At the beginning of the year I set myself a goal - read one book a month for the entire year. This was to be a big challenge for me because I never took reading seriously before. The only reading I did was social media, academic, or internet articles about pop culture, sports, technology, etc. So I set off on my hopeful journey, and here I am 12 months later happy to announce that I have accomplished my mission.
I wanted to look back at all the books I read and so I thought about sharing my trip down memory lane here on Cake. Here's the list of books I read this year.
I, Alex Cross: - James Patterson
My friend bought this book for me a few years ago hoping to encourage me to start reading regularly. It didn't work at the time, but when I decided to start reading this year it just made sense to start with this book. It was a good book, crime and mysteries are a genre I really like and I finished it in just two weeks. It really got me motivated to continue with my project. I became a fan of James Patterson and I recently bought two more of his books to read next year.
Tuesdays with Morrie - Mitch Albom
I borrowed this book from my friend (the same one who bought me my first book) since I didn't have any other books to read after completing my first book. It's one of her all-time favourite books so she recommended it to me. It's a heartwarming story about a man who finds one of his old college professors again just as he is about to pass away. Wisdom and life lessons were passed from one generation to another, and from the author to the reader. A good light read which I really enjoyed.
The Hatching - Ezekiel Boone
The first book I bought for myself was about giant spiders attacking mankind. What does that say about me 🤣 This sci-fi story is about an ancient species of giant spiders that have been dormant for centuries (if I remember correctly) but have suddenly reemerged and are attacking humans around the world. The US, India, and China are among the first countries to get attacked, and so a global effort is undertaken to not only figure out where these giant spiders came from, but more importantly how to stop them. One thing that interested me about this book was that it didn't have chapter numbers. Each chapter was set in a different state or country, and that served as the "chapter title". It was something I never really expected or thought about before, and it was my first realisation of how different authors can have very different writing styles, something which I noticed even more as the year progressed.
Trust No One - Paul Cleave
I bought this book purely out of intrigue for the story. An author suffering from Alzheimer's confesses that the murders in his crime novels are all based on true stories, and he was the murderer in all of them. Trying to separate truth from fiction is the main focus of the story, and it is told in two distinct timelines - the present, which is a narration of current events, and the past, which is told in the form of journal entries written by the main character. As the story progresses the journal entries start to reveal secrets about the present, and eventually the journal entries catch up to the present, thus bringing the story full circle. I loved the writing style of this book, absolutely loved it. I just thought that it had a rather depressing and sad ending though.
Skitter - Ezekiel Boone
I enjoyed "The Hatching" enough that I decided to get the sequel. There's a respite in the attack of the giant spiders, so humanity is starting to think that maybe the threat is over. Of course as this is only the second book in the trilogy, that turns out to not be the case. The events of the first book were merely the first waves, paving the way for the more deadly subsequent attacks which bring about nuclear deterrents as a last resort. I have the third book in my possession now, so I'll get to it sometime next year to see how the story ends.
Elephants on Acid and Other Bizarre Experiments - Alex Boese
The name of the book is basically as descriptive as it gets. This is a compilation of bizarre but real scientific experiments that have been conducted in the past, most of which during the time before scientific standards and ethics were a thing. It's an interesting book, but I got bored of it after a while. Took me much longer to finish this book than I would've wanted.
Kings of the Wyld - Nicholas Eames
Easily my favourite book of the year. This fantasy novel tells the story of a group of retired mercenaries who were once the most famous and feared band around, Saga. They made the world safe for humans by killing monsters and protecting human settlements. Now they're old and retired, and newer bands kill monsters in arenas for sport. The band is forced into action for one last adventure though when one of the members' daughter and her own band is trapped in a faraway castle that is surrounded by a huge horde of monsters. Unable to get anybody else to join them on the rescue mission, the band of old mercenaries make their way to the castle, fighting off monsters, extreme weather, and their aching joints along the way. It's an amazing story that is incredibly written. The author did a remarkable job describing the world and the events that unfolded that I could just picture everything so vividly in my mind. Great writing, great story, great book. My favourite of the year.
