Another year of vacation, and another pile of books devoured, both dead tree and audiobooks. I know there’s a movement to ereaders, but I’m just not a fan of then yet. Maybe I’ll try again next year.
Stats: Twenty-five plus books, 3,500+ pages and over 140 hours of audiobooks (70+ at double speed).
Here’s the list for your perusal:
An astronaut’s guide to life by Chris Hadfield, suggested by @LeilaDancer. [dead tree]A one-day read, full of interesting stories about his journey to being an astronaut and the manner in which he pretty much single-mindedly did everything in his power to achieve his goals.
The Martian by Andy Weir, suggested by… oh, five people, including my sister. [audiobook]I blew right through this book. I hear there’s a movie coming (trailer), and I know it will be hard to carry over all of the book into two hours, but boy, with Ridley Scott at the helm and Matt Damon as the main character, this could be *awesome*.
Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson [dead tree]I’ve read this before – apparently back in 2004 while on vacation, but it’s been long enough that I only vaguely recalled the broadest strokes of the story. Enjoyed it again.
Playing Solitaire and Other Stories, by Mark Shainblum [audiobook]The first two stories were good, but I really enjoyed The Break Inspector (third story) – I loved the idea.
A Brief History of Humankind Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari [dead tree]The book felt like a bit of a ramble, but I did find the book well worth reading, covering the evolution of our species and how thinking, farming and science have made us what we are today.
My Early Life, by Winston Churchill [audiobook]Covering Churchill’s earliest memories up, through school, into his escape after being captured during the Boer war in South Africa, and his return home.
What If? Serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions, by Randall Monroe. [audiobook]I’ve been a fan of the XKCD webcomic for years and when I heard he was putting a book out from his “What if?” blog, I knew I was going to buy it. When the audiobook came out – read by your friend and Internet hero Wil Wheaton, it was a sure thing. Well research hilarity follows.
Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek, MD & TJ Mitchell [audiobook]On last year’s trip, I read Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadaver, and enjoyed it, so I thought a book about the life of a medical examiner would be interesting, and it was. Morbid humour, stories about murder, death, and her work during the 9/11 crisis.
Six Easy Pieces; essentials of physics explained by its most brilliant teacher, by Richard P Feynman. [audiobook]I love physics, and listening to Richard Feynaman is always a treat – this was an introduction to the basics – I know, I know – I already *know* this stuff, but I loved hearing him talk about it. Audio quality is low (recorded on reel-to-reel gear in the 60s. I’d suggest re-recording this so those who would find the poor audio quality too serious of a distraction
The Battle of Midway, Craig L Symonds. [audiobook]History is one of the topics I keep reading about, and the battle of Midway is regarded as the turning point of the war in the Pacific, and this book goes into deep detail, sometimes minute by minute, into the events leading up to and the battle.
The Tell-Tale Heart & Other Stories by Edgar Allen Poe [audiobook]The Black Cat is one of my favourite stories by Poe (it’s last in the audiobook), and the Tell-tale Heart is brilliantly read.
Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity’s Chief Engineer, by Rob Manning & William L Simon [audiobook]Space? Engineering? Robots? Interplanetary missions? Fascinating read.
Orphans of the Sky, by Robert Heinlein. [audiobook]When I was reading this book, it *strongly* reminded me of a TV show I saw as a kid; The Starlost, by Harlan Ellison (as Cordwainer Bird). Orphans of the Sky is tale of people living in a generational starship who aren’t aware of the fact – to them the entire universe is the ship, the “muties” who inhabit other sections of the ship, and how they come to work together to save themselves. Enjoyed!
Sherlock Holmes – The Hound of the Baskervilles & the Adventure of the Dancing Men by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [audiobook]
Classic story about Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes unravelling the mystery of a seemingly supernatural chain of deaths involving a huge hound. Probably my favourite Holmes story.
The Seraphimé Saga Volume 2: The Winter Wolf, by SM Carrière. [dead tree]
I read the first volume last year’s, which goes against my typical treatment of series. Long, long time readers will note anytime Robert J Sawyer has had a trilogy come out the Neanderthal Parallax & Wake, Watch & Wonder, I’ve waited until the entire series was out, *then* read the whole thing, usually in a day or two. I wish I’d done with with this series to fill some of the gaps my memory created in the past year. The book is a great end to the story, that left me rather teary-eyed (much to the writer’s pleasure, I’ve been told).
