Friday, January 1, 2010

Books I Read in 2009

I did a similar post last year. Here are the books I read in 2009, all 65 of them. My daughter also posted her 2009 reading list here.

Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin

I've been reading British police procedurals for a few years. This is a series featuring Inspector John Rebus, set in Edinburgh. This is actually the second book in the series.

Everyday Survival: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things by Laurence Gonzales

Gonzales got off to a good start in trying to explain why we make bad decisions but gradually wanders off into how we're eventually going to destroy the world.

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin
The first book in the Inspector Rebus series. Rebus is an ex-army police detective working in the gritty back streets of Edinburgh.

The Digital Plague by Jeff Somers
This is the sequel to "The Electric Church" which came out in 2007. It takes place in a dystopian future (aren't all futures dystopian?) where a tough killer-for-hire gets infected with a nanobug and spreads disease all over the place.

The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading, and Bubble Gum Book by Brendan Boyd and Fred Harris

This book was being talked about in the baseball card blogosphere so I decided to buy a copy on Amazon. It's out of print so I ended up with a used copy with a torn cover. It's a fun read about how we all fell in love with baseball cards as kids.

Sly Mongoose by Tobias S. Buckell
A hard science fiction novel set in a universe where mankind is just barely hanging on in a galaxy populated with more scientifically advanced aliens. I didn't realize when I picked it up that it was the third book of the series. I liked it enough to get the other books.

London Rising: The Men Who Made Modern London by Leo Hollis

This was a hard book to read and at 400 pages I didn't finish it. The men are John Locke, John Evelyn, Robert Hooke, Nicholas Barbon and Christopher Wren (who rebuilt St. Paul's Cathedral as we know it today).

Clade by Mark Budz
After the ecocaust, life is hard. Only through serious genetic engineering are people able to survive on an earth made almost barren by the devastation of the planet's biodiversity.

Blood Hunt by Ian Rankin

By the author of the Inspector Rebus series. The story is about an ex-SAS operative trying to live a quite life when someone kills his brother and he goes ballistic.

The Spirit Archives, Vol. 1 by Will Eisner

The Spirit was a serialized comic in the newspapers in the 1940s. DC comics brings them all together in several volumes. My library only has Vol. 1. The Spirit is a police detective whom everyone thinks is dead. This lets him fight crime but not get too bogged down by the rules. There was a movie out last year about The Spirit but the style of the movie was all wrong.

Crystal Rain by Tobias S. Buckell

The first book of the Mongoose Men trilogy. The Mongoose Men are mercenaries in space who are descended from Jamaicans. Pretty good premise and an enjoyable read.

Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind by Gary Marcus

Our brains, as great as they are, evolved in a world very different from today. Marcus argues that we are prone to rages, addictions and other habits that limit our capacity for rational action in every sphere, from food to politics. Depressing.

Ragamuffin by Tobias S. Buckell

The middle book of the Mongoose Men series. If you like hard science fiction pick these up. Read them in order though.

Close to Home by Peter Robinson

Another British police procedural series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks. Banks started his police career in London but grew tired of the ceaseless violence and moved to the more peaceful Yorkshire countryside. This is the 12th book of the series and I had a hard time following the story. So I later went back to the beginning.

The Caryatids by Bruce Sterling

We're 50 years into a depopulated future and the world is split into two factions. One wants to commercialize everything, the other wants to fix everything. They don't get along. Hard Sci Fi. It was a good read but hard to describe.

Gallows View by Peter Robinson

The first book of the Inspector Banks series. He and his family (wife and young son and daughter) are getting used to living in the country. Banks has to figure out if and how a series of peeping tom episodes tie into the murder of an old lady. I will almost finish this series in 2009.

Make It So: Leadership Lessons From Star Trek The Next Generation by Bill Ross and Wess Roberts

Very possibly the dumbest book I read in 2009. My daughter, who works at the library, rescued it from the discard pile. The premise is that Captain Picard has been asked to write a leadership training manual for Star Fleet Academy. He uses various Enterprise missions to make his points about leadership. That in itself wasn't so bad. What was dumb is that the authors expected business people to use these lessons in their work.

Contagious by Scott Sigler

Aliens have come to earth and infected people with their spores to take over the planet. This was the sequel to "Infected" which apparently had the same plot. According to the review on Amazon: " This is a gutsy, ambitious, and completely seductive novel, B-movie horror of the highest order, told with conviction and gusto." No, it wasn't.

Supersense: Why we Believe in the Unbelievable by Bruce M. Hood

His theory is that we have some kind of 'supersense' which makes us believe in supernatural stuff like God and bulbous-headed aliens. I'm afraid I didn't buy his premise at all.

