One of my bookshelves

One of my bookshelves

Books I read in 2011
Books I read in 2012
Books I read in 2013
Books I read in 2014
Books I read in 2015
Books I read in 2016
Books I read in 2017

In 2010 a fellow blogger inspired me to keep track of the books and short stories I read.

When I initially began this project, my intent was to try to fit more books into my busy life and to gain a little encouragement by seeing my lists grow. It was more successful than I expected it would be, and I have been reading many more books than I expected to be able to. My second goal was to help gain a better breadth of genres, so I will continue to try to improve that aspect. Please drop a recommendation into the comments if you know of a book that should be read!

Full disclosure:
Most of the time I read audio books on my iPhone. I love you, audible.com! Though I value holding a book above all other forms of reading, it isn’t practical in my life. Nor is it appealing (or practical) to hold a nasty computer screen in my lap (as in a Kindle). The point is, I rarely have time to kick it with a book. Always the multitasker, I read stories (and listen to NPR, BBC, and Link TV) while washing dishes, working in the garden, jammed in standing-room-only on the bus, mowing the lawn, going for a run, folding clothes. An unexpected bonus is that I now look forward to folding the laundry and washing dishes! Another bonus is that I am able to enjoy the impressive voice talents of many narrators. It adds an important dimension to books that I haven’t experienced before.

