Books Read in 2016

A few years ago, inspired by some of my favorite bloggers, I started keeping track of the books I read during the year and posting a list of them at the beginning of the following year. I enjoyed seeing what fellow book-lovers had been reading, so I thought it only fair that I  share my own list, in the hope that some may find it interesting.

I read a lot of books (but a lot less than some of you!). I’m not a speed reader. It’s just that reading books is my hobby. We don’t have a television, so we spend our evenings with books instead. In 2016 I read 50 books. Cherie read a lot more than that.

This is the last year I’m going to do a post like this. Not because I’m going to stop keeping track of my reading, or because I’m no longer interested in seeing other folks’ lists, but because I’ve finally discovered Goodreads. At Goodreads you can keep track of your reading and see what your friends are reading. You also get the benefit of their reviews and ratings. It’s a fun site for bookaholics like me. Feel free to “friend” me, if you’re on it.

Lots of good reading in 2016. Here’s my list, in the order I read them.

Civil War Blunders—Clint Johnson

The Chimp and the River—How AIDS Emerged from an African Forest—David Quammen

Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom—Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius

A Taste of Generation Yum: How the Millennial Generation’s Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs and Microbrews Will Make or Break the Future of Food—Eve Turow

A Maggot—John Fowles

In Search of the Silent South: Southern Liberals and the Race Issue—Morton Sosna

Bread Wine Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love—Simran Sethi

Wines from a Small Garden: Planting to Bottling—James Page-Roberts

Eye of the Storm: A Civil War Odyssey–Robert Knox Sneden

The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian & The Risk of Commitment—Daniel Taylor

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture—Toby Hemenway

Great Expectations—Charles Dickens

The Nourishing Homestead: One Back-to-the-Land Family’s Plan for Cultivating Soil, Skills, and Spirit—Ben Hewitt

The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food—Dan Barber

Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War—Joe Bageant

Youngblood Hawke—Herman Wouk

Totem and Taboo: Some Points of Agreement Between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics—Sigmund Freud

Living Seasonally: The Kitchen Garden and the Table at North Hill—Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd

Pictures from an Institution—Randall Jarrell

What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth—Wendell Berry

Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir—Joe Bageant

The Redneck Manifesto: How Hillbillies, Hicks and White Trash Became America’s Scapegoats—Jim Goad

The Michelin Green Guide: Alsace Lorraine Champagne

All Over but the Shoutin’—Rick Bragg

Making Life Matter: Embracing the Joy in the Everyday—Shane Stanford

Danville, Virginia and the Coming of the Modern South—Michael Swanson

Jane Eyre—Charlotte Bronte

The Awakening—Kate Chopin

The Guns of August—Barbara Tuchman

A Decade of Revolution: 1789-1799—Crane Brinton

The Coming of the French Revolution—George Lefebvre

Cousin Bette—Honore de Balzac

Madame Bovary—Gustave Flaubert

The Bluest Eye—Toni Morrison

The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Tradition in English—Ed. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar

The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivor’s Toolkit—Dmitry Orlov

Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish—C. Christopher Smith

Tending—Laura Grace Weldon

Pittsylvania’s Eighteenth Century Grist Mills—Herman Melton

A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America—Jim Webb

A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology—J. Richard Middleton

Rabbit, Run—John Updike

The Bonesetter’s Daughter—Amy Tan

The Corrections—Jonathan Franzen

The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food—Ted Genoways

A Soldier of the Great War—Mark Helprin

I, Claudius—Robert Graves

The Lean Farm: How to Minimize Waste, Increase Efficiency, and Maximize Value and Profits with Less Work—Ben Hartman

Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered—E.F. Schumacher


23 comments on “Books Read in 2016

  1. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, wow, that’s quite a list. I may have waded my way through about four books. I usually read about three maybe four pages of a book before I go to bed. I read through one of Monty Don’s gardening books, a book about Montana organic large scale growers of lentils, and not I about half way through the Urban Farmer. Most of my down time is spent watching YouTube gardening videos from ordinary people. There’s three magazines that I read, GRIT, Mother Earth, and Fine Gardening. About one article a day is my focus limit.

    I spend a goodly amount of time blogging and reading blogs. I plan to write more this year and read a bit less. It can be an addiction and with limited time it takes away from needed time for other things. You blog, however, will always be top of the list first read of the day. It’s just the best way to start the day for me. Your blog is a great mix of homesteading and mindful thought. Thank you for sharing your life and thoughts with us.

    Have a great Winter day on White Flint Farm.

    Nebraska Dave

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Thanks for the kind words Dave. It’s definitely a winter day here. We got 8 inches of snow last night, which is a lot for us. Gave me plenty to do today, but left me grateful that we’re warm and well-provisioned here.

      I’ve always enjoyed reading even though I haven’t always had a lot of time for it. One of my favorite things about winter is that the early sunsets leave me plenty of time for books at night.


  2. thesnowwoman says:

    There are a few on your list I would like to read. I need to keep a list, there are books that I want to read and forget about and after I read I forget some. When people ask me to recommit a book I can’t remember one. A list is on my list of things to do!


