Books read, 2016


In an annual ritual, but a delightful one I hope, I rounded up all the books I read this year (minus one that’s out on loan and one that’s a play in a giant Shakespeare omnibus), put them in the middle of my floor and took their photo.

My total of 40 for 2016 is precisely half of 2012, the year I read 80 books and my best year to date. But that year I had a lot of short books to read, and also unlike this year, I wasn’t spending an hour or two per week working on my own book. I realized, too, that I took far fewer Metrolink trips this year, an act that gave me enforced reading time.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with 40 books. Wednesday’s column tries to make sense of the year. Below is a list of every book in chronological order.

  1. “Slogging Toward the Millennium,” Bill McClellan
  2. “The Hour After Westerly,” Robert M. Coates
  3. “Long After Midnight,” Ray Bradbury
  4. “The Day After Tomorrow,” Robert A. Heinlein
  5. “Twelfth Night,” William Shakespeare
  6. “Now Wait for Last Year,” Philip K. Dick
  7. “Early Bird,” Rodney Rothman
  8. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 30th Anniversary Issue
  9. “Frankenstein,” Mary Shelley
  10. “The Last Man,” Mary Shelley
  11. “The Last of the Best,” Jim Murray
  12. “The Last Laugh,” S.J. Perelman
  13. “The Penultimate Truth,” Philip K. Dick
  14. “Heart Like a Starfish,” Allen Callaci
  15. “Empire,” Lewis DeSoto
  16. “The Autobiography of Mark Twain,” Charles Neider, ed.
  17. “Stalking the Feature Story,” William Ruehlmann
  18. “Forgotten Bookmarks,” Michael Popek
  19. “The Complete Stories,” Flannery O’Connor
  20. “Howards End,” E.M. Forster
  21. “Then We Came to the End,” Joshua Ferris
  22. “Howards End is on the Landing,” Susan Hill
  23. “Sixpence House,” Paul Collins
  24. “Mary Shelley: A Biography,” Muriel Spark
  25. “John Carter of Mars” (No. 11), Edgar Rice Burroughs
  26. “The Divine Invasion,” Philip K. Dick
  27. “Tortilla Flat,” John Steinbeck
  28. “Ask a Mexican!” Gustavo Arellano
  29. “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America,” Gustavo Arellano
  30. “Eat Mexico,” Lesley Tellez
  31. “Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, Vol. 2,” H.P. Lovecraft, et al
  32. “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” Victor and Jacob Maymudes
  33. “Spend All Your Kisses, Mr. Smith,” Jack Smith
  34. “Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan,” Howard Sounes
  35. “Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina,” David Hajdu
  36. “Positively Main Street: An Unorthodox View of Bob Dylan,” Toby Thompson
  37. “Gentlemen of the Road,” Michael Chabon
  38. “The Wishbones,” Tom Perrotta
  39. “The Puppies of Terra,” Thomas M. Disch
  40. “Of All Things!” Robert Benchley

Of course I didn’t get to everything I’d have liked, not by a long shot, but many of these I’d been wanting to read for a long time. How was your year in reading?

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  • Richard_Pietrasz

    I read 103. Three years ago I decided to make a full log, one on a book site (goodreads), and another in text files on my PC. I also began making sure I put in comments here every month, and it sure has increased my totals, which were more like 50 per year before that. With 124 last year and 89 before that, my three year running average is a bit over 105. I’ll put the detailed list in a subcomment.

    I continued my eclectic tastes: 42 nonfiction, 60 fiction, 1 mixed. I keep a bathroom book, a walk the dog book, and now a walk the dog ebook, and I make sure to have moderate and easy to read paperbacks around in case I go somewhere that involves waiting or a boring event. I read a lot of short stories, 13 volumes with several of those quite long. There was a fair bit of science fiction and crime fiction, but also classics and miscellaneous. I counted a lot of authors new to me at book length, 33 books worth for the nonfiction, 22 for the fiction. Some of the books were quite weird, such as Confederates in the Attic (about Civil War re-enactors)and Area 51 (about the cultists around it, but not much about the secret base itself). The earliest publication was 1599, the newest this year. Some of the books were really good, and only a few fit in the category that I should not have bothered.

    I have noticed that weird coincidences keep popping up that I had no reason to expect. In Master and Commander, the second main character was a ship’s surgeon in the British Navy, and Lemuel Gulliver was also a ship’s surgeon (later captain) in the British merchant fleet. Nothing Like It in the World, about the first railroad to cross USA, features several protagonists that are in Cheyenne Autumn, which will be a 2017 book even though I read most of it in December.

    • davidallen909

      There’s a lot to be said for a slim paperback that can be slipped into a coat pocket and slipped out in moments of need (waiting in line, speeches, etc.). I’m pleased to hear that this blog contributed to your enthusiasm for reading! Having to account for my own reading every 30-ish days has certainly prodded me to keep reading and to read more.

