2018 Book List

Year six of the reading list updated as frequently as I can both finish books and thoughts about them. While it seems very elementary school in nature, keeping a list has made it easier to share my current literary adventures with friends, and more important, it’s made me think about what I read. Someone asked if I have a goal in terms of number of books, and I realized that while I read between 30-50 books a year, I don’t set a goal for quantity. As part of really trying to think about self-care in 2018, though, I’m focusing on increasing variety (not quite so much sci-fi). As always, the list is in reverse chronological order, based on completion dates (sometimes I’ll read a short story collection, a technical book, and a novel in parallel, depending upon what media and time slices I have at my disposal). Via embedded Amazon links and images, I earn a microeconomic commission if you actually buy something after clicking through from this list.

2. “Seven Surrenders”, sci-fi, Ada Palmer, finished January 12.

The continuation of the first part of “Terra Incognito” is denser and richer in palace intrigue than the opening book, and draws on Palmer’s knowledge of classic literature. More theological and even a bit deus ex machina, the story continues to explore a future utopia which has been conflict free for three centuries — except where the conflicts are small scale, surgically precise and craftily hidden. How the global politics revert to the mean while Palmer presents half a dozen views, names and faces of a deity make for a much faster paced story than “Too Like The Lightning” while also setting the stage for the eventual conflict you knew was coming.

1. “Too Like The Lightning”, sci-fi, Ada Palmer, finished January 3.

I’m not really sure how to describe this — it’s a pastiche of Dune, Anne Leckie’s challenging use of gender, and Cory Doctorow’s “Walkaway” post-scarcity but post-1% of 1% secret society, mixed with a set of mysteries worthy of the depth and creepiness of China Mieville, with a careful sprinkling of Doestyevsky’s context sensitive naming. It seems Ada Palmer is on most of my favorite authors “ones to watch” informal lists, and this novel is why — it’s dense, wonderfully constructed, challenging in terms of narrative structure and multiple intersecting plotlines, and I think it reads as Palmer intended — four centuries future interpreting the late 18th century French monarchy. Whether you look for explorations of tribalism, theology, human-computer interaction, the richness of data or just the distilled essence of humanity, it’s in the Terra Incognito series. I’ll be reading the next two.