2010: A Personal Best in Books

stack of books, Ballard, Seattle, Washington

Image by Wonderlane via Flickr

I like the WordPress challenge to write one blog post a day, or a week.  This is my attempt at getting off to a good start, with a quick post wrapping up 2010 in books.  I had started off the year hoping to read 50 books, or at least surpassing my previous record of 40 books.  I passed the 40 book mark in September, breezed past the 50 book mark in October, and ended the year completing 60 books, well past my goal.  Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

But, astute readers are assuredly wondering, were any of those 60 books good?  Were they mere comic books, just trashy beach novels, or were they actually, to cop a phrase from Alton Brown, “good reads”?   You can see my complete  list here, and I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these books, most of which were definitely worth reading.  One of the books was a graphic novel, which some people might derisively call a comic book, but, as this review points out, The Beats: A Graphic History is a full length graphic treatment on a serious subject.

Out of these sixty books, I find it hard to pick just a few best reads, but a few I would recommend to anyone.   Jon Krakauer‘s Where Men Win Glory: the Odyssey of Pat Tillman is a fantastic book, deflating the glorious story of war promoted by the war-mongers and revealing the truth behind the headlines in Tillman’s story, an atheist in the foxhole, killed by friendly fire while on a truly difficult mission.  Erik Larsen‘s Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America, which I reviewed earlier, is a wonderful look at fin de siècle America, and a true-crime masterpiece.   And Scott Huler’s On the Grid: A Plot of Land, An Average Neighborhood, and the Systems that Make Our World Work is a real treat, looking at the unseen mysteries that lie all around us in the infrastructure that makes modern life so, well, modern.  Also, it is about Raleigh, which earns it bonus points from me, since I live in the Triangle.

Previously on this blog I’ve discussed the pros and cons of e-readers.  Thanks to my lovely wife, or Santa Claus if you prefer, I am now the proud owner of an Amazon Kindle.   I’ll be posting soon my experiences with the Kindle – the good, the bad, and the ugly.


About Chris van Hasselt

I eat, sleep, play guitar...but wait, there's more!
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93 Responses to 2010: A Personal Best in Books

  1. JLC says:

    Good post…and yet…what’s derisive about being a comic book?

    • Thanks. I have nothing against comics, but I imagine there are still people out there that think they aren’t serious works of literature. From my perspective, there is trash and treasure in practically any genre.

  2. Emily Jane says:

    Thanks for sharing – it’s a big goal of mine to read more books this year, and I’m actually starting my first crime novel in a week or two. Well, sort of. “Ghosts of Belfast” has a slight hint of the supernatural, so I’m not straying too far off the path 🙂

    I don’t know if I’d ever be able to get a Kindle! Books must always be book-shaped, if you ask me, and I hate the thought of curling up with a good… gadget…

  3. You are amazing, I’ve never seen anyone read that much of books.

    Keep Posting,

    • Oddly enough, I was originally inspired to keep track of what I read when I read a story about ex-president George W. Bush and Karl Rove having a friendly rivalry over how many books they read, Rove reading 50 in a year and Bush 60. I was shocked that Bush would have time to read that many books as president, but then again he fundamentally doesn’t believe the government can or should really do anything, so between his vigorous exercise regimen and photo-ops, what else was he going to do? (And I was surprised at his reading list – it was actually pretty intriguing.)

  4. Sean Bailey says:

    Wow. 60 books? That’s amazing! I had a goal of reading 26 books last year, and fell short by about 8, I believe.

    What would you recommend for staying on track? I’ve already decided I’d set aside time before bed to read at least 20 pages each night, but other than that I’m looking for more tips.


    • Thanks for your kind words. For staying on track, just carve out time whenever you can to read. Many people I know seem to know way too much about “American Idol” and “Lost”, and yet they say they don’t have time to read. 20 pages a night is a great place to start.

  5. humanitarikim says:

    A post a day is a lofty goal. I find myself aspiring for the same, but so far, I have fallen short. Funny, I have plenty of time to READ blogs and comment on those…


  6. brett2155 says:

    Great list and congratulations on cracking 60! I’ve been starting to read for pleasure more lately in my spare time and am always on the lookout for good new reads. You’ve got me curious about What Would Google Do? and the Best Music Writing books. Perhaps, I’ll have to check them out.

