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    • Last year was the first time I took reading seriously (outside of my studies), and I managed to read 12 books throughout the entire year. I didn't want it to be a one time thing. I wanted reading to be something I did as a habit, and so I continued reading this year, and I'm happy to share that I've read a total of 13 books this year!

      Here's a summary of each book I've read in 2020.

      Malice - Keigo Higashino

      The first book I read this year was by Japanese author Keigo Higashino, the author best known for his best selling novel, The Devotion of Suspect X. I didn't read that book, but I loved Malice, and so I'll be looking to read his first big hit sometime in the future. This book was a great way to start 2020. It's a crime novel that doesn't focus on trying to figure out who the murderer is or how the crime was committed. Those questions are already solved early on. But the lead detective doesn't believe the "why" that the killer confesses to, so the story develops as the detective tries to uncover the true motive behind the murder, and the plot twists and turns all the way until the very end. A brilliant plot narrated in a brilliant manner, this book was definitely one of my favourites of the year.

      Zero Day - Ezekiel Boone

      The third and final entry into a trilogy I started reading last year. The third book was the best in the series in my opinion, a perfect cherry on top. The story revolves around a race of ancient spiders who have been awoken and are terrorising the entire planet as they attack/eat humans and form their own colonies. The spiders are of course, defeated in the end and the world begins to rebuild. This is the first trilogy I've completed, and overall it was very enjoyable. The first two books were rather slow as far as plot development goes, and I felt after finishing this book that if the story were to be turned into a movie, the entire trilogy could be told in a single movie and it wouldn't be a problem.

      The Firm - John Grisham

      The highest rated book (on Goodreads) I read this year was The Firm by John Grisham, and I can completely understand why it was rated so highly. It was a thrilling story about a young lawyer who gets recruited by a top law firm only to be told by the FBI that the firm actually deals in many illegitimate businesses. Now working as a mole for the FBI, the young lawyer must find evidence to bring the firm down without getting caught. It was a real page turner and I got through the 500+ pages in just over 3 weeks (I usually give myself a month to finish a book). I watched the movie adaptation after completing this book and hated it so much that it made me appreciate the book even more.

      Soft in the Head - Marie-Sabine Roger

      I wanted to try reading something outside my wheelhouse, and this book was so far out of my comfort zone that I wanted to give it a try. Turned out to be a bad decision. Despite being half the length of The Firm, it took me one day more to finish it compared to the former. That's how much of a chore it was to read. I just didn't enjoy it. Found the story to be boring, the characters were not interesting, I just didn't like anything about it. My least favourite book of the year.

      Pop Goes the Weasel - James Patterson

      This was the second Alex Cross novel I read by James Patterson, and though it started off very interestingly, the end was a slight let down for me. We know from the beginning who the serial killer is, and Alex Cross (the lead detective) does too, so the story kind of turns into a courtroom drama by the end to see if the suspect actually gets indicted. Still, it was an intriguing book with a role-playing Dungeons & Dragons-esque element to the story.

      Righteous Fury - Markus Heitz

      My first fantasy book of the year was a good one. Though not as great as the fantasy books I read last year, Righteous Fury was still a very well written fantasy novel. This book is actually part of a sister series to another fantasy series the author wrote previously. It is set in the same world as the earlier series but predates the first book. So if you were to combine both series into a chronological order, this book would actually be the first in the collective series. It tells the story of the Alfar, an elf-like race with an obsessive fascination with death and art, who are also extremely skilled warriors. The Alfar are basically looking to strengthen their sovereignty, and to do so they wish to enlist the help of a mystical demon. If they accomplish that, their first target will be the kingdom of the dwarves, which leads up to the first book of the Dwarves Saga, which I just purchased last month. I'm definitely looking forward to reading it.

      The Silence - Tim Lebbon

      This book was similar to the trilogy I read about the man-eating spiders. In this book another ancient race of creatures called vesps emerge from a cave after millenia of isolation. These creatures are basically giant bats, completely blind and they fly around navigating using echo location. Oh, they prey on humans too. The book pretty much feels like the novelisation of A Quiet Place, where the main family in the story must learn to survive without sound. The family even has a deaf daughter, so they already know sign language, just like A Quiet Place. For the most part the book was enjoyable. It starts off immediately with the release of the vesps from their cave, and civilisation slowly descends into anarchy. The book starts off each chapter with social media posts or news reports which depict what's going on in the world outside of what the family is experiencing, which is smart. My biggest problem is that the book feels incomplete. There's no resolution to the problem. The book just, ends. A Quiet Place ends the same way, but it feels more complete, whereas this book just seems to lack closure. The book had potential, and I did enjoy most of it, but the end was a bit of a disappointment.

