It’s nearing the end of the year, and while there’s still a lot of reading time left to go, especially over the holiday break, I thought it would be interesting to list the books that I’ve read during the year. I’ve tried this in years past, but I’ve usually not hung on to the list longer than it took to compile, glance at, and say “Wow!”. While I’m pretty much constantly reading, it’s only when I go back at the end of some period of time and make a list that I realize how much I’ve read.
I should refer, of course, to Art Gunfunkel of “Simon and…” fame who has been doing this for over 40 years, and has published his list on the web. His list is impressive mostly because he’s been keeping his list for so long, but the breadth of his reading is pretty impressive as well.
If I had kept every book that I’d ever read (I don’t borrow from libraries; I buy them) they’d be stacked everywhere. Instead, every few years I thin them down. When I moved to Ithaca a few years ago I immediately dropped off a couple hundred at the local book sale, which led to my volunteering at the sale for the five years I lived there. Every time I move I dread boxing up the books, carrying the heavy boxes, and reshelving later, but it seems that more often than not shortly after I get rid of a book I’m looking for it again; there’s more than a few books that I’ve bought multiple copies of because of this. I haven’t counted lately, but I think that I have somewhere over a thousand books on my shelves.
Some years I read more than others, but generally when I’ve made these lists there’s been around 40 to 50 books for the year. This has been going on for a very long time; I remember that in sixth grade I won a reading contest sponsored by the school librarian by reading something like 350 books during the school year. Of course those books were a bit thinner than the ones I read now, but reading two books a day for the entire school year is pretty good.
Every once in a while I get into reading fiction for a while, but most of the books in my library are non fiction. I read a lot of history, some literature, science, travel, essays and biographies. It’s fun to see, on these annual lists, what topics were interesting to me during the year. This year, I think, I’ve overdosed on humanism/skepticism. Next year it will turn into something else. We’ll just have to see how it develops.
So, roughly in the order of reading, here’s my list for 2010:
- Death from the Skies: The Science Behind the End of the World — Plait
- Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed — Plait
- Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare — Shapiro
- Moon Fire: The Epic Journey of Apollo 11 — Mailer
- Labels — Waugh
- Fad and Fallacies in the Name of Science — Gardner
- Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World — Fraunfelder
- On Writing — Borges
- On Mysticism — Borges
- On Argentina — Borges
- Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe — Epstein
- Mysteries of the Middle Ages: And the Beginning of the Modern World — Cahill
- Complete Sherlock Holmes (2 Vol) — Doyle
- The Demon-Haunted World — Sagan
- The Varieties of Scientific Experience — Sagan
- Remote People — Waugh
- The Odyssey — Homer, trans. Fagles (Note: As my favourite book I tend to read this every year in one or another translation)
- The Imperfectionists — Rachman
- Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory — Macintyre
- Bluebeard — Vonnegut
- Hocus Pocus — Vonnegut
- The Lost Books of the Odyssey — Mason
- God is Not Great — Hitchens
- Breaking the Spell — Dennett
- Ninety-Two Days — Waugh
- Hitch 22 — Hitchens
- Love, Poverty, and War — Hitchens
- When You Were Engulfed in Flames — Sedaris
- Thomas Jefferson — Hitchens
- God: The Failed Hypothesis — Stenger
- Galapagos — Vonnegut
- God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater — Vonnegut
- The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas — Harvie, Meyers
- The Greatest Show on Earth — Dawkins
- The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non Believer — Hitchens
Then, of course, I also read Time magazine and the New Yorker every week, and a couple of motorcycle magazines every month. The New York Times whenever C. buys a copy. Magazines on airplanes. Papers and journal articles for my job. Plus of course the books I started but got bored with and set aside, or will have to take a bit more time to complete. That’s a lot of reading for the year.