Below I have posted a list of the 156 books I read to completion in 2016, as well as links to blog posts covering the books and reviews of the books which I’ve written on goodreads. At the bottom of the post I have also added the 7 books I did not finish this year, as well as some related links and comments. The post you read now is unlikely to be the final edition of this post, as I’ll continue to add links and comments to the post also in 2017 if/when I blog or review books mentioned below.
As I also mentioned earlier in the year, I have been reading a lot of fiction this year and not enough non-fiction. Regarding the ‘technical aspects’ of the list below, as usual the letters ‘f’ and ‘nf.’ in the parentheses correspond to ‘fiction’ and ‘non-fiction’, respectively, whereas the ‘m’ category covers ‘miscellaneous’ books. The numbers in the parentheses correspond to the goodreads ratings I thought the books deserved.
I did a brief count of the books on the list and concluded that the list includes 30 books categorized as non-fiction, 20 books in the miscellaneous category, and 106 books categorized as fiction. As usual non-fiction works published by Springer make up a substantial proportion of the non-fiction books I read (20 %), with another 20 % accounted for by Oxford University Press, Princeton University Press and Wiley/Wiley-Blackwell. Some of the authors in the fiction category have also featured on the lists previously (Christie, Wodehouse, Bryson), but other names are new – new names include: Dick Francis (39 books), Tom Sharpe (16 books), David Sedaris (7 books), Mario Puzo (4 books), Gerard Durrell (3 books), and Connie Willis (3 books).
I shared my ‘year in books’ on goodreads, and that link includes a few summary stats as well as cover images of the books (annoyingly a large-ish proportion of the non-fiction books have not added cover pictures, but it’s even so a neat visualization tool). With 156 books finished this year I read almost exactly 3 books per week on average, and the goodreads tools also tell me that I read 47.281 pages during the year. As I don’t believe goodreads includes the page counts of partially read books in that tool, this is probably a slight underestimate but it’s in that neighbourhood anyway; this corresponds to ~130 pages per day on average (129,5) throughout the year, or roughly 900 pages per week. The average length of the books I finished was 309 pages, again according to goodreads.
Since I started blogging, I have published roughly 500 posts about books I’ve read – I actually realized while writing this post that the next post I publish on this site categorized under ‘books’ will be post number 500 in that category. As should be obvious from the list below, as a rule I do not cover fiction books on this blog, aside from in the context of quote posts where I may occasionally include a few quotes from books I’ve read (I decided early on not to include links to such posts on lists like these, as that would be too much work). In the context of quotes I should probably add here to readers not already aware of this that I recently decided to move/copy a large number of quotes from this site to goodreads, and that I now update my goodreads quote collection more frequently than I do the quote collection on this blog; at this point, my quote collection on goodreads includes 1347 quotes. For a few more details about this aspect of the goodreads site, see incidentally this post.
Both Dick Francis and Connie Willis were introduced to me by the SSC commentariat and this link includes a lot of other author recommendations which might be of interest to you. I should perhaps also note before moving on to the list that I have recently added a not-insignificant number of books to my list of favourite books on goodreads. I have (retrospectively) slightly modified my implicit selection criteria for adding books to the list; previously if a book had taught me a lot but I did not give it a five star rating or I figured it wasn’t at least very close to perfect, it wasn’t going to get anywhere near my list of favourite books. I figured recently that perhaps I should also include on the list books which had taught me a lot, books that had changed my way of looking at the world, even if they were not very close to perfect in most respects. I’m still not quite sure what is the best categorization approach, but as of now the list includes some books which did not feature on the list in the near past and I figured I might mention the list explicitly here also because people perusing a list like the one below are presumably in part doing it because they’re looking for good books to read, and my inclusion of a book on that list can still at least be taken to be a qualified recommendation of the book.
1. 4.50 from Paddington (4, f). Agatha Christie.
