Books I've read this year, edition...4?

Dec 29 2011 Published by under Book Reviews

Wow. 4 years now of posting lists of my read books, in my eternal quest to become a well read (and hopefully well educated, though I suppose those don't always go together) person. At this point, I mostly post them to a) keep track of what I've read, cause I forget, and b) get recommendations from other people. I don't always get to take them, but I DO love recommendations!

So here we go. I got up to 37 books this year. I always aim for 30, so I'm feeling pretty proud.

And does anyone have and recommendations for next year?

Science:
1. The Calculus Diaries by Jennifer Oullette. Review is here.
2. The Science of Kissing: What our lips are telling us" by Sheril Kirshenbaum. Review is here.
3. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection by Charles Darwin.
4. Microcosm by Carl Zimmer.
5. Blood Work by Holly Tucker.
6. Soul Made Flesh by Carl Zimmer.
7. Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer.
8. Planet of Viruses by Carl Zimmer. (Obviously, at this point I recommend ANYTHING by Carl Zimmer)
9. Dirty Minds by Kayt Sukel. Review is here.
10. Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart. Review is here.

History/Biography/Nonfiction
11. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 5 by Edward Gibbon.
12. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 6 by Edward Gibbon. FREE AT LAST. It was not remotely entertaining, and often boring to the point of pain. But I did actually learn a good bit, I think. And I definitely disagree with him on the actual causes of the Decline and Fall. Or rather, I agree with his PROXIMATE causes, but the ultimate cause I think he found, and was very careful to gloss over.
13. The Girl in the Green Sweater: A life in Holocaust's Shadow, by Krystyna Chiger and Daniel Paisneer. Really fascinating.
14. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff.
15. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher. Hysterical and at the same time terribly sad.
16. Nom De Plume, a (secret) history of Pseudonyms by Carmela Ciuraru. Really interesting.
17. Outliers: the story of success by Malcolm Gladwell. While I did enjoy it, and there's some very thought provoking things in there, it's useful to keep in mind that some of the points are anecdotal. So while I found many of his points extremely persuasive, I would want to see the data on a case by case basis. Sometimes the data is presented, but sometimes not.


The Classics

18. Summa Theologica by Thomas Acquinas, volume 1. 592 pages of the WORST book I have EVER READ. SERIOUSLY. I quit. No more. I can't DO THIS. *nasal voice* Question X: it seems that God cannot do blah de blah, because it makes no logical sense and contradicts everything that you have previous said about what God can and cannot do. Thomas: NUH UH. Cause the Bible SAYS! And St. Augustine SAYS, and cause GOD SAYS SO.

19. The Decameron by Boccacio.
20. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. (Who stole some of those tales from the Boccacio I notice!)
21. Persuasion, by Jane Austen.

Good Fantasy
22. The Children of Hurin by Christopher Tolkien.
23. American Gods by Neil Gaiman. SO. SO. FANTASTIC.
24. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
25. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.
26. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. I really enjoyed this trilogy, I'm looking forward to the movies (though from what I can tell in the trailer, Katniss is not skinny enough, too clean, and WAY too well dressed). What I particularly enjoyed was that I did not LIKE Katniss. She was a real survivor, and a real survivor is not always a hero, not always wise, and not even very nice. I liked how clear that was. And WOOO some of those creations will give you some nightmares.
27. Batwoman elegy by Greg Rucka. It's a graphic novel, but really, REALLY wonderful. I raced through it. One of the best things about it, I think, is that it depicts a lesbian heroine who is just...a heroine. Who happens to be a lesbian. It's not the center of the plot, it's not dwelt upon for any purpose, it's just part of WHO she is, which makes the character that much more believable.
28. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. I ripped through this. Really interesting, great plot and the villain is just awesome. I only wish there had been a little more exposition.
29. The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines. Ok, this is not exactly a series of books you read for self improvement. But they are fun, enjoyable reads with interesting plots and very strong female characters. And it passes the Bechdel test in the first 5 pages.
30. The Mermaid's Madness by Jim C. Hines.
31. Red Hood's Revenge by Jim C. Hines.
32. The Snow Queen's Shadow by Jim C. Hines.

