Tag Archives: good reads

2016 Goodreads challenge

Happy to report that I beat my 2016 goal for reading books. I read a lot more short pieces than book-length works – if you added together the thousands of words I consume daily via articles, it’d probably equal a book a month.

But I’ve noticed my attention is sporadic and fragmented these days, so I’m committed to reading longer works so I don’t lose my ability to concentrate. screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-2-06-33-am

Click through to see my full Goodreads list for 2016

If I were to flag any for particular recommendation it would be these:

Walter Isaacson, The Innovators – the story of the pioneers who invented the digital machines that gave us the computer age. Absolutely fascinating deep dive into the conditions that allow creativity and innovation to prosper – and cautionary tales of those whose ideas languished because they weren’t working in a supportive environment.

NK Jemisin, The Fifth Season – this novel won the Hugo this year, and it was one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a long time. A gritty fantasy novel that allegorizes the nastiness of racism, written by a Black woman. I couldn’t put it down.  I also highly recommend the novel I listed as #2 on my Hugo ballot, Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others – a striking short story collection well worth your time. The title story formed the basis for one of 2016’s best films, Arrival.

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There are times when I’m kind of embarrassed that I don’t post huge reading lists year after year. For someone who loves books (have you seen my house?!), I don’t read as many as I feel I should. My work is mental rather than physical, I read articles and essays extensively, and I soak up stories through video games and films.

One of my 2017 resolutions is to feel less guilty about things that aren’t wrong and that I probably won’t change. I’m aiming to read 20 books in 2017 and stop beating myself up for not reading more. I just ordered the next two novels in the Witcher series – I’m excited about those! -and I’m already halfway through Cixin Liu’s final novel in his trilogy. In nonfiction, I want to return to the excellent book on education, For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood and the Rest of Us Too. Dava Sobol has a new book out about some women in science in the 20th century; can’t wait to get my hands on that. I might even pick up the Stephen Ambrose condensed biography of Eisenhower that Coart can’t stop talking about. Oh, and John Scalzi has a new novel coming out this spring, plus the 3rd book in Jemisin’s series. It’s going to be a good year!

What’s on your reading list for 2017?

Review: Uprooted, by Nina Novik

UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not usually a big fantasy reader, but this book is commendable and ought to be on your list if you’re at all interested in the genre. Many people seem to bail out after only a few chapters; don’t do that. Give Novik the opportunity to spin her tale for you – it takes about 50-60 pages to really get rolling. From there, it builds to a strong ending.

In fact, I’d say even if you don’t like fantasy very much, this novel merits at least an attempt.

This isn’t a fantasy story built from worn-out tropes. While many familiar elements make their way into the narrative, Novik reworks them to give them value. I felt the familiar worn edges of strong themes from centuries of good stories; I saw plenty of familiar fantasy elements. But I also enjoyed the rich and thick development of new meanings for what could have been tired and boring – the girl who learns to control her magic, the aloof wizard, the budding romance, the courtly drama, the forbidding enchanted wood.

Novik turns these tropes sideways so they work to her advantage. She turns the story too, not in a “cheap shot” yank-you-around kind of way, but artfully, shaping the reader’s journey through what seems like a familiar landscape to find what’s actually something new and rewarding.

So yeah. It’s a solid book. It’s up for a Hugo Award. That’s not a fluke. I’ve found myself thinking about this story even after I read the final pages, and I think it’s because Novik understands that good stories aren’t created by the trappings of the setting or by cheap plot devices; they’re built from the backbone of realistic characters grappling with credible problems, clothed in fluid prose. I don’t think this will be my top Hugo pick, but it’ll fall above the “no award” line for sure.

View all my reviews

A good read re: work/life balance

After reading this lengthy introduction (with some summary) of David Whyte’s recent book about finding a new way to handle the elusive unicorn of “work/life balance,” I’m sold on the idea that I need to get my hands on this book – and most of the others referenced in this article.

A tasty bit:

The current understanding of work-life balance is too simplistic. People find it hard to balance work with family, family with self, because it might not be a question of balance. Some other dynamic is in play, something to do with a very human attempt at happiness that does not quantify different parts of life and then set them against one another. We are collectively exhausted because of our inability to hold competing parts of ourselves together in a more integrated way.

The full discussion at BrainPickings

Good reads

A few articles that deserve your attention

Finally, the response to military sexual harassment that I’ve been waiting to hear.

If you’re going to start a startup, don’t get snagged by all the hype and myth and glamor. It’s just a start up…. and startups grow up to be corporate America.

An article I think I disagree with about creative people having the right to say no to anybody anytime about anything. OK, that’s not really what it says, and the author IS making a valid point about guarding your creative time. But I think the “cult of the creative muse” needs to get taken down a notch ….and I’m saying that as someone who really truly values creative energy by purchasing art, supporting local artists & filmmakers & musicians, and making art myself.

A ridiculously creepy piece about the leftover possessions of mental patients in a frightening asylum.  Sad.

Ron Paul & I agree for once! His take on the NSA spying scandal nails it.  Bugs me how post 9/11 Americans think the government exists to keep us safe. Hogwash. 

And two to make you feel happier about the world:

A teenager developed a better cancer diagnostic tool because (among other things) some wonderful educators taught her a course in 7th grade on futuristic thinking, which kicked off her AI/coding career. Awesome.

And this fellow in China is building amazing prosthetic limbs….because he had to.