Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

The Book I Read

Actually, it’s books, but if I made it plural, I’d lose the oh-so-clever Talking Heads reference.

As I’ve mentioned before, I never make goals of things I love because then I get obsessive and start to forget to enjoy the thing as the goal becomes the point. Still, I do keep a list of all the books I read each year going back to 1993, mainly so I won’t forget what I read.

I noticed that this year’s list is longer than usual. I counted them up and came to 46, which I suspect is a record for me at least since 1993. I doubt I ever read that many books in the years prior either.

A friend of mine cleared the impressive 50 barrier as of Christmas Eve, and my Dad cleared 100. Since I came so close, I must admit a part of me (the part that likes nice round numbers) wants to join my goal-setting fellow readers and make a goal of topping 50 in 2009, but then I realize that reading this many books has come at a price: I wrote less than I have in years. I’m only about 10 pages into a novel that I’d rather be 100 into. I also barely blogged for six months, and I am a year behind on my National Geographics.

Nothing is free, I suppose.

I think, now, that I will set a reading goal. Read less and write more. Find the balance.

So, for what it’s worth, here are the books I read in 2008, listed in the order in which I finished them:

  1. Evil Under the Sun – Agatha Christie
  2. Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage – Sherry Sontag & Christopher Drew
  3. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
  4. Double Cross – James Patterson
  5. Day (formerly The Accident) – Elie Wiesel
  6. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hollows – JK Rowling
  7. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian – Sherman Alexie
  8. Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone – JK Rowling
  9. Indian Killer – Sherman Alexie
  10. Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets – JK Rowling
  11. Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas – Elaine Pagels
  12. Classic Haiku: The Greatest Japanese Poetry from Basho, Buson, Issa, Shiki & Their Followers – Tom Lowenstein (ed.)
  13. The Invention of Morel and Other Stories from La Trama Celeste – Adolfo Bioy Casares
  14. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats – TS Eliot
  15. The Waste Land and Other Poems – TS Eliot
  16. The Adventures of a Photographer in La Plata – Adolfo Bioy Casares
  17. Rumble Fish – SE Hinton
  18. Selected Stories – Adolfo Bioy Casares
  19. The Intellectual Devotional – David Kidder & Noah Oppenheim (started in 2007)
  20. 100 Days in Photographs – Nick Yapp
  21. The Columbia History of the World – Johan Garraty & Peter Gay (eds.)
  22. Austin: Then & Now – William Dylan Powell
  23. The Backyard Bird Feeder’s Bible – Sally Roth
  24. The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature – Jonathan Rosen
  25. The Mockingbird – Robin W Doughty
  26. The Cardinal – June Osborne
  27. Audubon’s Birds of America – John James Audubon
  28. The Purple Martin – Robin Doughty & Rob Fergus
  29. The Great Blue Heron – Hayward Allen
  30. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird – June Osborne
  31. The American Robin – Roland Wauer
  32. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
  33. Kingbird Highway: The Story of a Natural Obsession that Got a Little out of Hand – Ken Kaufman
  34. Hummingbirds of North America: Attracting, Feeding and Photographing – Dan True
  35. Crazy Loco – David Rice
  36. Barack – Jonah Winter (okay, I admit, it’s a children’s book, but it was cool)
  37. Rumble Fish – SE Hinton (yes, I read it twice)
  38. Dreams from My Father – Barack Obama
  39. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Pirsig
  40. The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama
  41. Darkly Dreaming Dexter – Jeff Lindsay
  42. Dearly Devoted Dexter – Jeff Lindsay
  43. Dexter in the Dark – Jeff Lindsay
  44. The Prodigal Tongue: Dispatches from the Future of English – Mark Abley
  45. Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth – David Browne
  46. The Holy Bible – King James Version (yes, King James; yes, the whole thing)

You can see the period last summer when I grabbed all the books from the ornithology section of my branch library.

It’s an interesting list, with some really deep and thick tomes mixed with some light and quick reads. There were some real winners this year as well. My top five six:

  • Kingbird Highway
  • Life of the Skies
  • Moby Dick
  • The Invention of Morel and Other Stories from La Trama Celeste
  • The Bible
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence

What’s the best book you read this year?


  1. That number 39 there, hope you read the 25th anniversary edition where he cleared up the ending. That, by the way, is THE book. All the others are but pale shades in a darkening garden of dead and dying flowers.

    Happy New Year!


  2. Ironicus, I did read the 25th anniversary edition. It’s already on my list of all time favorites, and it’s one of the inspirations for getting me back into blogging and also for redesigning my site. I wrote about it back in October. In case you missed it, here’s the link: Zen and the Art of Blog Maintenance.

  3. I think the book I most appreciated reading during 2008 was The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s a tough story, but I found the writing masterful.

  4. I probably need to check that one out. I very much enjoyed the only other book of his I’ve read.

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