Thursday, January 5, 2017

My Year of Reading: Every Book I Read in 2016

This Was the Year

This was the year I killed it, reading-wise: 130 books, a new record since I started keeping track of my habits in 2005 (the year I was deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Army, I had loads of free time on my hands, and I read what now looks like a paltry 50 books).

This was the year when I read fewer new books (i.e., those released in the past 12 months) than ones published in other years: 56 vs. 74. Part of that had to do with my commitment to making headway on my Five-Year Reading Plan of the Essentials (though I still have a long way to go on that list), but part of it also had to do with the fact that I occasionally let my fancy go free and footloose through my library, pinballing from one book to the next, no matter what the publication date.

This was the year I re-discovered audiobooks. Rather than listening to Bruno Mars, Electric Light Orchestra, or Sia on my daily commute to and from the Day Job, I opted for and the aural pleasures of Timothy West rolling the prose of Anthony Trollope trippingly off his tongue through The Warden, Barchester Towers, Doctor Thorne and Can You Forgive Her?. Richard Armitage also brought David Copperfield back to life for me on my second time through the classic novel (which now might just be my favorite Dickens of all time, nudging Dombey and Son from the top of the list).

This was the year of Anthony Trollope. When I go all in, I go really deep.

This was the year I got a library card. After being appointed to the Butte-Silver Bow Public Library Board earlier this year, I realized—with a bucketload of chagrin—that I had rarely darkened the doorway of our beautiful 122-year-old library here in Butte, Montana (and never to check out a book—gasp!). I quickly corrected the error of my ways by taking out a book by Lee Child.

This was the year of Lee Child. For years, family friend Marilyn has politely badgered me to read the bestselling author. “I think you’ll really like him,” she says every time she sees me. I mean every frickin' time, without fail. Finally, caving in and attempting to silence Marilyn’s hectoring once and for all, I checked out a copy of A Wanted Man from the library. Within twenty pages, I was convinced Marilyn was the smartest person on the planet. Not only did I “really like” Child, I loved him. I immediately started binging on Jack Reacher. He turned out to be the Lay’s potato chip of action heroes. At our Christmas party a few weeks ago, I pulled Marilyn aside and told her of my new-found love for all things Lee Child. “Great!” she said. “Now, let’s talk about David Baldacci...”

This was the year I read a book about a horrific plane crash (Fireball) while I was flying cross-country from Montana to Georgia. I survived my flight; Carole Lombard, unfortunately, did not walk away from hers.

This was the year I should have revived The Biography Project here at the blog since I read books about The Lives of Others (author Anthony Trollope, baseball legend Ted Williams, film actress Carole Lombard, and author Sinclair Lewis—the latter which I haven’t completely finished, so I’m carrying it over to my 2017 book log).

This was the year of Sinclair Lewis. I originally read Main Street as part of my Five-Year Plan, but enjoyed it so much, I moved on to several other time-tested classics by the Midwestern satirist. I binged him hard. Like Lee Child hard, like Anthony Trollope levels of intensity. (Come to think of it, this was the Year of Binge.) I’m not through with Lewis yet. I plan to read at least two more of his before this year is out: It Can’t Happen Here (because, sadly, it did, it did) and Dodsworth.

This was the year I was surprised by how bad some books could be, given their popularity and the bestselling reputation of the author (the children’s classic The Black Stallion and Alan Furst’s A Hero of France to name just two), but I was also pleasantly surprised by how truly great some relatively-unheralded titles turned out to be (Searching for John Hughes; Not All Fires Burn the Same; Wilderness; and every book by Nickolas Butler, which I gobbled down in quick succession—by the way, The Hearts of Men, which comes out this March, is the best of them all). I was also left feeling flatlined by books I expected to love but only liked (The Sisters Brothers, Zero K, Then We Came to the End, I’m Thinking of Ending Things).

This was the year my wife, feeling like a “book widow,” sighed in exasperation, “You know, you’ll never be able to read ALL THE BOOKS.”

This was the year I turned to her and replied, “Maybe not, but I’m gonna try.”

Crunching the Numbers

Sure, I read a lot of poetry books which typically clock in at less than 100 pages. And, yes, I read quite a few stand-alone novellas (mostly from the fabulous Ploughshares Solo series) that were often less than 50 pages. But for every whisper-thin poetry chapbook or novella, there were books the size of small Pacific islands (I’m looking at you, Mr. Anthony Trollope Novel!). The proof in my book pudding comes when I crunch the numbers to determine the average page count (yes, I note the number of pages in my book log—don’t you?). In 2016, I read a total of 32,584 pages (not counting the 606 pages in the Sinclair Lewis biography, which I’m rolling over into the 2017 book log). That puts me at an average page count of 251, lower than last year’s average of 304 (note to my 2017 self: fewer novellas, more Trollope). But nearly 33,000 pages still feels like a whole helluva lot. I mean, I could never eat 33,000 Oreos in one year no matter how hard I tried.

More stuff which is possibly interesting only to me:
  • The shortest book was Confession (24 pages) by Bill Roorbach, the longest was David Copperfield (877 pages) by Charles Dickens
  • 44 of the 130 were e-books
  • 5 were audiobooks
  • 56 were published in 2016, 3 were advance copies destined to be released in 2017 or beyond, and the rest were from prior years
  • 89 were written by men, 37 by women, 4 were a mix of both (anthologies or collaborations), and 0 were written by cats
And now, without further ado, I give you...


