If 2017 was a busy year, 2018 lapped 2017 a good two or three times. If you haven’t noticed, this is my first post in many, many months. I wrote seemingly endless lines of code but probably only a few yards of sentences. That was disappointing. Fortunately, I did have a very productive reading year and decided to share that with you, like I did my 2017 reading list. Some of these were re-reads. I finished a series I had begun years ago and read some classics that were long overdue. I had adventures in science, science fiction, fantasy, dystopia, religion, and history. At least four of these books have been banned or challenged in the USA. I’m not going to tell you which ones they were. I think you should look that up. Then, make a reading list for yourself inspired by banned books. (Perhaps I should do that myself for 2019) … or perhaps you’ll just includes a few of these in your reading for this year.
So here we go –
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage
A prequel to Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. Curious, good-natured Malcolm Polstead becomes entangled in events that are far more sinister than his young mind can imagine when he happens upon a strange acorn that turns out to be a secret message. Read this book (and His Dark Materials if you haven’t already). There’s a reason Pullman is Sir Phillip Pullman.
On the Origin of Species
Darwin’s classic study of evolution. Why hadn’t I actually read it until this year? I really don’t know, but (while this may sound mean) I will no longer entertain anyone critiquing Darwin’s work unless that person has actually read this book because that person is likely using arguments he already answered over 150 years ago.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany
A play set twenty years after the conclusion of the Harry Potter series. As a the original series holds a special little corner of my heart, I really enjoyed the continuation of the story with a new generation.
The Book of Chuang Tzu
Chuang Tzu, translators, and a bunch of other writers because this is really old
A book by Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu and his followers. His views were in many ways a counter point to those of Confucius.
The second on Herbert’s Dune series in which Paul Atredies struggles to rule Arrakis and care for his family. It is far less dense than the first book, and one whose ending might surprise you.
The classic, fiery dystopian fiction in which reading is illegal, society is fed culture through television, and variations from the norm are not tolerated.
Two Cakes Fit For a King: Folktales From Vietnam
Nguyen Nguyet Cam & Dana Sachs
The title here says it all. Colorful and captivating tales from a culture whose folklore I had not explored until this year.
Fairies: The Myths, Legends, & Lore
A delightful little book about fairies. It reads rather like the textbook you want but never quite find in the market. Fun and a quick read.
Orwell’s classic tale of an animal uprising and the best laid plans of… well, farm animals this time. Always current; always poignant; always relevant.
The Origin of Consciousness in the Break Down of the Bicameral Mind
The neuro-psychologist’s pivotal and best-known work. Controversial and jaw dropping, his theories are dense and daunting but very thought provoking – whether you agree, disagree, or somewhat…/…
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The first book in the humorist’s Hitchhiker series. Boringly normal Arthur Dent finds himself aboard a spaceship filled with hostile aliens who have destroyed Earth to make a path for an intergalactic super highway. Of course, they want to throw him and buddy Ford Prefect, who to Arthur’s surprise is also an alien, out into space. This was a re-read, but so much time had passed since I read it, I couldn’t in good conscious pick up the series where I left off. This book is side splitting hilarious. You will laugh out loud despite being alone in the house or a crowded room.
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
The second book in the Hitchhiker series. After the conclusion of their extremely improbable first adventures, the crew of the Heart of Gold try to unwind at a restaurant that jumps back and forth in time right at the point when the entire Universe ends in a fiery conflagration. This too was a re-read, but I really needed the refresh if I wanted to continue Arthur, Trillian, Ford, Zaphod and Marvin’s journey. Like the first, this book was still hilarious the second time.
The Last Ballad
Ella Mae Wiggins stands up to mill bosses during the Loray Mill Strike 1929, singing songs she wrote herself and inspiring other textile mill workers to stand up for their rights. This novel is a fictionalization of a true story. Ella Mae Wiggins was a very real person, and her children are still alive. All of this took place in Gastonia, NC, only one hour away from where I grew up as a kid. I didn’t know anything about Ella or the Loray Mill Strike until I read this book…which is mind blowing.
