I like discussing books with people, but I always forget which ones I have read. Below is a list of all the books I can remember reading with the most recent appearing first. † = in progress, * = favorite
Keep in mind that the comments contain plot details about the books (spoilers).
To read maybe?:, The disappearing spoon, 12 rules for ... (the jordan peterson one), Just for Fun (book about linus torvalds), Crime and Punishment, Book of the new Sun, LoTR, Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Jungle, The things they carried, River Out of Eden
|The Pentateuch† (King James Translation)||Also known as the "Five Books of Moses" or the "Torah", the Pentateuch consists of the following books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books contain the classic stories that are referenced across all Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, ...) and are still featured heavily in secular pop culture today. Here are some quotations that you have probably heard before, regardless of your religious background: "Let there be light", "Thou shalt not kill", "land of milk and honey", "40 days and 40 nights", "am I my brother's keeper?", "stranger in a strange land".|
|Siddhartha* (Herman Hesse)||A beautiful story that I would recommend to everyone.|
|Piranesi (Susanna Clarke)|
|The Jungle (Upton Sinclair)||Makes me grateful to live in to 2010s and not the 1910s. This book made it seem as if people were regularly dying from starvation in the early 1900s. This seemed reasonable given the conditions they were living in, so I decided to research how often this happens now. I found a lot of information on food insecurity in the USA, but next to nothing about lethal starvation. It is apparently extremely rare nowadays in the USA (lethal starvation order of magnitude ~ 1000, as opposed to food insecurity order of magnitude ~ 50 million).|
|Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell)||Very good. I am excited to watch the movie. This book's format is similar to the format of "Tsar of Love and Techno" (further down the list), and I like how the stories within the story reference each other.|
|The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)||I started reading this book in 11th grade for my English class, but never finished it. I picked it up again in late 2020 and restarted. There are so many great quotes in this book from Lord Henry Wotton, I will compile a list of favorites someday.|
|The Foundation Trilogy (Isaac Asimov)||Huge in scope and payoff. There is no way that Star Wars did not copy the idea of Coruscant from the Galactic Empire's capitol planet of Trantor. They are both (1) planets covered entirely by a city with no natural landscape uncovered (2) the seat of a galaxy wide government (3) the central coordinate for all space navigation.|
|Assorted Cosmere Books [Stormlight Archive (1-4), Mistborn (1-6), Dawnshard, Warbreaker, Elantris] (Brandon Sanderson)*||The hype is real and Sanderson is the king. Mistborn was an insane start, but the Stormlight Archive books are on a higher level of writing and storytelling. I really look forward to the new book coming out in 2020. 2020 Update: Just finished Rhythm of War, it was great. I love how the shared universe is bleeding between the books.|
|Meditations (Marcus Aurelius)||This is a tough, but worthwhile read. Probably the most powerful author on my list so far (an emperor of Rome).|
|Ender's Shadow (Orson Scott Card)||This book and Ender's Game are connected in a way that I have not come across before. They both tell the same story, but from different character's perspectives. Overall, I liked this one a little less than the original because the reader is expected to know the ending.|
|Dune [reread]||Had to brush up on my lore before the movie drops. 2020 Update: Ouch! The movie was just delayed for a year.|
|The Silmarillion (J. R. R. Tolkien)||Insanely detailed and consistent worldbuilding. The writing style is hard to pick up at first, but by the end, it begins to make sense and the beauty of the phrasing becomes apparent. Now that I have read this and the Hobbit, I am ready for the Lord of the Rings!|
|The Great Alone (Kristin Hannah)||This is a very short book, and I am glad for that. The plot was very predictable, and yet, the characters didn't act like how I have perceived real people to act. It was like that classic TV show situation where people don't actually verbalize what they are feeling, and then act surprised when others act in ways they don't appreciate. However, despite this, I stayed up late several nights in a row reading this book. This book has a sort of realism (I'm defining this as "feels like it could be possible") that is fascinating.|
|Altered Carbon (Richard Morgan)||Really cool scifi worldbuilding and excellent pacing. I watched the show on Netflix about a year ago and liked it, so I thought I would read the book. I am glad I did.|
|Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)||I recently read an an essay by Keynes about the future of economics once mass automation has ended the need for everyone to work. Brave New World seems to be a pessimistic prediction of the world Keynes imagined, and I think that it is really well conceived. My favorite character is Mustapha Mond.|
|Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë) *||Absolutely loved it. My reading list is very dude heavy, so it was nice to get a female perspective, both from a main character and author. I never doubted Mr. Rochester for a second, I love that guy.|
|Gentlemen Bankers: The World of J.P. Morgan (Susie J. Pak)||Assigned reading in my History of Capitalism course. While it is interesting to see how magnates come to power, I think it is more interesting how they retain that power and transform it into a dynasty for their children. This book reminds me a lot of HBO's Succession, about a media magnate and his family.|
