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Jamie John

What books did you read in 2020?

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On 03/01/2020 at 23:28, joemul said:

The Forbidden War. 
 

to whoever recommended this in the kindle deals thread, thank you. I loved it. 

 

Who's the author of this please? I'm trying to find it online to see if it's something I might like. Thanks.

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2 hours ago, Rob_Pulsar said:

 

Who's the author of this please? I'm trying to find it online to see if it's something I might like. Thanks.


I’m a nob. It was called The Forever War

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5. Flowers for Algernon. I thought this was great: a really beautiful, moving story. No idea why it took me so long to try it.

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. This is How You Lose the Time War

2. The Uninhabitable Earth

3. Grief is the Thing With Feathers

4. Room

5. Flowers for Algernon

 

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1. Chernobyl Prayer by Svetlana Alexievich

 

This was quite the start to the year reading wise - what a phenomenally powerful piece of writing.  I felt compelled to read it after enjoying the series on Sky Atlantic - the writer of the show highlighted this (also known as 'Voices from Chernobyl' outside the UK) as one of the key sources for his research and after about 3 pages, you can see why.  Very hard to read at times, this is essentially a series of monologues from those affected by the disaster, not just at the time but over the subsequent years.

 

Every monologue likens what happened to the war, the sheer scale of human suffering - depicted so well on screen - is just as evident here.  Some of the accounts are very moving indeed.

 

I couldn't recommend this enough.  Not only is it very interesting source of material, but it is also beautifully written.

 

5/5

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4. The Future Starts Here by John Higgs. This was a great read. Cultural historian looks at what the future is likely to bring, without the shock, fear and bluster that many writers bring to this topic. Discussion of AI, VR, Elon Musk, whether humanity is better heading off to Mars or under the sea, how education/employment/engagement are all changing with technology etc. He’s really talented at offering a new slant on topics you already had some awareness of and his insights are refreshing. 
 

5. Man’s Search for Reason by Viktor E. Frankl. I’m off to Krakow and Auchswitz next month and wanted to read an account of the place prior to my visit. The first half of the book is a fairly philosophical account of the author’s experience of being a prisoner there and why he feels he survived when so many didn’t. The second half is his views on the psychology of survival and his theory called Logotherapy. Whilst the theory and the writing are interesting in themselves, it did very little for me. As a result, I thought the first half was a powerful and extraordinary piece of writing but felt the second half was dull in comparison. 

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@Stopharage I went to Krakow last June and visited Auschwitz so I read quite a few books about it. Have you read If This Is A Man by Primo Levi? Easily the best written book I've read on Auschwitz. 

 

Also, Survivor – Auschwitz, The Death March and My Fight for Freedom by Sam Pivnik is a good account.

 

Krakow is a fabulous city btw.

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@Boothjan, thanks for that. I’ll try and get through Levi before I go. I’ve been to Krakow and Auschwitz before but went there without any literary inspiration so thought I’d make the effort this time. Krakow is as delightful as Auschwitz is humbling. 

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Blimey @Stopharage, how do you get through so many books so quickly? Good work!

 

2. The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey

 

image.png.6ca62ca7117eceb04ddb357e674abd98.png

 

This was a simply-told, relatively gentle retelling of a fairytale about a childless middle-aged couple who move to the Alaskan wilderness in the 1920s. One night they make a little girl out of snow and the next day they begin to catch fleeting glimpses of a young girl in the woods. From there, the entire thing revolves around whether the little girl is real or not, but the real story is about the character of the couple and their relationship. Overall, I thought it was very readable but it never really takes any risks and I'm not sure how long it will stay with me for. Still worth reading, however.

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On 13/01/2020 at 14:20, Rob_Pulsar said:

A quick primer. I read more books in the last quarter of 2019 than I had in my previous 37 years combined. This is mostly due to me stopping playing video games (the irony of posting this on here) and watching TV. 
 

1. A Conjuring of Light - V.E. Schwab. 3rd book in the Magic series (maybe the last?) and thoroughly enjoyable. 
 

2. Educated - Tara Westover. I’ve not read many books in my life but this ranks near/at the top. Devoured it over a weekend and found great value / meaning in so much of the content. 
 

3. How to Teach Quantum Physics to your Dog - Chad Orzel. Read this as a follow on to A Brief History of Time. Initially the ‘dog speak’ was off putting but overall the content was interesting and thoroughly digestible. 
 

4. Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer. Started over Christmas and finished early in the New Year. I like Jon’s writing style (See ‘Into The Wild’) and found the story equal parts harrowing / saddening. 

 

5.  Eames - Gloria Koenig.  An overview of Ray and Charles Eames and their main works / output.  A quick read with some interesting facts.

