Allow me to make a small aside before I go on with the list and the rest of the commentary. When I say "books read," I mean exactly that. Recently, I saw some blogger out there getting picking over distinguishing "pages read" (what she prefers to measure) versus "books read" (what most people I know and I prefer to measure, which seems to be fairly common). That is just way too "OCD" and persnickety to me, and it sounds a bit snobbish to be honest because it implies some books are better than others, so if they have less pages, they count less. Hey, if it works for her, fine, but to me as a reader and librarian, that is just a bunch of hogwash (to be polite). Now, if I did a page count, I would likely get a pretty substantial number given the many articles I read (and I will note that while I did not blog article notes as often this year, I still read a lot of LIS articles, along with some others). Plus, how would one measure blogs, online articles, newspapers online or not, so on? In the end, I am interested in books, all books for purposes of this exercise, be they art books, graphic novels, manga, picture books, novels, anthologies, histories, etc. Saying some books are less valid because they have less pages, what that lady said, is just pretentious crap. As a librarian dedicated to encouraging others to read, I encourage all kinds of reading. Maybe part of why I do this is to show that reading can be done, that it can be enjoyed, and that you can read a variety of things. Reading books (and this certainly includes audiobooks-- hey, that is just someone reading to you-- and e-books) is reading. This caught my eye enough I felt a need to say something because I want people to read freely, to read what they want, when they want. And that's all I've to got to say about that.
Let's get on with it. Starting with the basic numbers:
Number of books read in 2011: 119, with 3 re-reads.
Number of books read in 2010: 119, with 6 rereads (the 2010 list).
Number of books read in 2009: 98, with 5 rereads. I believe this is the first time I started to actively track rereads. (the 2009 list).
Number of books read in 2008: 111 (the 2008 list).
Number of books read in 2007: 85 (the 2007 list).
Number of books read in 2006: 106 (the 2006 list).
Number of books read in 2005: 73
An interesting coincidence: I read the same exact number of books this year as I did last year. I was expecting a lower number considering that I picked up a few large omnibus editions that took me a long time to read through, but they were very enjoyable. Omnibus books are those that collect a series of works in one volume, usually (at least from the ones I've picked up) three to five novels, with a short story or two connecting the novels. They are usually advertised or labeled as "omnibus" (but not always). Anyhow, I count those as one book in the tally even though I am reading three or four books in one package. Also, as folks will note when they see the list, I did have some very low count months. In the end, it was nice to see things balanced out.
As I have done before, I will include other numbers along with my commentaries after the list. Books with an asterisk are books that I reread this year. As always, if a book title is not as clear, I have added small details in parenthesis (say to make clear it is a graphic novel or part of a series). If I posted a review to one of the blogs, then I will provide a link. Otherwise, you can find the books on my GoodReads profile (link on the right side column of the blog). Last year, I tracked how many books I borrowed, and I will continue this year as well.
The books I have read:
- Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Book One (Hardcover compilation).
- Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Book Two (Hardcover compilation).
- Frank Herbert, Dune.
- David Grann, The Lost City of Z.
- Hiroya Oku, Gantz, Vol. 3.
- Ha Jin, Facing Shadows.
- Charles Portis, True Grit.
- Tetsu Kariya, Oishinbo, Vol. 1: Japanese Cuisine.
- Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, et.al., Essential Captain America, Vol. 1.
- Ed Brubaker, Batman: The Man Who Laughs.
- Zhou Zuoren, Selected Essays of Zhou Zuoren (Chinese-English Bilingual Edition).
- Joe Schrieber, Death Troopers (Star Wars novel)
- Neil Pasricha, The Book of Awesome.
- Tsutomu Nihei, Biomega, Vol. 1.
- Jamie Oliver, Jamie's America: Easy Twists on Great American Classics, and More.
- Joe Schreiber, Red Harvest (Star Wars novel).
- Makoto Yukimura, Planetes, Book 1.
- Brad Warner, Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies & the Truth About Reality.
- Bob Schreck, Jurassic Park, Vol. 1: Redemption.
- Ha-Joon Chang, 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism.
- Marc Guggenheim, Stephen King's N.
- Mario Vargas Llosa, Los Cuadernos de Don Rigoberto.
- Hiroshi Hirata, Satsuma Gishiden, Vol. 1.
- Brian Michael Bendis, Elektra: The Scorpio Key.
- Tilar J. Mazzeo, The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume.
- Robert B. Reich, Aftershock.
- Mollie V. Blackburn, Acting Out: Combating Homophobia Through Teacher Activism.
