Saturday, January 7, 2012

"50 book challenge" or as I like to call it "46 book challenge"

So, here it is. My first full blog post. I know those of you who have been clamoring for this (this being of course a lie), are excited to read about my adventures in Japan. Well... too bad :-) There won't be anything on here about Japan. Sorry. This post is about the New Year's resolution I made last year to read 50 books. So, here were the basics of the resolution:

50 books of any shape, form, kind, genre, language, etc.

Yep, that was it. So, as I started the challenge I was sort of wading through the options available to me. I'd brought a few books with me from the states, and I had a bookshelf in my house to choose from, so I figured I'd have a good place to start. I've actually never set a New Year's resolution, and stuck it out for the entire year, so I figured this one might be good to try. And, I did. I picked up books from my stack I brought with me from America, from my bookshelf, from the internet (the iPad rocks), from friends' bookshelves, and from the local bookstore. As I read, I got into the habit of picking up one non-fiction book for every fiction book I read. Unfortunately for me, non-fiction books were a whole lot harder than fiction books. I read books about physics and chemistry all the way to children's books for the challenge. So, as I kept going I decided that even if I never reached the ultimate goal of 50 books, I wanted to read the stuff that just seemed interesting. So, I did. Final count- 46. 24 non-fiction 22 fiction. I've got to be honest, even though I never made it to the ultimate goal of reading 50, I'm really happy that I did the challenge. There is no way I would have gotten through that many books outside of school (hell even in school) without the challenge. Lots of the books I read gave me a new perspective on politics, art, culture, religion, and life. Some were just straight up amazing and interesting reads. And, some... well let's just say that not every book I read was all that interesting/entertaining. I didn't do any write-ups on the books because I'm lazy (and I like to think I was busy reading), so if you have any questions/thoughts/reviews please post away, and I'll try to respond to them. If you're looking for something to try this year, I highly recommend this. It really stretches you at times, but overall it's a really interesting way to spend a year.

So, here's the list with some facts/figures/recommendations on my part.

1. Snow country by Yasunari Kawabata
2. A New Science of the Mind by Eric Kandel
3. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
4. Shadow of the hegemon by Orson Scott Card
5. Blink by Malcom Gladwell
6. The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
7. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
8. The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell
9. Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond
10. The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomasen
11. Globalization and Its Discontents by Joseph E. Stiglitz
12. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
13. April 1865: The Month that Saved America by Jay Winik
14. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
15. Drive by Daniel Pink
16. A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
17. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
18. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
19. A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World by Gregory Clark
20. Through Stone and Sea by Barb and J.C. Hendee
21. Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi
22. Watcher of the Dead by J.V. Jones
23. Embodied Grounding: Social, Cognitive, Affective, and Neurscientific Approaches by Gün R. Semin and Eliot R. Smith (editors)
24. Book of tea by Kakuzo Okakura
25. Silence by Shusako Endo
26. Mere Christianity by C.S Lewis
27. The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
28. The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of a Nation by Drew Westen
29. Shibumi by Trevanian
30. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albot
31. Superfreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
32. The Invisible Constitution by Laurence H. Tribe
33. Of Truth and Beasts by Barb and J.C. Hendee
34. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
35. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
36. Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
37. Boredom: A Lively History by Peter Toohey
38. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
39. Boomerang by Michael Lewis
40. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
41. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
42. Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know David Bornstein and Susan Davis
43. Zen Enlightenment: Origins and Meaning by Heinrich Dumoulin
44. Thomas Jefferson's autobiography
45. The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine by Benjamin Wallace-
46. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Fiction books- 22
Science fiction/fantasy- 13
Non-fiction- 24
Economics- 4
Psychology- 5
Politics- 3
Books recommended by people- 18
Books found through Nytimes- 4

Longest time to read a book: 2 1/2 years
I bought A New Science of the Mind before I left for Greece 2 1/2 years ago. I think I started it two or three times since then.

Top 5 of the challenge (in no order):
Hunger games trilogy (OMG... so freaking good)
April 1865
Watcher of the Dead

Biggest slog:
A Farewell to Alms

Most Disappointing:
The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomasen

Best book for classics majors: Boredom: A Lively History

Best book you've probably never heard of: Left Hand of Darkness

Least favorite pop-science books: See Malcolm Gladwell

Books by Nobel Prize winners: 4

Alright, that's probably enough for now. I do have to give a special shout out to Elizabeth Smith, a fellow ALT whose idea this was. We started this together, and we could not have gone two more different paths. However, there is no way this would have happened without her idea and her prodding. Mad props.
Please post thoughts/comments, it'll force me to go back and reread parts of these amazing books :-)
Currently reading: Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt

And for those of you curious about Japan... we currently have lots of snow.


  1. I think you might have just inspired me to do that this year! Thanks ☆