Category Archives: Best Books

Best Books of 2016

As is tradition around these parts, here’s a wrap up of the year’s reading/listening history (about 1/3 of my “reading” these days is via audio books in the car):

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Biography 1 3 2 3 2
Fantasy 1 3 5 2 2 2 2
Fiction 3 5 3 4 2 3 1 5
Historical fiction 3
Non-fiction 5 7 4 6 4 18 10 12
Sci-fi 7 3 6 7 1 6 8 5
YA 1 5 1 1 2 1
Grand Total 18 26 21 23 11 29 25 24

And here are my awards for the best things I read/listened to this year.

Best Fiction: Seveneves – very unique apocalypse scenario, extrapolated out very far in very detailed fashion.  The politics pre- and post- “white sky” seemed all too-real.

Best Nonfiction: Thinking, Fast and Slow – reveals some “secrets” of psychology that may be vulnerable to “hacking” (in ourselves or others; in good and bad ways).

Runner-up awards to Apollo and Empire of the Summer Moon for some really interesting history.

 

My Best Books of 2015

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, when I reveal the best books I read in 2015!

But first, the reading totals chart:

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Biography 1 3 2 3 2
Fantasy 1 3 5 2 2 2
Fiction 3 5 3 4 2 3 1
Historical fiction 3
Non-fiction 5 7 4 6 4 18 10
Sci-fi 7 3 6 7 1 6 8
YA 1 5 1 1 2 1
Grand Total 18 26 21 23 11 29 25

Not bad, not bad.

I recently mused a bit on books and mortality – given my current age and reading habits, it is unlikely I will have read 1000 more books before I die.  On one hand, that’s a lot of books; but on the other hand, that only a fraction of the total number of books published in a single day.  I wish there was a good way of knowing which books would be the most enjoyable before you spend the time reading them…

 

Anyway, without further ado…the awards!

Best fiction: The Martian.   Now I just gotta go see the movie!

Fiction runner-up: Victus: The Fall of Barcelona.   Interesting time period and bittersweet story.

Best non-fiction: To Conquer the Air.  Yeah, go Wilbur!

Non-fiction runner-up: The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874 – 1932.  Pretty good overview of pre-WWII 20th century history.

2014 Reading Review

Another year, another book count and retrospective post.  (Note that this year I merged blogs; Quo Legatis was the old name for my reading blog.)

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Biography 1 3 2 3 2
Fantasy 1 3 5 2 2
Fiction 3 5 3 4 2 3
Non-fiction 5 7 4 6 4 18
Sci-fi 7 3 6 7 1 6
YA 1 5 1 1 2
Grand Total 18 26 21 23 11 29

An all-time* reading total record and a spectacular recovery from last year!  Somewhat helped by 3 cross-country trips this summer-fall … got just about two books read while sitting on airplanes each trip (one outbound, one inbound).

(*since I began this blog … pretty sure I read much more in years past when life was not so busy.)

My best books of the year:

1491 and 1493 – fascinating looks before and after a year which changed the world

Other recommended books:

Nothing to Envy – North Korea is a horrible place.  ‘Nuff said.

A Short History of Nearly Everything – a fun history of science (fun? science?  yes!)

The Islanders – just a little bit weird … basically a collection of chapters from many good (non-existent) novels

Predator – because I am an engineer and liked the story of overcoming challenges to create something useful.  And missiles.

House of Suns – lots of interesting future history and a decent story

 

2013 Quo Legatis Book Awards

I apologize to my faithful readers on the relatively low activity and pitiful reading total for this year.  I know you must all be devastated.  I have no idea why the numbers are so low.  I’ll blame a move mid-year for disrupting my pace.

Category 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Biography 1 3 2 3 2
Fantasy 1 3 5 2 2
Fiction 3 5 3 4 2
Non-fiction 5 7 4 6 4
Sci-fi 7 3 6 7 1
YA 1 5 1 1
Grand Total 18 26 21 23 11

But I still have some awards to hand out!

Best Fiction: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.  Really enjoyed this depiction of magic, and placing it in an alternate history.  Memorable characters and a fun story, with kind of a weird ending.  But magic is just weird, ok?

Best NonfictionFace of Battle.  War, what is it good for?  Well, an interesting experiment on the nature of courage and this resulting nice book, if nothing else.

Honorable mention: River of Stars.  If only the ending were a little more … heroic?  But it’s based on real life, which doesn’t always wrap up in the nicest possible way.

2012 Quo Legatis Book Awards

Well, it’s that time of year again.  With holiday travel plans and general hectic pandemonium expected, the probability of finishing off another book prior to year’s end is rather unlikely.

So…the envelope, please!

Best non-fiction: The Prize.  It’s still amazing to me how great the influence of oil was on twentieth century politics and military strategy.  “The Prize” is a monstrous tome, but an excellent education in and of itself.

Non-fiction runner-up: Confederates in the Attic.  Some good writin’ about some good ol’ boys.

