Monday, December 13, 2010

Reading My Height In Books, In a Year, Three Times

One of the things that I love to do is read books. And I read a ton of books. Six years ago, I started keeping a list of what I read, along with how thick the books are. The goal: read my height in books in a year. I just finished my 72nd book of 2010, which put me over the top for the 3rd time. It seemed like a good time for reflection on the project.

Here are the data for the six more-or-less complete years I've been counting:

 Year   Books   Meters   Reids 
2005 61 1.34 0.73
2006 60 1.54 0.85
2007 75 2.03 1.11
2008 78 2.00 1.10
2009 56 1.38 0.75
2010 72 1.85 1.01

Since October 2004, I've read 418 books, which collectively would take up 10.5 meters of shelf space, or 5.7 times my height (a pretty hefty bookshelf).

I decided that for a lifetime achievement, I would read a football field's worth of books; so far, I've made it roughly 11% of the way. I'm on track to achieve this goal. At 11.4% per 6.25 years, that's 55 years to read 100%, or 49 more to go. That would make me 80 years old, which is quite feasible. Obviously the rate varies according to circumstances, but I assume it will go up in retirement, perhaps way up.

I also rate the books, in terms of how much I think others should read them. The most meaningful or important books get the "classic" rating, and these 24 books are:
  • Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang
  • Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions 
  • Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
  • Daniel Ellsberg, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
  • Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
  • Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
  • Joseph T. Hallinan, Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Above Average
  • John Howard Griffin, Black Like Me
  • Edward Lazarus, Closed Chambers: The First Eyewitness Account of the Epic Struggles Inside the Supreme Court
  • Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
  • Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations ... One School at a Time
  • Donald Norman, The Design of Everyday Things
  • Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
  • Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
  • Sister Helen Prejean, Dead Man Walking 
  • Sister Helen Prejean, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions 
  • Piers Paul Read, Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors
  • Robert B. Reich, Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America
  • Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Elizabeth Royte, Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash
  • Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, and Jim Dwyer, Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution, and Other Dispatches from the Wrongly Convicted
  • James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Businesses, Economies, Societies, and Nations
  • Edward Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information 
  • Tom Vanderbilt, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)
    So there's your how-to-be-a-better-person reading list, according to me.

    Finally, if you want to follow along on my grand adventure, here is the list of books. There's no RSS feed, but I do tweet each book as I record it.

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