2015: the year in books

Back in 2009 I started posting a summary at the end of the year of what I read during the year (see my posts from 200920102011, 2012, 2013, 2014) and people have been enjoying it, so here I present the 2015 end-of-year post. I set a moderate goal of 50 books this year and I managed 88! I thought about pushing for 100 like I did in 2009 but I didn’t read enough in October and November to be able to do it. Just like last year, I wanted to get through some of my larger non-fiction books but ended up not doing as many as I thought (reading more, shorter books). Next year I’m setting myself a goal of reading 50 books again.

For the record, I read ‘real’ books – i.e. not in electronic form – I don’t like reading off a screen. Yes, I’ve seen electronic readers – we both have iPads – and I’m not interested in ever reading electronically. I also don’t ‘speed read’ – I read quickly and make lots of time for reading.

Why do I track metrics? Because I like doing it, and being able to compare against previous years. Some people don’t understand the logic in that – each to their own :-)

I vacillated for the last few days about which book to crown as my favorite, and I just couldn’t come to a decision, so just like in 2012, I give you my favorite 3 books: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. All three are just superb books and I strongly recommend you give them a try. You can read my review of them in the top-10 (well, 14) list below.

Now the details. I enjoy putting this together as it will also serve as a record for me many years from now. I hope you get inspired to try some of these books – push yourself with new authors and very often you’ll be surprisingly pleased. Don’t forget to check out the previous year’s blog posts for more inspiration too.

Once again I leave you with a quote that describes a big part of my psychological make-up:

In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro!

Analysis of What I Read

I read 37353 pages, or 102.34 pages a day, and a book every 4.1 days or so. The chart below shows the number of pages (y-axis) in each book I read (x-axis).



The average book length was 423 pages, more than 100 pages shorter than last year. That’s because I read a lot of series books where each isn’t hugely long.

The Top-1014

I read a lot of truly *superb* books this year, and I just couldn’t whittle it down to a top-10, so here’s my top-14 (well, really more as some of them are the start of series). If you don’t read much, at least consider looking at some of these in 2016. It’s impossible to put them into a priority order so I’ve listed them in the order I read them, along with the short Facebook review I wrote at the time.

1 #2; All The Light We Cannot See; Anthony Doerr; 531pp; Historical Fiction; January 10; (Fabulous book about a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy who both experience WWII in their teenage years in vastly different ways, and come together briefly at the end of it. Wonderfully told, with richly evocative writing – I could visualize everything that was happening. Describes some of the horrors faced by those living through and perpetrating the occupation of France. Heading to Amazon to investigate his earlier works. Very strongly recommended.)

2 #10; Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (and the rest of the series); C.S. Forrester; 320pp; Historical Fiction; February 7; (I’m rereading the Hornblower Saga this year after having last (and first) read them in 2000. An excellent start to the series, this book introduces the young, inexperienced Hornblower and sees him transform into an honorable, competent Lieutenant. This book was also the inspiration for the first 4 episodes of the terribly good A&E television series starring Ioan Gruffudd. Looking forward to getting into the second one, and maybe I’ll shoot for 100 read books again this year?)

3 #12; Ready Player One; Ernest Cline; 384pp; Science Fiction; February 12; (Really good novel about players competing to ‘win’ a world-encompassing immersive, VR game after the founder dies and leaves a giant fortune to the winner. Quite similar in scope to Snow Crash, but obviously a different story. Quite a page turner, recommended.)

4 #13; The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry; Gabrielle Zevin; 288pp; Contemporary Fiction; February 13; (Start reading this yesterday morning and it became a page turner for me. It’s a great chick flick basically (which I love, but not usually in book form), about a book store and its owner and his life. Lots of little twists in the gentle story and a nice read. Now I’m taking the girls to Elliot Bay Bookstore in Seattle to buy more books. Chain book stores just don’t cut it unfortunately. Recommended!)

5 #40; The Girl Who Played With Fire; Stieg Larsson; 630pp; Contemporary Fiction; May 4; (I read the first book (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) back in 2011 and loved the movie last year (the new one, not the older Swedish one). This book’s even better than the first one I think – it turned into a real page turner for me over the last couple of hundred pages. Again it’s hard to talk about the plot without giving things away, but it’s a great thriller and strongly recommended.)

6 #41; Gone Girl; Gillian Flynn; 432pp; Contemporary Fiction; May 8; (Excellent page turner with some great twists. Highly recommended and I can’t wait to see the movie!)

7 #44; Seveneves; Neal Stephenson; 869pp; Science Fiction; June 14; (Really excellent, and long, novel about the destruction of the surface of the Earth (from the break up of the moon and subsequent bombardment with trillions of meteorites) and the human race’s survival in space (over a period of 5,000 years until the Earth’s surface cools down again) and re-colonization of the Earth. Very believable with no sci-fi that requires suspension of belief. Hugely recommended and I hope there’s a sequel.)

