After college, I resolved to read one book a month. It can be fiction, non-fiction, technical, business-oriented, or whatever as the goal was to always be absorbing and digesting new ideas and information, even just for fun. With the Kindle app and travel, that was always easy. In 2020, that was a whole other story.
Regardless, I stuck towards my goal of 24 non-fiction books which would clear my bookshelf and completely failed after only reading four.
Here are my top four in order:
- Battle Ground from Jim Butcher
- Screwtape Letters from CS Lewis
- Gunboat Diplomacy from the Four Horseman Universe (Note: this is deep into the series but can be read independently)
- Enforcer from the Four Horseman Universe (Note: This is based immediately after Gunboat Diplomacy)
- Corporate Confidential from Cynthia Shapiro
And here are the 45 books I completed in 2020, sorted by author:
I’ve never played Warhammer 40k but always loved the lore and the idea behind it. In Horus Rising (The Horus Heresy Book 1), we get the very beginnings of the fall of the human empire. This is really good and gets into the mindset of a soldier similar to “Starship Troopers” (the book, not the movie) but it’s the first of 50+ books so I’ll wait to pick up the rest.
I love the Dresden Files universe. After 20 years of stories, seeing the character development, various threads come together, and Jim becoming an amazing storyteller is great. This pair of books is a fantastic combo but the first is entirely setup for the second. Battle Ground was a huge payoff and the Dresden story isn’t done. I almost read it a second time.
Kai Wai Cheah
In a world where magic is real, angels and demons interfere with world affairs, and there are even bigger forces in play, this series injects espionage into the mix. It’s a fun one where loyalties aren’t quite clear and getting muddier every day. Check out this series if you’re into any or all of the above.
- Prince of Shadows (The Covenant Chronicles Book 3)
I came across Asshole Consulting years ago and thought it was a great angle on things. Quite often in life, there are things we don’t want to hear and don’t want to acknowledge but we have to get over it. Along those lines, I picked up one of Aaron’s books and it was painfully accurate. One of things this year reinforced is that I look at and understand the world in a radically different way. When I’m right, it’s great. When I’m not, it hurts. Either way, it’s different. Check out this book.
This is the third of a series that looks like a sword and sorcery adventure at first glance, but the layers of lore and active intrigue make this good on a couple different levels. Check this one out when you get the chance.
- Destroyer of Worlds (Saga of the Forgotten Warrior Book 3)
Do elves have souls? That’s the key question in this short(er) story of the “Arts of Dark and Light” series where a pseudo-Catholic church sends emissaries to the elves to figure it out. Of course, no diplomatic mission is complete without deep thought, treachery, and chaos. Check out this book, especially if you’ve read the others.
- Summa Elvetica: A Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy
The opening premise in this one is there is racism in all things, it’s just a matter of identifying it. The result is the perfect Kafkatrap – either you admit you’re racist or you’re in denial about your racism. There are no other possibilities.
The Four Horsemen Universe
After finding this series in 2018, I’ve devoured it book by book. The premise is that aliens show up on Earth, we’re completely outclassed in all things and the only thing we’re good at is
dying being mercenaries. The series picks up 100 years later so there’s no “first contact” but lots of open warfare, space combat, and good characters of many races. While there’s ton of infantry-style combat, there are space naval battles, infiltration, assassination, and chaos all around. Check this series out but start with Chris Kennedy’s (publisher of these series) 4HU Suggested Reading Order.
