Friday, December 30, 2011

What I Read, 2011

Looking back on a year of reading.
Around this part of December, you'l hear some people say things like, "I hate these end-of-the year lists."  I think those people are crazy.  End-of-year lists are great, and I wanted to contribute to the glut with one of my own!

(Also great?  The in memoriam part of The Oscars.  It's the only reason to watch, really.) 

I read thirty books this year.  That's it--just thirty  I would have thought that my grand total would have been much higher.  There are some blogs I have read about bloggers who have read as many as 125 books this year alone, which is not sane.  Where does one find the time to read 125 books in 365 days?  I think those people must be a little bit off.

I thought about giving awards to these books, such as Funniest Book, or Most Disturbing, or Most Likely to Make Me Want to Quit Reading, but I realized that that is a horrible idea for many reasons, and that I wouldn't want to subject any of my readers to it.  But one of the reasons that an approach like that wouldn't fly is because I read Infinite Jest this summer, and that book would just monopolize any attempts of handing out awards.  So, if we pretended to do that, this is what it might look like.


Winner of:

Best Book!
Funniest Book!
Longest Book!
Most Moving Book!
Heaviest Book!
Book That Made My Family Hate Me The Most!

So, you see how that would be a disaster.

Instead, I am taking another approach.  We will get to the pie charts (that's right, pie charts!) in just a moment, but first I'd like to talk about my five biggest surprises of the year (Infinite Jest excluded.  If you would like to read what I thought about Jest, you can do it here.)

Top 5 Surprises of the Year

1. Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

I never would have read this book if it hadn't been recommended to me by my friend, Amy.  As I stated in February, it was a shocking and terrifying book, but one I was glad to have read.

2. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

This book was also recommended to me by a friend of mine, Darcy, who is a fan of Ishiguro.  I had read Remains of the Day, and was wholly unprepared for this sci-fi, dystopian nightmare.  Darcy says that his best novel is When We Were Orphans, which is currently on my to-read list.  If you haven't read anything by Ishiguro, what are you waiting for?

3. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh

What can you say about Bridey?   While I was reading it, I had the sinking fear that this book would never end.  Once it was over, though, I counted it among my very favorites, and began annoying my friends and family by starting all of my sentences with, "I say..."

"I say, who do the Steelers play on Sunday?"

My wife and I watched almost all of the BBC miniseries, but right when we were about to get to the last DVD, Netflix went and ruined everything.  I say, Netflix!

4. A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson

This book is 600 pages long, but I read it in six days.  If there were ten more books like it, I would read every last one of them.  Bill Bryson is a fantastic writer who is largely responsible for everything I know about science.

5. Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace

Ok, I simply could nto make a list of the biggest surprises of the year without including Jest.  Even though I knew I was beginning something huge and important when I started reading it, I was still unprepared for just how massive and meaningful this reading experience was.  I will never forget the 34 days I spent on it.

And now for the pie charts!

I learned how to make pie charts on Excel, and so following is a breakdown of the books I read this year in ways that I hope you might find interesting.

In other news from 2011, I read a play this year!

I had a great time reading and blogging in 2011, and I hope I was able to inform or inspire you at least a little bit.  Here's to 2012!


1.     A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest Gaines
2.     A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
3.     Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
4.     Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
5.     Checkpoint by Nicholson Baker
6.     Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
7.     Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
8.     Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman
9.     Homer and Langley by E. L. Doctorow
10.  Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
11.  Into the Great Wide Open by Kevin Canty
12.  Little Bee by Chris Cleave
13.  Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
14.  Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
15.  Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield
16.  The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
17.  The Hundred Brothers by Donald Antrim
18.  The Postmortal, by Drew Magary
19.  The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
20.  Waterland by Graham Swift
21.  Welcome to Hard Times by E.L. Doctorow

22.  A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
23.  Ancient Rome (Eyewitness Books)
24.  And on Piano... Nicky Hopkins, by Julian Dawson
25.  Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer's Guide to Getting it Right, by Bill Bryson
26.  In the Best Interests of Baseball by Andrew Zimbalist
27.  Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
28.  Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher
29.  Talk Show by Dick Cavett

30. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

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