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Reading Goals: 2017

I'm going to continue what I started in 2016. I'll keep a low and easily achievable goal on Goodreads, so that I can read more on the web, read longer books, and read slower books. On the other hand, I hit my 2016 Goodreads goal by the end of July, which is just too early. I'll move my goal from 40 books to 50 books, which should have me finishing around the end of September.

Here are my 2017 goals (and the corresponding reading list). There's no way I'm going to fully hit everything on this list, but I'm definitely going to at least sample it all.

Literary Fiction

I only technically achieved this goal last year, by reading 1 book. That's no reason to quit though. I want to keep exercising my literary muscles by reading more literary novels this year. Let's make this year's goal a little more concrete: a minimum of 2 literary novels.


This is a perennial goal. This year, I want to read the rest of Bruce Catton's "Army of the Potomac" series. I'd also like to find a good popular history of China and read some more about Israeli history.

Historical Fiction

Last year, I rediscovered my love of historical fiction. I found the Accursed Kings series, thanks to George R.R. Martin. I reread the entire Hornblower series. And I enjoyed the first book of the Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series. This year, I'm going to fully dive back into historical fiction.

New to Me Series

I'd never read L.E. Modesitt or his Recluce series before last year. I'd also never heard heard of the Sector General series. I enjoyed The Magic of Recluce and Sector General sounds good enough to take a chance on. I'll dive into both, as well as anything else interesting that comes along.

New Releases

I'm already looking forward to the release of Oathbringer, so let's just go ahead and say that reading it is an official goal. I'm going to hope for a new Dresden novel from Jim Butcher. And I'm patiently awaiting the appearance of volume 5 of Robert Caro's "Years of Lyndon Johnson" series (even though past history says I shouldn't expect it for another 5 years).

This goal will also include any rereads that I need to do in order to fully enjoy the new book.

Enjoy Comics

Time to finally read Sandman, as well as other stories that catch my eye.

Dip Into the 2015 and 2016 Reading Lists

Last year, I finished my 2014 reading goals by finishing the Culture novels and the Wheel of Time series. I didn't have anything nearly as specific for 2015 or 2016, but I did compile a list of books that sounded interesting. I'll dip into those lists more.

I also still want to re-read some of my favorite books that I didn't get to in 2016.

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What I Read in 2016

Last year was a good year for reading. I made progress in all of my reading goals and discovered a number of memorable books.

I lowered my Goodreads goal from 70 books down to 40 books in order to "give me the space to read more on the web, read longer books, and read slower books than I ordinarily would". That was a success, as I felt more freedom to spend time on the reading that I don't normally do. I finished my 40th book before the end of July. It felt weird to finish my Goodreads goal so early.

As I look back on the last year, several things stand out. I read some great non-fiction books. I still think about Mr. Lincoln's Army, Hillbilly Elegy, and Embers of War. After discovering that the Horatio Hornblower series was available on Kindle, I bought and read the entire thing. I've been wanting to do that for years and enjoyed finally doing so.

After watching Jurassic Park with my daughters, I reread the book to see how it held up. Similarly, after rewatching The Hunt for Red October, I read that book to see how it held up. I'm happy to report that both books are still as good as I originally thought they were. I also reread Starship Troopers and found it to still be intellectually stimulating.

Finally, you can spend your time in a far worse way than reading Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others. As a friend put it, "each story reads like it came out of a possibly drunken conversation and a 'what if'". Given that the book includes a short background for each story, that seems especially apt.

And now, here's the full list of what I read last year, broken down by reading goal.

More Literary Fiction

I didn't do so well in this category, as I never got around to reading a second (let alone third or fourth) literary novel.


Fix the Oops

I had fully intended to read more of Jack Vance's novels. But I really didn't enjoy the first one and decided that I didn't care to read more than that.

Enjoy Comics

I never did read more of Saga or The Sandman, but I'm happy to have read Locke & Key. It was well worth the time.

