December 19, 2011
For Christmas 2010, I received the perfect gift. Perfect because it was something I never would have bought myself — something I not only didn’t want but, in fact, bordered on actively disliking — but ended up adoring: an Amazon Kindle. (A Kindle 3, specifically.)
As long as I can remember, I’ve been a voracious reader, and the Kindle has only made that habit easier. The device inspired me to set out on a moderately aggressive goal for 2011: to read two books per month, in addition to all of the newspapers and blogs and articles and tweets and such I read for work and pleasure on a daily basis.
Many of those books were on my new Kindle, but many were printed books, in all of their paper glory. (I’m a sucker for crusty old second-hand fiction books, in particular.) Thanks to my detailed tracking, I can report on exactly what I read and when throughout the year, which I’m sure you’re itching to review:
1/1 – 1/13: Putting the Public Back in Public Relations – Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge
Perhaps the book hasn’t aged all that well, but by the time I got around to reading this 2-year-old book about the impact of social media, it often felt like a collection of early “new media” consultant cliches. Still, it was an interesting enough read that ultimately laid out an intelligent case for taking a fresh look at how PR practitioners do their jobs.
1/14 – 2/1: Intentions – Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde is already great for a witty quote (my grandmother frequently includes her favorites in greeting cards she sends for my birthday or Christmas), but this collection of not-so-short short stories bored me to tears. I almost gave up on my goal at Book #2.
2/2: Suck On This Year – Denis Leary
To make up for the long slog that was “Intentions,” I needed a change of pace. This super-short book — a collection of Leary’s favorite tweets (of his own) from the preceding year — provided a few laughs. For the 25 minutes it took to read. (Is that cheating the spirit of my goal? Probably.)
2/5 – 3/10: Legacy of Ashes – Tim Weiner
Perhaps the most fascinating book I’ve ever read. An outrageously long and detailed look at the history of the CIA. All of it — from how it came to be through the years George W. Bush was president. Fascinating always, depressing at times — the book doesn’t exactly paint the most flattering picture of our home-team intelligence experts — this was a well spent 35 days.
3/10 – 3/14: Imaginary Jesus – Matt Mikalatos
Turns out, despite the description I remember reading, this book is about a guy’s quest to find actual Jesus. It was funny, thoughtful, and light-hearted — even when it was dealing with serious subject matter. Rather well done, Mikalatos.
3/18 – 3/20: In 50 Years We’ll All Be Chicks – Adam Carolla
Crass, crude and occasionally downright bigoted, Carolla is funny has hell if you’re not thin-skinned. As an avid fan of his popular podcast, I was eager to take a pass at this one. A quick and easy read that actually made me laugh out loud — not an easy task for a book.
4/4 – 4/9: Stupid American History: Tales of Stupidity, Strangeness and Mythconceptions – Leland Gregory
An entertaining collection of interesting bits of trivia about American history. All of which I’ve forgotten by now.
4/15 – 4/23: Unbillable Hours – Ian Graham
Made me want to become a lawyer. And then made me want to not become a lawyer. A true story that reads like fiction, but not in that action-packed crime-thriller sort of way.
4/24 – 5/4: The Maverick Experiment – Drew Berquist
Maybe too many of the novels I read in 2011 were military or spy-themed action stories, but this was the first of that sort on my list and I barely remember it. But I think I liked it.
5/22 – 6/19: The Cluetrain Manifesto by Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls and David Weinberger
Whereas “Putting the Public Back…” seems to have not aged well, this 10-year-old ground-breaker felt just as relevant now as it was when I first made its splash. A bit repetitive at times, but still a great read.
6/19 – 7/14: How to Drink by Victoria Moore
A sophisticated book that contains not just drink recipes but also the author’s well-educated thoughts on when, where, why and how certain drinks work in certain situations. Alcoholic drinks and not, but mostly alcoholic. Did it make me want to drink? Well, I let de… [hiccup] decide.
7/15 – 8/15: The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand
I think there’s a rule against talking about politics around here, but I love — and argue with — Ayn Rand’s books, fiction or otherwise. This collection of philosophical essays was quite an interesting read, unlike…
8/16 – 9/27: On Liberty by John Stuart Mill
…this one, which bored me to tears. I can handle dense, old-school philosophical works, but this one took the fight out of me.
9/28 – 10/13: Untouchable by Scott O’Connor
Depressing as hell, but a compelling story.
10/14 – 10/16: Stick it to the Man by Ronald Lewis
Shallow and rather uninformative, but I guess I’m not sure what I expected.
10/17 – 10/28: Back on Murder by J. Mark Bertrand
Ooh, ooh — crime novel! Very entertaining and less predictable than many of its ilk.
10/28 – 11/6: A World I Never Made by Jim Lepore
Ooh, ooh — another crime novel! More entertaining but more predictable than the last one.
11/6: Anyone Can Die by Jim Lepore
A short companion piece to the previous book. I’m not sure why I doubled up on this author. I guess I wanted a really quick read.
11/7 – 11/22: Creative Work by Willis Harman and John Hormann
A rather academic look at the role businesses can play in changing society for the better. Boring and repetitive up front, the book turns rather fascinating as the authors share case studies of companies who embody the ideas explained in the book. I must say, it was encouraging to spot some similarities between these “healthy”-run companies and my own place of employment.
11/24 – 12/4: The Dogs of Rome by Conor Fitzgerald
Crime novel! Yep, that’s about all I have to say.
12/4 – 12/9: The Deputy by Victor Gischler
Another crime novel! Pure quick-read brain candy. Quite enjoyable. A great, simple work of fiction.
12/10: The Perfect Plan by Ty Hutchinson
A short story more than a book (cheating again? Yep), but another wonderful work of (crime!) fiction.
12/10 – 12/23: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This book won a Pulitzer Prize. It’s had praise of all shapes and sizes heaped upon it, and it’s true, McCarthy is a brilliant artist with a wonderful, distinct style. I enjoyed reading this book in which effectively nothing at all happens — ever, which reminds me of “Old Man and the Sea,” one of my favorite books — but I can’t get over the fact that McCarthy never even began to explain what the hell was going on.
12/23 – 12/30: The Fallen by Mark Terry
Crime! Spies! Military! Novel! I read about eight of this type of book this year, and this was the best of them. Well done, Mark Terry. Well done.