I keep track of my most of my reading with the Goodreads app. Searching the app for titles and marking them “read,” “reading now,” and “to-read” is one of the ways I fill the time on my commute, aside from reading. The app should have another category, “abandoned,” for books that are started but not finished.
Some people think it’s terrible to not finish a book, as if they’re not “real” readers if they don’t read everything from cover to cover. Please. So many books, so little time. I abandoned two this year. One by choice, the other by circumstance.
2015 in books in no particular order (and not including the books I forgot to add to Goodreads, and whose titles are now forgotten):
The Announcers: Darkness Before Mourning, Volume 1. Greg Perkins. Greg is my friend, and ever since I’ve known him, since 2004 or so, he’s been working on a very long. He finally published the first book, and it was wonderful. I even wrote a review of it on Amazon (a first). Here’s the review: Greg Perkins is a skilled writer; his literary father is clearly William Faulkner, but unlike early Cormac McCarthy (whose literary father is also Faulkner), he has his own, distinct voice. It is not easy to write about emotional and physical pain without sounding maudlin or contrived. Perkins is neither. For example, the father’s pain from knowing he would not live to see his son grow up was understated, though that pain permeated the book. Similarly, the father did his best to keep his physical pain hidden from his children, yet he felt it constantly. And the tension of the son’s knowing and not knowing what exactly was going on with his father was exquisitely wrought. I look forward to the next installment.
The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers. Gillian Tett. The introduction was the most interesting part; Tett describes her background in anthropology, which gave her insights into how people develop certain blindnesses. The elephant silo in the room she never mentions: Our political parties.
Getting to Yes: Negotiating an Agreement without Giving In. Roger Fisher. Read this 20 years ago and it was time to read it again. Aside from the gender stereotyping, which felt anachronistic, book remains relevant. Biggest takeaway: Know the other side’s perspective, and you’ll have a stronger argument. Some of the book’s negotiating strategies are not going to be very effective if the other side is not willing to play along according to the formula.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory, 2nd Edition. Michael Miller. See my post, Simple Gifts, for thoughts about music theory. I like this book better than the music theory MOOC I took with Coursera this year. According to Goodreads’ metrics, this was the least popular book on my 2015 shelf, with only 6 other people reading it.
Hacking the Academy: New Approaches to Scholarship and Teaching from Digital Humanities. Dan Cohen. A classic text on just what the title says.
Bel Canto. Ann Patchett. This book reminds us that terrorists are humans, too. However, the book ultimately simplifies terrorism in an almost quaint way. Her terrorists are not the kind of terrorists we’re dealing with these days.
Outlander. Diana Gabaldon. I’m one of the last people on earth to read this book, to enter the amazing world created by Gabaldon. Too bad it’s incredibly homophobic. No plans to read more into this series. According to Goodreads’ metrics, Outlander was the most popular book in the short stack of things I read: 457,998 others read it in 2015. No surprise there.
The Night Circus. Erin Morgenstern. Here’s a world I loved being immersed in. Creative, if far-fetched, premise. Intriguing characters. Sorry to have it end. According to Goodreads’ metrics, The Night Circus was the second most popular book in the short stack of things I read: 366,304 others read it in 2015.
The Story of America: Essays on Origins. Jill Lepore. The essays in this book are morsels of intelligence, wit, literature, history–all in an American context. How could anyone not like this book?
Average page length of books read (according to Goodreads): 386 pages. Longest book: Outlander.
American Gods. Neil Gaiman. I didn’t check this one out of the library on my iPad. Rather, I bought it, since I knew I would never finish before maxing out the renewals. It’s just easier to have it on the iPad. I dug this book until about 3/4 of the way through, when they’re in the House on the Rock in Wisconsin. The book began to feel like it needed to end already, just like House on the Rock, only more so. Like The Adventures of Hucklebury Finn, it turns episodic and the narrative collapses.
Lucky Us. Amy Bloom. Randomly checked this one out of the library. It has an MFA-writing program feel to it, if you know what that means. However, the characters were fully drawn and crazy enough to keep me going. Unfortunately, it came due before I could finish, and expired from my iPad. I have not had motivation to check it out again. There’s always another New Yorker to finish reading, first.
OTHER READS and LISTENS
Read lots of the New Yorker, New York Times, and a magazine about swimming. My main book purchases this year, however, were for ukulele and guitar instruction. Coffee Break French, a Scottish podcast, was a major attention suck for the first six months of the year. I also completed Music Theory, a Coursera MOOC.