Mario Villalobos

Year in Reading

My favorites of the year

Year in Reading: 2022

  • Journal

I read 10 books this year, the fewest number of books I’ve read in a year since I began to log them back in 2010. Why did I read so few books this year? Because I tried something new: I began to use my notebooks as a commonplace book.

Whenever I underlined a valuable passage in a book, I would spend the time to copy it down into my notebook and then add my comments to it. I loved this exercise a lot, but this exercise took up huge chunks of my time, time not spent reading. Additionally, I found myself not reading sometimes because I either had a backlog of passages to copy down or I didn’t feel like giving myself more work to do by reading and underlining more. Over time, though, as this habit became more ingrained, I found that the way I read changed. Since I knew I was going to comment on these passages in my notebook, what I underlined started to change. These passages weaved themselves into the larger narrative of my life, a narrative I’ve been writing in my journals within the same notebook.

My favorite book of the year was Emerson: The Mind on Fire by Robert D. Richardson Jr. I’ve admired Emerson for years, mostly from afar, and primarily through a small handful of his essays. Reading this biography clarified who he was to me, and who he was was an amazing person. A big reason why I read so few books this year was because of this book—I swear, I underlined half the book, and it took me months to both read the book and to transcribe all the notes I underlined into my notebooks.

My other favorites were The Places That Scare You by Pema Chödrön and Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman. Both helped me see the structure of my life in a new way. I tried to live a better life this year, and even though I feel like I failed in many ways, I am starting to see the light seeping through the clouds with the promise of a new day just ahead of me, and I have these books (and my notes on them) to help me.

The Plague by Albert Camus was my favorite novel of the year. The others I read were fun but they didn’t compare to The Plague. I hope to read more Albert Camus books in the future.

I don’t know how many books I will read in 2023, but what this year taught me is that if I focus on the quality of my reading, the quantity doesn’t matter.

  • The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
  • The Places That Scare You by Pema Chödrön
  • Leviathan Falls by James S.A. Corey
  • The Plague by Albert Camus
  • Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
  • Emerson: The Mind on Fire by Robert D. Richardson Jr.
  • A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami
  • The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi
  • Slow Horses by Mick Herron
  • Thrive: The Plant-Based Whole Foods Way to Staying Healthy for Life by Brendan Brazier
This book gave me the fuel I needed to not only shop less from Amazon but also change my shopping habits completely

Year in Reading: 2021

  • Journal

I read 26 books this year, nine more than last year. I read more fiction books than non-fiction, but that’s mostly because I wanted to read some sci-fi, The Expanse and The Interdependency being the two series I spent the most time with this year. I also read through all three of Sally Rooney’s novels, which I really loved.

Against Everything was a really good book of essays I read at the start of the year, but the one book that really blew my mind open was Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. I’m still thinking about this book almost a year after I’ve read it. How to Resist Amazon and Why gave me the fuel I needed to not only shop less from Amazon but also change my shopping habits completely, and Jeff Tweedy’s How to Write One Song helped me think about creativity in a new and more mentally-healthy way than before.

2021 was a different type of year for me, one that a reading log can’t quite capture completely, but each of these books shaped my life in some way, and I’m grateful for all of it.

  • Cibola Burn by James S.A. Carey
  • Against Everything by Mark Greif
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney
  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
  • Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
  • Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey
  • How to Be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto by Tom Hodgkinson
  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Herzog by Saul Bellow
  • American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  • A World Without Email by Cal Newport
  • The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey
  • Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey
  • Tiamat’s Wrath by James S.A. Corey
  • How to Resist Amazon and Why by Danny Caine
  • Why People Photograph by Robert Adams
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
  • The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
  • The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi
  • The Last Emperox by John Scalzi
  • Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
  • How to Write One Song by Jeff Tweedy
  • The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe
  • Inhabiting the Negative Space by Jenny Odell
Do these books spark joy?

Year in Reading: 2020

  • Journal

I read 17 books this year. For me that’s low, but 2020, by all measures, wasn’t a normal year. I struggled with attention and focus, and there were months when I didn’t read a single page. But I’m proud I read anything at all.

My favorite fiction book of the year was Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. Last year I read 1Q84 and fell in love with Murakami’s style immediately. The same went for Kafka on the Shore. I love how he tells stories, and I want to read the rest of his bibliography in the coming years.

My favorite non-fiction book of the year was Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. I just finished reading it a few minutes ago, but I knew from the beginning that I would love it. I haven’t read many biographies, but I loved this one. I’m an American and I love the story and the promise of America, and Alexander Hamilton embodied all of it.

Other books I loved this year were The Expanse series of books by James S.A. Corey and Spark Joy by Marie Kondo. Both influenced my year in different ways and made living through this hectic year better.

  • Death’s End by Cixin Liu
  • Lost Connections by Johann Hari
  • The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs
  • Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing by Marie Kondo
  • Killing Floor by Lee Child
  • The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker
  • The Black Echo by Michael Connelly
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
  • Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
  • The Lonely City by Olivia Laing
  • Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey
  • Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey
  • Severance by Ling Ma
  • I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
  • The Deficit Myth by Stephanie Kelton
  • Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
  • Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

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