The Month in Books - January 2017

In 2017, my goal is to read 20,000 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. The Sympathizer - Viet Thanh Nguyen
  2. Moonglow - Michael Chabon

Pages Read: 796
Year-to-Date: 796

2017 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 (885 through 2016).

In 2016, I kept my goal at 30,000 pages, after several years of either exceeding or coming close to that ambitious goal. But 2016 turned out quite differently, after I became virtually obsessed with the presidential election (and its aftermath). I also started taking better care of my body, going to the gym four mornings a week before work, but this substantially cut down on my available reading time. It's hard to regret this commitment to my health, which I expect to continue into new year. As such, while still trying to improve on last year's reading, I will lower my goal to a more realistic level:

I will read 20,000 pages in 2017.

Here's to another wonderful year of reading!

The Year in Books - 2016

At the start of 2016, I set a goal to read 30,000 pages by year's end:

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.

Here's what I read in 2016:

  1. Gateway to Freedom - Eric Foner
  2. King of the World - David Remnick
  3. Schindler's List - Thomas Keneally
  4. The Big Bam - Leigh Montville
  5. Luckiest Man - Jonathan Eig
  6. Green on Blue - Elliot Ackerman
  7. Age of Ambition - Evan Osnos
  8. The Butcher's Trail - Julian Borger
  9. Papa Bear - Jeff Davis
  10. Franklin and Winston - Jon Meacham
  11. The Right Stuff - Tom Wolfe
  12. The Sellout - Paul Beatty
  13. The Silver Linings Playbook - Matthew Quick
  14. Salvage the Bones - Jesmyn Ward
  15. SPQR - Mary Beard
  16. The Martian - Andy Weir
  17. The Summer Before the War - Helen Simonson
  18. Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
  19. Ghettoside - Jill Leovy
  20. Bobby Kennedy - Larry Tye
  21. Being Nixon - Evan Thomas
  22. Believer - David Axelrod
  23. The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
  24. The Wrong Side of Darkness - Michael Connelly
  25. This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! - Jonathan Evison
  26. Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi
  27. The New Jim Crow - Michelle Alexander
  28. Bush - Jean Edward Smith
  29. The Second World War - Antony Beevor
  30. Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen

I obviously came up quite short, reading 30 books totaling 13,873 pages, or an average of 462 pages per book. I became quite obsessed with the elections and began going to the gym in the mornings before work in what had previously been my primary time for reading.

Amongst the 11 fiction titles I read in 2016, I cannot overstate my praise for Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing, which manages to explore a fresh angle on the experience of slavery in America by pairing it with a parallel narrative of life for those who avoided slavery's snare and remained in Africa. I also revisited three of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy novels, with a third reading of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and a second of Andy Weir's The Martian and Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, each of which only improves with repetition.

Amongst the 19 nonfiction titles I read in 2016, the easy standout was Jill Leovy's Ghettoside, a heartbreaking look at the interplay between violent crime and urban under-policing. I also greatly enjoyed the latest from my favorite biographer, Jean Edward Smith's Bush, a harsh look at the last Republican presidency.

All in all, another wonderful year in reading.