My Top Ten Books of The Year

My Top Ten Books of The Year

In December I typically mirror upon the books I read during the year, determine my favorites, and map out a plan for the types of books I hope to read in the ensuing year. One of my goals last year was to diversify my reading selection, by choosing a more comprehensive amalgamation of genres. I tried to include classics, historical fiction and non-fiction, poetry, science fiction, German language books and business books. What follows is a list and fleeting synopsis of my top ten books of the year.

I read two more Eric Larson books this year, Thunderstruck and In the Garden of Beasts. As with all the Larson books Ive read, this work contains great detail, high characterizations, and the integration of multiple story lines within an interesting historical context. Though I preferred Devil in the White City, both Thunderstruck and In the Garden of Beasts are worthwhile reads, containing important historical perspectives, and in the case of the latter, the threatening and portentous issues of 1930s Germany. Its slightly challenging to determine a top 10 list, as the genres are so different, instead of thinking of my ten best, a more appropriate list description might be the 10 books I most enjoyed. That said, here is my list:

Tale of Two Cities: My favorite book of the year, this Dickens typical, is a typical for many reasons, including the famous first use, and the noticable last two sentences. This work truly communicate the evocative imagery of this tumultuous period. The elite charging by the streets in their carriages, makes already my fellow Bostonian drivers seem tame and languid. With a wild rattle and clatter, and an inhuman abandonment of consideration not easy to be understood in these days, the carriage dashed by streets and swept round corners, with women screaming before it, and men clutching each other and clutching children out of its way.
The Beautiful and the Damned: I thought the reincarnation of the Great Gatsby movie fell flat, but departed with the motivation to read a Fitzgerald novel. I opted for The Beautiful and the Damned. In this work, F. Scott Fitzgerald demonstrates his great literary form, with flowing descriptions and vivid characterizations. He creates characters you love to hate, or perhaps hate to love.
Thunderstruck: An excellent historical work by Larson, this one revolving around the arrival of wireless telegraphy, while providing a similar plot line revolving around the strange life of a London associate. I thought Devil in the White City was better, but nevertheless enjoyed Thunderstruck.
In the Garden of Beasts: Another excellent book by Larson, this one revolving around the tumultuous times in the 1930s during Hitlers rise to strength. It follows newly appointed US Ambassador William Dodd and his family, and their surreal life in Berlin.
Destiny of the Republic Destiny of the Republic: Back in 1881, when anyone could visit the White House, before the arrival of the presidential security details, Garfield demonstrates why this openness had dire consequences. This was a very good Candice Millard book, though I enjoyed River of Doubt already more.
Lost in Shangri-La: Excellent WWII read, pertaining to a far away vicinity of the globe, in a time and place with limited technology, and when many regions were nevertheless in addition unexplored.
The Complete Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Wadsworth and Frost are two of my favorite poets. This public domain work includes The Arrow and the Song, The Wreck of the Hesperus, The Song of Hiawatha and many other great poems. From my perspective, Longfellow poems range from whimsical to evocative to didactic. If you like traditional poets, you can find a great selection of poems in this extensive collection (observe that the table of contents did not hyperlink on my Kindle).
The Songs of Distant Earth: An Arthur Clarke typical which makes the reader ponder when and how the human race will analyze and populate other planets.
Pebble in The Sky: An early Asimov work (1950), which includes foundational elements the for the Foundation series. Though some of the references may be dated, like a Jules Verne novel, its nevertheless an entertaining and thought provoking work.
Blink: The strength of Thinking Without Thinking: From my perspective, not as engaging as The Tipping Point, but nevertheless provides Gladwells rare perspective.

This year I also read multiple books on German vocabulary, verb drills, short stories and logged numerous hours on Rosetta Stone. Many of these were helpful, though I think personal preference and learning styles vary dramatically, making it difficult to determine what other readers might prefer. I do enjoy Rosetta Stone, though I think they should include an on need translation dictionary in their program.

Next year I expect the genres to keep similar, and hope to include Vonnegut, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Tolkien, historical non-fiction, perhaps Thomas Jefferson: The Art of strength, and several new business books. It seems like its time to start writing again, my most recent book was written over a year ago. Ive been pondering a book on digital marketing and integrated pipeline building and have rough outline in mind. And perhaps someday, a novel, though Im truly humbled by the many great authors above. in spite of, like many, I find both reading and writing, a worthwhile, enlightening and often cathartic course of action.

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