Books I Read in 2014

Books

Reprising my list from last year, here are the books I read in 2014, roughly in order. I didn’t end up reading quite as much this year, as circumstances kept me particularly busy this past year which has cut into my normal reading time before bed. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the books I did read, and already have a few queued up for this year.

Influx, Daniel Suarez. As always, Daniel Suarez really delivers. I enjoyed Influx much more than last year’s Kill Decision, more on par with Daemon and Freedom™. His interview on Triangulation, together with Jeff Gurner who voiced the Influx audiobook, was really great as well.

The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller. As noted in last year’s post, Elisabeth and I loved this so much when we read it on our own that we decided to lead a marriage small group at our church through the book. It’s a really good book for that kind of small group; we did it for eight weeks, one chapter a week, and the reading led to a lot of really fruitful discussion.

High Performance Browser Networking, Ilya Grigorik. So I didn’t actually read through this whole book last year, and am still chipping away at it a little bit at a time. There’s just so much good stuff in here, and it’s really helpful to have a website that you can experiment on while reading. It should really be required reading for anyone building anything serious on the web.

Programming Ruby, Dave Thomas. I migrated my site from WordPress to Jekyll this year, which necessitated leaning Ruby in order to write the handful of plugins I run on my site. Like High Performance Browser Networking, I’m still slowly reading through this as well, but decided to list it anyway.

Restless, Jennie Allen. I read through this as part of another small group Elisabeth and I hosted. It was a bit of an experiment we called Dinner and Discussion, where Elisabeth cooked a full sit-down dinner every week for about a dozen people, and then we discussed the week’s reading over the dessert course. The book itself wasn’t my favorite, but the experience of the group was really fun. I’m not sure that we’ll do one quite that big again, but we really liked the format for making people more comfortable and willing to open up.

Lock In, John Scalzi. I knew of John Scalzi for a little while, but hadn’t gotten around to reading any of his work until I saw Cory Doctorow’s review of Lock In. I’m really glad I did, as it was a really interesting read. Though for some reason, I couldn’t shake the feeling of deja vu as I was reading it. Like I had heard aspects of the storyline before in an episode of the Twilight Zone or something. Nevertheless, I definitely enjoyed it.

Redshirts, John Scalzi. After reading Lock In, I decided to go back and read the book that I originally knew Scalzi for, Redshirts. It was about what I expected: a really quirky, very self-aware, fourth-wall-breaking, satire on science fiction in general, and Star Trek in particular. The writing style does get repetitive at times, and some of the plot twists are somewhat predictable (which is part of the point, I think), if taken at face value for what it is, it can be a really fun and humorous read.

Anathem, Neal Stephenson. This was really my big book for the year, both in terms of length and with how much I enjoyed reading it. It is extremely different than other Stephenson novels like Snow Crash for instance, in that the technology is not right up in your face. Quite the opposite really; the majority of the book is very low-tech. And with only a few exceptions, all of the technology that it talks about is entirely plausible, and most is just renamed from current tech. In fact, the Anathem Wiki does a great job of mapping the theorems and historical figures in the novel to their real-world equivalents, though I would strongly suggest reading the book on its own first. There is a glossary in the back of the book which is a very useful reference, which I bookmarked in the ebook so I could flip to it regularly.

The book is relatively slow paced, with long, extensive dialogs between teacher and pupil that I couldn’t get enough of. However, in typical Stephenson fashion, it ends rather abruptly with a number of dangling story lines left only partially resolved (if at all). I felt this way about Snow Crash as well; I kinda get the feeling that he just doesn’t like writing endings or something. Somewhat disappointing ending notwithstanding, this was certainly one of my most favorite books in a really long time, for a lot of different reasons.

Firstborn, Brandon Sanderson. Including this is a cheating a little bit, as this is really a short story. After finishing the tome that is Anathem, I needed something a bit shorter, plus I had been wanting to read some of Brandon Sanderson’s work for a while. This was a nice introduction, and I’ll almost certainly be trying to get into one of his series later this year.

Header image: d-221 books, by az