8 #48; Nexus (and the rest of the series); Ramez Naam; 528pp; Science Fiction; June 30; (Excellent book! Start of a trilogy (I have the other two with me) about a mind-altering drug that expands consciousness and allows minds to talk to each other. The protagonists have extended the concept to run a Linux-like OS in their heads, with all kinds of interesting apps. And of course the US govt. is against it so all kinds of clandestine ops result, with lots of mayhem. A page-turner – highly recommended!)

9 #50; Master and Commander (and the rest of the series); Patrick O’Brian; 403pp; Historical Fiction; July 8; (First of the fantastic Aubrey-Maturin novels by Patrick O’Brian. I listened to all 20 of them in 2000-2002 while driving back-and-forth to work at Microsoft. This book introduces the principals, and deals with Jack Aubrey’s eventful captaincy of the sloop Sophie in the Mediterranean. Highly recommended, the entire series.)

10 #56; Avogadro Corp (and the rest of the series); William Hertling; 240pp; Science Fiction; July 23; (Cool start to the Singularity Series about runaway A.I. technology. In this book Avogadro gives it’s email program the capability to rewrite and/or send emails for maximum chance of success, based on who the email is being sent to. And then someone adds another directive to maximize the chances of the survival of the project, and the story takes off from there. Clever concept and a quick read. Looking forward to the rest of them. Recommended.)

11 #67; The Bone Clocks; David Mitchell; 624pp; Contemporary Fiction; August 25; (What an excellent book! A very clever story, woven through long chapters/novellas, each set in a different time, introducing and cleverly drawing together the principal characters. The character development is brilliant and I couldn’t put the book down – enormously entertaining and so far the best book I’ve read this year. Highly recommended!)

12 #70; Outlander; Diana Gabaldon; 640pp; Historical Fiction; September 6; (Several people have recommended this to me over the last year, given my Scottish roots, and I finally took the plunge and bought the first four books in the series. I’m glad I did! It’s a really good story about a woman who is transported back 200 years to just before the 1745 rebellion under Bonnie Prince Charlie and has to suddenly find her way in that time. It has plenty of colorful characters and action and I’m really looking forward to continuing with the next books. And of course there’s the T.V. series (which I haven’t watched yet but I’ve heard is really good). Highly recommended!)

13 #72; In Xanadu: A Quest; William Dalrymple; 320pp; Travel; September 17; (Excellent travelogue following Marco Polo’s journey along the Silk Road to Xanadu. They travel through Israel, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and China in the late ’80s, with all kinds of interesting encounters along the way. Highly recommended – love Dalrymple’s writing style!)

14 #76; The Golem and the Jinni; Helene Wecker; 512pp; Historical Fiction; September 30; (Excellent debut novel set in early 1900s New York, following the story of a golem (a creature made from clay and brought to life with Kabbalistic magic) and a jinni (a natural, elemental creature made of fire) that was trapped in a copper flask by a wizard a thousand years ago. It covers their problems integrating into the populace of New York, their eventual meeting, and problems when their true nature starts to be discovered. Very well written and high engaging – highly recommended!)

The Complete List

And the complete list, with links to Amazon so you can explore further. One thing to bear in mind, the dates I finished reading the book don’t mean that I started, for instance, book #2 after finishing book #1. I usually have anywhere from 10-15 books on the go at any one time so I can dip into whatever my mood is for that day. Some books I read start to finish without picking up another one and some books take me over a year. Lots of long airplane flights help too!

