The Year in Books - 2013

At the start of 2013, I set a goal to read 25,000 pages by year's end:

In 2012, my goal was to read 25,000 pages. The year was a success, and the quantifiable nature of the endeavor continues to make it easier to motivate myself and to track progress.

I soared past the 25,000 page goal in 2012 and managed to hit 30,000 pages for the first time since I was in the Army, though only a sprint through ten books in December got me past that milestone, though at times I felt I was pursuing my reading at the expense of other worthy endeavors. As such, I am going to avoid the temptation of increasing the goal this year, and will repeat the pledge of the past two years.

Here's what I read in 2013:

  1. Spring Snow - Yukio Mishima
  2. Runaway Horses - Yukio Mishima
  3. The Temple of Dawn - Yukio Mishima
  4. The Decay of the Angel - Yukio Mishima
  5. Louis D. Brandeis - Melvin Urofsky
  6. Baltasar and Blimunda - Jose Saramago
  7. The Stone Raft - Jose Saramago
  8. The Little Book of Common Sense Investing - John Bogle
  9. The Elements of Investing - Burton Malkiel
  10. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
  11. Family Matters - Rohinton Mistry
  12. Such a Long Journey - Rohinton Mistry
  13. Learned Hand - Gerald Gunther
  14. The Risk Pool - Richard Russo
  15. The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller
  16. Scorpions - Noah Feldman
  17. Benediction - Kent Haruf
  18. In Spite of the Gods - Edward Luce
  19. Hugo Black - Roger Newman
  20. Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name - Vendela Vida
  21. King Leopold's Ghost - Adam Hochschild
  22. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
  23. Wild Bill - Bruce Allen Murphy
  24. Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple
  25. Chief Justice - Ed Cray
  26. Justice Brennan - Seth Stern
  27. Thurgood Marshall - Juan Williams
  28. The Outpost - Jake Tapper
  29. Immortality - Milan Kundera
  30. Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
  31. The Admirals - Walter Borneman
  32. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena - Anthony Marra
  33. Cooked - Michael Pollan
  34. And the Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hosseini
  35. Guests of the Ayatollah - Mark Bowden
  36. Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  37. The Blood of Heaven - Kent Wascom
  38. Eating Animals - Jonathan Safran Foer
  39. Revolutionary Summer - Joseph Ellis
  40. Transatlantic - Colum McCann
  41. The Son - Philipp Meyer
  42. Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor - Richard Beeman
  43. The Flamethrowers - Rachel Kushner
  44. For Whom the Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway
  45. Angel in the Whirlwind - Benson Bobrick
  46. Rendezvous with Rama - Arthur C. Clarke
  47. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick
  48. I Am Legend - Richard Matheson
  49. Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  50. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
  51. The Golem and the Jinni - Helene Wecker
  52. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
  53. Thomas Jefferson - Jon Meacham
  54. Mary Coin - Marisa Silver
  55. The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg
  56. The Unwinding - George Packer
  57. The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer
  58. Legacy of Ashes - Tim Weiner
  59. The Healing - Jonathan Odell
  60. Enemies - Tim Weiner
  61. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee - Dee Brown
  62. A Terrible Glory - James Donovan
  63. Stillness and Speed - Dennis Bergkamp
  64. Journey to the Center of the Earth - Jules Verne
  65. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne
  66. The Lowland - Jhumpa Lahiri
  67. The English Girl - Daniel Silva

I set a great pace through the first three quarters of the year, and passed the 25,000 page marker mid-way through October. That happened to coincide with the birth of my second child, and thus in the remaining 10 weeks I barely read another 1,500 pages. I finished the year having read 67 books totaling 26,712 pages, or just under 400 pages per book. I maintained a relatively balanced amongst genres, with 39 fiction titles and 28 nonfiction, with the latter concentrated particularly in U.S. history and judicial biographies.

Amongst the 28 nonfiction titles I read in 2013, the best were Gerald Gunther's biography of Learned Hand, a jurist famous to all law students and few others, given that he never rose to a Supreme Court seat despite the nearly universal admiration of his contemporaries, and Jake Tapper's The Outpost, a devastating history and critique of America's recent involvement in Afghanistan told through the lens of an American operating base in the dangerous Nuristan province. On a slightly lighter note, fans of English football and Arsenal in particular are strongly advised to track down a copy of Dennis Bergkamp's autobiography, Stillness and Speed, written largely through interviews with Bergkamp's coaches and teammates and Bergkamp's reactions to these interviews.

On the fiction side, my runaway favorite was Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, a breathtaking but difficult portrayal of the misfortunes of a young girl living in war-torn Chechnya. For a less emotionally taxing but no less rewarding read, I highly recommend Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette, which features another forlorn young protagonist with more, shall we say, first world problems. Another favorite was Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings, a sort-of generational family epic a la Jonathan Franzen tracing the varied paths of a set of teenage friends from a 1970s art camp. I can also highly recommend Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance and Family Matters, and the more ambitious reader will find much to appreciate in Yukio Mishima's Sea of Fertility tetralogy: Spring Snow, Runaway Horses, The Temple of Dawn, and The Decay of the Angel.

There were no major disappointments in my reading in 2013, though I found Joseph Ellis' latest, Revolutionary Summer, to be less enlightening than his prior works and indicative of the possibility that Ellis has finally tapped his previously unique approach to the revolutionary period. I also did not find The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner to be nearly as effective or interesting a novel as suggested by the critics and award committees.

All in all, another wonderful year in reading.