Bloody Rose - Nicholas Eames
The follow up to "Kings of the Wyld". I loved the first book so much I immediately read the second book after I was done with the first. This book follows the story of Tam, a bard who is desperate for adventure, who yearns to be part of a band just like her late mother. She finds that band when she crosses paths with Fable, a band led by none other than Rose, who was rescued by her father in the previous book. Desperate to step out of her father's shadow, Rose embarks on a mission so ridiculous that many people think she's joking, and Tam goes along for the ride, writing songs and singing of the band's adventures along the way. This was also a great book and a great sequel to the first, but it's just a little bit behind in my opinion. Regardless, these two books by Nicholas Eames are my top books of the year and I can't wait for the third book to be published.
Containment - Hank Parker
This book got my attention for a couple of reasons. First, it was written by a former Homeland Security advisor specialising in bio- and agro-terrorism, which is interesting to me as a bio-scientist. Secondly, one of the locations in the book is Malaysia, so you know I'll be interested. However, this book wasn't very well received on Goodreads. It was the least popular book I read this year with only 200+ ratings, and also the lowest rated book I read, with a rating of just 3.22. Still, I gave it a go to see for myself how good (or bad) the book would be. Didn't turn out that well unfortunately. The writing style was very dry and rather dull. I could tell that the author tried really hard to inject his scientific knowledge into the story, but it just came off as a bit "know-it-all" and unnecessary. The story itself wasn't that intriguing either, pretty straightforward with little to no surprises. I can definitely see why the rating is as low as it is.
Postmortem - Patricia Cornwell
I was really excited to read this book. For starters, it was the first book by a female author I would have read this year. Secondly, it's yet another crime thriller which I'm already a fan of, but this time the main protagonist is a chief medical officer, whose biomedical scientific knowledge is key to solving the murders. The story was also told from a first-person perspective, which at the time was a first for me. Thirdly, this book was published in 1990, a good 30 years ago, which makes this the oldest book I've read this year. I was eager to see how different the language in this book would be compared to more modern novels, and it really was quite different, in a good way. I loved the style of writing, but I can't really put it into words myself. Unfortunately, one thing which is still the same after all this time is how difficult it is for women to be taken seriously in sectors which are typically considered a "man's domain". Despite being the chief medical officer, the main character still faces sexism and her opinions are often disregarded by the men she deals with, something which I'm sure women still have to put up with as we approach 2020. I feel like this book is a great example of how good books can withstand the test of time, perhaps even better than movies and TV shows. Despite being almost 30 years old, this book is still very enjoyable and apart from the outdated scientific aspects of the story, it is still very relevant and evergreen. I'm a fan of the author and of the book, so I'll be continuing the series moving forward.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
While "Containment" was the least popular book I read this year, this book was the most popular with more than 2.3 million ratings on Goodreads. I hadn't watched the movie so I had no idea what this story was about. It started off really slowly and I was struggling to find the motivation to continue reading the book, but once things started getting interesting the story got really interesting. This was probably the most shocking book I read this year, because I was completely taken by surprise once certain events started to unfold. It was nothing like I was expecting. As popular as the book is though, it wasn't my favourite. I felt the pacing was really off, starting really slowly and then the ending felt really rushed. The plot was actually quite interesting, just that it felt really dragged out. The protagonists both make a really good odd couple though, and their dynamic is interesting enough that I already bought both the second and third books in the trilogy.
Age of Assassins - R.J Barker
And here we are, with my final book of the year. As I found out from one of the reviews, your enjoyment of this book will depend largely on your expectations. I expected the story to be somewhat similar (though not identical) to the story of the Assassin's Creed video game franchise, which is why I came away disappointed. Though this is a tale of assassins, there's very little assassination in this book. It reads more like a mystery or a crime novel set in a world where assassins exist. It was average at best in my opinion, though the story did get slightly better towards the end. I didn't really enjoy it, so I won't be rushing to buy the next books in the series.
And there you have it. The 12 books I read this year. I really enjoyed this project and I'm thrilled that I met my goal. I'm also really glad that I decided to track my reading progress on Goodreads, which gave me a really cool summary of my year (linked in the tweet above). This started out as a project for 2019, but it has turned into a hobby of mine so I'll be continuing on this path for the foreseeable future. I already have a bunch of books ready to go for 2020, and I can't wait to get started.
What books have you read this year?