    • “What Would Google Do?” is a pretty good business read…another good one I read a few years ago is “The Pixar Touch” – it really shows how Pixar fosters creativity. Happy New Year!

  7. Sarah says:

    I love your list of books. It’s gonna help a lot with picking out my reading material for the year….

    Terrific blog!

  8. runtobefit says:

    I definitely have to read Jon Krakauer‘s book. I really loved Into The Wild…definitely one of my top five books. I will have to look at all of the books you read to find out what I will be reading in the future 🙂

    Jon Krakauer‘s

  9. if you havent already check out ‘Let the Great World Spin’ by Colum McCann. I finished it Xmas day and labeled it my favorite book of the decade.

  10. Joe Storm says:

    See, I can’t see how you read that many books. Good job. I can play over 60 games a year lol

  11. CrystalSpins says:

    Interesting list. So much non-fiction. And then in the middle of it all: Under the Tuscan Sun. That made me laugh.


    • Well, Under the Tuscan Sun is non-fiction, although definitely on the breezy side of non-fiction. That book annoyed me because I kept thinking “Why should I care about these rich Californians idling around on a farm in Tuscany?” I kept wanting to read the OTHER book; you know, the one the locals were writing, about these stupid arrogant Americans, with their fancy cheeses day-long trips to find a bottle of olive oil, while the real folks sweat and toil fixing their plumbing.

  12. Ashley says:

    I like how diverse the titles are that you have read. Sometimes it’s hard to cross over into different genres, but it looks like you have a pretty well-rounded list here. Keep it up, blog looks great!

  13. Pingback: 2010: A Personal Best in Books (via Rash Elvis Chants) « Notes From Just Past Normal

  14. Well done! Reading 60 books worth reading (even graphic novels) is quite the accomplishment. I tried Larsen’s book a few years ago and could not move through it. Perhaps, I should try again.

    • For some reason, I’ve been going through books about that era – Isaac’s Storm, Eiffel’s Tower, etc. – fascinating period of history, right on the cusp of the modern era, but before the World Wars. If you read Larsen’s book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

  15. batikmania says:

    Wow… that’s great, while what I read the most were magazines, like Reader’s Digest for example. But stilll… I know my reading habit last year was terrible. I should have read more good books this year, or as you’ve mentioned in your blog post before: good reads. All right… I have to read at least 1 book each month (plus write a blog posting each week for several blogs of mine), well… I think that’ll make me quite busy already 😉

  16. That’s brilliant- but do you work??
    Congrats on being freshly pressed!!!

  17. heidikins says:

    I’ve only read a handful from your list, but I loved 1421 and Devil in the White City. And Reading Lolita in Tehran made my favorite list last year, such a wonderful perspective! Half the Sky is next on my list and I can’t wait!


    • I had high hopes for 1421, but was very disappointed. One of the worst books of the year, in fact. I may put a scathing review up of it in a few weeks. But, “Devil” and “Lolita”? Both get solid thumbs ups from me, for what that’s worth.

  18. wadingacross says:

    60+ books in a year?! While certainly feasible for me, I never seem to have the time or desire to conquer that many books. I do read, but not to that extent. I seem to start a fair number but never finish them.

    As for blogging once a day or even once a week, that ship sailed for me two months ago. I experienced blogging burnout and am only now getting back into the feel for it, even though I’m still not feeling “it”.

    As a stay-at-home dad with two wee ones, two more on the way and a heavily pregnant wife, the time to dedicate to reading or especially blogging just isn’t always there. I have a hard enough time getting all of my news and politics internet puttering in – as we do not have cable or watch much basic tv.

    Finally, on e-readers; I’m interested in getting one, but not a Kindle. We and some of my family and close friends have decided to stop doing any business with Amazon because of their business dealings over this past fall – wikileaks and pedophilic e-books. I like doing business with underdogs anyway, so a Sony or Borders version ebook might be more my speed instead of a Kindle or even a Nook (With that underdog spirit, I own a Sony mp3 walkman, and not a single Apple product in my home).

    • I feel your pain on the home front – I have a four year old, thankfully our only child. She’s great, but a handful. But, I figure I set a good example by reading. Thanks for your kind words, and have a great new year.

  19. rinnyf says:

    Looking forward to your thoughts on your new Kindle!

  20. Evie Garone says:

    I love reading and blogging. I blog at least once a day, I have a lot to say, be it good or bad!

