For the past…oh my, for the past FIVE YEARS, I’ve been recording, every year, the books I manage to read. Five (gulp) years ago, this was because I was trying the then popular idea to read 100 books in a year. Then I started a blog. 100 books did not happen (though I did get past 60!). Since then, I’ve set more modest goals, trying for 30 books each year. This year I BARELY made it. Usually they are somewhat punishing and self-improving, but I have some fun ones in there too. And then every year I post them, and ask for you, my friends and readers (some of whom may well not be my friends and I just don’t know it) to give me book recommendations.
And this year I ask again! Are there any books you particularly recommend? Great works? Fantasy? I do like fantasy. Science? As you know I LOVE me some science! Leave them in the comments, and if I haven’t read them, I’d be glad to give them a try!
And now, This year’s book list!!! *fanfare*
1. The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. Loved it! Really neat to learn about someone discovering something that now seems to us so self-evident.
2. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Excellent, accessible, but can be extremely depressing.
3. The Panic Virus: A true story of medicine, science, and fear by Seth Mnookin. Enjoyable!
4. The Power of Habit: why we do what we do in life and business by Charles Duhigg. I enjoyed the tone immensely, and it was very accessible, but it was one of those neuro-wow books, and I have some bones to pick with the science (though he did cover the Schultz paper!).
5. The Republican Brain: the science of why they deny science – and reality by Chris Mooney.
6. The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean. Very fun and highly recommended!
7. The Stem Cell Hope: How Stem Cell Medicine Can Change Our Lives by Alice Park.
8. Angel Killer: A True Story of Cannibalism, Crime Fighting, and Insanity in New York City by Deborah Blum. Wonderful. Horrid. It’s both of those things. She’s brilliant as always.
9. This is Improbable: Cheese String Theory, Magnetic Chickens and Other WTF Research by Marc Abrahams. Review here.
(Does anyone notice how many science books have colons in the title?! It’s almost as bad as scientific articles!)
10. Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic by Tom Holland. I probably shouldn’t have waited to read this til I’ve read…all the other Roman History I’ve read. Having read so much the ideas didn’t sound as new as they would be to someone new to Roman history. Still good.
11. Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Eyewitness to an Era by Carolina Moorehead.
12. Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster by Allison Weir. I was trying VERY hard to find a decent biography of John of Gaunt, who clearly did such amazing stuff…but this is what I got instead. It was all right.
13. The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy by Adirenne Mayor. OMG this guy was SO BADASS.
Theology (or lack thereof)
14. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens
15. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Having been a philosophy major and taken my share of existentialism courses (and read my share of Kirkegaard) this was like being whacked on the head with a mallet of existential thought. I GET IT ALREADY.
16. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Really good! I really liked it. I hate the main character and her lover though. Everyone else was better.
17. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. The whole thing. Unabridged. And it was REALLY good. I could have done without the many page comparison between Moscow and a beehive and the long treatise on morality at the end and the many long treatises on the pointlessness of war. But other than that it was GREAT.
18. Katherine by Anya Seton. Again, trying to find something on John of Gaunt. It was cute.
19. The Child Queen: The Tale of Guinevere and King Arthur by Nancy McKenzie.
20. Going Postal by Terry Prachett. My first one of his. HILARIOUS.
21. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Novel by Susanna Clarke. Beginning was very slow. Ok, the first HALF was slow. But after it got started it was really brilliant.
22. Nightfall by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg. Wonderful.
23. The Duchess of the Shallows by Daniel Ravipinto and Neil McGarry. Love this. New authors and hopefully the start of a new series.
24. Among Others by Jo Walton. Wonderful. Reminded me a little of Stephanie Zvan’s writing.
25. Ill Met by Moonlight by Mercedes Lackey and Roberta Gellis.
26. And Less Than Kind by Mercedes Lackey and Roberta Gellis. Sigh, these two books. I was prepared to like the concept, but…no.
27. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin. In which everybody makes terrible decisions.
28. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley. Cute.
29. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Loved this trilogy. Great concept. A friend called it “magic by goldschlager” and I LOLd.
30. The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson.
31. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson.
*Note: a bunch of these, in fact, 13 of them (including, and perhaps especially, War and Peace) were audiobooks, which I go through rather extensively while at the bench and while long-distance running. One could argue that I did not, then, “read” them. But I certainly remembered them, learned from them, and was absorbed. And for some of them (especially Russian novels!) it really helps to have someone do the voices so you can tell the difference between Denisov and Dolokhov and the FIVE Kuragins. So I figure it counts.