Monday, January 1, 2018

My Top Books of 2017

2017 wasn't much of a good year for blogging, but I did read a lot of books--60, which is the most I have ever read as an adult. My trend has been going upward as I read 46 books in 2016, 24 the year before and just 18 in 2014.

I use Goodreads to keep track of what I've read and to collect the titles of the books that I want to read. For anyone who might care, here is the full list of what I read this year.

As I look to my "best books of the year" I'm going to include titles from 2016 as well. My reading tastes tend to focus primarily on science fiction, science (including history of science), and a bit of history and politics too.

In Science Fiction, Artemis by Andy Weir and The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi were both good and fun books, but I especially liked All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai and Death's End (the third and final book in the series begun with The Three Body Problem) by Liu Cixin. Liu Cixin always takes me to unexpected places. Also of note (but published in 2014, so it's a bit "old" to be considered here) was Becky Chambers The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet which I really loved. It's sequel was good too, but not as awesome.
In the realm of non-fiction I read two astronaut biographies: Mike Massimino's Spaceman and Leland Melvin's Chasing Space. I enjoyed both of them, but I much preferred Spaceman, though Leland Melvin's book is a good read.

I really enjoyed Al Franken's Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, but I suspect the recent sexual harassment charges made against him are going to kill both the paperback edition of the book and his political career. 

Other good science titles (some of which are a bit historical) are Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures which was made into a wonderful motion picture. The film got essentially every historical fact wrong, but appropriately gets the message right. Paul Bogard's The Ground Beneath Us looks at just what it says-the ground, focusing on our essentially ignored relationship with it. It is a book that should be getting more attention than I think it has gotten as it highlights some of the big environmental problems that are coming (nope, it's not just global warming).

I read six books on topics related to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and probably to the best of them was a biography: Sarah Scoles's Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
I also enjoyed The Pope of Physics, a look a the life of physicist Enrico Fermi by Gino Segrè and Bettina Hoerlin, but Bonnie Burratti's Worlds Fantastic, Worlds Familiar was another standout as it shows off many interesting planets and moons of our solar system, while also giving a personal look at how science is done as these places are explored.

I like to end these posts with a look at my to-be-read pile of books. Here's my pile from a year ago:
I read all of the books on the pile except for The Big Book of Science Fiction.  That one continues to task me, but I did read a few of the stories in it. Perhaps I'll get it done in 2018. Aside from The Big Book of Science Fiction, here's my to-be-read pile as it stands now:
I'm currently reading Friends Divided at left. The pile is pretty evenly split with four science fiction novels and five non-fiction science books. With these to start with 2018 should be a good year for reading.

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