I’m making an effort to up my reading this year.
I used to be a voracious reader, but that fell off around college (yes, pursuing a degree was the main thing holding me back from getting an education). Lately I’ve been trying to spend less time immersed in the feeds on my phone and more time buried in books.
These are all books that I’ve read on paper — I find that my retention is much, much lower on a screen, even on e-ink devices like the Kindle — and that I enjoy being able to flip back a few pages when necessary to recall or revisit something.
I also find that the more I read, the more I’m able to read. I think a lot of people avoid books because there’s that initial friction to getting into them, but that friction goes away quickly the more you read. I suspect the friction comes from training our brains to expect the quick dopamine hits of Facebook and Instagram and quick-cutting TV commercials. I find it also helps to keep my phone in another room — if it’s out of sight, I can sink into the book much more easily.
What I’ve Read So Far This Year:
- When You Are Engulfed in Flame, David Sedaris
- The Unsettling of America, Wendell Berry
- Seveneves, Neal Stephenson
- In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan
- Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink
- The History of the Hudson Valley, from Wilderness to the Civil War, Vernon Benjamin
- Starbucked, Taylor Clark
- Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas
- Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond
- New York 2140, Kim Stanley Robinson
- Monsignor Quixote, Graham Greene
- Growing a Farmer, Kurt Timmermeister
- Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
- The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
- Hillbilly Elegy, JD Vance
- Deep Work, Cal Newport
- Legends of the Fall, Jim Harrison
- Rocket Men, Craig Nelson
- Rest, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
- The Planet on the Table, Kim Stanley Robinson
- The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan
- The Years of Rice and Salt, Kim Stanley Robinson
- Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari
- Dreamland, Sam Quinones
That works out to 8 fiction and 16 non-fiction.
Of the fiction, 4 were hard sci-fi or alt-history speculative fiction, 2 were character studies told via trips through Spain, and 1 was about the soul of Abraham Lincoln’s son traveling through the Tibetan Buddhist afterlife.
Of the non-fiction books, 2 were biographies, 10 were sociology, and 5 were related to food and agriculture.
My most commonly-read authors this year have been Kim Stanley Robinson (2 novels and 1 anthology of short stories) and Michael Pollan (2 books on food).
- Radical Technologies, Adam Greenfield
- Southern Reach trilogy, Jeff VanderMeer
- Augustine’s Confessions, new Sarah Ruden translation
- Annals of the Former World, John McPhee
I’ll read more, I’m sure, but I try not to plan out too far in advance. I prefer to order a few books specifically, and take out a few from the library spontaneously at the same time. That way I always have several books to choose from on my nightstand, some planned and some not.