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Last Year’s Reading

July 11, 2010

Last year, I made it through 117 books, which was an immense amount of reading. I rarely have that much stamina. Even so, looking through the list, I found that almost one quarter of the books were photography books, so 117 is slightly illusory, depending on your definition of reading.

As with my previous post, I’ve cut the books down into categories. These are arbitrary, as most categories are.

I’ve sprinkled this list with little quotes from some of the books. Hope your year was just as cool. Enjoy.


Last year was the ‘stop and learn a little of the history’ of photography. I spent a lot of time going through books of working photographers, past and present, and looking. I also read some manuals, but it was mostly about theory and appreciation.

The stand-out book in this collection is from Robert Adams, a photographer well-known for nature\landscape work, whose essays and reflections on photography are brilliant. Kevin Meredith also put out a good how-to book for urban photography.

  1. Ansel Adams, The Portfolios of Ansel Adams
  2. Robert Adams, Beauty in Photography: Essays in Defense of Traditional Values
    “…the limits of an art may contribute to its strength and that they are not to be regretted as much as used.”
  3. Peter Beard, Peter Beard (Thames & Hudson Photofile)
  4. Robert Capa, Robert Capa (Thames & Hudson Photofile)
  5. Lewis Carroll, Lewis Carroll (Thames & Hudson Photofile)
  6. Henri Cartier-Bresson, Henri Cartier-Bresson (Thames & Hudson Photofile)
  7. Steve Crist (editor), The Contact Sheet
  8. Horst Hamann, New York Vertical
  9. Colin Harding, Classic Cameras
  10. Françoise Heilbrun, Towards Photojournalism
  11. Fred Herzog, Grant Arnold and Michael Turner, Fred Herzog: Vancouver Photographer
  12. Geoffrey James, Toronto
  13. Chase Jarvis, The Best Camera is The One That’s With You
  14. Scott Kelby, The Digital Photography Book
  15. Scott Kelby, The Digital Photography Book Volume 2
  16. Scott Kelby, The Digital Photography Book Volume 3
  17. Kodak, Kodak: How to Take Good Pictures
  18. Josef Koudelka, Josef Koudelka (Thames & Hudson Photofile)
  19. Annie Leibovitz, At Work
  20. Saul Leiter, Saul Leiter (Thames & Hudson Photofile)
  21. Michael Levin, Zebrato
  22. Lomography Society International, Lights, Camera…Actionsampling!!
  23. Kevin Meredith, Hot Shots
  24. Duane Michals, Duane Michals (Thames & Hudson Photofile)
  25. Helmut Newton, Helmut Newton (Thames & Hudson Photofile)
  26. Alessandro Pasi, Leica: Witness to a Century
  27. Sebastião Salgado, Sebastião Salgado (Thames & Hudson Photofile)
  28. Jim Shull, The Beginner’s Guide to Pinhole Photography
  29. Alfred Stieglitz and Graham Clarke, Alfred Stieglitz by Graham Clarke
  30. Jim Stoddart (editor), Seven Hundred Penguins

Science Fiction\Fantasy\Horror

Over the last few years, I’ve gotten caught up in urban fantasy, and this list reflects that. I also had an enormous back-log of Lord Dunsany books that were all half-read, and I managed to finally push through his entire output of fantasy.

I heartily recommend Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs. The books are sharp, funny, and fast-paced.

  1. Patricia Briggs, Bone Crossed
  2. Patricia Briggs, Hunting Ground
  3. Steven Brust, Jhereg (Vlad Taltos)
  4. Jim Butcher, Blood Rites (Dresden Files)
  5. Jim Butcher, Dead Beat (Dresden Files)
  6. Jim Butcher, Death Masks (Dresden Files)
    “Sleep sounded like a great idea, and with so many things going on, the smart option was to get lots of rest in order to be as capably paranoid as possible.”
  7. Jim Butcher, Summer Knight (Dresden Files)
  8. Lord Dunsany, A Dreamer’s Tales
  9. Lord Dunsany, Beyond the Fields We Know (Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series)
  10. Lord Dunsany, Book of Wonder (Modern Library Edition: contains The Book of Wonder and Time and the Gods) (Modern Library)
  11. Lord Dunsany, In the Land of Time And Other Fantasy Tales (Penguin Classics)
  12. Lord Dunsany, Over the Hills and Far Away (Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series)
  13. Lord Dunsany, Tales of Three Hemispheres
  14. Lord Dunsany, The Last Book of Wonder
  15. Lord Dunsany, The Sword of Welleran
  16. Lord Dunsany, Time and the Gods
  17. Neil Gaiman, M Is for Magic
  18. William Gibson, Spook Country