Best fiction: A Fire Upon the Deep.  A prime example of why I love science fiction: take a concept (in this case, generally, basic modes of communication), totally twist it and turn it upside down, then add a crisis situation and extrapolate.

Fiction runner-up: Life of Pi.  Even still, I feel a lot of emotion about this one when I think back on it.  Some sadness for Pi and the tragedy (the “reality option”) he likely experienced; some sense of wonder and joy at the “otherwordly option”; a hearty dash of appreciation for the masterful articulation of some weighty concepts – it’s really an extended allegory, in the Biblical sense, teaching about faith.

And some honorable mentions to: One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Cyberiad, and The Windup Girl.

And some stats:

Category 2009 2010 2011 2012
Biography 1 3 2 3
Fantasy 1 3 5 2
Fiction 3 5 3 4
Non-fiction 5 7 4 6
Sci-fi 7 3 6 7
YA 1 5 1 1
Grand Total 18 26 21 23

Depending on how you look at it, 2012 could be the best year so far, it terms of books read.  Yay!  Seven books from 2010 were audio books (ahh, the joys of a long commute); I don’t really listen to audio books anymore since I moved in late 2011 – now my commute is a mere 5 minutes or so.

(In case you are comparing with last year’s post, FYI I also played around with the categories a bit; reassigning some from previous years.)

2011 Quo Legatis Book Awards

It’s been a tough year, reading-wise.  Especially the last half of the year – we had a move and a new baby.  That kind of stuff really eats into your reading time!  I tried to get at least 1 book per month and succeeded except for October (baby month!), although I kind of “cheated” a bit this fall by reading shorter books.

Category 2009 2010 2011
Classics 1 2 3
Fantasy 2 3 5
Fiction 2 2
Non-fiction 6 10 6
Sci-fi 7 3 6
YA 5 1
Religion 1
Grand Total 18 26 21

The overall numbers aren’t too far off the previous years, but I’m not terribly happy with the results.  I need to read more next year!  Also I did too much re-reading this year: the Foundation series and a few others.   Although these books are all highly recommended, I really didn’t get as much out of them (in terms of enjoyment or insight) as the first time.  Not really a fan of re-reading things; the first time is always best.  I won’t re-read anything in 2012.

Not to say that I didn’t read anything good in 2011; far from the case!  I do have some awards to give!

Best Non-fiction: Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling.  Really learned a lot about Joseph.  Faith-affirming and inspiring to see how Joseph always tried to do what he thought was right, and how the church and its doctrine progressed by degrees as revelation came.

Non-fiction Runner-up: Over the Edge of the World.  What an adventure!  The back story about Portugal v Spain, his mutinous crew, and many other details about Magellan’s voyage really highlight how amazing their accomplishment was and how alien of a world (several really) they traveled through.

Best Fiction: Titus Groan.  Loved the different personalities.  I think it is hard for authors to have really different “voices” sometimes, but Mervyn Peake nailed it.  I don’t know why I haven’t continued with the sequel yet … next year!

Fiction Runner-up: Perdido Street Station.  Great bit of world building.  I would never want to live in New Crobuzon (too dirty/gritty/base), but it’s a fascinating melting pot of weirdness ripe for storytelling.  I liked how it wasn’t a convenient “happy” ending, but the ending was a little disappointing all the same – the main plot driver, getting back the power of flight, is never solved.

However that brings me to …

Special Award for Best Ending: The Glass Bead Game.  More than anything else I read (or listened to) this year, the ending to The Glass Bead Game had me incredulously muttering/shouting to myself “What???  Huh – how … ???  Like that?”  But the more I thought about it, the more beautiful it was.  I think I’ll remember it for a long time.

2010 Books of the Year (that I read)

2009 2010 Total
Classics 1 2 3
Fantasy 2 3 5
Fiction 2 2 4
Non-fiction 6 10 16
Sci-fi 7 3 10
YA 5 5
Religion 1 1
Grand Total 18 26 44

Twenty-six books read in 2010, vs eighteen for 2009.  That comparison is a little bit apples to oranges, because the 2009 total is missing data prior to March.  Also, I didn’t count audiobooks in 2009, but I did in 2010.  There are seven audiobooks in the 2010 total.  There are three non-audiobooks prior to March 2010.  So a total for 2010 more comparable to 2009 would be 16 books read.

Anyway, on with the awards.  The envelope please!

Best non-fiction: Blue Latitudes, with very honorable mentions to Stanley and Japan at War

Best fantasy: Elantris

Best sci-fi: Anathem

Best YA: The Hunger Games

2009 Year in Review

Well, another year gone by.  I thought I would write a little summary about the books I’ve read in 2009.

(Note: I didn’t start this blog til March, so I’m missing a few books I actually read this year.)

Total books read: 18

Fiction: 12 (66.6%)

Non-fiction: 6 (33.3%)

Most entertaining: World War Z – really liked it a lot; quite a page turner!  I liked how there were several narrators.  Kind of like a documentary.

Most informative: Truman – great book, great man, interesting time period

Most looking forward to the sequel of: The Name of the Wind – Harry Potter for the next age group up FTW!

See ya next year!