Books read in 2012 (and my favorites)

I read 39 books in 2012. Here’s a few of my favorites:

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The Chairs are Where the People Go, Misha Glouberman (with Shelia Heti)

In many ways a frustrating book, but also very interesting. I posted some of my favorite insights back in January.

Empires of the Word cover

Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World, Nicholas Ostler

A fascinating look at world languages throughout the ages, including a look at how they out-live their speakers.

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Debt: The First 5,000 Years, David Graeber

Graeber argues that the popular conception of how money evolved is wrong: it actually arose from debt. Physical money prospered in times of unrest and war. That’s just one facet of this very interesting book. Wikipedia has a nice summary.

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Coders at Work: Observations on the Craft of Programming, Peter Seibel

This book is a great peak into the minds of some legendary programmers. I posted some of my favorite insights from the book.

Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison

Travel Light, Naomi Mitchison

When The Lord of the Rings came out, Naomi Mitchison blurbed it because she was a far more popular author. Today, she has largely been forgotten and this book is hard to find (I got it after waiting over a year on Paperback Swap but it was re-printed in 2005 and you can get it on Amazon).

Travel Light is a charming and subversive fairy tale that is well-worth reading. Find a copy.

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The Ruin of the Roman Empire, James J. O’Donnell

A somewhat revisionist history of the fall of the Roman Empire in the West. O’Donnell notes the Roman-ness of the “barbarian” Theodoric and his continuance of normal life under his rule to argue (much like L. Sprague De Camp in Lest Darkness Fall) that the real fall of Rome occurred under Justinian.

I picked up The Ruin of the Roman Empire while browsing at the library simply because it looked interesting. When so much of what I read is recommended by algorithms, an old-fashioned random choice is nice now and again.

The full list is below. For comparison, here are lists from 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.

The Player of Games, Ian M. Banks

The Chairs Are Where the People Go, Misha Glouberman, with Sheila Heti

The Quantum Thief, Hannu Rajamiemi

The Children of the Sky, Vernor Vinge

Travels with Charley in Search of America, John Steinbeck

Mistborn, Brandon Sanderson

The Well of Ascension, Brandon Sanderson

The Hero of Ages, Brandon Sanderson

Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashses, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL, Roger L. Martin

Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World, Nicholas Ostler

Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, Atul Gawande

Island in the Sea of Time, S. M. Stirling

Debt: The First 5,000 Years, David Graeber

The Ancient Engineers, L. Sprague De Camp

The Stone Canal, Ken MacLeod

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, Charles C. Mann

The Ballad of Beta-2, Samuel R. Delany

The Ghost, Robert Harris

The Passage, Justin Cronin

Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson

Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, Chris Hedges

Empire Star, Samuel R. Delaney

Conspirata, Robert Harris

Last Watch, Sergei Lukyanenko

The Infinitive of Go, John Brunner

Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny

The Guns of Avalon, Roger Zelazny

Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming, Peter Seibel

Sign of the Unicorn, Roger Zelazny

The Hand of Oberon, Roger Zelazny

The Courts of Chaos, Roger Zelazny

Travel Light, Naomi Mitchison

The Magic of Recluse, L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

The Ruin of the Roman Empire, James J. O’Donnell

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner

Falling Free, Lois McMaster Bujold

Off Armageddon Reef, David Weber