This was a bit of a grab-bag, starting with my increasing admiration for Terry Eagleton and Robert Bringhurst. You’ll notice that, throughout the categories, there’s quite a bit of Peter Pauper Press books. I buy these when I can, but there was quite the bonanza in 2009.

If you must read only one book on this list, consider The Real World of Democracy, which is sometimes a little painful to get through, but immensely rewarding.

  1. James Allen, As A Man Thinketh (Peter Pauper Press)
  2. Margaret Atwood (Signed), Payback (Massey Lectures)
  3. John Berger, Hold Everything Dear
    “Happiness is not something to be pursued, it is something met, an encounter.”
  4. Isaiah Berlin, The Hedgehog and the Fox
  5. Roo Borson, Personal History
  6. Robert Bringhurst, The Tree of Meaning: Thirteen Talks
    “Paper is two-dimensional space, but as soon as language dances on the paper, it becomes a form of time.”
  7. Terry Eagleton, After Theory
  8. Terry Eagleton, The Meaning of Life (A Very Short Introduction)
    “Not even the most grandiose of historical narratives imagines that it can make sense of absolutely everything. Marxism has nothing to say about the anal scent glands of the civet, a silence which it does not consider a defect.”
  9. Franz Kafka, The Zürau Aphorisms
  10. Kenko, Essays in Idleness (Wordsworth Classics)
  11. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
  12. C. B. Macpherson, The Real World of Democracy (Massey Lectures)
  13. Rollo May, The Courage to Create
  14. Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln and Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Inaugural Address 2009
  15. Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
  16. Voltaire, Voltaire’s Alphabet of Wit (Peter Pauper Press)
    “We often laugh when alone, but are seldom proud without an audience.”
  17. David Foster Wallace, This Is Water


A rediscovered crime book by Roger Zelazny, finishing the Weetzie Bat series, and rounding out my obsessions with Barry Lopez and Jacques Poulin…it was a good (but short) year of fiction.

  1. John Berger, Here is Where we Meet
  2. Francesca Lia Block, Baby Be-Bop
  3. Francesca Lia Block, Missing Angel Juan
    “I give the man eight dollars I was going to spend on food and he stuffs the bills into his pocket and licks his lips like he’s already feeling what it’s going to be like when the needle hits the vein. He could be a writer or a painter or a musician. And all people see is a junkie selling lost wings.”
  4. Lord Dunsany, Tales of War
    “Up to that moment he had been a lonely crank; but now there were two of them and he became a Movement. A Movement in England may do what it likes.”
  5. Lord Dunsany, Unhappy Far Off Things
  6. Barry Lopez, Light Action in the Caribbean
  7. Jacques Poulin, Volkswagen Blues
  8. CS Richardson, The End of the Alphabet
  9. Henry Van Dyke, The Story of The Other Wise Man (Peter Pauper Press)
  10. Bronwen Wallace, People You’d Trust Your Life To
  11. Roger Zelazny, The Dead Man’s Brother
    “Wishes are always fun for condemned people, old people and accident victims.”


I finally finished Kerouac’s Book of Haikus, which had been sitting on my shelf in various states of incompletion for years. I also discovered E.E. Cummings and Ralph Gustafson this year.

  1. Anonymous, Laundered Limericks by Wicked Pens (Peter Pauper Press)
  2. Serge Bennathan, A Few Thousand Miles…
  3. Robert Bringhurst, Bergschrund
  4. E.E. Cummings, 73 Poems
  5. Lord Dunsany, Fifty Poems
  6. Lord Dunsany, Five Plays
  7. T.S. Eliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
  8. Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (Peter Pauper Press)
  9. Ralph Gustafson, Sift in an Hourglass
  10. Jack Kerouac, Book of Haikus
  11. Pablo Neruda, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (Penguin Classics)


Reading this many books on books is a little unusual, even for me. The same for interviews. But book-long interviews with Borges and Gaiman can’t be passed up.

