The 60 books I read this year, in order of how much I appreciated them

December 10, 2023

(If you’re reading this on email, you should probably click the link to read the web version, because it goes pretty long. It’s a good skim! Promise!)

At the start of this year, I made a conscious decision to use my brain differently. The enshittification of social media , my sputtering attempts to write a novel that’s been bouncing around my mind for a year or two, and my growing fear of social, cultural, and general personal calcification, prompted me to aim for reading 50-60 books in 2023.

In recent years, I’d read 10-20 books, depending on how into a video game I got, whether my spouse and I dedicated time to multiple TV shows, or how long I spent on relaxation vacations. The key is that I enjoy reading! It’s not that books and magazines are inherently “better” media than, say, podcasts, or video games, or whatever, but that I hadn’t been doing as much of what I like in favor of doing things that either simply made time go by (Twitter) or were things I felt like I “should” do out of some unexamined anxiety about obsolescence ( lmao smh ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).

From January 2023 through November 2023, I read 60 books. At a rough average of six hours per book, you can call that about 360 hours, for a nice round number. Where did that time come from? Some of it was shifted from TV and movies. In 2022, I read 14 books and watched 22 seasons of TV shows and 37 movies and one-off TV productions (comedy specials, etc) that were new to me (so I’m not counting “The Simpsons”, “Bluey”, etc). Back of the envelope, that’s about 180 hours of TV and 75 hours of movies.

I haven’t stopped watching TV and movies. This year, through November, I count 16 TV seasons and 26 movies and one-off productions new to me, or about 145 hours of TV and 60 hours of movies. It’s a drop off, but not much. I’ve also played more video games this year (primarily College Hoops 2K8 on XBox 360, plus a good amount of “Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball”, “Super Mario World”, and “Super Mario Kart” on the Analogue Super Nt).

The rest of my time has probably shifted from various social media browsing — I still sometimes tap through Facebook and Instagram, and very occasionally Tik Tok — and writing a weekly email newsletter. And that’s about it. I still work, exercise, cook, listen to podcasts, pound away at the novel, spend time with my spouse and child, and so on. But instead of scrolling through Twitter or laboring over 1,000-word essays about pop culture, politics, and sports, I read books.

As for whether my brain has changed... I think so? I know I sleep better now that I tend to read at bedtime instead of looking at a screen, but also, I feel as if my temporal senses are broader, that where I used to have a strong bias toward immediacy and brevity, I now more often think in terms of longer narrative arcs. Or I could just be telling myself that.

Either way, I’ve enjoyed plowing through so many books, and while I’ll probably make adjustments in the future, unequivocally, this change has been good for me. Below, I’ve ranked all the books I’ve read this calendar year, least-appreciated to most-appreciated, including the one book I started and abandoned partway through (not included in the 60), and added comment about each of them. As with TV, there’s no point in reading bad books because there are too many good ones to ever get through. Thus, if you’re looking for a recommendation, I can recommend every one of these, depending on your interests, except the abandoned one, which you may still enjoy despite my utter distaste for it. Vaya con Dios.

That the Nets have tolerated Kyrie Irving this long is to their everlasting shame

November 1, 2022

By the time you read this, Kyrie Irving may have been waived by the Brooklyn Nets in the wake of his tweets giving a platform to an antisemitic film. As usual, I think Bomani Jones has simultaneously the most thoughtful yet righteous points about this situation of anyone I’ve seen in national media, saying that through his statements Irving has made it clear he wants to be taken seriously, but only selectively, and he refuses to take responsibility for harmful things he says and does because his apparent motivation is to feel that he is right.

Amid the ugliness of Irving’s sharing that film, then refusing to disown it while holding off on deleting his posts, there’s another bit of ugliness that I believe is mostly going unsaid because writers addressing this issue are taking it for granted, even though it is worth stating plainly: Irving wasn’t released immediately upon publication of his antisemitic tweets because the Nets believe he gives them a better chance to win basketball games.

Russell Westbrook was really good

October 25, 2022

Russell Westbrook will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame someday, barring a turn toward Curt Schilling’s political stylings, or whatever. That said, it’s worth noting that Westbrook really was a great NBA player for a pretty long time, because in this particular moment, he’s among the very worst players in the league, yet plays like he expects to still be among the best, and it’s unfortunate that, for some, this sad stage might unfairly shade the rest of his career.