So three years ago now, Sci made a New Year's Resolution to read 100 books in a year. That's a book every three days. I was actually doing very well until I started a blog in the May of that year. That kind of tanked that project, though I still managed to read over 60 books.
The year after that, my resolutions were more modest, 30 books. I didn't make it. I read 29. But I still felt pretty solid. That list is here.
And this year, I wanted to continue the tradition. I didn't have many expectations for myself, I DID write a dissertation, after all, but I didn't do as badly as I thought I would. I even passed 30!!
She Wolves, the Notorious Queens of England by Elizabeth Norton. I have to say I can't help but feel this was someone's thesis in book form. It's...basically it's all about how these women were just trying to assert independence in their own time. She continually says how their actions were "understandable". Actually, no, in some cases, they WEREN"T. There is NO making excuses for Catherine Howard, she was a blithering idiot. I suppose you can blame her upbringing, but once she came to the crown, girl shoulda taken a good look around her and BEEN SMART. As in, not slept with other dudes. I hear they behead you for that. Similarly, there is very little excuse for Isabella of France. Also, the author LOVES words like "jubilant" and "understandable", and if I see her use the word "Jubliant" again, I will find her and whack her on the head. Jubilantly.
A Diary from Dixie by Mary Chesnut.
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volumes 1-4 (still working on 5-6), by Edward Gibbon.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. An amazing writer who deserves every accolade she's gotten, and many, many more. This book is stunningly good. Highly recommend.
Vampire Forensics: uncovering the origins of an enduring legend, by Mark Collins Jenkins.
The Open Laboratory: The Best Science Writing on Blogs, 2009. by various authors including ME!. Edited by...ME! I wish I could count this thing FIVE TIMES because I have read it, looking for errors, organizing, and editing through it, at least that many times. No dice. Please buy one! I'll sign it. And if you buy enough copies, they might even PAY me!
Your Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control your Thoughts and Feelings by Gary Wenk. COMPLETELY AWFUL and I'm very upset that this book is going to be published actually, people might take what's in it at face value and end up grossly misinformed.
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, by Mary Roach. I wrote a review on it, but the short version is that it's completely AWESOME. SO COOL.
The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the birth of forensic medicine in jazz age New York by Deborah Blum. OMG this book IS SO GOOD. Seriously it's GREAT. I learned so much and it's massively entertaining. Fantastic.
Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved, by Matt Rossano. One of the things that science writers should REALLY try to do would be to stop making book titles with colons in them. This isn't a powerpoint presentation. It's a book. And everything after the colon always serves to make everything before the colon less punchy. Also, I didn't like the book very much.
Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature, by Brian Switek. A very good read!
The Old Testament (NIV version).
Things I have learned from the Old Testament:
a. Things that God likes: Blue, purple, and scarlet yarn. No other colors. Just those. LOTS AND LOTS of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn. Other things God likes include gold, silver, and bronze. Also the sweet smoke of sacrifice. And David, who he loved. None of you other Jews, you'll never measure up to David.
b. Things God doesn't like: PROSTITUTION AND ADULTERY. Seriously I think all of Nehemiah was on the subject of how the Jews had PROSTITUTED THEMSELVES BEFORE OTHER GODS. He loved the word "prostituted", did Nehemiah. You can totally see the old, skinny guy dressed in skins, wild dirty hair, and with spittle flying as he tells all about prostitutes and adultery.
There was more, but those were the things that stuck with me. BLUE PURPLE AND SCARLET YARN, and PROSTITUTION. Somehow I doubt these were the things that should have stuck with me, but really if they wanted me to remember something else they shouldn't have kept going on about the yarn and the prostitutes.