Hard Science Fiction

Maybe I just don't enjoy this the way that I used to. It's hard plowing. Greg Egan invented his own physics for The Clockwork Rocket. While I'm sure that it's 100% consistent, it made my head hurt. I like science, but I'm not enough of a scientist to enjoy that sort of thing.

Finish the 2014 and 2015 Goals

I finished reading The Wheel of Time and I very nearly finished reading the Culture series.

Reread Old Favorites

I nailed this goal, especially considering that the Hornblower series wasn't even on my initial reading list.

Other Diversions

Special mention goes to Children of Earth and Sky. I've yet to read something by Guy Gavriel Kay that wasn't excellent.

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2016 Reading Goals: Progress So Far

The year is half over and I've been reading books that catch my eye, without thinking too closely about this year's reading goals. I think it's time to look at how I'm doing, measured against my self imposed yardstick.

I wanted to spend more time reading long form articles on the web and less time just reading novels. I've been doing that, spending much more time in Instapaper than I normally do. I've already read a few more "slower" books than I normally do, but I still want to read more.

More Literary Fiction

I haven't yet read any literary fiction. Clearly, I need to focus on that over the next six months.


I've read three non-fiction books so far this year: Meet You in Hell, The Prime Ministers, and Mr. Lincoln's Army. (None of them were on my initial list.) Mr. Lincoln's Army impressed me enough that I'm likely to be reading more of Bruce Catton's series during the rest of the year.

Fix the Oops

I haven't yet read anything by Jack Vance.

Enjoy Comics

I've read Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows and Battlefields Vol. 1: The Night Witches. I'm slowly working my way through Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom.

Hard Science Fiction

I'm still having a hard time finding hard science fiction that I like. I've read Stephen Baxter's Space, but I didn't enjoy it that much. I'll keep looking.

Finish the 2014 and 2015 Goals

I had a major success here. I read the last three Wheel of Time novels and finished the series. One of 2014's goals checked off at last!

I still have the Culture novels to go and may re-read Kiln People or Ender's Game.

Other Diversions

I finally read William Gibson's Neuromancer. Brandon Sanderson published two new Mistborn novels and I read both of them. I was finally able to buy all of the Hornblower novels on Kindle and I've read several of them.

Between Hornblower and my recent discovery of The Accursed Kings, I’m feeling a strong pull back into historical fiction. I’ll either give into that pull this year or else it will definitely be on next year’s reading goals.


If I want to finish all of my goals this year, it looks like I should focus on literary fiction, hard science fiction, non-fiction, and the works of Jack Vance, over the next six months.

Time to re-visit the 2016 reading ideas list.

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Reading Goal Achieved: THE WHEEL OF TIME

I started reading The Wheel of Time on April 12, 2014. I finally finished it today, 2 years and 2 months later. I may have some reflections on the whole thing later. Right now, I'm glad to be done and to have the project behind me.


The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.


This wind, it was not the ending. There are no endings, and never will be endings, to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was an ending.

Reading Goals: 2016

For 2016, I want to shift my reading focus a little bit. I find and read a lot of longer articles on the web, but I'm often conflicted between spending lots of time reading in-depth reporting and opinions vs reading enough books to meet my reading goals.

I'm going to drastically lower my Goodreads reading goal: from 70 books down to 40 books. It's easy to hit a high reading goal when I'm reading mostly science fiction and fantasy. It's harder to do when I'm reading more literary novels and non-fiction. This lower reading goal will give me the space to read more on the web, read longer books, and read slower books than I ordinarily would.

Here are my 2016 goals (and the corresponding reading list).

More Literary Fiction

I enjoyed the experiences I had with literary fiction last year. I'll do more of it this year. The key seems to be finding books that are long on the human experience and short on American middle-class angst. I'll keep an eye out and add them to my reading ideas list as I find them.