The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth by Leigh Montville

A pretty engaging biography of the Babe. I'm a big baseball fan (as reading my blog will tell you) but didn't know much about Ruth. Now I do. I wrote more about this here.

Conspirator by C. J. Cherryh

This is the 10th book in a series which started in 1994. To be exact, it is the first book of the 4th trilogy in the series. The series concerns humans who were stranded on an alien planet hundreds of years ago. The humans were more technologically advanced but this caused a war between the humans and the native population. They have had a fitful peace for many years but the aliens want the advanced tech and the humans deal it out slowly. Now the planet is facing an unknown but powerful threat from off-planet and have to resolve their difficulties to prepare. It's has been a great series and I recommend you go and find the beginning and read them all.

The Card by Michael O'Keeffe and Teri Thompson

As a baseball card collector, I'm naturally interested in the most famous baseball card in the world. It was an interesting read but ultimately the authors don't answer the key questions they ask in the beginning of the book, such as where has this card been between 1909 and when it was discovered sometime in the 1980s and how did it survive in such good condition? I wrote more about this here.

Death of a Poison Pen by M. C. Beaton

There is a whole series of these books, all of which are titled "Death of a...". They are about Constable Hamish Macbeth, the fiery red haired policeman who lives in the far north Scotland town of Lochdubh. Although it's a sleepy little place, people are getting murdered there on a regular basis. Hamish always solves the crime, then plays down his accomplishments so he doesn't get transferred to a bigger town. And I love the voice of the reader, Graeme Malcolm. I could listen to him read the phone book and love it.

www:wake by Robert J. Sawyer

A girl, blind since birth, is given an opportunity to get an implant which might help her to see. The implant has a wireless connection to a computer which will help translate what her eyes see into something her brain can understand. Somehow this enables her to 'see' the internet. At the same time, an artificial intelligence is growing on the internet and makes a connection with her. There is also a background story of politics going on which isn't clear how it fits into the story of the girl. What a minute, this is the first book of a series. I guess everything will be made clear later.

The Wikipedia Revolution by Andrew Lih

Do you use Wikipedia? Doesn't everybody? A pretty interesting account of how Wikipedia came to be.

A Dedicated Man by Peter Robinson

Inspector Banks solves another murder in the Yorkshire countryside.

Appaloosa by Robert P. Parker

I really loved the movie and decided to read the book (or listen to it). The movie is very true to the book. The book is still better.

The March by E. L. Doctorow

Many lives were changed as Sherman marched through Georgia and the Carolinas during the Civil War. This is about a bunch of them. This book won a lot of awards and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005. I enjoyed it.

Blunder: Why Smart People Made Bad Decisions by Zachary Shore

Didn't I read something like this earlier in the year? Yes, but this is a better book. Shore talks about 'cognition traps", inflexible mind-sets formed from faulty reasoning. It's mostly common sense stuff but this world is sadly lacking in common sense.

Resolution by Robert B. Parker

The sequel to "Appaloosa" and just as good. The boys (Virgil and Hitch) are back together. Virgil's wife has taken off with another man. As soon as they clean up the town of Resolution, they're going to find her (that's the next book).

Flood by Steven Baxter

For reasons never clearly explained, the water level is rising everywhere. This is the story of people coping and drowning. A rich guy sees what is to come and builds a giant ship. Unlike the movie 2012, the water doesn't go back down. An OK story.

1969 The Year Everything Changed by Rob Kirkpatrick

I graduated from high school in 1969, so for me, everything did change. Turns out, everything changed for a lot of people. Pretty interesting if you're of the right age (I'd say if you are over 50). Younger readers will probably wonder what all the fuss was about.

The Hanging Valley by Peter Robinson

Banks gets to visit Canada following a lead. It happens that the author is a Canadian.

The Secret Life of Words by Henry Hitchings

Subtitled How English Became English. A pretty good book if you're interested in word origins. I am interested but couldn't finish it.

Fool's Experiments by Edward M. Lerner

The second book I read this year about an artificial intelligence loose in the internet. But instead of being benign (like in "www.wake"), this one is a monster.

The Truelove by Patrick O'Brian

This is the 15th installment (of 21) in the story of Lucky Captain Jack Aubrey and his erstwhile ship's surgeon (and spy) Stephen Maturin. Story-telling at it's best. I recommend you start from the beginning. I've read almost all of these on CD and they are very very enjoyable.