  1. The Circle of Ceridwen, Book One by Octavia Randolph. The story is told well; Randolph’s craft is clear. The language and situations are somewhat mild. I feel like I never got into anyone’s soul, or looked into the eyes of evil or fury. Not that I like violence, but I want to feel more. I was developing a growing respect for Yrling and Sidroc and felt that their qualities outshone anyone else in the book, so I was dismayed when Ceridwen easily brushed them off and fell all head over heels for an angry self-righteous immature lord.
  2. 1491 by Charles C. Mann. What were the Americas like in 1491 – right before you-know-who came and wreaked his havoc? A book to help you understand more about yourself by explaining, based on what we know, how much we don’t know about ourselves. I like the style of this one, which does not plod methodically chronologically, and does not resemble an educational textbook despite being distinctly educational. Mann chooses a point he wants to make, and then tells whatever he needs to tell to get you to understand. He’ll go backwards and then forwards in time, talk about 2009 even though the book is called 1491. He tells you what specialists have said, what the common understanding was until the 50s, why that changed, and what his own personal opinion is now that he wrote this book. Then, next point, and bounce through time again. He revealed so much misunderstanding that has now been clarified, that I realize everything I thought I knew about the American continents was flawed, if not absolutely incorrect. As an American Indian, it’s refreshing to hear my ancestors talked about with intelligence, realism, and no patronization.
  3. The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. Published in 1896, Wells pokes at some contemporary tender spots: genetic modification, designer babies, animal cruelty, mental health disorder. I see that there have been a couple movies. I haven’t seen them. The book is disturbing but believable, mostly because the mad scientist, Dr. Moreau, is portrayed as almost reasonable, except when you remember exactly what it is he is doing, which is surgically altering animals to create humans. And the protagonist is believable too, going through what I would probably go through: terror, tolerance, appreciation, suspicion, and then terror again. I like it because Wells wasn’t judgy. He just lays it out there: here is this wild world, and here are the details. What is the definition of human? What means toward perfection are acceptable? It’s up to you to make a conclusion.
  4. The Music Lesson: a Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music by Victor L. Wooten. Would you like to find daily joy? Be your best self? Get over that roadblock and start breaking new ground again, like you used to? It’s a story about a musician getting his groove back, and as you join him in that journey you might learn how to get yours back too. This book was recommended to me by a musician, and I’m going to guess that it is better suited for a musician than anyone else. However! I have zero musical knowledge and still understood the concepts presented by Wooten. Music is merely his tool to help make his point. The story drifts into some spiritual concepts that my practical mind rejects, but I just ran with it for the sake of enjoying the story.
  5. The Neuromancer by William Gibson. Written in 1984, it holds up today as absorbing science fiction. This well-constructed, multi-level plot with humor, space travel, AI, military secrets, sex, deception, and cryonics, is solid. I am awed that it’s Gibson’s first novel. The main character was a computer hacker but got in trouble and had his nervous system altered so he could no longer access cyberspace. Then someone offers to fix his nerves if he’ll do a hacking job, and he agrees. If you like plot twists and trying to figure out what’s going on while you read, this one’s for you.
  6. Artemis by Andy Weir. I had to read this one because I love The Martian so much, also by Weir. Artemis is not as good, but still entertaining. The setting is a colony on Earth’s Moon, main character is a woman porter, who smuggles on the side to supplement her income. It’s expensive living on the Moon! She’s so used to low gravity that she uses it to her advantage, while rolling her eyes at the tourists trying to walk. Tourism is the main industry there, and Weir makes the economy, the classism, the safety measures, the staff requirements, all very easy to believe. I was fascinated with the explanations of the construction of the colony, transportation, surface walks, air storage, food, waste, and the politics behind controlling it all. The heroine, though… she’s supposed to be sexy and exotic and scrappy (the fictitious ‘cool girl’), but she’s predictable. I almost didn’t notice the fact that her character is the same one I’ve seen in science fiction stories for forever, because I’m so used to it that I expect it. But maybe that’s a sign for male SF writers to step it up?
  7. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Eighty years after its publication, this story is still selling. And I know why. Du Maurier wrote a dark, disturbing murder mystery novel with a group of awful humans. You simply can’t look away. Everyone is SUCH a character, but never so eccentric that you stop believing in them. Except maybe the exceptional Rebecca, who dies in the flesh prior to the story, but is kept viscerally alive by everyone else, particularly by her replacement, the narrator of the story, who never met her. The new Mrs. De Winter repeatedly loses your respect due to her crippling shyness and naivete, but you become as desperate to know what happened to the previous Mrs. De Winter as she does. Only if you were there, you would certainly speak up and demand more answers.
  8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Er, this was an experience. Early on I became frustrated and confused and then scornful. “Why on earth is this book so treasured?” In order to keep reading the book, I had to let it all go and just try to ride the wave. Magical Realism, apparently, is not the ideal writing style for an INTJ like me. (ooh, I just realized that explains why 4. above was also a bit much) Anyway, the story follows one family in one town through generations and generations. Their intentions seem good enough, yet still such catastrophes result. Disasters strike, curses, magical diseases, so. much. sex. It’s such a long book that I was in danger of getting bored and putting it down, but I was reading it on the recommendation of a friend, so I forced myself to keep going. And finally, by the last page, I decided I liked it.
  9. Between Planets by Robert A. Heinlein. Published in 1951. (Interesting how many old ones I’ve been reading.) This was a pretty fun SF novel, and Heinlein seriously did make an attempt to generalize and futurize his technology references so that we future people could still be immersed, but… there was no way for him to imagine the way technology would change. Despite those little hiccups (which in some sense add an interesting filter) it’s worth a read. The protagonist is in boarding school on Earth when his parents call him home to Mars. On the way he docks at a transport station in space, and while there it’s taken over by rebels and comm lines are cut. He refuses to return to Earth as the captors insist. He’s not allowed to go to Mars, and manages to get to Venus instead. As soon as they launch, the transit station is blown up, and they find out later that the shuttle to Earth was destroyed on its arrival. The boy then resigns himself to life on Venus until space travel resumes and he can go to Mars and see his parents. He becomes tangled in the Venutian civil war, even joins the military himself.
  10. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I reviewed it in 2015, so go check that out. I read it again to get ready to see the movie. The movie was beyond a letdown, and full-on offensive in some places. It turned this mindblowingly fun, funny, and smart young adult novel into a predictable and soft kiddie show, where the bad guy Nolan Sorento gives a little I-love-puppies smile in the end to show that he really does have a heart. The final scene removes one of the main heroines – a black lesbian – from the celebration stage with all the hetero white kids, and puts her off to the side, being questioned by the police. That scene made me nauseous. The book – AMAZING. The movie – a fucking insult.
  11. Down in the Bottomlands by Harry Turtledove. This a novella, so pretty easy to get through. Set on Earth, possibly in present times, but in an alternate course of history where the Mediterranean Sea is a desert, and the sea water is held at bay by a mountain range. You follow a tour group into the basin, now a park, led by a tour guide. Right away there is a murder of one of the tourists from a country likely to cause a political row. Government investigators fly in, and the tourists are held in the hot and inhospitable ancient sea basin until the murder plot is revealed.
  12. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I’m reading this one again because – finally! – it has been so long since I last read it that I forgot some things. I love re-reading my favourites.