Paper Books

In 2015 I read:

  1. Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie. Christmas present from my sister. Inventive sci-fi. Good read.
  2. Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut. Birthday present from a friend. Never read before, and nice and quick. Good, though didn’t completely blow my mind.
  3. The Opposite of Loneliness, Marina Keegan. Bought this in an airport for a transatlantic flight since a different friend was obsessed with Marina Keegan. Good; the vibe and settings of her short stories are depressingly familiar.
  4. The Ruby in the Smoke, Philip Pullman. Fun romp. Christmas present.
  5. Beyond the Black Stump, Nevil Shute. Objectively boring but strangely enjoyable. Christmas present.
  6. Night Train, Martin Amis. I’ve never read a Martin Amis novel before, and this the shortest one I could find. Overall quite addictive – read it in 24 hours – but I think I should have started elsewhere with Amis.
  7. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson. An astonishingly beautiful novel, and easily the best I have read this year — probably for a lot longer. The book is written from the perspective of an old reverend, John Ames, who has lived in the small town of Gilead, Iowa for his whole life, and is now preparing to die. The book is a letter to his young son, to read when he becomes an adult, where Ames explains his understanding of the world, and what has been important in his life. The book is slow, and I predict I will read it again a few times (though not anytime soon) as the writing is so beautiful in parts that I’m sure it rewards multiple unpackings. Thank you Clara for the recommendation! (One final note: The book is religious throughout in theme and content — but don’t let this dissuade you if religion in general turns you off. I have never been religious, and don’t have much of the cultural background of small town churchgoing, but this didn’t inhibit my enjoyment of the book at all.)
  8. Superforecasting, Philip Tetlock. The only nonfiction book on the list, since I listen to most nonfiction in audiobook form. But what a cracker! A book very dear to my heart — can’t recommend it highly enough. If you want an (almost) exhaustive list of traits that I value in people and aspire to have, then look at pages 191-2. These are the traits that Tetlock pulls out as common to the best forecasters of future events — actively open-minded, reflective, and full of grit. Though this book is in many respects the exact polar opposite to Gilead, I amusingly or not found it quite emotional as well: the world would be a much more beautiful place if people took the lessons from Superforecasting onboard.
  9. Ready Player One, Ernest Kline. Fun, popcorn-y, young adult novel. Sort of like The Hunger Games or Ender’s Game (I’ve only watched not read that one), but where everyone in the dystopian future world wears virtual reality headsets to escape into a virtual universe: the OASIS. Satisfyingly predictable plot lines, and I’m sure will make a very successful blockbuster (in production, apparently).
  10. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson. The significantly more hardcore version of Ready Player One, from 1992. I read this as I started working on virtual reality and this book has influenced the imagination of people working in the field for two decades. For example, Snow Crash coined the concept and name “Metaverse” (OASIS’s inspiration), as well as “avatar”. The book itself is nuts — very long and all over the place, dipping alternately between ancient Sumerian myths, battles and explosions, virtual reality, and dystopian mega-religions. Not a must read unless you’re a sci-fi nerd, but I was glad I persevered.
  11. Accounting Made Simple: Accounting Explained in 100 Pages or Less, Mike Piper. I read this to brush up on basic accounting (business, not pleasure), and it did the trick. Recommended for this purpose. It’s also quite useful general knowledge given that much of the world runs off a few basic financial concepts and principles (assets, debt, equity) that it’s worth understanding well.
  12. The Alchemist, Paolo Coelho. Nice and short. Easy to get swept up in it while reading, since it’s very momentous and paints a beautifully simple picture of what is important in life: fulfilling your Personal Legend, and not getting distracted by everything in the way (status/jobs/family). I had to shake myself to remember that life isn’t actually quite so simple, and there are other important things I have to do aside from following my Personal Legend.

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