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Chronology of a lifetime of reading Chronology of a lifetime of reading
by Jay Gutman
2019-04-14 07:21:33
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Truth is, I always read a lot. There were some fast periods in my life when it came to reading, and until 2015, I used to have a problem I got rid of. That is I used to start reading a lot of books, but didn't bother to finish many of them.

Until 2015 I would buy a lot of books, and the books would be sitting there. I would also borrow a lot of books from the library that would go unread. First constraint was time. Reading a book is a lengthy endeavor, and when I would see time pass by and that I had only read less than a tenth of the book, I would stop reading the book. Second was a lack of clear purpose in life. I didn't have clear goals in life so I would start reading a book but could not see where this was leading in life. Third was between 2011 and 2015 I would start reading a book, pop open a can of beer, and never really look back on the book.

rea01_400So up until 2015 I hadn't finished reading a whole lot of books, and if I did finish reading books, I didn't understand all of them. In middle school I did not read much, as my foster family wasn't anything of an intellectual family, and the schools I went to did not have an intellectual bent. I don't recall reading a single book in Middle School, except in 7th grade when I was in Mozambique, as we had a small library and were encouraged to borrow books, and I had borrowed and read a few children's books.

In high school I was that pretentious intellectual who mostly read newspapers, lots of newspapers. I usually skipped to the sports section of the newspapers, although in my junior and senior year in high school I would read the political sections as well. I remember reading a whole lot about the French presidential election of 2002, so much that I grew interested in French politics, and ended up reading a few books on French politics, mostly the gossipy kind.

In college between 2002 and 2005 I didn't read anything other than lecture notes. In French universities you are expected to show up to lectures, take notes, memorize the notes, and regurgitate the notes at examinations. I remember reading a novel that a friend of mine had given me, but the rest of the school did not have an intellectual knack. I did read quite a lot of encyclopedia entries, and read newspapers daily.

In 2005 I moved to Korea and started attending grad school there. I did read books that we had to read, or book chapters, but did not always understand the book chapters or books. In France and Korea intellect is fetishized, and belongs to something of a parallel universe. Historical figures tend to be aggrandized, and people discuss intellectual topics to show that they have read books rather to reach any substantial conclusions or solve problems. In grad school I did read a few classical French novels, mainly Camus' the Outsider and Georges Perec novels such as I Remember and W or Childhood Memories, but not much else. I remember reading Camus' the Plague and not focusing on the book (need to re-read it) and being shaken by what I thought was the unreadableness (is that even a word) of Proust's In Search of Lost Time.

When I graduated grad school in 2008, I finally had time to read books. The first books I remember reading cover to cover in 2008 were Obama's Dreams of my Father and Obama's the Audacity of Hope, Thomas Friedman's the World is Flat and Thomas Friedman's the Lexus and the Olive Tree, Ruth Van Recken and David Polock's Third Culture Kids.

2009 was a year of tinkering with reading. I read Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons but my mind kept wandering (had to re-read those from scratch in 2016) along with Teaching Company lectures (I enjoyed the John McWhorter's lectures on historical linguistics and the science of language, the series on abnormal psychology, the series on the sociology of deviance and the sociology of sexuality, the series of world cultures, the series on 20th century history, but did not understand or focus on the series of Greek philosophy or the series on 19th century philosophy). More importantly in 2009 I never really finished books, although by the end of the year I had also finished a Teaching company lecture or neurology and Albert Cohen's My Mother's Book and Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations and Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers.

2010 was a more prolific year when it came to reading, although I lived unemployed and in isolation. I remember reading a lot of self-help books whose titles I don't remember, the kind written by motivational speakers who promise you have limitless potential. I also read Khaled Hosseini's the Kite Runner (my ex-girlfriend suggested we read the book and discuss it, but she didn't do her homework) and Steven Pinker's the Language Instinct. I also took a Modern Schlar series on linguistics, and read a few books and textbooks on linguistics. That year I also read about a half a dozen books on Korea, Bill Maher's book, Jon Stewart's book. By the end of the year I had read cover to cover Barbara Demmick's Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea and David Duke's Jewish Supremacism (I was always curious what anti-Semites really thought, and that was the only book I could find on Israel or Judaism) and took a Modern Scholar lecture on China and Malcolm Gladwell's Blink along with The Tipping Point and What the Dog Saw. Also read Dubner and Levitt's Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics But there were quite a few books I had started but never finished.

