Sunday, November 15, 2015

2015 best reads

I read a lot. Often it's research for my own writing. Sometimes it's as competitive analysis (re-plowing the same ground as other recent books -- except, apparently, where zombies are concerned -- isn't the easiest way to sell one's own works). Many evenings, it's for relaxation. On many an occasion, it's for two or all three reasons. If I finish a book, it has -- at the least -- been useful.

This post looks at the handful(ish) of books I read in 2015 (which isn't to say they were all written this year) that rose beyond "useful" and even "memorable" to "I remember this fondly and can well imagine rereading at a future date." In a couple of cases, they're books that I reread this year.

Presuming that you visit SF and Nonsense because you appreciate my take on science or technology or fiction, you might find, in the post that follows, books you (and like-minded friends, relatives, etc.) will also enjoy. (And FYI, every cover is an Amazon links.)

Science Fiction Planet Blues, Robert J. Sawyer. It's a Martian adventure, noir mystery, and look at post-humanism all in one. Very clever and great fun. Based on Sawyer's 2005 novella, "Identity Theft."

The Martian, Andy Weir. Well worth all the buzz, and the
source of the excellent 2015 movie. Truly inspiring and uplifting. (And no, I didn't set out to have a Mars theme.)

General Fiction
The Rosie Project, Graeme Simison. The unlikely adventures of a geneticist, entirely unaware of his Asperger's condition, in search of a suitable mate. Next to our hero, Temperance Brennan (I'm assuming you're familiar with the TV series Bones) is a social wizard. Warm, witty, and charming. Fifth Gospel, Ian Caldwell. The historical/spiritual/mystery novel that Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code tried (and utterly failed) to be. A moving, deeply touching, thought-provoking page-turner.
A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole. Madcap adventures of an utterly zany misfit. Winner of a posthumous Pulitzer. Imagine (if you can) Joseph Heller's Catch-22 crossed with John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor, with a bit more insanity, set in New Orleans' French Quarter. Hysterically funny. and Conspirata, Robert Harris. Two novels of ancient Rome, chronicling the political rise and travails of Cicero. (I imagine that Dictator, the long-awaited conclusion of this trilogy, will be similarly excellent, but I can't yet prove that.) Utterly immersive, and every bit as compelling as the better-known I, Claudius duology by Robert Graves.

Nonfiction Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr and the Struggle for the Soul of Science, Lindley, David. A highly lucid look at the origins of quantum mechanics, the struggle to make sense of its counter-intuitive predictions, and what it all might mean. Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself, Daniel J. Boorstin. This is as ambitious as the title suggests. Boorstin, if the name isn't familiar, was Librarian of Congress from 1975 to 1987. An historian, educated at Harvard, Oxford, and Yale, his writing is as solid and meticulously detailed as anyone could want -- and for all its encyclopedic depth and breadth, eminently readable. Reviewed August 3rd in "And now for something (in fact, many somethings) completely different."

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