So we’re already well into 2014, but I still wanted to record the reading that I did in 2013 since it was more than usual for me. I go through spurts of reading, mostly due to finding the right book that really engrosses me. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been getting back into much more fiction (mostly science fiction), including a number of older books I’ve known about for years but have never sat down to read myself. So, roughly in the order I read them (as best as I can remember), here is my reading list from 2013. Wherever possible, I’ve linked to the author’s homepage for each book.
A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin. I started reading A Game of Thrones in 2012, a little before season one of the HBO series was released on DVD. I read all five of the current books in the series back-to-back, so none of the individual books are really distinct in my mind… they’re all one big blurry story, but maybe that’s a good thing. The fifth book, A Dance With Dragons, bled a little into 2013, which is why it’s included here.
The Cathedral and The Bazaar, Eric Raymond. I started working on Google’s open source compliance team at the beginning of 2013, so I went back and re-read this as a refresher.
Kill Decision, Daniel Suarez. There’s a pretty sizable Suarez fan base at Google, thanks to people like Rick Klau and Erica Joy. I read Daemon and Freedom a few years ago and absolutely loved them both, so was I was pretty excited about Kill Decision. I certainly did enjoy the story, but the thing that really painted my view of the writing was how soon I read it after the Game of Thrones books. By comparison, Kill Decision reads so much more linear. Each chapter picks up more or less where the previous left off, rather than picking up a long lost story line from 300 pages earlier, or perhaps even from a previous book. This linear style made for a much easier to follow storyline and therefore a much faster read. But it also left me wanting more, feeling like I didn’t know the characters near as well as I would have liked. Again, this is not so much a criticism of Suarez, but just an observation of how it left me feeling. I’m greatly looking forward to reading Suarez’s latest book, Influx, which just came out last week.
Reamde, Neal Stephenson. With Snow Crash being the only other Stephenson book I had read, I was sort of expecting a similar cyber-punk feel to Reamde. While it certainly is not, it was nonetheless entertaining, especially for someone who has spent more hours than I’d like to think about playing World of Warcraft and similar games. Where Kill Decision left me wanting more, Reamde seemed to drag on a little in places, taking longer than was really necessary to resolve various story lines. I still really enjoyed it though.
Workbenches, Christopher Schwarz. I’ve long been needing to find a hobby that didn’t involve computers (photography is still too close, really), and finally found that in woodworking. My first real project was this tool shed, and while I haven’t yet built a workbench, this book is one of the authorities on the topic. I hope to build my French style bench sometime this year.
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Cory Doctorow. I was first introduced to Down and Out thanks to Tara Hunt’s The Whuffie Factor, though it took me several years to finally get around to reading it. It’s a short read, and a lot of fun… way more “out there” than I was initially expecting. This was a good gateway drug into the world of Cory Doctorow, where I plan to remain for a little while yet.
Empty Promises, Pete Wilson. My brother and I started a mini book club of sorts this summer, just reading through some things and discussing them each week. This was the first book we started with, though neither of us felt particularly moved by it. It’s certainly not a bad book, and does a good job dealing with issues of idolatry, but I was unable to relate to many of the examples in the book and didn’t feel it went deep enough on some topics.
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card. Having been on a science fiction kick for a couple of years now, and with the Ender’s Game movie coming out this last fall, I decided to finally read the book. I still haven’t seen the movie, and at this point I’m not sure that I want to… given how much of this book really happens inside Ender’s head, I just don’t see how you can really do it justice on film. It was not hard at all to see why this book won so many awards - it’s simply fantastic.
Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card. This is the next book in the Ender series, and by far my favorite so far. Of course, I’ve only read the two, but I absolutely loved Speaker for the Dead. It has a much more mature Ender dealing with incredibly complex issues around the sanctity of life, the essence of humanity, and the many spiritual implications that come along with those questions. I’ve heard less than stellar things about the next book in the series, Xenocide, so I may end up stopping here, but that’s fine with me… it’s really a phenomenal story.
Little Brother, Cory Doctorow. I’ve mentioned Little Brother once or twice on my site before, and it really is essential reading for anyone that is concerned about the current state of government surveillance or Internet privacy in general.
Homeland, Cory Doctorow. This is the sequel to Little Brother and is similarly a fascinating read. Both of these books were especially fun to read while living in the San Francisco bay area, since both stories take place there and include tons of references to local landmarks. For example, local hacker space Noisebridge is featured pretty prominently in Homeland.
The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence was a 17th century French monk who worked primarily as a dish washer and cobbler in the monastery. This book is a compilation of letters he wrote, encouraging others in the faith and describing how he practiced experiencing God’s presence even (and especially) in the most mundane daily tasks. It’s a short but really encouraging read, especially working in an overwhelmingly secular industry.
The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller. Elisabeth and I have read through quite a few marriage books over the last few years, and this was far and away the most impactful. We are actually now going back through this book again with a marriage small group in our church. It’s well worth multiple reads.
The Holy Bible (New King James Version). Elisabeth and I started a “read through the Bible in a year” plan in late 2011. We finished it in late 2013, just shy of two years after started; suffice it to say we didn’t quite read every night. Using the YouVersion app to track your reading plan is great; its “catch me up” feature certainly isn’t perfect, but does help you stay on track when you inevitably miss days. And the chronological reading plan we followed was really fascinating for putting stories into their proper historical context.