|The Fifth Season*, The Obelisk Gate, The Stone Sky (N. K. Jemisin)||Fantastic world building and storytelling. The narrative structure of the first book is quite novel. It follows three separate characters that are later revealed to be the same woman at different points in her life. If you are like me and love learning about the lore behind the fantasy, stick with all three books as the reveals come very late in the series.|
|Attack on Titan (Hajime Isayama) *||First comic book I have ever read. Probably my favorite fictional world. The fact that the author has been releasing a chapter every month for 10 years is amazing. The art is insane, the plot is unique, the themes are real; I would recommend AOT to anyone. As of January 2020, the author made an announcement that he would be finishing the series within the year! October 2020 Update: wow the series is steaming towards a conclusion! The final season of the anime adaptation (cover everything after chapter 90) has been confirmed for this December.|
|The Sparrow (Mary Doria Russell)||I picked this book up after seeing it beat out Hyperion on a sci-fi list. This is the only book I have read that is built mostly on religious themes and internal conflicts of faith.|
|Hyperion *, Fall of Hyperion (Dan Simmons)||God Tier Science Fiction. This book and its sequel are a must read for fans of the genre. On the sequel: the author admits that he needed a down payment to buy a new house, so he split the book into two parts so he could make more money off the story. Respect.|
|Dune Series (Frank Herbert) *||One of my favorites -- All six books are epic, but the fourth, God Emperor of Dune is the highlight of the series. I am so hyped for the movie coming out in 2020. October 2020 Update: haha! sike. The movie got delayed until October 2021 due to covid19.|
|East of Eden (John Steinbeck)*||This one is a tear jerker that really made me think about what it means to live an entire lifetime. As a young person, the American life expectancy of 77 years seems like an impossibly long time. It was nice to see how the characters evolved over the course of the book|
|The Long Walk (Stephen King)||This book does a great job of instilling the reader with the sense of anxiety that the characters are feeling.|
|Declaration of Independence + US Constitution||From a political perspective, I am a staunch constitutionalist. Reading this text is so exciting and inspiring, although parsing the grammar of the language that was used at the time is very difficult. Reading alongside an interpreted version is also very helpful; knowing what to look for makes the run on sentences more manageable.|
|The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway)||I think I missed the point of this book entirely, so maybe I will reread and do some more thinking.|
|A Little Life (Hanya Yanagihara) *||This is an amazing book for many reasons. First, the book follows the four main characters for their entire lives. Second, it provides insights into both living with a mental illness and supporting friends with mental illnesses that I thought were very poignant.|
|The Death of Ivan Ilych (Leo Tolstoy)|
|The Catcher in the Rye (J. D. Salinger)||Holden is my least favorite character in any book. He acts like he is smarter than everyone and has no self awareness. I should read this book when I am older to see if there is a meaning I am missing in his behavior (I suspect there is, and I just didn't pick it up the first time around). Update: It's later, and I think I have a better understanding now. Holden is supposed to be hateable, but for that we should pity him. He is a confused young boy and it is a tragedy that he has to feel the way he does.|
|The Tsar of Love and Techno (Anthony Marra)||Required reading for my first summer before college. I liked the stories spanned several decades and all joined together at the end.|
|The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)|
|The Communist Manifesto (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels)||I read this because I became interested in the Cold War and what exactly all the hype was about. Growing up in America, it is easy for me to think that Economics == Capitalism, and that our current system is the best system. This book didn't challenge that belief, but it made me think more about it.|
|1984 (George Orwell)||As a staunch supporter of civil liberties and restricted government power, this book is a classic!|
|The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man's Fear, The Slow Regard of Silent Things (Patrick Rothfuss) *||Pat Rothfuss really needs to release the third book! The magic system in this series is unique amongst the fantasy I have read because it has its basis in chemistry and physics. Reminds me of the magic in Mistborn. It has now been over a decade since the release of book two, and there has been no concrete information even hinting at the existence of a final book in the series. The author says that he is working on it, but that it is difficult for him to finish the series. For his sake, I hope he finds the strength to reach the finish line, it is very apparent that he is unhappy with the lack of a third book.|
|The Art of War (Sun Tzu)||Not very applicable to my life as a student!|
|The Puritan Dilemma (Edmund S. Morgan)||One of the most boring books I've read.|
|The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkein)||The last 40 pages of this book spawned a 3 hour movie.|
|The Martian (Andy Weir)|
