2016 Reading Goals

bookstack.jpgSince I embarked on my Great Books Project thirteen 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 (856 through 2015).

In 2015, I set my highest ever goal of 30,000 pages, thinking I would bounce back from the first year of my second-born's life with gusto. I did alright, surpassing the 25,000 page mark that had been my previous yearly goal, but came up short in the end.

It was a year of sprints and crawls, with months where I read in excess of three or four thousand pages followed by months where pages read measured in the hundreds. Particularly weak were October and November, months in which I was first preparing for, then conducting, then recovering from, my first trial as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. But even had those months been more normal, I still would have come up a little short. As such, I will really need to re-double my efforts, since I want to maintain the challenge I set for myself last year:

I will read 30,000 pages in 2016.

Here's to another wonderful year of reading!

The Year in Books - 2015

At the start of 2015, I set a goal to read 30,000 pages by year's end:

In 2014, after three straight years of surpassing a goal of reading 25,000 pages, I scaled back considerably in light of the birth of my second child and the inevitable reduction in my free time and energy for reading. Little did I know that I would also be changing jobs mid-year, further limiting my opportunities for discretionary recreation. I set a goal of just 10,000 pages, and despite the aforementioned obstacles, happily surpassed that number.

Now that my youngest is a bit more self-sufficient and I have settled into a healthy routine at my new job, I am feeling more ambitious about this year's reading. In 2009, the year my oldest was born, I read over 33,000 pages, having spent much of that year in the Kuwaiti desert with few distractions. In 2010, my first full year of parenting and my first year out of the Army, I still managed to read 18,000 pages. In 2011, I got back on track and eclipsed 29,000 pages. In 2012, I once again surpassed the 30,000-page mark, and was on track to do the same in 2013 before the birth of my little guy. Let us see if I can do it again: I will read 30,000 pages in 2015.

Here's what I read in 2015:

  1. Fives and Twenty-Fives - Michael Pitre
  2. The Yellow Birds - Kevin Powers
  3. Redeployment - Phil Klay
  4. Gilead - Marilynne Robinson
  5. Home - Marilynne Robinson
  6. Lila - Marilynne Robinson
  7. Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
  8. Dept. of Speculation - Jenny Offill
  9. Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng
  10. A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall - Will Chancellor
  11. An Untamed State - Roxane Gay
  12. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage - Haruki Murakami
  13. The Children Act - Ian McEwan
  14. Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
  15. A Strange and Sublime Address - Amit Chaudhuri
  16. Afternoon Raag - Amit Chaudhuri
  17. My Name is Asher Lev - Chaim Potok
  18. The Prestige - Christopher Priest
  19. A Darkness More Than Night - Michael Connelly
  20. Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
  21. Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami
  22. Invisible Cities - Italo Calvino
  23. A Lesson Before Dying - Ernest Gaines
  24. The Painter - Peter Heller
  25. City of Bones - Michael Connelly
  26. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami
  27. Lost Light - Michael Connelly
  28. High Fidelity - Nick Hornby
  29. The Cider House Rules - John Irving
  30. The Narrows - Michael Connelly
  31. The Closers - Michael Connelly
  32. The Natural - Bernard Malamud
  33. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving - Jonathan Evison
  34. The Wright Brothers - David McCullough
  35. The Blind Side - Michael Lewis
  36. The Fiery Trial - Eric Foner
  37. Michael Jordan - Roland Lazenby
  38. Our Souls at Night - Kent Haruf
  39. Reagan - H.W. Brands
  40. Waging Heavy Peace - Neil Young
  41. Over the Edge of the World - Laurence Bergreen
  42. Moneyball - Michael Lewis
  43. Bruce - Peter Ames Carlin
  44. Ramblin' Man - Ed Cray
  45. Echo Park - Michael Connelly
  46. The Overlook - Michael Connelly
  47. The Brass Verdict - Michael Connelly
  48. Sutton - J.R. Moehringer
  49. Nine Dragons - Michael Connelly
  50. The Reversal - Michael Connelly
  51. The Drop - Michael Connelly
  52. The Black Box - Michael Connelly
  53. The Burning Room - Michael Connelly
  54. Call for the Dead - John le Carré
  55. Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
  56. Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke
  57. I, Robot - Isaac Asimov
  58. Wool - Hugh Howey
  59. The Narrow Road to the Deep North - Richard Flanagan
  60. Purity - Jonathan Franzen
  61. To the End of the Land - David Grossman
  62. The Tsar of Love and Techno - Anthony Marra
  63. Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates
  64. The Secret Chord - Geraldine Brooks
  65. Fortune Smiles - Adam Johnson
  66. Fates and Furies - Lauren Groff
  67. The Crossing - Michael Connelly
  68. The Bully Pulpit - Doris Kearns Goodwin
  69. The Secret Wisdom of the Earth - Christopher Scotton
  70. Destiny and Power - Jon Meacham

Though I dramatically increased my reading from last year, I did not make it to the 30,000 page goal, finishing up at 25,091 pages, or just over 358 pages per book. This betrayed a slight tendency towards shorter books than last year, when the average was just over 400 pages. The year leaned heavily toward fiction, with the first 33 books I read all coming on that side, and fully 57 of the year's 70 titles. The fiction side was again padded with lighter reading in the form of the remaining novels in Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series, the first six of which I read last year. They were accompanied by my enjoyment of the Amazon-produced first season of a TV show based on Connelly's famous protagonist.

Amongst the 57 fiction titles I read in 2015, I took particular pleasure in Lila, the concluding chapter in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead trilogy, as well as its two predecessors which I re-read to fully recapture the contemplative splendor of that small world Robinson created. Other worthy favorites were a couple of story collections by authors whose debut novels were among my favorites of the past several years: The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra and Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson.

Amongst the 13 nonfiction titles I read in 2015, I will join the masses in praising Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me, his epistolary memoir that was heartbreaking even to this reader who could identify with so little of his lived experience. I also greatly enjoyed a pair of biographies about recent Republican presidents, with H.W. Brands's even-handed Reagan only just surpassed by Jon Meacham's Destiny and Power, which gave full due to the life and presidency of the first President Bush, made all the more remarkable by contrast to the current crop of GOP candidates.

All in all, another wonderful year in reading.

The Month in Books - December 2015

In 2015, my goal is to read 30,000 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 December:

  1. The Secret Chord - Geraldine Brooks
  2. Fortune Smiles - Adam Johnson
  3. Fates and Furies - Lauren Groff
  4. The Crossing - Michael Connelly
  5. The Bully Pulpit - Doris Kearns Goodwin
  6. The Secret Wisdom of the Earth - Christopher Scotton
  7. Destiny and Power - Jon Meacham

Pages Read: 3,203
Year-to-Date: 25,091