“Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

~ William Saroyan, Pulitzer Prize author

(NB: Please feel free to skip this rather long intro to get to the lists at the end)
To be a reader is to live multiple lives. Perhaps I am greedy, but I seek to pack as many imaginary lives as possible into this single mortal one—because these 100 or so (if I am lucky) years are all I have coming to me. We can spend time hoping for more, or we can try with every cell to make the most of the days we’ve got. I must have words to be whole, just as I must have the stride of my legs and the morning cleansing of my lungs.

Last July I set a goal to read 60 books in a year, realizing how much my intake of text had dwindled in the bustle of motherhood, homeschooling, and time mismanagement. From the very time I can remember, I had books in my hands. In my crib! When I could first write, I scribbled out stories: the first was all dialogue and had a character named from one of my parents’ albums, Sammy Davis Jr.

In Powell’s City of Books last July 2014, armed with a journal and on a solitary wander while Bill watched our children, I saw the stacks and stacks and stacks of books before me as confirmation that I had lost some touch (if not all) with the vital life of the mind. It wasn’t that I had ever stopped reading, or that I suddenly no longer had interest in philosophy or current events; I just realized that I hadn’t been progressing or evolving intellectually in ways I once had. I had done something proactive about the health of my body, but what about the health of the intellect? The health of the curious, learning mind?

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Last year, in the process of reassessing myself and making new goals, determined to reinvigorate the life of the mind

Bill offered me a solitary wander this year last week when we were in Portland. We really didn’t have the time, though, and as we sat in the coffeeshop, I realized: I don’t need a solitary wander through Powell’s this year. I didn’t need to find myself; I had done that last year. (As it was, I ended up with two hours of alone time to browse while my family took in the children’s section at length). The realization stunned me. Instead, I saw book after book that has become a part of me this year. If last year I entered Powell’s with a certain wistful wishing, this year I entered as myself, as I have always been: an engaged and voracious reader.

As it turned out, I finished 82 books this year, 22 books over my target and well over a one-per-week average. Where has the time come from? I’ve axed TV for myself altogether (except any I might happen to view with the kids); I rarely watch movies. I do read quickly once focused on a text. I have been known to (tsk tsk) shirk sleep now and then. Although I keep a private journal, I tend not to blog as much, and generally, have tried to limit my online time much more. I try to sneak in reading whenever I can. While I know people who can polish off far more than 82 books in a year, it represents a dramatic increase for me.

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So, what were they? First, the long Master List… (More specific lists will follow).

MASTER LIST

1. Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, collected and edited by Leonard S. Marcus (letters, 1998)

2. The Transhumanist Wager by Zoltan Istvan (sci fi novel, 2013)

3. Jane Austen, Game Theorist by Michael Suk-Young Chwe (nonfiction, philosophy, economics 2013)

4. Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi (nonfiction, memoir 2011)

5. The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman (nonfiction, biography 1998)

6. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Pirsig (1974, philosophical nonfiction)

7. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou, art by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna (2009, graphic novel, philosophy, math).

8. Mindset by Carol Dweck (2006, nonfiction, psychology)

9. Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers: Prophet of the Computer Age by Betty O’Toole (1998, nonfiction, biography, collection of letters

10. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (fiction, 1964)

11. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Laura Hillenbrand, 2010)

12. Guide to Distance Running (ed. Bob Anderson and Joe Henderson, 1971)

13. Pre! (Tom Jordan, 1977)

14. Why We Run: a Natural History (Bern Heinrich, 2001)

15. The Science of Running: How to Find Your Limit and Train to Maximize Your Performance (Steve Magness, 2014)

16. Anti-Intellectualism and the Education of High Ability Learners (Thomas S. Hays, 2010, nonfiction, education, history)

17. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (Elizabeth Kolbert, 2014, nonfiction, science, environmentalism)

18. The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway, 1952, fiction, novella)

19. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness (Susannah Cahalan, 2012, nonfiction, autobiography)

20. The Meaning of Human Existence (Edward O. Wilson, 2014, nonfiction, science)

21. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery, 1943, fiction, parable)

22. Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials the Shape Our Man-Made World (Mark Miodownik, 2014, nonfiction, science)

23. The Art of Living (Epictetus, philosophical text, AD 55-135)

24. This Will Make You Smarter (ed. John Brockman, essays, science 2011)

25. The Giver (Lois Lowry, 1993, science fiction, dystopian)

26. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (Walter Isaacson, 2014, history)

27. Generosity: An Enhancement (Richard Powers, 2009, fiction)

28. The Opposite of Loneliness (Marina Keegan, 2014, essays and short stories)

29. What Are You Optimistic About?: Today’s Leading Thinkers on Why Things are Good and Getting Better (ed. John Brockman, 2007, science essays, philosophy)

