Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Best books 2010-2015

I've got 6 years of book reviews under my belt now.  I thought I'd pull out the 5 and 4.5 star books. 5 star books I consider to be brilliant and/or opened my eyes to a new way of thinking.  I would heartily recommend all the books below to anyone, no matter what their interests.  Actually, there are a couple of exceptions if you're not into ag/gardening ...

5 stars: 11 books
"The Rosie Project" Graeme Simsion. 5 stars. Hilarious. Brilliantly done. Engrossing.
"A Place Of My Own" Michael Pollan. 5 stars. Boy can he write! A stunning account of building and architecture.
"Infidel" Ayaan Hirsi Ali. 5 stars. Wow. Eye-opening. Shocking. More than a little worrying! Compulsory reading.
"Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall. 5 stars. Brilliant. Perfect mix of story telling and popular science. Will make you want to run ...
"The New Organic Grower" by Eliot Coleman. 5 stars. The ultimate guide to market gardening. Some new ideas. Makes me want to try!
"Meat: A Benign Extravagance" by Simon Fairlie. 5 stars. A brilliant examination of livestock and farming systems. For the ag nerd.
"The Omnivore's Dilemma" Michael Pollan
"Wild Swans" Jung Chang
"In Defense of Food" Michael Pollan
"This Accursed Land" by Lennard Bickel
"The Black Swan" Nassim Nicholas Taleb

4.5 stars: 22 books
"Island Home" Tim Winton. 4.5 stars. At last! Captures the strength of place that is Australia. Spoke to me strongly. Wonderfully written. Wed Feb 03 10:14:28 +0000 2016
"This Changes Everything" @NaomiAKlein. 4.5 stars. Unashamedly left-wing view on climate change, extractivism & democracy. Change is coming! Thu Dec 17 01:07:57 +0000 2015
"The Martian" Andy Weir" 4.5 stars. What a cracker of a story! Totally over-the-top and with some dubious bits, but heaps of fun. Sun Apr 26 00:40:42 +0000 2015
"Farmer Boy" Laura Ingalls Wilder. 4.5 stars. Such a warm immersion in the wholesome world of 19th century farming. A lot of work though! Mon Mar 02 08:50:21 +0000 2015 
"Blood & Guts" Sam Vincent. 4.5 stars. Ouch, @seashepherd counter-productive, Australia shallow and Japan patriotic. Great analysis & prose. Fri Jan 09 06:10:20 +0000 2015 
"Radical Homemakers" Shannon Hayes. 4.5 stars. A manifesto for living a home-based, non-consumptive life. Domesticity == revolutionary!
"On The Trail Of Genghis Khan" Tim Cope. 4.5 stars. Seemless and enthralling, historical, cultural and personal. A staggering achievement.
"Down To This" Shaugnessy Bishop-Stall. 4.5 stars. Hard-hitting, revealing, intense look inside homelessness. 

"The Secret Garden" Francis Burnett. 4.5 stars. The gentle awakening touch of nature, the Magic of life. Rang true and pulled the heart ...
"A Storm of Swords" George RR Martin. 4.5 stars. Blimey, he really hits his straps in this one. Great to be re-reading these.
"Mindsight" Daniel Siegel. 4.5 stars. Clear and rational explanation for how the brain/mind/emotions work. Very helpful & revealing.
"The Australian Moment" George Megalogenis. 4.5 stars. Politics and the economy as never been so interesting! Must read for recent Aus h ...
"The Antidote" Oliver Burkmann. 4.5 stars. A superb synthesis of pragmatic philosophies for how to live well. Must read! 

"The Wise Man's Fear" by Patrick Rothfuss. 4.5 stars. I wonder where it will go but don't care. Getting there is such a pleasure. 
"2001: A Space Odyssey" Arthur C. Clarke
"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" J. K. Rowling
"Del Del" Victor Kelleher
"Hybrid: The History and Science of Plant Breeding" Noel Kingsbury 

"Cooper's Creek" Alan Moorehead
"The Explorers" Tim Flannery
"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" Barbara Kingsolver
"Fooled by Randomness" Nassim Nicholas Tale

"1984" George Orwell
"Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations" David R. Montgomery

Book reviews 2015

It's that time of year again.  Here are all the books I read in 2015.