Since I completely failed at this last year, I'm going to take another run at it this year. My list of potential books was good, it was just my execution that stunk. I'll copy over everything from last year's list to this year's list.

Fix the Oops

Last year, I listed Jack Vance on my goals list. I had been wanting to read Jack McDevitt too, although I hadn't listed him in my goals. Unfortunately, I went to my reading list and added a bunch of books by Jack McDevitt and none by Jack Vance. Oops. This year, I'll actually read some books by Jack Vance.

Enjoy Comics

Adam's been feeding me a list of recommended comics and graphic novels. I've also run across a few on my own. I'll actually read some of them this year.

Hard Science Fiction

I'm still having a hard time consistently finding good hard science fiction novels. I'm going to continue to look for them and read them as I find them.

Finish the 2014 and 2015 Goals

In 2014, I wanted to read the Culture novels and the Wheel of Time series. I made good progress, but didn't finish either series. I'll continue to work through them again in 2016. I also plan to finish reading the Alex Benedict series from the 2015 reading ideas list.

I also still want to re-read some of my favorite books.

Interesting Hooks

I know I'm going to come across interesting sounding books as I go through the year. I might as well make it a goal to read some of them.

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Year in Books: 2015

Over this past year, I read 69 books, a total of 31,138 pages. I had set a reading goal of 70 books and just barely missed it. By comparison, I read 3 fewer books than in 2014, but 154 more pages.

Overall, 2015 was a mixed bag for book reading. I had a hard time hitting my Goodreads goal. I'm happy with the literary fiction that I read, but disappointed that I didn't read more non-fiction. I read more hard science fiction (good), but didn't re-read any old favorites (bad). My reading goals were supposed to give me a focus, but I wasn't disciplined enough to actually read everything that I wanted to.

Here's how I did in each specific goal.

Reading Specific Authors

I had picked out several different authors that I wanted to explore this year. I did fairly well on this goal. I was:

  • Brent Weeks: all 3 books
  • Guy Gavriel Kay: 4 of 6 novels, including both of the duologies that I really wanted to read
  • Robert Silverberg: 3 short story collections, out of 11 book ideas
  • Jack McDevitt: 5 out of 14 novels, 2 in the Academy series and 3 in the Alex Benedict series
  • William Gibson: nothing

I didn't read nearly as much of Silverberg as I'd originally intended to and I seemed to have skipped William Gibson entirely. I'm pretty happy with everything else though.

Reread Old Favorites

I failed at this goal. Theoretically, I gave myself permission to go back and re-read old favorites. In practice, I never actually did it. I did end up rereading Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, but I wouldn't have even done that much had I not been reading them along with my wife.

Literary Fiction

I had pulled together a list of 6 literary novels that caught my eye. I surprised myself by actually reading 4 of them: Cloud Atlas, The Shadow of the Wind, The Orphan Master's Son, and The Book of Strange New Things. I consider The Orphan Master's Son and Cloud Atlas to be two of the best books that I read this year.

Hard Science Fiction

I've been wanting to read science fiction that's heavy on the science. I picked out 8 books and read 4 of them: The Martian, Dragon's Egg, Time, and Yesterday's Kin. I'd recommend both The Martian and Dragon's Egg to anyone else looking to read some science fiction.


I picked out 21 interesting books for my reading ideas list. I read none of them. This was an abject failure.

Interesting Hooks

I picked out 23 different books (or series) for my reading ideas list. I ended up reading 10 of them, which is great for a list that was basically a pile of anything that sounded interesting. Highlights include The Just City, The Three-Body Problem, and A Night of Blacker Darkness.

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Up Next: The Shadow of the Wind

Since I ripped through The Martian in just a day, I was looking through my reading ideas list to see what I wanted to tackle next. I decided to grab The Shadow of the Wind, since Adam highly recommended it. I hopped over to the Goodreads page and read the description.

To console his only child, Daniel’s widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona’s guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel’s father coaxes him to choose a volume from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the novel he selects, 'The Shadow of the Wind', by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax’s work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last one in existence.