The New Testament. I was incredibly amused to find that:
a. Jesus really doesn't like fig trees. This behavior is not explained.
b. That whole bit in Corinthians about "'faith, hope, and love" which is always done at weddings is preceded by a huge section in which Paul basically says "marriage isn't a good idea. If you're about to get married, don't. But if you HAVE to because otherwise you'll just give in to your lust...well I GUESS it's better than sex without marriage. But it's still not a good idea. Celibacy FTW!"
c. I love how all of Paul's letters end with with ancient equivalent of "tell Lydia I said hi, and I hope Mary's doing all right! Props to my homie Tiberius! Whatup John!" I think it actually really adds to the humanity of the letters and makes Paul as a writer more interesting.
d. Anyone who watches "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", and then listens to the Book of Revelations will views the book of Revelations in an ENTIRELY different light.
Dune by Frank Herbert. So awesome! I can't believe I missed this when I was younger.
The Name of the Wind: Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1, by Patrick Rothfuss. Freaking awesome, and I felt really annoyed when I got to about 200 pages from the end and realized it had to be a trilogy, and the MORE annoyed when I realized the second two books AREN'T OUT YET. It's really good.
Eragon by Christopher Paolini. I can't help but feel this is dragon fantasy for people who are too young to remember Dragonriders of Pern.
The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Books 1-3 by Diana Wynne Jones. LOVE her world building. It's wonderfully clever children's fantasy.
Northhanger Abbey, by Jane Austen
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I know now what all the high school and college male nerds I knew were talking about.
Fortune's Fool (Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, Book 3) by Mercedes Lackey. Sometimes you need something mindless. This was...really mindless. And BAD. It was BAD.
The Wizard of London (Elemental Masters, Book 4) by Mercedes Lackey. Look, Mercedes (can I call you Mercedes?). For the love I used to bear to you as a not-remotely-feisty little 14 year old, STOP IT. You are famous. The Heralds of Valdemar series was great (well the first good chunk of it, Vanyel, Talia, etc). Oathbound was GREAT. Elvenbane series? Freakin' Sweet. The first Tale of the 500 Kingdoms called "The Fairy Godmother"? Adorable. The Black Swan? Lovely. The Fire Rose? LOVE IT. In the horrid way you love things like Corn Pops that you know you shouldn't. This?! THIS IS CRAP. THAT OTHER ONE UP THERE WAS CRAP. STOP IT. YOU ARE HURTING ME. You do not need to vomit out 6 vapid, nonsensically-plotted pieces of crap per year. HOLD UP. Take a break with you and your hawks and your horses and your cats and whatever you have in your menagerie that you love to think of as sentient. Think of a good, complicated, interesting plot with some interesting, different characters. Then write. I am limiting you to one book every two years from here on out. DO WE UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER?!?! I cannot spend my aging years recommending you to all my friends' teenaged little girls until you stop making such an ass of yourself. You should be ashamed.
The Decoy Princess by Dawn Cook. Also mindless and crappy but enjoyable if you like that sort of thing.
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephanie Meyer. Like everything I ever read in the Twilight series, it was free. Or I wouldn't have bothered.
New Moon, by Stephanie Meyer. I am continually impressed with this series, because I didn't think it was possible to have a series become steadily more and more TERRIBLE. Turns out Bella is even worse than I thought, she relies so much on the validation of boys that when one leaves her, she becomes a black hole of despair until another one lays himself at her feet. Disgusting.
Twilight: Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer. We're having werewolves fall in love with two year olds now?! Imprinting. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
The Snow Queen, by Mercedes Lackey. I really should have given up on her by now...
Jacob have I Loved, by Katherine Paterson. I think I would have loved this novel when I was...like 14. I kept expecting the twin to be some sort of sociopath. But she's FINE. In fact, hands down the worst person in that book, the one who is sucking all of their souls, is the grandmother, who was written in what I think is an incredibly well written portrait of some of the worst things that dementia can do to a person. So in the end, it was pretty good.
And that's what I've got for this year. Yes, there was a lot of crappy fiction, but dangit, I DID edit an anthology and write a dissertation!! And next year I'm starting out right with the rest of Decline and Fall.
What all did you all read this year? Any recommendations?