Tower of Babylon, Ted Chiang
  3. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, David Grann *
  4. Gilgamesh: A New English Version, translated by Stephen Mitchell
  5. The Belly of Paris, Émile Zola, translated by Mark Kurlansky *
  6. The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes, Neil Gaiman *
  7. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe, read by Steve West
  8. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri *
  9. Slide Rule: Autobiography of an Engineer, Nevil Shute, read by James Faulkner
  10. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes
  11. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, James Clear, read by James Clear
  12. This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Medical Resident, Adam Kay, read by Adam Kay *
  13. Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman, E. W. Hornung, read by David Rintoul
  14. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, translated by Constance Garnett
  15. The Polymath: Unlocking the Power of Human Versatility, Waqas Ahmed, read by Waqas Ahmed
  16. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, translated by Gregory Rabassa *
  17. The Doorstep Mile: Live More Adventurously Every Day, Alastair Humphreys, read by Alastair Humphreys
  18. Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement, Rich Karlgaard, read by Fred Sanders
  19. Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds, David Goggins, read by David Goggins and Adam Skolnick
  20. How to Think Like a Fish: And Other Lessons from a Lifetime in Angling, Jeremy Wade, read by Jeremy Wade

Books on paper = 8, Kindle or other ebook = 2, audio = 10. Lewis ratio = 4/16. Fiction to nonfiction ratio: 10/10

Although 2020's overall number was hardly impressive (the lowest since I started keeping score here), I can, if minded to do it, extract from the above list a few signs that might be called improvement. There is a perfect balance between fiction and non-fiction, a Lewis ratio of 25% (the highest yet), and quite a few flags planted on the rugged peaks of some generally-agreed-upon classics: Gilgamesh, The Belly of Paris, Robinson Crusoe, Crime and Punishment, and One Hundred Years of Solitude. Not bad for a year, and able to take some of the sting out of contemplating the slightly-embarassing list of productivity and business books I've also indulged in along the way.

Jaynes' Origin of Consciousness was a sort of inevitable book for me, something I've been circling warily ever since immensely enjoying a sugar-coated nibble of it in the form of Neal Stephenson's The Big U and Snow Crash. I've also been reading a lot of the source material (Homer and Gilgamesh) in recent years. Like everyone else, I still can't decide if the Jaynes theory is brilliant or nonsense, so I guess I'll get to the Bible and Hesiod next and try to have a slightly better-informed opinion. Whatever else might be said of Bicameralism, as a starting point for a general education you could do a lot worse.

This year I particularly enjoyed two accounts of men pursuing their peculiar crafts: Slide Rule, a memoir of the engineering career of novelist Nevil Shute, and How to Think Like a Fish, a kind of extended essay into the methods of River Monsters angler and adventurer Jeremy Wade. Both men unite deep knowledge of technique with what is more rare, real writing ability, which never exists apart from clear thinking and enables both authors to explore their work philosophically, from top to bottom. The Shute book also gave me a wider perspective on technology startups; there's a surprisingly straight line connecting the early days of aviation with the early days of the personal computer, the early days of the Internet and, hopefully, the early days of whatever it is that comes next.


  1. The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Tempations in Free Societies, Ryszard Legutko, read by Liam Gerrard
  2. The Diary of a Bookseller, Shaun Bythell *
  3. The Pocket Guide to Action: 116 Meditations on the Art of Doing, Kyle Eschenroeder
  4. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
  5. Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, Leonard Koren
  6. How to Live on 24 Hours a Day, Arnold Bennett
  7. Space Captain Smith, Toby Frost, read by Clive Catterall
  8. Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation, Andrea Wulf, read by Antonia Bath
  9. Maxims, La Rochefoucauld, translated by Louis Kronenberger
  10. Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It, “Charlamagne”, read by the author *
  11. Zero Point, Neal Asher, read by John Mawson and Steve West
  12. The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress, Virginia Postrel
  13. Educated: A Memoir, Tara Westover *
  14. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, Tom Reiss, read by Paul Michael
  15. Micromastery: Learn Small, Learn Fast, and Find the Hidden Path to Happiness, Robert Twigger, read by Roy McMillan
  16. Candide, Voltaire *
  17. Children of Time, Adrian Tchaikovsky, read by Mel Hudson *
  18. Secret Corners of the World, National Geographic Society
  19. So, Anyway..., John Cleese, read by the author
  20. Evil Under the Sun, Agatha Christie, read by David Suchet
  21. The Terror of Existence: From Ecclesiastes to Theatre of the Absurd, Theodore Dalrymple and Kenneth Francis, read by Jack Wynters
  22. Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey, read by Jefferson Mays
  23. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua, read by the author
  24. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury *
  25. I Drink Therefore I Am, Roger Scruton, read by Ralph Lister
  26. The Last Days of Night, Graham Moore, read by Johnathan McClain *
  27. The Dispatcher, John Scalzi, read by Zachary Quinto
  28. The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula K. Le Guin
  29. Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet *
  30. Jupiter War, Neal Asher, read by John Mawson and Steve West
  31. The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race, and Identity, Douglas Murray, read by the author
  32. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, with Pearl and Sir Orfeo, translated by J. R. R. Tolkien, read by Terry Jones
  33. The Art of Simple Living, Shunmyo Masuno, read by Louis Ozawa Changchien

Books on paper = 8, Kindle or other ebook = 5, audio = 20. Lewis ratio = 3/30. Fiction to nonfiction ratio: 14/19

I'm disappointed in 2019's results. I find that my Lewis ratio has declined, again due to a lack of conscious direction, that most of my reading this year was listening, and that I read many very short works. Overall I did not challenge myself much in 2019.

