The books (2021)

In 2019, I read 27 books. In 2020, I decided to challenge myself and read at least 50 books; which I managed to do, in fact reading as many as 63. But one thing I noticed was a perverse desire to read short books, since short books would get me to my goal faster. To counteract that, I changed my goals for 2021. Here’s what I wrote:

I’m going to set myself a bunch of more or less clearly defined goals. I don’t need to meet all of them. But it would be nice to meet some of them. And at the end of the year, I’d like to have a reading list I can be proud of.

I ended up reading 54 books, and it’s certainly a list I’m proud of. Full details below. But first, let’s look at the goals I set myself.

  • Read at least 20 books written or edited by women. Reached! I read 20 books written by women, and one more edited by a woman. This was a rewarding goal to pursue since it made me pick up some interesting books that I might not otherwise have read. (Particularly thinking about the Virginia Woolf and Iris Murdoch here.) There were also friends who intentionally have me books by female authors for my birthday.
  • Read more German. I read only two German books (by Wittgenstein). On the other hand, and more than making up for that, I read four books in French. I’m on a serious trajectory of improving my French at the moment, and that’s something I want to continue doing next year.
  • Read a good number of books by or about Kant. Not that many: O’Shea, Gardner, and the Critique of Pure Reason itself. On the other hand, I did teach my Kant course and publish those 60+ ant videos, so I certainly reached some Kant-related goals.
  • Finally read John Crowley’s Aegypt quartet. Reached! Brilliant, absolutely worth reading, and I’m glad that after all those years I finally got to the end.
  • Read some massive books. I read some massive books. Perhaps the Crowley quartet counts. Certainly the Critique, the Bolland biography, and most of all Conant’s The Logical Alien. But this is something I want to pursue with perhaps even more vigour next year.
  • Read all the books my wife gives me for Christmas. Reached! My wife gave me Ray Monk’s biography of Wittgenstein, Adrian Moore’s book on the infinite, Thomas Nagel’s The View from Nowhere and Edith Brugmans’ Moreel scepticisme. And I read all of them.
  • Read and/or return the books I’ve borrowed. Let’s not talk about this goal, shall we? It’s too morally painful.
  • Read some books from the list made by David Bentley Hart. I read Sei Shōnagon, Lady Murasaki and As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams. Not a massive amount, but still: reached.

For next year, I’m going to be even more relaxed, in part because the last two years suggest to me that reading lots of books has become part of my normal routine again, and so I can afford to be more relaxed about it. The two things I want are these: (1) read more French books; (2) read more massive books. I’m probably not going to combine those goals by reading massive French books… that sounds like a bridge too far at the moment! And so now, finally, the list:

  1. John Crowley, The Solitudes
  2. William Shakespeare, Macbeth
  3. Edith Brugmans, Moreel scepticisme
  4. John Crowley, Love & Sleep
  5. Takasue’s daughter, As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams
  6. John Crowley, Dæmonomania
  7. Murasaki Shikibu, The Diary of Lady Murasaki
  8. Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
  9. Ray Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: the Duty of Genius
  10. John Crowley, Endless Things
  11. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
  12. James R. O’Shea (ed.), Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason: A Critical Guide
  13. Anoniem, Karel ende Elegast
  14. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason
  15. Sebastian Gardner, Kant and the Critique of Pure Reason
  16. M. Vasalis, De oude kustlijn
  17. Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam
  18. Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity
  19. Vladimir Nabokov, Despair
  20. Willem Otterspeer, Bolland: een biografie
  21. Dorothy L. Sayers, Whose Body?
  22. Bas Heijne, Leugen & waarheid
  23. Ali Smith, Autumn
  24. David Lewis, On the Plurality of Worlds
  25. Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment
  26. Ali Smith, Winter
  27. Bas Heijne, Angst en schoonheid
  28. Susanna Clarke, Piranesi
  29. Graham Harman, Object-Oriented Ontology
  30. Georges Simenon, Het gebeier van Bicêtre
  31. Georges Simenon, La pipe de Maigret
  32. Sei Shōnagon, The Pillow Book
  33. Georges Simenon, De danseres van Le Gai-Moulin
  34. Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room
  35. Bernard Shaw, Androcles and the Lion
  36. Gerrit van de Linde, De gedichten van den schoolmeester
  37. Lorraine Daston, Tegen de natuur in
  38. Seneca, Medea & Phaedra & Trojaanse vrouwen
  39. Herman de Dijn, Hoe overleven we de vrijheid?
  40. Jennifer Morton, Moving Up without Losing you Way
  41. Arkady Martine, A Memory Called Empire
  42. Arkady Martine, A Desolation Called Peace
  43. Sempé-Goscinny, Le petit Nicolas
  44. Eugéne Ionesco, La cantatrice chauve & Exercises de conversation […]
  45. Spinoza, Korte verhandeling over God, de mens en zijn geluk
  46. Ellis Peters, Un bénédictin pas ordinaire
  47. Thomas Nagel, The View from Nowhere
  48. Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good
  49. Iris Murdoch, Sartre
  50. Philipa Perry, The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read
  51. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Über Gewissheit
  52. Sofia Miguens / James Conant, The Logical Alien
  53. A. W. Moore, The Infinite (3rd edition)
  54. Rudy Rucker, Infinity and the Mind
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