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2010: The Year in Reading

December 7, 2010

I usually do this sometime in March, but one of the few things that didn’t go wrong this year was reading. Last year, I managed 117 books, an astronomical figure for me…I’ve never really measured it before, but I feel I average more like 50-65 annually. I’m a slow reader, and I don’t measure comics in that output, which easily takes up about a third of my reading time, if not more.

This year, I made it 131.

Of course, the rest of my life isn’t so grand right now. But let’s shelve that. Shelve? Get it?

I’ve typically broken out books into categories. This year, I also want to break things out into series, as well.

Let’s get into the lists, shall we?

Politics (17)

A Very Short Introduction

Along with 3 more (Continental Philosophy, Hegel, and Information), I’ve read 9 VSO titles this year. This is a wonderful series from Oxford University Press, covering around 250 topics currently, and expanding all the time. Terry Eagleton’s The Meaning of Life is part of this series, and I have a few more still on the shelf. The authors are well-chosen, the books are concise and well-written. Try them out.

  1. Leslie Holmes. Communism.
  2. Michael Newman. Socialism.
  3. Kevin Passmore. Fascism.
  4. Peter Singer. Marx.
  5. Manfred B. Steger. Globalization.
  6. Colin Ward. Anarchism.

With the G20 coming to town, this was the year of politics for me, in terms of reading. I found Rancière and Lessing a little watery, Ward and Woodcock inspiring, Eagleton brief, and Žižek just plain weird.

  1. G. A. Cohen. Why Not Socialism?.
  2. Terry Eagleton. Marx.
  3. Carlos Fuentes. Latin America: at war with the past. (Massey Lectures)
  4. Rudyard Griffiths (editor), John Ralston Saul, Alain Dubuc and Georges Erasmus. The LaFontaine Baldwin Lectures Volume One.
  5. John Hersey. Hiroshima.
  6. Doris Lessing. Prisons We Choose to Live Inside. (Massey Lectures)
  7. Edward McWhinney. International Law and World Revolution: Seven Talks for CBC Radio.
  8. Jacques Rancière. Hatred of Democracy.
  9. George Woodcock. Civil Disobedience: Seven Talks for CBC Radio.
  10. Howard Zinn. Artists in Time of War.
  11. Slavoj Žižek. First as Tragedy, Then as Farce.

Poetry (14)

A bit of a bumper year for poetry, too. I’m almost all caught up with Ursula LeGuin, and managed to find some Pat Lowther and F. R. Scott, too. Dorothy Parker’s notorious Enough Rope was a great find.

  1. Anonymous. Japanese Haiku. (Peter Pauper Press)
  2. E.E. Cummings. Xaipe.
  3. Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Back Roads to Far Places.
  4. Robert Frost. A Further Range.
  5. Hermann Hesse and James Wright (translator). Poems Selected and Translated by James Wright.
  6. James Joyce. Collected Poems.
  7. Ursula K. LeGuin. Incredible Good Fortune.
  8. Ursula K. LeGuin. Sixty Odd.
  9. Federico García Lorca. The Gypsy Ballads of Federico García Lorca.
  10. Pat Lowther. A Stone Diary.
  11. Dorothy Parker. Enough Rope.
  12. Jacques Prévert and Lawrence Ferlinghetti (translator). Paroles.
  13. F. R. Scott. The Dance is One.
  14. Mark Strand. Selected Poems.

Photography (13)

Thames & Hudson Photofile

This is actually a French series (called Photo Poche in France) that T&H has been slowly translating into English. I love them, chiefly because they are an unbelievable bargain for folks wanting to expose themselves to some of the great photographers of the twentieth century. Only half the series is available in English (probably more like 40%), and I almost have them all.

  1. Berenice Abbott.
  2. Ernst Haas.
  3. Jacques Henri Lartigue.
  4. Joel-Peter Witkin.

Other stand-outs this year was finding The New West by Robert Adams and Once by Wim Wenders. The Sartorialist should probably be classified as fashion, but I dropped it into photography anyway.