3. Hickory Dickory Dock (3, f). Agatha Christie.
6. A Caribbean Mystery (3, f). Agatha Christie.
7. A Rulebook for Arguments (Hackett Student Handbooks) (1, nf. Hackett Publishing). Very short goodreads review here.
8. The Clocks (2, f). Agatha Christie.
15. By the Pricking of My Thumbs (2, f). Agatha Christie.
16. The Godfather (4, f). Mario Puzo.
21. A Few Quick Ones (3, f). P. G. Wodehouse.
22. Ice in the Bedroom (4, f). P. G. Wodehouse.
24. The Secret of Chimneys (2, f). Agatha Christie.
26. Something Fishy (3, f). P. G. Wodehouse.
27. Do Butlers Burgle Banks? (3,f). P.G. Wodehouse.
28. The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (1, f). Agatha Christie. Boring story, almost didn’t finish it.
29. Frozen Assets (4, f). P. G. Wodehouse.
30. A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution (5, nf. Princeton University Press). Goodreads review here. Blog coverage here.
31. If I Were You (4, f). P. G. Wodehouse.
32. On the Shortness of Life (nf.). Seneca the Younger.
33. Barmy in Wonderland (3, f). P. G. Wodehouse.
38. Company for Henry (4, f). P. G. Wodehouse.
39. Bachelors Anonymous (5, f). P. G. Wodehouse. A short book, but very funny.
40. The Second World War (5, nf.) Winston Churchill. Very long, the book is a thousand pages long abridgement of 6 different volumes written by Churchill. Blog coverage here, here, here, and here. I added this book to my list of favourite books on goodreads.
41. The Old Reliable (3, f). P. G. Wodehouse.
42. Performing Flea (4, m). P. G. Wodehouse, William Townend.
45. The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain (3, m). Bill Bryson.
46. Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer’s Guide to Getting It Right (3, nf.). Bill Bryson. Goodreads review here.
48. Shakespeare: The World as Stage (2, m). Bill Bryson.
50. The Sicilian (3, f). Mario Puzo.
53. Pre-Industrial Societies: Anatomy of the Pre-Modern World (5, nf. Oneworld Publications). Goodreads review here. I added this book to my list of favourite books on goodreads.
56. Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen (3, f). P. G. Wodehouse.
57. What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (2, m. Randall Munroe). Short goodreads review here.
61. Wilt In Nowhere (3, f). Tom Sharpe.
63. Monstrous Regiment (3, f). Terry Pratchett.
67. Vintage Stuff (2, f). Tom Sharpe.
70. Suicide Prevention and New Technologies: Evidence Based Practice (1, nf. Palgrave Macmillan). Long(-ish) goodreads review here.
72. Diabetes and the Metabolic Syndrome in Mental Health (2, nf. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins). Goodreads review here. Blog coverage here and here.
77. The Great Pursuit (3, f). Tom Sharpe.
78. Riotous Assembly (4, f). Tom Sharpe.
79. Indecent Exposure (3, f). Tom Sharpe.
87. Naked (3, m). David Sedaris.
91. When You Are Engulfed in Flames (3, m). David Sedaris.
93. Poor Richard’s Almanack (m). Benjamin Franklin.
97. The Garden of the Gods (3, m). Gerard Durrell.
100. The Thirteen Problems (2, f). Agatha Christie.
101. Dead Cert (4, f). Dick Francis.
102. Nerve (3, f). Dick Francis.
103. For Kicks (3, f). Dick Francis.
104. Odds Against (3, f). Dick Francis.
108. Blood Sport (3, f). Dick Francis.
110. Forfeit (2, f). Dick Francis.
117. High Stakes (4, f). Dick Francis.
118. In the Frame (3, f). Dick Francis.
119. Knockdown (3, f). Dick Francis.
121. Managing Diabetic Nephropathies in Clinical Practice (4, nf. Springer). Very short goodreads review here. Blog coverage here.
