Wednesday, September 16, 2015

2010 Reading List

From the archive:

Since 2008 I've kept track of the books I've read and I'm happy to report that in 2010 I read 41 books, which is a substantial jump from the 25 in 2009 and the 29 in 2008.  I attribute the increase to the amount of business travel I did this year.  All the travel led to a lot of time sitting in the airport, the airplane, and the hotel in the evening where I could get some reading done.

And before we get to the books... here's a breakdown I did because I'm a nerd:
  • 26 Fiction 15 Non-Fiction
  • 29 different Authors (8 - Kage Baker, 4 David Mitchell, 2 Stephen King, 2 Joe Hill)
  • Author Nationality Breakdown: 31 American, 5 English (4 David Mitchell, 1 Jacobs), 1 Irish (Murray), 1 Canadian (Sawyer), 1 Lebanese (Talib), 1 Zimbabwe/Rhodesian (Rogers), 1 Russia (Petrushevskaya, which was also the only translated book I read)
  • 10 books by women, although 8 were by Kage Baker (Julie Klausner and Ludmilla Petrushevskaya were the other two)
  • Publish Date skewed very recent, with 14 published in 2010, 6 in 2009, 1 in 2008, 6 in 2007, 4 in 2006, 1 2005, and 2 in 2004.  The rest was 2 in 1999 and 1 each in 2001, 2000, 1997, 1990, and 1969 (the outlier here being Slaughterhouse-Five by  Kurt Vonnegut
Goals for Next Year: Seek more diversity.  More international, more women, more minorities.  Also, maybe try and read another classic or two.

Best Fiction of the Year: Despite a late charge from Paul Murray's Skippy Dies, the fiction book that captivated my imagination and sent me on a mad dash to read everything the author has written was David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas.  The book has six different stories that are nested within each other.  For example, the 1st story is in the form of a journal article that the protagonist of the 2nd story comes across.  The book is structured so that each part is abruptly stopped and you move to the second story and so on and then it picks up on the other side (I know this is confusing but  it goes 1,2,3,4,5,6,5,4,3,2,1 and when you are reading it is very fluid and totally awesome... still confused Wiki does a better job than me explaining it:  I'd recommend this book to almost anyone who enjoys a good book, with the exception of people who only like thrillers or who have short attention spans.

Best Nonfiction of the Year: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
What happened to the Zeitoun family during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is both horrifying and fascinating. Eggers provides an exceptionally well written book detailing Zeitoun's efforts to help his neighbors and his "I can't believe this happened in America" ordeal after being arrested for looting.

This book truly illustrates how tenuous civil society is and how it can go to hell in a heartbeat. However, despite my empathy towards Zeitoun, I can also understand the perspective of the individuals who arrested him. The city was under a mandatory evacuation and Zeitoun was found with several other individuals, one who had 10,000 of cash on him and another (Ronnie) who may have indeed been involved in some looting. This in no way excuses the treatment Zeitoun was subjected to during his incarceration. An American citizen should never be treated like that. And it is a testament to Zeitoun's strength and character that he decided to remain in New Orleans and rebuild after this ordeal.

Also, Eggers points out the fact that while individuals were still stranded on rooftops and in their home surrounded by water, a prison was being constructed, a prison equipped with portable toilets and MREs, only a few blocks from the desperate scene at the convention center and Superdome. It's clear that, as President Bush said, the system failed New Orleans at every level of government.

Worst Fiction of the Year:
When I first heard the title of this book I thought for sure it would be great. Who isn't instantly drawn to a book that has "There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby" as a title? Then I read some reviews and I was even more excited.


Maybe I was expecting too much, but I was let down. Many of the stories seemed to be VERY similar. I would say 75% of the stories had the same basic twist. The titular story was a big letdown. There were a few stories toward the end in the Requiems section that were okay, but I think they stood out because some of the others weren't as great. Perhaps something was lost in translation, but I didn't quite get was the fuss was about for this one. Other than "The Black Coat" all the stories were pretty forgettable.

