With a few exceptions, the books I read in 2012 averaged 200 pages. Bravo for brevity.
That meant, of course, that I didn't read one of Ken Follett's 1,000-page historical novels, Haruki Murakami's 900-page "1Q84" or Victor Hugo's 1,500-page "Les Miserables," after which I might have lay miserable.
Nor did I read biographies of any presidents. They tend to run long. Robert Caro has published more than 3,000 pages on Lyndon Johnson, over the course of four books, and he's writing a fifth.
Is there a bio of William Henry Harrison, who was president for 32 days? That might be my speed.
Like President Harrison, who died a bare month into the job, I like getting in and getting out. In a column headlined "Getting on with it," Russell Baker once lamented: "Hardly anybody knows how to leave anything out anymore. The new idea is that if it doesn't take forever it can't be much good."
He wrote that in 1982, but it's just as true 30 years later.
Most of the best movies are 90 minutes. Remember 90-minute movies? Most are in black and white, which may or may not be a coincidence. Once they started filming in color, were directors so dazzled they forgot to yell "cut"? Now even comedies are two hours.
Rather than see "The Hobbit," which is almost three hours and will require two sequels to finish the story, I decided to rent Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali's 1929 surrealist classic "Un Chien Andalou," which cineastes are still talking about and which is a mere 17 minutes.
Buñuel and Dali were strange, but they knew how to get on with it.
Of course, a meaty movie epic now and then can be thrilling. I love "Lawrence of Arabia" and I quite liked "Les Miserables" - even at 2 hours, 40 minutes, the story practically gallops along.
I fondly recall my reading of "Moby Dick," a 600-pager in which I lingered for weeks at the start of 2009.
Still, the most devastating book I read in 2012 was Elie Wiesel's "Night." If Wiesel can compress his Holocaust memoir into a stark 120 pages, well, that might be a lesson to windier writers to get on with it.
I'm not a fast reader, merely a dedicated one. I can read 15 pages on a lunch break and maybe a few more at dinner, a coffeehouse or (heh heh) the dull part of a city council meeting. This means I can finish a book every week or so, as long as the front and back covers aren't too far apart.
A week for a novel is about right. I like being able to finish a book while I can remember how it started.
With an occasional sprint, and by keeping a second book on my nightstand, every couple of weeks I can finish an extra one.
And so, with an almost laser-like focus on shorter books, in 2012 I read an even 80, the most books I've ever read in one year as an adult - even if, as I said earlier, the number of pages might be about the same as past years.
This is the age of Twitter. Writers need to get on with it.
Fiction, almost entirely, and rarely anything current. I finished the Sherlock Holmes series, read more of the Tarzan and Fu Manchu series, but also read some literary fiction and classics, and two books collecting newspaper columns by Mike Royko.
Among the best: "Starburst" by Alfred Bester, "The Pleasure of My Company" by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin), "Last Night at the Lobster" by Stewart O'Nan, "Double Star" by Robert Heinlein and "At the Mountains of Madness" by H.P. Lovecraft.
I read or re-read five books by Ray Bradbury and eight by Harlan Ellison. One of Ellison's was 350 pages, but I read it anyway.
Philip K. Dick, the science fiction writer who was underappreciated before his 1982 death and now is considered a visionary, wrote three of the more astonishing books I read last year.
Among them was "The Man in the High Castle," set in a 1960s America in which the Axis powers won the war and divided our country among them - and that's just for starters. What else is it about? About 220 pages.
The literary novels I read included William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying," full of bleak humor; John Steinbeck's almost biblical "Of Mice and Men"; and Italo Calvino's "If on a winter's night a traveler," each chapter the start of a novel that is never finished and the whole thing a sort of valentine to the act of reading.
Calvino's book was 260 pages, but since it was, in a way, the ultimate novel, I won't hold it against him.
One notable book of nonfiction was Peter Theroux's "Translating L.A.," a 1994 look at our neighbor to the west. I liked how he roamed into parts of the city that get less attention, like Watts and Long Beach. In the last chapter, he travels from L.A. to Riverside via Metrolink. I had meant to devote a column to this book, and may yet, but in case I don't, here it is.
I also read two light books with local connections: "The Mad Morality," on the hidden lessons embedded in Mad magazine, by a La Verne theology professor, the late Vernard Eller, and "Going Like Sixty," a look at aging by Richard Armour, a late but celebrated Claremonter.
Almost all the above were read the old-fashioned way, on paper, although I do own an e-reader and use it occasionally. A recent Pew Research report says 23 percent of Americans read an e-book in the past year, and I was among them.
Meanwhile, only 67 percent of American adults, down from 72 percent, read even one physical book.
I had to make up for a lot of laggards.
Eighty books may or may not seem like a lot. Charlie Fagan of La Verne told me he read 279 last year, up from 179 the previous year. It was sobering to realize the 100 additional books he squeezed in bested the entirety of my reading.
Also, in four years of dedicated reading, I've finished precisely 250 books: 58 in 2009, 52 in 2010, 60 in 2011 and 80 in 2012. Fagan had read 250 by late fall.
I have eyestrain just thinking about it. But Fagan, to his credit, is a man who knows how to get on with it.