What I have read since 1996
How to interpret the list
Other lists I maintain
- Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction Books
- Modern Library 100 Best Novels
- Sports Illustrated Top 100 Sports Books of All Time
Within each of these lists, I highlight in bold any of the books I have read. I often use these lists as go-tos when I am struggling to find what to read next.
I can't be certain, but I believe I started my list because I discovered a list by Eric W. Leuliette online sometime in late 1995. His list goes back to 1974 and that impressed me. Given that I read a lot, it seemed to me I should keep a list, too, and I began my list in January 1996 while visiting my grandfather in New York.
Over the years, the list has taken many forms. It stared as a spreadsheet, and then morphed into an HTML file I maintained manually so that it was accessible online. Over time it moved into a SQL database served up by perl and php scripts. Eventually it evolved into the simple plain text file it is today, the easiest of all forms for me to maintain. I keep the file on Github and use git's commit capabilities to manage changes to the list.
Rules of the Road
- Only books I finish go on the list. I don't track books I don't finish. Too much work.
- Each finished book gets a number.
- If I re-read a book, and finish it again, it goes on the list again with another number, but I also indicate it is a re-read with a ^ after the title.
- Paper, e-books, and audiobooks all count, so long as I finish them.
By the Numbers
I used to be obsessed with reading stats, to the point where my older lists from the mid-late-1990s had estimated word counts. Today, I am satisfied by some simple stats that I derive from my plain text list using a Python scripts I wrote (aptly called "reading").
In its simplest form, I can get a total count of books and pages read. More often, however, I like to look at breakdowns by year using simple charts, like this one showing everything I've read since 1996:
I can also identify all of the times I read a specific author, for instance, "Stephen King":
How I choose what I read
Serendipity--or what I like to call the butterfly effect of reading is the most powerful influence on what I happen to be reading at any given moment. Whenever I jot down a list of books I want to read next, I find I rarely follow that list. Something in whatever it is I am reading will pique my curiosity, and off I go in some unexpected direction.