This gave me a bit of a double take. Last summer, I read Cryptic: The Best Short Fiction of Jack McDevitt. This description strongly reminded me of one of McDevitt's stories, "The Fort Moxie Branch". I enjoyed that story (heck, I enjoyed the entire volume), so I'll count that as just one more endorsement for The Shadow of the Wind.

Reading Goals: 2015

I wrote out reading goals for the first time ever, last year. I enjoyed the project so much that I'm going to do it again this year.

Last year's goals were pretty simple: read through several series and read a list of non-fiction books. This year, I'm going to go in a slightly different direction with a longer set of goals. I want to focus on some specific authors, reread some old favorites, read some literary fiction, some hard science fiction, more non-fiction, and books that hooked me with interesting ideas.

Last year, I made an actual reading list, with the intention of reading every book on the list. This year, I'm keeping things more casual and spontaneous, by making an ideas list rather than a reading list.

For the last 4 years, I've been keeping track of every book that catches my eye. I've also been noting down what I found interesting about each book. I went through that list and skimmed off the cream. The result is a list of over 100 books that meet each of these goals. I definitely won't be able to read everything on the list but it'll give me plenty of ideas to draw from throughout the year.

Specific Authors

I keep running across authors that intrigue me. I really like reading through an author's back catalog to get more familiar with him. This year, I'd like to focus on some specific authors that have caught my attention.

Guy Gavriel Kay writes fantasy that's often set in historical analogues to our own world. It may be fantasy, but it reads like historical fiction. I read one of his books last year and I want to read more of them this year.

Robert Silverberg is a giant in the SF field. He's been writing for decades, won countless awards, influenced the field in many ways, and has been named an SFWA Grand Master. I've read a few of his works and really appreciated the literary tone of them. I want to read a lot more.

Jack Vance is another writer that I only became aware of recently. He's another SFWA Grand Master and winner of multiple awards. His stories have a more literary tone to them. According to Wikipedia, "[a] 2009 profile in The New York Times Magazine described Vance as "one of American literature's most distinctive and undervalued voices"."

I first heard of Brent Weeks from Brandon Sanderson. His simple description, "Brent is making epic fantasy novels that read with the pacing of a thriller", intrigued me. Then I started seeing his name pop up all over the place. Hint taken, Internet. I'll see what the fuss is about. The last time I did this, I discovered how much I love Jim Butcher's Dresden series. I'm hoping this is just as successful.

William Gibson is the man who launched the cyberpunk movement and inspired an entire generation of writers. I've heard of him, often, but I've never actually read him. At the urging of my team lead, I'll remedy that this year.

Reread Old Favorites

I don't often indulge in rereads. I always feel like there's too much that I haven't yet read, to spend time rereading. But there are a lot of books that I really like and this year I'm going to indulge myself by rereading a few of them.

Literary Fiction

Last April, I talked to Adam about literary fiction and what makes a story literary. Since then, I've been thinking more and more about literary fiction. I don't want to admit defeat and an inability to read an entire section of writing. This year, I'm going to try reading a few different literary novels in the hopes of better finding out what I do and don't like.

Hard Science Fiction

For me, hard science fiction is what makes the entire genre worthwhile. The focus on scientific and technical accuracy takes the genre from mere entertainment to something that becomes educational. I took a college class on Physics and Science Fiction and learned a lot from it. As much as I like it though, I've read almost no hard science fiction in the last couple of years. That changes in 2015.


Whatever else reading is, it should be educational. I'll continue reading non-fiction, to ensure that I continue stretching my mind and increasing my store of knowledge.

Interesting Hooks

I've collected quite a list of "reading ideas" over the past 2 or 3 years. Many of them are books that had a specific hook that caught my interest. This year, I'll go through that list, write about what hooked my interest, and then read the books to see if they live up to the hook.