In 2011 I was depressed, had trouble sleeping, a decided sit-coms would cure my depression. I watched the Cosby Show, How I Met Your Mother and Mad About You, but also read rather prolifically. I took another Modern Scholar series on China, a Modern Scholar series on Feminism, and read Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan. I then attended grad school where I was reading all kinds of books and book chapters on Korea and lots of journal articles. But I started drinking rather heavily, and each night I would interrupt books I read by popping open a can of beer, never to go back to reading again. I did not finish a lot of books I started, including the Bible where I had finished reading Genesis and only read a small percentage of Exodus.

In 2012 I got a job teaching in Korea and oddly a lot of the books I would start I would never finish. I also did the mistake of buying dull, useless, poorly written academic books, the kind no one reads anyway. I did read Hofstede's Culture's Consequences: Software of the Mind, along with Robert Sternberg's books on creativity. I also read Pinker's The Better Angels of our Nature and Khaled Husseini's a Thousand Splendid Suns. But lots of books I started but never finished, although I did finish a couple of books about academic writing.

In 2013 and 2014 I mostly read books about Korea, but did not do a whole lot of reading. I read a couple of books about Korean business culture, Daniel Tudor's Korea: the Impossible Country, along with a few books on English learning in Korea very few others have read, and a few books on Korean history and culture. Most books were not very well written, and there were a ton of books I started but never finished. Again, I would start reading a book, but that can of beer would come asking me to crack it open.

The first part of 2015 I was at a concentration camp. Once liberated, things got a little interesting when it came to reading. I read half of Hitler's Mein Kampf (on the one hand I wanted to understand what goes on in a Nazi's mind, on the other I was disgusted by the book) and the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion (a short book with no clear accuracy as to what really goes on) then read Malcolm Gladwell's David versus Goliath, Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow, Mohamed Benchicou's “Bouteflika, an Algerian Imposture” and the Bible cover to cover, along with a few books from the Apocrypha, the Bhagavad Gita, the Analects of Confucius, a few books on Korea, and a teaching company lecture on nanotechnology. The Bible itself took a couple of months to finish reading, and 2015 was the last year I started books without finishing them. From then on, I would check the validity of a book before reading it. More importantly, I wanted to solve academic problems, and figured out the more I would read, the easier it would be to solve problems.

In 2016 my reading got a little more prolific. I read Oliver Stone's the Untold History of the United States, Chomsky's Failed States and Who Rules the world, along with The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East and the Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam along with The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism and the Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism, and Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Fooled by Randomness and Anti-Fragile. I also read a book on Islamic philosophy and another one on Chinese philosophy, whose titles I can't remember. On that list of books is also An Edible History of the World, Salt: a History and Water: a history. I also read the Eneid, the Odessey and the Iliad. I read pretty much any book I could find by John C. Maxwell, along with Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, Inferno, Digital Fortress, the Lost Symbol and Deception Point. I also read Ostrovsky's the Other Side of Deception along with Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins. Finally, I read Michio Kaku's Parallel Universes and Physics of the Impossible along with all the Stephen Hawkings books, Richard Dawkins the Blind Watchmaker, Descartes' Discourse on the Method of Reasoning, Nietzsche's So Said Zarathustra, the Quran, the Uppanishads, the Book of Dao along with several Buddhist scriptures. Big one, I read the Talmud, starting in February 2016 and ending in November 2016, along with autobiographies of Ellen DeGeneres and Tina Fey, and Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.