 

6.  Change is the Only Constant: The Wisdom of Calculus in a Madcap World - Ben Orlin.  20 years after studying A-Level Maths, I finally understand the context and application of concepts that my tutors were trying to drill into me.  I might pick up Orlin's other book on Mathematics on the strength of this.

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2. Chernobyl Prayer - Svetlana Alexievich

 

A pretty difficult read for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the stuff the people within describe is heartbreaking, this is a collection of the stories of the people who's very lives were altered by the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant, and secondly, because the person who collected these stories has been very careful to make sure that shes given them their voices, the tales often go off on tangents or become romanticised and waffly, however, its very much worth reading.

 

3. That Near Death Thing - Rick Broadbent

 

This is tells the stories of some of the key players at the 2010 and 2011 Isle of Mann TT events, we get to see inside the minds of John McGuinness, Guy Martin, Conor Cummins and Michael Dunlop and how each of them approaches such a challenging and dangerous race different. Like the event itself, the book absolutely rockets by and is possibly one of the best motorcycle racing books I've ever read.

 

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On 17/01/2020 at 11:54, Stopharage said:

@Boothjan, thanks for that. I’ll try and get through Levi before I go. I’ve been to Krakow and Auschwitz before but went there without any literary inspiration so thought I’d make the effort this time. Krakow is as delightful as Auschwitz is humbling. 


Also have you read Maus? It’s a graphic novel of course, but a work of unbelievable power and significance.

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Maus is an astonishing piece of work that's so very easily overlooked because "it's a comic innit?"

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1 hour ago, ZOK said:


Also have you read Maus? It’s a graphic novel of course, but a work of unbelievable power and significance.

I read that when I was at school and really getting into graphic novels and history. Loved it then. 
 

Went back to it as an adult, some years later, and realised how much I’d actually missed. On the rare occasions I’m drafted in to do holocaust teaching I use Maus. It’s also one of the comics I’ve gifted to those who’ve said they’re for kids. Converts the sceptics every time. 

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6. The Emperor of all Maladies. This has been on my radar for years, but I only got round to picking it up the other week when it was on a Kindle deal. It's a long book, but I raced through it in a couple of weeks. It's a brilliantly written book on a completely fascinating topic - and while not exactly a light subject matter, it's extremely accessible.

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. This is How You Lose the Time War

2. The Uninhabitable Earth

3. Grief is the Thing With Feathers

4. Room

5. Flowers for Algernon

6. The Emperor of all Maladies

 

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4. Star Wars: Master and Apprentice - Claudia Gray

 

 

Spoiler

1. The Right Stuff - Tom Wolfe

2. Star Wars: Doctor Aphra: Unspeakable Rebel Superweapon - Simon Spurrier & various artists (graphic novel)

3. Immortal Hulk: Breaker of Worlds - Al Ewing & Joe Bennett (graphic novel)

4. Star Wars: Master and Apprentice - Claudia Gray

 

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7. The old man and the sea by Ernest Hemingway. Somehow the first Hemingway I've ever read. I enjoyed the story, tone and restrained writing style, even if the book was very short. I'll definitely try some more of his stuff. 

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. This is How You Lose the Time War

2. The Uninhabitable Earth

3. Grief is the Thing With Feathers

4. Room

5. Flowers for Algernon

6. The Emperor of all Maladies

7. The old man and the sea

 

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Spoiler

1. Chernobyl Prayer by Svetlana Alexievich

 

2. How to be Champion by Sarah Millican

 

Picked this up for 99p on a Kindle daily deal - I know she's not everyone's cup of tea but I've always found her to be quite funny and she comes across really well in her autobiography. 

 

She's had her fair share of knocks but is unashamedly the way she is despite the ridiculously negative press she receives and the trouble she had during her school days and I love the attitude she has to life.

 

It's also very very funny in places, such as the anecdote she tells about a boy in school who tried to prove his love for her by biting off his wart.

 

A much better read than I was expecting.

 

3.5/5

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A boy and his dog at the end of the world by C. A Fletcher.... This was my fifth book of 2020 and probably my favourite.    At least a hundred years after the absolute downfall of society a boy named Griz leaves his small Scottish Island he shares with his family and travels across the ruins of Britain to find his stolen dog.   

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5. The Colour of Magic - Terry Pratchett

 

Everyone's already read this, haven't they? Including me. I read it in the early 90s when someone recommended it as "Douglas Adams does Lord of the Rings," but it didn't really click for me and so I never bothered with any of the later books in the series. I'm glad to say I enjoyed it much more this time around. The only part of the book that I even vaguely remembered was the short passage that takes place in "our" world on a plane - I'd forgotten the rest so comprehensively that until that bit happened I was starting to think it must have been a different book I'd read back then. So this was effectively starting again from scratch, and I'm looking forward to finally finding out what all the fuss was about.