      1st to Die - James Patterson

      Another James Patterson novel, but this time a different series. One that I have come to absolutely love. 1st to Die is the first book in the Women's Murder Club series, which isn't exactly what it sounds like. The club isn't made up of female murderers, but rather a group of women who come together to solve murders - a detective, the city chief medical examiner and assistant district attorney, and a reporter. They each bring something to the table and together help catch a brutal serial killer who is killing newly weds on their honeymoon. To make matters worse, the detective is fighting a potentially fatal blood disease as she's trying to track down this serial killer. It's a great crime novel, a great introduction to the series, and it got me hooked.

      The Gunslinger - Stephen King

      I was looking forward to reading this book, which is the most popular book from my list on Goodreads. Stephen King is an author of legendary status. I've heard of him from when I was a kid back when all I read were Archie's comics. Which is probably why I was so let down by this book. I just, didn't get it. I had no idea what was going on, I didn't enjoy it, I didn't understand the ending. If someone asked me what the book was about, I honestly couldn't tell them because I have no clue. The writing was good, as was the vocabulary. Nothing quite like it. The story was the problem. It was so hard for me to get invested in it that I took more than two months to finish it. I'm unlikely to pickup another Stephen King novel after this.

      Mary Mary - James Patterson

      My third James Patterson novel and second Alex Cross novel of the year. I enjoyed this book much more than I did Pop Goes the Weasel. What's great about this book is the confusion we face concerning the identity of the killer. One moment we read about "The Storyteller", a man who we are led to believe is the murderer. Next thing you know, the murderer is a female called "Mary" who sends emails to a journalist after each murder she commits, something like a confession and also to gloat. You might think that maybe The Storyteller is merely using a fake name to throw the police off his trail, but Mary is an actual person in the story, not a fake persona. So we're left to wonder who the real killer is and what the relation is between The Storyteller and Mary. It's a great story, one of my favourite Alex Cross novels.

      Body of Evidence - Patricia Cornwell

      I first read a Patricia Cornwell novel last year and I enjoyed it immensely. I got the second book in the Kay Scarpetta series this year and it was as expected, a brilliant read. The main selling point of this series for me is that it is told entirely from the perspective of the main character, Dr. Kay Scarpetta. Whatever she knows, we know, so if she only identifies the murderer in the last chapter of the book, that's when we learn the identity as well. Patricia Cornwell's writing is so fluid and incredibly entertaining. This was a really enjoyable read with a great story of a serial killer and a missing manuscript which could be worth millions.

      2nd Chance - James Patterson

      The second book in the Women's Murder Club series was my fourth and final James Patterson novel of the year, and it lifted the series above Alex Cross on my list of favourite James Patterson series. This second book was even more enjoyable than 1st to Die. Starts off on a shocking note with a public shooting, followed by a sniper kill after luring the victim into a trap, then a few attempts on the girls of the Women's Murder Club too, and ending in a showdown between the killer (who has the high ground in a sniper position) and the main character who must avoid being shot on her way to apprehend the killer. I finished this 400-page novel in less than two weeks! That's how much I enjoyed it. I just couldn't wait to see what happened next. I have the third book in the series already, and I hope I'll enjoy it just as much as this book, if not more.

      The Miernik Dossier - Charles McCarry

      My 13th book of the year, which was a bonus as I only planned on reading 12, was a very unique reading experience. The story is not told in the traditional narrative, neither in the third-person perspective nor the first person perspective. Well, it kind of is, but not in the way you expect. This tale of international espionage involves a group of spies, and their story unfolds in the form of a dossier (the book), filled with incident reports, intercepted communications, transcribed conversations, journal entries, and letters. So we aren't reading a "story" per se, but instead a case report of an operation that has taken place. The story itself wasn't that compelling, but the format was. A really interesting book to round off my 2020 reading list.

      Those were the 13 books I read this year, one more than I achieved last year. I already have the books I plan to read next year (might still pickup one or two throughout the year) and it's a pretty nice collection. What have you read in 2020? Did you manage a bit more than you usually do because of the pandemic and lockdowns? Share your list here with the rest of Cake!

