Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Top Books of 2013

Alas, I didn't get to read as much as I wanted to in 2013. (Although, now that I think about it, it is possible that I might make this statement every year.) Still, there were some books published this year that I enjoyed very much, so much so, that wanted to list my favorite ones here.

In the category of non-fiction I have three titles to recommend that couldn't be more different from each other. First off is, The End of Night: Searching for Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light by Paul Bogard.
The End of Night is an in-depth, thought-provoking, personal look at the problems of light pollution. Author Paul Bogard explores just about every angle of the issue in an engaging, thoughtful way. You can hear Paul read a bit from the book by clicking on this link (it was from his appearance last November at the Annual General Meeting of the International Dark-Sky Association). I highly recommend this book for everyone interested in learning more about light pollution.

Another non-fiction title to make my list is These Are the Voyages TOS Season One by Marc Cushman. It is the authoritative look at the creation of the Star Trek television series.
These Are The Voyages masterfully explores, in vivid detail, the genesis of the series and each episode of the first season of Trek. There have been many behind-the-scenes books written about Trek, but none of them had access to so much original source material. From script drafts to production memos, it's all here. I should note that there have already been two versions of the book. The first edition got out the door with some uncorrected errors (mostly typos) and then some new source material was brought to light, making the Expanded and Revised Edition the one to get. I should note that there remains an error about the music in The City on the Edge of Forever, but it is easily overlooked as the book is a must read for all fans of Star Trek.  

I should also mention An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield even though I am not quite done reading it (I just started it yesterday).
While in space, Commander Hadfield owned social media, well, at least the portion of social media that appeals to space geeks. The video of his cover of David Bowie's Space Oddity has had nearly 20 million views on YouTube, while the trailer for his book has had over 1.1 million views, which isn't bad either. The book is an engaging, inside look at the life of an astronaut. It not only chronicles his career (with some amazing, jaw dropping stories) but gives some life lessons for all of us. It is a fun read that I recommend for anyone even casually interested in space travel.

In the world of fiction, I have two books to recommend. The first is The Human Division by John Scalzi.
The Human Division is just plain fun. The book is a series of science fiction short stories (which were originally sold separately) that together form a cohesive tale. It is set in the same universe as his Old Man's War series, but no prior knowledge of that series is really needed. If you enjoy space opera science fiction and don't mind actually having fun while reading, you can't go wrong here.

I don't read much fantasy. I'm pretty much limited to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and Stephen R. Donaldson (and I guess J.K. Rowling too). As far as I am concerned, Tolkien pretty much invented fantasy and Donaldson perfected it. Donaldson's latest work is The Last Dark. It is the final book in a series of 10 books known as The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever.
Donaldson's work is epic. The first book in the series, Lord Foul's Bane was published in 1977 (after the author had 47 rejections!) and followed soon by two more books that completed the tale. Donaldson returned in the 1980 with a second trilogy and 2004 saw the first in a four-book set (over 2,200 pages!) that, with The Last Dark, completes The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I wont give away any story elements here other than to to say that the works are richly detailed works of fantasy that will enthrall and frustrate the reader. Donaldson's writing is very, very good. If you've not read any of his fantasy and are looking to try something shorter first, consider picking up The Mirror of Her Dreams.

I am sure I missed a lot of good titles this year. I haven't yet had the chance to read Jack McDevitt's latest, Starhawk (it will be next), but feel free to recommend anything in the comments that you enjoyed.

Happy New Year!

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