my reading, mostly 2010

I’ve been trying to do a lot more reading, lately. If you’ve seen photographs of my bookcases, or have seen me mention my personal library here before, you surely know why. I read a lot more books this year than in any prior year I can recall (though I never had something as convenient as Goodreads and its iPhone app to help me track such things before the last few years, so I may be wrong – I read a lot more as a teenager than in the decade between 20 and 30), at least any recent year. Unfortunately, while my intention this year was to take a bite out of the books already in my library, it ended up that most of my reading was of books borrowed from the public library.

According to Goodreads, where I believe I’ve noted every single book (and comic – more on that later) in the last 2 (possibly 3) years, just one seven books I read in 2010 were books I own. If my Goodreads record is accurate for 2008, I only finished 18 titles that year, and not 1 of them was a book I own. (In fact, 6 of them were pirated audiobooks I listened to & deleted, 3 were audiobooks from the library, 2 were Podiobooks, 3 were “…for Dummies” books borrowed from the library, 1 was my one and only attempt to read a book via DailyLit, and the others were also from the public library: Watchmen, Blindness, and Seeing.) I did a little better in 2009, in which Goodreads says I read 24 titles; 6 were books I own, 5 of those (plus Marvel Zombies 2, which I read while sitting in a Borders, rather than buying) were zombie books I bought and read as part of my research for Cheating, Death (3 more were weblit (read on blogs for free (more zombies)) & 1 was a Podiobook I listened to for free, if you want to count that as the same as owning them), and the other 13 were borrowed from the public library. So far in 2010 (I have a few days left and intend to read a couple more books) Goodreads says I’ve read 113 titles 119 titles, all but 1 7 either borrowed or downloaded, including:

  • 1 7 illustrated children’s books
  • 2 science books
  • 2 books on social theory
  • 3 biographies (Hitler (unfinished), Einstein, & Tesla)
  • 4 books on global economics
  • 7 poetry books
  • 16 novels
  • 78 graphic novels (sortof – more on that now:)

If you want to pretend the comics don’t count, that’s still a year-over-year improvement, since I’ve read 35 other books so far. 4 of the ‘graphic novels’ I checked out of the library; the first 3 books of Y: The Last Man, and V For Vendetta. (The one book I own which I read this year is The Fountain graphic novel, which, when I found it while cleaning realized I’d bought it and never read it, so read it before continuing cleaning.) The rest was this: I got it in my head in the first half of 2010 to read the entire Marvel Ultimate universe, so I went online and found a torrent which contained them. Then this summer, most of them in a single month, I worked through about 10 years’ worth of Marvel Ultimate comics, from Ultimate Iron Man, Ultimate Spider Man #1, Ultimate Daredevil, et cetera, right through Ultimatum… I read the first couple of the manga-style post-Ultimatum Ultimate Spiderman comics, but by then I was pretty burnt out on comics, and didn’t even finish the last few months’ worth of comics which had been in the torrent. It was too much, by then. I deleted the 6Gb worth of comics files and went on Goodreads and found the collected versions… and found most (not quite all) of the comics I’d read. It added up to 73 titles, each at least a hundred to several hundreds of pages long.

Goodreads knows how long all the books I read are; it says I read 4,933 pages’ worth of books in 2008, 6,864 pages’ worth of books in 2009, and 23,124 pages’ worth of books in 2010. Now, I’m sure it’s counting as whole books the 3 or 4 of those books I didn’t finish over the years, and it’s not counting any of the books I began and haven’t yet finished or given up on (ie: I read the first 3/4 of Atlas Shrugged in 2009, but still consider it “currently-reading”), but all-in-all I expect it’s roughly right. I’d like to aim for something in the neighborhood of 100+ titles (and/or over 20k pages) again for 2011, but would like the vast majority of them to be books I own. More on that later.

Let’s look at favorite books. Because I didn’t check them in and rate them as I went, and because I read so darned many of them, almost none of the comics have ratings on Goodreads. If I were to say which were my favorite, it would probably be the Ultimate Spiderman comics… though they’d gone well over the shark before reaching issue #100. Definitely not the Ultimate X-Men or the Ultimate Fantastic Four. Yech. Ultimate Iron Man was good, though I was frustrated when the most interesting things about it were retcon’d, since part of the point of the Marvel Ultimate universe was to avoid that sort of thing. The Ultimates 1 & 2 were good and The Ultimates 3 was crap and Ultimatum was … a frustrating jumble and mess which I’m sure contributed strongly to the bad taste in my mouth re: comics lately. Ah, but what about the books?

House of Leaves was awesome, and fun to read. Hunger was probably by favorite book of 2010, despite having been published in 1890. The only other 5-star book I have in my Goodreads list for 2010 was Next Life, which I don’t even recall right now. Volumes 2 & 3 of Y: The Last Man were good, and got 4 stars along with 14 others I read. (The Financial Lives of Poets, Beatrice and Virgil, Flashforward, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Shutter Island, and Predictably Irrational highlights among them – all recommended.)

Worst books include The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations? and Ultimates 3, which were the only two titles I gave a single star to. Coming in just ahead of those, with two stars each, were Under the Dome, 7th Son: Descent, The Handmaid’s Tale, Filibuster To Delay a Kiss and Other Poems, and Einstein: The Passions of a Scientist. (I hear that the recent-bestseller-Einstein-biography is better; I plan to read it at some point.)

I’m down to just a few library books left checked out; I’ve been trying to cut back on having a stack of books out and holding on to them for months before I read them; at some points in 2010 I had over a dozen books checked out and many of them for over two months each, unread. For 2011 I’d like to read as many of the hundreds (possibly thousands) of books in my personal library which I’ve bought over the years and never yet made the time to read. That had (vaguely) been by intention for 2010, but I never did anything about it and clearly didn’t follow through. I’m going to make a concerted effort to accomplish it in the coming year.

My goal for Modern Evil Press is to publish “two to four books a year” and I’ll be putting out Untrue Tales… Book Five and Book Six in January and April, so my thought is that if I do nothing else but get those books out and spend the rest of the year reading a hundred books or more, that’ll be alright. (Of note: the numbers above do not include any of my own books, each of which I’ve read several times in the last 3 years.) I’d also like to get back to painting in 2011, but I think my primary job during 2011 will be reading, and 80% or more of that books from my personal library. (I’ve got to start listening to Nathan Lowell‘s Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series soon, too – he’s begun posting the final book!) Of course, I never know how things will go. Maybe I’ll be able to get all that reading done while writing the vampire duology I’ve been brainstorming lately… I’ll probably do another post this time next year to let you know how I did.

Oh, and look for a numbers post early next week (or this weekend, if I’m feeling really ambitious (or nocturnal)), in which I will announce that the numbers posts are going to be quarterly in 2011. (Though I’ll still have to do the collecting data part every month.) Ooh, and I better get to work on those eBooks page updates soon, and a blog explaining them. Year’s almost out. Gotta get a move on.

(In case you care, a bunch of the links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. I think I made $0.28 last month from them. It’s not really influencing how I write here, or even what I read. Silly FTC.)

(Updated 12/30/2010: I was reading my wife one of the Bugg Books we bought at the last Friends of the Phoenix Library book sale, and she reminded me I hadn’t been checking in the Bugg Books and Mr. Men books we occasionally read together. This added (including the one I read tonight) 6 books to my “read in 2010” book list.)

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