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Thursday, January 01, 2015

Reading List 2014

Of the 71 books I read this year, the one I enjoyed most was John C. Wright's The Golden Age, followed by his Awake in the Night Land and Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore. The worst book I read this year was, without question, Iain Banks's The Wasp Factory, which was so repulsive that it made me feel that it would serve very well as Exhibit A in any argument being made for book-burning and the licensing and registration of authors. The most disappointing book was William Gibson's The Peripheral. It was all right, but it was disappointing to see the normally astute Gibson relying upon tired cliches and conventional tropes.

On the non-fiction side, I read three excellent books this year, starting with An Essay on Economic Theory by Richard Cantillon. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami is a very interesting read for any writer and The Transformation of War by Martin van Creveld is fully worthy of its place in the 4GW Canon. On the downside, regulars will recall that I took apart Peter Boghossian's inept A Manual for Creating Atheists in no little detail, while the shamefully deceitful Fourth-Generation Warfare and Other Myths by Antulio Echevarria left me embarrassed for the writer's assault on his own integrity and reputation.

Keep in mind these ratings are not necessarily statements about a book's significance or its literary quality, they are merely casual observations of my personal tastes and how much I happened to enjoy reading the book at the time. A five-star book is one that I recommend without reservations.

FIVE STARS

An Essay on Economic Theory, Richard Cantillon
The Golden Age, John C. Wright
The Golden Transcendence, John C. Wright
Awake in the Night Land, John C. Wright
Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami
Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers
Narcissus and Goldmund, Hermann Hesse
The Shadow of the Torturer, Gene Wolfe
The Transformation of War, Martin van Creveld
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami
One Bright Star to Guide Them, John C. Wright
Transhuman and Subhuman, John C. Wright

FOUR STARS

The Programmed Man, Jeff and Jean Sutton
The Phoenix Exultant, John C. Wright
The Business, Iain Banks
Monster Hunter Nemesis, Larry Correia
The Claw of the Conciliator, Gene Wolfe
His Master's Voice, Stanislau Lem
The Elephant Vanishes and Other Stories, Haruki Murakami
Sci Phi Journal 1, Jason Rennie
Hear the Wind Sing, Haruki Murakami
The Land of Blood and Honey, Martin van Creveld
First on the Moon, Jeff Sutton
City Beyond Time, John C. Wright
A Sword Into Darkness, Thomas Mays
World Order, Henry Kissinger

THREE STARS

A Troublesome Inheritance, Nicholas Wade
Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin 
Catastrophe 1914, Max Hastings
The Crusades, Thomas Asbridge
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, Haruki Murakami
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami
Sputnik Sweetheart, Haruki Murakami
Confessions of Felix Krull, Thomas Mann
Strong Poison, Dorothy Sayers 
On Basilisk Station, David Weber
Count to a Trillion, John C. Wright
The Hermetic Millennia, John C. Wright
The Uplift War, David Brin
Startide Rising, David Brin
The Crow Road, Iain Banks
By Its Cover, Donna Leon
Apollo at Go, Jeff Sutton
The Peripheral, William Gibson
Sci Phi Journal 2, Jason Rennie
Sci Phi Journal 3, Jason Rennie
Skin Game, Jim Butcher
The Citadel of the Autarch, Gene Wolfe
The Sword of the Lictor, Gene Wolfe
Scotland's Jesus, Frankie Boyle

TWO STARS

Whose Body?, Dorothy Sayers
A Short, Victorious War, David Weber
Prospero Lost, L. Jagi Lamplighter
The Starship Titanic, Douglas Adams and Terry Jones
The World at War, Richard Holmes
Walking on Glass, Iain Banks
Espedair Street, Iain Banks 
Space Viking, H. Beam Piper
Winner Take All, Simon Green
The Man with the Golden Torc, Simon Green
Demons are Forever, Simon Green
The God Killer, Simon Green
Wolf in the Fold, Simon Green
The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross
The Battle of Salamis, Barry Strauss

ONE STAR

A Manual for Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian
Raising Steam, Terry Pratchett
The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch
The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks
Darwin's Radio, Greg Bear
Fourth-Generation Warfare and Other Myths, Antulio Echevarria

50 Comments:

Anonymous X January 01, 2015 12:46 PM  

Vox:

--- how many hours do you read a day?

