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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Monday, January 02, 2017

The Best Books of 2016

I reviewed 67 books in 2016 (a regrettably low number and 2 less than in 2015) of which one was a reject. As I have come to expect I was pleased with the variety of works that moved through my hands and my mind and I even managed to shoe horn in a few more classics and a few more ‘significant’ works as part of my ongoing quest to become more ‘well read’. I was aiming for 75 books in 2016 but throughout most of the year seemed to struggle more than of late to read swiftly. Oddly in the last 2 weeks off work over the Christmas break I’ve managed to polish off 5 books in quick succession and am already part way through two more. Hopefully 2017 will produce a bumper crop. More than 67 at any rate! But anyway – to the list itself…


The Separation by Christopher Priest
The Flame Throwers by Rachel Kushner
Armada by John Stack
Final Impact by John Birmingham
The Woods by Harlan Coben
The Poisoned Crown by Amanda Hemingway
Zoo Station by David Downing
Coldbrook by Tim Lebbon
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Moonfall by Jack McDevitt
Sharpe’s Siege by Bernard Cornwell
The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld
Destroyermen – Rising Tides by Taylor Anderson
1356 by Bernard Cornwell

That’s a pretty good mix of SF, Fantasy, Crime, and Historical so I’m happy with that. The two best – which both stunned me with their brilliance are in BOLD. I expect 2017 to have a similar mix. All of the above are Anglo-American this year and no classics made my best of. Hopefully both foreign and classical works will appear in the next end of year review.


Human Universe by Professor Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen
Iron Kingdom – The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600-1947 by Christopher Clark
The Downfall of Money – Germany’s Hyperinflation and the Destruction of the Middle Class by Frederick Taylor
Human Race – 10 Centuries of Change on Earth by Ian Mortimer
Berlin 1961 – Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Frederick Kempe
Chavs – The Demonization of the Working Class by Owen Jones
Band of Brigands – The First Men in Tanks by Christy Campbell
The People – The Rise and Fall of the Working Class by Selina Todd
Them and Us – Fighting the Class War 1910-1939 by John Newsinger
Our Final Invention – Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era by James Barrat
The Vital Question – Why is Life the Way it is? By Nick Lane
Life on the Edge – The Coming Age of Quantum Biology by Jim Al-Khalili and Johnjoe McFadden
The Hammer and the Cross – A New History of the Vikings by Robert Ferguson
The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being – Evolution and the Making of Us by Alice Roberts
A Jane Austen Education – How Six Novels taught me about Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter by William Deresiewicz
A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright
Age of Extremes – The Short Twentieth Century 1914-1991 by Eric Hobsbawm
The Autobiography of Malcolm X with the assistance of Alex Haley
1066 – A New History of the Norman Conquest by Peter Rex

A rather inevitable bias towards History as usual which should come as no surprise as around 50% of my non-fiction reading is generally British & European based historical works. There is a nice smattering of Science this year which is always good. I do feel that I neglect the sciences too much – although when I do dabble it’s generally in my two favourite areas of Biology & Quantum Mechanics. There’s also a good number of Political works and especially in the area of R4 (Revolt, Rebellion, Resistance & Revolution) which you’ll see much more of in the coming years. I have an idea for a PhD post-retirement which will be probably something in the area of Rebellion so expect much more background reading in that topic. Again the best of the best are in BOLD.

Now to 2017.

I’ve only reviewed 2 of the upcoming 20 books made into movies so that’ll cover the first 2-3 months of the year. After that I’ll get back to finishing the Battles that made Britain and the other 2 books about Black Power in the US. After that….. Well, I have a few ideas. Some of which are hang-overs from 2016 and some are new. As usual (for now) they’ll be Triple Reads. Some of the ideas floating around in my head are:

The Less than Special Relationship
Days at the Beach
War: What is it Good For?
Reporting from Afghanistan
The Weak Fight Back
Women @ War
Early Royal Naval engagements in WW2
Things Fall Apart
The City, the City
The Starting Gun: 1914
Mother Russia
Investigating Murder
Intelligent Agents: The Psychology of Economic Behaviour
Something on the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s.

If I can manage half of that next year I’ll be very pleased. My fiction reading for the whole of next year is pretty much planned and fixed. After I finish off the novels into movies section I have the last of my random 10’s for some time. After that… Well, you’ll just have to wait and see.


Brian Joseph said...

This looks to be a great list of books. I also read and commented on too few books.

I am determined to read and more and blog more in the coming year.

Here's to reading in 2017!

CyberKitten said...

Thanks Brian. I'm sure that there are a few in there that you'd like. I can't recommend The Flame Throwers by Rachel Kushner too highly. Definitely my novel of the year and one of the best books I've read.

70 is my baseline this year. Hopefully 75 but going beyond that might demand some sacrifice of other things. 2017 is already looking good - book-wise anyway. Lots of interesting things to be reviewed here. Presently reading a gripping Cold War thriller published in 1962 and a modern biography of a very singular young woman. I think the overall theme of 2017 is going to be *Variety*! [grin]

Looking forward to reading your future reviews and getting some ideas of books I'm missed but shouldn't have!

Stephen said...

Ooh! That Mother Russia prospect sounds most interesting. I have 3 Russian books on my Classics Club list, so Russia will be a thing eventually. Plus, given Russia's role in the mid-east these days it's useful to know about them. I'm hoping one of my libraries will acquire a copy of "The New Tsar" at some point so I don't have to buy or pay to borrow it..

CyberKitten said...

I'll do my best to plan the 'Mother Russia' triple in the first half of the year for you... [grin] It'll be a general history plus two more specific texts.

VV said...

I am not worthy to be reading this blog! The only book on your list, that I have read, is _Things Fall Apart_. On a good note, over my Christmas "break," which hasn't been much of one, I have read, _Orphan Train_ by Christina Baker Kline. It was a pretty good fictional story about the Orphan Trains that ran in this country from 1854-1929. I'm midway through _The Alchemist_ by Paulo Coelho. It's been on the NYTimes Bestseller list for years, but so far I'm finding it boring. I know people loved it because "it spoke to them." It's kind of a New Age message type book. I've read plenty of these over the years, but I'm not findng this one to be very well written. It's not connecting with me. I don't have time for any more pleasure reading during this break because I'm working on that ancient history class I have to teach in a few weeks.

CyberKitten said...

'Things Fall Apart' will be a triple read - mostly on what causes buildings and other structures to collapse - rather than the highly acclaimed novel by Chinua Achebe. Sorry for the confusion...

I read 'The Alchemist' years ago PB (Pre-Blog) as a book to read that would change my life. I was actually deeply unimpressed and thought that I was obviously missing something important. After digging deeper and really concentrating on what he was trying to get at I was still deeply unimpressed with the very simplistic sub-plot. Let me know what you think when you finally finish it.

My Hippy ex-Law teacher gave me a copy of 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' years ago when I was studying the subject which she also said would "change my life". It didn't but at least 'Zen' was an interesting read!!!

CyberKitten said...

Oh, and as to being not worthy..... Rubbish! You're one of the most worthy people I know. I have the 'advantage' of having little called Life to get in the way of my reading. If I had kids, active friends or an actual sex life I'd be reading a LOT less books I can tell you [lol]

VV said...

I'm terribly unimpressed with The Alchemist. I don't anticipate any huge turn-around. I didn't read "Zen" but saw the movie. Eh, not that impressed with that either. Okay, back to building my on-line classes so I can devote my total attention to the ancient history class.