I miss reading for pleasure. Alongside the standard lament of being too busy/tired/lazy, one of the professional hazards of being an academic is having to read “lots of stuff” (broadly defined). Previously, I have tried to identify a set of books in January to read in the year ahead, with minimal success. But with the multitude of challenges from the last year including little, if any, travelling, I have made a conscious effort to chip away at the stack of books that I’d been collecting over recent years.
As you see from the combination of physical books and audiobooks listed below — including a number of re-reads, annotated by [⟳] — there’s a good chunk of both fiction (largely sci-fi/fantasy) and non-fiction, aligning to some of the key themes that have defined this year(!). I was actually surprised at how many books I’d finished this year when I compiled this list; but sets an ambitious target for attacking the “never even touched” book pile next year.
So, in reading/listening order:
- Superior: The Return of Race Science (2019) by Angela Saini
- Lying for Money: How Legendary Frauds Reveal the Workings of Our World (2019) by Dan Davies
- Fatherland (1992) by Robert Harris [⟳]
- Diaries: Into Politics 1972-1982 (2000) by Alan Clark [⟳]
- Diaries: In Power 1983-1992 (1993) by Alan Clark [⟳]
- Diaries: The Last Diaries 1993–1999 (2002) by Alan Clark
- Gotta Get Theroux This: My Life and Strange Times on Television (2019) by Louis Theroux
- How to Argue With a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality (2020) by Adam Rutherford
- The Death of the Gods: The New Global Power Grab (2019) by Carl Miller
- The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
- The Fifth Season (2016) by N. K. Jemisin (The Broken Earth trilogy Book I) [⟳]
- The Obelisk Gate (2016) by N. K. Jemisin (The Broken Earth trilogy Book II) [⟳]
- The Stone Sky (2017) by N. K. Jemisin (The Broken Earth trilogy Book III) [⟳]
- What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (2015) by Randall Munroe
- Dune (2006) by Frank Herbert [⟳, but first time audiobook]
- The Rules of Contagion: Why Things Spread — and Why They Stop (2020) by Adam Kucharski
- HHhH (2013) by Laurent Binet
- Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men (2020) by Caroline Criado Perez
- Surprisingly Down to Earth, and Very Funny: My Autobiography (2019) by Limmy
Whilst reluctant to formally rate or rank any of the above titles, my favourites of 2020 were as follows:
- HHhH (2013) by Laurent Binet, which recounts Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich in Prague in 1942. The title of the book is an initialism for “Himmlers Hirn heißt Heydrich” (“Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich”), a quip about Heydrich in SS circles.
- Brian Limmond’s a.k.a.Limmy‘s autobiography (2019), offering intimate, candid and hilarious insight into the life and world of the Scottish comedian.
- And an honourable mention to the excellent The Broken Earth trilogy (2016-2017) by N. K. Jemisin, thrice winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel in consecutive years for these books; I have no doubt I will re-read them again in the near future.