Last year I read 13 books and felt pretty good about myself. Then I read a book review from someone this year who had read 53 books this year. 53! My humble list below is much better than last year but is nowhere near that level of dedication.

I'm publishing my list a couple of weeks early this year because I doubt that I'll finish another book before the year ends.

The Guns at Last Light - Rick Atkinson
A great ending to the Liberation Trilogy. Spoiler Alert: We won the war! My biggest complaint with the book is that it could have used more maps. I essentially had to read the book with Google Maps open on my tablet so that I could see things like the Belfort Gap and other locations mentioned in the book that weren’t given their own map in the book itself.
Beds in Heads — Jacob Tomsky
A memoir written by someone who worked in hotels for years and years. It was interesting, but the book could really be summed up in two points: 1. Be nice to the people who work in hotels; they can make your life easier. 2. Tip everyone who works in hotels; they can make your life easier.
Why The Allies Won –– Richard Overy
This was a rereading of a book that I'd read in the past. Having read so many other WWII books of late, I was hoping for some additional insight into both this one and the others. The most obvious difference between this book and the others is the fact that this one was written by a British author, rather than an American. This jumped out in two primary areas: 1. The American psyche was not taken as a given, but was actually discussed. 2. Montgomery and his foibles and follies were not criticized as deeply. One real selling point of the book is that it does devote some attention to the Eastern front and the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk, something other books often gloss over.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms –– N.K. Jemisin
Made it about halfway through this book before giving up. It was basically a murder mystery set in a fantasy kingdom. The characters generated no interest or sympathy within me so I decided to move on to other books I might actually enjoy.
Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans — Gary Krist
This isn’t really a book with a number of threads that are woven together. It’s a book with a number of threads that just happen to be in the same book. Almost every part of the book (particularly the Ax Man section) could be pulled out into a free-standing work. But then those works would have to be deeper dives or shorter works and apparently that’s not what the author wanted. So while I enjoyed the book, nothing about it was compelling nor did I find the stories to wind together all that well. Most connections between the various sub-plots and characters seemed tangential at best.
The Spy Who Loved -- Claire Mulley
An interesting story about a Polish woman who was a spy for the British government in multiple countries during WWII. Krystyna Skarbek certainly managed to live her life to the fullest in almost every respect. She spoke numerous languages fluently which made her very valuable as an intelligence asset. She demonstrated repeated courage and quick thinking in dangerous situations, sometimes while literally under fire. Unfortunately, the culture of the time wasn’t ready to accept an independent woman who did as she pleased and this made her life much harder than it otherwise might have been. She needed freedom and action and the society of the times were not ready for her to have it. The book is a good read, well-researched and well-written.
If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska — Heather Lende
A collection of anecdotes and musings from a journalist who lives in a small Alaskan town of 2400. The book ranges widely across topics as diverse as food, religion, life, death, children, fishing, flying, and numerous others. However, Lende is a good writer with an ability to spin a good story and an eye for the important details about a person. It is a worthwhile read.
Find the Good – Heather Lende
I hadn’t intended to read two books in a row by the same author but this one showed up at the library in my reserve queue so I had to read it or let it go until some undetermined date in the future. This is a collection of ideas around finding the good in any situation, illuminated by anecdotes from small-town Alaska. I liked this book less than the first one.
Great North Road – Peter F. Hamilton
An impulse read. Thankfully I read it on my Kindle because it was over 900 pages long. Hamilton never says anything in two words when five will do. Regardless, it was an interesting and compelling sci-fi read about the ecological destruction of a planet and an encounter with alien life.
The Martian – Andy Weir
Bought this for my Kindle after I saw the movie trailer. After reading it I clearly understand why the movie rights were purchased and why the movie got made. It’s a great read, especially if you enjoy learning about the science of space exploration.
The Man In The High Castle – Philip K. Dick
A purchase made after seeing the pilot made for Amazon Prime Video. Suffice it to say that the two are only vaguely linked. The book was interesting, though it wasn’t necessarily something I enjoyed. It speculates about an alternate past in which Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan have conquered America with the exception of the Rocky Mountains.
