Books 2019

Here’s a goodreads link.

I won’t spend a lot of effort on this list – the main point of these lists in earlier years was to keep track of blogposts I wrote about books I’d read because I tended to blog quite a bit, and I realized that it was useful to have lists like these to refer to when looking for stuff I knew I’d read about in the past (I mainly use goodreads, not this blog, to keep track of the books themselves); but these days I blog very little and so there’s not actually a lot to keep track of.

I read 106 books and 34,925 pages in 2019, according to the list goodreads auto-generates each year.

This is not really ‘correct’, but it’s close. One of the books included in goodreads’ list I did not finish, and such books I don’t like to include in this kind of count (…there were actually two other books I also did not finish and decided to shelve this year, but neither of these books were added to the auto-generated list on goodreads; I’m still unclear as to how these algorithms work..). On the other hand the page count provided by goodreads is almost certainly too low, rather than too high, for two reasons: The first is that the longest book I read, The Complete Saki, did not have a page count on either goodreads or Kindle, meaning that no pages were logged for that book; however a paperback version of the book also added to goodreads actually has 960 pages. Two full novels are included in that book and they take up less than a third of the space – this also means, of course, that the supposedly longest book I read on the goodreads list is not actually the longest book I read. A second reason is that I did read a few hundred pages of two of the books I did not finish (…and ‘too many‘ of the third one which was included on the list, even if the pages were not counted), and the page count of partially read books are not logged on goodreads, so these were not included in the count. In August or September I figured I might try for 100 pages per day on average for the year, and given these considerations I think I got quite close, if perhaps not quite there. The other (soft) goal I had was 100 books, which I certainly managed – the final count was very close to two books per week, which is apparently the level I’m at currently, given the sort of books I read. Although blogging is very low on my list of priorities these days this did not mean I stopped reading as well; work takes a lot of time – more time than it did in 2018 – and the cognitive demands of my job have been increasing steadily during the last year, and so the time and resources I have left when I have time off I’d rather spend on reading than on blogging, certainly in part because reading material X is much less demanding than is blogging material X. It should also be quite obvious from the list that I in some periods of the year really did not have the mental surplus to engage in cognitively demanding activities outside of work. I feel proud of the work I did during some of those weeks, but I certainly can’t feel proud about my leisure reading habits during those weeks.

I read 16 non-fiction books, 5 ‘miscellaneous’ books and 84 fiction books to completion last year. I don’t read as much non-fiction as I’d like (…almost nothing compared to what I was reading five years ago), and I think I’ll probably create targeted personal goals for myself in this area this year to improve on that one, at least a little. However most of the non-fiction books I read this year were actually books with a significant amount of content, and I don’t mind trading off books for pages if the books I actually do read are well worth reading. I also need to be realistic, I’m not going to read a technical book from cover to cover during a week where my brain keeps jumping back to e.g. a current database configuration issue – less will have to do. And reading more is not necessarily a desirable outcome, a factor I’m trying to take into account when deciding how to spend my time; I’ve made an effort this year – successfully I believe, at least to some degree – to deliberately prioritize non-book activities like social events where possible, and I had more opportunities for doing so this year than I did last year.

The book count for this year dropped a lot compared to previous years, but if you look at the page count instead the drop is nowhere near as significant – the books I read this year were significantly longer, on average, than those I’ve read in previous years; last year I read 150 books and ~115 pages per day.

I only irregularly added books to goodreads during the year, which means that the books on the list will often not have been added in exactly the right order. This might mean for example that book 3 in a series comes before book 1 on the list, even if I read book 1 first. Frankly I don’t care about this, certainly not enough to try to recreate the list as it would have looked like if books had been added in a more timely manner.

Quite a few of the books on the list are books which I’ve read before; I decided not to add any links to old goodreads reviews in such cases, even if in one or two cases I did update a review after having reread the book this year. I also only added the current ratings of the books, not the ratings I’d given the books in the past.

As usual ‘f’ = fiction, ‘m’ = miscellaneous, ‘nf’ = non-fiction; the numbers in parentheses indicate my goodreads ratings of the books (from 1-5).

1. Medicine in the English Middle Ages (3, nf. Princeton University Press).

2. Olympiad (3, f). Tom Holt. Very short goodreads review here.

3. The Walled Orchard (4, f). Tom Holt. Goodreads review here.

4. A song for Nero (4, f). Tom Holt.

5. Unkempt Thoughts (3, m). Stanisław Jerzy Lec.

6. Alexander at the World’s End (5, f). Tom Holt. Short goodreads review here.

7. Meadowland (3, f). Tom Holt.

8. Brief Cases (4, f). Jim Butcher. Goodreads review here.

9. The Princess Bride (4, f). William Goldman.

10. Practical Demonkeeping (2, f). Christopher Moore.

11. The Tartar Steppe (f). Dino Buzatti.

12. Cognitive Neuroscience: A Very Short Introduction (3, nf. Oxford University Press).

13. The Stupidest Angel (3, f). Christopher Moore.

14. The Complete Saki: 144 Collected Novels and Short Stories (4, f). Short goodreads review here.

15. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove (2, f). Christopher Moore.

