2024 eclipse timelapse by Ashley Lian

my goodreads
favorite books
book reviews

Currently reading: The Will of the Many - James Islington

A 2023 Surprise and Keeping Consistent in 2024

I was shocked to find that by then end of 2023, I had amassed 20 books! I had reported previously that I intended to keep 2023 chill, setting a low reading goal and just coasting through. Turns out my coasting speed is still quite high (at least compared to my expectations of myself). Even with the added disruptions of defending and receiving my Ph.D. and searching for jobs, reading turns out to be a lovely constant in my life.

Now for 2024, I'm going in with similar goals of relaxation and minimal wear. I want to focus on reading fandom books, mainly Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight series. I think it will be fun to get hyped with everyone whenever new books come out. So, here's to another year!

The Wager - David Grann
★★★★☆
Words of Radiance - Brandon Sanderson
★★★★☆
Running & Being - George Sheehan
★★★★☆
The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller
★★★★★
Authority - Jeff VanderMeer
★★★★☆
Just for Fun - Linus Torvalds
★★★★☆
Clean - Carys Davies
★★★★★
Deep Wheel Orcadia - Harry Josephine Giles
★★★☆☆

Pushing limits in 2022; a deserved 2023 relaxation

What a sprint! 2022 will likely forever be my "most books read in a year" year. With over two dozen books read, I am fully satisfied and proud to report that such an effort is just about at the limits of my ability. That said, I can confidently say that I could read upwards of 50 books in a year in the sense that such a task is physically possible given the limits of time and space, but I would never want or be able to give myself in to such an all-encompassing endeavor.

My habit of reading while on my morning commute truly facilitated this achievement. Incredible what an hour of reading a day adds up to.

I've discovered a bit more about my reading preferences. I am not a fast reader. Rather, I greatly prefer to carefully read each word on a page rather than fly through and absorb the gist through some sort of osmosis. Though some books favor the latter style of reading such as Way of Kings, I much prefer Simon Jimenez's style of dense, descriptive storytelling. Though Jimenez's style is not obsure or a meandering ramble in the way philsophical texts or some non-fiction books are. It's purposeful, each word seemingly chosen with equal care. No sentence can be skipped or skimmed over less you miss a critical character thought or action.

In any event, I had a wonderful time pushing myself to read as many books as possible. But I think this time around I will be more lenient in my requirements. There's no real need for me to set a super ambitious goal at the moment, I feel the natural incliniation to read, an looming deadline is no help this time. One book a month is a good middle ground, back to my first-year goal of reading.

The Fifth Season - N. K. Jemisin
★★★★☆

Against Nature - Joris-Karl Huysmans 
★★★☆☆

The Spear Cuts Through Water - Simon Jimenez
★★★★☆

Manifestly Haraway - Donna J. Haraway
★★★☆☆

We - Yevgeny Zamyatin
★★★★☆

Babel - R.F. Kuang
★★★☆☆

Axiomatic - Greg Egan
★★★★☆

Lessons in Chemistry - Bonnie Garmus
★★★★★

Out of the Silent Planet - C. S. Lewis
★★★☆☆

Piranesi - Susanna Clarke
★★★★★

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
★★★★☆

Tenth of December - George Saunders
★★★☆☆

Our Blue Orange - A. R. Merrydew
★★☆☆☆

Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer
★★★★★

The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi - Shannon Chakraborty
★★★☆☆

The Bathysphere Book - Brad Fox
★★★★☆

Androne - Dwain Worrell
★★☆☆☆

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow - Gabrielle Zevin
★★★★☆

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 - Hunter S. Thompson
★★★☆☆

Children of Time - Adrian Tchaikovsky
★★★★★
      

Reflections of 2021 & An early flurry in 2022

Pure inspiration! 2021 ended with my feeling exceptionally pleasant in regards to my ability as a reader and the sheer enjoyment I received from not only the completion of books (and the bragging rights that comes with it) but from the act of reading itself. At the star of 2022, reading truly become part of my routine and moreso part of who I was. I had a fantastic start to the year, flying through a dozen books in 5 months.

