2009 reading in review

Despite the best of intentions, 2009 was an even worse year for reading than 2008. For the year, I finished 56 books, 12 fewer even than last year and again the lowest total since I've started writing reviews. This was also the first time since I started writing reviews that I went a month without posting any new ones.

Given the sort of year last year was, though, I think this is both an anomaly and to be expected. It was a stressful and packed year, with a few major events like an illness in the family that ate up a lot of time, attention, and emotional energy. Hopefully, those factors will not repeat. On the good side, I also devoted quite a bit more time to playing video games in 2009, which necessarily took away some time from reading. That is likely to continue.

Even though the quantity was down, the quality of books I read this year were a delight. I rated three books 10 out of 10 this year, two non-fiction and one fiction. The novel was Ursula K. Le Guin's Voices, the second book (after Gifts) of the Annals of the Western Shore. The entire series is very good, but that book was exceptional: a deep and moving look at occupation, anger, friendship, tradition, and cultural identity. I highly recommend it and the entire series.

Two non-fiction books got 10 out of 10 this year. The first was Ben Goldacre's Bad Science, an eye-opening look at how the scientific process is abused, ignored, and misreported in medicine, including detailed looks at medical misinformation ranging from the comical to the deadly. I recommend it to anyone exposed to the regular stream of medical alarmism and alternative medical theories that come from the popular news media. The second was Rory Stewart's exceptional The Places in Between, the story of his walk across Afghanistan shortly after the fall of the Taliban. I picked up this book after seeing Rory Stewart on Bill Moyer's Journal and it didn't disappoint. It is an insightful and often beautiful look at the people and interior of Afghanistan in a way that rarely appears in the news media.

Other non-fiction highlights of the year ranged from the last volume of Orwell's edited non-fiction to Marcus du Sautoy's excellent book on the Riemann Hypothesis, The Music of the Primes. Along the way, I read Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which fully deserves its classic status, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Flow, which is a fascinating and very informative look at the psychology of a concentrated and productive state of mind. I also re-read George Gamow's One Two Three... Infinity, a favorite from my childhood, which is still one of the best bits of popular science writing that I've ever read.

The other fiction series find of the year was Karen Traviss's Wess'Har series, the entirety of which I read this year. While I thought the middle of the series sagged, both the beginning and end are excellent. Other fiction worth special note is the first book of Jacqueline Carey's new D'Angeline novel, Naamah's Kiss, which starts a new series that I'm now eagerly looking forward to; Robin McKinley's Sunshine, the best urban fantasy with vampires novel that I've ever read; and the non-SF novel A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler.

There is also a version of this post with additional statistics that are probably only of interest to me.

Posted: 2010-01-01 14:59 — Why no comments?

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