2017 – A Year in Books

In 1987, I began keeping a list of the title and author of every book I finished reading. I started near the back of a notebook/journal and, in August 1998, I filled the last page. So I went back to the first page of my list and started filling in pages going backwards toward the front of the notebook from there. In 2017, I still have a few more blank pages left before I run into other content, and when I do I’ll have to figure out how to keep going. Sometimes I think about rewriting the whole list in a new blank notebook, and I guess that will ultimately have to be the solution – or at least keep going in a whole new notebook. Anyway, I have a couple of years before I have to decide.

Meanwhile, 2017.

My list of books does not contain the date I finished a particular book. I just have at the top of each page the range of dates. I write the month and year I finished the first book on that page, and when I get to the bottom of the page, add that month and year. So my last three pages are marked “April 16 – February 17,” February 17 – October 17,” and the current partially filled page “October 17 –       .”

Part of the pleasure of the list, for me, is looking at titles and thinking about where/when I read them. I can’t always pinpoint even a month, especially going back a few years. But looking at the 2016-2017 page I know clearly which books were the first I finished in 2017. The first was James, a novel written by my then 10 year old son. It is eight chapters (and consequently eight handwritten pages) long. It tells the story of a runaway slave during the Civil War and my son would really like me to type it up and make it for sale on Amazon. I am so proud and amazed that he finished it and am, frankly, jealous that I never finished writing a novel until high school. He is so far ahead of me in so many ways.

The next book I read (and I promise I’m not going to go over every single one) was Make ‘Em Laugh by Debbie Reynolds. At the time I, along with the rest of the world, was still reeling from the loss of Debbie and her daughter. I had, coincidentally, just finished reading one of Carrie’s books about a month before they died. Sigh. I now cherish even more the autographed photo of Debbie I have stored in a closet somewhere.


When I count them all up, it looks like I read a total of 72 books this year. That includes audiobooks.I was reluctant, for many years, to include audiobooks in my main list. But I eventually started consuming a lot more audiobooks (thanks largely to the wonderful Hoopla app tied to my local library) and in 2016 began listing them just like any other book.

Here are a few of the books I read last year that stick out to me when I read through my list.

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. Very inspirational about creating things and, particularly, about not being afraid to share your process.

Sapiens by Yuval Harari. Fascinating book about how our ability to believe in fictions defines our species.

The Hunter by Richard Stark. Several years ago I read The Score, an excellent thriller about a criminal named Parker. This year I saw audiobooks of the series available on Hoopla and began listening to them from the beginning. They’re relatively short and always enjoyable. I think I’m up to number 11 in the series now. I intersperse a Parker novel here and there amongst the others. I guess I’ve averaged about one a month, probably more since I began them in February or March.

Infinite Tuesday by Michael Nesmith. A sort of memoir by my favorite Monkee. He’s had a fascinating life and I think the audio version is definitely the way to go. I loved hearing him tell his own story.

Dreaming the Beatles by Rob Sheffield. Loved it. I listened to it on audio and had to also go buy the print edition so I could reread sections at my leisure.

South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby. I wrote about this one when I finished it. Terrific. It would make a great setting for a TV series.

Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen. Explains how we got to this surreal moment in history.

Vacationland by John Hodgman. Another one I highly recommend on audio. Hodgman has a great voice anyway, and listening to him tell these stories adds an extra dimension. He’s a charming, funny, and wise person, as well as a great storyteller, and all those qualities come through here.

I look at my list and I keep seeing more and more books I loved. I could go on and on. It’s been a good year of reading for me.

What are your favorite 2017 reads?

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