 

Spoiler

1. The Right Stuff - Tom Wolfe

2. Star Wars: Doctor Aphra: Unspeakable Rebel Superweapon - Simon Spurrier & various artists (graphic novel)

3. Immortal Hulk: Breaker of Worlds - Al Ewing & Joe Bennett (graphic novel)

4. Star Wars: Master and Apprentice - Claudia Gray

5. The Colour of Magic - Terry Pratchett

 

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Off to a bit of a flyer, reading-wise. 

 

6. Nomad by Alan Partridge. Audiobook version, although I do have the book somewhere as well. Just so much better with Coogan's delivery. Been listening to on runs and weekend walks. Hilarious and snort-inducing throughout. A very pleasant ride. 

7. Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan. This won the Guardian's best sci-fi book of 2019. Chapters fluctuated between before and after an earth-changing event, which is that an outlandish an idea. I really enjoyed this, although the latter part was not as strong as the premise. It's largely based in Bristol and elements of the story did remind me of Station Eleven. Recommended.

8. Animal Farm by George Orwell. I last read this at school. Although I enjoyed it then, I think a lot of the subtlety went over my head. I didn't realise the book was so short but had a great time revisiting it. The Kindle version also comes with an original preface that Orwell wrote regarding censorship, which was not included in the actual book and only surfaced years later. That's well worth seeking out. 

 

Next will probably be We by Yevgeny Zamyatin.

Spoiler

 

1. Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

2. Recursion by Blake Crouch

3. The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry

4. The Future Starts Here by John Higgs

5. Man's Search For Reason by Victor Frankl

6. Nomad by Alan Partridge

7. Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan

8. Animal Farm by George Orwell

 

 

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American War by Omar El Akkad. This is bleak and sad and not an easy read by any means, but it's very good. It imagines a future America ripped apart by civil war, but from there explores themes of radicalisation, refugees and interventionist foreign policy.

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. This is How You Lose the Time War

2. The Uninhabitable Earth

3. Grief is the Thing With Feathers

4. Room

5. Flowers for Algernon

6. The Emperor of all Maladies

7. The old man and the sea

8. American War

 

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9. The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft. The third in the Books of Babel series. Having loved Senlin Ascends, I wasn't nearly as keen on the second, Arm of the Sphinx, but I thought this was much better, and really enjoyed it throughout. Shame the final book in the series has recently been delayed to next year, as I'm looking forward to seeing the end. 

 

Having decided to stop looking at my phone and instead focus spare time on reading, I'm really flying so far this year. It helps that everything I've picked has been great. 

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Spoiler

A quick primer. I read more books in the last quarter of 2019 than I had in my previous 37 years combined. This is mostly due to me stopping playing video games (the irony of posting this on here) and watching TV. 
 

1. A Conjuring of Light - V.E. Schwab. 3rd book in the Magic series (maybe the last?) and thoroughly enjoyable. 
 

2. Educated - Tara Westover. I’ve not read many books in my life but this ranks near/at the top. Devoured it over a weekend and found great value / meaning in so much of the content. 
 

3. How to Teach Quantum Physics to your Dog - Chad Orzel. Read this as a follow on to A Brief History of Time. Initially the ‘dog speak’ was off putting but overall the content was interesting and thoroughly digestible. 
 

4. Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer. Started over Christmas and finished early in the New Year. I like Jon’s writing style (See ‘Into The Wild’) and found the story equal parts harrowing / saddening. 

 

5.  Eames - Gloria Koenig.  An overview of Ray and Charles Eames and their main works / output.  A quick read with some interesting facts.

 

6.  Change is the Only Constant: The Wisdom of Calculus in a Madcap World - Ben Orlin.  20 years after studying A-Level Maths, I finally understand the context and application of concepts that my tutors were trying to drill into me.  I might pick up Orlin's other book on Mathematics on the strength of this.

 

7.  Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman.  My first taste of his work and it took a little getting used to after solely reading V.E. Schwab for fantasy fiction over the last few months.  I warmed to the story and characters as the book progressed and ultimately found the story satisfying by the end.

 

8.  The Forever War - Joe Haldeman.  I took this recommendation from this thread (thanks @joemul) as a first foray into the work of sci-fi literature.  I found the book very enjoyable, although perhaps the closing chapters of the story felt a little rushed?  Some of the language used made me smile as I guess it dates the book to the time it was written (1970s I believe).  I found some interesting links to A Brief History of Time (I guess the general space / time physics elements) which I only read for the first time a few weeks ago.

