Despite spending too much time browsing the web, I read 25 books in 2014, not including study materials for my pilot’s license. Compared to most years I read more fiction and more bestsellers, fewer classics. My best source of recommendations came from blogs that I follow. Keep in mind that my recommendations are strongly influenced by my state of mind when I encountered a book and how diligently I read it. Here are my choices.
Book of the Year – The Martian by Andy Weir
This hard science fiction novel tells the story of a castaway accidentally left for dead on a Mars mission. The protagonist’s creativity, perseverance, and intelligence engage the reader in his fight for survival. The author self-published this book after being rejected by countless publishers, and it finally found the audience it deserved.
To Conquer the Air by James Tobin – the story of the Wright Brothers and the early days of flight. It’s enlightening to have a familiar myth retold rigorously. The Wright brothers were both clever and lucky in focusing on stability and control in designing their plane.
City of Thieves by David Benioff – I loved this page-turner set in Russia during the Second World War.
No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald – Unbelievable story of Edward Snowdon and our devolution into an unaccountable police state. What happened to our democracy?
World War Z by Max Brooks – I finally got around to reading this. The way the story unfolds as a series of interviews is very effective, allowing the reader to fill in the blanks.
The Book of Strange New Things – More science fiction, about a christian missionary to another planet. Deft and human, and kept me guessing about which direction it would ultimately go.
Other books I liked
The Golem and the Jinni
All the Light We Cannot See
Flight of Passage
The Magician and the Card Sharp
Books that were OK but I wouldn’t seek out
Under the Tuscan Sun
The Art Forger
The Magicians (everyone loved it but me)
My Real Children
Pro Cycling on $10 a day (dispiriting look at the life of a domestic pro)
The Boys in the Boat – (the usual sports book that tells a good story but recycles all the usual sports myths)
The Doubt Factory – my least favorite Bacigalupi book so far
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – I don’t get why this was so highly recommended, compared to City of Thieves for example