– Joseph Addison
Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life
I’ve been keeping track of the books I read since January, 1998. My system is to write them down in a notebook I keep by the bed, and then to enter them into an Excel spreadsheet so that I can sort them by title, author, genre, or the number of stars I assign when I rate them. I also note if the book was for book club, learned about in an article, or was recommended by a friend.
At the end of the month I enter the info into my master Excel list. I have built a separate sheet in the file for my favorite authors. Since some writers are quite prolific, it keeps me from rereading books when they come out in a new cover! Of course, sometimes I want to reread a book, and those are plugged into the master list each reading.
My Star System for Rating Books
The year I turned 35 I understood that there are too many good and great books out there to waste time on bad ones. Until then, I’d always finished every book I started. Now, I give a book a couple of chapters, and if it doesn’t live up to my expectations, I’ll quit it and pick up another. Because I gave myself permission to quit reading a bad book, there are few 2 star entries on my list. Sometimes a book keeps me hoping to the very end or lets me down terribly in the final pages. Here’s how I rate the books I finish:
- 1-star books are quit very early on, and don’t get entered in my list. Extremely poor writing is common today.
- 2-star books were finished, but I wished I’d not wasted my time.
- 3-star books had some redeeming value, told a good story poorly, or a poor story with passion and panache. I will probably give the author another chance. I probably won’t keep the book.
- 4-star books are entertaining, well written, and worth a place on my permanent shelves. Many reference books fall here, as do my favorite authors.
- 5-star books are those that kept me spellbound, taught me something valuable, or made me want to recommend them to everyone I know! These are keepers, and I’ll sometimes reread them in years to come.
I’ll be the first to admit that my reading habits are a bit eclectic. Westerns are my first – and abiding – love. I enjoy a good mystery, adventure story, or historical fiction.
It’s rare that I read science fiction or romance (the same thing, really.) But I do like a good fantasy novel, and am inordinately fond of an outstanding vampire, zombie, or cryptoid story. Also, I have a warped sense of humor; therefore I’m attracted to the odd and curious, and sometimes the profane. In addition, I’ll even read children’s books or young adult selections if the subject interests me.
Nonfiction makes up at least half of my annual reading list. Books about nature, history, faith, biography, and memoir are always big hits with me. I’m interested in a lot of things, with the exception of most sports and the mysteries of the internal combustion engine. As a result, this list might make little sense because it doesn’t have a common theme or subject. But I’m sure you will find at least one book here to add to your own reading list for 2019.
In no special order, here are the best books I read in 2018:
- several books in the Joe Pickett series by C.J. Box (yes, cheating)
- the first 5 in the Longmire series by Craig Johnson (cheating)
- “The Cowboy and the Cossack”, by Claire Huffaker
- “A Man Called Ove”, by Fredrik Backman
- “Femme Fatal”, by Pat Shipman
- “The Big Burn”, by Timothy Egan
- “Brimstone”, by Robert B. Parker
- “Rough Riders”, by Mark Lee Gardner
- “Echoes of Edisto”, by C. Hope Clarke
- “A Splendid Savage”, by Steve Kemper
- “The Art of Mending”, by Elizabeth Berg
- “Little Vic”, by Doris Gates
- “Caribou Rainforest”, by David Moskowitz