    • Bill says:

      At first keeping track of the books seemed a little like a chore, but after I got used to it, it just became part of the reading routine. For a while I wrote reviews of every book but lately I’ve slacked off on that. One of the interesting things about keeping a list is that you can record the dates you start and finish a book.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ed says:

    I love the idea of a list. I don’t keep track but I suspect my number is in the low 30’s or there about. The Goodreads thing sounds interesting but I’m guessing problematic for me. Most of my friends don’t read and if they did, it would probably be all fiction and I read only non-fiction. I have my own book swap with my Dad who reads only non-fiction as well which works out well and saves money on books.


    • Bill says:

      Even though I’m probably reading now more than ever (for pleasure at least) my spending on books has decreased. Whenever I want to read a book and it isn’t in our local library (always my first choice), I can usually buy a used copy on Amazon for little more than the cost of shipping. Swapping the way you do is also a great idea.


  4. I counted up the books I read on my kindle last year it was 110… I know I read at least 5 real books too so I think it was probably my all time record…. except maybe the year I hurt my back and was done for 6 months because reading was all I a could do then.


    • Bill says:

      Wow, that’s awesome. My wife uses an e-reader too. I think she said she read about 75 books last year. She’s got library cards from all the libraries in our region and is usually able to download the books she wants to read for free.


  5. Wow, that’s an interesting list. Did I wish you a happy new year already? If not, and even if, I’ll wish you again: Happy New Year, Bill, to you and your loved ones. Of course, I know it will be a complex year:


  6. avwalters says:

    Well, that certainly adds to my “to read” list.


  7. BeeHappee says:

    Interesting, Bill. From that list, was there a book that really stuck with you? That somehow changed your world? Opened up new universes? I will look for you on Goodreads where my list is primarily kids picture books
    🙂 Thank you for always sharing your experiences and ideas you gleaned from your reading!!


    • Bill says:

      This was an excellent reading year for me. There were no duds on that list. First a nod to someone who is part of this community–Laura Grace Weldon’s poetry volume is outstanding, and I plan to do a review of it soon.

      But if I had to pick one book off that list that most rocked my world this year, it would be Deer Hunting with Jesus by Joe Bageant. It’s a very, very powerful book that speaks right into my life in ways that I’m sorry to say I’d begun to forget. I found it at a used book store, along with Goad’s book The Redneck Manifesto, and bought them because they looked interesting. I read Deer Hunting first and it was like a punch in the gut to me. It brought back a lot of painful memories of the frustration, shame and humiliation that comes with growing up poor and ignorant. Reading his memoir Rainbow Pie and Rick Bragg’s All Over but the Shoutin’ (both also highly recommended) only made it worse. I hope I’m a better person for having read them though, and they have helped me a lot as I’ve tried to process the events of this year.

      I posted this review on Amazon:

      This book hit me like a punch in the gut. Like Mr. Bageant, I grew up in conservative rural Virginia, moved away, got an education, made a good living, then returned home. I feel like I know the characters in his book–they are my friends, family and neighbors. They are also the most forgotten, maligned and misunderstood segment of America, despite being arguably the backbone of the country. I think, for example, of my first grade-school girlfriend. She’s now in her late 50’s, working two part-time jobs (she can’t get a full-time job because employers don’t want to pay “benefits”) in order to keep up the payments on her double-wide after her husband died of cancer. Because she now waits tables on Sundays, she has to miss church for the first time in her life. I could produce dozens of stories about ignorant, flag-waving, gun-toting, Rapture-waiting, beer-guzzling, junk-food addicted people, struggling to keep afloat and make sense of the world around them, who would take a bullet for you and give you the shirts off their backs if you needed it. It’s a maddening reality and it’s easy once a certain level of comfort is attained to forget what the paycheck-to-paycheck life is like in our culture for people who cling to the principle that hard work is the answer to life’s problems, even though the deck is stacked against them. Mr. Bageant has produced a sympathetic (though deeply critical) picture of life in this culture, without condescending or romanticizing it. He’s right, I think, about the class division and about education being the separator. Despite being soaked in the culture, I hadn’t thought of it that way. This book is particularly relevant in this populist political atmosphere and would benefit anyone who wants to understand the appeal of populist politicians these days.

      While the book is amusing at times, there is a sharp poignancy to the humor. The gonzo-writing style started to wear on me, but I never doubted the author’s passion and sincerity.

      Finally, I think the book is too pessimistic. It’s true that the working class is saddled with debt, alienated by the changing culture, weighed down by ignorance and seemingly abandoned by the political and economic powers that be. But I think that because the author is anticipating a melt-down he misses the chance to comment on the improvements that are occurring even among this demographic. As bad as things are now, they were worse a generation ago. A more balanced assessment of life in this culture wouldn’t have been so uniformly negative. Yes poor people are living unhealthy precarious lives on the edge of financial ruin, but at least on a material level they are better off than ever (there is something to be said for the internet and indoor plumbing), even though it may not seem that way to folks like my friend.

      A highly recommended, but depressing, book.

      But having just finished Charles Murray’s very disturbing book Coming Apart, I now think I was wrong about Bageant’s book being too pessimistic. I’m deeply concerned about the widening class separation in our society, and deeply worried about the future of the lower middle class–my roots.

