Happy new year! As with 2020 and 2021, I'm starting the year with a list of books I enjoyed reading in the past year, and that I'd recommend to lots of people.
These lists seem to be popular with the types of readers I love hearing from! If you read (or have read) any of these books and enjoyed them, let me know! And if there's anything you think I'd enjoy based on what I've shared below, email me your recommendations!
I've included fiction and non-fiction this year as my lists aren't as long as previous years. In part this is because I haven't read as much as usually (especially non-fiction). In part, it's because I wouldn't necessarily recommend a lot of the books I've read.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V E Schwabb
Addie LaRue makes a deal with the devil, trading her soul for immortality. She lives for centuries, but everyone forgets her – except the devil.
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
Terrific multiverse fare.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
At first I thought this was going to be a repeat of Weir's first novel, The Martian. I was wrong. Fun and clever.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
This is the most "literary" book on the list. I wouldn't describe it as a page-turner. But it stuck with me.
Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz
I've read all of the Orphan/Evan Smoak books but haven't recommended them in the past. (They're all good, with the possible exception of the second book in the series.) I've been re-reading it with my wife and have come to appreciate it a lot more this time around. If you can get past the first few chapters which are a little bit sterile, it's good, page-turning stuff.
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
This is another recommendation after re-reading. It feels like less of a story and more a series of set pieces. But sometimes that's enough! The universe this takes place in is wild.
I'm not sure whether this is a recommendation or not, but I feel compelled to mention Sarah Painter's Crow Investigations series of novels, which I must enjoy enough to keep returning to. This year I've read The Night Raven, The Silver Mark, The Fox's Curse, and The Pearl King. I'm not sure whether the individual books hold up, and I don't think I actually like the protagonist. But I find the world-building and larger story that intersects through all of the books pretty compelling.
The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't by Julia Galef
My favourite non-fiction book of the year. It's an exceptional articulation of how I (want to) see the world.
Your World, Better: Global Progress and What You Can Do About It by Charles Kenny
This book was written for children, and has a special place in my heart. I read through it with my two children (8 and 9) and it prompted some terrific conversations. I haven't found a conversation-starting book like it, before or since.
Bubble of Revolution? The Present and Future of Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies by Neel Mehta, Adi Agashe, and Parth Detroja
Instead of making the case for blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies being a bubble OR a revolution, the authors take something of a middle ground. I found it refreshing compared to a lot of the maximalist stuff I've come across.
Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky
I'm attracted to productivity books, but I often find them to be vapid. I managed to finish this book, which is high praise. I especially liked how it wasn't prescriptive. It simply included strategies and techniques that work for some people, some time. It was the partial inspiration between my article about time craters (or: why I'm saying no more often).
My list of shame
Books that I started but haven't finished, but which I still recommend:
- Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, Cass R Sunstein. This book is like Kahneman's other book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. It's interesting and full of useful stuff. But it's DENSE. Thinking, Fast and Slow took me about five years to finish and this will probably be the same.
- Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use It by Oliver Burkeman
- Friends: Understanding the Power of Our Most Important Relationships by Robin Dunbar. (The Robin Dunbar, of Dunbar's number fame.)
- Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman
- The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird. Great book, but I have to be in a very specific mood in order to read it. I'm not often in that mood!!