I reached a 20 year personal goal last week. On January 1, 2000 I decided I would try to read 1,000 books over the next 20 years and write reviews on them. I wanted a book quest that was challenging and realistic for me. Thus I set out to read a book a week. With the completion of Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly I achieved that goal.
My totals for each year were 2000 (50), 2001 (40), 2002 (42), 2003 (49), 2004 (74), 2005 (60), 2006 (51), 2007 (44), 2008 (53), 2009 (50), 2010 (48), 2011 (71), 2012 (57), 2013 (58), 2014 (50), 2015 (45), 2016 (45), 2017 (43), 2018 (41) and 2019 (29).
Initially I thought I would read about one-third non-fiction and two-thirds fiction. Over the years the fiction level has increased to about 80% most years. It seems the older I get the more I choose to retreat from real life into fiction.
The first book I read was a work of non-fiction. Tournament of Shadows by Shareen Blair and Karl E. Meyer . It is about espionage and the efforts of Western Europe, especially England, to control the lands of central Asia. If more world leaders had read it I doubt the West would have become mired in Afghanistan since 9/11.
I was already started reading lots of crime fiction before 2000. I had not realized how much I focused on mysteries until I started keeping track of my reading. When I decided to start this blog it was easy to look to crime fiction.
As I examined my reading in the early 2000’s I realized I wanted to read more Canadian authors. Since then I have read dozens of new-to-me Canadian authors.
Of the Canadian authors I have read a pair of Saskatchewan crime fiction writers are my favourites. Gail Bowen with her sleuth Joanne Kilbourn and Anthony Bidulka with his sleuth Russell Quant are a pair of writers I have enjoyed and admired for the quality of their writing. I acknowledge my appreciation is skewed by my personal friendship with both of them. They are both thoughtful and fun to be around. I wish every crime fiction reader could meet them.
Another reading niche has featured lawyers. I like reading about lawyers. Over the past 44 years since I graduated from law school at the University of Saskatchewan and started practising law I have read dozens of biographies and autobiographies of lawyers. Since 2000 my recreational “legal reading” has shifted to mainly reading legal mystery fiction.
I can usually tell within a few pages if a writer of legal fiction is a lawyer. Michael Connelly is an exception. I would have thought his Mickey Haller books were written by a lawyer. I expect it is the same for readers of sleuths of their professions. It is hard for me to describe precisely how I can know the author is a lawyer but I can tell.
Of the writers of legal fiction in Canada I love the legal mysteries of William Deverell and Robert Rotenberg. Their books have Canadian lawyers I can see in the law offices and courtrooms of Canada. Arthur Beauchamp has a courtroom wit I would love to have in trials.
John Grisham is my American favourite. There is no writer who has created more interesting and diverse lawyers. I wrote a post about all the distinctive Grisham lawyers.
Undoubtedly, as I practice law in a rural community in a sparsely populated province, I love his books set in rural Mississippi featuring Jake Brigance. Our rural cultures have many similarities.
Reading a book by Michael Connelly for the 1,000th book was not an accident. I have read more books by Connelly during my quest, 25 in total, than any other author. He is a great mystery writer. While I expressed some reservations about Dark Sacred Night in my last review I did enjoy that book as I have enjoyed every Connelly book I have read. Few authors sustain the excellence of Connelly during their writing career.
On this blog I estimate I have written approximately 25,000 thousand words in posts on Connelly and his books.
My favourite book of the 20 years is a Connelly book, Bloodwork. In the book former FBI agent, Terry McAleb, is recovering from a heart transplant when he learns he has the heart of a murder victim. Connelly leads the reader on a fascinating chase of discovery for the killer while McAleb deals with the problems of his transplant and the challenges of being in a pursuit in which he could not be more personally involved. It is the only book of the 1,000 I have read twice in the last two decades. And I did not count it twice.
A non-fiction book that moved and inspired me was Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. A survivor of the Holocaust Frankl wrote powerfully of the need to have hope in the future and that all lives have meaning. They are principles by which I have striven to live my life.
I have been thinking this year as I closed in on 1,000 books whether I want to set a new goal. Feeling it would be presumptuous at 67 to anticipate health I have decided to make my goal to simply to read a book a week for as long as I can hoping that will take me many years into the future.