Black and White by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge

This was like a graphic novel without the graphics. It takes place in an alternative America where superheros and common enough that they have a school for them. Budding superheros are taught how to use their powers, design costumes and pick catchy names. Of course, not all the superheros go to school. The ones who don't become evildoers. A sequel is coming soon and I can't wait.

Terraforming Earth by Jack Williamson

Williamson is an old-school sci fi writer and this book is very old-school. The earth is almost destroyed by an asteroid impact but a few survive on a moon base. Their clones gradually rebuild earth and civilization, over and over and over again.

Past Reason Hated by Peter Robinson

Inspector Banks has to solve the mystery of a murdered young lesbian actress.

Sin Killer by Larry McMurtry

I like Larry McMurtry and I really wanted to like this but I didn't. It's the story of the eccentric and very rich English Berrybender clan attempting a crossing of the wild American west in 1832. It is the first of a four novel series. The Berrybenders are very unlikable and I won't be finishing the series.

Wednesday's Child by Peter Robinson

A kidnapped child is the focus of this, the 6th entry in the Inspector Bank's series.

You Are Here by Colin Ellard

I have always been what I call spatially challenged. I could get lost walking from my house to my car. So a book subtitled "Why we can find our way to the moon, but get lost in the mall" seemed like a natural to me to read. He starts out strong, explaining how a sense of direction has evolved in man and other animals. He goes on to explain the use of space in the design of cities and homes and office buildings. All very interesting but he never answered the question posed in the subtitle. Meanwhile, I carry a GPS unit everywhere I go.

Turncoat by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden is a wizard living in Chicago trying to mind his own business. This is the 11th book in the Dresden Files series where wizards and vampires and other magical folk live in our world but we don't notice. I've read a few in the series and it's pretty good. Sort of like a grown-up Harry Potter series.

Final Account by Peter Robinson

A rich accountant in town is horribly murdered before his wife and daughter. It turns out the guy had a secret life, helping a ruthless Caribbean dictator launder money. Seems like he was skimming off the top. A subtext in these stories has been Inspector Bank's relationship with his family and his superior officer. Cracks in both relationships start appearing in this book which will climax a few books from now. Which is one of the reasons I had trouble following some of the 12th book when I read it first.

Future Imperfect by David D. Friedman

Friedman explains how technologies just being developed today, such as encryption, surveillance, biotechnology and nanotechnology might change the world in which we live. He freely admits that he's not trying to predict the future only point out trends that we might see over the next 10 to 15 years. Very interesting.

Sabriel by Garth Nix

My daughter, the future young adult librarian, recommended this series to me. As a rule, I don't read a lot of fantasy because, ultimately, it all sounds like a variation of Lord of the Rings (one of my all time favorite stories). But this is pretty good. It's a world like ours, in the early 20th century. But on one corner of the world, The Old Kingdom, magic abounds. Sabriel, schooled just across the Wall from the Old Kingdom, learns that her father is the Abhorsen, charged with keeping the dead, dead. When her father is killed, she must take up his bells and banish one of the Greater Dead who plans to enslave the Old Kingdom.

Daemon by Daniel Suarez

In the world of computing a daemon is a background program which performs essential tasks in keeping other programs running. In this novel, a very rich computer programmer, sets loose a daemon in the internet to get his revenge on all those who wronged him. Did I mention that he sets this loose after he dies?

Death of a Village by M. C. Beaton

Another delightful case solved by Hamish Macbeth. This is the last one of these on CD that my library has. I'm going to have to ask them to order other titles.

Innocent Graves by Peter Robinson

This is a bit of a different turn for this series. A schoolgirl is murdered and all the evidence points to one man. But it turns out he is innocent and gets acquitted at trial. Inspector Banks must reopen the case to find the real killer.

Steal Across The Sky by Nance Kress

Nancy Kress is one of my favorite sci fi writers and she doesn't disappoint in this book. Aliens come to earth claiming that they did humankind a great wrong and they want to make atonement.

This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams

Set pretty much in today's world, it concerns a woman who works for a company which designs alternate reality games (or ARGs). I'd never heard of these before. The story was pretty good.

Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith

Quite frankly, I picked this up looking for something being read in a Scottish accent (since I've run out of Hamish Macbeth books). But it turned out to be pretty good. The book started out as a newspaper series about the tenants of 44 Scotland Street in Edinburgh.

Blood At The Root by Peter Robinson

Banks' life is a mess. His wife of 20 years had left him. His children have grown and left for school. He plunges himself into a case involving a racist organization. His hated supervisor suspends him because he suspects that Banks is having an affair on work time (he's not). Banks manages to solve the case undercover with the help of his friends on the force.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

We saw the movie earlier this year and loved it. My daughter rescued the book from the discard pile at the library and gave it to me. I was amazed at how faithful to the book the movie was. The book has more detail and more story than the movie. This is one of the best books I read this year.

Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter by Thomas Cahill

This was pretty interesting as an introduction to ancient Greek literature but very hard to follow listening to in my car. I had to give up on it about half way through.

Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child

The 11th book in the Jack Reacher series. Reacher is an ex-military cop who, after getting discharged from the service, decides to be a loner with no fixed address. Sounds like a recipe for trouble and Reacher finds trouble everywhere he goes. Some ex-Army buddies of his get murdered so Jack gathers together the remnants of his old squad and they find the murdering bastards and take care of them. A bit violent but a pretty good read.

In A Dry Season by Peter Robinson

His wife has asked for a divorce and his career is on the skids, Inspector Banks is sinking into depression. He's been reinstated to the force but is stuck mainly doing desk work. Due to the drought, a local lake has dried up and the remains of a town flooded when the lake was formed in the 1950s has surfaced. Then a body is been found buried under the remains of a house. To get him out of his hair, his supervisor sends Banks to investigate. The story jumps back and forth between the story of the murdered girl in the 1940s and present day as Banks and Detective Sargent Annie Cabbot try to solve the case. The best book in the series so far.

Lirael Daughter of the Clayr by Garth Nix

The sequel to "Sabriel". It's 14 years since the events in "Sabriel". Lirael lives with the Clayr, a group of women who can foretell the future. Lirale does not have this ability and lives a life of quite despair. But the Clayr cannot see Lirale's future and this has them worried. Another good story and we get to learn more about the Old Kingdom and The Charter which rules the magic there.

Cold is the Grave by Peter Robinson

Banks is living alone now, trying to reestablish a relationship with his children. He had a brief affair with Annie Cabbot but that's over. She now works in his station which leads to some discomfort. Banks is asked by his hated supervisor, Chief Constable Riddle to find Riddle's 16-year-old daughter. She ran away from home some months before and has recently turned up on a pornographic website. Banks reluctantly agrees, finds her in London and brings her back. Then the girl gets murdered.

Spent. Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior by Geoffrey Miller

Miller is an evolutionary psychologist. He introduces the 6 great traits: intelligence, openness to new experiences, conscientiousness, agreeableness, emotional stability and extroversion. He then tries to show how marketers could do a much better job selling us stuff it they exploited these traits better. Then he tries to show us poor consumers how to avoid buying stuff we really don't want. I wrote more about this here.

Killing Floor by Lee Child

The first installment of the Jack Reacher saga. Jack just happens to wander into a small town in Georgia that is the center of counterfeiting ring on the morning after his long-lost brother, who works for the treasury department, was killed investigating the ring. Jack gets framed for the murder and all hell breaks lose. Although built on an amazing and unbelievable set of coincidences, the book is a good read.

The Wine-Dark Sea by Patrick O'Brian

Just when I think Captain Aubry and Doctor Maturin have seen it all, their ship gets caught up in the eruption of an undersea volcano while they are chasing an American privateer in the South Pacific.

Republican Gomorrah by Max Blumental

I avoid politics on my blog but I am somewhat of a political junkie. This is just a sad story that helps explain a lot that happened during the 2008 presidential election season.

Abhorsen by Garth Nix

This story picks right up were were left off in Lireal. It turns out that she is the new Abhorsen-in-waiting. She and Sam, the son of Sabriel (from the first book and her husband the king of the Old Kingdom) must fight the reappearance of an evil that will destroy the whole world.

Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan

This is the 11th book in the mammoth Wheel of Time series. At 1,000 pages, this brings the series to 8,577 pages. I had given up after the 10th book in 2003, because it looked like Jordan was not able to figure out how to end this epic fantasy. The story follows Rand, the Dragon Reborn, who is trying to unite the diverse human population in order to defeat the powers of evil who are also gathering together. Jordan died a couple of years ago but another author is completing the series (he promises just 3 more). The 12th book has come out so I decided to go back and read this 2005 installment. It was a tough read after so long. The series has about 500 characters and has been following 5 major subplots for many 1,000s of pages. But amazing enough, all five of these subplots get resolved in this book. So let's got on with Tarmon Gai'don - the climactic last battle between the Dragon Reborn and the Dark One.


Sooz said...

Very cool. Obviously, you like Sci-Fi and I enjoy reading the same genre. I tend to save the list and try to read some of the books on your list.

Thanks for list.

Rod (Padrographs) said...

I read three of the books that you had, the two Lee Child books and The Card. You can see what I read at

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