Jake McCrary

Reading in 2017

I typically like to reflect on my previous years reading closer to the beginning of the next year. We are just entering March, so I’ve missed doing that.

Here are links to my previous end-of-year reflections: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.

I’ve continued to keep track of my reading using Goodreads. My profile continues to have the full list of the books I’ve read since 2010. Here is my entire 2017 record.

2017 Goal

My goal entering 2017 was to revisit some past favorites. I started this goal without setting a number, so I’ll just have to trust how I feel about it.

In 2017, I reread Frank Herbert’s Dune and John William’s Stoner. I also read new-to-me books by the authors David Foster Wallace, Haruki Murakami, George Saunders, and Neal Stephenson. I’ve also reread a George Saunders book in the first part of 2018.

I mostly achieved 2017’s goal. If I had reread another book, I’d consider it 100% completed, but I’m going to count reading some favorite authors towards the goal.

2017 Numbers

I read a total of 49 books for a total of 17,853 pages. I also read every issue of Amazon’s Day One weekly periodical1.

The number of five-star books I read this last year was low compared to previous years.

Recommendations

I only gave out seven five-star ratings. Two of the seven were books I reread. Title links are affiliate links to Amazon and the review links are to my review on Goodreads.

Below are more details on some of the above five-star books and some shoutouts for some non-five star books. Looking back over my books, I’d recommend any four-star or higher book without hesitation but am not going to put them all here.

Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler

Lilith’s Brood was one of the last books I read in 2017. It is a three book series published as a single book. It is amazing. This series achieves precisely what I want in a great science fiction book. I highly recommend this book. Reading this book reminded me why I love reading.

A quote from a non-fiction essay by Octavia Butler describes why good science fiction is fantastic.

But still I’m asked, what good is science fiction to Black people? What good is any form of literature to Black people? What good is science fiction’s thinking about the present, the future, and the past? What good is its tendency to warn or to consider alternative ways of thinking and doing? What good is its examination of the possible effects of science and technology, or social organization and political direction? At its best, science fiction stimulates imagination and creativity. It gets reader and writer off the beaten track, off the narrow, narrow footpath of what “everyone” is saying, doing, thinking—whoever “everyone” happens to be this year. And what good is all this to Black people? - Octavia Butler

The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker

Yes, I read a book on writing and think this is one of the top books I read last year. I initially read a Kindle edition from my local library and then immediately bought the hardcover so I can reference it while writing.

The writing is great. The book is humorous. I’d highly recommend to anyone that writes. I should reread this.

Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune is a classic for a reason. It was still great my second time through it. If you haven’t read Dune, you are missing out.

If you read it on a Kindle, I have a custom Kindle dictionary that makes reading it more pleasurable.

Stoner by John Williams

It is still unclear to me why I like this book so much, but I do. The writing is crisp. The story is depressing.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Over the years I’ve started to enjoy reading short story collections. Every story in this collection was great. I devoured this book and then everything else I could find by Ted Chiang.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty

This is a massive book. It probably deserved five-stars. It presents a ton of information to the reader. It is boring. It also made me think about the role of taxes in society and changed my thoughts about them.

If you’ve been putting this off, you can probably skip to the last section and still get a lot from this book.

Here is a review that does a spot on job of describing the book. Here is an Amazon link and my own review.

Bobiverse Series by Dennis Taylor

This is a fun light-hearted science fiction series. It still manages to explore some deep topics. Read the description and if it sounds interesting to you, pick it up.

Stats

Similar to last year, April and September were times when I wasn’t reading a ton.

Chart of reading per month

This year physical books made a comeback. I checked out more physical books from the library this year than in the past.

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|           | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 |
|-----------+------+------+------|
| ebook     |   37 |   56 |   47 |
| hardcover |    7 |    0 |    1 |
| paperback |    5 |    3 |    3 |

My average rating went down a bit.

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| Year | Avg Rating |
|------+------------|
| 2011 |       3.84 |
| 2012 |       3.66 |
| 2013 |       3.55 |
| 2014 |       3.49 |
| 2015 |       3.86 |
| 2016 |       3.85 |
| 2017 |       3.77 |

I read a lot of non-fiction books this year. Only two of them were directly related to software.

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|             | Number of books |
|-------------+-----------------|
| fiction     |              30 |
| non-fiction |              19 |

2018 Goals

There are a few more books on writing that I’ve wanted to read for a while. I’m planning on reading at least one of them this year. I’m also want to read more Octavia Butler.


  1. Unfortunately, this periodical has ended after years of publishing once a week. I’m bummed. I really enjoyed receiving a short story and poem once a week.

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