Bad(ish) Fantasy

33. Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer. FREE AT LAST. THANK GOD I AM FREE AT LAST (I finished the previous books last year, you can't truly hate on something unless you KNOW IT). And what was the CRACK she got into. This. Is. COMPLETELY. Insane. Also, that final climax was incredibly boringly fizzlingly tepid. Can't bear to kill off any of the too handsome characters for fear of getting mauled by her dear fans. That and wish fulfillment. That was a few hours of my life I won't get back.
34. Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey. Readers of previous lists will know that I LOVE Mercedes Lackey and all of her super sweet bad for you fiction. She never fails with strong female characters, but she's been cranking 'em out for a while now and so you always feel a little disappointed in the later novels. That said, if you've got a kid who's 11-14 and interested in fantasy, I cannot recommend Arrows of the Queen enough.
35. Brightly Burning by Mercedes Lackey.
36. Foundation by Mercedes Lackey. I have to throw in a bit of extra eye rolling for all fantasy authors who try to throw in regional accents. It...it just never works. It's right up there with inventing new fantasy names by farting apostrophes at random. David is too boring? D'a'vid is SO fantasy, don't you think?
37. Goddess of Spring by PC Cast. Normally, I don't count romance novels (though I read, and LOVE, me some terrible romance novels) because they are by nature almost worse than reading nothing at all. But this was actually...ok. Playful! Good concept! Charming! I'm a bit impressed against my will.

9 responses so far

  • Crystal Voodoo says:

    Wow. I feel bad. I probably read in the ballpark of 40-50 books this year but they were all fantasy/sci-fi/fiction. No brain enriching reading here. Good on you for making it that far into Aquinus. I think I balked around page 15 on my attempt. I don't like burning through precious free time being bored.

    On the fantasy front I'll make two recommendations. First, Michelle Sagara's Chronicles of Elantra series. The world building is fun and the stories are fast paced. Second is Patrick Rothfuss and his Kingkiller Chronicles. He has a very lyrical writing style but it never gets boring or overly verbose. As a reader his books are fun and interesting, but from a writer's standpoint his construction, plot development, pacing and wordcraft are impeccable.

    I hope you enjoyed your holidays.

    • scicurious says:

      LOL don't feel bad. I don't know why I do it honestly, I'd enjoy many of them a lot more if they were fantasy. 🙂 Ahead of you on the Kingkiller Chronicles, I LOVED the first one. We have the second and I'm now just trying to find a spare minute (or...period of two days, cause it'll take me two days). It's one of those books you really get lost in and I'd hate to have to break it up, you know?

      • Crystal Voodoo says:

        I know precisely what you mean on both the size and the contiguous reading time. I ordered the books for my Kindle and it didn't dawn on me how massive the books were until I walked into a Barnes and Nobles. It was one of those "holy crap how did I read that in a day and a half" moments.

  • Judy says:

    I'm reading "The Philosophical Breakfast Club" by Laura J. Snyder, and just started "Knocking on Heaven's Door" by Lisa Randall. The first is a history/biography of William Whewell, John Herschel, Richard Jones, and Charles Babbage. It's fascinating, but not a red-hot page-turner (or maybe I'm reading at the wrong time of day). The second is about scientific thinking, by an astrophysicist. I'm hoping to finish it before spring semester starts because I'm going to be teaching freshman biology for non-science majors, and trying to make science and scientific thinking palatable is going to be my main goal.

    I've read some of the books on your list. I'll put some of the others on my "to read" list.

  • Jim Kornell says:

    I thought the Philo Breakfast Club was great; if you like it, Menand's Metaphysical Club is fantastic (I preferred it). Since Sci is fearless about taking on the looooong books, Braudel's Civilization and Capitalism three-book series (with a ~200-page separately published Afterword), when I read it, changed the way I think about history, politics, and economics. Maybe not a laff riot, but (for me at least) mind-altering.

  • Bowen says:

    You should try Terry Prachett, if you're into fantasy. He's like Douglas Adams with dragons. Very funny, very witty, really pulls you into the story, into the character's shoes. Or claws for that matter. I particularly enjoy The Thief of Time, Small Gods, Wintersmith, and Going Postal.

    I also particularly liked the Three Worlds Cycle series by Ian Irvine. It's a total of 11 books, and the plot get a bit hard to follow at times, but still, one of the better fantasy series I've read.

    • scicurious says:

      Actually read a whole pile of Terry Prachett way back when I was a sprog, long before the blog. 🙂 Along with Douglas Adams, of course.

  • Amy says:

    If you're looking for another fantasy recommendation, have you tried Tim Powers? _The Anubis Gates_ is my personal favorite, but _The Stress of Her Regard_ and _On Stranger Tides_ and, well, pretty much everything he's written, are great.

  • Stas says:

    Our memory is thoroughly unreliable and having a brief record of your bookshelf is a good thing. Thanks for sharing your list. I think you'll find find this website a good online repository. I'm sharing my account (out of vanity, of course :)) and a nice, probably even relevant, poem. http://www.shelfari.com/gettowar/shelf

    Forgetfulness
    The name of the author is the first to go
    followed obediently by the title, the plot,
    the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
    which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
    never even heard of,

    as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
    decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
    to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

    Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
    and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
    and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

    something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
    the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

    Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
    it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
    not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

    It has floated away down a dark mythological river
    whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
    well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
    who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

    No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
    to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
    No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
    out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

    Billy Collins

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