The Year's Book List

Dec 30 2009 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

Last year (that was 2008), Sci made a resolution to read 100 books in a year. She did pretty well at the outset. But then she went and start thing. Book reading declined steeply. But I still fit in a good bit. Last year's list is here.
But this year, I knew I would be busy, so I resolved only to try and read 30 books this year. So far, I haven't made it. But I retain hope for the future!! Anyway, here are this years books. And Sci would very much welcome any recommendations any of you might have for what to read next. I'm always looking for some good science, and I'm REALLY looking for some good history. Also, good fantasy. I haven't really found anything that grabs my attention since the Martin Song of Ice and Fire group. Anyone?
General Non-Fiction
1)Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: the Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss.
2)Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most by Stone, Patton and Heen.
3)Professionalism is for Everyone by James Ball. Waste. Of. Time.
4)Communicating Science: Giving Talks. 43 pages. Less of a waste of time.
5)Whipping Girl: a transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity by Julia Serano.
6)More Sex is Safer Sex: The unconventional wisdom of economics by Steven E Landsburg.
7)The Gender Knot: Unraveling our patriarchal legacy by Allan G Johnson. Wow. Just wow. It gave me SO much to think about. So so much. One of those books that will really change how you see society.
8)Bonk: the Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach. AWESOME!
9)Instant Egghead Guide to the Mind by Emily Anthes and Scientific American.
10)The End of My Addiction by Olivier Ameisen.
11)How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer.
12)An Odyssey with Animals: A veterinarian's reflections on the animal rights and welfare debate by Adrian R Morrison.
13)Unscientific America: How scientific illiteracy threatens our future by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum.
14)Attachment, Evolution, and the Psychology of Religion by Lee Kirkpatrick.
15)The search for the giant squid: the biology and mythology of the world's most elusive sea creature by Richard Ellis. COMPLETELY AWESOME!!!!! SQUIDS ARE SO COOL!!!
16)The Manga Guide to Molecular Biology by Masaharu Takemura.
17)The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution by Carl Zimmer.
18)Don't be SUCH a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style by Randy Olson.
General Fiction
19)Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and some guy named Seth who thought that Jane Austen would be cooler with zombies. OMG SO FUNNY. Even funnier if you love Jane Austen.
20) Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi.
21)Of Darkness, Light and Fire by Tanya Huff.
22)Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Fantastic!
23)Rhapsody by Elizabeth Hayden. I GET IT. THEY ARE UNDERGROUND. TIME PASSES. Did we really need to spend 200 pages on it?!
24)The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. BRILLIANT!
25) Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. About the only good thing I can say about it is that it's a quick read. Terribly written, the conversation is positively wooden, and the multiple descriptions of Edward's scintillatingly perfect chest are positivity eye rolling. It's like really cheap candy. It pushes all the right BUTTONS (romance, awww I felt that way in high school buttons), but that doesn't make it good. I think I wasted some neurons on this one.
Historical Fiction
26)The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. Excellent.
27) Empress: A Novel by Shan Sa.
28)The Annals of Imperial Rome by Cornelius Tacitus. Apparently suicide was VERY popular in the first century.
29)A History of God: The 4000 year quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by Karen Armstrong. Pretty good, less so in the more modern eras.

15 responses so far

  • Z.M. says:

    On science, Carl Zimmer's Microcosm is excellent.
    On history, I'm currently reading Science: A Four Thousand Year History by Patricia Fara, which is definitely looking good so far. Unfortunately, I haven't had much time to read it lately.

  • Larkspur says:

    I completely agree with you about "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", and the version without the zombies has been one of my all-time favorites. The Zombies one is fabulous. In fact, I've noticed that some people complain because there is too much Austen in it, and I'm all, but it's Pride and Prejudice and ZOMBIES! How can you lose?
    Mary Roach is one of my favorite writers as well. Have you read "Stiff"? Probably. I haven't checked your previous year's list yet.

  • Michelle says:

    Check out Tom Levenson's "Newton and the Counterfeiter." Good history OF science knocks out good history and good science in one go 🙂

  • I too am a newbie blogger and a scientist and book reader. (Only I am not as good at any of them because of oldness.) I would just like to suggest a series of fantasy books that I liked even better than Ice and Fire. It is the Assassins series by Robin Hobbs. It consists of two trilogies. I read all 6 and loved them. I am now on the Ship trilogies. Anything by her is very enjoyable. Love your blog. You are top on my list each day.

  • Thisbe says:

    Have you read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series? It's somewhere between historical fiction and fantasy, mostly on the historical fiction side. Except for that whole time travel thing. The newest one came out this year.