- Legend (Four Horsemen Tales Book 1)
- Weaver (Four Horsemen Tales Book 2)
- The Colchis Job (Four Horsemen Tales Book 3)
- Storm Clouds (The Guild Wars Book 1)
- With Your Shield (Four Horsemen Tales Book 10)
- Spartan’s Specialists (Four Horsemen Tales Book 12)
- The Feeding of Sorrows (Four Horsemen Tales Book 11)
- Tales from the Lyon’s Den (Four Horsemen Tales Book 4) – anthology
- Luck is Not a Factor (Four Horsemen Tales Book 6) – anthology
- Free Bird Rising (Four Horsemen Tales Book 7)
- Hope is Not a Strategy (Four Horsemen Tales Book XXX) – anthology
- Hunter (Four Horsemen Tales Book 9)
- Redacted Affairs (Rise of the Peacemakers Book 1)
- Gunboat Diplomacy (Four Horsemen Sagas Book 1)
- Enforcer (Four Horsemen Sagas Book 2)
- Endless Night (The Guild Wars Book 3)
- An Axe To Grind (The Guild Wars Book 4)
- Fields of Fire (Rise of the Peacemakers Book 2)
- Negotiation (Four Horsemen Tales Book 13) – anthology
Ibram X. Kendi
In short, redefining racism and excusing certain types of racism as “anti-racism” is foolish at best and destructive at worst.
After enjoying the Four Horsemen series, I gave another one of Chris’ series a shot. It starts with the invasion of Seattle which was detailed, amusing, and compelling throughout. I sincerely enjoyed these two.
- Red Tide: The Chinese Invasion of Seattle (Occupied Seattle Book 1)
- Occupied Seattle (Occupied Seattle Book 2)
Then at the end of that book, things take a left turn and we learn about aliens. Not just any aliens but think Stargate-style “we shaped your society” from the beginning. While I read a bunch of them, I wish I’d stopped with the two above.
- Janissaries (The Theogony Book 1)
- When the Gods Aren’t Gods (The Theogony Book 2)
- Terra Stands Alone (The Theogony Book 3)
And then they discover an alternative universe.. and I kept reading.
- The Search for Gram (Codex Regius Book 1)
- Beyond the Shroud of the Universe (Codex Regius Book 2)
- The Dark Star War (Codex Regius Book 3)
And then they discover time travel.. and I still kept reading.
And then I stopped reading.. not because I’d finally given up but because that was the last published and other, better things came out. Seriously, stop after Seattle.
While he’s primarily known for the Chronicles of Narnia, I have yet to find a work from Lewis that wasn’t meaty and thought provoking. Picking up Screwtape Letters has been one of the best. The narrative is presented as a series of letters from the demon “Uncle Screwtape” to his protégeé to assist in corrupting a human. Every page is filled with deep thought, clever approaches, and – despite being written around WW2 – is 100% applicable today.
In the “Joe Ledger” series, we start with the idea that the bad guys are using more and better tech and law enforcement has to step up its game or be swept away. Think of James Bond with a bit more Q thrown in. I started this series in 2019 so start there.
- The Dragon Factory: A Joe Ledger Novel
This is another superhero book but unlike most of them, it’s told from the point of view of an efficiency consultant who works with villains. It’s silly and fun at times but still a good story. I read the first one of this series in 2019 but now it’s book 2 as there’s a prequel so don’t be confused that this is book 3.
- Hostile Takeover (How to Succeed in Evil Book 3)
This series is the follow on from The Remaining series that I covered back in 2017. This series is dark. At this point, Lee Harden is a broken man who has lost everything and (almost) everyone he’s ever loved and now he’s in the thick of it.
- Primal (Lee Harden Series Book 3)
I really loved John Ringo’s take on the Monster Hunter universe (2018) so I gave this one a shot. It’s a set of three stories in one book and despite some great moments and funny situations, I didn’t enjoy this one as he veered off into some unrelated topics. If you want military fiction, check out DJ Molles or John O’Brien (both included in past years).
- Ghost (Paladin of Shadows Book 1)
In my mission to read more non-fiction this year, I picked up Corporate Confidential to learn where I’d made career mistakes and figure out how to work better, faster, smarter, etc outside my key, strict job responsibilities. In summary, I’ve made a ton of mistakes and started fixing them immediately. I’d recommend this one to anyone at any point in their career.
Every year I try to read a couple anthologies to discover new authors, universes, and ideas. Quite often they’re tied together around a theme and this one was about the quiet heroes that do something important but entirely behind the scenes and overshadowed by the lead characters.
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If you think I missed something great, drop me a note and let me know!