December 28, 2017

Books Read: 2017

For a few months this year, I tracked and posted all of the books I read right here, on my website. I fell out of the posting habit, but kept up the tracking one. And, as I like year-end lists and tracking habits and activities, I thought I’d share all of the books I read this year. I marked the ones that were truly good with a 😊 and the ones that aren’t worth it with a little 🤐. The rest were pretty good, not much else to say about them. All-told, I finished 80 books this year, which might be a new record for me. Hopefully I can break that record in 2018.

Book of the Year

My favorite book of the year was Life in Code by Ellen Ullman. Ullman, who has been a software engineer for decades, collected some amazing essays on technology and its changing role in our lives. Although a lot of the essays were written around the time of the dotcom boom and bust, they are outrageously prescient for today’s world. In particular, her writing about the role of the internet in society and shaping people’s opinions was startling. It predicted what we’ve seen play out over the last year in politics, social media, and the corruption of American democracy.

Ellen Ullman portrait

Even if you’re not huge into technology, it’s worth the read. Ullman’s writing is very good and her stories uncover sometimes uncomfortable truths with which we all need to heed, especially as America (and the world) becomes more divided, with technology doing a lot of the dividing.

Here’s Everything I Read

These are all of the books that I finished this year. I started quite a few more but, for whatever reason, put them back down. Life’s too short for shitty books.


Although I was thrilled to be able to finish up Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem series, I think the standout was Thrill Me by Benjamin Percy. It’s an extremely entertaining look at writing and fiction. It makes you want to read, write, and enjoy the writing of others unlike any other book on writing I’ve ever read.

  • Thrill Me, Benjamin Percy 😊
  • Death’s End, Cixin Liu 😊
  • The Magic Words, Cheryl B. Klein
  • On Bullshit, Harry G. Frankfurt
  • The World Inside, Robert Silverberg 🤐
  • Waking Up, Sam Harris 🤐
  • The Zen Habits Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness, Leo Babauta
  • Some Thoughts About Writing, Patrick Rhone
  • Mindfulness for Mere Mortals, Patrick Rhone
  • The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin
  • Booklife, Jeff Vandermeer 😊
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer, Fred Waitzkin 😊


For entertainment purposes, David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp was superb. Tied for the best comic I read this year (along with Chester Brown’s Paying For It). The artwork and graphic design was central to the story and sucked you in completely.

For educational purposes, Heydon Pickering’s Inclusive Design Patters was fantastic. It’s the book on web accessibility we’ve always needed.

  • Asterios Polyp, David Mazzucchelli 😊
  • Sloth, Gilbert Hernandez
  • The Fate of The Artist, Eddie Campbell
  • Inclusive Design Patterns, Heydon Pickering 😊
  • Networking! ACK!, Julia Evans
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill
  • Horten’s Incredible Illusions, Lissa Evans
  • Resilient Web Design, Jeremy Keith


Deep Work by Cal Newport was an easy pick for March’s favorite. It really made me take a closer look at my use of technology (especially social media) and how it plays into my ability to get real work done.

I didn’t get what was so great about Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It was fine, but nothing to write home about. I enjoyed Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys much more. Hilarious.

  • Chicken with Plums, Marjane Satrapi
  • The Road, Cormac McCarthy
  • Weaving The Web, Tim Berners Lee
  • Can’t we talk about something more pleasant?, Roz Chast
  • Louis Riel, Chester Brown
  • Deep Work, Cal Newport 😊
  • Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon


I can’t get over Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s This One Summer. The story is heartfelt and took me back to those young teenage years, especially since we used to vacation in a small, lakeside cottage town. What really made it stand out, though, was Jillian Tamaki’s unbelievably good artwork. Some of the best work I’ve ever seen in comics, and I read a hell of a lot of them.