  • Scicurious says:

    Larkspur: I have read almost everything Mary Roach has on offer, I think I may have missed "Spook". Did a ton of reading before I started keeping book lists.
    infamousginger: awww, thanks! Compliments please Scicurious. Assassins series sounds good. I've also had recommendations for Janny Wurtz, but so far I find her prose a little turgid.
    Thisbe: Haven't read outlander but I've heard a great deal in its praise.

  • bsci says:

    I haven't read it yet, but, I saw:
    Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps -- And What We Can Do About It by Lise Eliot
    on a best of 2009 list. Her "What's going on in there was great" and the most scientifically rigorous baby book out there. She's a neuroscientist. A review I found on the new book seems to say she highlights brain plasticity and environment in the new book and calls out many "truisms" about gender differences.
    For history. I didn't see any Simon Winchester on your lists. "The Professor and the madman" is probably a quick read to see if you like his style.
    Dava Sobel also writes good history. Galileo's Daughter is definitely a good read and I like Longitude too.
    If you haven't read it, Cajal's "Advice to a Young Investigator" is a quick read. It's probably less for the advice and more to see what has and hasn't changed in a century. (Don't be nationalistic and publish in Spanish. If you want others to read your work you need to write in German... and a 1917 footnote saying perhaps English is ok too). His advice on how a scientist should choose a wife is... um... interesting.

  • chezjake says:

    Care to try a blast from the past that combines science, history, and awesome writing for an educated lay audience? Visit your university library and dig out a copy of Rats, Lice, and History: Being a Study in Biography, Which, After Twelve Preliminary Chapters Indispensable for the Preparation of the Lay Reader, Deals With the Life History of Typhus Fever by Hans Zinsser. Zinsser was a professor of microbiology and bacteriology at Stanford, Columbia, and Harvard. Originally published in 1935, when it made the New York Times best seller list; it's still in print today.

  • In historical fiction, try Phillipa Gregory. She wrote 'The Other Boleyn Girl'. She has a whole series about Henry VIII's wives.
    I love Sherri Tepper for SF. One of my favorite books of all time is 'The Family Tree'. 'The Fresco' and 'The Gate to Women's Country' are both great too.
    Finally, if you like a challenge, try 'The Anubis Gates' by Tim Powers. It's probably the most complicated plot I've ever read. People move through time and change into other people.

  • Scicurious says:

    bsci: read Galileo's Daughter, it wasn't bad.
    Kathy: I actually...REALLY dislike Phillipa Gregory. I read "the Other Boleyn Girl" and HATED it. This is mostly because Sci is a major history geek, and vastly prefers that the author at least keep major plot points in line with historical record, esp when you're writing about a well documented period. Mary Boleyn really didn't last long as Henry's mistress, probably not more than 6 months at most, and she never got pregnant by him at all, both her children were born long after she got out of the relationship. So I have to be a big snob there. I tend to real the actual biographies of the people rather than the fiction (I definitely recommend Allison Weir's "The Six Wives of Henry VIII, it's really well written and interesting, also her "Children of Henry VIII").
    Anubis Gate sounds good. If you've read Ice and Fire, you know you have to love a REALLY complicated plot to get through that series.

  • John Marley says:

    I GET IT. THEY ARE UNDERGROUND. TIME PASSES. Did we really need to spend 200 pages on it?!

    They were underground for 1300 years. Haydon apparently wanted us to feel every minute.

  • MaryElla Malone says:

    Science: The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine. It focuses on explaining what exactly makes women different from men with a lot of science and some great comparisons and examples.
    Fantasy: The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop (Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, and Queen of the Darkness).

  • bsci says:

    For what it's worth, the review of Lise Eliot's book that I read says she calls out Brizendine:
    Her approach is especially welcome because the exaggeration of brain-based sex differences has launched a publishing flurry in the past few years from credentialed authors who should know better. Eliot calls them out by name -- the prime culprits are Louann Brizendine...

  • Kim Skinner-Clark says:

    I'm just a former middle school science teacher (lurker) who enjoys your blog. I couldn't pass up commenting on your book list. Like another person commented earlier, I liked Gabaldon's Outlander series. I recommend it, but only if you're in the mood to mix your time travel fantasy fiction with a bodice-ripper.
    Much better historical fiction: Naomi Novik's Temeraire series. Think of the Napoleonic Wars with sentient dragons.

  • Thisbe says:

    You know, MaryElla, I tried to read Daughter of the Blood (it was talked up a lot by the friend who loaned it to me) but I just couldn't do it. It was SO sex-negative! My several-months-removed remaining impression of that book is: everyone is having borderline non-consensual sex with everyone else, and NOBODY is liking it at ALL.

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