Reading Review 2023

Another year, another set of books!

Norse Mythology

Neil Gaiman, 2017

I read this book because it was the selection for our book club at work. I didn’t think it would be terribly interesting, but I was completely wrong. It’s basically a collection of narratives spanning from the creation of the first god, down the Ragnorok, the end of the world. The stories were a hoot. The “gods” are very flawed people who do things that seem very un-godlike. Loki is quite the character and really does add a lot of chaos. It was interesting to hear the origin of certain things, like Thor’s hammer, Mjolner. I also kept picturing the cast from the Marvel movies throughout, and was pleasantly surprised that their characterizations in the movie seemed just about accurate. All in all, it was a very engaging narrative.

The Shattered Lens

Brandon Sanderson, 2010

Continuing Alcatraz’s adventure, this is the fourth installment. This story was exciting and engaging. It revolves around protecting the kingdom of Mokia in the free kingdoms from a Librarian attack. It had some very big surprises as it goes, and ends on some big cliffhangers leaving us wondering what is going to happen.

The Dark Talent

Brandon Sanderson, 2016

Alcatraz and his posse infiltrate the largest library outside of the Library of Alexandria, the Highbrary. This book as as exciting as it’s predecessors, but be warned, don’t read it unless you have the next one readily available as it ends with many questions that need to be answered!

Bastille vs. the Evil Librarians

Brandon Sanderson & Janci Patterson, 2022

The final book in the series! This volume was co-written by Janci Patterson, and is written in the voice of Bastille. It completes the story and wraps up all the loose ends. It felt like it did so satisfyingly enough. I don’t have any looming questions that remained unanswered. This book also maintained the sarcastic humor from the previous ones. So all-in-all, it was another fun read, and a must in order to complete the story.

I, Robot

Isaac Asimov, 1950

This is a classic compendium of ten robot-related short-stories penned by Isaac Asimov. The stories are loosely tied together by robot psychologist, Susan Calvin, who is relating these stories to a reporter. She herself is in many of the stories as well. Each story deals with robots or artificial intelligence (positronic brains), and examining edge cases when things go awry. Isaac Asimov created the 3 laws of robotics, and each story revolves heavily around those laws. Some I enjoyed more than others, but I didn’t dislike any at all. “Little Lost Robot” is probably the most well known. I think my favorite was “Evidence”.  They are all fun stories, and since they are short it has a real quick pace that keeps one engaged. I’m a little surprised I hadn’t read this book before. I enjoyed it a lot!

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

J. R. R. Tolkien, 1955

Lord of the Rings is so enjoyable. I have recently reviewed all the movies, and they amaze me by how well they are able to portray this story. There are of course differences, but I feel like the films really captured the tone. I was surprised by how much of the story dwelt on Frodo, Sam, and Smeagol. One notable difference was that of Faramir. In the book, he come across as a much more noble character. I find these books to be very uplifting even though there are dire circumstances. Even though the protagonists have the weight of the world on their shoulders, they are wholesome, honorable, and valiant. I was also touched by Frodo’s compassion toward Smeagol. He understands the awful toll that the ring has had on that pitiful creature and shows mercy where others wouldn’t. It’s a wonderful book, and no surprise that it’s a classic that will live on for ages.

Quit: The Power of Knowing When to Walk Away

Annie Duke, 2022

Quit was a book choice for our book club at work. I had not heard of it, nor was I familiar with Annie Duke. Apparently, she is somewhat well known for her success as a professional poker player. At any rate, the book was fascinating and brought to light many things that cause people choose grit when they should quit. She pulled in a lot of research, as well as real world examples of people who did quit at the appropriate times as well as others who did not, to their own detriment. Many things keep us from quitting. Society has made quitting a negative thing. Sticktoitiveness is glorified. Humans are prone to falling for the sunk cost fallacy. I thought it was a great and interesting book, and I would recommend it.