This was, however, the year I first approached Ursula K. Le Guin and her wonderful Earthsea series, to which I'm sure I'll return again. A ratty paperback of A Wizard of Earthsea has been lingering on my bookshelf since childhood, but I had never read the thing, not in thirty shame-ridden years. I'm glad I finally did.

Long science fiction audiobooks were a apparent theme of 2019, including the last two books of Neal Asher's Owner trilogy, and the first Expanse novel, Leviathan Wakes. The bookclub's selection of Children of Time brought me a really pleasant surprise and a really novel scenario to think about: I had never considered the sort of technology and culture that a race of super-spiders would develop!

I Drink Therefore I Am, an extended and very personal essay on wine and philosophy, was another bright spot in this year. Roger Scruton, now sadly, and very recently, departed from us, has gotten me to think more and to drink more, but to do both better than before.


  1. The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden *
  2. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens, read by Simon Vance
  3. For Your Eyes Only, Ian Fleming, read by Samuel West
  4. This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society, Kathleen McAuliffe *
  5. Thrawn, Timothy Zahn, read by Marc Thompson
  6. Cosmos, Carl Sagan
  7. The Princess Bride, William Goldman *
  8. Ready Player One, Ernest Cline *
  9. Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, read by David McCallion
  10. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, Erik Larson
  11. Maker Pro: Essays on Making a Living as a Maker, edited by John Baichtal
  12. Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners, Michael Erard, read by Robert Blumenfeld
  13. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, read by Joe Ochman
  14. English Eccentrics and Eccentricities, John Timbs
  15. Managing Oneself, Peter F. Drucker
  16. Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
  17. The Iliad, Homer, translated by Robert Fitzgerald, read by Dan Stevens
  18. Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery, Scott Kelly *
  19. Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury *
  20. The Black Tulip, Alexandre Dumas *
  21. The Odyssey, Homer, translated by Robert Fitzgerald, read by Dan Stevens
  22. Seaworthy: Adrift with William Willis in the Golden Age of Rafting, T. R. Pearson
  23. On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Ian Fleming, read by David Tennant
  24. In Praise of Shadows, Junichiro Tanizaki
  25. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney
  26. Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve, Lenora Chu, read by Emily Woo Zeller *
  27. A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea, Masaji Ishikawa, translated by Risa Kobayashi and Martin Brown, read by Brian Nishii
  28. The Club of Queer Trades, G. K. Chesterton
  29. The Call of Cthulhu, H. P. Lovecraft *
  30. The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis
  31. Areopagitica: A speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing to the Parliament of England, John Milton
  32. Flashman, George MacDonald Fraser
  33. The Illustrated Man, Ray Bradbury, read by Scott Brick
  34. Rules of Civility, Amor Towles *
  35. Death on the Nile, Agatha Christie, read by David Suchet
  36. The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty, Soetsu Yanagi, adapted by Bernard Leach

Books on paper = 14, Kindle or other ebook = 9, audio = 13. Lewis ratio = 7/29. Fiction to nonfiction ratio: 17/19

In last year's analysis I formed some vague intentions to improve my book selections for 2018: to read more nonfiction, to further increase the Lewis ratio, and to extend my reading further into the pre-Victorian past. This year I'm gratified to discover that, through no particularly conscious effort on my part, progress has been made on all three.

The excellent Dan Stevens performances of The Iliad and The Odyssey brought some real (i.e. Greek or Latin) classics into 2018's list. I'll remind any cranks tempted to think of audiobooks as a soft option that Homer is really meant to be listened to (don't listen to Leviathan though—audio isn't the ideal way to tackle that project). These cornerstones of Western culture were balanced, in the second half of the year, by a notable cluster of books about East Asia. That symmetry appeals to me although it was, again, not the product of any really active design.

Traditionalists may be pleased to find that not all trends run against them: I did more of my reading from paper this year than from any other medium.

Some Surprises from 2018

The Call of Cthulhu was non-horrifying, even boring, although the real bores may be Lovecraft's fans and their tedious worship of this so-called “master of horror”. To be fair, though, Lovecraft may be a victim of success in this respect: I've simply absorbed too much of his material at second-hand to be really shocked by it.

Seaworthy was delightful, bringing us the picaresque hero William Willis out of a “golden age of rafting” I had no idea even existed. The perverse survival of Willis through so many willfully insane misadventures is the sort of colorful, romantic tale that only really works as the true story that it is.