--- do you speed-read?

--- do you have a system to decide what books to read / finish?

Anonymous Giuseppe January 01, 2015 12:56 PM  

Just guessing but I think Vox probably reads like me. Any spare minute he has he fills. I haven't counted how many books I read this year but it will not be far short of 70, as I average about one a week. It's actually a habit born from not having enough time. I used to read everythingvtovthe end. Now when I realise the layout and the story long before the end and the writing sucks, I drop it.

Anonymous tlotsi January 01, 2015 1:12 PM  

You listed Space Viking, twice.

Anonymous VD January 01, 2015 1:14 PM  

--- how many hours do you read a day?

No idea. I just read here and there. On my phone at the club, while traveling, before going to bed, that sort of thing.

--- do you speed-read?

Technically, I suppose. I've always read much faster than the norm. I was tested back in elementary school and apparently the rate was quite high, but I don't remember what it was.

--- do you have a system to decide what books to read / finish?

Not really. I finish most books, though fewer now that I spend more time editing. I try to read one non-fiction book for every three or four novels. I have read part of considerably more books than those listed here; I only list a book when I have completed it in its entirety.

Anonymous NorthernHamlet January 01, 2015 1:26 PM  

VD,

As an avid reader, I intend to read 100 books this year for the first time. Then I will claim my victory. Do you accept my challenge?

Blogger Patrick January 01, 2015 1:28 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Anonymous FUBAR Nation Ben January 01, 2015 1:34 PM  

Do speed reading programs work?

Anonymous VD January 01, 2015 1:35 PM  

As an avid reader, I intend to read 100 books this year for the first time. Then I will claim my victory. Do you accept my challenge?

What challenge? I'm not going to read 100 books this year. I have way too many things to do. I read 10 fewer books in 2014 than I did the year before. I'll be lucky if I read more than 50.

Anonymous VD January 01, 2015 1:35 PM  

Do speed reading programs work?

I wouldn't know. I do whatever I do naturally.

Anonymous NorthernHamlet January 01, 2015 1:45 PM  

'm not going to read 100 books this year. I have way too many things to do.

Ah. I had hoped for a little friendly competition, but not a big deal. You're a busy man, and it is an honor either way.

Anonymous Jill January 01, 2015 1:49 PM  

Your list makes me a little sad. I've been spending so much time editing for others that I often don't want to go to bed with a book at the end of the day. My reading list for this last year is abysmally short; however, I would add that most of the books I tried to read I didn't like enough to finish. I have Awake in the Night Land on my Kindle, purchased at some point. I should just read it.

Blogger Pseudotsuga January 01, 2015 1:49 PM  

I see that "The Lies of Locke Lamora" got 1 whole star. I'd be curious to know if that was for content or for writing. (It's one of the books on your list that I have actually read.)

Anonymous maniacprovost January 01, 2015 1:49 PM  

FUBAR,
I've never tried any speed reading programs, but I can do it. The basis of speed reading is that most people hear the words in their mind while reading, which limits them to about 200 words per minute. If you can make your brain translate words directly into symbols, you can easily exceed 400. Supposedly people have hit 1000 words per minute, which would take you through a thick novel in a couple hours. However I find that I enjoy books more when I focus on the words as well as the meaning. When I read Wright sometimes I have to slow down so I can appreciate the details.

Anonymous Axe Head January 01, 2015 1:56 PM  

I knew a guy who learned to speed read. He told me he tried to speed read his bible, and laughingly said, "I didn't get much out of it."

Blogger LibertyPortraits January 01, 2015 2:03 PM  

You can't speed read dense scholarly work. I speed read novels, unless they are a timeless classic, where I carefully absorb the entire meaning. I've come to realize that it is better to not be greedy about the number of books totaled but focus on understanding the content, therefore I mostly read non-fiction and classics and am okay with not reaching my 100-book goal.

Anonymous Mike M. January 01, 2015 2:16 PM  

Originally posted on Mr. Wright's site...

Now, my personal list of the best fiction I read this year:

5. Quantum Mortis: A Man Disrupted, by Vox Day. Bought this on a whim. It’s eerie…a world that reeks of James H Schmitz, with a body count Larry Correia would be proud of. I got a big kick out of it.

