Sunday, January 01, 2017

2016 Book Awards

(Year End Book Awards)

Time for the 3rd annual Year in review of reading.  (see also 2014 and 2015).

The books I've read this year are as follows:

1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas February 3, 2016
2. Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories Volume 2 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, April 7,
3. An Arsene Lupin Omnibus by Maurice Leblanc, May 28, 2016
4. Dirty Bertie: An English King Made in France by Stephen Clarke, August 23, 2016
5. I Drink for a Reason by David Cross, August 31, 2016
6. The Lexical Approach by Michael Lewis, December 9, 2016

(As always, I'm omitting all the graded readers from the list.)  

...Uh, yeah, Vietnam has not been good for my reading.  For all the reasons I mentioned last year.
Although last year I still managed to get 10 books read before I moved to Vietnam in April.  This year I spent the entire year in Vietnam, and so only managed a measly 6 books.  (5 really.  I Drink for a Reason barely counts).

On the other hand, to be fair to myself, this list is actually a bit more impressive than it looks.

Two of the above books are actually compilation volumes, that include several smaller books within their bindings.  Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories Volume 2 is really 4 books in one.  An Arsene Lupin Omnibus is also 4 books contained within one binding.
So think I could legitimately claim to increase my total number by another 6 books.
That, plus The Count of Monte Cristo  is a massive doorstopper, so that counts for something more, right?

Anyway, with such a paltry list to sort through, the 2016 Book Awards are going to be pretty pathetic.  Most of these categories will win simply by default alone.  But let's go through the motions anyway.

Best Fiction

An Arsene Lupin Omnibus
I read 3 fiction books this year, and I am fond of them all.  (Despite their flaws. The The Count of Monte Cristo was a bit hard to slog through in the middle, but I'm still fond of the story as a whole).  But I think judged purely on enjoyability, I'd have to put An Arsene Lupin Omnibus at the top.  It's not great literature--it's pure pulp fiction.  But it's gloriously pulpy pulp fiction from the golden age of pulp magazines--spies, thieves, murderers, secret agents, trap doors and secret getaways, surprise plot twists, treasure maps, criminal conspiracies, and elaborate death traps.
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories Volume 2 is a really close second.

No worst for this category.  I was fond of all the fiction I read this year.

Best Non-Fiction

Dirty Bertie: An English King Made in France

It wins by default technically.  This was the only non-fiction I read this year.  (Not counting I Drink for a Reason.)
And yet, despite winning by default, it's not a terrible book.  I nit-picked it a lot in my review, but I also commented:
Flawed though the book is, there are lots of interesting little tidbits of information scattered throughout it.  I suppose that might be enough to give this a cautious recommendation to other history geeks.
Honorable mention in this category goes to: Death Throes of the Republic by Dan Carlin.  I can't really count it as a book because it's not a book--it's a podcast.  And yet, sometimes the line between a podcast and an audiobook gets a little blurred.  And Dan Carlin himself claims that the 13 hour long podcast is much closer to an audio book in terms of style and format.  So I'm giving it an honorable mention here.

Best Book I Read for Professional Development

The Lexical Approach
Also wins by default.  This was the only book I read for professional development in 2016.  (Actually I read it in 2015, but it took me forever to get my review together, so it gets counted in this year's list.)
Despite winning by default, it's actually a pretty good book.
I had a very hard time writing a review of it, but that's because there's so many different strands of thought in this book that it's very hard to sort out everything for a coherent review.
But for the normal reader, who's not particularly bothered about writing book reviews about everything, this book should be quite enjoyable.  It's well-written, it's very readable, and it's extremely opinionated, which can make for some fun reading if you like an author with strong opinions.

Reading List Graveyard for 2016
(Reading List Graveyard is a list of the books I started but gave up on during this year.)
* Empire by Niall Ferguson
A co-worker recommended this book to me, and even lent me his copy, so I decided to give it a try.  I of course knew Niall Ferguson's reputation as a right wing polemicist, but I thought it was good to read books by authors I disagreed with every once and a while as sort of an intellectual exercise, and besides I was interested in the subject matter.
My co-worker also disagreed with Niall Ferguson's politics, but he said the book was interesting enough that it had fascinated him despite it's political tone.
I, however, was not so grabbed by Niall Ferguson's prose. I got a few pages into it, found I wasn't really captured by it, and that I had too many half-read books on my plate already, so I just gave it up.

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky on Trump and the decline of the American Superpower

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