One of my goals for 2015 was to read 36 books outright.
That didn’t happen. I powered through a mere 32. Nothing to complain about, I suppose. I am mortal, but I was within spitting distance! Ptui
I put my feet up and partook in a healthy amount of science fiction last year. Nine books to be precise. Three of them made my list below. Are you screaming in joy yet?
I also nimbly vetted four Agatha Christie novels because it smacked of the thing to do. Or at least something I had never done before.
5. (Tie) Ready Player One (Ernest Cline, 2011) – The future is bleak. But the inventor of the all encompassing virtual world that everyone escapes to, develops a treasure hunt, where the victor is the supreme ruler of that world. And infinitely rich. The inventor loves all things from the 1980’s. So the quest is a geektastic exploration of nostalgia from the music, video games, TV and movies from that era. Our hero is an expert on all things the inventor likes. But so are many others. Some not so nice. Who will win? Oh yeah, Steven Spielberg’s movie adaption comes out in 2017.
5. (Tie) Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy Book 1) (Pierce Brown, 2014) – The sort of story someone might like if they enjoyed the Hunger Games or Total Recall or Greek mythology. It’s about a young man from Mars who seeks revenge for the death of his wife by infiltrating the ruling upper class, that style themselves after Greek Gods. He joins their training school, which is an expansive and glorified version of capture the flag. It reads fast and you will be entertained.
4. Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life (George Monbiot, 2013) – The ideas this book spark and the possibilities of how to live and let live are incredible. My favorite is that we often try to preserve the wrong thing in nature. We try to save or reconstruct what we know from our lifetimes (or parent’s lifetimes), but often those habitats and wildlife are not the original way of things. 100 years ago is not that long in the grand scheme of things. So much has happened in that time, yet humans and nature can co-exist. The book slogs at certain points, but the overall picture is worth an occasional slow spot.
3. The Martian (Andy Weir, 2014) – Read it now and you will certainly picture Matt Damon navigating the Martian landscape. You will certainly hear his voice narrating and explaining thorny nuggets of science theory. There is a big element of technical science, but it’s never too hard to grasp and is done with a smidgen of humor. And if you didn’t hear, The Golden Globes gave the movie adaptation the award for Best Comedy/Musical. What the…? It is not a comedy and the only music is disco.
2. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (Daniel James Brown, 2014) – I would posit that the title alone should be instructive on the topic of this book. Outside that, this is the story of the University of Washington (UW) rowing team and their journey to be the best in the world. Most of the story is about the life of one of the boys, the Nazi PR machine leading up the Olympics and the epic rowing rivalry between the UW and the University of California – Berkeley, in a time when rowing was among the biggest and most prestigious sports in America. Hard to believe when you look at today’s sporting world, but true. My favorite part was when the UW rowing team clandestinely went to visit President Roosevelt’s actual home. They snuck in the back, knocked and were welcomed in to the house by his son, James, who was a huge rowing fanatic and had rowed himself. Imagine what would have happened today. I highly recommend you put down what you’re reading now, and read this instead.
1. The Art of Travel (Alain de Botton, 2004) – There are books that enrich your thinking. There are books that drop ideas into your brain that open wide all new possibilities. There are books that give you pause, just long enough to exclaim ‘Ah ha! and shake your head with a smile. Then there is this book that does all of those things, but goes beyond. What is travel? Why do we do it? And what perspective is the most important? This is an exploration of perspective, using the concepts and work of artists and authors as a key to unlocking the truth. The truth for you. I will only fail to describe the effect, so just read it. That is the best advice I can give.