16. Wilt (5, f). Tom Sharpe.

17. Angels in the Moonlight (2, f). Caimh McDonnell.

18. Last Orders (2, f). Caimh McDonnell.

19. You suck (2, f). Christopher Moore.

20. The Wilt Alternative (4, f). Tom Sharpe.

21. Wilt On High (4, f). Tom Sharpe.

22. A Man With One of Those Faces (3, f). Caimh McDonnell.

23. Bite Me (1, f). Christopher Moore.

24. Coyote Blue (2, f). Christopher Moore.

25. The Day That Never Comes (2, f). Caimh McDonnell.

26. Bloodsucking Fiends (2, f). Christopher Moore.

27. How to Attract the Wombat (4, m). Will Cuppy.

28. Wilt in Nowhere (f). Tom Sharpe.

29. My Ten Years in a Quandary and How They Grew (2, f). Robert Benchley. Goodreads review here.

30. Genomics: A Very Short Introduction (3, nf. Oxford University Press).

31. How to Tell Your Friends from the Apes (4, m). Will Cuppy.

32. Jill the Reckless (2, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

33. The Complete McAuslan (4, f). George MacDonald Fraser.

34. The Hot Rock (4, f). Donald E. Westlake.

35. Bank Shot (4, f). Donald E. Westlake.

36. Nobody’s Perfect (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

37. Jimmy The Kid (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

38. Good Behavior (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

39. Why Me? (4, f). Donald E. Westlake.

40. Drowned Hopes (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

41. Don’t Ask (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

42. What’s The Worst That Could Happen? (4, f). Donald E. Westlake.

43. The Road To Ruin (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

44. The Fugitive Pigeon (4, f). Donald E. Westlake.

45. Bad News (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

46. Viruses: A Very Short Introduction (3, nf. Oxford University Press). Blog coverage here.

47. Watch Your Back! (4, f). Donald E. Westlake.

48. What’s So Funny? (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

49. Get Real (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

50. The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman (5, nf.). Goodreads review here. Blog coverage here and here.

51. Cops and Robbers (2, f). Donald E. Westlake.

52. God Save the Mark (4, f). Donald E. Westlake.

53. The Spy in the Ointment (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

54. High Adventure (3, f). Donald E. Westlake.

55. And Then There Were None (4, f). Agatha Christie.

56. The Eyre Affair (5, f). Jasper Fforde.

57. Galahad at Blandings (5, f). P.G. Wodehouse.

58. The Fourth Bear (5, f). Jasper Fforde.

59. Lost in a Good Book (5, f). Jasper Fforde.

60. In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion (Evolution and Cognition) (4, nf. Oxford University Press). I really should have given this one 5 stars simply in order to motivate other people to read it, but I didn’t quite feel like it really deserved it; even so, this is the best book on the topic of religion I’ve read. If people in general understood religion and human belief systems as well as Scott Atran does, then the world would be a very different place indeed.

61. The Big Over Easy (5, f). Jasper Fforde.

62. The Well of Lost Plots (4, f). Jasper Fforde.

63. Intelligence: All That Matters (3, nf. Hodder & Stoughton).

64. First Among Sequels (3, f). Jasper Fforde.

65. Something Rotten (4, f). Jasper Fforde.

66. One of Our Thursdays Is Missing (4, f). Jasper Fforde.

67. The Woman Who Died a lot (4, f). Jasper Fforde.

68. The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter (5, nf. Princeton University Press). Goodreads review here (…a quote: “This is without a doubt the best book I’ve read this year. Highly recommended.”). I added this book to my list of favourite books on goodreads.

69. Bowling Alone (3, nf. Simon & Schuster). Goodreads review here.

70. Dyslexia: A Very Short Introduction (2, nf. Oxford University Press). Blog coverage here.

71. Thief of Time (f). Terry Pratchett.

72. Dead Cert (4, f). Dick Francis.

73. Rat Race (4, f). Dick Francis.

74. Smokescreen (3, f). Dick Francis.

75. Nerve (3, f). Dick Francis.

76. Odds Against (4, f). Dick Francis.

77. For Kicks (3, f). Dick Francis.

78. High Stakes (4, f). Dick Francis.

79. Forfeit (2, f). Dick Francis.

80. Whip Hand (2, f). Dick Francis.

81. Data Science for Business (2, nf. O’Reilly Media). Blog coverage here.

82. Break In (3, f). Dick Francis.

83. Bolt (4, f). Dick Francis.

84. The Edge (5, f). Dick Francis.

85. Straight (3, f). Dick Francis.

86. Driving Force (3, f). Dick Francis.

87. The Cloven Viscount (2, f). Italo Calvino.

88. Zuleika Dobson (2, f). Max Beerbohm. Short goodreads review here.

89. Dangling Man (2, f). Saul Bellow.

90. The Small Bachelor (4, f). P. G. Wodehouse.

91. The Nonexistent Knight (2, f). Italo Calvino.

92. A Pale View of Hills (5, f). Kazuo Ishiguro. Very short goodreads review here. This book was really powerful, I was very tempted to add it to my list of favourite books on goodreads.

93. An Artist of the Floating World (2, f). Kazuo Ishiguro. Goodreads review here.

94. Fire & Blood (5, f). George R. R. Martin.

95. I, Robot (3, f). Isaac Asimov.

96. Matter, A Very Short Introduction (3, nf. Oxford University Press).

97. Alteryx Inspire: Tips and Tricks 2019, London (nf. Publisher unclear, pdf-book written by Alteryx developers).

98. Lords and Ladies (4, f). Terry Pratchett.

99. A Lot Like Christmas (2, f). Connie Willis.

100. The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall (2, nf. Basic Books)

101. Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold (4, m). Stephen Fry.

102. Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes (2, nf. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Goodreads review here.

103. A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (2, nf. Oxford University Press).

104. Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures (5, m). Stephen Fry. Very short goodreads review here.

105. Nation (4, f). Terry Pratchett.

Books I did not finish and which I don’t think I’ll finish next year:

The Anatomy of Melancholy (1, m). Robert Burton. Goodreads review here.

The Major Works of Samuel Johnson (3, f). “A mixed bag, not really worth reading from cover to cover in my opinion.” (from my goodreads review)

The Life of Samuel Johnson (m). James Boswell.



January 4, 2020 - Posted by | Books, Personal

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