  1. Robert Adams. The New West Revised Edition.
  2. Todd Gustavson. Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital.
  3. Corey Hilz. Lensbaby: Bending Your Perspective.
  4. André Kertész. Americana.
  5. André Kertész. Birds.
  6. André Kertész. Portraits.
  7. Robert Leverant. Zen in the Art of Photography.
  8. Scott Schuman. The Sartorialist.
  9. Wim Wenders and Marion Kagerer (translator). Once.

Philosophy (11)

The big daddy this year. Honestly? I can’t say I got any of it. I’m a high-school grad. I can’t chew gum and fart at the same time.

Holy Terror was the first Eagleton book to leave me cold. Incidents was beautiful, almost poetry…I look forward to more Barthes.

  1. Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek. Philosophy in the Present.
  2. Roland Barthes, Teresa Lavender Fagan (translator) and Bishan Samaddar (photographer). Incidents.
  3. Jean Baudrillard. The Spirit of Terrorism: New Edition.
  4. Jean Baudrillard. Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?.
  5. Simon Critchley. Continental Philosophy. (A Very Short Introduction)
  6. A. R. C. Duncan. Moral Philosophy: CBC University of the Air.
  7. Terry Eagleton. Holy Terror.
  8. Ryszard Kapuściński. The Other.
  9. Richard Rorty and Pascal Engel. What’s the Use of Truth?.
  10. Peter Singer. Hegel. (A Very Short Introduction)
  11. Alain de Botton. A Week at the Airport.

Science Fiction (9)

The Foundation Novels

I had an interesting decision to make when I started the Foundation novels. Asimov wrote the first book (Prelude to Foundation) last, there was a decade-long pause between books 3 and 4, and starting with book 5, Asimov started to incorporate every other sci-fi book he wrote into the Foundation mythology. I chose to read the 5 middle books in order of publication. I don’t know if I’ll go back and read books 1 and 7.

  1. Isaac Asimov. Foundation.
  2. Isaac Asimov. Foundation and Earth.
  3. Isaac Asimov. Foundation and Empire.
  4. Isaac Asimov. Foundation’s Edge.
  5. Isaac Asimov. Second Foundation.

What does HBO stand for? “Hey, Beastmaster’s On!” Groan…that wasn’t even my joke…it’s from Brian Michael Bendis. It was a great movie of my childhood, and the book (from which it was very liberally adapted) was just as good. Time Travelers Strictly Cash is part of the Callahan series, but since I’m going through that at a rate of a book a decade, I haven’t separated it out.

  1. Brian Daley. Han Solo at Star’s End. (The Adventures of Han Solo)
  2. Andre Norton. The Beast Master.
  3. Spider Robinson. Time Travelers Strictly Cash.
  4. Clifford D. Simak. City.

Literary Criticism (8)

When I break my books into categories, I tend to clump them together in large groups that aren’t very fine-grained. I’m just not that anal about it. As such, you’ll find books in Lit Crit, Philosophy, and Politics that you probably think don’t belong there. I can’t offer much by way of apology, except to say: everyone’s different.

Spots of Time and Divisions are forgotten CBC classics. If you ever see them, snap them up and savor.

  1. Howard Caygill, Alex Coles and Andrzej Klimowski (artist). Walter Benjamin for Beginners.
  2. Louis Dudek. The First Person in Literature: Six Talks for CBC Radio.
  3. W. Terrence Gordon, Eri Hamaji (designer) and Jacob Albert (designer). Everyman’s Joyce.
  4. Peter Hughes. Spots of Time: Six Talks for CBC Radio.
  5. Paul Levine. Divisions: A Five-Part Series for CBC Radio.
  6. Georg Lukács. Reviews and Articles.
  7. Eli Mandel. Criticism: The Silent-Speaking Words: Eight Talks for CBC Radio.
  8. John Sutherland. Bestsellers. (A Very Short Introduction)

Book Arts (7)

Included here are two magnificent coffe-table books (Living With Books and Books Do Furnish A Room) filled with…you guessed it…books. Brower’s book on paperback design was inspired, nostalgic, and hilarious. Jason Epstein’s meditations on where the publishing industry is headed was written before the rise of the Kindle or iPad, and is right on the money.