S. E. Hinton
The Socials and Greasers are locked in a struggle that often erupts into violence. When a late night fight turns deadly, fear of the police force Pony Boy and Johnny to hideout in an abandoned church. A fire drives them out, and in the midst of heroism and tragedy, Pony Boy learns that people are a lot more alike than they may seem on the surface. This book was written by Hinton when she was 16. Let that sink in.
For the Benefit of All Beings
The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
A transcription of the the Dalai Lama’s teachings on what gives life meaning. Highly recommended.
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
The Italian theoretical physicist discusses seven key physics concepts with the eloquence of an ancient poet. Clear explanations of complex concepts in an awe inspiring presentation.
The Left Hand of Darkness
Ursula K. Le Guin
Interplanetary envoy Genly Ai works to make an alliance between his planet Terra and the ice planet Gethen. He is frustrated by differences in culture, many of which arise from the Gethenians not having a fixed sex. Le Guin is a master storyteller, and this book is really stunning. It is the first science fiction of hers that I have read.
The Handmaid’s Tale
A modern classic dystopian tale, Atwood weaves together a world in which religious fanaticism has degraded women’s status back to being one of property – a perilous predicament at any point in history, but especially so when the birth rate has dropped below a sustainable level. This book left me with so many questions, but I believe that was part of the point – how do we get here?
The Order of Time
The Italian theoretical physicist opens your eyes to how little you really know about time, how profoundly it effects you, how it does so in very different ways, and what that all may mean. A mind boggling investigation of a strange yet very familiar and mostly speculated area of physics.
Life, the Universe, & Everything
Arthur, Ford, Trillian, Zaphod, and Marvin hop across space and time in an attempt to prevent the universe from being destroyed by a cosmic-supernova-bomb and to discover the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Once again, Adams explores the insanity and chaos that drives the universe with humor and honesty from the first page to the last.
Translated and Introduced by Patrick Olivelle
The Upanisads of Renunciation explore the state and specify the conditions in which renouncing the material world is desirable.
Zhao Xiaomin & Martin Palmer
A book of Taoist meditations.
The Bell Jar
Plath’s classic semi-autobiographical novel about the day-to-day struggles of a person living with mental illness. The first-person narration makes the narrative one of the most poignant of its kind and leaves a lasting impact.
So Long and Thanks For All the Fish
Arriving back on Earth pre-Vogon-destruction, Arthur Dent and his new girlfriend Fenchurch embark on a journey to discover why there are no more dolphins on Earth.
QED: The Strange Theory of Light & Matter
The Nobel Prize winning particle physicist explains the fundamentals of quantum electrodymanics using his unique diagrams and an astonishing ability to explain complex concepts in a way that imparts understanding, a healthy dose of questions, and the realization of how little you know about the subject.
Coming To Light
Brian Swann, Editor
A collection of stories from native speakers of many Native American tribes over a vast geographical spread. This was one of the my favorite books this year. These stories were alive, and I feel privileged to have experienced them.
“Young Zaphod Plays It Safe”
In this short, young Zaphod Beeblebrox finds himself obligated exploring a sunken shipwreck that some “suits” insist is “perfectly safe.”
Having lost Fenchurch, Arthur finally takes refuge on a primitive planet after hitchhiking across the universe and contributing to DNA banks to gain the funds to do so. Everything changes when Trillian (now a successful intergalactic reporter) shows up on his planet with his daughter Random Dent, whom Trillian conceived via donor, and leaves her with him. When a package from Ford Prefect arrives, a frustrated Random leaves the planet in a stat-of-the-art spaceship, and Arthur and Ford find themselves chasing her and the Hitchhiker’s Guide across the galaxy. This was a very fitting end to this series. Highly recommended.
The Last Hero
Sometimes, you just need to eat Cheetos. This was my Cheetos for the year. A YA novel from the author of the Percy Jackson series. This was the first book of his that I have read, and it was very entertaining and fast paced. I enjoyed the perspective shifts too.
Well there you have it. I know I’m a bit late on this since its now mid-January. (You know…writing code and all of that.) But I do hope it has inspired you to read more in 2019, and perhaps add some of these to your own list this year. Happy Reading!