10 December 2008

Stuff I've Been Reading 12


  • Evil Genius - Catherine Jinks
  • Top of the World: 2008 Boston Celtics - Peter May
  • 24 Girls in 7 Days - Alex Bradley
  • Sex and the Single Girl - Helen Gurley Brown
  • A Step From Heaven - An Na
  • Good Omens - Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
  • Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China - Guy Delisle
  • Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
  • So I've been keeping this column for a year now. It's proven to be useful in remembering what I've been reading but beyond that I'm not sure it's served much purpose. I do enjoy writing it though and it's been fun to go looking through what I've read in the past month. In the long run it makes more sense to do this over at Goodreads since most of my reading friends are on there. I'm sure it'll be easier to compile and update too. So I'm thinking this may be my last "Stuff I've Been Reading."

    With that in mind, I wanted to do some statistical analysis on exactly what sorts of things I've spent my time on. A month or two ago, one of my friends asked me for my Top 50 fiction books. I didn't think I'd read that many good books period, much less fiction. But I'm a sucker for lists so I gave it my best shot. I petered out around forty books I'd generally recommend. It seemed depressing. Like all this time spent reading, a literal lifetime, and I couldn't compile fifty great books to recommend. I finished my list but only by really stretching the bounds of "great." I had to resort to using "classic," which really means nothing. I had to even dig deep into middle school and high school books. "Where the Red Fern Grows" anyone?

    Roughly speaking, I've read 75 books this year. That doesn't sound too bad, considering it's an average of a book every five days. But that's taking into account books that aren't really books. Light fluffy page turners, non-fiction topical things, and YA novels that are high in excitement but really only take a few hours to breeze through. Plus, compiling the list from my Stuff I've Been Reading 1-12 is a bit misleading because there's some books I've reread and some books I didn't fully finish. There was only one month I read nothing, March, which coincided with having to turn in one of the major drafts of Exclusively Chloe.

    The general breakdown goes like this: 75 total books read. 22 fiction, 30 non-fiction, 18 young adult, and 5 on how to write or writing related. Of those thirty non-fiction books, eight dealt with the Celtics, basketball, or chess. I don't mean to separate out YA but they are generally shorter and easy to breeze through and often were read for research purposes. Of the fiction books, three were short story compilations, five or six were part of a sci-fi/fantasy series, and only three or four were heavy and serious book-like. Oh and one was a graphic novel.

    Overall, for my year of reading, I'd be able to say that I'd recommend seven books that were definitely really great. My top ten looks like this, with the bottom three being a bit of a stretch.
    1. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - Michael Chabon
    2. Love is a Mix Tape - Rob Sheffield
    3. How To Be Alone - Jonathan Franzen
    4. Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
    5. Watchmen - Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
    6. The Princess Bride - William Goldman
    7. Good Omens - Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
    8. Soon I Will Be Invincible - Austin Grossman
    9. Lullaby - Chuck Palahniuk
    10. Personal Days - Ed Park
    That's kind of, well, sad. It means that approximately for every ten books I read, only one is truly memorable and worth recommending. Then again, that's probably a similar ratio with movies.

    I made three large Amazon orders this year, each time for about a dozen books. I rediscovered the wonders of the library, tried to resist buying things in brick and mortar establishments, and received lots of free YA books provided to me. Total cost of buying books (which I can write off!) is probably $600. A small price to pay for edification and knowledge right? Then again, I question what I really remember from most of these books. My long term memory is shot and even though I was fascinated by books about Google, McDonald's, Wal-Mart, The Fifties, biological civilization, Wall Street, I'm not sure what I could recall too many interesting facts or stories.

    All in all, it's probably a sign that I should divide up my reading time better. Read some books that have heft (and smaller print), try to read and process, and more importantly, remember what might be striking about each piece. Maybe it's time to start a book journal to jot down thoughts, great lines, and interesting themes that need to be explored.

    Anyhow, thanks Nick Hornby for the inspiration! It's been fun.