I read 75 books in 2016. I started 78 books, but gave up on three of them. I signed up in the Goodreads challenge to read 75 books, because I thought I read roughly a book and a half each week. Well, I needed to read a lot of short books to hit that goal.
These are the best books I read last year.
Dispatches by Michael Herr, 1977. Reporting from Vietnam was mostly about hills taken and body counts, parroted from press briefings. Michael Herr skipped those briefings and went out into the jungles with the Marines. He reported the emotions, the mud, and the blood. Not an easy read, but an essential one.
Sector General Series by James White (1957 through 1999). If you were a pacifist living in Belfast during The Troubles, what sort of science fiction would you write? James White decided to write stories of a city-sized hospital in space, where races are truly different, humans are not special or better, and the only goal is healing, no matter how difficult. It is easy to see the flaws in these books, but there is something rare and special in them. It is a twelve-book series and I read six of them last year.
Influence by Robert Cialdini, 1984 (new edition 2006). Don’t get conned again! Cialdini studied the mechanics of persuasion and describes them with great stories. There are two editions of this book. You want the cheaper, non-textbook edition without the exercises.
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, 2015. Haruf’s last book is a gentle story about two people finding a bit of happiness in their old age, for a little while.
The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by Kenji Lopez-Alt, 2015. A week after I was given this book, I made Eggs Benedict for the family. I used Kenji’s straightforward method for hollandaise and it was perfect. When I made it the next Christmas, it was just as good. Every recipe in this book is like that, because science. Yes, it is over 900 pages and I read the whole thing. Buy this for that engineer in your life who cooks.
Scout Field Book by James E. West and Daniel Hillcourt, 1948. Short chapters, lots of pictures, something to do on every page, just the thing for the boy who spends his time glued to that new, addictive device, the radio. The current BSA Fieldbook manages to make the outdoors boring. Let’s start over using this and the 2nd edition Fieldbook (1967) as models. For a good example of that approach, get the Outdoor Adventure Manual from the Scout Association in the UK.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, 2014. It is time to stop reading To Kill a Mockingbird in school and start reading this. “Mockingbird” is fiction about white people, but this is a true story about a black man, a good man, who was accused, convicted, and broken for something he didn’t do. The book weaves together that story and Bryan Stevenson’s personal story about working to free people wrongly convicted. You won’t be able to put it down and you won’t be able to forget it.
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín, 2009. This is the only book I’ve read by Tóibín, maybe his others are better. But this was very good. The movie is equally good and follows the book very closely. Both are quietly rewarding, though I might give the edge to the movie for Saoirse Ronan’s fine performance.
Whats Cooking on the PCT by Martin “Rainman” Leghart, Jr., 2015-2016. A backpacking cookbook with a wide range of cooking and eating styles. If you are not satisfied with your current trail food or just starting out, you should get this book and read how 40+ PCT hikers eat, with one recipe from each. There is a new edition every fall and half the profits go to the Pacific Crest Trail Association.
The full list of my 75 books is on line at Goodreads. This year I signed up to read 52 books, so I can read some longer ones. I’ve already finished Moby Dick.