- Rei Hiroe, Black Lagoon, Vol. 1.
- Jay Leno, Headlines.*
- Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Book 3 (Hardcover compilation).
- Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Book 4 (Hardcover compilation).
- R.A. Salvatore, Streams of Silver (The Legend of Drizzt #5, graphic novel adaptation).
- Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Book 5 (Hardcover compilation).
- R.A. Salvatore, The Halfling's Gem (The Legend of Drizzt #6, graphic novel adaptation).
- Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Book 6 (Hardcover compilation).
- Pete Jordan, Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States.
- Samuel L. Jackson, Cold Space.
- Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian.
- Rei Hiroe, Black Lagoon, Vol. 2.
- Karen Valby, Welcome to Utopia: Notes from a Small Town.
- Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes, Unshelved, Vol. 1.
- Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes, What Would Dewey Do? An Unshelved Collection.
- Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes, Library Mascot Cage Match: an Unshelved Collection.
- Geoff Johns, Green Lantern, Vol. 4: The Sinestro Corps War, Vol. 1.
- Agatha Christie, Poirot's Early Cases.
- Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City.
- Madeleine Rosca, Hollow Fields, Vol. 1.
- Gregory Dicum, The Coffee Book: Anatomy of an Industry from Crop to the Last Drop.
- Graham McNeill, The Ultramarines Omnibus (Warhammer 40K).
- Tsuneo Takano, RalΩGrad. Vol. 1.
- Geoff Johns, Green Lantern, Vol. 5: The Sinestro Corps War, Vol. 2.
- Akihisa Ikeda, Rosario+Vampire, Vol. 1.
- Rei Hiroe, Black Lagoon, Vol. 3.
- Anthony Boucher, The Compleat Boucher: The Complete Short Science Fiction and Fantasy of Anthony Boucher.
- David Boaz, ed., The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Readings from Lao Tzu to Milton Friedman.
- Yukio Takamura, Caged Slave.
- Bisco Hatori, Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 1.
- Justin Richardson, And Tango Makes Three.
- Sarah S. Brannen, Uncle Bobby's Wedding.
- Kurt Busiek, Conan, Volume 2: The God in the Bowl and Other Stories.
- Noel Botham and The Useless Information Society, The World's Greatest Book of Useless Information.
- Garon Tsuchiya, Old Boy, Vol. 1.
- Kurt Busiek, et.al., Conan, Vol. 4: The Halls of the Dead and Other Stories.
- Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World and Other Stories.
- Maureen Stanton, Killer Stuff and Tons of Money.
- Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan, eds., A Passion for Books.*
- Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, The Surrogates.
- Paulo Freire, Teachers as Cultural Workers.
- Timothy Truman, Conan, Vol. 5: Rogues in the House and Other Stories.
- Daniel Chanan Matt, The Essential Kabbalah.
- Jesse Ventura, 63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read.
- Joe Hill, Locke and Key, Vol. 4: Keys to the Kingdom.
- Joss Whedon, Astonishing X-Men Omnibus.
- Carl Zimmer, A Planet of Viruses.
- Mark Ovenden, Railway Maps of the World.
- Will Eisner, The Best of the Spirit.
- Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween.*
- Kazuo Koike, Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 1: The Assassin's Road.
- John Ficarra et.al., 1001 MAD Pages You Must Read Before You Die.
- Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
- Jeff VanderMeer, The Steampunk Bible.
- Brando Jerwa, Snake Eyes: Declassified (G.I. Joe graphic novel).
- G.B. Trudeau, Peace Out, Dawg! Tales from Ground Zero.
- Ann VanderMeer, The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities.
- Cassern S. Goto, Blood Ravens: The Dawn of War Omnibus (Warhammer 40K).
- Don Vorhees, The Perfectly Useless Book of Useless Information.
- Rob Kaplan and Harold Rabinowitz, Speaking of Books.
- The Tribute WTC Visitor Center, 9/11: The World Speaks.
- Hardy Green, The Company Town.
- Benrik, Lose Weight! Get Laid! Find God! The All-in-One Life Planner.
- Chris Claremont, X-Men: X-Tinction Agenda.
- Joe Casey, G.I. Joe-America's Elite, Vol. 1: America's Newest War.
- Brett Halliday, Murder is My Business.
- Nancy Pearl, Book Lust.*
- Thomas F. Cleary, Zen Lessons.
- Joe Casey, G.I. Joe-America's Elite, Vol. 2: The Ties That Bind.