Things changed midway through the year with my taking on a particularly straining challenge of reading Brandon Sanderson’s Way of Kings. I had confidence I’d enjoy the book, but the length does not lend well to someone who has a books-per-year requirement hanging over them. Combined with a semi-spontaneous trip to Europe, reading progress slid to a halt for nearly a month. Luckily, I was able to snap out of the funk with relative ease.

It did expose a potentially catastrophic defect in my personality of “Reader”, that being I find it incredibly easy to engage in hyper focused reading throughout my train trips to work but am wholly unable to find an urge to read if I don’t ride that train. My habit building has made me dependent on train travel to read. Of course this is fine now, but how will this affect me later when my commute changes or becomes non-existent? Do I have the capacity to read for more than 25 minutes at a time?

Educated - Tara Westover 
★★★★★

The Shortest History of China - Linda Jaivin 
★★★★★

Man vs. Markets: Economics Explained - Paddy Hirsch 
★★★☆☆

1984 - George Orwell 
★★★★☆

The Dark Forest - Cixin Liu 
★★★★★

A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess 
★★★★☆

The Wave - Susan Casey 
★★★★☆

Death's End - Cixin Liu 
★★★★★

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas 
★★★★☆

Invisible Women: data bias in a world designed for men - Caroline Criado Perez 
★★★☆☆

Parable of the Sower - Octavia E. Butler 
★★★★★

Warlock - Oakley Hall 
★★★★☆

The Ends of the World - Peter Brannen 
★★★★☆

The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson 
★★★★☆

The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck 
★★★★☆

Parable of the Talents - Octavia E. Butler 
★★★★★

The Aleph and Other Stories - Jorge Luis Borges
★★★★☆

Locklands - Robert Jackson Bennett
★★☆☆☆

This is How You Lose the Time War - Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
★★★★☆

Sea of Tranquility - Emily St. John Mandel
★★★★★

I'm Glad My Mom Died - Jennette McCurdy
★★★☆☆

The Vanished Birds - Simon Jimenez
★★★★★

Assassin's Apprentice - Robin Hobb
★★★★☆

Doing Good Better - William MacAskill
★★★☆☆

Cloud Cuckoo Land - Anthony Doerr
★★★★★

Ubik - Philip K. Dick
★★★★☆

Essays (Compensation, Heroism, Character, Nature) - Ralph W. Emerson
★★★★☆

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
★★★★☆
      

2020 Reflections and a slow start in 2021

By the end of 2020, I was fairly confident in my interest in sci-fi/fantasy books. This wasn’t entirely a surprise to me, my tastes generally follow a stereotypical trend of a nerdy science guy. But refinement is still possible on this front: why do I like some sci-fi stories but not others? What makes me excited to read one book but bored and tired in another? In addition to developing my knowledge of my favorite genre, I also noticed that I enjoyed nonfiction books that focused on current social issues. I also discovered Audible and wanted to ultilize the auditory version of storytelling especially when trying to absorb more intense topics or books that are just prohibitively long.

This year did not start off perfectly. As I had predicted, the 2 week break in reading I took over the holidays resulted in me starting two books in the first week of January which I promptly stopped after a few days I did not read or think about reading for months. At this point I felt the same about reading as I did other stressful aspects of my life such as my research: I didn’t want to do it. At all. And entirely avoiding reading got easier and easier as the days, weeks, and months went on. Once I recognize I have failed a participatory task (like reading consistently) it’s so easy to continue failing, this is true for other aspects in my life as well. The hardest part about breaking the cycle is engaging or re-engaging with the productive action. It wasn’t until June of 2021 that I was able to start reading again. By that time, I had lost half a year to my procrastination and I no longer knew if it was possible to hit my goal of 14 books read in the year. We’ll see that I do manage to reach and exceed this goal and that a few books in I actually stumble across a self-help book that helped me gain the vocabulary to describe my procrastination.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents - Isabel Wilkerson 
★★★★☆

