My Year In: Books

It’s been a strange lap around the sun for me in terms of books, of which I read 32 in 2017. The number 32 is right around my average in recent years, but the books themselves have deviated from my recent patterns and the reason is clear: I spent 4 ½ months in Italy. In the summer. Why read at all if you’re there?

What kept my number from dropping precipitously is that I took up audiobooks. After a couple of failed attempts at listening to books in past years, this year I tried my luck with one that seemed ideal to listen to while running: Phil Knight’s “Shoe Dog”. And this may well have been my favorite book this year: I was blown away to learn that Mr. Knight initially didn’t like the name of the company he founded, Nike. I was just as stunned to learn that the author wasn’t fond of advertising and even seriously considered dropping Michael Jordan from the brand. There are enough twists and turns to his memoir for me to feel ok giving away a few spoilers.

I noticed that listening to books is a learning process, just like learning to read books when we’re kids, and decided to stay with biographies and lighter books when listening, which did the trick and of the 32 books I consumed, 15 were audiobooks. I myself am amazed to realize this as I write.

Another book in the sports vein I liked was Roland Lazenby’s Michael Jordan biography. A pivotal figure in my early teens — I dreamed of being a basketball player and he really ended up becoming better than my idol Magic Johnson -, his life story is far more complex than I had thought and this book is great at telling you all about it at a high level of prose.

My family’s Italian trip had a profound effect on my reading. I knew next to no Italian before going there but as this year ends, I read 4 books in Italian. My favorite one was “Roma” by Alberto Angela, a kind of pop-history writer who recounts life in Imperial Rome, death in Pompei and the like. “Roma” was quite fascinating and transformed my understanding of humankind, destroying many of my preconceptions about how people lived just 2 thousand years ago – it was a lot more like we live now than I had assumed.

I end the year feeling like this wasn’t a particularly good one in terms of books, but the mere fact that it’s been instrumental in learning a new language has made it outstanding and auspicious.

If you’d like to see all the books I read in 2017, check out my Goodreads annual summary. And do friend me there if you please.