Monday, January 4, 2016

My Top Books of 2015

I'm a little late in posting this, but as they say better late than never, right?

I read 24 books in 2015, which is more than I read in 2014 (18) or 2013 (9), so I guess I am trending in the right direction.

As usual I read a mix of science fiction, science, history and "making of" type books. Not all of them were published in 2015, so this probably doesn't really qualify as a best of the year list.

In science, I most enjoyed Kip Thorne's 2014 book The Science of Interstellar.
The book is an excellent look at black holes, worm holes, space travel and more as they were portrayed in the movie Interstellar. Kip Thorne was the movie's science adviser and in real life knows more about worm hole theory than just about anyone on Earth.
In the category of history, it is hard to top David McCullough's 2015 book The Wright Brothers. It is a wonderful look at the earliest days of powered flight. As usual, McCullough tells an engaging story that makes his topics really come alive. I confess that I didn't know too much about Orville and Wilbur Wright before reading this book, so I'm happy to have read this.
I read several "making of" type books in 2015 - which included J.W. Rinzler's The Making of The Empire Strikes Back and Marc Cushman's These Are the Voyages: TOS Season Three - his third volume looking back at the original Star Trek series, but my two favorites were Cary Elwes' autobiographical As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride and Return to Tomorrow, Neal Preston Jones' massive look at the making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

If you loved the movie The Princess Bride than you should read Elwes' fun book. Elwes, who played Westley in the movie, tells tales not only of how the movie was made, but how it basically flopped when released (the studio didn't know how to market the film) and then got new life when it was released on home video. It is a quick and easy read that's great fun.

Neal Preston Jones' book isn't for everybody, but I really enjoyed it. According to Goodreads, which is what I use to keep track of the books I read, it was read by just 11 people there! Compare that to the over 82,000 who read another book from my 2015 list: This Is Your Brain on Music. Anyway, Return to Tomorrow is a deep, long (682 pages!) oral history of the making of the first Star Trek movie. If you want to know why Star Trek: The Motion Picture turned out the way that it did and what its actors and creators had to say about it while it was being made, then this is the book for you.
In science fiction I enjoyed Jack McDevitt's Thunderbird and Nemesis Games, the next installment in The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey (now a TV series on SyFy), but my favorite was Shipstar by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven. Shipstar is a hard science fiction novel and sequel to their 2012 novel The Bowl of Heaven. I enjoyed Shipstar more than the first novel and recommend them both.
Here's part of my To Read Pile as it looked on Christmas. There are some others that aren't in the shot, but it looks like 2016 will be another good year for reading.

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