The End

I'll finish off last year's goals: reading the Wheel of Time series and finishing the Culture novels. I intend to purchase another Supporting Membership for Worldcon. I'll continue reading Hugo eligible books, to inform my vote. And I'll continue to give myself the freedom to read outside of my goals, as I find things that interest me.

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A Wheel of Time Overview

About 3 ½ years ago, Brandon Sanderson gave a talk at the Polaris Conference. I listened the the recording and took some notes on his comments about the Wheel of Time. Here's the overview he gave of the series.

  • Books 1-3 (The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn) are quest stories
  • Books 4-6 (The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven, Lord of Chaos) slow way down and are really deep character drawings. The destinations stopped being as important as what was happening with the characters and the way the world was expanding. If you don't make the transition, book 4 is a hard transition but is the favorite of many fans.
  • Book 7-9 (A Crown of Swords, The Path of Daggers, Winter's Heart) are the start of a bunch of big arcs and they stopped being individual books. There aren't climaxes where you'd expect until book 9, which has one of the biggest climaxes of the entire series.
  • Book 10 (Crossroads of Twilight) is a weird outlier. It's a parallel novel that tells the backstories of some of the side stories. It's the slowest and is catching you up on what happened with some of the characters during the big events of book 9. It lays a lot of foundation work.
  • Book 11 (Knife of Dreams) starts to build on the foundation of book 10.

I've kept this in mind ever since. Now that I'm in the middle of book 8 (The Path of Daggers), it's an even better help to keep my bearings in this immense story.

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Still working on my 2015 reading goals

With 2014 now in the rearview mirror, I've been turning my attention to my 2015 reading goals and reading list. I've actually been thinking about it for the past month, but I've been too busy with other things to actually put it together.

I have a pretty good idea of what the list is going to look like, but it takes time to create it and link everything up just right. I worked on it tonight and I expect to work on it throughout the week. I'd like to get it published by this weekend.

Until then, I'll continue reading either the next Wheel of Time or Culture novel.

(I also plan to write down some of my thoughts on my 2014 reading goals and accomplishments, but I'm not sure when that will be ready.)

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Reading Goals: 2014

I'm happy with what I read last year. But I want more out of 2014. I'd like to have some structured goals for this year's reading. I've got a few thoughts.


I've already started off by reading 10 books in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series. That gave me an idea: why not make 2014 the year I focus on reading different series? There are several that I've been interested in but I've always been leary of tackling. Now that I've caught up on the Dresden Files, I like the idea of devoting a year to mowing through several others and finally indulging myself.

Here are some of my top choices:


I also want to read some more non-fiction. I have several choices in mind. I already own a copy of Coolidge by Amity Shlaes. I've been interested in Silent Cal for a while. It's time to finally learn more about him. Likewise, Showdown at Gucci Gulch has me intrigued. It's the inside story of how Reagan's 1986 tax reform made it through Congress. I've heard good things about The Rebirth of Education, Days of Fire, and The Gamble. Moving away from politics slightly, The Last Battle sounds like a good history book while Design Crazy is a look at Apple and its design studio.


I have some other goals too. This year, I bought a supporting membership to Worldcon, the premier convention for science fiction and fantasy fans. Worldcon members get to nominate works for the Hugo awards (this year and next year) and get to vote on this year's nominees.

During the year, I'd like to read some books actually published in 2014, in hopes of finding something that I like well enough to nominate for next year's Hugos. In addition, Worldcon members generally get free copies of the current year's nominees. I'd like to read through several of this year's nominees, to be able to cast informed votes for the awards. I've been a fan long enough. This year, I'd like to exert a tiny bit of influence on the genres.

Flotsam and Jetsam

Of course, I reserve the right to throw in other things as well. I have a large number of books that I've bought or borrowed over the last several years and then never read. I'd like to try whittling down that down so that I feel like I'm actually getting some value from my purchases. Things that don't fit the other categories but that intrigue me enough (like George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’s anthology Dangerous Women) have a chance of being read too.

