My Favourite Books I Read in 2015

Many peo­ple have made a New Year’s res­o­lu­tion to read more. I won’t. I already read a lot. Accord­ing to my Goodreads list, I read 24 books last year (and that’s on top of all the arti­cles pub­lished across the web). I can’t pos­si­bly review all of them, but these were my high­lights of 2015.

By far the best book, because it blew my mind, was Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapi­ens: A Brief His­to­ry of Humankind. It’s more a his­to­ry of cul­ture and soci­ety than it is ‘hard’ his­to­ry, but is filled with rev­e­la­to­ry ways of look­ing at our species and beliefs. It con­tains so many high­lights that I’ve start­ed to blog a review in mul­ti­ple parts. I’ve already bought a copy for a friend, and would rec­om­mend you get one too.

Anoth­er book that had a huge impact on me was Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Pub­licly Shamed, a look at mob jus­tice on social media, its his­tor­i­cal con­text, and its impli­ca­tions, all told in the author’s humor­ous­ly under­stat­ed way. If I were Face­book or Twit­ter (I’m not) I would strike a deal to get a copy of this to every user.

War­ren Ellis’ Cun­ning Plans is a short col­lec­tion of tran­scripts from talks giv­en by the author at var­i­ous con­fer­ences in the past few years. What Ellis is good at is find­ing con­nec­tions; many of these pieces tie togeth­er tech­nol­o­gy and British folk­lore, things that you wouldn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly think were relat­ed.

Anoth­er short book I enjoyed great­ly was Clay Shirky’s Lit­tle Rice: Smart­phones, Xiao­mi, and The Chi­nese Dream. A look at Chi­na through the lens of its grow­ing smart­phone indus­try, using the man­u­fac­tur­er Xiao­mi as a case study. Full of fas­ci­nat­ing cul­tur­al insight, espe­cial­ly with regards to the sheer scale of the Chi­nese mar­ket.

In comics, I huge­ly admired Richard McGuire’s Here. It’s an exper­i­men­tal piece, where your field of view remains fixed on the same point in space but trav­els through dif­fer­ent times, with themes play­ing them­selves out through the ages inside dif­fer­ent pan­els of the com­ic.

Adri­an Tomine’s Killing and Dying is a col­lec­tion of short slice of life sto­ries, each in a dif­fer­ent art and sto­ry­telling style. What the author excels at is por­tray­ing com­plex emo­tion in a very min­i­mal, under­stat­ed way.

My favourite nov­el I read this year was Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things. The plot involves a man sent as a mis­sion­ary to a recent­ly dis­cov­ered alien race, but its also about dis­tance and long­ing and the things we leave behind. It also fea­tures a won­der­ful trick where each chapter’s title is the last sen­tence of that chap­ter, but sub­vert­ed from your pre­sump­tion by the time you get to it.

I’ve already got a fur­ther ten books to read or in progress. Time to get on with them.

Also pub­lished on Medi­um.