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 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.


  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 *


  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.