The End

For the past several months, I've been blogging my book reviews here. I intend to continue doing that this year. I'll probably add a new snippet of information to each review: which goal each book fits into. That'll let me track my progress, keep me honest, and keep me focused on the goals.

I think these goals are fairly ambitious, but I'm excited about tackling them this year. The real fun is in the trying, whether or not I meet all (or any) of them.

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Tell Me What To Read Next

Last year, my New Year's Resolution was to finish more books than I started. It made sense because I had a bad habit of starting books, then getting distracted by a newer, shinier book and never finishing the first book (or the second or third, for that matter). My resolution was to focus on actually finishing the books that I started, before starting a new book.

This year, in addition to continuing last year's Resolution, I Resolve to read more non-fiction books. For the past 15 years, my reading has been heavily dominated by fiction books. (I read lots of non-fiction articles and news stories but few non-fiction books.)

My new plan is to read one non-fiction book, followed by one fiction book. I'm off to a good start already. I read A Journey: My Political Life by Tony Blair. I just finished reading Red Dragon by Jerry Pournelle.

Now, what non-fiction book should I read next? I have a lot of great books queued up to read. The list is so good that I'm really having a hard time deciding which one to take off the shelf first. So, what do you think I should read?

My candidates are:

Kennedy by Ted Sorenson

The first appointment made by the new President was to name Ted Sorensen his Special Counsel. Sorenson relates the role of the White House staff and evaluates Kennedy's relations with his Cabinet and other appointees. He reveals Kennedy's errors on the Bay of Pigs, his attitudes toward the press and Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his handling of Berlin and the Cuban missile crisis.

Three months to the day after Dallas, Sorensen left the White House to write the account of those eleven year that only he could write.

Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

This biography by Edmund Morris, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award–winning author of The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex, is itself the completion of a trilogy sure to stand as definitive. Packed with more adventure, variety, drama, humor, and tragedy than a big novel, yet documented down to the smallest fact, it recounts the last decade of perhaps the most amazing life in American history. What other president has written forty books, hunted lions, founded a third political party, survived an assassin’s bullet, and explored an unknown river longer than the Rhine?

From Poverty to Prosperity by Arnold Kling

From Poverty to Prosperity is not Tipping Point or Freakonomics. Those books offer a smorgasbord of fascinating findings in economics and sociology, but the findings are only loosely related. From Poverty to Prosperity on the other hand, tells a big picture story about the huge differences in the standard of living across time and across borders. It is a story that draws on research from the world's most important economists and eschews the conventional wisdom for a new, more inclusive, vision of the world and how it works.

Hero by Michael Korda

T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935) first won fame for his writings and his participation in the British-sponsored Arab Revolt of WWI, but the adventurer known even in his day as "Lawrence of Arabia" is remembered today mostly as the subject of the 1962 film masterpiece based on his life. This splendid page-turner revitalizes this protean, enigmatic adventurer. That this colorful British scholar/Middle East warrior deserves a better fate is demonstrated amply in Michael Kordas' authoritative 784-page biography.

Unchecked and Unbalanced by Arnold Kling

Arnold Kling provides a blueprint for those who are skeptical of political and financial elitism. At the heart of Kling's argument is the growing discrepancy between two phenomena: knowledge is becoming more diffuse, while political power is becoming more concentrated. Kling sees this knowledge/power discrepancy at the heart of the financial crisis of 2008. Financial industry executives and regulatory officials lacked the ability to fathom the complexity of the system that had emerged.

Extraordinary, Ordinary People by Condoleezza Rice

This is the story of Condoleezza Rice that has never been told, not that of an ultra-accomplished world leader, but of a little girl trying to find her place in a hostile world and of two remarkable parents – and an extended family and community – that made all the difference. On the shoulders of individuals both black and white, young Condoleezza Rice stood and looked out on a world where anything was possible -- and in a way that is singularly fascinating, Extraordinary, Ordinary People takes us not just through Rice’s childhood but, also, her twenties and thirties as she builds a record of achievement that positions her for involvement in world-historical events.