  • Doug Evans

    My total for the year is 82! Which is a lot of books and, I think, is a record for me since I started keeping track here on the Reading Log. But heck, David, I’m more impressed with your 40, because you had a plan and stuck to it: cut down on your pile of unread books, and cut down on your book purchases. I had the same plan and I think I made a big deal out of it in this very spot last January. But as I look back at the year, I feel like I didn’t get through as many of my unread books as I wanted to or could have, and while I didn’t make as many actual purchases of books, I did check a lot out of the library (mostly as ebooks). So good for me for taking advantage of our local library system, but it didn’t help reduce the number of unread books lying around here.

    I’ve made a tentative four-year plan to cut down on that pile a little and get me through the end of 2020: spend this year reading books that people have given me as gifts (this will help reduce both the pile and the guilt that I feel every time I see one of those books), spend next year reading Big Books that I’ve purchased but never made time for (“Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell,” for one), spend the third year reading classics (looking at you, Ivanhoe, which I’ve had on my shelf since the early 1980s!), and the fourth year reading short story collections, of which I have several and which I want to read but oddly never feel like reading. Who sits down to read a book of short stories? Well, lots of people, and it’s time I became one of them. In amongst that, I’ll keep reading my remaining Asimov books (which are all short story collections, at this point, so disregard what I just said two sentences ago about never reading short story collections), book club picks, and, if I’m being honest, whatever I stumble across, because I’ve made these big plans before and I never seem to follow through. Still: having a plan, even as nebulous as this, feels like I’m kind of getting a handle on the stack.

    Anyway! Congrats, David, on your 40, congrats, Richard, on your 103, congrats, everyone else, on whatever your total was (probably more than our President-elect has read in a lifetime), and here’s to a happy, healthy, and literary (I can’t think of a reading word that starts with ‘h’) 2017!

    • davidallen909

      Congratulations on 82, which beats my “career” high of 80 a couple of years back. I was looking back at my journal from a year ago and saw that I thought I could read 40 in the coming year, which proved precisely true.

      Keeping a lid on book-buying is hard, but I’ve had intermittent success the past few years. Keeping to a plan is hard too. I like yours, but I’ll be curious to see if you actually want to eat basically the same meal for a year at a time. I have a lot of gift books myself and know your feelings of guilt.

      With my oldest unread books out of the way, my hope is to get back on track and knock off some books in 2017 that feel like they’ve been on hold the past couple of years. First up is one I’ve been promising myself to read for about six years.

    • Richard_Pietrasz

      History starts with h, does that work?

      I am impressed with Doug and David’s totals while being employed more or less full time. I never came close to that in those years, except for college days when internet was arpanet and difficult to access, video games were primitive and almost design your own, and I could fly through SF paperbacks at a page per minute or better (5+ books/week in summer, maybe 1 during terms).

      I do I a good job at reducing my unread backload. I just do a better job at adding to it. I gave up on trying to win that the battle of keeping the unread pile low; I’ve decided it is better to make the unread pile more attractive, accessible, and easier and quicker to find a book I want to read than visiting a library or bookstore. As to where I get most of my books, they are mostly from the library bookstore or the thrift store, and they average less than a buck. I regret the good ones I did not pick up due to uncertainty than the fewer number of those I picked up but likely won’t read or are not so good or entertaining.

      I find sticking to goals is much easier when I adapt my goals to what I do. I tried the the theme thing, but it didn’t work well, except for trying to fill out monthly count to a certain number. (No missing holes now, 4 to 15 books at least once in the last three years.) What I did do after decades is succeed in broadening my reading subjects greatly.

  • Mark Allen

    Mayhap I should cut down on my daily gorging on Cards-Blues stories, plus news in general. Only 14, down from 17, which was down from 18, down from 33, 18, and 22 (since I started keeping track.)

    The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien

    Ardennes 1944: The Battle of the Bulge – Antony Beevor

    Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God – Francis Chan

    Tyranny of the Urgent – Charles Hummel

    The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 – Alistair Horne

    Young Hitler – Paul Ham

    The Deal: Churchill, Truman, and Stalin Remake the World – Charles L. Mee Jr.

    Stalin: The Kremlin Mountaineer – Paul Johnson

    Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In: Lessons from an Extraordinary Life – Louis Zamperini and David Rensin

    Incredible Victory: The Battle of Midway – Walter Lord

    Back to the Front: An Accidental Historian Walks the Trenches of World War I – Stephen O’Shea

    A Prisoner: Released – Brian Brookheart

    Metallica’s Metallica (33 1/3) – David Masciotra

    Lonely Vigil: Coastwatchers of the Solomons – Walter Lord

    • Mark Allen

      Here’s some quotes from the top of my book list:

      “There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.” – Bertrand Russell
      “Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” – P.J. O’Rourke
      “Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new at all.” – Abraham Lincoln
      “The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” – Mark Twain
      “The covers of this book are too far apart.” – Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

      • davidallen909

        Ha ha. Good quotes. And you may only have read 14, but you are knowledgeable about WW1 and WWII. (And Metallica.)