For the fourth year in a row, here are the best books that I've read this year. As usual, I'm listing them in alphabetical order, not ranking them.
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
I'm trying to catch up on a few classics each year. There are three of them that made my list this year, including this one. It is the first Tolstoy book that I've read, and it was amazing. Despite being very long (about 900 pages) and having a huge cast of characters, Tolstoy make the themes that he covers vibrant and interesting.
- A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher
Extremely appropriate for the year, this post-apocalyptic novel sees most of the population of the world killed off by a plague. The few survivors have trouble producing female children, which further limits the population. Dogs have the this same problem, so when a young adolescent boy's dog is stolen, he sets out after the thief.
- Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne
The Comanche tribe ruled a huge empire in the south-west of the US, and repeatedly defeated all enemies they faced, including the Spanish, Mexicans and the Americans, until finally the invention of repeating rifles turned the tide. Incredibly fierce warriors and quite possibly the best horsemen ever, the Comanches ruled their territory with an iron hand. Because their nomadic lifestyle made having children difficult, they frequently captured young children from outside the tribe and adopted them. One such young white girl from Texas became the mother of Quanah, the last of the great Comanche leaders.
- Humble Pi: A Comedy of Math Errors by Matt Parker
Matt Parker is a YouTube educator/entertainer who discusses mathematical issues. This book looks at some of the most disasterous (and frequenly amusing) mistakes that have ever happened with math, such as the unit conversion problem that destroyed a NASA Mars probe.
- IQ by Joe Ide
Isiah Quintabe, the hero of IQ (and several other books in this series) is basically Sherlock Homes transplanted to modern day inner-city Los Angeles. Ide, a cousin of Francis Fukiyama, grew up in South Central LA, and uses his knowledge of this environment to craft a memorable hero, a brilliant young man who uses his wits to solve crimes that the police cannot or will not take on.
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The second classic on the list, I really loved this much more than I would have thought. The story of the March sisters becoming young adults during the era of the US Civil War is well known.
- The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne
The first of a four book series (so far), The Naturalist is about naive scientist Theo Cray, who uses his scientific training to reveal the existance of a serial killer, becoming an unwilling investigator after a former student of his is murdered. Lots of interesting scientific details throughout the book.
- Sense and Sensability by Jane Austen
The third Austen book I've read, and by far my favorite. The two eldest Dashwood sisters navigate the troubled waters of romance. Beautifully written, with lots of interesting details about the time period. Austen was a genius at observing and detailing human behavior.
- The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
The two Sisters brothers are hired killers in the Old West, and they've been given an assignment to kill a prospector during the California Gold Rush. The story is told via narration by one of the brothers, and is beautifully done. If you have ever read True Grit, this is the only book that I've read that is in its class for developing the character of the narrator via the story.
- The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois and
- Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington
I chose to read these two books for this year after the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests. Du Bois and Washington were the two towering civil figures of the post-Reconstruction era in the US, and frequent rivals, as they had differeing visions of how to improve the lot of blacks in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Washington's book is an autobiography that details his work, including founding the Tuskeegee Institute, to uplift his people via education and training. Du Bois's book is a collection of essays that he wrote for various publications and details his vision for government intervention and his disagreements with Washington's plans and actions.
- War Lord by Bernard Cornwell
The 13th and final book in the Saxon series that began with The Last Kingdom in 2004, War Lord see the completion of the unification of England under the rule of Alfred the Great's grandson, Aethelstan. The entire series is well worth reading, as it covers the entire life of the fictional character Uhtred of Bebbanburg, who is captured and adopted by the pagan Danes when they invade Northumbria, but who ends up fighting for the Christian Saxons under Alfred, then his children and finally Aethelstan. Cornwell, who is also the author of the Sharpe series, is a master at military historical fiction.