100 Books in 2014: I made it to 94.

I tracked every book I read in 2014, fairly certain I would reach my goal of 100 without too much trouble. I made it to 94.

I tracked every book I read in 2014, fairly certain I would reach my goal of 100 without too much trouble. I made it to 94, which is both galling and inspiring (how much reading will I be able to do this year, now that I’m not planning a wedding in three parts?).

At the end of May I did a midpoint check-in and found that I had already fallen behind. I made an effort to catch up in June and July, but in August I dropped back again. Despite what I consider to be a truly valiant effort in November (yay, vacation reading), I never quite managed to catch up:

2014 Monthly Book Count

November also saw my greatest page count, clocking in at just over 6200 pages. Coincidentally, it was also the month I reread all of Harry Potter.

2014 Monthly Page Count

Fiction and memoir continue to be my favorites genres, though despite my pretensions to “literary fiction” earlier this year, around a fifth of the books I read this year fell into the young adult camp. See: Harry Potter, obviously, though also Charlie N. Holmberg’s wonderfully creative The Paper Magician and The Glass Magician.

2014 Genre

Also despite earlier pretensions: my attempts at reading books by a diverse set of authors failed pretty miserably. While more than half of the authors whose works I read were women, only ten percent were people of color, and eight percent people from the global south.

2014 Author Diversity (Total)

I’m disappointed by this, particularly given the many wonderful recommendations I received after I put out a call for help. Looking back at the reading list I made after that post, I’m realizing I only read half the books on the list.

I guess it’s a good thing, then, that I’m giving this another try in 2015. So far I’m one book in—David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten, which I loved—with Pico Iyer’s Falling off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World on deck. I’m tracking metadata here and a simple list here, in case you’d like to follow along.

100 Books: on deck

I’m thrilled by the amazing recommendations that came in after my call for help in finding books by a diverse range of authors. I thought I’d quickly recap my new and improved reading list (loosely grouped by theme) for those who are interested.

First up is Ron Carlson’s The Hotel Eden, which I’m planning to read tomorrow as part of the 24-Hour Bookclub. If you’re local to Cambridge and want to meet up for an hour or two to drink coffee/tea/a beer and read together, let me know!

Also on the list are a handful of career-related books that have been recommended to me recently by various cool people. These aren’t necessarily hitting the diversity buttons I mentioned in my last post, but I’m excited about them anyway: Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, and Judith Hanson Lasater & Ike Lasater’s What We Say Matters: Practicing Nonviolent Communication.

A couple of other awesome non-fiction books that made it onto the list: Angela Y. Davis’s Women, Race, and Class and Anne Kingston’s The Meaning of Wife: A Provocative Look at Women and Marriage in the Twenty-First Century, which I’m looking forward to picking up at the library this weekend.

A whole slew of memoirs, which are quickly becoming my favorite genre: A Homemade Life and Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage, both by Molly Wizenberg; Leah Vincent’s Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood (opinions on this one are mixed, but it’s a subject area that’s particularly interesting to me); and Jung Chang’s Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China.

And lastly, some wonderfully diverse fiction recommendations: Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, Kenzaburō Ōe’s A Personal Matter, Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North, and Ahdaf Soueif’s The Map of Love.

If any of these sound interesting to you, I’d be delighted to bake cookies and chat about introversion / stir up a pitcher of cocktails and sit on the back porch and discuss modern marriage / email back and forth as we work our way through a 700+-page Pulitzer Prize winner. (I think this is what people mean when they talk about “book clubs,” though my approach is…considerably less formal.) Let me know!

100 Books in 2014: midpoint check-in, call for help

When I overhauled my Life List earlier this year, I decided to make 2014 the year I cross off “read 100 books in 365 days.” I’ve been tracking my books here and on Goodreads, but today I decided to take a closer look at how things stand midway through the year.