A real treat was Journeys of Simplicity, a list of famous people who lived simply, and their possessions at the time they passed away. It was a very moving book.

  1. Bill Baker (interviewer) and Neil Gaiman, Neil Gaiman: On His Works and Career
  2. Brendan Behan, The Sayings of Brendan Behan
    “I don’t want to push my luck. My interest in the next life is purely academic.”
  3. Paul A. Bennett, Recalling Peter: The Life and Times of Peter Beilenson and his Peter Pauper Press
  4. Jorge Luis Borges and Rodolfo Alifano, Twenty Four Conversations With Borges
    “Mackail said that one of the gifts of literature is that the imaginings of one writer become the personal memories of others.”
  5. Elizabeth Diefendorf (editor), The New York Public Library’s Books of the Century
  6. Will Durant, The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time
  7. Rachel Fershleiser (editor) and Larry Smith (editor), Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak
  8. Philip Harnden, Journeys of Simplicity
  9. Ray Robinson, Famous Last Words


I highly recommend The Corporation, probably the most accessible and balanced book on a very modern phenomenom that is shaping everyone’s live.

  1. Joel Bakan, The Corporation
  2. Bradley L. Jones (editor), Web 2.0 Heroes
  3. Richard Monson-Haefel (editor), 97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know
  4. Gordon Pape, Tax-Free Savings Accounts
  5. Price Pritchett, Hard Optimism
  6. Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein, The Twitter Book


Anne Fadiman’s books appeal to me because she is an expert at the confessional essay, without reducing her subject matter to melodrama or relying on shock value. They are delicious, light confections that you should savour on lazy days. The Michael Gondry book was a very fun book on film-making in the small.

  1. Anne Fadiman, At Large and At Small
  2. Anne Fadiman, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
  3. Sébastien Foucan, Free Running: The Urban Landscape Is Your Playground
  4. Michel Gondry, You’ll Like this Film Because You’re in it: The Be Kind Rewind Protocol
    “My personality is soft Plasticine that is constantly molded by the fingers of pretty girls.”
  5. George Orwell, Books v. Cigarettes
    “To write in plain, vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox.”


The last few years have seen a Crusade of largely idiots, speaking from a secular pulpit about things they aren’t even that knowledgable about. Hitchens seem to get the worse out Is Christianity Good for the World?, which satisfied me immensely (I feel a little guilty about saying that, but it’s true). The books on meditation and yoga were bought mainly because I’m a Peter Pauper Press junkie. Peter Beilenson, the owner of PPP, rarely commissioned texts outside of cookbooks, relying mainly on work in the publick domain, so these books are kind of oddball. Interestingly, the author is Canadian.

  1. Anonymous, Zen Buddhism (Peter Pauper Press)
  2. Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson, Is Christianity Good for the World?
  3. Frank J. MacHovec, OM A Guide to Meditation and Inner Tranquility (Peter Pauper Press)
  4. Frank J. MacHovec, Yoga: An Introduction to Inner Tranquility (Peter Pauper Press)

Biography\Critical Studies

Anthony Flint’s study of Jane Jacobs is biased in her favour, but it captures her time in New York, prior to making Canada her home. Although Flint is on Jacobs side, his reporting is balanced. It’s a very good book on how urban planning in the twentieth century works, how it’s shaped our lives, and what we can do about it.

  1. Adrienne Clarkson (Signed), Norman Bethune
  2. Anthony Flint, Wrestling With Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City
  3. Graham Greene, In Search of a Character
    “…and Africa will always be the Africa of the Victorian atlas, the blank unexplored continent the shape of the human heart.”
  4. Ha Jin, The Writer as Migrant


Ah, the cookbooks slip in to the lists for the first time! Everyone who knows me knows my diet is atrocious. Granted, you couldn’t live on this stuff, but it’s a start.

  1. Kakuzo Okakura, The Book of Tea
  2. G.B. Woodin, All You Need to Know About Herbs and Spices (Peter Pauper Press)

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