    As for reading, I must read a book about every 2 days. So I understand where you are coming from. I happen to be a lucky person, able to fulfill my to loves at this point in my life.

    I’m also working on writing 2 books, so my life is full of words! I love them.

    Thanks for your list of books, will look some of them up! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!


  21. Jen says:

    What did you think of The World In Six Songs? I read that one last year and enjoyed it more than This Is Your Brain On Music because it seemed less technical. Still, I liked them both since I’m a musician.

    • I play guitar, and like you I enjoyed Six Songs more. Oliver Sacks book, Musicophilia, was also interesting, but he seemed to focus, as one might expect, on neurological oddities associated with music.

  22. An impressive list of books. I have only read a few of them, but I’ve bookmarked the list as nearly all of the titles interest me.

    Your book budget must be as impressive as the list. It makes me want to finally break down and get a Kindle or a Nook so I can get books at a lower price.

    Happy to have found your blog.

  23. jtlindsey says:

    60 books is a humbling total. I read about twenty books this year, though I wasn’t keeping count. Perhaps I will in 2011. Thanks for recommending On the Grid, I think I’ll try and pick that one up, sounds very much up my street.

  24. Seasweetie says:

    What a fantastic list – you’ve actually inspired me to add several to my must-read list for this year. I love anything Mary Roach has written and didn’t know her latest was out yet. I have a similar post planned for my blog, but I’m afraid my list of books read won’t be particularly erudite. BTW, I’m a displaced Durham girl myself, and Endangered Durham (on your blogroll, as you probably know) is a wonderful site!

  25. Hamid Azimi says:

    Good comment with greater list. Thanks for sharing Chris.

  26. helenwil says:

    Thank you for sharing your sixty 2010 books with us. However I am particularly interested in where 2011 and your Kindle will lead you. Will you read more because books are cheaper and you enjoy the novelty of reading in a new way? Let us know and personally as teacher-Librarian I’d also love to hear from anyone else who would like to comment on using a Kindle.

  27. I’m impressed by your achievement. I’ve read only a few of these books on the list, But others are on my “to read” list. Congrats on FP!

  28. Ammon says:

    Congrats , 60 books in one year is definitely an accomplishment. The best book I read in 2010 was King Solomon’s Mines. I’d always meant to read it and finally got around to it. I’m glad I did.

    I’m also doing the WordPress postaweek2011 challenge over at slightly insightful, my blog. Good luck!

  29. Words We Women Write says:

    Hi Chris, congrats on being freshly pressed! I’m looking forward to your observations on the Kindle. (Kudos to your Smart Santa.) I read a ton and am addicted to print on paper. On the other hand, I love techie gadgets, am part of the Apple family but haven’t quite made the leap to an e-reader. I know you’ll enlighten me….post away!


  30. Certainly a terrific and achievable goal – intellectually beneficial as well.

  31. Deanna says:

    That is an admirable and impressive reading quota, and a resolution worth bridging. I’ll check out Kraukauer’s novel.
    I wonder how the kindle will compare; for instance I like to underline or highlight passages that strike a chord with me, don’t think the kindle has that capability, but maybe I should just get with the times.

    • Thanks for your kind words. You can highlight on the kindle, and it has a feature where you can share your highlights with others on Facebook, although the utility of that is lost on me. I do computer work, and I can’t imagine reading technical books on the kindle – I have to flip back and forth, underline, bookmark pages, etc. For that matter, I often print out web pages when I’m at work; I suppose it is generational, but I have to have that tactile feel of paper when I’m dealing with deep, technical material.

  32. marjnhomer says:

    with kids its hard to read. they always want and need your time but i found that if i really enjoy a book i can finish it even while being a stay at home mom. im def checkin out your list 🙂

    • I have a four year old at home. I’m not a stay at home dad, I work full-time, but I know that reading a lot sets a good example. Making time for yourself, to read or pursue your other dreams, is still part of being a good parent. Just my $.02. Happy New Year.

  33. Melissa says:

    So excited to see a post about books on the FreshlyPressed page!

    I’m incredibly impressed by your list – 60 books and all non-fiction! I always have hopes of reading more non-fiction but then I get distracted by all of the fiction piled up on my nightstand.

  34. bibliocrazy says:

    I had to read The Devil in the White City for my U.S. History class for school, and it was definitely one of the best required school books I’ve read l in a long time. I’ll check out the rest of your list! Congratulations on being on the FreshlyPressed page!