Mrs. McGinty’s Dead by Agatha Christie
Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins
Escape and Reverse by Chelsey Johnson
Confession by Bill Roorbach
Over on the Dry Side by Louis L’Amour
The Revenant by Michael Punke
Wilderness by Lance Weller
Up From the Blue by Susan Henderson
The Detroit Frankfurt Discussion Group by Douglas Trevor
All I Want Is What You’ve Got by Glen Chamberlain
This is What I Want by Craig Lancaster
The House on the Cliff by Franklin W. Dixon
Selected Poems by Theodore Roethke
A Walk in the Sun by Harry Brown
Dog Run Moon by Callan Wink
The Darkening Trapeze by Larry Levis
Hollywood and the Holocaust by Henry Gonshak
Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
The Other Felix by Keir Graff
Zero K by Don DeLillo
Galaxie Wagon by Darnell Arnoult
Tin House #66
Building Stories by Chris Ware
Look by Solmaz Sharif
Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
A Wanted Man by Lee Child
By the Iowa Sea by Joe Blair
Make Me by Lee Child
Dead Man’s Float by Jim Harrison
Daredevils by Shawn Vestal
Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison
Men Be Either Or, But Never Enough by Andria Nacina Cole
Killing Floor by Lee Child
Cordoba Skies by Federico Falco
Unquiet Things by James Davis May
Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me by Andy Martin
The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
The Virginity of Famous Men by Christine Sneed
Little Known Facts by Christine Sneed
One Summer by Bill Bryson
Battle Rattle by Brandon Davis Jennings
Poems: New and Selected by Ron Rash
Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
Into the Sun by Deni Ellis Bechard
Mississippi Noir edited by Tom Franklin
They Could Live With Themselves by Jodi Paloni
Still Come Home by Katey Schultz
56 Counties by Russell Rowland
The Warden by Anthony Trollope
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
The Soul in Paraphrase by Robert Boswell
Beach Plum Jam by Patricia Buddenhagen
The Art of Departure by Craig Lancaster
They Were Strong and Good by Robert Lawson
McWhinney’s Jaunt by Robert Lawson
Canoe Country by Florence Page Jaques
Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
Sketchy Stories by Kerby Rosanes
The Echoing Green: Poems of Fields, Meadows, and Grasses edited by Cecily Parks
Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith
ShallCross by C. D. Wright
I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
Liar’s Code by Rich Chiappone
Beneath the Bonfire by Nickolas Butler
The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler
The Walking Dead #1 by Robert Kirkman
Classic Penguin: Cover to Cover by Paul Buckley
There Now by Eamon Grennan
Bestiary by Donika Kelly
Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
Exceptional Mountains by O. Alan Weltzien
Glimmer Train Stories #96 Spring/Summer 2016 (with a story by Yours Truly)
Melancholy Accidents by Peter Manseau
Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
Closer All the Time by Jim Nichols
99 Poems by Dana Gioia
Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond
Nancy’s Mysterious Letter by Carolyn Keene
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams
The State We’re In by Ann Beattie
Splitting an Order by Ted Kooser
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
The Good Soldiers by David Finkel
Footing Slow: A Walk with Keats by Eli Payne Mandel
Trending Into Maine by Kenneth Roberts
The Pugilist at Rest by Thom Jones
Koppargruva by Hugh Coyle
Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
Landscape with Headless Mama by Jennifer Givhan
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
The Iliad by Homer (Robert Fagels, translator)
A Hero of France by Alan Furst
Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen
Anthony Trollope by Victoria Glendinning
Not All Fires Burn the Same by Francine Witte
Night School by Lee Child
Dr. Wortle’s School by Anthony Trollope
The Door That Always Opens by Julie Funderburk
The Black Echo by Michael Connelly
Ninety-Nine Stories of God by Joy Williams
Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope
The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri
Snowflake by Paul Gallico
Miracle in the Wilderness by Paul Gallico
Afterward by Edith Wharton
One Who Saw by A. M. Burrage
The Crown Derby Plate by Marjorie Bowen
The Diary of Mr. Poynter by M. R. James
The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories by P. D. James
Waterlines by Alison Pelegrin
The Signalman by Charles Dickens
Christmas Days by Jeanette Winterson
Wintering by Peter Geye
The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams by Ben Bradlee Jr.


  1. I hope the Bill Bryson one was an audiobook. He reads his own books with great enthusiasm.

    1. I read "One Summer" on my Kindle, usually while walking/running on my treadmill. While this Bryson wasn't necessarily a laugh-out-loud one like his others, I thought it was terrific (and learned a lot about one particular year in our American history). I can see how a Bryson audiobook could be hazardous to my driving ("But officer, I couldn't see where I was going--I had tears in my eyes).

  2. Thanks for sharing, David,. Sounds like a great year. I also count the pages! I almost hit 25,000 this year. I have similar stats, but in charts and pies. Come this way if you are interested or just curious. And you will see there also a link to my favorites by categories:
    Happy year of reading 2017!

    1. Emma, what a great list(s) you have! I love those bar graphs and pie charts, as well as the way you break down into categories like nationalities, genre, etc. Most impressive!