At the beginning of last year, I set myself a relatively arbitrary goal of how much I wanted to read. I then created some artificial constraints as to how I spent my free time, in order to encourage making reading a higher priority. It was a success, and after a couple adjustments to the system of how I do things, and an increase in the goal, I’ve now finished a second year in a similar fashion.

Last year’s goal was to read 24 books, with half being fiction and half being non-fiction. One thing I realized with that method was, because books vary in length (who knew?) it was hard to use book-counts as a sole measurement. For 2019, I decided that I would take the total word count read in 2018, increase it by 10%, and then split it evenly between fiction and nonfiction. This seems to have worked well, and I shall do the same again for 2020, along with another 10% increase.


And now, a summary of what I read this year.

Fiction

Cibola Burn

I started reading The Expanse last year and am still very much enjoying it. It’s a near-future sci-fi storyline that’s very well-told, with realistic issues (futuristic racism, anyone?) and not too much deus ex machina. Highly recommended.

Father Brown

I paced myself throughout the year reading the Father Brown short stories by Chesterton. Being a bit of an older style of writing, they take a bit of getting used to, but if you miss something it’s not the end of the world, since they are short stories. Recommended.

Harry Potter V-VII

I finished reading the Harry Potter series to my wife as our evening cool-down time, and to be completely honest, each book was worse than the preceding one, though the finale was something of a step in the right direction. The first book, which we read in 2018, was okay, but that was the only one I’d recommend. Overall, not recommended.

Prince Caspian, The Silver Chair, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I’ve been reading the Narnia books to my kids casually, and we’ve got one left. I’m enjoying them more, I think, reading them now then when I first read them as a kid. Maybe that’s because the characters and storytelling work well for reading aloud. Recommended.

Station Eleven

I was really enjoying reading this multi-storyline, multi-timeline pre-/during/post-apocalyptic work until about 80% of the way through, and then the story petered out. There wasn’t really a climax or a denouement; it just ended. Still worth the read, though. Recommended.

Eifelheim

I loved this book. Maybe one of my top 10 works of fiction I’ve ever read. It is an alternate-fiction historical drama set in Europe, the time just before the Black Death, when aliens arrive. There’s also a present-day storyline that fills in some of the gaps, from the perspective of researchers trying to figure out what happened. One part about it that was great was that it addressed the fact that newcomers to a new environment with new dangers are susceptible to health problems. Many aliens-on-Earth stories seem to forget that. Highly recommended.

Nonfiction

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

I finally read Peterson’s much-hyped work and, well, I didn’t really like it. It made some good points – 12 of them – but it was too drawn out and got somewhat boring by the end. Not recommended, unless you like his stuff in general.

Dumbing Us Down

This book is a collection of (edited for print) transcripts of talks about the dangers of public schooling and the alternatives, which I read to my wife after we had decided to give homeschooling a try. Recommended to anyone who has kids or might one day.

Economics for Helen

This was suggested by my friend Levi from the Leonine Institute, who is a doctor of economics, as a good “crash course” on how the study of economics work and how to understand his perspective on things. It did a good job of using real-world examples and explaining things in a way someone with no prior knowledge could understand. Highly recommended.

Fides et Ratio

Pope Saint John Paul II’s letter on Faith and Reason might be my favourite encyclical. Maybe. It’s hard to pick one. Anyway, this is a good one for understanding how the Christian faith (yes, it applies well to many Protestant perspectives as well) is not just a blind faith of “shooting in the dark”, but an educated, informed decision. Highly recommended.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

This book was lame. It felt like it was preaching things the average person already understands and used way too many anecdotal stories to back up its message. It felt like the 12 Rules for Life (above) for a few generations back. Not recommended.

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist

This book, commonly recommended to those exploring Catholicism and recent converts, explains how the Lord’s Supper, as explained by the Catholic Church, has many non-coincidental connections with different aspects of the Jewish faith. Recommended to anyone interested in Catholicism.

Jesus is an Anarchist

While I don’t fully agree with the main points of this short work, partially because of its non- or even anti-Catholic approach, many of the smaller points, and the overarching message, that Jesus’ political end goal would probably be a very subsidiarity-heavy system, still rings true. Recommended.

Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men

I just finished reading this to my wife over Advent and really enjoyed it. While focusing on the story of the Wise Men who visited Jesus after his birth, it covers other related topics as well, like the historicity of the Christmas story. Recommended.

Redemptoris Custos

Another of Pope St JPII’s writings, this one focused on St Joseph, adoptive father of Jesus, and how he’s a model of a loving father. Recommended to all dads.

Vacationland

John Hodgman’s writing is fun to read and really makes a good casual relaxation-type perusal. Perfect for, shockingly enough, vacation-time reading. Highly recommended.

Veritatis Splendor

This one of Pope Saint JPII’s letters was a bit over my head, but I read it in a group of smart guys and basically let them explain it to me. It covers things like moral relativism, natural law, and the role of the Church in moral theology. Recommended.

White Fragility

A must-read for all white people who think they aren’t racist. There, I said it. This book does a good job of showing how, while you or I might not think that we are racist, we are all part of a system that is built on racist ideals and we should do what we can to avoid cooperating with them. Highly recommended.

The Bible

I also took the opportunity to read, throughout the year and in a non-linear fashion, the complete Bible. This is the third time I’ve read a copy of the Bible from cover-to-cover, but the first time in this particular translation (NABRE, one of the ones commonly used in the Catholic Church) and the first time reading the entirety of the deuterocanonical books. It was great to see things unfold from a Catholic perspective and catch yet more things that make more sense from a Catholic perspective (versus a Protestant one) than what I already was aware of. Highly recommended, of course.


2020’s Goal

While I haven’t nailed down exactly what I hope to read, I will be focusing on The Expanse series on the fiction side, and probably a mix of socio-economic and religious nonfiction, with a total goal of 3.2 million words. Going from a conservative estimate of 250 words/minute, that’s about 35 minutes of reading per day.