Here you go: the books I read in 2013. Not just my favorites, but all of them — a nice soul-baringly comprehensive good-bad-and-ugly list.
True, this is a year overdue; I hope you don’t mind. I found it helpful to compile, partly to give me a point of comparison for my 2014 reading list (which I’ll post shortly), and also because books and lists are inherently fun.
First, the list itself; scroll below for accompanying bits of reflection.
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative(Austin Kleon) — 4/5
Mapping Manhattan: A Love (And Sometimes Hate) Story in Maps by 75 New Yorkers (Becky Cooper) — 4/5
What Do You Care What Other People Think? Further Adventures of a Curious Character (Richard P. Feynman) — 5/5
How the Universe Got Its Spots: Diary of a Finite Time in a Finite Space(Janna Levin) — 4/5
The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Jane Jacobs) — 5/5
A Practical Handbook for the Actor (Melissa Bruder) — 3/5
Pataphysical Essays (René Daumal) — 3/5
Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays (Joan Didion) — 4/5
The Art of the Idea: And How It Can Change Your Life (John Hunt) — 4/5
Cosmicomics (Italo Calvino) — 5/5
How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling (Frank Bettger) — 4/5
The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman (Richard P. Feynman) — 5/5
Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software(Steven Johnson) — 5/5
A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change (Thomas Douglas) — 5/5
Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature (Warren Motte) — 5/5
Impro (Keith Johnstone) — 5/5
Breakthrough Rapid Reading (Peter Kump) — 3/5
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (Nassim Nicholas Taleb) — 5/5
White Noise (Don DeLillo) — 5/5
Jesus’ Son: Stories (Denis Johnson) — 4/5
“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” Adventures of a Curious Character(Richard P. Feynman) — 5/5
Concepts of Modern Mathematics (Ian Stewart) — 4/5
On Writing (Jorge Luis Borges) — 4/5
Thinking in Systems: A Primer (Donella H. Meadows) — 5/5
Googled: The End of the World As We Know It (Ken Auletta) — 3/5
The Waterfront Journals (David Wojnarowicz) — 3/5
The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life(Rosamund Stone Zander) — 3/5
Pastoralia (George Saunders) — 3/5
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It (Michael E. Gerber) — 3/5
The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) — 2/5
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Haruki Murakami) — 2/5
The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books (Jeff Martin) — 3/5
Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation (Tom Bissell) — 3/5
You, Inc.: The Art of Selling Yourself (Harry Beckwith) — 3/5
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (James Gleick) — 5/5
To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction (Phillip Lopate) — 5/5
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (Hunter S. Thompson) — 5/5
A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole) — 5/5
The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story (Michael Lewis) — 4/5
Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age (Clay Shirky) — 4/5
The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business (Josh Kaufman) — 4/5
Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing (Neal Stephenson) — 4/5
Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work (Matthew B. Crawford) — 4/5
What Everyone Should Know About Economics And Prosperity (James D. Gwartney) — 4/5
Tinkers (Paul Harding) — 4/5
Down and Out in Paris and London (George Orwell) — 5/5
Cat’s Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut) — 5/5
Mastery (Robert Greene) — 4/5
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot) — 4/5
Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer (Roy Peter Clark) — 4/5
In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays (Anaïs Nin) — 4/5
A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism (Peter Mountford) — 3/5
Summerhill School: A New View of Childhood (A. S. Neill) — 4/5
Transfer of Qualities (Martha Ronk) — 4/5
Disclaimer: this list is somewhat rough and unordered — I didn’t start tracking in Goodreads until later in the year, so these are all the books scrounged up and held in recent memory at the time, but there are a few I possibly read in 2012.
- Total books read in 2013: 56
- Fiction: 10
- Nonfiction: 45
- Poetry/Other: 1
- Average rating: 4.07/5
2 Feynman classics, Clock of the Long Now, Death and Life of Great American Cities, Mindstorms, Cosmicomics, Impro, A New Culture of Learning, Black Swan, White Noise, Thinking in Systems, The Information, A Confederacy of Dunces, Cat’s Cradle, Summerhill School…around 12–15 total that I’d say I really loved.
Though fiction made up quite a small proportion of my total reading (18%), fiction actually makes up a healthy portion of my favorites (more like 27%) — perhaps evidence I enjoy fiction more than I realize, and should read more of it. One partial explanation: I think it’s easier to identify consensus fiction classics; perhaps it’s harder to predict what nonfiction books I’ll enjoy since the field is so wide and my knowledge relatively shallow. On second thought I’m not sure this holds water, but worth considering…
Pastoralia (despite much praise sung of Saunders, this just didn’t grab me), What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (very little substance), A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism (really flat, no payoff), and The Alchemist (same, except more saccharine than sophomore). My takeaway here is that I find it easier to strongly dislike novels than nonfiction! I suppose that by reading bad nonfiction one suffers boredom, but when reading bad fiction one feels hollowed out, lied to.
Death and Life of Great American Cities, Mindstorms, Oulipo, Black Swan, Concepts of Modern Mathematics, Thinking in Systems, The Information — I can identify somewhere on the order of a half-dozen books that pleasantly exercised my brain!
Pataphysical Essays (weirder and more nonsensical than expected), Impro (remarkably cool find I’d never heard of before), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (quick, wild, surprisingly fun), and Down and Out in Paris and London (a memoir that’s more engaging than most novels).
Note: Also posted to Medium.