The Martian is one of my all-time favorite books. I loved the near-term science fiction that seemed to cover all the intricate details of a manned mission to Mars. The first person narration from astronaut Nick Watney’s point of view was top notch as well. It felt like I was stranded on Mars with him.
When author Andy Weir came out with his second novel, Artemis, there was no question in my mind that I was going to read it. I was eager to see if he would tackle the challenge of establishing a colony on the moon with the same level of detail as he did a manned mission to Mars. I was also looking forward to being entertained, which certainly wasn’t an issue in The Martian. Let’s see how Weir did with his follow-on.
My recreational reading habits involve reading quite a bit of science fiction. The genre is extremely deep. There are plenty of well known, popular authors and books to choose from, but I love discovering the lesser known, sometimes self-published ones. The Stone Man by Luke Smitherd is one such example. I’m not sure how it ended up on my reading list, but my best guess would be that I found it through the Amazon recommendation engine. Either way, it was in my preferred genre, and the description and reviews made it sound like an interesting read.
I like discovering new authors. Each one has a unique writing style and way of storytelling that adds welcome variety to my reading list. After I read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, I knew I would be reading more of his work. When Armada, his second full-length novel came out, I immediately added it to my reading list. And when it got a positive review from one of my go-to sources for books, Brad Feld’s blog, I bumped it up a few rungs on the list to make certain I’d get to it in a reasonable amount of time.
The short story genre feels like it is a dying breed. For whatever reason, there seems to be pressure for authors to write full-length novels these days. In some cases these novels turn into trilogies, and others turn into even longer series (yes, I’m looking at you Harry Potter).
While I certainly enjoy a well written full-length novel, I love a good short story. For one, it makes for a quick read that can be read in under an hour. Second, it’s a great way to sample and get introduced to an author’s writing.
It’s why I was interested in reading All I Can Be: A Time Travel Story by Michael Bunker. I had heard some good things about a couple of his novels, but I figured that sampling a short story of his first would be a good way to see if I’d like his writing style in a longer format book.
Autobiographical business narratives are generally not my thing. I’ve read enough of them to know the general format. The beginning of the book is a recount of how the narrator built their business, the middle tells how the narrator overcame various trials and tribulations to achieve the pinnacle of success, and the remainder of the book is either a defense of their character, an explanation of why their company is not evil, or a lecture on how to grow and run a business. I find the beginning of the books interesting, and then tend to zone out through the rest.
Therefore, it was with a bit of trepidation that I picked up Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. I wasn’t excited about reading it, but it was very highly recommended by a close friend and had also received a good review on Brad Feld’s blog, where I’ve gotten many, many good book recommendations.
Given how out of control my reading list is (200 books and climbing), it can be a while before I get to one I’ve added. Such was the case with The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. The book made the Gizmodo Best of 2015 list, that was published in December of 2015. I added it then, so it took a couple of years to get around to reading it. Given the length of time some books languish on my reading list, that wasn’t all that bad. In fact, there’s books that have been on my reading list for over 5 years. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever make it around to cracking those open.
There are book recommendations, and then, there are special book recommendations. When your mother says you should read a book, it qualifies as an extra special book recommendation. In other words, when mom says you should read The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, you don’t ask why, you just do it.
I must admit that I was a little perplexed as to why my mother would find a book about the 1936 US Olympic men’s crew team interesting. After reading it, I figured out why. While the book covers the sport of competitive rowing, that’s not it’s primary theme. The book is more focused on the struggles facing America during the late twenties and earlier thirties. There were the effects of The Great Depression. The drought that turned middle America into The Dust Bowl. The rise of Hitler and the imminent threat of a second World War. Truth be told, it was a turbulent time. The book is really about how a group of boys came together and persevered through dedication and hard work to reach their ultimate goal against all odds.
I enjoy discovering and reading new authors, especially those that aren’t well known. I also find reading from a variety of authors important. Each has their own life experiences and philosophies that permeate their works.
One of the “undiscovered” authors I enjoyed reading during 2015 and 2016 was Eliot Peper. Even though I’m not a huge fan of the trilogy, I really enjoyed his Uncommon Stock series. I made it a point to put one of his more recent releases, Cumulus, on my 2017 reading list.
It took a while, but I finally got around to reading it over this past summer.
I’m a fan of Hugh Howey. Ever since reading Wool, I’ve enjoyed picking up both his long form novels and short stories. He has a way of building an immersive world and making you feel a part of it. In addition to the Silo Series built off of Wool, Shift and Dust, he did the same in Sand and Beacon 23. To put it simply, he knows how to tell a story. Every year, I do my best to have at least one Howey book on my reading list. This year, it was The Hurricane.
The Hurricane is bit of a different book by Howey. It’s not steeped in science fiction, it’s not a series or trilogy, and it’s not a short story. It’s a stand alone novel that is targeted more towards the teen / young adult audience. Still, the story telling does not disappoint. It’s written in that typical Howey style where he immerses you in the environment and makes you feel like a part of the story.
There were 25 books on my 2016 reading list. I was only able to get through 21 of them before the clock struck midnight on December 31st. The four remaining books were ones I had been very interested in reading, so I carried them over to 2017. The Belial Stone by R.D. Brady was one of those books. It was number 23 on my list from last year, and number 2 on my 2017 reading list.
I’ve been trying to document where I get my reading recommendations from so I can track the best sources. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a source marked for The Belial Stone. According to Amazon, I purchased it back in May, 2015. Since I have a hard time remembering what I did this morning, my best guess is that I found it through an Amazon source of some kind. It was either through their Daily Deals, the Sci-fi newsletter, or my ultimate nemesis – the Amazon recommendation engine.
In any case, I was looking forward to The Belial Stone when it rose to the top of my reading list. It checked many boxes of the types of books I like to read. It fit into the science fiction genre and was by an author I hadn’t read before. I really enjoy books that fit into the latter category. It’s fun discovering new authors, especially those who could become sources of additional book recommendations.