May 20, 2022

The latest books I’ve read: Spring 2021

This year to keep my mind active and make sure I’m giving my eyes a break from “doomscrolling”, I’ve started reading more. Here is an update on 3 books that I’ve recently read and whether you should read them too.

A quick note on how I select books. A bit like browsing the Netflix catalogue, there is a lot of material out there, and a lot of it is bad. Generally, my process is to go and look at some book blogs or lists (e.g. GatesNotes has some great book lists and reviews, Goodreads is another good resource), make a shortlist of the books I want to read, and then send them as a sample to my Kindle. That way, when I feel like reading I have all of the samples there to pick up, and if I like them I can buy them.

Project Hail Mary (Science Fiction)
by Andy Weir (2021)

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A story about a man’s journey to another planetary system to work out how to save earth from a deadly new cosmic micro-organism: the astrophage. The astrophage feasts on our Sun’s energy and might mean its end. He is the last one left from his crew intergalactic crew and meets an extraterrestrial friend along the way.

What I liked:

  • Very cool descriptions of science and scientific rationale that give the entire fictional story some plausability (and which make you mentally re-visit high-school chemistry and physics)
  • Vivid descriptions of aliens and what they might look like, how they might interact with us, and the human emotions and reactions we might feel in tos interactions – for a new reader to science fiction Weir made it all quite accessible
  • Light-hearted and fast paced – a real page turner as they say

What I didn’t like:

  • The narrator sometimes had dialogue that was a little cheesy – it felt a little unrealistic and staged at times

My score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Should you read it?

Yes, especially if you want something that is a little more grounded and like me, you aren’t a huge science fiction fan. This one is very accessible and just a good fun book to read when you want some down time from my more series stuff. Like my next recommendation…

Un-American: A Soldier’s Reckoning of Our Longest War (Non-Fiction)
by Erik Edstrom (2020)

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Erik Erdstrom’s opinion piece about America’s involvement in Afghanistan, and a re-telling of his personal experience as a soldier. It’s a social commentary and memoir wrapped up in one, with some strong conclusions and imagery. Spoiler: He’s not a fan of war.

What I liked:

  • An honest behind-the-scenes look into the gritty parts of becoming a soldier and life as one in a war zone
  • Well-researched and told, with a strong narrative throughout, presented to the reader with a clear framework for thinking through the arguments

What I didn’t like:

  • I came away thinking the argument was one-sided and biased, and I felt like I wanted to learn more about the conflict – I think Edstrom could have presented a more balanced view (or at least made the reader feel like it was balanced)
  • A little long – I felt the book could have been a little more succinct

My score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Should you read it?

Read it once. It is harrowing and will open your eyes, but then make sure you do your own research afterward about this immensely complex topic.

Shadows Rising (Fantasy)
by Madeleine Roux (2020)

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A prequel to the Shadowlands expansion for World of Warcraft. Told from the perspective of a number of the main characters, it essentially walks through the in-game story of Battle for Azeroth. Set in a fantasy world with the regular cast of humans, orcs, elves etc.

What I liked:

  • Told the story that many World of Warcraft will be itchng to hear, especially given so many details are unclear as you play the game
  • Fan service – there are plenty of the characters you know and love / hate

What I didn’t like:

  • Writing feels rushed, and character development could have been better, especially given the number of plot devices and narrative climaxes
  • Too much fan service – feels like a supplement to the game rather than a novel in its own right
  • A new reader to the world will feel lost amongst they have never met nor have any context on

My score: ⭐⭐

Should you read it?

Not unless you are a World of Warcraft fan. And even then, only if you’re really interested.

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