Reading R Us

library booksWhen I’m not writing, I’m reading (or traveling). In fact, reading seems to have become how I procrastinate writing, but that’s fodder for another post. For now, let’s talk about my reading.

In 2017 I read 116 books, ten more than the 106 of 2016, which was 10 more than the 96 of 2015. That streak will probably change next year, but for this year it meant a lot of time spent wrapped up in books, mostly real, physical, old-style books with a sprinkling of e-books.

As always, books about Abraham Lincoln dominate my reading list. This year I read 31 books on Lincoln, about 27% of my total. And one of them was the book I wrote called Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America. That book came out in late summer and has been selling well in Barnes and Noble stores nationwide.

Other Lincoln books included the second volume of Sidney Blumenthal’s political life of Lincoln called Wrestling With His Angel (see links for book reviews), which was just as good as the first volume that came out last year. Also among Lincoln books was Guy Fraker’s installment in the “Looking for Lincoln in Illinois” series, this one on Fraker’s area of expertise, Lincoln’s time on the 8th Judicial Circuit. I read two books on Lincoln’s interactions with photographer Alexander Gardner: Shooting Lincoln by Nicholas Pistor and The Photographer and the President by Richard S. Lowry. Though they largely covered the same topic, the two books are very different in their emphasis and style. I recommend reading both.  I read many more about Lincoln, both new books and classics.

The majority of books I read were non-fiction: 81 of the 116, about 70% of the total. In addition to Lincoln-related I read non-fiction books on writing (9), biography/memoir (10), travel (6), science (13), and miscellaneous other non-fiction (12). These included What Happened by Hillary Clinton, Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Best Travel Writing – 2010, and The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. Included among the science books was If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face, a wonderful book on science communication by Alan Alda.

Fiction books included some Science Fiction/Fantasy like The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin, Tesla’s Frequency by L. Woodswalker (a wonderful follow up to her earlier Tesla’s Signal), and Curse of the Jenri by real-life rocket scientist Stephanie Barr. I also read Kafka on the Shore, a metaphysical reality (aka, magical realism) book by famed author Haruki Murakami. “Normal” fiction included the surprisingly wonderful The Last Child by John Hart, Eucalyptus by Murray Bail (which I read while in Australia), The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer, and Thunderstruck by Erik Larson.

In an effort to diversify my reading I slogged through Walt Whitman’s saga of a poetry book, Leaves of Grass. I also read one pure humor book, which I found to be completely unfunny. Maybe I’ll read one of the books on Lincoln’s humor next time.

In all I read about 36,000 pages in 2017. I keep track of my reading on Goodreads, so feel free to check out my Goodreads author page where I also have links to my own books.

You can also join my Facebook author page for updates and links to interesting articles.

So how many books do I read in 2018?

[Continue reading about 2018 on Hot White Snow]

David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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[Daily Post]


Reading Time – 2016

library booksI write a lot. But I also read a lot, which all the writing books says is required to be a good writer (and I concur). My book counts have slowly been creeping up, from 84 in 2014 to 96 last year and now to 106 in 2016.

I also wrote a book. Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America is scheduled for release in July 2017.

The breakdown of books read follows my usual pattern. As always, I read a lot about Abraham Lincoln – 26 books this year (last year it was 29). Some were newer books, e.g., Sidney Blumenthal’s A Self-Made Man: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1854 (2016), which is the first of four planned volumes (the second is due out spring 2017). Some were older books, e.g. Lincoln in the Telegraph Office by David Homer Bates (1907). One was a monster: Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Volume 1. [The first of two 1000-page books author Michael Burlingame calls his “Green Monster,” both a reflection of the two massive green-covered volumes and the left field wall in Fenway Park they resemble.]

Other Lincoln books run from the quirky (Abe and Fido, about Lincoln’s dog) to the lawyerly (An Honest Calling) to the dangerous (Villainous Compounds, about chemical weapons in the Civil War).

I have a habit of reading mostly non-fiction, and indeed 72 of the 106 books fell into that broad category. But I also continued picking away at a “100 Books to Read Before You Die” list, all of which are fiction. This year I read another 16 off that list, which gets me to a total of 87. I will try to read 12 of the remaining 13 this year. Why not the 13th? Because it is Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (A Remembrance of Things Past; also known as In Search of Lost Time), which like it’s ungainly title weighs in at a hefty 4211 pages. I’ll likely save one that for next year.

That’s a decision for later. In 2016 the books on that list ranged from classics like The Ambassadors by Henry James to the magic mystery of Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron to the chemically-induced On the Road by Jack Kerouac to the heavy Beloved by Toni Morrison.

Other books include a wide variety of classic and modern fiction plus a range of science, writing, and biographical non-fiction. The only thing missing (as usual) was poetry, which for some reason scares me. Which sounds like a challenge if I ever heard one.

One of the non-fiction books that fits in science and biography was one that I wrote: Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World came out in summer of 2016. Even though I wrote it, I don’t count it as read until the final hardcover book hits the stories (and after I’ve read it at least once or four times).

My reading goal on Goodreads for 2016 was originally set at 50 but I knew that would be adjusted, which I did in May, pushing it up to 75. For 2017 I’ve set the initial goal at 75 but expect to approach 100 again. The determining factors will be how much time I spend writing books this year, along with the length of books read. In 2016 my average book length was 324 pages. I also take a lot of notes on all the Lincoln books read, both for my book review column in The Lincolnian and as research for the Lincoln book I’m writing. That keeps the overall number of books read lower.

I’m not sure if it’s viewable by anyone but me, but here is a link to my official Year in Books on Goodreads. If that doesn’t work, try my Challenge Page.

So far I have finished 0 books in 2017. Time to catch up.

[NOTE: The above is cross-posted from my creative writing/memoir blog, Hot White Snow]

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His next book is on Abraham Lincoln, due out in 2017.

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