My favorite books of 2016

Time for my annual round up of books read in the past year with a few favorites noted.

Cadillac Desert

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, Marc Reiser

This is an eye-opening story of man’s hubris in the American West. Attempting to make the desert bloom led to uncountable environmental destruction. As the climate changes and water patterns change, will we attempt to hold on to the “Cadillac desert” at huge expense, or let farmers and communities wither? The present Oroville Dam disaster would fit right in as a chapter in this book.


Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari

Breezy and fun, but with a lot to think about. This book stuck with me.

My Ántonia

My Ántonia, Willa Cather

Based on reading this back in 2007, I consider it one of my favorite novels. So much so that we named our daughter after the title character. I was worried that I wouldn’t like it, but, if anything, the nostogia of the novel hit me harder now that I’m older.

From Bauhaus to Our House

From Bauhaus to Our House, Tom Wolfe

I am sure Tom Wolfe is an enormous dick in real life, but wow is his skewering of modernist architecture funny and satisfying.

San Francisco: La grille sur les collines<

San Francisco: La grille sur les collines / San Francisco: The Grid meets the Hills, Florence Lipsky

This is a fascinating and unique book about how San Francisco’s street grid is adapted to the landscape. Through a combination of greed, incompetence, hubris, and Yankee ingenuity, San Francisco’s city planners overlaid the standard American gridiron street pattern onto the penninsula’s topography. The result is San Francisco’s wildly undulating streets, which sometimes dead end spectacularly. Despite their best efforts, sometimes the grid could not be made to fit the landscape. These deformations are a major focus of the book and it features photos and illustrations of the effects in many neighborhoods across the city:

Telegraph Hill

For more pages from the book, check out this post on Map Library.

Below is the complete list of books I read in 2015:

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, Marc Reisner

Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force, Robert M. Farley

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari

A Shortage of Engineers, Robert Grossbach

The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss

Snowpiercer: The Escape, Jacques Lob, Jean-Marc Rochette (illustrator), and Virginie Selavy (translator)

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, Allie Brosh

My Ántonia, Willa Cather

The Alchemist, Paolo Bacigalupi

Straight Man, Richard Russo

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll

Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, Lewis Carroll

Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street, Michael Lewis

The Night Sessions, Ken MacLeod

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World, Steven Johnson

Terminal World, Alastair Reynolds

Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy, Robert H. Frank

Deadpool: The Complete Collection Volume 1, Daniel Way et al.

Minority Report, Philip K. Dick

From Bauhaus to Our House, Tom Wolfe

Wolf: The Lives of Jack London, James L. Haley

San Francisco: La grille sur les collines / San Francisco: The Grid Meets the Hills, Florence Lipsky

Pump Six and Other Stories, Paolo Bacigalupi

Bébé Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting, Pamela Bruckerman

Glup: Adventures in the Alimentary Canal, Mary Roach

Wine Wars: The Curse of the Blue Nun, the Miracle of Two Buck Chuck, and the Revenge of the Terroirists, Mike Veseth

Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-up Bubble, Dan Lyons

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, Stephen Greenblatt

You can also check out lists from previous years: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.