This year was a good one for books. I originally set 2012’s goal to 30. I thought with a new baby on the way I wouldn’t have as much time for reading. On the contrary, there was lots of manual labour giving me more time to listen to audiobooks. Since I didn’t read any more George RR Martin books I was able to hit 30 books quite quickly. I upped my goal to 40 by the end of the first quarter of the year. Thanks to my information diet in September I cut way back on my podcast listening and other media consumption, allowing me to read even more. In total I read 51 books, though a few of those could be considered mere essays or pamphlets.
Looking back I see a few over-arching themes in my reading.
Of course there were the typical books about startups, the web, design and other work related things. Design is a Job was the standout. Cosmology is another of my common themes, though this year I read more about the politics involved (understandable considering my new side project Above Orbit). Classical sci-fi became an interest when I read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World culminating in my reading of Orwell’s 1984 for the first time. What an amazing book! I think this tied in well with my other theme of the year: thinking. Prodded by the contrarian biographer of George Orwell — Christopher Hitchens — and inspired by the pamphleteering of Steven Berlin Johnson, I tried to think deeper upon what I was reading.
The three books that influenced me most in 2012 are:
- The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption by Clay A. Johnson
- Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City by Brad Feld
- Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
The first made me make time to think about the things important to me; the second made me consider improving my community; and the third made me consider improving my intellectual self.
A little on the “how” and next year
I often speak about how much I enjoy audiobooks. Compared to last year the ratio of read to listened to books became a bit more narrow:
- 2010 → 22 of 32 = 69% audio
- 2011 → 23 of 30 = 77% audio
- 2012 → 38 of 51 = 75% audio
(NOTE: Both Brave New World and Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From I read and listened simultaneously in Audible and Kindle formats.)
Next year I will attempt to push audiobooks downwards to the 50% mark. I will focus on reading different books, deeper (something I want to discuss in a different post). Paper remains my bane, but the Kindle will serve me well as the ability to annotate without limit helps me to return to specific passages and notes, allowing me to write more extended reviews, something that I have been doing more of since my information diet. I think the quantity of books I will read must suffer somewhat, thus I am setting my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal to 40 books.