  1. Mission Mongolia; David Treanor; 351pp; Travel; January 5
  2. All The Light We Cannot See; Anthony Doerr; 531pp; Historical Fiction; January 10
  3. The Pagan Lord; Bernard Cornwell; 300pp; Historical Fiction; January 14
  4. A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts; Andrew Chaikin; 720pp; History; January 17
  5. Design for Survival; General Thomas Power; 255pp; History; January 19
  6. Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe; George Dyson; 464pp; History; January 25
  7. The Soul of a New Machine; Tracy Kidder; 295pp; History; February 1
  8. The Book of Air and Shadows; Michael Gruber; 280pp; Contemporary Fiction; February 3
  9. State of the Art; Stan Augarten; 108pp; Nonfiction; February 6
  10. Mr. Midshipman Hornblower; C.S. Forrester; 320pp; Historical Fiction; February 7
  11. African Air; George Steinmetz; 216pp; Photography; February 11
  12. Ready Player One; Ernest Cline; 384pp; Science Fiction; February 12
  13. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry; Gabrielle Zevin; 288pp; Contemporary Fiction; February 13
  14. Half Way Home; Hugh Howey; 359pp; Science Fiction; February 14
  15. Lieutenant Hornblower; C.S. Forrester; 320pp; Historical Fiction; February 16
  16. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference; Malcom Gladwell; 304pp; Nonfiction; February 17
  17. Daemon; Daniel Saruez; 640pp; Science Fiction; February 18
  18. See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism; Robert Baer; 320pp; Nonfiction; February 28
  19. Inferno; Dan Brown; 620pp; Contemporary Fiction; March 6
  20. Freedom; Daniel Saruez; 496pp; Science Fiction; March 8
  21. The Annotated Turing: A Guided Tour Through Alan Turing’s Historic Paper on Computability and the Turing Machine; Charles Petzold; 384pp; Nonfiction; March 14
  22. Influx; Daniel Saruez; 528pp; Science Fiction; March 15
  23. Diamond Dogs Turquoise Days; Alastair Reynolds; 304pp; Science Fiction; March 19
  24. Inferno: The Longfellow Translation; Dante; 200pp; Contemporary Fiction; March 19
  25. Wool; Hugh Howey; 528pp; Science Fiction; March 20
  26. Prador Moon; Neal Asher; 256pp; Science Fiction; March 21
  27. Halting State; Charles Stross; 336pp; Science Fiction; March 29
  28. Rule 34; Charles Stross; 352pp; Science Fiction; April 3
  29. Historical Atlas of the Pacific Northwest; Derek Hayes; 208pp; History; April 4
  30. Hornblower and the Hotspur; C. S. Forrester; 400pp; Historical Fiction; April 9
  31. Hornblower During the Crisis; C.S. Forrester; 176pp; Historical Fiction; April 11
  32. Hornblower and the Atropos; C.S. Forrester; 342pp; Historical Fiction; April 16
  33. Maps of North America; Ashley & Miles Baynton-Williams; 189pp; History; April 18
  34. Beat To Quarters; C.S. Forrester; 273pp; Historical Fiction; April 19
  35. Ship of the Line; C.S. Forrester; 304pp; Historical Fiction; April 24
  36. The New Health Rules; Frank Lipman & Danielle Claro; 224pp; Nonfiction; April 24
  37. Flying Colours; C.S. Forrester; 256pp; Historical Fiction; April 25
  38. Commodore Hornblower; C.S. Forrester; 343pp; Historical Fiction; April 26
  39. Lord Hornblower; C.S. Forrester; 336pp; Historical Fiction; May 2
  40. The Girl Who Played With Fire; Stieg Larsson; 630pp; Contemporary Fiction; May 4
  41. Gone Girl; Gillian Flynn; 432pp; Contemporary Fiction; May 8
  42. A Place Beyond Courage; Elizabeth Chadwick; 504pp; Historical Fiction; May 14
  43. Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies; C.S. Forrester; 336pp; Historical Fiction; May 16
  44. Seveneves; Neal Stephenson; 869pp; Science Fiction; June 14
  45. Kill Decision; Daniel Saruez; 513pp; Science Fiction; June 25
  46. Cibola Burn; James S. A. Corey; 610pp; Science Fiction; June 27
  47. Infinite Worlds: The People and Places of Space Exploration; Michael Soluri; 352pp; Photography; June 28
  48. Nexus; Ramez Naam; 528pp; Science Fiction; June 30
  49. Into The Black: Odyssey One; Evan Currie; 580pp; Science Fiction; July 5
  50. Master and Commander; Patrick O’Brian; 403pp; Historical Fiction; July 8
  51. Crux; Ramez Naam; 577pp; Science Fiction; July 11
  52. The Heart of Matter: Odyssey One; Evan Currie; 627pp; Science Fiction; July 14
  53. Homeworld: Odyssey One; Evan Currie; 500pp; Science Fiction; July 16
  54. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena; Anthony Marra; 383pp; Contemporary Fiction; July 18
  55. Apex; Ramez Naam; 602pp; Science Fiction; July 21
  56. Avogadro Corp; William Hertling; 240pp; Science Fiction; July 23
  57. A.I. Apocalypse; William Hertling; 239pp; Science Fiction; July 28
  58. The Last Firewall; William Hertling; 305pp; Science Fiction; July 30
  59. The Turing Exception; William Hertling; 290pp; Science Fiction; July 31
  60. The Kill Artist; Daniel Silva; 490pp; Contemporary Fiction; August 3
  61. Henry I; C. Warren Hollister; 588pp; History; August 9
  62. For The King’s Favor; Elizabeth Chadwick; 530pp; Historical Fiction; August 13
  63. Mapping the World; Michael Swift; 256pp; History; August 15
  64. Out of the Black; Evan Currie; 440pp; Science Fiction; August 16
  65. To Defy a King; Elizabeth Chadwick; 523pp; Historical Fiction; August 21
  66. @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex; Shane Harris; 288pp; Nonfiction; August 22
  67. The Bone Clocks; David Mitchell; 624pp; Contemporary Fiction; August 25
  68. The Lions of Lucerne; Brad Thor; 624pp; Contemporary Fiction; August 28
  69. In An Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveller’s Tale; Amitav Ghosh; 400pp; Nonfiction; August 31
  70. Outlander; Diana Gabaldon; 640pp; Historical Fiction; September 6
  71. The Abyss Beyond Dreams; Peter F. Hamilton; 608pp; Science Fiction; September 12
  72. In Xanadu: A Quest; William Dalrymple; 320pp; Travel; September 17
  73. Post Captain; Patrick O’Brian; 467pp; Historical Fiction; September 22
  74. On The Steel Breeze; Alastair Reynolds; 532pp; Science Fiction; September 24
  75. The Age of Kali: Indian Travels and Encounters; William Dalrymple; 356pp; Travel; September 29
  76. The Golem and the Jinni; Helene Wecker; 512pp; Historical Fiction; September 30
  77. Veritas; Monaldi and Sorti; 693pp; Historical Fiction; October 7
  78. The Years of Rice and Salt; Kim Stanley Robinson; 784pp; Science Fiction; October 17
  79. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress; Robert Heinlein; 382pp; Science Fiction; October 18
  80. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers; Geniuses; and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution; Walter Isaacson; 542pp; History; November 1
  81. Hunter Killer: Inside America’s Unmanned Air War; T. Mark McCurley; 368pp; Nonfiction; November 14
  82. Nemesis Games; James S. A. Corey; 544pp; Science Fiction; November 17
  83. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest; Steig Larsson; 672pp; Contemporary Fiction; November 30
  84. The English Assassin; Daniel Silva; 416pp; Contemporary Fiction; December 10
  85. Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the Taliban Insurgency; Stephen Tanner; 392pp; History; December 23
  86. H.M.S. Surprise; Patrick O’Brian; 416pp; Historical Fiction; December 24
  87. The Confessor; Daniel Silva; 480pp; Contemporary Fiction; December 26
  88. The Mauritius Command; Patrick O’Brian; 348pp; Historical Fiction; December 27

