Once again I’ve cataloged all the books I’ve read in the past year. It was a decent year for reading and as in the past the list is dominated by favorite authors and post-apocalyptic sci-fi.
I’ve noticed my reading really picks up when I find an engaging story and really drops off when I read non-fiction that doesn’t have some sort of story structure that maintains my interest. As a case in point, I remember reading the 23rd book on the list in late July. At that rate I should have read more than 28 books in the year, but I got slogged down in several marketing books in the fall and didn’t get re-engaged in good stories until the end of the year (no offense to those non-fiction books, it’s just the nature of the beast). As in past years, having a stack of books I’m eager to dive into next always helps. That plagued my fall reading as well.
1. Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott
A continuation of her Rosie character from a previous novel (I like when authors re-use characters like this—Madeleine L’Engle was an expert at it—though I can never remember what happened in the previous novel. It’s not important, but it always nags at me. This is basically the story of parents dealing with a teenage druggy. Not exactly lift-you-up kind of stuff.
2. The Postman by David Brin
An award winning classic, this post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel follows a wanderer who stumbles across a postal carrier’s uniform and uses it as a ruse to get food and shelter. But the myth takes off and his stories of a Restored United States spin out of control. Much better story and character than the Kevin Costner movie version.
4. Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade—and How We Can Fight It by David Batstone
A brutal glimpse inside the modern slave trade. Hard to read without thinking of a way to get involved and help stop human trafficking.
5. The Girl Who Owned a City O.T. Nelson
A post-apocalyptic tale where a disease has wiped out all the adults, leaving the children to fend for themselves. A quick read, but it felt too much like a thinly veiled morality play.
6. Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd Century America by Robert Charles Wilson
A future America after an apocalyptic scenario has returned the world to the 19th century, complete with a feudal system, a hereditary monarchy charading as the presidency and a church that has ascended to a branch of the government. That all sounds a little intense, but it’s a just backdrop for a great story of war, heroism and politics.
7. The Conqueror Worms by Brian Keene
Apocalypse by unending rain and giant worms. Sounded dumb enough to be funny, but it was too supernatural with no explanation, more horror than sci-fi.
8. Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
Another post-apocalyptic classic. This one is a little unique in that it follows a man’s entire life from apocalypse at 20 until his death and gives a good glimpse at how life carries on. Some of the inaccuracies were a little frustrating—that after 20 years gas would still work, that canned food would be edible and running water would keep working—and it had a few tedious spots, but otherwise it was pretty good.
9. The Last Ship by William Brinkley
A nuclear missile destroyer launches its salvo in the inevitable apocalypse of the Cold War and then finds itself virtually alone in a nuclear holocaust. A bit wordy at times—too much explanation and philosophizing and not enough action.
10. Reilly’s Luck by Louis L’Amour
A bit scattered for a Louis L’Amour. Probably not his best.
11. Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou
These autobiographical sketches from Maya Angelou are always great.
12. The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
A Christmas tale with zombies. What more could you want?
13. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
Thought it would be a funny and interesting take on the Wizard of Oz, instead it was dull and tedious. Not sure why I bothered to finish it.
15. The Small Rain by Madeleline L’Engle
First book of hers I didn’t care for. Main character bothered me and the plot was too minimal.
17. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
Reflections on the art of writing.
18. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
A tale of despair and doubt centered on a bad priest who finds himself an unwilling martyr. I first read it as a freshman in college and it was one of several books that were transformational for me.
19. 1491: New Revelations of the America Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann
Interesting insights into Indian populations in America that upend a lot of our pre-conceieved ideas. Really long though.
20. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Original story, great to get in to. I was disappointed by the ending though. [Spoiler alert] I was hoping for the Romeo & Juliet moment to happen at the end. That would have been perfect. I felt like they compromised to allow for less-than-stellar sequels.
21. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Part 2 wasn’t nearly as good, though [Spoiler alert] getting back into the games was an interesting surprise.
22. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Final book in the series and kind of a let down.
23. The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
Very intriguing character and style (the main character is a boy who likes to map odd things, and every page of the book’s margins are filled in with his maps. It got kind of weird though and the ending wasn’t very satisfying.
24. The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice by Toddy Henry
Great book on how to be more intentional about your creative life. If only I weren’t such a slacker.
27. The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
Interesting premise about two teens in the late 1990s accessing their Facebook profiles from the future, but not as good as I’d hoped.
28. Zone One by Colson Whitehead
A literary zombie tale that had a great story but was a little hard to follow. The narrator jumped around a lot, often stopping mid-action for a three page sidebar. That made it hard to get used to and a little hard to follow (sorting out current action from rehashed memories was difficult), but still a good story of recovering from the zombie apocalypse.