2011 Year in Reading

2011 was an above normal reading year for me where I read 58 books, more than I did in 2008 (45), 2009 (40), and 2010 (53).  I’m in three book clubs.  One for science fiction where I read two books a month:  one classic and one modern.  But I don’t always read both.  I’m also in an online club for reading non-fiction, and a local supper club that also reads nonfiction.  If I kept up with the clubs I’m committed to 48 books a year.  I try.  It’s fun reading books that I can discuss with other people.

My reading goal every year is to read at least 10-12 books published during the year and I read 11 this year.  I like reading new books because it’s exciting to discover something great as it comes out and then help spread the word about them.

I’m able to read so many books because I listen to audio books.

Outstanding Non-Fiction Books Read This Year

  • The Information (2011) – James Gleick
  • The Warmth of Other Suns (2010) – Isabel Wilkerson
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010) – Rebecca Skloot
  • The Blank Slate (2002) – Steven Pinker
  • Empire of the Summer Moon (2010) – S. C. Gwynne
  • Cheap (2009) – Ellen Ruppel Shell
  • The Greater Journey (2011) – David McCullough
  • The Last Gunfight (2011) – Jeff Guinn

Outstanding Fiction Books Read This Year

  • The Way We Live Now (1875) – Anthony Trollope
  • Doc (2011) – Mary Doria Russell
  • Among Others (2011) – Jo Walton
  • Middlemarch (1874) – George Elliot
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007) – Sherman Alexie
  • True Grit (1968) – Charles Portis
  • Wonder (2011) – Robert J. Sawyer

This is more titles than I normally list as my favorites of the year, but I was really impressed with all of these books, and they really are outstanding.  I’ve never read Trollope before, but I just loved The Way We Live Now.  I’m already anxious to read it again.  Mary Doria Russell did a fabulous job of historical research to flesh out Doc Holliday and the Earps in her new novel Doc.  It’s interesting to contrast this with the The Last Gunfight which was nonfiction, and also excellently researched.  Russell’s next book will be set in Tombstone, so I’m anxious to see what she does with that legend.  At the science fiction book club we were all blown away by Among Others by Jo Walton, since it’s love letter to science fiction fans.

All the nonfiction titles I list above are heavy duty books in their own way.  The Information is just huge in scope and like the old Connections TV show with James Burke covering territory over centuries.   The Warmth of Other Suns and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks are both tremendously enlightening books about African-American history, but they also say volumes about 20th century American history.  Empire of the Summer Moon, The Greater Journey and The Last Gunfight all expanded my knowledge of 19th century history.  I thought Cheap was just going to be a fun throw-away book that we read for my local book club, but it’s turned out to be very useful in understanding our current economic problems.  The Blank Slate is an intense look at human nature that I wish I could memorize.

Books Read in 2011

  1. True Grit (1968) – Charles Portis
  2. The Man Who Folded Himself (1973) – David Gerrold
  3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010) – Rebecca Skloot
  4. Among Others (2011) – Jo Walton
  5. I, Robot (1950) – Isaac Asimov (2nd time)
  6. Time for the Stars (1956) – Robert A. Heinlein (5th time)
  7. Flashforward (1999) – Robert J. Sawyer
  8. The Blank Slate (2002) – Steven Pinker
  9. Cheap (2009) – Ellen Ruppel Shell
  10. The Currents of Space (1952) – Isaac Asimov
  11. Brain Wave (1954) – Poul Anderson
  12. Middlemarch (1874) – George Elliot
  13. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007) – Sherman Alexie
  14. The Good Book (2009) – David Plotz
  15. Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes? (2008) – Jena Pincott
  16. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (2009) – Donald Miller
  17. The Moral Landscape (2010) – Sam Harris
  18. Forged (2011) – Bart D. Ehrman
  19. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much (2009) – Allison Hoover Bartlett
  20. Wonder (2011) – Robert J. Sawyer
  21. The Way We Live Now (1875) – Anthony Trollope
  22. Rite of Passage (1968) – Alexei Panshin (3rd time)
  23. The History of the World in Six Glasses (2005) – Tom Standage
  24. The Warmth of Other Suns (2010) – Isabel Wilkerson
  25. Mildred Pierce (1941) – James M. Cain
  26. Radio Free Albemuth (1985) – Philip K. Dick
  27. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (2006) – Bill Bryson (2nd time)
  28. When HARLIE Was One (1972) – David Gerrold (2nd time)
  29. The Mote in God’s Eye (1974) – Niven/Pournelle
  30. A Tale of Two Cities (1859) – Charles Dickens
  31. The Ten-Cent Plague (2008) – David Hajdu
  32. A World Out of Time (1976) – Larry Niven
  33. Second Variety and Other Stories (2010) – Philip K. Dick
  34. Calculating God (2000) – Robert J. Sawyer
  35. Destiny Disrupted (2009) – Tamim Ansary
  36. Feed (2010) – Mira Grant
  37. Letter to a Christian Nation (2006) – Sam Harris
  38. 1959 (2009) – Fred Kaplan
  39. The Life of Pi (2001) – Yann Martin (2nd time)
  40. Empire of the Summer Moon (2010) – S. C. Gwynne
  41. Alas, Babylon (1959) – Pat Frank
  42. The Clockwork Universe (2011) – Edward Dolnick
  43. Earthlight (1955) – Arthur C. Clarke
  44. A Canticle for Liebowitz (1959) – Walter M. Miller, Jr (2nd time)
  45. The Information (2011) – James Gleick
  46. The Zookeeper’s Wife (2007) – Diane Ackerman
  47. Soulless (2009) – Gail Carriger
  48. Stand on Zanzibar (1968) – John Brunner (2nd time)
  49. Aegean Dream (2011) – Dario Ciriello
  50. SuperFreakonomics (2009) – Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
  51. In Other Worlds (2011) – Margaret Atwood
  52. Galactic Patrol (1950) – E. E. Smith
  53. In the Garden of Beast (2011) – Erik Lawson
  54. Bossypants (2011) – Tina Fey
  55. Empire Star (1966) – Samuel R. Delany
  56. The Greater Journey (2011) – David McCullough
  57. The Last Gunfight (2011) – Jeff Guinn
  58. Doc (2011) – Mary Doria Russell

Reading Goals for 2012

Every year I want to read more new books and hopefully explore new reading territory, but after chronicling my reading habits for four years I definitely see trends.  I hate to say it, but I need to ditch some science fiction books to read more science books.  And I’d like to read more novels written by people from other parts of the world.  Eva at A Striped Armchair inspires me with her wide-ranging reading habits.

Happy New Year to All – let’s hope all the unemployed find jobs in 2012.

JWH – 12/31/11