- Clifton Fadiman and John S. Major, The New Lifetime Reading Plan.
- Aloys Winterling, Caligula: A Biography.
- Paul Jenkins, G.I. Joe-Frontline, Vol.4: One Shots.
- Ennis Carter, Posters for the People: The Art of the WPA.
- Scott Snyder, American Vampire, Vol. 2.
- Bill Maher, Does Anybody Have a Problem With That?
- Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 2: The Gateless Barrier.
- Jimmy Palmiotti, The Punisher: Very Special Holidays.
- Frank Tieri, Punisher Noir.
- Jimmy Palmiotti, Wolverine and Black Cat: Claws.
- John Wagner, Batman/Judge Dredd; Judgment on Gotham.
- Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 3: The Flute of the Fallen Tiger.
- Kevin Smith, Kevin Smith's Green Hornet, Vol. 2.
- Pat Willard, American Eats! On the Road with the WPA.
- Ferdinand Protzman, Wide Angle: National Geographic Greatest Places.
- Sandy Mitchell, Cain's Last Stand (Warhammer 40K).
- Lisa Abend, The Sorcerer's Apprentices.
- Quino, Mafalda 2.
- Quino, Mafalda 3.
- Quino, Mafalda 4.
- Paul Collins, Sixpence House.
- Guy Fieri, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.
- Ann Droyd, Goodnight iPad.
- I continue using GoodReads to keep track of my reading. It works well to make brief comments on books, just enough to remember the book. I will share a review or note on a blog for books I consider really special, books that I think my three readers should look into or at least be aware of the books.
- Number of books in the best month: 19 in November.
- Number of books in the worst month: 4, with a tie for May and June with 4 each.
- Fiction: 76. Once again, the majority of stuff I read was fiction. Keep in mind that I include graphic novels and mangas in this category, unless those works are things like memoirs or other nonfiction adaptation. I also read 11 more books of fiction this year in comparison to last year.
- Nonfiction: 43. I read 6 less nonfiction books this year in comparison to last year. I did not read a single book related to library science this year. This may be a reflection that I am not pleased overall with LIS literature writing. Last year I noted that I read three books in that area, and they did not impress me in spite of the gushing that some celebrity librarians did. I think much of it also has to do with the fact I have been just wanting to read more for pleasure and to learn about things I am really interested in. Also, there has been a lot of drama in librarianship, which, to be honest, just turns me off overall. It is not that I am not in touch with the issues (I do quite a bit of keeping up); it is just that I prefer to spend my reading time on better things (it is also a big reason why I am not blogging on librarianship professional things as much, but let us leave that aside). Microhistories continue to be a popular genre for me because, in addition to learning about one subject, these books often give you a lot on general history and other topics. Excellent reading for a librarian and reader seeking to broaden his horizons.
- Graphic novels and comics: 41. This is a genre/format that I enjoy very much. This is a favorite reading interest, and while I am not a geek per se, I am pretty knowledgeable in this area as well as mangas, which I enjoy as well. As usual, this includes traditional things, like Marvel and DC, as well as adaptations, so on. I had some pleasant discoveries this year, and I anticipate to keep reading more in the coming year. Once again, I did reread Batman: The Long Halloween in preparation for the Halloween holiday. A good tradition that sets up the mood nicely. If it's the end of October, you know what I will be reading.
- Mangas: 16. I read one more in comparison to last year. I got to try out some new series, and I continued reading some favorites. I had to give a talk on graphic novels and mangas last year, so I had an incentive to read some genres I do not usually read, which was a nice way to explore new things. Personally, I tend to prefer my mangas with more mature themes, but if it is entertaining, I will read a YA title now and then. This is another genre I will continue reading. Even with the closing of Tokyo Pop this past year, there were still good titles coming out. This is a format I do usually buy, since finding them in libraries seems a bit difficult; it is not something many libraries embrace just yet, so getting them via ILL is not easy, if at all possible. Buying them means I am fairly selective about what I pick up since funds are limited. This also applies to graphic novels since the good stuff tends not to be available in libraries, but graphic novels are often a bit easier to borrow (though not by much).
- My commentary in previous years regarding mangas and graphic novels in East Texas still applies, and it will likely remain in place for the future. Local selection is embarrassingly low, non-existent for some items. This is reflective of local culture, and I do not mean that in a good way. The trip out of town for book shopping continues to be a tradition, though a bit more difficult now that Borders closed down; we used to make Borders one of our stops as their selection in mangas and graphic novels was always better than the limited Barnes & Noble in Tyler. As reluctant as I am, the day may be drawing closer when I may have to purchase a book online here or there. This area of Texas is just bad for good book selection (not to mention lacking in any decent independent bookstores).