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

J.R.R. Tolkien, 1955

The third and final installment of this saga did not disappoint! Having seen the movies, I knew where the story was going, but it was still engaging and interesting. What fascinated me the most was the added detail that we missed out on at the end of the film. The Scouring of the Shire gave some great additional information about our main characters after their journeys, and also provided a firm conclusion for Saruman and Wormtongue. Over all, I loved how true Sam’s companions were to him throughout the entire story. Sam, Merry, and Pippin are true friends to Mr. Frodo. It was a wonderful tale, and can’t recommend it enough.

Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man

William Shatner and David Fisher, 2016

I needed an audio book and stumbled upon this one, and figured, why not? It was narrated by William Shatner. It felt informal and seemed like he was recounting stories to a friend. As far as content, I certainly feel like a have a better sense of who Leonard Nimoy was. The organization drove me a bit batty because its not presented as a linear description of his life, but moves by themes. For instance, Leonard’s divorce was brought up twice, and I had to check to see if he divorced his second wife (he didn’t), or if we just got to that part of the story from two different places. At any rate, it was interesting and provided many insights into the two men and their long friendship.

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, The “Good Parts” Version

William Goldman, 1973

I love this movie. I had no idea what to expect of the book. It’s also very confusing when you look it up, because it’s supposedly based on a real book by S. Morgenstern, and it’s also listed as abridged, which lead me thinking for years that there was an unabridged version somewhere that would be a preferable version to read. Well, there isn’t. William Goldman also went on to write the screenplay for The Princess Bride, so I was a little surprised by the divergences in this book to the movie. I loved getting a little bit more back story on the main characters. Learning about Inigo’s childhood, or how the Prince got engaged to Buttercup was welcomed information. But then there are parts of the movie that are so iconic that don’t exist in the book that it’s kind of shocking when they aren’t there, like the eels, or Miracle Max’s wife. Overall though, it’s a solid book, and very funny, and worth the read!

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Ola Rosling, 2018

This book was chosen for the book club at work. I had not heard of this one, and had no idea what to expect going it, but it definitely proved to be interesting. The authors want to change the way the readers view the world by presenting facts, and introducing us to 10 instincts humans have when looking at data and trends that are incorrect. The book had great examples and it certainly felt credible. It validated some of the feelings I already had about the world, and it’s nice to finally be hearing that the world isn’t a terrible place that gets worse every year, but rather, the world has never been a better place. I think it’s a very good, optimistic take on doing research and understanding data. I certainly would recommend this book.

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

Dava Sobel, 1995

This was a recommendation from a reader on HackerNews. I hadn’t heard of it, but I am very captivated by time keeping devices. This book outlines the need for accurate time keeping in the 1700’s, which was the need to calculate the longitude when sailing. Clocks of the era had issues and the prize that was to be awarded for anyone who was able to solve the issue of calculating the longitude. The book is primarily about John Harrison who spent his life inventing accurate time pieces, the H1 through H5. The book made me understand how navigation worked back then, and how important time keeping was. What is also astonishing are the amazing improvements Harrison brought to the field of time keeping. Clocks and watches were not new inventions, but he revolutionized the industry during his lifetime. Amazingly interesting stuff! A must read for anyone with any inclination towards engineering or history.

Pirate Latitudes

Michael Crichton, 2009

I was in need of a new audiobook, and this one presented itself. I didn’t know anything about it going it. It was a very captivating tale, but it kept changing what I thought it was going to be as it went. The first portion of the book which established the setting focused on the governor of Jamaica. It seemed like he was going to be the main character. He was just there for setting the scene and exposition as we are introduced to the protagonist privateer. The second and largest portion of the book dealt with a heist. Captain Hunter assembles his team, a ragtag group of people with versatile skills. They attempt a heist on a nearby island, and return home. The third potion took me by surprise as it turned into a Count of Monte Cristo situation where retribution was enacted in the very bloody of ways. Overall, it was a swashbuckling adventure, though a little lewd at times. Not recommended for the young readers, but captivating overall.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams, 1979

