So last year, about this time, I made a resolution. I resolved to read 100 books in a year. 100 books in 365 days, just a little under 1 book every three days. It was a hard challenge, but I felt (and still feel) that I need to be well-read person, and so I plugged away. I was all on schedule and doing great when…I started a blog. Round about May. And since then, that hour or so a night when I was reading away went *poof*. I do not regret the blog for a minute, and I hope it will be stealing my time for some time to come (well, ok, maybe dissertation time is a little too precious). But I did keep plugging away. As of right now, I managed to get 63% of my goal complete. That’s not very impressive, I know, but it IS over 20,000 pages. And I did get through some of the things I’d always told myself I was going to read.
I even had RULES. The rules:
I could not have read it before (this means if I was in the middle of a series, only the ones I read since I started are included).
It could not be work-related.
And so a few weeks ago, as I closed in on #60, I though perhaps you guys might be interested in all the books I’ve been reading over the last year. Ok, maybe not ALL of them…
…after all, I’m a little ashamed of some of them…some of that historical fiction…*shame*…but there are a bunch that I think are really important, and a few that blew my mind. So here I present to you: the 54 best books I read this year (or perhaps 54 most important books, maybe not the best), in no particular order, but divided up by genre. And maybe some commentary, when I feel like it.
1) Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison. I comment a bit on it here.
2) Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond.
3) Survival of the Prettiest: the Science of Beauty by Nancy Etcoff.
4) Listening to Prozac by Peter D. Kramer. Grrr…and the author notes with surprise that his book spawned all these people begging for Prozac, gee, I wonder why, when the phrase he uses over and over again is “better than well”, waxing poetic on the improvements that people gained even when they weren’t necessarily clinically depressed. He gets concerned over the fact that people may not really be themselves, and there’s a certain emotional distancing, but I’m not at all surprised that most people glossed over that.
5) Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure, by Paul Offit.
6) Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole my Mother’s Boyfriend, by Barbara Oakley. Review here.
7) Freaks of Nature: what anomalies tell us about development and evolution by Mark S. Blumberg. Review here.
Religion and Philosophy
8) Fear and Trembling by Soren Kirkegaard.
9) The Kama Sutra edited by Lance Dane. The best chapter involves how a mistress should behave when a man calls her by the wrong name. Completely awesome.
10) The Sickness Unto Death by Soren Kirekegaard.
11) Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris.
12) The Trial and Death of Socrates by Plato.
13) The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli.
14) St. Augustine’s Confessions, translated by Gary Wills.
15) The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.
16) Wittgenstein’s Poker by David Edmonds and John Edinow.
17) Paradise Lost by John Milton. Best of Christian literature my ASS. St. Augustine is SO much better. Though that’s not really saying all that much…
18) The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives
19) Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France by Leonie Frieda
20) Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens by Jane Dunn.
21) Napoleon in Love by R.F. Delderfield.
22) Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, by Walter Isaacson. I would have enjoyed this a lot more if the author lost the many references to Franklin’s “prairie home companion” sense of humor.
23) The Wars of the Roses by Allison Weir.
24) Dream Country by Neil Gaiman. BRILLIANT.
25-34) Y, The Last Man (Volumes 1-10) by Brian K. Vaughan. Also completely brilliant, though perhaps not AS brilliant as Gaiman gets. Still, a powerful story.
35) Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi.
36) Persepolis 2: the Story of a Return, by Marjane Satrapi. These two are great. I highly recommend.
37) The Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Fantastic! I will say I think Gaiman is better, I know there are points of contention over this.
Fantasy and Sci-Fi
38) The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
39) The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman
40) The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman. This series starts out really well, though by the end of book 3 Pullman is banging you over the head with his message just as badly as CS Lewis ever did in the The Last Battle. Only it’s the opposite message.
41) A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 3) by George RR Martin.
42) A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4) by George RR Martin. I cannot recommend the Song of Ice and Fire series enough. Masterful fiction.
43) The Book Without Words: a Fable of Medieval Magic by Avi.
44) The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell.
45) The Physiognomy by Jeffrey Ford. An interesting, anti-science message.
46) The Stranger by Albert Camus.
47) Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Awfully good.
48) Grendel by John Gardner
49) Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. A time when Austen needed to give her heroine some spine.
50) Emma by Jane Austen.
51) The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. Now I know what they mean when PETA names someone a “vivisectionist”. That is horrendous, and not at all what animal physiologists do. Good book, though.
52) The Omnivore’s Delimma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. Quite good reading. I’ve now been to Polyface Farms, the meat is GREAT. Good living really does make a difference.
53) The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg.
54) Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality by Anne Fausto-Sterling.
So there you go. I would be interested to hear what books people have read this year, and if you have any recommendations! I figure with the blog, and hopefully with my dissertation, I’m not going to attempt to go above 30 next year, but goals like this are good ways for me to expand my reading. Some day, I think I might even qualify as well-read!