Full Nerd: 2017 in Books

I’ve almost always kept a running list of the books I read, but this year I decided to go Full Nerd.

I used Google Sheets to log each book I’ve read since October 2016—66 books in total, spread over 384 days.

I tracked titles, authors, author genders, copyright and publish dates, genres, page counts, format, dates started and ended, days between books. Starting at this new data year, I’ll also begin tracking author race, to hold myself accountable to hearing equal voice.

Accountability is one of the main reasons I began tracking this data. For example, based on the names on my bookshelf, it was clear I wasn’t reading enough books by women. And the data don’t lie. It was only through conscious intention this past year that I read the women I did; Rebecca Solnit, Jane Goodall, Janna Levin, Hannah Arendt, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In most cases, their work was also the most urgent and profound. My goal is to keep building up this percentage. Hearing, listening, and understanding more.

I also used a five-star ranking system for the books I read. I usually thinking rankings are bullshit, so I didn’t put much thought into the rationale. If the book affected me or prompted me to think differently, it got more stars. This helped me identify what were my “favorite” books from the past year, and which ones sucked.

Enough context. Let’s get down to the numbers:

Over the 384 days of this data set, I spent more than 80 percent reading:

Here’s where I get into the distribution of author gender. “Multiple” means books authored by various authors, with both men and women credited. Clearly some improvements I can make here:


Though I had some shortcomings for author diversity, the 66 books I read were spread across 18 subject areas. Communications was the largest focus area, with around 15 percent, followed by fiction at 12 percent and politics at 10 percent:

And now, the rankings. One star is bad, five stars is great. As you can see, most books are mediocre and not many are great.

My top-rated books were The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs, for its originality and journalistic dedication; Achieving Our Country by Richard Rorty, for its profundity and prophecy; and What’s the Matter with Kansas? by Frank Thomas, for its relevance.

The full list of books follows below. Want to see the full spreadsheet? Have any recommendations for other data I should track? Books I should read? Let me know at b@benvanloon.com.


HBR’s 10 Must-Reads: On Communication Multiple
Oracle Bones Hessler, Peter
Persuasion and Power Farwell, James
Great Plains Frazier, Ian
Hope in the Dark Solnit, Rebecca
Strategic Communications for Nonprofits Multiple
The Rings of Saturn Sebald, W.G.
Age of Folly Lapham, Lewis H.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles Multiple
Behind the Beautiful Forevers Boo, Katherine
In the Shadow of Man Goodall, Jane
Red Notice Browder, Bill
Make No Law Lewis, Anthony
The Road Back to You Multiple
Spoiled Brats Rich, Simon
What’s the Matter with Kansas? Frank, Thomas
Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques Multiple
The Best American Science and Nature Writing: 2016 Multiple
The Year of Living Biblically Jacobs, A.J.
Black Hole Blues Levin, Janna
The Audacity of Hops Acitelli, Tom
The Fall of the US Empire – And Then What? Galtung, Johan
Why Nations Fail Multiple
Trust Me, I’m Lying Holiday, Ryan
When in Rome Hutchinson, Robert
The Fourth Turning Multiple
Brave New World Huxley, Aldous
The Secret Life of Lobsters Corson, Trevor
The Origins of Totalitarianism Arendt, Hannah
Antifragile Taleb, Nassim Nicholas
The Other Air Force Sienkiewicz, Matt
Insane Clown President Taibbi, Matt
My Journey at the Nuclear Brink Perry, William J.
Something New Wodehouse, P.G.
HBR’s 10 Must-Reads: For New Managers Multiple
HBR’s 10 Must-Reads: On Managing People Multiple
Outer Dark McCarthy, Cormac
Economic Development: What Everyone Needs to Know Guigale, Marcelo
The Unsettling of America Berry, Wendell
Organizational Communication Multiple
Brand Media Strategy Young, Anthony
Many Lives, Many Masters Weiss, Brian L.
Assessing Organizational Communication Multiple
HBR’s 10 Must-Reads: On Change Management Multiple
Galaxies Malzberg, Barry
Elbow Room McPherson, James Alan
The Fran Lebowitz Reader Lebowitz, Fran
What Are Intellectuals Good For? Scialabba, George
My Struggle Knausgaard, Karl Ove
The Caged Virgin Hirsi Ali, Ayaan
Writing with Intent Atwood, Margaret
The Last Intellectuals Jacoby, Russell
A Backpack, a Bear and Eight Crates of Vodka Golinkin, Lev
It Can’t Happen Here Lewis, Sinclair
Chicago: City on the Make Algren, Nelson
The Handmaid’s Tale Atwood, Margaret
The Confidence Game Konnikova, Maria
Unlock Congress Golden, Michael
The Wizard of the Nile Green, Matthew
Moments of Impact Multiple
Achieving Our Country Rorty, Richard
HBR’s 10 Must Reads: On Strategy Multiple
The Death of the Detective Smith, Mark
American Pharaoh Multiple
Bridges of Memory Black, Timuel D.
Work Like a Spy Carleson, J.C.


By Ben van Loon

Writer, Researcher, Chicagoan

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s