The first step in saying that you will write about something, is to always choose a date that you think is convenient for you to work with. And then head towards that date with the sole intention of procrastinating.
Ever since the start of the holiday season (read when I mentally stopped working), I have wanted to put up a summary of my reading in 2015. But we all know what happens in this time period; you travel, come back, attend parties, moan that there is a day you have to go back to work (acute Monday blues) and finally accept fate.
But that is neither heree nor there because I have finally managed to get down to it. In 2015, I decided to create a Google Form where I would track all the books that I read. This will be an ongoing exercise for me by tracking books read. The results are loaded onto a Google Sheet from where I can see everything. The Google Form records the following fields:
- Title of the book - mandatory
- Name of the author - mandatory
- Gender - mandatory. This was placed as a mandatory category since I also wanted to see how many female writers I read
- Start Date - mandatory
- End Date - not mandatory. I never know how long it will take me to finish a book so I always manually edit this from the Google Sheet once I am done with a book
- Genre - mandatory. This is divided into the following genres - Fiction, Biography/Autobiagraphy, Self Help, History, Comic/Graphic Novel, Science Fiction and Business/Economics/Finance
- Pages of Book - mandatory
- Cost of Book - mandatory. Marked as KES but in most times, I denote it using the USD/$ sign
- Type of book - mandatory. Choose one from the follwoing; e-book, Hardback or paperback
- Rating - mandatory. Ranges from 1 (Not Worth It) to 5 (Worth Every Single Dime). Not sure why I set it as mandatory but I have learnt that the first few chapters of a book can give a good indication of how to rate the book
Onto the meat of the matter, in 2015, I started on a total of 17 books. Not exactly earth-shattering news in an age where people are taking a 52-book/week reading challenge. I can be a rather slow reader especially when the television is on. Out of the 17 books that I started on, three of them are unfinished as we speak. These are Capital In The 21st Century by Thomas Piketty, Ulysses by James Joyce and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
The reasons for not finishing these books are that I sarted on Atlas Shrugged on 26th December 2015, Ulysses is simply too hard and Thomas Piketty's masterpiece requires a sober mind.
Out of all the books that I red, e-books account for such a huge percentage (76.5% or 13 books) compared to hardbacks (just 1 book or 5.9%; Haruki Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki & His Years of Pilgramage).
When it comes to gender, I have only read four female authors (23.5% of books); Hellen Oyeyemi, Ayn Rand (who I am yet to finish), Mary Fulbrook and Maaza Mengiste. This is something that I intend to fix in 2016. I would like to note that one of the books was actually edited by a committee but since the lead editor was male, I classified it as male.
I didn't think that I have read this much in terms of fiction but 47% of all books are classified as fiction. Business/Economics/Finance sees a huge shift at 29% even though that is just 5 books. I read three biographies in 2015; two of them of brilliant men (Elon Musk and Steve Jobs) and one from a man I am conflicted on how to classify him. This is Edwin P. Hoyt's profile of Tojo (Warlord: Tojo Against The World) in which we get to learn of the millitary leader of Japan during the 2nd World War. It paints a portrait of a man who is out to ensure Japan's survival no matter the cost.
Brad Stone's profile of the Amazon business and its founder Jeff Bezos, is classified as abook on Business/Economics/Finance since it is about Amazon as a whole rather than Jeff Bezos. This is one of the books that I most enjoyed in the past year. It provided a great look at the juggernaut that is Amazon and how it is run across the entire world. Michael Lewis' Liar's Poker was a great look at the 1980s Wall Street culture. It was a paperback read that I managed to finish within three days. It just comes in at 298 pages.
Out of the three books by the females, two of them were surprisingly bland; Mary Fulbrook's history of Germany since the end of World War 1 (and my only history book) and Helen Oyeyemi's The Opposite House. While fiction is up to the reader's interpretation, I do not understand why Fulbrook's account of the most transformative country in the world had to be rushed through. It read more like an essay rather than an account that anyone interested in Germany's history would want to read. My suggestion would be that they, segment the book into at least three parts; post-World War 1 (and the rise of Hitler), World War 2 and the split into East & West Germany and finally, the re-unification efforts leading into modern day Germany. Nonetheless, it was good to gain a glimpse into Germany.
2015's discovery was the Congolese author, Alain Mabanckou. I read his Black Bazaar and it was really refreshing to read a writer like him. Published in 2012, Black Bazaar is a look at the lives of immigrants from formerly French colonies and their lives in Paris. The news may tell you only so much until you read such an account.
Other books worth a mention are Uzodinma Iweala's Beasts of No Nation that was recently adapted into a Netflix movie and the seminal book on development and politics Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity & Poverty by Darren Acemoglu and James A. Robinson. I bought a copy of the latter at the airport on my way back from Tanzania. Books bought at airports tend to be really great as shown by past experience.
A quick calculation of the amounts spend on books comes to about KES 27,000.00. Should start a trust fund with that amount in 2016.
All the data (and ongoing data on the books read) can always be viewed from this Google Sheet.
2016's reads will mostly be me exploring more of the lesser known African writers or those from African continents while also reading more on business/economics/finance and world history. Two books in the latter two categories I am itching to check out are Ben Bernanke's The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath and Peter Frankopan's The Silk Roads: A New History of the World. Both books come highly recommended by experts interviewed by The Economist and Bloomberg. And maybe this is the year that I will crack open the wallet and buy a couple of Margaret Atwood's books plus many other female authors.
So what did you read in 2015 that you would advise me to check out? Leave suggestions in the comments or on Twitter.