In 2017 I had a full time job but still managed to read quite a bit. I started the year with Tim Wu's the Attention Merchants, Amy Cuddy's Presence, Chan Kim's Blue Ocean Strategy, Chang Ha-Joon's Bad Samaritans: the Myth of Free Trade and Chang Ha-Joon's Economics: the User's guide, Jonathan Black's the Secret History of the World, Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics, Economic Facts and Fallacies, Black Rednecks and White Liberals and Ethnic America. I also read Kissinger's World Order, Jim Rickards'  the Death of Money and Currency Wars, Peter Schiff's How an Economy grows and how it crashes and Crashproof, Micheal Lewis' The Great Short, Freud's the Interpretation of Dreams, Psychopathology of Everyday life, and Civilizations and its Discontents. I also read cover to cover Tolstoy's War and Peace (which I enjoyed very much) and Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishments (not so much enjoyed) and the Zohar, which is the only book I read in Spanish and took me three months to finish reading. I then focused on American politics and read the Making of Donald Trump, How Trump Won, In the President's Secret Service and the Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House, along with George W. Bush's W. and Bush 41, his autobiography and that of his father. I also read Colin Powell's that worked for me, and the very boring Capital by Thomas Piketti. Other books I read cover to cover include Adam Smith's books 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the Wealth of Nations and Karl Marx's The Capital and the Communist Manifesto.

In 2018 I had lost my job and spent pretty much all my time reading. I read Richard Dawkins' the God Delusion, the Selfish Gene and the Greatest Show on Earth, along with primatologist Fraans de Waal's Are we Smart Enough to Know how Smart Animals Are, the Bonobo and the Atheist, the Age of Empathy, Primates and Philosophers and Our Inner Ape. I also read Alvin Toffler's The Third Wave, Future Shock and Powershift, along with Stephen Pinker's Enlightenment Now and the Blank Slate. Also on my list were Mohamed Sifaoui's a Secret History of Independent Algeria, Eric Zemmour's the French Suicide and the First Sex, Esther Vilar's the Manipulated Man, and famous anti-Semite Alain Soral's Understanding the Empire, Towards Feminization and Sociology of a womanizer. I also read Frederic Beigbeder's 99 Francs and Love lasts three years, Jeffery Toobin's the Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, Dan Senor and Saul Singer's Start-up nation, Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem, Thank You for Being Late and That Used to be Us, Brian Christian and Tom Griffith's Algorithms to live by and Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom, along with Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steele, Frantz Fanon's the Wretched of the Earth and Walter Rodney's how Europe Underdeveloped Africa. I also read Yanis Varoufakis Talking to My daughter about the economy, Georges Soros' the Alchemy of Finance, Richard Thaler's Nudge, Dan Brown's Origin, Avi Melamed's Inside the Middle East, Fareed Zakaria's the Post American World, Dave Ramsay's the Total Money Makeover, Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Donald Trump's Strategies for Real Estate and Donald Trump and Robert Kiyosaki's Why We Want you to become Rich. And Robert Greene's the 48 laws of Power, Mastery, the Art of Seduction and the 33 Strategies of War along with the 50th Law, Machavelli's the Prince, and Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance: an investigation.

In 2019 I finished reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, a Walk in the Woods, in a Sunburned Country, and Notes from a Small Island, Mary Roach's Grunt, Gulp, Packing to Mars, and Stiff, Sheena Iyengar's the Art of Choosing, Will Durant's the Lessons of History, Micheal Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Victor Ostrovsky's By Ways of Deception, Bob Woodward's Fear: Trump in the White House, Hilary Clinton's What Happened, Bob Woodward's The Price of Politics, Noah Feldman's Scorpions: the Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Supreme Court, Marion Nestle's Food Politics, the Secret World: a History if Intelligence by Christopher Andrew, Shlomo Sand's the Invention of the Land of Israel and the Invention of the Jewish People, Daniel Tudor's North Korea Confidential, George Lakoff's Metaphors we Live by, Andrei Lankov's the Real North Korea, Guy Deslisle's Pyongyang: a Journey in North Korea and Suki Kim's Without You there is No Us on North Korea.

Since 2016, I have also taken every Teaching Company and Modern Scholar lecture I could find on Physics, Math, Communication, Economics, Russian History, Chinese history, Japanese history, Law, Ethics, Judaism, astrophysics, biology, geology, energy and aviation.

Still got a long list of books to read. The purpose of this article was as much to inform you about the books I have read, perhaps to inspire you to read books, along with an honest process of how I got, in my 35 years of existence, to gradually increase my list of books read. While I may have got a few dates mixed up, and there are certainly lots of omissions of books, every book I have listed here I have read cover to cover without skipping a single page. 

 


     
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