Books I've Read

By Year:

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 not to 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.

2018

  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

2017

  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 = 3/25. 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.

2016

  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 Simison, 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 audible.com'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.