  35. Thanks for this post — inspiring. What I found most interesting, though, was a response you made to a comment:
    “Oddly enough, I was originally inspired to keep track of what I read when I read a story about ex-president George W. Bush and Karl Rove having a friendly rivalry over how many books they read, Rove reading 50 in a year and Bush 60. I was shocked that Bush would have time to read that many books as president, but then again he fundamentally doesn’t believe the government can or should really do anything, so between his vigorous exercise regimen and photo-ops, what else was he going to do? (And I was surprised at his reading list – it was actually pretty intriguing.)”

    By the way, I’m looking forward to your evaluation of your new kindle. I’m a big fan of real books, but for lugging them around (on travels, or just in my purse everyday) the kindle is a back-saver. 🙂

    • There are a lot of news stories and blog posts about the Bush v. Rove book reading rivalry – here’s one: http://blog.seattlepi.com/bookpatrol/archives/158089.asp While I disagree with Bush on most everything, I found his reading list to be remarkably interesting. I do find it strange that the leader of the most powerful country on earth (give or take) had that much time on his hands. And, I have to give props to Laura Bush for her work promoting literacy.

      I plan to review the Kindle soon. I work in an organization where a lot of people travel internationally, and there is a lot of interest in Kindles, Nooks and other readers. Small is better when you travel, and books are heavy. Happy new year!

    • Lainey says:

      That book (Decision Points?) about ex-President Bush is next on my list! 🙂

  36. Lainey says:

    Ah… this post regarding books caught my attention. I agree with the previous comment. It’s not often that a post about books get featured on Freshly Pressed.

    Also, regarding reading non-fiction books… wow. I just actually finished a non-fiction book and that made me change my mind about it being boring. 😛 I should read more of it. That said, thanks for listing the books. 🙂

  37. dinnanorris says:

    hai, im dinna from Indonesia. thanks ya for share ^_^

  38. enjoibeing says:

    great job! i have been wanting to make a goal in reading books but ever since the internet i have been reading plenty of online articles/news/blogs etc so that eats up a lot of my time. and i am a movie buff so that is always on before i hit the sack. maybe i should do a book a month? you got me motivated now


  39. This is a good idea! Reading is one of my all time favorite things to do but I’ve never set a goal for myself on how many books to read and I’ve never really kept track of how many I do read. I think in this next year I’ll try to do that. Thanks for the idea! 🙂

  40. xrvolume says:

    Hey! That’s so Awesome & it’s great to see how much you love to read. You Rock!

    your friends, XR VOLUME

  41. Wow. I read a lot of books in 2010, but I haven’t read any of the same books as you! Not one of them.
    Some of them sound interesting, too. Thanks for sharing the list.

  42. On your Amazon Kindle download “The Drawing Lesson, the first in the Trilogy of Remembrance for 99 cents.

  43. Hanna Wilbur says:

    Looking forward to read “the Kindle – the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

  44. Jessica S says:

    Congrats on the milestone! I was very happy to see this post on Freshly Pressed. My husband just bought me an iPad, to help me carry my office on the go. It definitely took some getting used to… Kind of slowed down my 103 wpm typing speed. LOL. The first thing I did was download the Kindle app. It’s not my favorite amongst some of the others, but it’s right near the top. The Kindle store seems to have the most robust options of books though.

  45. I am inspired

    I read a lot but I’ve never thought of setting a goal to read a certain number of books in a year. I’m going to think about it and absolutely copy you possibly set a smaller goal for this year and see how I go.


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  47. klrs09 says:

    Congratulations on both reading 60 books in a year (awesome goal) and on being Freshly Pressed. I’m lucky if I manage a book a month — just not enough time in a day — I aim for 15 minutes of reading time a day — which is better than nothing.

  48. Olivia says:

    Hey, that’s a nice post! I was looking for some tips in books, maybe I’ll read one of your suggestions. Anyway, please write about your experience with Kindle. I’ve always thought it could never be a true reading experience (I like books – the shape, the weight…), but more and more people are saying wonderful things about Kindle, so I’m kind of curious.

    Oh, and good luck with the challenge! I’m doing it myself (postaweek), but my blog is in portuguese.

    Happy 2011!

  49. bookjunkie says:

    this has inspired to think of what books I read in 2010. wonder if I can even remember. books are my fave companion and I am loving your post.

