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).
  5. Revolutionary Road--Richard Yates (pretty damn 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 reading list 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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