Books read in 2013

Since 2006, I’ve been keeping track of the books I read each year (lists from: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012). In 2013, I read 42 books. I made heavy use of the library (I live next door to one). Of the books on this list, I only bought one. I typically request books I want to read and have the delivered to my neighborhood library, but I’ve also picked up quite a few books by browsing the shelves, old school style.

Last year, I started picking out a few favorites. This year, the books that stuck with me as being especially good are:

Black Like Me

Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin

Black Like Me is a high school staple, but I had never heard of it. I believe I learned about John Howard Griffin and his experiences darkening his skin and living as a black man in the Deep South in the early 1960s on reddit. It’s an eye-opening book.

The Hobbit

The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien

It’s been years since I last read The Hobbit. After seeing the 2012 movie, I decided to pick up a copy (this is the only book I bought last year). To my surprise, the book I thought I remembered turned out to be light-hearted and funny, nothing like the movie. I learned that after writing The Lord of the Rings, Tolkein attempted to revise The Hobbit to match the world of its sequel, but stopped because it “just wasn’t The Hobbit” any more. I believe the dour films are a testament to this.

Street Fight

Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco, Jason Henderson

Since moving to San Francisco, I’ve been frustrated by the disfunction of the city’s government and bipolar development policies. Street Fight provides a framework for understanding how it got that way and how the current development battles will play out. Henderson frames the debate over development and mobility as between three parties with shifting alliances: conservatives, who favor the auto-centric status quo; neoliberals, who favor livability and efficiency; and progressives, who advocate for the city’s working class and poor. Street Fight only covers San Francisco politics, but I think the same factions can be seen in other cities.

Book Cover

The City & The City, China Miéville

This was my favorite book from 2013. Most of China Miéville’s books that I have read are so depressing, it’s hard for me to get into them. This one is different – it takes place more or less in the real world and is notationally a detective novel. The book’s metaphor of a divided city, each half willfully invisible to the other should ring true to any urban dweller. There is so much we refuse to see.

Book Cover

Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike, Grant Petersen

Grant Petersen is founder of Rivendell Bicycle Works and one of cycling’s biggest retrogrouches. His style of riding (“just ride”) is an inspiration to me. Just Ride has a bunch of great advice (and some crazy advice) about becoming a better cyclist without spending a ton of money on spandex and carbon fiber (Grant will be happy to take your money for one of his $4000 steel frame bikes, though.).

Here’s the complete list of books I read in 2013:

Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, Christopher Hayes

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt

Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity, J.E. Lendon

Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations, Norman Davies

Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin

Tooth and Claw, Jo Walton

Among Others, Jo Walton

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

In Search of Zarathustra, Paul Kriwaczek

Pavane, Keith Roberts

The Restoration Game, Ken MacLeod

Seed, Rob Ziegler

Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision, Roberta Wohlstetter

Gods Behaving Badly, Marie Phillips

Leviathan Wakes, James S.A. Corey

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Wool Omnibus, Hugh Howey

Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire, Judith Herrin

The Faded Sun: Kesrith, C.J. Cherryh

Caliban’s War, James S.A. Corey

The Faded Sun: Shon’jir, C.J. Cherryh

Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco, Jason Henderson

The Faded Sun: Kutath, C.J. Cherryh

Abaddon’s Gate, James S.A. Corey

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, George Saunders

The City & The City, China Miéville

The Twilight of the Bombs: Recent Challenges, New Dangers, and the Prospects for a World Without Nuclear Weapons, Richard Rhodes

Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike, Grant Petersen

The Mirage, Matt Ruff

The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack, Nicholas Gurewitch

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer our Most Important Question – Why We Suffer, Bart D. Ehrman

The Enlightened Cyclist: Commuter Angst, Dangerous Drivers, and Other Obstacles on the Path to Two-Wheeled Transcendence, Ebein Weiss (Bike Snob NYC)

Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel

Kindred, Octavia E. Butler

Wide-Body: The Triumph of the 747, Clive Irving

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, John le Carré

The Fractal Prince, Hannu Ranjaniemi

Matter, Ian M. Banks

Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – And Doesn’t, Stephen Prothero

The Democracy Project: A History, A Crisis, A Movement, David Graeber

Beyond the Blue Event Horizon, Frederik Pohl