  1. Nicholas Basbanes. Among the Gently Mad.
  2. Steven Brower. Breathless Homicidal Slime Mutants: The Art of the Paperback.
  3. Dominique Dupuich and Roland Beaufre. Living With Books.
  4. Jason Epstein. Book Business: Publishing Past Present and Future.
  5. Leslie Geddes-Brown. Books Do Furnish A Room.
  6. Stefan Klima. Artists Books: A Critical Survey of the Literature.
  7. Jo Steffens (editor). Unpacking My Library: Architects and Their Books.

Interview (7)

This was definitely a year of non-fiction, and I read a lot more interviews than I normally do. The Critchley and Eagleton interviews were unbelievably good. Both authors have achieved ‘philosophy best-seller’ status without diluting their arguments or writing self-help manuals, and I highly recommend both.

  1. Tariq Ali and David Barsamian (interviewer). Conversations With Tariq Ali: Speaking of Empire and Resistance.
  2. Saul Alinsky and Marion K. Sanders (interviewer). The Professional Radical: Conversations With Saul Alinsky.
  3. Roberto Bolaño. Roberto Bolaño: The Last Interview & Other Conversations.
  4. Simon Critchley and Carl Cederström (interviewer). How to Stop Living and Start Worrying.
  5. Terry Eagleton and Matthew Beaumont (interviewer). The Task of the Critic: Terry Eagleton in Dialogue.
  6. Stephen Lewis (editor). Art out of Agony: The Holocaust Theme in Literature, Sculpture and Film.
  7. Howard Zinn, David Barsamian (interviewer) and Arundhati Roy (introduction). Original Zinn.

Fantasy (6)

Vlad Taltos

One of my favorite lines from this series is one of the dust-jacket blurbs: “In which Vlad discovers that killing doesn’t solve anything, but it does keep people out of your hair while you think about what to do.” I have a lot of friends that ate this series up when it started back in the early 90’s…it just took me some time to get to it.

  1. Steven Brust. Phoenix.
  2. Steven Brust. Taltos.
  3. Steven Brust. Teckla.
  4. Steven Brust. Yendi.

I’ll resume the Dresden files next year, along with Patricia Brigg’s wonderful werewolf romance novels (yes, I said werewolf romance novels…the fur really flies).

  1. Jim Butcher. Proven Guilty. (The Dresden Files)
  2. Clark Ashton Smith. Xiccarph. (Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series)

Memoir\Biography (6)

Houdini’s book was just fun…it brought me back to laying in front of the TV after school and watching Magic Shadows, a wonderful TV Ontario show about old pulp movies. My first forays into Peter Hughes and Raymond Williams this year, two authors I’m looking forward to reading more of.

  1. Joseph Brodsky. Watermark.
  2. Terry Eagleton. The Gate Keeper.
  3. Eric A. Havelock and Marshall McLuhan. Harold A. Innis: A Memoir.
  4. Harry Houdini. On Deception.
  5. Peter Hughes. George Woodcock.
  6. Raymond Williams. Orwell. (Fontana Modern Masters)

Business (5)

Another great book from the folks at 37 Signals, and a lot of books on financing. I wish I was in a position to capitalize on the advice. Trahair’s book is very compelling, as the advice runs contrary to most of the investing books you’ll find on the shelf. I like it a lot…even if you don’t agree with everything he has to say, you should at least let him play devil’s advocate.

  1. Anonymous. Investing for the First Time.
  2. Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. Rework.
  3. Dave Ramsey. The Money Answer Book.
  4. David Trahair. Enough Bull.
  5. Gail Vaz-Oxlade. Easy Money.

