1000 Books, Year 5

[Editor’s note: Well well well, look who’s months late to posting his end of reading-year book list? Let me tell you my friends, a few hours after I started writing this post, indeed in November, life calamity began. But anyway, pretend it’s mid-November 2019 still, if you can bear it. Love, Jason]

The November morning air is cold, and so are my fingers. It’s early and the sun yawns awake, but barely. As I dust the cobwebs of sleep off my mind, I begin to reflect on the year of reading drawing to a close. 41 books this year, I think to myself, that’s a personal best. Some of these books were re-reads for me and felt like visiting old friends: of course I’ve changed since we last met, but seemingly, so have they. And then there are the remaining books, new friends! This year, much more than any previous year, they’re works of fiction. Stories, tales, tomes, some of them. Many of them, I realize, are kind of bummers, but as my taste refines, as I read more and more for pleasure, for what I want to read, I realize, wait a sec, that stories can be funny, too. Um, duh.

So here’s to another year of books. Another celebration of learning, of stories told, and of the love of reading.

Here are all the books I fell in love with, trudged my way through, or otherwise just read in the past year:

  • Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.

    I’ve read this book three times now, and it seems like it gets better with each pass (in reality: I’ve grown!), and what more could you ask for out of a book? This book isn’t just an excellent book about comics, nor just an excellent comic book itself. It’s also a foundational text on media studies, the abstraction and meaning of the graphical form, and just a great fuckin read.

  • Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith.

    A weird book about the tremendously weird consciousness of octopuses. I feel lucky to live in a world with these enchanting creatures, and I’m glad somebody tried to write a book about them.

  • Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer.

    The conclusion to Jeff’s Southern Reach trilogy, which began with Annihilation. I think the middle book, Authority was my fave of the series, but Acceptance is a solid, narratively daring ending.

  • The Art of Awareness by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter.

  • Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut.

    A surprise gift (thanks Anna!), this was one of my favourite reads of the year. A story blatantly told to your face from the first second, hilarious in its obviousness, in a “I can’t believe I have to say this!” way. Vonnegut at his best. As I’ve said many times before, everyone should read more of this fella.

  • Blackkklansman by Ron Stallworth.

    God damn, racists are fuckin stupid.

  • Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich.

  • The Library Book by Susan Orlean.

    A book about libraries I scribbled the hell out of. Sorry librarians.

  • Brave Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani.

  • Shadowbahn by Steve Erickson.

  • Keep Going by Austin Kleon.

    Thank you for making me cry on the subway, Austin!!

  • Making Comics by Scott McCloud.

    One day I’ll make comics again…

  • God Bless You, Mr Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut.

  • The World of Edena by Mobieus.

    Just gorgeous.

  • Whole Earth Discipline by Stewart Brand.

  • Girls Write Now by Various Authors.

  • The Beach by Alex Garland.

    No relation.

  • Mismatch by Kat Holmes.

    A new passion for me this year: software accessibility (thanks Ivy)!

  • Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

    This book is kinda fucked up. But as a former poor child, it’s always been kinda satisfying to see rich kids get their shit wrecked.

  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.

  • Paper Girls Vol 1 by Brian K. Vaughan.

  • The Plant Mesiah by Carlos Magdalena.

    We as a culture have a decent grasp on endangered species of animals, but can barely grapple with endangered plants. This plant preservation book is a great introduction.

  • Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan.

    Birthday sci-fi reading, part 1. (Thanks Kate)

  • The Chrysalids by John Wyndham.

    And part 2. (Thanks Kate)

  • Severance by Ling Ma.

    This was a weird one! It didn’t really live up to its jacket description in the sense that it wasn’t satirical like The Office, but it was still excellent. A dark, damning tale of New York City publishing, of consumerist capitalism, of the global supply chain. And zombies-that-are-not-zombies.

  • Arithmetic by Paul Lockhart.

    The best book about math I’ve ever read. It’s clear Paul has a deep love for math as the aesthetic artform that it is. The book just drips with affection not only for math, but for all learners and thinkers. I scribbled the hell out of my copy.

  • Paper by Mark Kurlansky.

    Believe it or not, this book about paper was boring as shit.

  • Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware.

    Chris Ware, as always, leaving me staggered. The relentless geometry of his panels, the exquisite innovation of the comic form (my favourite: the abstract, icon-based thought bubbles representing mere wisps of ideas or feelings), the interplay of the drab and the vibrant. And yet the book just drips with melancholy.

  • The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies.

  • Orwell on Truth by Geoge Orwell.

  • How To by Michael Bierut.

  • Reader, Come Home by Maryanne Wolf.

    A knockout book about how the reading brain works and what phones are doing to it. Hint: turn off your phone.

  • A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma.

  • The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje.

    A beautiful, Canadian epic. (Thanks Mom!)

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

    I first read this book about 10 years ago and found it didn’t really take. But things are different now and I absolutely loved it this time around.

  • Picking Up by Robin Nagle.

  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams.

    Just can’t get enough.

  • Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

    This was probably my favourite read of the year. It was relentlessly funny, biting, at once ancient and timeless. Were I in better spirits myself right now, I’d probably write a full post about this one, but suffice it to say I just flat out loved it, and I think you might too.

  • Guts by Raina Telgemeier.

    Relatable.

  • The Strange Bird by Jeff VanderMeer.

Here’s to the next 840 books!

Join the Discussion 👂🤔✍️

chris
Hi Jason, I've missed you!
I am curious if you'd be into adding a "would recommend"/"would not recommend", "would recommend to person who only reads 3 books/year" rating to some of these–I cherish anti-recommendation because sometimes I feel robbed of my time if a book turns out to be very bad. 
Re-reads are so fascinating! I have been afraid to revisit some old friends in fear of disappointment, but many of stood up nicely. I particularly still loved Lirael, on the third read C:
Ben Wheeler
I loved this list, Jason! I'd also love to know your favorites overall.
Jason Brennan
Hey Chris and Ben! Thanks for the love 😊.

For my general recs, typically the ones I write extra commentary for are the ones that stood out (either in a good or bad way), but those I didn’t write about didn’t necessarily stand out to me (not that they’re inherently bad, just didn’t feel notable when writing up this list).

In the future, I want to do a bigger, more complete /books page that collects, among other things, Jason’s Must Reads List. (In the meantime, it’s a pretty good bet anything I’ve described as a re-read is probably a book I love and one I’d recommend to anyone who’ll listen!)

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