Friday, January 1, 2010

My Favorite Books of 2009

In 2009 I decided to read more dead tree based content instead of web based content.  Here's a few of my favorites with a brief comment on each.  I also threw in some honorable mentions. Note, not all of these books were published in 2009.  I just got around to reading them in 2009.

Under the Dome, Stephen King

I love books with a premise that seems to come out of nowhere.  Giant dome isolates a small town in Maine does the trick.  The moral of the story: Liberals and conservatives got to stick together against the nut jobs. This book made me hate the villain, Big Jim Remmie.

 The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, Alain De Botton

Work wasn't always equated with your happiness and life dreams.  It was merely something you did as quick as possible so you could eat and pursue your hobbies if you had any.
Somewhat Malcolm Gladwell'ish and a great read.  The book describes, with great detail and insight, many disparate workers and industries all across the globe.  From the guy that paints the same tree over and over for years in every possible weather and lighting to the South American rocket launch of a French made satellite for a Japanese company the book packs a lot of information gathered from  all corners of the globe in an effort to explain why we do what we do.

Shadow Divers, Robert Kurson

A couple of regular guys discover a sunken U-Boat off the coast of New Jersey.  It's not in any history books.  True story.  It's awesome.

Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell

I knew it!  Success does not come from brains and hard work alone.  It takes a village, and luck, and cultural legacy, takes more than hard work and brains.

The Lost City of Z, David Grann

An amazing true story of Col. Percy Fawcett as he explored the Amazon looking for the mythical City of Gold.  This book made me want to explore.  It planted the seed in my brain that I should ride my motorcycle across the country and back.  My trip wasn't as adventurous as Col. Fawcett's journey but at least bugs didn't try to live in my eyeballs.  Supposedly Brad Pitt is producing the movie.

The Signal, Ron Carlson

This "mens fiction" novel by Ron Carlson was another inspiration for me to drive my motorcycle across country.  His descriptions of the Wyoming back country are great.  The Washington Post says it better than I can: Carlson "writes like Hemingway without the misogyny and self-parody".  

1776, Douglas McCullough

McCullough writes history like it's fiction (in a good way).  I felt like I was there watching General Washington outmaneuver the British.  My only regret is that the book only covers the year 1776 and not the entire war.

Honorable Mentions:  I really enjoyed these as well.  

The Flood, Stephen Baxter

Like Under the Dome this book explores what happens when things go bad.  An ocean under the Earths crust springs a leak and floods the planet over a 50 year time span.

The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil

Humans and computers will merge in our lifetime.  Things are going to get very weird.

Shop Class as Soul Craft, Matthew Crawford

A very interesting book about how we kind of overdid it in the 90's and 00's in convincing ourselves that everyone has to be a knowledge worker with high tech skills.  There's lots of intelligence, creativity, math, and ingenuity in the trades and crafts.

The Host, Stephanie Myer

I know she wrote the sappy vampire books but this is good science fiction.  Benevolent aliens take over Earth via the body snatchers technique.  One of them lives within an isolated fugitive camp and goes native.  It's pretty creepy.

The Art of the Motorcycle, Thomas Krens

Beautiful bikes and the stories behind them.

Pirate Latitudes, Michael Crighton

I hadn't read Crighton in years but this reminded me of those numerous nights I stayed up late reading the Jurassic Park series.  This is a fun swashbuckling adventure set in 1665 Jamaica.  There's a ton of Spanish gold in a nearby and well guarded fort.  The protagonist is part Han Solo part Jack Sparrow and believes "gold in spanish hands is gold for the taking".  Steven Spielberg is making the movie.

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