2015-01-01

I read 45 books in 2014, about the same number as last year. 30 of them were in Engilsh, while 15 were in Japanese. 38 were fiction and 7 were nonfiction.

It was definitely a year of novel reading. 2015 will likely lean heavily towards business nonfiction though, now that I am working again.

Below is the list of Engilsh books with a short comments for some noteworthy ones.

  1. The Cricket in Times Square (George Selden) - This children's book came up in a conversation with a musician friend. Turns out I had definitely read this in elementary school but had completely forgotten about it until I started reading it. It's amazing how our brains retain experiences over decades but are dormant unless triggered.

  2. The Portrait of a Lady (Henry James) - A Victorian classic where the female protagonist struggles between independence and properness as "a lady". I need to re-read this as a social commentary after studying the era more.

  3. The Turn of the Screw (Henry James)

  4. Famous Last Words (Ray Robinson) - A gift from a TL'er a couple of years ago. Quotes range from the whimsical to the profound.

  5. Player Piano (Kurt Vonnegut) - I've read so many Vonnegut books over the last few years that I'm having trouble keeping them straight. I think this one was written in the 60's when mass factory production was making serious headway in the world. There are eery parallels to today's world where social discourse talks about technology and robotics taking away jobs and hollowing out the middle class. Vonnegut's earlier work seems less insane compared to his later ones.

  6. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens) - Pip! Pip! Great novel.

  7. The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway) - Probably my least favorite Hemingway novel to date.

  8. Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes) - Apparently this is often assigned in Junior High literature class, but I didn't have that fortune. Simple and arguably a bit juvenile in how straightforward it is, but a great, sad story.

  9. Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka) - What the... it's short. Just read it. Consider it part of your missing education. Truth in absurdum.

  10. Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel García Márquez ) - I learned of the "Magical Realism" genre with this novel (though apparently Murakami is the posterchild of the genre and I'd read plenty of his stuff before). I had a hard time becoming invested in the narrative and the characters since many of elements were so unrealistic yet not "magical enough".

  11. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (Kurt Vonnegut) - Yet another trip down absurdum. I don't think the book was as memorable as some of his other works.

  12. The Fall (Albert Camus)

  13. Fantastic Voyage (Isaac Asimov) - First Asimov novel I read. I didn't realize that his work would be so casually readable.

  14. The Hunger Games (Susan Collins) - I thought that this book would be a good read for a daughter if I ever have one, but then I got to the cringe worthy romance part and threw away such notions.

  15. Catching Fire (Susan Collins)

  16. Mockingjay (Susan Collins) - This book was terrible in every way.

  17. Daemon (Daniel Suarez)

  18. The Gods Themselves (Isaac Asimov)

  19. The Andromeda Strain (Michael Crichton) - A good pop sci-fi joyread.

  20. The Stranger (Albert Camus) - Wow. I remember nothing about this book.

  21. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) - Re-read this in order to read P&P&Z. My roommate called this "literary yak shaving" haha. It was definitely more enjoyable than when I read it when I was 16.

  22. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Seth Grahame-Smith) - Inferior to P&P in every way, but a fun read nontheless. The annoying characters in the original have horrible things happen to them, and you get to bask in sweet, sweet schadenfreude.

  23. Models: Attract Women through Honesty (Mark Manson) - A friend pushed this on me. The gist is to treat yourself and others well (both materially and emotionally), expect others to do the same to you, distance yourself from those who don't give you that respect. As my friend put it, it's "The Game for thoughtful guys", which seems pretty apt. I actually think it's decent from a psychoanalysis perspective as well.

  24. The Art of Loving (Erich Fomm) - A psychoanalysis book written in the 50's.

  25. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) - I felt like the story was too overtly a parable and that it was shoving a cliche one size fits all life philosophy down my throat. I disagree with the simplicity of its advice, but the prose was strangely poetic and enjoyable.

  26. The Circle (David Eggers) - A doomsday scenario novel where a Google-like company becomes all knowing and all powerful. The theme has been so rehashed and worn out for me that it made the narrative a chore to get through. The minituae of the psychological transformation and cool aid drinking of the protagonist was well done though.

  27. Crazy Rich Asians (Kevin Kwan) - A trashy pop novel that I thoroughly enjoyed.

  28. The Hard Thing About Hard Things (Ben Horowitz) - Probably the most pragmatic business book for running a startup that I have ever read. I only take investing advice from fund managers and traders, and I now see that I should do the same for business books as well. The preface says something like, "business books typically say what to do when things are going well. I'm going to tell you what I did when everything went wrong."

  29. The Science of Success (Charles G. Koch) - Say what you will about the Koch brothers' political shenanigans, it's undeniable that they know what they're doing in the business world. I decided that it may be fruitful for me to look into how they operate and what their philosophy is. This book is filled to the brim with jargon and cool aid, but I did get a glimpse of Charles Koch's framework that guides his philosophy.

  30. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (Tucker Max) - Picked this up for $1 at a used book store. I remember reading his blog during college -- does he still do this stuff? The guy must be pushing 40 by now.

I also read the following Haruki Murakami novels in Japanese:

  • After Dark - I have no idea what the heck happened in the latter half of the book. Way too magical and hypnotic.

  • Kafka on the Shore

  • Wind up Bird Chronicle - Pretty high on the "what the hell is going on" magical narrative scale, but somehow he made it work. I've read a good portion of Murakami's novels now, and I feel that this may be most representative of his style.

  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage - Murakami's newest novel. I personally enjoyed it a lot, and thought this one was most similar to real life with all its loose ends and unanswered questions, much like "South of the Border, West of the Sun".