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. This year I flew over 100k miles and combined with reading for a few minutes before bed each night, I got through 43 books.
Here are my top five in order:
- City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis by John C. Wright
- Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- A Throne of Bones by Vox Day
- Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis
- The Passage by Justin Cronin
And here’s every book I completed in 2017, sorted by author:
- If you also grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons, you have those stories of staying up too late, drinking too much caffeine, saying and doing stupid things, and generally making an ass of yourself with friends who became enemies and enemies who became friends. This series captures those stories. This one started strong but fell apart by book four or five. I think the author lost the point of the story with silly puns and couldn’t figure out how to wrap it up.
- This is the 4th in another series I started in 2015. If you imagine Tony Stark as a garage hardware hacker without the billions and with an inferiority complex, you’ll understand the mindset of the main character. This novel is the prequel to the original trilogy and fills gaps with a compelling story.
Kai Wai Cheah
- I had no clue what this one was going to be like but I picked it up at a suggestion. It starts in the near future after magic has manifested to augment soldiers, technology, and society as a whole. Think of Shadowrun but without the megacorps running amok.
- I (re)read most of what Clines wrote throughout 2016 so when he published a new book this year, I bought it immediately. This was a good one that traveled through US history chasing and running from something.
- We often think about Artificial Intelligence and skip immediately to the “wipe out the humans” stage but what happens in those first seconds of sentience? How does it make decisions and come up with its plan? This was worth the read but not a great one that I’ll read again.
- While I wanted to enjoy this one, it felt like two stories in one and Cole wasn’t sure of which he wanted to tell. Both had some compelling points but the connections between left weird transitions that were more jarring than engaging.
- This is the sixth book of the Monster Hunter series I started in 2015. It’s one of my favorites and I look forward to new books in the series.
- Yes, it’s zombies ending the world again but this one comes differently. It starts in present day and then when things go bad, it jumps 100 years into the future and picks up the story again. This was a fascinating series with a good amount of action, turmoil, and twists & turns to keep me engaged and surprised a few times. The first of the trilogy didn’t make my top 5 because I finished Black Swan at the last minute.
- As a side note, author Alan Janney (below) recommended this series to me so I owe him a drink.
- The Passage
- The Twelve
- The City of Mirrors
- He’s a prolific editor, blogger, and angers leftists with every breath and that’s probably why I devour more and more of what he writes. I’ve enjoyed his economic and political analysis so I picked up his fantasy adventure series not sure what to expect. It turns out that the complex characters, political intrigue, and Roman structures make an amazing blend that is compelling and engrossing.
- A Magic Broken (short story that introduces a few later main characters)
- A Throne of Bones – I loved the way this ended. The full implications didn’t hit me until a few days later but I had that “oh crap” moment when I realized it all.
- A Sea of Skulls
- On the political side, this is a must read if you work in tech and witness the point and shriek attacks. The fact that the plays are laid out in detail is compelling by itself. It’s better to be prepared than surprised.
William R. Forstchen
- Another end of the world series but this one is told from the perspective of a small college campus in North Carolina after an EMP wipes out most modern conveniences and everything that keeps civilization “civil.”
Marion G. Harmon
- This is a short story within the “superpowers manifest” genre and a spinoff of a series I started in 2015. While it was okay, it’s another place where it feels like the author is getting into side stories that don’t add to the overall story. If you’re really into the series, it’s an okay sidebar. I finished it lost interest along the way.
- A vampire detective story could be compelling but this isn’t it. My biggest disappointment with this book is not being able to stake the lead character myself. My second biggest disappointment is in myself for finishing it.
- I started reading Alan’s work in 2015 with the beginning of the Outlaw series where a super virus doesn’t kill everyone instead, it greatly heightened the abilities, skills, and lifetime of a select few. An unfortunately, some of them decide they want to rule normal humans while others stand with humans.
- Carmine: Rise of the Warrior Queen
- The City of Broken Angels: Queen Versus the Machine – This was actually my #5 book of the year until I finished Black Swan.
- Puck: An Infected Short Story
- Late this year Alan released another series detailing the adventures of a 12 year old boy living in New York. I liked the first of this series and plan to share it with my boys when they’re old enough to enjoy it.
- This book series started as a parody of John Scalzi’s ripoff of the Foundation Series but somewhere along the way became really good and compelling. What happens to individuals when the very science and processes that we’re dependent on every day start to collapse?
- Lewis is the author of Moneyball and Liar’s Poker and this was another great one. In 2010, while the world was thrashing through near-global economic collapse, he traveled to Greece, Ireland, Germany, and Iceland to see the repercussions first hand.
- In this world, the whole place has gone to crap via a zombie apocalypse. But unlike many of the other series, the government had a backup plan to “reboot” civilization and these are the final two novels of the series and worth completing it.
- After the above success, I gave the first of his new series a shot. While it was a good premise, it felt more like a Hunger Games prequel. If you had told me this was the story of District 13’s rebellion, I would have believed it.
- This is the continuation of the “super powers manifest” kick I was on last year. While the first couple books of the series were intriguing, this one (the 4th) was disappointing. I think he’s has lost the plot.
- I’ve been a fan of Sigler since his 7th Son podcast over 10 years ago. It was a compelling story with twists and turns. This book follows that tradition and I enjoyed it as a treasure hunting adventure.
- Starting in the near future and jumping much further ahead, how does society handle the development of AI and nanotech, especially
ifwhen things go wrong. The first two or three in the series are pretty good but the last two are weaker with the last being the worst of the series.
- The next one is a horror/sci-fi story under the premise of “what if what we thought about the afterlife was wrong?” It wasn’t great but it was a wildly different approach and actually fit well with Cheah’s “No Gods, Only Daimons.”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- Over a decade ago, Secretary of Defense Donald introduced the general public to “known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns” to characterize different types of knowledge, risk, and uncertainty. This book takes that to a deeper level to highlight and understand that our risk/understanding models are applicable & useful in some areas and incomplete (at best) or outright disastrous in other areas. This is a great book but not a light read.
John C. Wright
- I started reading Wright this year and have loved everything I’ve picked up so far. If you’re into scifi with a more psychological than scientific angle, he’s written some fantastic stuff.
- City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis – This is one of my favorite books all year. We’ve all read too many time travel stories but this one gets into the detailed and interesting consquences that we’d rather not consider.
- Awake in the Nightland – This is a series of short stories detailing the collapse of humankind and the universe itself. It starts in the far future as the sun has started to burn out and things have crept out of the dark corners of the universe. It’s a fantastic concept and he covers it well.
All links above are Amazon affiliate links.
IIRC, Michael Lewis also wrote The Big Short. Never saw the movie, but the book is classic Michael Lewis and well worth the time. It’s been ten years since Bear Stearns sold for $2/share, down from $170 a year before.
The Big Short was a fantastic movie. It’s fascinating to watch what happens when a few people at a party know what’s going on but the rest are happily ignoring it.
But as others have said: “The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.”