  50. 60 books! I have to admit I am a little jealous. I usually set the goal for myself of a book a week and yet usually fall way short.


  51. Sunflowerdiva says:

    60 books–that’s good! In 2010 I read 56 novels, most of which were really good (although there were a couple I didn’t like). Keep on reading! (Congrats on the Freshly Pressed, by the way!)

  52. wow, that was great 60 books a year. I couldn’t hardly believe I can read that much last year. I just manage to read up to 6 fiction novel and 10 comics. So my totally comics win over my novels…LOL..I really inspired with your work. Hope I can spend more time this year reading all the novels I had bought last year which are still unwrap from the plastic and add more to my collections.

  53. Great post and congrats on the 60 books and being Freshly Pressed!

    I was always an avid reader, but kind of fell off the reading bandwagon over the years. As a full-time editor, after reading all day at work and correcting writer’s shoddy sentences and grammar, I didn’t feel much like reading when I got home at the end of the day.

    However, now that I’ve embraced my career as a writer instead of an editor, I feel much more drawn to reading again. And I find that the more I read, the better I write. Reading other people’s work inspires me in a strange way.

    Thanks for the reading list, some interesting picks there.

    I too have just joined the eReader world thanks to Father Christmas (or my mother-in-law, whichever you prefer) with a Kobo (Canadian version of the Kindle).

    As a diehard reader who loves the feel of a book in her hands, I was reluctant to like my new toy. But so far, I have to say I’m nothing but impressed — but I look forward to your Kindle review as you are clearly a true reader and booklover.

    Drive on,
    – M.

    • In the US, the Kobo is the Borders e-Reader. I thought it was amusing that it is an anagram of book – clever. I can understand not reading much after reading bad writing all day. As a child, I was a spelling bee champ, and nothing irritates me more than seeing a misspelling in print. My other pet-peeve is unnecessary (or inexplicable) quotes, like the sign at a gas station on the way to beach in N.C. – “clean” restrooms. What exactly do those quotes mean? Is the restroom not really clean, or did someone once say it was clean, or what? 🙂

  54. Chris,

    Enjoyed reading this post. Judging by your list I think you would enjoy reading The Imperial Cruise if you have not done so already. I found it fascinating.

    By the way, my small publishing company just published a new novel (murder mystery) called The Growing Season, by David Hallman. You can learn more about it on Amazon or by visiting our website….http://fivepointspress.com.

    Please email me if you would like for me to send you a free copy to add to your 2011 list! It is a quick read and quite entertaining.

    Also your readers can contact me at cmartin@fivepointspress.com to receive a discount on purchasing the book. I’ll even enter them in a drawing for a brand new (3G + WiFi) Kindle since there has been so much discussion about e-readers here.

    Feel free to post this contest in one of your one-per-day blog posts! Cheers!

    Best Regards,

  55. ridleymocki says:

    I’m detecting a war theme maybe?

    • Actually, no. Krakauer’s book just interested me because I loved Into the Wild, and his other books. Agent ZigZag is a WWII book, a fascinating spy story of a Brit who was double-agent, supplying secrets (and disinformation) to the Germans, and gathering information for the Allies. But many of the rest were just general science or history. For some reason, I’m gravitating towards the late eighteen hundreds. Simon Winchester is next on my list.

  56. M. Howalt says:

    Great post! 60 books is more than I ever manage in a year, so a heartfelt round of applause for that!
    As for graphic novels; I have a friend who wrote a thesis for her master’s degree on graphic novels as literature. – So I think the trasditional “comic book” view is slowly starting to change.

    • Yes, I think the traditional view is changing. In particular, some of the new research on visual thinking is helping to legitimize serious graphic novels. A few years I ago I read a book about comic book hysteria in the 40’s and 50’s called the Ten Cent Plague – definitely a worthwhile read.

  57. Jamie Evans says:

    I’ve decided to accomplish this feat myself completely inspired by this blog post, thanks a lot. So far 1 down 49 to go, it’s a shame I’ve earmarked War and Peace to read next.

  58. Jamie Evans says:

    I’ve decided to accomplish this feat myself completely inspired by this blog post thanks for the idea. So far 1 down 49 to go, it’s a shame I’ve earmarked War and Peace to read next

  59. I got the Kindle for Christmas and I love it already!

  60. Great most i like your bookstyle.

  61. Fred says:

    wow thats a good record! i would love to cross the 10 book mark 😛

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