Saturday, January 1, 2011

My 2010 Reading

Recently a friend of mine informed me that she read 57 books in 2010. That's staggering (to me, at any rate). That's more than a book a week. Then my friend at Three Good Rats announced she had read 72. I know it's not a contest, but as someone who's always thought of himself as a reader I found myself feeling lazy and inadequate. When I compiled my own list I found myself with a paltry 28. In my defense I don't keep a list of books I read so I've possibly forgotten a few. I will also add that since I teach lit classes to a local group of retirees I spent a fair amount of time reading short stories before I taught them and dipping into some relevant criticism as well.

But enough defensiveness. My 2010 list is below.

These books I read simply because I wanted to:

Strip Jack: an Inspector Rebus Mystery by Ian Rankin

Black and Blue: an Inspector Rebus Mystery by Ian Rankin

(Detective Inspector John Rebus is my favorite fictional detective and Ian Rankin one of my favorite mystery writers)

This Book is Overdue: How Librarian and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson (an enjoyable, but perhaps overenthusiastic, look at my profession)

Homecoming by Berhnard Schlink

Germany 1945: from War to Peace by Richard Bessel (a fascinating and troubling account of the end of the Third Reich and the beginning of West Germany; it also offers an excellent account of what is possibly the only time in history that an army fought savagely against an enemy force not to win but to hold them off long enough to surrender to another one).

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines (one of the best novels I've ever read; WARNING: if you have any heart at all, this book will destroy you)

Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel (absolutely brilliant)

Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens by Andrew Bearhs

The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics and Religion by Matt Taibbi (Matt Taibbi is one of my favorite journalists and political commentators: he's always savagely funny and on target).

I re-read these books, some in their entirety, others in part:

A Voyage Long and Strange: On the Trail of Vikings, Conquistadors, Lost Colonists, and Other Adventurers in Early America by Tony Horwitz (a fascinating account of European voyages to North America in the centuries preceding permanent European settlement)

The Battle Cry of Freedom: the Civil War Era by James McPherson (partial)

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann (this book is amazing)

The Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carré

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré (probably the eighth or ninth time I've re-read this book)

Civilization and its Discontents by Sigmund Freud (partial; this book is fewer than 200 pages so it's kind of pathetic that I didn't finish)

The Crucial Decade--and After; America, 1945-1960 by Eric Frederick Goldman (This book is utterly fascinating. In retrospect this country seemed so secure just after the end of the Second World War. At the time it was stricken with fear: plagued by Communist witch hunts, temporary food shortages, conflicted between its traditional isolationism and its new international commitments, and stricken with anxiety about social change).

These two I re-read for the Great Narnia Read-A-Long:

The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis

The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis

These I read in my capacity as a book reviewer for The Globe:

Everything by Kevin Canty

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The Early Years by Ilan Stavans

Model Home: A Novel by Erich Puchner

Bliss and Other Stories by Ted Gilley

The Hard Way Round: The Passages of Joshua Slocum by Geoffrey Wolff

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro

Turbulence by Giles Foden

Gordian Knot by Bernhard Schlink

Dreams in a Time of War by Ngugi W'thiong'o

Ford County: Stories by John Grisham

What else was I doing with my reading time? Magazines and blogs. The London Review of Books, The Atlantic, Scientific American (what I understand of it, that is), Americas. The Daily Dish, Political Animal, Informed Comment.


3goodrats said...

This is a pretty impressive list! There is a lot of non-fiction on there, at which I utterly fail. If I concentrated as much on non-fiction, I would have read about 10 books for the entire year.

Some of these fit in with my 2011 goal of reading about U.S. history, so thanks for the suggestions!

Kevin said...

Thanks. Of the U.S. History books, The Crucial Decade and A Voyage Long and Strange are the fastest reads. Battle Cry of Freedom is a great book, it's just that there's a lot of it. 1491 is fantastic but dense. The main advice I would have for someone trying to read 1491 who is wary of non-fiction is don't worry if you don't understand or remember everything. If you take away one or two interesting ideas from each chapter then you've had a good reading experience. Actually I think that advice applies to all nonfiction reading.

Natasha said...


Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I read & enjoyed your review of the Joshua Slocum biography on

I would like to send you a review copy of our new electronic edition of Joshua Slocum's "Sailing Alone Around the World" with "eNotations" by Chris Thomerson of Orcas Island.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Blog Archive