    • The Firm - John Grisham

      Yes, fabulous book!!! It seems crazy, I have lived so many unusual lives, but once upon a time I was at Barnes & Noble in its heyday and they assigned me to four authors — among them John Grisham. He's prickly. His agent and I spent hours and hours on the phone and his agent said John's real strength is character development and he needs a fairly long story to do it well. He's tried short stories but couldn't pull it off.

    • I like how goodreads tracks and counts what books you have read. Cool feature!

      I must confess I gave up recording a track of what volumes I read annually, many years ago.

      So I went online and tracked down what invoices I could find for 2020 that I know I read, in 2020.

      I found about 40 volumes, scattered among science fiction, history, ethics, science fact, and travel literature. Staying at home gave me more time to read this year, perhaps. Stiil it's less than one book a week.

      I spent a fair amount of time last year with Paul Theroux, Neil Pert, Mathew Crawford, James S A Corey, FrederIck Olmstead, Max Brooks, and most especially Thomas Sowell's writing.

      Here's most of them in the calendar order I read them, most recent on bottom of the list

      On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey
      Theroux, Paul

      Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads
      Theroux, Paul

      Dark Star Safari
      Paul Theroux

      Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide
      Tony Horwitz

      The Overstory: A Novel
      Powers, Richard

      Stephenson, Neal

      Network Effect: A Murderbot Novel (The Murderbot Diaries Book 5)
      Wells, Martha

      Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World
      Spinney, Laura

      The Illustrated Longitude: The True Story of the Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time 1st (first) Thus Edition by Sobel

      Imperfect Union: How Jessie and John Frémont Mapped the West, Invented Celebrity, and Helped Cause the Civil War
      Inskeep, Steve

      The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz
      Larson, Erik

      Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe
      Strogatz, Steven

      Blue Moon: A Jack Reacher Novel
      Child, Lee

      The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life
      Lane, Nick

      Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work
      Crawford, Matthew B.

      Nino and Me: An Intimate Portrait of Scalia's Last Years
      Garner, Bryan A.

      Why We Drive: Toward a Philosophy of the Open Road
      Crawford, Matthew B.

      Far and Wide
      Peart, Neil

      The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing: Long-Distance Motorcycling's Endless Road
      Pierson, Melissa Holbrook

      The Storm Before the Calm: America's Discord, the Coming Crisis of the 2020s, and the Triumph Beyond
      Friedman, George

      Passionate Minds: Emilie du Chatelet, Voltaire, and the Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment
      Bodanis, David

      The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440-1870
      Thomas, Hugh

      Neil Peart: Cultural Repercussions: An in-depth examination of the words, ideas, and professional life of Neil Peart, man of letters.

      The Butcher of Anderson Station: A Story of The Expanse
      Corey, James S. A.

      Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries Book 6)
      Wells, Martha

      The Vision of the Anointed: Self-congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy
      Sowell, Thomas

      The Cotton Kingdom: A Traveller's Observations On Cotton And Slavery In The American Slave States, 1853-1861
      Olmsted, Frederick Law

      The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
      Carr, Nicholas

      Game Control: A Novel
      Shriver, Lionel

      The Girl Beneath the Sea (Underwater Investigation Unit Book 1)
      Mayne, Andrew

      Don't Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training The New Art of Teaching and Training
      Pryor, Karen

      Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre
      Brooks, Max

      Intellectuals and Society Revised and Expanded Edition
      Sowell, Thomas

      The Notebooks of Lazarus Long
      Heinlein, Robert A.

      The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-made Landscape
      Kunstler, James Howard

      Gods of Risk: An Expanse Novella (The Expanse)
      Corey, James S. A.

      Leviathan Wakes - my second reading
      Corey, James S. A.

      Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections on Sixty and Beyond
      McMurtry, Larry

      In a Narrow Grave: Essays on Texas
      McMurtry, Larry

      Roads: Driving America's Great Highways
      McMurtry, Larry

      Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World
      Winchester, Simon

      As I have stated in other posts here on cake, I have a strong tendency to find an author I either enjoy or find knowledgeable and informative in a manner that engages me, and then pursue items they have written.

      In this list I have several books written by authors I have read many volumes of, including Thomas Sowell, Simon Winchester, Larry McMurtry, James S A Corey, Martha Wells, Frederick L Olmstead, Max Brooks, Robert Heinlein, Lionel Shriver, Melissa Holbrook Pierson, Lee Child, Erik Larson, Tony Horwitz, and Matthew Crawford.

      I think every book on this list is well worth the time to read it and contemplate it.

