2018 Reading Year in Review

January 5, 2019

Welcome to the annual review of my reading experiences. Life continues to be busy. Last year, I moved. This year, I changed jobs. Who knows what will happen in the coming year. Let’s talk about books.

Books Read: 57 (goal was 70)
Pages Read: 14,134 (goal was 20,000)
Average per Book: 248 pgs.
Pages per Day: 38.8

Biggest Reading Month: February – 6 books, 1815 pages.

Smallest Reading Month: October – 4 books, 787 pages.

Five Longest Books:

  1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – 819 pgs.
  2. Freya by Anthony Quinn – 556 pgs.
  3. The Overstory by Richard Powers – 502 pgs.
  4. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – 487 pgs.
  5. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan – 430 pgs.

I find it weird that I only read three books that topped 500 pages even though I had almost exactly the same average book length as 2017. Lots of medium-sized books, I guess.

Five Shortest Books:

  1. Best to Keep Moving by Jess Worley – 26 pgs.
  2. Andy Catlett: Early Education by Wendell Berry – 27 pgs.
  3. The Golden Cockerel by Alexander Pushkin – 42 pgs.
  4. Rumors of Light by Welsey Shane- 58 pgs.
  5. Phrasis by Wendy Xu – 60 pgs.

Books I Read Again:

  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Hamlet
  • The Little Prince
  • The Things They Carried
  • The Hobbit
  • The Silmarillion
  • Jazz
  • Native Speaker
  • Anna Karenina
  • 1984

Most of these were teaching books, as is always the case.

Now, onto my favorite and least favorite books of the year.

Biggest Disappointment of the Year: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. I generally LOVE Jennifer Egan. Her story telling is almost always inventive and intriguing. This… wasn’t. It was fine, but it didn’t take me anywhere I wasn’t expecting to go. It always hurts the most when a favorite writer lets you down.

The Top 10

  1. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino – This became one of my favorite books the moment I finished reading it. It’s top-5 for me. It’s also impossible to explain to someone in a way that doesn’t sound stupid. But if you like to read, you should read this book.
  2. The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride – McBride’s first book – A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing was a work of genius. So is this, but this one is much more accessible. I feel like her work will be read for decades.
  3. The Book of Communities by Maria Gabriela Llansol – My top three books this year all approached fiction in unconventional ways and this is perhaps the least conventional. I suppose there’s a story, but it’s more a novel of feeling, I suppose? I have more of her work to read (soon) and I might return to this one. I can’t get it out of my head.
  4. Other People’s Love Affairs by D. Wystan Owen – These stories are very conventional in some ways, but they also exist in a kind of timeless reality that feels reminiscent of Cheever. One of the most perfectly written story collections I’ve come across in a very long time.
  5. Craving by Esther Gerritsen – This book will catch you off guard. It will take you places you don’t expect it to go. Be prepared.
  6. Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls – I randomly grabbed this book. As soon as I started reading it, I realized it was the basis for The Shape of Water (which I have not seen). It is a quick and excellent read about the malaise of a certain kind of existence.
  7. The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli – I just posted about this book yesterday. The best nonfiction I’ve read in a couple of years, I think.
  8. Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christina Rosetti – Easily the oldest book on this list. I hadn’t really read Rosetti before and I’m irritated that I never had. Her writing is magical and so outside the expectations for her time period that it’s easy to understand why she’s under-appreciated.
  9. Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse – A long overdue first read of a classic. In a way, this is probably a progenitor for some other books on my list. A fascinating exploration of duality.
  10. Phrasis by Wendy Xu – The last book I finished this year. As with the Rovelli, I posted about it yesterday.

Goals for Next Year

My life has changed so much in the last several years, that setting goals for reading almost seems pointless. I don’t know how much I’ll read or what is reasonable. I’d like to hit 60 books and 15,000 pages. I’d like to read a few of giant books I’ve never read before. I’d like to revisit some old favorites I haven’t picked up for a while. We’ll see what happens with regards to all that, but I’ll most likely be here writing about it next year.

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