Whatever happened to that New Year’s Resolution?

So last year, about this time, I made a resolution. I resolved to read 100 books in a year. 100 books in 365 days, just a little under 1 book every three days. It was a hard challenge, but I felt (and still feel) that I need to be well-read person, and so I plugged away. I was all on schedule and doing great when…I started a blog. Round about May. And since then, that hour or so a night when I was reading away went *poof*. I do not regret the blog for a minute, and I hope it will be stealing my time for some time to come (well, ok, maybe dissertation time is a little too precious). But I did keep plugging away. As of right now, I managed to get 63% of my goal complete. That’s not very impressive, I know, but it IS over 20,000 pages. And I did get through some of the things I’d always told myself I was going to read.
I even had RULES. The rules:
I could not have read it before (this means if I was in the middle of a series, only the ones I read since I started are included).
It could not be work-related.
And so a few weeks ago, as I closed in on #60, I though perhaps you guys might be interested in all the books I’ve been reading over the last year. Ok, maybe not ALL of them…


…after all, I’m a little ashamed of some of them…some of that historical fiction…*shame*…but there are a bunch that I think are really important, and a few that blew my mind. So here I present to you: the 54 best books I read this year (or perhaps 54 most important books, maybe not the best), in no particular order, but divided up by genre. And maybe some commentary, when I feel like it.
Science
1) Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison. I comment a bit on it here.
2) Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond.
3) Survival of the Prettiest: the Science of Beauty by Nancy Etcoff.
4) Listening to Prozac by Peter D. Kramer. Grrr…and the author notes with surprise that his book spawned all these people begging for Prozac, gee, I wonder why, when the phrase he uses over and over again is “better than well”, waxing poetic on the improvements that people gained even when they weren’t necessarily clinically depressed. He gets concerned over the fact that people may not really be themselves, and there’s a certain emotional distancing, but I’m not at all surprised that most people glossed over that.
5) Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure, by Paul Offit.
6) Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole my Mother’s Boyfriend, by Barbara Oakley. Review here.
7) Freaks of Nature: what anomalies tell us about development and evolution by Mark S. Blumberg. Review here.
Religion and Philosophy
8) Fear and Trembling by Soren Kirkegaard.
9) The Kama Sutra edited by Lance Dane. The best chapter involves how a mistress should behave when a man calls her by the wrong name. Completely awesome.
10) The Sickness Unto Death by Soren Kirekegaard.
11) Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris.
12) The Trial and Death of Socrates by Plato.
13) The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli.
14) St. Augustine’s Confessions, translated by Gary Wills.
15) The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.
16) Wittgenstein’s Poker by David Edmonds and John Edinow.
17) Paradise Lost by John Milton. Best of Christian literature my ASS. St. Augustine is SO much better. Though that’s not really saying all that much…
History
18) The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives
19) Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France by Leonie Frieda
20) Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens by Jane Dunn.
21) Napoleon in Love by R.F. Delderfield.
22) Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, by Walter Isaacson. I would have enjoyed this a lot more if the author lost the many references to Franklin’s “prairie home companion” sense of humor.
23) The Wars of the Roses by Allison Weir.
Graphic Novels
24) Dream Country by Neil Gaiman. BRILLIANT.
25-34) Y, The Last Man (Volumes 1-10) by Brian K. Vaughan. Also completely brilliant, though perhaps not AS brilliant as Gaiman gets. Still, a powerful story.
35) Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi.
36) Persepolis 2: the Story of a Return, by Marjane Satrapi. These two are great. I highly recommend.
37) The Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Fantastic! I will say I think Gaiman is better, I know there are points of contention over this.
Fantasy and Sci-Fi
38) The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
39) The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman
40) The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman. This series starts out really well, though by the end of book 3 Pullman is banging you over the head with his message just as badly as CS Lewis ever did in the The Last Battle. Only it’s the opposite message.
41) A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 3) by George RR Martin.
42) A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4) by George RR Martin. I cannot recommend the Song of Ice and Fire series enough. Masterful fiction.
43) The Book Without Words: a Fable of Medieval Magic by Avi.
44) The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell.
45) The Physiognomy by Jeffrey Ford. An interesting, anti-science message.
Miscellaneous Fiction
46) The Stranger by Albert Camus.
47) Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Awfully good.
48) Grendel by John Gardner
49) Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. A time when Austen needed to give her heroine some spine.
50) Emma by Jane Austen.
51) The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. Now I know what they mean when PETA names someone a “vivisectionist”. That is horrendous, and not at all what animal physiologists do. Good book, though.
Miscellaneous Non-Fiction
52) The Omnivore’s Delimma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. Quite good reading. I’ve now been to Polyface Farms, the meat is GREAT. Good living really does make a difference.
53) The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg.
54) Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality by Anne Fausto-Sterling.
So there you go. I would be interested to hear what books people have read this year, and if you have any recommendations! I figure with the blog, and hopefully with my dissertation, I’m not going to attempt to go above 30 next year, but goals like this are good ways for me to expand my reading. Some day, I think I might even qualify as well-read!

9 Responses

  1. That’s probably enough. You can fake it with that, probly..

  2. Unholy cow, Scicurious, that was an ambitious resolution! You are teh crazees.
    I recommend Martin’s ASoIaF to everyone I know who hasn’t read the series. But, as a friend of mine warns, “Don’t get attached to any of the characters.”

  3. That’s eerily similar to my list of fiction, graphic novels, and gender-or-Michael-Pollan-related nonfiction.
    Other graphic novels:
    Powers by Brian M Bendis (ongoing? but I’m through about the first 9 TPBs)
    Top Ten by Alan Moore, 2 volumes (Season 2 is coming out now by another writer, also good)
    Promethea by Alan Moore, 5 volumes
    The Boys by Garth Ennis (Check out Preacher also) – ongoing
    Fables by Bill Willingham – ongoing, but some 12 volumes into it
    I don’t really rate the above as up to the “Sandman standard” but they are all excellent works

  4. SciC, if you like graphic books, this one–a memoir not a novel–is mind blowing:
    Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel. She writes the Dykes to Watch Out For comic.

  5. If you’ve not read it yet, “A Distant Mirror” by Barbara Tuchman would probably fit in well with your history tastes. And one of my favorite science books I read this year was “The Ghost Map” by Steven Johnson, about John Snow and the London cholera outbreak that made him famous.

  6. […] Books I’ve read this year, Edition…THREE Posted on 12/28/2010 by scicurious So three years ago now, Sci made a New Year’s Resolution to read 100 books in a year. That’s a book every three days. I was actually doing very well until I started a blog in the May of that year. That kind of tanked that project, though I still managed to read over 60 books. […]

  7. […] 4 years now of posting lists of my read books, in my eternal quest to become a well read (and hopefully well educated, though I […]

  8. […] the then popular idea to read 100 books in a year. Then I started a blog. 100 books did not happen (though I did get past 60!). Since then, I've set more modest goals, trying for 30 books each year. This year I BARELY made […]

  9. […] So three years ago now, Sci made a New Year's Resolution to read 100 books in a year. That's a book every three days. I was actually doing very well until I started a blog in the May of that year. That kind of tanked that project, though I still managed to read over 60 books. […]

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