30. Seneca: Letters from a Stoic and Biography (Doma translation, epistle, philosophy)

31. Bedknob and Broomstick (Mary Norton, 1943-1945, fiction)

32. Orphans of the Sky (Robert Heinlein, science fiction, 1963, short stories published separately as “Universe” and “Common Sense” in 1941)

33. The World of Null-A by A.E. Van Vogt (science fiction, 1948)

34. I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey through the Science of Sound and Language by Lyndia Denworth (nonfiction, 2014)

35. Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon (nonfiction, 2012)

36. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (fiction, 1843)

37. The Book of Nice: A Nice Book About Nice Things for Nice People by Josh Chetwynd (nonfiction, compilation, history, trivia, 2013)

38. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (nonfiction, historical, 2014)

39. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandburg (nonfiction, 2013)

40. George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War by Thomas B. Allen (nonfiction, history, 2004)

41. War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (science fiction, 1898)

42. March of the Microbes: Sighting the Unseen by John Ingraham (science, nonfiction, 2010)

43. Genie by Richard Powers (fiction, short story, 2012)

44. Abel’s Island by William Steig (fiction, 1976)

45. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir by Haruki Murakami (nonfiction, 2008)

46. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (English translation published 2011, surrealist science fiction)

47. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (dystopian fiction, 2005)

48. When Plague Strikes: the Black Death, Smallpox, AIDS by James Cross Giblin (nonfiction, history of science, 1995)

49. Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children’s Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon Along the Way by Leonard Marcus (nonfiction, history of publishing, 2007)

50. Orfeo by Richard Powers (fiction, 2014)

51. Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender-Nonconforming Children by Diane Ehrensaft, PhD (nonfiction, psychology, 2011)

52. Underground by Haruki Murakami (nonfiction, history, English translation 2000)

53. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (fiction, 2015)

54.This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin (science, nonfiction, 2006)

55. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks (psychology, nonfiction, 2007).

56. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (science fiction, 1962)

57. Stuart Little by E.B. White (fiction, 1945)

58. Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman (science fiction, 2013)

59. Odd the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman (fiction, mythology, 2008)

60. Best Easy Day Hikes: Eugene, Oregon, pub. by Falcon Guides (nonfiction, instructional, 2011)

61. This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories That Are Blocking Progress, ed. John Brockman (nonfiction, science, essay collection, 2015)

62. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury (science fiction, short stories, 1951)

63. Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish by John Hargrove with Howard Chua-Eoan (March 2015, nonfiction)

64. Tangled Webs: How False Statements are Undermining America from Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff by James B. Stewart (2011, nonfiction, social science)

65. A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss (2012, nonfiction science/physics, math)

66. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (March 2015, nonfiction, history, military history)

67. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck (1945, fiction)

68. Homer Price by Robert McCloskey (fiction, 1943)

69. Should We Eat Meat?: Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory (Vaclav Smil, nonfiction, 2013)

70. Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman, science, neuroscience, psychology, nonfiction, 2013)

71. Inferno (Dan Brown, fiction, 2013)

72. Holes (Louis Sachar, fiction, 1998)

73. Meb for Mortals: How to Run, Think, and Eat Like a Champion Marathoner (Meb Keflezighi, nonfiction, 2015)

74. Waiting (Frank M. Robinson, science fiction, 1999)

75. The One and Only Ivan (Katherine Applegate, fiction, 2013 Newberry Medal)

76. A Hitchcock Reader (ed. Marshall Deutelbaum and Leland Poague, 1986)

77. Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman (short stories, February 1, 2015)

78. How to Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overprinting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims (education, sociology, June 9, 2015)

79. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (novel, sci fi, released May 19, 2015)

80. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (sci fi, dystopian, novel, August 2011)

81. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (sci fi, dystopian, January 2014)

82. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (novel, sci fi 2007)

Here are links to find all of my write-ups and reviews about these books:

July 2014 books

August 2014 books

September 2014 books

October 2014 books 

November 2014 books 

December 2014/January 2015 books 

February 2015 books 

March 2015 books 

April 2015 books 

May 2015 books

June 2015 books

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Some numbers: 47 of these books are nonfiction. It surprises me that it is that few, as most of what I prefer these days tends to be nonfiction. However, I read primarily fiction with Katie and Eric, and I love a good sci fi dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel (my favorite fiction genre).

15 of these are books I read with my children. So we did a little over one book a month together, beyond our school books and all the other children’s books we read all the time.

8 of these books were re-reads for me.

Okay, now to have fun sorting them into other lists!