Ready Player One was dreadful: derivative, lazy, and clumsily written. The amazing love for this book emanating from most quarters of the “geek” world since its publication was for me a sort of last straw. It broke what remained of my tenuous identification with that subculture; 2018 was the year I removed the word “geek” from the masthead of this blog. So, a consequential book. But an awful one.


  1. Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen *
  2. The Last Command, Timothy Zahn, read by Marc Thompson
  3. And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie *
  4. The Rosie Effect, Graeme Simsion, read by Dan O'Grady
  5. The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills, Daniel Coyle
  6. The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World, Andrea Wulf, read by David Drummond
  7. The Library at Mount Char, Scott Hawkins *
  8. The Most Productive People in History: 18 Extraordinarily Prolific Inventors, Artists, and Entrepreneurs, From Archimedes to Elon Musk, Michael Rank * (I provide no link as this book is ineptly written and useless. No one should read it.)
  9. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman *
  10. The Stockholm Octavo, Karen Engelmann, read by Simon Vance
  11. The Second Mrs. Hockaday, Susan Rivers *
  12. 15 Short Stories, Isaac Asimov *
  13. The Richest Man in Babylon, George S. Clason
  14. Dracula, Bram Stoker *
  15. The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson *
  16. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Mark Twain, read by Nick Offerman
  17. Crow Hollow, Michael Wallace
  18. The Fourth Monkey, J.D. Barker, read by Edoardo Ballerini, Graham Winton *
  19. House of Suns, Alastair Reynolds, read by John Lee
  20. The Man who Made Things out of Trees, Robert Penn
  21. Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
  22. The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler
  23. The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia, Michael Booth, read by Ralph Lister
  24. One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, B.J. Novak *
  25. The Departure, Neal Asher, read by Steve West and John Mawson

Books on paper = 7, Kindle or other ebook = 9, audio = 9. Lewis ratio = 3/22. Fiction to nonfiction ratio: 19/6

I read rather less non-fiction this year. This is mostly due to the bookclub, which has very rarely set non-fiction books. To compensate I should bias my own selections toward non-fiction.

2017's Lewis ratio improved only slightly. Also, all of the old books in 2016 and 2017 were from the 19th century, which doesn't really uphold the spirit of what Lewis was recommending. So there's progress to be made there, perhaps by concentrating on some of the Greeks and Romans again.

Historical fiction seems to have been one theme of 2017, with three titles: The Stockholm Octavo, The Second Mrs. Hockaday and Crow Hollow. This is also the year in which I finally got to Agatha Christie; And Then There Were None was probably my favorite of the bookclub selections.


  1. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr *
  2. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, Eugene B. Sledge, read by Marc Vietor, Joe Mazzello, and Tom Hanks
  3. Prejudices: The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Series, H.L. Mencken
  4. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Eric Hoffer
  5. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Phillip K. Dick *
  6. Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way, Lars Mytting
  7. The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion, read by Dan O'Grady *
  8. Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America's Gutsiest Troublemakers, Nick Offerman, read by Nick Offerman
  9. Hitch-22: A Memoir, Christopher Hitchens, read by Christopher Hitchens
  10. The Yoga of Max's Discontent, Karan Bajaj *
  11. The Inimitable Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse, read by Martin Jarvis
  12. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan *
  13. Arguably: Essays, Christopher Hitchens, read by Christopher Hitchens
  14. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides *
  15. My Man Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse, read by Martin Jarvis
  16. Seveneves, Neal Stephenson *
  17. Carry On Jeeves!, P.G. Wodehouse, read by Martin Jarvis
  18. Market Education: The Unknown History, Andrew J. Coulson
  19. The Cruel Sea, Nicholas Monsarrat, read by Simon Vance
  20. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain, read by Nick Offerman
  21. Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer, Tim Stark
  22. The News: A User's Manual, Alain de Botton, read by Nicholas Bell

Books on paper = 6, Kindle or other ebook = 5, audio = 11. Lewis ratio = 1/21. Fiction to nonfiction ratio: 12/10

I did fully half of my reading this year by listening to audiobooks. I'm quite picky about narrators—very many of's offerings I'm unwilling to consume for this reason—but books read by their own authors are often a safe bet, especially when those authors are Christopher Hitchens and Nick Offerman (all the same, I found Gumption irritating and self-indulgent). Hitchens' two books on this list also encouraged me to read The Cruel Sea and the Jeeves and Wooster books; you could do a lot worse than to mine his selected essays for literary recommendations. I'd been looking for a way to get started with Wodehouse and Hitchens' endorsement of the excellent Martin Jarvis recordings was just what I needed.

2016 was the also the first year of my membership in Booknerds' Bookclub. I joined so that I would be forced to read books I wouldn't necessarily have chosen for myself; of the bookclub selections on this list only Seveneves and maybe Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? were already on my list. Only The Yoga of Max's Discontent was truly awful, so the club has succeeded admirably in what I wanted it to do.