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Year End Wrap-Up
12.31.2002 by Julian, every Tuesday.

Let’s face it. There are more books out there than you have time to read. I’ll go further. There are more good books out there than you have time to read. There are more good books out there that you want to read than you have time to read. Furthermore, other people often want you to read books. Enough other people that you don’t have time to oblige all of them, especially if you also have to make time for the books you want to read. This becomes especially evident during present-giving season when distant relatives tend to pile books upon you because they’ve heard you’re an English major and therefore by definition like receiving books. This holiday I realized that it’s not just the number of books I want to read that’s growing faster than I can read them, but the number of books I own is growing faster than can read them.

What to do? By rights I should probably read the books in the order that I received them. New books should be added to the bottom of the list where they can wait their turn like all the others. This is a bad scheme, though. First of all, it means slogging my way through books on topics that interested me in 1993 but that I have no interest in now (like the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Compendium), second it means that I won’t get around to reading hot new releases until everyone else is bored with them and I’ve already seen the movie, and third it’s already too late to save the feelings of the people who gave me those books all those years ago. The damage has already been done, but with more recent gifts there’s still a chance that I’ll have read it when the giver asks me how I liked it.

So what order should I read them in? If I put off reading War and Peace in favour of the Playboy Anthology of Science Fiction will Uncle Jeffry think I like him less than Aunty Gladdis? Should I start on my course-books now so I’ll have time for casual reading during the year, or should I get as much as possible out of the way before school starts up again? Do I need to reread The Return of the King before the movie comes out, or will my childhood memory of it be sufficient to assert my geeky superiority to the Tolkein virgins.

I don’t know how to answer these questions, but I’ll tell you this much. If any of the following books are on your "To Read" list then move them to the top because they’re great. These are the best 5 books I’ve read this year:
1. The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro: It’s an absolute masterpiece. Beautiful and heartbreaking story of love and repression.
2. Cider With Rosie, by Laurie Lee: A simple, wonderful prose-poem of simple, wonderful (and sometimes terrible) village life.
3. The Happy Prince and Other Stories, by Oscar Wilde: The best children’s stories I’ve ever read. Sometimes fun and whimsical, sometimes painfully tragic, sometimes both at once.
4. Money, by Martin Amis: Hilarious and shockingly crude. Money, movies and porno.
5. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson: There’s tons of cool stuff packed into this very thick, very nerdy book about encryption and World War II.

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