Book Reviews 201611 Mar 2017
“Butterfly in the sky. I can go twice as high!”
Thanks YouTube for getting the Reading Rainbow Theme Song stuck in my head as I was writing this.
Continuing from last year, here’s a quick accounting of the books I read in 2016 and my thoughts about them.
Flying Through the Mists
The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
If there is one name that describes my reading in 2016 (and most of 2017), it is “Brandon Sanderson.” I was aware of him because of his work completing the Wheel of Time series, which I loved and read several times throughout high school and college (and beyond). However, I had not sought out his own works, even though several of my friends encouraged me to check them out.
Finally, my fiancée (now wife) was determined to change that, and got me started on the world of Sanderson. Probably his best known independent work, The Mistborn Trilogy is a fantastic experience in fantasy. By the time I was on the third book, I could hardly put it down. There are strong protagonists, an excellent magic system, and the top-notch writing and plot that Sanderson has become known for. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the sequel trilogy in the future. This is also an excellent introduction to his Cosmere world, which I’m currently trying to catch up on.
The Epics Must be Stopped
The Reckoners Series by Brandon Sanderson
For our long drives during the summer, we listened to the audiobooks of this series (which were amazing), also by Brandon Sanderson. Imagine a world where superheroes are real, but they are all evil. That’s exactly the world David Charleston finds himself in. The Reckoners is a fun read for fans of comic books or fantasy novels, but unlike much of Sanderson’s work in the Cosmere world, this is a much more down-to-earth series set on Earth, making it much more accessible to readers who don’t care for fantasy.
Also, I highly recommend grabbing the short novel [Mitosis](https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GQAMAK6/) while you are at it. Set between books two and three of the series, it is a fun short read in the same world. I hope Sanderson continues to develop stories within this world as well.
Seriously, Finish This Series!
The Kingkiller Chronicle Series by Patrick Rothfuss
Patrick Rothfuss has blown everyone away with his Kingkiller Chronicle series so far, but it has been over 6 years since the last book was released. I didn’t know what to expect when I started this series, but suffice to say it was gripping! Kvothe tells us the story of his youth and how he ended up at a lowly inn, trying to escape his past.
There’s just something about how Rothfuss writes that makes this book so hard to put down. It feels so real, so natural. I hesitate to stay that it is rhythmic, but it is simply fluid in a way that I’ve not read before. There are points in the story that I’m not as big of a fan of (as Brandon Sanderson once wrote in the cover of one of his own books: “1000% less sex with random goddesses than Wise Man’s Fear”), but I want to reserve judgement until book three is released.
That said, this is a fantastic read. Even unfinished as it is, I still highly recommend it. Join the legions of readers waiting in agony for the last book. C’mon Pat - get to it!
A World on the Back of a Turtle
The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchet
Once again, my wife has come to my rescue, adding this series of books to my list of things I must read. She started by reading Mort as we drove back and forth while we were dating, and I was hooked. Since then, I’ve read several books in the Discworld series, and all of them have been fun, palette-cleansing romps through comedy and fantasy.
The three main series I’ve followed so far are those of Rincewind (The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic), Death (Mort and Reaper Man) and The Watch (Guards! Guards!). If you aren’t sure where to start since the books are out of order, there are some good guides such as this one from Gizmodo. Honestly, I liked starting with Mort, since it could work very well as a “one and done” book, but I could also recommend Guards! Guards! as another strong start. The Rincewind books are a bit rougher since they are some of the first books published in the series, and it took me a couple of tries to get through the first one before I really got excited. I’ll probably read one of these books anytime I need a quick laugh and a short read between big series.
Some quick reviews of other notable reads from 2016:
Unfettered - Tales by Masters of Fantasy by Everybody
A collection of short fantasy stories from famous authors for a good cause. What’s not to love? (I highly recommend the story by Patrick Rothfuss. It is strange and beautiful and haunting and sad at the same time).
I hear there’s a sequel available!
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The K-State required read for freshman several years ago, this is a great novel for kids of the 80’s and 90’s. A fun and interesting story, and a joy to read. While the plot isn’t perfect, it is still worth a read before the movie comes out.
The Martian by Andy Weir
A shockingly frank and scientifically accurate look at what it would be like to be stranded on Mars for over a year, this story was hard to put down. I read it almost entirely in three sittings while travelling over the holiday break. The movie is excellent, but the book is even better. “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”
The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking through Science by J. Kenji López-Alt
Yup, I read a cookbook. The whole thing. Like it was a real book. Seriously, this book by the mind behind the excellent Food Lab blog is fascinating for home chefs hoping to improve their skills by better understanding what is actually going on in your kitchen. The little tricks and ideas in this book have already made a major impact in my cooking. I mean, I have a Recipe Archive on this very blog after all.
The Daily Stoic: 366 Medications on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman
I’ve recently been interested in the philosophy of stoicism, and this book is a great way to start. It gives small readings from the classic stoics as well as modern discussions of the themes and what they mean. This book has really helped me clear my mind and keep myself centered when times are stressful. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the world, give this one a try!