|Night (Elie Wiesel)||Required reading during my Junior year of high school. I am glad we were assigned this book. I have seen it referred to as a "must read" for people interested in learning more about the Holocaust, and I agree with this assessment.|
|With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa (E. B. Sledge)||This book is one of the reference materials for the HBO series "The Pacific". There is also a chance that I am distantly related to the author.|
|Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card) *||Two people have told me that the spin-off series "Ender's Shadow" is also really good, so I might look into that.|
|Whale Talk (Chris Crutcher)||This book appropriately handled some very mature themes for a story targeted at young adults.|
|All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque)|
|World War Z (Max Brooks)||Very different from the movie, so if you were disappointed with that, check out the book. It's structured as a series of short stories from survivors of the war.|
|The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)||I first learned who Jesse Owens was from this book when one of the main characters (a young boy) covers himself in coal dust and runs around a track. My favorite Owen's quote is "Hitler didn't snub me - It was our president who snubbed me. The president didn't even send me a telegram" (from Triumph by Jeremy Schaap, near the end of the "Day Three" chapter).|
|Lord of the Flies (William Golding)|
|Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)||This was assigned reading in 9th grade. Rumor has it, the instant the book was announced, someone in another class stood up and said "Isn't this the one where George kills Lenny at the end?"|
|The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)||The only movie adaptation I have seen is the new one with Leonardo DiCaprio, which I liked. A few of my film loving friends don't approve of my approval.|
|Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)||HBO adaptation was bad. My favorite part of the book was the main character's wife Mildred. She is shown to be addicted to listening to broadcasts that are beamed directly into little "seashells" in her ears. This is such an accurate depiction of what we now do with wireless headphones, it makes me think of the novel every time I see a crowd of people all listening to something or on their phones. The HBO adaptation cut her character entirely, which was disappointing because her death at the hands of a rival nation during the one day war was the climax of the book.|
|Whirligig (Paul Fleischman)|
|Unwind (Neal Shusterman)||Really terrifying book that had some great scenes. "They" should make this into a movie.|
|Hunger Games Series (Suzanne Collins)||Cool worldbuilding. If you liked this one, you will like the Japanese movie Battle Royale that came out in 2000 (8 years before HG).|
|The Knife of Never Letting Go (Patrick Ness)|
|To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)||Super well adapted by the movie (starring Gregory Peck).|
|The Pearl (John Steinbeck)|
|Pendragon Series (D. J. MacHale)||I started reading this book and then gave it up. A few months later, the author, DJ MacHale came and spoke to my middle school. He was a really great guy, so I gave the book a second shot. I ended up reading all 10 consecutively.|
|Hatchet (Gary Paulsen)||Main character is named Brian. This book goes well with the |
|The Giver (Lois Lowry) *||Movie was good. I read this because my grandmother, who was a school teacher, assigned this book for her students.|
|The Supernaturalist (Eoin Colfer)||Ended on a promising sequel setup, but as of 2007, only a rough outline of the alleged second book exists. I am not hopeful.|
|Divergent (Veronica Roth)|
|Code Talker (Joseph Bruchac)||One of a small number of war books I have read, but among the best.|
|The Darkest Minds (Alexandra Bracken)||Bad movie adaptation.|
|Harry Potter 1,5,6,7 (J. K. Rowling)||I have a lot to say about HP. My biggest complaint is that the worldbuilding is just plain bad (illogical and inconsistent). For example, it is impossible that the Weasleys are poor (magic can be trivially monetized, ie: duplicating currency), it is impossible that not a single wizard has defected and told the muggle world about the existence of wizards, it is ridiculous that the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix were in a state of "war", yet no muggle weapons are even considered. In many ways, my complaints boil down to the fact that the author had to make the series "PG" rated. The explanation for most of these issues is that "Wizards don't concern themselves with the muggle world", or some sort of false sense of superiority preventing wizards from adopting muggle technology. This is pretty weak... Having a moral superiority over something doesn't mean you can't respect it or learn from it. Also, the tone is pretty inconsistent with respect to the "bad guys". They should have been way more ruthless and intelligent. Voldemort makes all of his horcruxes famous objects because he's vain? Come on. It really feels like the author wanted to make a point about genocide being bad, yet didn't want to actually to make an intelligent critique and instead set up this strawman of a villain that was kind of half assing "being bad". I really love digging through the lore of created worlds, and when they don't hold up to even basic inspection, it makes me angry!|
|Artemis Fowl Series (Eoin Colfer) *||Movie looks awful.|
|Inheritance Cycle [Eragon, ...] (Christopher Paolini) *||This was my favorite book when I was a young child. I loved how the story had multiple narrators and the world the author created really felt worth exploring.|
|The Compound (S. A. Bodeen)|
|The City of Ember (Jeanne DuPrau)|
