With 2011 behind us, I’ve been reviewing the year’s highlights (and lowlights). As part of this, I’ve assembled this list of the 15 best books I enjoyed last year. They sort pretty evenly into a few genres: fiction, science-fiction, non-fiction/business, and graphic novels. Each one of these books has stuck with me since reading, and I find scenes from them pop up in my head while washing dishes, driving, etc.
For each of these (except the non-fiction), the kinectic energy of the story made balancing the desire to savor them and speed through hard. Some of these I read in full-out sprints, like the 10-days in Tahoe when I stayed up until 3am many nights to tear through four paperbacks. Others took more time, like the month I spent reading all four novels in Rudy Rucker’s Ware Tetralogy. Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan stands out as the series I read the slowest, only because the main character’s anger was so seething and toxic it affected me too much. I could only absorb one book each month in this ten volume set.
I’ve also noted the format in which I read each book. It was a mix of paperback, hardback, Amazon Kindle, and via the Kindle app on a Nook Color eReader (the best!). Enjoy!
- Survivor by Chuck Pahlaniuk (paperback) – fast-paced, HIGH-larious send-up of America’s narcissistic media culture
- Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazell (paperback)– a 100mph scream, especially that moment when you discover a buddy has also read it, and you both spontaneously yell “BEARCLAW!”
- Bite Me by Christopher Moore (paperback) – age-old vampires in San Francisco through the eyes of a disaffected wannabe teenager. Very funny.
- Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway – all of Papa’s Nick Adams stories arranged chronologically is if they were a reflection of his own growing up. Un-forgettable and touching.
- The Ware Tetralogy by Rudy Rucker (Kindle app) – immense 4-book arc of planetary intrigue, new life forms and the artists and technologists who bring them to life. LOVED IT!
- Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear (Kindle app) – a tense epic-scale story that takes place on a single space-ship, albeit a very special one.
- Interface by Neal Stephenson (paperback & Kindle app) – Political intrigue told quickly, and densely, like most Stephenson. I couldn’t help but imagine the presidential candidate at the center of the story looks like Mitt Romney.
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (paperback)– A classic, but this was my first time reading this chilling tale of militarized children battling for us in outer-space. You might follow this with its five or six related/sequels, but I’d rather preserve my impressions of the story and its authors gifts by not.
- Transmetropolitan Volumes 1 – 10 by Warren Ellis (bound-volumes) – insane, angry, tale of a year 3000 Hunter S. Thompson journalist out to save the US from it’s own stupidity and depravity (while also being stupid and depraved himself). He destroys a corrupt president in the end, so that’s a positive. The series wins overall for the carnival of freaks Ellis populates the future wit. Will
- Final Crisis by Grant Morrison (bound volume) – Twisted and complex, and all-together delightful. Read it in one night, which was too fast to fully comprehend. But I’m already planning to re-read it soon.
- All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison (bound volume) – A really beautiful rendition of the Superman origin story. Read it in one night, which was too fast to fully savor the imagery, nostalgia, and cleverness of Morrison’s story. But I’m already planning to re-read it soon.
- Drive by Dan Pink (hardback) – compelling exploration linking various research findings into a perspective on what motivates us. Pink could make a good economist some day.
- A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle (paperback) – possibly a covert Buddhist recruitment tool. Tolle’s perspective is congenial enough to follow until he suggests that car accident victims somehow attract the offending vehicle that struck them with their negative energy. But there’s good wisdom for managing your egotism and narcissism.
- Organizing Genius by Warren Bennis (paperback) – folk lore tales of ‘hot teams’ that built ‘hot products’. The most compelling image of how leaders effectively motivate passion and creativity is in the tale of Walt Disney acting out the entire story of Cinderella by himself in a warehouse before a his diverse team of hundreds of animators, musicians, illustrators, and artists.
- Overcoming Perfection by Ann W. Smith (Kindle app) – thought-provoking exploration of the sources, behaviors, and perpetuating dynamics of perfectionism in families. The first 40-pages might convince you everyone has it, including you. But then again, if you’re drawn to read this in the first place, that’s likely an acknowledgement you know it already
Though I'm an atheist to the max, I find this kind of thing to be very disagreeable...
Anyway, I read Dawkins this summer and found my favorite book to be The Extended Phenotype, mainly because the ideas in it connect with (directly or indirectly) the current and exciting ideas of Luis P. Villarreal's virology and Kevin Laland's positions on niche construction. The other top books are The Selfish Gene and The Ancestors Tale.