Books, 2019

I read 67 books in 2019, significantly down from the prior couple of years. A couple of things contributed to this slowdown. One, I began devoting a lot more time to playing Dungeons and Dragons, which requires lots of reading and writing and planning of its own that is time I would otherwise have spent with regular old prose books. Two, my family reading slowed down a lot. We went through several books that were real slogs, we stopped one in the middle, and we skipped a lot more nights this year than we’re used to skipping, as we had more evening commitments. I learned last year not to focus overmuch on how many books I had read, but in general I also just felt this year like I was a shallower or less committed reader. I spent a week or two each false-starting on rereads of two Pynchon books (Against the Day and V) and Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon (this was the family read we stalled out on, though I would’ve liked to’ve continued, as it was a reread I was enjoying). I read the first 2ish books of the Lord of the Rings series to my family, but we stalled in the middle for no good reason and moved on (this was a second or third family read-through, in any case). I read a lot of fantasy this year — much of it related to D&D — and a lot more science fiction and nonfiction than I had remembered. Seven of these were rereads (in addition to the three rereads I stopped partway through).

30 of the 67 books were written by women and 16 by people of color. Another was edited by a woman of color. This feels like a pretty poor showing with respect to the diversity of my reading — far better than my reading in 2015 after which year I began paying closer attention to diversity in my reading but far worse still than my reading in 2016 and even in 2018 when only about a third of my reads were by straight white men. So, I still have some room to keep expanding my horizons beyond the experience closest to my own.

Highlights were Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers, a couple of the Drizzt books by R.A. Salvatore, J R by Gaddis (though I liked it less on this my third or fourth full reading of this book than I did prior times), The White Goddess (which made me use my brain as much as any book I read this year), Confessions of Max Tivoli, So You Want to Talk About Race, and the first two books of Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy.

Here go the books by rating:

Five-Star Books

  • J R, by William Gaddis

Four-Star Books

Three-Star Books

Two-Star Books

One-Star Books

And now the same books broken into a few categories:

Nonfiction

Fantasy

Science Fiction

Young-Adult or Kid Lit

2 thoughts on “Books, 2019

    • Oh, it’s just like this remarkable bit of like cultural forensics that’s tough sometimes to follow — enough so that often enough it seems sort of like bullshit. Graves does all this work to make a case that there were various alphabets (including sort of a finger alphabet) that relate to specific trees that then relate to references in various myths and stories, and it’s a lot to keep up with. Meanwhile, he reveals word origins and connections that touch other bits of the culture (e.g. I dog-eared pages that made me think of the mythology of the Wheel of Time series, and I remembered that Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series was based on a lot of the mythology that Graves is working with). So on virtually every page of the text, my brain leapt to some other association outside the immediate text, so I just felt like my brain was firing a lot more than it does when reading most texts, and in the best possible ways. Even though I didn’t walk away from the book feeling as if Graves had necessarily made a strong or even a terribly coherent case, I walked away feeling very enriched, and brain-tired in a good way.

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