I have a terrible memory about books I’ve read. Often, all I can tell you is that I’m a fan of an author or a particular book, but not any details about it, or why I liked it. In 2015 I switched to reading entirely on the Kindle. One benefit of that switch is that I now have a record of what books I read and when. So I decided to start writing short reviews of my favorite books each year, mostly as a reminder to myself in the future. Here are three standouts that I read in 2015.
The Martian, by Andy Weir
This book was precision crafted to target me. I adore science fiction about early settlers on new planets, and I really geek out on details about how habitats work and what it takes to survive in a hostile environment. (See also Red Mars.) In this case, the settler is an astronaut who is accidentally marooned on Mars and forced to find a way to survive and signal for rescue. The challenges he faces, and the way he breaks down his overwhelming problems into manageable pieces is fascinating, and the humor (mostly dad jokes) helps relieve the tension. The movie adaptation is excellent, but it necessarily has to fast-forward through some of the best parts. Highly recommended.
Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson
I adore Neal Stephenson, and I love almost everything he’s written. This book reminded me in the best ways of both Lucifer’s Hammer and Dune (hear me out). It’s divided roughly into thirds. The first third is about Earth discovering they’re going to experience an extinction-level event, and the frantic preparations to allow at least some of the population to survive. The middle third is the aftermath and covers what life is like among the survivors in orbit. The last third jumps 5000 years into the future(!) and is about the descendants of the human race. I won’t spoil it any further for you. Trust me that you want to read this.
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve debated removing Ready Player One from this list many times. Back in 2015, I read the book and thought it was silly and fun and didn’t put a lot of thought into it. Then when it got adapted into a movie, a lot of people I respect talked about why it’s problematic. (TL;DR: the main character is a stalker, and the nostalgia masked a toxic form of gatekeeping that became more obvious with the rise of GamerGate). Still, I struggle with it. In the end, I don’t think it’s honest to retroactively pretend like I didn’t like the book just because I later came to see it in a new light. I can’t recommend it to you now, but I enjoyed it at the time.