This is probably my most frequented book. In this instance, I listened to it, narrated by Stephen Fry, who also narrated the passages in the film from the early 2000’s. It was delightful. The humor in this story consistently makes me laugh out loud. I just adore it. Although I’ve read it many times, I don’t necessarily remember all the little details, and it’s surprising to me how many of those little details came through in the film. I think the film is just perfect in capturing the essence of what makes these insane books so delightful. I know some people were very critical of the movie when it came out because it added a lot to the story that isn’t present in the book, but what surprised me is how much of the movie I had forgotten was really verbatim in the book. Such a delight. I’ll probably read this one many more times in the future.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Douglas Adams, 1981

As with the previous installment of the Hitchhiker’s Guide, It’s been about a decade since my last read-through. The overall story involves Zaphod’s mission to find the true ruler of the universe. They visit the end of the universe, and Arthur and Ford cope with being sent back 2 million years in time. This book is definitely funny. I remember most of the broad plot points, but it’s the little bits of humor throughout that was funny anew. I enjoy the off-the-wall, and recurring humor used by Adams. It was a pleasure to enjoy this book again, and would of course recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first installment.

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Douglas Adams, 1982

I’m still waiting for a few books that are on hold from the Library, so I’ll continue on with the Hitchhiker’s Guide series. The third installment revolves around the Krikkit wars. Very interestingly, I felt like this book really had a Doctor Who vibe to it, which doesn’t surprise me too much since I knew that Adams wrote screenplays for Doctor Who in the seventies. What did surprise me is that this idea actually came from an unproduced Doctor Who script that he penned. Neat! At any rate, I like how Adams takes ideas of philosophy and turns them upside down. I’m not sure if he’s trying to make a point, or be funny, but I suspect it’s a little bit of both. Another enjoyable tale of ludicrous improbability.

Dirk Genty’s Holistic Detective Agency

Douglas Adams, 1987

So I saw this audiobook on Libby and gave it a go, not realizing it was actually a radio drama produced for the BBC in 2007. Since it’s a radio drama and not an audio book, there were some key differences. First, it’s an edited story. Second is the use of sound effects and multiple actors. There is no narrator who says who is talking for example, so it’s really a different experience. It certainly was fun and had that zany Douglas Adams quality to it. I liked that while the story starts off with a murder investigation, it becomes much more. It winds up becoming a sci-fi story, but everything is indeed connected. It was a fun listen and would recommend it.

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

Douglas Adams, 1985

I am on a Douglas Adams kick it seems. I’ve read this book about a decade ago, but I couldn’t remember what it was about specifically. This is quite a departure in many ways from the other books in the series. Firstly, Zaphod and Trillian only get mentioned once in passing. The majority of the book doesn’t even have Ford in it. It, for the most part, is a love story between Arthur and “Fenny”. It was certainly interesting, and I was invested in the story. Again, this had elements in it that felt like it could have been a Doctor Who episode. Same zany sense of humor, poking fun at probability and philosophy. Overall, entertaining and recommended to people who have enjoyed the franchise thus far (but only the older readers as content-wise this was a bit more mature).

A Test of Courage

Justina Ireland, 2021

This is a young adult novel from the High Republic era of Star Wars. My son recommended it when I ran out of books. It was short. It was fine. The story centers around young Jedi who get stranded on a planet with the people who sabotaged their star cruiser. There was lots of talk about ships being targeted in hyperspace, and I expected the plot to evolve to solving that mystery, but rather the entire story ended up just being them surviving on this planet and getting off/rescued. It was fine, but felt a little light to me.

Silas Marner

George Eliot, 1861

I’ve never read this before. However, I am a big fan of the Steve Martin film, A simple Twist of Fate, which is based on this novel. I thought the story was really gripping. The start of the story in particular varies greatly from the movie. There is a religious narrative that goes throughout the story that is absent from the film. A lot of time is spent developing other characters in the story, and not just Silas Marner, which surprised me. It’s a sweet story and I love the way that the characters transform throughout. I also really appreciate how great the film adaptation was. So many moments from the book play out exactly the same on film, and it was fun comparing them. I really thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it.


It felt like there were fewer books this year. A lot of the wait times for these were higher than books I’ve chosen in the past.

The stand out books for me this year were:

  • Norse Mythology
  • Longitude
  • Factfulness

Two of these were chosen by the book club at work, while the other was a suggestion I saw in a Hacker News comment.

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