Non-Design Year-End Book Wrap-up

I’ve been enjoying my extended winter vacation and have few thoughts about design to share at the moment, it being more of a sleepy end-of-year tree and gifts and food and friends and family time.

So, instead, I give you my unscientific top 10 non-design books of 2006. I’ve been keeping track of and writing mini-reviews for all the books I read for just over a year, and it’s interesting (to me) to look back over them. They’re mostly science fiction, fantasy, and graphic novels (which is not a surprise), but fantasy seems to be outpacing science-fiction by a bunch. Also, there are very few non-design non-fiction books, even less I ended up liking.

In no particular order, my favorite non-design-related books of 2006:

Three Days To Never
– Tim Powers
Excellent Tim Powers book.
If you’re not reading Tim Powers you really should be. Contains the
same crazy secret history stuff as the recent books (in this case the
Mossad, Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, out-of-body-experiences), but with
characters you care about a bit more.

Spin – Robert Charles Wilson
Best Hard-SF book I’ve read in a LONG while. Really amazing concept.
Feels very like classic SF while totally contemporary — like some odd
combination of Isaac Asimov and Gwyneth Jones.

Never Let Me Down – Kazuo Ishiguro
One of the most depressing books ever. Beautiful, yes, nice to see someone who is
thought of as ‘literary’ tackle science fiction and do it really well,
yes, worth reading, yes. One of the nice reviewers on the back called
it ‘elegiac’ which is NY Times type reviewer code for both "goddamn
depressing," which it is, and "kind of boring," which, while it is
excruciatingly slowly paced, it is not.

His Majesty’s Dragon – Naomi Norvik
Napoleonic wars with dragons. Excellent fantasy candy reading.

Lamb – Christopher Moore
"The gospel according to Biff, Christ’s childhood pal." Look, NOTHING
could live up to that subtitle, right? But it almost does. Between the
mostly historically accurate details mixed with the wildly
inappropriate anachronisms and theological banter, I enjoyed it a ton.

Five Crazy Women – Carla Speed McNeil
far the best graphic novel I’ve read yet this year. Set in an ongoing SF world, this book is about one man and his relationships with crazy
women. You can read most of it here:

The Fate of the Artist – Eddie Campbell
brilliant. Eddie Campbell is now pretty much my favorite comics
author/artist — I have never figured out why navel-gazing
autobiographical stuff works for me in comics form but doesn’t
(usually) in prose. But this odd mix of bits and pieces and things —
funny comics, interviews with his daughter, historical meanderings —
all dancing around some personal
revelations — is just wonderful.

The Colorado Kid – Stephen King
pages of original pulp with an excellent, and perfectly inappropriate,
pulp cover. It is now apparent that
Stephen King really, really, really doesn’t care if his books will piss
people off by not being what they expect.

50 Degrees Below – Kim Stanley Robinson
Sequel to 40 Days of Rain.
I’m assuming that "60 feet of melted Antarctic ice-shelf water coming to KILL YOU" is
next. Technically about the dangers of radical climate change (and what
we could do about it) KSR valorizes (realistically) the DC bureaucrat,
the urban homeless, lunatics who live in treehouses, and rogue liberal
Senators. This book did, in fact, scare the pants off me.

Perfect Circle – Sean Stewart
Circle has ghosts, punk rock, and Houston. It’s the most
amazing, sweetest, saddest novel I’ve read in a year or two, and will
break your heart in parts.

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