Best Reads of 2009 and 2010

Looking for a good book? Here are my best reads in English of the past two years.

2009

  • The Colour of Magic. Terry Pratchett 1983. Lavishly ornate humorous fantasy.

  • Dancing with strangers. Inga Clendinnen 2003. On contacts between the first English penal colony and the aboriginals at Sydney Cove in 1788-92.
  • On the Origin of Species. Charles Darwin 1859. (Abbreviated version of the 1st edition, ed. J.A. Secord 2008.) Don’t miss the appended collection of contemporary reactions!
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Michael Chabon 2000. Two Jewish kids make up a comic-book super hero…
  • Metal detecting & archaeology. Ed. Suzie Thomas & Peter G. Stone 2009. Many illuminating perspectives.
  • Remarkable creatures – epic adventure in the search for the origins of species. Sean B. Carroll 2009. 150 years of continual discoveries.
  • Carter beats the Devil. Glen David Gold 2001. Novel set in the golden age of stage magic.

2010

  • The Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Arthur Conan Doyle. (Signet Classics 2005.) Sleuthy!

  • Shenzhen. A travelogue from China. Guy Delisle 2003. Non-fic graphic novel.
  • The Herring Seller’s Apprentice. L.C. Tyler 2007. Finely constructed and humorous mystery.
  • Society without God. What the least religious nations can tell us about contentment. Phil Zuckerman 2008. An outsider’s perspective on endemic godlessness.
  • The Deeper Meaning of Liff. Douglas Adams & John Lloyd 1992. Lots of fun! Don’t miss the index!
  • The End of Biblical Studies. Hector Avalos 2007. The author argues for a general secular study of ancient literature to replace Bible studies, which no longer produce any new insights and also promote pernicious religionism.
  • Roughing it. Mark Twain 1872. Humorous memoir of the author’s youth. I read it for free on my smartphone.

What were your best reads of the year?

Here are my lists for 2006 and 2008.

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Comments

  1. #1 Steven Blowney
    December 31, 2010

    Interesting list of books, some of which I read a long time ago. Conan-Doyle’s stuff is fun, and “On the Origins of the Species” is guarenteed to cure insomnia.

    Everyone keeps recommending Terry Pratchett, so much so, that I keep reading his books. While the humor thers is sly, it’s based upon a rather cynical, dark view of people. In the end, I find them depressing.

  2. #2 Deborah
    December 31, 2010

    Have you read “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” by Susanna Clarke? It’s from 2004 and quite clever. One of my favorites.

  3. #3 Victor
    December 31, 2010

    I’ve somehow managed to have not read any of the discworld books so far. So, my resolution this year is to change that. I’ve got the Colour of Magic on my Nook and will start it as soon as I’m done with Steven Pinker’s 600 page The Blank Slate (which is quite superb).

    Other good reads this year: Trick or Treatment, Nonsense on Stilts, Lost Christianities, The Christian Delusion, The Mummy Congress, Primates and Philosophers. I had started The Omnivores Dilemma, but found the author’s reliance on the naturalistic fallacy to be quite annoying. Which brings up one of the draw backs of e-books: you can’t chuck them out the window when they annoy you. I suppose I could burn a copy then throw the disc out the window?

  4. #4 Ender
    December 31, 2010

    “I’ve somehow managed to have not read any of the discworld books so far. So, my resolution this year is to change that. I’ve got the Colour of Magic on my Nook”

    You may not want to start with The Colour of Magic, it (and the Light Fantastic) are more straight satires of fantasy and fantasy tropes than the later ones which widen the scope to almost anything under the sun.
    They’re all great in their own way though.

  5. #5 Martin R
    December 31, 2010

    I did read Strange & Norrell back in January of 2005. I found it kind of nice but way too long for its content.

  6. #6 Birger Johansson
    December 31, 2010

    re: @ 6

    You-know-who has been mailing the same dreck all over Scienceblogs.

    — — — —
    I think Terry Pratchett has some optimism, buried under a thick layer of Ambrose Bierce-style sardonic wit.

    — — — —
    “Lost Christianities” is important, it shows the random nature of which belief structure came up on top. If your faction backed the winner (the emperor Constantine, for instance), you became the orthodoxy. 75% or more ended up as heresies, and the respective gospels were burned.

  7. #7 Martin R
    January 1, 2011

    It’s kind of impressive that poor David / Dennis now believes that he is close to being able to nuke the world’s atheists. That’s pretty Book of Revelations, actually.

  8. #8 Martin R
    January 1, 2011

    And Pratchett is anything but cynical, he’s a humanist, if not an entirely non-sardonic one!

  9. #9 Martin R
    January 1, 2011

    Re: Lost Christianities — while not a great game per se, the board game Credo is very illuminating as to the early history of Christianity. The players represent religio-political factions in early Christianity who fight and negotiate for the central tenets of their somewhat nebulous shared faith. At the end of the game, the player who gets the most tenets into the Creed wins. The one time I played Credo, I managed to get Sol Invictus into the Trinity instead of the Son…

  10. #10 Deborah
    January 1, 2011

    Strange&Norrell WAS long, but for me, the language was worth it. And portions were so freakily funny. There are many in your list I haven’t read; however, S. Holmes is a bible.

  11. #11 Tom W
    January 1, 2011

    I listened to ‘The Colour of Magic’ on audiobook recently. It is really great and I was quite saddened to hear of Terry Pratchets demise about two years ago. He also did an excellant christmas story about father christmas that was turned into a movie.

  12. #12 Martin R
    January 2, 2011

    Pratchett is alive and writing but suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

  13. #13 Dave Huggins
    January 15, 2011

    Ah, my very own favourite is undoubtedly the bellow, every thing I ever wanted in one book since as a boy of six at the infant school library and opened a childrens illustrated copy of Volsung Saga and was forever smitten..

    Wayland’s Work: Anglo-Saxon Art, Myth & Material Culture
    from the 4th to 7th Century
    Drawing on British and European publications this important book brings together the evidence for Early Medieval material culture. Well written with excellent illustrations it should be read by everyone with a serious interest in this fascinating period.
    Dr Kevin Leahy, FSA – National Adviser – Early Medieval Metalwork
    The Portable Antiquities Scheme

    The heading of Section IV, ‘Wondrous Works’, can well be applied as a description to this book – it is a wondrous work that will long be referred to as a ready source of information for the 300 years under consideration.
    Peter A. Clayton, FSA – Minerva Magazine, Nov/Dec 2010