No 5 star books this year!  It did feel like I was missing some high calibre reading.  Or perhaps I am getting more critical as time goes on ...

43 books in total - much the same as 2014.

4.5 stars: 5 books
"Island Home" Tim Winton. 4.5 stars. At last! Captures the strength of place that is Australia. Spoke to me strongly. Wonderfully written. Wed Feb 03 10:14:28 +0000 2016
"This Changes Everything" @NaomiAKlein. 4.5 stars. Unashamedly left-wing view on climate change, extractivism & democracy. Change is coming! Thu Dec 17 01:07:57 +0000 2015
"The Martian" Andy Weir" 4.5 stars. What a cracker of a story! Totally over-the-top and with some dubious bits, but heaps of fun. Sun Apr 26 00:40:42 +0000 2015
"Farmer Boy" Laura Ingalls Wilder. 4.5 stars. Such a warm immersion in the wholesome world of 19th century farming. A lot of work though! Mon Mar 02 08:50:21 +0000 2015 
"Blood & Guts" Sam Vincent. 4.5 stars. Ouch, @seashepherd counter-productive, Australia shallow and Japan patriotic. Great analysis & prose. Fri Jan 09 06:10:20 +0000 2015 

4 stars: 9 books
"Dirt Music" Tim Winton. 4 stars. Immersive and beautifully crafted, but climax was out of place. Okay, so maybe I can get into his writing. Wed Feb 03 10:08:13 +0000 2016

"Dark Emu" Bruce Pascoe. 4 stars. Shocking that Aboriginal agriculture is so unknown - a revelation! Sun Nov 08 03:05:48 +0000 2015
"The Wahls Protocol" Terry Wahls. 4 stars. Sums up my approach to health and chronic illness. Now just to get all 9 cups of vegies ... Thu Jul 23 08:30:41 +0000 2015
"Words of Radiance" Brandon Sanderson. 4 stars. Really suckered me in, even with its slow pace. Does everyone have to be a hero though? Thu Jul 23 08:29:25 +0000 2015
"Ishi in two worlds" Theodora Kroeben. 4 stars. The last "wild" Indian. Humble and accepting, despite losing everything. Such wisdom! Fri Jun 05 03:04:13 +0000 2015
"The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible" Charles Eisenstein. 4 stars. Amazing transformative ideas, but hard to stay engaged. Sun Apr 26 00:37:59 +0000 2015 
"The Third Plate" Dan Barber. 4 stars. A chef's unfolding understanding of the food system and how to make it sustainable. Mon Mar 02 09:00:13 +0000 2015 
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" Roald Dahl. 4 stars. A joy to revisit this classic tale of fun and frivolity. I love Dahl's irreverence! Mon Mar 02 08:57:23 +0000 2015
"Healing Is Possible" Neil Nathan. 4 stars. Practical approaches to treating chronic illness and pain. Some good ideas and experience here. Wed Feb 04 05:12:45 +0000 2015
 