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7. Bone China by Laura Purcell 

Like her first book, the silent companions, this is a gothic horror story set in early 19th century Cornwall. It dripped with atmosphere and was very enjoyable. 

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5 hours ago, Rob_Pulsar said:
  Reveal hidden contents

A quick primer. I read more books in the last quarter of 2019 than I had in my previous 37 years combined. This is mostly due to me stopping playing video games (the irony of posting this on here) and watching TV. 
 

1. A Conjuring of Light - V.E. Schwab. 3rd book in the Magic series (maybe the last?) and thoroughly enjoyable. 
 

2. Educated - Tara Westover. I’ve not read many books in my life but this ranks near/at the top. Devoured it over a weekend and found great value / meaning in so much of the content. 
 

3. How to Teach Quantum Physics to your Dog - Chad Orzel. Read this as a follow on to A Brief History of Time. Initially the ‘dog speak’ was off putting but overall the content was interesting and thoroughly digestible. 
 

4. Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer. Started over Christmas and finished early in the New Year. I like Jon’s writing style (See ‘Into The Wild’) and found the story equal parts harrowing / saddening. 

 

5.  Eames - Gloria Koenig.  An overview of Ray and Charles Eames and their main works / output.  A quick read with some interesting facts.

 

6.  Change is the Only Constant: The Wisdom of Calculus in a Madcap World - Ben Orlin.  20 years after studying A-Level Maths, I finally understand the context and application of concepts that my tutors were trying to drill into me.  I might pick up Orlin's other book on Mathematics on the strength of this.

 

7.  Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman.  My first taste of his work and it took a little getting used to after solely reading V.E. Schwab for fantasy fiction over the last few months.  I warmed to the story and characters as the book progressed and ultimately found the story satisfying by the end.

 

8.  The Forever War - Joe Haldeman.  I took this recommendation from this thread (thanks @joemul) as a first foray into the work of sci-fi literature.  I found the book very enjoyable, although perhaps the closing chapters of the story felt a little rushed?  Some of the language used made me smile as I guess it dates the book to the time it was written (1970s I believe).  I found some interesting links to A Brief History of Time (I guess the general space / time physics elements) which I only read for the first time a few weeks ago.

 

Glad you enjoyed it Rob. It felt efficient in its use of language - like a true account written by a soldier rather than a talented author.

 

Spoilers:

 

Spoiler

One of the most affecting moments for me was when his partner left on another mission and his realisation that, due to spacetime, it was impossible that he’d ever see her again, no matter whether they survived their missions or not.

 

Spoiler

In a sense, i felt the happy ending Undermined & took away a chunk of the power & coherence of the science of the book.

 

 

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10. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Trying to plug the gaps in my coverage of the classics. I had no idea what to expect, but really enjoyed this.

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. This is How You Lose the Time War

2. The Uninhabitable Earth

3. Grief is the Thing With Feathers

4. Room

5. Flowers for Algernon

6. The Emperor of all Maladies

7. The old man and the sea

8. American War

9. The Hod King

10. The Picture of Dorian Gray

 

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Here’s my list for January... 

 

1. Flowers for Algernon (03/01)

 

Very similar to The Lawnmower Man - I don’t know if the film was meant to be an adaptation or just ripped the book off! This was better than that film though - really enjoyed it. 

 

2. The Undead: The First Seven Days (11/01)

 

A collection of seven books in one volume. Also really enjoyed this - it’s basically the Walking Dead but set in England (and with a Tesco store manager instead of a Sheriff!). Biggest complaint is endless use of the word ‘mate’ whenever anyone says anything. 

 

3. The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly (13/01)

 

I’ve been meaning to watch the film of this for sometime, but never quite got round to it. Didn’t feel so much of a novel as a collection of short stories. Pretty amazing and inspiring given the author’s situation though. 

 

4. Girl (16/01)

 

I found this a really hard book to read - it’s about the kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram. Hearing about this in real life was harrowing enough; reading a (fictional) story seen through the eyes of one of the girls who was taken made the real life event feel even more so. 

 

5. This Is How You Lose the Time War (20/01)

 

This was weird, but in a good way. It’s quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before, although the structure reminded me in some way of Cloud Atlas (despite not being at all like that!)

 

6. Darien (Empire of Salt) (24/01)

7. Shiang (Empire of Salt) (28/01)

 

The first two books in Conn Iggulden’s fantasy trilogy. I love his historical fiction novels so thought I’d give these a go and they didn’t disappoint. 

 

8. The Wall (31/01)

 

I’m not sure what it was about our imminent departure from the EU that prompted me to pick this up, but I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I might. Maybe it was because I was really just itching to get on to the final part of the Empire of Salt trilogy. 

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