Full Nerd: 2017 in Books

I’ve almost always kept a running list of the books I read, but this year I decided to go Full Nerd.

Over the past 13 months, I used Google Sheets to log each book I’ve read; 66 books in total, spread over 384 days.

I tracked titles, authors, author genders, copyright and publish dates, genres, page counts, format, dates started and ended, days between books. Starting at this new data year, I’ll also begin tracking author race, to hold myself accountable to hearing equal voice.

Accountability is one of the main reasons I began tracking this data. For example, based on the names on my bookshelf, it was clear I wasn’t reading enough books by women. And the data don’t lie. It was only through conscious intention this past year that I read the women I did; Rebecca Solnit, Jane Goodall, Janna Levin, Hannah Arendt, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In most cases, their work was also the most urgent and profound. My goal is to keep building up this percentage. Hearing, listening, and understanding more.

I also used a five-star ranking system for the books I read. I usually thinking rankings are bullshit, so I didn’t put much thought into the rationale. If the book affected me or prompted me to think differently, it got more stars. This helped me identify what were my “favorite” books from the past year, and which ones sucked.

Enough context. Let’s get down to the numbers:

Over the 384 days of this data set, I spent more than 80 percent reading:

Here’s where I get into the distribution of author gender. “Multiple” means books authored by various authors, with both men and women credited. Clearly some improvements I can make here:

Though I had some shortcomings for author diversity, the 66 books I read were spread across 18 subject areas. Communications was the largest focus area, with around 15 percent, followed by fiction at 12 percent and politics at 10 percent:

And now, the rankings. One star is bad, five stars is great. As you can see, most books are mediocre and not many are great.

My top-rated books were The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs, for its originality and journalistic dedication; Achieving Our Country by Richard Rorty, for its profundity and prophecy; and What’s the Matter with Kansas? by Frank Thomas, for its relevance.

The full list of books follows below. Want to see the full spreadsheet? Have any recommendations for other data I should track? Books I should read? Let me know at b@benvanloon.com.

HBR’s 10 Must-Reads: On Communication; Multiple
Oracle Bones; Hessler, Peter
Persuasion and Power; Farwell, James
Great Plains; Frazier, Ian
Hope in the Dark; Solnit, Rebecca
Strategic Communications for Nonprofits; Multiple
The Rings of Saturn; Sebald, W.G.
Age of Folly; Lapham, Lewis H.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles; Multiple
Behind the Beautiful Forevers; Boo, Katherine
In the Shadow of Man; Goodall, Jane
Red Notice; Browder, Bill
Make No Law; Lewis, Anthony
The Road Back to You; Multiple
Spoiled Brats; Rich, Simon
What’s the Matter with Kansas?; Frank, Thomas
Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques; Multiple
The Best American Science and Nature Writing: 2016; Multiple
The Year of Living Biblically; Jacobs, A.J.
Black Hole Blues; Levin, Janna
The Audacity of Hops; Acitelli, Tom
The Fall of the US Empire — And Then What?; Galtung, Johan
Why Nations Fail; Multiple
Trust Me, I’m Lying; Holiday, Ryan
When in Rome; Hutchinson, Robert
The Fourth Turning; Multiple
Brave New World; Huxley, Aldous
The Secret Life of Lobsters; Corson, Trevor
The Origins of Totalitarianism; Arendt, Hannah
Antifragile; Taleb, Nassim Nicholas
The Other Air Force; Sienkiewicz, Matt
Insane Clown President; Taibbi, Matt
My Journey at the Nuclear Brink; Perry, William J.
Something New; Wodehouse, P.G.
HBR’s 10 Must-Reads: For New Managers; Multiple
HBR’s 10 Must-Reads: On Managing People; Multiple
Outer Dark; McCarthy, Cormac
Economic Development: What Everyone Needs to Know; Guigale, Marcelo
The Unsettling of America; Berry, Wendell
Organizational Communication; Multiple
Brand Media Strategy; Young, Anthony
Many Lives, Many Masters; Weiss, Brian L.
Assessing Organizational Communication; Multiple
HBR’s 10 Must-Reads: On Change Management; Multiple
Galaxies; Malzberg, Barry
Elbow Room; McPherson, James Alan
The Fran Lebowitz Reader; Lebowitz, Fran
What Are Intellectuals Good For?; Scialabba, George
My Struggle; Knausgaard, Karl Ove
The Caged Virgin; Hirsi Ali, Ayaan
Writing with Intent; Atwood, Margaret
The Last Intellectuals; Jacoby, Russell
A Backpack, a Bear and Eight Crates of Vodka; Golinkin, Lev
It Can’t Happen Here; Lewis, Sinclair
Chicago: City on the Make; Algren, Nelson
The Handmaid’s Tale; Atwood, Margaret
The Confidence Game; Konnikova, Maria
Unlock Congress; Golden, Michael
The Wizard of the Nile; Green, Matthew
Moments of Impact; Multiple
Achieving Our Country; Rorty, Richard
HBR’s 10 Must Reads: On Strategy; Multiple
The Death of the Detective; Smith, Mark
American Pharaoh; Multiple
Bridges of Memory; Black, Timuel D.
Work Like a Spy; Carleson, J.C.