I’ve been cataloging the books I’ve read each year since 1985 when I was greatly influenced by my 8th grade English teacher, Mr. Arnold, to keep a book journal. (There is roughly a 14 month gap in my book list due to the “Great Hard Drive Crash of 2001”. I also lost a ton of baby pictures for our oldest child, but that’s a story for another time.) Making an entry in my book journal has turned into a bit of a ritual, over the years, when I finish a book and take a few moments to capture the details in my ever growing list. While I moved the cataloging online many years ago, I still have the original paper version. I recently thumbed through this, recalling the moments when I read some of these works, and enjoyed the trip down memory lane.
There are perhaps no days of our childhood that we lived as fully as the days we think we left behind without living at all: the days we spent with a favourite book.” – On Reading, Marcel Proust, 1905
This year my goal was to read 36 books, equaling last year’s efforts. I’ve listed all 36 at the end of this article. First, I want to call out a few highlights from this list (ordered only by the sequence I read them):
Filters Against Folly, Garrett Hardin – Hardin was an ecologist and philosopher. It’s an unlikely book to begin with, yet I found myself recommending this book several times throughout the year. In the book, Hardin details three filters to help us solve problems:
- Literacy – the words we use and how we interpret a problem through language
- Numeracy – how we quantify a problem, what metrics we use to convey it
- Ecolacy – what are the unintended consequences of our actions, what comes next?
His first law of Ecolacy, “We can never merely do one thing.” is both simple and elegant. It should serve as a reminder that all of our actions have an impact, maybe we should consider that impact before we act.
The Top of the Volcano, Harlan Ellison – You have to be intrigued by a guy who has self-described as “possibly the most contentious person on Earth”. This was the first material of Ellison’s I read, and I will certainly be back for more. His imagination and storytelling are superb. This collection of 23 speculative fiction short stories are surprising, bold, and enchanting.
Gateway (Heechee Saga #1), Frederik Pohl – I’ve been meaning to read this book for many years. I happened across a used copy one afternoon and piled it in my long list of things to read. Finally, in August, I picked it up for some summer reading, I completed it in one day, something I haven’t done since a teenager. This book kicked off a significant consumption of 70’s, 80, and early 90’s sci-fi and fantasy, which dominated the back half of the year for me. I’ve read 5 of the 6 Heechee Saga novels, of which Gateway is the first. This and the next book in the series, Beyond the Blue Event Horizon, are groundbreaking, imaginative, and just plain fun to read. If you want to relive the sci-fi you might have read as a teenager, I strongly recommended starting here.
CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, George Saunders – When I wasn’t reading Sci-fi I was apparently reading short story collections this year. Saunders is excellent, full of satire, wit, and very funny (sometimes awkwardly so). Here is the note I wrote to myself after completing, “Saunders is a magical creator, spinning yarns of drama, absurdity, sorrow all in an extremely humorous and entertaining prose.” I sound too much like those silly quotes you see on the dust cover. [The transcript from his commencement speech at Syracuse University is worth reading too, it can be found under the title Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness]. Did I just recommend a commencement speech?
Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny – I warned you I was reading some classics, didn’t I? I had forgotten I read this previously, back in the mid-80’s. It was like discovering something you had forgotten you lost (I never finished the series, having gotten distracted after book 6). Each of these novels is super short, yet it tells a fascinating story of time/space bending, a royal family, and lots magic, sword play, and deception. I’m hoping to re-read though book 6 again and push on through to the end of the series in 2017.
I’m saving the details of my last selection for a future article, I’m not done thinking about it yet, but there are several thoughts I’ve added to my Infinity Shelf for later posts. The title is Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa by my favorite author on the planet, Haruki Murakami. Reading this book is like a guilty pleasure of eavesdropping on their conversation.
My entire reading list for 2016 is listed below. You’ll notice I provided links to all titles on Goodreads, I find this platform to be perfect for both researching and cataloging current and future reads.
Happy Reading and Stay Curious,