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TOP FAVORITES

1. Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom  (The book that started it all, the book I picked out that day on my Portland wander. The voice of Nordstrom reminds me STRONGLY of one of my English teachers and then colleagues, and not whom many of you might expect….)

2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (Thank you DAVE DEMPSTER for this recommendation. One of my favorites of all time).

3. Generosity: An Enhancement (Richard Powers is a favorite author of mine, and this might be my favorite work of his)

4. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir  (Thank you STEVE CHARIYASATIT for introducing me to Murakami)

5. 1Q84 (Another Murakami, another favorite author of mine)

6. Holes 

7. Cannery Row (My favorite reading experience of the year, as well, as documented in the blog for April’s reading).

8. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

9. Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials the Shape Our Man-Made World 

10. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

11. Seveneves

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THESE WILL MAKE YOU GROW AS A MODERN THINKER (Books that will help you contribute to relevant modern issues)
1. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (Thank you CHET MCGAUGH)

2.Thinking, Fast and Slow (Thank you BILL MCGAUGH)

3. Should We Eat Meat?: Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory (Dry, but gotta do it)

4. Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish

5. Mindset 

6. any of the John Brockman collections of essays from today’s leading scientists

7. How to Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overprinting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success

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GOOD FUN LEARNING

1. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

2. Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials the Shape Our Man-Made World 

3. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

4. This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession

5. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

6. The Man Who Loved Only Numbers 

7. Why We Run: a Natural History

8. Underground

9. George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War

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MANDATORY IF I RAN THE WORLD

1. Thinking, Fast and Slow

2. Should We Eat Meat?: Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory

3. When Plague Strikes: the Black Death, Smallpox, AIDS

4. A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing

5. Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish

6. Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender-Nonconforming Children

7. The Meaning of Human Existence

8. Mindset

9. The Transhumanist Wager (Thank you, BILL MCGAUGH)

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BEST FUN WITH KIDDOS

1. The Mysterious Benedict Society

2. Holes 

3. Fortunately, the Milk

4. Bedknob and Broomstick

5. Homer Price 

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FUN FICTION PAGE TURNERS

1. The Girl on the Train

2. Never Let Me Go (Thank you LORRAINE RYBA)

3. Ready Player One (Thank you DAN CAMP)

4. Inferno

5. Seveneves

6. Waiting (Thank you BILL MCGAUGH)

7. The Girl With All the Gifts

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BEST FOR BOOK CLUB

1. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

2. Orfeo 

3. Seveneves

4. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

5. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

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BEST OF SCIENCE

1.The Meaning of Human Existence

2. I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey through the Science of Sound and Language (Thank you REBECCA MATICS)

3. A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing

4. Thinking, Fast and Slow

5. March of the Microbes: Sighting the Unseen

6. Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials the Shape Our Man-Made World

7. The Science of Running: How to Find Your Limit and Train to Maximize Your Performance

8. all of the Brockman collections

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Despite, and perhaps because of, these 82 books, there are so many more in my virtual stack right now. My friend Beth C. has recently given some suggestions that I am hoping to follow through with in either July or August (Euphoria). Of course we have the new Harper Lee coming out, and it is all I can do to wait patiently—as I know is the case for many of my friends. My friend Melissa has been recommending a beautiful book that takes place in a lighthouse; that’s in my stack. It’s one of her favorites, and that alone makes me want to read it. My friend Amber, who is also a passionate reader, has sent lists of her own and they all look good! Friends Rosa and Dan have ardently praised The Martian, and I am thinking of pausing Astoria (current nonfiction read) in order to enjoy it. I am working my way through books in my bookshelf as well, that I’ve meant to read. You know the ones, right? I need to read the Elon Musk bio just to keep current with one of our leading innovators; Bill’s got a whole library of science and neuroscience and stats/probability on our Kindle. I have fingered The Goldfinch many times, and I have some Murakami waiting for me, as well.

For the coming year, I am going to continue to set the target at 5/month. No sense in stressing myself out by setting it higher. I am intending to augment my training in preparation for Long Beach and next year’s slew of races, too, and Eric is officially starting Kinder so I will have two students and all their lessons very much on deck, and heck, there’s only so much time in a day. If I can read in the coming year on the order of this year, that should be just fine: I always had a book going and made steady progress.

Returning to “voracious reader” status was a huge personal goal this year, as big for me personally as breaking 40:00 for the 10K at Butte to Butte (which I did, post to come). I’ve been working on it all year. We must always fight for ourselves; it is easy, perhaps, to be swept away sometimes and not remember all that we are. Keeping in touch with who we were as children is vitally important, I think, to our happiness. Whatever we’re passionate about we must protect. Our passions—and how we spend our time—determine who we are.

HAPPY READING TO ALL!

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