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The Best Books I Read in 2015

Just as in previous years I’m writing a post about the books I read in 2015. I read 87 books in total, below is the breakdown. This year I’m adding a few metrics which I think will be interesting. Like, how much I saved by borrowing books from the library ($807.40) and what percentage of the authors I read were men (67%).

Fiction was the majority of my reading at 60%. Fantasy (20%) and Science Fiction (21%) being the largest portion of all genres. Read a few series this year, meaning I read 8 books by Holly Black (Spiderwick Chronicles), 3 from C.S. Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia), 2 from Timothy Zahn (The Thrawn Trilogy) and 2 Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson). Paperback was the least popular binding at on 17% of my reads.

Most of my books came from the library (37%). Longest audio book I listened to was Capital at 1,503 minutes (25 hours), shortest was The Hamburger: A History at 180 minutes (3 hours). Total audio listening was 11,751 minutes (196 hours, 8.2 days).

Longest book I read was Hadoop in Practice (536 pages), which was for a class and I didn’t read every page. Next was All the Light We Cannot See at (530 pages). Shortest was 30 pages, a short story called Percy Jackson and the Singer of Apollo. In all I read 14,560 pages.

The longest it took me to get through a book was Capital (195 days), Michelle and I listened to it in the car. Shorts books included a lot of the Spiderwick Chronicles, in all I finished 12 books the same day I started them.

I finished the most books in July (20). The most popular book (according to goodreads) I read was The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The least was Valkyrie.

So how does this year compare to previous years? Well, I read the most I have in the past 3 years, but still not as much as 2011, when I read 96 books. That big 100 is still just out of reach. Maybe this year…

Some of my favorite books of the year were:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Dracula

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

Falling Up

Tuck Everlasting

The Nixie’s Song

How Reading Changed My Life

The Wrath of Mulgarath

Siddhartha

The Field Guide

Departure

Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason

The Read-Aloud Handbook

Dark Force Rising

The Last Olympian

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Books in 2013

2013 in Books

My goal in 2013 was to read 50 books.  I didn’t even get half way.  I read only 22.  In my defense I did have a new baby girl in September to look after and took a business class for work.  My goal for 2014 will be 25, a much more realistic goal, however, I hope to exceed it.

I read 4,925 pages from 17 books.  That’s less than last year too.

  • Longest book was Catherine the Great (642 pages)
  • Shortest book was Guide to Yosemite (38 pages)

I listened to 62.8 hours (2.6 days) of audio from 4 different books.

  • Great Expectations was the longest at 18.3 hours
  • Golden Compass was the shortest at 11 hours
The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials

The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials

I started out the year by listening to the Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.  I wanted to read this because I had recently seen the movie again on television and realized that it was a okay story, “I bet the book is better though”, as it is in most cases.

This children’s book is listed on some of the ‘must read’ list I have come across on the Internet. So I added it to my to-read list here on goodreads. I liked listening to this book. The reader was great. As those of you who listen to books know a reader can make or break a book. The story was very good and I enjoyed it. Nothing very difficult as plot goes, after all this is a children’s book. I watched the 2007 movie

The Golden Compass [Blu-ray]

The Golden Compass [Blu-ray]

while reading this book and I think it helped me put things in perspective. This book like some other science fiction/fantasy novels I have read quickly jumps into the story of an alternate universe with little to no explanation of the terms used. I think the movie helped pull things together for me a little. If I have time I will read the next book in the series, especially if I can find it as an audiobook.

The next book I read was A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  I have seen the movie which is based on this novel and I think the other novels in the Barsoom series.  I think the book is out of copyright, so you should be able to read it for free online.  I really loved this book and can’t believe I didn’t already read the second one.

Next I listened to At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson.  I gave the book 4/5 stars.  While I enjoyed it, the information is mostly useless, but mildly interesting.  Whoever you are the information applies to you, its so wide reaching.

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

Next I read a book that I won as part of a group read in the history club at goodreads I recommend the group highly for anyone who likes to read historical non-fiction.  The book was Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie a bit dry and you really have to be into the subject to read it.  It was somewhat a monster at 642 pages.

The book did not keep me coming back and I read many other books while I was reading this one. About 3/4 through the book I pretty much knew what I was going to write for my review. The first part of the book, the part leading up to her marriage, was interesting, and for me the best part of the book. From that point until just before the end of the book, it read like a soap opera. She went from man to man and had so many woes. Towards the end it was the story of a geriatric old woman, and her pains. Her triumphs in war, but more so her art collections, and her passing fancies. It wasn’t that this book was written poorly, that’s not it at all, I just didn’t find the story of Catherine II’s life all that interesting. Maybe for people who are more interested the her social relationships there might be more, but I didn’t find myself identifying with any of the people discussed in the book. I didn’t get to really know anyone but Catherine, which is who the book was about so again no fault of the author. I was a little let down by this one and I think it will be a while before I pick up another historical biography. I need to refresh my mental palate.