8 thoughts on “2015: the year in books

  1. Read Ready Player One a few years ago and really loved it. Do you do reviews of books as you go along on Goodreads or anyplace? Curious about why Wool didn’t make your top 10/14. I really enjoyed it, but it has been a couple of years. Of course, I haven’t read any of the others of your top 14, so maybe if I did, I would understand. Have you read the Poldark series? They may be too fluffy for you, but they’re set in England just after the U.S. Revolutionary War. I have been enjoying them a lot.

    1. Hey Christen – No, I don’t post long reviews on Goodreads or Amazon because I find it takes a long time to write a decent, well-written review and I just don’t have the time. I do post a mini-review on Facebook and in the Insider newsletter though, so people get my opinions. Wool was a really good book, but when I was reading through my reviews earlier today (I track everything in a big spreadsheet), it didn’t click as one of the top books compared to those that did. Haven’t read the Poldark books but I’ll check them out – I have a very eclectic reading taste so they may work for me. Cheers

  2. I also noticed Wool and wondered why it didn’t make the top list. You and I must have the same eclectic tastes for books because we have about a 75% match and some of the others on your list are waiting on my to-be-read list. I also enjoyed the Daniel Suarez series. Based on your recommendation, I’m going to get The Bone Clocks… had not heard of it.

    I just started Saturn Run by John Sanford (of the detective/murder mystery fame) – it is a science fiction with lots of detailed space engineering in the first 1/3 of the book; excellent so far.

    Do you by any chance keep an all-time-favorites list? ( I suppose this can be deduced from your annual top 10 lists). I have not kept one, but if I did, I would definitely add The Last Centurion by John Ringo. Check it out.

  3. Very happy new year 2016 Paul .I wonder your your comment. “I read 37353 pages, or 102.34 pages a day,” I cant believe it. is that for story books ? that is fantastic Paul.

  4. Hi Paul, Always enjoy your annual book list (and the fact that you are Mental to be adding to the book reading pleasure the job of SQL-ising them and generating Pie Charts et al :D )

    I picked up some books from your 2014 list which I thoroughly enjoyed during 2015, and would not have stumbled over but for your recommendation. My Kindle (sorry about that!) is now loaded for 2016.

    Many thanks, and happy reading in 2016.

  5. I’ve been following your posts in the last few years and I always fill myself with inspiration when I read posts like these.

    But along all these years something intrigue me that is: How many hours have your day?!?

    You have kids, a lot of customers (Probably, I think…), your relationship with Kimberly (of course but it consumes time too), present so many lectures (and prepare it before… =) ) … so… You got the idea… You do A LOT of things AND still have time to read a lot… How it is possible?

    Anyway, another great post!

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