10 interesting books I’ve read this year

One of my uber list goals was to read 25 books this year. So far I’ve read 10, which is on pace for meeting my goal. I’ve read some very good books this year and a few that were just okay. No total clunkers that I completed regretted reading, so that’s nice. Here are the 10 books I’ve read so far this year.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. I really enjoyed this book. (I even gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.) The book is a mystery that starts with some strange books in the back of an eccentric bookstore. What I really loved about the story is it celebrates the magic of old technology (such as books and manual typesetting) but also of new technology (like distributed computing and sophisticated algorithms). My only complaint is that the main character repeatedly uses an open wifi network for secret stuff, but that never turns into an issue. To an information security person, that detail was like including a loaded gun that is never fired. InfoSec Chekhov would not approve.

Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon by Kim Zetter. Speaking of information security, this is a non-fiction book about Stuxnet, the malicious software that the U.S. and Israeli governments unleashed to damage Iranian nuclear centrifuges. Kim Zetter is a Wired writer, so her technology writing is very accessible to non-engineers. If you have any interest in how malicious software works, how software can impact the physical world, and how researchers figure out what viruses and worms do, this is an enlightening read.

The Man Without A Shadow by Joyce Carol Oates. I’ve enjoyed a number of books by Joyce Carol Oates in the past, but I was pretty meh about this one. The story of a female researcher studying a man with severe amnesia seemed like an interesting premise. Unfortunately, the combination or an unlikable narrator and a disappointing ending left me underwhelmed.

Pattern Recognition and Spook Country by William Gibson. These books are part of the Blue Ant Series. Pattern Recognition is a thriller about a woman researching mysterious film footage that has appeared on the the Internet. Spook Country is about the convergence of new technology and espionage. Most of the characters of the books are different with the tie being the Blue Ant advertising agency and its leadership. I really enjoyed Pattern Recognition but found Spook Country to be rather convoluted.

Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving a Wider Audience edited by Shaun Usher. This book is a time capsule than spans centuries. The letters provide interesting new glimpses into the lives of a variety of famous people, and they introduce a few lesser known folks whose lives are no less interesting. Many of the letters are accompanied by images of the originals in the authors’ own handwriting. Yes, you can read these on the Letters of Note website, but it was nice to have a specific set to go through.

The Mysterious Tongue of Dr. Vermilion by Robert Isenberg. Elizabeth Crowne investigates the “uncanny,” what we would now would call the paranormal. She’s trained as a doctor which makes her a mix of Mulder and Scully plus a bit of Sherlock Holmes living in 1920s America. My main thought as I read the book: This would make an excellent PBS series.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman. As with many collections some pieces in this book are much stronger than others. Some stories I’d devour, while others would lead me to abandon the book for long periods of time. (I started reading this last October and only ended it this January.) I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who was not already a fan of Neil Gaiman. Still, the last line of The Lunar Labyrinth is absolutely brilliant.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson (a.k.a. The Bloggess). Even more than in her first book, Ms. Lawson mixes hilarious anecdotes and candid reflections on mental illness. The effect is entertaining and insightful. Also, it includes a chapter called “George Washington’s Dildo.” If that piece of trivia doesn’t inspire your to immediately read this book we clearly have different tastes in literature.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. It came heavily hyped but lived up to it. It is cliche to compare this book to Gone Girl, but if you like that sort of thriller you will probably like this too. I agree with Julie from Hammervision that Emily Blunt is the wrong casting choice for the film though.

Now, the important question: Do you know any interesting books to recommend?

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