A Better World – Marcus Sakey
A sequel to a book I read last year. This one was well paced and interesting but didn’t really introduce any new ideas from the last book.
The Six-Gun Tarot – R.S. Belcher
A book that was different from my usual reads. It was a cross between a Western, a fantasy, a religious treatise, and probably a couple other genres. I wouldn’t say it was overly compelling, but it was entertaining and worth reading.
The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R. Carey
This was supposed to be a good book and the library recommended it so I gave it a try. I quit after reading 150 pages or so when it became clear that it was jut another zombie book. Since I have zero interest in zombies, I had zero interest in finishing the book.
The Junior Officer’s Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars – Patrick Hennessey
I gave this book 191 pages before setting it aside. The book is about one British officer’s thoughts (note that I didn’t write experiences) while going through training, and then fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. The titular group appears for a few paragraphs a couple of times in the book and has no reason to be on the book’s front other than it is a snappy title. Hennessey’s thoughts also, aren’t very interesting, compelling, or groundbreaking. Save your valuable time on this Earth and read something else.
The Court of the Air – Stephen Hunt
An interesting steampunk/fantasy hybrid that essentially serves as the pilot episode for the Hunt’s Jackelian series of novels. There were a few times when I felt that deus ex machina was employed by the author, but overall the story was good.
The Dragon's Path – Daniel Abraham
Straight-up fantasy. I enjoyed it while reading it but just a few weeks later had trouble remembering what it was about. The characters are generally OK, and the plot isn’t entirely predictable. This was book one in a series but I’m not sure yet whether I’ll pick up the second installment.
The Kingdom Beyond the Waves – Stephen Hunt
The second book in the Jackelian series of novels. Takes one of the main characters of the first novel and weaves him together with some new characters and one who made a token appearance in the first novel. If anything, this was easier to follow than the first novel. There’s still more than a bit of deus ex machina at points, but if you accept that you’re going into some of that the rest of the book is pretty good.
The Only Thing Worth Dying For – Eric Blehm
An excellent journalistic account of the first Green Beret team inserted into southern Afghanistan to topple the Taliban. It reinforces how just a handful of highly trained soldiers can change conditions for thousands of people across hundreds of miles. It also reinforces how an even smaller number of people can ruin lives and an otherwise successful operation through careless actions. I’m glad I read this book.
All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
A novel, but set largely during WWII. It’s been very popular this year and spent plenty of time on the best sellers lists so I thought I should at least give it a try. It was…fine. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. The characters were relatively interesting and the plot was relatively original. I just didn’t feel moved by it.
Whatever Happened to the Metric System: How America Kept Its Feet – John Bemelmans Marciano
The title here is a bit of false advertising. Only the last couple of chapters (out of sixteen) really deal with why America doesn’t use the metric system. The rest of the book is about how the metric system came about. There is also extensive discussion of things that I wouldn’t necessary call the metric system. While the process of decimalizing the calendar, the day, and the monetary system are tangentially related to the what we would consider the metric system, they aren’t part of the metric system itself. The book really drags in the middle when international congress after international congress is convened to argue over various measurement systems. Overall, however, the book taught me a great deal about measurement systems through time.
What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions – Randall Munroe
This book just begs for a place next to your toilet. Each section is of just the right length for enjoyment while attending to one of life’s necessities. Having written that, I’ll admit that I read the whole thing without once bringing it to the bathroom. My two favorite questions regard the throwing of a baseball at relativistic speeds and stacking elements from the periodic table. To wit:

Q: What would happen if you made a periodic table out of cube-shaped bricks, where each brick was made of the corresponding element?

A: You could stack the top two rows without too much trouble. The third row would burn you with fire, the fourth would kill you with toxic smoke. The fifth row would do all that stuff plus give you a dose of radiation, while the sixth would explode in a radioactive, poisonous fire. Do not build the seventh row.