- Other categories: No poetry or plays this year. I did add a couple of art-type books, as in books where things like photography or images are the major focus. This includes at least the one cookbook. When I check a cookbook out, it is because the art, layout, the photography, and sometimes the small narratives in them interest me. A cookbook like this, say the Jamie Oliver one on my list, is read for the art, not so much to cook from it given the ingredients and procedures are not meant for amateurs like me (no matter what they claim. Oliver's book, for instance, pretty as it was, is not practical. I don't have a Whole Foods in town, nor a Whole Foods budget). Also the book on train maps was another interesting one. So, once in a while, I do pick up odds and ends like that where the visual is a big element. Just adds to my reading experience.
- Book written in Spanish: 1. And that book was read for a book challenge. I have a few books in Spanish on the shelf, so maybe I will get to a few next year. We'll see. A lot of it depends on my serendipitous reading nature.
- Books borrowed: 60. This means I borrowed pretty much as much as I owned or bought. In this category, I do include books borrowed from my library, books borrowed from the public library, and books borrowed from Interlibrary Loan via my library. I suppose if I wanted to that I could sort those three categories, but I am not feeling the need to. Most of what I borrow is in the nonfiction area, especially in the kind of books that are worth reading only once (current affairs books are an example of this). If I do not wish to own it or add to my collection, the book is borrowed. And yes, in some cases, I may borrow something and find I do want to buy it. So, make a note of that persnickety publishers who want to close down libraries. Libraries do encourage reading, and they often encourage you to buy books as well. My basic rule still applies here: if I do not wish to read it more than once, or it is something common, I will try to borrow it.
- Books and/or reading challenges: I completed the 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge in September. I am currently not signed up for any new challenges, and I am not planning on any at the moment unless it is a really open or flexible one. While I do keep reading lists, I also read a lot by serendipity and by picking up things from browsing. Any challenge that makes me commit to a tight list or theme just does not really work for me because I like to read what I like when I want to read it. Now a challenge with a certain theme, say science fiction, might be appealing. Basically anything that would fall into what I do already. Anyhow, we'll see. I can always sign up for something during the year.
- This is not new, but serendipity is still my main reading approach. As I have mentioned, I do keep reading lists, some of which you can find over at Alchemical Thoughts (just click on the "books and reading" tag when you get there). I also browse a lot, and I make notes. I started carrying a pocket notebook last year, which is great for reminders, including jotting down books I want to read, which I then add to a list on the scratch pad, or borrow or buy depending on mood. This month, the public library had some new books I was interested in. I could not check them all out at once (I only check out what I think I can read within the lending period), so I jotted down the ones I was interested in so I can come check them out later. That sort of thing. Overall, I don't think I will ever run out of things to read, and that is a good thing. As always, I also take suggestions from people. By the way, if you have any suggestions for books you think I should read, feel free to leave them in the comments.
- The Walking Dead series started out strong for me this year. I am up to the sixth hardcover compilation. These are volumes I borrow. The series, at least to the point I got to is starting to turn a bit more into soap opera, which is usually the point in a series when I lose interest. However, the author deserves credit for the ability to shake things up just when you think things are going to be comfortable. If you want a different take on the zombie apocalypse genre (a genre I do not particularly favor, and that, for me, is starting to get as overrated as vampires as of late; by the way, steampunk is starting to become the next overrated genre it seems), you should be reading this, at least the early volumes. By the way, if you watch the television adaptation, they have taken some key and interesting liberties with the source material. Overall, as usual, the books are a lot better.
- The Lost City of Z. This was a very interesting book that brings together the thrill of an explorer's tale with a historical mystery set in the Amazon. If you enjoy the science fiction genre of lost civilizations, you will probably enjoy this real life search for the mythical city of Z. This is one I recommend.
- Oishinbo. If you enjoy things like Iron Chef (the original Japanese version, not the new atrocity on Food Network), you will probably enjoy this. You will also enjoy it if you like learning about food in other cultures. The protagonist works for a newspaper where they are trying to compile the ultimate menu. Thus he goes out sampling and reviewing all sorts of foods and drink. He is quite the epicure, but he is one of those guys who likes to stay below the radar. There is humor, and there is some great art and explorations of Japanese cooking and techniques. Very good series, which I hope to continue reading.