3.5 stars: 13 books
"We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves" Karen Joy Fowler. 3.5 stars. Engaging read on family, psychology and animal rights. Thu Dec 17 01:09:33 +0000 2015
"Saturdee" Norman Lindsey. 3.5 stars. Evocative tale of childhood in late 19th century rural Australia. Fantastic language, and totally mad! Thu Dec 17 01:05:29 +0000 2015
"Limits to Growth Revisited" Ugo Bardi. 3.5 stars. Good explanation of dynamic modelling, but too much attention on responding to critics. Thu Dec 17 01:01:25 +0000 2015
"The Thousand Mile Summer" Colin Fletcher. 3.5 stars. A simple (but long) walk the length of California. Engaging & captivatingly beautiful. Sun Nov 08 03:07:53 +0000 2015
"The Way of Kings" Brandon Sanderson. 3.5 stars. Some good characters and ideas, addictive fantasy, but perhaps overly drawn out. Fri Jun 05 03:05:32 +0000 2015
"Railsea" China Mieville. 3.5 stars. Awesome and improbable concept, but unconvincing ending. Mon May 11 01:04:53 +0000 2015
"Little House on the Prairie" Laura Ingalls Wilder. 3.5 stars. Sweet pioneering story shot through with heartache of American Indian loss. Sun Apr 26 00:34:27 +0000 2015
"The Wayfinders" Wade Davis. 3.5 stars. A compelling argument for maintaining cultural diversity. Trad Polynesian navigation = incredible! Tue Apr 07 03:44:11 +0000 2015
"The Feel-Good Hit of the Year" Liam Pieper. 3.5 stars. What a sheltered life I have led. Many thanks to my boring conservative parents ;). Tue Apr 07 03:41:49 +0000 2015 
"Paradise Lot" Eric Toensmeier. 3.5 stars. A real-world small-scale food forest. Specifics not that applicable to Tas, but exciting concepts Tue Mar 10 02:06:48 +0000 2015 
"The Slow Regard of Silent Things" Patrick Rothfuss. 3.5 stars. Sweet, gentle and a little lonesome. Drifts along nicely with little intent. Mon Mar 02 09:02:18 +0000 2015 
"The Paleo Approach" Sarah Ballantyne. 3.5 stars. Dietary treatment for autoimmunity: no grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy OR nightshades! Mon Mar 02 08:48:50 +0000 2015 
"Red Mars" trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson. 3.5 stars. Brings the colonisation of Mars to life - amazing technology, difficult humans, Wed Feb 04 05:13:51 +0000 2015 

3 stars: 11 books
"The Giver" Lois Lowry. 3 stars. Maybe my mind was on holiday, but this didn't amaze me or get me thinking. Perhaps more relevant to youth. Wed Feb 03 10:18:00 +0000 2016
"The Good Man Jesus & the Scoundrel Christ" @PhilipPullman. 3 stars. A great idea but ultimately a strong message didn't come through. Wed Feb 03 10:12:09 +0000 2016
"The Well of Ascension" @BrandSanderson. 3 stars. Builds well on the first book. I like the way he resolves the plot, but it grows deeper. Thu Dec 17 01:11:05 +0000 2015
"All Joy and No Fun" Jennifer Senior. 3 stars. Well-rounded look at the rewards and challenges of modern parenting. Mon Jun 29 03:41:03 +0000 2015
"Caleb's Crossing" Geraldine Brooks. 3 stars. Fascinating slice of history that I was unfamiliar with - late 17thC colonial America. Mon Jun 29 03:39:55 +0000 2015
"Dodger" Terry Pratchett. 3 stars. Good characters and historical context, but didn't draw me in. Mon May 11 00:41:29 +0000 2015
"Dead Lucky" Lincoln Hall. 3 stars. Incredible mountaineering survival story, but lost in too much detail. Sun Apr 26 00:38:54 +0000 2015
"The E-Myth Revisited" Michael Gerber. 3 stars. Source needs to be more like McDonalds! Small business success through a franchising mindset Sun Apr 26 00:36:06 +0000 2015
"The Roving Party" Rohan Wilson. 3 stars. Brutal and gloomy. What a dark history we have. Tue Apr 07 03:45:07 +0000 2015
"English Passengers" Matthew Kneale. 3 stars. A good tale, but characterisation of historical figures too blunt and over-the-top. Tue Jan 06 03:26:00 +0000 2015
"The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" Rachel Joyce. 3 stars. Largely unremarkable, but a pleasant read. A somewhat woeful end. Tue Jan 06 03:24:32 +0000 2015


2.5 stars: 3 books
 "Infamy" Lenny Bartulin. 2.5 stars. Tasmanian historical fiction. Too many characters, not enough plot. Sun Nov 08 03:10:03 +0000 2015
"The Final Empire" Brandon Sanderson. 2.5 stars. A simple good vs evil plot with some good ideas, but feels like a first novel. Fri Sep 25 09:44:30 +0000 2015
 "Trigger Warning" Neil Gaiman. 2.5*. Some good short stories, but mostly I missed the point of them and they weren't unsettling as intended. Sat Aug 15 02:28:47 +0000 2015

2 stars: 2 books
"Sand" Hugh Howey. 2 stars. Had potential, but not convincing. Sun Nov 08 03:04:12 +0000 2015
"The Guns of Navarone" Alistair MacLean. 2 stars. A bit of mindless action-packed war heroism. Thu Jul 23 08:26:58 +0000 2015