Books Review 2019

January 2, 2020

Last year I read 19 books without setting a specific goal so this year I decided to stick with a goal of 20 books. It felt like a comfortable goal. I read 21 books which I am pretty happy with.

The change in the distribution of books is interesting too. The last two years I read 10 and 14 nonfiction books, respectively. This year the trend continued and I read 18 nonfiction books. A big reason for that was that I got interested in two new topics: Earth/Life science and International affairs/Modern history.

In addition to that, I read 3 fiction books and abandoned 2 books.

I will cover the book I read in the sections below.

Nonfiction

Earth/Life Science

I began the year by finishing reading Your Inner Fish which talked about the start of life on Earth and how humans eventually evolved from that life. At the time, I was looking for a book that listed interesting examples of adaptation found in various species. This book wasn't exactly that so I ended up not enjoying it a lot.

I ended up not reading anything for a few months. Then I read an interesting comment on Reddit about geology and I thought studying rocks is kind of cool so I started looking for interesting books on geology. That's what led me to finding The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet. I absolutely loved the book. The main point of emphasis for the book is that while Earth geology affected life, life also affect Earth's geology. The book goes through the various phases of the Earth and how life was impacted in those phases (and vice-versa). I learned a lot of new things and it also got me curious on this topic which resulted in me reading 8 more books on the topic!

Here are all the books I read on the topic:

A common problem I ended up having is that I got interested in some subtopics that were either hard to explain or there is not enough interest for their to be pop-sci coverage of the topic. This resulted in me trying to read textbook-like books which were a lot harder to read. The Cambrian Explosion and Convergent Evolution felt like that but I was able to finish them. These books I decided to abandon:

I think I still want to find a pop-sci book about the Cambrian Explosion and the plants equivalent of that (“Devonian explosion”).

International Affairs/Modern History

I remember stumbling on a comment about how the South China Sea has several competing claims and I got very interested. I started reading the Wikipedia page on it and then decided to read more about International Affairs in general. I ended up reading 5 books on this topic in 2 months!

Others

Two additional nonfiction books that didn't fit a theme:

Fiction

This year I only read 3 fiction books:

  • Small Gods: Discworld
  • Men at Arms: Discworld
  • Sci-Fu: NYPL's pick for Middle Schoolers for 2018. I thought it would be a fun idea to read it. The art was fun but the story was all over the place.

Looking Forward

I think I am going to stick with the goal of 20 books for next year. Hopefully I will stumble onto few more interesting topics! I will also try to read a little more fiction this year.