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Day January 1, 2006

50 Book Challenge Wrapup and Best of 2005

Well, the 50 Book Challenge is over for 2005, and here are some final stats.  During the year, I did read a number of books which I thought were either too short or too cheesy to count towards my challenge; all of these "discounted" books were fiction.  For the challenge itself, I read 65 books.  I discounted 9 books, for a total of 74 books for the year.  Not too bad. 

Here are some final stats on the books themselves:

Total Fiction (Challenge/Total):   30 / 39

Total Non-fiction (Challenge/Total):  35 / 35

Here’s how non-fiction broke down into categories (a book can belong to multiple categories):

Biology/Natural History 5
Law/Political Science 19
Philosophy 8
History 18
Other Non-Fiction 3

I’m pretty happy with my reading list for the year, although I’d have imagined I’d read more biology and more literature.  Most of my fiction was on the lighter side, and I suspect that the biology counts are skewed because I did read a fair amount of biology in the form of journal articles.  In fact, I’m guessing that my non-fiction reading was a lot more balanced if you include journal articles. 

What were my top books of the year?  I’m not going to try to rank them, but here’s the top 10 books I read last year:

Richard Rorty, "Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity"

Richard Rorty, "Achieving Our Country : Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America"

John Banville, "The Untouchable"

Akhil Amar, "America’s Constitution : A Biography"

Charles Taylor, "Modern Social Imaginaries (Public Planet)"

Charles Stross, "Accelerando"

Michael Sandel, "Democracy’s Discontent : America in Search of a Public Philosophy"

Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle:

"Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 1)"

"The Confusion (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 2)"

"The System of the World (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 3)"

What does 2006 hold for my reading list?  Like Will Baude, I am looking forward to a year without feeling forced to write about every book I read (although I didn’t hold to this rule and did read 9 books I just didn’t count towards my total).  Also like Will, I read fewer books in 2005 than I had in 2004.  I’m pretty sure the reason for this has little to do with the Challenge and more to do with a series of difficult personal and family events. 

In 2006 I resolve to read about the same mix (percentage-wise) of fiction and non-fiction, but the fiction will (hopefully) be better quality.  I hope to read more biology/anthropology in 2006, although given that books are often out-of-date, I expect journal articles to continue as primary in that field.  I also resolve to read more economics and particularly economic history.  I expect law-related books to taper off a bit, mostly because I have less of a backlog now of older stuff and will expect to read mostly newly published works and journal articles.  I resolve to read more empirical political and social science; 2005 was a philosophy and theory-heavy year and it’s time for more balance.