Spymaster by Tennent H Bagley. [audiobook]
Publication of this story was banned in Russia by the FSB, so it was published in the west, and even then, only after Sergey Kondrashev’s death. This book is a fascinating look into the KGB during the cold war, and some of the crazy operations that were pulled off, right under the noses of the Americans (and others)
Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson [audiobook]
“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest–
…Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest–
…Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”
Need I say more? A classic I don’t think I’ve read in… over thirty years. ouch.
How to succeed in business without really crying; lessons from a life in comedy by Carol Leifer. [audiobook]
The book boils down to dogged persistence, hard work, and Leifer’s sense of humour. Worth a read!
SevenEves by Neal Stephenson [audiobook]
I inhaled this book in two days even though it was over 15 hours (at double-speed) long. A masterful tale of the end of the world, and how we survive it.
BBC Cabin Pressure series 4 [audiobook]
Bought this on sale – just curious, but it’s a fast and funny radio series about a tiny charter airline, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and others.
At the Mountains of Madness, by H.P. Lovecraft [audiobook]
I know, I know. I listened to this last year. But I do *love* this story, and it’s my vacation and I’ll listen to what I want to!
America’s Bitter Pill by Steven Brilliant [dead tree]
This is the story of how Obamacare came to be, and in some ways, how it didn’t really change anything for the companies that reap massive profits on the backs of ill Americans. A cautionary read for Canadians to the dangers of adopting a more American-style heathcare system (it’s a wildly bad idea).
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams [audiobook, read by author]
I read this years ago, and when I saw it in iTunes, I decided it was worth a listen – more so because of *who* was reading it – Douglas Adams. The Dirk Gently story is wildly funny.
Dreamcatcher by Stephen King [dead tree]
This book was homework for me by Bob LeDrew of the KingCast podcast. I’d asked him what modern King novel I should read (I stopped reading him mid-Tommyknockers). Overall, it was formulaic Stephen King, I think, and even though I knew where the story was going, I *did* enjoy it.
2001: A Space Oddessy by Arthur C Clarke [audiobook]
This is a book that was written at the same time as the movie, but diverges in a few interesting way, and I was surprised to hear that the introduction by Arthur Clarke was a recording of him. Obviously, 2001 (and the three sequels) are seminal works of science fiction, and I greatly enjoyed listening to the book version.
Yup, podcasts – I had about twenty left over from the gap caused by my work on the Bluesfest project, so when I ran out of audiobooks to read, I went through all of those. Yay for catching up!
Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola [audiobook]
Technically this is a movie turned into an audiobook, similar to what I did with Firefly the series. I love this movie, and listening to the dialogue of the film took me right into it. Listening to the movie, you “see” many new things – the careful attention to music, background sounds, and I can focus completely on the dialogue.
Three issues of 2600
This is the only magazine that I subscribe to, and I think it’s been a decade now, maybe more. Normally there are four issues (yes, I read a year’s worth of 2600 while camping), but the Summer 2015 didn’t arrive until after we’d left for the park. For those that *don’t* know, 2600 is the “hacker quarterly”, with news and articles of interest.
I’m open to suggestions for 2016’s vacation reading.
Got home, and downloaded 94 podcasts. That’s going to take some time to chew through.
You can peruse some of the trip’s photos on my Flickr album.
2 thoughts on “Vacation Reading 2015”
Some thoughts on 2016 reading, not all new by any means:
Anything by Walter Isaacson, but especially his biographies of Jobs and Einstein.
REAMDE by Stephenson, Neal.
The Sir John A. biography by Richard Gwyn
The Swerve by Stephen Greenblat
Flight Behavio(u)r by Barbara Kingsolver
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
The MLK biography by Taylor Branch
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis: time travel done really well!
Darwin’s Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett: still my favourite of all time.
Thanks for the suggestions. I’ve already read REAMDE – great story! I’ll look up the others and possibly add them to my reading list.
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