The Quest for 52 Books: 2017 Final Report

With Infinite Winter starting, I didn’t expect to complete any books this month. And then I started Sarah Ruhl’s 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write and couldn’t put it down. Part of it (okay, most of it) was the indulgence of reading essays by a playwright whose play I starred in (playing The Nasty Interesting Man in Eurydice). Regardless of my motivation, my experience of reading it was pure joy. It was another kick in the ass for me to get back to my own writing. Same with Kyle Cease’s I Hope I Screw This Up. I spent 2017 reading, and I accomplished my goal, so what about 2018 and writing?

Those two reads bring my 2017 total to 58 books. Which, as I’ve written about already, is insane. It’s a product of a culture that privileges productivity and maximization. Sure, I read an impressive quantity, but the quality of my reading experience was inconsistent. I don’t want to run myself through such a grueling ringer again. I crave equanimity.


  1. Jonathan Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See
  2. Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up
  3. James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time
  4. Mary Roach’s Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal
  5. Ed Yong’s I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
  6. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Gene: An Intimate History
  7. Will Hines’ How to be the Greatest Improviser on Earth
  8. Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric
  9. Ryan Holiday’s The Daily Stoic
  10. Parvati Markus’ Love Everyone
  11. Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart
  12. Jesmyn Ward’s The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race
  13. Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life
  14. J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
  15. Rob Bell’s What We Talk About When We Talk About God
  16. Thich Nhat Hanh’s How To Eat
  17. Thich Nhat Hanh’s How To Love


  1. Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings
  2. Eknath Easwaran’s (trans.) The Bhagavad Gita
  3. Andre Aciman’s Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere
  4. Mary Oliver’s Upstream: Selected Essays
  5. Charlotte J. Beck’s Nothing Special
  6. Octavia Butler’s Kindred
  7. Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States [Infinite Winter selection]
  8. Sean Carroll’s The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself
  9. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States


  1. Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and the Story
  2. Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities
  3. Mary Oliver’s A Thousand Mornings: Poems


  1. Matthieu Ricard’s Happiness
  2. Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow
  3. Peter Hershock’s Liberating Intimacy
  4. Anthony de Mello’s The Song of the Bird
  5. Thomas Armstrong’s Awakening Genius in the Classroom
  6. Thich Naht Hanh’s Fear
  7. David R. Loy’s The World is Made of Stories
  8. Alan Watts’ The Wisdom of Insecurity
  9. Sharon Salzberg’s Faith
  10. The Dhammapada, trans. Gil Fronsdal
  11. James Ishmael Ford’s If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will Break


  1. Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist


  1. Thich Nhat Hanh’s Being Peace
  2. Charlotte Joko Beck’s Now Zen




  1. Peter C. Brown’s Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning
  2. Sebastian Junger’s Tribe
  3. Bill Burnett and Dave Evans’ Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life


  1. David McRaney’s You Are Not So Smart
  2. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (re-read)
  3. David McRaney’s You Are Now Less Dumb
  4. Debby Irving’s Waking Up White
  5. Eboo Patel’s Acts of Faith


  1. William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (re-read)
  2. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick


  1. Charles Olson’s Call Me Ishmael
  2. John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down
  3. Yasmina Khadra’s The Swallows of Kabul


  1. Sarah Ruhl’s 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write
  2. Kyle Cease’s I Hope I Screw This Up

By The Numbers

January: 17

February: 9

March: 3

April: 11

May: 1

June: 2

July: 0

August: 3

September: 5

October: 2

November: 3

December: 2



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