2011 Book Reading in Review

For the year of 2011, I finished and reviewed 60 books. This is a huge milestone for me; it's the first time since the second year I started doing this that the number of books I read actually increased. This gives me more confidence that I've stabilized the year-by-year decline in my reading. I did that while substantially increasing the amount of time I spent enjoying video games, which was another major goal of the year.

Only two books received a 10 out of 10 this year, one fiction and one non-fiction. The novel was Jo Walton's Among Others: the best book I read this year. It's a delightful look at the process of finding a place for oneself in the world and features one of the best protagonists that I've seen.

The non-fiction book was Rory Stewart's The Prince of the Marshes, which means that both of Stewart's books that I've read have received 10 ratings. The Prince of the Marshes is his look at his time spent in the provisional government of Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. I think it should be required reading for anyone expressing an opinion on what the US and other western powers should or should not have done in Iraq. It lays bare the difficulties, confusion, and frequent stupidity of going into someone else's country and trying to fix it, and I think seriously calls into question whether this sort of international intervention can ever work.

Other fiction highlights of the year were Kelley Eskridge's Solitaire, a startling and deep look at identity and social connection, and Mira Grant's Feed, a zombie apocalypse story that completely overcame my deep dislike of zombie apocalypse stories. Feed should have won the Hugo in 2011, despite some unbelievable politics and a bit too much cheering for bloggers. This was the year for excellent protagonists, with all three of my top-rated fiction books featuring unique and memorable characters who left a deep and lasting emotional impact.

The two other non-fiction standouts were both a bit dry, but if you have the patience and attention, they reward persistance. Richard Hofstadter's Anti-Intellectualism in American Life is a deserved classic that gave me an eye-opening perspective on the long history of interactions between intellectualism and populism in US politics and culture. David Levering Lewis's God's Crucible is a wonderful history of Islam as it related to Europe and filled in some large gaps in my knowledge of world and religious history.

60 books a year, or five books a month, feels like a comfortable and sustainable level, although I'm going to keep my formal goal at a book a week (52 in the year) to give myself some leeway to either get distracted by video games or by other projects. My reading did concentrate more than usual in science fiction and fantasy this year, and I'd like to add more mainstream fiction and more non-fiction.

The full analysis includes some additional personal reading statistics, probably only of interest to me.

Posted: 2012-01-01 11:57 — Why no comments?

Last spun 2013-07-01 from thread modified 2013-01-04