Reading year at a glance

Alex Barrera
4 min readJan 3, 2019


So here we are, it’s been quite some time since I wrote something personal. I was thinking about why was that. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m quite emotional, and I tend to write when I need to express myself.

These past months have been rather tranquil, and as such, I did not need writing. But that’s not the only factor. Reading has substituted part of my writing. The more I read, the less time I had for giving birth to words of my own.

In an ideal world, I could do both. Wake up early, brew a nice warming tea and sit down with a dusty fat book on the comfy sofa in front of the hearth. After the tea, I could take a stroll through the wild gardens and pick up some flowers. With some fresh air in my hair, I could sit down again with some poetry and maybe write some verses myself.

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

However, my Victorian dreams are shattered by the morning shouts of my twins. Once the little beasts are up, I hardly manage to string more than a few words. And so, forced to chose, I would go for the easy, that is, book reading.

Photo by Brina Blum on Unsplash

Last year I promised myself I was going to read more, and so I did. It’s been a stellar 2018 on that front. I’ve finished the year reading (not audio-listening like many) around 42 books. That has to be some personal record.

But beyond the record, I’m proud I read wide and deep. From old classics to modern things. From the prevalent white male anglo-saxon perspective to the reaches of world literature and beyond.

My Goodread’s stats: Books by Publication year.
My Goodread’s stats: Yearly histogram

And the truth is, I’ve learned many things through these readings. If I had two choose the ones that had a significant effect on me, that would be Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Both touched me deep inside and changed me.

Regarding literature, my prominent discovery this year was Joaquín Cortazar. I was dumbstruck by his writing and his astonishing capacity to ignore time and perspective within his narratives, and still, make them into a coherent story.

On a personal level, one of the most unsettling books was J.M Coetzee’s Disgrace. I felt it told a story that resonates with the dark soul of many men, mine included. It was a nerve-racking and asphyxiating experience that made me scream at the book on several occasions. I would reread it though. It was that good!

This year I didn’t read too many Zen-spiritual books. It shows that I had a quiet year that didn’t need much spiritual guidance. That said, I took to read some of them at the end of the year. I can’t but recommend both Tea Life, Tea Mind from Sōshitsu Sen and Soetsu’s amazing The Unknown Craftsman. Both are a little “weird” in the sense that they are related to the world of tea.

I’ll give a little background though. Some know I’m a big tea drinker. Each year, tea is becoming more central to my life. For some time, I’ve been researching old tea sayings that are usual in Japanese calligraphies (I’m also a calligrapher).

The irony is, the more I researched, the bigger the pull towards the Zen world. And so, both of the alluded books revolve around the Way of Tea (Chadō), but both converge around Zen concepts that go beyond it.

Zen has a way of capturing and making itself present in everyday life. And so, it’s not surprising it’s reclaiming my attention through the tea world. More books on the Zen way of tea are coming, so stay tuned.

Anyhow, this was my year of books. If you read good ones, please share them in the comments. If you haven’t read much, don’t worry, every day you have a new chance to submerge yourself in the wisdom of old, present and future.

“When the great Reason is obliterated, we have benevolence and justice. Prudence and circumspection appear, and we have much hypocrisy.


When family relations no longer harmonize, we have filial piety and paternal devotion. When the country and the clans decay through disorder, we have loyalty and allegiance.”

六親不和,有孝慈﹔國家昏亂,有忠 臣。

Laozi — Tao Te Ching. Chapter 18.



Alex Barrera

Chief Editor at The Aleph Report (@thealeph_report), CEO at, Cofounder & associated editor @tech_eu, former editor @KernelMag.