Fiction (4)

A very anemic year for fiction, even if you count sci-fi and fantasy. The first two were not good choices, but I loved Knulp, and The Accident wasn’t as depressing as I thought it would be.

  1. William E. Barrett. The Lilies of the Field.
  2. Christophe Bataille. Annam.
  3. Hermann Hesse. Knulp.
  4. Elie Wiesel. The Accident.

Religion (4)

Reason, Faith, and Revolution was one of the stand-out books of the year. Eagleton (an agnostic at best, Marxist, and Irish to the core) blasts away at Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, destroying their intellectual position while leaving room for an honest debate on religion. Eagleton isn’t pro-religion, but he at least knows what he’s talking about, and is unwilling to dismiss the accomplishments and philosophy of religion. It’s an intellectual tour de force, and I highly recommend it.

Lisa, you absconded from the Ceeb with my Weil! Letter to a Priest is a great read, but Weil is someone you must approach cautiously. From what I’ve read of her life, the accusation of anti-Semite levied against her has some basis in truth. I’m impressed enough to read more, but need to do some research, as well.

  1. Terry Eagleton. Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate.
  2. Risa Levitt Kohn. Dead Sea Scrolls: Words That Changed the World.
  3. Thomas Merton. What is Contemplation?.
  4. Simone Weil. Letter to a Priest.

Art (3)

Arnheim’s book was an abomination. He is apparently very well-respected, but his combining aesthetics with the Laws of Thermodynamics was an affront to all I hold dear. I really tried to keep an open mind, but I just felt cheated at the end. Berger is, as always, muscular and sublime at the same time, something only he can do well. And, I have to admit, I read Ford’s pronunciation guide mainly for humor. Yes, I’m a little crass.

  1. Rudolf Arnheim. Entropy and Art: An Essay on Disorder and Order.
  2. John Berger. Ways of Seeing.
  3. Susan Ford. Beuys is Boys: A Pronunciation Guide.

Cooking (3)

Once again, cooking has made the list, as my fascination with this topic grows. Pollan’s Food Rules is a quick and informative read, and I highly recommend it.

  1. Edna Beilenson. Simple Italian Cookery. (Peter Pauper Press)
  2. Louis Eguaras and Matthew Frederick. 101 Things I Learned in Culinary School.
  3. Michael Pollan. Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.

Travel (3)

Lee, I hope you don’t mind that I read Here is New York before giving it to you. And I hope you enjoyed it. I know I did.

That Was A Dream Worth Building is an unusual book on San Francisco. It looks self-published, and is a romanticized evocation of a World Fair held in SF sometime early in the twentieth century. The author took B&W photos, hand-coloured by his wife, and mounted them in the book. The book is beautiful, if horribly written.

  1. Barry Lopez. The Rediscovery of North America.
  2. Louis J. Stellman. That Was A Dream Worth Building.
  3. E.B. White and Roger Angell (introduction). Here is New York.

Psychology (2)

One of the funniest moments this year happened to me on the TTC while reading Existential Psychotherapy. A man looked at the title of the book, smiled at me, and said, “That has got to be the most depressing title I’ve ever read.” I had to assure him that the book was more upbeat than the title may lead you to believe. May is one of the few psychologists that can explain what he does in plain English, with humor, and with humanity. I highly recommend his books.

  1. Darian Leader and Judy Groves (artist). Lacan for Beginners.
  2. Rollo May. Existential Psychotherapy: Six Talks for CBC Radio.

Childrens (1)

  1. Rabindranath Tagore. The Crescent Moon.

Computers (1)

Computers is usually a subject with more titles in it, and I have been reading some tech manuals, just nothing all the way through. Floridi’s book goes way beyond computers, but it’s the best fit for it.

  1. Luciano Floridi. Information. (A Very Short Introduction)

Film (1)

  1. Neil Landau and Matthew Frederick. 101 Things I Learned in Film School.

Music (1)

IGOR! I love the dude. So did Zappa. So should you.