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code

Next I listened to The Da Vinici Code by Dan Brown.  I was surprised that I had not read this book until now as I remember reading Angels and Demons and enjoying it.  I saw the movie.  I don’t know why it took me so long to listen to the book!  The movie follows the book very closely!

I read and really enjoyed By the Book by Dean Wesley Smith next.  It is a Star Trek book, if your still reading after that…It is from the Enterprise series of books.  The second one.  Some of the books in the series are exact novelizations from the television series.  I’ve seen all the episodes of this short run show at least twice, their on Netflix.  I only gave the book 3 stars our of 5 at the time, but I realized later that it was a nice escape and later in the year read more of these novels.

From Dead to Worse: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood)

From Dead to Worse: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood)

I then went back to the Sookie Stackhouse series.  This time I read book 8 in the series, From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris.  It was also a nice escape.  I really liked the surprise ending at the end of this one.  I plan to read the rest of the Sookie novels.

This book I heard about on a blog post.  I had wanted to read it for a long time and finally bough a copy.  The Winter of Our Disconnect: How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and a Mother Who Slept with Her iPhone) Pulled the Plug on Their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale by Susan Maushart, is a great book despite its horribly long title!  It is a great look at just what we can do as humans when we totally disconnect from all the electronics in our life.  I’m one of the most connected people I know.  I don’t think I could ever do what Ms. Maushart did here!  I even read on a electronic device!

I think I am the only person who like Wil Wheaton’s character on Star Trek

Just a Geek: Unflinchingly honest tales of the search for life, love, and fulfillment beyond the Starship Enterprise

Just a Geek: Unflinchingly honest tales of the search for life, love, and fulfillment beyond the Starship Enterprise

and missed it when he left the show.  I didn’t know he had this huge following online.  He has a podcast and blog and has written books!  So I checked out Just a Geek: Unflinchingly honest tales of the search for life, love, and fulfillment beyond the Starship Enterprise by Wil Wheaton.  I was really into the first 3/4 of this book then it got a little repetitive and slower towards the end. Very funny and interesting for a Trekie like me to read though.  All in all a good book, and I might read more of his work.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens was very challenging for me.  It’s pretty boring.  I like some classics, I feel like you are supposed to like some of them.  But honestly this one was pretty dry.  I listened to this one because I knew it would be hard to get through and while I made it through I won’t be going back to read this again.

 

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine.  While this book was somewhat interesting it got old quick.  What I mean is, the author states his hypothesis and then goes on to support it, however, he didn’t stop.  It was too much supporting information that wasn’t all that interesting.  I lost interest in this book about 1/3 in.  I read it because of an interesting post on lifehacker.

The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days by JJ Virgin Ph.D. CNS.  I don’t usually read diet books.  I like non-fiction and I like learning about my body and why it does the things it does.  But like I said, I don’t really think I need a diet book.  Least of all a bunch of healthy recipes I won’t cook.  Having said all that this book was different.  It was introduced to me in a strange way.  My sister liked one of the videos that Dr. Virgin put out on youtube and I sent it to me.  When I watched it I was very interested in what else this doctor had to say, because she talks about eliminating foods that are bad for you.  We all know that fast food is bad, that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about whole food groups.  Like bread, eggs and milk.  Eliminating these things makes since to me since I’m already lactose intolerant.  So that’s why I read this.  The first half of the book says why you shouldn’t eat those foods and that was the part I read, the rest, diet stuff and recipes I ignored.

The Wizard of Oz (Oz #1) by L. Frank Baum was much better than I ever thought it would be.  I read this to my daughter who was 4 at the time.  It was an interesting novel.  I didn’t know that it would differ so much from the movie. I also didn’t know that there were other books in a series, I hope to go back and read the next Oz book in 2014.

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach was GREAT!  It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for but it was very good!  I really enjoyed this book! This is really a 4.5 star book at least. It was nice to read a book where the “ick” factor as Ms. Roach calls it, doesn’t hold the author back. Very enlightening and enjoyable read. Some of my favorite tidbits:

“sticky rice mochi, a traditional Japanese New Years food, kills about a dozen people every year”

She explains how the myth of the dragon started. As well as,

lactose intolerance, a subject near and dear to my posterior.

The average person “toots” 22 times a day!

Where and how inmates in prisons hide items they are not supposed to have. Might want to be careful buying your next “slightly used” cell phone!

