Welcome to the annual Book Rundown here at BookOuroboros, in which I would rather hang my head in shame than admit that to reading only eighty books this past year. Put it like this: I read fewer books in 2013 than I did in 2008, the year I actually wrote a book of my own, for crying out loud.
The main culprit was unemployment. During the twenty-three month lull between professional jobs, my book consumption plummeted. Being unemployed doesn’t mean you suddenly have lots of free time to read. It means you fill all your time with job hunting and with scrabbling together whatever odd work you can. Even when you do read, you feel guilty, because you know you ought to be looking for work.
Next year will be better. I said exactly the same thing exactly one year ago, and while I improved on last year’s pathetic showing, I think 2014 will see triple digits again, as I have a job now. Dear lord, it better get better. I am insufferable when I don’t read enough.
For comparison, here are the links to the previous years, so that you can see my shame writ large:
- 55 books in 2012
- 128 books in 2011
- 112 books in 2010
- 101 books in 2009
- 83 books in 2008
- 141 books in 2007
- 130 books in 2006
Total books read, cover-to-cover: 80
- Adult: 64
- YA: 13
- Children’s: 3
Books read that were published in 2013: 17
Books read that won’t be published till May 2014: 1. That would be Skin Game, by Jim Butcher. It’s the next Harry Dresden book and it’s wonderful.
Nonfiction: 40. Holy cow. Nonfiction has never taken up this much of my reading pie. No wonder I’m cranky all the time. Nonfiction will never be as important to me as fiction.
Genres: (as some books have more than one genre, total exceeds 80)
- Animal welfare: 1
- Cookbook: 1
- Economics: 1
- Exercise: 1
- History: 5
- How-to: 1
- Humor: 3
- Medicine: 1
- Memoir: 17
- Parapsychology: 1
- Psychology: 3
- Science: 5
- Social science: 7
- Travel: 2
- True crime: 2
- Classics/Literary canon: 3
- Crime: 1
- Fantasy: 16
- Historical: 3
- Horror: 10
- Literary fiction: 4
- Mainstream: 3
- Mystery: 3
- Science fiction: 3
- Suspense/Thriller: 2
- Audiobooks: I’ll always prefer print, but audio comes in handy when you’re chopping vegetables or toiling on the elliptical machine. I refuse to listen to fiction in audio — some things are too sacred — but certain types of nonfiction are palatable. In the first part of 2013 I lived in a pedestrian-friendly city, so I listened to more audiobooks than ever before, 29. Which goes a long way toward explaining why I read so many nonfiction books this year, now doesn’t it.
- Graphic novels: Only 4, of which 1 was nonfiction. But you know what? In my new job, every single graphic novel the library acquires will pass through my greedy little paws. Expect this number to skyrocket next year.
- Annual fat Russian novel: Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol.
- Annual language book: How Not to Write Bad, by Ben Yagoda.
- Re-reads: 8. Because some years you just have to re-read Harry Potter. And because you have to re-read The Shining in anticipation of its lovely sequel.
New (to me) authors: 52
Best book of the year: The October List, by Jeffrey Deaver. Not the most affecting, not the funniest, not the most thought-provoking, but the most impressive. At this point I no longer read books by Jeffrey Deaver. “Reading” is an inadequate way to describe the experience. I strap myself in and enjoy the ride. This man is the Houdini of plotting.
- My Friend Dahmer, by Derf Beckderf, a guy who was buddies with the serial killer in high school. Regrettably, no one seems to want to read it. I know it sounds gross but it’s very respectfully and thoughtfully done.
- Born Round, by Frank Bruni. Unexpectedly funny memoir about a food critic who has always struggled with his weight.
- Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi. The Manson crimes were old news before I was born, but it still reads like it’s fresh.
- Skin Game, by Jim Butcher. Can’t talk about it yet, because it’s not published. I can smirk, though. That’s what I’m doing. I am smirking. Right now I am smirking.
- Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala. Maybe the best grief memoir you’ll ever read.
- Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. WHY HAD I NOT READ THIS BEFORE? (Thank you for my copy, Citizen Reader!)
- Bossypants, by Tina Fey. Laugh-out-loud funny memoir. And since she’s a professional entertainer, it’s worth listening to the audio version.
- The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan. I have a fricking degree in Women’s Studies, so WHY HAD I NOT READ THIS BEFORE?
- Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, by Rhoda Janzen. Should have been a sad memoir. She managed to make it delightful instead.
- Doctor Sleep and Joyland, by Stephen King: for my money, the best living storyteller in America.
- Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Women’s issues on a global scale.
- The Road to Wigan Pier, by George Orwell. I knew I loved his fiction, but his nonfiction was a lovely surprise. Best explanation of class in England I’ve ever read.
- Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris. Not his best collection, but David Sedaris on a bad day is still funnier than practically everybody on the planet. As with Tina Fey, it is permissible to listen to the book instead of reading it on the page.
- Travels with Charley, by John Steinbeck. Same as with Orwell: I knew I loved his fiction, but the nonfiction blew me away.
- Nonfiction: Walk Away the Pounds, by Leslie Sansone. Turns out the book isn’t about walking. It’s about aerobics in your living room. It’s about aerobics in your living room with lots of bubbly life-affirming self-help bullshit. And lady, if I wanted a book about leading a religious life, I would go to the 200s. Get your church out of my exercise manual.
- Fiction: The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. Okay. Look. I loved Sandman. I loved The Graveyard Book. But Neil Gaiman is hit-or-miss for me, and while the whole rest of the reading world heralded this book as the best thing since mint chocolate chip ice cream, I thought it was boring. Very moody, nice sense of atmosphere, but the tension never really built for me and I think it would have been a swell short story. As a novel? It wasn’t bad (I am being disingenuous by lumping it here in the “Worst” category) but it wasn’t great. So I suppose now I have to surrender by Fantasy Fan credentials.
And finally, all eighty titles, arranged by author:
|Aaronovitch, Ben||Midnight Riot|
|Anderson, M. T.||Thirsty|
|Anson, Jay||The Amityville Horror|
|Atkinson, Kate||Life After Life|
|Backderf, Derf||My Friend Dahmer|
|Banerjee, Abhijit and Esther Duflo||Poor Economics|
|Baxter, Stephen and Terry Pratchett||The Long Earth|
|Bering, Jesse||Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?|
|Bittman, Mark||How to Cook Everything: The Basics|
|Bourdain, Anthony||Medium Raw|
|Bruni, Frank||Born Round|
|Bryson, Bill||Neither Here nor There|
|Buehlman, Christopher||Those Across the River|
|Bugliosi, Vincent||Helter Skelter|
|Butcher, Jim||Skin Game|
|Cahalan, Susannah||Brain on Fire|
|Deaver, Jeffery||The October List|
|Diamond, Jared||Guns, Germs, and Steel|
|du Maurier, Daphne||Rebecca|
|Egan, Timothy||The Worst Hard Time|
|Ephron, Nora||I Remember Nothing|
|Flaim, Denise||Rescue Ink|
|Friedan, Betty||The Feminine Mystique|
|Gaiman, Neil||The Ocean at the End of the Lane|
|Galloway, Gregory||As Simple As Snow|
|Gogol, Nikolai||Dead Souls|
|Hanagarne, Josh||The World’s Strongest Librarian|
|Heinrich, Bernd||Winter World|
|Hill, Joe, Stephen King, and Richard Matheson||Road Rage|
|Hodge, Chris and Joe Sacco||Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt|
|Jamison, Kay Redfield||An Unquiet Mind|
|Janzen, Rhoda||Mennonite in a Little Black Dress|
|King, Stephen||Doctor Sleep|
|King, Stephen||The Shining|
|Koch, Herman||The Dinner|
|Konigsburg, E.L.||The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World|
|Kristof, Nicholas D. and Sheryl WuDunn||Half the Sky|
|Le Guin, Ursula K.||A Wizard of Earthsea|
|Lee, Christopher||This Sceptred Isle|
|Lukyanenko, Sergei||Night Watch|
|Marra, Anthony||A Constellation of Vital Phenomena|
|Moss, Michael||Salt, Sugar, Fat|
|Northup, Solomon||Twelve Years a Slave|
|O’Nan, Stewart||A Prayer for the Dying|
|Orwell, George||The Road to Wigan Pier|
|Rowling, J.K.||Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone|
|Rowling, J.K.||Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets|
|Rowling, J.K.||Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban|
|Rowling, J.K.||Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire|
|Rowling, J.K.||Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix|
|Rowling, J.K.||Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince|
|Rowling, J.K.||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows|
|Sansone, Leslie||Walk Away the Pounds|
|Sedaris, David||Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls|
|Sijie, Dai||Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress|
|Spinelli, Jerry||Love, Stargirl|
|Steinbeck, John||Travels with Charley|
|Stevens, Chevy||Always Watching|
|Terrill, Cristin||All Our Yesterdays|
|Trout, Nick||Tell Me Where It Hurts|
|Vaughan, Brian K.||Saga|
|Walton, Jo||Among Others|
|Wasik, Bill and Monica Murphy||Rabid|
|Weisman, Alan||The World Without Us|
|Wilde, Oscar||The Picture of Dorian Gray|
|Yagoda, Ben||How to Not Write Bad|
|Yousafzai, Malala||I Am Malala|
|Zusak, Markus||The Book Thief|