4. City Beyond Tomorrow, by John Wright. A very different take on time travel – the moral aspects.

3. One Bright Star to Guide Them, by John Wright. Beautifully written, a lovely homage to C.S. Lewis.

2. Monster Hunter Nemesis, by Larry Correia. The Monster Hunter series is extremely entertaining, but this book is both entertaining and thoughtful.

1. Count to a Trillion, by John Wright. Stunning, and it improves on rereading. I got a big kick out of the tips of the hat to the Old Masters of Space Opera. I’m fairly salivating after the next installment.

Now, as to nonfiction? Norman Friedman’s “Fighting the Great War at Sea”. There are no others, this book is incredibly insightful – a tome about strategy, not operations. Which means you can pick lessons from it that can be used today.

Anonymous VD January 01, 2015 2:19 PM  

I'd be curious to know if that was for content or for writing.

Content. Lynch is a good writer, it's just that he writes about nothing even remotely interesting. It's mostly gamma wish-fulfillment, snarky banter, and a vicious circle of poor boy makes money, loses it, then makes more because he is so damn clever. Then loses it again, because there is no freaking point and the author can't come up with another plot.

And then he becomes a pirate....

Blogger Nathan January 01, 2015 2:31 PM  

Why did you rank The Citadel of the Autarch and The Sword of the Lictor so much lower than Shadow of the Torturer? How would you rate the Book of the New Sun as one overall novel?

Blogger J Van Stry January 01, 2015 2:32 PM  

I'm curious, you had a bunch of books by the same author that you rated 2 stars. Why did you keep reading their books if you didn't enjoy them?
Or do you consider two stars still a book worth reading?
Just trying to figure out your rating system, thanks.

Blogger automatthew January 01, 2015 2:45 PM  

Vox, for your next Gene Wolfe, I recommend one of:

* The Fifth Head of Cerberus
* Soldier of the Mist
* story collection: The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories

The collection has several top-rank stories, though it starts off with one I personally don't like.

Soldier of the Mist is the first of GW's "Latro" novels, set in the immediate aftermath of the 2nd Persian war, narrated by a pre-Roman Latin mercenary with brain damage. These are my favorite Wolfe books.

Blogger pyrrhus January 01, 2015 2:51 PM  

Highly recommended: Farewell to Reality: How Modern Physics Has Betrayed the Search for Scientific Truth
by Jim Baggott

Blogger Rantor January 01, 2015 2:54 PM  

Glad to see that I am not the only one let down by Count to a Trillion. Loved the Golden Age trilogy and Awake in the Night Land

Blogger automatthew January 01, 2015 2:54 PM  

Why did you rank The Citadel of the Autarch and The Sword of the Lictor so much lower than Shadow of the Torturer? How would you rate the Book of the New Sun as one overall novel?

Though I am a great fan of Wolfe, I personally have trouble with The Book of the New Sun. Its successor series Long Sun and Short Sun please me more. Part of the trouble is that I dislike pretty much every single character in the New Sun. Severian can excruciate them all, then himself, for all I care. It's a brilliant work overall, and the nested stories make it worth reading by themselves.

The Book of the Long Sun can be boring at times, but I have sympathy for almost every character, even the cheap whore, the thug, and the shapeshifter.

The Book of the New Sun is possibly his best work. It combines great characters, a compelling plot, a fascinating milieu, and the most extreme example of his notorious uses of an unreliable narrator.

All lovers of Wolfe should sign up for the Urth.net mailing list and search the archives for the discussions on your favorite stories.

Anonymous VD January 01, 2015 3:21 PM  

I'm curious, you had a bunch of books by the same author that you rated 2 stars. Why did you keep reading their books if you didn't enjoy them?

They were mindless SF/F candy that I read while I was traveling and working out. Simon Green is kind of fun, it's just that it is formulaic and repetitive.

Or do you consider two stars still a book worth reading?

It can be, sure.

Why did you rank The Citadel of the Autarch and The Sword of the Lictor so much lower than Shadow of the Torturer? How would you rate the Book of the New Sun as one overall novel?

I liked how it started. I didn't think all that much of where it went once he left the Torturers' Guild. I thought his stalking by the one woman was downright stupid and the bit with the gem accidentally coming into his possession without the priests searching him was reprehensible.

Overall, probably 4 stars. Wolfe is a very good writer with some interesting ideas and he's pretty good with characters, but I'm less than enamored with his plots. Also, I hate stories where someone suddenly comes to care for some child or woman for no reason other than purposes of the plot, who is then magically eliminated or sent off to pasture as soon as they start to get in the way.

Blogger Nathan January 01, 2015 3:27 PM  

"All lovers of Wolfe should sign up for the Urth.net mailing list and search the archives for the discussions on your favorite stories."

Thanks for the link, I will check that out.

I've never had issues with unlikable characters in novels, in fact, I usually prefer to read about characters that I don't identify with or even relate to. I find it makes for more stimulating reading.

Anonymous bolo-toto January 01, 2015 3:43 PM  

World Order, Henry Kissinger ???

By Heinz, huh? Ya, listen to what Kay Griggs says about Heinz et al ..

Kay Griggs

Transhuman and Subhuman, John C. Wright

On Transhumanism, I would turn to more Dr. Tom Horn, and the Collins brothers.

This is a must read for 2015 ..

Forbidden Secrets of the Labyrinth

How many here, have participated in the vulgus ? I never will again. Especially if it is within a so-called "Christian" institution. They can keep their "pieces of paper" ..

Time to be a real radical. A theocratic anarchist if you will ..

Oh, rock solid proof on "Tricky" Dick Cheney et al coming your way this 2015 (most early) ..

Full interview with Larry Nichols in the first hour ..

Blogger automatthew January 01, 2015 3:51 PM  

I've never had issues with unlikable characters in novels, in fact, I usually prefer to read about characters that I don't identify with or even relate to. I find it makes for more stimulating reading.

Sure. Ben Linus was my favorite character from LOST. In Short Sun, Horn is an asshole. I strongly dislike the behavior of the lead female in Michael Flynn's recent "Spiral Arm" books.

But New Sun is something different. I actively want most of the characters to shut up and die. Possible exceptions are Baldanders and Triskele.

OpenID malcolmthecynic January 01, 2015 5:07 PM  

"Awake in the Night Land" contained moments so powerful that they transcended the abilities of mortal writers to create. Wright called upon the divine when he wrote those stories, whether he realized it or not.

Anonymous x January 01, 2015 5:36 PM  

... just purchased One Bright Star to Guide Them...

Anonymous Lurker January 01, 2015 5:50 PM  

The most disappointing book was William Gibson's The Peripheral. It was all right, but it was disappointing to see the normally astute Gibson relying upon tired cliches and conventional tropes.

I remember feeling this way ten years ago with Pattern Recognition. I'm surprised you only feel this way now.

Anonymous MendoScot January 01, 2015 6:28 PM  

What was it about Strauss´ Salamis that merited two stars? I ask as it´s high on my list and I meant to ask earlier.

Anonymous VD January 01, 2015 7:07 PM  

What was it about Strauss´ Salamis that merited two stars? I ask as it´s high on my list and I meant to ask earlier.

Too much imagination and fiction. He frequently substitutes his own imagination for actual history. A lot of "So-and-so must have thought...." It's ridiculous.

Anonymous roo_ster January 01, 2015 7:10 PM  

VD wrote:
"--- how many hours do you read a day?

No idea. I just read here and there. On my phone at the club, while traveling, before going to bed, that sort of thing.

--- do you speed-read?

Technically, I suppose. I've always read much faster than the norm. I was tested back in elementary school and apparently the rate was quite high, but I don't remember what it was."

Same here, on both points. When reading a deep or demanding book, I will usually read one or two others in parallel to give me time to chew over it. Sleeping over it and/or giving my unconscious time to suss it out is something I have learned to do over the years.

eBooks, Kindle, & Moon+ reading apps on my android enable me to read so much more than before. The format allows for reading in what used to be wasted moments. eBooks brought me back to genre fiction after forsaking SF/F for many years.

I really enjoyed Wolfe's Soldier in the Mist books, if you are looking for meaty, near-literary fantasy.

Blogger Tank January 01, 2015 7:14 PM  

Any particular thoughts on Leon? I've enjoyed her books for years. What do you think about her portrayal of politics and crime in Venice. Guessing you enjoy a certain secretary in her stories.

Anonymous Caned Crusader January 01, 2015 8:50 PM  

Have to agree with you on Lynch. I would rate the first book higher than you did, but book three is pure gamma repulsiveness; I actually think it may have been while reading that book that the truth of the red pill was confirmed for me on an emotional level.

Interesting to see you rated Skin Game lower than Cold Days; I think it was better (mostly because the editor seemed to have finally told Butcher to shut up with the stupid political stuff.)

Anonymous IncoherentM January 01, 2015 9:47 PM  

These are the books I read in 2014 that were directly linked to this blog:

Awake In The Nightland
City Beyond Time
A Mind Programmed
A Throne of Bones
The Last Witchking
The Night Land

I enjoyed and recommend each and every one!

Blogger John Wright January 01, 2015 10:31 PM  

Vox, for your next Gene Wolfe, I recommend:

ON BLUE'S WATERS
IN GREEN'S JUNGLES
RETURN TO THE WHORL

These are sequels to the 'Long Sun' novels, but I am not sure one needs to read the first sequence to appreciate the second. They are
NIGHTSIDE THE LONG SUN
LAKE OF THE LONG SUN
CALDE OF THE LONG SUN
EXODUS OF THE LONG SUN

Also, I recommend
THE LAND ACROSS (which I just finished rereading)
and
THE SORCERER'S HOUSE

You might also like
PIRATE FREEDOM

Anonymous Jake January 01, 2015 10:48 PM  

I'm surprised there weren't any Scalzi novels.

Vox, your white privilege is showing...

Blogger automatthew January 01, 2015 11:10 PM  

Mr. Wright, those are also excellent recommendations. Short Sun can stand alone, though it is richer if you've read Long Sun.

Have you read many of GW's short stories?

Blogger automatthew January 01, 2015 11:11 PM  

THE LAND ACROSS (which I just finished rereading)

I would love to read about your reactions to this novel. Still not sure what I think of it. Would you post about this on your blog?

Anonymous Rolf January 01, 2015 11:53 PM  

Oh, I'm simply CRUSHED!

:-)

Happy new year!

Blogger szook January 02, 2015 9:07 AM  

Hey Vox, the wife over here was looking at this post and was intrigued. She would like to also know what SB's reading list looks like for 2014. Would she be willing to put that out there for the Ilk and related folks?

Anonymous VD January 02, 2015 10:47 AM  

Would she be willing to put that out there for the Ilk and related folks?

No, she doesn't keep one.

Blogger Franz Lionheart January 02, 2015 10:58 AM  

Intrigued by the discussion about Gene Wolfe. Never heard of him. Starting to read Shadow of the Torturer on my Kindle now.

Blogger Sojourner January 02, 2015 11:16 AM  

Didn't get a chance to read Sanderson's Words of Radiance? Thought it was a very good novel free from most crap that annoys me and certainly seems to be more focused than WoT. Even had some of those "that was awesome!" moments.

Anonymous Richardthughes January 02, 2015 1:21 PM  

Wasp Factory @ 1 Star. Egads!

Do you like his SF offerings (Iain M. Banks)?

Anonymous VD January 02, 2015 2:11 PM  

Wasp Factory @ 1 Star. Egads!

I'd have given it less if I had a lower rating.

Do you like his SF offerings (Iain M. Banks)?

Yes, although it doesn't escape me that his Culture is so boring that he has to set all of his stories outside of it.

Blogger David-2 January 02, 2015 3:23 PM  

You've listed several books by Haruki Murakami. Have you read Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World? If so, what did you think of it?

Anonymous Aus Köln January 03, 2015 10:17 AM  

Coming late to the discussion here, but it appears as though Panzer Commander (Hans von Luck memoires) has been forgotten (or maybe was read in 2013). Personally, I give it five stars. Thanks again for the recommendation. Really looking forward to this blog in 2015.

Anonymous Barg Uist January 04, 2015 12:14 PM  

I taught myself speed-reading, and hit up near the 1000 mark in my heyday. I don't read as much anymore though, so I'm back down quite a ways. All this makes me want to read more, which is good.

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