On the seventh day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe gave to me:
Seven books for reading
6.9 Non Sequiturs
Six All-Star Nods
Five podcasts for listening
Four posts zman meant to write but never did
Three French Hens
Two in-state rivalries
And a dork with a split personal-ity
This is year three of my "seven books for reading" post, so now I've got some big data to evaluate. In 2013, I read approximately twenty-three books. In 2014, I read approximately forty-six books. This year I split the difference and read approximately thirty-three books. It's much easier for me to figure this out these days . . . thanks to T.J.'s gentle encouragement, I've finally learned to use the "labels" feature on Blogger.
It's always hard to choose the seven best, as all the books I finished were pretty damned good . . . that's why I finished them. I'm a finicky reader, and I start more books than I finish. Here are the seven most memorable.
1) Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel (Carl Safina)
The most significant and groundbreaking book on the list. Comprehensive, and a bit of a bear to get through (especially the first two sections, which focus on elephants and wolves) but I promise it will be worth it, and you'll never look at your dog in the same way again.
2) Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art (Carl Hoffman)
The title says it all. Rich kids and cannibals mix like oil and water.
3) Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic (Sam Quinones)
Astounding journalism. America does a lot of drugs. Mexico produces a lot of drugs. God is in the details. The book inspired this song.
4) The Cartel (Don Winslow)
I can't get enough of Don Winslow, and I can't get enough of the Mexican drug trade. Part fact and part fiction, the sequel to The Power of the Dog, and a perfect companion to the previous book.
5) Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty)
The Australian version of Mean Girls . . . except with mean moms.
6) Dancing With the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink (Juliana Barbassa)
An honest and dynamic portrait of Rio . . . if you've seen City of God, you'll love this book.
7) City of Bones (Michael Connelly)
I'm choosing this particular Michael Connelly novel over all the other ones I have read only because it features the La Brea Tar Pits. I've read a number of his Harry Bosch crime procedurals and they're all fantastic (I'm in the middle of Trunk Music right now).
Before my list of all the books I finished, I'll give you something more interesting and less annoying: here are a few of the books I didn't finish . . .
1) Walter R. Borneman's 1812: The War That Forged a Nation
I really wanted to finish this book and become an expert on the War of 1812, but I couldn't read more than two paragraphs in a row before falling into a very deep sleep.
2) The Witches: Salem, 1692 (Stacy Schiff)
I was really excited to read this book, and I've never been so disappointed. After a beautifully written start, about how alienated and lonesome the Puritans were, strangers in a strange land, living in small dark smoky houses, describing events as if they were on a "low grade acid trip," this book devolves into fragmented declarative sentences of historical minutia, with no overarching structure or theme. I think Schiff's research possessed her soul and destroyed it.
3) Purity (Jonathan Franzen)
Another one I was excited about, but I'll never read Jonathan Franzen again. His characters are wooden, repetitive and despicable, and while he writes great sentences, I'm not sure he knows shit about human nature. I'd rather spend my time reading well-researched non-fiction.
4) Sy Montgomery's book The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness
Well-written and fascinating, but just too much octopus.
Here's the list of the books I finished in 2015:
Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art (Carl Hoffman)
Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty)
The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2014 Edition)
The Happiest People in the World (Brock Clark)
Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone) (Elizabeth Green)
The Fifth Witness (Michael Connelly)
City of Bones (Michael Connelly)
The Drop (Michael Connelly)
The Black Ice (Michael Connelly)
The Concrete Blonde (Michael Connelly)
The Last Coyote (Michael Connelly)
Skeleton Road (Val McDermid)
Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story (Jim Holt)
When to Rob a Bank and 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-intentioned Rants (Levitt and Dubner)
The Husband's Secret (Liane Moriarty)
Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic (Sam Quinones)
How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where and Why It Happens (Benedict Carey)
The Next Species: The Future of Evolution in the Aftermath of Man (Michael Tennesen)
The Son (Jo Nesbo)
The Cartel (Don Winslow)
What Alice Forgot (Liane Moriarty)
Breakfast of Champions (Kurt Vonnegut)
Joyland (Stephen King)
Tell No One (Harlan Coben)
Dancing With the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink (Juliana Barbassa)
Finders Keepers (Stephen King)
The Hand That Feeds You (Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment)
Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (Rick Perlstein)
The Captive Condition (Kevin P. Keating)
Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel (Carl Safina)
The Dick Gibson Show (Stanley Elkin)
A Doll's House (Henrik Ibsen)
Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No one Has the Time (Brigid Schulte)