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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Books of the Year

I read 91 books in 2008, well over twice the previous year's rate. This makes evaluation difficult because I read so many good books! There were more than the usual number of clunkers as well, largely because I would occasionally run out of books I bought for the Kindle and hence resort to free fiction, which generally is not to my taste.

The book of the year for me was definitely The Trouble with Physics. Not only is it a great book specifically about string theory, it's an excellent critique of the way science is done, and how science in general has a very hard time dealing with mavericks, deep thinkers, or people who aren't necessarily technical adepts, but nevertheless can have amazing insights. Highly recommended, and worth reading for anyone at all interested about science. A runner up in this category is Brain Rules! (a great book about how your brain works), followed by specialty interest The Story of the Tour De France, Vol I (Vol. II was not nearly as good).

As usual, fiction books run a second to non-fiction, and also to older fiction. I could easily say that the best novel I read this year was A Wizard of Earthsea, but you'd consider me cheating, and rightly so --- the book was published in the 1960s, but if you haven't read it, please do. I think it's amazingly well-written and stands up to time --- the human condition certainly doesn't change much, so enduringly good fiction is still great.

The best new novel I read this year was Adiamante, for its exploration of important issues and a critique of the military approach to problem solving. But that's closely followed by runners up The Dragons of Babel and The Atrocity Archives, both excellent novels and very much worth your time. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention Richard Morgan as the best new-to-me author of the year. I'm working through Thirteen right now, and it's great reading, as much fun as Altered Carbon. It's so great to see an author continually produce great work, since it means there's more great reading to come. Tim Power's Declare also deserves an honorable mention.

Finally, let me plug the Kindle one more time --- it truly is the first interesting improvement to the reading experience, and I like it more and more, especially when comparing it to paper-books. If you are a serious reader (of books that are mostly words), you owe it to yourself to get one. Forget the rumors of the 2.0 version, just get it. It's just about doubled my reading rate, and has paid for itself several times over.

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