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue - V.E. Schwab 
★★★☆☆

A Promised Land - Barack Obama 
★★★★☆

Watchmen - Alan Moore 
★★★★☆

Atomic Habits: An easy and proven way to build good habits & break bad ones - James Clear 
★★★☆☆

The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet - John Green 
★★★★★

Project Hail Mary - Andy Weir 
★★☆☆☆

The Three-Body Problem - Cixin Liu
★★★★★

Shards of Honor - Lois McMaster Bujold 
★★☆☆☆

Stories of Your Life and Others - Ted Chiang 
★★★★★

Johannes Cabal the Necromancer - Jonathan L. Howard 
★★★☆☆

Why Fish Don't Exist - Lulu Miller 
★★★★★

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In which four Russians give a master class on writing, reading, and Life - George Saunders
★★★★★

Shorefall - Robert Jackson Bennett 
★★★☆☆

Senlin Ascends - Josiah Bancroft 
★★★☆☆

Lincoln in the Bardo - George Saunders 
★★★★☆

Dark Archives: A librarian's investigation into the science and history of books bound in human skin - Megan Rosenbloom 
★★★★☆

Ficciones - Jorge Luis Borges 
★★★★☆

The Alienist - Caleb Carr 
★★★★★

The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. Le Guin 
★★★★★
      

Quick-look 2020

Ok, a few months late on this one. In truth, a few years too late. In January of 2020, I resolved to start reading for pleasure. Leading up to this decision, I had convinced myself that I never truly enjoyed reading, and that any endulgance in any book of any kind was simply a byproduct of “my requirements” as a student or as the son of a bookworm of a mom. Certainly by my late twenties, the majority of my reading was confined to an academic setting (and therefore was horribly riddled with a SparkNotes-level interaction with the material). I wasn’t especially bothered by this, it was just who I was: not a reader. But I could not shake the nagging uneasiness I felt whenever someone asked me: what is your favorite kind of book? My lack of answer to this question bothered me deeply, particularly because its broad scope felt like I should have an answer, infinitely more than what my favorite individual book. Everyone would have trouble picking one book as their favorite. But did I really have no idea as to the types of literature I enjoyed? Do I like nonfiction more than fiction? Fantasy more than novels? I couldn’t say.

So, at the turn of the decade, I decided to find out. This excercise began simply: I expected to read one book a month for a year. At 10 - 20 pages a day, I felt this was more than reasonable, but I would need to meet that daily goal every single day or my efforts would immediately implode. I knew this to be true, it was a common villian I’ve fought against in the past, my hobbies stopping sharply when I let my guard down for the first time. In this blog, I chronicle my journey through my books. I will give a star rating as well as either a summary, how I felt while reading, why I chose the book, or anything else of note that comes to mind.

If anything, I hope this blog inspires someone to pick up a book and I hope it provides some proof that “becoming a reader” can really happen to anyone and at any time. You are who you say you are, and if you want to lose yourself in a written story - start now!

The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic - Mike Duncan 
★★★★☆

Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
★★★★★

City of Stairs - Robert Jackson Bennett
★★★★★

City of Blades - Robert Jackson Bennett 
★★★☆☆

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley 
★★★☆☆

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick 
★★★★☆

Command and Control - Eric Schlosser 
★★★★☆

Lying about Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial - Richard J. Evans
★★★★★

City of Miracles - Robert Jackson Bennett 
★★★★☆

Dune - Frank Herbert 
★★★☆☆

Notes from the Underground - Fyodor Dostoevsky 
★★☆☆☆

When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi 
★★★★★

Foundryside - Robert Jackson Bennett 
★★★☆☆

Old Man's War - John Scalzi 
★★★★☆