The Month in Books - February 2011

In 2011, my goal is to read 25,000 pages by year's end. I measure progress in pages, rather than titles, to avoid any bias toward shorter books. Here's what I read in February:

  1. Common Sense on Mutual Funds - John Bogle
  2. The Finkler Question - Howard Jacobson
  3. The Imperfectionists - Tom Rachman
  4. A Random Walk Down Wall Street - Burton Malkiel

Pages Read: 1,598
Year-to-Date: 3,456

The Month in Books - January 2011

In 2011, my goal is to read 25,000 pages by year's end. I measure progress in pages, rather than titles, to avoid any bias toward shorter books. Here's what I read in January:

  1. Julius Caesar - Philip Freeman
  2. Antony and Cleopatra - Adrian Goldsworthy
  3. The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing - Taylor Larimore
  4. The Four Pillars of Investing - William Bernstein
  5. The Automatic Millionaire - David Bach
  6. Smart Couples Finish Rich - David Bach

Pages Read: 1,858
Year-to-Date: 1,858

2011 Reading Goals

bookstack.jpgSince I embarked on my Great Books Project eight years ago, my life has been enhanced in immeasurable ways by a renewed devotion to reading. Well, not entirely immeasurable, since I have kept track of every book I have read since 2003 (549 through 2010).

In 2010, my goal was to read 15,000 pages despite the major life changes I was undergoing, including having a new baby, studying for a bar exam, and starting a new job. Little did I know that in the middle of the year I would be buying and moving into a new house, and by the end of the year would be studying for my third bar exam! Nevertheless, the year was still a success, and the quantifiable nature of the endeavor made it easier to motivate myself and to track progress. I surpassed the 15,000 page goal by several thousand pages, though I did not meet the goal of reading twelve books longer than 650 pages.

This year should be substantially calmer than last, particularly now that the Florida bar exam is behind me, so I am going to be a bit more ambitious this year:

I will read 25,000 pages in 2011.

I think this is ambitious, but achievable. If I can read 18,000 pages in a year in which I learned to be a father, took a bar exam, started a new job, and bought a new house, I should be able to do quite a bit better this year. It would be easy to set the goal at 20,000 pages, but I am too certain I could achieve that. I need a goal that actually creates a challenge.

My other goal is to keep up on my reviews, which I know I said last year as well. I really let that part of my project slide. But writing the reviews has been an important part of grappling with and coming to an understanding of what I am reading. There is no way I am going to make it through the backlog of books I read in 2010, but hopefully going forward I can do better.

Here's to a wonderful year of reading!

The Year in Books - 2010

At the start of 2010, I set a goal to read 15,000 pages by year's end, including twelve books of greater then 650 pages. Implicit in this goal was the recognition I was not going to be able to maintain the pace of previous years:

Things are going to have to be different this year. My first child was born about a month ago. I am studying for the one-day Attorney's Exam in February to enter the Georgia Bar. And I start a new job on the 1st of March. I will not have any three-month stretches in Kuwait with little to do after work but read. So the 30,000 pages per year pace I have set the past two years will surely not survive. On the other hand, I want to remain ambitious about reading, and I believe if I can keep it a significant part of my life during a year like this, it will remain so forever.

And what a year it was. My daughter is growing up splendidly, I passed the Georgia bar, and my new job has been both a pleasure and a challenge. In addition to these time consuming endeavors, we unexpectedly decided to purchase a new home and move out of our condo after five wonderful years. Unfortunately something had to give, and I found myself unable to keep up with my blogging and book reviews, and that has continued into the start of 2011 as I was wholly occupied studying for yet another bar exam.

But I still found time for books. Here's what I read in 2010:

  1. Let the Great World Spin - Colum McCann
  2. Young Stalin - Simon Sebag Montefiore
  3. Number9Dream - David Mitchell
  4. The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery
  5. A People's History of the United States - Howard Zinn
  6. This Side of Brightness - Colum McCann
  7. Dancer - Colum McCann
  8. Dressing the Man - Alan Flusser
  9. A World at Arms - Gerhard Weinberg
  10. Zoli - Colum McCann
  11. Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout
  12. The Prize - Daniel Yergin
  13. Rostropovich - Elizabeth Wilson
  14. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
  15. The Girl Who Played With Fire - Stieg Larsson
  16. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - Stieg Larsson
  17. Lincoln's Virtues - William Lee Miller
  18. President Lincoln - William Lee Miller
  19. Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey
  20. Mystic River - Dennis Lehane
  21. Shutter Island - Dennis Lehane
  22. A Drink Before the War - Dennis Lehane
  23. Ghostwritten - David Mitchell
  24. The Known World - Edward Jones
  25. The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen
  26. Darkness, Take My Hand - Dennis Lehane
  27. Freedom - Jonathan Franzen
  28. Sacred - Dennis Lehane
  29. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson
  30. Gone, Baby, Gone - Dennis Lehane
  31. Prayers for Rain - Dennis Lehane
  32. Churchill - Martin Gilbert
  33. The Twelve Chairs - Ilf & Petrov
  34. First Family - Joseph Ellis
  35. Great House - Nicole Kraus
  36. Moonlight Mile - Dennis Lehane
  37. The Irresistible Henry House - Lisa Grunwald
  38. Matterhorn - Karl Marlantes
  39. Room - Emma Donoghue
  40. The Lonely Polygamist - Brady Udall
  41. Washington - Ron Chernow

Having read 18,388 pages in those 41 books, my basic goal was met. I was not, however, able to meet the goal of reading 12 books with more than 650 pages, coming it at just 5. Several more came close, including both of the Franzen novels, Matterhorn, and The Lonely Polygamist.

2010 turned out to be a great year for fiction reading, and 31 of the 41 books I read were novels. The two I most enjoyed were Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin, which was the first book I read last year, and Karl Marlantes' Matterhorn, which I finished shortly before Christmas. Two other titles I would single out are Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, and Edward Jones' The Known World.

Easily the worst book I read was The Twelve Chairs by Ilf & Petrov, a relatively obscure Soviet-era satire that was chosen by my book club, and roundly hated by all. While I found Nicole Krauss' Great House a fine effort, it did not even approach the emotional resonance of The History of Love, which I read in 2008.

On the non-fiction side, though only having read 10 titles, I found several worthy of commendation. Gerhard Weinberg's A World at Arms is a massive brick of a book, but it provides an absolutely comprehensive view of World War II, both thematically and geographically, exploring theaters of that war which I had only the faintest notion even took place. I would also recommend Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, which is as notorious as it is famous, but provides a necessary correction to the traditional historical focus on the political and economic elite. Zinn's approach has been so integrated into current historical technique that it no longer seems so groundbreaking, but his book remains a compelling read.

Yet another wonderful year in reading. Later today I will belatedly set my goals for the new year.