- Gantz. I continue to enjoy this series. The Gantz orb brings various people back to life in order to play various deathly games. It is a bit like Battle Royale and other conspiracy tales.
- Black Lagoon. Another very high energy manga. The crew of the Black Lagoon, a modified PT boat, will serve as couriers when no one else will, if the price is right. And in the high seas of Southeast Asia, there is always danger.
- Letters to a Young Contrarian. This is a book that I think every teenager should read so they get a full rounded education, not to mention, learn how to think for themselves as well as counter a lot of the stupidity and conformity out there.
- The Unshelved books. I definitely enjoyed these, and now I have to go find the rest. This is a humorous and very humane look at what really happens in libraries. Though it is set in a public library, a lot of what happens is also stuff we academic librarians can recognize. Every librarian and library supporter should read this.
- The Ultramarines Omnibus. I read quite a good amount of Warhammer 40K science fiction this year. I like the Blood Ravens Omnibus a bit better (I will comment on this shortly), but the adventures of Captain Uriel Ventris and the 4th Company of Ultramarines were a good entertainment that I am happy to list as one of my favorites for the year. Captain Ventris has some qualities I admire, plus the tales are just good escapist fun.
- The Conan series from Dark Horse. I read some more of this series, and I continue to enjoy them. The spirit of Howard's work is alive and well in this series.
- Old Boy. In this manga, a man who was imprisoned is suddenly freed after many years. He has one thing on his mind: finding out who put him there and revenge.
- The Astonishing X-men omnibus. This collects all of Joss Whedon's run on X-Men. I borrowed this hefty volume, but it is one I would definitely love to add to my collection. Fans of the X-Men, as well as Whedon fans, will likely enjoy this.
- Lone Wolf and Cub. A classic manga and an excellent series. I read the first three volumes in the series, and they were great. This is a series I will definitely seek out. Fans of the samurai epic genre will definitely enjoy this. It is the tale of the assassin with the child.
- Blood Ravens: The Dawn of War Omnibus. Another WH40K selection. Though initially I was a bit leery, since it is based on a computer game, the book was excellent. The Blood Ravens are scholars in a time when scholarship is rare and arcane. Like other Space Marine regiments, they do have librarians, but Blood Ravens librarians are Space Marines librarians. If I could have a fantasy come true, I would want to be a Blood Ravens librarian-- scholars, archivists, preservers of knowledge, lethal soldiers, and usually have some additional powers as well. The books do an excellent job in displaying the lore and ways of the Space Marines. My other choice would be an inquisitor, if you must know.
- Posters for the People. This collection of posters from the WPA is a pleasure to look through. The posters related to reading and libraries are neat, but overall, the book is just very neat to look through.
- American Vampire, Vol. 2. This series continues to be very good, a new take on the vampire genre. Fans of this genre need to be reading this, the tale of a new vampire born in the West. This is one of my favorites, and Skinner Sweet is certainly a vampire in the good tradition. And then there is Pearl.
- Punisher Noir. The noir series in Marvel seems to be a pretty neat take on their superheroes. The Punisher fits very well into the noir setting. If you like stories like Road to Perdition, you will probably like this one even if you are not a comics book fan. I do have a couple other Marvel noir volumes in the cue, so I hope they are as good.
- Cain's Last Stand. I continue to enjoy the adventures of Regimental Commissar Ciaphas Cain. In this tale, he finally made it to retirement. What more could our easy life loving commissar want? A nice gig in a schola training new commissar cadets. What could possibly go wrong? How about a new dark crusade in the sector? Now the hero and his cadets have to rise to the defense of the planet, and Cain has to prove one more time that he is indeed the hero of so many legends. This series remains strong, and it is one of my favorite reads.
There was a lot of good reading during 2011, and I hope to continue finding good things to read this year. To wrap up, here are the books I am currently reading:
- Drew Karpyshyn, Dynasty of Evil (Star Wars: Darth Bane #3).
- Veronica Alice Gunter, ed.,400 Wood Boxes: The Fine Art of Containment and Concealment.
- Paul R. Mullins, Glazed America: A Social History of the Doughnut.
- Jose Marti, La Edad de Oro.
- Robert Block, et.al, Completely Doomed.
- Marc Lesser, Z.B.A.: Zen of Business Administration.
- Anwer Bati and Simon Chase, The Cigar Companion: A Connoisseur's Guide.
- Henry Petroski, The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance.
So, assuming the Maya prophecies do not come to pass, I hope to be publishing my 2012 list early next year. Happy reading to all.