Worst Non-Fiction of the Year:
I Don't Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I've Dated by Julie Klausner

This book was an easy read. However, it wasn't as funny as I thought it was going to be. In fact, it was very hard to feel anything other than pity for the author, who despite her professed dislike of Midwestern values, seems in constant search of them as she is crushed by guy after guy after guy. The entire book consists of her meeting some guy, explaining how horrible the guy treated her on their first "maybe" date, sleeping with him anyway, and then being crushed when the guy dumps her. So by the time page 200 rolls around and she describes meeting a guy, who on their very first meal together, discusses how he just ended a relationship with a woman who had an abortion after he got her pregnant and how he was once arrested on charges of DUI, Grand Theft Auto, and Kidnapping, you know how it is going to play out. At this point any sane person would be running away as fast as they could. But as I had read the previous 200 pages I knew what Ms. Klausner would be doing... and yup, she provides a nice description of how she ended up teabagging the guy.

I was expecting a fun read about horrible relationships and I got that...sort of. But I didn't understand how someone could keep making the same mistake over and over and over. Also, I have no problem with the sexual escapades, live it up! But, if you know how horrible the guys are then why get depressed when after sex they don't call, they have another girlfriend, etc. etc.

Finally at the end of the book we get a "I met a guy who was married and instead of banging him I turned him down, look at how grown up I am" moment. But really... too little too late. Ms. Klausner proclaims "What I Learned!" I'm not sure I know what she learned, and I don't think she knows either.

Best New Find: Kage Baker
One of the best surprises of this year was a great little story in the Wizards anthology by Kage Baker, The Ruby Incomparable. I found this tale of the daughter of an evil overlord and his empathic do-gooder wife to be well told, original, and fascinating. In fact, I decided I needed more Kage Baker and quickly devoured the 8 books in her Company series.  Though parts of the Company series were not my favorite, overall the entire concept of a Company developing time travel and creating immortal cyborgs to save items of historical importance that would otherwise be lost (think Roman libraries before the barbarian invasions etc.) was fascinating and obviously I couldn't get enough.  It was sad to find out Baker had died of pancreatic cancer earlier this year.

Complete List(Books in bold I rated as 5 Stars on Goodreads, Books in Italics are books I wouldn't recommend to anyone):

1. The Magicians by Lev Grossman 1/2/10
2. The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe by Douglas Rogers 1/8/10
3. Strange Maps: An Atlas of Catographic Curiosities by Frank Jacobs 1/10/10
4. There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya 1/15/10
5. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell 1/25/10
6. The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire by Joe Jackson 2/16/10
7. Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann & Mark Halperin 2/21/10
8. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks 2/28/10
9. Horns by Joe Hill 3/9/10
10. Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill 3/18/10
11. The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ is Wrong by David Shenk 3/31/10
12. Next by James Hynes 4/4/10
13. Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children's Crusade A Duty-Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut 4/16/10
14. I Don't Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I've Dated by Julie Klausner 4/19/10
15. Ghostwritten by David Mitchell 5/16/10
16. Blockade Billy by Stephen King 6/3/10
17. William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism by Robert Richardson 6/29/10
18. Stumbling on Wins: Two Economists Expose the Pitfalls on the Road to Victory in Professional Sports by David Berri & Martin Schmidt 6/29/30
19. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers 6/30/10
20. Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes 7/5/10
21. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell 7/20/10
22. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell 8/7/10
23. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb 8/19/10
24. In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker 9/1/10
25. Sky Coyote by Kage Baker 9/2/10
26. Mendoza in Hollywood by Kage Bake 9/11/10
27. The Graveyard Game by Kage Baker 9/20/10
28. The Life of the World to Come by Kage Baker 10/2/10
29. Invasions by Eugene Izzi 10/7/10
30. The Children of the Company by Kage Baker 10/14/10
31. Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson 10/21/10
32. The Machine's Child by Kage Baker 10/28/10
33. Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir by Dave Mustaine with Joe Layden 10/31/10
34. Wizards: Magical Tales From the Masters of Modern Fantasy edited by Jack Dann 11/10/10
35. How to Live Safely in a Science Ficitonal Universe by Charles Yu 11/12/10
36. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande 11/16/10
37. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King 11/20/10
38. The Sons of Heaven by Kage Baker 12/3/10
39. Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer 12/6/10
40. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray 12/24/10
41. FreeDarko Presents: The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History by Bethlehem Shoals et al. 12/27/10

And if anyone actually made it all the way down here I'd love to have your recommendations for what I should check out in 2011.  And I'd be happy to expand on any of the books in the list if you are on the fence about giving it a shot.