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My 2010 Reading List, Update III


Above: "Summer reading list" by Kimberly Applegate.

Counting up how many books I've read in the last 3+ months, I find that I've just passed my reading list's halfway point; I'm on my nineteenth entry out of thirty-six.

A commute to work by bus has its advantages.

Let's throw some ratings into the mix here. We'll use a five-star system:

1 - being God-awfully inept and offensive. 2 - being so flawed that it lacks entertainment value. 3 - being entertainment, but a clearly flawed work. Inoffensive and forgettable.
4 - being a perfectly respectable example of How It's Done, but falling short of Art. 5 - being something special, a superior achievement.


The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett - I paid a visit to the former chair of the Shorter College Humanities Department recently and we naturally flung books at each other before parting. This was his selection. Finished. 4 stars.

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan - The movie looks like a great deal of fun, but in general I'm a firm believer of reading the book first. So I will. Finished. 2 stars..

Up in the Air, by Walter Kim - Another book purchased simply because the previews for the movie greatly intrigue me. Finished. 3 stars. Loses points on the dismount with a tacked-on "shocking revelation".

Native Son, by Richard Wright - Because I like my reading lists to have some diversity and realized I didn't have any great African-American novels on it. I love Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Ellison was connected with Wright, so I selected this to fill the gap.

War & Peace, by Leo Tolstoy - I'm probably being absurdly optimistic in purchasing this book and putting it on my reading list for this year; as anyone can tell you, it's huge, and God knows the block of time it'll require has plenty of other claims on it, the rest of this list included. Still, I've really wanted to read it ever since finishing The Death of Ivan Ilyich, and having it readily available is the first step, so just maybe...

Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky - And buying Tolstoy made me think of Dostoevsky, whose The Brothers Karamazov I finally finished when I last visited Korea.

The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden, by John Steinbeck - I've already read Grapes, but I did it back in high school, which really is more or less equivalent to having not read something at all (children are all Philistines; their souls have not yet developed). One of Steinbeck's other novels ranks as an absolute favorite of mine, The Winter of Our Discontent, and one of the particularly proud moments of my time in college was when I had the honor of introducing my Creative Writing professor to it, who afterward declared it one of her all-time favorites as well.

The Angel's Game, by Carlos Ruis Zafon - Zafon's other novel, The Shadow of the Wind, is one of the most enjoyable books I read in '09. My wife's already read this one and told me it's darker, which disappointed her and somewhat disappoints me - Shadow was one of those books where you bounced in your bed at the ending, which is a rarity for me - but so it goes; no doubt it will still be, as Stephen King called Shadow, one gorgeous read.

The Baroque Trilogy (Quicksilver, The Confusion, The System of the World) and Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson - Apparently a force with which to be reckoned in science fiction, which accounts for why I haven't heard of him. I've received a lot of recommendations from friends who are into the genre, though, and Snow Crash made TIME's "100 Greatest Novels of the 20th Century", so I feel pretty confident these'll be enjoyable. Finished with Snow Crash. 5 stars.

The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman - I've always been curious about the His Dark Materials trilogy, a fantasy series that's often referred to as the anti-Chronicles of Narnia. I'm not willing to blindly plump for all three, but I'm pretty sure the first installment is a self-contained story, like The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe. So it turns out that the first book was not self-contained, but it was so good Anna and I immediately purchased the next two. I'm on the third volume now. Grade So Far: 5 stars.

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman - What if a bunch of today's adults found out Hogwarts and Narnia were real? Sounds fun. Finished. 4 stars.

Supreme Courtship, by Christopher Buckley - On the strength of his Thank You For Smoking. Finished. 4 stars.