      Sobel's history of the invention of a reliable clock mechanism which enabled the British Navy to accurately determine a ship's longitude at sea is a great story of perseverance and eventual success - it led me to see and photograph the clocks in the Royal Observatory at Greenwich built by John Harrison, and his winning the Longitude Prize in the summer of 1773.

      Theroux's Dark Star Safari desribes the trials and tribulations experienced as he walked from Cairo to Capetown - on foot in Africa. Imagine walking through Somalia and the Congo as a 6.5 foot tall white man alone, on foot.....He was shot at several times......

      The Cotton Kingdom was written in the decade before the Civil War, by the developer of Central Park, and describes the author's interactions with the citizens, slaves, and aristocrats of the pre Civil War south as he travelled on foot, or horseback, across most of the southern states. He was there, before the war, describing what the South was really like in the New York newspapers. He clearly saw war coming...... It is worthwile to read what he saw and experienced.

      My father taught me as a child, that reading books allows us to peer into the mind of people we will never meet in person, indeed we can read the thoughts of authors who died in previous centuries.

      One volume like this is Ulyses S Grant's autobiography, written as he, himself, was facing death from an oral cancer after the close of his presidency. One can make a pretty strong case that Grant, not Lincoln, saved the union both as a general and as a president. It was his administration that passed the 15th amendment guaranteeing the right to vote to black citizens.

      James SA Corey's series of volumes called The Expanse are first rate science fiction, even better when I reread them the second time last year.

      Let's see who else will post their reading lists for 2020.

    • Two book that should be on your to read list, if you have not yet read them:

      The Past Through Tomorrow by Heinlein

      Team Of Rivals by D. K. Goodwin (Discusses why Lincoln clashed with Frémont)

    • I read Team of Rivals when it was released, I probably should read it again as its been a while. It was, and still is, a remarkable work. Lincoln was so much more savy about leading a nation than the East Coast political parties powers that be expected. AN amzing story.

      I am not familiar with The Past Through Tomorrow, even though I began reading Heinlein when I was in grade school. I'll look it up.

      Well, that's interesting - I see volumes of Heinlein's The Past Through Tomorrow offered for sale for anywhere from $300.00 to $500.00 per volume, but I also see used paperback volumes offered for about 20 bucks. There seems to be a strong market still for this set of stories, or someone is just very optimistic about the demand for a book published in in hardback in January 1, 1987, but the paperback is said to be published ( on Amazon's site ) on Jan 1, 1705 which I kinda doubt. 😎

      There is a single used paperback version available for $19.28 which I ordered. We'll see if it ever shows up - it is expected to arrive before March 🥺

      Speaking of Fremont! Steve Inskeep wrote "Imperfect Union: How Jessie and John Fremont Mapped the West, Invented Celebrity, and Helped Cause the Civil War" is a rowsing read too.

    • Team of Rivals was FASCINATING!!

      True story: I hired Doris Kearns Goodwin to write an essay jointly with her constitutional scholar husband about the 5th amendment. She did a fabulous job.

      She was under contract at the time to write Team of Rivals so the CEO of Simon and Schuster called me and threatened to sue. He demanded I come to his office, where he sat on a chair that was pretty high up and put me on a couch pretty far down and read me the riot act. He said Doris was way late with her book.

      Of course, Doris never told us about the book, but when we told her our experience with Simon & Schuster, she said "Oh, I just needed a break from the book." She had been working on it for 8 years, if memory serves, and her previous book — of FDR — had won a Pulitzer Prize. I hope I'm remembering this right.

      She said she had done tons of research for the book but still couldn't think of the angle that would make it different from other Lincoln biographies. She finally did and it was worth the wait.

    • It was because you mentioned that book in your previous post that I had mentioned Team of Rivals.

      I'll also tell you that it was because of Lazarus Long that I mentioned Past Through Tomorrow. That is where I was introduced to Lazarus Long. The first Lazarus Long story was published in 1939, I think.

      The Past Through Tomorrow compilation was published in 1967 and I first read it soon after it was published. Not sure exactly when, but I think that it was prior to 1970.

    • Hey, I think our reading interests are quite similar! I've read several of the books you've read and had similar reactions. I think I'll check out some of the other ones you recommend :)

      If I may, I'd like to make a couple sci-fi recommendations too!

      Definitely check out Childhood's End (also by Arthur C. Clarke). A very different take on the 'aliens assisting the next step of human evolution' theme from 2001.

      Also, Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Cracking story and lots of clever references to golden age sci-fi that I personally like :)

      Regards, printsbery