This analysis is prompted in part by my friend Kendra, who ran a similar but significantly more ambitious project last year in which she read 5 books a week, meticulously blogged reviews of each one, and tracked the diversity of the authors she was reading (leading to an awesome talk at the Boston Quantified Self meetup which you should watch right now). Taking a cue from her, I created a spreadsheet today to track a couple of different things:

  • Date I finished reading the book (some of these are approximate; if I’ve been reading a lot I tend to add things to Goodreads in batches)
  • Title
  • Author (books with multiple authors have each author listed on a separate line)
  • Author sex
  • Continent the author is “from,” defined loosely as “spent formative childhood/teenage years in”
  • Whether or not the author is a person of color
  • My Goodreads rating of the book (1-5, 5 highest)
  • Genre
  • Page length

Verdict: I’m not doing so great. I need to read just over 8 books a month to make it to 100 by the end of the year, but I’ve only hit that goal once—in January.

book count

I got close in April, probably because the 7 books I read were comparatively short:

page count

I expected that most of what I would read would be fiction (by which I mean “literary fiction,” as opposed to young adult fiction or fantasy novels), but I’m reading a surprising number of memoirs, plus a fair number of other types of books—a shooting script, two books of marriage-related humor, and two cookbooks (which I tend to read cover-to-cover as soon as I bring them home), among other things.


Digging into author diversity is somewhat surprising, though I had the benefit of Kendra’s experience to prepare me—I think of myself as someone who tends to gravitate to novels about other places (see this Ask Metafilter question, where I beg for recommendations for lengthy, place-oriented fiction), and I assumed that the authors I read this year would be diverse at least in continent of origin, if not in sex. Sadly, no:

author diversity

I didn’t enter into this project with any specific goals around diversity, but it’s clear that I’m reading largely books by authors from the global north. (Interestingly, over the course of the year so far I’ve managed to read almost as many female authors as male—just over 42%.)

My reading list right now is even less diverse—a quick scan of my unread Kindle books reveals nine by American or British men and one by an American woman. This is where you come in: I have six months and 70 books to go. What should I be adding to the queue?


Housecleaning, self-incubating (less weird than it sounds), and making things. Here’s to 2014.

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few months about goal-setting, self-incubation, being myself and being bad at things, and finding direction and clarity. Today, I stumbled across Maggie Mason’s blog post on editing your life list and decided it was time to give mine an overhaul.

Taken off: lots of old travel goals that have become less interesting or important over time (do I really need to ride in a dhow off the coast of Zanzibar? There’s a good chance I’d much prefer spending a week on the Pacific Coast Trail instead.), a few conferences I no longer want to attend (ahem), a few older fitness/adventure goals that have since changed (goodbye, obstacle race; hello, ultramarathon).

Updated: liking poached eggs. A couple of years ago, I somehow convinced myself a) to eat one and b) that I liked it, but I’ve never ever wanted to eat one again. I’m leaving this as a successful accomplishment anyway (though I did remove “learn how to make a poached egg,” as it now seems like a fairly pointless personal skill).

Added: a ton of goals related to making things. Since finishing the first version of Wedding Draft last fall for my CS50 final project, I’ve been itching to make more things—to write more (and better!) code, to cook, to blog, to hand-stamp thank you cards, to sew, to make things out of clay. Some of these are things I already do well; some are things I haven’t done since I was a kid. I’m looking forward to working more on these skills this year.

Reviewed: I realized I’ve let some of the goals on my list languish, un-crossed-off, for years, even though I’ve almost definitely achieved them. The problem: I have no proof. To help fix this, I’ve started tracking the books I’ve read this year so that I can finally cross “read 100 books in a year” off the list. So far it’s a few fantasy novels (vacation reading), a couple of more literary novels, and, erm, a wedding planning book because Dan and I got engaged last week. Looking forward to keeping track for the rest of the year, then maybe using the skills I’m hoping to learn over the next few months to make some pretty pictures out of the resulting information about the kinds of things I’m reading.

To sum up: housecleaning, self-incubating (less weird than it sounds), and making things. Here’s to 2014!