A Farewell to Arms and The Son Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway - I'd never actually read Hemingway until I picked up_ For Whom The Bell Tolls_ at the airport on my way to my honeymoon destination. I am now of course very much looking forward to reading the rest of his body of work. In March I accidentally found and finished The Old Man and the Sea.

This Side of Paradise, by F. Scott Fitzgerald - Obviously I'm taking the opportunity to fill in a few shameful gaps in my reading experience.

Riding Lessons, by Sara Gruen - Because her Water For Elephants is utterly charming.

Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer - I consider it sort of a duty to read anything that gets as popular as this book. Plus my wife's read them all and wants to be able to discuss them with me. Hey, who knows? I didn't want to read the Harry Potter books, either. Finished. 2 stars.

Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger - On the strength of her first book, The Time Traveler's Wife, which reminded its readers of how great science fiction can be when it's not just left for geeks to write. Finished. 3 stars, but not for any observable deficiency; the narrative simply doesn't compel.

The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton - Since all of her novels are in the public domain now, Amazon asks only ninety-nine cents in return for all thirty-one of them. I actually finished this particular book back in January (we're over a month into '10, after all). Verdict: enjoyable, but The Age of Innocence is far more rewarding to the modern reader. 3 stars.

Between, Georgia, by Joshilyn Jakson - My mother's recommendation. I honestly have no idea.

Being Written, by William Conescu - One of several impulse buys. A minor character in a book realizes his nature and struggles with the author to achieve greater prominence. Finished - and boy, this book wasn't what I thought it would be at all. 4 stars, but I'm disturbed..

Persona Non Grata, by Ruth Downie - My trial installment for a light-hearted series in which an ancient Roman doctor and his slave girl solve mysteries.

Tipperary, by Frank Delaney - In preparation for my Kindle spree I walked about a Barnes & Noble, just letting covers leap out at me. My wife tells me this one did. I naturally no longer remember.

The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth - A tale set in an alternative history in which the Fascists gained political power in America prior to World War II. Why not? Finished. 2.5 stars. Undeniably the work of someone who knows what he's doing, but its message is extraordinarily deceitful and the pace of the plot sometimes unforgivably slow.


The Art of Biblical Narrative, by Robert Alter - Assigned by my Old Testament professor at college, this is one of the books that spearheaded the (re-?)introduction of literary analysis of the Bible to universities in the last century. Obviously I've read it (got a "B" - Dr. Wallace wasn't easy), but I'd like to read it again at a more leisurely pace. And maybe take notes this time. An assured 5 stars.

Foreskin's Lament, by Shalom Auslander - A memoir from an author who has written only one other book to my knowledge, an anthology of short stories collectively entitled Beware of God, which was so side-splittingly hilarious and poignant I'll probably be buying anything with his name on it for the foreseeable future. Finished. 4 stars.

The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel..., by Israel Finkelstein - A survey of what modern archaeology has to say about the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah and their Biblical records. Finished. 3 stars. Fully half the book is dull summarizing of the Bible stories themselves. The rest is very interesting.

Nothing to Envy, by Barbara Demick - Six North Korean refugees describe life beyond the DMZ, and how they escaped it. Being in such close proximity to what may be the most evil regime on this planet almost demands an interest in it, so I've always known that when I returned to Seoul I'd be bringing along more reading material about the DPRK. Finished. 5 stars and very moving.

The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, by Dr. Robert "The Bible Geek" Price - A biblical scholar's assessment of the four gospels' authenticity. Finished. 4 stars.

On Writing, by Stephen King - The best book on writing fiction I've ever read, written by the writer's writer. I owned a physical copy but gave it away.

Brotherhood of Warriors, by Douglas Century - A look into Israel's special forces. Already read this one too, but I need to comb through it again for research purposes. Finished. 4 stars for what it is - but what it is doesn't happen to be that audacious, so don't take that as a strong recommendation.

This entry was tagged. Reading List