|The Green Glass Sea (Ellen Klages)|
|Half Moon Investigations (Eoin Colfer)||Totally different tone from the other sci-fi titles this author has (Artemis Fowl, The Supernaturalist).|
|Frindle (Andrew Clements)|
|Seabiscuit (Laura Hillenbrand)|
|Holes (Louis Sachar)|
|My Side of the Mountain, On the Far Sides of the Mountain (Jean George)||Really excellent kids book about a boy running away from home and living in the Catskills. This one shows spends a lot of time discussing respect for nature and friendship with animals, as well as the importance of self sufficiency.|
|Tales of the Greek Heroes (Roger Lancelyn Green)||This is where you go when you level up from Percy Jackson.|
|Gloomy Gus (Walt Morey)||I read this one over the course of a semester in middle school, one sitting at a time, every week. It is not about a sad human, but the relationship between a boy and a bear (the animal).|
|The Thief Lord (Cornelia Funke) *||One of the main characters "Scipio" was my hero.|
|Leviathan (Scott Westerfield)||I would like to see this adapted as a movie. The concept of WW1 being fought between animal and machine powered nations could be visually stunning.|
|The Haunting of Freddy (Dietlof Reiche)||This is the only book I have read that uses a non-standard font.|
|Flipped (Wendelin Van Draanen)|
|Alex Rider Series [Stormbreaker, ...] (Anthony Horowitz)|
|A Brief History of Time (Stephen Hawking)||Relax, it was the illustrated version. I was not actually reading Stephen Hawking in elementary school.|
|Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain)||Everyone in my class was given a copy to read, and around that time I got these new "gel" highlighters that I was obsessed with. I covered the edges of every page and basically painted most of the book with this waxy, fluorescent substance.|
|Percy Jackson Series (Rick Riordan)||First book that I really got into reading. I remember being caught in class in 5th grade reading this book when I should have been following along with a lesson.|
|Spy X: The Code (Peter Lerangis)||I learned about the concept of a "skeleton key" from this book, I think the main character has one.|
|Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O'Dell)||I believe I read this in 4th grade. Pretty bloody for a kids book!|
|Top Secret (John Reynolds Gardiner)||2nd grade maybe?|
|Magic Tree House (Mary Pope Osborne)||I read a bunch of these throughout 1st-3rd grade.|
As of the end of 2019, I do most of my reading on a e-reader (Kindle) because I have found this method to be much cheaper than buying books.
I use the free and open source application Calibre to manage my digital library and I download my books from the following websites:
- Library Genesis (https://libgen.is/)
- Standard EBooks (https://standardebooks.org/)
- Project Gutenburg (https://www.gutenberg.org/)
- ZLibrary (https://z-lib.org/)
One thought I struggle with is whether or not reading books is "worth it". At its core, reading is a way to hear stories, and this is not something that books have a monopoly on. Movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, video games, ..., all share stories in seemingly equally valid ways. So my question is, why read?
Are there cognitive benefits to absorbing stories through writing that are not reaped when watching or listening? Will reading The Giver make me a "better person" than I would have been if I had simply listened to the audio book? What about the movie adaptation? They are all the same story (approximately).
Is there something more "noble" about a life spent reading as apposed to one spent watching TV? I am going to forget the details of everything I perceive, so why does it matter that I spent time reading them, when in the same amount of time, I could have been exposed to 3x as many stories through a TV show?
If the details are important, then are the hundreds of hours I have spent playing Call of Duty (Modern Warfare 2) meaningful in the same way that spending the same amount of time reading would have been? I have memorized the statistics and patterns of dozens of guns and attachments. I have an extremely accurate mental map of hundreds of square miles of in-game terrain. Is this better or worse than knowing the entire lineage of the Elven houses from Lord of the Rings?
I have read articles about "studies" that say reading has health benefits such as preventing the early onset of dementia and reducing stress, but I am too young to worry about my health in 50 years and I am not a stressed person. So if you don't care about those specific benefits, is there still a need to read?
One thing I know personally is that the video based formats (movies, tv, ...) are far more addicting than the written word. I am addicted to electronics. Uttering this feels like admitting a weakness, but if I say that I am addicted to reading books, this is seen as an admirable quality. Is there a reason that my internal moral compass tells me that "caving" in and watching TV instead of practicing the "asceticism" of reading is the wrong choice?
Maybe we read for fun, and that's enough. But in that case, those other types of media are designed to be more fun! Is watching the Altered Carbon TV show some sort of hedonism compared to reading the Altered Carbon book? Is the joy of reading somehow more "deserved" than the "easy" satisfaction of watching something?
Maybe there is a line of thought worth exploring about the relative ease of consumption. Reading is "work" (good and noble), watching is "play" (bad and shameful). But what if we already work enough?
For my final musing, I ask you to weigh your reactions to the following hypothetical statements from your friends.
- "I read for 8 hours yesterday!"
- "I watched TV for 8 hours yesterday!"