December was a maddening sprint to our production’s hiatus, then a few days break before crossing the Pacific and navigating around Taiwan from Taipei to Kaohsiung and back again. Somewhere in the middle of the month I met my yearlong reading goal of 75 books, then added on a few additional ones during transit to reach 77 books. Suffice to say, I am pleased with the total, because it speaks to a year’s commitment to reading. I’ll sum this up shortly by picking my best fiction and non-fiction reads from 2015, then work to continue in 2016 writing about what I’m learning.
We spent the first week of January still in Taiwan, and our packed schedule of morning citywalks, Taiwanese buffets and evening nightmarkets precluded much reading. A return to work, continued wedding planning and a few writing projects may make reaching previous binge levels of reading difficult, at least in the interim. It won’t be for lack of exciting books to devour, however, as international bookstores and the Christmas season beefed up my to-read pile in a healthy way.
Rabbit At Rest by John Updike – The fourth in the Rabbit series, and the best. It’s skeezy and weird, and paints Floridian retirement as a dangerous game.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – A book about a relationship turned marriage, told from both sides. Different from what I expected, and powerful. If you like books whose narrative is told in two parts, I suggest reading the novel How to be Both by Ali Smith.
The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley – This is a must-read about how humanity trends toward progress and that, when uninhibited, innovation and exchange between cultures solve the world’s biggest problems. For ideas on how to take advantage of that prosperity, pair this with with Peter Diamandis’s book Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World.
Exploring Calvin & Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue by Bill Watterson – The two series I’ve consumed in their entirety are Calvin & Hobbes and Seinfeld. This book, which was released with a C&H exhibition, includes an excellent interview with Bill Watterson along with a solid discussion of the themes in his work.
How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Blakewell – This book was a nice introduction to Montaigne and a look at the development of the man who made essay-writing an art form.
The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton – This book seeks to take on a handful of problems with a handful of philosophers’ solutions. By nature of splitting up a work like this you won’t get as much depth on any one person. Given that I read this just after How to Live, it felt shallow. Otherwise, it’s a nice sample of philosophies, from Epicurus and Seneca to Nietzsche and Montaigne.
If you have any recommendations of books to read, either based on the books above, or on your own experience, please let me know.