I’m inspired this year by one of my colleagues to do a little more than just a list of their books and a brief thought.
I read 23,154 pages across fifty books from twenty-nine authors. 13 of the books were rereads of books I’ve read in previous years.
I really enjoyed reading the Kingkiller Chronicles this year, but it looks as though it’s another Song of Ice and Fire situation. I got a lot out of reading various books about the War of the Roses and that historical era.
My favourite book has been Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles. I love Greek mythology as well as being a sucker for historical fiction, and though obviously not based on reality this is written in that style.
Full reading list
1. Liveship Traders: Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb. Reread.
2. Liveship Traders: The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb. Reread
3. Liveship Traders: Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb. Reread. The Liveship Traders was the first Elderlings trilogy I read and perhaps the best.
4. This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. It’s a really novel idea and as a “concept novel” it’s unique. I really liked some of the language too “I want to be a context for you”. But on the other side, I barely know what’s going on with the world, and some of the language was perhaps a little too flowery for my tastes. It’s intensely focused on the romance between two characters (of approx four in the book) to the exclusion of the world around them, and I’m perhaps more of a world person.
5. Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson. It’s Neal Stephenson, it’s as much about the ideas and explanations as the characters. I enjoyed it but it’s not one of his better books. The ending just happened, I expected to still be half way through it. Lots of big novel ideas though.
6. Shackleton’s Boat Journey by Frank Worsley. Previously I’ve read Shackleton’s own account on the Endurance journey as well as biographies of some of other crew. This account was entirely focused on the voyage of the James Caird – from Antarctica to South Georgia and as such was able to be more detailed. It’s a great account of astonishing seamanship, but reading Shackleton’s South will give more context and explain how the voyage began.
7. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Achilles’ life written as a novel. I love Greek mythology and really really enjoyed this. I really must read Circe by Miller too.
8. Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson Started well, limped a bit in the end. Can’t help but worry it’s horribly optimistic. There’s a wider range of ideas than Termination Shock, though I’m not sure which is the better read, Termination Shock is a bit less serious.
9. Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. Sci-Fi that’s kind of about the environment, but less so than the other KSR novels I’ve read. Seemed more tight and focused than Ministry for the Future, but smaller ideas (despite being set in space). Enjoyed it.
10. Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson – lovely little novella that I’ve somehow missed out on
11. Sicily by John Julius Norwich. It was ok, really interesting in places, but struggled to keep my attention at times. Provided some nice context for a trip to Sicily though.
12. The Athenian: Gates of Athens by Conn Iggulden, Conn Iggulden doing what he does but in ancient Athens, covering the battles of Marathon and Thermopylae.
13. The Athenian: Protector by Conn Iggulden. As above.
14. Kingkiller Chronicles: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I’ve owned this book for ages but left off reading it as I knew the trilogy was incomplete. I started reading it in a moment of weakness though and really enjoyed it, I was desperate for more.
15. Domestique by Charley Wegelius. A kind of tragic, or at least warts and all, account of a cycling domestique. The highs are understated, the lows dwelled upon but really enjoyable.
16. My Time by Bradley Wiggins. A bit meh, kind of not detailed enough in some areas, possibly rushed to capitalise on the fantastic achievements of 2012
17. Kingkiller Chronicles: Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. I still want more.
18. War of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden
19. War of the Roses: Margaret of Anjou by Conn Iggulden
20. War of the Roses: Bloodline by Conn Iggulden
21. War of the Roses: Ravenspur by Conn Iggulden – I knew the outcome and the princes in the tower but it’s not a period of history I knew that much about. It’s fascinating, and so very games-of-thrones. I’ve enjoyed getting a better idea of this period, and reading this influenced me to read more and listen to some podcasts. I did enjoy the series, but reading them back-to-back I was ready for the series to conclude by the time I got to book four.
22. Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell. More historical fiction, set just before the War of the Roses
23. Conquest: The English Kingdom of France in the Hundred Years War by Juliet Barker. Non-fiction. Starts well, the middle gets a bit tedious and then picks up again towards the end as the kingdom unravels. Probably much like the events themselves
24. World War Z by Max Brooks. Reread, interesting to see some small parallels between covid-19 and the beginnings of the “African Rabies”
25. Anathem by Neal Stephenson. A reread. There’s still something about it that resonates.
26. Building a Second Brain by Thiago Forte. Solid, actionable advice. Though maybe not as groundbreaking as I’d hoped given the proponents of the course. Some solid stuff, some pseudo-science anecdotes justifying it
27. Lion: Book 1 of the Golden Age by Conn Igguldon. Essentially a continuation of The Athenian books.
28. A Philosophy of Software Design by John Ousterhout. Great book explaining what Ousterhout’s mantra is “Reduce complexity” and general approaches for achieving that.
29. Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi. Fast and fun. Kind of a less thought-provoking Jurassic Park.
30. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. Reread.
31. Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi. Reread.
32. The Last Colony by John Scalzi. Reread.
33. Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi. Reread. After reading Kaiju Preservation Society I had a hankering to read Old Man’s War again, which snowballed into the whole series.
34. Phoenix Project by Gene Kim. Reread
35. Pompeii: Life of a Roman town by Mary Beard. Reread to coincide with a return trip to Pompeii and a first visit to Herculaneum.
36. Unicorn Project by Gene Kim. Reread
37. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams. It was so-so, I actually preferred the tv series.
38. Wheel of Time I by Robert Jordan. Great fantasy novel, a real page turner
39. Wheel of time II by Robert Jordan. Again, I couldn’t put it down
40. Wheel of time III by Robert Jordan. I feel a bit worried the series is going to be formulaic.
41. Wheel of time IV by Robert Jordan. I feel happy that the pattern I spotted before hasn’t held.
42. Chief of Staff by Gavin Barwell. Memoir by Theresa May’s Chief of Staff. He seems touchingly devoted, almost a disciple.
43. The Gatekeeper by Kate Fall. Memoir by Cameron’s deputy chief of Staff. She seems personally closer to Cameron than Barwell was to May. It assumed less knowledge of the workings of Downing Street and so was differently interesting. I’d read this over Barwell’s, unless you specifically wanted detail on May’s brexit fun.
44. In the Thick of It by Alan Duncan. Interesting (though perhaps overly long) diary of part of Alan Duncan’s time as an MP. After some background it roughly goes from the 2015 Tory election win to the 2019 win. I assume I wouldn’t share his voting record but he sounds like a lovely, very hard-working man.
45. Product Management in Practice by Matt Lemay. A really good covering of the role and the different aspects it contains.
46. For the Record by David Cameron. Some touching moments, but largely an exercise in self-justification.
47. Wheel of time V by Robert Jordan. I’m slowly losing interest. I started reading this straight after IV and managed to finish lots of other books in the meantime.
48. Randomize by Andy Weir. Short story about a casino heist involving computers. It was ok.
49. Lost Metal by Brandon Sanderson. Last of the steampunk mistborn series. None of them are as good as the original trilogy but are enjoyable in their own right.
50. Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett. Reread. I realised in late December that I hadn’t read any Pratchett this year, so thought I’d better rectify it.
I’ve joined a book club at work to read War and Peace at a chapter a day. I read it once before in 2013 and really enjoyed it, it’ll be a different experience reading it at a slower pace and with others.
I’ll probably also finish reading Wheel of Time, though I’m not in a huge rush.