“Pharmaceutical companies make money by treating diseases not by curing them.”

“what exactly is in the “probiotic” seen in stores now. “marketing,” he replied”

Another gem:
“scientifically proven fact:j the flatus of women has a significantly greater concentration of hydrogen sulfide and was deemed to have a significantly worse odour[sic]…”

Only in this book will you find sentences like:
“he reverse engineered a fart.” or “He’s an unlikely hero, quietly saving lives and restoring health with the product of his morning toilet.”

And lastly but certainly not least:
“Wow, that Mary Roach has her head up her ass. To which I say: Only briefly, and with the utmost respect.”

What Price Honor? (Enterprise)

What Price Honor? (Enterprise)

Time for another Star Trek book.  What Price Honor? (Enterprise) by Dave Stern was very good.  This was the best Enterprise book I’ve read yet. It has a couple a plots going on at once. I didn’t figure things out until the middle of the book and even then I didn’t know exactly how it was done. I like reading these books! I don’t learn too much from them. I don’t feel smarter for reading them, but I really enjoy the stories and easy read. Some time you just need a fun read!

The next two books Guide to Yosemite – A Handbook of the Trails and Roads of Yosemite Valley and – The Adjacent Region – The Original Classic Edition by Ansel Hall and Indians of the Yosemite Valley and Vicinity: Their History, Customs and Traditions by Galen Clark were read as I was about to and while I was in Yosemite this summer on vacation with my family.  Both books were free on the Kindle.  The first on a Guide to Yosemite, had a great introduction, but then went into way too much information about the trails, something I wasn’t really interested in.  I wanted to know the history more.  The second book, Indians of the Yosemite Valley and Vicinity was a very good history of the park. It is dated, but then again not much changes in Yosemite. An excellent history of the Indians in the area and what became of them. How they lived etc.

Dead And Gone (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood, Book 9)

Dead And Gone (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood, Book 9)

And back to Sookie, the second novel for me this year and the 9th in the series.  Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse #9) by Charlaine Harris.  I liked all the action in this one. Can’t believe I’m already done with the 9th book. On to the next!  However, I never got to the next novel in 2013 maybe this year.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan was recommended to me by a friend.  I have already read most of Pollan’s work, but this one was very good too.  Quick read. A short introduction, then 64 rules for eating. All good ones. Something to keep around and re-read every so often.

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie was another book I read to my daughter.  She enjoyed this one as did I.  About as many surprises as there were in Wizard of Oz.  I found it enlightening to finally read this childhood classic.

Star Trek: Enterprise: Daedalus

Star Trek: Enterprise: Daedalus

Daedalus: Part One of Two (Star Trek: Enterprise #7) by Dave Stern is another Star Trek book.  See a pattern yet?  This one was very good.  I gave it 4/5 stars.  I liked it the more I got into it.  It really started to pick up at the end.  It’s book one in a two book series.  I want to read the second one badly and hope to get to it early in 2014.

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell was a strange book for me.  It was okay, I gave it 3/5 stars.  No slouch!  I think I read it because I have enjoyed some of his other books.  But I didn’t think this one was as good as his others. Interesting topics and good supporting stories. May be disturbing to parents as I found a few passages difficult to read.

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The Year in Books

In 2011 my goal was to read 100 books. I’m sad to say I didn’t quite hit that goal. But I didn’t miss it by much. I read 97 books in 2011. Before you congratulate me, you may want to look at the following graph.

Now some may say that listening to a book is cheating and doesn’t count. I’m not one of those people. I only read the unabridged copies of audiobooks. But if you take out the books I listened to and only count those I read, then that’s 34 books, 5 of them on a portable device of some sort. I hope the ebook percent goes up in 2012, because I received a Kindle for Christmas and I am really looking forward to reading more on it. Its pretty cool!

So what you really want to know was what the good books were and what you should avoid. Well here it is. The best rating a book can receive is 5 stars, the worst 1 star. See the graph below for the break down.

I gave up on two books last year. They were:

A Little History of the World by Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich and The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. They received 2 stars and 1 star respectively.

I read 12 books that I thought were worthy of a 5 star rating last year. They were:

1. One Second After by William R. Forstchen

2. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

3. Bossypants by Tina Fey

4. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

5. The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis

6. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

7. Earth Abides by George R. Stewart

8. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Millennium, #3) by Stieg Larsson

9. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

10. Star Wars, Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (The Original Radio Drama) by Edward Humes

11. ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse

12. The Story of Classical Music by Darren Henley

If you would like to see all the books I read last year you can see me goodreads page here:

http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/139817-jason

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