129. Proof (2, f). Dick Francis.
130. Break In (3, f). Dick Francis.
131. Integrated Diabetes Care: A Multidisciplinary Approach (4, nf. Springer). Goodreads review here. Blog coverage here and here.
136. Longshot (4, f). Dick Francis.
141. Decider (3, f). Dick Francis.
142. Essential Microbiology and Hygiene for Food Professionals (2, nf. CRC Press). Short goodreads review here.
143. Wild Horses (2, f). Dick Francis.
144. Come to Grief (4, f). Dick Francis.
145. To the Hilt (2, f). Dick Francis.
147. Second Wind (2, f). Dick Francis.
149. Under Orders (4, f). Dick Francis.
Books I did not finish:
Raising Steam (?, f). Terry Pratchett. These days I mostly use Pratchett’s books as a treat, the few remaining books in the Discworld series which I have yet to read I consider to be books which I feel that I have to make myself deserve to be allowed to read. I started out reading this book because I felt terrible at the time, but I decided after having read a hundred pages or so that I had not in fact deserved to read the book, and so I put it away again. Unlike the two books above I do not consider this book to be bad, that’s not why I didn’t finish it.
Anna Karenina (?, f). Tolstoy. As I pointed out in my short review, “so far (I stopped around page 140) it’s been a story about miserable Russians, and I can’t read that kind of stuff right now.” Again, I would not say this book is bad, but I could not read that kind of stuff at the time.
The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (nf., Harper Perennial Modern Classics). Pinker’s book may be one of the last popular science books I’ll read, at least for a while – I find that I simply can’t read this kind of book anymore (which is annoying, because I also bought Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind this year, and I worry that I’ll never be able to read that book, despite the content being at least somewhat interesting, simply on account of the way the book is likely to be written). As I noted while reading the book, “I’ve realized by now that I’ve probably at this point grown to strongly dislike reading popular science books. I’ve disliked other PS books I’ve read in the semi-near past as well, but I always figured I had specific reasons for disliking a particular book. At this point it seems like it’s a general thing. I don’t like these books any more. Too imprecise language, claims are consistently way too strong, etc., etc..” My reading experience of Pinker’s book was definitely not improved by the fact that I have read textbooks on topics closely related to those covered in the book in the past (Eysenck and Keane, Snowling et al.).
Physiology at a Glance (?, Wiley-Blackwell). ‘Too much work, considering the pay-off’, would probably be the short version of why I didn’t finish this one – but this should not be taken as an indication that the book is bad. Despite the words ‘at a glance’ in the title, each short chapter (2 pages) in this book roughly matches the amount of material usually covered in an academic lecture (this is the general structure of the ‘at a glance books’), which means that the book takes quite a bit more work than the limited page count might indicate. The fact that I knew many of the things covered didn’t mean that the book was much faster to read than it otherwise might have been; it still took a lot of time and effort to digest the material. I’m sure there’s some stuff in the book which I don’t know and stuff I’ve forgot, and I did learn some new stuff from the chapters I did read, so I’m conflicted about whether or not to pick it up again later – it may be worth it at some point. However back when I was reading it I decided in the end to just put the book away and read something else instead. If you’re looking for a dense and to-the-point introduction to physiology/anatomy, I’m sure you could do a lot worse than this book.
100 Endgames You Must Know: Vital Lessons for Every Chess Player (?, nf. New in Chess). If I just wanted to be able to say that I had ‘read’ this book, I would have finished it a long time ago, but this is not the sort of book you just ‘read’. The positions covered need to be studied and analyzed in detail, the positions need to be played out, perhaps reviewed (depending on how ambitious you are about your chess). I’m more than half-way through (p. 140 or so), but I rarely feel like working on this stuff as it’s more fun to play chess than to systematically improve your chess in the manner you’ll do if you work on the material covered in this book. It’s a great endgame book, but it takes a lot of work.
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