  1. Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft (interviewer). Conversations with Igor Stravinsky.

Quotations (1)

  1. Anonymous (editor) and Johannes Troyer (illustrator). Proverbs for Daily Living. (Peter Pauper Press)

Science (1)

  1. Stafford Beer. Designing Freedom. (Massey Lectures)

Unsorted (3)

Some books, I just don’t know what to do with. Berger, as usual, is superb.

  1. Anonymous (editor) and Ruth McCrea (illustrator). Love Poems and Love Letters for all the year. (Peter Pauper Press)
  2. John Berger. Why Look at Animals? (Penguin Great Ideas).
  3. Lloyd Spencer and Andrzej Krauze (illustrator). The Enlightenment for Beginners.

Some extra bits

In the lists above, you’ll also find the following:

There were 4 Peter Pauper Press books this year:

  • Anonymous. Japanese Haiku. (Peter Pauper Press)
  • Edna Beilenson. Simple Italian Cookery. (Peter Pauper Press)
  • Anonymous (editor) and Johannes Troyer (illustrator). Proverbs for Daily Living. (Peter Pauper Press)
  • Anonymous (editor) and Ruth McCrea (illustrator). Love Poems and Love Letters for all the year. (Peter Pauper Press)

Nine books from the CBC:

  • Stephen Lewis (editor). Art out of Agony: The Holocaust Theme in Literature, Sculpture and Film.
  • A. R. C. Duncan. Moral Philosophy: CBC University of the Air.
  • Louis Dudek. The First Person in Literature: Six Talks for CBC Radio.
  • Peter Hughes. Spots of Time: Six Talks for CBC Radio.
  • Paul Levine. Divisions: A Five-Part Series for CBC Radio.
  • Eli Mandel. Criticism: The Silent-Speaking Words: Eight Talks for CBC Radio.
  • Rollo May. Existential Psychotherapy: Six Talks for CBC Radio.
  • Edward McWhinney. International Law and World Revolution: Seven Talks for CBC Radio.
  • George Woodcock. Civil Disobedience: Seven Talks for CBC Radio.

Three Massey Lectures (technically making it 11 books from the Ceeb):

  • Stafford Beer. Designing Freedom. (Massey Lectures)
  • Carlos Fuentes. Latin America: at war with the past. (Massey Lectures)
  • Doris Lessing. Prisons We Choose to Live Inside. (Massey Lectures)

Books from the 101 Things series:

  • Louis Eguaras and Matthew Frederick. 101 Things I Learned in Culinary School.
  • Neil Landau and Matthew Frederick. 101 Things I Learned in Film School.

Authors I read more than once:

  • Isaac Asimov: 5
  • Terry Eagleton: 5
  • Steven Brust: 4
  • André Kertész: 3
  • Jean Baudrillard: 2
  • John Berger: 2
  • Simon Critchley: 2
  • Hermann Hesse: 2
  • Peter Hughes: 2
  • Ursula K. LeGuin: 2
  • Peter Singer: 2
  • Howard Zinn: 2
  • Slavoj Žižek: 2

And the complete breakdown by category:

  1. Politics (17)
  2. Poetry (14)
  3. Photography (13)
  4. Philosophy (11)
  5. Science Fiction (9)
  6. Literary Criticism (8)
  7. Book Arts (7)
  8. Interview (7)
  9. Fantasy (6)
  10. Memoir\Biography (6)
  11. Business (5)
  12. Fiction (4)
  13. Religion (4)
  14. Art (3)
  15. Cooking (3)
  16. Travel (3)
  17. Psychology (2)
  18. Childrens (1)
  19. Computers (1)
  20. Film (1)
  21. Music (1)
  22. Quotations (1)
  23. Science (1)
  24. Unsorted (3)

The end of another year

I’m a collector to the core, and collecting stats is free, aside from the time to enter the material into a database.

I doubt I’ll have this much stamina ever again. As bummed out as this year has been, it’s been a damn fun read.

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