Attention conservation notice: this post is long and has nothing to do with working out.
I have kept a list of every book I have read I have read since I was thirteen years old. Yeah, obsessive record keeping didn’t start with my running log. Below is a list of every book I read this year followed by my idiosyncratic one sentence review. Books are either recommended, meaning I think I the average reader will like them, not recommended, or recommended for a specific sub-group of readers.
I read thirty three books this year. A general trend in my reading over the last couple of years is that I am reading less, and more of what I am reading can only be described as mind-candy pop fiction. Such is adulthood. I want to go home and work through the Organon, but somehow or other I often end up reading another spy novel.
Anyway, here’s the round up of what I read this year*
Best Fiction Book: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.
This book is actually better than the hype and considering the hype, that’s saying a lot. My wife, who hates baseball, loved it. I, who have little patience the young lions of American literary fiction, loved it. I think you’ll probably like it as well.
Best Non Fiction Book: Lords of the Horizon: A History of the Ottoman Empire by Jason Goodwin.
A really great overview of an empire which had a huge influence on modern society and about which I knew little. Goodwin’s approach in covering the cultures, politics, and wars of the empire is clever and approachable. I feel like I still have a lot to learn about the Ottomans, but this is a great place to start.
Book Which Was Much Better Than I Was Expecting: Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga, by Benjamin Yorr
I picked this one up because it got a good write up in the Times and had the words Yoga and Obsession in the title. I was expecting a someone annoying experiential journalism piece written by a snotty New Yorker ironically judging the yogis around him. Instead, its an insightful look into yoga culture and a thoughtful critique of Bikram yoga. I was disappointed this one wasn’t longer, which is high praise for any book.
What Was I Thinking When I Got This Book and Why Did I Read The Whole Thing?: The Four Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat Loss, Incredible Sex and Becoming Superhuman, by Timothy Ferris
Honestly, there must be something wrong with me.
Every Book I Read I 2012
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John LeCarre – Recommended
- Krapp’s Last Tape and Other Dramatic Pieces, Samuel Beckett – Recommended for enthusiast’s of high modern theater.
- Romeo and Juliet (Arden), William Shakespeare – Recommended
- Aristotle: A Very Short Introduction, Jonathan Barnes – Recommended for those wishing to brush up on their undergraduate philosophy degree.
- The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach – Highly Recommended
- The Moro Affair and the Mystery of Majorana, Leonardo Sciascia – Recommended for those interested in left-wing terrorist organizations in 1970s Italy.
- Richard II (Folger), William Shakespeare – Recommended for obsessives determined to read every work by the Bard in chronological order.
- Wittgenstein: A Very Short Introduction, A.C. Grayling – Recommended for those trying to determine whether Ludwig is worth the trouble.
- Arctic Rising, Tobias S. Buckell – Recommended for connoisseurs of global warming dystopia futures.
- A MidSummer Nights Dream (Folger), William Shakespeare – Recommended
- The Four Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat Loss, Incredible Sex and Becoming Superhuman, Timothy Ferris – Recommended for idiots (like me) who enjoy reading pop science about working out even when it was written by the world’s biggest frat boy.
- The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr – Recommended
- The Honorable Schoolboy, John LeCarre – Recommended for readers of spy fiction.
- The Ex Pats, Chris Pavone – Recommended for readers of spy fiction who have read all the LeCarre and Steinhauer books listed here.
- Death at La Fenice, Donna Leon – Recommended for mystery fans dying to visit Venice even if everyone tells you that you will be disappointed.
- King John, William Shakespeare – Not recommended. The only reason to read this is if you’re trying to read everything the Bard wrote.
- Drive, James Sallis – Recommended for fans of really well written crime fiction.
- Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times, Thomas R. Martin – Recommended for buddy amateur ancient historians.
- Istanbul Passage, Joseph Kanon – Recommended for cold war espionage fans and those about to travel to Turkey.
- The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare – Recommended if only because of its is the most troubling of Shakespeare’s plays – if you are going to talk about Shakespeare, then you need to talk about the Merchant of Venice and you really cannot talk about the Merchant unless you have read it.
- The Snake Stone, Jason Goodwin – Recommended for mystery fans traveling to Turkey.
- Lords of the Horizon: A History of the Ottoman Empire, Jason Goodwin – Recommended for those, like me, with limited knowledge of the Ottomans.
- The Black Monastery, Stav Sherez – Not recommended.
- The Bourne Identity, Robert Ludlum – Recommended for the thriller enthusiast, especially those on an inter-continental flight
- King Henry IV Part I (Arden), William Shakespeare – recommended.
- Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell – recommended.
- King Henry IV Part 2 (Folger), William Shakespeare – Recommended
- No Easy Day: The Autobiography of a Navy Seal, Mark Owen – Not recommended
- The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible, Matti Friedman – Recommended for amateur Hebraists and book nerds.
- In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language, Joel M. Hoffman – Recommended for students of Hebrew.
- The Nearest Exit, Olen Steinhauer – Recommended
- Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga, Benjamin Yorr – Recommended
- An American Spy, Olen Steinhauer – Recommended
Next year I hope to finally finish my project to read all of Shakespeares works, once again cross the fifty books in a year threshold, and balance the serious with the frivolous a little better.
*Note that I am trying out the Amazon associates program with this post.