  • Anything You Want, Derek Sivers
  • Scrum Basics, Tycho Press 🤐
  • This One Summer, Mariko & Jillian Tamaki 😊
  • American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang
  • Table Manners, Jeremiah Tower
  • Just Draw, Mark Badger 🤐
  • Tomboy, Liz Prince
  • Spiral-Bound, Aaron Renier


Not a great reading month, but I’d put Mary Mann’s Yawn at the top of the list. It was a funny, interesting look at how boredom plays into our lives. Sounds like it’d be a wash, but it was really entertaining.

  • Yawn: Adventures in Boredom, Mary Mann 😊
  • Success Through Stillness, Russell Simmons 🤐
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  • The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking
  • Micrographica, Renee French 🤐
  • Empire State, Jason Shiga


Both of Austin Kleon’s books were fantastic. Don’t dismiss them if you don’t think of yourself as an artist or creative person. They are applicable to anyone doing any kind of work. Which is all of us.

  • Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon 😊
  • Show Your Work, Austin Kleon 😊
  • Dark Matter, Blake Crouch
  • The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo, Drew Weing


I really enjoyed Phil Collins’ memoir, Not Dead Yet. I’d never listened to much of his music and knew less about his life. But it turned out to be very interesting and one of the better music-related books I’ve read. It gave me a new appreciation for his music, too. I don’t like all of it, but I went through and found a fair amount of good stuff that made it into regular rotation. And In The Air Tonight is a fucking masterpiece.

  • Not Dead Yet, Phil Collins 😊
  • Wilson, Daniel Clowes
  • The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O, Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland
  • Adulthood is a Myth, Sarah Anderson


Not much to say about Fun Home by Alison Bechdel that hasn’t already been said. Very, very good.

  • French Milk, Lucy Knisley
  • Age of License, Lucy Knisley 😊
  • The Grownup, Gillian Flynn
  • Displacement, Lucy Knisley
  • Fun Home, Alison Bechdel 😊
  • Dizziness, Gregory T. Whitman MD and Robert W. Baloh MD
  • Work Life, Molly Erman 🤐


Paying For It by Chester Brown was one of the most thought-provoking books I read all year. It’s an honest look at prostitution and the people who participate in it. It’s a topic I’ve never really thought about, but one that turned out to be thoroughly interesting. Brown made me question a lot of my own assumptions about it and the appendix after the graphic novel was hugely educational. One of the best comics I’ve ever read.

  • The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, Stephen King
  • Pinky and Stinky, James Kochalka
  • Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud, Anne Helen Peterson 😊
  • Thornhill, Pam Smy 😊
  • Super Mutant Magic Academy, Jillian Tamaki
  • Boundless, Jillian Tamaki
  • Diary Comics, Dustin Harbin
  • Diary Comics #5, Dustin Harbin
  • Diary Comics #6, Dustin Harbin
  • Scenes from an Impending Marriage, Adrian Tomine
  • New York Drawings, Adrian Tomine
  • Paying For It, Chester Brown 😊


Life in Code by Ellen Ullman was exceptional. That’s why it was my book of the year.

  • Cat Burglar Black, Richard Sala
  • Life in Code, Ellen Ullman 😊
  • Strange Practice, Vivian Shaw
  • Shortcomings, Adrian Tomine
  • The Three Paradoxes, Paul Hornschemeier 🤐


A very light reading month, as my brain was fried after the release of The Better Email on Design. My favorite was definitely The Heartless Troll by Oyvind Torseter. A great fairy tale with equally great artwork.

  • The Heartless Troll, Oyvind Torseter 😊
  • The Best American Comics 2017, Ben Katchar
  • Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel 🤐


Elie Wiesel’s Night is a remarkable book. It’s a heartbreakingly honest look at the lowest depths of humanity and one person’s journey through those depths. It’s one of those books I think everyone should read at least once, if not multiple times. Especially in today’s political climate, where self-professed Nazis are espousing the doctrines that led to one of the most nightmarish periods in human history.

  • Night, Elie Wiesel 😊
  • Behold the Man, Michael Moorcock
  • Present, Leslie Stein
  • Elizabeth and Zenobia, Jessica Miller

Have any recommendations for what I should read in 2018? Email me and I’ll put them on my list.