Happy new year, and welcome to 2010! In addition to making resolutions that I’m unlikely to keep, there is another new year’s tradition I’ve been observing the past few years; creating and updating a reading list.
Working in libraries, something I hear regularly from patrons is that they have trouble recalling whether or not they have read a certain title. This problem is particularly common with patrons who enjoy reading the output of prolific authors such as James Patterson or Nora Roberts (for instance, Nora Roberts has just short of 200 published full-length works under her belt). I advise these patrons to do what I do, and start a list of works read, perhaps with a brief summary and review of the book so that they can recall not only having read the book, but whether they enjoyed it or not (if you are really motivated, you might even include information such as genre, author’s gender, and any other variables you might like to keep track of and compare later). This process is rewarding not only in the sense that it acts to bolster your memory of books completed, but also in the way it gives you a tangible view of the amount of reading you have accomplished throughout the year. I typically set a goal for myself of 52 books per year (that is, one book completed per week, on average), an objective I have yet to achieve but enjoy striving for. Once you have collected more than one year’s worth of data, you can begin manipulating the numbers to get a very detailed picture of your reading habits and proclivities.
For an example of the sort of information that can be generated from such a list, take a gander at the breakdown from the reading list of Jessamyn West of Librarian.net. Just at a glance, we can see that she read more at the beginning of the year than at the end, that she read slightly more fiction than non-fiction, that the majority of books she read were produced by male authors, and that, for the most part, she enjoys the books she picks (if you are interested in following Jessamyn as she logs and reviews her book conquests, visit her booklist here). The more information you include when recording the completed book in your log, the more data you will have to work with when doing future analysis of your reading patterns.
Another benefit of logging your reading, especially if you choose to do so on a social networking site or blog that allows comments, is that it provides an excellent opportunity for book recommendation and discussion.
To conclude, I’d like to link a few of my favorites books from last year’s list. They are all available in the DCPL catalog so check them out!
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
Epic in scope, featuring a large cast of characters and lengthy descriptions of the harshly beautiful martian landscape, this is a realistic imagining of what human colonization of Mars in the near future might look like. The first in a trilogy, so fans will have additional material to look forward to (the sequels can be located here and here)
Jesus, interrupted: revealing the hidden contradictions in the Bible (and why we don’t know about them) by Bart Ehrman
An examination of the historical Jesus and his teachings viewed through the lens of textual criticism. An accessible and engaging book, invaluable for any scholar of the bible and/or Christianity, whether secular or religious.
America Anonymous: eight addicts in search of a life by Benoit Denizet-Lewis
By turns uplifting, shocking, depressing, and inspirational, America Anonymous’ author (himself a recovering sex addict) follows eight addicts of various types over the course of three years, chronicling their struggles, setbacks, and triumphs. An intriguing look into a world with which many of us are unfamiliar, the book is laudable for the way that it humanizes some of the most maligned and least understood individuals in society.
The City & The City by China Miéville
Undoubtedly the most inventive and original work of fiction I read in 2009, The City & The City is a detective story set in two cities located on the edge of modern day Europe. The cities are each sovereign nations in their own right and possess distinct culture, language, and even fashion. This wouldn’t be so odd, except that both cities occupy the same geographic space, and it is only through incredibly strong mores against “breaching” and the severe consequence of committing a breach that keep both cultures separate. Mieville is well known for pushing the boundaries of every genre he tries his hand at, and this book is no exception.