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31 December 2008

A Year Between the Pages

When, in January, I started keeping track of all the films this year, I decided I ought to also keep a record of all of the books I had read as I was interested to see whether I read more books or watched more movies. Until I went on holiday in September, the numbers were about equal but despite spending the first half of my holiday indulging in my random Pynchon whims, over the next month, my book reading took off and I ended up having read 74 books this year (well, technically, I'm still only three-quarters of the way through #74, Philip Roth's Letting Go but then I haven't included The Interpretation of Murder, which I started in Cannes after running out of other reading material, but only got to page 150 before it was time to head to the airport).

I was also interested to find out whether I would read more fiction or non- but despite having had such a fiction dearth until about September, the final tally was 27 non-fiction versus 47 fiction (the numbers are slightly flexible because I think I was a little inconsistent in my tallying, sometimes counting a biography as "fiction" if it reads like a novel), which surprised me. My reading rate was hardly very even--I read 38 of the books between the summer solstice and the end of the year. This imbalance is partly due to being on vacation and/or in the US, partly due to my new habit of commuting thrice weekly and partly because somehow, making these lists made me more competitive with myself and gave me a stronger desire to finish more books by the end of the year than I would have done otherwise.

The top five were easier to list than the movies, but then I didn't limit myself to books published this year (mainly because I read fewer than a handful of those, all non-fiction):

1. Never Let Me Go--Kazuo Ishiguro (still haunting me)

2. Birdsong--Sebastian Faulks (not the bits set in 1979, though, and despite the award-winning bad sex)

3. The End of Mr Y--Scarlett Thomas (still not sure I've learned not to judge a book by its cover)

4. The Hotel New Hampshire--John Irving (however, choosing books because of Dawson's Creek episodes with the same name can sometimes pay off; even if they are the episode where Dawson finally loses his virginity--eww!)

5. Revolutionary Road--Richard Yates (pretty fucking devastating but then I've never been one to require a happy ending when it comes to fiction)


Token non-fictionBad Science by Ben Goldacre (I've already read it twice and it's really good--and funny; perhaps I only chose it because I couldn't be arsed to differentiate between all of those books of the Long Tail/Everything is Miscellaneous/Wikinomics/Wisdom of the Crowds ilk).


Honourable mentionAgainst the Day by Thomas Pynchon (I sustained severe wrist injuries as a result of it but was surprised to find that I actually understood parts of it and that there were some semblances of a plot, although I was less surprised to discover how hilarious parts of it are and how many great sentences it contains).


The full library of 2008:

Mind Hacks--Tom Stafford and Matt Webb

Monarchy--David Starkey

The Six Wives of Henry VIII--David Starkey

The Norton Psychology Reader--Gary Marcus

On Chesil Beach--Ian McEwan

Great Movies--Roger Ebert

The Black Swan--Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Elizabeth and Leicester--Elizabeth Jenkins

The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly-Jean-Dominique Baubin

The Dreamers--Gilbert Adair

What Good Are the Arts?--John Carey

1066 and All That--W.C. Sellar & R.J. Yeatman

Empire of the Sun--J.G. Ballard

Inversions--Iain M. Banks

The Quickie--James Patterson

Your Brain Is Almost Perfect--Read Montague

Everything Is Miscellaneous--David Weinberger

Kluge--Gary Marcus

The Economic Naturalist--Robert H. Frank

Super Crunchers--Ian Ayres

An Utterly Impartial History of Britain--John O'Farrell

Holidays in Hell--P.J. O'Rourke

Dissolution--C.J. Sansom

The English Patient--Michael Ondaatje

Microtrends--Mark J. Penn

The Alchemist--Paulo Coelho

Notes on a Scandal--Zoe Heller

Mergers & Acquisitions--Dana Vachon

Love Falls--Esther Freud

Ghostwalk--Rebecca Stott

The Long Tail--Chris Anderson

How To Lie with Statistics--Darrel Huff

The End of Mr Y--Scarlett Thomas

Bad Science--Ben Goldacre

Mind Performance Hacks--Ron Hale-Evans

The Hottest State--Ethan Hawke

Less Than Zero--Bret Easton Ellis

Against the Day--Thomas Pynchon

The Silence of the Lambs--Thomas Harris

Posh--Lucy Jackson

The Accidental Tourist--Anne Tyler

The Duchess--Amanda Foreman

A Sport and a Pastime--James Salter

Liar's Poker--Michael Lewis

The Tropic of Cancer--Henry Miller

The Cement Garden--Ian McEwan

Making Money--Terry Pratchett

The Hotel New Hampshire--John Irving

Service Included--Phoebe Damrosch

Queen of the Road--Doreen Orion

The Fountainhead--Ayn Rand

The Ghost--Robert Harris

Payback--Margaret Atwood

Glamorama--Bret Easton Ellis

A Prisoner of Birth--Jeffrey Archer

Why Not Catch-21?--Gary Dexter

Use of Weapons--Iain M. Banks

La Bella Figura--Beppe Severigni

The Appeal--John Grisham

The Business--Iain Banks

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy--John Le Carre

The Player of Games--Iain M. Banks

Revolutionary Road--Richard Yates

Never Let Me Go--Kazuo Ishiguro

Choke--Chuck Palahniuk

Ulysses--James Joyce

Birdsong--Sebastian Faulks

High Fidelity--Nick Hornby

The Remains of the Day--Kazuo Ishiguro

The French Lieutenant's Woman--John Fowles

Charlotte Gray--Sebastian Faulks

Disgrace--J.M. Coetzee

The Quiet American--Graham Greene

Letting Go--Philip Roth



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