One of my New Year’s Resolutions is always to “read more,” so I figured it might be good to see exactly how much I’ve read in the past year. Below are a list of books that I completed (or am close enough to completing that I’ll be done by the end of the month) this year. Feel free to do the same for yourself in the comments or on your own blog (but link back to this post).

You may notice there’s not a single fiction book on the list. In the past three years, I’ve read very little fiction. Not because I don’t like it, but just because I tend to gravitate toward biographies, political, and philosophical works. 2005 will start with some fiction, though, as I’m itching to read one book I have on order.

There have been a few books I started but was unable to finish this year and I may have missed one or two, but below should be a pretty complete list. I enjoy using All-Consuming to keep track of what I’m reading and it made looking back at this year much easier.

Books I read in 2004

Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren
A simple, short book on the philosophy of Wabi-Sabi, one which revels in the imperfect and impermanent. What’s interesting is that despite the subtitle of the book, there’s rarely any explicit commentary on exactly how Wabi-Sabi relates to artists, poets, etc. And that’s pretty cool.

In my next house, I’m going to take the smallest room and make it a tea room that follows the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. Because, after all, I’m nothing if not imperfect.

The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights by Norm Phelps
I’m finishing this and the book below now. Generally people assume that Buddhists are always vegetarian, but that’s actually not the case. In fact there’s an awful lot of rationalization among meat-eating Buddhists about why meat eating is kosher (to totally inappropriately co-opt a term from another religion) with Shakaymuni’s teachings.

Phelps, who heads up the local The Fund for Animals does a phenomenal job debunking these rationalizations and provides a very strong argument for how the simple Buddhist precept of “Do no harm” simply does not allow for consumption of meat or support of factory farming techniques.

Food of Bodhisattvas : Buddhist Teachings on Abstaining from Meat by Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol
I’m about halfway through this translation of 18th century Tibetan Buddhist teacher Shabkar Natshok Rangdrol’s writings on the subject of vegetarianism and Buddhism. The first half of the book is dedicated to an overview of the subject of Buddhism and vegetarianism and acts as a good compliment to Phelps’ book above.

Meat Market: Animals, Ethics, and Money by Erik Marcus
Erik was nice enough to send along an advance copy of his latest book. It’s a fast read, but an essential one for anyone involved or the least bit interested in animal rights. He briefly discusses the standard arguments for a vegan diet and even though I’ve read so much on the subject in recent years, I still managed to learn a few things. The bulk of the book, though is dedicated to an argument for a new type of animal activism dubbed “dismantlement.” Marcus provides some compelling commentary on the subject and encourages those working for animal rights to focus less on health and environment issues and more on ethical issues.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
See here.

Might I suggest reading this and watching The Weather together. Both provide great insights into science without getting super-technical.

In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki
I first read this book in college and re-read it this year. It’s simultaneous a beautiful work about the necessity of shadows and darkness and a humorous work thanks to passages like the one where he says much of the best haiku was probably written in a traditional Japanese outhouse. Written in the 1930s with a focus on the deterioration of traditional Japanese traditions, it still somehow manages to seem like it was written just yesterday.

Waking Up: A Week Inside a Zen Monastery by Jack Maguire
An interesting look into a week at the Zen Mountain Monastery in New York state. Zen practice and training ain’t all navel-gazing, ya know…

Last Man Standing: The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt by Jack Olsen
A fascinating look at an FBI conspiracy to frame Black Panther Geronimo Pratt. At the same time, an astounding tale of an innocent man’s will to live, stay sane, and make the world see the truth.

Non-fiction about the civil rights era and the black power movement end up being some of my favorite books. This one is incredibly frustrating to see how corrupt the justice system is and how it worked against a man not because of what he did, but because of what he believed.

The Vegan Sourcebook by Joanne Stepaniak
One of those inspirational books that can change everyone’s mind about what it means to be vegan.

Let me end by naming three books I plan to read in 2005:

Books I’ll Read in 2005

The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy
This one comes via a recommendation by johanna in the third issue of her zine, SISU (spend a dollar a buy it!). The book is out-of-print, but not hard to find. A good summary of the book (from “The City, Not Long After is a post-apocalyptic tale of San Francisco. After a plague wipes out most of the population of the US, San Francisco is taken over by artists. They are remaking the city with their art (and a little bit of magic from the ghosts who haunt the city streets). When they are invaded by an army from Sacramento, they fight back using art.”

The Daily Adventures of Mixerman by Mixerman
A blog-turned-book about a studio engineer’s tribulations in producing an album.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
Recommended by (I think) Waiter Rant (a blog you’ve just got to read regularly, really), Bourdain looks at how you don’t realize exactly who it is that’s probably cooking your food. Well discussed here.