      Not a cheerful answer to your question I’m afraid.

      On a more positive note, I was blown away by Jonathan Franzen’s novel The Corrections . I really wanted to dislike it, but there’s just no denying that he is a brilliant and insightful writer. I think though that his characters could be case studies for Dr. Murray’s thesis. Our culture is certainly in a period of profound transition.

      Liked by 3 people

      • BeeHappee says:

        I meant to reply to this note, Bill, but for some reason I got tied up in something, and did not come back. Thank you for this comment! I really liked your Amazon review of Joe Bageant’s work.

        Had I stayed in my suburban Chicago circle of mainly liberal friends surrounded by upper white collar conservatives, I am not even sure how had I taken the events which keep unfolding, and the humanity in general. Traveling the country helped. It helped to just meet people. The enthusiastic and busy farmers in Vermont, the poorest of the poor in the outback country of Tennessee, the thick-accented smiling waitresses in Kentucky, friendly locals in Maine, a man pouring five kids with muddy boots from his pick up truck in rural Illinois, southern sweet ladies in Arkansas, the homeless guys in California, and all those we shared our space with in endless reststops, the truck drivers, and the RV-ed retirees with their dogs, and the big-smiled gun-toting ranchers in Arizona, the huge number of veterans in rehab and in need of help – in the town where we are at. Somehow, talking to these people, hearing their hopes and their joys and their sorrows, – our hopes, and joys, and sorrows, – makes me question everything I once thought I was convinced of.

        Thank you for your work, Bill.


      • Bill says:

        Thank you for this comment Bee. It warms my heart. You may remember this post I did last summer:

        I left out some of the story. Cotton Unger was a successful businessman and a Republican. Most of the working class people in the county were Democrats. On election day Cotton drove his neighbors to the polls, even though they were going to vote for the candidates of the other party. He drove them because he had a truck and they didn’t. He drove them because they were his neighbors.

        Last summer I went to visit a neighbor, a woman in her 70’s. She works six days a week, just as she’s worked her whole life. She makes $8/hr, which is the most money she’s ever earned in her life. When I got to her house she had an old-fashioned globe sitting on her kitchen table. I asked her why she had a globe out. She told me that she was trying to find Brussels, because she didn’t know where it was or how far it away it was. It was the day after the terrorist attack in Brussels, she was watching TV and she was concerned. On another occasion I recall her saying something like, “We don’t need refugees here. We need jobs.”

        This woman is one of the most kind-hearted people I’ve ever known. She would give you her last bite to eat if you were hungry. She’d give you the clothes off her back if you needed them. She’s always among the first people to show up at a neighbor’s house with food and comfort if there is an illness or death in the family. Should I judge her and label her a hateful xenophobe? If a refugee family showed up at her door she’d take them in without a moment’s hesitation. I wonder how many of those who are quick to condemn people like her can say that.

        I could go on and on. It hurts me to see my neighbors holding beliefs that I consider foolish or ill-informed. But when “educated” and affluent people ridicule them, I know that it is often, whether consciously or not, class-based.

        OK, I’ll shut up. Thanks again for your kind and thoughtful feeback.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. shoreacres says:

    I knew Charles Murray when he was Chuck Murray. We went to high school together, and were on the debate teams at the same time. That was back in the day when debate topics were things like, “Resolved: That Red China Should Be Admitted to the United Nations.” I’ve never done a book review, but there’s one coming on his “Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead.”

    As for your Amazon review, I think you might want to take a look at this post by a rural family practice doctor on the other side of the country. What she says rings so true to me, and it parallels what you wrote in some interesting ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      How interesting! He briefly describes some of the characteristics of growing up in small town Iowa and they are particularly relevant to some of his conclusions. This is the first of his books that I’ve read but I’ve already added several more to my want-to-read list. His worldview resonates strongly with my own and in Coming Apart he specifically tackled some of the precise questions that have been troubling me lately, surprisingly coming to some of the same conclusions I’ve been reaching. An impressive and thoughtful scholar. I was a high school debater too (even a bit of a fanatic about it at times). With folks like you and him on it, your team must have been pretty formidable. For bumpkins, we did OK, while struggling to repress our drawls and double negatives.

      Thanks for directing me the post. It’s a subject I could go on about ad nauseum. This year I’ve had to rethink a lot of things about the person I’ve become, and why. I’ve lived in both of the worlds Dr. Murray analyzes in the book. When I try to be objective, I end up in a place that is quite uncomfortable for me subjectively. When I follow my heart, I end up in some places that are otherwise untenable. I’m going to have to keep working on that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • shoreacres says:

        It occurs to me you may not have seen Murray’s self-description on Twitter. I laugh every time I read it: “Husband, father, social scientist, writer, libertarian. Or maybe right-wing ideologue, pseudoscientist, evil. Opinions differ.”

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Impressive list of reading material Bill!!! 🙂 ❤


  10. […] the lists of what folks read the prior year. I always glean new entries for my library list from Bill at Practicing Resurrection, so I was very happy to catch his 2016 reading post recently. Even more exciting for me was that I […]


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