13.50, Wednesday 31 Dec 2008

I completed reading 104 books in 2008 (I also completed 104 in 2007). There are individual monthly lists: January; February; March; April; May; June; July; August; September; October; November; and December.

Those lists have links too. Here I just want to pull out my favourites. I made it a rule to recommend one book a month--I've highlighted those in bold, and put together those 12 make an incredible package.

  • Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre, Keith Johnstone (27 Jan.)
  • Science in Action, Bruno Latour (16 Feb.)
  • t zero, Italo Calvino (19 Feb., r.)
  • Essential Cell Biology, Alberts, Bray, Hopkin, Johnson, Lewis, Raff, Roberts, and Walter (26 Feb.)
  • The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayaam, Robert Graves and Omar Ali-Shah (translators) (13 March, r.)
  • A Lover's Discourse, Roland Barthes (15 March)
  • The Worst Journey in the World, Apsley Cherry-Garrard (20 March)
  • 253, Geoff Ryman (30 March)
  • Arcadia, Tom Stoppard (1 April)
  • Exploits & Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician, Alfred Jarry (13 April)
  • Michael Rosen's Sad Book, Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake (15 April)
  • World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks (20 April)
  • Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco (5 May, r.)
  • Wild Palms, Bruce Wagner and Julian Allen (7 May, r.)
  • From Atoms to Patterns, Lesley Jackson (17 May)
  • Understanding Material Culture, Ian Woodward (30 May)
  • Annals of the Former World, John McPhee (31 May)
  • From Counterculture to Cyberculture, Fred Turner (20 June)
  • Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, Samuel R. Delany (22 June)
  • The Periodic Table, Primo Levi (29 June)
  • Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner (26 July)
  • 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, Matthew Frederick (31 July)
  • Ways of Seeing, John Berger (20 Aug.)
  • Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information, David Byrne (23 Aug.)
  • The Compass Rose, Ursula K. Le Guin (23 Aug., r.)
  • How Buildings Learn, Stewart Brand (26 Aug.)
  • Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome (10 Sept.)
  • John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener: From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, Steve J. Heims (18 Sept.)
  • Riders of the Purple Sage, Zane Grey (22 Sept.)
  • On the Road, Jack Kerouac (1 Oct.)
  • The Collapse of Complex Societies, Joseph Tainter (20 Oct., r.)
  • Pale Fire, Vladimir Nakokov (27 Nov.)
  • Welcome to Mars, Fantasies of Science in the American Century: 1947-1959, Ken Hollings (18 Dec.)
  • A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel, Tom Phillips (31 Dec.)

Some common themes: last man on earth and journeys; stories that emerge only through the motion of the reader through the book; post-war history; alternatives to the cause and effect model; frontiers and open vistas; the big picture.

I'm not reading to a target next year. I don't have such a long commute any longer and I'd like to watch more films. I don't mind saying that a good deal of 2008 has been pretty eventful, and between that and some of the excellent books I've encountered, I'm slowly developing new ways of thinking and talking about myself, the world and how things happen in it. I'd like to take time to explore those ideas in 2009, and shape and fold them myself.

As a final curious constraint, I'm going to recommend three books from my 2008 reading, ones that I hadn't read before and now I think you definitely should if you haven't already (though really I would choose a different three from those highlighted 12 each time I picked): Impro, Keith Johnstone; Annals of the Former World, John McPhee; On the Road, Jack Kerouac.

Follow-up posts: