Reading List 2020

Created: In Life

Looking at past posts and it looks like I haven’t published my reading list review in a few years. The previous posts on the site are for 2017, 2016, and 2015. I think I got lazy and let Goodreads handle it, see my 2019 and 2018 lists there.

For 2020, I ended up reading 28 books, this marks my third year in a row going over my goal of 25 books a year. This works out to about a book every two weeks, not a bad pace if you aren’t reading George R.R. Martin tomes.

Movies

I co-host the Reel DMC movie podcast, give it a listen, our recent Hunt for Red October episode is one of our best yet. Here are the books I read based on movies we covered in the podcast.

Princess Bride
By William Goldman

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A wonderful story written well. There is little more in the book than the movie, but still worth reading to spend more time in Florin with old friends.

Nothing Lasts Forever
By Roderick Thorp

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Inspiration for Die Hard, but far from a straight adaptation. The main story is close, but characters and motivations are quite different. Enjoyable to read, but maybe gets a bonus star since the movie is so good.

Dune
By Frank Herbert

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A masterpiece!

Revolutionary War

Blame Hamilton. After watching and listening to the musical (my kids love the music and have no qualms about listening to the same thing over-and-over-and-over again), I became interested in the Revolutionary War. I was curious and realized my lack of knowledge beyond the big picture of the American Revolutionary War.

1776
By David McCullough

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A fantastic deep dive into the year 1776, following Washington and the rebel armies initial battles with the British, beginning the war.

Chains
By Laurie Halse Anderson

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A wonderful, and heart breaking story, of a slave girl during the revolutionary war. Great and accurate historical fiction and I’m glad I read after 1776, the book covers many of the same events.

Auto

My pandemic gift was an old British sports car, a 1960 Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite, might as well social distance in style. This inspired reading two auto books.

It Came With Oil – An adventure into the art of British car repair
By Alan Cowan

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Wonderful book, see my full post review here.

How to Build a Car: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Formula 1 Designer
By Adrian Newey

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If you like Formula 1 racing from 1980’s to now, this is a great read. A nice mix of Newey’s life and F1 design and history.

Writing

The Process of Education
By Jerome S. Bruner

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reading about writing and instructional design led me to this book. It is a good short read talking about educational theory.

Writing to Learn: How to Write-—And Think—Clearly about Any Subject at All
By William Zinsser

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The book discusses the importance of writing as a means of learning, the first half is better than the second. However, if you’re looking for a book to improve your writing read Zinsser’s On Writing Well.

Writing Is Designing: Words and the User Experience
By Michael J. Metts

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A really good book talking about the importance of writing and user interface. Worth reading for anyone involved in creating a product.

Revising Prose
By Richard A. Lanham

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This was ok, it covers many of the same topics in other writing books. I did not get much new out of it. As stated above, Zinsser’s On Writing Well is my top writing recommendation.

Spring Training
By William Zinsser

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I read this getting ready for baseball season. It is an enjoyable light read.

Non-Fiction

The Parameters of our Cage
By C. Fausto Cabrera & Alec Soth

Rating: 5 out of 5.

One of my favorites of the year. A wonderful glimpse into the correspondence between Soth and Fauso and the friendship they form.

Uncanny Valley
By Anna Wiener

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I typically dislike reading about the tech industry since they tend to glamorize or distort; but Wiener does a nice job telling a familiar story from a fresh point of view.

Working
By Robert A. Caro

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The writing is excellent, but what I really enjoyed about this book was discovering the dedication Robert Caro has to his craft. His curiosity and willingness to do the work comes out — from his commitment to research, to his compassion to tell well-rounded stories. 

Indistractable
By Nir Eyal

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Meh. I got the book free from work and it has good advice and suggestions but feels like could be a couple of blog posts.

What if? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
By Randall Munroe

Rating: 5 out of 5.

From the creator of XKCD, wonderful answers to absurd questions.

Six Thousand Years of Bread: Its Holy and Unholy History
By Heinrich Eduard Jacob

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This was not the book I was looking for, the focus is more history than bread and no cohesive flow except times in history bread and grain are mentioned.

Fiction

Recursion
By Blake Crouch

Rating: 2 out of 5.

A little too clever. Plus it suffers from the time travel risk of the ability to change things making everything that happens inconsequential. It loses impact — like a death in a magical world that can bring the dead back to life.

Mexican Gothic
By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Enjoyable ghost story set in 1950’s Mexico.

In the Dark
By Loreth Anne White

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A fun summer read, an enjoyable mystery and whodunit. I was looking for a light read and it was free on Prime. I was pleasantly surprised.

Neuromancer
By William Gibson

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Painfully obnoxious.

Sevenenves
By Neal Stephenson

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Is it a political story about creating a society from scratch? Is it a survival story about logistics and planning? Or is it a science book about orbital physics—really, do we need so much on orbital physics?

The Time Machine
By H.G. Wells

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Classic.

Doctor Sleep
By Stephen King

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I really like the continuation of the Shining story. Doctor Sleep has a bit too much setup taking to really get going, but once it does it is enjoyable.

The Hate U Give
By Angie Thomas

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Really great book. A fresh viewpoint and story looking at racism and violence in America.

Flowers for Algernon
By Daniel Keyes

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I hadn’t read Flowers for Algernon since high school, and probably only read the bare minimum of what was required back then. It’s a classic, a great book that still holds up today.

The Peace War
By Vernor Vinge

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A good science fiction book, that is the basis of my team’s name at work: Tinker.

Next

I’m starting 2021 reading the J.R.R. Tolkien series again, I think this is my 3rd time through. I’ve already finished the Hobbit and started on the Fellowship of the Ring.

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